A Family Holiday by Bella Osborne

A Family Holiday

by Bella Osborne

 

Publisher: HarperImpulse

Publishing Date: 16th June 2016

Source:  Copy provided by the publisher,  thank you!

Number of pages: 324

Genre: Women’s Fiction, Contemporary, Romance

 Buy the Book: Kindle | Paperback

 

 Synopsis:

‘Heartwarming and funny from an exciting new talent’ – Katie Fforde

She’ll do whatever it takes to keep this family together…

As the nanny to four quirky but loveable children, Charlie French has learnt that if there was ever a cement shortage Weetabix would be a viable substitute and that YouTube videos can go viral in seconds, much to her horror. But, most importantly, she’s learnt that whatever happens you stick together as a family.

When tragedy strikes, Charlie is forced to decide whether it’s time to move on or fight to keep the children she loves. With the distraction of the children’s gorgeous Uncle Felix and the chance of a holiday in stunning Antigua, she’s left wondering if turquoise seas can wash away their present troubles. Is the pull of white sand beaches too tempting to resist or will paradise fail to keep them all together?

A gorgeous summery beach read, perfect for fans of Katie Fforde, Carole Matthews and Jill Mansell.

Rating: 3/5

 

„A Family Holiday” is Bella Osborne’s second novel but my first read by this author. I’ve already heard some good things about Ms Osborne so when I’ve spotted her novel on NetGalley I didn’t hesitate to request it – the cover of „A Family Holiday” is gorgeous – simple but in this case less is more – , it has a family and holiday in the title, and yes, the synopsis was very promising, and without further ado I started to read.

I must admit, I was sure that it is going to be a fluffy, sunny, light read about family holiday, full of sunshine, sunbathing and ice – cream eating and while there is plenty of humour, this book has a much serious side to it. It had you in giggles at the children’s antics and in the next moment you were looking soberly at the text, with your heart slowly breaking in two parts. The author has brilliantly captured the feelings and emotions of the characters and she especially excelled herself when it came to the children – their grief, sadness and their hard trying to cope with the awful situation they found themselves in were incredibly well, incredibly touching and incredibly well nailed and written.
But it is Charlie French that is our main protagonist and I admired her from the beginning for her devotion and commitment and motives. She was trying so hard to save this what has been left of the Cobley family, even when law and some other people were doing everything to make it so hard for her. She’s been left as a sole charger for the four Cobley children after their parents died in a car accident but she was so much more than just a nanny to them. She knew them all so well, in contrast to their aunt (Ruthless) Ruth and uncle Felix who were coming in question as potential guardians of the children, and while Ruth wanted to be their guardian and immediately let Charlie go, Felix didn’t want to be their guardian but wanted Charlie to stay. Charlie cared for the children and she knew that should they land into care, they will never be together again, and she desperately wanted to prevent it – she also knew how it is to be in the care, as Charlie had a very unhappy past herself. Really, she had the biggest heart in the world, her love to the children was palpable through the pages and I hated to see her struggle so much. For the children she wasn’t afraid to fight and put her own interest aside and yet she was aware that she has her own life as well.
Now, I know that we were supposed to dislike Ruth, and sure, I didn’t like her, but I think that the scenes with her were hilarious and added a lot of pepper to the story. We also have Felix, who, after being found again in Antigua expected us to call him Blue, which made me roll my eyes to be honest, but well, whatever. However, I couldn’t warm to Felix, or Blue (I can’t. Not sure why but it would be impossible for me to call someone Blue) not for a single second, even though throughout the story he was developing and coming out of his shell and we slowly got to know his thoughts, his past and his priorities. As much as I really appreciate that he knew what he wanted and he was sure he doesn’t want to change his life, I also couldn’t shake off the feeling that he could have at least try a little more for the sake of his brother’s children.

Gosh, guys, when we eventually arrived to Antigua I was so tired of waiting for the holidays that I didn’t enjoy them as much as they deserved to be enjoyed – sadly. I liked how Charlie dealt with all the issues on the island, how much patience and understanding she had, but I couldn’t stop feeling that we are running in circles all the time, and it just made me feel frustrated. Though the island itself looked brilliant in the descriptions, so exotic and vivid and full of water.

