A Winter Retreat at the Paris Cheese Shop by Victoria Brownlee

A Winter Retreat at the Paris Cheese Shop by Victoria Brownlee

 

39294807Publisher: Quercus

Publishing Date: 3rd May 2018

Series: The Paris Cheese Shop #1

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

Number of pages: 69

Genre: General Fiction (Adult), Romance

 Buy the Book: Kindle

 

 

Synopsis:

Who needs love when you can eat cheese?

Heartbroken and on the cusp of turning 30, Ella decides to pack her bags and move to Paris, somewhere she had visited when she was a different, more adventurous person.

It’s on the streets of beautiful, romantic City of Light that she finds her heart’s true desire: cheese. For Ella, her local fromagerie becomes a safe haven and she finds herself being drawn back there day after day.

But in a strange city, being friendless and not able to speak the language, has she bitten off more than she can chew?

A heart-warming and joyful romance, for fans of Jenny Colgan, Lucy Diamond and Sophie Kinsella.

Rating: three-stars

“A Winter Retreat at the Paris Cheese Shop” is the first instalment in the four parts “The Paris Cheese Shop” series by a brand new and very promising author Victoria Brownlee. It quickly sets the scene and introduces us to Ella who, like many, many other literature heroines, thinks she’s living a dream with her boyfriend in the sunny Melbourne and lovely apartment, making plans for the future and waiting for THE question to be popped. However, as it often happens, everything suddenly changes. After quickly coming to terms with the new situation, Ella finds herself in Paris, starting her new life there.

It was the cover of this novel that made me click the “request” button – it’s simply gorgeous, I just love the pastel colours. Well, this and the fact that it’s about cheese, and not about another shop selling cupcakes or another bakery – big brownie points for choosing cheese as the snack here!
The characters’ introduction seemed very, very brief and very, very quick, actually everything in this novella happened like a flash. There was not will they/won’t they, should she/shouldn’t she and so on, no, there was the idea and its immediate realisation. I couldn’t help thinking that Ella would do much, much better without Paul, who came across as very selfish and unlikeable. I can’t say much about Ella herself, to be honest, as I just have a feeling that I wasn’t given the chance to get to know her yet. But she seems a nice, determined girl who hasn’t forgotten how to be spontaneous and how to enjoy life.

Everything in this short story happened very conveniently and run smoothly, there weren’t any twists or surprises. The writing was very easy to follow but I was missing some depth to it and I didn’t warm to it completely but I do hope that in the next parts the missing “something” is going to appear on the pages – because this novella left me wanting to read the next parts to see what’s going to happen.

 

 

The Leavers by Lisa Ko / #BlogTour

The Leavers by Lisa Ko

 

39697385Publisher: Dialogue Books

Publishing Date: 26th April 2018

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

Number of pages: 416

Genre: General Fiction (Adult)

 Buy the Book: Kindle | Paperback

 

 

 

Synopsis:

One morning, Deming Guo’s mother, an undocumented Chinese immigrant named Polly, goes to her job at the nail salon and never comes home. No one can find any trace of her.

With his mother gone, eleven-year-old Deming is left with no one to care for him. He is eventually adopted by two white college professors who move him from the Bronx to a small town upstate. They rename him Daniel Wilkinson in their efforts to make him over into their version of an “all-American boy.” But far away from all he’s ever known, Daniel struggles to reconcile his new life with his mother’s disappearance and the memories of the family and community he left behind.

Set in New York and China, The Leavers is a vivid and moving examination of borders and belonging. It’s the story of how one boy comes into his own when everything he’s loved has been taken away–and how a mother learns to live with the mistakes of her past.

This powerful debut is the winner of the 2016 PEN/Bellwether Prize for fiction, awarded by Barbara Kingsolver for a novel that addresses issues of social justice.

Rating: five-stars

Polly Guo is an undocumented Chinese immigrant in New York. She lives in her boyfriend, her sister, nephew and her son Deming in one apartment in Bronx. One day Polly disappears, and never returns. It’s a great puzzle for all involved – where did she go? What happened? Why isn’t she getting in touch with her family, beloved son? Is she alive?
Deming becomes a foster child to a couple of college professors, Peter and Kay, and turns into Daniel. On one hand, they understand the need of knowing your roots, your tradition, but on the other they want their foster son to assimilate, to adjust and they can’t understand why he has such problems to adjust. Daniel wants to please his parents, of course he does, but he also wants to know what has happened with his mother, as he struggles to understand it.

It was a very character driven story, covering two subplots – this of Deming Guo, whose mothers disappears one day which results in him being adopted by upper middle class white Americans, and this of his mother, Polly Guo, who – yes, you guessed – disappeared, but telling her before story, when she arrived in America from Fuzhou, hoping, as so many others, to find a better life, and I think the parts about Polly and her riveting life were the best moments in the book – her story had drawn me in completely. I also fell for Polly and her desire to have a better life, to make more money without coming at her limits, to provide her son with a worriless future.

