The Sister Swap by Fiona Collins

The Sister Swap by Fiona Collins

 

38611933Publisher: HQ Digital

Publishing Date: 1st June 2018

Source:  Received from the 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:

Two sisters. Two very different lives…

Meg simply doesn’t have time for men in her life. Instead, she has a strictly one-date rule, survives on caffeine and runs one of the biggest model agencies from her smart office in London. That is, until she collapses one day at work and the doctor orders her to take some R&R in the country…

Sarah is used to being stuck behind tractors and the slow pace of her cosy village life. But now her children are all grown-up (and her ex-husband long forgotten) she’s ready to change things up a bit – starting with taking back her old job in the city!

After a devastating falling out, the sisters haven’t spoken in years. Swapping houses, cars, everything is the only option – surely they’ll be able to avoid bumping into each other?

Rating: four-stars

Sarah lives in the country with her nineteen – year – old twins. They’re adult enough – or at least Sarah thinks so – and don’t need her anymore so much, so she decides to apply for her old job as an event planer. And she gets it! The only downside – it’s in London.
Sarah’s sister Meg lives in London. She’s the owner of a very successful model agency however her job is stressful and Meg is advised to slow down a little, what with her high blood pressure, and take holidays in the country.
It is obvious – the sisters should swap, right? However, there is one problem – the sisters haven’t spoken for years, following a falling out when 18 – year – old Meg left. But there is no other option, so they really end up swapping their houses. Are they going to survive this 8 weeks swap? Will they realise what is important in their lives now? Will they sort out their differences or are they going to get back to their old lives?

The two sisters couldn’t be more different, which only made the reading more thrilling. They were both strong personalities, both stubborn, so reaching out to one another was not the easiest thing for both of them. At the beginning I had some problems to warm to Meg, to be honest. I didn’t like her attitude so much, she was full of herself and was, speaking honest, quite off – putting, while Sarah was immediately likeable and felt so normal and down – to – earth. It is only when Meg gets few good ticking – offs that she starts to be a little bit apologetic and I also started to grew to like her. But they were both, as well as the background characters, really well written and developed. They also haven’t expected that the swap will made them face some truths about themselves and their lives, their pasts and respective futures, so in all honesty, next to the funnier side there is also a hidden depth in this story. They have to make decisions and answer many questions, sometimes uncomfortable ones, they have to deal with their past, they have to ask themselves what they want and come to terms with what they’ve lost. And we all know it – making up and eating humble pie is probably the most difficult thing.

What I liked in this book was the fact that it mostly really focused on the relationship between the sisters and not so much on the romance aspect – even though there were some will they/won’t they on the way, and especially Meg’s budding romance was the one that drew me in – it was fun and full of hiccups and awkward situations, just what I like. It was more about the sisters finding each other again, discovering each other’s lives and starting to appreciate each other, and it was lovely to accompany them on this way, to see them grow and wiser. Whatever they say, no matter how cliché it sounds, family is important.

It was so funny to see how the sisters adapt to their new places. Especially Meg at the country, where – let’s be honest – there is not much to do, and when there was something she wasn’t so interested, but after initial reservations she’s decided to invest her time in the village’s life. The outcome was mostly unexpected and embarrassing. And while seeing Sarah taking her old job as an event planer back in London and having to adapt to instagram, pinterest and other things was also hooking, the country parts were for me more colourful.
It was a really feel – good read introducing us to a city girl ending up in a cowpat and a country girl trying to adapt to the fast lanes of city life, and the differences between the places and the lives were clearly marked but the author didn’t judge any of them, she only showed us ups and downs of both options, and I think she pulled it off really well.

“The Sister Swap” was a feel – good story about family dynamics, with enough drama, funny moments and happy – ever – after. It was a predictable yet pleasant read and I was intrigued by it, and I wanted to know what has happened that the sisters were estranged for so long. There were not many twists nor turns, to be honest, and you could be sure that they’re going to find themselves again but it was written in a way that had me truly hooked. I think the end was a little too rushed, but it’s my opinion and of course you can have a different view. Altogether I really enjoyed it. Recommended!

 

 

Best Practice by Penny Parkes

Best Practice by Penny Parkes

 

39110499Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Publishing Date: 22nd February 2018 (Hardcover), 28th June 2018 (Paperback)

Series: The Larkford Series #3 (read my review of “Practice Makes Perfect” here  )

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

Number of pages: 400

Genre: Romance, Women’s Fiction

 Buy the Book:  Kindle | Paperback

 

 

Synopsis:

THE BRAND NEW BESTSELLER FROM THE AUTHOR OF OUT OF PRACTICE
Love and laughter with the residents of Larkford is exactly what the doctor ordered!

Dr Alice Walker has become accomplished at presenting a façade to the world – to anyone watching, she is the epitome of style, composure and professionalism. But perhaps it was to be expected that the cracks might begin to show at some point. Thankfully Grace is on hand to offer both friendship and support when it’s needed most.

Meanwhile, Dr Holly Graham has her hands full both professionally and personally. Planning a wedding with Taffy Jones is challenging enough, even before some surprising news changes everything. At least beloved Larkford resident, Elsie, still has a few tricks left up her sleeve!

Dr Dan Carter, on the other hand, has decided to throw himself into his career – the best antidote he’s found to unrequited love. When tragedy strikes in the heart of Larkford, Dan makes it his mission to help the community.