However, I had a feeling that I’m never going to finish this book – I just somehow couldn’t totally, absolutely, deeply engage with the story, with the characters even though, after reading all those raging reviews I was sure this book is the next jackpot for my book shelf. It’s just that for me the book has two parts: the first one is a very long introduction to the whole situation, intertwined with adventures of Charlie’s best friend, Fleur, and as much as it was humorous and added a lot of lightness to the story I couldn’t help thinking what does she actually have to do with the exact plot? Yes, she was a great support for Charlie but nothing more and for me Fleur could easily get her own novel, she’s for sure worth it. And the second part is the holiday itself that, even though in an exotic place – Antigua – with a lot of sunshine, blue waters and accidents, dragged on and on for me and it was more as if the author wanted to share her own memories about her own holidays with the readers. I wanted to love this story, I really wanted it, and it is worth to be loved, but somehow I just couldn’t engage with the characters and the dragging on events and I just had a feeling that there are too many things that are neither relevant, nor significant, to the plot.
But apart of me having the few issues with the book, I enjoyed it and there was so much potential, and the author’s writing style really took to my liking, so I’ll be for sure looking for her other works. I highly appreciate that Bella Osborne has written a book about such important issue (that I think I haven’t read before about!) in such a thoughtful way and for creating a fantastic, loving family and people who would support this family no matter what.

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Would Like to Meet by Polly James

Would Like to Meet

by Polly James

 

Publisher: Avon

Publishing Date: 30th June 2016

Source:  Copy provided by the publisher,  thank you!

Number of pages: 400

Genre: Literature/Fiction (Adult), Contemporary

 Buy the Book: Kindle | Paperback

 

 Synopsis:

A hilarious, heart-warming read perfect for fans of Shirley Valentine and You’ve Got Mail.

Could the worst thing that’s ever happened to Hannah Pinkman also turn out to be one of the best?

She and her husband Dan have reached the end of the line. Bored with the same gripes, the same old arguments – in fact, bored with everything – they split up after a trivial row turns into something much more serious.

Now Hannah has to make a new life for herself, but that’s not easy. She’s been so busy being a wife and mum that she’s let all her other interests slip away, along with her friends. And when Hannah is persuaded to join a dating site, her ‘best match’ is the very last person she expects it to be . . .

A clever, funny and poignant novel about life after a long relationship, the importance of friendship, and rediscovering your identity.

Rating: 4/5

 

I’ve actually read „Would Like to Meet…” some time ago after receiving my ARC copy, having mixed the publication dates, but even though I haven’t written my review then I can still remember the highlights of the book – which is a great thing because it means that I truly bear it in my mind and that it’s not a book easily forgotten. It is also a second book by Polly James, and second that I had a pleasure to read and I can say that the author doesn’t fear to write about things that are not so obvious, that are painful, about our everyday problems but in a very entertaining, down – to – earth way.

There is a great mix of characters in the book and you can choose between funny, nice, hilarious, unlikeable and all of them are going to surprise you. Hannah is a great character, so well written and rounded and it was a real joy to follow her on her journey to find happiness again. I loved her down – to – earthnesness and that she maintained a healthy distance to herself, not taking herself too seriously. She had moments of breakdown which only made her feel so much more realistic, because who wouldn’t have a breakdown when in her shoes? The things she goes through are sometimes heart – breakingly sad and sometimes laugh – out – loud funny but always realistic and there were moments that I found myself cringing with embarrassment, saying „Oh God” and rolling my eyes but mostly I just wanted that everything went great for Hannah.
There was one character that bothered me a lot and it was Esther, Hannah’s friend from work. I think I looked through Esther right at the very beginning and it frustrated me that Hannah hasn’t seen what kind of person Esther is. This was this typical kind of toxic relationship and as much as it annoyed me that Hannah sticks with Esther, I also could understand and see the mechanisms that pulled her back from finishing this relationship and why she always tried to engage Esther in her activities. However, Esther, a very big no – go from me.

But my most anticipated part of the book was when Hannah eventually agreed to join a couple of online dating sites! You know how much I loved stories about dates, blind dates, online dating etc, no idea why to be honest, I just love them, and each time I can’t wait to see on which levels of hilarity the author is going to take us with. And even though Polly James has organized neither an earthquake nor revolution when it comes to online dating, some of Hannah’s experiences were hilarious and impossible to describe – just let me tell you that I wasn’t disappointed! Hannah was sometimes speechless at what she discovered at the websites, and I was speechless with her…

I am not a specialist in splitting up (hallelujah!!!) but I think that even though some of the reviewers are moderate about the way it happened in the book, I think that this is the way it happens – the emotions and feelings rally for a long time and then what we need is a knickknack, a bagatelle, a detail for them to explode and here we are, splitting over a reality TV program.