The characters were more than brilliantly drawn. They were vivid and multi dimensional and so different and eclectic, and no matter if we talk about main or the supporting characters. Their actions made me often feel also frustrated, it was not only bed of roses with them of course, but it only made them more believable, 3 – D characters, and somehow you also understand their actions and struggles.

This was a sad and very realistic tale about immigration and identity. It felt so close to life and so very true, the characters were honest and genuine in the way they acted and lived. The author doesn’t judge the characters, she just let them live, they really jump off the pages and just feel so very realistic.

It was a story about settling in – or not, about preserving your own culture and identity, and it showed how hard it is when you feels that you belong nowhere. Daniel’s parents meant well providing him with Chinese food but it’s not enough, right? He didn’t feel at home neither in America, nor in China. He looked Chinese in America and he spoke American English in China, he didn’t fit anywhere. But I also had a feeling that Polly felt the same, and no matter what she can’t change it. You know, I’ve also emigrated and am living where I’m living for 13 years already and I didn’t find it problematic to adapt, but maybe because I’ve only moved countries, and not continents or cultures. My neighbour has fallen in love with a girl from Mexico when living in the USA and she came with him to Europe, and I can see that the culture differences, the mentality differences are like a shock for her and she has troubles to adapt, even though everybody and everything is friendly to her and she doesn’t have to fight as Polly did for a better life.

What I so liked in this book is that next to a story of immigration and adaptation, there was this second one, about mother and son and love and how being suddenly ripped apart affected their lives and their personalities. The author has so brilliantly captured the fears, worries and desperation, the feeling of uncertainty, of not knowing what’s happening with your beloved mother or son, it was really heart – wrenching. The storytelling in this book is incredibly powerful and true to life, so realistic, you know, and I felt immediately hooked. The story was so multilayered and touched upon many issues but what surfaced mostly was this normal understanding of humanity.

“The Leavers” is this kind of a story that makes you think and appreciate. It was a thought – provoking, eye – opening tale about love that was exquisitely well written. It was so very human, so close to people. A story about love and loss, hope and despair, identity and consequences, with unforgettable characters – you’re going to lock them in your heart and never forget about them. And I can’t believe it’s a debut novel – and already a winner of the 2016 PEN/Bellwether Prize for fiction and finalist for the National Book Awards 2017, and Oprah Book Club Pick!. Highly recommended!

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Thursday 26

Little Big Man by Katy Regan / #BlogTour

Little Big Man by Katy Regan

 

413lcxmywal-_sx317_bo1204203200_Publisher: Mantle

Publishing Date: 19th April 2018

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

Number of pages: 465

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

 Buy the Book: Kindle | Paperback

 

 

 

 

Synopsis:

 Meet 10-year-old Zac – a boy on a mission – in Katy Regan’s new novel Little Big Man . . .

You can’t see the truth from the outside, that’s what I’ve worked out.

Ten-year-old Zac has never met his dad, who allegedly did a runner before he was born. But when his mum lets slip that he’s the only man she’s ever loved, Zac turns detective and, roping in his best friend, hatches a plan to find his father and give his mum the happy-ever-after she deserves. What he doesn’t realize, though, is that sometimes people have good reasons for disappearing . . .

Little Big Man is a story about family secrets and fierce, familial love. It’s about growing up and being accepted; grief and lies, and the damage they can do. Most of all though, it’s about a little boy determined to hunt down the truth; a boy who wants to give the Dad he’s never met a second chance to be a father – and his mum a second chance at love.

Rating:  five-stars

Zac has never known his father but with his eleventh birthday approaching, he’s decided to look for him – even though his father left his mum even before Zac was born and basically has had no interest in him. Moreover, it is actually forbidden in Zac’s family to as much as mention his father’s name (it is Liam in case you wondered) because of something that happened eleven years ago and included his father and his uncle. Whatever, Zas and his friend Teagan are determined to find Liam. It’s not Zac’s only problem though – to keep his mission a secret, – as he’s also being bullied at school because of his weight, and not only school, but also other authorities, start to write letters to his mum about it.

