Book of the Month: January & February + Q&A with Alice Peterson

Oh guys! Oh my word! I know, I know, it’s almost the end of March and I am posting about my favourite books in January and February only now! Mea culpa, really, but you know that life is a bitch, all the time getting in the way. I have so little time to read right now, moreover, not only have I a little time for it but I started to read so, soooo slowly – WHY??? OK. Whatever. Here are the two of my most favourite books this year and if you scroll down a little, there is also a Q&A with Alice Peterson – this lovely girl found some time in her tight schedule to answer my questions about one of the most special books in the world – “A Song for Tomorrow”. THANK YOU SO MUCH, Alice!

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So let’s start with January. It was a really good bookish beginning to the year but there was one novel that made me laugh out loud, that made me cringe, that made me cheer the characters on and also made me feel inspired by the main character! It was “My Sweet Revenge” by Jane Fallon, a story that I’ll be getting back to many, many times – though I’d love to be able to read it for the first time over and over again! Here you can read my review.

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So. And then there came February, bringing with one of my most anticipated releases this year. Alice Peterson belongs to my top favourite author but with “A Song for Tomorrowindexshe has overdone herself – this book is an absolute gem, a book like no other that turned me into a a weepy mess but that was also full of hope. Please, read my review of this heart – breaking novel here and if you haven’t read the book yet, do this immediately! Also, here is a link to my Alice Martineau’s favourite song “IF I FALL” – it’s is beautiful. The first things my daughter says when we get into the car is that she wants to hear the songs of this beautiful lady – she means Alice.

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Q&A with Alice Peterson

  1. “A Song for Tomorrow” is a book full of incredible emotions – how hard was it to write this novel? To put all those feeling into words? To do Alice justice?

For each book I write, I put my heart and soul into all my characters, but this book is different in that my main character Alice is inspired by the singer Alice Martineau, who was born with Cystic Fibrosis (CF). In some ways, it was easier writing about Alice Martineau than a fictional character as I was able to talk to her family and friends, her boyfriend, her music manager, her vocal coach, her consultant, and people who live with CF, so I got to know Alice from every single perspective. I remember her father, David, saying to me with a twinkle in his eye, ‘you will know things about our Alice that I don’t know’. At times it was emotional writing the story because it was true. I found describing the mother’s point of view particularly poignant. I wanted to do Alice justice because she was a wonderful inspiring person but I also wanted to do her justice for her family and friends. I wanted them to feel the book truly celebrated her life and talent in the way she deserved.

  1. Alice is a true inspiration – did she inspire YOU in some ways?

Oh yes, in every way. CF is a genetic life-shortening condition that slowly, through repeated infections, destroys the lungs, but never once did Alice moan or feel sorry for herself that this was the pack of cards she’d been dealt. Nor was she some saint who sweetly put up with it. She was one of those people who turned her life experiences into something positive – which was her music. Alice also knew her time was short (life expectancy with CF in the 1990s was 31) so she lived life intensely – and by that I mean she threw herself into friendships and relationships. Clearly Alice had a huge heart and capacity to give, and people fell in love with her. Central to A Song for Tomorrow is the love story between her and Tom and this part of the book really inspired me. It made me realize the strength of having someone by your side. Alice’s success in becoming a signed recording artist with Sony (her album, Daydreams, was released in 2002) wasn’t only down to her own ambition – she was helped so much along the way with the unconditional love and support of her parents, her brother, her close friends and her boyfriend.

  1. Alice, what happened with Tom? I need to know – please, do tell us.

The lovely Tom has married and had children, but he remains close to Alice’s family. He still flies planes too!

  1. How much fiction and how much truth is in the story?

Alice in my book is very much Alice Martineau. I shall never forget Alice’s brother, Luke, reading the book for the first time and saying ‘Alice walks off the pages’. So, the heart of the book is true – Alice’s journey to become a singer when faced with the obstacles of living with CF. We also kept Alice’s medical condition, the love story and her family as close to the truth as possible. The surrounding characters, including the anti support group, are entirely fictional – as are many of the events that take place.

  1. I am sure there are many such inspirational people like Alice in the world – why did you choose to base your book on her and her story?

You’re right, there are many inspirational people out there, but as a writer you have to strongly identify with someone so this is why I chose to write about Alice. I read about her in a weekend magazine back in 2002. Immediately I was drawn to the headline: Alice Martineau – beautiful, talented and on a triple transplant list. There was a picture of a twenty-eight year old woman sitting on some garden steps attached to an oxygen machine. I admired Alice’s ambition to be a singer when she was attached to machines keeping her alive. I also connected to Alice’s courage when faced with overwhelming adversity since I too live with a chronic autoimmune condition. I understand the emotional and psychological impact an illness can have, not just on the individual but on an entire family. It’s their story just as much as Alice’s.

