Under a Starry Sky by Laura Kemp / Blog Tour

Under a Starry Sky by Laura Kemp

 

Publisher: Orion 54205052._sy475_

Publishing Date: 9th July 2020

Source:  Received from the publisher, thank you!

Number of pages: 400

Genre: General Fiction (Adult), Romance

 Buy the Book: Kindle | Paperback

 

 

 

 

Synopsis:

One summer to change her life…

Wanda Williams has always dreamed of leaving her wellies behind her and travelling the world! Yet every time she comes close to following her heart, life always seems to get in the way.

So, when her mother ends up in hospital and her sister finds out she’s pregnant with twins, Wanda knows that only she can save the crumbling campsite at the family farm.

Together with her friends in the village, she sets about sprucing up the site, mowing the fields, replanting the allotment and baking homemade goodies for the campers.

But when a long-lost face from her past turns up, Wanda’s world is turned upside-down. And under a starry sky, anything can happen…

Rating: four-stars

 

Wanda Williams has always dreamed of travelling the world, however, every time she was ready to departure and leave home, something wrong happened, keeping her in Wales. This time, when she’s about to travel, she discovers that her family business, the campsite, is in tatters and in financial troubles, so there is no other option for her, she must – again! – postpone the trip and try to put the campsite back on the track. But then not one, but two faces from Wanda’s past return to Gobaith, faces that she hoped she’ll never see again, and her life is turned upside down – what will she do? Escape or stay?

There is a vast array of characters in the book but it is totally easy to follow all of them, I have never felt confused. It is a community – centred story and all the characters support each other in a lovely, not too forced way, and all of them have their own story to tell and they play a huge and important part in the village’s life. The author has brilliantly captured the lovely sense of community here.

The blurb mentions Wanda, so Annie’s side of the story was a bonus point. However, personally, I think that it was Annie that really has stolen the show, there was much more depth to her history and background, and Wanda’s felt, in comparison, a bit flat and it started to be repetitive, whereas Annie’s tale was living and breathing. Nevertheless, don’t you worry, both stories are emotional rollercoaster journey, full of ups and downs, and sometimes you’ll feel like on a real rollercoaster, feeling your heart in your mouth, such poignant and moving are some of the events and things that happened in their lives. Maybe prepare a tissue or two, just to be on the safe side.

The descriptions were absolutely gorgeous and well, yes, I used to go camping, and even though now I’d rather go “hoteling”, the book made me feel nostalgic. The setting was wonderful, a perfect place to spent a few days, with the lakes, mountain that is not a mountain, food… I am really ready for my holidays after reading this book.

The writing style is so easy and approachable, and the storytelling is flowing effortlessly. The dialogues are natural and close to life and the banter between the characters is so real. I liked the interactions between Wanda’s family, and I loved seeing the campsite coming back to life, and the comments about it at the beginning of each chapter were priceless.

As much as I loved this book, there were things that didn’t sit with me so well and I have to mention them, apologies. I think that the book could be much shorter, cutting out some of the descriptions would do it really good as it slowed the pace down and the story felt too repetitive. The plot was crying out for more action and events – I loved the starry skies and the gorgeous setting but I wanted more, I wanted the plot to speed forward. And I also missed this brilliant and dry Laura Kemp’s humour, to be honest, I was really looking forward towards it.

“Under a Starry Sky” was a real escape, comforting and easy to read. While I liked other Laura Kemp’s novels better, I still really enjoyed it, as it was a beautiful, emotional read. There were some twists and turns and the characters really grew on me, I felt a part of their lives. And it was everything that I have expected from this book and from this author, a lovely and uplifting story, a perfect read for a summery evening.

 

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A Wedding at the Beach Hut by Veronica Henry / Blog Tour

A Wedding at the Beach Hut by Veronica Henry

 

Publisher: Orion 53548894._sy475_

Publishing Date: 28th May 2020

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

Number of pages: 368

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

 Buy the Book:  Kindle | Paperback

 

 

 

Synopsis:

You are invited to the wedding of the year . . .

Robyn Moss just wants a simple wedding. A quiet ceremony; a picnic on the beach; dancing barefoot on the sand until the sun goes down. But first, Robyn has one very important thing to do – before embracing her future, she needs to uncover her past. As she sets out to find her birth mother, a tangled thread of love, loss and betrayal that ties together three generations of women begins to emerge.

