On a Beautiful Day by Lucy Diamond / #BlogTour

Hi guys, hope you all have a great Saturday! I am absolutely thrilled today to welcome you to my stop on Lucy Diamond’s blog tour for her newest release “On a Beautiful Day”. It’s not a secret that I’m Lucy’s huge fan and I adore her reletable, believable stories – they’re so easy to get into and to get lost into them, and it’s the same with this book – I’m sure you are also going to love it!

On a Beautiful Day by Lucy Diamond


36517591Publisher: Macmillan

Publishing Date: 11th January 2018

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

Number of pages: 496

Genre: Women’s Fiction

 Buy the Book: Kindle | Hardcover | Paperback





It’s a beautiful day in Manchester and four friends are meeting for a birthday lunch. But then they witness a shocking accident just metres away which acts as a catalyst for each of them.

For Laura, it’s a wake-up call to heed the ticking of her biological clock. Sensible Jo finds herself throwing caution to the wind in a new relationship. Eve, who has been trying to ignore the worrying lump in her breast, feels helpless and out of control. And happy-go-lucky India is drawn to one of the victims of the accident, causing long-buried secrets to rise to the surface.

This is a novel about the startling and unexpected turns life can take. It’s about luck – good and bad – and about finding bravery and resilience when your world is in turmoil. Above all, it’s about friendship, togetherness and hope.

Rating: five-stars


Yes, guys. I love stories about friends and I love Lucy Diamond’s novels, so what could be better than a brand new Lucy Diamond book about four friends? Exactly! Lucy’s novels are always so comforting, they are easy reads that make you laugh and cry and they are always a winner, you can be sure that Ms Diamond is going to deliver a book that’ll fulfil all of your expectations. And it’s the same with “On a Beautiful Day”, just grab the book, your favourite blanket and a mug of hot chocolate with whipped cream and put a “Do Not Disturb” on your door.

 So the story follows four friends, Eve, India, Jo and Laura and let me tell this right now how much I enjoyed this friendship – it was pure and genuine, there weren’t any indiscretions  between the women, they didn’t conspired against each other like it often happens in books with such subject matter, no, it was a great, real friendship, with some secrets, of course, but when you read you’ll quickly learn why some of the girls choose to keep the things secret, what was their keynote, and you’ll going to understand them and fell for them immediately. On a beautiful day, when they meet to celebrate birthday of one of them, they witness a very horrific accident, where a car barely misses them and crashes in a shop nearby, leaving several people injured and dead. This accident makes them think and yes, it’s going to change their lives significantly.

I can’t say that I had my favourite character because they were all just awesome, normal, real women, with everyday problems, so unique and their friendship was great. They had their own lives and troubles, their own stories, however the moments in the book when they were together worked so very well.

Eve has been ignoring a lump in her breast. She’s scared to go to the doctor in case they’re going to confirm her fears. Help comes in the most unexpected way. I wasn’t so sure why Eve didn’t want to open to her husband, to be honest, I understand she wanted to be strong and independent, she never wanted help from anybody but there are moments in our lives when we just should share our problems with the closest ones.

Laura desperately wants a baby, however how is it going to happen when, after years of trying and disappointment, her husband has just left her? I think Laura’s story, of course as important and touching as the other three, was not as well developed and I felt the weakest connection with her. But of course I kept everything crossed for her, I fell for her as well and the end of her story surprised me very much, but also made me happy for her.

Her sister Jo, who’s just started a new relationship, has a very different problem, as the new boyfriends brings his teenage daughter with and she can’t quite bond with the girl. I so wasn’t sure about the new relationship, the quick move, I was really scared and afraid that she’s going to be hurt again, but following the motto “no risk, no fun” Jo dived pretty deep. She just wants to feel happy again. There were moments that I wouldn’t stand Rick’s daughter, but she was patient and determined to make the things run smoothly between them and I really admired her for this.

And India, who’s running mother and baby music classes, even though she had great ambitions before, she wanted to go to music college and was short of doing this, well, is she going to reveal the secret from her past that’s so haunting her? Is it this secret that makes her question everything, not being sure if she’s happy with her life, her children, her husband? Is the chance encounter going to answer all her questions and doubts or rather bring even more problems?

All the stories are beautifully written, and, typical for Lucy Diamond, with tons of gentleness, understanding and subtlety. They are all down to earth and very authentic, telling us about the effects they have on each of the characters and their closest ones.

 Lucy Diamond creates her characters in a way that make you feel as if you’ve known them for ages. You can’t help but fell in love with them, cheer them on and keep everything crossed for them. I was immediately hooked and warmed to all of the women from the word go. What is also so significant is that we can really easily identify with them all because Lucy Diamond makes them realistic and down to earth, and their problems as well.

