The Worst Case Scenario Cookery Club by Chrissie Manby

The Worst Case Scenario Cookery Club by Chrissie Manby

 

35582348Publisher: Hodder

Publishing Date: 21st September 2017

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

Number of pages: 384

Genre:  Women’s Fiction

 Buy the Book: Kindle | Paperback

 

 

 

 

Synopsis:

In the quaint seaside town of Newbay, a beginner’s cookery course is starting. And three very different students have signed up . . .

Liz’s husband has left her for a twenty-something clean-eating blogger, and she’s determined to show the world – and her daughter – she’s just as capable in the kitchen. John, newly widowed after fifty years of marriage, can’t live on sympathy lasagnes forever. To thirty-year-old workaholic Bella, the course is a welcome escape from her high-pressure job. Their only common ground: between them, they can barely boil an egg!

Enter talented chef Alex, who is determined to introduce his pupils to the comforts of cuisine. As Liz, John and Bella encounter various disasters in the kitchen, the unlikely trio soon form a fast friendship. Their culinary skills might be catastrophic – but could the cookery club have given them a recipe for happiness?

The wonderful new novel from Chrissie Manby is perfect for fans of Jill Mansell, Trisha Ashley and Cathy Bramley.

Rating: five-stars

 

Each new release by Chrissie Manby is a treat. I was very inconsolable some time ago that there is no more Proper Family to come, however with “The Worst Case Scenario Cookery Club” we return to Newbay, the town that was already featured in another Chrissie Manby’s cracker of a story, “A Fairy Tale for Christmas”, and it was lovely to see some characters from the previous book mentioned, as well as the NEWTs. But it is a fully stand – alone novel, with a new bunch of the most lovely, humorous and life – experienced characters and the book has easily elevated itself to the top of my favourite reads this year.

This novel has all that I absolutely love in books – brilliant characters, dogs and cooking. I immediately fell in love with Liz and her life – approach, it was so easy to relate with her character and to feel her pain. Liz had troubles to come to terms with her husband leaving her for a much younger health blogger and her daughter blaming her for this fact – of course! The fact that Brittney is a health blogger, posting vegan recipes and radiating calmness and zen also doesn’t help as Liz – simply – can’t cook. Add to this an overweight border terrier Ted only starting his own doggy weight loss class at the local vet – you can really loose self – control, right? However, Liz’s patience was amazing, and the way she coped with all those things was brilliant, she was so stoical and cool as a cucumber, and I just wanted to give her a hug.
But the story doesn’t only tell us Liz’s story. Through Alex’s cookery class we get to know other characters that basically have nothing to do with Liz and her life, they only get to know each other on the course but we get the chance to also see into their backgrounds and histories, and I must say that while sometimes it doesn’t work – mixing characters that have nothing in common – here it created such a warm atmosphere and was a brilliant balance to Liz’s tale. There is Bella, a public defence lawyer, almost always on telephone duty – she was so kind and human and if I were in troubles I’d want Bella and only Bella. It seems that her job takes over her life and she starts to wonder if this is really how she wants to live. There is John, a seventy – something widower, still missing his late beloved wife and keeping a secret, and Alex, the one setting up the cooking course, hoping for a class full and landing with the three so very different, but so very personality rich students.
What all the characters have in common, though, is the fact that they were not happy with their lives, and all of them started to realize this – the question was if they’re going to do something with this.

Chrissie Manby has described the food in the most delicious way but what was the best thing is that mostly the dishes were associated with some of the best memories in our characters’ lives – it was lovely and touching and I absolutely adored this part of the story. I would only love if there were some recipes at the end of the book – maybe they’re going to be put in the finished copies but they weren’t in my review copy.

This book is written in such easy, comforting way! I just couldn’t stand the thought that I must put it down for a moment, I was so caught up in the characters’ lives, their antics and their banter – it was all perfect! There are so many hilarious scenes in this novel, usually involving Liz, as she was incredibly accident prone, but also there were some more poignant moments and I loved this balance. From the very first page I knew that I am for a new treat and that I’m going to enjoy this book. It was another fantabulous story that I simply devoured and didn’t want it to finish.

So shortly, very shortly – it was funny and emotional, it was heart – warming, it was so genuine and realistic and it is a MUST READ this autumn. It was so brilliant, with adorable characters with their own background interesting stories, full of funny situations that really made me laugh out loud, and there are too many to list them, and besides I don’t want to spoil the joy for you, and moments that had me tearing up – just what I love. I am already looking towards Chrissie Manby’s next release, I simply can’t have enough of her writing. Highly recommended!

