The Not So Perfect Plan to Save a Friendship House by Lilly Bartlett

The Not So Perfect Plan to Save a Friendship House by Lilly Bartlett

 

 

40813139Publisher: Harper Impulse

Publishing Date: 31st August 2018

Source:  Received from the publisher via NetGalley, thank you!

Number of pages: 229

Genre: General Fiction (Adult), Romance

 Buy the Book:  Kindle | Paperback

 

 

 

 

Synopsis:

Meet Phoebe, who’s 28, and Laney, Dot and Maggie, who are 68, 78, and none of your business. Together they’ll prove that age doesn’t matter when it comes to friendship, belonging and an unquenchable zest for life.

A hilarious, uplifting novel about the ties of community, the strength of love and how nobody is truly ordinary.

When Framlingham’s famously all-female senior living home goes co-ed, a war between the sexes is declared.

Stuck in the middle, chef Phoebe Stockton is desperate to help her friends plot to keep the community that means so much to them. It’s become her life raft, too. She finds comfort in her beloved career that might finally make her parents proud. But Phoebe’s darling Nick is lining up on the other side of the battle, and their relationship is suffering collateral damage.

The stakes couldn’t be higher. If the home’s owner can’t improve business by moving the men in, he’ll have to evict everyone.

The women aren’t about to let that happen.

Rating: three-stars

Phoebe is a chef at all-female senior living home. She loves her job and she loves the home’s residents, so when the new owner Max concocts a plan of opening its doors to male residents as well, together with her best friend June – and the women at home! – she decides to do something against it. She also works hard to make her parents proud of her, and there is also Nick – can there be a happy end for them?

Personally I had a problem with Phoebe. I just couldn’t warm to her, and sadly it didn’t change throughout the whole book. The way she was everywhere around the house was for me a little confusing because well, she was a cook, right, not a manager or something like this and I just couldn’t stop thinking that she was just meddling, she just wanted to know everything. I could understand her being a part of the Book Club but her taking part in all the confidential meetings? For me – too strange. Also, I couldn’t help the feel that she’s very pushy, that she’s expecting all people to like her and do as she wishes. The way she was around Nick – though it can also go the other way round because Nick was not much better – was incredibly childish, she was assuming things and she also was expecting things without telling a word. Phoebe’s family was also not the most charming one, what with her father’s first questions when she came to visit was what food did she bring this time for example. The whole thing with her mother who seemed not to value and appreciate her daughter’s job – why can’t you simply tell your daughter that you’re proud of her, instead leaving her in the belief that she’s a disappointment to you? Somehow strange, somehow not working for me.
The promised plan to save the Friendship House appeared on the pages somewhere around the middle – relatively late for my liking. Except for one or two chapters where the characters tried to sabotage the owner’s new plan there was actually nothing more on this subject. Sadly – it could be brilliantly refreshing. Some of the things happened so out of the blue, like the chapter when Phoebe meets Bill – it happened so suddenly and only because it was needed for the rest of the story, to complicate things a little – so convenient.

The intrigue was such a great idea however it lacked in execution, but throughout we got to know the residents of the house much better – and it doesn’t happen often but personally I think that the characters in this book were better developed than the plot – , together with their secrets and often poignant pasts. But there are also other things to keep you hooked to the pages, as there is are also some romances with happy – or not – endings, some broken hearts, some family secrets and lies.

It was this kind of book where – unfortunately – synopsis is better than the story. I loved this blurb and I started reading this book with great expectation, hoping for brilliant antics and fun. Maybe it’s me, maybe I’m expecting too much but if a book doesn’t work for me then it simply doesn’t work. altogether it was a light and uplifting read about friendship and second chances, about accepting people just as they are. If you like your characters to be a little overdone and for the things to go smoothly with a few predictable twists and turns, then don’t hesitate and go for this book. It has this feel – good factor to it and the background characters – the residents of the house – are wonderful, colourful bunch of characters, with their foibles and habits, that add tons of humour to this book.

 

Lush by Gabrielle Fernie

Lush by Gabrielle Fernie

 

 

39204431Publisher: Sphere

Publishing Date: 16th August 2018

Source:  Received from the publisher via NetGalley, thank you!

Number of pages: 304

Genre: Biographies & Memoirs

 Buy the Book: Kindle | Paperback

 

 

 

 

Synopsis:

Lush
adj. Very rich and providing great sensory pleasure (Oxford English Dictionary)
n. A habitual drunkard (Oxford English Dictionary)

‘Arms linked, just as we did when we were seventeen, we teeter our way to the club, pausing to tug Emma’s stiletto out of a drain cover and sling our empty wine bottle into the bin. For the first time in a long while I feel truly happy. I want to be standing arm-in-arm with my best friend, both completely pole-axed, for the rest of my days. And then it comes to me, with a stab: this is possibly our last night out together as free women…’

Gabby and Emma have been best friends since primary school in Wales. Emma has a stable job, a nice home and has just got engaged. Gabby has had a succession of disastrous one-night-stands and five awful jobs since drama school . . . and she has just been diagnosed with scurvy. She has one year until the wedding to pull herself together and prove to her friends and family that she can be a proper grown-up.

Described by Caitlin Moran as ‘filthy, immoral and incredibly funny’, Gabrielle Fernie’s blog, loveisa4letterturd.com, catalogued her life as a struggling actress with a taste for gin. Here, in her first book, she shares more of her most raucous stories with eye-watering honesty. It is a refreshing, frank and laugh-out-loud account of a young woman trying to find her place in the world; ultimately realising that it’s fine to play at being an adult until she properly figures it out.