  1. Which of the books that you’ve written means most to you and why?

That’s a hard question! They all mean so much to me in different ways. If I had to choose, I’d say A Song for Tomorrow, just because it’s so closely based on truth, and I have greatly enjoyed working on the project with Alice’s family and friends. But By My Side is also close to my heart. And then there’s my own personal story, Another Alice – which is important to my family… Sorry, can I have three?

A Song for Tomorrow, Simon & Schuster, February 9 2017

www.alicepeterson.co.uk

www.cysticfibrosis.org.uk

We’ll Always Have Paris by Sue Watson

We’ll Always Have Paris by Sue Watson

 

29394047Publisher: Sphere

Publishing Date: 23rd March 2017

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

Number of pages: 400

Genre: Women’s Fiction,  General Fiction (Adult)

 Buy the Book: Kindle | Paperback

 

Synopsis:

Rosie Jackson is beginning to slowly come to terms with a new life and a new future at the age of sixty-five.

Rosie is bereft when her husband Mike dies. She misses him terribly; even though he wasn’t the love of her life, she feels lonely in her grief, despite being close to her two grown-up daughters. With time away from the family florist business, Rosie has the space to think about the past and what might have been. She remembers a summer with first love Peter as one of the happiest times of her life, but her memories are bittersweet.

After a chance encounter with Peter forty-seven years later, they both begin to wonder ‘what if’ and whether it’s never too late for second chances in love . . .

Rating: 4/5

Sue Watson got us used, or at least me, to humorous stories full of quirky, lovely heroines that already experienced a lot in their lives. “We’ll always Have Paris” however was remarkably different – it was much more serious in tone. Sure, Rosie, our heroine is already a mature woman and there are some comical situations but altogether it was a new direction, more mature. And I think it’s great – no matter what Ms Watson’s writes about, it turns out into a lovely, so close to life story with relatable characters.

All of the characters in this book are wonderfully rounded and feel like real people and the author has brilliantly captured the differences between the generations. We have the grandmother Rosie, a lovely, woman who remained young who loves her family above all but there is also a lot of life in her and I absolutely freakingly adored the fact that she felt she deserves to live, even after her beloved husband dies. She had her period of grief and she still loved Mike but she felt young enough to follow her heart. She devoted all of her life to her family, she raised two great daughters and had two brilliant, quirky granddaughters (they don’t appear often in this story but what I got made me fell in love with those girls, especially with the older one – I loved their conversations!) and now it was Rosie’s time. She wasn’t afraid of challenges and new experiences and I truly admired her for this.

I loved how the book dealt with all the dilemmas and how gently and with a lot of respect Sue Watson approached all the questions and uncertainties of falling in love when you’re of a mature age. She took all the aspects into account as it was not only Rosie’s life that was changing but also this of her family.

I only think that I’d love a little different introduction to Peter. Rosie was reminiscing, thinking about her youth and her first young love and then suddenly, boom, he entered the scenes – it was obvious that he’s going to appear in the story sooner or later. I think for me it would be bigger surprise when he first appeared and then Rosie would introduce us to him and tell us about him and their young, turbulent relationship. Also, the book was on a very steady level, the pace was very peaceful and quiet and yes, sometimes you don’t need fireworks and drama but this time I was waiting for something to happen. Not sure what, perhaps some troubles in paradise, just something that would pump up the volume and the temperature a little and add so very needed twist. But other than that, I really adored this story, it was lovely, warm and full of feelings.

“We’ll Always Have Paris” is really a book about women – power, I think, putting women in the centre in this story. It is about different generations of women, because even those that are not longer with the characters were important part of the book, like Rosie’ mother Margaret, who Rosie now, grandmother herself, learnt to appreciate. It shows the unconditional love mothers feel, it shows how families work and it also shows that actually there is always the same circle of life – we give birth to our children, we love, adore them, we suffer together with them, we want to kill them but they always stay our children, no matter how old they are, and it is the same for our daughters, granddaughters… This is a story for everybody, no matter how old you are because it shows you how to appreciate your family and your own time in life. And hello, it is never too late for a romance and fall in love, right? This is also a wonderful tale of rediscovering not only your first love, but also yourself. It shows that loving one person doesn’t mean you can’t love the other. It’s about real family and real family dynamics, and this all written in such a lovely, vivid and gentle way. Witty and poignant, sweet and bitter, a real joy and gem to read. Recommended!

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The Little Teashop of Lost and Found by Trisha Ashley / Blog Tour

Today I am absolutely thrilled to be a part of Trisha Ashley’s blog tour. Her brand new shiny novel was published on 9th March by Bantam Press and guys, whatever you say, I think this is my favourite book by this author! It’s for sure Trisha Ashley at her best and I would love to be able to read this book for the first time over and over again!

