Queen Bee by Jane Fallon / Blog Tour

Queen Bee by Jane Fallon

 

Publisher: Penguin 51082394._sx318_sy475_

Publishing Date: 9th July 2020

Source:  Received from the publisher, thank you!

Number of pages: 400

Genre: General Fiction (Adult)

 Buy the Book: Kindle | Paperback

 

 

 

 

Synopsis:

Welcome to The Close – a beautiful street of mansions, where gorgeous Stella is the indisputable Queen Bee . . .

It is here that Laura, seeking peace and privacy after her marriage falls apart, rents a tiny studio. Unfortunately, her arrival upsets suspicious Stella – who fears Laura has designs on her fiancé, Al.

When Laura stumbles on the big secret Al is hiding, suddenly Stella’s perfectly controlled world, not to mention Laura’s future, are threatened.

Taking a chance on beating Al at his own twisted game, these two former strangers are fast becoming best friends.

But has Laura forgotten that revenge never comes without a sting in the tail?

Rating:  five-stars

 

After her marriage breaking apart, and the deal about buying her new house not working out at the last minute, Laura, the owner of a small cleaning company, is forced to temporarily rent something suitable and affordable for her and her daughter Betsy before she’ll find a new house for them. She finds a studio flat above one of the houses on The Close, a road where the super rich and their trophy wives reside. It looks like only her landlady Gail and her husband are welcoming here, and well, sooner rather than later Laura is also dragged in a new drama when Stella, the Queen Bee of The Close, accuses her of something Laura hasn’t done. She is desperate to defend herself but being ostracised by Stella means being ostracised by other residents of The Close. However, then, Laura finds something about Stella’s husband and tries to help her to become independent woman. But will Stella believe her?

It was a brilliant, drama packed story – but you also have to take this drama with a pinch of salt sometimes, and that’s one of the best things, I love when the author makes me to read between the lines, and it is always like this with Jane Fallon’s novels. “Queen Bee” is another smart and clever read, relatable and true to life from this author, and she writes how it really is in life.

There were plenty of engaging characters in this story, characters that you either really liked or hated, and all of them so significant to the plot, even the most background characters were so well developed. And, as always, the author has again proved that she is a great observer of societal norms and she tells about the differences between the characters without beating around the bush. The contrast between Laura and “the other half”, especially Stella, was so well and genuinely captured: Stella, the needy and privileged, without taking a second glance at Laura because she was simply of the “worse sort” in her eyes, a plastic perfection, not thinking twice about hurting someone’s feelings because standards don’t apply to her and she’s entitled to everything and never have worked a single day in her life, not afraid of her daughters becoming the “Mini – Hers”. But not able to boil a kettle or go locally shopping for groceries. The contrast to Laura, hard – working running her own cleaning company, never getting something for free but having to fight for it, drinking wine with screw caps and doing everything by herself, single – handedly couldn’t be bigger. Yes, sometimes I thought that Stella can’t be real, the level of her selfishness was beyond limits but it also was truly entertaining and really, I can only repeat myself that the author is a great observer of reality and can bring all the facts accurately and with a great dose of humour.
I adored Laura and her life – approach, how sarcastic and realistic she was and the fact that she didn’t take herself, and her surrounding, too seriously. And as the story is told through her perspective, it made me feel really satisfied when I got my dollop of Laura’s reality – check and her dry and witty internal monologues when she was telling us what she really thinks…

But you know what, I fell for Stella, funnily I really truly wanted that everything will end well for her. There was one moment, almost at the end, with the big reveal, when it all became clear, and I know she has lied, awfully, to her friends but on the other hand I somehow understood why she did it, and maybe I was not the hugest fan of the way she has lived her life and treated other people but well, I though she also doesn’t deserve the future that is suddenly threatening her.

So perhaps the characters were a bit exaggerated and a bit stereotyped but there was also enough depth to them all, and to the plot itself, to make them feel truly realistic and believable. For me, absolutely Laura – team, it was a real joy and great fun to see the inhabitants of The Close described in the distorting mirror. Yes, there are really people like them, taking themselves so seriously, but it only makes it even more funny…

The story was filled with twists and turns and there were moments that I wanted to keep reading hiding behind my hands, not wanting to see what may happen – yes, Laura, I’m looking at you and your spying for example. I desperately wanted to see what’s going to happen, I wanted life to come and bite some of the characters on their backsides, for the reality to knock some sense into them, and I loved to see their progress.

The writing style is chatty, light, uplifting and entertaining, and it flows quickly, sometimes too quickly as I really wanted this book to never end. The author has a way with words, immediately transporting me into the characters’ world that I didn’t want to leave. It is a story that explores family dynamics, broken promises, friendship, jealousy and those over – privileged, showing that grass isn’t always greener on the other side so be careful what you wish for! It is full of sharp observations and one – liners, it’s smart and sassy and nothing there is quite as it seems to be. Another winner from Jane Fallon – highly recommended!

 

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Keeping Mum by James Gould – Bourn / Blog Tour

Keeping Mum by James Gould – Bourn

 

Publisher: Trapeze cover186210-medium

Publishing Date: 11th June 2020

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

Number of pages: 352

Genre: General Fiction (Adult)

 Buy the Book: Kindle | Hardcover

 

 

 

Synopsis:

Danny Malooley’s life is falling apart.

He’s a single parent with an eleven-year-old son, Will, who hasn’t spoken since the death of his mother in a car crash fourteen months ago. He’s being pursued by a dodgy landlord for unpaid rent and, to make matters worse, he’s just lost his job on a building site. Struggling to find work, and desperate for money, Danny decides to do what anyone in his position would do.

