Dear Mrs Bird by AJ Pearce

Dear Mrs Bird by AJ Pearce

 

39215026Publisher: Picador

Publishing Date: 5th April 2018

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

Number of pages: 316

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

 Buy the Book: Kindle | Hardcover

 

 

 

 

Synopsis:

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

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

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

Rating: four-stars

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

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

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

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

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

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The Lido by Libby Page / #BlogTour

The Lido by Libby Page

 

34709995Publisher: Orion

Publishing Date: 19th April 2018

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

Number of pages: 384

Genre: General Fiction (Adult)

 Buy the Book: Kindle | Paperback

 

 

 

 

Synopsis:

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

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

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

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

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

Rating: four-stars

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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A Grand Old Time by Judy Leigh / #BlogTour

A Grand Old Time by Judy Leigh

 

36589620Publisher: Avon

Publishing Date: 3rd April 2018

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

Number of pages: 368

Genre: General Fiction, Women’s Fiction

 Buy the Book: Kindle | Paperback

 

 

 

 

Synopsis:

‘Brilliantly funny, emotional and uplifting’ Miranda Dickinson

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

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

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

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

Rating: four-stars

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

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

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

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

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

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Two Steps Forward by Graeme Simsion & Anne Buist

Two Steps Forward by Graeme Simsion & Anne Buist

 

38402331Publisher: Two Roads

Publishing Date: 5th April 2018

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

Number of pages: 4368

Genre: General Fiction

 Buy the Book: Kindle | Hardcover

 

 

 

 

Synopsis:

Zoe, a sometime artist, is from California. Martin, an engineer, is from Yorkshire. Both have ended up in picturesque Cluny, in central France. Both are struggling to come to terms with their recent past—for Zoe, the death of her husband; for Martin, a messy divorce. Looking to make a new start, each sets out alone to walk two thousand kilometres from Cluny to Santiago, in northwestern Spain, in the footsteps of pilgrims who have walked the Camino—the Way—for centuries.

The Camino changes you, it’s said. It’s a chance to find a new version of yourself. But can these two very different people find each other?

In this smart, funny and romantic journey, Martin’s and Zoe’s stories are told in alternating chapters by husband-and-wife team Graeme Simsion and Anne Buist. Two Steps Forward is a novel about renewal—physical, psychological and spiritual. It’s about the challenge of walking a long distance and of working out where you are going. And it’s about what you decide to keep, what you choose to leave behind and what you rediscover.

Rating: four-stars

When I started reading this book I was a little surprised because, to be honest, I knew it’s going to be about walking, but I haven’t supposed that it’s going to be that much about walking. There were really moments that I felt frustrated and the story felt very slow as it mostly focused on the way, on counting the kilometres, on spotting the right sign and I really thought for a moment that maybe Graeme Simsion has turned into non – fiction. But deep, deep under all the descriptions of the places, finding accommodation and what to have for dinner and being on the road, there is a lovely, poignant and moving love story that I incredibly adored.

I think I liked Zoe’s parts better. Zoe herself was quirkier and cheekier than Martin, and full of life, and the chapters told from her point of view just read better. She’s recently widowed and she hasn’t grieved her husband fully yet. His sudden and unexpected death has brought some surprises. She’s also an aspiring artist but what with life getting in the way her career was aborted. Dr Martin Eden has just divorced, taken a temporary teaching position in Cluny and after a chance encounter with a Dutch pilgrim he’s designed a pilgrim cart that he’s going to test himself, hoping to sell the design. So some hikers are on the spiritual journey and some are avoiding it but all of them learn on the way what real love and friendship is.

This book starts slowly and continues rather slowly but it has plenty of brilliant moments and characters, and in the end I found myself incredibly attached to the two main characters. It also introduces us to many background characters and while mostly they accompany Zoe and Martin on their way, they appear and disappear, come and go, and almost till the end I had problems to know who is who and to whom they belong. Sure, they all have their own stories – they wouldn’t walk the Camino otherwise, and they were mostly engaging, but next to the whole walking and the plots of Zoe and Martin there were moments that it was just too much to take.

The banter between the characters was great and it livened up the story so very much. There are tons of misunderstandings and miscommunications, jumping to conclusions and secrets and it all flow so effortlessly and seems so natural. As the story is told through Zoe and Martin’s perspectives it’s really easy to keep pace with their distinctive voices and to know where they’re actually are and what they’re thinking.