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This Beautiful Life by Katie Marsh / #BlogTour

Hi guys! I am incredibly thrilled to be a part of Katie Marsh’s blog tour today – since reading her debut novel “My Everything” I fell in love with her novels, the way she gently and sensibly tells characters’ stories and making them feel so realistic and genuine. And the new release “This Beautiful Life” is not different, it tugs at your heart – strings, it’s moving and it’s just beautiful, and really, if you haven’t read Katie Marsh’s books yet, drop everything and run to the next bookshop, you will love them – you have my word!

This Beautiful Life by Katie Marsh

 

32883111Publisher: Hodder

Publishing Date: 27th July 2017

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

Number of pages: 384

Genre:   Women’s Fiction, Literature/Fiction (Adult)

 Buy the Book: Kindle | Paperback

 

 

Synopsis:

The addictive and emotive new novel from Katie Marsh, perfect for fans of Jojo Moyes and Jodi Picoult.

‘I lived over half my life before I met you both, and I hope with all my heart to live many years more. You two are the reason why. Always, always the reason why.’

Abi Cooper is living her happy ending. She’s in remission and is ready to make the most of her second chance. But during Abi’s illness her family has fallen apart. Her husband John has made decisions that are about to come back to haunt him, while her teenage son Seb is battling with a secret of his own.

Set to the songs on Abi’s survival playlist, This Beautiful Life is the moving and uplifting story of what happens as Abi tries to put her family back together – and of why life, and love, are worth fighting for.

Rating: five-stars

“This Beautiful Life” by Katie Marsh is not a book with many twists and turns in the story but I think this is the strength of this book – just showing normal, everyday life, with all its ups and downs, crises and little moments of joy. Writing about normal life, in incredibly gentle, subtle and sympathetic way is becoming Katie Marsh’s hallmark, and even though I know that her books are going to make me cry crocodile tears, I incredibly eagerly read them because they also lift me up and give me hope, and I simply love it.

This story shows Abi’s cancer recovery, but not focusing on her medical condition per se, but dealing with her everyday life. I loved the idea of telling the story partly through music and Abi’s favourite songs that helped her when she was recovering. If I were to tell you a song that helps me, it would be – please, don’t laugh – “Get Back Up Again” sung by Poppy in “The Trolls”. Just listen the lyrics – there is really nothing that works better for me than this song. But back to the story. Abi has explained why those songs are so special and particular to her, and you know what, those personal letters made me love this woman even more, and I had a feeling that I know her through and through.

But the book deals not only with Abi and her problems, it also focuses on her family, and especially the tale of Seb, Abi’s son, was heart – breaking. He had not only to face the challenges of his mum’s illness but he had demons of his own and you could feel through the pages how torn he was, and the way the author showed how he tried to fight all the insecurities by attacking everything and everyone was incredibly realistic and genuine.

The author has truly done a great job with getting into the characters’ heads. It was so easy to understand how Ali and Seb have been feeling, to understand their perspectives. It is also incredible how well she captured all the changes that have happened throughout the year Abi was ill, and while her being in remission should be a happy moment, the reality bites, and many things have changed, financial problems appeared, relationships changed as well, and also when you thought nothing worse can happen, the story took a turn or two and made you wonder if this rollercoaster journey is going to have a happy end. The characters have flaws but isn’t this what make them more believable? And Katie Marsh excels in creating such characters, those that doesn’t always make the right decisions, those that keep secrets from each other, that lie and even though they don’t want to hurt each other, they do it. They are raw and they are totally believable.

“This Beautiful Life” is a sensitive, realistic, uplifting read, written with a heart on the author’s sleeve, with a soul. Katie Marsh writes in such a convincing way and you have a feeling that she has been there, has seen this.
I am already looking towards her next book, because whatever she decides to write about, it’s perfect. “This Beautiful Life” is a beautiful, soaring story about love, survival, forgiveness and understanding. It was unusual in showing this side of cancer, as normally the characters go through the illness together with us, but I really appreciate this fact and it is great that this book shows this side of cancer for once. It is a memorable book, with unforgettable characters, and while it touches on hard and difficult subjects, it also has uplifting and promising moments. Highly, highly recommended!

