25 Days in December by Poppy Alexander / Blog Tour

25 Days in December by Poppy Alexander

 

Publisher: Orion 41hngkpvdel._sx321_bo1204203200_

Publishing Date: 28th November 2019

Source:  Received from the publisher, thank you!

Number of pages: 352

Genre: Women’s Fiction

 Buy the Book:  Kindle | Paperback

 

 

 

 

Synopsis:

You can’t plan for the unexpected…

Kate Potter used to know what happiness felt like.

A few years ago, she was full of energy, excited by every possibility. But that was back when everything was different, before Kate’s husband went away with the army and didn’t come home. She can’t even remember what it felt like to be in love.

Then Kate meets Daniel. Recognising her loneliness reflected in his eyes, Kate vows to try and help bring him out of his shell. But as Kate plans to bring life back to Daniel, she might have stumbled on the secret to happiness…

Can one chance meeting change two lives?

Rating:  five-stars

 

Kate Thompson hates Christmas, since her husband was killed four years ago during his service abroad as a soldier. However, her son Jack is desperate to have a lovely Christmas, with a tree and presents. Kate, struggling financially and emotionally, doesn’t know what to do and how to do this. She’s stuck at a low paid job, now she must also sell Christmas trees dressed as an elf and freezing and is not sure what the future is going to bring. Her friend comes up with an idea of doing a special advent calendar with a festive activity to do together for every day in the countdown to Christmas.
Daniel is not looking towards Christmas after the death of his sister. He used to buy Christmas trees from Kate and he knows only as Christmas tree girl. They start to bump into each other more and more and soon realises there is much more to Kate than meets the eye. But Kate’s life is really complicated – can she cope? Will she cope? Can somebody help her?

Kate was a great leading character – there were so many challenges on her way, her life was so demanding and yet she more than often put others above herself. Struggling with money, with being a single mum, she was a realistic, genuine character. It was beautiful and also heart – breaking to see how much she tried to organize the unforgettable Christmas for her son and how far she’s go to guard him. The idea of Kate creating the advent calendar for Jack and making the time so special for her and her little boy was brilliant. The Christmassy things that they were supposed to do in the countdown to Christmas were so nice and so different to everything that we’re used to, and now I really feel like preparing something like this for my family.

The pace in this story was just spot on, and there were many things happening, and the book itself brings together threads of different characters. The chapters are more or less a countdown to Christmas – it is a second book in the last weeks that I’ve read written this way, though they were both absolutely different in style and voice but this way worked great in both of them. I loved how it shows that Christmas is not only about commerce and presents but about what it really is that counts – family, friendship, helping each other, appreciating what we have. It was a real rollercoaster journey, full of ups and downs, filled with feelings and emotions. It tugs at all the right heart – strings, it’s this kind of book that’ll make you smile and cry, that is poignant and uplifting. The author has in such a gentle, subtle way dealt with so many tough and heavy issues and there was the overwhelming festive spirit. She has touched upon different things, some of which I don’t often read about, and it was truly great, thought – provoking and eye – opening. Poppy Alexander is for sure an author to have on your radar, I’m already waiting for her next offering. Highly recommended!

 

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A Season in the Snow by Isla Gordon

A Season in the Snow by Isla Gordon

 

Publisher: Sphere 48390373._sy475_

Publishing Date: 28th November 2019

Source:  Received from the publisher, thank you!

Number of pages: 400

Genre: Women’s Fiction

 Buy the Book:  Kindle | Paperback (out on 15.10.2020)

 

 

 

Synopsis:

Escape to the mountains this Christmas…

Alice Bright loves her life. She has a job she adores, a devoted family, and friends she’d lay down her life for.

So when tragedy strikes, bringing with it Bear – a rapidly-growing puppy in need of a home – it turns Alice’s whole world upside down. She retreats inside her flat, and inside herself, with only her new companion for company.

But one-bedroom London flats aren’t made for mountain dogs, and so Alice lets Bear push her out of her comfort zone to his homeland: the mountains of Switzerland. Could a change of scene in snowy serenity be just the thing to help Alice fall in love with life again?

A Season in the Snow is the perfect read this Christmas, promising snowy mountains , Christmas markets and heart-warming seasonal romance. Perfect for fans of Sarah Morgan and Heidi Swain.

Rating: four-stars

 

Alice is happy – she has a nice job, lovely family and a group of brilliant, supporting friends. However, one day, something really bad happens and Alice’s world is turned upside down – will she be able to recover, get back on track? Maybe a change of scene, moving for a few months to Switzerland, and a little dog that grows incredibly quickly will help?

