The First Time I Saw You by Emma Cooper / Blog Tour

The First Time I Saw You by Emma Cooper

 

Publisher: Headline 45166792

Publishing Date: 9th January 2020

Source:  Received from the publisher, thank you!

Number of pages: 448

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

 Buy the Book: Kindle | Paperback

 

 

Synopsis:

From the author of The Songs of Us. Fans of Jojo Moyes and Lucy Dillon will love The First Time I Saw You by Emma Cooper.

Six-foot-two Irish man who answers to the name Samuel McLaughlin.
Has weak shins and enjoys show tunes.
If found, please return to Sophie Williams.

Before Sophie met Samuel she saw the world in grey.
Before Samuel met Sophie, he never believed in love at first sight.

When they first meet, something tells them they are meant to be.
But fate has other ideas.

Now they have lost each other and can’t see a way back.
But they’ve already changed each other’s lives in more ways
than they could have predicted…

Rating:  five-stars

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“The First Time I Saw You” introduces us to Sophie, at the first sight a career – driven young woman who knows what she wants. And to Samuel, an Irish living in America, working in IT. They both meet when Sophie is on business in Washington, in the middle of a thunderstorm, and they’re completely smitten with each other. They spent a wonderful week together and then the things get complicated.
Even though there is this wonderful sparkle between them, even though they can’t live without each other, they can’t be together. Or can they? Finding each other again is not easy…

I loved Emma Cooper’s debut novel but guys! I might have loved “The First Time I Saw You” even more! It is always with trepidation that I start reading the authors’ second book after their debut was so great, fearing that the new book won’t live up to my expectations, but it’s not the case with this novel. It blew my socks off, it left me in pieces and it left me feeling that there is always hope. So oh my word, please send help, because how to write a review that will do this book justice? Mission impossible, I’d say. Because this book was beautiful. It was everything. It has broken my heart, to mend it again, to break it again. It made me laugh out so loud and it made me sob – literally.

I can’t even start to explain how fantastic the characters were. I immediately fell in love with all of them, with Sophie and Samuel at the beginning and then with the rest, steadily being introduced to us.
Sophie was not, as we can think at the first sight, the raw and sharp businesswoman – she hides much, much more inside her, and the more I got to know her and her background, the more I found myself pinning for her. I don’t think that she has changed throughout the story – she was like this all the time, she only tried to hide this vulnerable side of herself from the world, she tried to forget about it herself, but the more life has been challenging her and her decisions, the more softer she looked for us. The events that have shaped her and made her close inside herself were truly riveting and heart – breaking.
Samuel was one and only, and his story was both tragic and uplifting but who stole the story completely were his parents, the fabulous Mrs and Mr McLaughlin – please let’s give them a standing ovation! Samuel’s father, with his kind heart and understanding and the best sense of humour in the world is every girl’s dream father – in – law, some of the things he said made me really cry with laughter, and some of the things he said and done made me simply cry, bringing lump to my throat. Actually, his whole family was the perfect, chaotic and absolutely accepting family you could wish for. It was moving to see how they tried to support Samuel, to encourage him to get on with life.
And please don’t forget Michael! Michael, that Samuel grows to rely on most of all. How can a thing make you smile so much, even in such dramatic circumstances!

The author has such a way with words! She writes about love at first sight and lost love but she also doesn’t forget to put all kinds of relationships into the heart of her story. We have a romantic affair, but we also have sibling love, parental love, friendship, relationships that are complicated but at the end of the day they are everything, they’re important and life is easier with people looking after each other.

Emma Cooper’s writing style is absolutely perfect. Yes, the book started in a rather slow way, and in the first few chapters the same events were repeated from the characters’ point of view, and I thought, oh – oh, what now? But then… But then it was like an avalanche, starting with a small snowball and gaining speed. I started to feel so invested in the story that I didn’t want to put it down for a single second. It had a huge impact on me, I lived and breathed together with the characters.

Emma has perfectly balanced the poignant, incredibly sad and heart – wrenching moments with laugh – out – loud, extremely funny moments, so really, don’t be surprised when you find yourself laughing through tears. Yes, altogether the story is actually not funny, it is full of misunderstanding, lost chances and opportunities, near – misses that I couldn’t believe seeing, thinking, oh no, how close have they been! It is deep, moving and complex, a real emotional rollercoaster but filled with a great and fantastic dose of – especially Irish – humour.

