The Birthday Girl by Sue Fortin

The Birthday Girl by Sue Fortin

 

36066989Publisher: HarperImpulse

Publishing Date: 30th November 2017

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

Number of pages: 364

Genre:  Suspense, Mystery

 Buy the Book: Kindle | Paperback

 

 

 

 

Synopsis:

Dear Carys, Zoe and Andrea
Come and join me for my fortieth birthday adventure weekend, full of mysteries and surprises the like of which you can’t imagine.

When Joanne’s friends reluctantly accept an invitation to her birthday party, it quickly becomes clear that there is more to this weekend than they are expecting.
One of them is hiding a secret.
And Joanne is planning to reveal it…

A weekend away in a cottage in the woods sounds like fun – until no one can hear your cries for help.

Four friends.
A party to die for.
Who will survive?

Rating: four-stars

After reading “Sister, Sister” by Sue Fortin I was impatiently waiting for this author’s next release, so when “The Birthday Girl” was offered to request on NetGalley I didn’t hesitate long, quickly downloaded it to my kindle and almost immediately started reading this another compelling, hooking read.

The story follows four friends, Carys, Andrea, Zoe and Joanne. The first three have been invited to a mystery birthday weekend by Joanne and reluctantly they arrive at the very remote place. Why reluctantly? Well, lately their friendships haven’t been as good as they used to be and, as it turns out, each of the women had a grudge against the other ones. However, for the sake of the friendship and relationships, they agree – but they are going to regret it, as Joanne feels wronged and she has conjured a plan to expose some of her friends’ secrets.

The relationship between the four women is brilliantly described and very complex – the author knows when and where to add another red herring to change our perspective and to start thinking differently. She can also perfectly well capture the atmosphere, that was changing from very frosty to very heated to full of mistrust. The characters are really not immediately likeable ones, and some of them aren’t likeable at all but this only makes the whole story even more gripping and interesting. They are also all so very different which – I think – is a great thing as it only makes the story so hooking. Joanne is reserved and cold and – in my opinion – unpredictable, Andrea is outspoken and straightforward, Zoe is bouncy and optimistic and easy going and Carys is a very complex person, with a complicated past, with plenty of survival skills, that she’s going to need during the weekend.

It brilliantly describes how a female friendship works, with all its petty jealousies but also bigger and more serious dramas – just as it usually is within groups. The writing style is brilliant, and the author so skilfully builds layer upon layer of secrets, misunderstandings to gradually unpeel the layers and reveal the overall picture. It is very fast paced and it keeps you tightly in its grips, you just can’t put it down as you want to know what’s going to happen next. Also, the setting already adds tons to the atmosphere of uncertainty and fear – in remote woods, far away from inhabited places, it creates this feeling of foreboding and danger.

I can’t stop comparing those two books, though, “Sister, Sister” and “The Birthday Girl”, and I am really sorry for this, I probably shouldn’t be doing this as they are two totally different novels, so please forgive me, but in comparison “The Birthday Girl” was not as full of this palpable tension as “Sister, Sister”. What is the same, however, is the fact that the author incredibly professionally and skilfully makes each and every character suspicious. Guys, really. I was changing my mind instantly and with every new character entering the scene I was suspecting them. While I guessed the main suspect, I haven’t guessed their motivations, and also the author of the few hate letters between chapters directed to Carys was a great surprise to me. She skilfully played with our minds and I was all the time asking myself whom should I trust – is it Carys, as we mostly get the story from her point of view, or is she really hiding something? Shall I believe her version of events or those of the others? I loved this, this feeling of uncertainty and of anything being possible.

Altogether, “The Birthday Girl”, though not as good as “Sister, Sister” (sorry. Sorry!), was a brilliant, compelling and suspenseful read, full of twists and turns and it surprised me more than often. I was very intrigued what the secrets that each of the woman kept were and couldn’t wait to discover them. This book is filled with dramas, feelings and emotions, it is complex and clever, and it ends with a terrific grande finale. However, the very end seemed a tad too flat in comparison to the whole story. Nevertheless, it was a great novel and I can’t wait to read more from the great Sue Fortin. “The Birthday Girl” – recommended!

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The Place We Met by Isabelle Broom

The Place We Met by Isabelle Broom

 

34890012Publisher: Michael Joseph

Publishing Date: 30th November 2017

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

Number of pages: 406

Genre:  Women’s Fiction, Romance

 Buy the Book: Kindle | Paperback

 

 

 

 

Synopsis:

Lake Como, Italy, New Year’s Eve. The perfect place to fall in love? Or the perfect place for everything to fall apart?

