The Food of Love by Amanda Prowse

The Food of Love by Amanda Prowse

 

30333119Publisher: Lake Union Publishing

Publishing Date: 1st December 2016

Source:  Received from the author in return for an honest review, thank you!

Number of pages: 350

Genre: General Fiction (Adult)

 Buy the Book: Kindle | Paperback

 

Synopsis:

A loving mother. A perfect family. A shock wave that could shatter everything.

Freya Braithwaite knows she is lucky. Nineteen years of marriage to a man who still warms her soul and two beautiful teenage daughters to show for it: confident Charlotte and thoughtful Lexi. Her home is filled with love and laughter.

But when Lexi’s struggles with weight take control of her life, everything Freya once took for granted falls apart, leaving the whole family with a sense of helplessness that can only be confronted with understanding, unity and, above all, love.

In this compelling and heart-wrenching new work by bestselling author Amanda Prowse, one ordinary family tackles unexpected difficulties and discovers that love can find its way through life’s darkest moments.

Rating: 5/5

Even though I haven’t read an Amanda Prowse book for a long time now, I do remember that all of the novels that I had a pleasure to read made a great impact on me and I still know that I cried crocodile tears when reading them, so I was guessing what’s in store for me when starting “The Food of Love”. The book started slowly, more like your usual chick – lit book and there came a moment that I began to feel nervous, as it seemed that in fact nothing is happening – the Braithwaites, Freya and Lockie and their two daughters lead perfectly normal lives, sometimes they are struggling money – wise, sometimes it’s better, but what was very clear was that they love each other. However, soon it became clear that there is a second layer to this story, that something has happened, because at the end of each chapter the family is writing letters to one of their member, and it looks like they don’t have a lot of time left – but what has happened and what’s going to happen when they time is over?

This book has awoken millions of feelings in me. Yes, at the beginning I wasn’t too sure, as it started relatively slowly, and then Freya made me feel so, so annoyed, and I also wasn’t sure if I’m right because guys, I thought I was supposed to feel sorry for Lexi, and what I felt was anger – a hot, red anger that she’s so weak, that she’s so stubborn, that she is the one who doesn’t want to stop, and in my own eyes I felt like a monster – but when I finished this book, I was in a mess and I needed time to sort out my feelings, which is always a sign of a good book! What’s more, I am still thinking about it. The characters just got under my skin, they are unforgettable and the realistic way the story was written have just wowed me over.

Maybe because it is probably my first book about anorexia it really made an impact on me. Amanda Prowse has just got under Lexi’s skin and in a very distinctive, clear and detailed way showed us what she felt and what it was like for her and her family, how they all felt and how much it influenced their lives.

But to be honest, this book could easily be a less star – rating read – because of Freya. I know how strong mother’s feelings are but there comes a moment when you need to realise that your child’s life is in danger and it’s up to you to save it. As much as I fell for her and felt with her, I also wanted to slap her, shake her and tell her to wake up and that it’s not a time to wonder if Lexi will still love her, is she will forgive her, it is time to act! I was in fact wondering if it’s at all possible that the doctors didn’t force the family to put Lexi in hospital, seeing that her life was so in danger – I don’t know if there are any laws and if there is a moment that they can act even against family’s wishes. To be honest, now, in perspective, I am not sure how Freya could watch her daughter to lose weight, hair, bones and will to live and not do anything, only hope that love will mend everything. Love is powerful, but it’s not everything in such cases. I know how hard it can be to be a mum, but this all went just too far. And the other aspect of Freya – she herself was also obsessed with food and she belittled people who were not controlling their appetite, or was dismissively talking about bigger people eating fast food – was this what Lexi noticed and remembered? On the other hand, as a mother, I have a feeling that nobody can do my job as well as I do it, so I also felt sympathy with Freya. Yes, I am totally torn when it comes to this woman. But I loved the Braithwaites as a family – their banter, the way they were around each other and it was painful to see how each of them was affected by the illness. Freya, Lockie, Lexi’s sister Charlotte… Thanks to the author I had a feeling that together with them I am experiencing the pain, the novelty of this all, the fear, anger and other feelings and emotions. I also felt so sorry for them with Freya reacting like this, being obsessed to solve the problem all by herself because “she’s Lexi’s mum” – hello? Lexi’s dad and sister wanted to help as well, and maybe they were to do it much better but they just didn’t get a chance. Lockie’s frustration was so palpable and so heart – breaking and I was awestruck that he lasted for so long, and my heart went to Charlotte, it was so, so tough for her, to see the sister that she loved so much suddenly deteriorating, but also finding herself neglected.

But even with Freya, this book gave me the shivers and I am praying every day that a disease like this will never afflict my family, and I can’t stop thinking about the book and the characters, which is always a sign of a great book. I admired the passages where the author seemed to just got into Lexi’s head, as all the feelings and fears were captured in an incredibly realistic way, brutally honestly showing how out of control she could be – not only over her body, but also her mind. It was shocking. Truly shocking.

