The Father by Anton Svensson

The Father

by Anton Svensson

 

Publisher: Sphere

Publishing Date: 24th March 2016

Source:  Copy provided by the publisher, thank you!

Number of pages: 592

Genre: Crime, Thriller, Literature/Fiction (Adult)

 Buy the Book: Kindle | Hardcover | Paperback

 

 Synopsis:

How does a child become a criminal? How does a father lose a son?

An epic crime novel with the excitement of Jo Nesbo’s Headhunters and the narrative depth of We Need to Talk About Kevin, The Father is inspired by the extraordinary true story of three brothers who committed ten audacious bank robberies in Sweden over the course of just two years.

None had committed a crime before. All were under 24 years old. All of them would be changed forever as individuals and as a family.

This intoxicating, heartbreaking thriller tells the story of how three boys are transformed over the course of their lives from innocent children to the most wanted criminals in Sweden. And of the man who made them that way: their father.

Rating: 4/5

 

Once in a while I like to read something different to what I usually read, and mostly I reach for crime and thrillers. What made „The Father” so interesting and exceptional in my eyes was the fact that it’s based on a true story of three brothers who robbed banks in Sweden. and there was something really intriguing in this book, and even though it’s a fiction only based on facts I had a feeling it can be a really great story.

Yes, at the beginning I had some problems to get into the story. No idea why, maybe because it was so seriously written, I really don’t know, can’t put my finger on it. But one was clear from the very beginning: that it’s going to be a crime story with a difference. Leo involves his brothers and a childhood friend into very thought – over operations, bank robberies planned with a great precision. They name themselves The Military League because of the weapons that they have at their disposal. Detective John Broncks made it a point of honour to capture them. I found this book very intense and moving, as it was not a simple crime, as it also investigate into domestic violence.

The book jumps between present and past, and as Leo and Felix seemed to be all the time haunted by the shadow of their father, the getting back to the past helps us to understand why it is like this, and it also sheds lights on brother’s decision of taking this kind of „career”. Switching the viewpoints worked for me seamlessly and as it unveiled the boys’ tale about the domestic violence and the conditions they were growing up, I found myself more and more hooked into the story.

What was truly fascinating in this book was the way the brothers worked, how dedicated they were and how they concentrated on the smallest details. In the end they committed ten robberies in two years. Somehow I felt sorry for them, probably because of their childhood, somehow I was fascinated when reading this novel – it is really impressively written, and no matter what the author writes about, if it is the scenery or the preparations for the robbery, it is all vivid and brought to life.

It is a book about choices that describes the brother not only as criminals but also as victims, showing what pushed them in the direction of what they did. It’s brutally honest and occasionally violent but it is also incredibly hooking, and it shows how witnessing the violence in your childhood may turn your life into replicating the violence. The characters are very bold and expressive and even though I didn’t support their life choices, they grew on me and I ended feeling pity and sorry for them.

The descriptions were truly exceptional and incredibly vivid and the author has brilliantly brought them to life, you could feel the snow melting and hear the blood dripping, and also to read about the Swedish scenery was really interesting and made you feel a part of the book.

I think that what makes the book so gripping and exceptional is the fact that the author is in fact two persons: Stefan Thunberg, a very popular Scandinavian screenwriter, who is a brother of the true bank robbers the story is based on, so he was actually describing everything he witnessed, and the second author, Anders Roslund, is an award – winning journalist and crime writer. They created a compelling novel that follows the life of the violators who, in fact, may be considered as victims as well, because of their childhood. „The Father” is a tense and addictive story and what’s even better is the fact that there is going to be a follow – up novel in 2017, „The Son”. I was really impressed with this story. It’s gripping, thought – provoking and intense and fans of crime fiction shouldn’t miss this book. Even though it is a book based on facts, it was not a predictable read, it was more a very unique take on crime and everything connected to crime.

 

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The Wedding Date by Jennifer Joyce

The Wedding Date

by Jennifer Joyce

 

Publisher: Carina

Publishing Date: 28th March 2016

Source:  Copy provided by the publisher vie NetGalley, thank you!

Number of pages: 290

Genre: Women’s Literature, Romance

 Buy the Book: Kindle

 

 Synopsis:

Delilah James, singleton and smoothie-addict, has six months to find a date for her oldest friend’s wedding. Oh, and to prove to her ex, best man Ben, that she has totally moved on since he dumped her out-of-the-blue nine months, eight days and seventeen hours ago…

So, with her two BFFs playing Cupid, Delilah launches herself into the high-tech, fast-paced and frankly terrifying world of dating. Luckily there’s the hot new guy at work, Adam Sinclair, to practice her flirting on – even if, as a colleague, he’s strictly off-limits!

Yet time’s running out and date after disastrous date forces Delilah to tell a little white lie – and invent a fake boyfriend! But will her secret crush on Adam ruin everything? Does she even care about Ben anymore? And is it too late to untangle her web of lies and take a real date to the wedding…?

