A Family Recipe by Veronica Henry / #BlogTour + Extract

Hi guys, hope you’re all doing great. Today is my stop on Veronica Henry’s blog tour that’s celebrating her newest release, “A Family Recipe”, and this book is a charming little gem of a novel, full of relatable characters and situations, and really guys, you should all read it. Next to my review I have a teeny tiny foretaste for you – an extract from the story. Enjoy!

 

A Family Recipe by Veronica Henry

 

39337351Publisher: Orion

Publishing Date: 17th May 2018

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

Number of pages: 400

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

 Buy the Book: Kindle | Paperback

 

 

 

Synopsis:

The brand-new feel-good story from bestseller Veronica Henry –
a perfect mix of family, friends and delicious food.

What’s the secret ingredient to your happiness?

Laura Griffin is preparing for an empty nest. The thought of Number 11 Lark Hill falling silent – a home usually bustling with noise, people and the fragrant smells of something cooking on the Aga – seems impossible. Laura hopes it will mean more time for herself, and more time with her husband, Dom.

But when an exposed secret shakes their marriage, Laura suddenly feels as though her family is shrinking around her. Feeling lost, she turns to her greatest comfort: her grandmother’s recipe box, a treasured collection dating back to the Second World War. Everyone has always adored Laura’s jams and chutneys, piled their sandwiches high with her pickles . . . Inspired by a bit of the old Blitz spirit, Laura has an idea that gives her a fresh sense of purpose.

Full of fierce determination, Laura starts carving her own path. But even the bravest woman needs the people who love her. And now, they need her in return . . .

Rating: four-stars

Laura is just about to experience an empty nest syndrome – her youngest daughter Willow is leaving for university. The daughter that Laura focused on for so many years, and worried about for so many years when she was fighting against the life threatening asthma. Jasmine, the older daughter, the much more independent and – what’s more important – healthy one, has left home already to study. So Laura is now facing a question, what to do with her life – she didn’t have to work, she only needed to concentrate on her husband and daughters but what now?
Laura’s widowed grandmother has gave up the 11 Lark Hill to Laura and Dom and moved to a smaller house on the same property. Now Laura decides to do up and rent some of the rooms on Airbnb. It’s a great distraction, as there are things happening in Laura’s life that she’s never expected. Is her marriage going to survive? Will Willow stay healthy at the university?

I loved how effortlessly did Veronica Henry weave two – at first sight – different stories set in different times. One of the stories follows young Kanga – Jilly – living through the Blitz in WW2 in Bath, bringing back the memories of the severe destruction, of loss. It was a beautiful story bringing to life Jilly’s friendship with Ivy – the girls supported each other in their most dark moments and stayed friends for ever. Jilly has never forgotten Ivy’s support, the courage she has given her when Jilly discovered she’s pregnant and is going to be a single mum – she knows she wouldn’t be able to do it without Ivy.
The second story is about Laura and her world being shattered by discovering that her husband is having an affair. I admired Laura’s consequence and how firm she was in this situation but to be honest I also started to feel sorry for the poor Dom. Sure, as you make your bed so you must lie on it and I am not justifying him but there came a moment that I really wanted Laura to give him a chance to at least talk to her, and honestly I was surprised that he went for this whole charade, as Laura didn’t want to tell their daughters about them splitting up. I thought, hey, they’re grown up, they’re not children any more and using Willow’s asthma as a pretext can only work for a time. Nevertheless, this situation gave Laura the chance to find herself afresh, and what a better way than to dig out the old family recipes and start making jams and chutneys in her beloved but moody Aga?

The two leading female characters, Jilly and Laura, were brilliantly written by Veronica Henry. It was great to observe Laura standing again on her own two feet, coming to terms with her new life, being so strong and becoming independent. Getting to know Kanga and her history was great, her story was so poignant and heart – breaking, and I loved how determined she was. The relationship between them, between grandmother and granddaughter was unforced, natural and genuine and I loved that Kanga wasn’t one of those grandmothers that meddle in other lives. I also think that the author has managed to capture Laura at the best moment – this character could have gone two ways, as a spoiled, always leaning on somebody housewife, or a strong, determined woman who wants to do something useful with her life, and the author has she pulled it off in the best possible way. Laura was likeable and from the very beginning I warmed to her.

“A Family Recipe” was a lovely, down – to – earth family saga, with likeable and believable characters, warm and inviting. The writing style is so easy to follow, full of depth, emotions and feelings and I immediately felt a part of this story. Veronica Henry has – again – delivered a charming novel about family, friends, love, betrayal and forgiveness in challenging times. I truly enjoyed this book and I can only highly recommend it to you all, guys.

EXTRACT

2

September 2017

Willow had asked for nachos for her farewell supper.

Laura was pathologically incapable of doing

what most normal people would have done: plonked a

saucepan of chilli on the table with a packet of tortilla

chips and got everyone to help themselves.

Instead, by five o’clock the evening before Willow

was due to go to university for the first time, a huge

cauldron on the hot-pink Aga belted out a cloud of steam

scented with cumin and cinnamon and chilli. On the

worktop were bowls filled with grated cheese, soured

cream, guacamole, jalapeños, spicy beans, finely chopped

coriander and chargrilled sweetcorn salsa. Wedges of lime

were waiting to be stuffed into bottles of beer – ‘cerveza’,

Laura teased herself with a Spanish lisp.