Rating: three-stars

Gabby and Emma are best friends. While Emma has just got engaged and has a stable life, Gabby is working in a job that she hates, she dreams of being an actress (she has finished a drama school!) and goes on one disastrous date after disastrous date. However, she promises herself to grow up in time for Emma’s wedding.

I’ve requested “Lush” after reading the synopsis – I loved it. I’m already not in the author’s age range but well, I still remember some of the antics and troubles I’ve got myself into and you really don’t want to know where I threw up once. Those were the times…
However this book didn’t work for me, sadly. Gabrielle, our main character in this novel, wanted to change. So far, so good but a) I didn’t fully get why she wants to change – only because her best mate is getting married?, b) why write a book about it. There are many, many people out there living the same life as Gabrielle so, theoretically, they all could also write a book about their (miss)adventures? Blame it on my age, please, but some of the antics and Gabrielle’s approach didn’t make me laugh, they made me cringe – sometimes if felt much too overdone and as if the author has really tried too hard. Partly, it wasn’t funny anymore for me. However, I absolutely appreciate the fact how honest it was, and, in some ways, relatable.

But. I of course can so well understand that this book is going to speak tons with the younger audience. It so brutally honestly shows how it is to try and fail, to try again and to fail again but still not give up. The writing style was hilarious, engaging, sharp and hooking and the story itself was partly funny and partly touching and some of Gabrielle’s adventures were hilarious, I especially liked the TV episode or the bootcamp part. So even if I’m in two minds about this book, I’m sure that if you’re in your 20’s, you’re going to enjoy this memoirs about being single. Yes, hands up, it rang a bit to my own experiences, and I’m really glad to have read this book, even if it turned out that it’s not the perfect read for me, but you’d better try it for yourself.

Once in a Lifetime by Chrissie Manby

Once in a Lifetime by Chrissie Manby

 

 

39402892Publisher: Hodder

Publishing Date: 9th August 2018

Source:  Received from the publisher, thank you!

Number of pages: 384

Genre: Women’s Fiction, Literature/Fiction (Adult)

 Buy the Book:  Kindle | Paperback

 

 

Synopsis:

What if once in a lifetime happened twice?

Dani Parker had grand plans for her life – but that was twenty-two years ago. Now she’s a single mother still living in the quaint seaside town of Newbay, still working at the hotel where she got her first ever job. When she bumps into ex-boyfriend Nat, Dani wonders if this might be the start of something not-quite-new. But that’s before she meets his fiancée . . .

Dani’s daughter Flossie is sixteen – so she knows best about everything, of course. And her new boyfriend Jed is all she could ever want in a man . . . right?

Flossie’s grandma Jane, a widow of fifteen years, firmly believes that lightning never strikes twice. So when she finds herself visiting Bill’s pet shop a little more often than necessary, she refuses to believe that the L-word has anything to do with it.

In a whirlwind of cakes, elopements and more naughty puppies than they can handle, will the three women discover that ‘once in a lifetime’ isn’t quite as rare as they thought?

Rating: five-stars

In “Once in a Lifetime” we’re back in Newbay but this time with a new set of characters, although some of the characters from the previous book enter the scenes as well, right, Nurse van Niekerk? Dani is a pastry chef at a hotel in her hometown and lives together with her teenage daughter Flossie and her mum Jane. Everything works well, that is until Flossie meets Jed, who buys her a very mischievous dog for her birthday and Dani’s boyfriend from over twenty years, Nat, comes back to the town, bringing a young and high – maintenance girlfriend in tow. As the story unfolds, we follow the three different, yet in some ways such similar, women – will they get their second chances at love? Can they all find they happily – ever – after?

As a huge fan of Chrissie Manby I’m always looking forward to her new releases. I think that what makes her books – also “Once in a Lifetime” – so exceptional is the fact that they are so close to life with their believable plots and that you can’t help but immediately fell for the characters. Her writing style is so chatty and easy to follow, and the mix of happy and sad is perfectly balanced.
You could easily relate to all the characters, and I especially adored the way the author has so brilliantly captured how it is to be a) the very strong willed teenage with so many strong opinions and her only right and knowing everything better and b) mum to this teenager, how much you must just cope with and that you have to have skills of the best bomb disposal expert to know when to press the button and when to just let it go. Brilliantly captured and so true to life! There were many twists and turns in this novel, many of them caused by the lovely Jeremy Corbyn, aka Jezza. I still can’t imagine how he looked like, this mix of breeds was just unbelievable but he was a very exceptional and very accident – prone dog. He actually mostly just stole the show and it felt as if it’s a story about him as he does things that you wouldn’t expect him to, but well, it was love at the first sight and there wouldn’t be this book without Jezza. And Nurse van Niekerk.

I also loved the way the story was constructed and that Dani’s relationship with her teenage daughter and her new puppy were the real centre of attention, whereas the romance aspect felt a little in the background. But it was great, it was a story with such a reality feeling to it that upping the romance more would make it – in my eyes at least – too much fairy – tale – ish and too forced. You’re really in good hands here, guys, Chrissie Manby truly knows how to balance all the elements of her story to make it unputdownable read with difference. I think it’s a real gift to be able to write such books, that centres around normal families, in such an engaging way.

This book is another winner from Chrissie Manby. I thought I’m not going to overcome my grief that there isn’t to be any Proper Family anymore, but the author creates new characters that I immediately fell in love with. They’re all so relatable to and so easy to like, probably because they’re just so normal and genuine. It was a heart – warming story about a multi – generational family, about long lost love and regrets, about new love that you can experience no matter how old you are, even if you’re not looking for it, a great read about once in a lifetime happening twice and exploiting it, about second chances and relationships, drawn in such forthcoming, inviting way. Absolutely feel – good, beautifully mixing humour with poignant moments and you could actually feel the heart and the soul of the author in every single word. Highly recommended!