So. This book. Honestly, it gave me a headache. I adore Lisa Dickenson and her books and I know that as Isla Gordon the novel would be a little different, however as soon as the typical Lisa’s humour and wit appeared on the pages, I was reassured. However! It didn’t happen often, guys, and I was already panicking, not knowing what’s happening with this story. First of all, at the beginning the book felt so chopped. The events in the chapters felt unarranged and half – hearted, as if the author simply wanted to get through this part of the book to start writing about this what she wanted so much: the dog (I’ll come back to the dog in a moment). Only after the festival the book started to read like a book, felt smooth and coherent. But. And this is the next. You know, I also have dogs. I love my dogs but not to the point that I would write a book about them, and I had a feeling that Lisa/Isla simply wanted to share her unconditional love to her pet. And it was too much. If Bear were my dog I’d kill myself and I’d be ashamed with having such a spoiled, whiny dog at home. And I know how cute Bernese Mountain Dog can be, my sister has one, and actually all dogs can be brilliant actors when they want something. Don’t get me wrong, please, I loved him, and I loved Alice’s interactions with him, I loved how she spoke with him and how she treated him like a partner but I don’t have to read about the cute orange spots and Bear’s antics on every single page. And I love Switzerland. Especially in winter. But when I want to read about its traditions I’ll buy myself a tourist guide. So there. Rant over.

What Lisa Dickenson/Isla Gordon showed is that she can beautifully write about the most hidden feelings and emotions and brilliantly mix them with the best humorous one – liners. There were moments, especially when Alice talked with Bear, that made my eyes moisten, and there were moments that really brought smile to my face. This was a different take from this author and she’s proved that she is a great writer that can touch upon deeper issues in a sensible, gentle way. She’s not shy of making her story sadder and difficult and hats off to her for this fact, however I still prefer the author’s exceptional humour and ability to write the most funny, brilliant, light banter. The main character, Alice, is so incredibly well fleshed out! It’s amazing how well the author has captured her insecurities and hopes, trepidation and excitement, making her a believable, relatable person. I found myself keeping my fingers crossed for her, willing her to try, to not forgive but to allow herself the little joy. She had a great sense of humour and I was waiting for the rare moments when she’s allowed this side of her to show. She was simply so real, so natural in everything she did and said that it was impossible not to like her, in fact, I was rooting for her and wishing her all the best.
Actually, all the other characters were very well developed – after we moved to Switzerland, that is. Because I, honestly speaking, couldn’t stand putting Jill on this pedestal anymore. Maybe she was worth it but I had a feeling we didn’t know her as well as Alice did. I loved how supporting Alice’s parents have been, and how lovely and colourful the new neighbours of hers were, how they accepted her without a second glance and how embarrassing Marco’s mum was – she was ace!

The author can for sure bring the setting, easily and effortlessly, to life, and can capture both the idyllic winter wonderland that can quickly and suddenly turn into danger. She’ll sweep you to a country full of cable cars, snowboarding, skiing, mountain rescues, warm and gorgeous cafes, and snow! Lots of snow. And even if it is not strictly Christmas book, read it with “Last Christmas” on the loop and a hot chocolate with a double cream and marshmallow because this is the feeling it’s going to leave you with.

“A Season in the Snow” was a poignant, moving story about healing, about finding yourself afresh and letting the joy come back to you, and not forgetting that there is always hope. I absolutely adored the bunch of characters, supporting each other without knowing that they’re doing it, it was beautiful. And yes, after the initial reservations I found myself adoring the story, though as lovely as Bear was I still think he needs to learn manners. Recommended!

Single All the Way by Karen King

Single All the Way by Karen King

 

Publisher: Bookouture 48055558._sy475_

Publishing Date: 28th October 2019

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

Number of pages: 286

Genre: Romance, Women’s Fiction

 Buy the Book:  Kindle | Paperback

 

 

 

 

Synopsis:

I can see my mother is calling me. I answer the phone, knowing I’ll have to tell her about Oliver and me breaking up. But before I can, she announces, ‘I don’t exactly know how to tell you this… But I’m leaving your dad.’

Single together for the first time, 34-year-old Meg and her warm-hearted, long-suffering mother Sally are cancelling Christmas, and running away to a tiny cottage on the Cornish coast. For Meg, it is the perfect place to heal, away from all the mistletoe, while for her mother it has a special, and secret, place in her heart – from a love story that seems a lifetime ago…

Meg and Sally find they’re getting to know themselves, and each other, better than ever before. But as they are unable to resist getting involved in the village Christmas celebrations, they encounter two handsome local strangers.

Sometimes, it’s being away from home that helps you realise where your heart is. What neither woman knows is that, by the time the new year rolls around, one woman will have fallen in love with her husband all over again, and one marriage will be over for good…

An escapist, romantic and heart-warming novel for fans of One Day in December and No One Cancels Christmas.

Rating: two-half-stars

 

Meg and her husband own a party planning business. They love each other and they care for each other, so why is it that one day leaves Oliver? And when Meg’s mother Sally hears about it, she makes a decision of her own – she always put her family, and first of all, husband first but now feels it time to think about herself. Will mother and daughter be able to save their marriages? Do they want to save their marriages?

I could get into the story but I also couldn’t get into it, hope you’re with me 🙂 I understood the meaning, the plot but still I wasn’t full involved because it just simply felt too flat and too clichéd. The dialogues and the characters felt much too wooden and too formal and too forced. Huge part of the book is actually about Meg and Sally reflecting on their relationships and wondering what has gone wrong – I missed action, something happening, the book going forward.

