25 Days in December by Poppy Alexander / Blog Tour

25 Days in December by Poppy Alexander

 

Publisher: Orion 41hngkpvdel._sx321_bo1204203200_

Publishing Date: 28th November 2019

Source:  Received from the publisher, thank you!

Number of pages: 352

Genre: Women’s Fiction

 Buy the Book:  Kindle | Paperback

 

 

 

 

Synopsis:

You can’t plan for the unexpected…

Kate Potter used to know what happiness felt like.

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

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

Can one chance meeting change two lives?

Rating:  five-stars

 

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

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

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

 

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The Busy Mum’s Guide to Murder by Lynn Fraser

The Busy Mum’s Guide to Murder by Lynn Fraser

 

Publisher: Orion cover173676-medium

Publishing Date: 30th September 2019

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

Number of pages: 233

Genre: General Fiction (Adults)

 Buy the Book: Kindle

 

 

 

Synopsis:

A darkly humorous take on life at the school gates.

Is there anything you wouldn’t do for your children?

Obviously be a parent governor and chair the PTA. But what about slander and manipulation? Dabble in a bit of hit and run? And, if necessary, how about murder?

You think your school run is tough? After her unoriginal husband leaves her for his secretary, Beverley finds herself facing a life she hadn’t planned for. Now a single mum forced to send her children to the failing local primary school, her children’s carefully crafted futures now lie in the hands of incompetent teachers and bullying playground mums.

Desperate to save her children from this situation Beverley sets out to make Harper Hill the best school it can be, but even the best laid plans go awry. Thankfully Beverley isn’t afraid to take matters into her own hands – but how far is she really willing to go to fight for her children’s future?

If you want something done right, do it yourself.

Rating:  four-stars

 

Beverley has two lovely children and a husband and ambitious plans for their children’s education. But then her husband leaves her for his secretary and the Emma and Felix, instead of a much better school, have to go to just the usual, not too good educational establishment, Harper Hill Primary.
But Beverley doesn’t give up. If she can’t send the children to better school, then the school must change and so Beverley takes matters in her hands. From starting a PTA and being its head, to becoming a Governor, in the meantime getting rid of a very un – cooperative teacher and school head. Literally.
However, there is someone observing her. Trying to stop her. Will Melanie Hicks, mother of 4 little horrors, be able to hold Beverley off?

I’ll be honest, for a long time I wasn’t sure what to do with this book and with Beverley. It all just seemed a bit too thick, and I felt a bit confused, I really didn’t know what to think. However, the more I read, the more Beverley and the story grew on me, until the point that I thought oh hell, woman, you really are the iron woman. I mean, Beverley was not a likeable character. Oh no. She was uptight, snooty, serious and focused on only one thing, with a superiority complex but really, I eventually started to warm to her and in the end I simply wanted to give her a standing ovation. She was taking no prisoners and when she really got something into her head, there was nothing stopping her – not even a corpse.

I was literally glued to the pages, wanting to know how far Beverley will go and what’s going to happen next/who’s going to die next. I loved the unpredictability of this book, of the fact that I have never known what’s going to happen when I turned the page. The writing style was easy to follow and pleasant to read, the plot complex and full of twists and turns and what is so clever is that you can easily associate some of the characters with some of the people from your own school gate, ha, they were all so brilliantly sharp described! Even though Beverley’s actions sometimes seemed unrealistic, I could easily identify with her urges.

So after the initial reservation, I really started to adore this book. It was full of dark humour and you need to take it with a pinch of salt as the plot IS a bit too far fetched but believe me, you’re quickly going to gulp everything the author puts on the pages. It was original, refreshing and hilarious. Truly recommended!

A Patchwork Family: Moving On” by Cathy Bramley

A Patchwork Family: Moving On by Cathy Bramley

 

51gxvtvvgrlPublisher: Orion

Publishing Date: 1st August 2019

Series: A Patchwork Family #1

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

Number of pages: 88

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

 Buy the Book:  Kindle )

 

Synopsis:

This is part one in an uplifting four-part serial from bestseller Cathy Bramley.

Gina Moss is proud of herself: she’s just had the most amicable divorce ever. No arguments, no fuss, no drama. It means she has plenty of time and energy for her thriving childminding business too.

Welcome Cottage is both home and workplace for Gina. It sits just on the edge of The Evergreens – a grand if slightly run-down Victorian residence to three octogenarians who have far too much fun for their age: Violet, Delphine and Bing.