As her wedding day approaches, Robyn discovers that where there is heartbreak, there is hope – and that in the end, love will always win.

Escape to the beach with Veronica Henry’s captivating new story of three women, three summers, and a wedding that changes everything. The must-read novel of summer 2020!

Rating: four-stars

 

Robyn and Jake are newly engaged and are expecting their first child. Robyn has always known that she’s adopted but it never kept her awake at night. However, as she’s pregnant and about to get married, she starts to feel the need to know her true history, to find out who she really is. She’s torn, as she really loves her adoptive parents and sister, and she doesn’t want to hurt them, but the need to know is strong. Deciding not to tell them and confessing only to her friend Gwen, Robyn starts to search for her birth mother and her life is about to change. But not only her life – the future is going to bring challenges, second chances, new beginnings to all those around Robyn, as they are also hiding secrets.

Robyn was a lovely character, complex and really well developed, and the author has given her a truly distinctive voice. She knew what she wants and if she wasn’t sure, she wasn’t afraid to risk, but she never wanted to hurt other people, so this is why some of the decisions were so hard for her. She was also hard – working and caring, and her relationship with Jake was strong and certain. But there were things in her life that lately started to bother her. I adored what Veronica Henry has done here, with Robyn searching for the truth – there was no time wasted on searching here and searching there, there was no will she/won’t she and it was so refreshing, guys, I really liked that instead we got things straight out – it simply worked brilliantly in this story. I also loved with how much empathy and gentleness the author has written those parts, taking all Robyn’s feeling under consideration, and not only Robyn’s but also other characters’ involved, without judging them but giving them a chance to tell things how they really were.

There is also a great bunch of supporting characters in this story, though I’m not sure if we should call them “supporting” at all, as they truly felt like the main characters, with their stories as important as those of Robyn and Jake. They are stories with depth, full of ups and downs, the characters are facing so many challenges in their lives, they all struggle and have issues and that makes them feel so down – to – earth and realistic. I liked that, for a change, they were wise but not patronising, and they really wanted good things for each other, they were supportive and simply kind people.

There were many subplots running through the story, it was not only Robyn and her journey, but I have never felt overwhelmed, stuffed with too much information or confused. The author has taken her time introducing all the characters and their background stories to us, there was nothing rushed and this is why it was so seamless and so smooth to read.

The writing style is so very Veronica Henry – flows effortlessly, it’s lyrical, almost poetic, it’s beautiful but also chatty and engaging, and the descriptions are vivid, bringing the places and characters to life. And of course the setting is gorgeous, Everdene on the coast is so well and evocative described, the author has a real way with words.

“A Wedding at the Beach Hut” is a thought – provoking story filled with family dynamics, unconditional love, friendship and all the trials and tribulations that come with them. It is such a gentle, relaxed read, with enough twists and without too much drama, a truly perfect read for a nice, tranquil afternoon as it is so easy to lose yourself in this story, it captures your attention immediately and envelopes you, with every turned page taking you with on the characters’ journey. I’d say that perhaps there were moments that it was too relaxed, too peaceful, too slow but somehow the pace simply corresponded with the plot. It is a great piece of contemporary fiction, emotionally engaging escapism, true to life and realistic and I highly recommend it!

 

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Like a House on Fire by Caroline Hulse

Like a House on Fire by Caroline Hulse

 

Publisher: Orion 52721171._sx318_sy475_

Publishing Date: 14th May 2020

Source:  Received from the publisher, thank you!

Number of pages: 416

Genre: General Fiction (Adult)

 Buy the Book: Kindle | Paperback | Paperback (out on 03.09.2020)

 

 

 

Synopsis:

George and Stella’s marriage is over. They can’t decide exactly when that happened (Was it the coke can? Or that comment about Jurassic Park?), but they both agree that it has.

A couple of months after the separation, Stella’s mother, Margaret “The Force of Nature” Foy sends out invites for her murder mystery anniversary party – with George on the invite list. Stella hasn’t told her parents about the divorce, she couldn’t bring herself to. And with her father’s business shutting down, Margaret’s recent cancer diagnosis, and some very odd behaviour from her older sister Helen, now is clearly not a good time.