Altogether „Would Like to Meet…” is a light, funny and entertaining story with a great depth to it. At first it will make you think about marriages and that not everything may be as we think it is, and then it’ll have you in stitches/horrified/entertained while introducing you to the world of modern dating, and actually how dating looks like after many years you used to do this. Polly James just hits the most important spots and writes how it really is, without beating around the bush, but also without any patronising moments, in a very accessible way. The book is written in a easy and light way and I quickly found myself totally immersed in Hannah’s life. It is a thoughtful and warm read, full of characters that it is easy to connect with, even if they annoy you every once in a while, so true to life and I really enjoyed it.

Florence Grace by Tracy Rees

Today I am absolutely thrilled to be kincking off blog tour for Tracy Rees’s second novel „Florence Grace„. I totally LOVED Tracy’s debut novel „Amy Snow” so I was really looking forward to her new release – Ms Rees is slowly but steadily climbing to the very top of the list of my favourite authors and she can write historical fiction in an enchanting way. So sit bequem, read my review, then pre – order the book (which is out this Thursday) and thank me later for recommendation!

 

Florence Grace

by Tracy Rees

 

Publisher: Quercus

Publishing Date: 30th June 2016

Source:  Copy provided by the publisher,  thank you!

Number of pages: 544

Genre: Literature/Fiction (Adult), Historical Fiction

 Buy the Book: Kindle | Paperback

 

 Synopsis:

Florrie Buckley is an orphan, living on the wind-blasted moors of Cornwall. It’s a hard existence but Florrie is content; she runs wild in the mysterious landscape. She thinks her destiny is set in stone.

But when Florrie is fourteen, she inherits a never-imagined secret. She is related to a wealthy and notorious London family, the Graces. Overnight, Florrie’s life changes and she moves from country to city, from poverty to wealth.

Cut off from everyone she has ever known, Florrie struggles to learn the rules of this strange new world. And then she must try to fathom her destructive pull towards the enigmatic and troubled Turlington Grace, a man with many dark secrets of his own.

Rating: 4/5

 

„Florence Grace” is Tracy Rees’s second novel. Last year I read her debut „Amy Snow” ( I can see a pattern coming here!) and I was totally delighted with this book, and I was so looking forward to the new release. It is always exciting to see how the author manage with the success of the first book and how is the „dreaded” second novel, but no worries here, and even though I think that „Amy Snow” is as yet going to stay the author’s biggest success and my favourite of hers, „Florence Grace” is also a piece of a brilliant historical fiction.

„Florence Grace” is set in the beautiful Cornwall and London of Victorian England and the author really brings the times to life, with descriptions of the places, harsh landscapes, difficult times, clothes and lives of the characters – she has incredible, evocative way with words and everything she writes about is vivid and feels like jumping out of the pages at any moment.
There are many characters in this novel, and the author introduces us to new ones throughout the story but as there is a bunch of the main characters it doesn’t feel confusing – I didn’t feel confused to know who is who, even if the names were mentioned after some time of absence. As in the first book, also here the main character, Florence, is a strong and very spirited young girl. She’s intelligent, clever and she knows what she wants. She doesn’t care about appearances, which is mostly very clear when she’s in London, but she also realises that to survive she must fall into line. There is also a touch of magic to her – she sees flashes of the future and she can sense people, but it doesn’t overwhelm her personality and descriptions of her. It felt as if she is a step ahead of all the other people, as if she knows much more than people of the times. Brave, with open heart, I really enjoyed how she settled in to a new life, even though the people – her long – lost family – that were supposed to help her were not so keen on this and were not so tolerant of the differences.
In fact, all the other characters were really brilliantly drawn and it didn’t take long for me to start to love or hate them. The author took her time to introduce them to us and I really felt as if I know them all inside out, and I really liked it. There was a depth to them all and all of them had their own complicated personalities and had their own stories and I really appreciate that Tracy Rees hasn’t made their lives too easy – they had problems, they made mistakes, they acted and reacted like real people, and all in a way that was so absolutely suitable to the Victorian times.

Tracy Rees has also in a great way captured the differences between the wild, wild moors and the hard and harsh life there, with men working in the mines and women trying to nourish their families, and London, where life at first could seem so much easier and for sure more glamorous, but wasn’t it in fact much more difficult than in Cornwall? With all the lies, secrets and keeping appearances? And Florence has seen it immediately, she didn’t need any special gift to see this, and as much as she hated to live in lie she’s also seen the need to conform. But she’s never stopped dreaming about coming back to her roots.

The book started very promising and interesting though there were passages that dragged a bit, but after Florrie found herself in London it went a little downhill. There was one moment that made me laugh out loud when Florrie and her cousin went for an argument but other than that it was kept on a very steady level. I’m not saying the pace was not right because it was, I just had a feeling that we are going in circles about the same things and it spoiled the reading a little for me.