The magic of the writing is that the author took me on every trial together with the characters. I lived through them and I felt every single feeling – their disappointments, hope, setbacks and steps forwards. I was willing them and feeling for them, I care for them as if they were real people, and believe me, it doesn’t happen often, it’s a rare gift to be able to write the characters in such a way, to make them so alive.

It was a beautiful, heartfelt and emotional story, superbly written, vividly describing emotions and feelings in a way that I didn’t know you could describe. The characters were more than brilliantly developed and their stories were complex, multi – layered and coherent, not too sugary but also not too wishy – washy. It was a moving and inspiring tale, touching upon lost love, missed opportunities, relationships, friendships and unappreciated power of family, with sensitivity and lightness. It is full of kindness and the feeling that even when you think there is no hope, there is still a light at the end of the tunnel, you only have to believe it. 10 out of 5 stars and I can’t recommend it highly enough!

 

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The Fall and Rise of Sadie McQueen by Juliet Ashton / Blog Tour

The Fall and Rise of Sadie McQueen by Juliet Ashton

 

Publisher: Simon & Schuster 48997438._sy475_

Publishing Date: 26th December 2019

Source:  Received from the publisher, thank you!

Number of pages: 480

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

 Buy the Book: Kindle | Paperback

 

 

 

Synopsis:

This is a novel about community, love, laughter and healing. Think Cold Feet meets David Nicholls, with a dash of the joy of Jill Mansell added for good measure.

It doesn’t look like much from the outside, but Cherry Blossom Mews is a miraculous place. It’s somewhere that finds you, rather than the other way around.

Sadie McQueen has leased a double fronted space in this small cul de sac in a culturally diverse corner of central London. The cobbles muffle the noise of double-deckers roaring past the arched gates. Turn right and you are in a futuristic maze of corporate glass monoliths. Turn left and you see a wide street with many different houses. Towering above the mews are the degenerating tower blocks of an infamous estate. The old folks home and the nearby school are both in need of TLC; the private members’ club that set up shop in a listed Georgian building has been discreetly refurbished at huge expense.

Into this confusion comes Sadie. She fell in love with the street the moment she first twisted her ankle on its cobbles. Her double-fronted unit is now a spa. She has sunk all her money into the lease and refurbishment. She’s sunk all her hope into the carefully designed treatment rooms, the calm white reception space, the bijou flat carved out of the floor above.

Sadie has a mission to connect. To heal herself from tragedy. Sadie has wrapped the mews around her like a warm blanket, after unimaginable loss and unimaginable guilt. Her hard-won peace is threatened, not only by the prospect of the mews going under but by a man aptly named Hero who wakes up her comatose heart.
Sadie has a lot to give, and a lot to learn, not least that some ghosts aren’t ghosts at all.

Rating:  five-stars

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Sadie McQueen lives on Cherry Blossom Mews, in a community that – you quickly start to learn – is made up of people that are in troubles, have problems, tragic pasts, feel no hope, and even if they don’t realise this, the landlord of the mews has realised it and amassed all those lost souls together. The residents meet regularly at their association meetings where they are supposed to have an “agenda” but the meetings always end with gossip and exchanging news. They support each other incredibly, even if they do this without knowing this.
The little community means everything to Sadie. It is a place where she can heal her heart and start her life again after a tragic event in the past. She sets up Sakura, a spa, where she employs the incredibly honest and mouthy Fi and, even if she isn’t sure if it’s a good move, Cher, a sister to the local mafia – twins. And then U – Turn, a therapy centre for addicted moves to the mews, even with some opposition from the neighbours, and there is Hero, and Sadie has a chance to move with him, to come out of her shell, maybe even find love, but can she forgive herself for what has happened in the past?

It is really, really hard to write review for this book, I actually put it off for the last moment, a day or two before my stop on the blog tour, and the reason for this is very obvious – this book is so wonderful, this book is everything, this book is a gem of a read – what more can I say? I loved it from the beginning to the end, lived and breathed with the characters and yes, it left me in pieces but also feeling so positive.