The Little Teashop of Lost and Found by Trisha Ashley

 

Publisher: Bantam Press51tkwh9zp1l-_sx324_bo1204203200_

Publishing Date: 9th March 2017

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

Number of pages: 432

Genre: Women’s Fiction,  General Fiction (Adult)

 Buy the Book: Kindle | Paperback | Paperback (out on 29.06.2017)

 

Synopsis:

Alice Rose is a foundling, discovered on the Yorkshire moors above Haworth as a baby. Adopted but then later rejected again by a horrid step-mother, Alice struggles to find a place where she belongs. Only baking – the scent of cinnamon and citrus and the feel of butter and flour between her fingers – brings a comforting sense of home.

So it seems natural that when she finally decides to return to Haworth, Alice turns to baking again, taking over a run-down little teashop and working to set up an afternoon tea emporium.

Luckily she soon makes friends – including a Grecian god-like neighbour – who help her both set up home and try to solve the mystery of who she is. There are one or two last twists in the dark fairytale of Alice’s life to come . . . but can she find her happily ever after?

Wonderfully wry, heart-warming and life-affirming, Trisha Ashley’s hilarious novel is perfect for fans of romantic comedies by Milly Johnson and Jill Mansell. And it contains recipes!

Rating: 4/5

My relationship with Trisha Ashley’s books is very rocky – I seem to either love her books to bits or I can’t get into them. However, there is something so very special and unique in her writing that makes me always impatiently waiting for her every new release and I – really – count down the days to the publication days, wanting to see what she has in store for us this time and what an exceptional story is it going to be. I think that not only is the new “The Little Teashop of Lost and Found” one of Trisha’s best books but I also immediately fell in love with this cover – it. Is. Simply. Gorgeous. So warm and inviting.

The writing style was so typical Trisha Ashley – lyrical, poetical yet down to earth. I loved that this time the writing and the plot were not too exaggerated, too far – fetched, too eccentric as it sometimes happens with Ms Ashley’s novels. There was a bunch of great characters – there were many of them but they were introduced to us slowly, we had time to get to know them and I didn’t have problems to recognise who is who any why. I immediately fell for the main character, Alice – already the first pages made me warm to her and to sympathise with her so much and I felt so, so sorry for her and all the things that happened to her and I so admired her strength after so many rejections and bad luck. I hoped that eventually she will also find her place. She was a hard – working person who achieved everything she had in her life by herself. It was not a wonder that after dealing with one blow after another she’s had a moment of a mental breakdown – who wouldn’t have? However, she quickly recovered and, following the advice of her old friend Edie, decides to come back to her hometown, start a tea shop and – maybe – find her birth parents? She was also so good natured and full of trust – well, who would buy a cafe only after seeing it on the photos and because the owner has made such a good impression via Facebook messages? But Alice is a woman determined, she’s on a mission and she’ll open her tea shop no matter what. And – she’s going to publish her own novel, you just wait and see! I really liked her, and kept everything crossed for her, and it was so inspiring to see her get up after every new hurdle.
The Greek God Nile could have come at the first sight as rude, but guys, he turned out to be brilliant! And moreover, he brought a big, warm, welcoming family with him, and this was just what Alice needed! He also proved to be a great and patient friend to her and also supported her in her search for her biological parents. He was sarcastic, and the interactions between Alice and Nile were bloody brilliant! Well, Nile was bloody brilliant, with just my kind of humour – dry, sharp, intelligent. The banter between them was quick and sharp and funny and Nile’s one – liners summing up some of the situations were just best ever!

One of the main subplots in the story is Alice being abandoned as a baby and her looking for her biological parents. She was adopted and had a very loving father and not so loving mother but her father died when she was only 18 years old and well, there was not a place for her at home anymore with the devil step – mother. The story accompanies us through the whole book, and every chapter is preceded with short bits of information from the person’s who abandoned Alice point of view, which gives an insight into the motives, however I haven’t expected the outcome and it totally – TOTALLY – took me by surprise.

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I loved to read about the preparations for opening the tea shop. Alice’s head was full of great ideas, she has made the place so cosy and she also gave two “rudest waitresses” in Yorkshire, Tilda and Ness, that she “inherited” with the shop, a chance, and they were both brilliant. The descriptions of the food were mouth – watering, they really were, and I’ve read many books with delicious food in them but those ones were exceptional – my only regret is that there are no recipes in my review copy! What was also great was the fact that the book was not too predictable, and the different subplots could end in any possible way. There is no guarantee of a happy end, even though you so hope for one, and I loved this twisty and bumpy road to the last page. My only problem with this book was that the middle part dragged too much for my liking. There were many repetitions, the same situations and events were all the time spoken about and I had a feeling that more than often we’re just going round in circles.