He becomes a dancing panda.

After seeing street performers in his local park raking it in, he puts all sense of pride aside and spends his last fiver on a vomit-ridden costume… only to discover that the humiliation of his terrible rhythm is worth it. Not because he’s flush with cash (quite the opposite) but Will has finally spoken to him for the first time since his mother’s death. The problem is Will is unaware that the panda is in fact his father, and Danny doesn’t want to reveal his true identity in case Will stops talking to him. But Danny can’t keep up the ruse forever.

A surprising, laugh-out-loud and uplifting story of a father and son reconnecting in the most unlikely of circumstances.

Rating: five-stars

 

but-i-needmy-girls

 

Danny Mallony and his son Will have lost their wife and mother in a tragic car accident about a year ago. Liz was not only Danny’s wife but also his best friend, and together with her death he feels as if he has lost his son as well because Will simply stopped speaking. Then Danny gets himself fired from work and his landlord starts to threaten to harm him and some of his body parts because he’s late with the rent. There are no jobs out there for Danny, so it’s not a wonder that, in desperation, and with his last money, he purchases a panda suit and becomes a street performer. Dancing panda. The problem is, Danny can’t dance. However, it’s not the end of the problems because soon Danny is a witness how his son is being bullied. And then Will starts to talk – to the panda.

James Gould – Bourn has created incredible characters, real and authentic and while yes,
sure, they are also a bit clichéd and stereotyped, what with Mark the bully, or Reg the landlord, they work in this book and they are breathing and moving and jumping off the pages. Effortlessly. The background characters were phenomenal – I have never came across such brilliantly written secondaries, and Krystal must have been my favourite. Krystal with her potty mouth that would make any sailor blush, telling things how they are, not beating around the bush, full of glitter and glamour, offending with every word but deep, deep inside she was such a good fairy and I loved her totally. But no matter how much I laughed at their banter and shenanigans, they added tons of depth to the story.
And don’t forget Will’s new teacher! It’s amazing how much attention the author paid to the smallest details, taking care about things and events that we would have probably not spotted. I tell you, this book is perfect. The way the author has dealt with grief and its impact on the affected, the old – new father – son relationship, the challenges life brings is cleverly written, it’s sharp and empathetic. I loved what he did with Will – he created a strong, resilient boy who had weaker moments and I felt for him immediately, but he didn’t make him a victim that can’t stand for himself. Yes, Will was bullied and he suffered but I couldn’t stop admire his inner strength and the ability to not take things so much to heart.
And whatever happened, Danny never gave up, and this is what I really liked in him. He kept things going, not wanting Will to discover how bad the situation is. He wasn’t afraid of work, and nothing was too strange or weird to Danny, his priority was always his son and he did things in a way he though are right.

The writing style, and the storytelling, were exceptionally good. I loved the banter the author used in his story, and I loved the situational comedy. He has perfectly blended sadness and humour together, let’s just think about Ivan and his reactions, Jesus, the moment when they were looking for wood for example had me laughing out loud, and not only because of Ivan and his fears but because of the dialogue between the security people – really, guys, whatever you do, buy this book and thank me later, it’s so, so good, it’s more than good, it’s the best book I’ve read this year. I’d say, be careful Mike Gayle, there is a new author in town! But back to the writing, that was funny without being sarcastic – because it didn’t need to be in that case, and engaging.

The probably only thing that didn’t sit with me so much was the title. I don’t know but it somehow didn’t work, and I’m guessing it was also published as “Bear Necessity”? I must admit I like it much better. Or even “Pandemonium” sounds great to me 🙂 Or “Panda Days”.

About the end… I loved what has happened in the pub, it was so unexpected and so karma – wise, ha, it was simply brilliant. However, I have been expecting something more for Danny, been building my hope through the whole story to be honest – am probably reading too many romances. Sigh. Oh well. Maybe there will be something more from the author about Danny in the future.

I truly adored this book, from the start to the end, and I was sad when I’ve reached the final pages as it’s really this kind of book that you don’t want to end. I can’t remember the last time a book left me feeling so warm inside as “Keeping Mum” did. It was a poignant and also incredibly funny father – son story that had me captivated right from the first page. It touched upon so many important things: grief, hope, friendship, trying to reconnect, trying to keep going no matter what, about second chances. It was absolutely unique story that I’m going to buy in paperback as well to keep re – reading it all the time. Truly, highly recommended!

 

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Like a House on Fire by Caroline Hulse

Like a House on Fire by Caroline Hulse

 

Publisher: Orion 52721171._sx318_sy475_

Publishing Date: 14th May 2020

Source:  Received from the publisher, thank you!

Number of pages: 416

Genre: General Fiction (Adult)

 Buy the Book: Kindle | Paperback | Paperback (out on 03.09.2020)

 

 

 

Synopsis:

George and Stella’s marriage is over. They can’t decide exactly when that happened (Was it the coke can? Or that comment about Jurassic Park?), but they both agree that it has.

A couple of months after the separation, Stella’s mother, Margaret “The Force of Nature” Foy sends out invites for her murder mystery anniversary party – with George on the invite list. Stella hasn’t told her parents about the divorce, she couldn’t bring herself to. And with her father’s business shutting down, Margaret’s recent cancer diagnosis, and some very odd behaviour from her older sister Helen, now is clearly not a good time.