All they have to do is make it through the day without their secret being discovered. And in doing so, they may find each other again – or see their past and future both go up in flames…

Rating: five-stars

 

Stella and George have just separated, and it’s really not nice between them at the moment. They’re about to tell Stella’s family about the forthcoming divorce but they’ve just been invited to Stella’s parents to celebrate their wedding anniversary. Margaret, who is hosting the party, has written a murder mystery and there is no option of not coming, especially as she was diagnosed with cancer and everybody knows that it’s, in fact, a farewell party for her. So no way Stella and George can tell them about the separation – they simply have to go and pretend nothing is wrong. But as it turns out, there are many things that are more than wrong, not only in Stella and George’s relationship. It quickly becomes clear that the whole family has been hiding secrets and truths are being held back… But we all know that the truth always comes out, at the least appropriate moment…

I absolutely adore this author’s approach to family and family dynamics – she sees things how they really are and finds the most absurd elements, presenting us with a brilliant, take – no – prisoners drama/comedy with endearing characters that are sharply written and brilliantly developed. The characters were really written in a great way and I quickly found myself totally immersed in their lives, laughed at their jokes, rolled my eyes at their quirks and them behaving in a way that was, yes, sometimes irritating and childish – shortly, I fell for them even if they fed me up to my back teeth.
I was prepared for it to be a Stella and George story but it turned out that they have a huge family – but the more, the merrier! Margaret is hosting the party to celebrate the anniversary with her husband Tommy, and she’s the one who has written the play. Tommy is obsessed with his shop that he has handed over to his son – in – law. Stella and George are on the verge of divorce and Helen is on the verge of a nervous breakdown – the story is told through their points of view and it quickly becomes clear that there is so much more to them all, and that they all have their own secrets which they’re guarding, hiding and protecting. The characters’ voices are distinctive, strong and different and they are all so vivid and so full of life, and it’s really easy to picture them all.

It was a hugely entertaining read filled with complex and complicated relationships and very sharp observed. I absolutely loved the circle the book did, beginning and winding down with the same characters, and also the meeting in the supermarket has given the story a kind of a wrap – up, giving me my dream conclusion, leaving me totally satisfied. And I love the chosen title – when you read the book you will so appreciate it!

The banter between characters is good, guys, it’s so good in fact that it is incredibly easy to visualise the scene, to hear the characters talking to each other. And it was really easy to relate to the characters, to feel what they’re going through and it quickly becomes crystal clear that there is so much more to every single one of them than you can think at first. Caroline Hulse has a great way with words, her writing style immediately catches your attention and draws you into the story. Her words are sharp, honest and genuine and she can perfectly well capture family dynamics and all kinds of relationships. But she doesn’t exaggerate in her descriptions, and even the most crazy things that happen in the book still seem believable, like things that could happen to you and your family.

The idea of the family murder mystery dinner party was absolutely my cup of tea, I had a pleasure to attend such a dinner (though not a family party!) once and it was such a great fun, and really, you can learn TONS about other people during such party. I was maybe hoping for a real murder in this story to be honest, I think Ms Hulse is able to pull something like this off, but with all the other drama I could live without real corpse – there was enough of other events and little fires everywhere to keep me glued to the pages.

I loved Caroline Hulse’s debut novel, “The Adults”, and “Like a House on Fire” was one of my most anticipated books this year – I literally couldn’t wait to get this book in my hands and to start reading, and let me tell you, the book doesn’t disappoint. It’s as good as the author’s first novel and already full of Ms Hulse’s trademark sharp, astute and straight on point observations and down – to – earth approach to reality. It is a perfect blend between fun and serious and the underlying themes of sadness and seriousness are injected with the most perfect dry and dark humour. It was an addictive, entertaining and thought – provoking read and Caroline Hulse is already at the top of my auto – buy authors.

Letters from the Past by Erica James / Blog Tour

Letters from the Past by Erica James

 

Publisher: Orion 50000699._sy475_

Publishing Date: 16th April 2020

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

Number of pages: 400

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

 Buy the Book:  Kindle | Hardcover

| Paperback (out on 09.06.2020)

 

 

Synopsis:

A sweeping story of family, love and betrayal set in a quintessential Suffolk village, from Sunday Times bestselling author Erica James

With its winding high street lined with a greengrocers, post office, pub and church, Melstead St Mary is the perfect English village. Neighbours look out for neighbours, and few things trouble the serene surface of the community.