Rating: four-stars

From the first page of “Best Practice” I had a feeling that I’m back with my old friends – it was as if there was nothing between me reading this third instalment in The Larkford series and the two previous books. We are actually immediately thrown into the medical action and it really never stops. Theoretically this book can be read as a stand – alone but I personally think there is too much background to be missed if you jump straight and direct into “Best Practice” without reading the two previous stories.

It was really a great feeling to be able to follow the characters and to see how they moved forwards after the story finished in “Practice Makes Perfect”. There is a large number of characters in this novel but the old ones that we’ve already got to know and like are also there. The brilliant couple Holly and Taffy who are so tender and so brilliant around each other, and I really, really love their relationship. Is the big wedding really what they need? Dr Dan Carter, Taffy’s companion in so many silly games is distracted and has to face up a new challenge – the practice manager Grace. The big enigma Dr. Alice Walker, who joined the practice in the previous book is also there, and her plot was probably the one that I’ve read the most enthusiastically. She has to deal with her own health issues and there is this big question about her assistance dog, Coco. And let’s not forget Elsie, who this time showed the most gentle and tender side to her. All those stories were weaving seamlessly and effortlessly into one another.

I must be in a minority here but what bothered me so much was that there run so many parallel stories that I couldn’t find the main one. There were so many, many characters in this book, coming to the practice with their health problems, and while they were interesting I just couldn’t shake off the feeling that they’re drawing us away from the main plot. I think I get where the author was coming from here, emphasize the significance and importance of health service but on the other hand I was never sure if, and which, of those could be a turning point for the plot. Don’t get me wrong here, pretty please, I guess thanks to all the accidents and incidents the pace of the book was truly well paced but it is probably why I didn’t feel as much a part of the characters” lives and I just wanted more of the main plot – this about the rural medicinal facilities being shut down and the campaign going to keep them open.

It is truly a book that introduces us to many, many medical conditions and accidents and while it is obvious that the author truly knows what she’s writing about, it is all written in such an accessible way. This novelk links many issues and topics together. It touches upon love, friendship, patchwork families and heath. It is full of depth and this lovely, overwhelming feeling of kindness and support. Even though it is also about really serious stuff, there is this feel – good vibe to it and tons of heart.
“Best Practice” is a story that ticks many boxes for being a perfect summer read. There is humour and a lot of funny moments, there are plenty of poignant moments that will make you go weak at your knees and go “awwww”, it looks much, much deeper under the surface of politics, money, men in black suits to show what’s really important when it comes to deal with ill people. This, as well as this lovely, brilliantly captured sense of community and really well developed characters, must be ones of the strongest points of this novel. The author has also in a great way weaved the romance aspect and romantic sparkles that added lightness and were like a breath of fresh air. Truly recommended!

 

 

The Cottage on Sunshine Beach by Holly Martin (Blog Tour)

The Cottage on Sunshine Beach by Holly Martin

 

39719642Publisher: Bookouture

Publishing Date: 22nd June 2018

Series: Sandcastle Bay #1 (read my review of Book 1 here  )

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

Number of pages: 234

Genre: Romance, Women’s Fiction

 Buy the Book:  Kindle | Paperback

 

 Synopsis:

The stunning new summer story from the bestselling author of Summer at Buttercup Beach. Step into the delightful seaside village of Sandcastle Bay, where you’ll discover golden sand, welcoming smiles and an unforgettable romance…

Melody Rosewood loves her new home in idyllic Sandcastle Bay. The beautiful little cottage on the edge of Sunshine Beach, with its bright yellow door and view of the sea has captured her heart. And she loves being close by to her family and best friend Tori Graham.

Life by the sea is pretty much perfect, there’s just one thing missing…

Gorgeous Jamie Jackson, with his cheeky grin and adorable puppy, works as a sculptor opposite Melody’s jewellery shop. From the moment he and Melody meet sparks fly. But despite their instant attraction, a past heartache is holding Jamie back.

As Melody starts to make a life for herself in the close-knit, quirky seaside community, she realises Jamie could be the one for her. But as the two of them take a chance on romance, it’s one dating disaster after another. Are they destined to always be just good friends?

Or will Melody finally find her happily-ever-after in Sandcastle Bay?

A perfect, feel-good summer read that will make you want to escape to the beach for a romantic day in the sun. If you enjoy reading Sarah Morgan, Jenny Oliver and Lucy Diamond this book is for you.

Rating: four-stars

“The Cottage on Sunshine Beach” is a second book in the Sandcastle Bay series. It can be read as a stand – alone, of course it can, because it’s following the adventures (and there are plenty of them! PLENTY!) of Melody and James but you would just miss out too much on a colourful, hilarious, sexy and quirky story – telling in “The Holiday Cottage by the Sea”. You don’t have to read them in the right order, I think, just read them both. Just saying.

So we return to Sandcastle Bay and are immediately thrown into the lives of Melody and her jewellery shop, and Jamie, an incredibly talented and sexy as hell sculptor. There is amazing chemistry between those two and Melody has the hots for Jamie but Jamie, sadly, has been badly hurt in the past and he’s holding back. However, Melody doesn’t give up and slowly it seems that Jamie starts to lose his reservations. But can one disaster date, when Melody poisons him, after other disaster date bring them together? Or is it too much for Jamie?

So guys. It is really hard to write this review as I truly am not sure what more should I say about Holly Martin’s writing and this book. I adore this author and her style but it seems that Holly has fallen for a pattern that is very successful and perfectly works for her, and it’s absolutely okay because when something works why should you change it? Sure, I can hear you saying, then don’t read Holly’s books – well, that’s not the point. As I’ve mentioned, I love her stories, they always made me laugh out loud and feel better, I just wish she’d surprise me with something different next time.