I truly admired the writing style. It is historical fiction, but written in a very accessible, not too pompous way, and I loved when Florence unconsciously switched into her Cornish accent. There are many twists and turns in the story – they must be when you take length of this book into consideration! – though nothing so very life – changing or too dramatic, which is a good thing, as the story flows really smoothly and it keeps the air of realism and possibility – it just sounds genuine. I only have some problems with the ending, which sounded… I don’t know, a little weird? Different? Not suitable for this story? I’m not sure, I can’t keep my finger on the thing, but it just didn’t sit with me and I’m afraid it can confuse some readers. But altogether, I really enjoyed „Florence Grace”. It was not as brilliant as the previous book but Tracy Rees kept to her standards and delivered a wonderful, detailed, very well thought through book. There was lots and more in this story. The author is a great story – teller and in Florrie she created a brilliant narrator. We have challenges in this novel, changes with all their ups and downs, searching for your own true self, following dreams, friends and foes, love and hate, hope and despair, wealth and poverty, truth and lies and staying true. Tracy Rees is growing in strength and she has found her own, lovely and distinctive voice and she is for sure the one to watch – I am already waiting for her third book.

A Summer of Secrets by Alice Ross

A Summer of Secrets

by Alice Ross

 

Publisher: Carina

Publishing Date: 9th May 2016

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

Series: Countryside Dreams #2

Number of pages: 238

Genre: Women’s Literature, Contemporary

 Buy the Book: Kindle

 

 Synopsis:

A perfect, feel-good summer read about love, life and family.
One long hot summer. Secrets never stay buried for long…

Portia is determined to restore Buttersley Manor, her family’s crumbling ancestral home, to its former glory. Yet she has a feeling that there are a few forgotten skeletons in the dust-covered cupboards.

Jenny has put her life on hold for far too long. It’s time to finally start living and to dig up those hopes and dreams she’s kept hidden all these years – but is she brave enough?

Rich is happily married with a beautiful wife and lovely daughter. In fact, his world is perfect until a very unexpected consequence of his past walks through the door…

Joe would like nothing more than to travel back in time to when he and Gina were happy. But is it too late to rescue what they once had?

One thing’s for sure, nothing’s ever quite what it seems when it comes to life in the country!

Rating: 4/5

 

„A Summer of Secrets” is the second book in the Countryside Dreams series by Alice Ross and as I haven’t read the first book I was a little afraid that I may miss something. However, it can be absolutely read as a stand – alone novel and I also had a feeling that the book introduces totally new characters to us, so no problems here, guys.

The story introduces us to four different characters and this is my problem here. You know how much I like when something links the characters to each other, when their stories somehow intertwine, and here it only looked as if the place they were living in, small town of Buttersley, is the only thing that links them. Otherwise they didn’t have anything in common and I am not sure if they all even knew each other. Organizing stories this way is often really confusing for me because I am always looking forward to something happening to all of the characters, to something they have in common, and usually I end the book surprised that it ended already and what now?
So we have Portia here, who’s back to the town, having inherited her parents’ home, but she’s not sure what to do with the estate. she’s given up a job as a war correspondent and her dream now is to keep the house and make something special there. Rick, a successful entrepreneur with a lovely family consisting of clever, beautiful wife and young daughter, but suddenly his life is being turned upside down – is his marriage going to survive this shock? Jenny, already over 50, but still living with her dominating mother and letting her to organize her life. But suddenly Jenny starts to discover that there is much more to life than being under her mother’s thumb. Joe, still coming to terms with the fact that his girlfriend has broken up with him and left him, taking their baby son, but now suddenly Gina is back… For good? Or for worse?
So you see. Four people, four different stories, nothing linking them to each other. Nevertheless, I really liked the characters – they were full of life and the way they acted and reacted was realistic and seemed genuine. I can’t say that I had my favourite character, to be honest, they were all really well developed and their stories were told in a great, very accessible way, though I think that it was Jenny that stole my heart. At first I was surprised when I’ve learnt that she’s over 50 already, but when I got to know her story I really, truly fell for her, and the more I was reading about her, the more I liked her and kept my fingers crossed for her. Even though she’s been living under her mother’s thumb, she was a clever, funny woman with just the right dose of sarcasm and distance to herself and I loved the scenes with her and her rescue dog – they were absolutely great! But really, all the other characters were also brilliant, and I think it was impossible not to like them – they were fair and down – to – earth, just like I like my characters to be. Also the twists and turns that they were meeting as the story progressed were unexpected and while some of them were for my liking too far – fetched, mostly the reader could relate to them. Alice Ross has managed to write them in a way that made me feel as if I know all of them and am part of the Buttersley community.