“The Food of Love” is a powerful, emotional rollercoaster, and once we feel hope and in the next second we feel hopeless and powerless, full of anger and incomprehension how powerful this horrifying disease is. The author has, in a very detailed way, showed the readers the lengths people suffer from this illness, not only the victims of it, but also their families and beloved ones. It is a slow burner that then turns into a real page turner. It is unforgettable and it is incredibly important. Amanda Prowse is a very skilled storyteller and she brought all the characters, dialogues and situations to life. She showed the other side to an ordinary and happy life, the harsh reality and how to face to it. It is a great story about unconditional love, honesty and the great importance of a supporting family, but it’s also about being able to admit defeat and ask for help. A very important read that couldn’t be missed!

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What Alice Knew by T.A. Cotterell – Blog Tour

Hi guys! Today I am incredibly excited to welcome you to an epic blog tour for T.A. Cotterell’s debut novel, “What Alice Knew”.  This complex and full of questions thriller is published on 1st December as an e-book and in spring next year as a paperback. I was incredibly intrigued by this book, the story had me hooked and it was so controversial and I truly wanted to know why the author has chosen such topic – this is why I asked him to tell us about the inspiration for “What Alice Knew”.

33014541What Alice Knew by T.A. Cotterell

 

Publisher: Black Swan

Publishing Date: 1st December 2016 (e-book) / 20th April 2017 (Paperback)

Source:  Received from the publisher in return for an honest review, thank you!

Number of pages: 384

Genre: Crime, Thrillers & Mystery

 Buy the Book: Kindle | Paperback

 

Synopsis:

Alice has a perfect life – a great job, happy kids, a wonderful husband. Until he goes missing one night; she receives a suspicious phone call; things don’t quite add up.

Alice needs to know what’s going on. But when she uncovers the truth she faces a brutal choice. And how can she be sure it is the truth?

Sometimes it’s better not to know.

Rating: 4/5

“What Alice Knew” is for sure a book with the wow – effect. It is controversial and it truly touches upon difficult issues and decisions to be made and really I didn’t know in what direction the author is going to continue with the story, what is he going to choose, true or lies. I personally was all the time wondering what I’d do in such situation. Nevertheless, I think that no matter what the decision, there wasn’t one that would be good for the characters.

Alice and Ed Sheahan have the perfect life – she is a popular painter, he is a very respected obstetrician. They have two great kids and a beautiful house. But then, one night, Ed goes missing and after that their lives take a very different turn. Alice and Ed must ask themselves, how far would they go to protect their family?
Please, don’t be fooled that it’s a book about a wife trying to save her marriage and her husband’s reputation, because there is much, much more to this story!

This is a very complex story following many themes, however it is very easy to keep on track. It is full of tension, questions, secrets and lies and it made me think, not only about THE question, but also about its controversy, morals, ethics and my own safety. It actually made me question everything I read about. I personally was absolutely taken by surprise with the way the plot took on, especially after reading in the synopsis that Ed went missing, and I was expecting a totally different tale about searching for him. But this what I got has absolutely lived up to my expectations and the novel had me glued to the pages, as I couldn’t wait to see how it’s going to end. In fact I was incredibly tempted to just look at the last page and see the end and it cost me a lot of willpower not to do it. So maybe it is the fact that I was waiting for a very spectacular finish, with fireworks or unbelievable turn, made me feel so little confused when I finished reading, not knowing what to think. Because – and here is my personal “but” – the ending. It disappointed me to be honest and I’m not sure if it’s because it was such a big surprise that I didn’t see coming or because it is the one that I was not happy with. I also know that making Alice a painter was author’s cognizant decision but for me the passages about art, as much as they were probably significant to the plot, were not working for me – they were dragging me away from the story and they were just too much for me. I know. I should be more sophisticated. But even though the passages about art were not so much my cup of tea, I still appreciated them and I think there was something lyrical, nostalgic in them, and there were moments that the sudden change from art to real life was like a jump into cold water, so cooling and shocking it was, first the softness, beauty and in the next second the brutal reality. The writing style was one of the strongest points of this book and I had a feeling that the author really knows what he’s writing about – it was rich, very intelligent, eloquent, taking many points of view into consideration. I also had a feeling that the story is much too chopped, as if the author just lost his thought or didn’t know how to connect the events – all extremely well written but there was something missing. There was a lot of inner monologues and will he/will she, though I still must admit that the story never felt flat.

Personally I couldn’t stand Ed. He was too smug, to self – confident for my liking, but to be honest, Alice also annoyed me incredibly, and I had a feeling that she’s very uncertain and that even though she’s a very talented painter she doesn’t believe in her own talent, and it truly, madly made me angry.

The author has really done a great job with pulling wool over our eyes and presenting some possibilities and I think that we, as readers, could never be sure how the story is going to end. I think it is such compelling and gripping read because it makes you wonder what you’d do in such situation and how hard it’s to deal with truth sometimes. I think that nowadays, when so many psychological thrillers are written, it is a hard job for a book to stand out of the crowd but I also think that “What Alice Knew” doesn’t need to be afraid. It is a thriller with a difference, with a unique look and there is suspense and it’s a pretty good read. Yes, the book had me hooked and I was incredibly intrigued and I am already waiting for T.A. Cotterell’s next book – “What Alice Knew” was truly great debut. Recommended for all who are in a need of a very tense, not obvious read.