She had stopped short of making margaritas because no

one would want to face the next day with a hangover: it

was a six-hour drive to York and it was going to be a difficult

enough day without a thumping tequila headache.

She’d put a row of tiny cactuses in pots down the

middle of the slate-topped island and empty milk

bottles filled with bright pink, yellow and orange gerbera.

A donkey piñata hung from one of the hooks in

the ceiling. She’d managed to refrain from filling it with

sweets. This wasn’t an actual party, after all, just a goodbye

to Willow from her family and her friends, and a few

neighbours, and . . . well, Laura didn’t know exactly who

else, but by eight o’clock the joint would be jumping.

That was how things rolled at Number 11.

It was Laura’s schtick to go to immense trouble, but her

efforts on this occasion were doubled, masking the fact

that tomorrow was the day she had been dreading more

than any other in her life – and there had been a few. She

stood for a moment in the quiet of the kitchen.

This kitchen was her safe place, where she felt love and

gave love. There was always a sense of calm underlying the

chaos. No one else knew how she did it.

‘How do you make it look so effortless? I always have

a nervous breakdown when I’m entertaining. Nothing

looks right, nothing tastes right, and I worry myself to

death.’ Her best friend, Sadie, was eternally mystified by

her entertaining skills.

‘Because I love it? Because I don’t have a career? Because

I don’t look as if I’ve just walked off the pages of Vogue?’

Laura teased.

Sadie owned La, the most fashionable boutique in

Bath, and always looked incredible. ‘But you’re naturally

gorgeous. You don’t have to spend hours making yourself

look ravishing. You just are,’ she complained.

It was true, with her eyes the colour of maple syrup and

her tousled dark mane. Laura, however, thought she was

overweight and unkempt, as it was all she could do to pull

a comb through her hair. She wore skinny jeans, because

her legs were like matchsticks, and had a selection of linen

shirts and sloppy sweaters that covered her embonpoint

and her tummy, about which she was unnecessarily selfconscious.

She didn’t see her own beauty.

‘I’m top heavy,’ she complained. ‘Like a robin – far too

big for my silly little bird legs.’

She felt distinctly unglamorous at this moment, her

hair tied up on top of her head with the elastic band the

postman brought the letters in, a blue and white apron

wrapped round her and a wooden spoon in her hand,

dishevelled and covered in tomato sauce. She was also

finding it desperately hard to stop herself from seeing how

Willow was getting on with her packing.

The back of the car was already loaded up with everything

a new student could possibly want, mostly courtesy

of Ikea to keep the cost down. But Laura had spoiled

Willow with a few things. A luxury mattress topper, essential

for making a strange single bed comfortable. A fleecy

blanket to snuggle up in when it was cold and Willow

was missing home. And some Jo Malone bath oil, because

Laura believed in the power of smell to comfort you.

Willow, however, was a girl who liked to leave everything

to the last minute. Even now her favourite sweatshirt

was rolling around the tumble dryer because she’d only

fetched it from her friend’s house this morning. Laura,

who laid everything out on the spare bed a week before

they went on holiday, found it nerve-racking.

Dom told her not to worry. If Willow forgot anything

she could do without until she came back for the weekend.

‘I probably won’t come back till Christmas,’ Willow

had pointed out. ‘York’s miles and I won’t be able to

afford the train fare.’

Laura’s stomach lurched at the thought of three months

without seeing her daughter, but she squashed the feeling

down. Instead, she sat down at the island and picked up

her Berol pen. She couldn’t remember the last time she’d

written a proper letter, but she wouldn’t be able to say

what she wanted to say without blubbing. As she began to

write, in her best handwriting, she relished the satisfaction

of forming perfect letters, the ink running smoothly across

the paper, the loops and the circles and the curlicues.

Number 11 Lark Hill

Bath

My darling Willow,

Apologies in advance for doing one of those embarrassingly

sentimental mum things. You know how good I am at

those! But I wanted to send you off on your adventure with

something to remind you of home, and I couldn’t think of

anything better than these recipes. They all come from the

little recipe box I keep in the pantry. You and Jasmine have

used them often enough over the years because they still

have your sticky paw prints on them!

The oldest recipes go all the way back to your greatgreat-

grandma – the flapjack and the Yorkshire pudding

come from her (also good for toad-in-the-hole!). The

crumble and the tea loaf come from Kanga – she used to

cook them during the war for the people she had living with

her at Number 11. The avgolemono and the spanakopita

are from my mother, from her travels in Greece . . . I was

not the only thing she brought back!! You can taste the

sunshine in them – they are for when the wind is howling

outside and you want to feel warmed.

The rest are from me: things I have made for you over

the years. Brownies and pancakes and sausage rolls for

sharing. And your favourite suppers: spag bol and chilli

and Thai curry. I know you probably know how to cook

them, but I wanted you to have a keepsake, a little bit

of family history to keep with you. And I know you will

probably live on Cheerios and Cheesy Puffs and Chinese

takeaways, but maybe from time to time you might want

some proper home-made comfort food to share with your

new friends.

I’m so proud of you, darling girl. I know you will fly, and

make the most of this wonderful opportunity.

With lots of love and kisses

Mum xx

Laura looked down at the letter, the inevitable tears blurring

her eyes, then folded the sheet into three. She tucked

it inside the Moleskine notebook she had bought specially.

