Four Christmases and a Secret by Zara Stoneley

Four Christmases and a Secret by Zara Stoneley

 

Publisher: One More Chapter 45175398._sy475_

Publishing Date: 27th September 2019

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

Number of pages: 400

Genre: General Fiction (Adult), Romance

 Buy the Book:  Kindle | Paperback (out on 28.11.2019)

 

 

 

Synopsis:

It’s the most wonderful time of the year…

Except for Daisy Christmas means another of Uncle T’s dreaded Christmas parties, complete with Christmas jumper and flashing antlers.  And Oliver Cartwright.  Gorgeous Oliver Cartwright. Who she hates.

Every year Daisy has to face insufferable Ollie and hear all about how BRILLIANT he is.  Whereas Daisy has no job, no man and no idea how to fix things.

This Christmas however Daisy is determined things will be different.  There will be no snogging Ollie under the mistletoe like when they were teenagers.  No, this year she’ll show Ollie that she’s a Responsible Adult too.

But as the champagne corks pop, and the tinsel sparkles, Uncle T has news of his own to share…and it could change Daisy’s life forever…

Rating:    four-stars

 

Daisy has just lost her boyfriend, her job and probably her dog. The only thing keeping her sane is the annual Christmas party at Uncle Terrence’s bookstore. She loves these parties, they bring all her favourite people together, and they are in her favourite place, bookstore. However, every single Christmas party, she has to endure hearing of Oliver Cartwright – they grew up together and were best friends for ever, but now they are not as they went their separate ways after Ollie went to university and became a doctor and Daisy… well, Daisy’s dreams of being a vet have never came true. Her mum and Oliver’s mum are best friends but they both love to boast about their children, and Ollie, well, Ollie wins at life, right? But then, after 13 long years, Oliver also comes to the party and oh boy, he’s hot! And lovely, and friendly and soon Daisy finds herself sharing an apartment with him…

As usual, the book is full of brilliant, sharp and witty banter between the characters, especially between Daisy and Oli. I loved their dialogues, they made me smile so often, and it always makes reading so much nicer and lighter. There is a lot of character development in the story but I think that the biggest self – discovery journey was Daisy’s one, she for sure was a totally different person at the end, a person that I liked much more than at the beginning – as I only had a teeny, tiny problem with Daisy, to be honest, as I had a feeling that the author has tried too much with her – to make her too funny, too dramatic, too lost, and this altogether has made her simply too overdone. I liked her, oh my word, I really liked her but because of all these “too” I couldn’t warm to her completely. Also, I am not a biggest fan of creating holly characters, characters who could do no wrong, who are always right and full of wisdom, and so the whole subplot with Uncle Terence, instead of making me weak at the knees, made me roll my eyes a bit.

The read was so engaging that I honestly haven’t spotted the three Christmases. Oops. The writing style so sentimental and light and chatty that I haven’t noticed time is passing by. The author has so easily drawn me into her characters’ lives and worlds that I really didn’t want to leave.
Altogether, it was a fun, witty and heart – warming rom – com, filled with quirky characters, some secrets, embarrassing situations, just what you could expect from this kind of book and from this author. However, it is not only a light – hearted, not too demanding read, it’s full of deeper and more serious moments, and I loved this perfect mix of fun and poignant. It was the perfect Christmas story to start getting you in the festive spirit. Let’s be honest, Zara Stoneley has did it again, she delivered another brilliant read full of great characters, the perfect blend of will they/won’t they, filling the book with a self discovery journey full of secrets, discoveries, friendship, love and stealing dogs. Truly recommended!

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Pretty Guilty Women by Gina LaManna

Pretty Guilty Women by Gina LaManna

 

Publisher: Sphere 46281093._sy475_

Publishing Date: 24th September 2019

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

Number of pages: 336

Genre: Women’s Fiction

 Buy the Book: Kindle | Hardcover

| Paperback (out on 05.03.2020)

 

 

 

Synopsis:

You are cordially invited to the wedding of the year, at the famously luxurious Serenity Spa & Resort on the Californian coast . . .