Rating: 4/5

 

I liked the sound of the book so very much, and as it is by Jennifer Joyce, I was sure that I am for a treat – I read her „The Mince Pie Mix – Up” last year and enjoyed it totally, and I can remember that Jennifer’s writing style was exceptionally funny and warm, so without hesitation I hit the „Request” button and was looking forward to starting reading this novel.

The idea of the plot is simple, but it is often the simplest things that works best, right? So Delilah claims she’s over her ex – boyfriend, well, it’s already 9 months that they’re not together, and she can move on, but then she somehow lets it slip that she’s going to bring a new boyfriend to her friend’s wedding. The problem is, there is no boyfriend, and it starts to be clear that Delilah is NOT over Ben yet. So then continues the frantic search for a perfect boyfriend, and you know me, I love good dating stories and was waiting holding my breath to read about those hilarious dates and men that Delilah is going to meet. And well, yes, some of them made me really smile, but I couldn’t help thinking that they are also so, so clichéd – I mean, how often did I read about men that aren’t over their ex – wives or very competitive guys who can’t see them losing at anything? Yes, sure, it was brilliantly and lightly written but I couldn’t feel this teeny tiny disappointed at the lack of originality here. Nevertheless, Delilah MUST find a date to show Ben how much she’s over him, so a project Wedding Date appears and Delilah’s two best friends, Ryan and Lauren, help her to find her a perfect boyfriend. Between a date or two there were two really serious competitors for Delilah’s charms, and I really wasn’t sure which way is the story going to end. On the other hand, it is clear almost from the very beginning who the perfect date for the wedding is and only Delilah doesn’t see this – however, at the end the author has complicated the things a little and I wasn’t so sure how I’d like it to end, and I was a little torn, especially after Lauren’s revelation.

Delilah tells a lot of lies, that’s true, but these were not lies that were putting someone in danger, so I personally didn’t see it as a very big problem. It was Delilah herself who had a problem, as she suddenly realised that she tangled herself in a little web of these lies and stopped remembering what’s true and what’s not and who knows what. And I liked her. She was tough and optimistic, and she didn’t give up when things looked really, really bad. Life has been throwing lots of obstacles at her feet but she always kept her head high.

It was a light – hearted, feel – good romantic comedy, and I can’t express how much I loved that each chapter started with a short test message exchange between Delilah and her friends. They were hilarious and I think I could read a whole book made only out of these messages! It was a predictable, but warm and sweet read with great characters that develop on the way, especially our Delilah. The writing style stayed the same and the author has really a great talent to tell stories in a warm, hooking way – it is a novel to brighten up your day and make you feel better. Recommended!

In Her Wake by Amanda Jennings

In Her Wake

by Amanda Jennings

 

Publisher: Orenda Books

Publishing Date: 1st April 2016

Source:  Copy provided by the publisher, thank you!

Number of pages: 320

Genre: Literature/Fiction (Adult), Psychological Thriller

 Buy the Book: Kindle | Paperback

 

 Synopsis:

A perfect life … until she discovered it wasn’t her own.

A tragic family event reveals devastating news that rips apart Bella’s comfortable existence. Embarking on a personal journey to uncover the truth, she faces a series of traumatic discoveries that take her to the ruggedly beautiful Cornish coast, where hidden truths, past betrayals and a 25-year-old mystery threaten not just her identity, but also her life.

Chilling, complex and profoundly moving, In Her Wake is a gripping psychological thriller that questions the nature of family – and reminds us that sometimes the most shocking crimes are committed closest to home.

Rating: 5/5

 

I have heard tons about Amanda Jennings. Tons of amazing praises about her novel „The Judas Scar” that I have on my bookshelf, and also the early reviews of „In Her Wake” were more than raving. So it’s no wonder that I desperately wanted to read the book for myself, right? I’ll be honest, I didn’t start it immediately after receiving it, simply because I was scared that it’s not going to live up to the expectations that I had after hearing all the compliments. But after finding myself in a little reading slump I though, oh hell, let’s see. And no worries, guys, no worries, the book is simply amazing.
What really moved it is the author’s writing style and her talent to storytelling. She just took me deeper and deeper into the story, and with every page turned I felt as if I am a part of this book and only occasionally I came out for a breath or two and to have a look if everything is OK at home.

