Christmas Shopaholic by Sophie Kinsella

Christmas Shopaholic by Sophie Kinsella

 

Publisher: Bantam Press 43811208._sy475_

Publishing Date: 17th October 2019

Series: Shopaholic #9

Source:  Received from the publisher, thank you!

Number of pages: 384

Genre: Women’s Fiction

 Buy the Book:  Kindle | Hardcover | Paperback

 

 

Synopsis:

Celebrate Christmas with the ultimate Shopaholic!

The brilliant laugh-out-loud festive novel from the Number One bestselling author.

Becky Brandon (née Bloomwood) adores Christmas. It’s always the same – Mum and Dad hosting, carols playing, Mum pretending she made the Christmas pudding, and the next-door neighbours coming round for sherry in their terrible festive jumpers.

And now it’s even easier with online bargain-shopping sites – if you spend enough you even get free delivery. Sorted!

But this year looks set to be different. Unable to resist the draw of craft beer and smashed avocado, Becky’s parents are moving to ultra-trendy Shoreditch and have asked Becky if she’ll host Christmas this year. What could possibly go wrong?

With sister Jess demanding a vegan turkey, husband Luke determined that he just wants aftershave again, and little Minnie insisting on a very specific picnic hamper – surely Becky can manage all this, as well as the surprise appearance of an old boyfriend and his pushy new girlfriend, whose motives are far from clear . . .

Will chaos ensue, or will Becky manage to bring comfort and joy to Christmas?

 

Rating: five-stars

 

In “Christmas Shopaholic” Becky Brandon (neé Bloomwood) is supposed to host Christmas for the first time. It not only throws her into a buying frenzy – as we all know, Becky doesn’t need excuses like Christmas for a shopping – but also put her under tons of stress. She has a big family and a huge bunch of friends who are all invited and all of them are either fighting with each other or have special requests, or suggest what would be best, or there are also people who will try to sabotage Becky’s day. From inventing a new word that goes viral, through marking Luke, having 30 lbs of frozen salmon on the front lawn, to being locked in a pet store on Christmas Day – will Becky manage this time?

“Christmas Shopaholic” is everything I have expected. It’s fabulously entertaining and it has moments when it feels really poignant, and no matter what you think about Becky, how frustrating she can be, she has one of the biggest hearts in the world and it is impossible not to love her. It is a series that has potential to be never – ending and personally I wouldn’t say no to another book, and another, and another one, while theoretically the shtick should be already stale on the series, but no, Becky still entertains and still sounds genuine and her usual self.

There were so many funny and hilarious scenes, and while many of them made me smile, the one when Becky was trying aftershave on Luke made me laugh out loud, oh help, really, I’m still laughing only thinking about it. The emails, messages and Google searches at the end of some chapters were abso – bloody – lutely brilliant, I really laughed my head off when reading them.

I am always amused with Becky’s antics – she never lets me down, and yes, the way she does her shopping sounds very familiar. Sure, she can be too much sometimes but she’s also charming and adorable in her spontaneity and thinking about everybody else, about creating the perfect Christmas and forgetting about herself. She may worry too much what other s think of her and she may still make bad choices when it comes to shopping, but she is warm, caring and lovely mum, friend, sister and daughter.
The book also features all of the other characters that we got to know so well and love, and it was a real joy to see them again, hear their banter and the way they complicated their lives. There were moments that I frown at Suze, she was somehow, I’m not sure, so cold and not so friendly to Becky, and Jess, well, Jess was not funny anymore, oh got, she was exhausting.

It was a fast – paced, amusing and brilliantly written light – hearted book full of festive spirit. I loved spending my time with Becky, seeing her interacting with Luke and Minnie. It was touching, it left me feel warm inside and the end, well, the end was epic! Highly recommended!

Ellie and the Harpmaker by Hazel Prior / Book Tour

Ellie and the Harpmaker by Hazel Prior

 

45431626Publisher: Bantam Press

Publishing Date: 2nd May  2019

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

Number of pages: 284

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

 Buy the Book:  Kindle | Hardcover | Paperback (out on 05.03.2020)

 

Synopsis:

Meet Ellie. She’s perfectly happy with her home and her husband and her quiet life. Happy enough, anyway. Which is why she’s so surprised to find herself drawn to an extraordinary stranger who gives her a gift – and a fresh perspective.