The “spiritual aspect” of this journey is very well handled. The authors give their characters a choice. They show that being a pilgrim is not always only about religion, that there are many different and equally important reasons to start such journey. The authors’ experience with this way of pilgrimage is evident, and at the end of the book they did admit that they themselves walked the Camino twice, and it’s visible through their vivid descriptions and their love to the details, the descriptions of the many villages and places of accommodation.

Altogether “Two Steps Forward” was a brilliant, uplifting and warm read about life – changing experience, about finding your own way, and also about kindness. There is plenty of humour and the characters’ problems are very down – to – earth, which makes the reading even more relatable. It shows that sometimes it’s better to look at your problems through a different perspective, that sometimes it’s great to trust total strangers. Highly recommended!

Million Love Songs by Carole Matthews / #BlogTour

Hi guys, and Happy Easter! Hope you’re spending the day with people you love most.

Today I have another blog tour for you. You know I’m a huge fan of Carole Matthews, and her newest book “Million Love Songs” was published as paperback few days ago. For the purpose of the blog tour, the lovely Carole has created her own Spotify playlist with her favourite love songs that you can listen to by clicking here.

I’ve also created my own list with my favourite love songs and it’s as follows:

Richard Marx, Right Here Waiting For You – I still can remember me, barely a teenager, listening with my ear close to the radio and dreaming about… hmmm 🙂

No Doubt, Don’t Speak – I was almost 18 years old, just got to know this guy at the disco and he told he’s going to call. He didn’t. I was sitting in my best friend’s room and playing it over and over again. I don’t think they like this song as much as did. PS. He called. we were together for 7 years.

Toni Braxton, Un – Break My Heart – dancing to this song with the above mentioned guy who did call.

Whitney Houston, Your Love is My Love – all time favourite. Can listen to it all the time.

And now onto the book itself:

Million Love Songs by Carole Matthews

 

36677778Publisher: Sphere

Publishing Date: 22nd March 2018

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

Number of pages: 400

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

 Buy the Book: Kindle | Paperback

 

 

Synopsis:

After splitting up with her cheating ex-husband, Ruby Brown is ready for a change. She’s single again for the first time in years and she’s going to dive into this brave new world with a smile on her face and a spring in her step. The last thing she’s looking for is another serious relationship.

Mason Soames represents everything Ruby wants right now: he’s charming, handsome, and perfect for some no-strings-attached fun, and yet Ruby can’t help feel that something is missing. Joe Edwards, on the other hand, is also lovely and handsome but he comes with the sort of baggage Ruby wants to avoid: an annoyingly attractive ex-wife and two teenage children.

Ruby soon has some very tough decisions to make. Is she ready for a relationship of any kind, and what type of life does she really want? Because while Ruby may think she knows what she wants, is that what she needs to be truly happy?

Feel-good, wonderful and an absolute must-read from the queen of romance Carole Matthews, Ruby’s story will make you laugh, cry and leave you wanting more. It’s about to get emotional in Million Love Songs.

Rating: four-stars

Carole Matthews’s books are your guarantee of wit, humour, some drama and romance. I’ve been reading her books for many years already and I’ve always enjoyed them, as she creates likeable characters, the writing style is so light and easy to follow and the stories are never too heavy even though there is always some seriousness and heavier stuff in them. The characters are believable, as well as the situations they find themselves in, and it’s the same with “Million Love Songs”.

In this newest release we meet Ruby Brown, freshly divorced from Simon, and actually coming to terms with this fact. They were five long years together and it’s hard to settle in but Ruby is determined to start afresh and you know what they say – when life throws you lemons, just make a lemonade (I should probably try to adapt this motto by myself as March was officially the worst month ever. And April won’t be better). She quitted her old job, moved to a small granny – flat, got a new job at a pub and some new friends, so it really is everything new and fresh for her.

Ruby was a great character and I hoped everything is going to pan out for her. She wasn’t afraid of new things, she was open to anything, she was cheery and optimistic and I grinned at her many antics, and she for sure was a part of many, many memorable scenes. The one thing that bothered me a little was the fact that she seemed to be all the time bouncing back and forth between two men, desperate for a man in her life and it seemed somehow so desperate, while I really liked her on her own. Well, it was just after her divorce that she’s decided she wants to be a little more impulsive and try many new things, right? That she’s ready for fun and new? She was also strong by herself. There was too much of Ruby’s going back and forth and her indecisiveness. She’s been changing her mind too many times and it irritated me sometimes because when you once say yes then please, stick to your word, especially when others warn you as well. And she kept changing her mind countless times.
And Mason. I’m not sure why but Mason is for me a serial killer – there is something in the name (sorry. Pay no attention, really). So it’s not a wonder that I didn’t warm to him completely, no? He was also a well – known womanizer with tons of money and too much spare time. Yes, I liked Joe better, although there were moments that I wanted to yell at him to make a decision. He seemed to blow Ruby hot and cold and I think she didn’t deserve it. But altogether, both men had their pros and cons and sometimes I wasn’t sure who I wanted her to end up with. Maybe adding a third male character would be an idea.