All they have to do is make it through the day without their secret being discovered. And in doing so, they may find each other again – or see their past and future both go up in flames…

Rating: five-stars

 

Stella and George have just separated, and it’s really not nice between them at the moment. They’re about to tell Stella’s family about the forthcoming divorce but they’ve just been invited to Stella’s parents to celebrate their wedding anniversary. Margaret, who is hosting the party, has written a murder mystery and there is no option of not coming, especially as she was diagnosed with cancer and everybody knows that it’s, in fact, a farewell party for her. So no way Stella and George can tell them about the separation – they simply have to go and pretend nothing is wrong. But as it turns out, there are many things that are more than wrong, not only in Stella and George’s relationship. It quickly becomes clear that the whole family has been hiding secrets and truths are being held back… But we all know that the truth always comes out, at the least appropriate moment…

I absolutely adore this author’s approach to family and family dynamics – she sees things how they really are and finds the most absurd elements, presenting us with a brilliant, take – no – prisoners drama/comedy with endearing characters that are sharply written and brilliantly developed. The characters were really written in a great way and I quickly found myself totally immersed in their lives, laughed at their jokes, rolled my eyes at their quirks and them behaving in a way that was, yes, sometimes irritating and childish – shortly, I fell for them even if they fed me up to my back teeth.
I was prepared for it to be a Stella and George story but it turned out that they have a huge family – but the more, the merrier! Margaret is hosting the party to celebrate the anniversary with her husband Tommy, and she’s the one who has written the play. Tommy is obsessed with his shop that he has handed over to his son – in – law. Stella and George are on the verge of divorce and Helen is on the verge of a nervous breakdown – the story is told through their points of view and it quickly becomes clear that there is so much more to them all, and that they all have their own secrets which they’re guarding, hiding and protecting. The characters’ voices are distinctive, strong and different and they are all so vivid and so full of life, and it’s really easy to picture them all.

It was a hugely entertaining read filled with complex and complicated relationships and very sharp observed. I absolutely loved the circle the book did, beginning and winding down with the same characters, and also the meeting in the supermarket has given the story a kind of a wrap – up, giving me my dream conclusion, leaving me totally satisfied. And I love the chosen title – when you read the book you will so appreciate it!

The banter between characters is good, guys, it’s so good in fact that it is incredibly easy to visualise the scene, to hear the characters talking to each other. And it was really easy to relate to the characters, to feel what they’re going through and it quickly becomes crystal clear that there is so much more to every single one of them than you can think at first. Caroline Hulse has a great way with words, her writing style immediately catches your attention and draws you into the story. Her words are sharp, honest and genuine and she can perfectly well capture family dynamics and all kinds of relationships. But she doesn’t exaggerate in her descriptions, and even the most crazy things that happen in the book still seem believable, like things that could happen to you and your family.

The idea of the family murder mystery dinner party was absolutely my cup of tea, I had a pleasure to attend such a dinner (though not a family party!) once and it was such a great fun, and really, you can learn TONS about other people during such party. I was maybe hoping for a real murder in this story to be honest, I think Ms Hulse is able to pull something like this off, but with all the other drama I could live without real corpse – there was enough of other events and little fires everywhere to keep me glued to the pages.

I loved Caroline Hulse’s debut novel, “The Adults”, and “Like a House on Fire” was one of my most anticipated books this year – I literally couldn’t wait to get this book in my hands and to start reading, and let me tell you, the book doesn’t disappoint. It’s as good as the author’s first novel and already full of Ms Hulse’s trademark sharp, astute and straight on point observations and down – to – earth approach to reality. It is a perfect blend between fun and serious and the underlying themes of sadness and seriousness are injected with the most perfect dry and dark humour. It was an addictive, entertaining and thought – provoking read and Caroline Hulse is already at the top of my auto – buy authors.

Where We Belong by Anstey Harris

Where We Belong by Anstey Harris

 

Publisher: Simon & Schuster 49128139._sy475_

Publishing Date: 14th May 2020

Source:  Received from the publisher, thank you!

Number of pages: 400

Genre: General Fiction (Adult)

 Buy the Book: Kindle | Paperback

 

 

 

 

Synopsis:

One summer.
One house.
One family learning to love again.

Cate Morris and her son, Leo, are homeless, adrift. They’ve packed up the boxes from their London home, said goodbye to friends and colleagues, and now they are on their way to ‘Hatters Museum of the Wide Wide World – to stay just for the summer. Cate doesn’t want to be there, in Richard’s family home without Richard to guide her any more. And she knows for sure that Araminta, the retainer of the collection of dusty objects and stuffed animals, has taken against them. But they have nowhere else to go. They have to make the best of it.

But Richard hasn’t told Cate the truth about his family’s history. And something about the house starts to work its way under her skin.
Can she really walk away, once she knows the truth?

Rating: five-stars

 

Cate has been struggling since her husband Richard died, moreover so as she’s been made redundant and she and her and Richard’s son Leo must now leave their London place and move into Richard’s family home, at least for the summer. But actually, it’s not your usual, normal home – it’s a museum with some rooms where they can stay. A museum full of menagerie of dioramas, mounted animals, beautiful gardens, glass – domed library. Its caretaker Araminta Buchan is not too happy with their arrival, though while cold and stiff with Cate she’s much softer towards Leo. She tells things how they are: the museum is under threat of closure. Is it now on Leo, the descendant of Colonel Hugo Lyons – Morris, to save the place? Are they going to learn more about the family that Richard wanted nothing to do with?

The more I read, the more invested in the story I was and the more I adored this book. It is this kind of novel that has this magical “something” that you look for in your books, that pulls you in and doesn’t let you go, the best kind of “something”. I have never came across such a museum and at the beginning it was really hard to imagine it, but with Ms Harris’s beautiful, vivid descriptions it quickly changed. Still, the idea was such a novelty to me and I think it was a real breath of fresh air. Hugo, Leo’s grandfather, was an explorer and then a collector, bringing many species of animals back from his travels, as he wanted to show people who weren’t able to travel the world. The way the past was reflected here was so clever, and it added so much to this book.

