A Grand Old Time by Judy Leigh / #BlogTour

A Grand Old Time by Judy Leigh

 

36589620Publisher: Avon

Publishing Date: 3rd April 2018

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

Number of pages: 368

Genre: General Fiction, Women’s Fiction

 Buy the Book: Kindle | Paperback

 

 

 

 

Synopsis:

‘Brilliantly funny, emotional and uplifting’ Miranda Dickinson

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

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

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

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

Rating: four-stars

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

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

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

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

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

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Love Among the Treetops by Catherine Ferguson / #BlogTour + Guest Post

Hi amigos, hope you’re doing great – it’s Friyay!  And Easter is coming! To put you in a right mood, and as it’s my turn on the Catherine Ferguson’s blog tour – we are celebrating the reelase of her new novel, “Love Among the Treetops” – I have a brilliant guest post from the lovely author herself. Put your feet high, pour yourself a glass of something bubbly and enjoy!

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Catherine Ferguson

 

 

Five Things I’ve Learned . . .

 

When you’re starting out on your writing journey, it’s very much a case of trying things out and seeing what works for you and what doesn’t. I’ve been writing for HarperCollins Avon for three years now, and during that time, I’ve learned a lot about the process of creating a book – and a lot about what works best for me:

           

I write all my notes in a notebook now.

I used to scribble ideas on scrap paper, but I found that as I’m not the most organised/tidy person in the world, when it came to finding the particular note I needed, it was frequently lost or buried in a pile of other ‘important notes to self’! So now, when I’m starting a new book, I buy a big notebook with a cheery/inspiring cover, and I make sure I write every idea in this book. That way, I can be sure I won’t lose anything vital.

 

First thing in the morning is my best time to be productive

I love early mornings, so maybe that’s why I seem to do my best work then. All I know is that if I have a looming deadline and need to be at my most productive, a sure fire way of making sure I get the required daily number of words under my belt is to make a cup of tea and write the first five hundred words as soon as I wake up (usually propped up against pillows in bed!) Achieving this before breakfast also gives me a huge psychological boost that can carry me on to even greater productivity that day.

 

A daily walk is essential

I’d suspected for a long time that taking a walk during the day did me good, but it’s only recently that I’ve realised it’s not only A Good Thing, it’s actually a no-brainer if I want to write well and think up great characters and plot twists! There’s something incredibly meditative about walking, and for me, it’s the best way to get the ideas flowing freely. So now I incorporate a walk into my writing day as an essential part of it.

 

I start with a basic idea and see where it takes me.

I tried, once, to plan out a book in detail before I started writing. I made a big wall chart and wrote down all the plot advances in little boxes. It looked very impressive. The trouble was, the end result bore very little resemblance to my carefully planned plot! So I’ve learned that the best way for me is to start with a skeleton of an idea, and then just start writing and see where the characters take me. Going with the flow works for me!

 

Most people write bad first drafts

I never realised that most first drafts are rubbish. I honestly thought it was just me. And at first, it used to really scare me, the jumbled mess that used to emerge. But I’ve learned to relax now about the rubbish first draft, because in every case (after a lot of editing) that jumbled mess has been transformed into a book I’m proud of. I used to waste so much time, labouring over my first draft, trying to get it right. I don’t any more!

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Our Little Secret by Claudia Carroll / #BlogTour

Our Little Secret by Claudia Carroll

 

34214932Publisher: Avon

Publishing Date: 8th February 2018

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

Number of pages: 319

Genre: Women’s Fiction

 Buy the Book: Kindle | Paperback

 

Synopsis:

A sparkling story about what happens when you let someone into your life… but they turn out to want more than you’d bargained for!

Sarah Dee has the perfect life. A high-flying job in a law firm, a beautiful daughter and a house to die for. So how does she find herself looking in through the kitchen window while another woman enjoys it all?

When Sarah takes pity on a struggling young graduate who can’t get a job, she thinks she’s doing the right thing. She’s being kind, generous and helpful to others, as she always is. But as Sarah allows the younger woman into her home, her law firm and even her family, is there more to this pretty youngster than meets the eye? And could this be a good deed that goes further than expected?