Juliet Ashton can for sure write her characters, giving them incredibly huge personalities. The banter and interactions between them feel so real, raw and genuine. There is a whole eclectic bunch of them, all so different and with different personalities but all with strong, distinctive voices and you can’t help but immediately fell in love with all of them. Amber and her Yummy Mummy Cafe and Party Emporium, serving all things vegan and showing her perfect live on Instagram. Bob and Mrs. Bob with their cafe, Mary with the dogs, slowly learning about her family betrayal and regaining hope, running officially MOBuk charity shop and, unofficially, another charity that you’re going to learn about when you read the book, Hero with his broken marriage and privileged background, Cher and her notorious criminal twins, Michael with Qwerty bookshop, Fi, feisty, quirky and strong on the outside but so vulnerable inside. And there are some other characters, that I won’t mention but that are so important and significant to the plot – all of them were endearing, all of them broken, all of them needing each other and , deliberately or not, healing each other through their acceptance, friendship and compassion.
And Sadie, who is at the heart of this book, so brave and strong. The more I read, the more I loved this woman, my heart went to her. There were things in the past she’d rather forget, and honestly, if I were Sadie, I’m not sure I’d have enough strength and determination to get back up and try again. She, on the other hand, lost herself to find herself afresh, went where nobody knew her to build a new life for herself. I wished all the best for her, and seeing her coming across every new obstacle that life has been throwing her way, I wanted to give her a standing ovation. Learning about the horrors of her past and her losses helped to understand her wanting to be anonymous, not being able to open to new love, her terrible guilt but also it made me wish desperately that she’s going to find the highly deserved peace.

Each chapter starts with the invitation to the weekly Cherry Blossom Mews Residents Association meeting, and the more you read, the more you start to appreciate them, as they brilliantly capture the nature of the hosts. The meetings themselves are incredibly entertaining, fabulous parts of the book, where more gossip was shared than actual work done but there was so much heart in those meetings! And they actually tell the real stories of the characters, sharing their illnesses, betrayal, deaths, addictions and hopes, while dealt with empathy and understanding from the other residents, showing that also a community of generally strangers can be closer to you than your family. But of course, there are also things happening between the meetings, things that will make you smile, laugh, cry and start to believe that there is hope.

The book is full of poignant moments that are brilliantly written with humour added to them. It’s not too saccharine, not all sugar, and there isn’t always a happy end, and the balance between sad and funny, happy and heartbreak is absolutely perfectly measured. Sure, there were things that were too coincidental, and some that didn’t ring so true to me – though I don’t want to tell you what exactly it was, as I’m immediately going to spoil one of the biggest turns in the story – but really, everything happens for a reason, right, and it did work in this story perfectly well, as the plot was solid, thoughtful, well concocted and believable, even with the little hiccups.

“The Fall and Rise of Sadie McQueen” was a heart – breaking and heart – mending beautiful story about small community, about friendship, hope, love, loss and grief, filled with secrets, lies and misunderstandings, about finding support and friendship that is stronger than any other bonds. The author, as usual, touches upon many serious issues, she writes about alcoholism, abuse, addictions, social media but she writes with tons of understanding, without judging, giving us a wider spectrum. It’s a gorgeously written book and the characters were full of life, feelings and sentiments, being able to speak about emotions in a way I wasn’t even sure is possible. It shows life how it is, raw and brutal, full of surprises and twists that don’t always lead to happy ends. The book, the characters are going to stay with me for a long time, I will be recommending this book left and right – it’s a MUST read that deserves to be shouted about from the rooftops.

 

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One Winter Morning by Isabelle Broom

One Winter Morning by Isabelle Broom

 

Publisher: Penguin 43201773._sy475_

Publishing Date: 17th October 2019

Source:  Received from the publisher, thank you!

Number of pages: 400

Genre: General Fiction, Romance

 Buy the Book:  Kindle | Paperback

 

 

 

 

Synopsis:

On a winter morning she lost a piece of her heart. Can she find it?

Evangeline isn’t feeling festive this December.

The frost and fairy lights only remind her it’s been a year since she lost the mother who took her in as a baby and raised her.

She’s never felt more alone – until she discovers her birth mother’s identity. And where to find her.

A lifetime and thousands of miles have separated Evangeline and Bonnie. Now, travelling to New Zealand could be Evangeline’s chance to confront the woman who gave her up.

But is she ready for what she’ll find there?

The answers she’s been looking for, a new family to heal her . . . Or someone she could never have expected?