Nevertheless, I’ll try to explain what’s so special about this book. Because it is special 🙂

1) the setting – it’s gorgeous. Simply. Holly Martin is the champion of creating the most beautiful, desired places to live and I would move to any of the places she writes about in a couple of shakes.

2) the characters – are brilliant. As usually. They are full of humour and there is this lovely overwhelming community spirit and they all know everything about each other, there are no secrets in Sandcastle Bay.

The characters are so full of understanding and they’re so understanding and lenient that sometimes it’s too much. The guys always know what to say and what to do and sometimes it’s just  too good to be true. Don’t get me wrong here, pretty please, it’s lovely to see real gentlemen and how great they treat their women, how honest they are, there are no secrets between them, they do not lie, and sometimes, just sometimes, I missed a cold shoulder and a serious misunderstanding. To complicate the things a little.

3) the writing style. It’s full of humour and the best one – liners ever, and some of the scenes had made me laugh out loud. Really loud. The descriptions are so vivid and colourful and clear, you will have no problems to imagine them. Holly Martin has talent to effortlessly transport you into the heart of the story with her writing, to live the lives of the characters together with them.

It’s, as always, a little gem of a book that I wouldn’t like to miss out. There is everything you could ask for in a perfect rom – com: enough drama, a sizzling romance, incredible chemistry that only Holly can write in such way about, three – dimensional characters and hidden depths in a hilarious storyline. Truly recommended!

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The Dead Ex by Jane Corry (Blog Tour)

The Dead Ex by Jane Corry

 

51o-x2uybflPublisher: Penguin

Publishing Date: 28th June 2018

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

Number of pages: 432

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Fiction (Adults)

 Buy the Book: Kindle | Paperback

 

 

 

 

Synopsis:

‘I wish he’d just DIE.’ >
He said in sickness and in health. But after Vicki was attacked at work and left suffering with epilepsy, her husband Daniel left her for his mistress.

So when Vicki gets a call one day to say that he’s gone missing, her first thought is ‘good riddance’. But then the police find evidence suggesting that Daniel is dead. And they think Vicki had something to do with it.

What really happened on the night of Daniel’s disappearance?
And how can Vicki prove her innocence, when she’s not even sure of it herself?

Rating: four-stars

 

“The Dead Ex”, third novel by Jane Corry, introduces us to an aroma therapist Vicki Goudman, who’s also diagnosed with epilepsy. She’s living alone, after her marriage has broken and her husband had left her for another woman. Fast forward a few years and Vicki becomes a visit from the police, telling her that her ex – husband is missing, presumably dead. In the wake of some events and circumstances, Vicki turns out to be the prime suspect, so she’s forced to try and to prove that she has nothing to do with his disappearance. Or – has she? The drugs she’s prescribed appear to cause memory losses. And Vicki’s previous life is the one that she’d rather keep as a secret…

The characters in this story are not the most likeable ones, this must to be said. However, it doesn’t mean that they’re not really well developed because they are. I think that in such kind of books you don’t have to like the characters to enjoy the novel. It is told in the first person perspective from a number of characters, which is already Jane Corry’s hallmark and she proves again that this is a very good and effective way to present us the story. We also travel back and forward in time, and I really liked this way of telling the story, as it only made it more complex and complicated and challenging to find answers to my questions – and it was a very multi – layered tale and it was a great joy to unpeel all of the layers till the very end.

There were many twists and turns on the way and while I guessed some of them almost immediately, some of the others took me by surprise, but the final score is very satisfying. It was a page turner and I really wanted to see what’s going to happen. Also, initially the story introduces us to two different main characters, an aroma therapist Vicky and an 8 – year – old Scarlet who may, or may not, have something in common with each other. It could be a tad confusing because it reads like two different stories and you may wondering how they are connected, especially when then comes part 2 that welcomes totally different character. This was a moment when I guessed the first twist but the story still kept me hooked, especially as there were many more shocks to come.

It is Jane Corry’s third book, and third that is closely centred around prison and social workers. As much as I love the descriptions and the way the author brings the atmosphere to life – no wonders here, she has experience – I would love to see something different in the book number 4. There just seems too much of a common theme in the books. Also, personally I think that the book started in a brilliant way but then it somehow lost its impact a little. It was like building a tension in reverse, as I really think that the beginning was much better than the end that felt rushed and not as well developed as the rest of the story – but it’s me and my opinion only. What also bothered me was the approach to epilepsy. It was very well researched, no doubt here, but it all sounded very medically and dry. It was informative, yes, and there were some facts that I had no idea about, the author explored the many effects and dangers of the state, but the way they were brought to us could be more casual.

While it was not my favourite Jane Corry’s book, I still think that it was a great, tense and compelling read, a book with a difference.  I didn’t find the multiple points of view confusing as I was guessing the different characters must have come together in the end – they made the read much more complex and demanding but at the same time attractive and hooking. The author touches upon many heavy and sad issues, and so ultimately it was a multi – layered, cleverly plotted novel. Highly recommended!

 

 

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Summer Secrets at the Apple Blossom Deli by Portia MacIntosh

Summer Secrets at the Apple Blossom Deli by Portia MacIntosh

 

38389306Publisher: HQ Digital

Publishing Date: 18th May 2018

Source:  Received from the 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:

Lily Holmes is ready for a fresh start. And there’s no better place to begin again than the idyllic seaside town of Marram Bay.

All Lily wants to do is focus on making her new deli a success and ensuring her son’s happiness. Not the postcard creeping out of her handbag, and definitely not finding a new man in her life!