But when residents start to receive anonymous letters containing secret information about their pasts – secrets that no one else is meant to know – life in Melstead St Mary is about to change, possibly forever…

Rating: four-stars

 

“Letters from the Past” opens with some of the women living in Melstead St Mead receiving a series of awful poison pen letters. Evelyn’s, who’s just celebrating her 20th marriage anniversary to Kit, brings doubt on her actions from the past. Hope’s, who belongs to the family but feels like an outsider, drives her to the point of despair. Florence’s brings doubt to her marriage and makes her feel horrified by the words. Julia’s, who’s under the command of her husband, sees her letters as a punishment for something wrong that she’s probably has done in the past. And as all of them have secrets they’re not proud of, those letters bring back the fears. It’s up to Romily, the matriarch of the family, to try to work out who is sending those letters and why.

I wasn’t aware that this book is a sequel to “Coming Home to Island House”, and as never, not for a single moment during reading this story did it come to my mind that perhaps there have been something before, my verdict is yes, you can read it as a stand – alone, as the author has truly brilliantly told the characters’ background stories, and I really didn’t have a feeling that I may be missing on something, so imagine my surprise when after finishing this book I’ve discovered there is more! And this is the a bonus – you can as soon as possible read “Coming Home to Island House”, so it’s a win – win, no?

There are many, many characters in the book, and I really mean many. Somewhere around the middle I started to recognise who is who and to whom they belong, but to be absolutely honest with you, there were some characters that I had no idea who they are till the end of the book. Maybe an introduction at the beginning would be an idea? To keep them all under control? This, however, didn’t spoil my joy in reading, yes, I needed a moment to think back to who they are but other than that, it worked.
Because of the number of characters, there are many storylines running through the book and hats off to the author for keeping them all so clear. But the huge cast of characters is actually also a strength of this novel that is told from multiple points of view and it was absolutely gripping to hear the thoughts through different voices. Those are characters that you quickly grow very fond of, that you start to love and hate, trust and distrust, that will surprise you and you’ll be engaged in their lives. The Devereux family is extensive and each member comes with their own background, stories and friends and the author has managed to develop all of them in the most intriguing way, making them breathing, living characters whose stories broke my heart and shocked me.

The poison pen letters are a backbone of the story, as everything started with them this time, and I, probably just like the characters receiving them, was afraid that any moment another one can arrive. I had so many theories about who might have been sending them but – needles to say – I didn’t guess who is sending them, and I must admit the big reveal truly surprised me, but it was also so logical and it explained many things.

As the story jumps between 1942 and 1962, there are also some elements of historical fiction that added so much colour to this book and that I, personally, truly enjoyed. In the end the author has managed to weave all the strands of the story seamlessly together without making them feel too forced or too sentimental.

I think this might be Erica James’s best book yet. I was deeply invested in the characters’ lives and lost myself in everything that was unfolding before my eyes. It is full of secrets, lies, mysteries, intrigues and shocking events that swept me away to Suffolk, London and Palm Springs. Erica James is a wonderful storyteller, her words have magic in them and you’ll be quickly enchanted and transported into the characters’ worlds. “Letters from the Past” is a book exploring the impact of the past, its strength to affect your present life, and it was so beautifully and realistically written that there were moments that I had my heart in my mouth. A truly brilliant read that I highly recommend.

 

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The River Home by Hannah Richell / Blog Tour

The River Home by Hannah Richell

 

Publisher: Orion 50262847._sy475_

Publishing Date: 19th March 2020

Source:  Received from the publisher, thank you!

Number of pages: 320

Genre: General Fiction (Adult)

 Buy the Book:  Kindle | Hardcover | Paperback (out on 04.08.2020)

 

 

 

Synopsis:

The river can take you home. But the river can also drag you under… The new novel from bestselling author Hannah Richell. A wise and emotionally powerful story of a broken family and the courage it takes to heal.

The river can take you home. But the river can also drag you under…

‘It’s something she learned years ago – the hard way – and that she knows she will never forget: even the sweetest fruit will fall and rot into the earth, eventually. No matter how deep you bury the pain, the bones of it will rise up to haunt you … like the echoes of a summer’s night, like the river flowing relentlessly on its course.’

Margot Sorrell didn’t want to go home. She had spent all her adult life trying not to look behind. But a text from her sister Lucy brought her back to Somerset. ‘I need you.’