I’m really sorry to say but the characters felt very one – dimensional and not real, and the way they acted and interacted was unnatural and it was hard to connect with them. The chapters told from the husbands’ points of view didn’t make me warm to them, to be honest, and actually we knew then all the points of view, also those of the female characters, but there was no solution and no help, and the other people involved didn’t know what the others are thinking.

“Single All the Way” was a holiday romance, light and easy to read, about relationships, the stereotypes of failed marriages and misunderstandings and the author is for sure passionate about telling a story. The title and the cover may suggest that the book is a cosy, Christmas reading but well, for me it didn’t give off too many festive feelings. While there was so much potential in it, it didn’t deliver, and it lacked in emotional depth so needed to make it work and everything is done half – heartedly. So yes, I think I know that the author wanted to added tons of depth and meaning to the story, to make it not so fluffy but this bit more serious but, sadly, she didn’t succeed. However, please do not feel put out by my review, you may fell in love with the characters and the plot of this novel, so simply just give it a go.

A Million Dreams by Dani Atkins / Blog Tour + Extract

A Million Dreams by Dani Atkins

 

Publisher: Head of Zeus 46041732._sx318_

Publishing Date: 14th November 2019

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

Number of pages: 464

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

 Buy the Book:  Kindle | Hardcover | Paperback (out on 07.05.2020)

 

 

 

Synopsis:

Beth Brandon always dreamed of owning a florist, but today the bouquets of peonies and bright spring flowers are failing to calm her nerves. Because today, Beth has a life-changing decision to share with her husband.

Izzy Vaughan thought she and her husband would stay together forever, but sometime last year, their love began to fade. They both find such joy in their young son Noah – but is he enough to keep them together?

Eight years ago, something happened to these two women. Something that is about to bring them together in a way no-one thought possible…

Thought-provoking, emotional and uplifting, this is a gripping love story for fans of Jojo Moyes and Amanda Prowse.

Rating: four-stars

 

Beth Brandon has always loved flowers and together with her husband Tim worked hard to make her dream of having her own Florists shop come true. However, no matter how hard they try, the baby they also dream of so much, doesn’t appear, so eventually they decide to try fertility treatments. It doesn’t happen immediately, and they’re devastated, but then something happens that makes Beth’s world collapse. And it’s not only this that’s going to change her world forever because something else happens.
Izzy Vaughan and her husband Peter are incredibly happy when their baby is born after IVF. They love their son Noah more than anything in the world but their marriage starts to show the first cracks and misunderstandings and they separate. But one phone call is going to change everything for them.
Eight years ago, something happened – something that is going to bring Beth, Izzy and their families together, but not in a good way.

To be honest, I felt angry with Beth. I mean, I also sympathised with her, and felt sorry for her, but in my eyes she shouldn’t let the things go so far. I was more Team – Izzy, I couldn’t imagine being in her situation, trembling and fearing, not sure about the future. Don’t get me wrong, I fell for Beth as well, she was altogether full of empathy and she was always there for others, even though life didn’t treat her too well and she had already lost so much. But still, as a mother myself I was completely on Izzy’s side. Nevertheless, they both, as well as the other characters, were really well crafted, given personalities and no matter what your sympathies are, you’re going to feel the pain, desperation and hope of all of them.
The relationships in this book, no matter what kind, were beautifully written. The bonds between wives and husbands, parents and children, friends were captured with a lot of love and feeling. They felt so normal, they were full of ups and downs but there was always this feeling that the characters respect and support each other.

Of course I was incredibly intrigued how the things are going to end. Not so long ago I read a book with very similar topic though tackled in a rather different way, not so poignant and emotional like “A Million Dreams”, and the way things ended there waw a bit disappointing. As much as I think there is not a right way out of such situation, I really wanted to see which way did Dani Atkins choose and whose heart she’s going to break – because no matter what, no matter how, a heart or two are going to break. And… well… I wasn’t so sure about the court thing, and the way Beth was needed to help felt just this little bit too clichéd.

The writing style is very gentle, emotive and simply beautiful and it’s impossible not to find yourself emotionally invested in the book, impossible not to ask yourself questions “what if”. The author touches upon the most hidden feelings, bringing them to the pages of the novel, reaches to the deepest parts of the characters’ hearts. She can also so beautifully capture all sorts of emotions, making shock, horror and devastation a part of the reader as well. And even though the story is about very serious matters, it doesn’t feel too gloom or desperate, no, the writing makes it lighter and there is hope somewhere between the words, and enough humour contained within the pages. The pacing is perfect, everything has its place and even though there is quite a lot happening in the story, it never feels confusing, you always know where you are.

But maybe because of the fact that there isn’t a right way to decide about such situation, and because the author did take some easier ways out, this book, as much as I adored it, didn’t wow me as much as I thought it’s going to, and this is why I rate it with 4 stars instead of 5. Nevertheless, it held me captive and I thoroughly enjoyed it, and I also truly recommend it to you all. It was sublime, moving and thought – provoking, a wonderful read that’s going to have you hooked immediately. Truly recommended!