FOLLOW THE BLOG TOUR:

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He Said/She Said by Erin Kelly

He Said/She Said by Erin Kelly

 

32939533Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton

Publishing Date: 20th April  2017

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

Number of pages: 416

Genre: Mystery, Suspense, General Fiction (Adult)

 Buy the Book: Kindle | Hardcover | Paperback (out on 11.01.2018)

 

Synopsis:

Who do you believe?

In the hushed aftermath of a total eclipse, Laura witnesses a brutal attack.

She and her boyfriend Kit call the police, and in that moment, it is not only the victim’s life that is changed forever.

Fifteen years on, Laura and Kit live in fear.

And while Laura knows she was right to speak out, the events that follow have taught her that you can never see the whole picture: something – and someone – is always in the dark…

Rating: five-stars

Erin Kelly is a new author to me but as soon as I spotted “He Said/She Said” I just knew that I have to read this book, no matter what. Every once in a while there comes a novel that you only need to look at and to immediately feel that this is for sure going to be THE read that you’re looking for. However, guys, when I started reading this gorgeous review copy, I quickly turned into a nervous wreck, as I completely couldn’t get into it. The descriptions of the eclipse, universe, moon etc were lovely but I thought, what the hell? Is this the story? Am I going to hate the book that I was sure I am going to love? The beginning was a real test for me, guys, but luckily it didn’t take long and I was completely immersed in the plot. Completely.

“He Said/She Said” was a dark and unpredictable psychological suspense of the highest niveau. There are not many twists in this story, however when they come, be prepared to gasp loud, as they appear so out of the blue and hit you hard direct in your face. Also, the author has written her characters like a real genius – I have no idea how many times I’ve changed my mind about them. I really didn’t know if I can trust them, who has lied and who is hiding something, and I loved this feeling, guys. It is brilliant to once in a while get a book in your hands that makes you question everything, a story where nothing is as you think, as it appears.

This story focuses on four characters, their lives, secrets and lies, exploring their relationships and interactions. Told from Laura and Kit’s points of view, it also mixes two time – lines, in present and 15 years before when everything started and when the situation started to spiral out of control. It was not too easy at the beginning, what with the stories about the eclipse (though the eclipse is very significant, so please bare with those passages. Just like eclipse has different phases, this story has them as well), the changing point of view and the jumping times but then it started to fall into a place, each piece was finding its place in the puzzle and there came a moment that I just couldn’t put this book down. It sucked me in and I was interested only in finding out who and why and how it’s going to end. I’d say the first part of this story was a little long – winded and dragged a tad, but then, really guys, then nothing can stop it.

It’s a multi – layered story and there is much more to it than meets the eye at the beginning. You may think you have it nailed but nothing there is as straightforward as you can think. It is incredibly clever, with brilliantly developed characters – there is depth to them and complexity. They are full of flaws but it only make them more believable. They try to make amends, which doesn’t always work out. And it is written in a beautiful way, some of the passages are almost poetic and you just want to swallow up every single word. It is harsh, it is genuine, all the emotions are just like they are in real life. It is a book that will keep you guessing and doubting yourself, taking you on a journey full of surprises. It is truly one of the best and captivating books I’ve read this year. Highly recommended!

 

The Roanoke Girls by Amy Engel

The Roanoke Girls by Amy Engel

 

33015034Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton

Publishing Date: 9th March 2017

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

Number of pages: 288

Genre: General Fiction (Adult), Mystery

 Buy the Book: Kindle | Hardcover | Paperback (out on 21.09.2017)

 

Synopsis:

A gripping, provocative thriller about the twisted secrets families keep, perfect for fans of The Girls. Beautiful. Rich. Mysterious. Everyone wants to be a Roanoke girl. But you won’t when you know the truth. Lane Roanoke is fifteen when she comes to live with her grandparents and fireball cousin at the Roanoke family’s rural estate following the suicide of her mother. Over one long, hot summer, Lane experiences the benefits of being one of the rich and beautiful Roanoke girls. But what she doesn’t know is being a Roanoke girl carries a terrible legacy: either the girls run, or they die. For there is darkness at the heart of Roanoke, and when Lane discovers its insidious pull, she must make her choice…

Rating: 4/5

Ah, guys. Don’t be misled by the lovely cover of this book. This novel is not as rosy as it may suggest! I’ve read this story in one day. It was impossible for me to put it down for a moment. It was disturbing, dysfunctional, controversial and thought – provoking, full of dark secrets that go back in generations.