The story is full of really funny moments but it also touches upon some serious situations and I loved how well the author has balanced them in this story. The things that happened to the characters could happen to all of us and I liked how they carried off with all the problems and ups and downs.

„A Summer of Secrets” is not a book that is going to stay with you forever but nevertheless, I enjoyed the story while reading it. It is fast – paced, have some surprises on the way and mostly the characters are really well developed, even those that are only the background to our main ones. The switching between the characters was very well done and I immediately knew who is who and who belongs to who. It is really a brilliant summer read, full of love, hope and also happily ever after – and who doesn’t like their HEA, right?

 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Alice Ross used to work in the financial services industry where she wrote riveting, enthralling brochures about pensions and ISAs that everyone read avidly and no one ever put straight into the bin.

One day, when nobody was looking, she managed to escape. Dragging her personal chef (aka her husband) along with her, she headed to Spain, where she began writing witty, sexy, romps designed to amuse slightly more than pension brochures.

Missing Blighty (including the weather – but don’t tell anyone), she returned five years later and now works part-time in the tourism industry.

When not writing, she can be found scratching out a tune on her violin, walking her dog in wellies two sizes too big (don’t ask!), or standing on her head in a yoga pose.

Links: Website | Twitter

How to Find Love in a Bookshop by Veronica Henry

How to Find Love in a Bookshop

by Veronica Henry

Publisher: Orion

Publishing Date: 16th June 2016

Source:  Copy provided by the publisher,  thank you!.

Number of pages: 336

Genre: Women’s Literature, Contemporary

 Buy the Book: Kindle | Hardcover | Paperback (out on 22.09.2016)

 Synopsis:

Nightingale Books, nestled on the high street in Peasebrook, a picture-postcard Cotswold town, is a dream comes true for booklovers. Everyone who enters falls in love with something.

But owner Emilia Nightingale is struggling to keep the shop open and the developers are circling. The temptation to sell up is proving enormous – but what about the promise she made to her father? Not to mention her customers, for whom the shop is a comfort, a meeting place, a lifeline.

There’s Gary, a stable lad for a nearby trainer, who buys books to read to Nikki, who is lying in a coma. He spends every spare hour at Nikki’s bedside, never giving up hope that she will come round.

Betty, who runs a supper club from her tiny cottage, has a huge crush on a man she met and then lost in the cookery section, somewhere Auguste Escoffier and Marco Pierre White.

Mrs Norris repeatedly ‚forgets’ to pay for her books – and Emilia never has the heart to remind her. But Mrs Norris isn’t quite as forgetful as she pretends …

And then Emilia meets Dexter, local jack-the-lad, who is looking to improve his English so he can better himself. He buys all Emilia’s recommendations, and together they re-discover all her favourite authors. But Dexter has a secret, and is not all he seems…

How to Find Love in a Bookshop is the delightful story of Emilia’s fight to keep her bookshop alive, the customers whose lives she has touched – and the books they all love.

Rating: 5/5

 

Books about cupcakes, cafes, tearooms seem to be very popular, which is not a wonder, as they usually really live up to the readers’ expectations, but lately I am observing a tendency to put the title or the plot in a book shop – I personally have read two or three book with this subject matter in the last times. And it delights me massively, as could there be a better place in the world than a cosy, friendly book shop? So bring them on, lovely authors. And to be honest, when I first heard about „How to Find Love in a Book Shop”, and then saw this lovely cover, I just knew that it’s going to be a fantastic read.

„How to Find love in a Book Shop” is one of the books that brings love to books to life. It also introduces us to a great cast of characters. Right in the first few chapters we learn about Julius, his life and his love of books, and they alternate with his daughter’s Emilia points of view. Emilia starts to come to terms with her father’s death and the fact that she inherited his beloved book shop that her father would really love if she kept. Nightingale Books is a magic place really, where everybody feels at home and when often the people come for a chat, leaving without buying any book. And Emilia wasn’t aware of the financial status of the shop, so now she’s the one that must give it a new lease of life or… sell. It’s the last thing she wants to do, to be honest, so she’s determined to do everything within her power to keep it – but will she manage? Especially with the local property developer, who’s also determined, but to get the place for himself?