I loved the music and songs references – no matter if you were Take That fan or not, you know their songs and I found myself humming. But – I am not so sure what to think about the whole Take That obsession. On one hand it is great to have a hobby, and oh well, yes, I also have a crush on a music star, even at my age, but this here is taking it to another level. I mean, I have a life. The following seemed more like stalking for me and really, to be totally honest, I thought that Ruby deserves much more from her life, no? But it’s just me, as Ruby’s friend Charlie seemed really happy with living with a life-sized cardboard figure of Gary Barlow and the huge amount of events she was going to and hoping for potential sightings. Whatever you like…

The chapters, as usually, were short and snappy, which I really like in books as it makes the whole book quicker to read and the storyline keeps moving fast. And of course in such cases it is always one chapter more and you find yourself reading and reading, totally engrossed in this lovely story.

“One Million Love Songs” was a warm, uplifting read written with so much heart and understanding. I love Carole Matthews’s writing style, it immediately takes you into the heart of the story and then on a journey full of twists and turns, a journey that’s rather bumpy than flat. It’s charming and full of humour and poignant moment, that are, as always, so very well balanced and intertwined together. Altogether, I can only – and I do it very happily – recommend this novel to both the old as well as new Ms Matthews’s fans.

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Last Letter Home by Rachel Hore

Last Letter Home by Rachel Hore

 

38350479Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Publishing Date: 22nd March 2018

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

Number of pages: 560

Genre: Historical Fiction, Women’s Fiction

 Buy the Book: Kindle | Hardcover | Paperback (out on 23.08.2018)

 

 

Synopsis:

From the bestselling author of A Week in Paris, and the Richard & Judy Bookclub pick A Place of Secrets, comes a gripping and moving story spanning 70 years, set in Italy and in Norfolk.

On holiday with friends, young historian Briony Andrews becomes fascinated with a wartime story of a ruined villa in the hills behind Naples. There is a family connection: her grandfather had been a British soldier during the Italian campaign of 1943 in that very area. Handed a bundle of letters that were found after the war, Briony sets off to trace the fate of their sender, Sarah Bailey.

In 1939, Sarah returns with her mother and sister from India, in mourning, to take up residence in the Norfolk village of Westbury. There she forms a firm friendship with Paul Hartmann, a young German who has found sanctuary in the local manor house, Westbury Hall. With the outbreak of war, conflicts of loyalty in Westbury deepen.

When, 70 years later, Briony begins to uncover Sarah and Paul’s story, she encounters resentments and secrets still tightly guarded. What happened long ago in the villa in the shadow of Vesuvius, she suspects, still has the power to give terrible pain …

Rating: four-stars

Rachel Hore is another author that I’ve heard many, many good things about but haven’t read her books – yet! I was truly excited after being approved to read “Last Letter Home” on NetGalley – I do love a good historical fiction, I do love a dual timeline and I loved this beautiful cover. And so, without further delay, I dived into the fictional world of love, drama and the aftermath of the WW2.

Being on holidays in Italy, historian Briony not only stumbles across a ruined villa in the surrounding area, a villa that has connections to her grandfather, who was stationed there in 1943, but is also being given some film reels and love letters. Reading them, she starts to feel desperate to discover the story of Sarah and Paul, who wrote the letters to each other. She doesn’t expect it, but here starts her journey full of secrets and discoveries, truths and lies.

This book was for sure beautifully written. I loved how Rachel Hore has knitted together the life in the pre – war English country, the aftermath of the war, family secrets and tragedies. I admit, it took me some time to get into a book, and there was no particular reason for it, it was just one of the things. It was a little confusing for me also, what with the sudden change in setting and the different tone which seemed as two different stories.