Meet Dan. He thinks that all he needs to be content is the time and space to carry on making harps. But the last thing he expects is for Ellie – and her cherry-coloured socks – to whirl into his life, bringing a string of surprises to his ordered existence.

Sometimes it takes a chance encounter to discover what your life can be . . .

This heart-warming, funny and quirky love story features…

86 plums,
69 sandwiches,
27 birch trees,
a 17-step staircase,
and a pheasant named Phineas

… and will stay with you long after you finish the last page.

Rating: five-stars

 

On the surface, Ellie seems to be happy with her life as Clive’s wife, an Exmoor housewife, as she describes herself. But Ellie wants more – from life, she wants to write poetry, she wants to feel the gentle wind on her face, she wants to contemplate the beauty of Exmoor Country. When she meets the harpmaker Dan, she fells in love with his workshop and his harps and his life attitude. Dan, on the other hand, also notices something in Ellie – and not only her cherry socks but her vulnerability, sadness and openness, and offers her not only triangle sandwiches, but also a harp of her own. But this is too extravagant a gift for Ellie’s husband Clive and he makes Ellie sent the gift back to Dan. Ellie does it – but she also let Dan to convince her to start to visit him more often and to learn play the harp – because it is her harp. This is the beginning of the changes in both of their lives – but for better or worse?

I think that it was already said in many reviews but I must repeat it – the writing style is beautiful and it feels so lyrical. This book is full of descriptions – of the setting, characters, feelings and thoughts, and when sometimes it’s annoying because you wait for something to happen, in this book it simply works brilliantly, it flows seamlessly and effortlessly and it’s a pure joy to read.

Dan was a great character and the parts told from his point of view were incredibly insightful and full of honesty, and they felt really genuine. I liked seeing world through his eyes, it was so pure and so true, everything was so evident to him but his appreciation of the surroundings and events was fantastic. How many people could appreciate a simple walk through Exmoor the way he appreciated his? It was brought to life by the author so vividly that I could see the things almost as well as if I were there with Dan. He noticed things that we wouldn’t pay attention to and it was a real joy to be able to see them with him.
Now, Ellie. She was a lovely character, full of kindness in her heart and she wanted only good things to happen. However, the more I got to know her, the more she annoyed me. She was so naive and so clingy and I couldn’t stand her way around her husband. I’m sorry, but this is how I felt. I simply fell for her so much that I didn’t want to see her like this – she was blossoming around Dan and she was so sad and fearful around her husband, and I hoped throughout the whole book that something is going to change for her.

The friendship between Dan and Ellie was one of the best friendships ever written, I think. They both found support in each other, they felt so secure in each other’s company, and it was pure, raw and real. It was also innocent and… well, yes – sweet. And unexpected – who would have thought that a lonely housewife and an introvert Dan would become such soul – mates? It was so lovely to see how those two, not expecting it, only realised what is missing in their lives when they got to know each other. Dan introduced Ellie to harps and music, and Ellie has given him something priceless.

The descriptions of the harp – making and what it involved were an art of their own. You could see how much research went into the book. And guys, the author has so wonderfully brought music to the pages, with every fingertip and hand move, the unique angelic sounds of the harp.

It was a very unexpected love story, a very special one, with special characters that I rooted for. There were tons of depth and meaning to this story, and I loved it. It was a heartfelt, poignant and beautiful story about friendship and love, showing that even if we’re not looking for them, we can find them in the most unlikely places. Highly recommended!

 

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The Scent of Death by Simon Beckett / Blog Tour

The Scent of Death by Simon Beckett

 

51lcobhgdwl._sx325_bo1204203200_Publisher: Bantam Press

Publishing Date: 18th April 2019

Series: David Hunter #6

Source:  Received from the publisher, thank you!