Each page held a different recipe, carefully copied. It had

taken her over a week to write it, as she’d had to hide it

from everyone. She wanted it to be a surprise, but she was

also a bit self-conscious. Was it too sentimental?

‘My goodness – it smells absolutely wonderful in here.’

‘Kanga! You made me jump.’ Laura put a hand to her

chest. ‘I was miles away.’

Kanga walked through the kitchen, lifting the lid on

the pot and smelling it appreciatively. She looked around

the room.

‘What is this? Fiesta time?’

‘You know me. I can’t help myself.’ Laura grinned, sliding

the notebook into a drawer. ‘I’m sure Willow would

much rather go to the pub with her mates.’

‘She did that last night. Tonight’s for family – she

knows that.’

‘Yes. I want it to be a good send-off, though.’

‘You’re a good mummy.’

‘I had a good role model.’ Laura smiled at her grandmother.

Kanga had brought her up from the age of four,

when Laura’s mum had died. The tiny, thoughtful Laura had

decided that she didn’t want to call her ‘Granny’ any more,

as she was so much more than that, and had christened her

Kanga, after her favourite Winnie the Pooh character.

At ninety-three, Kanga was still more than just a

grandmother – though she looked barely seventy-three.

She was in a pale-pink linen shirt and black trousers and

soft boots, her bright white hair cut close to her jaw, her

dark-grey eyes with their hooded lids missing nothing.

Of course Laura worried she was too thin, but Kanga

had laughed that her appetite had gone with her libido

many years ago, and she was much happier for it. ‘I have

so much more time now I don’t have to think about sex

or food,’ she claimed. Laura wasn’t sure what else there

was to live for.

‘No Dom?’ asked Kanga, taking a seat at the island.

‘He’s got a meeting with the quantity surveyor this

afternoon. So he’s bound to stop off at the Wellie on the

way home.’

The Wellington Arms was Dom’s favourite watering hole,

where he and his property mates cut deals and watched

rugby and sneaked in dirty pints on a Friday afternoon.

Kanga frowned. ‘Even on Willow’s last night?’

‘It’s fine. He’d only drive me mad if he was here. It’s

always much better if he turns up five minutes before

every one else and doesn’t interfere.’ Laura pulled the elastic

band out of her hair, wincing as it caught. ‘Can I leave

you to keep an eye on everything while I get changed?’

Of course.’

‘There’s wine in the fridge.’

In her bedroom, Laura tipped her head upside down

and sprayed dry shampoo onto her roots then ran her

fingers through her curls. There was no time now for a

shower. She pulled off the sweatshirt she’d been cooking

in and rifled through her wardrobe for something

to wear. Sadie was incredibly generous and always gave

Laura things from La for her birthday she would never

dare choose for herself. She pulled out a pearl grey shirt

with pintucks and pearl buttons, pulling it over her head.

It looked perfect – it fitted in all the right places, as expensive

clothes tend to.

‘Hey, Mum.’ Willow sauntered in. Laura’s heart

squeezed. Every time she saw her she wanted to hold

her tight. All her fears whooshed in – a runaway bus,

an insecure balcony, a virulent strain of meningitis . . .

Oh God, had Willow actually had all the jabs she should

have? Laura knew she’d checked a trillion times, but what

if she thought she’d arranged it but had forgotten? The

familiar dry mouth of anxiety hit her and she worked her

tongue to get some saliva.

‘Have you finished packing?’

‘I think so. I’m going to do make-up and stuff in the

morning.’ Willow flopped on the bed.

‘Are you excited?’

‘I don’t know about excited . . .’

Of course. Excited wasn’t cool. ‘Looking forward to it?’

‘It’ll be what it is, won’t it?’

‘Well, I think it’s exciting. York’s lovely. We can explore

tomorrow. Maybe an open-topped bus tour if it’s sunny.’

Willow laughed.

‘What?’ asked Laura, hurt.

‘You’re so funny, Mum.’

‘I’m not trying to be funny.’

‘I know. That’s why you are.’

Willow jumped up and put her arms round her. Laura

breathed her in. Sugary, powdery perfume and Wrigley’s

and the awful incense she insisted on burning in her

bedroom. Not like Jasmine, who was driving back to her

third year at uni in Loughborough by herself the next

morning, who smelled of chlorine and talc and muscle

rub.

Laura had always been grateful for Jasmine’s love of

sport. It had given their life structure at a time when

everything else was chaos. Asthma was nothing if not

disruptive. They had never really known when Willow

might have an attack. There’d been a team of mums ready

to help whenever she did: the netball mafia were fiercely

loyal and supportive, taking Jasmine home for tea or for a

sleepover or dropping her home. Laura could never repay

them as long as she lived, but they didn’t want repaying.

Of course not.

Jasmine could have told her she was going to Timbuktu

on a skateboard and she wouldn’t have worried. They were

close, but in a very different way. When Jaz had gone off

to Loughborough, Laura had treated them both to a day

at the spa in Bath, swimming on the rooftop and sitting

in the Roman steam room and the ice chamber and the

celestial relaxation room; a physical treat for the physical

Jaz, who rarely sat still for a moment and didn’t really

need nurturing.

But Willow . . .

She felt tears fill her eyes. She didn’t want to go down

to the kitchen and share Willow with everyone else. She

wanted to curl up on the bed with her, watch a few

episodes of Gilmore Girls on Netflix, eat a bowlful of

M&M’s, let her daughter fall asleep in her arms, like they

always used to when she was recuperating.