The characters are all so well written, they simply feel like living and breathing people, and all of them had their own story to tell. The author wasn’t afraid of challenging them and often putting them in difficult situations, situations that seemed impossible to be solved, and letting them to take the lead, to show how strong they actually are and how much passion and determination they hide.

It is beautifully written, almost poetic but still the language is so modern and up – to – date, and the words flow so seamlessly, and you just want to read, and read and read, they’re so well – rounded and they work so well together, creating a vivid and colourful story. The author immediately draws you into the heart of the book, transports you into the characters’ world and you feel as if you knew them personally. Yes, it was a slight slow – burner, however there was always something happening in this story, and I think that the end was than quite filled with action and events and all the secrets have actually came out in the end, but believe me, it doesn’t mean that it is rushed, because it’s not. It simply wraps everything together and ties up all the loose ends, leaving you satisfied but sad that the book came to its peak.

“Where We Belong” brilliantly describes and captures all kind of complex relationships and touches on all possible emotions and feelings, addressing some heavier issues such as mental health and grief. It was a moving, poignant but also heart – warming and uplifting tale, a story about the ups and downs of having a family, about second chances and actually never losing hope. The characters were growing and evolving, the descriptions made your imagination soar and there was much depth hidden between the pages. There was also an element or two of mystery and the pace of unveiling the secrets was perfect. It was not absolutely unpredictable, however there are things that you won’t probably be able to guess before they’re revealed. I think that this novel is even better that the author’s debut offering, which was also brilliant, so it’s really telling something. Highly recommended!

 

The Switch by Beth O’Leary

The Switch by Beth O’Leary

 

Publisher: Quercus 41xy7rgxuwl._sx330_bo1204203200_

Publishing Date: 16th April 2020

Source:  Received from the publisher, thank you!

Number of pages: 400

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

 Buy the Book:  Kindle | Hardcover

| Paperback (out on 21.01.2021)

 

 

 

Synopsis:

Eileen is sick of being 79. Leena’s tired of life in her twenties. Maybe it’s time they swapped places…

When overachiever Leena Cotton is ordered to take a two-month sabbatical after blowing a big presentation at work, she escapes to her grandmother Eileen’s house for some overdue rest. Eileen is newly single and about to turn eighty. She’d like a second chance at love, but her tiny Yorkshire village doesn’t offer many eligible gentlemen.

Once Leena learns of Eileen’s romantic predicament, she proposes a solution: a two-month swap. Eileen can live in London and look for love. Meanwhile Leena will look after everything in rural Yorkshire. But with gossiping neighbours and difficult family dynamics to navigate up north, and trendy London flatmates and online dating to contend with in the city, stepping into one another’s shoes proves more difficult than either of them expected.

Leena learns that a long-distance relationship isn’t as romantic as she hoped it would be, and then there is the annoyingly perfect – and distractingly handsome – school teacher, who keeps showing up to outdo her efforts to impress the local villagers. Back in London, Eileen is a huge hit with her new neighbours, but is her perfect match nearer home than she first thought?

Rating: five-stars

 

79 year old Eileen Cotton suddenly finds herself alone, as her husband Wade leaves her for another woman. She’s not grieving, oh no, she’s in need to jazz up her life and maybe find a new love, but – sadly – in her tiny village Hamleigh – in – Harksdale, there are slim pickings. Meanwhile, her workaholic grand – daughter Leena Cotton experiences a panic attack during a huge presentation for her company, so they order her to take two months leave. Not knowing what to do with her free time, she decides to visit her grandmother. After learning her grandmother’s dilemma, Leena suggest for them to swap places for eight weeks – she will move into her grandmother’s house, taking on all her chores, projects and responsibilities, while Eileen moves into Leena’s flat, together with her flatmates Fitz and Martha, and try to get her love life under control in London, the city of nearly nine million. Perfect plan, right? Or not?

Beth O’Leary has created living and breathing characters that I couldn’t help but immediately fell for. They feel so real and close to life, they’re witty and charming but they also make mistakes and jump to conclusions. And really, standing ovation to the author for creating Eileen, finally an older character who is wise and who has experienced so much in her life but IS NOT patronising, is not meh, is not all sugar – instead is full of humour, wisdom, is strong and quirky. I adored her.
The characters grow so much in this story, and not only our main ones but also the background bunch. They were all interesting and unforgettable, and their stories relatable and affecting, and you will quickly find yourself involved in their lives.

The author wasn’t shy of complicating the characters’ lives, making them difficult. Both of the Cotton women, as well as Leena’s mother and Eileen’s daughter, are in the throes of loss and grief and they don’t know how to process it, especially Leena, who estranged herself from her mother, inculpating her of everything what has happened. But she also gives them a breath of fresh air, new possibilities and chances, and also challenges that will give them the opportunity to come to terms with their grief. I really enjoyed the way the author tackled this particular part of the plot, showing how grief can affect even the most close knit family units and your mental health.

The storyline was simple, and yes, it does sound like something that you’ve seen/read before but it is one of the strengths of this book, and well, would you believe that something like this can happen? Beth O’Leary has written it with confidence, sprinkling the switch with tons of humour and emotions. While Eileen used her organisational skills in London, trying to establish the Silver Shoreditch Social Club and braving the world of internet dating, Leena is left to deal with not only with a long list of errands, projects and activities (like walking the local teacher Jackson’s quirky Labrador puppy, getting involved in the Neighbourhood Watch and organising the May Day celebrations), but also with Eileen’s friends who don’t immediately take to her own ideas, and they include the greatest bunch of eclectic, eccentric and chaotic pensioners who also have their own, sometimes very deep and serious, problems.