“The Little Teashop of Lost and Found” is a lovely, uplifting story about finding love and friendship, about finding courage and following your dreams. It was a story with a feel – good factor. The plot and the characters are original yet not too exaggerated. Even though the title of the book is “The Little Teashop of Lost and Found”, and there is some delicious food mentioned, there are many other issues that the author touches upon, interweaving them seamlessly into the plot and you really don’t have to worry that it’s going to be another of the cupcakes books that are popping out around all the time. This book is just different, with characters that grow on you and get under your skin, and really, it is not the teashop that is the heart of the book, but it’s Alice, and her overcoming all the problems and letting the past go. Highly recommended!

FOLLOW THE BLOG TOUR:

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The Mercury Travel Club by Helen Bridgett

The Mercury Travel Club by Helen Bridgett

Publisher: RedDoor Publishing51vnu4qh9xl

Publishing Date: 16th March 2017

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

Number of pages: 308

Genre: Women’s Fiction,  General Fiction (Adult)

 Buy the Book: Kindle | Paperback

 

 

Synopsis:

‘Hi, I’m Angela. My husband ran off with the caterer we hired for our daughter’s graduation party – pleased to meet you.’

Meet Angie Shepherd who, after 24 years and 11 months of marriage, finds herself divorced and driven by friends and family to move on. From hangover to makeover, Angie steps firmly away from the sensible knitwear, and launches into every adventure on offer – from baking classes and book groups, to speed dating, and even ‘The Granny-Okes’, a 1980s tribute act and YouTube sensation.

But Angie needs more than a bar of galaxy and a night in with Murder She Wrote… what she dreams of is entrepreneurial success. Channelling her inner Richard Branson, the light bulb moment happens: it’s time to take the plunge and invest her divorce settlement into The Mercury Travel Club, an exciting new business venture. But as the Travel Club gets going, things never go according to plan, and in this digital age a little chaos brings the fame she’s been looking for.

Set in present-day Manchester, this classic mid-life journey features the 1980s soundtrack from Angie’s youth, and sees her travel the world whilst coping with life after the Ex. Angie’s journey is the catalyst her friends need to examine their own lives; as they start to find their true callings, will Angie find hers? Witty, entertaining and laugh-out-loud funny, this feel-good debut novel shows it’s never too late for a second.

Rating: 4/5

Every once in a while you see a book, you love the cover, you love the title, then you read the blurb and you immediately fell in love with it as well, and you know that you MUST read this book, no matter what. Well, it was like this with me and “The Mercury Travel Club”. It is a debut novel by Helen Bridgett and I love discovering new authors, as you already know, and I can assure you that we should all keep our eye on this author – she freely and easily delivered a light – hearted novel with a feel – good factor.

I also love to read about mature characters, who have already really experienced something in their live and not only have big mouth, and this book delivered them in dozens, and they were all so colourful and full of life. They are prone to accident, they have flaws and they seem to have an odd moment or two. The only character that I didn’t warm to at the beginning was Angie’s daughter Zoe, who was behaving like a spoiled child, even though she was over twenty, usurped the right to dictate how her mother should live and coming to terms with her father having a new life after divorce but not allowing her mother to do the same. Fortunately, later she seemed to grow up and she changed, and after all turned out to be a supporting daughter. But altogether, oh my word. The characters, they were brilliant, and the author put them through many ups and downs. There were baking classes, book clubs, speed dating, life coaching, travelling – they really had no time for boring in their lives. Patty, loud, taking no prisoners and always saying as it was, she complemented Angie in a great way and was a great support to her, but also with the most tender side to her. Angie’s mother, with her big mouth, the same as Patty with no holding back but she would do anything for her daughter. And then Angie herself – I loved her. She was so normal! She grieved over her marriage, she cried, she was deep down on her knees but she also always found her strength to stand up for herself. She had a great sense of humour and a heart in the right place – just have a look at Socks. Even though she felt hurt she was positively looking towards the future and she wasn’t afraid to take risks. She was really great and inspiring, just my favourite kind of character.

But. This book. It started brilliantly, full of things happening and with tons of hilarious sense of humour. But unfortunately later on it went a little downhill for me. Maybe it didn’t slow down, as there was always something new, it was really full of surprises, this novel, but it started to feel a little too flat and there was nothing new and refreshing. It actually took 60% to get to the cruise itself. Don’t get me wrong, please, I still adored this story, and I still loved Angie, my new best friend, but I just had a feeling we’re stuck in the rut. Some things took a lot of time, some were too rushed but altogether it was a great read, light and uplifting, just what the doctor ordered for me at the moment. What I really liked is that the author in a brilliant way managed to keep the borders between hilarity and too far – fetched. There were moments that the story balanced at the verge of being grotesque but Ms Bridgett always knew her limits and while the book is laugh out loud – y, it is still the greatest kind of humour. For example the Granny – Okes: it could go so, so wrong but they turned out to be wonderful, and Patty was just the best!