GUEST POST

My original plan was to write a thriller in which the reader’s sympathy, by virtue of point of view, was with the ‘criminal’. Clearly it was therefore impossible to write a ‘whodunnit?’ This led naturally to a ‘whydunnit?’ and ‘will they get away with it?’. As a father of smallish children – small when I started writing anyway! – I was also conscious of the place of truth in family life. What is the parent-child contract? How much does a parent owe it to a child to tell him/her the truth? When should they tell them, if at all?

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Being a parent, one is conscious the worst possible thing would be to be separated from your children while they are at an age where they still need you. It struck me therefore that if a father committed an act which, if found out, would separate him from his family, he would have every incentive to cover it up. If he told his wife, or his wife found out, they would have a secret that bound them together, for good and bad. As the bindings of the secret became tighter it seemed to me, there was a danger they could strangle or suffocate one partner. If that was the case then issues of intra-family honesty and truth would be forced into the open. It was these inter-related issues that led me to the plot of ‘What Alice Knew’.

As you rightly note, it was not an easy theme to pull together. I originally wrote and finished the novel in the third person but then I realised it was Alice’s story and needed to be narrated by her. In the first version she was a GP, but as I knew nothing about GPs this added little to the story. Making her a portrait painter opened up the whole book. Suddenly I was able to play with ideas of truth in art and life, light and darkness, the idea of being in the spotlight with nowhere to hide. This lent itself to the weather patterns, with the pre-confession gloomy skies giving way to the burning heat of summer, the sun reaching into every corner wherever Alice is seeking to hide in the darkness or behind the easel – most notably in Marianne’s glass-walled house when she, the hunter, becomes the ‘prey’. Her job/vocation also allowed some tangential symbolism into the book – much as a still life painter picks symbolic objects such as a lemon to symbolise bitter-sweetness, so her still life, ‘Peach, Knife, Dead Rose’ represented Alice, Ed & Araminta.

 What I particularly liked about the story as it came together was the possibility it gave me to write a page-turner (I hope!) which, unlike most thrillers, not only turns on a character and her ideas rather than a smoking gun, but one which, at the end becomes almost more of a character study than a straight thriller. It was as if I, and hopefully the reader, had had their cake and eaten it!

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The Christmas Cake Cafe by Sue Watson

The Christmas Cake Cafe by Sue Watson

 

31579922Publisher: Bookouture

Publishing Date: 14th October 2016

Source:  Received from the publisher via NetGalley in return for an honest review, thank you!

Number of pages: 258

Genre: Romance, Women’s Fiction

 Buy the Book: Kindle | Paperback

 

Synopsis:

Heart-warming and hilarious, a story that will make you laugh, cry and bring a smile to your face.  Get ready for another deliciously amazing Christmas treat from Sue Watson….

As the Prosecco chills and Bing Crosby croons, Jen Barker just knows that her long-term boyfriend is about to propose.  But instead of a diamond ring nestled in her champagne flute, Jen finds cold flat rejection.  Her once perfect life and dreams of a husband and family seem even further from reach.

A working holiday to the Swiss Alps with her younger sister Jody might not be the Christmas Jen had it mind, but it offers her the chance to recharge her batteries and recover from heartbreak.

When Jen meets handsome ski instructor Jon Zutter her hopes for a happy-ever-after seem within her grasp again. Jon is kind and gorgeous and as they bond over Sachetorte at the picturesque Cake Café, Jen thinks he might just be her perfect man. But a relationship with him comes with a catch – and there are some things even cake can’t fix.

As the snow falls and Christmas approaches, could this be the place that restores Jen Barker’s faith in love?

Rating: 5/5

Ahhh, Sue Watson’s new Christmas book! Brilliant! I know that when I start reading Sue’s novel I am for sure going to meet a mature heroine that life has just turned upside down, facing new challenges and adventures and usually reaching their goals. And this is what I love in Ms Watson’s books and I hope she will follow this lovely, uplifting formula for longer – because it simply works.

Our main character Jen has waited many years for her boyfriend Tim to propose and then, one day, when they are in the restaurant celebrating her birthday, shortly before Christmas, she’s sure that this is the day when he’s finally going to pop the question. Is he?
Fast forward a little and Jen is trying to come to terms with living on her own, crying over her best years she has dedicated to Tim, but also mending bonds with her much younger half – sister Jody. Well, Jody is actually the only family that she has, so when she asks Jen to come with her to Switzerland to work over Christmas (and, of course, to have a great time! Snow! Glühwein! Après ski!!!), Jen finally agrees.