There are many subplots running through the novel but you will never lose the plot or feel confused – oh no, they made the novel so much more deeper, entertaining and thought – provoking. Yes, it brilliantly incorporated some more serious issues, and I’m not only thinking about grief and loss but also looking at loneliness, domestic abuse, mental health and cheating, handled with gentleness and sensitivity.

I can’t say that this book was as exceptionally wonderful as the author’s debut novel “The Flatshare” (this is the book I talked about in my B2 German exam, we were supposed to choose a topic and talk about it, and yes, I’ve chosen the one about my favourite book, and well, taking into consideration that I read over 120 books a year truly says something, don’t you think? Yes, I’ve got the best possible note in speaking, they couldn’t stop me talking about “The Flatshare”) but it was very, very close and in my opinion it fully deserves 5 big, fat stars – well, I at least didn’t want to miss a single word and I was absolutely, totally captured. But Beth O’Leary proved with her second novel that she can for sure write – moreover, she can write brilliant, refreshing books, that she has already found her unique, distinctive voice, and what have we all been reading before Beth O’Leary??? With this novel, she has really shown that she has found her place in our favourite genre and I (don’t want to sound ungrateful!) am already looking for her next offering.

“The Switch” is a book about love, family, loss and grief, friendship, stepping outside your own comfort zones and find the courage, and this all brilliantly intertwined with the lovely community spirit, that Beth O’Leary also managed to make special, genuine and honest without losing the feeling of a real tiny village where everybody knows everybody’s business.
It was heart-warming and uplifting and this kind of book when you want to read is as quickly as possible but you also don’t want it to end. I loved it, from the beginning to the end, it’s such a feel – good and uplifting read – highly recommended!

How Not To Be A Loser by Beth Moran

How Not To Be A Loser by Beth Moran

 

Publisher: Boldwood Books 52652899._sy475_

Publishing Date: 24th March 2020

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

Number of pages: 346

Genre: Romance, Women’s Fiction

 Buy the Book:  Kindle | Paperback

 

 

 

 

Synopsis:

Amy Piper is a loser. She’s lost her confidence, her mojo and her way.

But one thing she has never lost is her total love for her thirteen-year-old son Joey, and for his sake she knows it’s time for a change. But first she has to be brave enough to leave the house…

What she needs are friends and an adventure. And when she joins a running group of women who call themselves The Larks, she finds both. Not to mention their inspiring (and rather handsome) coach, Nathan.

Once upon a time Amy was a winner – at life, at sport and in love. Now, with every ounce of strength she has left, she is determined to reclaim the life she had, for herself and for Joey. And who knows, she might just be a winner again – at life, sport, and love, if she looks in the right places…

Uplifting, funny and unforgettable, Beth Moran returns with a joyous tale of friendship, love and facing your fears. 

Rating: five-stars

 

Amy Piper has it all.
Or rather, Amy Piper had it all. Her number one priority used to be to win swimming race after another.
Fourteen years later, Amy is agoraphobic, battling anxiety disorders, not having been able to leave her house since several years. But she wants to be a better mother to her 13 – year – old son Joey, to be able to go out and see him winning swimming race after another, to take him to swimming practice, to be involved in outside world. She wants him to be proud of her, and so she decides to put a plan into action – this is how “How Not to be a Loser” plan commences. But is such a written deal all what it takes to overcome fear?

So, I’m not sure why but it was really hard for me to get into the book. I kept glancing at the cover to see if it is really Beth Moran’s novel because, well, I’ve never had such problems before with her story, and I really started to get worried. I couldn’t connect with the main character, I couldn’t get into the story and I started to feel desperate because I couldn’t understand why. It took me long, longer than I was expecting, to completely warm to the story and to get into Amy’s head. To be honest, it was over the 50% mark that the story started to flow for me, that it gained the pace and it’s only then that I started to feel the tale, and then – well, then I couldn’t put it down. I wanted to know where the story is going to take me, wanted to know more, and well, I was simply rooting for Amy.

The way the author has got into Amy’s head and described her emotional journey is absolutely incredible. Amy has lost so much in her life, it was really heart – breaking to see, and now all these anxiety issues are controlling her life as well. She feels angry with herself that she isn’t able to share the most important moments with Joey, that this anger is not enough for her to do something. It is going to take a lot of time and help of many people, and many rules broken for her to be able to finally move on, and it was so, so uplifting to see, you will really want to give Amy a standing ovation. I loved to discover what Amy has hidden inside herself, seeing her growing into confidence, laughing at her jokes, applauding at every step she took towards overcoming her fears, enjoying her one – liners. You can’t not to fall for Amy, it’s simple like that, and you’ll want all the best for her. I loved how un – selfish she was, how – even if it was so hard to her – she always tried to find the best solution, how fair she tried to stay no matter what.
Her relationship with Joey was perfect, and this how, for his sake, she decided to overcome her fears was inspiring and huge.

The characters were absolutely fantastic, so real and true to life, with their troubles and problems and all the ups and downs that life brings.The great support network that Amy has built for herself was one of the highlights of the book. The characters brought so much to the story, not only fun and humour, but also depth, as all of them had their own important story to tell – stories that were thought – provoking and heart – breaking. Their shenanigans were something that made me laugh out loud, and their problems made me cry together with them. There was so much understanding and empathy in all those women, and it was so uplifting to see they were there for each other, no matter what.

