Dinner Party by Tracy Bloom

Dinner Party by Tracy Bloom

 

 

40794610Publisher: Bookouture

Publishing Date: 26th September 2018

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

Number of pages: 330

Genre: Humour, Women’s Fiction

 Buy the Book: Kindle | Paperback

 

 

 

Synopsis:

Never has an unexpected guest caused such chaos!

Three couples take it in turns to host a monthly dinner party.

Beth, Sarah and Marie have been friends forever. Now they are grown up, with busy lives, busy husbands, busy kids… but they still find time to meet up over dinner once a month. A cosy, comfortable gathering of happy couples – or so they thought.

Until one night, someone brings along a last-minute guest whose wife has just left him.

Simon is standing on the doorstep in floods of tears. While the women do their best to console him, their husbands feel the need to mark their territory.

And as Simon becomes more involved with the group, his presence changes everything these three couples thought they knew about each other, leading to a final dinner party that no-one will ever forget.

From Amazon chart bestseller Tracy Bloom, Dinner Party is a funny and moving read that will make you see your marriage and friendships in a whole new light… and make you think twice about inviting your best mates round for dinner. Perfect for fans of Marian Keyes, Nick Spalding and Gill Sims.

Rating: three-stars

Beth, Sarah and Marie have been friends since school. Now, once a month, they and their husbands, that truly don’t have anything in common except their wives being friends, meet at one of their places for a dinner party, that usually run without mishaps and in a nice atmosphere. However, this time, when it’s Beth and Chris’s turn, he forgets to tell his wife that he has invited his new friend Simon. Simon and his wife have just split up and he’s been since heartbroken. To be honest, nobody is too happy with the new addition but when he arrives, the three female friends find themselves drawn to him, which doesn’t go unnoticed by their husbands. As the time goes on and the dinner parties as well, Simon becomes more part of their lives, however his presence also causes chaos and misunderstandings that eventually lead to a very dramatic finale.

There are six main characters in this book – yes, you could say it’s a lot, but they’re all so different and right from the beginning you get the feeling who is who and to whom they belong. All of them had perfectly distinctive voices, they had their quirks, flaws and secrets, some of them were too perfect and too snobbish, some of them really overdid with their love of dips – it was funny at the beginning but then it stopped being funny and started to feel irritating. Each chapter is told by a different character and all of them have a chance to tell us their thoughts, which was a brilliant way, as it was really great to see how each of them perceive the particular situation or what they really think.

Due to short Q&As at the end of each chapter between a journalist and one of the characters we quickly get the sense that something big has happened. Yes, it did, but it took the whole book to get to the point – a little too long for this story, to be honest, but I also understand that should it have been written differently, there wouldn’t be the grande finale that the author presented us with. However, it just felt too short and too rapid in comparison to the whole story. On the other hand, it was truly surprising and unexpected what has happened at the end.

It was an interesting, sharp – observed read that for me lacked in the final touch, the wow – effect and the idea of mixing stories of three different couples was a brilliant one, and adding then an extra person to this mix was even better, as it was for sure going to steer problems and troubles, but it was not developed. I was all the time asking myself: and? Please don’t get me wrong, I love Tracy Bloom, but this time I actually wasn’t sure what she wants to tell us with this novel. It is also billed as a “LOL Romantic Comedy” however for me it was neither LOL nor romantic nor comedy. However, I DID enjoy the book. Even though I didn’t sympathize with the characters, they were very well drawn and felt realistic. Why didn’t I sympathize with them? Well, first of all, I truly wasn’t sure why they’re calling themselves friends, I didn’t feel any bond between them, even between Beth, Sarah and Marie who have known each other since school, and well, Tony did admit, on many different occasions, that he actually has nothing in common with Chris and Duncan. They had many issues with each other and actually, they weren’t friendly, they were nasty and jealous of each other.

This book is written in this lovely, light Tracy Bloom’s writing style that I so much adore. She also for sure can create a bunch of regular, relatable characters with real problems and get them into some complicated and often hilarious situations. There is also so much depth to this story, as it touches upon love, betrayal, friendship and second chances. It makes me really sad that the book didn’t work for me as much as I was sure it’s going to, but Tracy Bloom stays at the very top of my auto – buy authors, I will read whatever she writes.