‘Do you think I should take Magic?’ Willow asked.

Magic. The white toy rabbit whose fur had worn away

to nothing, he had been hugged so much. So called because

he was the Magic Rabbit who helped her fall asleep

in a plethora of strange hospitals. Laura felt fearful for

him. What if he got lost or stolen or thrown out of the

window as a student jape?

‘If you want to leave him here, I’ll look after him.’

‘I kind of want him, but I don’t know if you’re supposed

to take your cuddly animals to uni.’ Willow made

a face. ‘Of course Jasmine didn’t, but we all know Jaz

doesn’t need looking after.’

Jasmine’s teddy was as pristine as the day it had been

bought.

‘I’d leave him here,’ said Laura, not wanting to admit

that Magic had been as much a talisman for her as Willow.

‘You will look after yourself, won’t you?’

‘Mum.’ Willow sat up and fixed her mother with a

stern stare. ‘Will you stop worrying? I’m not an idiot.

And it’s been nearly eighteen months.’

‘That doesn’t mean you won’t have an attack. Anything

could trigger one.’

York, thought Laura. If something went wrong, she

couldn’t be there quickly. Even London would have been

nearer. But maybe Willow felt the need to escape. She

knew she’d been guilty of smothering, but what mother

wouldn’t?

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The Lido by Libby Page / #BlogTour

The Lido by Libby Page

 

34709995Publisher: Orion

Publishing Date: 19th April 2018

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

Number of pages: 384

Genre: General Fiction (Adult)

 Buy the Book: Kindle | Paperback

 

 

 

 

Synopsis:

A tender, joyous debut novel about a cub reporter and her eighty-six-year-old subject—and the unlikely and life-changing friendship that develops between them.

Kate is a twenty-six-year-old riddled with anxiety and panic attacks who works for a local paper in Brixton, London, covering forgettably small stories. When she’s assigned to write about the closing of the local lido (an outdoor pool and recreation center), she meets Rosemary, an eighty-six-year-old widow who has swum at the lido daily since it opened its doors when she was a child. It was here Rosemary fell in love with her husband, George; here that she’s found communion during her marriage and since George’s death. The lido has been a cornerstone in nearly every part of Rosemary’s life.

But when a local developer attempts to buy the lido for a posh new apartment complex, Rosemary’s fond memories and sense of community are under threat.

As Kate dives deeper into the lido’s history—with the help of a charming photographer—she pieces together a portrait of the pool, and a portrait of a singular woman, Rosemary. What begins as a simple local interest story for Kate soon blossoms into a beautiful friendship that provides sustenance to both women as they galvanize the community to fight the lido’s closure. Meanwhile, Rosemary slowly, finally, begins to open up to Kate, transforming them both in ways they never knew possible.

In the tradition of Fredrik Backman, The Lido is a charming, feel-good novel that captures the heart and spirit of a community across generations—an irresistible tale of love, loss, aging, and friendship.

Rating: four-stars

“The Lido” is Libby Page’s debut novel and I didn’t know what to expect when I started reading it – what I knew was that many people were already singing this book praises, and so I made myself comfortable and dived (pun intended) into the story. I am glad to report that this little book was a real gem about very unlikely friendship, about community spirit and also some other important issues, a very uplifting and charming read – predictable, yes, as you immediately know where it’s going to end, but nevertheless heart – warming and feel – good.

Kate and Rosemary would probably never met but they get to know each other when Kate is sent to write a story about the local Lido that’s going to be closed soon, and she interviews Rosemary, who’s 86 years old and swims daily in the Lido, and her fondest memories are connected with this place. Those two women form a life – changing friendship.

It surprised me very much to have discovered the story of Rosemary and George, I haven’t expected something like this to come up in this book, but it was a lovely surprise and an extra bonus. There were also chapters told from totally random characters coming to the Lido, the perspectives included a pregnant woman swimming in the Lido, the boy working at the pool’s receptions and studying for uni, and as much as I understood what the author was trying to do here and where she was coming from, for me personally those chapters were a little confusing and I could live without them to be honest – they felt disjointed, and I’m not sure if the fox is the best choice of narrator. The descriptions of the Lido itself, and the feelings the swimmers have were very detailed and yes, very beautiful, but also a bit too much for my liking.

Even though I had a feeling I can’t get into the characters’ heads, that there is something missing, that I can’t befriend them as much as I’d like, I still appreciated them and their twisty life journeys. They had their ups and downs, highs and lows, troubles, problems and worries and in this story they were starting to realise what it is that make them tick and what’s really important to them – especially Kate and her attempts to overcome her panic attacks (I’d love to have this subplot better developed, I had a feeling that it went nowhere to be honest).

Altogether “The Lido” was a very promising debut about unlikely friendship, celebrating the importance and strength of community. It was well – written and the author has a very engaging, chatty and inviting writing style. Libby Page has delivered a heart – warming, charming and unique story that I enjoyed. She touched upon many issues in her book, such as age, grief, love and the importance of communication and sticking together and never giving up, and it really felt like your favourite blanket and a cup of hot chocolate. It was gentle and full of feelings, and sometimes it’s really nice to read a book that make you feel warm inside – and “The Lido” was such a book. Recommended!