Lane Roanoke’s mother has committed suicide but Lane can consider herself lucky – the family that she’s never seen before, grandparents and her cousin Allegra, want her to come to the very rural Osage Flats in Kansas. Her mother never really talked about Lane’s grandparents so Lane doesn’t really know what to expect – the only thing she knows is that her mother ran away from her home years before – just like many other Roanoke girls before her. They ran away, or they die…
The story really takes place over one summer, when Lane arrives to the Roanoke family, with many retrospections to the past, and thanks to them we start to understand what’s really happening in this family. After learning what really happens there, Lane decided to leave and wants to take Allegra with her but she blankly refuses, even though she knows she’s living a nightmare in a toxic environment. Lane vows never to come back to Kansas but eleven years later she receives a phone call from her grandfather that Allegra is missing.

This story, mostly written from Lane’s point of view, also allows us to get to know the 17200887_10206437408214166_7754175943052932566_nperspectives of all the other Roanoke girls as well. It seamlessly flows between “now” and “then”. It made me feel hate and feel upset – as it deals with things that I found uncomfortable – but at the same time I couldn’t stop reading it, and I am also thinking that the author has handled the issues she wrote about in a really skilful way, without adding drama or trying to make them even worse. The author deals with the secret and us knowing about it, about those difficult themes, in the best possible way, with a lot of gentleness and subtlety.

All the Roanoke girls are exceptionally beautiful, without exception. But they all keep shocking secrets. The big secret, that I relatively quickly guessed, was also revealed early on. I think it couldn’t be different with the secret, it must have been revealed so early on because without doing so the story wouldn’t make sense probably. This way, we weren’t asking WHAT or WHO but WHY. The author also had time to concentrate on the whole family, on explaining the relationships and bonds.

The characters in this story were full of flaws, and I mean full! It wasn’t easy to like them, to be honest, but I also think that they didn’t expect us to like them. I was irritated by the way Allegra and Lane were as teenagers but well, that’s the way teenagers are, right – behaving as if they know everything and experienced everything when in fact they don’t know anything, showboating, patronizing… The adult Lane was also not my favourite person, but now I am thinking that perhaps the way she was behaving was her protective shell? However, the characters, with all their flaws, dark secrets, habits were realistic and genuine and it was like a real breath of fresh air. They didn’t pretend to be somebody else, they were as they were, they were themselves and I appreciated them for this very much.

My biggest problem was that I couldn’t understand what kept the girls from telling the truth. There were no signals of them being brainstormed or something like this, it looked as if they’ve chosen this life and they themselves didn’t want to change it. It was not like this that they were loved and cherished only at home, as we could see they all were easily finding boyfriends or admirers – so why? Why too choose suicide? They did know that what’s happening at home is sick, and I guess this is what bothered me too much when reading this story – but probably they just couldn’t do it differently, as actually them being so strongly rooted at the Roanoke House was the most important information.

“The Roanoke Girls” is a very exceptional novel about appearances and that it often happens that evil things are hidden under the facade of money and being a “good” family with traditions. It was bitter and brutally honest, telling things how they are but sparing us the worst moments – I appreciated this fact. It was sharp and very well observed. And I’ll be honest with you – I didn’t guess the last twist. I didn’t. It didn’t cross my mind. This novel pulls you in, keeps you at its grips, dunk you into the Roanokes’ world completely. Full of dark secrets, disturbing and unforgettable, I will definitely be keeping my eyes out for more from Amy Engel, because this novel has shaken my world. Truly recommended!

This is Now by Ciara Geraghty

This is Now by Ciara Geraghty

 

33233794Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton

Publishing Date: 9th February 2016

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

Number of pages: 368

Genre: General Fiction (Adults)

 Buy the Book: Kindle | Paperback

 

Synopsis:

An ordinary day. An ordinary bank. An ordinary street in an ordinary town. Nothing ever happens, until, one day, a shocking robbery turns life upside down for five people:

Cillian, a police detective,
Martha, the woman he thought was the life of his life,
Tobias, who came to Ireland after WWII and now lies in a coma, shot in the bank robbery,
Roman, the young Polish teenager who is suspected of pulling the trigger
and his mother Rosa, the cleaner, who dreamed of a better life for herself and her son . . .

. . . and things will never be ordinary again.