This was a beautiful and poignant story, brilliantly told from a ten – year – old’s point of view. There were also chapters told by Zac’s mum Juliet and his grandfather Mick, and slowly we start to get a whole picture of what has happened in the past. At the beginning I was wondering, why is Juliet’s father’s point of view so important to this story, and let’s be honest here – the development of his narration and the way his part turned out was beautifully poignant and poignantly beautiful – the way Mick was around Zac and the love he had to his grandson was brilliantly described and so uplifting, it really could make your soul and heart sing. I grew very fond of Mick, guys, and probably this is why this part at the end made me a little disappointed, and personally I didn’t find his involvement, or his addition to this what happened SO dramatic – yes, he lied but first I think through those years, through his love he made amends to all those lies and secrets, and secondly he didn’t know what’s going to happen, he didn’t have any impact on the events to come, and in my eyes he couldn’t have been hold responsible after all those years for this what has happened.
The characters were truly well developed, with their ups and downs and with all their flaws, because they were not perfect, they made a lot of mistakes but it only made them even more multi – dimensional and true to life. The way the author described how they both, Zac and Juliet, find comfort in food was very poignant, dramatic and true to life. Yes, it rang a bell as well. Juliet was doing her best, going through all kind of emotions and feelings as a single parent and I was totally in awe how well Katy Regan has captured Zac’s voice – the way he was behaving, communicating, seeing the world was so age – relevant and very realistic. There were no exaggerations or making Zac too childish or too adult for his age, and hats off, really, because not many authors can capture their child characters so well. He was resilient and determined and protective of his family and best friend, and he was absolutely authentic in everything he did.

Basically, “Little Big Man” was mostly a rather sad story – what with Zac being bullied, his mother being a single parent and fighting to keep her head above water, not being able to afford food and let’s not mention an extra activities for Zac, with the whole family still grieving – but there was also this feeling of unconditional love shining through the pages, that they all could count on each other no matter what. It was a story that’s going to break your heart, mend it and break it again – a story about secrets, shame, guilt, lies and unconditional love, and because of this love we just want to keep those secrets away from those we love most in the world. It touches upon many issues that often we don’t want to think or talk about and the author does it with incredible gentleness, subtlety and understanding. It was emotional and life – affirming and Zac really deserves to be discovered. Highly recommended!

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Those Other Women by Nicola Moriarty / #BlogTour

Those Other Women by Nicola Moriarty

 

35552879Publisher: Penguin

Publishing Date: 3rd May 2018

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

Number of pages: 448

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

 Buy the Book: Kindle | Paperback

 

 

 

Synopsis:

From the author of The Fifth Letter comes a controversial and darkly comic story about the frustrations of being a childless woman in the modern baby-obsessed world . . .

Poppy’s world has been tipped sideways: the husband who never wanted children has betrayed her with her broody best friend.

At least Annalise is on her side. Her new friend is determined to celebrate their freedom from kids, so together they create a Facebook group to meet up with like-minded women, and perhaps vent just a little about smug mummies’ privileges at work.

Meanwhile their colleague Frankie would love a night out, away from her darlings – she’s not had one this decade and she’s heartily sick of being judged by women at the office as well as stay-at-home mums.

Then Poppy and Annalise’s group takes on a life of its own and frustrated members start confronting mums like Frankie in the real world. Cafés become battlegrounds, playgrounds become warzones and offices have never been so divided.

A rivalry that was once harmless fun is spiralling out of control.

Because one of their members is a wolf in sheep’s clothing. And she has an agenda of her own . . .

Rating: four-stars

“Those Other Women” by Nicola Moriarty introduces us to two different groups of women – one of them is a mother’s online group, so – called MOP, and the other one is NOP, the non – mothers’ one. The second group has been established by one of our main characters, Poppy, who’s tired with – as she thinks – mothers being favoured everywhere and, basically, having it all easier – like getting holidays, finishing their work earlier and so on. Also, Poppy’s husband has betrayed her with her best friend and they’re now expecting a baby – A BABY! It’s like double back – stabbing, as they’ve decided they never want babies, right? Poppy befriends a work colleague Annalise and they both set up this other online group, NOP – this group embraces those women who doesn’t want children. Not those, who can’t have children because… but those who just don’t want to have them.
The groups end up working against each other, with disastrous and dangerous results, which Poppy and Annalise haven’t seen coming – they wanted a positive place where you can meet same minded women from the neighbourhood, and not this… war?

The characters were very realistic. They weren’t perfect, they were full of flaws but it made them much more multi dimensional. Poppy was much more likeable character than Annalise in my opinion. While we get Poppy’s story immediately, it takes time to learn more about Annalise and her background but I think it’s not the reason that it took me so long to warm to her, and actually I’ve never warmed to her completely. It was not the fact she was keeping secrets, it was not the fact she was so abrupt, she was just like hedgehog, keeping everyone at bay. Sure, she had her reasons, I really did get them, and I felt sorry for her in the end but I just had a feeling that she’s pushing everyone off, me included.

I’m only happy that I’m not a member of such group – though, of course, you can’t avoid being a member in any group those times. Reading the posts, I really often wonder if those grown people don’t have other problems, or maybe that they’re just too bored, and I’m happy that I have my own real life, with real problems and the times when I was worrying what people there think about me are long, long gone.