Ginger is an overworked, under-pampered mother of three who’s barely holding the family together when she learns a secret about her daughter that could ruin everything.

Lulu is a wealthy retiree with four ex-husbands, and a fifth on the way.

Emily harbours a dark secret, which she’s become expert at forgetting with the help of a bottle of wine.

Kate is a powerhouse lawyer with her life in order – except for one little problem that won’t go away.

Only twenty-four hours later a man is found murdered.

All Detective Ramone knows for certain is that these four women sit calmly across from him, offering four very different confessions, each insisting they acted alone.

Why would they confess to the same crime? Only they know the answer – and they’re not telling.

A sharp, twisty and utterly addictive suspense novel that is perfect for anyone who loved Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty, I Invited Her In by Adele Parks and The Last Mrs Parrish by Liv Constantine

Rating:  three-stars

 

Three college friends meet up at a luxurious Serenity Spa and Resort in California for another friend’s wedding. Their friendship has mostly fallen apart but nevertheless, they’re making their way to the wedding celebrations that are supposed to take one whole week – Whitney is getting married in the right way, no?
However, it immediately becomes clear that a man has been killed at the resort and along with Lulu, related by marriage to the groom and befriended at the hotel, all the women claim to have killed him. Why? What has happened?

Each of the characters is different, they face different challenges and I liked this variety, even when I couldn’t connect with them as much as I’d like to. I mean, they were really interesting, normal characters, they kept supporting each other when it was needed, even with their friendship disintegrating over the years, but they simply felt too repetitive, and I think the author could have written them in a sharper way, instead of making them so unhappy with all their shortcomings in life.
Ginger is married to Frank, they have three children and their family life is rather exhausting, and money is also short supply. She has to do extra shifts at a hotel she’s working in to be able to attend the wedding, and her relationship with her teenage daughter Elsie is unravelling. Emily Brown is trying to come to terms with a dramatic past, has a drink problem and is the one to have sex with a man she has only met on the plane. Her friendship with Ginger has been jeopardized years ago, when something happened. Kate Cross is, on the surface, a happy, successful lawyer with no problems, a partner in a New York firm and has a great boyfriend. Under the surface though it looks totally different, her boyfriend Maximilian Banks dumps her right after arrival to the Resort, in reception, after years of trying for a baby he has enough. They all get to know Lulu at the hotel. Lulu, married for the fifth time, loves her husband with all her heart but she’s afraid he’s going to leave her for another woman. The truth is different.
All the women are different, but all have problems, troubles and keep secrets, trying to live up to the expectations and not wanting to admit to each other that their lives are not beds of roses.

I am a new reader of Gina LaManna, so I didn’t know what to except, though I was hoping for something Liane Moriarty – worthy (as stated in the premise and why I actually requested this book). And yes, the book started brilliantly, and I was incredibly intrigued how it’s going to develop, however it quickly went downhill. It started to be repetitive and there was actually nothing happening, it felt flat and as if the idea run out. Yes, there are similarities between these books but let’s be honest, “Big Little Lies” is on absolutely different level.

There were some moments that made me nod my head, as they were so relatable, and some that made me smile, especially the banter between Ginger and her daughter, and the interviews between the Detective and the characters – they were, I think, the best parts of the book, thanks to the characters and the way they approached them.

Nevertheless, it was a quick, entertaining read, a story filled with bigger and smaller dramas, lies, unconditional love, abuse, friendship and being ready to sacrifice a lot. The friendship is very honestly portrayed, with all the ups and downs, grudges and rivalries.

Motherwhelmed by Anniki Sommerville

Motherwhelmed by Anniki Sommerville

 

Publisher: One More Chapter 47194568._sy475_

Publishing Date: 5th September 2019

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

Number of pages: 395

Genre: General Fiction (Adult)

 Buy the Book:  Kindle | Paperback (out on 02.04.2020)

 

 

 

Synopsis:

A laugh-out-loud funny and confident must-read novel that everyone will be talking about! For fans of Dawn O’Porter, Bryony Gordon and Daisy Buchanan.