The characters in this story felt so incredibly realistic that I really had a feeling I am a part of this tale. They were also fabulously well described and because of their flaws they felt more than three – dimensional. They were all so true to life. But as much as I understand Bella, I couldn’t warm totally to her. I know she had issues, who wouldn’t have when in her shoes, and I truly fell for her and sympathized with her, but I couldn’t stop thinking that she feels a little meh. I get it – she lived isolated life and was transported from one golden cage to another, she never had a chance to decide about herself and to learn the world, and taking all these things into consideration she was really mentally strong and I really admired how she coped with all the things, but still, I can’t put my finger on it but I couldn’t totally warm to her and trust her. She was not annoying or frustrating, though her indecisiveness and vulnerability were really strongly emphasized. But it’s just me and my feelings, don’t pay any attention. Nevertheless, I really liked to follow her on this whole journey and to get to know her, from her childhood, through her teenage years until she was an adult and her whole world cracked around her, and to see how she is processing this all. Also, all the relationships Bella was in were so unusual and taking into consideration the life she led, she was really brave letting new people into her life. The story felt even more intense as Bella was the narrator and we discovered all the things, all these secrets and lies together with her, at the same time, so they were the same surprise for her and for us. There are also chapters told from Henry Campbell’s point of view, which helps us a lot to understand everything. I relatively quickly guessed what happened to Bella when she was a child but still didn’t know the details and circumstances, and those chapters helped me a lot. But my guessing it didn’t mean that I was prepared for all the drama and twists that were to come and hit me around the head.

The other characters are a group of very different people and they are painted in such a way that you’re not sure if you can trust them or not. Suffice it to say, it doesn’t mean that you feel paranoid or you suspect everyone – no. It only means that they are great, complex, multi – layered characters that develop and learn all the time.

One thing more – I do usually spot the settings in the books, and I adore the details of the descriptions, but this time I couldn’t stop thinking how much the setting correspond with the atmosphere of the whole plot. Set mostly in St Ives in Cornwall, it was beautiful, but it was also haunting. The author has brilliantly captured the atmosphere of grim and used even the stormy and rainy weather to emphasize it.

I’m not sure if I would classify this book as a psychological thriller. Psychological for sure, but not thriller. Maybe drama? Not sure if such a genre exists at all, but it was for sure a family tragedy, full of tension and intrigue. The short chapters kept me on my toes, and thanks to them I had a feeling that the pace in this story is even faster than it was. What was also brilliant is that it didn’t drag on and that the secrets weren’t kept for ever – no, the reveals were well timed and believe me, I read a lot and there is not much that amazes or shocks me, but this time I was shocked more than once. The pacing of this story was great, and when you thought that you know everything, the author threw another surprise at your not expecting head, throwing you off guard.

But as much as it was an amazing book it didn’t wow me as much as I have expected. After reading some of the most incredible reviews I was expecting, and all the time waiting for, a moment that will blow me away, and it never come. There was absolutely nothing wrong with the book, the story, it was perfectly polished and really neatly wrapped up, the author didn’t leave you with questions open, so I think it is my fault, I was probably expecting impossible, and altogether, „In Her Wake” is a great account of a family relationships, about lies, secrets and living with guilt. It was chilling and disturbing and this kind of a book that make you think, and the author has made me doubt everything and everyone more than once. It was not an obvious read, it was complex and with many layers and what I liked most is the fact that the author didn’t judge the characters – she let the readers to make up their own mind about them and the situation. Moreover, for such a deep, complex books it reads effortlessly, thanks to Ms Jennings wonderful writing style. „In Her Wake” was a hooking story about how far a person can go in the name of love – heartbreaking, grim and taking your breath away. Highly recommended!

The Night that Changed Everything by Laura Tait & Jimmy Rice

The Night that Changed Everything

by Laura Tait & Jimmy Rice

 

Publisher: Corgi

Publishing Date: 24th March 2016

Source:  Copy provided by the publisher, thank you!

Number of pages: 416

Genre: Literature/Fiction (Adult)

 Buy the Book: Kindle | Paperback

 

 Synopsis:

Rebecca is the only girl she knows who didn’t cry at the end of Titanic. Ben is the only man he knows who did. Rebecca’s untidy but Ben doesn’t mind picking up her pieces. Ben is laid back by Rebecca keeps him on his toes. They’re a perfect match.

Nothing can come between them. Or so they think.

When a throwaway comment reveals a secret from the past, their love story is rewritten.

Can they recover from the night that changed everything? And how do you forgive when you can’t forget?

The Night That Changed Everything is a funny, feel-good and bittersweet story, told in alternate chapters by Laura Tait and Jimmy Rice.

Rating: 5/5

 

After reading and loving Laura and Jimmy’s debut novel „The Best Thing That Never Happened to Me” two years ago (two years, guys! TWO years!!!) I was waiting impatiently for their next novel – it isn’t often that you have such a gem of a debut in your hands and I couldn’t wait to see if their second book will live up to my expectations. The first thing I thought when I started reading „The Night that Changed Everything” was how comfortable I immediately feel, how the writing embraces me and how it feels as if I’ve just read the previous novel – as if it was yesterday. I also couldn’t help thinking how similar to the earlier book the novel is built, as the chapters are told from both of the characters points of view, alternatively, and just like with the last book I totally adored the ones told by Rebecca – I loved her sharp tongue, her razor sharp one – liners and the great sense of humour. (And I also can’t stop wondering how the two authors brilliantly work together, as the story flows so seamlessly – the two perspectives give us a great view at the whole situation, we have two voices, two different opinions, and yet it feels as if the story was written by one person, so complete it feels!).