Ciara Geraghty’s writing has that rare ability to make you laugh out loud as well as cry. She combines tangled human relationships with humour, romance and warmth to create something truly special.

Rating: 3/5

Since reading Ciara Geraghty’s last novel “Now That I’ve Found You” I was waiting impatiently for her new release – yes, as you probably guessed I totally adored this book and wanted more, more, more from this author. The excitement was on a very high level when my review copy of “This is Now” finally arrived at my doorsteps, with its gorgeous sparkly cover and very promising synopsis. It is a deeply moving story with believable characters. The author really knows how to write a captivating, thought – provoking story and she has this great talent to make you chuckle and in the next moment to bring you to tears. She’s not afraid to test her characters and to make them full of flaws, but she can also capture them in a way that have you rooting for them, wanting all to go well for them. What I also liked is the fact that you can’t say that this story is predictable – it could go in many ways and it really at the end that you see how the characters’ lives turned out and what happened to them.

But it was not like this that I didn’t have issues with this book, guys. It took me much longer to get into this story as expected and it was probably because… well, yes, I like when the characters have something in common, when their stories intertwine – and this novel was telling stories of some very different characters, who – on the surface – really didn’t have anything in common, it was just a coincidence that they were at the same time at the same place. Also, the stories were mostly sad, difficult and I also couldn’t get used to the way they were told. The chapters were set in present but each of them also told us stories from the past, introducing us to the characters’ previous lives, their stories, their background, and generally I wasn’t sure what this book wants to be about – because it was like having four different books in one.

The characters are maybe not the most likeable ones (at least not all of them) but they are realistic and they are this kind of characters that you, as a reader, quickly fall for. We have Martha, a freelance journalist insisting on having an “unhealthy relationship with alcohol” while in fact she’s an alcoholic, although over one year dry. But she still has her demons and it is an everyday battle for her and her addiction. There is also Tobias Hartmann, teaching Rosa English, as she and her son Roman are the immigrants for Poland who hoped to make a better life in Ireland and while at the beginning it looked really well for them, it then went belly up. They all find themselves at the bank when the robbery takes place. In the due course more characters are being introduced to us, among which Cillian Larkin is the most significant one – he is responsible to find out what happened at the bank, who did it and whose history we are also to get to know, as he reminds happy times with the person who has captured his heart.
The characters go through ups and downs, highs and lows, and we make this journey together with them. I can’t say I had a favourite character because they were all down – to – earth, realistic people. Yes, I can say that my heart went mostly to Rosa and Roman, and there is a very simple reason – it was great to read about immigrants from Poland, who, even though I think they were a tad too stereotyped by the author, were introduced in a good light, and it was a great joy to see that all the names of the characters and the places were spelled in a right way. Moreover, Rosa and Roman could be my neighbours, shall I still live in Poland, in Gdansk. I also liked Martha, her no – nonsense approach to life and not bothering about what other think about her and she lived her life just like she wanted to. They all were brought to life very well, I think.

However, I had a feeling there is too much said and too less done. I didn’t feel a part of this story. I think I also haven’t expected this book to be rather on the heavy side – I of course don’t mind but it took me somehow by surprise but of course I am not judging the book on my expectations. The pace in the story is relatively slow but I think we shouldn’t expect it to be quicker, as the individual stories and layers needed time to be unfolded. It is told in alternating chapters by the four main characters so we really have a lot of time to get to know them and their background.

I wanted to love this book, I truly did. In the end I can say that I liked and enjoyed this story and I for sure wanted to see how this tangled web of chances and events is going to resolve. “This is Now” is a story about dealing with the past, about dealing with a dramatic situation and its side effects. I wouldn’t say that it was the easiest read however I still enjoyed it and there is a lot of depth to it. I am in two minds about it, to be honest, because on the one hand we have the well developed characters and on the other their stories that actually don’t lead to a satisfying for me conclusion. But one thing is for sure – Ciara Geraghty can write, oh guys, how well can she write! Her writing style is captivating, inviting and she for sure can describe feelings and emotions. Also, there is so much and so great research done, every aspect of this book – no matter if it is wartime Dresden or nowadays police department – it feels realistic and genuine. She also exactly knows when and where add some humorous touches to defuse the situation and tension. So when it was not my favourite read by this author, she’s still at the top list of my favourite authors and I already looking forward to her next release.