Claudia Carroll does it again with a sparkling new novel about what happens when your life becomes up for grabs…

Rating: four-stars

In “Our Little Secret” Sarah Keyes, the main character, loves her job, and she indeed works very hard not only in her law firm, but also volunteering as a free legal aid. She’s currently divorced and now living only with her teenage daughter Darcy. One day, Sarah meets Lauren, a very bright girl working in a nail salon – Lauren is young, clever and studied hard for her law degree and her background history breaks Sarah’s heart, so she decides to do her best to help this girl. Lauren herself very easily and seamlessly slots into Sarah’s life and everything seems perfect. But is it really…?

To be honest, judging the book by the cover, I was expecting something else – some kind of a romance, a vintage read, and what I’ve got was a brilliant, dynamic and modern story, an emotional roller – coaster ride. It was compelling, and truly addictive, with the right dose of drama and humour. It was a book written in a brilliant, chatty style. This novel was a little different to other Claudia Carroll’s offers – it was somehow more mature, touching upon some heavier issues, but at the same time light and uplifting. It was tense but not like you’d expect from thriller or mystery, oh no, it was much lighter in tone but it was also somehow sinister.

The characters and the story were so easily brought to life, they just came alive on the pages. Sarah was a great character but let’s be honest, she should have known better, right? She was too naive and too caring for my liking in some aspects and well, the reality came and bit her strong. Of course it was not her fault that she was taken for granted, I just only couldn’t stop thinking that yes, she should have known better! The fact that she’s rushed so much into the new friendship, believing in everything that was told and offering help right and left was a little too unbelievable – would you open your heart, wallet and house to a stranger? However, when she realises what’s going on, I adored to see the change in her and that she feared nothing to reclaim her happy and trouble – free life.
I can’t express how annoying Lauren’s character was, from the very beginning, always there, always knowing better, always with a smile. Arrrrghh! She was this kind of person that would do anything, at whatever cost, to achieve her goals, and the more I read, the more I disliked her. Really. This whole sweetness, the do – gooder, oh no, it was not for me, I wasn’t buying it. However, she was really brilliantly pictured, and Claudia Carroll has captured all the main attributes that makes a toxic character toxic, and how well Lauren was able to spot all the vulnerable points of her victims.

The story is told in alternative chapters, from Sarah, Darcy and Sarah’s best friend Liz points of view. I really liked their takes on things happening, the different takes, as we were able to see things Sarah wasn’t able to see. Liz was a great character, she saw things as they really were and there was no beating around the bush with her, and I really liked her no – nonsense approach in all aspects of her life. She was a great and supportive friend of Sarah. There was a small element of romance in the book as well and it was a great addition in my opinion. It didn’t feel rushed and it developed in a natural way – it just seemed realistic. Yes, it was a little surprising but it worked well in this part of the story.

So this book. Really. It made me feel so, so angry! Probably all of us know such Lauren – characters. While reading the novel I knew that some of the characters are right about her, and it made me so angry that it took Sarah so long to notice all the signs. I had a feeling that I can’t relax in Lauren’s company, that I can’t trust her, that she’s sucking off all the positive vibrations from the vicinity and I couldn’t believe that Sarah can’t see this. Really, guys, be prepared to be completely lost in this story. It was thought – provoking and it will lead you on to ask questions, to make you think, while exploring the darker, heavier side of friendship. “Our Little Secret” was fast – paced and complex story about gaining control and staying in control, about getting your life on the right path again, about using and about being used, with riveting characters and interesting plot, full of secrets and lies. Highly recommended!