 

EXTRACT:

‘The sooner we begin your treatment, the better the chances for a successful outcome.’

The words that reshaped our future –reshaped everything –were softly spoken. I looked across the desk, beyond the files and X-ray envelopes, at the doctor who was patiently waiting for our world to stop spinning as we absorbed the news.

I was gripping Tim’s hand so tightly I was probably crushing bone against cartilage, but my gaze was fixed on the oncologist, whose eyes revealed far more than I think he knew. Behind the rimless glasses, I saw the glimmer of a truth he was not prepared to share with us on that first black day. The chances of success were small. My ability to read faces, to pick up on tiny nuances others failed to see, had always been an asset in my work. On that day, it felt more like a curse.

‘I see from your file that you and your wife don’t have children, Mr Brandon.’

Tim shook his head, and I felt the tremors racking his body begin to spread to mine. I was shaking in both body and voice as I answered for him.

‘We’ve only been married for two years. We were planning on waiting a little longer before starting a family.’ I looked at the doctor, whose face was beginning to swim behind my tears.

‘I know this is a lot for you to take in, but without wishing to add to the decisions you are now facing, I have to urge you to think about safeguarding and preserving your fertility.’ Perhaps Tim understood instantly what the oncologist was talking about, but I was several pages behind him. ‘There is a strong possibility that your treatment will affect your ability to father a child in the future, so at this point we would recommend you to consider freezing your sperm.’

For one crazy moment I imagined he was talking about doing so at home, where it would sit on the shelf beside the packets of pork chops and Birds Eye peas. It took a few moments for the image to disappear.

‘There are several fertility clinics that we can refer you to. They will be able to explain the various options open to you. These can range from freezing sperm to even freezing embryos, if you should choose.’

‘Embryos?’ Tim asked, his voice ringing with confusion.

‘It’s one option to consider. There are excellent statistics for successful pregnancies resulting from cryogenically stored embryos. For couples your age and in your situation, it is definitely something worth thinking about.’

 

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On the Up by Alice O’Keeffe / Blog Tour

On the Up by Alice O’Keeffe

 

Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton 48269657._sy475_

Publishing Date: 14th November 2019

Source:  Received from the publisher, thank you!

Number of pages: 336

Genre: General Fiction (Adult)

 Buy the Book:  Kindle | Hardcover | Paperback (out on 11.06.2020)

 

 

 

Synopsis:

By reading Style magazine, I was training myself not to want things. It was going quite well. I had already found that I did not want a pair of Yves Saint Laurent mules, a chandelier made from plastic antlers, or a diamond-encrusted necklace in the shape of a pineapple. I was still working on not wanting a fitted farmhouse kitchen in warm wood.

Sylvia lives in a flat on a council estate with her not-quite-husband Obe and their two young children. She dreams of buying a house on a leafy street like the one she grew up in. If she closes her eyes, she can see it all so clearly: the stripped floorboards, the wisteria growing around the door…

It’s not ideal that she’s about to be made redundant, or that Obe, a playworker, is never going to earn more than the minimum wage. As sleep deprivation sets in, and the RnB downstairs gets ever louder, Sylvia’s life starts to unravel.

But when the estate is earmarked for redevelopment, the threat to her community gives Sylvia a renewed sense of purpose. With a bit of help from her activist sister, and her film-maker friend Frankie, she’s ready to take a stand for what she believes in.

Warm, witty and brilliantly observed, On the Up is about relationships and community, finding a way through the tough times, and figuring out what’s really worth fighting for.

Rating:  five-stars

 

Sylvia and her nearly husband Obe live in a council estate flat with their two young children – toddler Larkin and a few months old That Baby (also known as Elliot). She dreams of owning her own home, with a garden for the children, but they will never be able to buy it. Or maybe they will? Is this stinky, old, half – demolished house their salvation? Sylvia is really desperate to move, especially as they’re constantly disturbed by their neighbour Dawn, with loud music and partying. Sylvia keeps a journal for the councils Anti Social Behaviour Officer, that slowly turns into her logbook. And then comes the bombshell that Priory Court, where they live, will be sold for development – can things finally get better for the family?

Really, this book was absolutely brilliant in my opinion. It was so uplifting – yes, you’ve seen the characters struggling and even though they might have lost hope once or twice there was still so much optimism in them and in the way they were written that I simply didn’t want to leave their world. I don’t always need a rosy fictional world in my books, I really like when the story feels so realistic like this one, but there is still the chance of a happy ending. Yes, here the end was maybe too cheesy but other than that I adored this book.