At first it seemed that Rebecca and Ben are THE perfect couple but then came this misunderstanding and everything changed – yes, the night that changed everything! However, I couldn’t stop thinking that the reason the couple stopped seeing each other is a little too far – fetched, don’t you think? For me Rebecca, no matter how much I liked her, exaggerated much too much and for me it was really not a reason to break up if they were in love so much. Sure, then the circumstances made the whole situation even more complicated but really, I can’t stop shaking my head at the foolishness of Rebecca and Ben. Nevertheless, they felt so honest and genuine in all their feelings and the way they acted – Rebecca trying to work things out with her characteristic cynicism, often over – reacting and being incredibly stubborn, and Ben, the calmer one, the chalk to Rebecca’s cheese, also stubborn, and I might have not agree with them and all of their decisions but I had a feeling that they are true to the things they do and say and I did sympathise with them.

Throughout the story the characters have their ups and downs, there are twists and turns, they are closer, they are farther away, they change, they develop, and many things are happening. And then comes the end – the end that I haven’t expected at all and at first I didn’t know how I’m feeling about it to be honest, but the end that worked and the more I think about it, the more I’m sure it’s the best one.
The background characters in this book deserve Oscars, and Jemma deserves two. At first I thought there is a little more to this girl than meets the eye, that she’s planning something, but it turned out she’s the best new best friend, and I loved the scenes with her – she was incredibly funny but also clear – headed, and she was this kick in the backside that Rebecca so often needed. There is also Avril who, as much as we hate her, is in fact one of the most significant people in this book, and also Ben’s flatmates are more than worth a mention or two – they were all brilliantly written, felt so true to life.

The authors have this brilliant gift of throwing the reader to the heart of the story, to make them feel like a part of it, like a part of characters’ world, and it is a feeling that I, personally, am looking for in books and I love it. I felt very involved in the lives of Rebecca, Ben and their best friends Danielle and Jamie, and more than once I wanted to shake them or bang their heads together, to shout at them or to comfort them. The bond between these four was great and going strong, even with the hiccups they had on their way. They are not perfect, they made mistakes and the book shows them as they really are.

I can’t not mention the other night that changed everything, the one nearer the end of the story – the night that broke my heart and that I couldn’t believe has really happened.

So if we forget for a moment about Rebecca and Ben behaving like children, the book was absolutely brilliant. Maybe it didn’t have a life – changing plot but altogether I loved it, I loved the characters and the way they were. It was bitter – sweet, funny and sad, I laughed out loud and also cried, and what more do you need from a great book? I wouldn’t say that „The Night That Changed Everything” is better than the duo’s debut novel but it’s at least as good as – it’s addictive and the writing style is brilliant, it’s a storytelling at the highest niveau and I didn’t want to put it down. There are characters to die for and to hate, so easy to identify with, it’s full of emotions, and it’s this kind of book that makes you think what you would do in the same situation. In my opinion it fully deserves these big, fat, shiny 5 stars and I recommend it highly!

Erica James 20th Book Birthday Bonanza

Today I am totally thrilled to be a part of a very special Blog Tour. Yes, all Blog Tours are special, but this one is über – special. Why? Because it is for Erica James’s 20th book! Congratulations, Erica, and please keep them coming!

Special thanks to the lovely Elaine who allowed me to be a part of this Tour – I could read and enjoy not one, but TWO, Erica James’s books! If this is not bonanza, then I don’t know what is… :)

 

It’s the Little Things

by Erica James

 

 

Publisher: Orion

Publishing Date: 20th August 2009

Source:  Copy provided by the publisher, thank you!

Number of pages: 448

Genre: Women’s Fiction, Literature/Fiction (Adult)

 Buy the Book: Kindle | Paperback

 

 

  Synopsis:

A gripping novel about how friendships survive the best and worst of times from the bestselling author of SUMMER AT THE LAKE.

Dan and Sally Oliver and their friend Chloe Hennessey are lucky to be alive. Three years on, after surviving one of the world’s biggest natural disasters – the Boxing Day tsunami – their lives have changed dramatically.

Dan and Sally are now parents. Dan is enjoying being a stay-at-home father taking care of their young son, and Sally is the breadwinner and loves her job as a partner in a Manchester law firm. The arrangement has so far worked well, but when Dan starts to question whether Sally has got her priorities right, the cracks in their marriage begin to appear.

Dan and Sally have everything Chloe wishes for in life – a happy marriage and a beautiful child. Dumped by her long-term boyfriend just weeks after the tsunami, she’s been on a mission ever since to find the perfect father for the child she craves. When she meets Seth Hawthorne, she thinks she may have hit the jackpot. But is Seth the man she thinks he is?

IT’S THE LITTLE THINGS is a moving, compelling story of how a life can change in a heartbeat.