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Where There’s a Will by Bella Osborne (Ottercombe Bay #1)

Where There’s a Will by Bella Osborne

 

35555798Publisher: Avon

Publishing Date: 28th December 2017

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

Number of pages: 100

Genre: Women’s Fiction

 Buy the Book: Kindle

 

 

 

Synopsis:

Escape to the Devon coast, with Part One of a brand-new four-part serial from the author of Willow Cottage.
Daisy Wickens has returned to Ottercombe Bay, the picturesque Devon town where her mother died when she was a girl. She plans to leave as soon as her great uncle’s funeral is over, but Great Uncle Reg had other ideas. He’s left Daisy a significant inheritance – an old building in a state of disrepair, which could offer exciting possibilities, but to get it she must stay in Ottercombe Bay for twelve whole months.

With the help of a cast of quirky locals, a few gin cocktails and a black pug with plenty of attitude, Daisy might just turn this into something special. But can she ever hope to be happy among the ghosts of her past?

Rating: three-stars

Bella Osborne’s “Where There’s a Will” is an introduction to a brand new series “Ottercombe Bay”. It sets up the location and introduces us to some of the main characters and already leaves us with some questions to be answered.

There are of course many questions opened. Daisy returns to Ottercombe Bay for the funeral of her Great Uncle Reg. We know her mother died here when Daisy was a child, and we know from the pieces of information that something has probably happened that brought her to this death, we also know that Daisy avoided Ottercombe Bay with all her might but still we’re not sure why – only because it brings memories of her childhood and her mother? Also, she just wants to attend the funeral and then go. But the late Uncle Reg had other ideas and Daisy finds herself inheriting an old railway station building, providing she’s going to spent the next twelve months on Ottercombe Bay. Is it possible at all for Daisy, the free spirit?

The story was written in a nice, warm way – I really like Bella Osborne writing style. However, this time, I had problems with the characters here, and as this part was really characters’ centred it wasn’t easy to enjoy the story. Daisy is brash and temperamental, or rather moody, and I’m guessing it’s because of her past, but nobody has been hurt by being kind, right? But the location on the Devon coast was lovely and the old station building sounds brilliant and beautiful and that there is a lot of potential in it.

I really looked forward to this novella and it’s a real pity that I didn’t warm to it as much as I hoped. I guess it would work much better as a whole novel – I understand it is only the introduction and it’s a little unfortunate that it started in such a way, when I didn’t warm to the characters at all. However, I’m guessing I’ll read a second part in this series, to see if anything’s going to change, and yes, I want to see how Daisy is going to settle in Ottercombe Bay – I’m sure she’ll be wanting to leave more than once but well, she has to stay, right?

The Little Village Christmas by Sue Moorcroft

The Little Village Christmas by Sue Moorcroft

 

36368810Publisher: Avon

Publishing Date: 2nd November 2017

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

Number of pages: 368

Genre:  Romance, Women’s Fiction

 Buy the Book: Kindle | Paperback

 

 

 

 

Synopsis:

Alexia Kennedy – interior decorator extraordinaire – has been tasked with giving the little village of Middledip the community café it’s always dreamed of.

After months of fundraising, the villagers can’t wait to see work get started – but disaster strikes when every last penny is stolen. With Middledip up in arms at how this could have happened, Alexia feels ready to admit defeat.

But help comes in an unlikely form when woodsman, Ben Hardaker and his rescue owl Barney, arrive on the scene. Another lost soul who’s hit rock bottom, Ben and Alexia make an unlikely partnership.

However, they soon realise that a little sprinkling of Christmas magic might just help to bring this village – and their lives – together again…

Settle down with a mince pie and a glass of mulled wine as you devour this irresistibly festive Christmas tale. The perfect read for fans of Carole Matthews and Trisha Ashley.

Rating: four-stars

 

I am always looking forward to a new Sue Moorcroft book and I adore her Christmas offerings. Maybe “The Little Village Christmas”, the newest release, is not strictly a very Christmassy story but there is enough spirit to make it feel very festive and it was a joy to read.