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Darling Blue by Tracy Rees (Blog Tour)

Darling Blue by Tracy Rees

 

39289997 Publisher: Quercus

Publishing Date: 1st November 2018

Source:  Received from the publisher, thank you!

Number of pages: 576

Genre: Historical Fiction

 Buy the Book:  Kindle | Hardcover | Paperback (out on 01.11.2018)

 

 

 

Synopsis:

Blue lives a charmed life. From her family’s townhouse in Richmond, she lives the life of luxury and couldn’t want for anything – well, on the surface at least.

Then on the night of her twenty-first birthday her father makes a startling toast: he will give his daughter’s hand to whichever man can capture her heart best in the form of a love letter. But Blue has other ideas and, unwilling to play at her father’s bewildering games, she sets out on her own path to find her own destiny…

Rating: four-stars

“Darling Blue”, set in 1920’s London, follows the story of three women – Blue, Midge and Delphine and their families. It starts at Blue’s 21st birthday – her “coming of age”, when her father announces that the possible suitors should woe his daughter by letters. While marriage is not what Blue is looking for at the moment – she’d rather focus on her career as a writer – she’s horrified. But what is done is done and what is said is said and soon Blue receives a few letters that are going to change her life.
Soon after her birthday she meets Delphine, who has escaped a very abusive marriage – she never wants to return to her previous life but is it possible? However, no matter what, Blue and her family takes Delphine under their wings.

Tracy Rees takes us again on a journey in the past, in a different time – zone again. This time it’s Richmond in London in 1920’s and, as usual, she presents us with beautiful, vivid and rich descriptions of the setting, the weather, the clothes and she easily captures the atmosphere of the times, and she pays a great attention to deatils and has a great eye for them. It was, on the surface, a light – hearted story with lovely and kind characters, but deep down touching upon some serious issues, such like bullying or post – natal depression. To be honest, such depth and seriousness really surprised me, especially after the light beginning, but Tracy Rees has already got me used to the fact that she’s not afraid to write about some more sensitive stuff.

This book follows stories of three different women. Blue’s real name is Ishbel and she’s adored everywhere. Her stepmother Midge has problems of her own and she has a huge secret. But as much as you could think it’s going to be about Darling Blue, it equally focuses on the lives of Midge and Delphine, and it was a great move, to be honest, as those two women add tons of significance to this book. In my opinion, they were simply better developed and rounded than Blue, although please don’t get me wrong, she was also an interesting character that had something to say, and her desire to work and be independent was adorable. On the other hand, she was a little too self – absorbed and I had a feeling that she likes when the whole world is running in circles around her. But there was enough empathy in her, she was a great friend and open person and it was not hard to like her.
But altogether I only had a feeling that the characters were just too simple for such an author as Tracy Rees – they were either perfect and incredibly kind, or awfully unpleasant, and sometimes this just felt unrealistic.

Basically, it was a story about one year in a family’s life, though a very turbulent one. Mostly, it was well paced though there were some moments that if dragged a bit. Also, as much as I love a happy end, here it left me feel a little insatiable as the actions of one of the characters were forgotten quite quickly and quite easily, and she was welcomed back to the family without a word, and it was this little bit unrealistic, non – credible and little bit rushed, and I also had a feeling that maybe the author didn’t have a better idea how to solve this particular subplot? Also, as much as I appreciated the mysteries in this book, I quickly guessed what was going to happen. I also had a feeling that there was a very long build – up to them and then, when it finally came to the revelations, it was too rapid and not dealt with, just done and forgotten.

“Darling Blue” is a book that isn’t mostly about actions and events but mostly about characters, feelings and emotions. They are written in a gentle and captivating way that makes the pace bearable and I was actually glued to the pages – yes, waiting for something to happen, as I could feel with my whole body that there is something going to happen, but at the same time perfectly entertained by the distinctive voices of the characters. It was a great historical fiction about family, love, friendship, grief and forgiveness, with a great sense of period and written in a beautiful, colourful and detailed way that is going to sweep you off your feet for a few hours. While “Amy Snow”, Tracy Rees’s debut novel remains still my favourite of hers, I can say that with “Darling Blue” she’s following closely. Recommended!

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The Songs of Us by Emma Cooper

The Songs of Us by Emma Cooper

 

 

36389285Publisher: Headline

Publishing Date: 20th September 2018

Source:  Received from the publisher, thank you!