It is a multi – layered story, told from different points of view, and I really liked this way of narration, as we got an insight into the groups and the way the characters were ticking and what was happening in their lives. It sometimes read like three different stories, but in the end they all came smoothly together. It also showed me that life isn’t as easy as we’d like it to be, that nothing is white or black, that there are the shades of grey and there are always two sides of the story. It’s easy to take sides but the truth is always somewhere in between. I’m not sure what to think about the end and about the “mole”, to be honest. Yes, I was wondering who it might be, I was suspecting almost all of the characters and I didn’t guess it, however the moment of reveal didn’t knock the life out of me and was not as much a wow – moment as oh, ok – moment.

Personally I think that “Those Other Women” was a better story than Nicola Moriarty’s debut novel. It is thought – provoking and it made me think really hard. It also touches upon this still controversial topic of women who are not mothers, for whatever reason. My opinion is: live and let live. I hate judging women on the fact of them having children or not. There are thousand reasons why they’re childless and all other people should respect it, period. It’s actually unbelievable that so many still think that being a mother defines a woman, it’s so wrong on so many levels and it is cruel and unfair to label and stereotype.
It is a bold and brave book about friendship and motherhood, all sides of motherhood, but also giving insight into what life is being childless and I liked the fact that the author didn’t judge her characters – well, the readers can do that on their own, and I think it’s a fact that not matter what and who you are, you’re going to be judged.

It examines and asks if women really need to be mothers to be considered “complete” women, it asks question why the women do not support each other, no matter what their family status is, and why it is actually expected from women to be mothers, no matter what. It was complex, sometimes funny, sometimes sad read, also about consequences of social – media interactions, about empathy and coming together. Recommended!

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Dear Mrs Bird by AJ Pearce

Dear Mrs Bird by AJ Pearce

 

39215026Publisher: Picador

Publishing Date: 5th April 2018

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

Number of pages: 316

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

 Buy the Book: Kindle | Hardcover

 

 

 

 

Synopsis:

London, 1941. Emmeline Lake and her best friend Bunty are trying to stay cheerful despite the Luftwaffe making life thoroughly annoying for everyone. Emmy dreams of becoming a Lady War Correspondent and when she spots a job advertisement in the newspaper she seizes her chance – but after a rather unfortunate misunderstanding, she finds herself typing letters for the formidable Henrietta Bird, the renowned agony aunt of Woman’s Friend magazine.

Mrs Bird is very clear: letters containing any form of Unpleasantness must go straight into the bin. But as Emmy reads the desperate pleas from women who may have Gone Too Far with the wrong man, or can’t bear to let their children be evacuated, she decides the only thing for it is to secretly write back . . .

Irresistibly funny and enormously moving, Dear Mrs Bird by AJ Pearce is a love letter to the enduring power of friendship, the kindness of strangers and the courage of ordinary people in extraordinary times.

Rating: four-stars

This debut novel by A.J. Pearce caught my eye immediately, promising a light – hearted and uplifting story, and I’ve also heard many good things about this book already. And it delivered, introduced me to lovely, vivid and quirky characters, and brought back hope for a little humanity. So if you are in need of a little positive vibe, then do not hesitate and try this “uplit” tale of hope, love and friendship in hard times – as “Dear Mrs Bird” was utterly gorgeous, charming and unexpected.

This story is told from Emmy’s point of view and she’s our main character. She’s young but she knows what she wants and right now she wants to be a war correspondent. Due to one mistake, she changes her jobs, thinking she’s going to become a reporter in The London Evening Chronicle. She’ll manage to squeeze her job as a volunteer telephone operator at the Auxiliary Fire Service as well. However, it turns out, that she’s not going to be a proper journalist but a junior typist, typing responses written in a Woman’s Friend Magazine by Mrs Bird. Mrs Bird is a very special character – she’s the only one who’s answering the letters and her list of Unacceptables is longer than Emmy’s arm. So letters including topics such as divorce, affairs, unhappiness land in the bin. Emmy can’t come to terms with this fact so one day she decides to write back to the women who so desperately need a kind word – because I forgot to mention that Mrs Bird’s kindness meant pouring cold water over readers’ heads.
However, that’s not all that’s happening in Emmy’s life, oh no!

I truly loved and adored the characters, and their approach to the War and things happening around. Some of the greatest scenes were when the girls were on duty at the fire brigade, answering the phones during one of the bombing – they were cool as cucumbers and nothing would be able to push their buttons. The way people got adjusted during the War is for me always a thing to admire – they were trying to live as normal as possible. They joked, they went to dances or to the cinema. Of course, the War influenced them in every possible way but still, they didn’t let it to break them, and I truly admired it in them.

A.J. Pearce has transported us in her debut novel to London’s streets during the WWII. She very well balanced humour with sadness, and the novel is both very uplifting and very heart – breaking. It was also provocative, what with the way Emmy decides to take actions in her own hands, however she’s got a full blessing from me personally, as I could really understand where she was coming from, to feel her desperation and knowing what she wanted to achieve – and as a result we got compassionate and realistic correspondence – based on real letters from the Forties, sent into advice columns. They show in a perfect way how the lives of the women were affected not only by the War but also by the hypocrisy of attitudes of those times. I loved the way Emmy was thinking – she knew where the real priorities were and when other people were risking their lives she decided that breaking a rule here or there will be better than letting the real problems stay unanswered.