Number of pages: 368

Genre: General Fiction (Adult), Thriller, Mystery

 Buy the Book:  Kindle (out now!) | Hardcover | Paperback (out on 31.10.2019)

 

Synopsis:

Forensic expert Dr David Hunter is enjoying an easy-going summer, pleased with both his stable, happy relationship and renewed status as a police consultant who is very much in demand. Even the threat of Grace Strachan – the woman who tried to murder Hunter after breaking into his flat – has been placed in the past.

But Hunter’s peace is disturbed once again when hereceives a call from an old associate, DCI Sharon Ward. A partially mummified corpse has been discovered at St Jude’s Hospital in North London. Awaiting demolition, the empty hospital’s only visitors arethose left behind by society – outcasts, addicts and dealers. Hunter’s forensic expertise concludes the body is of a pregnant young woman. But for how long she has been left is unknown.

‘When a floor of the hospital collapses, it revealsmany other darksecrets. A sealed-off chamber is discovered with beds still inside and some of them occupied. As the investigation unfolds, one thing is certain: St Jude’s hasn’t claimed its last victim.What starts as a straightforward case twists to become a nightmare that threatens Hunter and everyone around him.

Rating: four-stars

 

An empty St. Jude hospital is to be demolished but then a mummified body is found in its loft. Dr David Hunter is called to examine the remains. He can immediately ascertain that the corpse has spent longer time in the hospital. During the examination of the body, David’s colleague, Dr. Conrad, falls through the rotten ceiling and through this fall another room is discovered, with two more bodies. Here begins the investigation that is going to bring more surprises.

I honestly haven’t supposed that I’m going to enjoy this book so much – can I say “enjoy” about a book full of gory details, mummified corpses and descriptions of bones and what flies can do to a dead body? It sounds a bit extreme, yes, but still this word perfectly describes my feelings to this novel. I liked the fact that despite many medicinal details it was easy to follow, and that it was extremely fast paced story. There were many twists and turns but it all sat together perfectly and fitted together.

The story is told from David Hunter’s point of view and quickly I was immersed in his life and what was happening in it – and there was a lot happening, that’s for sure. Although, to be honest, it was probably more of this what was happening than David himself – I mean, his life and his job were much more exciting than David himself. He was not easily ruffled and he controlled himself butt he was perfectly likeable and realistic – as well as the other characters. They were all very well developed and I couldn’t help but feel invested in their lives as well. They felt authentic and Dr Hunter felt human and genuine.

The book was written in – despite the really heavy topic – such a light way that I immediately felt a part of it. The writing style was incredibly descriptive and the author didn’t leave much to the imagination but in that case it works wonders – those descriptions have made the book so thrilling and exciting to read, they details were so well described that you could easily see them in your head, and I absolutely enjoyed the descriptions of David’s job as a forensic anthropologist. Yes, sometimes I did have a feeling that I am on the crash course for the amateur forensics but everything happened at a good pace and it kept me gripped, and let’s be honest, all the details were truly fascinating, no? And I think we should appreciate the fact that the author has managed to bring closer to us the highly complicated details in such accessible and interesting way.

It was a real page – turner and while the final twist was not a surprise for me, the book kept me hooked. It was chilling and captivating and the author has well and easily captured the dark, chilled and tense atmosphere. Also the setting was chosen perfectly, the old hospital a place full of dark secrets and you could never be sure what more they’re going to find there – actually, I was hoping there won’t be anything more to find to be honest, I think I wasn’t ready for another body. I liked how complex and complicated the story was, and how slowly, piece after piece, all the puzzle elements were beginning to be right for each other and the whole picture started to emerge. Yes, it took a lot of time until we really get into the heart of the case but thanks to the writing style those were truly amusing pages.

Although it is already book number 6 in the series it can perfectly well be read as a stand – alone. There is enough retrospection to let us, the first readers, to understand that something happened in the past that has consequences in the present, so that this subplot was understandable and also clear why it was there in this story. “The Scent of Death” was altogether a very multi – layered and complex, intelligent read, mixing well developed characters, mystery and tension. The storyline was meticulously planned and it took time for all the elements to fell into place, it was not at all rushed or pushed forward, the author let the events happen at their own pace. Yes, I was hooked and yes, I am for sure going to read other books in this series. Recommended!