 

The Psychology of Time Trave by Kate Mascarenhas (Blog Tour)

The Psychology of Time Travel by Kate Mascarenhas

 

 

38330784Publisher: Head of Zeus

Publishing Date: 9th August 2018

Source:  Received from the publisher via NetGalley, thank you!

Number of pages: 368

Genre: Mystery & Thrillers, Sci – Fi & Fantasy

 Buy the Book:  Kindle | Hardcover | Paperback (out on 07.03.2019)

 

 

 

Synopsis:

A time travel murder mystery from a brilliantly original new voice. Perfect for readers of Naomi Alderman’s The Power and Emily St John Mandel’s Station Eleven.

1967
Four female scientists invent a time travel machine. They are on the cusp of fame: the pioneers who opened the world to new possibilities. But then one of them suffers a breakdown and puts the whole project in peril…

2017
Ruby knows her beloved Granny Bee was a pioneer, but they never talk about the past. Though time travel is now big business, Bee has never been part of it. Then they receive a message from the future – a newspaper clipping reporting the mysterious death of an elderly lady…

2018
When Odette discovered the body she went into shock. Blood everywhere, bullet wounds, that strong reek of sulphur. But when the inquest fails to find any answers, she is frustrated. Who is this dead woman that haunts her dreams? And why is everyone determined to cover up her murder?

Rating: four-stars

In 1967, time travelling was invented by four female scientists – Barbara, Margaret, Estelle and Grace. Just before they were to introduce their invention to the world, Barbara suffers a nervous breakdown on live TV and is ejected from the project by Margaret. Soon after “the Conclave” is created by the remaining three pioneers, monopolised, with its own laws and different rules applied organisation to control time travelling and all the things it involves.
In 2017 Barbara and her granddaughter Ruby find an origami rabbit on their doorstep – a body of a woman will be found. Who is this woman? How far is she linked to the Conclave?
In 2018, a young student Odette stumbles upon a body in a toy museum. It affects her much more than she’s supposed it’s going to and so she decides to investigate – who was this woman, why was she murdered and how. All the threads lead to the Conclave – she joins it and becomes a time traveller, hoping to discover more about the death. She doesn’t know that she’s going to discover much more…

I was immediately hooked and immersed in the lives of those four strong women. They were all exceptional characters, innovative and strong, not afraid to take the initiative. Actually, all the women in this book were like this. They were intelligent and independent, not relying on men, and it was refreshing to read a book like this, where they achieved what they wanted on themselves. However, as much as I appreciated them, and no matter how well they were written, I couldn’t completely connect with them. I think it’s because of the number of the characters in this book, there were simply too many of them, and every few chapters we were introduced to a new one – in the present or in the future, and it was just doing my head. Nevertheless, I followed their stories with abated breath and actually enjoyed the diversity. Also, because of this time jumping we don’t have enough time to spend with the main characters at one period of time, to get to know them, to see what makes them tick, what did they feel, what did they think.

It takes time to get into this book, guys. The introduction is a very, very long one but to be honest it couldn’t be different. We need this time to really fully get into the heart of this story, to understand it. For me personally it really took of somewhere around the middle, when Odette applied for the job – the chapters turned into very short and the perspective changed almost on every page but it was easy to keep on track and to follow what’s going on. One thing took me a little by surprise, to be honest. I’m not a sci – fi chick, Dr. Who is absolutely not my scenery but from what I’ve seen and read about time travel there is one thing that is a no – go for this genre, and it is seeing your other – not sure how to call it – versions. I mean, you travel in time, and you see your other selves, moreover, you maintain relations with them, you tell them your future – I don’t think that it would work, do you? How confusing would that be, how dangerous. And, frankly, I didn’t get the idea of the silver and green version, I don’t know which one was supposed to be the real one.

The story follows many different threads and also it all the time jumps back and forth in time and changes points of view. However, guys, it doesn’t feel confusing. every chapter is preceded with the date and the name of the character so it was easy to follow, even with some of the characters just popping out of the blue. The plot is one of the most complex ones that I’ve come across in books and I really appreciated that, and the way it was kept clear. It also focuses on such issues like mental health, OCD and anxiety so you can see that, next to the main plot of time travelling, it’s really busy, and you expect it to flow. This element of mystery worked also really well. OK, it was actually the thing that made me feel confused, I think, it took me some time to completely understand when it happened and how it happened, but I liked it – if it were too straightforward the book would lost the tension and this element of mystery. The writing style was beautiful, very elegant and eloquent and the descriptions very detailed and vivid – they had to be, I think, to give us a chance to completely understand everything. However, what it doesn’t explain is how the time paradoxes worked, and I still can’t get over the seeing your other selves thing. Sorry. I’m repeating myself, I know, but it’s just bugging me.

I was intrigued by the premise of this book alone, but I haven’t expected that it’s going to be so good. I loved the way Ms Mascarenhas explored time travelling and what it could do to people involved in it, how people’s lives took a different shape, how it affected them and their mental health. Of course time travelling that allows to meet your other selves includes death and they are able to visit those who have died whenever they like (the dead are not surprised by those visit! See? Again, this time paradox), so it also deals with death, and maybe not taking people for granted. Altogether “The Psychology of Time Travel” is an excellent debut, mixing a variety of genres. It’s partly science – fiction, partly mystery, partly thriller and it may sound complicated and unusual but it works perfectly. It was complex and challenging, highly unique and not as sci – fi as I was afraid it’s going to be. Maybe one of the advantages is the fact that the four pioneers simply invited the time travelling machine, that there wasn’t any whys and whats, it just happened, period. It was also about love and relationships – between friends, between mothers and daughters, exploring many of them in different ways and showing various variations of them. Highly recommended!