Rebecca is 42, has a beautiful child and a wonderful husband. But she just hasn’t been feeling herself recently…

Rebecca thinks a great night out should involve a packet of Marlboro’s, six double vodkas and snogging a colleague. Not gormlessly drinking a zero-alcohol No-hito while Instagramming a vegan chicken wing.

Rebecca wants to ride on a Harley Davidson, to crowd surf till dawn, then collapse in a heap after swigging from a bottle of Jack Daniels . . . not sit in a soul-destroying meeting surrounded by ‘blue sky thinking’ and men half her age who interrupt all the time.

She’s had enough of commuting to an office that is so cold people have to wear blankets all day. And she can’t help asking herself why her adorable daughter must spend all week in a containment zone for pre-schoolers.

Rebecca wants to feel that there’s MORE coming her way, rather than less . . .

In short – Rebecca wants out.

But where to?

Rating: three-stars

 

In “Motherwhelmed” we follow Rebecca through her daily life: jumping between job that drains the life out of her, feeling guilty of missing so much from her daughter’s life, frustrated and unhappy with her marriage… Just all the normal things that are called life.

I had a feeling that the author wants to throw off all of her problems on the fact that she’s a mother. I’m sulky and bad tempered – because I’m a mother. I have a bad hair day – because I’m a mother. I had a row with my husband – because I’m a mother. As if those things would have happened if she wasn’t a mother. What I missed in this book were most certainly the simple things that make motherhood special. Yes, it’s exhausting, being a mum, juggling work and home and shopping and thousand other things, but it is also satisfying and having your daughter put your arms around you must be the best feeling ever. Rebecca would be much more believable and likeable if she showed an emotion or two towards her daughter, in her presence. Other than that, she was an okay character, trying to keep calm while wanting to explode and worrying about everything, doing her best to juggle being a working mum.

I also didn’t find it funny. I’m sorry, but I found it flat and lifeless After seeing the huge hype about this book I was hoping I’m going to love it, that it’s going to be another hilarious novel about motherhood, but it turned out to be self – absorbed and dry. Not humorous. I wasn’t expecting twists or turns, as in real life there are not many of them, but I was expecting a coherent and solid story. I had high hoped for this book, being sure that it’s going to be so relatable to me, but sadly not this time. However, do not feel put out by my review – you may enjoy this novel much, much more.

We Met in December by Rosie Curtis

We Met in December by Rosie Curtis

 

Publisher: Avon 47914729._sy475_

Publishing Date: 5th September 2019

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

Number of pages: 376

Genre: Romance, Women’s Fiction

 Buy the Book: Kindle | Paperback

 

 

 

 

Synopsis:

Prepare to fall head over heels. The perfect book for fans of Josie Silver, Richard Curtis, and anyone who ever fell in love with the wrong person…

What if you couldn’t get away from the one who got away?

This December, unlucky-in-love Jess is following her dream and moving to Notting Hill. On the first night in her new house-share she meets Alex, the guy in the room next door. They don’t kiss under the mistletoe, but there’s still a spark that leaves Jess imagining how they might spend the year together – never mind the house rule against dating…

But when Jess returns from her Christmas holiday, she finds Alex has started seeing Emma, who lives on the floor above them. Now Jess faces a year of bumping into the man of her dreams – and, apparently, the woman of his.

Jess is determined to move on and spend the year falling in love with London, not Alex – but what if her heart has other ideas?

Rating:  three-stars

 

Jess moves to London from her home in a small town after finding out her boyfriend is cheating on her. Luckily, her friend Becky inherited a multi – million dollar home in Notting Hill and offers Jess one of the rooms for almost nothing, renting other rooms to a group of random friends. As Jess has just bagged  a job in publishing, she’s delighted with the offer. And also, she’s instantly attracted to one of the other tenants, Alex – but Becky has a no – relationship between the tenants clause. But does Alex feel at all the same? What with this other woman coming out of his room one morning? 