‘Utterly romantic’ Adele Parks, bestselling author of The Image of You

Lucy may have suffered her fair share of bad men, but now she has Pete. Finally, a man worth sharing her favourite place with, Lake Como. That’s if she can put mysterious phone calls and glamorous ex-girlfriends out of her mind.

Taggie is rushed off her feet, but distraction is exactly what she needs to forget why she fled England and the sadness she left behind. She certainly doesn’t have time for infuriating stranger Marco. A man is the last thing she needs right now.

Lucy and Taggie might not know it, but their lives are about to collide. The New Year might begin with fireworks – but how will it end?

Rating: four-stars

In Isabelle Broom’s newest release “The Place We Met” we are introduced to two main characters. Taggie works as a tour guide in Lake Como after escaping London and a heart – break. Lucy loved Lake Como as a child and decides to take her new boyfriend Pete there for Christmas and New Year. The two, at first sight, different women that don’t know each other do share something in common and they don’t know that their lives are going to change soon.

I, of course, loved the setting of Lake Como at around Christmas and New Year, the author is already known for gorgeous places she’s choosing for her stories but I think she could work on creating her characters better, more developed, more interesting – settling for the characters took me a little longer – probably because it took long for the two different characters and two different stories told alternatively to eventually overlap and find something in common.

But again, Isabelle Broom is perfect when it comes to the settings and describing the places, with all the gorgeous little details, places known only to the insiders, things to discover, but when it comes to action the books start to slow down and feel flat – with the exception of Isabelle’s debut novel, “My Map of You”, which I incredibly loved and which stays currently my favourite book by this author. “The Place we Met” felt mostly very slow, concentrating hard on the setting and bringing the beauty of Lake Como at Christmas to life – which, BTW, the author has effortlessly brought to life – but it lacked on pace and more complex plot. I also had some problems with the plot being build up to something much bigger and shocking than what Taggie’s secret turned out to be. However, there was much warmth to the story and in the end I found myself surprised how much I enjoyed reading the book, and it left me with a smile on my lips.

Altogether, it was a bitter – sweet story about finding peace with your past, about love and hope, and I think it is Isabelle’s second – best, after “My Map of You” of course. The writing here is lovely, full of emotions, evocative. The plot is tad predictable and I would love it to be more complex and more mature but I am sure that soon I’m going to get it from this author. In the meantime I can only heartily recommend this book to you all, guys.

The Break by Marian Keyes

The Break by Marian Keyes

 

34511798Publisher: Michael Joseph

Publishing Date: 7th September 2017

Source:  Purchased

Number of pages: 576

Genre:  Literature/Fiction (Adult)

 Buy the Book: Kindle | Hardcover

 

 

 

 

Synopsis:

Amy’s husband Hugh isn’t really leaving her.

At least, that’s what he promises. He is just taking a break – from their marriage, their children and, most of all, from their life together. For six-months Hugh will lose himself in south-east Asia, and there is nothing Amy can say or do about it.

Yes, it’s a mid-life crisis, but let’s be clear: a break isn’t a break up – yet . . .

It’s been a long time since Amy held a briefcase in one hand and a baby in the other. She never believed she’d have to go it alone again. She just has to hold the family together until Hugh comes back.

But a lot can happen in six-months. When Hugh returns, if he returns, will he be the same man she married? And will Amy be the same woman?

Because falling in love is easy. The hard part – the painful, joyous, maddening, beautiful part – is staying in love.

Rating: five-stars

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Hello? One of the hugest Marian Keyes’s fans speaking: yours truly. For years she’s been probably my favourite author ever. I wasn’t lucky enough to receive an ARC of Marian’s new book “The Break” and being declined to read this title on NetGalley has broken my heart in thousands little pieces, but no worries guys, I’m a tough cookie and already had the book on pre – order.
I have no idea how this author does it but when you read her books you feel like a part of the story, like a part of the characters’ lives. Her stories, also “The Break” as well, are heart – breakingly sad and funny at the same time, they are down to earth, realistic, incredibly wise, brutally honest and so cleverly funny. I’ve never had a problem to fell in love with her characters and to keep everything crossed for them.