 

 

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What Fresh Hell by Lucy Vine

What Fresh Hell by Lucy Vine

 

38898750Publisher: Orion

Publishing Date: 8th March 2018

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

Number of pages: 304

Genre: Women’s Fiction

 Buy the Book: Kindle | Paperback

 

 

 

 

Synopsis:

Have you ever spent a weekend with strangers you hate for a friend’s hen party?
Had to pay hundreds of pounds for that spa break all in the name of besties?

Lilah Fox has just returned from the hen party from hell, vowing to actually spend time with her boyfriend and focus more on herself. Then she gets the whatsapp from her best friend Lauren to say she’s just got engaged. And as maid of honour, Lilah just signed up for weekend wedding fairs and weekly planning meetings for the next year.

Just when she thinks things can’t get any worse, she’s about to discover a new fresh hell.

Rating: four-stars

Having read and adored Lucy’s debut novel last year, I was really looking forward to her next book, you know, the dreaded second novel. And when my review copy arrived, I couldn’t hide my excitement and yes, I won’t be lying when I say I started reading it with great, great expectations. I mean, Lucy Vine has set the bar very high with “Hot Mess” but I was also absolutely sure she’s going to pull it off with “What Fresh Hell”.

I love stories about weddings. The more hilarious weddings, the better. Maybe because I am just like the main character Lilah – never dreamt of big wedding, meringue wedding dress and hundreds of guests. But I do love to read about such weddings. So this book follows Lilah, navigating through the many nuptials she keeps being invited to, together with juggling her job and private life – which, as it’s going to turn out, is not that simple! Then there is also THE wedding the plan – no, not her own but the one of her best friend, so it’s probably even more important than your own one. We see what Lilah is putting herself through, starting with hen dos, through panic buying presents and outfits to destroying your private life. There are also only so many ways of doing a spreadsheet for a wedding plans, right? And there are bridezillas and bridezillas, right? Lucy Vine brings this all to a different level, full of sarcasm, humour and hilariously funny moments.
Some of the best parts of the book were the weddings that Lilah has attended, the short summaries of them – hilarious guys, hilarious. And she also very soon finds out that there are only so many wedding gifts you can think about.

And! Under all this hilariousness and humour the author touched upon some important things as well, and I think the most meaningful was the journey of our main characters. I loved seeing how Lilah develops, grows and matures, how she learns to say “no”. Yes, at the very beginning I thought, oh my, girl, get a grip pretty please, stand for yourself, stop being such a doormat. I was really truly afraid that I’m not going to like Lilah. But very quickly I found myself growing very fond of her, and understanding her character so very much, with all her fears of missing something, of being left out. You know, she was really honest about this, and I liked it. It was like watching Lilah turning into this Hulk or whatever his name is, going stronger and more confident and I wanted to stand up, applaud and cry “go, girl!”. It took her some time, I must admit, but it didn’t bother me because, you know what, she was such a lovely person, she wouldn’t say boo to a goose and while it could be annoying, it was so well put into words, the author has created her character brilliantly, as well as the other ones of course! They were all big – mouthed and loud but they were so real in what they were doing and saying and they made me laugh.

It was a quick, fast – paced read, what with all the hen dos and their adventures! You could think, really, how often can you read about hen dos, but Lucy Vine has written them in a brilliant, refreshing way and even if some of them were your very typical dos, there were also some that totally took me by surprise, made me laugh out loud and ended in a very unconventional way. Brownie points to the author for turning predictable into full of surprises.

It was very, very honest, incredibly sharp – observed, very spot – on and hilariously funny. Sexy and filthy. bold. It brought wedding planning to another level, guys. It was full of embarrassing situations and the “oh no, no way, she didn’t do/say this” moments (Joely. I’m thinking about Joely here. Especially). “What Fresh Hell” was a story with a great range of characters, old and young, also touching upon some more serious issues, such as eventually learning to say no, that kept me so entertained! And I really liked the mini epilogue at the end of the book where we were informed what has happened with all of the characters – brilliant idea. Highly recommended!

The Year that Changed Everything by Cathy Kelly /#BlogTour

The Year that Changed Everything by Cathy Kelly

 

34320089Publisher: Orion

Publishing Date: 22nd February 2018

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

Number of pages: 406

Genre: Women’s Fiction

 Buy the Book: Kindle | Paperback

 

 

 

 

Synopsis:

Three women celebrate their birthdays . . . 30. 40. 50. But their milestone birthdays marks the start of a year that will change everything . . .

Ginger isn’t spending her 30th the way she would have planned. Tonight might be the first night of the rest of her life – or a total disaster.

Sam is finally pregnant after years of trying. When her waters break on the morning of her 40th birthday, she panics: forget labour, how is she going to be a mother?

Callie is celebrating her 50th at a big party in her Dublin home. Then a knock at the door mid-party turns her perfect life upside down . . .

Full of warmth and wisdom, this is a story about finding happiness on your own terms from international bestseller Cathy Kelly.

Rating: four-stars

Right at the beginning, let me confess something. I’ll be honest with you, I was a little afraid to read this book. The last few novels by Cathy Kelly were, let’s just say, not up to my expectations and I really wanted to love “The Year that Changed Everything”. As you will see, I didn’t have to worry – it was not a quite perfect read, but it was a lovely, hooking and realistic story that I truly enjoyed. This book was almost like the old Cathy Kelly’s novels that I was devouring.