I think that Switzerland is becoming my favourite setting for Christmas novels. I was there once, unfortunately not in winter, but autumn in Switzerland has its appeal as well – just think about all the Milka cows with their bells – they really have them! This time Sue Watson has effortlessly brought the beauty of the place to life and now my Christmas wish is to spend my own Christmas there.

I adored Jen. She was so normal and so accident – prone! She got angry, she felt disappointed and deceived and this was all so natural and close to life. Then I adored her even more, with all the accidents she had in Switzerland – they were hilarious and they made me laugh out loud, to be honest. The relationship between her and Jon, the lovely and handsome and understanding ski instructor, felt also so genuine and realistic, it was full of misunderstandings, awkward moments and jumping to conclusions, but it was so, so cute…! The fact that Jen was changing is also a brownie point for the author. At the beginning Jen wanted to plan everything and she was your typical spinster with a cat, but being in Jody’s company – Jody, who was cheerful, who lived life to the fullest, who didn’t care about appearances and what people will say – let her come out of her shell. Yes, it often ended in a disaster or wet clothes or making a clown out of herself, but there is always a bright side as well, right? Jen was really, truly damaged by her relationship with the stiff and deprived of sense of humour Tim and she was always thinking what Tim would say – to say that Tim has damaged her self – esteem would be probably an understatement. So really, it was a great joy to see her blossoming, finding her new self but also staying true to herself and her beliefs.

The characters were so, so lovely and so, so hilarious! I loved the girls that Jen went to Switzerland with, there was not a single boring moment in their company, oh no! I was curious how Jen is going to deal with them all but she adapted so well and she quickly became one of them, but also staying herself, if you know what I mean. They always did so many things out of Jen’s comfort zone, but she just closed her eyes and tried this new and exciting world. The girls’ idea of a working holiday was a little bit different to this what I might have perceive as a working holiday, and Jen as well, but hey, why not. It was also great to see how the two sisters, who didn’t really know each other, grew closer and closer and eventually became not only sisters but also best friends. I loved the part that Jody played in the story, no matter if she knew that she’s on a mission or not. She was much younger than Jen but sometimes she was much wiser than her half – sister, especially when it came to bringing Jen back to life and showing her that you can always have fun, you can always enjoy your life and that you should never lose hope.

The difference between the two relationships of Jen – this with Tim and this with Jon – was brilliantly captured and showed how much influence Tim had on Jen and how much it cost her, and also how much patience and encouragement from Jon it needed. While Tim always criticized Jen and lived on routine, Jon prompted her to try, to make mistakes, to live spontaneously – no need to tell you who was better for Jen, right?

“The Christmas Cake Cafe” was a lovely, if sometimes a little too clichéd and tad predictable story, but oh my word, I didn’t read this book for its unpredictability! My only “but” would be that the romance aspect with Jon sometimes felt too forced and some of the events that happened when Jon and Jen got to know each other, and also some of the later situations, just seemed too rushed, too forced and too accidental. I don’t want to spoil the storyline, so I may sound a little vague, but this is my feeling. The second half felt also a little too rushed in comparison to the first half but well, it didn’t spoil the reading, not at all. And yes, so many of the characters’ names beginning with “J”, it was a bit confusing sometimes. However, there were enough twists and turns to have me glued to the pages, it touched upon more serious issues, such like dreams and wishes, it was full of humorous moments, the setting was perfect and it was already full of the festive spirit. It was uplifting and joyful and I loved how easy the reading was, and how effortlessly the author transported me to Switzerland and to the characters’ world. It was a light-hearted but also serious story and I love how Sue Watson mixes those two things together and how great the story was.

There was skiing, there was a cow onesie and – of course! OF COURSE! – there was delicious food, especially Christmas cakes, that made my mouth water. Even though the title Christmas Cake Cafe is not the main focus in this story, it does play a significant role there, and dear god, please let me try all the cakes that they sell there – only once! “The Christmas Cake Cafe” is a great, uplifting novel about learning how to be free again, how to be yourself again and how to enjoy life. It is about relationships, love, family and looking for a happy end and gaining a lot on the way. There is this overwhelming feel – good factor to this multi – layered story and this is just what the doctor ordered – highly recommended!

The Christmas Guest by Daisy Bell / Blog Tour

The Christmas Guest by Daisy Bell

 

32147713Publisher: Quercus

Publishing Date: 3rd November 2016

Source:  Received from the publisher in return for an honest review, thank you!

Number of pages: 304

Genre: General Fiction, Holidays/Christmas

 Buy the Book: Kindle | Hardcover

 

Synopsis:

A puppy is for Christmas. A friend is for life. The heartwarming tale of a homeless puppy with a huge heart who healed a family . . .

When Teddy runs away from home a week before Christmas, he’s far too excited to worry about what lies ahead. But all too soon Teddy realises just how cold and scary the world really is, and what was supposed to be the perfect adventure now seems like a terrible mistake.

Then Teddy is discovered on a snowy doorstep by the Woods family. With their kind hearts and cosy cottage, Claire, Ben and their daughter Emily are the family Teddy is desperate to have. But Emily is ill, her parents are stressed and, with Christmas around the corner, raising and training a well-meaning but unruly puppy is hardly a priority.