The chapters are short, which for me always makes the reading much quicker and more interesting – and also with a risk of addiction, you know this one, only one chapter more, and then you find yourself spending your beauty sleep on reading. They were also cleverly titled, always giving a small hint of what can happen. Also, the idea of the Mercury Travel Club was fantastic! Totally new and totally interesting and Angie was determined to make it successful, as it was her “baby”. I liked that the author made it so realistic, showing that starting a new idea is not only a walk in the park but that’s also a struggle requiring commitments and sacrifices sometimes, but Angie was then ready for the challenge.

“The Mercury Travel Club” was a lovely read with such a natural humour in the writing style. It was inviting, it was warm, full of scenes that made me snort with laughter but also full of poignant moments and I loved this mix. The cast of characters is unforgettable and Madonna’s “Like a Virgin” is playing in my head over and over again. Helen Bridgett’s writing style is warm and inviting and it flows effortlessly and seamlessly. The dialogues are hilarious, sharp and spot – on and make the story sparkle even more. If you are in a need of a story about being ready for challenges, for fighting the problems, finding your own feet after starting afresh, going after things that you dreamed about, or just of reading an uplifting, incredibly funny story, then “The Mercury Travel Club” by Helen Bridgett is your book! Highly recommended!

An Unsuitable Marriage by Colette Dartford

An Unsuitable Marriage by Colette Dartford

 

Publisher: Zaffre34035837

Publishing Date: 9th March 2017

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

Number of pages: 384

Genre: Women’s Fiction,  General Fiction (Adult)

 Buy the Book: Kindle | Paperback

 

Synopsis:

When the worst happens, could your marriage survive? A sharp and emotional novel of a family under pressure, perfect for fans of Joanna Trollope and Hilary Boyd.

Olivia always thought she had the perfect family life. A loving husband in Geoffrey, a thoughtful and intelligent son in Edward and a beautiful home in the Somerset countryside.

But all that changed when Geoffrey’s business went under. Now penniless and homeless, Geoffrey is living with his recently widowed mother, whilst Olivia has been forced to take a job as housemistress at her son’s elite boarding school.

Soon the cracks in the relationship start to show. And, increasingly desperate, Geoffrey makes a mistake. One that could have consequences for the whole family . . .

Rating: 3/5

I’ve read Colette Dartford’s debut novel “Learning to Speak American” some time ago and it was a steady, nice read so I really wanted to see how she managed with the dreaded second book. The synopsis to “An Unsuitable Marriage” is great, it sounds so chilling and I was sure it’s going to be a great read. However, this time, and I am sorry to say this, the story itself don’t do the synopsis justice. It’s not a bad read, not at all, and it has its moments, but it promises something that we, in fact, don’t get.

Olivia had everything – a doting husband, intelligent and talented son, Manor Farm house, money and no problems. But then her husband George goes bankrupt and everything in Olivia’s life changes – they find themselves homeless and with money troubles. So Olivia jumps at the chance of taking a place as a house parent at her son’s boarding school. Well, she doesn’t have a lot of choice, to be honest – either the job or living with George at his mother’s, and the two women never took to each other, and George has never stood up for his wife. As it usually happen, one trouble results in the next and there are really many problems on the horizon for Olivia and her family.

The characters were not the easiest to warm to – at least for me. However, while George seems to be stuck in the rut of living at home and finding new “hobbies”, at least Olivia is doing better, or she’s at least trying, she’s doing something. They are full of flaws, but that’s the thing that made them feel very realistic, however I had a feeling that there are too many flaws, especially in George. To be honest, I wasn’t even sure if those two were anytime good for each other. I’m not sure if they loved each other, and they got married because of Olivia getting pregnant and George’s parents being so conventional and traditional. So there was really not much keeping them together when the things turned out the difficult way, or was there? They also felt too wooden and I’d love to get more into their emotions. Yes, they were convincing in the way they were and acted but they lacked the depth that makes the characters more realistic and more possible for me to relate to and to understand them better.

I think that what mostly disappointed me is what the author has done to one of the most significant characters. It was so sudden and unexpected and for me it looked as if Ms Dartford perhaps didn’t know what to do with her or how to finish this subplot. I mean, I didn’t like her, this character, I despised her to be honest but doing this what the author’s done just clipped my wings. I was hoping for more complexion, and it just seemed that the author has made her life easier, too the easy way out instead of trying to complicate the story and finish it in a different way. It was just as if she wanted to got rid of the problem, to remove her out of the way.

This book lacked in something for me, and I can’t put my fingers on what it was exactly, there just wasn’t any spark that makes the reading exceptional. It was not a bad book, oh my word, of course not, but it was also not the one that wow – ed me. It shows the real world, how real marriages work but it just didn’t capture my attention. I also all the time had a feeling that the book is set in the United States, even though it was set in England, but I just had the feeling that the setting, the descriptions of the places, the boarding school is too American. It also seemed to me that the author wanted to touch upon too many issues in her story. They were very important issues, such as betrayals, marriages falling apart, bullying and sexual abuse and while some of them were relatively well developed, most of them was rather brushed over. What was brilliantly written and captured in the best possible way was the boarding school and the dynamics between parents and students. The bullying doesn’t start at school, it starts at home and the author has really smartly smuggled those information on to her pages. It is rather sad that it works that way but it is the way that it really is, and, ultimately, children suffer while parents play their own games.