But this isn’t going to be as easy as she first thought. The town is in uproar about the city girl who’s dared to join them and she’s fighting a battle at every turn.

Perhaps with a little help from the gorgeous cider farmer next door, she may be able to win them over, but her past secrets threaten to ruin everything…

The brand new laugh-out-loud romantic comedy from bestseller Portia Macintosh. Perfect for fans of Jo Watson and Tilly Tennant.

Rating: four-stars

In “Summer Secrets at the Apple Blossom Deli” we meet Lily, leaving behind her life in London and moving herself and her 8 – year – old son Frankie to Marram Bay in Yorkshire to start a new job and a new chapter in her life. She has high hopes for this move and she’s determined to make the opening of the new deli, which is a part of a chain of YumYum delis that she’s been working for, a success, as well as her private life. She hopes that she can make Apple Blossom, the cottage she’s moving into, as well as Marram Bay, her new home. However, the residents of Marram Bay have other ideas… But fortunately, not all of them…

Portia paints a great cast of supporting characters, they’re colourful and different, we have the really good ones and the not so good ones, those that knows everything and those that only wait for their chance. They were authentic, quirky and amusing. They were a real delight to get to know, and next to Lily we have also two significant male characters, and the difference between them was brilliant. Ex – boyfriend Nathan was a hippie who wanted to save the world trying to convince everyone to start eating vegan and who only watched reality shows on Lily’s coach, and then we have Alfie, the charming, handsome and much more normal neighbour.
I loved how determined Lily was and she was not the one to be beaten, oh no. She was a really likeable character and it was easy to fell for her from the very beginning. She has to juggle single motherhood and her career, moving to a new town with unhappy locals, then an unexpected visit from her ex and a delicious Alfie from the farm in the neighbourhood, and she does it daintily and with humour, and it is so normal that she has ups and down on this journey. She was strong and she didn’t let other people to belittle her. And well, her life was a little challenging, right, what with also an eccentric mother who pretended to be her daughter’s sister and the arrival of an ex and a potential romance as well.
My heart went also to Frankie, Lily’s son, when the hostility of the locals turned out to be directed not only to Lily, but extended to Frankie as well. It was so, so sad to see how he’s treated at school, how nobody wants to be his friends because of his mum and her plan to take the jobs from the local by opening the new deli. It’s no wonder that he felt so isolated and that he spent so much time on his own. I fell for him completely and empathised with him.

Yes, it was a tad predictable read, to be honest, but well, you could expect it from this kind of a book, and it was written in such a lovely way that it didn’t bothered me for a single moment that I know what’s going to happen. Yes, the author has tried to stir the things a little by adding a very unexpected visit, and she has managed to create a little havoc, and it was brilliant. But there are also some twists and turns that keep the pace and make the reading truly gripping.

Altogether, it was a funny, delightful and uplifting novel, perfect for the summery days. It was full of tricky situations, unexpected events, tender moments and humour. Altogether, it was all I have expected from Portia MacIntosh’s book, full of friendship, challenges, happiness, romance and family. She also touched upon some heavier issues, such as bullying for example, and she’s written about it with great compassion and gentleness, and she brilliantly captured mentality of a small town and what makes the people tick. Recommended!

 

 

 

Missing Pieces by Laura Pearson (Blog Tour)

Missing Pieces by Laura Pearson

 

40490074Publisher: Agora Books

Publishing Date: 21st June 2018

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

Number of pages: 277

Genre: Literature/Fiction (Adult)

 Buy the Book: Kindle | Paperback

 

 

 

 

Synopsis:

What if the one thing that kept you together was breaking you apart?

All Linda wants to do is sleep. She won’t look at her husband. She can’t stand her daughter. And she doesn’t want to have this baby. Having this baby means moving on, and she just wants to go back to before. Before their family was torn apart, before the blame was placed.

Alienated by their own guilt and struggling to cope, the Sadler family unravels. They grow up, grow apart, never talking about their terrible secret.

That is until Linda’s daughter finds out she’s pregnant. Before she brings another Sadler into the world, Bea needs to know what happened twenty-five years ago. What did they keep from her? What happened that couldn’t be fixed?

A devastating mistake, a lifetime of consequences. How can you repair something broken if pieces are missing?

Rating: four-stars

 

Linda and Tom have just lost their little daughter Phoebe to a tragic accident. But they still have the other daughter, and there is another baby on its way – so they have a reason to keep going. Tom tries, but Linda submerges in her grief.
Fast forward and the unborn baby is to have a baby of her own. There is a tension between her and her older sister Esme and her father, they’re really not so much in touch – there are too many secrets and lies between them but maybe now is the time to build new bridges?

The book is split into two parts. In the first one we experience what has happened and follow the after – tragedy lives of Linda, Tom, Esme and the little Bea. This part was really heart – wrenching and it touched at all the right heart – strings, it was emotionally wrecking and all the feelings were palpable. The second part takes place 25 years later, and here I had a feeling that it is a different read, to be honest, that it is written by a different person – it just read differently and well, let’s be honest, it wasn’t as gripping and compelling as part one.