Teddy knows he and little Emily have a once-in-a-lifetime bond, and that he can be the best friend she needs in this dark time. If only he can prove to Ben and Claire how much happier he could make them all, Teddy might just find the family of his dreams this Christmas.

Rating: 4/5

Oh guys, yes, I admit, it took me some time to decide if I want to read this book – you know, dogs in stories + moi = crying endlessly, no matter what the result, if happy or sad – but when I’ve seen this gorgeous, adorable cover and the puppy eyes, I was sold.

The author has brilliantly captured Teddy the dog and his personality, and she perfectly well knew when he should wag his tail or hide behind a chair – she really knew what she was writing about and Teddy was so close to life! I loved how his little heart was full of love and adoration and how well Ms Bell put in words his thoughts and the way he perceived the world of two – legged creatures. She wonderfully described all the antics and shenanigans and troubles Teddy put himself into and I could only sigh with understanding as I also been there, seen this, experienced it all. It was so touching to see and hear how much he tried his best, how much he tried to behave and how often it all went completely wrong, just like in a real life really.

I totally adored his relationship with Emily. While so often the authors can’t really well write children characters, making them too adult or too immature for their age, I think that Emily was really brilliantly captured. My heart often went to her and, as a mother myself, I could only too well imagine how desperately her parents have felt seeing her so ill.

So yes, Teddy was lovely, though I must admit that I had some problems with personifying him so much. I mean, I am the first to tell you that animals DO have feelings and understand everything but Teddy was too human sometimes. He was also a great actor, just like all dogs are, they really do know when to play innocent, hungry, tired, and Teddy was a real champion of this. What also didn’t sit with me were the moments of two dogs “talking” to each other. It was already weird, but also interesting, to have a dog as a main character and the main point of view, but the moments when Teddy was talking with his neighbour Lady were a little too much. Of course they were needed – from Teddy’s point of view, he needed some explanations – but for me they were just this little too far fetched.

Yes, it’s a story that is full of clichés, that is predictable and incredibly sweet, but it’s a story about Christmas and at Christmas miracles and impossible can happen, right, and somehow I’ve just bought it all. It is also a poignant, and sometimes funny story of a beautiful friendship, hope and unconditional love. I was only expecting for some drama and for Teddy’s previous owners to appear to add some troubles but perhaps the author considered that that would be too much for Teddy.
But altogether, it was a lovely, cute story that tugs just at the right heart – strings. It follows a very simple formula and it has all the elements, like Christmas, abandoned puppy, very sick girl, devastated parents and some Christmas magic, and I read it with a pinch of salt, but I think it would be a perfect Christmas present, especially for younger readers, are there are some very important messages hidden there! It is not as fluffy as you could think, judging on the cover, there is depth to it, there are feelings, and emotions, and yes, I admit, more than once I could feel some tears trying to run down my face, but it also made me smile and – yes! – believe in magic, believe in people and in impossible happen possible. So “The Christmas Gift” was a lovely, fast – paced and light story that, even though a little predictable and clichéd, I personally loved and I will for sure introduce my daughter to it one day. It was funny and at the same time poignant and it didn’t show life’s bright side but simultaneously it was also uplifting. It had all what one can look for in the festive read: snow, cute puppy, love and family. Recommended!

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It’s Not You, It’s Them by Portia Macintosh

It’s Not You, It’s Them by Portia Macintosh

 

31366739Publisher: HQ Digital

Publishing Date: 3rd November 2016

Source:  Received from the publisher via NetGalley in return for an honest review, thank you!

Number of pages: 216

Genre: Romance, Women’s Fiction

 Buy the Book: Kindle

 

Synopsis:

First comes love. Then comes family…

After a lifetime of kissing frogs, Roxie Pratt has given up on finding her own fairytale romance. That is, until she meets her very own Prince Charming, Mark Wright, and he sweeps Roxie off her feet!

So when Mark finally gets down on one knee and pops the question, there’s only one thing left to do: meet the family! And when everything has been picture-perfect so far, what could possibly go wrong…?

Rating: 4/5

If you asked me one thing about Portia Macintosh I’d say you can reach for her books when you are feeling low – they for sure are going to pull you out of your slump, as they are always brilliantly funny, light – hearted and casting great bunches of characters. This time, with “It’s Not You, It’s Them”, Portia of course hasn’t disappointed, bringing all the hallmark writing, elements and humour into her new novel. It follows a very simple formula – meeting your future in – laws together with being snowed – in in a very remote house and Christmas – what could go wrong, actually?
Well, as it turned out, a lot could go wrong! Firstly, the above mentioned future in – laws have no idea that their beloved son is going to bring his girlfriend and that, in fact, she’s not a girlfriend anymore, she’s already fiancée! Then it can turn out that they are not as lovely as Mark has painted them to Roxie, they are in fact as cold as the house they’re living in. And, as it turns out a little later, they were hoping to see Mark married to a totally different girl who – coincidence, coincidence of course – finds herself at their place! And yes, add to this being snowed in – I wouldn’t like to be in Roxie’s shoes, would you?