We are introduced to tons of characters in this story. Tons, guys! But fear not, you are to quickly learn who is who and why and to whom they belong. First of all, Amy’s family is huge, very huge, and all of her siblings has their own spouses and children. Then we have her friends, private and from work, then we have her children and their friends and boyfriends, and Hugh’s family… And believe me, I loved all of them! I adored Amy from the very beginning and wanted to hug her so much and tell her that everything is going to be ok (hopefully). She goes to her own limits, trying to cope as a suddenly single parent, juggling work, life, family and thousands of problems that start to pile on. Even though she’s devastated, she still picks herself up and goes on. However, she was not alone on this journey, there were her sisters, her family, especially her mother and her feisty daughters who kept her upright and supported her in their own ways – sometimes it was not what Amy needed right now but nevertheless it was wise and honest and they all wanted the best for her. Amy’s personality was so uncomplicated, she was happy with all things she got from life (well, of course except with her husband going on sabbatical, that is), she was so true to life, confident and insecure, with a great sense of humour, honest and true to her words and a huge ability to enjoy the world. Hugh was so selfish but I also couldn’t help but fell for him as well, and there was such an overwhelming feeling of grief and sadness in him, and the author so well nailed all of those feelings and emotions that made him tick.

The pacing in this story was great – it was a rather long book but there was never a dull moment and before you know it, you’re deep into it. The flashbacks gave us a chance to get to know more about Amy and Hugh’s relationship and what made them tick so great. The houseful of females provides great entertainment, brings thousands of shenanigans, and the normal, everyday problems that all of us has to deal with and I absolutely loved it!

Marian Keyes’s style is inimitable and there is Marian Keyes and then for a long, long time nothing else. She’s written “The Break” in her usual light, witty and insightful style and even when she writes about deeper and often taboo topics it’s forthcoming and not judging. She’s one of the few that can write about abortion, depression, suicide without offending anyone and getting the balance between sad and funny brilliantly.

“The Break” was full of dramas, small and huge, and brilliantly captured family bonds. It touches on some more serious and some lighter issues. It is first of all about love, but also about death and grief, health issues, patchwork families and how they work, betrayal, temptations and also your everyday troubles and issues. It’s about overcoming those troubles and staying strong. It’s about choices. It was compelling, emotional, complex and so wise! A book with unforgettable characters that’s going to stay with you for a long time after you’ve finished reading it, with plenty of emotional but also plenty of this incredible Irish charm and humour. Highly, highly recommended!

And a Sixpence for Luck by Lilac Mills / #BlogTour + Giveaway

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And a Sixpence for Luck by Lilac Mills

36114226Publisher: Lilac Tree Books

Publishing Date: 30th September 2017

Source:  Received for blog tour purposes

Number of pages: 270

Genre:  Women’s Fiction, Romance

 Buy the Book: Kindle | Paperback

 

 

 

Synopsis:

Daisy Jones has hit rock bottom. Or so she believes.

A cheating boyfriend, trouble at work, having to move back in with her mother, and being forced to compare her brother’s loved-up, newly-wed status and brand-new shiny house with her own dire lack of prospects, isn’t what she imagined her life was going to be like at thirty. To top it all off, Christmas, is just around the corner!

Daisy, bless her, thinks things can’t possibly get any worse, but when her ancient great-grandmother persuades her to plant a silver sixpence in the Christmas pud for luck, Daisy is about to discover that they most definitely can.

Rating: three-stars

Lilac Mills is a new author to me and as I loved the synopsis to “And the Sixpence for Luck” I didn’t hesitate long to take part in this blog tour. The colourful cover of this book just shouted “read me” and I was so in need for something optimistic and witty.

The plot was not very complicated, there were not many twists and turns that changed the current. It was mostly on the predictable side and there were not many surprises thrown my way. The jumping to conclusions, while intended as light – hearted and funny, eventually started to annoy. But please, don’t get me wrong, it was a relatively funny, festive read but it just didn’t wow me and for me it was just too clichéd to rate it with more stars. I am probably spoiled by the many books I read, or maybe I should say I’m damaged by the many books that I read because now the read must be exceptional for me, and “A Sixpence for Luck” was an average one. I don’t mean it was wrong, oh my, I’m far from saying it, but it is not a book that is going to stay with me for long.