Number of pages: 432

Genre:  Women’s Fiction

 Buy the Book:  Kindle | Paperback 

 

 

 

 

Synopsis:

If Melody hadn’t run out of de-icer that day, she would never have slipped and banged her head. She wouldn’t be left with a condition that makes her sing when she’s nervous. And she definitely wouldn’t have belted out the Arctic Monkeys’ ‘I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor’ in assembly at her son’s school.

If Dev hadn’t taken the kids to the zoo that day, then the accident wouldn’t have happened. He wouldn’t have left Flynn and Rose without a dad. Or shattered the love of his life’s heart.

But if they hadn’t seen the missing person report that day, they might never have taken the trip to Cornwall. And, in the last place they expected, discovered what it really means to be ‘Us’.

Rating: five-stars

Life hasn’t been kind for the King family. Melody is trying her best after her husband Dev mysteriously disappeared years ago. Flynn, having suffered facial injuries and being blind in one eye in end result has his own battles to fight at school, as well as his sister Rose. Melody, following an unfortunate accident, has a very unusual and embarrassing habit of launching into song when she’s stressed or in anxiety. Rose is desperate to find her father and when she comes across a notification about a missing person, a whole new chapter in the King’s family life begins…

Ah, feck it, guys, what a gorgeous, poignant and at the same time funny book it was! I’ve never supposed it’s going to end in this way, and even though I felt disappointed how it turned out – I didn’t want it to end like this – No. Way. Please. No. Just. No – but I accepted the way the author decided to wrap this story up. It didn’t spoil the book for me – it’s really hard to explain, to be honest, because you may say, what, you didn’t like the ending and yet you loved the book, hello? Yes, it’s exactly like this, because I totally, absolutely fell for Melody and it was just so unfair, but on the other hand it signed the story off in a beautiful, poignant way.

It is this kind of book that you’re going to devour in one sitting, wanting to read one chapter more and more. Yes, there were moments that I thought it drags too much, it focused too much on Melody’s condition and it felt as if it was repeating itself, and also the moments when Melody was singing, especially the quoting of the songs almost line after line were too much for my liking, but you know, those were only a few minor problems and altogether it was simply beautiful – an emotional roller – coaster journey, full of tears and laughs. It was funny and heart – wrenching, and it’s going to break your heart, mend it and break it again – be prepared and have your tissues at the ready.

This story is told in the first person’s narration, from the four main characters points of view. Those four characters are Melody, her children Flynn and Rose and her missing husband Dev. They all had beautiful, distinctive voices full of personality and the way they were telling their stories was heart – breaking. I immediately fell for them all and to see what they’re all going through, their stress, it was so sad. Emma Cooper has written all those feelings and emotions in such a beautiful, realistic way and you really have a feeling that you’re sitting in the characters’ heads. Melody was absolutely brilliant, full of life and so vibrant and I loved how she was around her children and how she fought for them. Flynn, such a typical teenager but with a huge heart in the right place. And Rose, the troubled Rose who tried to solve her problems in her own way – such a perfectly imperfect family that is going to stay with you for a very long time. The bond between the family is beautiful, so poignant and the way the children went to protect their mother was simply heart – wrenching.
I’m not sure how the author did this, but she has written a book where you just feel a part of the characters’ world, you feel as if you know them from inside out, all their problems and luck become yours. It doesn’t happen often that I feel that way when reading the book. I also loved that it has a darker side, challenging characters in some really difficult situations. It wasn’t too light, but is also wasn’t heavy, just the perfect mix of everything you look for in your books.

“The Songs of Us” was a truly surprising novel, full of twists and turns, sad but also incredibly uplifting. The characters were portrayed in very realistic way and they were very true to life, full of flaws and facing thousand little battles and showing what a real family looks like. It had a refreshing, unique storyline written in a sensitive, gentle way. Bitter – sweet and close to life, it’s going to make you laugh out loud and cry crocodile tears. A story of love, hope, broken hearts, forgiveness and second chances, about awful coincidences and fate playing with your life, an astonishing tale about unconditional love and loss, grief, relationships and family dynamics. Powerful and honest and I can’t recommend it highly enough!