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Sunset Over the Cherry Orchard by Jo Thomas

Sunset Over the Cherry Orchard by Jo Thomas

 

 

35992554Publisher: Headline

Publishing Date: 9th August 2018

Source:  Received from the publisher, thank you!

Number of pages: 416

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

 Buy the Book:  Kindle | Paperback

 

 

 

Synopsis:

Jo Thomas’s new novel invites you to a special cherry orchard in Spain, where sunshine, romance and family secrets are the order of the day. Perfect for fans of Lucy Diamond, Milly Johnson and Katie Fforde, SUNSET OVER THE CHERRY ORCHARD is a heartwarming, hilarious tale.

It’s time for Beti Winter to dance to her own beat.

After three failed engagements Beti is in desperate need of a fresh start. What better place than the sun-drenched hills of southern Spain?

But it’s not all sangria and siestas. Beti finds work on an old Andalucian cherry farm where there are cherries to be picked, trees to be watered and her fiery boss, Antonio, to win over.

As the sun toasts her skin, Beti finds herself warming to the Spanish way of life. Embracing the art of flamenco, she discovers there is much to learn from the dance of passion. She just has to let loose and listen to the rhythm of her heart.

Jo Thomas takes you there.

Rating: four-stars

Our main character Beti Winter finds herself in Spain and with a third engagement broken. No only this, but she’s penniless and jobless, and watching her biggest dream of owning a bar in Spain fading away. But Beti is strong and determined, so she pushes on – she finds a job, a place to stay and getting her head down she starts to save for her promised Butterfly Bar. But life is not a bed of roses, especially for our Beti, so there are many challenges coming her way, many problems and troubles – is there going to be a happy end for her?

It seems there must have been a mix up somewhere along the way about the publication date, my press release says 23rd of August and please correct me if I’m wrong but the book was out on 9th August? Apologies then for my late review but better late then never and no matter when you read the book, it’s going to take you on a beautiful, gorgeous, impressive journey to Spain – it was a lovely read, guys!

Beti was so real and I kept everything crossed for her – she so much deserved for her dream to come true and I couldn’t believe my eyes when fate was throwing so many challenges and obstacles at her all the time. She was also my favourite kind of character, she’s been growing and developing and it was a real joy to see how she changes into this confident young woman. She was not afraid to become a washer – upper in a restaurant, she was not afraid of working because she had a goal before her eyes and she was determined to – this time finally – achieve it. I really admired her.

I also liked the romance aspect. It was not so straightforward and obvious as you could expect. There were so many obstacles on the way and also I liked how it was weaved in into the story – it was not too overwhelming, too forced on us. However, even if many other things, such as keeping the farm and restaurant, Beti finding her true vocation were the focus of the story, this lovely romance was seamlessly and effortlessly accompanying us on the way and the outcome was simply fabulous.

This novel is so worth reading if only because of its end! I mean, not only because of this, as the whole story is so encompassing, full to brims with emotions and gorgeous descriptions, but the end has so exceeded my expectations. It was simply gorgeous and I personally felt so, so proud of Beti! You know, I even found myself straighten out, putting my chin high and deciding to be like Beti, getting up, following your dream and never let anybody to belittle me anymore. Well, that’s the theory at least. But Beti is my new hero and example right now.

It was a very descriptive book, and nothing wrong with this guys, as Jo Thomas’s writing style goes from strength to strength with her every book, and she has a way with words. She easily brings to life her setting, the gorgeous Cherry Orchard, the characters, the food and there is always so much understanding and knowledge when she writes about animals, and I love this. However, I had a feeling that Beti starts to be repetitive and that the descriptions of her feelings, her inner monologues and noodling over – as much as beautifully written and important – just slow down the action. Yes, I own up, I did skip a passage or a page as I wanted to just go on. But it doesn’t mean that I didn’t enjoy or appreciate the book, which I did, with my whole being – it was a gorgeous, colourful read, guys. Jo Thomas’s writing style is so warm and really, there is passion in every word.

“Sunset Over the cherry Orchard” is a story about dreaming big and not giving up, as your turn will come – earlier or later, but it will come, so please don’t stop believing. There was humour and poignant moments, there was fun and sadness, it was full of surprises and unexpected friendships and relationships, fiery flamenco and Spanish food, glorious Spanish food. It was so heart – warming and inviting, like a pure escapism that you’ll easily lose yourself in and forget about the passing time. The good vibes were palpable through the pages, it was as sweet as the cherries and as fierce as flamenco, but no worries, it was not too saccharine, oh no, Jo Thomas knows what she’s doing. And boy, I must mention the cover! It’s simply gorgeous! Those deep reds, the bright orange and yellow and there is even a cat…! It really shows off the setting and atmosphere of this novel to a T! I really recommend this book.

Anyone for Seconds? by Laurie Graham (Blog Tour)

Anyone for Seconds? by Laurie Graham

 

 

41214153Publisher: Quercus

Publishing Date: 23rd August 2018

Source:  Received from the publisher, thank you!

Number of pages: 352

Genre: General Fiction (Adult)

 Buy the Book:  Kindle | Hardcover | Paperback (out on 07.03.2019)

 

 

Synopsis:

‘Why is Laurie Graham not carried on people’s shoulders through cheering crowds? Her books are brilliant!’ MARIAN KEYES

The laugh-out-loud sequel to Perfect Meringues – can former queen of the kitchen Lizzie Partridge claw her way back into the nation’s hearts?

Life has been going downhill for ex-TV chef Lizzie Partridge ever since she spectacularly ended her television career by throwing a chocolate mousse at the host of Midlands This Morning. Her partner Tom has left her, Nigella and Jamie have got the cookery world sewn up, and now her restaurant reviewing column – her last bit of work – has been cancelled. Surely the only way is up from here?