The characters are really well drawn, both Alexia and Ben, as well as the background characters, feel like real people. However, I had some problems to warm to them and to somehow take them seriously – no idea why! It annoyed me a little that Ben seemed all the time to be so grumpy and while I could see his reasons I also wanted to shake him and tell him that his situation is not the other people’s fault. While Alexia was a really lovely girl she also seemed too forthright to me, I had a feeling she’s going through life elbowing her way. And for me one of the weakest characters in this story was Alexia’s friend, Jodie, who shouldn’t – no matter what the circumstances – just pack up her bags, literally and proverbially, and then expect her friend to run after her. What I did really like in the characters was the fact that they made mistakes and wrong decisions, got themselves into troubles but they were there for each other, they supported each other when the need arises.

Sue Moorcroft has brought the place to life through her lovely descriptions, of both the interior design and food – especially the design parts were brilliant, different to everything I normally read. The story also offers us a return to Middledip, a place that the readers may already recognize from Ms Moorcroft’s previous books – but it introduces us to a totally fresh characters.
Of course the story touches upon some serious issues that made the characters’ lives so much more difficult, but there wouldn’t be this story without them, right. There are many surprises on their ways, full of questions and I enjoyed seeing how all the puzzle elements fell into places.

Altogether, “The Little Village Christmas” was an uplifting and heart – warming story about never giving up, about trust, full of community spirit and friendship, a great read for the lead – up to Christmas. There is enough romance but also enough reality to not make it too sugary but down to earth and realistic.

The Little Bakery on Rosemary Lane by Ellen Berry

The Little Bakery on Rosemary Lane by Ellen Berry

 

33939393Publisher: Avon

Publishing Date: 7th September 2017

Series: Rosemary Lane #2 (read my review of Book 1 here)

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

Number of pages: 368

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

 Buy the Book: Kindle | Paperback

 

Synopsis:

If you want to move forward, sometimes you have to go back …
Prepare to fall in love with beautiful village of Burley Bridge.

Growing up in a quiet Yorkshire village, Roxanne couldn’t wait to escape and find her place in the world in London. As a high-powered fashion editor she lives a glamorous life of perennial singlehood – or so it seems to her sister Della. But when Roxanne gets her heart broken by a fashion photographer, she runs away, back to Della’s welcoming home above her bookshop in Burley Bridge.

But Burley Bridge, Roxanne discovers, is even quieter than she remembered. There’s nothing to do, so Roxanne agrees to walk Della’s dog Stanley. It’s on these walks that Roxanne makes a startling discovery: the people who live in Burley Bridge are, well, just people – different from the fashion set she’s used to, but kind and even interesting. Michael, a widower trying to make a go of a small bakery, particularly so. Little by little, cupcake by cupcake, Roxanne and Michael fall into a comforting friendship.

Could there be a life for Roxanne after all, in the place she’s spent 46 years trying to escape?

Rating: three-stars

 

“The Little Bakery on Rosemary Lane” is the second book in the Rosemary Lane by Ellen Berry series but it can easily be read as a stand – alone. The book mentions some of the characters from the previous novel but it entirely focuses on a new character, Roxanne. She has left Yorkshire as a teenager, and now she’s in her late forties and loves her work as a fashion editor. She’s passionate about her job, and she’s also successful, she has great ideas and she knows what it is the readers of the magazine want to see. However, there are some changes to come in the magazine and it’s a little unsettling – as well as her relationship she’s in starts to shake the foundations. So Roxanne decides to go back to Yorkshire where her sister Della still lives – Della, the one who owns the cookbook shop from the previous book.

This story started so, so well! I was doing the virtual high – fives because it was feeling like reading the good, old Fiona Gibson again – the writing was so warm and engaging, the story was flowing and I was incredibly caught up in the story. However, the more I got into the book, the slower and flatter it felt. There was not much happening and I had a feeling it is very repetitive and in the end I found myself skipping some of the passages and even a chapter or two – I am very sorry for this but it just didn’t keep my attention. Then there is the same thing as with the first book in the series, “The Bookshop on Rosemary Lane” – the bookshop is in the title, as is the bakery in this book, but they are not the huge part of the story, the bakery hardly features in this story and it’s just misleading.