The research behind The Scent of Death

 Working as a freelance journalist in 2002, Simon Beckett visited the Body Farm in Knoxville, Tennessee for an article about crime scene training for US police officers. At the time, the research facility was the only place in the world to use human cadavers to investigate the process of human decomposition. Using real human bodies, the site aimed to give police officers the most visceral experience of what working with the dead was like. Both harrowed and marvelled by the experience, Simon was left feeling there was more than just a feature article in it.

Alongside the development of the tortured character of David Hunter,Simon began to write The Chemistry of Death, informed by his experience at Body Far in Knoxville.The novel went on to become translated into 29 languages and thus began the infamous Dr Hunter series. While Beckett’s experiences in journalism have contributed to the authenticity of his novels, Beckett also frequently speaks to both UK and US based forensic anthropologists to inform any forensic ambiguity he may have.

While authenticity is essential for Beckett,character and psychological motivations are also hugely important factors to his writing process.Beckett is a huge fan of Raymond Chandler’s Philip Marlowe series and John D. MacDonald’s Travis McGee books.Their flawed and complex characters were instrumental in contributing to the development of Dr David Hunter, rather than opting for the stereotypical heavy-drinking, maverick tough-guy as his main character.

www.simonbeckett.com

 

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The Rumour by Lesley Kara

The Rumour by Lesley Kara

 

40898147Publisher: Bantam Press

Publishing Date: 27th December 2018

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

Number of pages: 400

Genre: General Fiction (Adult), Mystery & Thriller

 Buy the Book:  Kindle | Hardcover

 

 

 

Synopsis:

A casual comment.

There’s a killer among us.

That’s all it takes.

She stabbed little Robbie Harris.

To change a life –

She’s living under a new name.

For ever.

She’s reformed. So they say . . .

Joanna is going to regret the day she ever said a word.

‘In this chilling tale of paranoia, suspicion and accusation, Lesley Kara keeps you guessing until the final page.’ Paula Hawkins, No.1 bestselling author of The Girl on the Train and Into the Water

‘A great debut with a slyly clever premise and a rollercoaster ride to the very last sentence.’ Fiona Barton, bestselling author of The Widow and The Child.

Rating: four-stars

“The Rumour” introduces us to Joanna, a single mother of six – year – old Alfie, back to her hometown, where she has moved to be closer to her mum and to give her son another start after he was being bullied at school in London. In her efforts to integrate with the school gates’ mums she passes on a rumour that a previous child killer is living in the town, amongst all of them, under a new identity. What she doesn’t expect is for the rumour to take a life of its own, to spread like a wildfire, pointing its fingers of suspicion at everyone and bringing danger on herself and little Alfie.

The characters in this book were really well developed. Joanna’s actions were realistic and I liked how down – to – earth she was. She was able to sacrifice a lot for her son Alfie who, being of mixed race, has been ostracised at school. That’s why she decided to become a part of the school – gates’ mothers’ group, although she was perfectly happy without them, and this is how all the troubles started, to be honest. She soon wished she had kept her mouth shut, and it’s not a wonder, as she herself, and we, together with her, find ourselves lost in a maze full of lies, secrets and danger.

I was trying to guess, of course I was, who the person is and if she’s really at the town. I didn’t buy the main suspect but I also didn’t guess the right person, till the very last moment. I, in fact, guessed it at the same time as Joanna, so it’s really telling something – how well the author has pulled wool over my eyes, how easily she played with my mind, and I loved this fact. There were many characters mentioned in this book, and it was sometimes confusing who is who and if they’re really important for the plot, especially the book club and the school mothers and their families, and this only made the whole thing much more complicated, as you had a whole range of the suspected.