Cathy Kelly introduces us to three main characters, Sam, Callie and Ginger. They all have birthday on the same day but that’s all – they don’t know each other, they live in different places and they lead totally different lives. On the surface they’re happy and everything looks great but on their birthday their lives are going to dramatically change. Sam always wanted a baby and she and her husband have tried for so long, without success. When she finally gets pregnant she’s full of joy but also fear if everything will go smoothly. When her baby arrives on Sam’s 40th birthday, she starts to panic if she’s going to be a good mum – as her own mother was not a great role – model, leaving Sam and her sister at home and focusing on her job.
Callie is turning 50 and hundreds of people are enjoying her birthday party. She’s an ex – model with a handsome and successful man and a teenage daughter in puberty. On the day of the party the police turns up at her house and her life won’t be the same anymore.
Ginger is turning 30 and on the day of her birthday she finds herself as a chief – bridesmaid on her best friend’s Liza’s wedding. During the reception, Ginger overhears conversation that is going to change her life as well – some cruel words that nobody should never say about her.

It was really interesting to follow the three women’s lives. I think that Sam’s was the weakest subplot in this novel, her story has just seemed too flat in comparison, too under – developed, and while it is important to speak loud about such things, it just didn’t work for me in this form. I am a mother myself, I know how it is to have a post – natal depression, so maybe I should have fell for Sam more, but I really can’t put my finger why her storyline was the weakest for me. Meanwhile the other two were much more thrilling and interesting, especially Ginger’s. She was your normal girl, lovely and friendly and well, I think I could mostly relate to her and her battle with the weight and comfort eating. While usually you want to shake characters such like Ginger and tell them to get a grip, Ginger herself realized that she need to get a grip but it was not as easy as it sounds, so I just couldn’t help and fell for her. I felt sorry for her and also enraged on her behalf on few occasions, and kept my fingers crossed for her. I loved the metamorphosis and the way she was gaining confidence. It’s a pity that mostly people only see what’s on the surface and don’t look deeper because they would see what a wonderful, warm and honest person she was. I totally hoped for a very happy end for this girl! Callie was weak and she was totally under the influence of her husband Jason. He was controlling and manipulative person and it was very easy to dislike him. It took Callie some time to believe in herself again but I really enjoyed to see this journey of hers, and it was truly a very difficult journey, as she was left with nothing and she also couldn’t be sure if, after the terrible row, she has a family she can turn to.
One of the great points in the book were the background characters as a group, especially the families of our main characters. I loved to see how supporting they were and how understanding and love and friendship was so easy to spot on the pages. The characters themselves, they were a little too one – dimensional but on the whole they did work.

It took a lot of time for the stories to intertwine, and I am a little obsessed with this, I just don’t see a point in writing a story about characters that don’t know each other and have nothing in common. So it is actually not till the end that the paths of our main characters cross but they finally do and that’s what counts! My day was saved, guys. I also think that the way those three women’s stories were brought together was seamless and worked really well, even though it happened too suddenly and felt too rushed and unrealistic and I couldn’t believe that the bond between the three women formed so quickly, just like this, and that the for ever friendship accrue . But it was great to see the three going from strength to strength after initial problems and finding their peace. although I, of course, would love to see their stories interweaving a little bit earlier. But that’s me. And my obsession.

Altogether, “The Year that Changed Everything” was a really well written story. Yes, some of the chapters were totally hooking and some of them less and dragged on a little, but overall I was engrossed in the three stories. All three women were growing in confidence in this story, some of them slower, some of them quicker, and it was so uplifting to see. It was a warm, uplifting story with some poignant moments, celebrating friendship and solidarity. It’s about biting the bullet and coping with the things that life is throwing at you and not giving up. Recommended!

 

Blog tour- The Year That Changed Everything

The Year of Surprising Acts of Kindness by Laura Kemp

The Year of Surprising Acts of Kindness by Laura Kemp

 

37034088Publisher: Orion

Publishing Date: 22nd February 2018

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

Number of pages: 400

Genre: Women’s Fiction

 Buy the Book: Kindle | Paperback

 

 

 

 

Synopsis:

When Ceri Price arrives in the small seaside village in West Wales, she only means to stay for a couple of nights – long enough to scatter her mother’s ashes, and then go back to her life as a successful make-up entrepreneur.

But when a case of mistaken identities means she lands a job as the barmaid in the local pub, she unexpectedly finds friendship, and perhaps a chance at love.

But when the plans for a new housing estate put the local woodland under threat, she fears the way of life here could disappear.

Then mysterious acts of kindness start springing up around the village – a string of bunting adorns the streets, a new village signpost appears out of nowhere and someone provides paint to spruce up the houses on the seafront. Who is behind these acts of kindness and can they help in the race to save the village from the faceless developers…?

Welcome to the Village of Love. Where friendship flourishes and love blossoms…

Rating: five-stars

Really. This book. “The Year of Surprising Acts of Kindness”. I have fallen utterly and completely in love with this story and I think this is Laura Kemp’s best novel yet. I couldn’t, and didn’t want to, put it down. The writing style, and also the plot, reminded me so much of Jenny Colgan’s novels but it was of course absolutely different and had it’s own style and content. It was full of this so difficult to grasp charm and loveliness, it was funny and poignant at the same time, heart – warming and romantic. Uplifting and optimistic.