As Margot, Lucy and their eldest sister, Eve, reunite in the house they grew up in beside the river, the secrets they keep from each other, and from themselves, refuse to stay hidden. A wedding brings them together but long-simmering resentments threaten to tear the family apart. No one could imagine the way this gathering would change them all forever. And through the sorrow they are forced to confront, there is a chance that healing will also come. But only if the truth is told.

Rating:  four-stars

 

“The River Home” introduces us to three Sorrell sisters, Margot, Lucy and Eve – very different, partly estranged, but when Margot receives a message from Lucy begging her to come home as she needs her, she knows she has to return back to Windfalls. She hasn’t been back for years, as the heartbreak and pain and disappointment of the past is simply too huge. But can Lucy’s shotgun wedding fix everything? The estrangement from her mother Kit, the tension with her father, past mistakes? Margot is determined to do this, for Lucy. However, she is not the only sister keeping secrets, and now they refuse to stay hidden… Is it going to break the broken family even more?

“The River Home” is Hannah Richell’s fourth novel, however my first read by this author, and I must tell you that I am already under her spell – the writing is beautiful, atmospheric, almost lyrical yet chatty and accessible, and she has captured my attention with this heart – breaking and shocking story. The descriptions are vivid, bringing the setting and the characters to life.

The characters are really well rounded, full of flaws, getting into troubles, making wrong decisions, and they all feel human. Not likeable – they are so dynamic that you keep changing your mind about them, stop liking them, start to feel sympathy towards them – but simply human. The story is told through different points of view, and this truly helped to get into each of the characters’ heads and understand them and their actions. I can’t say that I had a favourite character, as all of them experienced/were experiencing events that were heart – breaking, the challenges they had to overcome were so unfair, and it was impossible not to fall for them and feel their emotions.
The three sisters couldn’t be more different, even if you asked for it. At first sight, Margot seems to be the main characters, although I think that it was Lucy later that started to deserve this title. Margot has tried to put her past so hard behind her but there are things she simply can’t forget, and her childhood home is for her a place of pain and bad memories. Seeing her, confronting the old memories and guessing what has really happened in the past was heart – breaking, and even though there were moments that I wanted to shake Margot so badly and tell her to stop acting like this, I also fell for her and felt so much sympathy to her.

The element of mystery, surrounding mostly Margot, worked really well in this book. Yes, I started to worry that it is taking a bit too long for it to be revealed, but all the other events and memories were intriguing enough to keep me patiently waiting. However, I do think that it slowed the pace of the story a little, but no worries guys, getting to know the whole background of the situation, and also characters’ past is great, and then all the actions start to really make sense.

The author writes so well about family dynamics, about all the ups and downs of those complex and complicated entities. She really well captured the relationship between the sisters, painting it strong and loving, but also the dynamics and changes of married life. She also touches upon parenthood, love, hate, betrayal, disappointment, loss, grief, guilt, teen angst with passion and understanding and emotional writing.

It’s a book about family dynamics and secrets that can break even the strongest family. It is emotional and even though you may guess the twists by yourself, it doesn’t spoil the reading, as the secrets come out slowly, keeping our attention, and the confrontations and accusations make the things even more complicated. It is actually unputdownable, as you are desperate to know what has happened and if you were right. It was a dark, atmospheric read with building tension. It was not the easiest read, as it truly touched upon many heavier issues, but the beauty of the writing has made the reading w wonderful experience. Truly recommended!

 

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A Patchwork Family by Cathy Bramley

A Patchwork Family by Cathy Bramley

 

Publisher: Orion 45844833

Publishing Date: 19th March 2020

Source:  Received from the publisher, thank you!

Number of pages: 448

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

 Buy the Book:  Kindle | Paperback

 

 

 

Synopsis:

Love, friendship and family come in all different shapes and sizes…

Gina has been going with the flow for years – she’d rather have an easy life than face any conflict. She runs her childminding business from her cottage at the edge of The Evergreens, a charming Victorian house and home to three octogenarians who have far too much fun for their age.

But when The Evergreens is put up for sale, Gina and the other residents face losing their home. To protect her business and save her elderly friends from eviction, Gina must make a stand and fight for the first time in her life.

As Gina’s ideas for saving The Evergreens get bigger and bolder, she starts to believe it might just be possible. The only thing is, does she believe in herself?