Despite being set during London Blitz, it was a fluffy, charming and optimistic read. The author not only shows the optimistic side of the characters, but she also shows how the war affects them. She juxtaposes the relatively colourful world of Woman’s Friend Magazine and the blackness of the wartime events, showing the bravery of people working or volunteering for fire brigade, describing their feeling when faced with bombings and their victims, with shortages and upheaval. I really enjoyed this book and I’d urge you to try it for yourself.

The Lido by Libby Page / #BlogTour

The Lido by Libby Page

 

34709995Publisher: Orion

Publishing Date: 19th April 2018

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

Number of pages: 384

Genre: General Fiction (Adult)

 Buy the Book: Kindle | Paperback

 

 

 

 

Synopsis:

A tender, joyous debut novel about a cub reporter and her eighty-six-year-old subject—and the unlikely and life-changing friendship that develops between them.

Kate is a twenty-six-year-old riddled with anxiety and panic attacks who works for a local paper in Brixton, London, covering forgettably small stories. When she’s assigned to write about the closing of the local lido (an outdoor pool and recreation center), she meets Rosemary, an eighty-six-year-old widow who has swum at the lido daily since it opened its doors when she was a child. It was here Rosemary fell in love with her husband, George; here that she’s found communion during her marriage and since George’s death. The lido has been a cornerstone in nearly every part of Rosemary’s life.

But when a local developer attempts to buy the lido for a posh new apartment complex, Rosemary’s fond memories and sense of community are under threat.

As Kate dives deeper into the lido’s history—with the help of a charming photographer—she pieces together a portrait of the pool, and a portrait of a singular woman, Rosemary. What begins as a simple local interest story for Kate soon blossoms into a beautiful friendship that provides sustenance to both women as they galvanize the community to fight the lido’s closure. Meanwhile, Rosemary slowly, finally, begins to open up to Kate, transforming them both in ways they never knew possible.

In the tradition of Fredrik Backman, The Lido is a charming, feel-good novel that captures the heart and spirit of a community across generations—an irresistible tale of love, loss, aging, and friendship.

Rating: four-stars

“The Lido” is Libby Page’s debut novel and I didn’t know what to expect when I started reading it – what I knew was that many people were already singing this book praises, and so I made myself comfortable and dived (pun intended) into the story. I am glad to report that this little book was a real gem about very unlikely friendship, about community spirit and also some other important issues, a very uplifting and charming read – predictable, yes, as you immediately know where it’s going to end, but nevertheless heart – warming and feel – good.

Kate and Rosemary would probably never met but they get to know each other when Kate is sent to write a story about the local Lido that’s going to be closed soon, and she interviews Rosemary, who’s 86 years old and swims daily in the Lido, and her fondest memories are connected with this place. Those two women form a life – changing friendship.

It surprised me very much to have discovered the story of Rosemary and George, I haven’t expected something like this to come up in this book, but it was a lovely surprise and an extra bonus. There were also chapters told from totally random characters coming to the Lido, the perspectives included a pregnant woman swimming in the Lido, the boy working at the pool’s receptions and studying for uni, and as much as I understood what the author was trying to do here and where she was coming from, for me personally those chapters were a little confusing and I could live without them to be honest – they felt disjointed, and I’m not sure if the fox is the best choice of narrator. The descriptions of the Lido itself, and the feelings the swimmers have were very detailed and yes, very beautiful, but also a bit too much for my liking.

Even though I had a feeling I can’t get into the characters’ heads, that there is something missing, that I can’t befriend them as much as I’d like, I still appreciated them and their twisty life journeys. They had their ups and downs, highs and lows, troubles, problems and worries and in this story they were starting to realise what it is that make them tick and what’s really important to them – especially Kate and her attempts to overcome her panic attacks (I’d love to have this subplot better developed, I had a feeling that it went nowhere to be honest).

Altogether “The Lido” was a very promising debut about unlikely friendship, celebrating the importance and strength of community. It was well – written and the author has a very engaging, chatty and inviting writing style. Libby Page has delivered a heart – warming, charming and unique story that I enjoyed. She touched upon many issues in her book, such as age, grief, love and the importance of communication and sticking together and never giving up, and it really felt like your favourite blanket and a cup of hot chocolate. It was gentle and full of feelings, and sometimes it’s really nice to read a book that make you feel warm inside – and “The Lido” was such a book. Recommended!

 

 

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A Grand Old Time by Judy Leigh / #BlogTour

A Grand Old Time by Judy Leigh

 

36589620Publisher: Avon

Publishing Date: 3rd April 2018

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

Number of pages: 368

Genre: General Fiction, Women’s Fiction

 Buy the Book: Kindle | Paperback

 

 

 

 

Synopsis:

‘Brilliantly funny, emotional and uplifting’ Miranda Dickinson

A funny and heartwarming debut for fans of Celia Imrie and Dawn French.