In a desperate bid for sympathy and attention she runs away, from the gas bill and the mouse under the sink, and in wet and wintry Aberystwyth she experiences a brush with her past and a glimmer of new prospects. And when her nephew – now a TV producer – has the bright idea to reunite her with her former nemesis and target of the mousse attack in a new show, it seems like things could be going Lizzie’s way again after all!

Rating: five-stars

Lizzie Partridge used to be a chef on a morning TV show but, after a very spectacular grande finale, she was replaced. But Lizzie usually never gives up and keeps going. However, we meet her when she hits a low point after being fired from a magazine that she writes recipes for. Feeling low and taken for granted, she decides to go missing to see how long will it take before her friends and family start to look for her. She maybe hasn’t been successful in this matter but during her short break she meets new people and some changes are to come. She might be 64 year old, she might be jobless and a little overweight, she might be single and her mother might rely only on her brother, but Lizzie is determined to achieve something in her life.

And I though, go girl! Show them!

Where has Laurie Graham been hiding my whole life, I’m asking myself guys. This book was so right up to my street, and the author has written loads of books and I am really, really surprised that I haven’t heard about her before – my bad. I should go and hide under a rock. Although, at the beginning, I was dead sure that I’ve read this author before, heck, that I’ve read the first book about Lizzie as it came so familiar to me. But no. I haven’t – although I’ve read a book very similar in plot. But not so good! And yes, “Anyone for Seconds?” follows adventures of Lizzie Partridge, a woman with the sharpest tongue ever and the best one – liners and replies and thinking on her feet I’ve seen in a very, very long time. I haven’t read the previous book but I didn’t have any problems to just pick up and go on.

Lizzie was a fabulous character. She was strong and determined, she complained, she was unhappy, she was an attention – seeker, she was also a drama queen, but she was so normal in all of this, so true and honest. I loved her dry humour and the way she’s seen the world and things – not only good things but she could be cynical as well. She’s seen things just as they were. Her habit of creating newspaper headlines out of things people did around her was simply great. All the characters were hilarious, but in a good way. They were impressively described and very well rounded and it was so easy to see what make them tick. They were all so different but every single one has a great and huge personality.

It was a really funny read with some much more serious and poignant moments that were so well balanced into the story. In a very amusing way we were able to experience all of the ups and downs in Lizzie’s life, the good and bad that happened to her and guys, it was impossible not to fell for Lizzie – immediately. Laurie Graham’s writing style is unbelievably sharp and she takes no prisoners, she has a great comic timing, and she always knows when to add a word or two to either break the ice or make the scene even more hilarious – not everybody can do this as effortlessly as Ms Graham. I actually had a great feeling about this book and well, it worked out. There was a great feel – good factor to it and even though our main character is older than our usual heroines, I still could relate to her on many levels and I think we just share the same sense of humour. It is this kind of book that the more you read, the more you want and I was really disappointed when the novel came to an end.

Altogether, “Anyone for Seconds?” was one of the sharpest, incredibly spot – on observed novels that I had a pleasure to read, guys. Story about new and old love, about friendship and family relationship, but also about never giving up, about living your life to the full and watching fur conventions and your best friend in a panto. It was refreshingly honest, it made me bitterly laugh at the realistic and brutally honest observations and now when I’ve discovered Laurie Graham, I’m going to go through the whole back – catalogue of her books – I really don’t know why she doesn’t receive more of the deserved recognition, guys. Highly recommended!

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Death in Provence by Serena Kent (Blog Tour)

Death in Provence by Serena Kent

 

 

40648013Publisher: Orion

Publishing Date: 23rd August 2018

Source:  Received from the publisher via NetGalley, thank you!

Number of pages: 352

Genre: Mystery, Cosy Crime

 Buy the Book:  Kindle | Paperback

 

 

 

 

Synopsis:

When Penelope Kite swaps her humdrum life in Surrey for a picturesque farmhouse in the south of France, she imagines a simple life of long lunches and chilled rosé . . . What she doesn’t imagine is the dead body floating in her swimming pool.

Convinced that the victim suffered more than a drunken accident, Penelope plunges headlong into local intrigue and long-simmering resentments to uncover the truth.

But with a meddling estate agent, an unfriendly Chief of Police, a suspiciously charming Mayor, and the endless temptation of that second pain au chocolat, life in the delightful village of St Merlot is certainly never simple. . .

Curl up and escape to the sunshine of Provence with this deliciously entertaining mystery!

Rating: four-stars

Penelope Kite is a 50 year old retired divorcee, and after years of being at everyone’s beck and call she decides to start a new life by purchasing an old house in the south of France. The house is gorgeous but in need of many renovations, but Penelope is up for this challenge. She’s happy – until she finds a body floating in her swimming pool! Penelope soon finds out that there is more to this death as initially supposed and with police that’s not so willing to cooperate, she has to use her skills she’s learnt as a former forensic pathologist’s assistant. Who did it? And why? Is it something bigger, as there are also few attempts on Penelope’s life? 

The characters were really well – rounded, though I must admit it took me time to get used to Penelope. I’m not sure why, I had problems to get into the book and to warm to her character though there is really no particular reason why – it’s just one of those things. There were, however, very many characters, and till the end I had problems to match them, to know who is who and why and if they’re the baddies or the good ones, if they’re significant to the plot or they’re only mentioned because they just fit in to the scene. But they were also very well rounded and quirky, for example the drop – dead gorgeous mayor, Penelope’s larger than life best friend Frankie who takes no prisoners and Madame Valencourt, with her brilliant diet tips. Penelope was mature, she was smart and sassy and I admired her willpower and she was  really brave to drop everything like this and move to another country.