Rating: four-stars

 

Gina loves her job as a childminder that she runs from her cottage that belongs to The Evergreens where three lovely octogenarians live. However, when the owner of the house dies, The Evergreens is put for sale and too many residents are facing losing their home. And Gina her business as well. Feeling responsibility, she decides to fight for the house, trying to collect ideas and money – but time is ticking and there are others interested in buying the mansion as well. Will Gina manage to save The Evergreens?

So, “A Patchwork Family”, it must be one of the most anticipated books of the year for many, many bookworms, right, and not only because it’s Cathy Bramley’s book but also because she has moved to Orion, and – at least I – have been asking myself if it means a change of style but no worries you lovely folk out there, Cathy’s writing stays the same, and the story is as warm and inviting as she got used to. And also kudos to the publisher for designing the cover of the book like this, so similar in style to the previous ones, I personally love it.

I adore how wide the spectrum of the title, “A Patchwork Family”, is. The author shows us that a “family” doesn’t always mean your own family, your own flesh and blood, but that sometimes it may reach much, much further and deeper. A family can also consist of your best friends, but also, like in Gina’s case, her charges and their families, and this message here has worked brilliantly. Cathy Bramley shows how important it is to encircle yourself with people who support you but who you can also support yourself, and not always people who can help you but also with those who need your help – being in majority may bring wonders.

The book, as always, is filled to brims with warmth and feel – good factor. You know where it’s leading – but you don’t read it for its unpredictability, you read it for the overwhelming lovely atmosphere – nevertheless, the author doesn’t make the way to the happy end too easy. On the contrary, it’s full of bumps and twists and you can’t help but keep everything crossed for the main character – will she manage to save The Evergreens and keep her business? Will she find happiness? There is this something in Gina that makes her feel so special, she has a heart made of gold and always has time for other people, even if it sometimes puts her in troubles. She’s generous and she’s really good at her job, there is so much passion shown there!
Next to Gina there are some truly brilliant children and octogenarians that added so much warmth, humour but also sadness to the pages, and taught us some important lessons as well.

The Evergreens is such an enchanting house, it’s no wonder that the characters wanted to save it, and the hilarious ways they tried to do this were like a breath of fresh air to read. The ways the young and old came together were aplenty and them sharing their lives and giving each other so much was wonderfully captured, without it feeling too forced or unnatural.

Cathy Bramley has found her niche, writing stories about communities, balancing humour with seriousness, and she sticks to this formula, and why not if it is working. However, maybe – just maybe – it would be lovely to get something – in this lovely, chatty writing style – more ambitious from Ms Bramley? With a bit deeper plot? Nevertheless, the book is a perfect example of her work so if you haven’t had a pleasure to read any books by this author yet (where have you been???), it is a perfect starting point to begin a lovely journey with her novels and stories.

There is love, sadness and hope, and the overwhelming feeling of kindness that we so much need in our lives as well, and this is probably why this book feels so heartfelt and is a real joy to read. It’s about taking chances, about kindness and friendship and no matter what I can assure you you’re going to finish reading it feeling cheered and satisfied. So if you are looking for an easy and pleasant read, look no further and treat yourself to “A Patchwork Family”. Recommended!

 

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The 24 – Hour Cafe by Libby Page / Blog Tour

The 24 – Hour Cafe by Libby Page

 

Publisher: Orion 46776590._sy475_

Publishing Date: 23rd January 2020

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

Number of pages: 416

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

 Buy the Book:  Kindle | Hardcover

| Paperback (out on 18.02.2021)

 

 

Synopsis:

Welcome to the café that never sleeps. Day and night Stella’s Café opens its doors for the lonely and the lost, the morning people and the night owls. It is many things to many people but most of all it is a place where life can wait at the door. A place of small kindnesses. A place where anyone can be whoever they want, where everyone is always welcome.

Meet Hannah and Mona: best friends, waitresses, dreamers. They work at Stella’s but they dream of more, of leaving the café behind and making their own way in life.

Come inside and spend twenty-four hours at Stella’s Café; a day when Hannah and Mona’s friendship will be tested, when the community will come together and when lives will be changed…

my-review

 

The 24 – Hour Cafe in question is called Stella’s and is based opposite Liverpool Street Station in London. It serves fish and chips, and American pancakes, and coffee of course, to all that need it, at any time of the day. Or night.
Hannah and Mona are friends who share a flat and who both work at Stella’s. Hannah is a wannabe singer and Mona is a dancer, chasing their dreams of becoming famous and in the meantime sharing their shifts to help pay the bills.
There are also various characters who enter and leave the cafe over the period of a 24 hour shift, and each chapter is dedicated to one hour, covering Hannah’s midnight until noon and Mona’s noon until midnight. Even if not many realise that, the cafe is a place that brings those people safety, warmth and kindness of strangers.