It was a light and relaxed read, and I appreciate author’s attempt at the humour but for me it was mostly perfectly obvious, too far fetched and it felt too forced. Some of the characters, like Daisy’s great – grandmother, annoyed me like you wouldn’t believe – I know she was supposed to be cute with her one – liners and strong opinions but for me it all sounded too plastic and unnatural. Daisy was a nice leading character though, and my heart went to her on so many occasions and at the many disappointments that she had to experience in her life. I liked how she was willing not to take herself too seriously and I really, really admired that she stayed so strong and kept her head up with so many unfortunate mishaps. I mean, there is bad luck and there is bad luck, right? And Daisy was very prone to accident.

Altogether, it was a nice enough story about staying positive and never losing your hope and good humour, and seeing positive even when the situations are far from being funny. If you are looking for a light and festive story than this can be a read for you. The writing style was engaging and easy to follow and as the novel itself was not too complex it made for an easy, relaxed read with some cheeky humour added.

GIVEAWAY:

You can win a signed copy of the book and a silver sixpence necklace – open international!

: a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

FOLLOW THE BLOG TOUR:

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The Pets at Primrose Cottage Part 1 by Sheila Norton

The Pets at Primrose Cottage: A Place to Hide by Sheila Norton

 

34659312Publisher: Ebury Digital

Publishing Date: 23rd November 2017

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

Number of pages:

Genre:  General Fiction

 Buy the Book: Kindle

 

 

 

 

Synopsis:

PART ONE of a serialised novel – a charming and romantic story about living the simple life and the joy of animals.

Emma Nightingale needs a place to hide away. Pursued by the demons left by her ex-boyfriend, she takes refuge in quiet Crickleford, a sleepy town in Dartmoor, where she can lay low.

Life in Crickleford is quiet and peaceful, but it won’t be for long if people discover the truth about Emma’s past. Not wanting to make too much of a fuss, she ends up lying about why she’s there – she’s looking after some cats, she says – then suddenly the town’s new ‘pet-sitter’ is in high demand!

While looking after an Alsatian, Emma finds all attention is on her, and the handsome young reporter from the local paper takes an interest in her story…

Rating: four-stars

I got to know Sheila Norton after reading her previous serialized novel “The Vets at Hope Green” and when I spotted “The Pets at Primrose Cottage” available for request on NetGalley, I didn’t hesitate long and requested the story.

I think I can guess what has happened in Emma’s past, why did she move back from New York to Devon – there were enough hints for my liking but nevertheless, I am of course curious if my assumptions are right, so I am already looking forward to the next parts, especially as I really liked this novella. It was sweet and charming, optimistic and very promising. And even if I had a huge problem with Emma, to be honest, she made me feel almost desperate. I couldn’t understand why she feels the need to tell so much lies. Yes, there was a reason, she was hiding (we don’t know why, but I am sure more details will be revealed in the next parts) but really, no matter what situation, no matter what person, no matter what about, she has never told the truth. And it started to annoy, and bother me, and I didn’t like to see her digging a hole for herself with her lies – she seemed as she was not capable of telling the truth.
However, there was something in Emma that made me like her and fell for her. She is full of life and light.

Sheila Norton’s writing style in this novella is warm and chatty and she brings the setting, the situations and the characters to life. It was cosy, I liked the atmosphere of the sleepy town and adored the great number of the four – legged characters. I can’t help it but I’m comparing “The Vets at Hope Green” and “The Pets at Primrose Cottage” all the time, and “The Pets” feel much better and much more promising, and I can only hope that it’s going to continue in this lovely way.

How Not to be a Bride by Portia MacIntosh

How Not to be a Bride by Portia MacIntosh

 

36103295Publisher: HQ Digital

Publishing Date: 17th October 2017

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

Number of pages: 384

Genre:  Romance, Women’s Fiction

 Buy the Book: Kindle

 

 

 

 

Synopsis:

Definitely, maybe…yes?
Mia Valentina gave up her high-flying life in LA to move back to Kent over four years ago. But it turns up that life in the slow lane isn’t all it’s cracked up to be!

So when her boyfriend Leo proposes, she says yes, hoping it will bring some much needed sparkle back into her life. The trouble is, Mia never wanted a big white wedding, just the happy ever after…

The laugh-out-loud, uplifting new book from Portia MacIntosh, author of It’s Not You, It’s Them. Perfect for fans of Rosie Blake and Sophie Kinsella.