The characters were nice enough, even though they felt too one – dimensional but still, they were likeable. I liked Jess and Alex, he was the über – perfect boyfriend candidate, but was also a driven young man with a passion, willing to chase his dreams instead of settling for the wrong partner and job. However, I missed the chemistry between these two, to be honest, and perhaps this is why I was not so invested in their slowest. romance. ever, I’d love more dynamic interactions between them, something that will suggest that they really fell head over heels in love with each other – it was too lukewarm for my liking, too cautious. 

I think the author tried too much to write a perfect, festive story and has overdone on fluffiness and general goodness. The book started really well but then it felt too repetitive and too slow. I appreciated the attempt of getting into Jess and Alex’s heads during their walks through London but in the end they didn’t bring anything new and I started to skip them. I also think that reading about Alex’s reasons of changing his job once or twice was absolutely OK but I didn’t have to read about it in every chapter. 

I can’t help myself, the comparison to “One Day in December” by Josie Silver is simply unavoidable. I wasn’t looking for the same story but the cover and the synopsis to “We Met in December”, as well as the title, have the same vibe and I was looking forward to a lovely, romantic story. However, this book left me disappointed. The beginning was good, and I was fully invested in reading but continually I was losing my interest as the story was losing its impact. Nevertheless, I kept reading, holding out hope that something would happen but the downfall was the lack of action and the fact that it felt so clichéd. There is not a lot happening in there, and as much as I can accept the stories to be predictable, here you knew from the page one how it’s going to end and in the end I found myself willing the book to just cut to the chase.  

Altogether, it was a nice enough, comfortable read, a book that you know what to expect from it and getting it all the way, a cute, warm and quick novel. Yes, I was hoping I’d enjoy this book much more which sadly wasn’t the case, but I’m sure that you may find it a great choice for yourself. Yes, the book had tons of potential but ended up falling short for me. When the book looks like one of the best books written, sounds like one of the best books already written and the author’s name is Rosie Curtis, I was hoping for some Notting Hill vibes. I didn’t hate it, of course not, but it’s not a book that will stay with me for long. 

Rewind by Catherine Ryan Howard

Rewind by Catherine Ryan Howard

 

Publisher: Corvus 43812429._sy475_

Publishing Date: 22nd August 2019

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

Number of pages: 336

Genre: General Fiction (Adult), Mystery & Thrillers

 Buy the Book: Kindle | Hardcover

 

 

 

Synopsis:

From the bestselling, multiple prize-shortlisted novelist Catherine Ryan Howard comes an explosive story about a twisted voyeur and a terrible crime…

PLAY
Andrew, the manager of Shanamore Holiday Cottages, watches his only guest via a hidden camera in her room. One night the unthinkable happens: a shadowy figure emerges onscreen, kills her and destroys the camera. But who is the murderer? How did they know about the camera? And how will Andrew live with himself?

PAUSE
Natalie wishes she’d stayed at home as soon as she arrives in the wintry isolation of Shanamore. There’s something creepy about the manager. She wants to leave, but she can’t – not until she’s found what she’s looking for…

REWIND
This is an explosive story about a murder caught on camera. You’ve already missed the start. To get the full picture you must rewind the tape and play it through to the end, no matter how shocking…

Rating: two-stars

 

Audrey is a reporter desperate for a “real” story – and when one day something happens, she’s frantic to cover it, no matter what. A famous instagrammer, Natalie O’Connor, has disappeared and nobody knows where she is, not her friends, not her husband. However, all that she did is left a note that nobody has found and rented a cottage to clear her mind. She doesn’t know that in the bedroom she’s staying in, the manager of the Shanamore Holiday Cottages has installed a hidden camera. One night Andrew watches as a person appears in the cottage, stabs the person sleeping in bed and then destroys the camera. Who was this and how did they know about the camera? Do they know Andrew’s other secret as well?

So I was very intrigued by this book, however the more I read, the more confused I felt. The chapters were labelled Rewind, Pause and Fast Forward and while at the beginning I paid attention to them, in reality they’ve made me feel even more confused and so I stopped paying attention to them as they’ve never helped me to understand what actually happens in Rewind, or Pause, Play or Fast Forward and the read was therefore difficult for me and I wasn’t able to stay focused. Moreover, the characters weren’t well developed and because of the lack of sequence I didn’t feel any connection to them. They didn’t feel likeable, their actions felt too forced and the only likeable character was probably Natalie, though she also felt too weak.