Now. Perhaps some of you are not going to agree with what I’m going to say now but I, to be absolutely honest, totally got the character of Sally. I understand the other side, an awful tragedy has happened but Sally was a child then, right? Somehow, from the descriptions of her, I couldn’t understand that she’s done it with poise, deliberately. In my eyes, she has also deserved sympathy. I, of course, could have think totally differently if I was on the other side, if I was a member of the little boy’s family. However, Sally turned out to be a perfectly normal adult woman – I don’t want to write more about her circumstances, as I don’t want to spoil the reading for you, so let’s stop here, but let me just tell you that in my opinion she deserved her second chance and live her life in peace. Although, on the other hand, can we really talk about living life in peace, when there is always a danger of being identified, haunted and hunted, with cutting ties with everything and everybody, being moved to new places, not being able to put down some roots anywhere. On the other hand, how disturbing can it be, the thought that a convicted child killer is living a normal life, perhaps somewhere close to you?

“The Rumour” was an engrossing and engaging book with many twists and turns. It was an addictive, tense and very realistic read. It was really well plotted and the ending didn’t jump at me as unexpected, yet it was surprising but in a positive way. You know how sometimes the authors end the book with a huge twist that should blow you away but only make it unrealistic – here the twist was absolutely realistic and relatable, possible to happen. It was an extremely well debut novel, intense and clever. It was fast – paced, with short chapters and filled with suspense and the overwhelming feeling that something bad is going to happen. It was dark, but not too dark, and the author has brilliantly captured the atmosphere of the small town and of the uncertainty. This book touched upon many issues, such as punishment, being unable to forgive, revenge, crime and how dangerous rumours can be, how quickly they can ruin everything. Recommended!

 

Alone Time by Stephanie Rosenbloom (Blog Tour + Guest Post)

Alone Time by Stephanie Rosenbloom

 

33295222Publisher: Bantam Press

Publishing Date: 14th June 2018

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

Number of pages: 288

Genre: Travel, Non – Fiction, Memoir

 Buy the Book: Kindle | Hardcover

 

 

 

 

Synopsis:

A wise, passionate account of the pleasures of travelling solo

In our increasingly frantic daily lives, many people are genuinely fearful of the prospect of solitude, but time alone can be both rich and restorative, especially when travelling. Through on-the-ground reporting and recounting the experiences of artists, writers, and innovators who cherished solitude, Stephanie Rosenbloom considers how being alone as a traveller–and even in one’s own city–is conducive to becoming acutely aware of the sensual details of the world–patterns, textures, colors, tastes, sounds–in ways that are difficult to do in the company of others.

Alone Time is divided into four parts, each set in a different city, in a different season, in a single year. The destinations–Paris, Istanbul, Florence, New York–are all pedestrian-friendly, allowing travelers to slow down and appreciate casual pleasures instead of hurtling through museums and posting photos to Instagram. Each section spotlights a different theme associated with the joys and benefits of time alone and how it can enable people to enrich their lives–facilitating creativity, learning, self-reliance, as well as the ability to experiment and change. Rosenbloom incorporates insights from psychologists and sociologists who have studied solitude and happiness, and explores such topics as dining alone, learning to savor, discovering interests and passions, and finding or creating silent spaces. Her engaging and elegant prose makes Alone Time as warmly intimate an account as the details of a trip shared by a beloved friend–and will have its many readers eager to set off on their own solo adventures.

Rating: four-stars

Stephanie Rosenbloom has done a thing that I’m dreaming about – she’s travelled alone to four different cities. I don’t actually have to travel around the world but being alone is high on my list of priorities. You know, I’m actually never alone, there is always someone around me, be it at work or at home, and a solitary minute is like a Utopia Island. I think I wouldn’t be afraid of travelling alone, I’d enjoy every single minute and use it in exactly the same way Stephanie Rosenbloom did. 

I usually don’t read books like “Alone Time”, which is a shame as I actually found this book informative and entertaining, interesting and refreshing. I absolutely admire how much research must have gone into the story, as it is full of facts and references – some of them I found amusing and interesting, and I’d do without the others but altogether it was something different and I truly learnt from this book. 