Beth Moran has such wonderful way with words and can brilliantly write about feelings, without making the book too patronising or repetitive. She brings compassion, empathy, friendship to the pages, and she has so much understanding for her characters. “How Not to be a Loser” is an inspirational story that will make you want to put on your trainers and go for a run. It is about second chances, friendship, love and hope, hilarious and thought – provoking, and even with some of my initial issues with the book I ended loving it with all my heart. Highly recommended!

 

Grown Ups by Marian Keyes

Grown Ups by Marian Keyes

 

Publisher: Michael Joseph 43779862

Publishing Date: 6th February 2020

Source:  Purchased

Number of pages: 656

Genre: General Fiction (Adult)

 Buy the Book: Kindle | Hardcover

 

 

 

 

Synopsis:

They’re a glamorous family, the Caseys.

Johnny Casey, his two brothers Ed and Liam, their beautiful, talented wives and all their kids spend a lot of time together – birthday parties, anniversary celebrations, weekends away. And they’re a happy family. Johnny’s wife, Jessie – who has the most money – insists on it.

Under the surface, though, conditions are murkier. While some people clash, other people like each other far too much . . .

Everything stays under control until Ed’s wife Cara, gets concussion and can’t keep her thoughts to herself. One careless remark at Johnny’s birthday party, with the entire family present, starts Cara spilling out all their secrets.

In the subsequent unravelling, every one of the adults finds themselves wondering if it’s time – finally – to grow up?

Rating: five-stars

 

“Grown Ups” introduces us to the life of Casey Family, three brothers with their wives and assorted children. There is Johnny, the good – looking one, married to the powerhouse Jessie who has two children from her previous marriage to Johnny’s best friend, and now her and Johnny have three children of their own. Jessie is the one running the most successful business and taking care of the family’s get – togethers, funding all the trips and other holidays. Ed is married to Cara. Cara works at the Ardglass Hotel and she’s the one looking after all of the tricky guests. They have two children and Cara herself has a huge problem. And there is Liam, the youngest one, a famous runner once, divorced and with two little girls, who has now married for the second time – the lovely Nell, free – spirited and artistic, and who now starts to discover that maybe she doesn’t love Liam as much as she has thought?
The book opens at one of the family’s get – togethers, Johnny’s birthday, shortly after Cara’s concussion – as a result she starts to reveal all the hidden secrets and truths that are going to rock many, many lives…

After the introduction – that is truly promising – the narrative goes back six months, and slowly takes us back to the starting point, i.e. to Johnny’s birthday, where everything began, to bring us back to present – but before we arrive there, there is a long and bumpy road, full of secrets, uncomfortable truths, hilarious and poignant moments.

What Marian Keyes can do perfectly well is to create her characters. They are full of flaws, with secrets and telling lies, they are dysfunctional but they feel human, realistic and believable. They make mistakes, they follow their instincts but the things that make them tick, that drive their actions are absolutely believable – and I think this is what makes them feel so special yet so normal.
While right at the beginning I felt really overwhelmed with the number of characters, and the family tree at the beginning of the book didn’t help, moreover, it has somehow complicated everything even more, I relatively quickly came to terms with who is who and to whom they belong and what is their background story. It takes time, but it is a huge book, and I enjoyed this pace, with the author giving me the chance to really get to know each of the characters.

The author really knows how to create relatable, deep characters that have their own distinctive voices. I think it is done deliberately that truly the children are more grown – up as the adults there, putting them in the right place every now and again, showing them they need to face the reality and truth, to take responsibility. I loved the way they were forced to stop messing around and really embrace their problems, through Cara having a concussion and starting to tell things how they really are – brilliant idea, and such a breath of fresh air.

This book was an epic family saga, digging deep into the shambled relationships and lives, telling things how they really are. I really liked the depth and details of every relationship and of every character life, it may not be a thing for every single reader, but I truly appreciated and enjoyed it. The length and depth the author went to describe the individual members of the family, dig behind the harmonious facade and reveal all the tension, resentment and secrets was exceptional and worked perfectly well. The author has brilliantly balanced sadness with humour, poignant moments with wit and sarcasm, and I loved this mix. She also has this incredible talent to easily pull you into the characters’ worlds. “Grown Ups” was a book touching upon so many issues – mental health, addiction, love, hate, grief, hope, love, secrets and family dynamics. Highly recommended!

Away with the Penguins by Hazel Prior / Blog Tour

Away with the Penguins by Hazel Prior

 

Publisher: Bantam Press cover180579-medium

Publishing Date: 19th March 2020

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

Number of pages: 352

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

 Buy the Book:  Kindle | Hardcover | Paperback (out on 12.11.2020)

 

 

Synopsis:

Veronica McCreedy is about to have the journey of a lifetime . . .

Veronica McCreedy lives in a mansion by the sea. She loves a nice cup of Darjeeling tea whilst watching a good wildlife documentary. And she’s never seen without her ruby-red lipstick.

Although these days Veronica is rarely seen by anyone because, at 85, her days are spent mostly at home, alone.

She can be found either collecting litter from the beach (‘people who litter the countryside should be shot’), trying to locate her glasses (‘someone must have moved them’) or shouting
instructions to her assistant, Eileen (‘Eileen, door!’).

Veronica doesn’t have family or friends nearby. Not that she knows about, anyway . . . And she has no idea where she’s going to leave her considerable wealth when she dies.

But today . . . today Veronica is going to make a decision that will change all of this.