The characters were really well observed and drawn and I warmed to them immediately. Sylvia and Obe are your normal characters, people we get to meet and see everyday, full of humour but also filled with sadness, being forced to face all your typical troubles and problems that life tends to bring with itself. Yes, Obe made me feel desperate sometimes, with his poetry and his calm aura and the “everything will be OK” attitude, but there was also a charm in it. I’ve immediately felt a connection with Sylvia and I could truly relate to her dreams, needs and desperation, I’d go crazy with such a neighbour as Dawn with my perfect pitch – I need silence to be able to sleep! Even though, as Obe might have pointed out, Sylvia’s needs are an endless cycle of want, I couldn’t blame her for wanting something more from life, for wanting something better. Their relationship was really well captured, showing their real struggles, as parents and as a couple.
I also really liked the supporting characters, even though we don’t get to know them really well, and it was great to see them coming together after the news broke that Priory Court is going to be sold off for re – development and they’re going to lose their homes.

The author is a brilliant observer of reality – she sees things as they really are and delivers them with wit, humour but also brutally honest. She wrote a book that shows a real life, but not in a desperate, grey, sad way. Even though it might not have been heavy emphasised in writing, it showed that there is usually a way out of troubles, and it did it in an entertaining way. It was simply warm, inviting and full of feel – good factor despite the fact that the characters’ lives were not beds full of roses. After reading the synopsis and the part that the Priority Court may be sold and that it immediately rises the community spirit I was afraid that it may be overdone in the story, that it will feel too cheesy and clichéd but I really like how the author has tackled this topic.

“On the Up” was warm and funny, sometimes touching and poignant read focusing strongly on family, friendships, relationships and community. It felt a little nostalgic but maybe it is the writing style? It was truly brilliant, light and engaging, and it didn’t sound like a debut. It was a witty and deep observation on what is important in life that I enjoyed from beginning to end – highly recommended!

 

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It Won’t be Christmas without You by Beth Reekles

It Won’t be Christmas Without You by Beth Reekles

 

Publisher: One More Chapter 47315629._sy475_

Publishing Date: 30th August 2019

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

Number of pages: 203

Genre: General Fiction (Adult), Romance

 Buy the Book:  Kindle | Paperback (out on 31.10.2019)

 

 

 

Synopsis:

From the author of the smash hit Netflix romcom The Kissing Booth!

Eloise, a self-confessed Christmas obsessive, can’t wait for the big day. Devoted to her Michael Bublé playlist, she’s organising the school nativity play and even her gorgeous Grinch of a neighbour, James, can’t get her down.

Her workaholic twin sister, Cara, on the other hand, plans to work over the holiday – and figure out what secrets her seemingly-perfect boyfriend George might be keeping from her.

The sisters used to be close but since Cara moved to London, everything’s been different. Only, Eloise isn’t giving up just yet, and with a white Christmas on the cards, Cara can’t fail to be moved by the magic of the season … can she?

Rating:  two-half-stars

 

Cara and Eloise are twins, living in London and Doncaster. As their parents have decided to go on holiday for Christmas, it’s up to them to spend the day together, following all the traditions. But while Eloise, a primary school teacher, is obsessed with Christmas and can’t wait for her sister to come and spend time with her, Cara on the other hand is a workaholic who can hardly find time to meet with her boyfriend, let alone visit her family home for a one day only.

I got into this book full of expectations – let’s be honest, the synopsis is promising, right? However, it turned out, that this novel is an OK, average read. The two main characters were sisters and they couldn’t be different even if you asked for it – while Eloise was full of Christmas cheer, Cara was the absolute opposite of her, focusing hard on her work and not having time – or not wanting to find time and changing her mind in every second chapter – to spend this festive time with her sister, finding out many different excuses, one more unlikely to the other. Eloise could also be a bit annoying with her demands but I could understand her, she was waiting  for Christmas all year long and it’s not a wonder that she wanted to spend this time with her closest. Nevertheless, they both could be much better developed, they needed more depth to them, more to their personalities – they simply felt too one – dimensional and too flat and it was hard to connect with them.  The romance aspect in this story was also not too… romantic. It felt too chopped, like an after – thought, and it needed a bit more fun for my liking.

It’s a story that once read is quickly forgotten – it may sound harsh but it’s the true. Please don’t get me wrong, it was enjoyable enough but there was nothing new and the dynamics between sisters quickly became tiring. There was a lot of potential but it lacked in delivery, which is a shame, and I don’t know, despite being full of festive spirit it somehow also lacked in festive spirit, as everything felt so contrived and clichéd. However, if you are in a need of a light – hearted, easy, Christmassy read with a happily ever after, simply give this book a go.

 

The Secret Diary of Boris Johnson Aged 13 1/4 by Lucien Young

The Secret Diary of Boris Johnson Aged 13 1/4 by Lucien Young

 

Publisher: Quercus 48402307._sy475_

Publishing Date: 3rd October 2019

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

Number of pages: 176

Genre: Politics, Humour

 Buy the Book:  Kindle | Hardcover

| Paperback (out on 28.05.2020)

 

 

 

Synopsis:

**STRICTLY UNOFFICIAL**

‘Deliciously funny and highly impudent’ – Jon Culshaw
The newly discovered diary of Boris Alexander de Pfeffel Johnson, aged 13¼, provides a fascinating glimpse into how Boris, a lazy, bumptious and overweening child, comes to believe he should be Prime Minister. Along the way, we see him hone the techniques and persona that will one day hoodwink a nation.’