All the feelings and emotions of the characters felt so realistic. Their lives are full of ups and downs, problems and they need to make some serious and important decisions. This all is describes in such a heartfelt way that you can’t help but keep your fingers crossed for them to find their own ways. And as there is such a great cast of characters it is really easy to find those that you can relate to.
Julius Nightingale, even though he was not among the living characters anymore, was like a separate, significant character himself, as truly, you could feel his spirit on almost every single page, and Emilia cherished him immensely. However, but I have no idea why, I personally didn’t warm to him – there was nothing wrong with him, guys, he was a normal person with problems and life has thrown some obstacles his way and he was forced to bring his daughter on his own, yet I just couldn’t trust him and I didn’t have a feeling that he is as good a man as everybody is painting him. I had no reason for this, it’s just my own, personal feeling, so maybe better pay no attention :)
I liked the determination in Emilia and that she didn’t want to give up till the end. I loved how all the people were there for her after her father died, including sellers, book lovers, musicians and manor owners. I also absolutely adored to see how Emilia finds herself in the shop, how she finds what’s important for her.
Among the main characters the author introduces as also to some background ones who weren’t so significant to the plot I’d say, but they had their own lovely stories that connected them to the bookshop. We have Sarah, the owner of Peasebrook Manor who used to escape to the bookshop, away from her problems, and her lovely daughter Alicia who’s just about to get married to Hugh – Hugh that is not very popular among the locals, as opposed to Dillon, but Dillon is only a gardener at the manor. Then we have Bea who’s relatively new to the village, as she escaped the rat race in London but didn’t know that the domesticity and raising up her daughter is going to bore her to tears. Then there is Jackson, working for the local developer, and there is much more to Jackson that I couldn’t believe my eyes, and you’ve no idea how much I cheered him on. First and foremost he is an example how much books can change a person. Welcome Thomasina, lovely shy Thomasina, teaching cookery at the local school who also has a lovely one – table pop restaurant at home, and who needs to find a courage to speak to a man she likes so much.
So as you see there are many characters, and I haven’t mentioned all of them, and they are all somehow connected to the bookshop. And even with this great number of them I didn’t have any problems to tell who is who and what’s their story, which is a real bonus, as it doesn’t happen often with such number of characters. They all have their own stories – sometimes sad, sometimes poignant – and they all brilliantly weave into the book.

There is one thing that seemed a little under – developed for my liking, and it was the sub – plot with Jackson and the developer. Jackson was supposed to enchant Emilia and convince her she should sell the shop (the above mentioned developer needed the premises desperately but Emilia, as well as Julius earlier, didn’t want to sell), and I thought that he’s going to cause a lot of troubles. At least it was his reputation. However, it turned out – at least for me – that Jackson is a softie and in fact there was not a single attempt of him trying to hinder Emilia. I’m not saying it’s wrong of him, of course not, because I’d hate to see her struggling even more, I’m just saying that after such introduction I was expecting ups and downs and many twists.

This book also had something that I so adore, the community spirit and the way how everybody didn’t hesitate to help each other, to lend a helping hand in the moments of troubles and problems. This time they tried to help Emilia to work out if, and how, to keep the shop, what to do to bring more customers, and I loved their ideas.

Yes, I admit that I was a little afraid when starting reading this novel, as I had some problems with Ms Henry’s previous book, but this time the story kept me so hooked, and it had such a feel – good factor to it, and I found myself racing through the pages in the end. „How to Find Love in a Book Shop” doesn’t only explores love to books but mostly it is a great story about characters that feel so true to life and there is a lot of heart and feelings there. It describes sad and happy times and it just sounds so honest and I really liked how well and skilfully the author woven together all the separate stories of all the characters. It is a story about love, friendship, hope, and this all tied up in one little bookshop. The plot is full to the brims with events and lovely characters who respect each other and who really can come together during a crisis. The writing style is really engaging and very vivid, also very fluent and intelligent but also very accessible. Really recommended!

 

As June 18 – 25th is Independent Bookshop Week that interlocks also with the publication date of „How to Find Love in a Bookshop”, I’m chuffed to tell you about my favourite bookshop. It’s not in London, it’s even not in the UK, but it’s in Germany, in a small town in the south of Germany. it’s called Stangl & Taubald and what is so great about it is that, except of it being a bookshop – obviously! – it has incredible history. It was opened on 21st September 1864, almost one year after the first railway in Weiden (it’s the town) was opened.  Of course, it was also the first bookshop there! There were many owners’ changes throughout the years, with such dates as 1882, 1918, 1920, 1946… In 1989 the current owners took the shop, moved to the centre of the town and are staying there. By now the owners are the third generation of the Stangl family that own the shop!