The great thing in this book was that it was really easy to relate to the characters, to understand them. I really didn’t want to judge Linda, I’ve never been in her shoes and I pray to God to never be in her shoes – loosing a child is the biggest nightmare of each parent, that’s for sure. However, I couldn’t help but feel annoyed with her – she had another daughter, and later on Bea was born, and yet Linda has chosen to desolate, she didn’t even try to try. It looked like she wanted Bea to disappear, Esme to look after herself – she was for sure no comfort to them, and she didn’t even try, and this is what bothered me so much about her character. That she just gave up. But also her grief, her shame and her rage were so natural to understand. Tom, who has his own burden and guilt to bear, tried his best to help Linda and to provide his daughters with relatively normal childhood – I was in awe how great he was with the girls, and how much and how long he tried. Even with the mistakes he did, I kept my fingers crossed for Tom, as he does his best to keep his family together, to blend together what’s left, to go on somehow, and it was heart – breaking to see that whatever he did, it was not working.And Esme – though Esme was really not to blame, right? Full of guilt and bearing her own burden her whole life, finding herself in an awful position. Bea’s life was like pre-programmed through the loss of Phoebe, by the unspeakable truth, and I can imagine how hard it was to grow up in the shadows of ignorance, of not knowing, and secrets.

It is Laura Pearson’s debut novel and it turned out to be a great read. The author has skills to tell a gripping, intriguing and heart – wrenching story and really has a way with words. She can really deal with feelings and emotions, bringing them all easily on the paper and the family portrait that she has painted in “Missing Pieces” is incredibly realistic. The way she describes grief and pain just gets under your skin and you really experience this all, together with the characters. I, however, quickly guessed what has happened to the middle daughter and the circumstances, and I personally think the book would be even better if it was explained earlier on.

Altogether, “Missing Pieces” was a sad, but not too overwhelmingly depressing, book – and it’s for sure not easy to write such a novel, to find this balance, to not to push this limit of being too depressing, too teary, and the author has really done it in a great way. This was a poignant and heart – wrenching story about regret, about losing hope, and about not giving up, about Missing Pieces – yes! – and how important they are to leave the past behind and to know the truth that affects you as well. A gripping story about how a tragedy can shape lives, emotionally raw tale of depression, grief, secrets and lies, a story about a family damaged by the death of a young daughter, by betrayals, by depression and lies, with characters that were very well layered and with realistic family dynamics. A great debut and I am looking forward to read more from Laura Pearson.

 

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Alone Time by Stephanie Rosenbloom (Blog Tour + Guest Post)

Alone Time by Stephanie Rosenbloom

 

33295222Publisher: Bantam Press

Publishing Date: 14th June 2018

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

Number of pages: 288

Genre: Travel, Non – Fiction, Memoir

 Buy the Book: Kindle | Hardcover

 

 

 

 

Synopsis:

A wise, passionate account of the pleasures of travelling solo

In our increasingly frantic daily lives, many people are genuinely fearful of the prospect of solitude, but time alone can be both rich and restorative, especially when travelling. Through on-the-ground reporting and recounting the experiences of artists, writers, and innovators who cherished solitude, Stephanie Rosenbloom considers how being alone as a traveller–and even in one’s own city–is conducive to becoming acutely aware of the sensual details of the world–patterns, textures, colors, tastes, sounds–in ways that are difficult to do in the company of others.

Alone Time is divided into four parts, each set in a different city, in a different season, in a single year. The destinations–Paris, Istanbul, Florence, New York–are all pedestrian-friendly, allowing travelers to slow down and appreciate casual pleasures instead of hurtling through museums and posting photos to Instagram. Each section spotlights a different theme associated with the joys and benefits of time alone and how it can enable people to enrich their lives–facilitating creativity, learning, self-reliance, as well as the ability to experiment and change. Rosenbloom incorporates insights from psychologists and sociologists who have studied solitude and happiness, and explores such topics as dining alone, learning to savor, discovering interests and passions, and finding or creating silent spaces. Her engaging and elegant prose makes Alone Time as warmly intimate an account as the details of a trip shared by a beloved friend–and will have its many readers eager to set off on their own solo adventures.

Rating: four-stars

Stephanie Rosenbloom has done a thing that I’m dreaming about – she’s travelled alone to four different cities. I don’t actually have to travel around the world but being alone is high on my list of priorities. You know, I’m actually never alone, there is always someone around me, be it at work or at home, and a solitary minute is like a Utopia Island. I think I wouldn’t be afraid of travelling alone, I’d enjoy every single minute and use it in exactly the same way Stephanie Rosenbloom did. 

I usually don’t read books like “Alone Time”, which is a shame as I actually found this book informative and entertaining, interesting and refreshing. I absolutely admire how much research must have gone into the story, as it is full of facts and references – some of them I found amusing and interesting, and I’d do without the others but altogether it was something different and I truly learnt from this book. 

The author takes us on a journey through four cities – Paris, Istanbul, Florence and New York, during four seasons. There were incredibly vivid descriptions of food that made my mouth water, beautiful settings and descriptions of places and of course people the author has met during her travels. This all will give you solitude and courage to perhaps travel alone one day and enjoy your own company, to focus on things we usually take for granted instead of appreciating. It will show you that it is really worth to slow down and open your eyes and your tastes. And it will show you how great it is to make your own marks and memories. Full of tips and resources, it’s really worth reading, not only when you’re planning a solo excursion. It felt so relaxed, and it was also very well written . Stephanie Rosenbloom’s writing style is warm and inviting, insightful and it pulls you into the book. It is also full of depth but the author knows when to add a relaxed anecdote to make it even easier to follow and for us not to feel too overwhelmed with the facts.. I must also mention the gorgeous cover of this book – it’s simple but beautiful, and the blue colour is one of the most brilliant and friendly ones. It will be for sure standing out on the bookshelves.