But a tragedy puts her older friends at risk of eviction – and Gina in charge of the battle to save them. It might be her first fight, but it’s one that Gina is determined not to lose…

A Patchwork Family is a heart-warming novel told in four parts, following the challenges and triumphs faced by Gina Moss as she swaps an easy life for a happy one. This is the first part.

Rating: four-stars

 

“Moving On” is the first part in the new serialisation by Cathy Bramley, and it is absolutely brilliant introduction to something that – I am deadly sure – is going to be a wonderful, warm story full of ups and downs for the characters. Well, the downs have started already, as we are left on a cliff-hanger in the last chapter!

This short novella is like a tribute to Cathy Bramley. It is full of her hallmark chatty, warm and welcoming banter between the characters, wonderful setting, fun, humour and a little sadness. Our main heroine Gina Moss has just divorced and can now focus on her career – she works as a child – minder at her cottage with a wonderful name Welcome Cottage. There is such a lovely, beautiful bond between Gina and her charges, you can feel that she adores them and that she really cares about them. Gina is surrounded by a bunch of great, vivid characters that I thought are going to pop out of the pages at any moment, they are all so realistic and had their own, huge personalities, even when they had a little too much to drink – they are incredibly funny then.

It was a great and very promising beginning, introducing as – quickly and efficiently – to all the most important players and giving us an idea what can happen in the next parts. Cathy Bramley has again created a world that, even with all the troubles and problems, is inviting and colourful and you want to be a part of it and help the characters. Gina was so easy to like, and I’ve immediately warmed to her, her dry sense of humour and probably because she, just like moi, works with children. I really can’t wait for the next parts to see the light of the day, I am sure we’re for a real treat and that many, many adventures are waiting for us to discover. Recommended!

Meet Me on the Riviera by Fliss Chester / Blog Tour

Meet Me on the Riviera by Fliss Chester

 

cover167425-mediumPublisher: Orion

Publishing Date: 11th July 2019

Series: The French Escapes Book #3

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

Number of pages: 336

Genre: Women’s Fiction, Romance

 Buy the Book:  Kindle | Paperback

 

Synopsis:

Jet down to the Côte d’Azur for a Riviera romance…

It’s all about millionaires, Monaco and mega-yachts as Jenna Jenkins starts her new job as a party planner in glamorous Monte Carlo. Not always a fan of the fabulously wealthy – Jenna surprises herself and finds she has a real knack of helping the super-rich go overboard at glittering events held on the decks of the amazing yachts.

Little does Jenna know, however, that behind her back there’s a tussle going on for her affections and her loyalty to her darling boyfriend, gorgeous Angus Linklater, is about to be tested by the mysterious – and oh so hot – billionaire who’s used to getting exactly what and who he wants.

With Max and Bertie’s wedding to plan, old friends Hugo and Sally bursting with news of their own and a lot of champagne to drink, it’s going to be a very interesting summer. So, drop anchor, glam up and meet me on the Riviera…

Rating: four-stars

 

Jenna has lost the job that she loved at the art gallery and now is setting up pop up galleries, though this doesn’t bring as much money as she’d like. She doesn’t want to rely on her boyfriend anymore when it comes to a financial aspect, so when she’s offered a job as a PA to the “bold and beautiful and rich” on a boat in the Riviera over the summer, and it also coincides with Angus working in Hong Kong, she jumps at the opportunity. There, moving in a totally different world of “the other half”, she comes to the attention of TG Wilkinson, a young billionaire who’s already used to getting what he wants. Is he going to get Jenna as well?

When requesting the book, and then after starting reading it, I was not aware that it is already third story in the series, yep, that’s me, pure chaos, so it took me a little by surprise and made me confused when the characters just appeared on the pages, not so deeply introduced to us, recalling some things and events and then simply going on, so I’ve researched a little and yes, bam, I’ve missed two previous books. However, you can still read this book as a stand – alone, there was enough background info to quickly come back on track and happily follow Jenna on her adventures.