Rating:  five-stars

 

Veronica McCreedy is 86, wealthy, living in a mansion in Ayrshire. She’s divorced and except for Eileen, her housekeeper, she has no – one. But she loves her Darjeeling tea, hates doors being left open and adores wildlife documentaries on TV. She has built a wall around herself but now, contemplating her life and wondering what to do with her money, she discovers there is a grandson, Patrick, living in Bolton. But as the first contact is rather disappointing, Veronica sets her mind on saving penguins and travel to Antarctica. But who is going to save whom? Veronica penguins or penguins Veronica?

I wanted to read this book so much not because – like so many of the other reviewers – of the penguins, though I must admit that it was also a very catchy angle, and if you think that the penguins are used as a metaphor or something, well, no, there are cute penguins overload, and I think it’s a brilliant idea! – so yes, maybe because of the penguins as well, but I also loved Hazel’s debut novel. I actually rated it with 5 stars, so am not sure what to do with this book as I enjoyed it even more than “Ellie and the Harpmaker”.

The story is told through Veronica and Patrick’s points of view, and the characters slowly but steadily grew on me, especially Patrick that, I must admit, probably misjudged a bit. Veronica was a brilliant character, a woman who really knew what she wanted. She was feisty, determined, persistent and actually very stubborn but in a way that was not so obvious. I mean, it was obvious that she’s stubborn, and she always got what she wanted, but she accomplished those things with a lot of charm. Oh well, OK then, she did whatever it took to get ahead but she didn’t hurt anybody, even if she took no notice of others’ opinions. It was simply somehow funny.
Throughout the story we also learn about Veronica’s past and see what it was that shaped her and made her the person she is now – lonely and harsh in judging. But she used to be so full of life and joy, and it was heart – breaking to see what has happened to her. However, deep down I always thought that she was always a good person at heart, it was life that simply stopped her believing in people, and she proved me right, giving the relationship with Patrick a chance, with the little help of Pip the penguin and the lovely Terry.
It’s very easy to make assumptions about Patrick, just like Veronica, and me too, but if you give him a chance, you’ll see there is so much more to him that meets the eye.

The writing style is so easy and chatty, and I liked it even better than in the first book – it simply seemed gentler and was so pleasant, as if the author has found her real voice this time, or felt more confident. It is vivid and warm, bringing the places and characters to life. The story is so well researched, the hard work that author put into it is evident and it paid off, as I truly enjoyed every single word and the descriptions of Antarctica, the conditions and the penguins were exquisite.

You actually don’t have to love penguins to adore this novel. This whole story oozes with charm and warmth and it was a lovely, warm and uplifting book about celebrating life and second chances, about love and loss and life altogether. It’s full of humour, but it is also poignant, so be prepared that you may shed a tear or two. There is also an environmental message in the book that I, as an animal lover, enjoyed very much, and I was truly quickly sold on Veronica because of her approach to animals. It is, without a doubt, one of the most delightful and cheerful and clever books I have read in a long time. Highly recommended!

 

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Messy, Wonderful Us by Catherine Isaac / Blog Tour

Messy, Wonderful Us by Catherine Isaac

 

Publisher: Simon & Schuster 48543139._sy475_

Publishing Date: 5th March 2020

Source:  Received from the publisher, thank you!

Number of pages: 400

Genre: General Fiction (Adult)

 Buy the Book:  Kindle | Paperback

 

 

 

 

Synopsis:

What if loving someone means keeping a secret that will break your heart?

In late 1983, a letter arrives from Italy, containing secrets so unthinkable that it is hidden away, apparently forever. More than three decades later, it is found . . . by the last person who was ever supposed to see it.

When Allie opens an envelope in her grandmother’s house, it changes everything she knows about her family – and herself.

With the truth liable to hurt those she loves most, she hires a private detective to find out what happened to her late mother in the summer before Allie was born. Taking leave from her job as a research scientist, she is led to the sun-drenched shores of Lake Garda, accompanied by her best friend Ed. But the secrets that emerge go far beyond anything they were expecting. Now, Allie must find the courage to confront her family’s tangled past and reshape her own future.

Messy, Wonderful Us is an enthralling and emotional story of human loss, love, friendship and the mystery that binds them all together from the bestselling author
of You Me Everything.

Rating: five-stars

 

Allie’s life is comfortable. She has a job that she loves and family that she adores. However, one day, she finds a letter that she was never supposed to find, and her life changes – suddenly she doesn’t feel like she belongs. She’s desperate to uncover the secret from her mother’s past, and as her grandmother doesn’t want to help, she decides to go to Italy, on a trip to unearth the truth. Her best friend Ed, who doesn’t feel like his marriage to Julia is working anymore, needs a break to think things over, and as he speaks Italian, he decides to travel with Allie. They both need this time out but they have no idea that they’re going to get more than they bargained for – but at what costs?

The story basically changes narration between three characters. Allie and Ed are the heroes of the present, and there are also diary entries from the past from an unnamed character, a young woman, telling her tragic story. Initially we can think the subplots have nothing in common, but the more we read, the tighter all the threads become, until there comes a moment when everything is beautifully wrapped up and explained. The characters are like living and breathing people, credible, believable and full of flaws, and yes, I think you can say they have a messy life, but nevertheless it’s still a wonderful life. They all simply feel honest and natural, their actions are not forced and the banter between them is genuine, and it’s a real joy to have such characters for once.

I really liked how well the author has balanced her plot, making it complex, filling it with various elements. The story covers many topics and touches upon many issues, and while they are serious and heavier, the book doesn’t feel sad. The overall atmosphere is light and full of hope. The author writes with gentleness, sensitivity and insight about adoption and domestic abuse. She explores family dynamics, father – daughter relationship and friendship in a dynamic, modern and surprising way. The writing style is so vivid, especially the parts the author takes us on the journey to Italy – I had a feeling of being there, seeing the things together with Allie and Ed. I think we can easily say that it is a slow – burner, in this sense that it takes its time to peel off all the layers, explore all the stories it hides on the pages, but it works perfectly, creating a compelling and complex read.