Let’s stop in Florence for a moment – this stop was full of art. I loved the precise descriptions, the slow motion, the no – hurry, to see Florence through Stephanie Rosenbloom’s eyes like this. The one or two anecdotes or memories were an added bonus, of course, the secret place so worth mention. This destination was beautifully described, with so much heart and soul in every word, and the educational part was truly well balanced by humour and sharp observations.
Stephanie Rosenbloom has visited Florence in autumn and the descriptions of trees glowing yellow in the sunshine were so vivid, as well the descriptions of food and streets, and I really didn’t know there are streets like Death, Hell and The Way of the Discontented in Tuscany – but this book is so much more than a travel guide. Many great names are being mentioned in this chapter, just think about Michelangelo, Padre Pinocchio, The Birth of Venus, and I would really take someone’s arm off to see those things with my own eyes. There were brilliant, interesting facts mentioned that I would probably never hear about if I hadn’t read this book, and it was full of clever insights and observations. And now also check what 5 things you just have to see when in Florence:

 

Five Things Not to Miss in Florence Ex: Stephanie Rosenbloom

 FLORENCE

–The Uffizi is a must, as is the Vasari Corridor, the hidden passageway lined with some of the world’s best-known self-portraits— that is if you can get in. Still, even if you can’t, the Uffizi is unrivaled for Renaissance masterworks, including its leading lady: Botticelli’s Venus.

–Never mind the Piazza Michelangelo. Cross the Oltrarno and climb the hills to the Basilica of San Miniato, where you’ll be treated to breathtaking views of the old city and the Duomo. While you’re there, go behind the basilica to visit the beautiful old cemetery, where a mausoleum houses the remains of Carlo Collodi, the author of Pinocchio.

–In the evenings, the city is alive with music. But there’s no need for formalities. Take yourself to a small church for a casual concert, as special as any in a grand concert hall.

–After hours inside some of the world’s most ornate museums and churches, get outside and wander amid the sculptures, grottos, and fountains of the regal Boboli Gardens.

–Yes, everyone goes to see Michelangelo’s David— and with good reason. Don’t miss the Galleria dell’Accademia. It’s one thing to see photos of the David, but quite another experience (and a moving one at that), to stand beside it.

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The Scent of You by Maggie Alderson (Blog Tour)

Hi guys, hope you are all well. Today I am thrilled to have a wonderful guest post from Maggie Alderson for you. Maggie’s brand new novel “The Scent of You” is out tomorrow in paperback, published by Harper Collins, and this book has a) a brilliant, brilliant cover and b) a fantastic premise and I am dying to read it! In the meantime I have, as already above mentioned, a guest post from the author on “The Seven Mysteries of Writing a Novel” – out your feet high and enjoy!

 

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By Maggie Alderson

I can’t quite believe that The Scent of You is my tenth novel. And what I find particularly bewildering is that although I’ve done it so many times, I still make the same mistakes. Every time.

 I charge into a new book in a frenzy, never planning anything, never doing a time line, a map of where everyone lives, or a list of the relative ages in families, until I’m about 30,000 words in.

 That was interesting when the family in question was a modern jigsaw of numerous half and step siblings in Cents and Sensibility (my fourth one). I realised half way through writing the first draft, when I did finally do a timeline, that I was going to have to make my heroine ten years younger than I’d wanted her to be. Oops.

 So as I am about to start my eleventh book, I thought this was a good moment to ponder over what I’ve learned over all the years of writing in the hope it might help stop me making the same mistakes again – and hopefully give some insights to anyone else who might be thinking of embarking on their own fiction adventure.

 

  • Starting it

I remember very clearly when the first of my contemporaries wrote a novel – and got a publisher. I was in awe, dreaming of writing a book myself one day, but too scared to start in case I found I couldn’t do it.

‘How long did it take you to write it?’ I asked him.

‘Six months,’ he replied. ‘And thirty two years…’

That remark returns to me every time I’m writing a book and I’ve allowed myself to get hoity toity about how clever I am making all this stuff up….

Because one day I will have a blinding flash of revelation when I understand exactly what things in my own life have fed into what I’m writing. Even if it’s about rich beautiful people living lives I can only dream, the seed of it comes directly from things I have experienced.

So really, you’re starting a novel every moment of your life. I think of it as adding stuff to the stock pot in my brain, which will later come out as something that seems completely different, but is really that bit of onion I chucked in earlier.

To keep this stock pot topped up, between books I try and have lots of new experiences – visiting new cities, exhibitions, books and any kind of random experience I can have. Once I’m writing a book, I don’t do anything except write the book, so I have to cram it in while I can in between.

 

  • Making it up

This was one of the hardest things for me to do when I started my first novel, Pants on Fire. I’d been making my living as a journalist for about fifteen years by then and sticking to the facts and the quotes was part of my DNA.

In the end I signed up for a Fiction Writing evening course at Sydney University (it was while I was living in Australia) and although I only went to three of them it freed me up to let go and make it up… It was so exhilarating when I first allowed myself to trust it, like jumping onto a flume ride.

 

  • Finding the characters

They seem to find me. When I start a book I know who my heroine is, she’s my starting point. I have an idea what she looks like and I know what she does – that gives me the milieu for the book. Apart from that, I have no idea who else is in it until they stroll onto the page.

I always remember when I was writing my second book Mad About the Boy (not be confused with the more recent Helen Fielding of the same title). The doorbell rang (in the book, not my doorbell) and I had no idea who was going to be behind it until my heroine opened the door.

It turned out to be Uncle Percy, who remains one of my very favourites of all my characters.