I adored Libby Page’s debut novel “The Lido” and was hoping for another heart – warming and uplifting read from her. And while it was like this, the new release didn’t sit with me so well, it was a very different read, which per se is not bad at all, but I had a feeling there is no plan behind the story.

I couldn’t immediately get into the plot, to be honest, and I had problems with it till the end actually. The pace was rather slow and I longed for something to happen, for something that will blow me away. Also, and yes, I know, it’s like in a real life, but mostly the characters were simply so sad, and this feeling of sadness started to overpower me wholly. Hannah was for a long time so down, instantly unhappy and complaining, and yes, she was trying to come to terms with a broken relationship, actually much more than that, but it was too much for me personally. It really takes time to get into Hannah and her head, and even then it seems as if there was nothing positive about and around her. Not the easiest character, to be honest, yes, deep and complex but because for this whole negativity not one you could immediately warm to. She was even complaining about the brilliant friendship with Mona, who was like a sister for her. Moreover, what also didn’t sit with me so well was the fact that Hannah, dreaming of going big, seemed to stop at dreaming and she was doing nothing to fulfil this dream.
Mona was the opposite to Hannah and truly, she felt like a breath of fresh air compared to her, and was for sure easier to like. I’m not sure, maybe it’s only my feeling, but Mona looks to be better written than Hannah, there is more life in her and all her emotions and fears were a part of me as well.
There were probably too many characters in this book to let their voices come through, though, and they left me with some questions open. I appreciate how well they were written, sure, however if I already have them in the story, appearing on the pages over and over again, please do let me know them completely. It felt as if I was given a chance to meet and greet them and befriend them a little and then the chance was taken away from me. There were so many of them, including all the more or less random customers, and I simply couldn’t seize all of them and their stories. I don’t know, the idea was brilliant, but maybe all that the book has needed were really the two main characters, their stories and a few background characters significant to the main ones? Maybe then it would be easier and not so confusing?
However, I really liked the author’s insight into the characters’ lives, and I liked the idea of the cafe and people relying on it so much – who would have thought it, right, that a simple 24 – Hour Cafe may be so important for human lives? It made me see that, no matter who you are in what situation you find yourself at the moment, there is nothing better than a friendly face, a hot drink and maybe an open ear that is not necessarily your closest one – sometimes it’s easier to open up to a stranger.

Libby Page’s writing style is extremely elegant, peaceful and warm, almost lyrical, and for sure she has a way with words, writing about feelings and emotions that I had no idea exist. Her writing is evocative and vivid and she has a great talent to bring her characters to life.

So I am a bit in two minds about this book. It was not a bad read, absolutely not, but it also didn’t work for me as much as I hoped, with too many parts that I simply found not so appealing. However, I absolutely adored the writing style and the idea for this story was exceptionally brilliant. It was a book about kindness, friendship, understanding and following your dreams, about community spirit, belonging and supporting each other in any situation.
and Libby Pages proves again that she’s a lovely storyteller, full of patience, gentleness and understanding – I am curious what she has in store for us next.

 

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The Choice by Claire Wade / Blog Tour

The Choice by Claire Wade

 

Publisher: Orion 41121395._sy475_

Publishing Date: 26th December 2019

Source:  Received from the publisher, thank you!

Number of pages: 368

Genre: General Fiction (Adult)

 Buy the Book:  Kindle | Paperback

 

 

 

 

Synopsis:

‘Eat the best, leave the rest! Remember Mother knows best.’

Olivia Pritchard lives in constant fear since Mother Mason came into power. Everything from healthy eating to exercise is controlled by the government, all in the name of health and happiness. Olivia hates being dictated to, but to protect her family she must follow the rules or face a stay in the Shame Box – a perspex box, placed in a public place for everyone to judge.