I must admit that this important twist came out of the blue for me – I actually guessed it at the same moment as the character did. I really didn’t see it coming, it came and hit me on the head, and I had this eureka – moment and everything became clear then. Needless to say, there is not the only twist, there are plenty of them, it’s an intriguing read, and the way to the end is bumpy and curvy. I really liked how the author has written this story – while it is sweet, and while it is a bit predictable and romantic, it is absolutely not overdone and there are really enough turns to have made gallop through the pages.

“Messy, Wonderful Us” is a story about love, grief, forgiveness and all emotions accompanying those feelings, creating us – messy and wonderful and unique, shaping our lives. It’s another winner from Catherine Isaac, a little gem of a book, hiding real treasures inside, and discovering them was a real joy. I fell in love with the setting, the characters and the idea, and the execution of it was perfect – it made me gasp and it made me laugh, and it’s a sign of a great book. Truly recommended.

 

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One Moment by Linda Green / Blog Tour

One Moment by Linda Green

 

Publisher: Quercus 43241094._sy475_

Publishing Date: 5th March 2020

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

Number of pages: 400

Genre: General Fiction (Adult)

 Buy the Book:  Kindle | Paperback

 

 

 

 

Synopsis:

Finn and Kaz are about to meet for the first time.

Ten-year-old Finn, a quirky, sensitive boy who talks a lot and only eats at cafes with a 5-star hygiene rating, is having a tough time at school and home.

Outspoken Kaz, 59, who has an acerbic sense of humour and a heart of gold, is working at the café when Finn and his mum come in.

They don’t know it yet, but the second time they meet will be a moment which changes both of their lives forever . . .

Rating: five-stars

 

Ten – year – old Finn Rook – Carter struggles at school, suffering at the hands of his classmates who make fun of his looks and the way he behaves. He only has one real friend, Lottie. 59 – year – old Kaz Allen is quirky, bouncy and fun – loving, even though life has never treated her in a nice way. She works in a cafe and cares for her brother Terry who has schizophrenia.
Finn and Kaz should have never met. But fate has other ideas. And this meeting, and a tragedy, is going to change their lives.

I must admit, I was a bit confused with the story as I was expecting another psychological thriller and I only realised a bit later that the book is different to the previous ones. I didn’t read a synopsis – I mean, it is Linda Green’s book, so no matter what she writes about is going to be captivating and thought – provoking, and yes, the story took me a bit by surprise, but quickly it also stole my heart and captured my whole attention, and I can tell you that I absolutely loved it. Every single word of it.

The characters are so well written – I have experienced all the feelings and emotions together with them. You want to hug Finn and shake his father. You want to tell Kaz that she’s absolutely rocking it. And the more you get to know them all, the more you empathise and like them. I enjoyed seeing how the lives of virtual strangers come together, I think Linda Green has done in a brilliant and clever way.
The story is told from Finn and Kaz’s points of view, in alternating chapters. Finn is different from other boys, and he realises it, and is suffering at school as other children are bullying him. It is only his friend Lottie and his mum Hannah, that he loves so much, that understand him and always support and comfort him. His dad Martin prefers rather cold approach, expecting from Finn all the things that he’s supposed to do and like – sit his SATs exams, like football. Kaz, who works in a cafe and looks after her brother who has schizophrenia, is such a special character! All of us needs such a Kaz in their lives – down – to – earth, seeing things how they really are and not afraid of telling how it is, but also compassionate and full of heart. The author has got into the characters’ heads and hearts and hats off for picturing the 10 – year – old Finn so brilliantly, for so wonderfully capturing his voice, letting us deep into his thoughts, allowing us to experience everything with him.

Also, the story alternates between “before” and “after”, and oh my god, I couldn’t wait to see what has actually happened before, but believe me, I regretted this. This turning point has changed everything and left me a sobbing mess. It may be a bit confusing at the beginning, especially as you, like me, think something totally different to this what has really happened but you’ll quickly get used to the changes in time.

I was drawn into this story, right from the start to the end. This compelling novel is incredibly genuine and brutally honest, showing clearly the unfairness and unreasonableness of benefits system, mental health care, “right” people at the “right” places which results in ignoring the real victims. I’ve honestly got belly ache from only thinking that those things are real and that people like Kaz and Finn must fight a battle every single day to survive.

The author writes with such a feeling about family dynamics, showing all the ups and downs of being in a relationship and having a child with special needs, but also about brother – sister relationship, about responsibility and how people try to do their best. It took me on a real rollercoaster journey of all kinds of feelings – I laughed, I cried, I nodded with agreement, I was incredibly angry, I felt hopeless. It doesn’t happen often, the more I appreciate what the author has done here.

“One Moment” covers such issues as bullying, mental health, poverty and unconditional love. Even though it is sad, it doesn’t feel depressing, it is also heart – warming with an overwhelming feeling of hope, and the kindness of some of the characters is so uplifting. Linda Green’s writing is tender and chatty, and she balances the sadness with many humorous moments, delivering a thought – provoking story. But be aware that it is a heart – breaking story, and this time I mean it, really. The end left me in pieces, literally. I cried and cried and couldn’t stop, and those were ugly tears, and I had to do whatever I could to not to wake my whole family up. It was so beautiful and so heart – wrenching. A book that shouldn’t be missed. Highly recommended!

 

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