The mystery was really well tackled, and it was full of surprises. There were twists that I haven’t seen coming and to be honest, I have suspected probably all of the characters throughout the whole story. I think I don’t have to mention the fact that I didn’t guess who was the perpetrator even though, now when I look in retrospective, there were enough clever hints and tips from the author on the way. My bad.  

Serena Kent’s writing style is incredibly inviting and vivid. The book is set in the south of France, Provence, just like the title suggests, and the descriptions of the places, people and food were picturesque. She has managed to also reflect the spirit of the French villagers, to capture their personalities and mentality in such a realistic, true to life way. She easily brought to life the town, the landscapes, the croissants and characters. On the other hand, those many, many detailed descriptions slowed down the reading for me a little and there were moments that I had a feeling that nothing’s happening actually, that we’re there to admire the setting, and it also felt repetitive, with the repetitions of what has happened, what we’ve discovered and how far in the investigation is.  

Altogether, “Death in Provence” was a really cosy read, light and breezy. It was humorous and I really liked the characters’ sense of humour. There was this real French vibe to it and writing style was so warm and inviting – I am already looking towards Serena Kent’s next book!

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Vox by Christina Dalcher

Vox by Christina Dalcher

 

 

cover134192-mediumPublisher: HQ

Publishing Date: 21st August 2018

Source:  Received from the publisher via NetGalley, thank you!

Number of pages: 384

Genre: General Fiction (Adult), Thriller

 Buy the Book:  Kindle | Hardcover | Paperback (out on 07.03. 2019)

 

 

Synopsis:

Silence can be deafening.

Jean McClellan spends her time in almost complete silence, limited to just one hundred words a day. Any more, and a thousand volts of electricity will course through her veins.

Now the new government is in power, everything has changed. But only if you’re a woman.

Almost overnight, bank accounts are frozen, passports are taken away and seventy million women lose their jobs. Even more terrifyingly, young girls are no longer taught to read or write.

For herself, her daughter, and for every woman silenced, Jean will reclaim her voice. This is only the beginning…

[100 WORD LIMIT REACHED]

Perfect for fans of The Handmaid’s Tale, don’t miss the thrilling debut that everyone is talking about!

Rating: four-stars

“New research indicates there’s a biological reason why women talk so much more than men: 20,000 words a day spoken by the average woman, according to one study, versus about 7,000 words a day for the average man.” – that was my Google search. Now reduce it to 100 a day, which is what happens in “Vox” – women are allowed only 100 words per day. It’s being controlled by wrist – band counters, cosily called “bracelets” by the male part of the population, and exceeding this daily quota results in a very painful electrical shocks. No matter if you’re an adult woman or a young girl.

Jean McLellan, the main character in this exceptionally good debut novel by Christina Dalcher, is a cognitive linguistic, mother of four children (three boys and one girl), wife. She used to protest against present government, she voted for another President candidate. Now she’s silenced, just like all the other females in the United States. She can’t work anymore, she’s supposed to stay at home, do her shopping, cook and, ultimately, be seen and not heard. Her husband Patrick works for the present government (the irony!), as a science advisor to the president (what science, you could ask, and it would be a very understandable questions, as everything is being controlled by the state). But then THE accident happens and Jean is approached by the President’s people – her professional skills are required. Will she help? Will she be made to help?
Jean is a very intelligent woman and after negotiating a deal she starts working but it quickly turns out that – of course – nothing is as straightforward. Is she going to win this race against time?

Occasionally I do like to read a book that doesn’t belong to my favourite genres and after seeing all the hype about “Vox” I thought that maybe I should try it and see what’s it all about. It often happens that the novels that are being so strong advertised really don’t live up to expectations but well, “Vox” is for sure not a book to be missed, guys. It’s thought – provoking and controversial and clever and not too dystopian and I really liked this book. I can understand that the book is probably going to unleash a storm of discussions, especially when it comes to religion, and I have my own opinion about it as well but I don’t want to entwine such threads into my review. I don’t want to know if it is done on purpose, the way Christianity was presented in this novel, in those times when religion is the biggest weapon, when extremity and fundamentalist are on the pages of every magazine – I went into this book with open mind and finished it without judging, and I hope you’re going to do the same, to fully enjoy it. I was only not sure when the action actually takes places. I know it was America but did I miss the timeline? I guess it was in the future, however how close or far away, this I don’t know, and it bothered me a little, as for me it was an important piece of knowledge for this book. So let’s agree on foreseeable future.

This story substitutes this saying: “Children should be seen but not heard” for “Women should be seen but not heard”. There came a moment that I was actually scared to read further – I had a very bad feeling for what can happen and I guess I just didn’t want to see my assumptions come true. But I also didn’t want to put this book down, especially when the second half started and the atmosphere of terror and not knowing what’s to come was incredibly overwhelming. And there could anything happen, guys. Anything. The characters, in the name of a “proper” religion, weren’t afraid to stop at nothing. I actually think that such kind of a country would suit some of the present dictators, and probably this is also what made the book, even though dystopian, so realistic and so frightening. The number of lunatics in this book was also horrifying, to be honest, claiming they really believe in what is said. Amazing. I can’t believe something like this could happen in reality, especially so quickly and with so many women that march in response to it but well, there is always this little quiet voice in your head asking “What if” when you read this book. But OK, that’s not the point of this novel, right – but you can see that it’s a book that is going to make you think, ask questions and wonder.