The characters were rather hilarious and sometimes over – stereotyped but I’m guessing it was done on purpose. Despite some of them so showing off their wealth I enjoyed them and they made me laugh, but also there were moments that I wanted to bang their hands on the wall – but that’s really a good sign, I simply lived them and felt so drawn into their lives. Even Bertie made me roll my eyes, but in a friendly way, I think you simply need to take her with a grain of salt, and when you do it then she actually is going to make you laugh, with her demanding ways. TG was a self – centred and manipulative though, to be honest, he didn’t evoke any emotions in me, I was not angry with him, he didn’t make me smile, he was too much of a smooth operator to me and his actions somehow didn’t ring true for me. Jenna, however, was lovely, even is she was mostly drunk on champagne, but I love it when the characters are so accident – prone as Jenna was. And she mostly put others before herself, even with her life being in tatters she’s determined to help Bertie with her wedding. Though, it must be mentioned, she really had more luck then sense with getting such a brilliant job over the summer, don’t you think? Nevertheless, she was down – to – earth, funny, sharp and relatable.

The book started really well, it was entertaining and funny however later on it went a little downhill for me and it simply started to feel repetitive and not so engaging. I’m still not sure why TG so desperately wanted Jenna, I somehow missed the explanation in the story. And yes, I also had a feeling that some of the moments were a bit too far – fetched, this whole Hong – Kong gang thing with killing people just didn’t work for me, sorry. And some of the richness and situations seemed over the top but in this case, I think, that was the point.

“Meet Me on the Riviera” was a light – hearted, easy novel full of things that make it a perfect summer read. There is romance, break – up, billionaires, over the top yachts, friendship and also some danger, and this all set against the most wonderful setting of the French Riviera and Monaco that I absolutely adored – the descriptions of the exotic locations, of the popular clubs and how the other half lives were colourful, funny and vivid. Fliss Chester has a lovely and vivid writing style and she stops at nothing to capture your imagination, to entertain you. Now I’m looking forward to reading the other two books in this series!

 

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The Garden on Holly Street by Megan Attley / Blog Tour

The Garden on Holly Street by Megan Attley

 

43522280Publisher: Orion

Publishing Date: 11th July 2019

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

Number of pages: 368

Genre: Women’s Fiction

 Buy the Book: Kindle | Paperback

 

Synopsis:

Sometimes you have to dig a little deeper to get the life you want . . .

Abby Hamilton’s world has turned upside down in a matter of months – it seems that change is definitely in the air. But moving into Willow Court might just be the fresh start and happy distraction she needed.

Meeting her intriguing new neighbours helps push Abby out of her comfort zone. Then she finds an overgrown patch of garden in desperate need of love and time – something Abby has in spades! Throwing herself into bringing the garden back to life, Abby discovers that new beginnings can come from the most surprising places…

An uplifting, feel-good novel, perfect for fans of Holly Hepburn, Heidi Swain and Isabelle Broom.

 

my-review

 

“The Garden on Holly Street” introduces us to newly single and newly jobless Abby, moving to her new place in Willow Court. This is a lovely place, though some of the residents are not as welcoming as Abby would like to. She discovers there is a community garden as well, but no – one appears to using it, and so it’s unloved and neglected. Abby sets her heart on bringing it back to its glory, but are all of her neighbours on board with her decision?

Abby’s story was nice to read, and I liked to see how she was growing not only her plants, but also in confidence, finding what she wanted to do and starting to enjoy her life again. But I think that the blossoming friendship of Arthur and Ernie was one of the strongest points in this book, though there were moments that Arthur really felt too overdone, as if the author has tried too much with painting him like this. The contrast between Arthur with Abby against Arthur with Ernie would be still there without making him such an unpleasant person towards Abby. However, their stories were really sad and lovingly written, with tons of heart and understanding, and the author has really well captured loneliness of them both, and I really liked that they found each other. She has also managed – and not many authors are able to do it! – to capture Ernie’s perspective in such a believable way. All of the characters are somehow heartbroken and as their stories intertwine it becomes clear that they need each other to heal their wounds, to find happiness again. I liked to see how their friendship developed, with many ups and downs on the way, not sure if some of them are going to get rid off aversion to each other at all! The generation gap made it even more interesting because each of the characters could learn something from the other one, and they really embarked on it and used it fully – they were open and ready for changes.

The book started brilliantly to me, it had the lovely Cathy Bramley feeling to it, and I was full of hope and expectation. Sadly, then it went a bit downhill for me and what bothered me mostly was the fact that there wasn’t anything that I haven’t read already. Please, don’t get me wrong, it was a lovely, uplifting story with all the right ingredients and it really makes me sad that it didn’t work for me as well as I hoped it’s going to.