Friend of the Family by Tasmina Perry / Blog Tour

Friend of the Family by Tasmina Perry

 

 

41027488Publisher: Headline

Publishing Date: 20th September 2018

Source:  Received from the publisher, thank you!

Number of pages: 384

Genre: Suspense, Mystery

 Buy the Book:  Kindle | Paperback

 

 

 

 

Synopsis:

From the Sunday Times bestselling author of THE POOL HOUSE, this dark and twisty pageturner is perfect for fans of BBC’s THE REPLACEMENT, THE GIRLFRIEND by Michelle Frances and THE HAND THAT ROCKS THE CRADLE.

You trust your friend, so you’d trust her daughter. Wouldn’t you…?

When an old university friend gets in touch with a request for work experience for her daughter, magazine editor Amy agrees. Twenty-year-old Josie walks into Amy’s office, moves into the basement of her Notting Hill house and is soon helping out with her children after Amy’s nanny is hit by a car. It seems the natural thing therefore for Amy to invite Josie on the family’s annual to Provence. When a series of things start to go wrong in their luxurious villa, Amy begins to suspect that Josie isn’t quite the friendly presence she appears. But when no one, not even her husband believes her, she realises she will have to play Josie at her own game in order to expose her true intentions…

Don’t miss this gripping, addictive read. You’ll never see a houseguest in the same way again…

My Review

Amy Shepherd has done well for herself – she has a lovely family and a great job as editor of a popular women’s magazine “Verve”. When a friend from her childhood, Karen, gets in touch with her, Amy is surprised but also happy. Karen hasn’t done as well as Amy, and so Amy finds herself agreeing to give Karen’s daughter Josie some work experience at her magazine. Not only this – she also puts her up at her home for the time.
However, with Josie’s arrival things seem to go belly up for Amy and her family on all counts – things begin to unravel and Amy starts to wonder, who has she let into her home? Is Josie sabotaging her life? And if so, why?

It’s a real coincidence that simultaneously I’ve been reading two books with the same leading focus of attention – inviting an old friend/daughter of a friend to your house, opening your door and heart and opportunities. What I find really good is the fact that they both were on the same level of suspense and interest.

The mystery, the “I Invited her in, I want her out” went somehow astray on the pages between Amy’s job and the banter. I wanted more tension, more puzzles to solve, really more things that could have really indicated that Josie was the real intruder. There was a moment that I felt desperate with Amy, I though she has Josie – obsession that looks very unhealthy. I can remember a book with a similar subject matter and also that it kept me on my tenterhooks, I felt all kind of emotions and I wanted this “bad girl” out so badly – here, however, it was mostly a story about Amy’s career life and it really, and sadly, lacked in the tension, suspicion, mystery. Yes, I haven’t see the final twist coming – it was a great surprise but the execution was too weak for my liking, and the things happened so quickly and too conveniently to make me feel satisfied.

What I really adored in this book was the way the characters were written – they were brilliantly developed and their personality trails were so well captured! They were not immediately – or not at all – likeable but the times when I though that you have to adore the characters to enjoy the book are long gone, I actually appreciate it more when the characters are not easy to like but they’re drawn in such a way that you feel a part of their world and you’re immediately wrapped up into their lives and relationships, and it was like this in this novel. They were mostly very smug and very self – satisfied, they all made mistakes, they all had tons of money and they always found their ways out, coming up smiling. They were not the ones to appreciate what they have, taking things mostly for granted.

“Friend of the Family” was a sharp observed and honest story about bold and beautiful, about rich and glamorous eventually felling off their high horses. The author is a great story teller and has a way with words, her dialogues flows effortlessly and her writing style is rich and sparkly. It was a stylish and elegant book about revenge, obsession and unjust accusations and how little it takes to destroy someone’s life.

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A Little Bird Told Me by Marianne Holmes / Blog Tour + Extract

Hi guys, hope you are doing well on this rainy Sunday – well, at least it’s rainy here, but it’s great, I’ve been missing rain so much. And what a better way to spend such a day than to curl up with a book or read an extract from one? Here I have the Prologue to “A Little Bird Told Me” by Marianne Holmes, debut novel that is already getting many raving reviews. Enjoy!

 

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PROLOGUE

They say I’ll never find her.

Kit says it doesn’t matter because we still have each other but not a day goes by when I don’t long for the truth.