I did like Roxanne. She was a great leading character. She was very passionate about her job, you could really feel she loves what she does and that she feels comfortable in her own skin. She was creative, and I always love this in characters. However, she finds herself at the crossroads right now, what with big changes at work and some troubles in love paradise, and we accompany her on her journey to find out what she really wants.
I really liked how Roxanne started to see that she really likes the countryside and that there is much more to living there as she thought, even though she sometimes learn to like it in the hard way, like going for a walk with the dog totally unprepared and dressed in very unsuitable clothes. It was nice to see her changing, making new friends, helping at the shop and feeling well in her own skin.

The London part of the book was really good, fast – paced and I totally enjoyed it. However, the Yorkshire part, while really important, as it was the time that Roxanne – of course! – started to change and see what she wants, was for me a little too flat, too slow, too meh. It was a tad predictable and some things, such like the later changes at Roxanne’s magazine, felt much too rushed and much too clichéd and obvious.

Altogether, “The Little Bakery on the Rosemary Lane” was a warm, lovely story. It felt modern and up – to – date and it lovely mixed the world of fashion with cookbooks and fresh, tasty bread. It was about making your own choices, about not letting others to influence you, seeing you can really take the risk. It was an easy, pleasant read with a low – key romance and even though I maybe didn’t love it as much as I initially thought, it was still pleasant enough and I am looking forward the third book in the series.

99 Red Balloons by Elisabeth Carpenter / #BlogTour + Extract

Hi guys, and happy Friday! It’s weekend, hurray! I don’t know about you but for me this week felt as if it had 14 days, instead of 7. But whatever. Today I am thrilled to welcome you to another blog tour to celebrate publishing of “99 Red Balloons” by Elisabeth Carpenter. To be honest, it was first the title that made so intrigued about this book and I am looking forward to read this book so much! Today I have an extract from the novel for you – enjoy!

 

Chapter 14 p.71-72

99

 

The only words I’ve said to George since the ferry are yes, no and thank you. And we’ve been driving for over a hundred hours or whatever it is. I’m usually a chatterbox in the car – Mummy would have told me to keep it zipped at least twenty times if she were driving me. My bum is burning I’ve been sitting on it for that long.

‘Come on, kid.’ He keeps trying to talk to me. ‘I’m getting bored driving, listening to bloody French radio stations. You’re not still mad at me, are you?’

He was mad at me, but I can’t say that. He’d tell me off again. He can just turn. I’ve seen grown-ups do that. I keep trying to guess to myself how old he is. He’s older than Daddy, but not as old as Gran. His hair is black, but it has loads of streaks of grey, and he’s either got a lot of hair gel in it, or it needs washing. That’s what Mummy says about Daddy’s, though he doesn’t wear hair gel much these days.

Tears come to my eyes when I think of Mummy and Daddy. They’ll be missing me by now. Are they really waiting for me in Belgium? George won’t let me talk to them on the phone. It would be good to hear their voices, then I won’t miss them as much.

I have to blink really fast to stop the tears. I daren’t ask George about Mummy any more. Every time I do, he shouts at me. For the fiftieth fucking time, stop talking about Mummy and Daddy. I’ll leave you in a field if you’re not careful. It was dark when he said that.

Out of the window, the land is flat. It’s like I can see for miles, but I can’t see England. We’re nowhere near the sea.

‘When are we stopping for food?’ It’s my tummy that told my mouth to talk. My brain didn’t want it to.

‘Ah, so it does speak.’ He reaches over to the passenger seat and puts a cap on his head. It’s not a nice cap like Abigail from school got from Disneyland, but a beige one – like a grandad would wear. ‘Once we cross the border, we’ll stop off some­where. Promise. We just have to get past these bastards.’

He’s the only man I’ve ever met that would do swearing in front of a kid. My gran would have a coronary if she heard him.

In front of us, cars are lined up in rows. There are little houses in the middle of the road that everyone is stopping beside. George turns round.

‘Listen, kid. They might call you by a different name, but it’s just a game. We’re playing at pretend. If you win, and they don’t guess your real name, then I’ll buy you some sweets after your dinner. Deal?’

 

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