It was a great escapism that slowly unfolded as Briony started to piece together the story behind the letters and their writers. While mostly it was fast paced, there were moments that it dragged on a little for me and was losing the temperature. It also took me some time to warm to the characters and to actually make out who is who and how they are all related as we were presented with a varied, colourful cast of characters. Briony was really well fleshed out but my problem here was that I just simply couldn’t completely warm to her – she was reserved and I had a feeling I just can’t get into her head. I think that the wartime subplot, and the whole secret behind the letters, the relationship between Paul and Sarah were the better part of this book, I really do love historical fiction and this time it was a tale with a difference and it was really interesting to see all the repercussions and problems because Paul was German.

I really liked the way how the past and present, the WW2 parts and the present days, flowed effortlessly together. The Norfolk and Italy settings were so seamlessly brought to life, as all other parts as well, actually. It also shone through the pages how much time and effort went into research.

“Last Letter Home” was a complex, clever story full of secrets, lies and deception, and the author knows how to build tension. Rachel Hore’s writing is very descriptive and very colourful and it’s very easy to imagine the things she’s writing about. As I’ve already mentioned it, it was my first book by this author but it was a great story and here starts my adventure with other Ms Hore’s novel. Highly recommended!

The Stranger by Kate Riordan / #BlogTour

The Stranger by Kate Riordan

 

36476410Publisher: Michael Joseph

Publishing Date: 22nd March 2018

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

Number of pages: 320

Genre: Women’s Fiction, Historical Fiction

 Buy the Book:  Hardcover

 

 

 

 

Synopsis:

ONE OF RED MAGAZINE’S TOP TEN BOOKS . . .

———-

Cornwall, 1940.

In the hushed hours of the night a woman is taken by the sea.

Was it a tragic accident? Or should the residents of Penhallow have been more careful about whom they invited in?

In the midst of war three women arrive seeking safety at Penhallow Hall.

Each is looking to escape her past.

But one of them is not there by choice.

As the threat of invasion mounts and the nightly blackouts feel longer and longer, tensions between the close-knit residents rise until dark secrets start to surface.

And no one can predict what their neighbour is capable of . . .

In a house full of strangers, who do you trust?

Rating: four-stars

“The Stranger” was my first novel by Kate Riordan and I was incredibly excited to finally, eventually get her novel in my greedy mittens – I’ve heard tons of great things about this author and it’s not a wonder that I wanted to see for myself what’s so special in her books. And I think that this story is a great start if you, like me, haven’t read Ms Riordan’s novels before.
The story follows three women of different ages, billeted in a house on Cornish coast in the 1940’s in Penhallow Hall, a house perched up on the cliffs. They were land girls, helping feed Britain during the Second World War when young farmers were away fighting. Jane is the youngest and she joined Rose and Diana as last, and it turns out she’s the member of the family owning the house, and it quickly becomes clear that there are some misunderstandings between her and the owners Ms Fox and her daughter Eleanor. Rose was married but her first loved lived at the island. And last but not least, Diana. The girl who’s meddling and stirring and doesn’t let sleeping dogs lie.

The book starts with Diana going missing and then takes us back in time, several weeks, and with each chapter that takes us closer to her disappearance, in a kind of a count – down, we get to know the characters, their backgrounds and history, and start to like or dislike them. I think the author painted Diana in such a way on purpose – a girl with two faces, a girl with a very vulnerable side to her and a girl who wanted everything to be about her, who wormed her way to a friendship, who meddled and used everybody and everything for her own ends. A girl who longed to be liked and accepted but also a girl that pushed people away. Very complex and complicated character and the author really well captured this diversity in her. However, I didn’t like her. I didn’t have compassion on her. I did get when she was coming from but the way she went through life just made me feel antipathy.

It was an incredibly descriptive novel – and I must admit, even though it was beautifully written, in such a gentle way with love to the smallest details, it made reading for me a little bit difficult. It has hidden all the action, put it in the background in my opinion, and it’s a pity, because it was a story with a brilliantly interesting storyline. However, it was also a novel that was hard to put down, guys.

“The Stranger” was a slow burner, but with brilliant descriptions and wonderfully developed characters with a depth and distinctive voices, a story that intertwined lives of different women. The author has managed to easily and effortlessly put all the frustrations, hopes and anger into words. This was a story full of secrets, some of them very dark, with a complex and ambitious storyline. The author had so beautifully captured the atmosphere of the uncertainty and mendacity. She also brought to life the beauty of Cornwall and the setting was one of the best things in this novel, you could so easily picture the sea, the village, the lighthouse. There were many turns on the way and the final twists were really interesting, though I’d say that, in comparison to the tense built – up, it felt too rushed. But altogether, this novel was very interesting and different and I highly recommend it to you all.

 

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