Really, guys, I couldn’t fell more for Roxie! She was so much in love with Mark, she had so many hopes and then came this wall in the persons of Mark’s family. They were all so uptight and while they weren’t officially evil (well, not all of them. Maybe only two. Or three. Or four…), they weren’t especially welcoming and open – hearted. The biggest nightmare a girl can experience, no? To say that things were frosty would be an understatement. This what made me laugh so much brought Roxie on the verge of her nerves as Mark’s mother was very inventive and the things she goes so far for only to make sure her precious son won’t marry Roxie were hilarious for us, readers, but not so much for the poor Roxie. Oh, I so wanted to slap Mark’s mother guys, believe me, and I am a very calm and collected person. Starting with giving Roxie her worst clothes to wear and ending with closing Mark and his ex in a cupboard together, and generally make the things difficult to Roxie everything and making her a laughing stock.

This book is full of Portia’s signature humour and there were many laugh – out – loud moments, as well as some embarrassing and awkward ones. There were also some too clichéd moments for my liking, and the book was tad too predictable and too far fetched, but overall it was a light – hearted, easy read. It is full of mishaps and misunderstanding, and yes, it shows people at their worst I think, but thanks to this the characters came across as much more realistic and relatable too. There were some unforgettable moments, and let’s only mention the Teenage Mutant Ninja outfit, broken bed, spiking the drinks, the traditional Truth or Dare game.

Portia Macintosh has brilliantly captured the many different personalities and she also brilliantly showed how people can really be, how some situations unleash the worst of them, and how the real family dynamics usually work, and I enjoyed this rollercoaster of emotions and feelings immensely!

With so many people and so many different personalities this book reminded me so much of “National Lampoons’ Christmas Vacation”, which I can watch every Christmas to be honest – and they both show how often you just must bite your tongue, pretend not to see or hear things, how appearances are the most important thing to survive. There is also this teeny tiny problem of Roxie being a journalist and her best articles being about her relationship with Mark – and right now she was ordered to write one about meeting your future in – laws. What shall she do? Write truth? Will she dare to?

It is full of chaos but also full of situations and emotions that you can relate to. The author has really brilliantly developed the tension and I couldn’t see how it’s going to end. In my eyes everything was possible – the happy end, as well as the unhappy one. There were also moments that I was wondering if I really wish Roxie her happy end because Mark, well, Mark, what shall I say, people can show their real faces only when confronted or forced to, right? And Mark was changing before our own eyes, every day, he didn’t see things as they really were, he didn’t believe Roxie and actually I don’t think that he at least once stood up for her. It says a lot, no? But altogether, “It’s Not You, It’s Them” was all I have expected from Portia Macintosh – a light, easy read with a festive feeling. Recommended!

A Year and a Day by Isabelle Broom

A Year and a Day by Isabelle Broom

 

30283540Publisher: Penguin

Publishing Date: 17th November 2016

Source:  Received from the publisher in return for an honest review.

Number of pages: 400

Genre: General Fiction, Women’s Fiction

 Buy the Book: Kindle | Paperback

 

Synopsis:

Welcome to a city where wishes are everywhere

For Megan, a winter escape to Prague with her friend Ollie is a chance to find some inspiration for her upcoming photography exhibition. But she’s determined to keep their friendship from becoming anything more. Because if Megan lets Ollie find out about her past, she risks losing everything – and she won’t let that happen again . . .

For Hope, the trip is a surprise treat from Charlie, her new partner. But she’s struggling to enjoy the beauty of the city when she knows how angry her daughter is back home. And that it’s all her fault . . .

For Sophie, the city has always been a magical place. This time she can’t stop counting down the moments until her boyfriend Robin joins her. But in historic Prague you can never escape the past . . .

Three different women.

Three intertwining love stories.

One unforgettable, timeless city.

Rating: 3/5

Isabelle Broom’s debut novel “My Map of You” has blown me completely away when I read it earlier this year, so there is no need to say that I was waiting for “A Year an a Day” like crazy, biting my nails and with bated breath, and to be honest I didn’t start to read it immediately when my copy arrived because I was – and I know it sounds somehow foolish – scared. Scared that I won’t like it as much as I liked Isabelle’s first book.
And sadly, it happened. I loved Isabelle’s writing, she is a great story – teller and she has great ideas but for me personally the whole book was more a tribute to Prague, more a travel guide than a story. It was a long book and I had a feeling that except for visiting the capital city of Czech Republic there was nothing happening. I also had a problem with the characters.
The story follows 3 couples, who are all visiting Prague. They don’t know each other, they don’t have common stories, it’s just a coincidence that they stay at the same hotel at the same time. So we have Megan and Ollie. They are just friends. Well, there was this kiss, once, and Ollie would love something more to develop between them but Megan is desperate not to allow for this. All she wants is to focus on her career as a photographer and she doesn’t need a relationship. But when Ollie, a teacher, invites her to Prague, she agrees but under one condition: only as friends.
Then we have Hope and Charlie. They are a fresh couple and those few days in Prague are their first break. Hope is in love with Charlie – or at least she thinks so – and she’s over the moon with the surprise trip to the capital city and her only thorn is the fact that her daughter Annette doesn’t want to have anything to do with her anymore – she claims that Hope broke her own marriage and doesn’t want to know her mother’s point of view. And then also Charlie, who starts to be enigmatic and mysterious and somehow seems too far away – was the decision of being with him too rushed?
And there is also Sophie. She has travelled to Prague alone but she’s expecting her boyfriend Robin to join her in a few days. In the meantime she visits Prague and all the places she has visited with Robin before, as they return here every year – this is the place they got to know each other! But – there seems to be something wrong with Sophie. But what?