Rating: three-stars

I am a huge fan of Portia MacIntosh’s novels and I was so looking forward to reading “How Not to be a Bride” – already the title made me smile and I really hoped that it’s setting the mood for the rest of the story. And I absolutely got the fact that Mia didn’t want to get married – I have never dreamed about fluffy bouncy wedding dress and only thinking about the first dance and all those traditions that are mandatory at the wedding made me cringe, and big weddings are a real nightmare for me, so yes, Mia, I know what you meant – when married, then in the simplest way!

Portia’s writing style is, as usual, easy and light – hearted and this was a quick read full of great one – liners. A story about making decisions, small and huge and realising what it is that you want from your life. It was refreshing and of course brutally honest, but in a funny way, filled with situations all of us can relate to, cringe with embarrassment and whisper “I’ve been there, I’ve seen this”. My only problem with this book were characters, I couldn’t warm to them and probably I didn’t “get” them enough to enjoy them more. I really wasn’t sure about Mia, if she truly knew what it is she wants. The more I read about her relationship with the wonderful fireman Leo (her words, not mine. I personally didn’t think Leo is wonderful), the more often I was asking myself the question why she’s with him at all, is he the right person for her. I was starting to ask myself if they really are destined to be together, if there really are chances for them to be happy and wondering why are they together at all. There was something that was not working for me in this relationship and it bothered me the whole story.

“How Not to be a Bride” was filled with ups and downs of everyday life and problems, full of troubles in paradise and jumping to conclusions, and this all brought to us in a great, light way. There was all the time something happening in this story and I think it’s great, as it kept me glued to the pages and I truly wanted to know what’s going to happen and what kind of troubles is Mia going to get herself.

The Little Village Christmas by Sue Moorcroft

The Little Village Christmas by Sue Moorcroft

 

36368810Publisher: Avon

Publishing Date: 2nd November 2017

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

Number of pages: 368

Genre:  Romance, Women’s Fiction

 Buy the Book: Kindle | Paperback

 

 

 

 

Synopsis:

Alexia Kennedy – interior decorator extraordinaire – has been tasked with giving the little village of Middledip the community café it’s always dreamed of.

After months of fundraising, the villagers can’t wait to see work get started – but disaster strikes when every last penny is stolen. With Middledip up in arms at how this could have happened, Alexia feels ready to admit defeat.

But help comes in an unlikely form when woodsman, Ben Hardaker and his rescue owl Barney, arrive on the scene. Another lost soul who’s hit rock bottom, Ben and Alexia make an unlikely partnership.

However, they soon realise that a little sprinkling of Christmas magic might just help to bring this village – and their lives – together again…

Settle down with a mince pie and a glass of mulled wine as you devour this irresistibly festive Christmas tale. The perfect read for fans of Carole Matthews and Trisha Ashley.

Rating: four-stars

 

I am always looking forward to a new Sue Moorcroft book and I adore her Christmas offerings. Maybe “The Little Village Christmas”, the newest release, is not strictly a very Christmassy story but there is enough spirit to make it feel very festive and it was a joy to read.

The characters are really well drawn, both Alexia and Ben, as well as the background characters, feel like real people. However, I had some problems to warm to them and to somehow take them seriously – no idea why! It annoyed me a little that Ben seemed all the time to be so grumpy and while I could see his reasons I also wanted to shake him and tell him that his situation is not the other people’s fault. While Alexia was a really lovely girl she also seemed too forthright to me, I had a feeling she’s going through life elbowing her way. And for me one of the weakest characters in this story was Alexia’s friend, Jodie, who shouldn’t – no matter what the circumstances – just pack up her bags, literally and proverbially, and then expect her friend to run after her. What I did really like in the characters was the fact that they made mistakes and wrong decisions, got themselves into troubles but they were there for each other, they supported each other when the need arises.

Sue Moorcroft has brought the place to life through her lovely descriptions, of both the interior design and food – especially the design parts were brilliant, different to everything I normally read. The story also offers us a return to Middledip, a place that the readers may already recognize from Ms Moorcroft’s previous books – but it introduces us to a totally fresh characters.
Of course the story touches upon some serious issues that made the characters’ lives so much more difficult, but there wouldn’t be this story without them, right. There are many surprises on their ways, full of questions and I enjoyed seeing how all the puzzle elements fell into places.

Altogether, “The Little Village Christmas” was an uplifting and heart – warming story about never giving up, about trust, full of community spirit and friendship, a great read for the lead – up to Christmas. There is enough romance but also enough reality to not make it too sugary but down to earth and realistic.