All I Ever Wanted by Lucy Dillon

All I Ever Wanted by Lucy Dillon

 

28266462Publisher: Hodder Paperbacks

Publishing Date: 1st December 2016

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

Number of pages: 464

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

 Buy the Book: Kindle | Paperback

 

Synopsis:

Nancy is four, nearly five. She talks all the time: in the car, on the way to nursery, to her extrovert older brother, to her collection of bears. But then, one February morning, everything changes. Nancy’s mum and dad split up. Her father Patrick moves away from their Bristol home to Newcastle. And Nancy stops talking.
Eva is forty-four, nearly forty-five. She didn’t expect to be the third wife of a much-loved household name, but eight years ago, she and semi-retired bad boy Michael Quinn fell in love. Eva knew marrying a much older man meant compromises, but it was the love of a lifetime for them both – until Mickey dies suddenly, leaving Eva alone with his gossipy diaries, their two pugs, and a distressing voice in the back of her mind, wondering if perhaps she’s sacrificed more than she meant to.
While Nancy’s parents negotiate their separation, the question of weekend contact is solved when Patrick volunteers his sister Eva’s house. It’s in Longhampton, an hour out of Bristol, with plenty of room for her to get to know a niece and nephew she’s barely met – even if Nancy continues to refuse to speak. Patrick is sure it’s just a phase but his soon-to-be-ex-wife is worried that something more traumatic lies at the heart of their daughter’s selective mutism.
Meanwhile, Eva begins to read through Mickey’s diaries, and with every page she’s forced to confront a view of her marriage that turns everything she believed about her late husband, her self – and her own heart – on its head. The fortnightly presence of two children in her peaceful, grown-up home – one constantly singing and performing, the other wordless and sad – initially drives Eva and the two pugs, Bumble and Bee, to exhaustion, but as spring turns into summer, a trust slowly begins to form between an anxious little girl with a heartbreaking secret, and a woman who has realised too late that what her soul yearns for is the love of a child.

Rating: 5/5

It is unbelievable but “All I Ever Wanted” is my first Lucy Dillon’s book – but certainly not the last, as this novel has totally convinced me and it made me experience all kind of emotions. It was a beautiful, gentle story about a family that goes through a rough patch in their lives. Caitlin and Patrick’s marriage wasn’t working as well as they’d like it to and Patrick’s acceptance of a job in Newcastle was the last straw – Caitlin refuses to move there with the children, she wants to stay at the house she has inherited from her grandmother, her “safe place”. For Patrick it is a sign that Caitlin has other priorities in life and it signifies that their marriage is over.

I was thinking this story is going to follow Caitlin and Patrick’s life, but it doesn’t only focus on their family, as there is also Patrick’s older sister Eva, and her story was an unexpected bonus for me. Now, in perspective, I think the author really knew what she’s doing, taking the whole focus from Nancy and sharing it with Eva, as it truly made the story more complex, it added some layers to it and for me personally it made the book a whole big bit more interesting.

What I really liked in this story is the fact that Lucy Dillon doesn’t let us feel pity or anger with one character for a long time, she then changes tracks and our opinions change as well. I was mostly team Caitlin, as I didn’t like Patrick. He came across as a cold and work – obsessed person, and I had a feeling that his work was a kind of escape for him, and I also hated the way he patronized Caitlin and that he didn’t appreciate her, and the way he was towards her was not the most friendly one. But there came a moment that I thought I won’t hold on to Caitlin anymore. It was just like Patrick said, she behaved as if there were two different kinds of morals for her, rules that all other should keep but that weren’t valid to Caitlin, and I was really scared it’s going to destroy this book for me. I was tired with her, and annoyed, and also desperate, and I hoped that she’ll eventually stop behave in this childish way, blaming all the other people for her failures and not feeling satisfied. And then I started to feel more sympathy towards Patrick – he was so desperately trying to do the right thing but somehow, somewhere has lost his priorities and everything turned wrong for him. Caitlin was thinking only about herself and her selfish behaviour put her children in danger more than once or she’s just forgotten about them, forgotten the promises she’d given them and it just didn’t sit well with me. Those were the moments when Patrick was supposed to pick up the pieces and make everything go smoothly again. So it is like this: I never actually warm to Patrick totally but I’ve lost many warm feeling for Caitlin – I didn’t like Patrick’s bossy and patronizing ways, and I didn’t like Caitlin’s helplessness and letting everyone to take a lead. And then there is also Eva, who thought she knows her late husband so well but after reading his diaries she starts to think that perhaps she didn’t know him as well as she thought – the worst thing now is that she’s never going to get answers to her questions now.