Altogether, “The Garden on Holly Street” was a warm and comforting read about friendship that doesn’t know the age difference, about new beginnings and opportunities. Life – affirming story about opening up to needs of others, about listening to them, about reaching out to people. It was insightful, gentle and you could really feel the author’s passion to her characters and what they did. A nice, summer read.

 

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Are We Nearly There Yet? by Lucy Vine

Are We Nearly There Yet? by Lucy Vine

 

43086447Publisher: Orion

Publishing Date: 27th June 2019

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

Number of pages: 352

Genre: Women’s Fiction

 Buy the Book: Kindle | Paperback

 

Synopsis:

‘Laugh-out-loud funny. Truly, the Bridget Jones for our generation’ Louise O’Neill

Alice is turning thirty and is stuck in a rut. Her friends are all coupling up and settling down, while she’s still working as a temp, trying (and failing) not to shag her terrible ex, getting thrown out of clubs, and accidentally sexting her boss…

She decides to throw caution to the wind and jets off on a round-the-world adventure to #FindTheFun and find herself. Of course, she’s no more likely to find the answer to true happiness on the beach in Thailand than she is at the electric beach in Tooting, but at least in Thailand there’s paddleboard yoga.

Can Alice find happiness on her travels? Or is she more likely to lose herself all over again…?

Rating: four-stars

 

Alice Edwards is having a crisis. She’s just turned 30, sent an inappropriate text to her boss and, as a result, lost her most recent temp position, her best friend and flatmate got herself pregnant, all other friends are settling down, she has a relationship/non – relationship with her ex – boyfriend… She starts to feel that she no longer knows where her place is, where she fits in. So she decides that she’s going to emulate her favourite travel blogger and decides to go for a holiday of a lifetime, to “find herself” and set up a blog of her own. She has it all planned out: one month in the glamorous Los Angeles, second month soul searching in Thailand and then she will see where she’s going to spend the third month of her travels. Is it really going to change her life? To show what it is she’s looking for?

I had some problems with the heroine because, let’s be honest, she was not so easy to like, especially at the beginning, right? It was hard to agree with some of her decisions and she came across as self – centred, thinking only about herself and wondering how the changes in other people’s lives are going to affect her own life. But on the other hand I loved her heartbreaking honesty. She was full of flaws but she didn’t try to hide them and I think it was also one of Alice’s strength – take me as I am. And, in fact, she was relatable because of not being perfect. And she really experiences quite a growth throughout the story and she draws consequences. She starts to see herself in different way, realises her problems, confronts her demons and even realises why she’s so drawn to men who, actually, mistreat her and starts to realise that other people’s lives may seem perfect but they’re not, and at the end of the book she’s a brilliant, changed person.

Through her journeys, Alice meets many different people, some of them more hilarious than the other, and also family members, and she gets to solve some long standing problems, resentments, misunderstandings that she’s been holding on and that turn out to be actually perceived hurts (let’s be honest here). But it was done in a realistic, affirming way and the author has so well captured all the feelings of uncertainty, hope and fear.

I really liked this book, it was full of funny and embarrassing moments but shortly before Alice left Thailand the story went a bit downhill for me. I get what the author did there, she wanted to show us that the character of Alice is also maturing, that she finally finds herself and what is important in life but it started, instead of feeling emotional, to feel a bit flat and slow. Yes, of course, it added more substance to the book but the change in the atmosphere was too sudden a change after all the fun and light – heartiness. However, oh Jesus, the blog entries were hilarious! If only Alice has written in them what really has been happening to her, the blog would have been winning awards! But for me they showed that Alice didn’t treat herself too seriously and they made me laugh, the comments as well and the nervous breakdown of Luke the moderator. The writing style is so fresh and feels so… I don’t know, young? Full of lightness, that’s for sure, the banter flows and the snappy dialogues keep the pace.

Altogether, Lucy Vine did it again. “Are We Nearly There Yet?” was a great read, filled with vivid and quirky characters and really well plotted, full of unforgettable moments and genuine humour and the hilarious situations felt realistic, not too forced – you know how sometimes a forced humour can destroy a scene, right, but Lucy Vine knows for sure how to write these scenes! Alice’s adventures were hilarious but not overdone and they kept me laughing, and the more serious side of the story added sublime and gentle depth to it. It was not only entertainment, but also filled with thought – provoking moments, and I really liked this balance. A great and frivolous read, perfect for summer holiday! Recommended!