So “An Unsuitable Marriage” is a story about new beginnings and finding courage. While it was not my favourite read, please do try it for yourself because what doesn’t work for me may work for you! I am also already waiting for Ms Dartford’s next book, as I am really intrigued what she has in store for us next.

The Witchfinder’s Sister by Beth Underdown

Hi guys, and happy Wednesday! Hope you are all doing great and that spring is also knocking at your door. Today I am absolutely thrilled to be a part of Beth Underdown’s blog tour and share my review of her debut novel “The Witchfinder’s Sister” with you. It is a debut but one that doesn’t read like debut at all, and you can be sure that this book will make you shudder…I loved it, and the atmosphere that author has created – it doesn’t happen often that it’s so brilliantly captured!

The Witchfinder’s Sister by Beth Underdown

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Publisher: Viking

Publishing Date: 2nd March 2017

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

Number of pages: 400

Genre: Historical Fiction, Adult Fiction

 Buy the Book: Kindle | Paperback | Paperback

 

Synopsis:

‘VIVID AND TERRIFYING’ Paula Hawkins, author of The Girl on the Train

The number of women my brother Matthew killed, so far as I can reckon it, is one hundred and six…

1645. When Alice Hopkins’ husband dies in a tragic accident, she returns to the small Essex town of Manningtree, where her brother Matthew still lives.

But home is no longer a place of safety. Matthew has changed, and there are rumours spreading through the town: whispers of witchcraft, and of a great book, in which he is gathering women’s names.

To what lengths will Matthew’s obsession drive him?
And what choice will Alice make, when she finds herself at the very heart of his plan?

Rating: 4/5

“The Witchfinder’s Sister” by Beth Underdown must be the most unusual, unique book I have ever read – I think I haven’t read fiction based on the witch – hunting before. I mean, everybody heard about Salem, and we know about women being burned alive or hung but I am not sure if I ever came across this subject in adult historical fiction. Or I simply don’t remember anymore. Whatever – “The Witchfinder’s Sister” was a captivating, intriguing and also haunting read, a brilliant story based on a real event. Told from Alice, Matthew Hopkins’ half – sister’s point of view, the story begins in a very intriguing way, with a woman being imprisoned, but we don’t know by whom nor why…

This novel is not only a reconstruction of what happened in 1645 but it perfectly mixes fiction with reality. The story of Alice and Matthew is gripping, full of dark secrets, twists and turns, it is unpredictable and I was almost all the time scared that something is going to happen to Alice. The author also adds an element of suspense and family drama, slowly revealing the secrets and letting the elements of the puzzle to fall into places. The characters were portrayed in a great way. It was so clear that Matthew was a man obsessed – however I missed what made him behave this way. Was it something particular that happened? His mission was to accuse as many women of being witches as possible and he wasn’t afraid to tell lies, manipulate and betray to succeed. It was amazing how the author described him during the questionings, as a companionable, almost having compassion man of honour, convincing everybody that what he’s doing is done in the most fair way, and also convinced himself that he wields all the power of the world in his own hands. The author has managed to write him in the most incredible way possible, I think, as there were moments that he appeared embarrassed with the things he was doing, scared and also vulnerable – even though it was only a mask! There were also moments that he was the best brother possible to Alice and in the next second he was giving her the cold shoulder again – so very complex, not straightforward. What made the character of Matthew even more fascinating was the fact that he really actually existed, and also the trials took place and were documented. Alice was a great counterbalance to Matthew’s character. She was kind and open and she, as it so often happens in historical fiction, was ahead of her times, but not too much ahead. She didn’t believe in witches and she wanted to help those that were accused by her own brother. However, as much as I appreciate how brilliantly she was developed, I still missed the connection between me and Alice. She sometimes felt like a mimosa and there was something in her, I don’t know what, a weaker side perhaps, that just made her feel a little only two dimensional.

This book is exceptionally well researched. All the details about the period, or the events, about the way people were living, dressing or eating, but also the description of the nature and landscape in the 17th century, were so vivid and so realistic, and so easily brought to life by the author. What was also amazingly described – even though I know it worked that way – was that you could have accused each and every woman of being a witch, there was no hiding place from this. The more ridiculous reason, the better, and the way people reacted to a woman being accused of witchcraft – amazing. It was probably because they were relieved it’s not their wife/sister/mother/daughter. The brainstorming really worked well then, and it was enough to be a little different, lonely, have some mental problems or using herbs to be reported as being a witch.