In this brilliant story that felt like a ray of sunshine we meet Ceri Price, who right now is trying to come to terms with her beloved mum’s death and the fact that her sister is packing all her things without asking Ceri if there is something she’d like to keep for herself. Ceri drives to a little town of Dwynwen to spread her mother’s ashes there and, due to misunderstanding, this young and successful businesswoman bags a barmaid job in the local pub. But there is much more that she’s going to find there – friends and friendships, and she also finds herself falling in love with the place… and not only. So when plans for a new housing estate are made (built on the beautiful piece of woodland!) Ceri knows that she must join the villagers and fight for this what she’s already holding dear.

There are relatively many characters in this story but guys, believe me, they all have their own place and the book wouldn’t be the same without them. They’re so different to each other and they complete each other brilliantly. There is this eco – warrior Rhodri, a little socially awkward but with a great passion for recycling, who so much wants to keep the natural beauty of the village but also make it welcoming place for the tourists, he was just so, so brilliant, or the nine – year – old genius Henry, the married couple who owned the pub, Mel who has grown so much on me, and actually all of them! I only had some great problems with Ceri’s sister, as I couldn’t understand her approach and the coldness towards her sister, and it bothered me so much, for a very, very long time. I was somehow disappointed with her and had a feeling she’s just jealous of her sister’s success and want to punish her somehow with her actions after their mother’s death. Thank you Laura Kemp for letting me understand her better later on, when she visited Ceri – no need to say that I warmed to her then very, very much.
I loved how Ceri was finding so great friendships in this place, and doing so well, and counting her blessing, with the help of Dwynwen’s villagers. My word, those people were gorgeous, and I loved all of them! I also loved Ceri, she was so normal even though she was such a successful businesswoman. I loved her determination, sense of humour, because she has a heart made of gold and she was, you know, this kind of character that didn’t feel the need to lead on problems or troubles, she just wanted to live her life happily, to find her place and maybe love, even though she wasn’t looking for it. There was this brilliant community spirit on the villagers and oh my, how they welcomed Ceri without one question, they appreciated her and they stand behind her, and each other, even if you were new to the village! Ceri has some secrets, and she feels guilty for keeping them from her new friends, especially as she feels so welcome and so well.

The village of Dwynwen, a seaside village in West Wales, was a brilliant, brilliant setting! I’m not sure if I’d man up to go and live there, to be honest, but nevertheless I adored this place, especially when it started to revive after the unexpected acts of kindness happening. It looked so run down, and so lonely, and so sad and horrible at the beginning but the people living there made up for it, and then is started to change, and it was just lovely.

I loved the errors and jumping to conclusions in this story, they were absolutely brilliant and made me laugh so much! The dialogues were brilliant, so straightforward and so honest, probably thanks to the characters who lived their lives so genuine, not spending their time on social medias but actually talking to each other.

This is a story about secrets, love, forgiveness, friendship and, of course, kindness. It is filled with so many feelings and emotions, and all of them so gorgeously and beautifully put into words, you truly discovers new shades of love, betrayal and hope and community. It’s full of warmth and humour and also sadness and this all beautifully blended together, and you immediately feel like a part of this story. Sometimes a small act of kindness is really this all. It focused on the real meaning of life, showing what’s really important and I loved it woth all my heart. Highly, highly recommended!

Hot Mess by Lucy Vine

Hot Mess by Lucy Vine

34815016Publisher: Orion

Publishing Date: 13th July 2017

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

Number of pages: 304

Genre:   Women’s Fiction

 Buy the Book: Kindle | Paperback

 

 

 

 

Synopsis:

Hot Mess [n.] – someone attractive, who is often in disarray.

Ellie Knight is just like you. Her life isn’t turning out the way she thought it would. Some people might say she’s a hot mess but then who really has their s**t together anyway?

It’s Valentine’s Day and Ellie finds herself eating Nutella in the bar stockroom after a no-show date.
But single doesn’t have to be the loneliest number, does it?
She goes back home to her flatshare and weird flatmates.
It’s ok there’s black mould everywhere, right?
With a hangover from hell, she goes to the office job she thought she would have quit by now.
Doesn’t everyone hate their job?

Maybe Ellie isn’t following the *official life plan* but perfect is overrated. For fans of Fleabag and Girls, this is a fresh and funny coming-of-age story with a single-girl heroine that everyone will relate to – a modern Carrie Bradshaw meets Bridget Jones.

Rating: five-stars

Oh jeez, guys, Lucy Vine just went to the very top of my favourite authors list! I’ve no idea where she’s been hiding my whole life and I hope she’ll keep writing books – “Hot Mess” was one of the funniest novels I have ever read, full of “oh no, she didn’t do/say this” moments, cringing with embarrassment moments and I know that I say it in my reviews, but this time I really mean it – laughing out loud! It was like reading Kirsty Greenwood and Lisa Dickenson mixed together – abso – bloody – brilliant and fantabulous.

I’ll be honest with you, when I started reading the book I really didn’t know what to expect. I haven’t read the synopsis before, I only heard people talking about it and falling in love with it – and now I know why! It turned out to be different to what I think it’s going to be – I’ve never supposed it’s going to be THAT funny! Really, this book cheered me up ceaselessly and even though I am a little older than Ellie, and maybe this little bit serious about life than she is, I totally enjoyed her adventures and well, yes, there were moments that even I could relate to her and her awkward moments.