The author takes us on a journey through four cities – Paris, Istanbul, Florence and New York, during four seasons. There were incredibly vivid descriptions of food that made my mouth water, beautiful settings and descriptions of places and of course people the author has met during her travels. This all will give you solitude and courage to perhaps travel alone one day and enjoy your own company, to focus on things we usually take for granted instead of appreciating. It will show you that it is really worth to slow down and open your eyes and your tastes. And it will show you how great it is to make your own marks and memories. Full of tips and resources, it’s really worth reading, not only when you’re planning a solo excursion. It felt so relaxed, and it was also very well written . Stephanie Rosenbloom’s writing style is warm and inviting, insightful and it pulls you into the book. It is also full of depth but the author knows when to add a relaxed anecdote to make it even easier to follow and for us not to feel too overwhelmed with the facts.. I must also mention the gorgeous cover of this book – it’s simple but beautiful, and the blue colour is one of the most brilliant and friendly ones. It will be for sure standing out on the bookshelves.

Let’s stop in Florence for a moment – this stop was full of art. I loved the precise descriptions, the slow motion, the no – hurry, to see Florence through Stephanie Rosenbloom’s eyes like this. The one or two anecdotes or memories were an added bonus, of course, the secret place so worth mention. This destination was beautifully described, with so much heart and soul in every word, and the educational part was truly well balanced by humour and sharp observations.
Stephanie Rosenbloom has visited Florence in autumn and the descriptions of trees glowing yellow in the sunshine were so vivid, as well the descriptions of food and streets, and I really didn’t know there are streets like Death, Hell and The Way of the Discontented in Tuscany – but this book is so much more than a travel guide. Many great names are being mentioned in this chapter, just think about Michelangelo, Padre Pinocchio, The Birth of Venus, and I would really take someone’s arm off to see those things with my own eyes. There were brilliant, interesting facts mentioned that I would probably never hear about if I hadn’t read this book, and it was full of clever insights and observations. And now also check what 5 things you just have to see when in Florence:

 

Five Things Not to Miss in Florence Ex: Stephanie Rosenbloom

 FLORENCE

–The Uffizi is a must, as is the Vasari Corridor, the hidden passageway lined with some of the world’s best-known self-portraits— that is if you can get in. Still, even if you can’t, the Uffizi is unrivaled for Renaissance masterworks, including its leading lady: Botticelli’s Venus.

–Never mind the Piazza Michelangelo. Cross the Oltrarno and climb the hills to the Basilica of San Miniato, where you’ll be treated to breathtaking views of the old city and the Duomo. While you’re there, go behind the basilica to visit the beautiful old cemetery, where a mausoleum houses the remains of Carlo Collodi, the author of Pinocchio.

–In the evenings, the city is alive with music. But there’s no need for formalities. Take yourself to a small church for a casual concert, as special as any in a grand concert hall.

–After hours inside some of the world’s most ornate museums and churches, get outside and wander amid the sculptures, grottos, and fountains of the regal Boboli Gardens.

–Yes, everyone goes to see Michelangelo’s David— and with good reason. Don’t miss the Galleria dell’Accademia. It’s one thing to see photos of the David, but quite another experience (and a moving one at that), to stand beside it.

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The House of Hopes and Dreams by Trisha Ashley / #BlogTour

The House of Hopes and Dreams by Trisha Ashley

 

37823355Publisher: Bantam Press

Publishing Date: 8th March 2018

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

Number of pages: 309

Genre: Women’s Fiction

 Buy the Book: Kindle | Hardcover | Paperback (out on 31.05.2018)

 

 

 

Synopsis:

This novel from the Sunday Times bestselling Trisha Ashley will more than satisfy romantic comedy fans. And it also contains recipes!

When Carey Revell unexpectedly becomes the heir to Mossby, his family’s ancestral home, it’s rather a mixed blessing. The house is large but rundown and comes with a pair of resentful relatives who can’t be asked to leave.
Still, newly dumped by his girlfriend and also from his job as a TV interior designer, Carey needs somewhere to lick his wounds. And Mossby would be perfect for a renovation show. He already knows someone who could restore the stained glass windows in the older part of the house…

Angel Arrowsmith has spent the last ten years happily working and living with her artist mentor and partner. But suddenly bereaved, she finds herself heartbroken, without a home or a livelihood. Life will never be the same again – until old friend Carey Revell comes to the rescue.