I feel her absence aching and flowing through the gaps in our story where the pieces don’t mesh. I see her presence in the spatter of freckles on Kit’s nose and the straight curtain of hair I can’t keep out of my eyes.

They say no one knows where she is.

What they really mean is, they couldn’t find her. I know that’s true because I’ve read the news reports. But there is one person who knows where she is.

 ‘Family is blood and pain,’ he said, ‘and, one day, I will hunt you down and teach you the meaning of that.’

His breath was bitter with the smell of cigarettes, his eyes spilling sparks of fury and the scar on his cheek stretched and twisted as he spoke. Or it might have. I read about that too, long after Matthew took us far away from here.

I will hunt you down,’ he said, and I know he will.

If I’m ever going to find her, this is my last chance. But if I start looking, he’ll come looking for us. I can’t help that – there’s something I need to put right.

Besides, if you were one half evil, wouldn’t you want to know about the other half?

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Because Mummy Said So by Shari Low / Blog Tour + Guest Post

Because Mummy Said So by Shari Low

 

35820113Publisher: Head of Zeus

Publishing Date: 25th January 2018

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

Number of pages: 352

Genre: Parenting & Families, Women’s Fiction

 Buy the Book:  Kindle | Paperback (out on 07.02.2019)

 

Synopsis:

The era of the yummy mummy has finally gone and in order to celebrate this, Shari Low has taken a baby wipe to the glossy veneer of the school of perfect parenting and written Because I Said So to show us the truth about motherhood in all of its sleep-deprived, frazzled glory. This is a book that every experienced, new or soon-to-be parent will relate to – well, hallelujah and praise be those who worship at the temple of Febreze.

For over a decade, Shari wrote a hugely popular weekly newspaper column documenting the ups, downs and bio-hazardous laundry baskets of family life. Because I Said So is a collection of her favourite stories of parenting, featuring superheroes in pull up pants, embarrassing mistakes, disastrous summer holidays, childhood milestones, tear-jerking nativity plays, eight bouts of chickenpox and many, many discussions that were finished with the ultimate parental sticky situation get-out clause… Because I Said So.

My Review

“Because Mummy Said So” is close to life, painfully realistic and hilarious read. It is a compilation of short essays the author has written for her column and they tell us about life with two young boys, about being family – in a very realistic and brutally honest way. Oh yes, Shari Low really tells how it is – that life with young children can be very, very embarrassing but she also shows the soft side of such life, of being a part of family and how richer and fuller your life becomes when the children arrive. 

I am also a mum and I’ve also experienced many, many embarrassing moments with my daughter so I could really relate to those essays.However, I don’t know if it’s because Shari Low is a writer that she can simply better notice such situations or her boys are much more accident prone than my daughter because I can’t remember SO many embarrassing situations in my life.   

I could really relate to this book and often identify with it. Some of the stories were funny however some were a bit hit or miss for me, and some felt a bit too overdone but altogether it was a nutshell manual of how it is to be a parent nowadays. The writing style is light and engaging and funny. I would recommend it if you’re a parent and in need of a good laugh and to see that you’re not alone. Refreshing and eye – opening, showing that the era of perfect mothers is truly and really over – hallelujah!

GUEST POST:

I don’t think we’ve ever lived in more judgemental times. With social media, reality TV and glossy advertising campaigns, it seems like we’re constantly surrounded by examples of impossibly fabulous lives.

Not that having a skewed idea of perfection is a new concept.

Growing up, I always thought being a writer would be an impossibly glamorous life. I wanted to have the excitement of a Jackie Collins heroine, wear leopard print on a daily basis, and live a scandalous existence being wooed by heartthrobs who hung on my every word.

And did I mention I’d have twelve nannies for my perfectly behaved children, who would think I was the best mother ever?

Sorry. I’ve always been both shallow and deluded. It’s a personality flaw.

Of course, the reality bore no resemblance to those adolescent fantasies. I didn’t start writing until I was thirty, when – by some miracle – I managed to get a book deal and found out I was pregnant on the same day.