Yes, I get it – some may say Ellie was whiney, self – pitying, unhappy with almost everything in her life and not trying to change it, embarrassed about her lovely, lovely father, and what was the point of the story he was writing, and that Jenny was a real bitch – but I won’t! Nobody’s perfect, right, and all of this above mentioned just made Ellie so much more genuine, and the novel written by her dad was hilarious, guys, hilarious! I was really disappointed when he suddenly stopped sending the chapters to his daughters, to be honest. And Jenny… well, Jenny, yes, you have to get used to Jenny, but in my opinion she was really funny in all her smugness and arrogance, and I think it was because she took herself so seriously and I didn’t. Ellie was full of flaws, but she was also relatable, loyal to her friends, adored her family, and I simply loved her from the beginning.

What was absolutely brilliant and fresh is that it was a story about being single and not about looking for a boyfriend at any cost! Hats off to Ellie – sure, she was trying, and we accompanied her on many disastrous blind dates (YES! Finally a book where the blind dates DO really appear on the pages!) but not falling for the guys only to tell that she has a boyfriend now. Why shouldn’t you be choosy and selfish when it is about you and your life and your choices, right? And Ellie likes being single, even if others can’t believe it – hence she’s being literally forced by her best friends to go on those dates.

I loved all the characters – even Jenny! They were larger than life and so perfectly and realistically drawn, and oh my god, I think I fell a little in love with Alan, Ellie’s dad – he was so gentle and oh my word, so talented, ha! Really, even the most secondary characters, just like the bodyguards or the staff in the cocktail bar were personalities that added tons of humour but also a lot of depth, for example Ellie’s best friend Sophie, still adapting to motherhood, her 6 – years – old going on sixty niece Millie with questions about periods or work friend Maddie – all brilliantly drawn and jumping out of the pages.

But this book also has some emotional moments and a depth. For example Ellie is still trying to get over her mum’s death, and the whole situation with Jenny just went and showed that there is also a sensible side to her. And it is also about following your dreams, not forgetting about them.

So altogether, “Hot Mess” was bloody brilliant! The humour was ah – mazing. The characters were ah – mazing. The storyline was – yes, you guessed it! Ah – mazing. You could easily relate to Ellie and her antics – she is like a Bridget Jones for younger women. It was laugh out loud from start to finish, it was quirky, sexy, filthy and just fabulous read and I can’t wait to see what Lucy Vine has in story for us next – I hope more such stories like this one – refreshing, original, like a real breath of fresh air. It was sharp – observed, fast – paced without any flat moments, abso – bloody – lutely very highly recommended as an entertaining, easy read.

Our Summer Together by Fanny Blake

Our Summer Together by Fanny Blake

 

35235801Publisher: Orion

Publishing Date: 13th July 2017

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

Number of pages: 320

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

 Buy the Book: Kindle | Paperback

 

 

 

Synopsis:

OUR SUMMER TOGETHER is an uplifting story about family, friendship and the happy surprise of finding love later in life.

Caro knows how to be a mother – advising her grown-up daughters on career and relationship worries. She knows how to be a grandmother – enjoying the hectic energy of her three-year-old grandson. She knows how to be a daughter – helping her aging mother retain her independence.

She thought she knew everything about being a wife, but when her husband suddenly leaves her for another woman, everything is thrown in the air. So, when a chance meeting introduces her to Damir – younger, intriguing and attentive – she realises that opening up to a man so different from everyone else in her life, might also mean getting to know who she really is…

Rating: three-stars

“Our Summer Together” is Fanny Blake’s next emotional, subtle and believable romance that I’ve been longing to read. This author is known to write compelling, atmospheric and very down – to – earth novels that are full of love and hope and when this newest release has arrived, I started to read it immediately.

What I find really great is that more and more authors start to write stories about mature heroines, women who have lived and experienced a lot and truly have something to tell. And Caro is one of such heroines. The story picks up shortly after the sixty – years – old Caro and her husband had a divorce, after he left her for a younger woman, but to be honest, from what I’ve read I’ve deduced that it’s better like this, that her husband undermined her. However – of course – Caro’s life needs adjusting right now. But then she surprisingly meets a stranger on a train – Damir, who has his own story as well, but it is a very different kind of story, and Fanny Blake has done an excellent job with his character. He’s not too sugary, he’s not too wishy – washy, even if his background is a very particular one. He’s the man who knows how it is to loose everything: family, home, country.

Caro was also portrayed in a great, very down – to – earth and realistic way. She was trying very hard to be there for her two daughters, at the same time trying to come to terms with her new single life. It was truly adorable to see how she was starting to blossom again, to see there is much more to life and to proverbially grow up, and I think she was a character that was very easy to relate to and to sympathise with. Well, at least my sympathy was on her side, she has deserved to enjoy life after divorce.

However, I am sure I’d have enjoyed this book much better if I haven’t had the feeling that I’ve read such story a few times already. It was too clichéd, with the ex – husband finding new love and having a new family, with the daughters using their mother without a thank you and then not supporting her, the whole family finding it difficult to accept that she may have a life that doesn’t include them, and with the here and there with the romance. It was – in my opinion of course – this kind of book that needed one or two really great twists, to make the readers gasp, and I missed this in this novel.

“Our Summer Together” is a story that has some layers to it, even though there are not many life – changing situations and sudden twists and turns. It is written in a very peaceful, relaxing and easy to follow way, with just the right number of characters, and characters that were believable and likeable. A story about self – realisation, self – discovery, showing us that it’s never too late to let your dreams come true. Perfect read for one balmy evening with a glass of chilled wine.