Evie Gallagher is regretting her hasty move into a care home. She may be seventy-five and recently widowed, but she’s absolutely not dead yet. And so, one morning, Evie walks out of Sheldon Lodge and sets off on a Great Adventure across Europe.

But not everyone thinks Great Adventures are appropriate for women of Evie’s age, least of all her son Brendan and his wife Maura, who follow a trail of puzzling text messages to bring her home.

When they finally catch up with her, there are shocks in store . . . because while Brendan may have given up on life and love, Evie certainly has not.

Rating: four-stars

“A Grand Old Time” is Judy Leigh’s debut novel and as soon as I’ve spotted it and read the synopsis I just knew I want to read it. I had a feeling I’m going to adore the main character Evie – basically I love characters like hers, already a little older than your average characters, experienced but not trying to teach the whole world their only truths, not patronizing and behaving as if they were knowing everything better. Besides, anyone who buys a camper van on the spur of the moment is really high on my list.

Our Evie is seventy – five and living in Sheldon Lodge, a care home. She’s unhappy there. She feels she has still a lot to live and see but the care home just clips her wings and makes her sad. She wants excitement. So Evie runs off on a road trip across some countries – just my kind of a girl. She wasn’t afraid to take a risk and I liked it so much in her.
I am not sure how we should feel about Maura. I had a feeling the author wanted us to dislike her, especially at the beginning, and buddy up with Brandon instead. However, I was on Maura’s side to be honest. Yes, at the beginning she came across as a little spoiled and whingy and demanding but the more I got to know her and the more I got to know Brandon I found myself changing my mind. It was Brandon who was spoiled and whingy and demanding, and if the world’s attention wasn’t focused on Brandon he was offended. So basically it was also more Brandon’s than Evie’s journey to finding himself and it took him a lot of time (A LOT) to eventually realise what is really important for him. He was just like a little child, with his “Mammy” and moods. He liked to see himself as a knight in shining armour, be a saviour to his mother and his wife, not seeing that they don’t need a rescue, they only need him and his love.

It was a very descriptive story. There were not many dialogues, more inner monologues, and it took me some time to get into the flow of the story. I think I prefer when there are more dialogues and conversations, it just makes the reading quicker – and though the book was mostly a fast – paced one, there were too many passages that felt too slow and the tale dragging a bit. However, when I got used to the way the book was written, it didn’t bother me and in the end I can say that I really like Judy Leigh’s writing style. It’s rich, but not over – done, and she brilliantly balances humour with seriousness and mixes funny moments with the most poignant ones.

This book takes us on a journey from Dublin to Liverpool, from France to Spain, and you really couldn’t be sure where Evie is going to stop, find new friends and something new to learn. The lifestyles of the French and Spanish friends are really well captured and realistically and vividly brought to life by the author. Sure, there were things that happened oh so conveniently on Evie’s way, and yes, those unpleasant situations were probably made to counter – balance the Irish luck and make the journey a little more believable, but even with the things happening just like at your beck and call it was a lovely and warm story.

Altogether, “A Grand Old Time” was a charming and unpredictable story, with a great cast of characters, very vivid and colourful. It was full of hope and despair, humour and emotions story about exploring life, love, friendship and relationships. I loved to see the twinkle in Evie’s eye again, how she started to breath out again – life really doesn’t end at 75!

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The Holiday Cottage by the Sea by Holly Martin / #BlogTour

The Holiday Cottage by the Sea by Holly Martin

 

38344308Publisher: Bookouture

Publishing Date: 12th April 2018

Series: Sandcastle Bay #1

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

Number of pages: 249

Genre: Romance, Women’s Fiction

 Buy the Book: Kindle | Paperback

 

 

 

Synopsis:

The perfect place to fall in love this summer…

Tori Graham is in need of a holiday. Trying to piece her heart back together after losing the love of her life, she escapes to Blossom Cottage, with its picturesque views of the sea. And plans to spend the summer in gorgeous Sandcastle Bay, where her best friend Melody Rosewood lives.

Tori’s not expecting her summer by the beach to be eventful, until she meets handsome and mysterious Aidan Jackson…

Aidan looks after the holiday cottage Tori is staying in. Healing from past hurts, he wants to avoid any further chance of heartache. But could this newcomer be the breath of fresh air he needs?

Finding herself embracing life in the coastal community, Tori starts to fall in love with Sandcastle Bay and its welcoming cast of residents. But that’s not all she begins to fall for, as Tori is swept away by Aidan’s genuine heart and mischievous sense of humour. The attraction between them is undeniable, but will a simple holiday romance be enough?