***

Extract from 13-year-old Boris’s TEN RULES FOR LIFE:

It’s not lying if you don’t bother to learn the truth. Many people – politicians, for instance – make the mistake of going about laden with facts and statistics. However, when studiously ignorant of the aforementioned, one may argue one’s case with total conviction.

A friend is just an enemy you haven’t yet made. Some say there’s no ‘I’ in ‘team’. Well, I say you can’t spell ‘friend’ without ‘fiend’. No matter how dear your chum, you never know what sort of treachery they harbour inside. After all, there are many people who consider me a friend!

Rating:  four-stars

 

The book covers Boris Alexander de Pfeffel Johnson’s time at Eton College, probably already showing all of his true colours. He immediately found himself at home there, with all his privileges and not accepting “no” as an answer. As the class clown, his ability to make others laugh used to get him out of all kinds of troubles, and really, the trashing with the cane from one of the teacher who simply had too much is only an exception proving the rule.

The book brilliantly portrays Boris’s main personality traits and the way he honed them. Getting others to do as he wished must have been the easiest thing in the world for him, and I must admit, it may be a feature really worth an admiration. Other than that I couldn’t spot any changes between Boris here and then, arrogant, liar, showing an impudent lack of respect and bluffing his way all the way through. So nothing has changed really, no?

I loved the mentions of some other characters, such as the former Prime Minister David Cameron or Jacob Rees – Mogg, who used to attend Eton at the same time and whom our main character couldn’t tolerate, which led to some very amusing moments.

It was an undemanding, quick and entertaining read, rounded up with some illustrations that were equally funny. Maybe it was not the highest piece of art but it was for sure amusing and light read, whatever your political opinions. The title suggests that it’s going to be as brilliant as “The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole”, apologies, but this comes to mind immediately, and while it was a light – hearted and hilarious read, we can’t compare those two books. Nevertheless, it was an entertaining novel related to current political situation that made me laugh.

Things Can Only Get Better by David M. Barnett / Blog Tour

Things Can Only Get Better by David M. Barnett

 

Publisher: Trapeze 46019524

Publishing Date: 14th November 2019

Source:  Received from the publisher, thank you!

Number of pages: 336

Genre: General Fiction (Adults)

 Buy the Book:  Kindle | Paperback

 

 

 

Synopsis:

*FROM THE INTERNATIONALLY BESTSELLING AUTHOR OF CALLING MAJOR TOM*

For elderly churchwarden Arthur Calderbank, there’s no place like home. His home just so happens to be a graveyard.

He keeps himself to himself, gets on with his job, and visits his wife everyday for a chat. When one day he finds someone else has been to see his wife – and has left flowers on her grave – he is determined to solve the mystery of who and why. He receives unlikely help from a group of teenage girls as he tries to solve the mystery, and soon learns that there is more to life than his little graveyard.

Set during the 1990s, Things Can Only Get Better is an uplifting story about the power of a little kindness, friendship and community for readers who enjoy Sue Townsend Ruth Hogan and Joanna Cannon.

Rating: five-stars

 

“Things Can Only Get Better” is a story about a group of truly unlikely friends who found each other rather accidentally. Arthur is a pensioner whose wife, Molly, died seven years ago but he still didn’t let her go and ended up living in the old chapel in the middle of the cemetery, becoming its caretaker and being not too far away from the love of his life. Arthur is very protective of the cemetery and is not happy with the neighbourhood children who dare to use it as a short – cut, or – even worse – a hung – out. In the meantime, someone has been leaving flowers on Molly’s grave on her birthday for the past few years and Arthur is determined to find who it is. But with this happening in the night and his deteriorating health, the teenagers promise him to help to catch the mysterious visitor. A unique bond is formed between Arthur and the kids and soon they find themselves in a few different battles – together.

You can’t help yourself but immediately fell for the characters. My heart went to Arthur and I was desperate to know what has happened to him to be leading such a solitary life, and then to the kids, seeing them growing up, their determination and their blossoming friendship. The author has breathed fresh air and life into them, and into the book, showing us a much bigger picture, showing that each story has different sides. You’ll end up willing the characters to succeed. Each of the four teenagers has their own story that is incredibly captivating and I loved how much focus they brought back into Arthur’s life. Their difficulties in fitting with the “cools” at school was so authentic and brutally honest. The way the kids were portrayed was heart – breaking, especially the way they were perceived by their school – mates, neighbours and other members of society They were all outcasts at their school because they didn’t fit the “description”, they found the courage to be different and have dreams, and hence they were judged by their teachers who didn’t believe they have a chance for a better future (and if you hear already at school that the only thing you can do is work as a secretary or at the factory, well, it’s not too promising and optimistic, right?), judged by their parent’s choices of life and really, it seems that nobody sees/doesn’t want to see their potential – except for Arthur.