 

Bring Me Sunshine by Laura Kemp / Blog Tour

Bring Me Sunshine by Laura Kemp

 

42613235._sy475_Publisher: Orion

Publishing Date: 27th June 2019

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

Number of pages: 432

Genre: General Fiction (Adult)

 Buy the Book: Kindle | Paperback

 

Synopsis:

Charlotte Bold is nothing like her name – she is shy and timid and just wants a quiet life. When her job doing the traffic news on the radio in London is relocated to Sunshine FM in Mumbles, she jumps at the chance for a new start in Wales.

But when she arrives she discovers that she’s not there to do the travel news – she’s there to front the graveyard evening show. And she’s not sure she can do it.

Thrust into the limelight, she must find her voice and a way to cope. And soon she realises that she’s not the only person who finds life hard – out there her listeners are lonely too. And her show is the one keeping them going.

Can Charlotte seize the day and make the most of her new home? And will she be able to breathe new life into the tiny radio station too…?

Rating: five-stars

 

Charlotte Bold is one for planning and structure, spontaneous doesn’t work in her dictionary. She’s rather happy with her quiet life in London, with her traffic updates radio job, her friends and her boyfriend. Maybe, but only maybe, it could be a little much better if she could get over her fear of speaking on the radio – a bit embarrassing, working on the radio, no? And she used to be a rising star, and she used to have ambitions. So what has happened? And what’s going to happen when suddenly she loses her safe job and has to apply for another position in Sunshine FM in Wales? And what if it’s a DJ job, with an evening show, even though Charlie is sure she has applied to be an assistant?

“Bring Me Sunshine” for sure brings you sunshine, it’s fabulously uplifting, with living and breathing characters, whose stories are going to stop you in your tracks, mixing humour with some more poignant moments.

I absolutely loved how well the author has written the characters, the differences between them and their personalities, and how they changed and why. Charlie used to be a life and soul, adventurous and quirky, but after something has happened she disappeared in her shell, she hates change – hell, she eats the same sandwich everyday! – and she simply wants to stay in the shadows, and I couldn’t get over how well Laura Kemp captured all those feelings and characteristics, and still made Charlie a colourful, interesting character that I adored and kept everything crossed for her. Usually such wishy – washy characters (and that doesn’t mean that Charlie is wishy – washy!!! Because she’s not!) that are afraid of their own shadows are annoying but this time I wanted to hug Charlie and tell her that everything is going to be OK soon and I found myself nodding along at so many wise sentences at how being in such a state of denial makes us feel.
And I loved that, deep deep down, there were hidden layers of determination and willingness in Charlie, and that she found the courage to use them. Or maybe, that she was forced to use them – a fact that, actually, made me happy for her because she needed her confidence back. There was a raw vulnerability to her, the anxiety and anguish were so well captured, but getting to know her other side, as a kind, lovely and caring woman was even better. She was real and realistic, with all the inner turmoil, coming out of her comfort zones, conquering her fears.
There are also two parallel storylines running along this of Charlie. Delme, at the first sight, looks like your relaxed guy with bravado, but when you get to know him more you start to see that he has a past, that he has skeletons in his closet and actually, his story is like emotional rollercoaster journey, and that he is, simply, hiding behind the mask of a crazy gung – ho way of life. He is the health and safety guy at the station and it’s rather a surprise to discover that he also has his own fears. It took some time for him to open up. He also seems so realistic, with his struggles and not being a superman.
Tina’s story was really full of heartbreak, lies and secrets, so complex and absolutely not straightforward. I liked her from the very beginning, so seeing her so torn, not knowing what to do, made my heart break, but then the way she blossomed made it mend again.
Every single character in this book has their own story to tell, and those are thought – provoking and complex stories, which only make them even more relatable and believable.

I’m not sure how Laura Kemp does it, but each of her new book is better than the previous one. I thought that “The Year of Surprising Acts of Kindness” is already on the highest level but with this book she only proves that there is so much potential in her to write gorgeous stories. Her writing style is exceptionally good, chatty, descriptive and full of heart and everything she writes about rings true and comes alive seamlessly and beautifully. I was immediately drawn into the story and all the tribes and tribulations of the characters, and there were plenty of them.

“Bring Me Sunshine” is a story about finding joy and seeing that we also deserve happiness in our lives. It was full of those small wisdoms that the author so beautifully captures and puts into words for us and waves into the plot. It was a fun, light – hearted story with tons of depth to it, a real page – turner. Fresh and funny, a perfect summer read, and I can’t recommend it highly enough!

 

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