There were moments in this book where the story dragged on a little, and it was rather on the slow side, but with so many information and awful things happening there was no need for this to be extremely quick. The writing style is great, there is something in it that just pulls you in. The story about the witch hunting and trials is told with a real passion. The author also brilliantly captured the atmosphere of the times she’s written about. However, I’d missed more of the hunting itself. No no no, I am not a bloodthirsty vampire looking for sensation or something, it’s just that there were moments that the story dragged on too much, or that I felt as if we are staying in one place and not moving. There was a lot about other things, about Alice’s private life, a lot about Alice and Matthew’s background, and in between we get some mentions that some of the women were arrested, but that’s all. And then suddenly it comes to a trial and that was that.
But the author wonderfully writes about the emotions. You could almost feel the tension and fear, the uncertainty when not knowing what the next page is going to bring – it was really vivid and it felt truly realistic. Beth Underdowned has created a dark, exceptionally good historical thriller (is there even such a genre?), and if it is her debut novel than I really can’t wait for more books to come. The claustrophobic atmosphere of the 17th century England and the uncertainty of what’s to come next were palpable through the pages, brilliantly created. Story created around a story, such a brilliant and unique idea, moreover so well put together and with a great outcome. And I love the last sentence of this book, where Alice breaks to us that she’s found her new place in Salem… Can you imagine…? Highly recommended!

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Secrets of a Happy Marriage by Cathy Kelly / Blog Tour

Hi guys, and happy Monday evening! We’ve almost done it – it’s almost Tuesday, yay! To make your Monday evening even more bearable I have a review of Cathy Kelly’s newest release – Secrets of a Happy Marriage – for you. I think everybody has heard about Cathy Kelly and read at least one of her books, right? She’s a real legend when it comes to the women’s literature and I am trully excited to be a part of the blog tour!

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Secrets of a Happy Marriage by Cathy Kelly

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Publisher: Orion

Publishing Date: 9th March 2017

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

Number of pages: 432

Genre: General Fiction (Adult), Women’s Fiction

 Buy the Book: Kindle | Hardcover | Paperback (out on 5.10.2017)

 

Synopsis:

Number One bestseller Cathy Kelly returns with a sparkling tale of family, friends, and marriages in trouble, told with her trademark Irish wit, warmth and wisdom.

The wonderful and heart-warming new novel full of secrets, lies and family ties from Sunday Times bestselling author, Cathy Kelly.

Bess is hoping to show everyone just how happy her recent marriage is, but behind all the party-planning the cracks are beginning to show. Why is joining a family so difficult?

Jojo, Bess’s stepdaughter, has a point to make. Bess is not her mother, and she won’t replace the one she’s been missing every day for the last two years. And will she ever get the chance to become a mum herself?

Cousin Cari is a fierce career-woman who isn’t unnerved by anything – apart from facing the man who left her at the altar, and he’s on the guestlist. Her job has been a safe place to hide ever since – but is it time to let love into her life again?

Thanks to laughter, tears and one surprise appearance, the Brannigans might just discover the secrets of a happy marriage . . . But will they find out before it’s too late?

‘Wise, warm, compassionate and full of characters I loved … it’s like having a great gossip with your best friends’ Marian Keyes.

Rating: 3/5

Cathy Kelly is the queen of writing about relationships between women – let them be friends, family or enemies, she can spot on capture them and fill the pages with feelings and emotions and all of them are always honest and genuine. Even though Ms Kelly’s last book was not my favourite one I was really excited to receive a review copy of her newest release “Secrets of a Happy Marriage” and couldn’t wait to start reading it, as I knew that I am for sure for a real rollercoaster journey full of secrets, feelings and relationship dynamics – just what I needed at the moment.

Right now, after reading so many Ms Kelly’s novels, I personally think that her older books are much better than her last releases, including “Secrets of a Happy Marriage”. There was too much beating around the bush for me and too less of something actually happening. But please don’t get me wrong – I liked the book, not as much as I hoped I will but still I liked it. There was something comforting in the words, and Cathy Kelly can for sure tell a story. The characters were also very well developed and even with the huge number of them I didn’t have problems to quickly see who is who and to whom they belong and what’s their story. They have many flaws, the characters, and probably this is what makes them so realistic. Cathy Kelly really knows how to write her characters in an interesting way and I really had a feeling that I know them inside out, with all their flaws, fears and secrets. I think that Cari was the one that I liked most. A great career woman, I absolutely loved how passionate she was about her job and the way she dealt with all the problems. However, she was not that lucky when it came to love – jilted at the altar – literally! – she still can’t open enough to trust another man. She was also a brilliant friend, she was loyal and she had rules. With Jojo, I had some issues. I mean, I know she was sensible and all the things and events happening in her life just were too overwhelming for her, and I could understand it, however the way she was behaving towards Bess and her father made me roll my eyes. She was over 30 and was like a kid, trying to do whatever it takes to change her father mind about his second marriage. All the time I wanted to tell her, be careful, girl, karma is a bitch, and actually who gave you the right to think you know best? Yes, I also felt sorry for her a little, what with the infertility problems but Jojo was also a champion of isolating people and well, there always comes a moment when people say okay, I’ll back off if you don’t want my help. And it happened to Jojo eventually. There is also Bess Brannigan, Edward’s second wife, the one Jojo thinks married her father only for his money. However, it’s not true and the readers can see it from the very beginning. Bess has her own business, has her own money, she was alone for so many years, raising her daughter Amy and now when she married Edward, she did it because she loved him. You can easily see he is her whole world, her life. And it made this woman so genuine, in my opinion. She still had her own life but she married this woman because she truly loved him – only Jojo couldn’t see it. Jojo was really messed up, both physically and emotionally and Bess was trying so hard to follow into Lottie’s footsteps, to fit in with the Brannigans but she also have never crossed the magical line, she never tried too much.