Another way I find them is by pulling pictures of people out of magazines and seeing which ones ‘speak’ to me – a technique I discovered after I stuck a picture of a hot guy on the wall over my desk just to gaze at and he walked into the book.

 

  • Staying seated

Sometimes it takes every bit of willpower I can summon to keep my bum stuck to my chair. Music helps me, tea helps me, biscuits help me – then carrot sticks, after I’ve put on half a stone – looking at my phone does not help me. I don’t have wifi on the laptop I write on and put my phone on the other side of the room.

Conversely, sometimes going out for a walk, or a look at the shops helps me stay seated later. I get the urge to flee out of my system by fleeing and then when I come back staying seated doesn’t seem so hard.

 

  • Finishing it

See point 4. It’s the only way. Stay seated, or at least stay in the room – some people write standing up, Hemingway did – and keep going.

 

  • Getting over writer’s block

There are always sticking points when writing a book, when it feels like someone has turned the tap off. That’s when I run to my books about writing.

The first one I reach for is Elmore Leonard’s 10 Rules of Writing. It’s a masterpiece. It was originally an article in Esquire (you can Google it), but I have a little hardback book of it which takes about 20 minutes to read. It always makes me roar with laughter and usually eager to get back to the fray.

Leonard’s first sentence is: ‘Never open a book with the weather.’

My all-time favourite is Stephen King’s On Writing (which David Walliams also cites as a great influence), which is a work of pure genius.

I have another one called Dear Writer, by Carmel Bird, which I find very useful for practical tips on the craft of writing – tense, point of view etc.

My other stalwart is David Lodge’s The Art of Fiction, which is so beautifully written and has a wonderfully varied collection of passages in it, one to illustrate each point.

The section from Catcher In the Rye to discuss skat dialogue entirely created the character of the outrageously dreadful – but actually very vulnerable – daughter Theo, in my book Shall We Dance?

 

  • Surviving editing

Or as I like to call it – re-eating your own vomit. That’s about how enjoyable I find that part of the process. It’s entirely my own fault. If I planned my books more carefully and didn’t write them at high speed as though I am trying to beat Jack Kerouac to the world record, editing wouldn’t be such a trial.

But while I always suffer great editing agonies, it’s always worth it for the feeling of utter elation that comes when I finish. And the book is always exponentially better for it.

I can’t wait to get started on the next one.

 

Mad by Chloé Esposito (Blog Tour)

Mad by Chloé Esposito

 

35533573Publisher: Penguin

Publishing Date: 31st May 2018

Series: Mad, Bad & Dangerous to Know Trilogy #1

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

Number of pages: 400

Genre: Literature/Fiction (Adults)

 Buy the Book: Kindle | Paperback

 

 

 

Synopsis:

Seven days of sin. Seven days of secrets. Seven days to steal her sister’s life.

Beth has always been the golden girl, leaving her identical twin, Alvie, in her shadow. She has everything Alvie ever wanted – the money, the hot husband, the cute baby, the fast car.

So when she invites Alvie for seven sun-drenched days at her luxury villa in Sicily, Alvie accepts. Just because Alvie can’t stand Beth doesn’t mean she can’t enjoy a slice of her decadent lifestyle.

But her usually goody-two-shoes twin has a hidden agenda. And when the sisters swap identities for a day, it ends badly for Beth. Very badly.

It’s Alvie’s chance to steal the life that she deserves . . .

If she can get away with it.

Rating: five-stars

 

Alvina finds herself jobless and homeless, so even though she’s not so into seeing her twin sister Beth after all this time, the invitation to visit her and her family living in Sicily couldn’t come in a better time. Yes, Alvie has always refused but on this occasion she just finds herself at a loss, so she decides to go. Well, Beth pays for the tickets, right.
Without giving away too much and spoiling the reading to you, Alvina doesn’t expect this what she comes upon in Sicily, and this involves murder, betrayal, handsome men and mafia. So there.

I’ll be honest with you. I tried to read this book last year when it was published in hardcover and I put it down thinking, what a complete craziness it is. However, this time, I was probably in a mood for such story, and full of expectations and anticipation I started reading it again. This book is totally bonkers. Crazyville. It’s so annoying that I eventually completely fell in love with it and couldn’t put it down. The title sums it up perfectly. What is even better is the fact that “Mad” is the first book in the Mad, Bad and Dangerous to Know Trilogy, so there is more from Alvina to come. It somehow reminded me of “Pulp Fiction”, with so much blood and killing, and Alvina herself I imagined as Harley Quinn played by Margot Robbie.

The characters were abso – bloody – brilliant! So sharp and clear and with distinctive voices. Beth was always the favourite twin and Alvina always lived in her sister’s shadow – she was never good enough, she was always the spare one. It’s not a wonder that the sisters didn’t get on. Altogether you could say that Alvina was awful .But I also could understand her, especially as we get to know about her childhood through the many flashbacks in the book. She was almost the outcast of the family, she has never felt loved and really, my heart went to her when I read about her and Beth’s birthdays or other events. So it’s no wonder that she wanted nothing to do with her family and actually it was understandable why she was the way she was, however I haven’t expected her to open and “relax” so much during her holidays, hmmm… She’s not the most likeable character, our Alvina, you can’t stop thinking that she exaggerates but also I was somehow rooting for her. And call me a softie, but I think there is a second face to Alvina – it’s just my gut feeling telling me that maybe, deep deep inside she’s a softie as well? I don’t know, and I can’t wait to see if I’m right or not. Yes, she was over the top abrasive, arrogant, vulgar and I suppose we’re not meant to like her but I just couldn’t help falling in love with her and actually, loving to hate her as well.