What I so love in this shop is the atmosphere. it’s friendly and you always feel welcome, no matter if you came only to browse or to buy. The owners and the co – sellers are always helpful and they’re able to dig a book out of nowhere for their customers. Of course they also organize many events and meetings, not only reading but you can also go with them to the biggest book fairs in Germany. And probably abroad :)

In the bookshop, apart from books, you can of course find many, many other things that, as a bookworm, you’ll find a necessity: all things bookish, stationary, magazines, toys and presents, according to the season and occasion. My idea of heaven, to be honest :)

 

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You Had Me at Merlot: Guest Post by Lisa Dickenson

So here we are, guys. Lisa Dickenson’s new novel is out and it’s gorgeous! (You can read my very gushing review here). BUT! Lisa sets her novel in the loveliest places all over the world and I always so wanted to hear how her research look like. You know, sun – bathing on the beach with a glass of prosecco or two, partying with all the celebrities… So Lisa has written a guest post about it, and I’m so very, very thankful! And thank you, Clara, for making it possible! And you, guys, sit back, put you feet high and enjoy!

 

Urgh, Christmas in New York, I hate my life.  Kidding!  Book writing is AWESOME!  Especially when you just ~happen~ to have set your latest book in another country…

                  For You Had Me at Merlot, my research was mainly in the form of spreading Italian holiday brochures out in front of me whilst drinking lots of wine and tapping away on my laptop.  But my next book, Mistletoe on 34th Street, I unknowingly researched before the novel was even a twinkle in my eye.

                  Shimmy your way back to 2010, when we were all six years younger; when Katy Perry was singing about Teenage Dreams, and Lady Gaga was walking about wearing bacon.  I was in New York City, soaking up the festive spirit following a year of travelling about the world with the man I now call Husband Phil.  On the last night – one week before Christmas Day – he popped the question.  We were all ready to head home and show off the sparkler to our friends and family, and then bam! – the next day the UK became snowbound, and we weren’t going anywhere.  The airports were closed, the trains were closed; most of Europe was closed.  I know, I know, NYC isn’t the worst place to be stranded at Christmas, especially when giddy from a recent engagement and a shit-load of mulled wine, but as the clock ticked towards the big day we couldn’t help but begin to wonder when we’d finally make it home.  At least I was with one of my favourite people in the world, right, holly-jolly Husband Phil?  Imagine if I was stranded at Christmas with the last people in the world I wanted to spend it with!

                  So that became the concept for Book 4, many years later, and it was only right to head back to the Big Apple for “research” – you know, see if it had changed, remind myself how tall the buildings are.  I returned in December 2015 and it was perfection, as New York always is, to me.  I re-accustomed myself with the sounds and the smells and the streets, and OH MY GOD ALL THE FOOD, and it made me so happy.  I can’t wait to travel to New York again with all of you this winter, when Mistletoe on 34th Street comes out.

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Lisa Dickenson was born in the wrong body. She was definitely meant to be Beyoncé. Despite this hardship, she grew up in Devon attempting to write her own, completely copyright-infringing versions of Sweet Valley High, before giving Wales a go for university, and then London a go for the celeb-spotting potential. She’s now back in Devon, living beside the seaside with her husband and forcing cream teas down the mouths of anyone who’ll visit. She is sadly still not Beyonce. Lisa’s first novel, ‘The Twelve Dates of Christmas’, won the Novelicious Debut of the Year award. Her second novel, ‘You Had Me at Merlot’, is out now.

You Had Me at Merlot by Lisa Dickenson

Hi there lovely reading people. Today I am so absolutely thrilled to be a part of Lisa Dickenson’s blog tour for her newest novel „You Had Me at Merlot„. I love Lisa, simple like that, and I am dreaming that I’m going to meet her one day and that perhaps then somehow I’ll become as funny as she is, but until then I always have her books :) I also have a guest post from Lisa about researching the places for her books, and you can find it here . Enjoy!

 

You Had Me at Merlot

by Lisa Dickenson

 

Publisher: Sphere

Publishing Date: 16th June 2016

Source:  Copy provided by the publisher,  thank you!.

Number of pages: 368

Genre: Women’s Literature, Contemporary

 Buy the Book: Kindle | Paperback

 

 

 

 

Synopsis:

Elle and Laurie are the last ones standing: they’re single, they’re not having babies any time soon and their weekends aren’t filled with joyful meetings about mortgages. For Elle, this is fine. She likes her independent life, but Laurie wants love and she wants it now.

So when Laurie begs Elle to come with her on a singles holiday to a beautiful vineyard in Tuscany, Elle is reluctant. She has no intention of swapping her perfectly lovely life for someone else’s idea of her Mr Perfect, but ten days under the Italian sun with her best friend and lashings of wine? How bad could that be?

Full of sultry summer nights, hilarious moments and plenty of adventure, You Had Me at Merlot will warm even the most cynical of hearts and have you believing in the magic of romance (and the power of a decent glass of wine).