Lucy Dillon brilliantly describes her characters, they have depth and complex personalities. I couldn’t help but fell for Nancy immediately – it was so easy to imagine her as this talkative, positive, joyful girl because my Sophie is almost the same age as Nancy, and from morning till evening she talks, sings, hums, laughs and I can’t imagine that it should suddenly stop. It was really heart – breaking to see how this little girl clams up, withdraws. Joel, aged 10, who loves acting, is just as talkative as his sister, and very prone to accident, acting as his sister saviour and always stepping in to help her.

The story flaws so effortlessly! The scenes with the children sound so realistic and they are just like real kids their age. The sub – plot of Eva and his late husband, Michael, added tons to this story, however I’d love to read much more from his diaries, and especially the parts that his two ex – wives had. There was so much more to this sub – plot, and the more it was developing, the more I could find myself rooting for Eva and falling for her. It touched upon many issues, about hiding your biggest dreams only not to hurt your beloved person, and then about living ruefully. Eva loved her husband totally but now she’s left alone only with two pugs and many, many questions and with his diaries and some things he’s written there makes her start to think and revise.

This book is a slow burner to be honest, at the beginning it made me feel a little uncertain – I wasn’t sure if it’s a book for me, as there seemed not much happening. However, as it slowly develops, I found myself falling in love with all aspects of this story, with the writing style, characters, the way it was written, and it quickly turned out that it may not be a fast paced book but it is much, much more and it has many layers that only wait to be peeled off. The author is testing her characters, filling their lives with ups and downs, with regrets but also hopes and I loved this rollercoaster journey of feelings and emotions. She explores there relationships, needs and wishes, lost hopes and desires. Dividing the book into two stories was a great idea – even though the stories were quite different they also had something in common and I liked how they were linked and how they interwoven. I liked how down – to – earth this novel was, showing how it really is in life, in relationship. The characters are not perfect, they make a lot of mistakes but they do it in a good faith and they try to be the best mother, father, aunt. They’re not honest with each other, just like it is in normal life, when we tell white lies or keep some things for us only, and it’s only in the end that they eventually open and start to be honest with each other – and it was so believable and genuine. “All I Ever Wanted” was a really engaging story about family dynamics and coming to terms after a separation. It sounded down – to – earth and I found myself most of the time rooting for the characters and hoping things will change for them for better. Highly recommended!

A Fairy Tale for Christmas by Chrissie Manby

A Fairy Tale for Christmas by Chrissie Manby

 

32801034Publisher: Hodder

Publishing Date: 3rd November 2016

Source:  Copy provided by the publisher in return for an honest review, thank you!

Number of pages: 432

Genre: Literature/Fiction (Adult), Women’s Literature

 Buy the Book: Kindle | Paperback

 

Synopsis:

A wonderful, heartwarming and funny Christmas novel from Chrissie Manby, perfect for curling up with in front of the fire.

What could be more magical at Christmas than a fairy tale come true?

It’s the festive season and the members of the Newbay Theatre Society, more commonly known as the NEWTS, are preparing to put on a show. Being cast as Cinderella is the realization of a dream for newcomer Kirsty, not least because she hopes starring in a panto under the direction of her boyfriend Jon will bring them closer together.

But Kirsty soon learns that it’s not all glitter and good cheer behind the scenes at the amateur theatre as bitter rivalries nurtured through decades, wardrobe mishaps and suspicious near-fatal accidents threaten to derail the production. And then there’s Prince Charming himself. Will working together with Jon bring Kirsty her happy ever after… or reveal their love to be nothing but a ‘showmance’?

With Christmas just around the corner, it’s going to take more than a Fairy Godmother to get Kirsty and her cast-mates to the ball.

 Rating: 5/5

“A Fairy Tale for Christmas” was one of my most anticipated reads this autumn – since reading the Proper Family series Chrissie Manby has catapulted herself to the very top of my favourite authors’ list and while I’m probably never going to recover from the fact that there won’t be any more books in this series (or maybe? Chrissie? Pretty, pretty pleaaaaaaase!), I’ve been impatiently waiting for any new book by this author. And when it arrived, in all it’s shiny, sparkly glory, I literally put everything aside and started reading it.