Each chapter is titled with one of the 7 deadly sins, so we have Sloth, Envy, Wrath, Lust, Gluttony, Greed and Pride, and they’re really jam – packed with those attributes, and Alvina, well, she is full of those deadly sins. It is also set over the period of one week only, and lots of things happens during this week. We travel to Sicily, and when you think that mafia times are over, please think it over once again. The pace of this novel is incredible, it’s a real roller – coaster ride full of events, and all kinds of events, so be prepared for murder, hit men, romances, designer stores, mafia… Whatever takes your fancy is probably in this book, and it works perfectly together. It is addictive, compulsive read that would make a brilliant movie. Usually I would probably roll my eyes and say that it was too unbelievable but really, guys, this book was just incredible, it stretched the imagination and I couldn’t wait to see what there is more in store for us.

“Mad” is full to brims of huge eyes “WOW” moments, moments full of empty laughter, and the more crazy and unbelievable the better. It is gripping, it is thrilling, it is sexy, filthy and full of blood, dangerous, exciting and crazy, over – stepping the boundaries and I simply loved it. There are many twists and the book took me by surprise more than a few times, and it’s really hard to take me by surprise these days, when everything is so predictable. It is such a breath of fresh air, guys, something completely different and even when you think it might not be your cup of tea, just go with an open mind into this book and let it surprise you as much as it surprised me. Recommended!

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The Man Who Didn’t Call by Rosie Walsh

The Man Who Didn’t Call by Rosie Walsh

 

34329423Publisher: Mantle

Publishing Date: 14th June 2018

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

Number of pages: 304

Genre: Literature/Fiction (Adults), Mystery

 Buy the Book: Kindle | Hardcover

 

 

 

 

Synopsis:

Imagine you meet a man, spend seven glorious days together, and fall in love. And it’s mutual: you’ve never been so certain of anything.

So when he leaves for a long-booked holiday and promises to call from the airport, you have no cause to doubt him.
But he doesn’t call.

Your friends tell you to forget him, but you know they’re wrong: something must have happened; there must be a reason for his silence.

What do you do when you finally discover you’re right? That there is a reason — and that reason is the one thing you didn’t share with each other?

Rating: five-stars

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Guys. you might be thinking that the 5 stars reviews are the easiest to write. Well, here is where you’re wrong, because they are mostly the most difficult ones to write. I could simply tell you that “The Man Who didn’t Call” was “bloody brilliant, go and treat yourself, drop whatever you do and just read it”, right? But well, please do excuse me when I’ll try to tell you below how much I loved this book without repeating the word “love” all over again. It’s been a few days already since I’ve finished reading this book and well, I can’t stop thinking about it.

The only thing you have to know about the story is that Sarah and Eddie get to know each other, spend an incredible week together – a kind of soul mates – and they are sure they want to spend their future together. Eddie goes on his prearranged holidays and then he disappears. He doesn’t call. He doesn’t reply to any of the phone calls. No messages, no Facebook, no WhatsApp. Why? Sarah is left, wondering.

Guys, you will be dying to know why he didn’t call…
And I’m sure you will be having your own suspicions and theories – just like I had, but it is a book written by Rosie Walsh, who has previously written as Lucy Robinson, so you’re in really good hands here, and who has already proven that she’s the best when it comes to the most unexpected twists – and believe me, she doesn’t disappoint, as any of my guesses turned out to be true. So there. it doesn’t happen often. And it’s such a joy to read a book that is so unpredictable, full of surprises but not in a too overwhelming way.

This it this kind of a book that the more you read, the more you want to know. The characters’ lives and stories completely capture and put a spell on you. Nevertheless, I think that the last part was the weakest part of this novel – it doesn’t mean I didn’t love it, because I loved it with my whole heart, it just didn’t fit to the rest of the book and seemed very rushed. However, it was still gorgeous, so imagine how good the other parts must have been – that good, yes! It was raw and honest and so genuine in all the feelings and emotions.

The characters were so well fleshed – out, and not only the main ones but also the background characters. I actually admired them very, very much because – let’s be honest – they really did put Sarah and her problems above their own, they were always there for her, she’s never heard a bad word, they were always supporting her even with their own huge problems and troubles. However, what I also adored is that the plot focused not only on Sarah and Eddie but the author touched upon different issues, such as depression, mental health, grief as well. The choice of Sarah’s profession was exceptional, the charity she run with her ex – husband about clown – doctors working with ill children was a brilliant and refreshing and clever idea.

The way Rosie Walsh dealt with grief here just blew me away. The feelings were so true to life and realistic, raw and real, and all the struggles and the aftermaths of a death in a family were so true to life and they rang a bell or two. The way she writes about love and forgiveness, about feelings and emotions is just amazing. It’s going to stay with you for ever, guys, it’s going to creep into your heart and head and leave you stunned – and I loved it! There is so much sensitivity and gentleness and understanding, and you just want to hug the characters. I also loved the fact that the author didn’t wait with the big reveal till the last page, making the story drag – thanks to this the story really flows effortlessly and seamlessly and is impossible to put down.

“The Man Who Didn’t Call” was perfect in every aspect. It was well – paced and the twists were mind blowing. It was multi – layered. It was compulsive, with many “oh no” and “awww” moments and it is going to be huge, mark my words. This book has it all – a beautiful romance, broken hearts, tragedy, intrigue, mystery and unconditional love and I can’t recommend it highly enough – well, it is my first “Hall of Fame” book in a long time.