As Tori’s stay in Sandcastle Bay comes to an end she has a tough decision to make…. Has her heart found a new place to call home?

A joyously romantic summer read that will make you laugh, cry and fall in love. If you enjoy reading Sarah Morgan, Jenny Oliver and Lucy Diamond this book is for you.

Rating: five-stars

It’s been too long since I’ve read Holly Martin’s book and this is why I was that excited to start reading “The Holiday Cottage at the Sea”, and really guys, I haven’t realised how much I’ve missed Holly’s gorgeous, warm writing and her hilarious characters. So whatever you do, you just have to find time for this brilliant novel – it made me smile so much and it made me feel better. Yes, with Holly’s book you know where you’re heading to and yes, I’d love Holly to surprise us with one huge unpredictable twist, but her books have so many other merits that even the mandatory happy ever after is not something that’ll put me off reading her novels.

This book captured me immediately and Holly Martin’s storytelling is vivid, evocative and absorbing. I am always admiring the fact how easily she adds a word or two that immediately change the mood, this timing is perfect, and the dialogues were full of brilliant one – liners. She has a great hand for all kind of small touches that just make the story complete. It is also full of perfectly hilarious moments, so don’t be surprised when you suddenly start laughing out loud or spilling whatever you have to drink in your hand all over the table – be warned, and it starts already at the beginning with Dobby the turkey. Ha – I have you intrigued there, right?

The banter between the characters, especially Aidan and Tori, was brilliant – so effortless and so hilarious! The one thing that bothered me though was the length of their dialogues, they were all, the other characters as well, incredibly chatty, and often their statements took one page or even more, so eloquent they were, and sometimes I just wanted to tell them to finally get to the point. Sure, it’s nice when you can so beautifully pass your thoughts and feelings, however it doesn’t happen so often when you’re speaking, right? Nevertheless, I immediately warmed to Tori, she was instantly likeable and believable, and I loved her passion to her job. I loved to accompany her on her journey to rediscover herself. Also Aidan, oh my *sigh* *going gooey*, so brilliantly drawn and believable, and he was so utterly perfect, yet not too wishy – washy or too meh.
Agatha was very unforgettable character, guys, and often such characters annoy me awfully but she was just spot on, with her ideas and predictions. Also, Leo, James, Isla and Melody – they were all immediately likeable and realistic.

Holly Martin can, no matter what, always brilliantly capture the chemistry between the main characters. It’s always sparking, sizzling and vivid and I love this, because reading so many books you get all kinds of chemistry, and it doesn’t always happen that it’s so perfectly captured and visible. Yes, there came a moment that I wanted to bang Tori and Aiden’s head together but still, it didn’t mean that the chemistry was lost, oh no, it was there all the time and it was simply marvellous.

So altogether, “The Holiday Cottage at the Sea” was sexy and incredibly romantic and of course, as usual, Holly Martin has set her story in the most beautiful place ever. This tale was full of sunshine, gorgeous places, characters to die for. It was a story about grief, sense of guilt, friendship, close community, romance, love and heartberries – yes, heartberries. A really wonderful book with many hidden messages about second chances and trust – highly recommended!

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The Man I Think I Know by Mike Gayle

The Man I Think I Know by Mike Gayle

 

37823400Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton

Publishing Date: 19th April 2018

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

Number of pages: 320

Genre: General Fiction

 Buy the Book: Kindle | Hardcover | Paperback (out on 29.11.2018)

 

 

Synopsis:

Whatever happens to those kids at school who are always being tipped to be stars in adult life?

It’s a question all of us find ourselves asking at some time and Mike Gayle’s powerful, poignant novel answers it with regard to Danny Morgan and James McManus – rivals for top honours in everything throughout their school years in Birmingham.

Whatever their friends and teachers might have expected, neither Danny nor James is currently running the country.

Depressed and unemployed, Danny is facing an ultimatum from his girlfriend Maya: if he doesn’t get out and get a job, she’s leaving.

It was an accident that changed James’s life and now he is looked after affectionately by his parents. But his sister Martha believes that the role of full-time carers is destroying their lives – and infantilising her brother.

She suggests that James should go into a respite home while her parents take a break.

The respite home, as it turns out, where Danny has just got a job.

What is the path that has brought these two people to this unexpected place, and where will it take them next?

This is the story of Danny and James, but also of the families who love them and of the women they love. It is a story of many surprising twists, by turns funny and sad, painful and uplifting, and marks a brilliant new stage in the writing career of one of Britain’s favourite novelists.

Rating: five-stars

Having been a great fan of Mike Gayle since reading his first novel “My Legendary Girlfriend” I am always impatiently waiting for his new release. This time he let us wait long but it was worth the wait, as I think that “The Man I Think I Know” must be his best novel yet. Mike Gayle has always been a champion of writing about relationships but this time he’s opted for a different one, this of a friendship, and still he pulled it off completely, delivering a fantastic, emotional and realistic story. I had a feeling that few of Mike Gayle’s last books were a little different in tone but this book seems like a new direction – it’s mature, it’s powerful yet it still reads like other books by this author.