Rating: 4/5

 

Let’s start with saying that, to be honest, judging on the synopsis, I thought that the Tsunami is going to be like one of the main characters in the book, that everything is going to evolve around it, and while yes, the characters’ survived it and of course it made a great impact on them, it was only in the background. I’m not saying it’s wrong, I actually think that maybe it’s better, as to be honest I was a little scared that it’s going to be a tearful read about it. Author’s explanatory at the end has explained why she wanted to write a book mentioning Tsunami, but I still think that it could be any traumatic event that could have changed the characters/could influence their lives. Nevertheless, I think that we can also consider it a tsunami created by the characters themselves, as their lives are going to dramatically change.

Now on to the characters. I think they were one of Erica James’ best. You could like or dislike them but you couldn’t stay indifferent. Sally was from the beginning my no – go person, and even the author’s explanations of her awful childhood and growing up there was nothing that could change my mind about her. It – on the other hand – only reassured my thinking that women who don’t feel sure if they want to be mothers or not, shouldn’t decide for pregnancy and a baby. I don’t know if the author’s intention was to show that those are not only men who can have (or rather, CAN’T HAVE) an affair, as it is rather unusual for a female character to be the „bad one” in the story. And this one was really written in a way that made you dislike her from the very beginning. I was wondering why her husband is tolerating the way she is towards him and their son, as in my eyes he deserved so much better. Sure, you can be a bread – winner at home but it doesn’t entitle you to patronize everybody and forget about your priorities. But to be honest, taking all this dislike away, I think that Sally was one of the strongest and most expressive characters in this book, a woman that didn’t leave you indifferent.
The most colourful person in the story was doubtlessly Seth and his subplot truly take me by surprise – I haven’t expected that twist, and I really enjoyed to see how the relationship between him and Chloe is going to develop. Or if it’s going to develop at all! It was unusual, and as the religion plays a big role in it, and as the religious concepts of these two are very different from each other, it was really interesting and felt very fresh among all the other boy – meets – girl romances that I read, and I was really curious how it’s going to work and if Chloe will be able to trust Seth after the break – up with Paul.

I liked the way the author explored the friendship between Chloe and Sally. It undergoes a great change, which is in fact, not a wonder, as these two are thrown in the situations that are really trying and testing. The storyline feels very realistic, the same as the events and dialogues – they all felt not at all too pushed and the plot flowed effortlessly. The story is rather fast – paced and as each chapter is told from different point of view it feels as if there is a lot happening. But even though there IS much happening, the subplots intertwine and smoothly flow and everything is neatly wrapped up. It was a bit slow at the beginning, and I had some troubles to get into it, what with the number of characters, but in the end I found myself racing through the pages and enjoying this novel. There is a lot of depth to this story, it is really well developed and I really enjoyed it.

„It’s The Little Things” was a warm, down – to – earth read that I really enjoyed. And the title of the book has truly captivated me – isn’t it true that these are the little things that matter? That built our lives? There is much more to this book for it to be regarded as only women’s fiction (no offence here please!) as I think that it touches upon really difficult and important issues, and while it also belongs to women’s literature this book is more ambitious in my opinion. Recommended!

 

 

 

Song of the Skylark

by Erica James

 

 

Publisher: Orion

Publishing Date: 10th March 2016

Source:  Copy provided by the publisher, thank you!

Number of pages: 4oo

Genre: Women’s Fiction, Literature/Fiction (Adult)

 Buy the Book: Kindle | Hardcover

 

 

 

 Synopsis:

Lizzie has always had an unfortunate knack of attracting bad luck, but this time she’s hit the jackpot. Losing her heart to her boss leads to her losing her job, and with no money in the bank, Lizzie finds herself forced to move back home with her parents. When she reluctantly takes a voluntary job, she meets Mrs Dallimore, a seemingly ordinary elderly woman with an astonishing past . . .

Now in her nineties, Mrs Dallimore is also reluctantly coming to terms with her situation. Old age is finally catching up with her. As she and Lizzie form the bond of unexpected friendship, Mrs Dallimore tells the story of a young girl who left America before the outbreak of World War Two and, in crossing an ocean, found herself embarking on a new life she couldn’t have imagined.

As Lizzie listens to Mrs Dallimore, she begins to realise that she’s not the only person to attract bad luck, and that sometimes life has a way of surprising you . . .

Rating: 4/5

 

 

„Song of the Skylark” is only the third book by Erica James that I’ve read but I am already looking for any new release by this author. Her books are an immeasurable pleasure and I like how her stories follow a narrow circle of characters that are mostly very believable and relatable. And I adore Ms James’s writing style – it’s full of feelings and emotions and it always seems that she truly believes in her plot and her characters, which makes the reading even more intense.