There was potential, there was idea but for me there was no execution and the structure of the book simply didn’t work for me.

It was a creepy, dark, depressing and unsettling psychological thriller about woman’s quest to be with a man she fell in love with, about obsession and the influence of social media, with a compelling mystery and with some twists along the way, throwing suspicions at different characters.

Christmas Every Day by Beth Moran

Christmas Every Day by Beth Moran

 

Publisher: Boldwood Books 47490432

Publishing Date: 17th September 2019

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

Number of pages: 408

Genre: Romance, Women’s Fiction

 Buy the Book: Kindle | Paperback

 

 

Synopsis:

When Jenny inherits her estranged grandmother’s cottage in Sherwood Forest, she has nothing to lose – no money, no job, no friends, no family to speak of, and zero self-respect. Things can only get better…

Her grumpy, but decidedly handsome new neighbour, Mack, has a habit of bestowing unsolicited good deeds on her. And when Jenny is welcomed into a rather unusual book club, life seems to finally be getting more interesting.

Instead of reading, the members pledge to complete individual challenges before Christmas: from finding new love, learning to bake, to completing a daredevil bucket list. Jenny can’t resist joining in, and soon a year of friendship and laughter, tears and regrets unfolds in the most unexpected ways.

Warm, wise, funny and utterly uplifting, what one thing would you change in your life before Christmas comes around?

Rating: five-stars

 

Jenny has though she has everything under control: her job, her private life, friends, family… That is, until her scheming twin sister gets engaged to Jenny’s “secret” boyfriend at the firm Christmas party, when it was Jenny who was actually expecting the proposal. Ouch. Jenny takes herself to Sherwood Forest – it is there her estranged grandmother left Jenny’s mother a house, and as she doesn’t need the it anymore, she gives it to Jenny. Full of plans and optimism, she turns out at her new place to find it not only in the middle of nowhere, but overgrown with brambles, hence impossible to enter. While trying to force the doors, she meets her neighbour Mack, reclusive, mysterious and very handsome.

After moving to Sherwood Forest, Jenny meets so many brilliant local people – yes, at the beginning some of them are rather sceptic, but quickly she gets drawn into their worlds and lives and becomes a part of their community. For example, the book club (I loved the meetings of the book club as you couldn’t foresee how they’re going to end every time, it was more like a challenge/unexpected situations club, the members of the club were hilarious and I couldn’t wait who’s going to choose the next book and what’s going to happen then.) Or starting a job as a nanny to 5 children, ha. However, Jenny’s biggest worry is getting the house cleaned and cleared, as she doesn’t want to sleep in the tub in the bathroom anymore, and solving the mystery of what Mack is doing, holed up in his house and always appearing on the scenes when Jenny needs help. I quickly guessed what it actually is that Mack does but it didn’t spoil the reveal of this in any way.

The characters had so much depth to them, they were so richly developed, allowing us the view to their lives. Jenny was brilliant. She was full of flaws, she was not perfect and she always kept losing her glasses – she simply felt real in all she did and said – as well as all the other characters. Sure, there were moments that some of their actions felt a bit caricatural but it worked in this book, this craziness was a part of it, of the characters and their world. Jenny’s strength of character and the way she really tried hard – after so many falls, after being held down by others, after being pushed to her limits once too many – were surprising, but it was a positive surprise. She was driven by kindness and loyalty and with the help of her new friends she was growing in confidence, blooming and opening up and facing all the challenges. I kept everything crossed for Jenny, everything, cheering her on the way to becoming New Jenny, to facing her fears and finding the courage for confrontations.

However, don’t be fooled by the Christmassy cover and title of the book, as Christmas itself doesn’t play a great part in this novel. There was only a small part set around Christmas but I think that the general message of this book is to simply make every single day of your life like Christmas, worthful and appreciated, encircle yourself with people that matter and have the courage for new things.
The story intermingle many humorous events and situations with some more poignant ones, and there was also this little mystery about who’s trying to force Jenny out of her house – there was not a single moments flat and I loved how unpredictable it was. One moment I was laughing out loud at the hilarity of the situation, the next I had a lump in my throat.