There came a moment that when the story was told from Sophie’s point of view I couldn’t help but sigh with irritation, as it very quickly turned out that every single word, every single situation, every single place she will immediately conjure the memory of Robin. It was as if she can’t operate, live, be a single person, a Sophie, that she’s nothing without her boyfriend, and it quickly started to annoy me, to be honest.

I wanted to love this story so much, I really wanted. While I adore Isabelle Broom’s writing, this time the plot seemed to flat and without an idea. There were too many clichés in it and it was tad too predictable, though I am giving Ms Broom brownie points for the last few chapters – this I didn’t see coming. and to be honest, this one extra star that I rated this book with is for the ending. Not for the “main” one, when the characters meet in London, but for the last moments that happened in Prague (And I also don’t mind the über – dramatic situation at the bridge that all the characters were involved, but I mean this harsh fate in Sophie’s life – it was incredibly sad and touching). They explained everything but to be honest, it was already too late for me to save the story. I also can’t say that the mystery worked too well for me because it was clear that something is wrong, and we know which character it involved, but it dragged and dragged and really, when the resolution came I wasn’t interested any more. Also, the other characters and their stories had nothing in common with this mystery and this book could easily be turned out into three different stories. Megan has annoyed me as well. In my opinion she was egoistic, there was only “me”, “I” and “myself” about her and she didn’t consider other people’s feelings. I hated the way she played with Ollie and – honestly – couldn’t understand her decisions. I know that we, women, should play hot and cold with the guys, but there are borders as well, right, and Megan has crossed all of them in my opinion. I much more preferred Ollie, who didn’t hide his feelings, they were crystal clear from the beginning and yes, he took his chances, but I think we can’t blame him for trying, no? He was handsome, kind and supportive, just my kind of man.

Out of all the characters Hope was, I think, the most bleary and vague, and she lacked a spine. I just didn’t warm to any of the characters, to be honest, there was nothing that made them feel special and they just all felt so whingy.
One thing is common for the women – they all want to find hope and solace in Prague, and they want for they dreams to come true. But is it possible?

I love Prague, I had a pleasure to visit this city – it was a short visit but made me fell in love with it – however, after reading this book I am tired of Prague. Truly, I’ve mostly skipped all the descriptions – they were too detailed and there were too many of them for my liking. I want a firm story and not a travel guide when reading a book such as “A Year and a Day”. However, they of course reminded me of some places and I could easily remember the sights and smells.

Altogether, it was a light, uplifting read and I am really, really sad that I didn’t enjoy it as much as I wanted to. It covers the issues of travelling, broken hearts, taking risks, friendships and relationships, love and hope. It’s that I just couldn’t get this story, probably. After finishing it, I had a feeling that nothing particular happened in this book. But the writing was really good, inviting, welcoming and you felt comfortable in Isabelle Broom’s capable writing hands.

The Liberation by Kate Furnivall

The Liberation by Kate Furnivall

 

29232459Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Publishing Date: 3rd November 2016

Source:  Received in return for an honest review.

Number of pages: 560

Genre: General Fiction, Historical Fiction

 Buy the Book: Kindle | Paperback

 

Synopsis:

Italy, 1945: as British and American troops attempt to bring order to the devastated cities, its population fights each other to survive. Caterina Lombardi is desperate – her mother has abandoned them already and her brother is being drawn into the mafia. Early one morning, among the ruins of the bombed Naples streets, she is forced to go to extreme lengths to protect her family and in doing so forges a future very different to the one she expected. But will the secrets of her family’s past be her downfall? This epic novel is an unforgettably powerful story of love, loss and the long shadow of war.

Rating: 5/5

Last year I read and totally enjoyed Kate Furnivall’s “The Italian Wife”, so I started reading “The Liberation” with my expectations highly set – I really expected a lot from this novel and from this author. And believe me, guys, it is a long book, with almost 600 pages, but there was not a single dull moment and the author kept me in dark, adding a lot of tension and suspense , and I. Loved. This. Book. Everything there had its own place and even though it started relatively slowly – but hey, with such a long book there is no pressure, right, and it was brilliant that the author took her time to slowly introduce us to all the threads in this very complex, very advanced and expanded plot – there came a moment that I couldn’t get enough of the reading, that I couldn’t put the book down.