Rating:  five-stars

 

Genie isn’t feeling festive this year. She doesn’t feel great at all in fact. It’s almost a year after her adoptive mum died in an accident Genie is blaming herself for. Encouraged by her adoptive dad to meet her birth mother Bonnie, hoping it will give her some answers and lessen the guilt and reconnect her with the world, Genie dares to start the journey around the world to New Zealand, where Bonnie lives. It could be a chance to confront the woman who gave her up but on the arrival Genie discovers that not only Bonnie embarked on a journey to England to probably find Genien but also meets Tui, a girl who’s going to change her whole world. Is she ready for what she’s going to discover?

I am so, so happy that this book has read like Isabelle’s debut novel, it was really close to perfection this time – there was this really hard to capture, and also to describe, feeling that you have in your heart and belly when reading, a feeling that makes the book a brilliant experience and I’m so glad to report to you that “One Winter Morning” is such a book. Isabelle Broom’s first novel was great and I loved it, then I had some problems with her next books and it made me feel desperately sad because I knew that she can write such great stories, and now she’s back with this newest release and I can’t stop praising it.

The author has so wonderfully and skilfully captured the whole range of emotions here – the book was oozing in them but it doesn’t mean that it felt too emotional, no, there was the right amount of them, to make it poignant without making it too sugary. There was love, loss, grief, friendship and hope, combined with challenges that we have to face every day. It was truly a magnificent read that easily transported me into the characters’ world.

The characters felt like living and breathing people, and of course I loved Genie immediately, what with her love of horses. Actually, I warmed to all of them quickly, right after getting to know them. But Genie was a great leading character, full of flaws as well but it made her even more realistic in my eyes, and her struggle to move forward was genuine. I adored being with her on this journey where she learns how to process her grief and learns how to trust in other people, that she’s not alone.
The chapters told from Genie’s point of view are intertwined with those told by Bonnie, which added a bit of mystery and kept me glued to the pages as I wanted to know what has really happened, and while it was not so hugely dramatic, just a normal story that could happen anytime and anywhere, Isabelle Broom managed to keep it intriguing enough, revealing something about Bonnie’s past and then switching the narration back to Genie, leaving me wanting more. Eventually, the two stories merge into one, and the ending made me feel really satisfied, I couldn’t wish for a better one.
Genie’s developing friendship with Kit and Tui were absolutely realistic and genuine, and those two were also adorable characters, I really liked what the author did with Tui’s character, loved her cheerfulness, openness and “jeez”.

Isabelle Broom is already known for the settings she chooses for her books, and this time she didn’t disappoint, taking us on a journey to New Zealand. Without making the book feel like a tourist guide, there were enough vivid, colourful descriptions of the places and beautiful scenery. It felt a bit different, to spent Christmas there where it’s actually summer, but it was a change.

“One Winter Morning” brilliantly touches upon the complicated and complex family relationships and dynamics even if the plot is simple and realistic – the thing the author has chosen to write about is probably happening right now, somewhere in the world. She managed to make it realistic, with a special touch of romance and humour. It was a lovely journey of new beginnings and finding yourself, heart – warming and charming that I highly recommend!

More Than Just Mum by Rebecca Smith

More Than Just Mum by Rebecca Smith

 

Publisher: One More Chapter 48228095._sy475_

Publishing Date: 7th December 2019

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

Number of pages: 368

Genre: General Fiction

 Buy the Book:  Kindle | Paperback (out on 20.02.2020)

 

 

 

Synopsis:

Hannah Thompson loves her family beyond words… but sometimes, just sometimes, she wishes she could be recognised as more than just ‘mum’.

Eldest son Dylan is soon to be flying the nest, sixteen-year-old Scarlet keeps asking about penalties for worryingly specific crimes, they’ve forgotten world book day and Benji absolutely will not be Where’s Wally again, and it’s at least two days before she and hubby Nick can sit down for Wine Wednesdays… and even longer until Fizzy Friday.

Determined to find herself a job that she loves, earn a whole lot of money and to have her teenagers respect her as ‘Hannah’ as well as ‘mum’; it might sound like a tall order, but she’s a mum on a mission.

A laugh-out-loud read of self-discovery, family chaos and love. Perfect for fans of Gill Sims, Fiona Gibson and Nick Spalding.