Lizzie is one of the most accident – prone heroines that I came across in the books. Really. If anything were to go wrong, you can be sure that it happened to Lizzie. She’s just lost her job because she fell in love with her boss, they got caught and – surprise, surprise – she got fired while he was allowed to stay. With no job, she must move back to her parents and to top it all, her mother encourages her to start volunteering in a retirement home. Because she has nothing better to do Lizzie decides to take this job and she meets Mrs Dallimore there – an older resident of the house with incredible story of her own…
I liked Lizzie immediately. Really. She might have made things that were not the wisest ones but she learnt from those lessons. She made mistakes and even though she meant good things turned out the wrong way. Sure, there were moments that I wanted to shake her and get her naivety out of her head, and sometimes I understood why Ingrid, her sister – in – law, had such opinion about Lizzie, even though Ingrid was much too opinionated and I think she was my most disliked character in the story. Lizzie was very close to her twin brother Luke and I loved the bond they had, it felt so natural and genuine. However, even with all those problems, Lizzie didn’t stop and wallowed in self – pity, and this what I liked most in her, that she started to develop and mature and see things how they are and not like she wanted them to be.

Erica James has wonderfully combined past with present and made the two, in principle very different stories, to run smoothly together. Clarissa’s story was beautiful and heartbreaking to be honest. I think that Clarissa’s story was much more interesting and colourful, as her life was truly full not only with sadness, but also with many adventures. She was a woman for herself, Clarissa, full of courage and with heart made of gold. Her story was incredible and it kept me so hooked, and my heart went to this woman that must have experienced so much in her life and yet she never lost hope or thought badly about her bad luck. And so with her story we are transported back to the times of World War II and we travel from Boston to Suffolk on a deck of a ship and then we follow Clarissa on her journey to her never met grandparents, through helping Jewish children, finding and losing love and many of her beloved people. Those times were so brilliantly captured, with their atmosphere, clothes and the way people were then, and also all the settings just come to life. And the author made it really effortless for us to switch between the times, between the past and present.

This is a relatively slow story, and it takes some time for it to gain a speed, but I enjoyed this slow pace, as we have a lot of time to learn about all the characters and their backgrounds.I liked how this special friendship and bond between Clarissa and Lizzie, this very unexpected bond, grew and strengthened, and how they helped each other – consciously or unconsciously- in those difficult time.

„Song of the Skylark” is one of the most beautifully written books about a very unusual friendship and about all possible relationships. There is a lot of sadness in this book, as the main characters are often put to so many difficult situations, but this feeling of sadness is not overwhelming at all, as there is also a lot of hope and the characters never give up. It’s full of all kind of emotions that the author beautifully put into words. It’s about new beginnings and about putting past behind, about always looking ahead and I really like this message. The author made me feel a part of the story, I felt comfortable in the company of the characters and I couldn’t wait to read the next part of Clarissa’s story – it was hooking! And it is really an art in my opinion to write a character like Clarissa, an older and wiser person, who doesn’t seem too patronizing or too meh, which is often a case and troubles me so often. This book shows us how important friendship and hope is and that some things, like love, happiness and being able to depend on your family, never change. A great read.

 

 

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Summer Nights at the Moonlight Hotel by Jane Costello

Summer Nights at the Moonlight Hotel

by Jane Costello

 

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Publishing Date: 24th March 2016

Source:  Copy provided by the publisher, thank you!

Number of pages: 496

Genre: Women’s Fiction, Contemporary

 Buy the Book: Kindle | Paperback

 

 Synopsis:

‚LEARN TO SALSA DANCE,’ the card in the shop window read. ‚Experience the red-hot vibes of Latin America right here in the Lake District. Beginners and singles welcome.’

Lauren Scott lives in ‚The most romantic place in Britain’, but her love life is about as successful as her mountain climbing skills. The man she’s obsessed over for two years has proposed to someone else – and her only solution is to save up for six months to go travelling, so she never has to set eyes on him again.

But when her friends sign her up for a dance class – in the same historic hotel where her beloved dad worked and her most precious childhood memories were formed – Lauren makes a horrifying discovery. It’s been sold to a faceless budget chain, which has depressing plans in store. Worse, the entrepreneur behind it all turns out to be among a group of guys her friend Cate roped in to join the very same salsa class they’ve signed up for….

Jane Costello’s funniest book yet – a story of love, friendship and some serious hip action . . . Get in the mood to mambo!

Rating: 5/5

 

A new Jane Costello book is each time a real treat for me. I’ve read all of her novels and loved them all, and I can’t imagine that one day this author may stop writing – no way! Please, keep them coming, Jane! This time, I had a feeling that this time the book is more serious in tone, and to be honest, I missed this energetic enthusiasm and infectious Jane Costello’s humour. Don’t get me wrong, there were moments that I laughed, but altogether the book was more serious in tone, and I’m thinking that with every book Ms Costello’s writing is maturing and that she tries her touch at some important and difficult issues. It doesn’t mean that I didn’t like this book – on the contrary, I adored it, it’s only that I missed a little of this total airiness of the characters. With every new novel Jane’s characters are older, more mature, and they behave accordingly, and it’s absolutely okay. This time the author put our heroines up to plenty of really difficult decisions to be made and doesn’t spare them troubles – but I find it really challenging and I am happy that Jane Costello tries herself with this difficult task, as I guess it isn’t too easy to write.