The story is set in Italy, post – war, with the British and American soldiers still present in the country, trying to bring order back to Italian lives. When Catarina Lombardi was only ten, her mother has left her family, abandoning her and her baby brother and leaving her father as a single – parent, and also causing a scandal in the traditional Italy. Now, eleven years later, it is 1945 and the war is over, but it is far away from Naples living in peace – hence the American and British soldiers staying there. Caterina lives now with only her young brother and a blind grandfather, as her father has been killed when working in his workshop by a bomb explosion, so it is up to Caterina to keep the heads above the water. She stepped into her father shoes and is now creating beautiful boxes and items from wood that she sells in Naples, often to the soldiers. But when two of them, out of the blue, visit her at home, disturbing, turbulent and eventful times come for Caterina and she soon finds herself fighting for her own, as well as for her family’s, lives, freedom and desperately trying to discover the truth about her family’s past. Is she going to find answers to all her questions? Is she going to bring danger on her family?

The writing is so rich and so full of imagination and Kate Furnivall has transported me with her descriptions effortlessly to Italy and the tension and uncertainty was palpable through the pages, the Italy was bustling and the characters were effortlessly brought to life. They are so incredibly well developed and Catarina is a brilliant lead character – she was strong – willed, she wasn’t afraid to put herself into dangerous situations only to help her family and to clean the honour of her father; she was stubborn and she had a great ability to find the truth and she never took any prisoners, and she only felt satisfied when she’s seen things with her own eyes, which of course led her to many dangerous situations and often endangered her own life. But in my eyes she was a real inspiration, she was bold, incredibly loyal and searching.

There were many characters introduced to us in this story and the author has made them all so complex personalities, and I really wasn’t sure who is there to help Caterina, and who is there to disturb her. It often happens that you feel almost paranoid when reading about such characters however not in this story. It kept me on my toes, it made me feel suspicious but it also made me fell incredibly intrigued and I wanted to discover who is the person I can trust. Every single character was so very significant to the plot, even the most background ones, and their appearance always added a new question, a new curveball and I loved, I simply loved, how in the end, somehow, all the characters and their stories, come together.

Kate Furnivall described life in Italy with so many small details and captured all the problems, fears and tension that bothered people in those times, and it was often so heart – breaking to see what people were forced to do only to survive. She has described the groups of children running wild on the streets, she has told us how the women needed to earn their bread and what kind of things kept people stay alive when Italy was trying to run again after the war. She has also shown how corruption, conspiracies worked and how hard it was for people like Caterina, people who were honest and didn’t want to hurt anybody, to survive.

One the main mysteries in the book is the one about Caterina’s father, Roberto – it seemed he was being involved in things that Caterina didn’t want to believe in, that she wanted to shut out. Among this mystery all the others are built, creating a story with multiple layers, slowly falling away and making the novel incredibly hooking. Among the team being involved in the investigations are Jake and Harry, two American soldiers who are trying – or maybe disturbing – Caterina to find the truth, as it seems that her beloved father has known much more than his daughter thought. And it was really this moment when the book took off and never stopped – the author fed us with new information and details but in a way that I’ve never felt overwhelmed or confused.

The way the author was adding clues and tips was so, so clever and subtle! But personally, I haven’t predicted what was coming, I didn’t guess any of the threads and for me it is a sign of a really brilliant, cleverly plotted story. I enjoyed the fact that the author took me on a curvy rollercoaster journey with her story, I just went with the flow and more than once I wanted to gasp in horror, more than once I wanted to shout to Caterina to be cautious and more than once I found myself totally surprised with the turn of events.

This story is masterfully plotted! I often found myself holding my breath at the new curveball, at the incredible web of lies, secrets and understatements, and how the Italian traditional family bonds, how the view that the family honour is the most important thing in the world could change lives. I, with a great joy and admiration, watched how those secrets were slowly being resolved and how all the pieces of the puzzles found their places. I also can’t express enough how much I admired the lot of work and research that the author for certain has put into writing this novel. It was grand, complex story with many layers and I couldn’t wait for them to be peeled back, to see what’s hidden and what exciting things are to come yet. “The Liberation” is an epic tale. It is a power house of a story. It is full of brilliantly developed and expressive characters with their own distinctive voices and stories that added a lot of tension. There is mystery to be solved, dazzlingly tangled, not at all obvious but rather keeping you on your toes and getting under your skin, as you are desperate to know what has really happened. There is suspense, there is romance and this all in the right quantity and masterfully and skilfully dosed throughout the whole story. The writing is beautiful, engaging and rich in descriptions and details but not in the way that makes you want to skip some of them because there are too many of them – I personally didn’t want to skip a single word, as for me they were all so important and significant. It is a story of love and hate, of loss and win, of honour, loyalty and hope. It is full of heart – breaking moments as well as many uplifting moments, it is a historical fiction with a difference and I will be recommending it to all my friends – it is a book that shouldn’t be missed!