It was a deep, heartening and uplifting book with unforgettable characters, full of wisdom and lightness. Sometimes bittersweet, sometimes amusing and warming, altogether it was a book that I loved with all my heart and was incredibly sad to see the end of it. The characters in this novel were ones of the best I’ve ever come across in my books, no matter if as a group or a single person. The author has so brilliantly captured all the flaws and virtues and made each of them feel so unique, with all their ups and downs, problems, troubles and quirks, more or less usual hobbies and passions. I was so full of admiration to the way she has written Jenny, and really, she was so well describes, inside and outside that I was able not only to understand her feelings but could easily imagine every expression that she made, and some of her tips on child – minding will stay with me for ever. Shortly, I absolutely loved this book – the more I read the more invested I was. Jenny and the house both needed a clearance, and to be put together, and Jenny’s journey to discover who she really is, to find out more about her past is unputdownable.

Villa of Sun and Secrets by Jennifer Bohnet

Villa of Sun and Secrets by Jennifer Bohnet

 

Publisher: Boldwood Books 46667319

Publishing Date: 8th August 2019

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

Number of pages: 336

Genre: Romance, Women’s Fiction

 Buy the Book:  Kindle | Paperback

 

Synopsis:

It’s never too late to live the dream…

Carla Sullivan’s 50th birthday is fast approaching when her whole world is turned upside down. Discovering her feckless husband is having yet another affair and following her mother’s death, she is in need of an escape. Finding an envelope addressed to her mother’s estranged sister Josette in the South of France gives Carla the perfect plan.

Seizing the moment, she packs her bags and heads to Antibes to seek out the enigma known as Tante Josette. But as the two women begin to forge a tentative relationship, family secrets start to unravel, forcing Carla to question her life as she has always known it.

A heart-warming tale on the beautiful French Riviera, which will keep you guessing. From the bestselling author of Summer at Coastguard Cottages, The Little Kiosk by the Sea and Rosie’s Little Cafe on the Riviera. Perfect for the fans of Jill Mansell and Fern Britton.

Rating: three-stars

 

Carla Sullivan has just buried her mother and while clearing out her things, she discovers a letter from her Aunt Josette in France, an estranged twin sister of her mother. When she also discovers that her husband David, in spite of all his promises, has been cheating on her again, Carla decides to buy a ticket and travel to the South of France to visit her aunt. Because of the rift between the sisters Carla doesn’t know much about Josette and her life and she’s desperate to find out more about her, and maybe her family. What she doesn’t expect is that she’s going to open a Pandora box full of lies, secrets and heartache.

I would have really liked the characters more if they weren’t so overdone – they said and did all the right things in the right moments and solved one problem after another systematically and quickly, without big drama. They were either black or white, and I missed the shades of grey on them. Nevertheless, they were lovely described and there were life in all of them, they were not afraid to leave their comfort zones and adapted quickly to new conditions. Carla and Josette were strong and determined women, having courage for changes in every single moment of their lives.

There were, though, elements that couldn’t agree with me. The story started to feel too over – dramatic, but not in a positive way, it started to feel too far – fetched, it was not like reading a book but watching a soap – opera like “Dynasty”. The characters were so nice and kind and understanding that there came a moment that I thought I couldn’t take any more. I know we always want our characters to finally start to talk, but these here were simply talking too much, over – analyzing and discussing everything with each other, so no wonder that the story felt too repetitive, as we were getting a version of the same situation from almost every single character. There were no secrets, everything was in the open and the author didn’t keep me guessing.

The secrets have been revealed one after another, keeping the pace of the story on the right track and altogether, it was an easy, light and quick read, set in one of the most stunning places ever. I loved the setting of the south France that was so easily brought to life by the author. It was a story about fresh starts, finding your roots, discovering what is really important in your life. It was full of drama, secrets, loss, disappointment and hope.