The characters are, as always, so brilliantly drawn and developed and I felt so good in their company just from the very beginning. Lauren was great: there are two things that she loves with all her heart and these are the Moonlight Hotel and her work’s colleague, Edwin, but both are either taken away from her (Moonlight Hotel has just been sold and it looks like the new owner want to re – decorate it totally, not only inside but also outside, and Lauren can’t stand it, as she has so many memories with the hotel) or just unavailable, as Edwin is engaged. But when Edwin suddenly announces he has broken up with his fiancée, Lauren decides to take things in her own hand, and I am not going to tell you what exactly she does to persuade Edwin that she’s The One he’s looking for, but some of the scenes made me cry with laughter. Lauren often puts herself in many embarrassing situations, she’s loyal and she’s willing to forgo her own dream to help her friend. She’s simply one of the loveliest characters that read about, she’s full of warmth, she makes mistakes, she always thinks about the best one – liner when it’s too late and she adores her job – she’s a teacher, just like I am, and she has a nig heart for her pupils.
Now, from the beginning I couldn’t believe what Lauren sees in Edwin – and I’m not going to say anything more as I don’t want to spoil the book for you, but I was like. OMG! Lauren! Really? Edwin was this kind of character that made you want to take something very hard and hit him repeatedly on his head. Nevertheless, plenty of situations with Edwin had made me laugh cynically.

This book is a relatively slow read, and I mean the pace here. Sure, there are things happening, but on the whole the tempo is more unhurried and nevertheless, it sits with this story. The first half or so of it was more on the light side and even though Lauren had some dilemmas, I often found myself laughing out loud. Whereas the more we get into the book, the more serious the story unfolds and Lauren and her friends have tough nuts to crack. The stories of Emily and Cat were sometimes heartbreaking and incredibly sad, and I found myself rooting for them all, especially Cat, as this what happened to her was so unfair and she could do nothing, and I hated to watch her so defenceless and hopeless. I truly admired the great friendship between Lauren, Emily and Cat.

I must admit that I expected this book to resolve around Moonlight Hotel much more, as the synopsis signalized, but the Hotel is in fact only a background in this story – it’s significant, but not as much, though at the end it really plays a big role for Lauren. So yes, it took me a little by surprise, the way it took on, especially as we got deeper and deeper into the book, and the author started to throw twists and turns and surprises at our poor heads, and not the likes that we would say are the nice surprises.

Even though the story also explores some more serious issues, and the author points at the dangers the social media are, it still is a feel – good read. It is a perfect mix of humour and emotions, a novel filled with lovely characters that we fell for and we keep our fingers crossed for them. And even with all those changes, with this grown – up feeling, „The Summer Night at Moonlight Hotel” was a heart – warming, engaging, hooking book that I didn’t want to put down – so everything’s OK :), just like Jane Costello has got me used to. There is this Ms Costello’s trademark humour that I so love, and adding the more serious issues only made the book feel much more realistic. I really didn’t want this story to end – I’m sure you know this feeling when you want to read the book as quickly as possible to see how it’s going to end but on the other hand you DON’T WANT it to end. Yes, it was like this with this novel. Highly recommended!

The Way We Were by Sinead Moriarty

The Way We Were

by Sinead Moriarty

 

Publisher: Penguin Ireland

Publishing Date: 24th March 2016

Source:  Copy provided by the publisher via NetGalley, thank you!

Number of pages: 4oo

Genre: Women’s Fiction, Contemporary

 Buy the Book: Kindle | Paperback

 

 Synopsis:

WINNER OF THE IRISH BOOK AWARD FOR POPULAR FICTION 2015 ‚Heartfelt and deeply moving … I couldn’t put it down.’ Susan Lewis ‚Intriguing and thought provoking … a great read.’ Katie Fforde ‚Gripping and thought-provoking – I was desperate to discover how it would pan out!’ Paige Toon

When Alice’s husband Ben dies suddenly, her world falls apart. They shared twenty years and two daughters and life without him is unimaginable. Having lost her parents while young, Alice understands her girls’ pain. At fifteen, Jools is at that awkward age and only Ben could get through to her. And eleven-year-old Holly looks for the answer to everything in books but this time she’s drawing a blank. Alice realizes that for their sakes she must summon up superhuman reserves of strength. Somehow all three of them come through the dark days. In time, it’s even possible for Alice to consider marrying again, with the girls’ blessing. So when Ben turns up after three years, her world is again turned upside-down. The girls assume that their family can go back to the way they were. Alice is not so sure. Once more Alice has to find the strength to be the mother her daughters need her to be. But this time what that means is far from clear … ‚Smart family drama that packs a punch’ Heat on The Secrets Sisters Keep ‚Fans of Sinéad know they can expect honesty, humour and great story-telling’ Hello

Rating: 4/5

 