Rating: 5/5

 

Guys, after being published in four parts, „You Had Me at Merlot” is finally out in paperback, in all its shiny glory, and it looks gorgeous! I still can remember how much joy it was for me to download each part to my kindle and escape for an hour or two to the sunny, full of scents Italy, but it was also incredible joy to eventually see it as a whole novel and re – read it. This book belongs to the highest category of funny, funny with a big F, tactful funny, hilariously funny, laughing out loud funny, making you cry with laughter funny. My kinda funny, absolutely.
And Lisa herself is one of the funniest, warmest person EVER. I often cry with laughter reading her one – liners on Twitter, so just imagine what’s she done to me writing a whole book. I was in stitches. Lisa has incredible way of creating FUN out of a very ordinary sentence and describing situations that could be dull in a most witty way, and inventing situations that had me shaking my head, kicking my legs, gasping, rolling, together with a very honest, belly – laugh.

The book introduces us to Elle. Elle is single, she enjoys being single in fact, she has a job that she loves and is good at and she hopes for a promotion soon. Elle’s best friend Laurie is also single but she starts thinking that perhaps it’s time to settle down. So Laurie, using many different arguments, persuades Elle to go on holiday with her. Tasting wine, driving Vespas, hot sun… And do not forget that it’s holidays for singles.
Elle isn’t thrilled but with Laurie’s persuading skills she soon finds herself on a plane to Italy. A very eventful plane. Of course, Elle is going to enjoy only wine, vespas and hot sun, she doesn’t believe in relationships, for sure not in a relationship with somebody that she knows only for few days and is going to leave this part of You Had Me at Merlot holidays for Laurie. On the other hand, holidays under the sun, with a glass of wine in one hand and best friend – it can’t be too bad, can it? But well, life – as usual – is full of surprises and hey, never say never!
And here starts the best holidays EVER. Holiday full of, yes, wine, Vespas and hot sun, but also many, many embarrassing situations, many new friends, attractions prepared by the owner of the hotel, hot men, unexpected visits from ex – girlfriends, playing spies and making wine with their own feet. And co – singles, in the form of Elle’s boss, who arrives screaming and kicking, for a good start. Dream holiday, isn’t it?

I fell in love with Elle and Laurie from the very beginning. Laurie became my hero after her Botox incident, it was HILARIOUS! Elle, with her down – to – earth, doesn’t give a damn attitude could be my new book best friend. She was incredibly funny, incredibly clever, incredibly loyal and incredibly gullible and incredibly prone to accident, let’s mention only her photo session at the museum or her Vespa ride. Only two out of the very, very many, one more ridiculous than the other.

The owners of You Had Me at Merlot were sweet and charming and I can’t imagine now a better idea for my holidays, I could pretend I’m single for ten days, no problem. The attractions they prepared for their guests were brilliant, Sebastian with his direct attitude was just the best!
And Jamie. Helloooo!!! I had lots of luck lately for the best male characters in the books ever but Jamie is just THE best. He’s not only sexy as hell, he doesn’t only look like a Love God, but he can make his own wine AND chocolate. Did all my dreams come true at once? AND he has a dog, leonberger. AND he’s witty. But also stubborn. Oh yes, there were moments that I wanted to shake him strongly.
All the characters were livid, just popping out of the pages and coming to life next to you. All the other singletons on the holidays, even Elle’s devil boss, who then appeared to be not devil at all, were fantastic, I giggled over them and their adventures, and especially over relentless in adoration lothario George. He was amazeballs! Lisa can create wonderful heroes that feel warm and totally realistic and are the most funny people in the world. The dialogues, the banter between them, the one – liners were one of the best I have ever read, and I know that I said it few times this year, but those are really THE BEST.

The book has absolutely the right pace and is a real page – turner. It belongs to this category of books that I want to finish asap but don’t want them to end. Every page brought more sun and more warmth than the other, more laughter and more positive feelings. It had me hooked from the get – go and took me on a brilliant, adventurous and full of surprises and beautiful sights journey to Tuscany.
Lisa’s humour is actually beyond description, what I would do to be at least half as funny as she is! But it’s not only the humour that won me over, it is also the story, the plot which is simple but hooking and worked out for me, and the writing style: fresh, modern, fast, light, easy to follow and gripping too.

You Had Me at Merlot is as sunny as Tuscany itself and as tasty as the chilli wine made by Jamie. It is a MUST read for this summer, and not only for summer. It absolutely belongs on my FAVOURITE shelf. And I will never be able to drink wine again without giggling over blind – fold wine testing. A warm, uplifting read, a feel – good read, with quirky characters, plenty of good humour, funny scenes and drooling over Jamie – highly, highly recommended.

PS. Please DO NOT count how often I used the words „funny”, „the best” and „ever” in this review. Pretty please.

 

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