They move in to Mossby with high hopes. But the house has a secret at its heart: an old legend concerning one of the famous windows. Will all their dreams for happiness be shattered? Or can Carey and Angel find a way to make this house a home?

Heart-warming, witty and quirkily original, Trisha Ashley’s THE HOUSE OF HOPES AND DREAMS will delight both old fans and new readers alike.

mythoughts

Trisha Ashley always takes us on brilliant, bumpy rides in her books and this time, in her newest offer, “The House of Hopes and Dreams”, it’s not different, as the main character tries to overcome a personal tragedy. This story is very artistic and there is a wonderful, creative side to it. This book has also one of the most gorgeous and inviting covers ever – it’s simply beautiful and I could look at it all the time. Hell, I’ll probably enlarge it and hang it on the wall, so magnificent is this.

“The House of Hopes and Dreams” follows two main characters, Carey and Angel. Carey is just recovering from a bike accident when he finds out that he’s just inherited a house from his uncle. It’s just in time, as he’s only lost his job as a house renovation program’s TV presenter.
Angel has just lost everything, literally. Her partner has died and she’s left with no house and no job, as he’s never managed to write his will and everything is inherited by his son who hates Angel. Both Carey and Angel are looking for a fresh start and as they’re old friends, Carey offers Angel a place to live and work, a use of the workshop on the property and to turn the house into a lovely place. The house, however, is a venue full of its own secrets, and it also comes with a bad – tempered housekeeper and a gardener. Will Carey and Angel be able to find out the residence’s past and move to a better future?

Trisha Ashley always creates unique and eclectic characters. I really like characters like Angel and Carey – creative and full of ideas. Also, they were likeable and believable. At the beginning I felt really sorry for Angel, then I felt somehow annoyed by her but altogether she was a woman who could stand for herself and take matters in her own hands. At the beginning, Angel just didn’t put a fight and let the things just happen, and it took a lot of time before she turned into the feisty, quirky typical Trisha Ashley’s heroine. Yes, it exasperated me but I think that what mostly made me so angry was the fact that she actually couldn’t put any fight because she was hard done by others and by circumstances, and probably it was this powerlessness that annoyed me so much.
Carey was easygoing and uncomplicated and it really made a difference to have such a character for once.

The narration in this story changes between present and past. We get to know the history of Mossby, the house that’s recently been inherited by Carey (and his story as well), in the brilliant area of Lancashire, told through the diary entries from over 100 years ago – this was a diary of a famous stained glass artist Jessie Kaye, who lived in Mossby this many years ago. They were a great, albeit brief, glimpses into her life, full of surprises and secrets and I liked them very much – and the story of Angelica, who’s suddenly found herself homeless and jobless after her partner’s death.

The stained glass thread was also very unique and you could see how many research has gone into bringing it to life so well but it was just too much for me, I really don’t need so many detailed info about stained glass, especially in such a story. There was something that I can’t put my finger on that didn’t work for me in this book. It was a feel – good novel and theoretically it had all the elements of a brilliant chick – lit with a twist and depth, but practically it didn’t deliver for me. Probably it was the case of “it’s not you, it’s me”, so please do not feel put out by my words and just read this book for yourself. There was really nothing wrong with it, it was a lovely, warm story, only for me “The House of Hopes and Dreams” was a book with stronger and weaker moments. and also the book had moments that it just dragged on and on, and also felt slightly repetitive. The parts about Carey’s plans, about Angel setting up to her new life and chances, they were lovely, but also they dragged and they weren’t as suspenseful. But also, there were many fascinating secrets, it was rich in adorable descriptions and it was complex, multi – layered tale and with a mystery running through it. I can only highly recommend this book to Trisha Ashley’s fans.

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Surprise Me by Sophie Kinsella

Surprise Me by Sophie Kinsella

 

35437993Publisher: Bantam Press

Publishing Date: 8th February 2018

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

Number of pages: 368

Genre: Women’s Fiction

 Buy the Book: Kindle | Hardcover

 

 

 

Synopsis:

After being together for ten years, Sylvie and Dan have all the trimmings of a happy life and marriage; they have a comfortable home, fulfilling jobs, beautiful twin girls, and communicate so seamlessly, they finish each other’s sentences. However, a trip to the doctor projects they will live another 68 years together and panic sets in. They never expected “until death do us part” to mean seven decades.