The storyline of „The Way We Were” is a little unusual, and I haven’t expected it at all (no, I haven’t read synopsis. It is Sinead Moriarty’s book – I don’t need to read synopsis to know that I am for a real treat, no matter what the book is about!). Why unusual, you may ask? Well, it has a dual location, and the second of them is in Eritrea – I haven’t read any books set in Eritrea before. What took the characters there? Well, Alice and Ben are married, both doctors, Alice a GP and Ben a surgeon, living a cosy life with their two daughters, Jools and Holly. Their life consists of going to work and taking care of the girls, which mostly means having battles with Jools over her homework, while Holly was a little genius. Their relationship is stable and sturdy and while Alice wishes that Ben came home right after the work instead of going cycling, Ben feels a little constricted and misses adventure, so he signs for a humanitarian trip to Eritrea, though he never thinks that this trip will ever take place. But yes, it happens, and despite Alice pleading with him not to go, he goes ahead. He should be back home after a short time but he never returns…
Fast forward, and Alice and the girls have built themselves a new life. Alice is to be engaged when she gets a phone call that is – again – going to change their whole lives… Can they be happy with a reunion that they were hoping for so long? And what happens when you stop hoping…?

Whatever we want to say about the book, those are the characters that just make it. We can like or dislike them, but they are brilliant, three – dimensional characters. At the first sight Alice can seem like a typical woman, juggling home and her work, but there was so much more to her than meets the eye. She was not perfect, she was not flawless, but this is what made her so realistic in my eyes. She had better and worse moments, and she felt so realistic in all her feelings, and I am really impressed how well the author captured all of these feelings.
At the beginning I though I will never warm to Jools, but in the end I have totally adored her. She was a handful and yes, her role models were the Kardashians, and some of her one – liners and word – twisting made me roll my eyes, but in a positive way. Though I had a moment that I didn’t like her, and it was when she tried to force her mother into making a decision that she, Jools, thought the best, but altogether she was brilliantly written, the author has wonderfully captured the way a teenager is. She and Holly were like chalk and cheese, and where Jools made me laugh, Holly mostly broke my heart with her perceiving the world and the whole situation. The chapters told from her point of view were mostly heartbreaking, and they made me wonder more than once how mature she is but how much of a child there is in her, and how much it costs her to come to terms with the situation and its consequences.
But my favourite character was absolutely Kevin, Alice’s brother. No matter what happened, he was there for her, supporting her every step and decision, even if he didn’t agree with her. He was gay, and he couldn’t be more clichéd, but in a good way, and I would love to have such a brother any time (impossible. Have a married sister). He always knew the right word and he was a champion of lightening the mood. Let’s also not forget Nora, the housekeeper, with her wisdoms – she was brilliant, a great addition to the family and the story, and even though only a background character, I can’t imagine this book without her. And last but not least, Declan, the tempered Declan – he and he and Ben were in fact complementary. Declan had a great sense of humour and he had a great family and I think I fell a little in love with him. And with his family as well. Though I had my five minutes when I stopped liking him, when he felt that he should tell Alice how she should live and what she should do. But it was only a moment and then I loved him again. So there.
I was a little conflicted about Dan, to be honest, he was so full of himself and he pushed Alice so much, I was scared that he might have turn into a bully or something like this. Loved Stella, though, she was a great person.

I also liked how the book is told in the third person Alice and Ben’s point of view, but the most heartbreaking moments were the chapters told in the first person by Holly – they were so touching and moving and it is amazing how well and deep the author was able to get into Holly’s head. Ms Moriarty has truly greatly dealt with the complexity of the situation and the plot. She didn’t allow her character to wallow in self – pity and to become melancholic or depressed – sure, they had moments of weakness, who wouldn’t have, but she kept them strong and going. And even though the book deals with really difficult issues, there is no overwhelming feeling of sadness or drama. No, it is full of really humorous scenes, especially with Kevin or the tales from Alice’s practice, and it makes for a great read.

However, I couldn’t shake off the feeling that the story is a little too one – dimensional and not as complex as I’d like from such a great author. I can’t put my finger directly on what it was that I’m missing, but everything felt so smooth in this story, and oh my god, of course, it was a tragedy, but nevertheless it all seemed just so easy. The things didn’t cross over, weren’t so explored as I’d like them to be and the book has really gained pace in the last 30% of it. But on the other hand nothing was obvious in this story and it really kept me guessing till the end. I also didn’t know how it should end for me, I didn’t enjoy how much under the gun Alice was put, especially by Jools, in those moments I thought that Jools is much too selfish and she should not butt in, shouldn’t interfere and let her mother make her own decision, but really, I didn’t know what would be better. I was mostly thinking that there can’t be a happy end, and I would really like to see a sequel to „The Way We were” to see what Alice does with her new life. The book was well – paced, and the scenes in Eritrea were gripping and dangerous. This novel was greatly written, had very well drawn characters, was really thoroughly researched and it was not predictable, and also not the easy one, as there were many heartbreaking decisions to be made. I wouldn’t like to be in the characters’ shoes, to be honest, wouldn’t like to be faced with the same dilemmas. Altogether, it was a great read about a family put to a test – a test in love and hope and new beginnings. A book with great characters and a very unique plot – highly recommended.