As a consolation to all of us who loved the Proper family just as much as I do, “A Fairy Tale for Christmas” follows the story of Kirsty – Kirsty, that we’ve already got to know in “A Proper Family Adventure”! She was the one who went on the same cruise as the Bensons and co. with her best friend Jane – so for me it was as if the Bensons were there in the story in spirit, even though there was no mention of them. However, with or without them, the book is of course a stand – alone, and it is a gorgeous, funny and touching story – all in one, and I was hooked from the very first page.

The story follows not only Kirsty and Jon but also all the characters that played in the panto “Cinderella”. There were a lot of them but to be honest it didn’t feel like this because they were so clearly drawn personalities, there was not a single confusion who is who and why, which doesn’t happen often when there is such a group of characters on the pages, but the author pulled it off totally! Their stories were so, so engaging, guys, and even though we could say they weren’t significant to the main subplot, I absolutely loved this diversion, they made the book even better in my eyes.
Now, the main characters, especially Kirsty. I think Kirsty is going to be a controversial character and when you read the book you’ll understand what I mean. I think you could love her or hate her, and I loved her. She was straightforward and she had a heart made of gold, she was friendly and she took care about other people. She was also naive and yes, seeing this what she didn’t see for so long annoyed me, but mostly I was annoyed with this second person for doing it and being so towards her. Kirsty was funny and I loved how sharp her replies were and how spot – on, in every situation she was able to throw a comment that had me in stitches.
And now to the male characters, Jon and Ben. They were like hot and cold, like summer and winter, like chalk and cheese and when Jon was introduced to us in a relatively positive way, the more I got to know him the more I disliked him, and believe me, rolling my eyes at him wasn’t enough, I wanted to punch him. Repeatedly. Focused only on himself, the golden boy, aarrrgh, Chrissie Manby has done a brilliant job in creating such an annoying character! I really hated him more and more, with every “hint” about Kirsty’s weight or her “big” feet, and yes, I wanted to shake Kirsty as well and tell her to wake up, but much, much more I wanted to shake Jon, no, take this back, I wanted to slap Jon or shush him somehow. Put a gag on this man. So self – obsessesed, egoistic, selfish guy – though he also had his moments, especially at the theatre and some of his comments were brilliant, especially his interaction with the children. Language, Jon!
And then we have Ben. Can I pretty please stop a moment at Ben to gush about him? It is this kind of guy that every mother would love to have as a son – in – law, you know, and probably every girl would love to have as a husband. He was a widower, raising his lovely and clumsy – but in a lovely, sweet way – daughter Thea and he did a great job, even if he himself doubted in his skills as a single father. He was laid – back, he worried so much about Thea but it turned out that Thea needed only a little push to unveil what it is that gives her a confidence, and I absolutely adored to watch this little girl coming out of her shell and grow confident and finding loyal friends. Really, the characters were imperfect, they were bickering, they had secrets, they also lied but it only made them so realistic in my eyes and I supported them all no matter what!

We have a kind of a love – triangle in the book, but not your typical one, when the characters know about it and enjoy it. It was a triangle that was not obvious but it was there and you’ve no idea how much I’ve kept my fingers crossed that it quickly turns out into a couple, but the other couple!
This book is full of friendship and community feeling and the author has so brilliantly captured all the nuances in the NEWTS group, the jibes, the likes and dislikes and the gossip, and it was just like in real life. The characters were jealous of each other but also supporting each other, especially Kirsty who really thought about everything and was concerned for everyone. The emotions run high in this story, with all the ups and downs and the characters’ adventures, there are tons of misunderstandings and jumping to conclusions and this is bloody brilliant and entertaining! I loved how under this lovely humour there lay other layers, more serious and the author wasn’t shy of writing about growing up, family misunderstandings, alcohol and weight problems, being insecure. The story was organized into very short chapters, which is my favourite way BTW, it makes the reading somehow easier and much more dynamic and quicker, the chapters don’t feel as if they are dragging on, no, they’re spot on, direct and well, yes, thanks to such chapters you can always say “only one chapter more” and actually read the book till the end without putting it down. And the storyline was not at all predictable. On the opposite, it was full of surprises, thanks to the lovely bunch of characters and their adventures, and it kept me on my toes, I couldn’t wait to turn the page to see what is expecting me there. It was a bouncy, lovely, warm read with a little drama, a lot of humour, a few emotional moments, casting unforgettable characters – all what I need from a book and much more. Highly, highly recommended!