The story was about Edward’s seventieth party, but the actual party took maybe ten pages, out of over 500 pages long book! It really felt like a huge great introduction that, as it turned out, didn’t have an end. I just feel there was no climax in the book and it led to nothing, in fact. However, I kept reading, as one of my friends told me that after around 300 pages there is eventually something going to happen. But I felt that even after the 300 pages mark there was nothing in particular happening. But I thought, oh well, if I am so far into the book then I’m going to finish it. And I’m glad that I’ve read till the end, as maybe there wasn’t much happening but it felt as if the story has gathered pace a little and it was worth to see the end. It was a very happy end, let’s be honest, but it cheered me up no end as I think that the characters deserved it, and it was the end (yes, the whole 10 pages of it) that saved this story for me.

While Cathy Kelly explored a huge number of subjects in this book, such as second marriages, infertility, betrayals, friendship, family relationships, mostly I felt as if I’m reading about the same, over and over again, only in different words. I have nothing against the book being so “broadband”, with multiple points of view and subplots, but it must then deal with those subjects and not turn around in circles around them – and it’s my feeling that this is how it was with this story. There is also something in the book that I really dislike when reading – when the characters communicate, when they talk and ask question it mostly takes them five, six or more pages to reply to the question, to utter a word because in between it is full of retrospections, inner thoughts and considerations and often I had to turn the pages back to see what the question was because I’d forgotten it. Every character would all the time go back in time to reminisce, and the hugest part of the book was set in the past instead of focusing on this what’s happening now. I get it, we should get a glimpse into the past to understand what has driven the characters, of course I get it, but it’s just that with all the things – that – happened – in – the – past, the present was left behind. I also missed Cari’s confrontation with Traci at the party – was she there? Wasn’t she? There were so many feelings and it was just left, like this.

So it was a very character – driven story and I think because of the huge number of them I had problems to connect with them and I, for example, couldn’t be bothered by Faenia’s story. I think the book could perfectly work without this character. Yes, it was nice that she’s come back for the party but well, I’m sorry but I still couldn’t see the point of this storyline.

It was not a bad book, guys, and I didn’t not like it, I just couldn’t wait for it to get to the point. It described stories of thousands of characters and they were great, those stories, but because there were so many of them I had a feeling that the author just can’t pick on the one or two or three she wants to write most. But this way some of them were over – developed and some under – developed, and some just weren’t relevant to the story, which made the reading so much more trying. Maybe if the book really focused on the three main characters and their problems my rating would be different. There was so much potential in this book, and the story could turn out so, so exciting, with all the secrets, animosities, ex – boyfriend’s marrying cousins but there was just too much focus on the characters development, and while the characters were brilliant, the lack of the authentic story made it just a mediocre read. I wanted to love it, and there was so much potential to love it, and really, the raw way of writing about all the issues and lives made the reading very special and realistic.

What you also always get when reaching for Cathy Kelly’s book is the way she explores the relationships. She writes about them in such realistic, down – to – earth way. She analyzes them from every possible angle, she works them till the end and she leaves no space for vague hints or questions. Sometimes it doesn’t work, as you want your own space and place and a chance to make up your own mind but in this case I really liked it, it just fitted to the book and to the writing style, and the author created this way a complex, intelligent story, full of challenges and difficult decisions to be made. The lives of the characters were so sharply observed and described in a very detailed way. And they were complicated, the lives, they really were. Cathy Kelly writes about them with a lot of feeling and empathy, and she brilliantly deals with writing about all the issues she’s decided to put her focus on. There is a lot of sadness in this story, but also there is a lot of hope, and I truly liked how well balanced it all was. “Secrets of a Happy Marriage” is a complex, multi – layered story about marriage and money problems, loneliness, reaching for help and if you’re a fan of women’s fiction and Cathy Kelly I am sure you’re going to enjoy it!