Mike Gayle’s writing style stays the same – it’s full of humour but also down to earth, chatty and easy to follow. His characters are always brilliantly developed and it’s the same here with Danny and James, as well as the other background characters. The friendship described in this story sounds realistic and true, both characters are genuine in what they’re doing and how they communicate. They are believable. They made mistakes, they’re not perfect, they have better and worse moments which only made them more true to life.
It is also one of the most unlikely friendships taking into consideration all the circumstances: how Danny and James got to know each other and how they met again after all those years. The story is told in alternative point of views and it was a great way to tell it. With their stories, they just pull you in deeper and deeper and I quickly found myself falling for them both and found both stories incredibly interesting and captivating. I was waiting for the big reveal and when it came I didn’t feel disappointed, like it often happens when you’re waiting for something holding your breath and then it feels so meh. No, it lived up to my expectations and the only thing that bothered me a little and left me a bit disappointed was the ending, guys, I’d love a little bit more, but it was the only thing, other than that I loved this story.

The things the characters are forced to deal with, those many things in their lives are true to life, and the way they’re dealt with is realistic, relatable and believable. The author offers also a very deep and detailed insight into a life with ABI – acquired brain injury and I loved the way it was dealt with, with tons of understanding and subtlety but without pitying. With his words, he touches upon the right heart – strings.

“The Man I Think I Know” is a book about second chances and personal growths. It’s heart – warming and uplifting, as well as poignant and moving. I drank this story in with my whole being, I didn’t want to miss a single word. A bittersweet, realistic tale about family dynamics, love and second chances with enough drama, fun and charming romance that I highly, highly recommend!

You Me Everything by Catherine Isaac

You Me Everything by Catherine Isaac

 

35849957Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Publishing Date: 19th April 2018

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

Number of pages: 496

Genre: General Fiction

 Buy the Book: Kindle | Hardcover | Paperback (out on 20.09.2018)

 

 

 

 

Synopsis:

You and me, we have history.
We have a child together.
We have kept secrets from each other for far too long.
This summer, in the beautiful hills of the Dordogne, it is time for everything to change.
You, Me, Everything is a heartfelt and unforgettable novel about the lengths we are prepared to go to for those we love.

Rating: five-stars

 

You can say that “You Me Everything” is Catherine Isaac’s debut novel, however she has already written 10 (if I’m not mistaken) books as Jane Costello – books that I loved from the bottom to the top of my heart, and probably it is why I was so scared to start reading this new release – I wanted to love it as much as I loved Jane’s books and what if “You Me Everything” won’t live up to my expectations?

But no fears, guys, no fears. This gorgeous read introduces us to few characters that were absolutely brilliantly developed and immediately either likeable or not. I was totally submersed in their lives, I think I’ve felt the same emotions Jess has been feeling. I’m sure you’re going to find yourself on a real rollercoaster journey filled with desperation, hope, devastation, boost, love and hate, fear and faith. Especially one of the subplots is truly heart – breaking and you can see that the author has not only done her research but she just got into her characters’ heads and perfectly described how it is to be in their shoes. Also, I loved the dynamics between the characters and the way they were developing and growing throughout the story. They were my favourite kind of characters when I kept changing my mind about them, when I wanted to cheer them and also slap them sometimes, and bang their heads together – so characters that truly lived in my imagination. I fell for Jess at the word go – she was so incredibly human and genuine in all her feelings, in the way she was and it was hard to believe that she’s a fictional character. I loved her relationships with her parents and with William, they were not perfect and she was not sure if she’s right or wrong but that only made her more authentic and real. I need more characters like Jess in books.

I also liked the way the story was written and the way it unfolded. Present intertwines with past here and we get enough information about Jess and her background to understand her choices and motivations. The subplot with Jess’s mother adds tons of depth and takes this book to a very different, higher level, it is handled professionally and with a lot of sensitivity and subtlety.

This novel touched upon many issues. It was also full of twists and surprises and some of the turns were so unexpected and mostly heart – breaking. Catherine Isaac has proven that she not only has the ability to write humorous rom – coms but also stories that have depth and that tug at the right heart – strings. She has beautifully written about emotions and feelings and the pain Jess has felt was so vivid, you could actually feel it for yourself, and it’s a real gift to be able to write in such a way. No matter if the author describes the scenery, or a situation, the descriptions were evocative, vivid and brought to us in such an easy, effortless way.

Altogether it was an emotional story about parenthood, relationships, hope, forgiveness, choices and love. This kind of book that you live and experience by yourself, that you cry and laugh when reading. I guess I’m going to miss Jane Costello’s books but I am also incredibly looking forward to next releases from Catherine Isaac. “You Me Everything” – highly recommended!