The effect of all those actions were brutally honestly showed through children. While the twins were not the most significant characters, the author mostly focused on the oldest son and then the youngest daughter Sonia. It made me frustrated to see how quickly they adapted to the new situations and regulations. The oldest son changed in a way that the “pure” expected, but also Sonia adapted, winning a competition at school – the competition was, of course, which girls speak the less words. She has managed three. It just blew my mind how you could live like that, watch your daughter not being able to vocalize, who wasn’t allowed to read nor communicate in any other way – my own six – year – old talks without taking a breath, reads books and seeing her like Sonia would be a real torture. How much did she miss!

The last part of the book was, in comparison to the whole story, very fast – paced and nothing was impossible there. It happened too quickly for my liking but I’m guessing that without this fast tempo there wouldn’t be the intentional impact on the reader – I personally was glued to the last pages. I’m not sure about the ending, though, to be honest, it was too meh for me – I don’t want to say more in case I’m going to spoil something but I’d love to hear what your thoughts are on the end.

This is not the story about “how” (it happened), it’s a story about consequences and results but I think we really don’t have to know how it happened, it’s not the important part. It is written in a very captivating way, I really didn’t want to put it down. There are some issues I had problem with, like the above mentions ending, or for some things just happening, very conventionally, the science happening just like that, the right people at the right places but overall it didn’t spoil the reading for me.

Altogether, “Vox” was a very powerful, important book about the importance of speech and political freedom, especially for women. It was heavily emphasized in this novel but it wasn’t overwhelming, so really kudos to the author for balancing it in such a great way. It showed how quickly people can get used to new situations, how quickly they take for normal this what is far away from normal. How patronizing they become and how quickly they can be brain – washed. Thanks to the author’s background in science there are some interesting and intriguing questions being asked: what would be the world without language, without words? What would happen with women after a few generations of not speaking? Not reading? What should they do with their lives? It was chilling and the bleak, dark atmosphere was so very well captured that it was actually like watching a film, hearing the ominous music and knowing that something is going to happen. It dealt with gender, sexuality, domestic violence, racism and even though in extreme, dystopian way, it somehow rang a bell. A great statement about speaking up, standing strong for yourself and your beliefs. Highly recommended!

While I Was Sleeping by Dani Atkins (Blog Tour / Q&A with the Author)

Hi guys! It’s summer, it’s Sunday and it’s second day of Dani Atkins’s blog tour! I am double thrilled to be hosting this stop today as it is my first since a very, very long time Q&A with the Author! The lovely Dani was so kind and in a flash answered my questions about her newest release, “While I Was Sleeping” – thank you! So put your feet high and enjoy!

 

Q&A WITH DANI ATKINS

Hi Dani, and welcome to the blog. Could you shortly tell us about you.

Until five years ago my life was pretty unremarkable. I live in the Hertfordshire countryside in a 350 year old cottage, which disappointingly is not haunted. My two children have both grown and flown the nest, leaving me to lavish all my love and affection on my crazy border collie Dusty, my cat Elsa, and a little on my husband too. For many years I worked as a secretary in a school, but then in 2013 something amazing happened … my first book was published, and nothing has really been the same since then.

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I haven’t had a chance to read “While I Was Sleeping” yet. It’s already your fifth full time novel – amazing! How would you “sell” it to your potential readers?

While I Was Sleeping is an emotional drama centred around three main characters, two women and one man, whose lives becoming entwined in ways they could never have imagined after a tragic event changes the course of their future. At its heart the book is about love and friendship, themes I hope every reader will be able to relate to.

 

“While I Was Sleeping” is about your whole life changing – where did the inspiration

for such a story come from?

I’ve always been fascinated by the way your entire future can be re-written in a single devastating moment, and it’s a theme that I keep returning to in my books, so it obviously strikes a deep chord with me. Having really enjoyed writing about two strong female protagonists in Our Song, I was keen to once again have two women who find themselves in a devastating life changing situation.

 

Is this novel, in any way, based on your own experiences, or is it purely fiction?

Some aspects of the book were inspired by certain news stories that had fascinated me. Another important story arc was actually inspired by the experiences of a close personal friend of mine. The rest is a product of my very over-active imagination.

 

As your devoted reader, I know that your novels are really tear – jerking (and I love it!). How is it to write such novels? Do you also cry when writing them? How much of you do you invest in your stories, in your characters?

Each time I’ve finished writing a book I’ve promptly burst into tears, but I think that might be more from relief than the actual story. Sometimes a very emotional scene will make me tear up a little when I write it, however it’s when I read it out loud (something I do each day) that the sad bits really get to me. Quite a few times I’ve had to stop because I was too choked to carry on!

During the entire writing process you live with a whole cast of imaginary people – it’s like having lodgers in your head. They are with you all the time, even when you’re not actually writing about them. It would be impossible not to become invested in them and the things that are happening to them. Very early on they become not just characters in a book, but real people who you care about.

 

What would you like your readers to take from “While I Was Sleeping”?

To live with no regrets. Leave nothing to chance. Put nothing off. Fill every minute with joy surrounded by the people you love. Nothing else matters.

 

Which character was the most difficult to write?

To be perfectly honest, I loved them all.  They were a joy to write and I still miss them all dreadfully.

 

When you write, do you always follow a plan or do you let your characters to take you on a journey?

I’m not a planner, although I have author friends who wouldn’t do it any other way. When I sit down to begin a book I always know where it will start and where it will end. It’s the bit in the middle that is a mystery. This can make it quite scary when you first begin, but it also makes the whole process rather exciting.

Once you have created the characters, they have a funny way of taking on a life of their own. Sometimes it feels as though they are in charge of the story and not me. I am just the observer and the narrator.

 

On a little lighter note, what are three facts that we don’t know about you Dani?

I’m a nervous driver and never drive on motorways.

I have double jointed thumbs.

I am obsessed with country music.