Ah the thrill! Followed by the wonderful but daunting reality check of real-life motherhood. Two babies in two years later, ‘excitement’ was getting through a whole day without at least one child being sick on me. The only ‘scandalous’ activity was smuggling them into a fast food restaurant for some chicken nuggets and pretending I’d fed them organic rice cakes. My dealings with leopard print involved a costume for the school show, hastily constructed with six hours notice, and David Attenborough wouldn’t have been impressed with the results. Those nannies and the perfectly behaved children? They never materialised. Instead I got two hilarious wee boys, and the husband and I muddled through, careering from one parenting mishap to another. Oh, and absolutely no-one hung on my every word. In fact, by the tenth time I’d asked them to brush their teeth in the mornings, I began to wonder if I was invisible.

However, I loved every minute of it. Even the ones that came with sleep depravation and a toxic laundry basket.

Along the way, I wrote more than twenty novels and a weekly column about the perils of parenting.

You see, I’m not afraid to admit it. My name is Shari Low and I’m an imperfect parent.

My weekly tales were a fight back against that illusion of perfect motherhood, a giggle for those in the same boat, and a rude gesture in the direction of those who judge us mums for making mistakes.

Now, my very favourite episodes are all together in Because Mummy Said So, a collection of memories spanning pregnancy to the day my eldest left home last year. Sniff. Every hilarious disaster, crisis, and mortifying moment is in there.

It’s a pick me up for the exhausted new parent, a giggle for mums who are navigating the minefield of the school years and a bit of nostalgia for the empty nesters.

And most of all, it’s a funny, real life distraction from all those impossible, manufactured images of perfection.

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The Anniversary by Hilary Boyd / Blog Tour

The Anniversary by Hilary Boyd

 

 

38470197Publisher: Penguin

Publishing Date: 20th September 2018

Source:  Received from the publisher, thank you!

Number of pages: 416

Genre: General Fiction (Adult)

 Buy the Book:  Kindle | Paperback

 

 

Synopsis:

A deeply emotional new novel from the bestselling author of Thursdays in the Park

Is the one you tried to forget the one you can’t live without?

Stella once thought that if she never saw Jack again, it would be too soon.

But life has other plans for her and her stubborn, handsome ex-husband.

Looking after their daughter in a time of need, Stella finds herself unwillingly reunited with the man she shared the best years of her life with – followed by the worst.

Where tragedy once tore them apart, now Stella and Jack are being drawn back together. But each of them has a new partner and a new life.

Should they fight temptation?

Should the past remain the past?

Or are some loves simply meant to be?

Rating: four-stars

Stella and Jack used to be the perfect couple – happy and totally in love. Until one day, when the tragedy happened. After that, their marriage has slowly started to fall to pieces  to eventually end in divorce. Fast forward many years and they both live their own lives with new partners and even though they have a daughter, they don’t often meet. However, it’s going to change – Eve is pregnant and needs their help. As there are many unfinished business between them, are they going to rekindle their friendship – or more – for the sake of Eve and their grandson Arthur? What is going to happen? Can they put the past to rest and focus on the present, or look even further, in the future? 

I think the author has brilliantly captured the way relationships work, and admittedly different kinds of relationships. No matter if it was a marriage or mother – daughter, or exes, if people involved were young or older, they always sounded completely realistic, with all their ups and downs and thousands of problems – the book explores them all, in a true to life way. Because of this, the characters also felt so very honest and genuine and it was really easy to fell for them and to root for them. They made mistakes and they often pushed you to your own limits, often I didn’t understand their decisions, but they were all the time real and genuine in this what they’re doing. 

Hilary Boyd’s writing style is simply beautiful. I immediately felt a part of this story. She paints a very realistic portrait of family’s dynamics. There were moments and scenes where I literally had a lump in my throat and felt my heart breaking into thousands little pieces – the book is sad, yes, it’s also sometimes tragic but it is also full of light, hope and it’s uplifting, and all those feelings and emotions are perfectly balanced. She writes so perceptively and brings all the emotions and feelings effortlessly to the pages.

My only problem was that the book was simply too long. The idea has been reformulated and remodelled through many different words, situations, events and there came a moment it was like chewing a gum, it felt as if we were going around in circles, as if the author has been trying hard to built on more elements to something that is already completely utilised. But altogether, “The Anniversary” was a beautiful, elegantly written story about second chances, families and relationships. About love and loss, about grief and hope, about finding happiness again. Full of compassion and understanding and with a great depth to it and I enjoyed it very much. Highly recommended!

 

 

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