In the name of marriage survival, they quickly concoct a plan to keep their relationship fresh and exciting: they will create little surprises for each other so that their (extended) years together will never become boring. But in their pursuit to execute Project Surprise Me, mishaps arise and secrets are uncovered that start to threaten the very foundation of their unshakable bond. When a scandal from the past is revealed that question some important untold truths, they begin to wonder if they ever really knew each other after all.

Rating: three-stars

With a Sophie Kinsella book you can be certain that you’re going to spent some relaxing hours, full of fun and laughter. And guys, let’s be honest, a new Kinsella’s book means bouncing off the walls with excitement, I’m sure I’m not the only one who feels like that.

In “Surprise Me” we meet Sylvie and Dan, a happily married couple with twins. They are a match made in heaven, they complete each other perfectly and they even finish each other’s sentences, so great is their marriage. During one of the obligatory health check’s they’re told they’re going to live for a very long time and spent at least the next 68 years together. It freaks them out a little, and so they decide that they’re going to surprise each other from now on, so that their marriage doesn’t go stale and they won’t be boring to each other. However, surprises can go two ways, right – either well or totally wrong, and mostly their surprises went the other way. And well, it also often happens that when you want to surprise your other half, you discover some secrets about them…

I had some problems to engage with the characters – I didn’t warm to them immediately, just like with the other Sophie Kinsella’s characters. I, in fact, didn’t warm to them completely till the very end. Sylvie was for me too spoiled, too self – obsessed and somehow too self – delusional. She just didn’t sound too authentic, and while I know that Kinsella’s characters DO have this element of being too freaky it just didn’t work for Sylvie, a 32 – year – old and mother of two 5 – years – old twins. And Sylvie was just annoying. And the fact that she called her parents “Mummy” and “Daddy” all the time was for me even more annoying. And the fact that she didn’t take Dan’s feeling into consideration and never stopped her “Daddy this” and “Daddy that” was annoying. However, what’s really, really good is the fact that Sylvie grew incredibly throughout the story and started to see things how they really were.
Dan… well, Dan. I had a feeling that he’s mostly absent and I was never really able to connect to him. The twins are mentioned but they’re also not a great part of the story.

Another thing that bothered me so much is the plot itself. The idea of this book was great, so smart and so unique and I couldn’t wait to see how it’s going to unveil and develop. The synopsis promises us a great fun and a long marriage full of surprises, however it funnelled in a totally different direction and it had almost nothing to do with the premise, with the surprises that I was already so thrilled about. It focused mostly on Sylvie’s deceased father and her almost obsession with him, her comparing her husband Dan with her father almost all the time and well, it confused me.
Then I’m not sure I completely understand while Sylvie and Dan panicked at the news that they’re going to spend approximately the next 68 years together, in good health. I personally would weep for joy, however our two characters start to panic at the thought of growing old together. Of having sex with each other. Of living together. Of spending time together. Hello? Why? Instead of happily awaiting what the future bring they turn onto insecure, neurotic, cagey people.

I wouldn’t be fair if I said there weren’t any surprises at all on the way. There were. But they were neither unique nor … surprising.
The final twist about Sylvie’s father… well, it made me roll my eyes, to be honest. I expected more from author this calibre.

So to be totally honest, it was not Sophie Kinsella’s best offer – but of course you’re going to find those elements of Kinsella that you’re used to. There are many hilarious moments but, as usual, there is a depth in this novel as well, and the author so easily and effortlessly switches from light to serious and the other way round. It is full of this Sophie Kinsella’s hallmark charm and humour and fun that captivates me always when reading her books.
Don’t get me wrong, guys. It was not a bad book. But from Sophie Kinsella I was expecting much, much more and I know she can write brilliant books with engaging, quirky characters.
It was the execution that failed here. But I am already looking forward to the author’s next offer.