When I started reading this book, I immediately fell in love with it. There was this “something” that made it feel so outstanding and special, the characters were like living and breathing people, and the story was heart – breaking and also humorous, and the more you read, the more you fell in love with it. However, I must admit, that somewhere around the middle, it lost its impact a little and started to drag on a bit, but it was still a compelling, addictive read.

Mostly the novel is about social inequality and about stereotyping and determination, about grabbing life by its horns and squeezing it like lemon. It also touches upon bullying, homelessness, mental illness, loneliness and other social issues with a great sensitivity, so I wouldn’t be afraid to give this book to my teenage child should I have one, as it deals with those issues, and with all the plotlines, in a brilliant, wise – but not too wise, you know what I mean? Not too patronising, not too I know everything better – way.

“Things Can Only Get Better” made me cry, laugh, made me angry but also filled me with hope with its warm glow. Ultimately, even though there is a lot of pain, disappointment and problems under the surface and the characters have to deal with many challenges, there is humour and moments of joy and it has the wonderful feel – good factor to it. It’s deeply moving and very close to life, a brilliant read that I highly recommend.

 

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Snowed in at the Practice by Penny Parkes

Snowed In at the Practice by Penny Parkes

 

Publisher: Simon & Schuster 44655866._sy475_

Publishing Date: 14th November 2019

Series: The Larkford Series #4

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

Number of pages: 496

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

 Buy the Book: Kindle | Paperback

 

 

Synopsis:

Welcome to the Larkford Surgery in the Cotswolds, the heart of a tightknit community as well as a hotbed of drama, rivalry, resentment and romance – and that’s just the doctors …

Dr Holly Graham is finding life with two sets of twins exhausting. Even with husband Dr Taffy Jones and devoted friend Elsie by her side, she is completely outnumbered. Making the transition back to work will be no easy feat but a regular slot on Radio Larkford as their on-air doctor might be the perfect stepping stone, until an unexpected job offer changes everything.

Dr Alice Walker’s new canine clinic at Larkford Surgery with Coco, her assistance dog, has been a storming success. If only shipping her best friend, Dr Tilly Grainger, in from South America to cover for Holly had been such a smooth transition. It seems that Tilly isn’t finding life in the peaceful Cotswolds valley as rewarding as she’d hoped, and she is causing chaos …

Join the residents of Larkford as secrets, drama and romance are revealed, in the new novel from the bestselling author of Out of Practice and winner of the RNA Romantic Comedy Award 2017.

Rating: five-stars

 

In “Snowed in at the Practice” we are back with old, good characters and introduced to some of the new ones. Holly is on maternity leave and in her place we have the feisty Tilly, and while Holly is dealing with her second set of twins, Tilly starts to find what it is she’d love to do – but will she be able to stay at the Practice? Especially as Holly is trying to work out how to return to work – she so wants to be more than just mum again, she needs this thrill of being able to help. But will the others support her in her decisions?

This book is a brilliant catch up with Holly, Taffy and their two sets of twins but it also introduces us to a new nanny, feisty and quirky and full of life and surprises, and Tilly, Alice’s friend, but also Connor, who has moved to Larkford, a former rock star trying to get to terms with his wife’s death, wanting to lead a quiet life far away from London and taking every stray animal that he sets his eyes on. But we also see Dan and Grace’s relationship developing and there are some most poignant moments including those two. And let’s not forget Elsie – the Grande Dame with head full of ideas.

I think that every new book in the series is better than the previous ones, and I think it is because of a few factors. Penny Parkes’s writing is getting better and better, firstly, it feels like a warm hug, is so inviting, warm and vivid. Then it is always great to be back with characters that you’ve already got to know, know what makes them tick and it is always nice to simply pick up with them where we left them in the previous book, without the necessity of great introductions. And, of course, the story itself, the plot but most of all it being full of emotions and feelings, turns and twists and the most poignant but also heart – warming moments.

It was really nice to be back in Larkford, and in the Practice. This book had, I don’t know how to call it, a feeling? It had this “something” that made it outstanding, brilliant read. No matter when you read the last book in the series, you will immediately feel at home, as if you’ve never been away from the characters and their lives. Lives that felt incredibly real and realistic, with problems that are so familiar, so it was so easy to fell for them all, knowing what they’re experiencing and what they’re feeling. And this time there was a lot in store for the doctors and people surrounding them. There was not a single flat moment, and even though the author again dedicated a lot of the pages to the Practice and its patients, describing their problems, this time those problems were incredibly relatable – at least, to me – and Penny Parkes treated them with tons of understanding, care and love. So yes, there were many storylines to follow, but they were so skilfully written and so engaging that I haven’t feel confused for a single moment.

It was a lovely, charming and warm book about families, showing how they come in different shapes and sizes, and that being a family doesn’t mean you must be born in it. It also touched upon such difficult issues like being a mother and trying to hush your guilty conscience when thinking about coming back to work but also how hard it is to be only a mum sitting at home, and how complex and complicated it may be trying to bring those two facts together. About how important it is to be understood and to have a support of your closest ones, and finally about the strength of friendship. And I love the fact that the author emphasised the importance of the assistance animals, and I loved the scenes including the dogs and also Banana – a wonderful idea! Highly recommended!