Rating: five-stars

 

Hannah Thompson is in her forties, married, has three children and is a biology teacher turned into an English teacher to a class nine students more interested in writing on each other’s clothes with felt – tip markers than learning about George Orwell. At home, her eldest son Dylan is soon off to University, the middle one, Scarlet, not only bothers her parents about her name all the time (have you noticed the single “t”? Exactly!) but also asks rather suspicious questions about specific crimes and the youngest Benji loses his hamster. Hannah and Nick try to not only to tame this chaos but also desperately need money. As an avid reader, Hannah decides to write a book and channels her inner E.L. James, writing erotica and researching some of the scenes on her husband… Can Hannah make it to Wine Wednesday?

It was probably one of the funniest books out there about motherhood, and what’s more, this humour didn’t feel forced, no, it run smoothly and naturally and this is what makes the book so brilliant. I loved how the author always found humour, even in the most dull situations but without being patronizing.

Hannah was a great character, and if you’re a mother yourself you’re so going to completely understand her and relate to her. She was actually my hero, juggling everything that comes her way, but still with her dreams, ambitions and with finding the courage to fight for her dream come true. And she’s not alone in all of this, as she is supported by her lovely, though rather clueless husband Nick, who’s always ready to help, even if it’s about trying new positions from Kamasutra for Hannah’s book, and her children who were brilliant and written in a great way, especially Scarlet with one “t”, but all three of them were really well developed: Dylan spends a lot of time in his room revising (albeit with his new girlfriend) and the lovely Benji is still the baby of the family, and even though he’s the patsy of his siblings, he’s still innocent and all he wants to do is play. I loved Hannah’s relationship with them, it was so natural and I would love to stay as cool as she was in some of the more burning situations with my daughter. She treated her children also like partners, depending on their age of course, and I could really put myself in her shoes, and my daughter talks also so much, and Hannah had it thrice multiplied. They are dysfunctional, full of flaws but it makes them so true to life and I really wouldn’t have wanted them different – they had me in hysterics, honestly. The banter, the interactions between them were not only incredibly funny but felt so natural and real.

The author is such a great story – teller! Her voice is distinctive and funny, and she describes Hannah’s life so well, vivid and colourful, with all its ups and downs, but making all the small details of daily live double interesting.

“More Than Just Mum” is an absolutely brilliant read to lighten up your day. And for me this book has ticked all the right boxes: humorous insights into real life, where the sink is full of dishes? Check. Lovely kids that are in turn absolutely charming and the next second whiny and argumentative? Check. Forgetting world Book Day costume? Check. Ordering take – aways because you can’t be bothered about cooking? Check. Rebecca Smith has written a book about me, ha – mum, wife, daughter, friend, teacher – how funny that usually all the scrummy mummies are teachers, no? Ladies – we are not ALONE! We all make mistakes, our children will do whatever they want, no matter what we say, we are absolutely not in control but it’s not the end of the world! And there is always place for love, friendship and fun. It was a warm, witty and laugh – out – loud story not beating around the bush what it’s like to be a mum and that I can’t recommend enough!

25 Days in December by Poppy Alexander / Blog Tour

25 Days in December by Poppy Alexander

 

Publisher: Orion 41hngkpvdel._sx321_bo1204203200_

Publishing Date: 28th November 2019

Source:  Received from the publisher, thank you!

Number of pages: 352

Genre: Women’s Fiction

 Buy the Book:  Kindle | Paperback

 

 

 

 

Synopsis:

You can’t plan for the unexpected…

Kate Potter used to know what happiness felt like.

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

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

Can one chance meeting change two lives?

Rating:  five-stars

 

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

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

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

 

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On the Up by Alice O’Keeffe / Blog Tour

On the Up by Alice O’Keeffe

 

Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton 48269657._sy475_

Publishing Date: 14th November 2019

Source:  Received from the publisher, thank you!

Number of pages: 336

Genre: General Fiction (Adult)

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

 

 

 

Synopsis:

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

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

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

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

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

Rating:  five-stars

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Things Can Only Get Better by David M. Barnett

 

Publisher: Trapeze 46019524

Publishing Date: 14th November 2019

Source:  Received from the publisher, thank you!

Number of pages: 336

Genre: General Fiction (Adults)

 Buy the Book:  Kindle | Paperback

 

 

 

Synopsis:

*FROM THE INTERNATIONALLY BESTSELLING AUTHOR OF CALLING MAJOR TOM*

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

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

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

Rating: five-stars

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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