After Olivia witnesses an innocent woman being violently arrested, she is no longer able to ignore the injustice. The underground rebellion ‘Cut The Apron Strings’ is gaining momentum and for the first time in years Olivia has a choice: keep her head down or join the fray…

Rating: four-stars

 

“The Choice” introduces us to near – future England, led by Mother Mason elected as Prime Minister. Mother Mason, a woman obsessed by healthy living, determined to create a healthy and fit population, has banned all the non – healthy food. You won’t find sugar, chocolate, fat milk, cream, cakes or other fatty products, and baking is now perceived as crime. To make sure everybody obeys the new regulations, everything, the whole nation, are being constantly watched and monitored, and moreover, because of fear everybody is also watching and monitoring – the others. Food is being rationed, fitness club membership is an obligation and weight is recorded on every single occasion.
Olivia Pritchard is struggling with this new reality. She used to be a baker, baked wonderful cakes, so her career no longer exists and her own parents abnegated any knowledge of her and her family. She lives in fear of doing something wrong, something that would hazard her family as Mother Mason seems to know everything. But what choice do you have but to comply? Or maybe there is still a chance to get the old lives back?

“The Choice” is not my usual read but every now and again I more than gladly reach for something that is more out of my comfort zones, and when this book was pitched to me I immediately felt that I want to read it. It turned out to be a dystopian piece of a great work, a story that you immediately feel is going to blow you away, and it certainly did it to me. I found myself almost immediately invested in the characters’ lives, I lived and breathed with them, more than once I found myself wanting to bring Mother Mason down by myself – and it is always a sign of a great read.

I don’t think that the future described in the book is our future, however it nevertheless hits close to home, as the present governments try hard to control us in every possible ways. They’re maybe not as tyrannical and big – brotherly as the one described in the book (yet!) but I think that we slowly start to feel as if we’re monitored much too much. In “The Choice”, Mother Mason has been voted to run the government and she takes this to another level – the health – obsessed woman decides about everything by herself and UK turns to sugar – free, fat – free, diseases – free but also luck – and happiness free country. Everything is rationed, you can’t go shopping without being weighted and measured and without your ID card that stores every single info about you.
Olivia, as a main character, is very well crafted. She’ realistic in all the things she does and says, and she’s not only likeable but also more than often annoying. She used to be creative and loved her life previously, enjoyed her career as a baker, and now she simply can’t come to terms with the new regime, retreating into herself, becoming almost depressed, which is absolutely not a wonder! She’s flawed but also strong and determined, even though this determination of hers made me want to shake her once or twice and tell her to step back, please, as she was making to many silly mistakes.
The other characters are well written as well. There is a relatively huge group of them but you quickly know who is who and to whom they belong. They have their own personalities, more or less well developed, are strong individuals with their own opinions and distinctive voices and are full of secrets. The feeling of tension and of not being able to trust each other was there on the pages, visible and palpable, as neighbours and friends were becoming a threat, and it was brilliantly captured by the author.
I would love a little bit more background on Mother Mason. What has driven her? What has motivated her? Sure, she appears vindictive and I absolutely wanted her down – actually, I was as scared as the characters themselves, really. She was not there but she was also there, an invisible – but also visible – threat. It was a brilliant idea and great use of a character but I’d really love to know what has made her tick this way.

The writing style is addictive, chatty and it quickly draws you in, and the book is written in such a way that after putting it down you really need to look around and check if your chocolate is where it should be. The language used is direct and even though it is vivid and reach, it doesn’t use descriptions as a tool to fill the pages, which was great, as it only added even more sense of fear and distrust. The narration is very descriptive, vividly describing the fictional world that is truly brilliantly created – everything is considered and airtight, starting with the small town of Bunham, its residents, through the markets, Shame – Boxes, the re – education centres and prisons. Yes, there were moments that simply seemed too unrealistic, even for a dystopian novel, things that happened too casually and conveniently that bothered me a bit, but altogether I thoroughly enjoyed this book and would devour it in one sitting if it wasn’t for life getting in the way.

Altogether, “The Choice” was an excellent debut novel, not too overdone, ambitious and unique, much better than some of the debut novels in the same genre so highly advertised last year – well, I personally think this book doesn’t need to be pushy advertised because it’s great and it will simply fly from the shelves.
It was a compulsive, addictive and disturbing read, thought – provoking and realistic, exploring morality, freedom of choice, showing that we always have the Choice, no matter what – we only need to find the courage. It is insightful and controversial and the author explores so many possible scenarios, giving us a great view of “what if”. It shows the strength and importance of family and friends and asks how much the society is able to withstand and where are the limits of oppression, how far is too far. And it is probably more realistic than we may initially think! Hugely recommended!

 

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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!