The Guardian of Lies by Kate Furnivall / Blog Tour

The Guardian of Lies by Kate Furnivall

 

Publisher: Simon & Schuster 46635448._sy475_

Publishing Date: 31st October 2019

Source:  Received from the publisher, thank you!

Number of pages: 400

Genre: General Fiction (Adults), Historical Fiction

 Buy the Book:  Kindle | Hardcover | Paperback

 

 

 

Synopsis:

Discover a brilliant story of love, danger, courage and betrayal, from the internationally bestselling author of The Survivors.
1953, the South of France. The fragile peace between the West and Soviet Russia hangs on a knife edge. And one family has been torn apart by secrets and conflicting allegiances.

Eloïse Caussade is a courageous young Frenchwoman, raised on a bull farm near Arles in the Camargue. She idolises her older brother, André, and when he leaves to become an Intelligence Officer working for the CIA in Paris to help protect France, she soon follows him. Having exchanged the strict confines of her father’s farm for a life of freedom in Paris, her world comes alive.

But everything changes when André is injured – a direct result of Eloise’s actions. Unable to work, André returns to his father’s farm, but Eloïse’s sense of guilt and responsibility for his injuries sets her on the trail of the person who attempted to kill him.

Eloïse finds her hometown in a state of unrest and conflict. Those who are angry at the construction of the American airbase nearby, with its lethal nuclear armaments, confront those who support it, and anger flares into violence, stirred up by Soviet agents. Throughout all this unrest, Eloïse is still relentlessly hunting down the man who betrayed her brother and his country, and she is learning to look at those she loves and at herself with different eyes. She no longer knows who she can trust. Who is working for Soviet Intelligence and who is not? And what side do her own family lie on?

Rating: five-stars

 

Eloïse was born in rural France and grew up on her father’s bull farm, together with her two brothers. She loves the farm, but as soon as she can, she follows the footsteps of her older brother Andre and flees to Paris. She finds a job in the detective agency, as she’s fascinated by Andre’s – the brother she so idolises – job as a CIA Intelligence Officer. We get to know them both right in the opening scene that feels like a scene from James Bond film, a thrilling car chase in which Andre is injured. As she was driving, Eloïse is filled with guilt and decides to find out who has tried to kill her bother, and why. Summoned home, she doesn’t give up on her chase after the truth, but she also realises that the danger may be much closer home than she thinks.

I have immediately became absorbed in the story and the characters’ lives – but it hasn’t surprised me, as I wasn’t expecting anything different from Kate Furnivall’s book! As usual with her books, the characters felt like living and breathing people, and her leading female characters – in this case Eloïse – are strong – minded and brave. Eloïse was capable and determined, however I didn’t warm to her immediately. As much as I appreciated the fact that she’s so determined, she was also much too naive in my eyes and I had a feeling that she’s like the wind, moving in different directions, depending on what she was said. She also behaved too amateurish for my liking, lacked in skills that you’d need as an actual spy. She was too trusty, especially at the beginning, but then she started to have doubts, and she felt more mature. Nevertheless, she was so real with her emotions and feelings of guilt, fear and uncertainty, she wanted the best for all and to find peace. In her hurry and willingness to help, she often makes mistakes, and also tends to do the very opposite of what is said she should do, and really, more than once I was expecting the things to turn out not so rosy for her, and once I really thought that this is it for Eloïse. But altogether, the more I read, the more she grew on me, and I truly admired her determination and the fact that nobody and nothing could dishearten her to find the truth.
The relationships between the characters in this book are so well written! They were not easy, they were not straightforward, they were often thought – provoking but the loyalty Eloïse felt towards her family was lovely to see, even if sometimes this family didn’t show as much concern for Eloïse as she for them.

I always admire Kate Furnivall’s skills to create a brilliant, engaging and complex plot, no matter what period of times her novels are set in. This time she takes us to the mid century France involved in the Cold War. I admit, it is not a period of time that I know much about, so the more interesting it was for me and I have learnt more about post – war France that I could hope for. The loyalties of the French, that were split between America, and the communist Soviet Union, and the tension and unrest it has provoked, provided an interesting and engaging background and she creates a perfect sense of time and place.

Mostly the author has played real mind – games with me and I was like Eloïse, not knowing who was telling the truth and who was telling lies, who was the good and who was the bad one, who wants to help Eloïse and who wants to see the back of her, and how does her family fit into all of those situations. It made my head spinning but it was enthralling and very entertaining.

“The Guardian of Lies” was meticulously researched, vividly written in a way that awakens all your senses while living the story through along with the characters, and brilliantly crafted novel from one of my favourite authors. She has – again – provided us with engaging and complex plot and multi – faceted characters, bringing them all to life and effortlessly transporting the readers into the setting of her novel. It was a fast – paced, unique, compelling and addictive story about love and betrayal, courage and subterfuge, making you feel as if you had your heart in your mouth. Highly recommended!

 

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