 

It’s so hot right now – do you have any plans for holidays?

Over the last few years I have become a total convert to cruising, and am really looking forward to going on my next one later this year.

 

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My Sisters and Me by Lisa Dickenson

My Sisters and Me by Lisa Dickenson

 

 

 40875903Publisher: Sphere

Publishing Date: 23rd August 2018

Source:  Received from the publisher, thank you!

Number of pages: 400

Genre: General Fiction (Adult)

 Buy the Book:  Kindle | Paperback

 

 

 

 

Synopsis:

Three women are making over their childhood home. It’s going to get messy.

When Willow Lake asks her three daughters to help renovate the family home each has a reason to hesitate. The sisters always looked out for each other, but growing up in the Devon town of Maplewood wasn’t easy.

Noelle, the youngest, is perfectly comfortable with who she is – now. Once, though, she wanted to fit in so badly that she walked away from her first love. A first love who still lives in Maplewood . . .

Emmy, the middle sister, has always been quiet and bookish, and the idea of returning to the town that ridiculed her teenage-self fills Emmy with dread.

Outspoken Rae, the eldest, is painfully aware of how much the townspeople hurt her sisters growing up. She couldn’t protect them then, but there’s no way she’ll let history repeat itself.

As the sisters settle back into Maplewood they rekindle old relationships (some more welcome than others) and begin to make peace with the past. After all if they’ve changed over the years, it’s possible the townspeople have too . . . isn’t it?

Rating: four-stars

Rae, Emmy and Noelle are the three Lake sisters, as they are known in their childhood village Maplewood in Devon. They all visit their home rather reluctantly, as the place is full of sad and traumatic memories from their childhood and school years. They, in fact, couldn’t wait to leave Maplewood. Now Rae is married and is an opera singer, Emmy is a robotic engineer and Noelle is an environmental lawyer. However, at the request of their mother Willow, who, after death of the girls’ father started to travel the world, the girls are supposed to take sabbatical from work, come back home and renovate it for rental while Willow is again on the road. To say they’re all a bit wary would be an understatement, considering all the things that had happened in the past, and they are scared to face the village but there is no other option for them. How is it all going to play out?

I have warmed to the three sisters immediately. They were so easy to like and they had the best jobs ever. Noelle was environmental lawyer and I loved her interactions with Big Daddy, Rae was an opera singer (how many opera singers do you know?) and Emmy’s job was one in a million – she had something to do with building robots that she was sending then into space. They were all so passionate about their jobs and you could really see that they’re doing things they love to do. And oh yes, they were kick – ass sisters! It was brilliant they were all so different but no matter what they just stick together. I loved them all. But most of all I think I loved Jared *sigh*, and most importantly, I loved Emmy around Jared – she was then always so relaxed and funny.

Now, guys. I do love a Lisa Dickenson’s book. I’ve been reading and adoring her novels from the very beginning and this is why I went into “My Sisters and Me” with great expectations and actually certainty that this book is – again – going to blow my socks off with its brilliancy, humour and general greatness. And this is why, because of this feeling of certainty, I found myself reading and reading and starting to PANIC. Literally, panic and wondering, what’s happening? For a long time it was a solid 3 stars read for me, while I was sure it’s going to be a 10 out of 5 stars read. I’ve missed more humour, pace and action that I so well know from Lisa’s previous books. Those were actually Jared and Finn that saved the reading for me – they were brilliant characters, full of this Lisa’s hallmark banter and one – liners that the female characters maybe lacked a little this time. Don’t get me wrong, the three sisters were great, strong heroines, they were funny and their bond was genuine and out of this world fantastic, and I simply adored them all and kept everything crossed for them, but still the story felt too flat and too slow for my liking, and there were some things that bothered me all the time, like why the hell the residents of Maplewood hated the girls so much, even though they never did anything wrong and why their parents did nothing in that matter? Yes, Lisa did try to explain those things but somehow it just didn’t sit with me and didn’t convince me – probably because, as I have already mentioned, I ADORED the sisters and couldn’t understand those that didn’t like them as much as I did. so there.

But.

But oh my, does the book make you think and reminisce! Even though I’m a little older than the sisters, their journey back in time was a fantastic trip down memory lane for me as well. I am very 90’s chicka and all the mentions of clothes, music, posters on the wall were like opening a photo album for me. And Bonnie, how could “Mr. Vain” make you confused??? But this novel also brought back some memories that I’d rather, just like the sisters, leave unearthed somewhere deep, deep down, where it’s very dark, and I could really identify with the characters on this level. As always, the dear Lisa Dickenson chooses the best setting ever. This time we’re not travelling abroad but still, Maplewood and the house in the woods where the girls lived were fabulously described. Lisa has brilliantly captured the essence of a small town and its residents, close – knit community, with their prejudices and beliefs. And Lisa’s writing stays the same, it’s light and easy and so captivating, almost addictive, and it had me glued to the pages. You feel together with the characters, their fears, exasperation and happiness, their confusion and desperation. You laugh and cry with them and you just so want for everything to go smooth for them in the end. The descriptions are full of laughter and Lisa knows how to use her words to break the ice.

“My Sisters and Me” was full of sunshine, this overwhelming feel – good factor. It featured strong women who were developing all the time, finding their courage to feel good in their own skin, women who loved and were not afraid to say when they were not happy. It was about friendship and family dynamics, about revisiting your childhood and fighting the demons, facing the troubles and staying strong to your beliefs, and I absolutely loved this message. It brilliantly captured this mixture of happy childhood memories and those worse ones, and addressed all the old traumas showing that it’s really not so difficult to face the opponents and old memories. Would I recommend this novel? Hell, yes – just go and treat yourself to this book when it’s out!