There are many lighter and humorous situations in the story, as well as many emotional ones, and the book really tugs at the heart – strings. With four main characters there is a lot happening, so it’s fast paced and while I wouldn’t say that it’s full of twists or turns, there are for sure some surprises on the way and I wouldn’t call the story predictable – oh no! Forget about the wishy – washy stories and repeating plots, “On a Beautiful Day” is close to life, realistic and relatable book with complex and well developed characters.

Lucy Diamond’s writing is, as always, full of sensitivity, she writes beautifully and descriptive, but with a great dose of humour and there is a lot of understanding in her writing. The characters must face plenty of problems, their lives are not beds of roses and life can be challenging for them but the story is not sad but it will make you think about your own life and to re – consider some things, that’s for sure.

 It was a gorgeous story about appreciating your life, about facing the challenges on your way, about having the courage. This is a book about second chances and about trust, touching upon so many different and important issues like fertility, health concerns, (patchwork) families, relationships and friendship. I absolutely adored the fact that it was so compelling, clever and so challenging, with a complex plot and I enjoyed every single minute of it. Lucy Diamond’s book are guaranteed to provide you with all you need: laughter, tears, all kinds of emotions, suspense, and it’s not different with “On a Beautiful Day”, but the book is on no account too heavy or too overwhelming. It makes you think, so this is really my favourite kind of read, as it obliges to look under the surface. Highly recommended!






The Christmas Secret by Karen Swan

The Christmas Secret by Karen Swan


34734391Publisher: Pan

Publishing Date: 2nd November 2017

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

Number of pages: 496

Genre:  Women’s Fiction

 Buy the Book: Kindle | Paperback






Set on the beautiful island of Islay, The Christmas Secret is a gripping story filled with emotion from Karen Swan, author of Christmas Under the Stars

Alex Hyde is the leaders’ leader. An executive coach par excellence, she’s the person the Great and the Good turn to when the pressure gets too much; she can change the way they think, how they operate, she can turn around the very fortunes of their companies.

Her waiting list is months’ long, but even she can’t turn down the unorthodox but highly lucrative crisis call that comes her way a few weeks before Christmas, regarding the troublesome – and troubled – head of an esteemed whisky company in Scotland: Lochlan Farquhar, CEO of Kentallen Distilleries, is a maverick, an enigma and a renegade, and Alex needs to get inside his head before he brings the company to its knees.

It should be business as usual. She can do this in her sleep. Only, when she gets to the remote island of Islay, with the winter snows falling, Alex finds herself out of her comfort zone. For once, she’s not in control – Lochlan, though darkly charismatic, is unpredictable and destructive, her usual methods gaining no traction with him – and with Christmas and her deadline fast approaching, she must win his trust and find a way to close on this deal.

But as she pulls ever closer to him, boundaries become blurred, loyalties loosen and Alex finds herself faced with an impossible choice as she realizes nothing and no-one is as they first seemed.

Rating: five-stars


I love Karen Swan’s books, and I can’t imagine Christmas without this author’s new novel, and here it is – “The Christmas Secret”, and it’s another winner! It is actually really hard to put into words how much I adore Ms Swan’s books, this one included, they are always so complex, full of secrets, twists and turns, filled with multi – faceted brilliant characters and you can always be sure that the author is going to deliver an utterly compelling story that is only getting better with every page turned.

There is not a single thing that I didn’t like about this book, guys, so probably I should just finish my review right here, right now telling you that it was a brilliant read, go and buy it and you don’t even have to thank me for the recommendation. But I wouldn’t be myself if I did this, so be prepared for some gushing. Let’s start with the characters. They were my favourite kind of characters. They felt like real people and I didn’t always agree with their choices and decisions but it didn’t mean that they were wrong. Sure, sometimes they were but it only made them more human in their eyes. Both our main characters, Alex Hyde and Lochlan Farqhuar, had better and worse days, had tempers, made mistakes and I adored it in them – it seemed so realistic and also it didn’t leave me indifferent about them and their futures. I wanted to slap them sometimes, to shake them or to pat them on their shoulder. I love how Karen Swan creates her characters, they are not immediately likeable, you must sometimes get used to some of them but it’s great that they’re not straightforward, that they have complex and complicated personalities. She gives us time to get to know Alex and Lochie, and when we think we know all about them, she starts then to introduce us to their past and it is like, oh wow, there is so much more to them than I thought! The motions of those two were so brilliantly captured, they were full of secrets and surprises and I loved following them on their journey. We of course can’t forget the background characters, which – no matter if they entered one or two or three scenes – were created with a lot of love to details, had their own personalities and added tons to the whole story.

Setting. Karen Swan is a queen of setting her novels in the most beautiful locations. I wouldn’t say that they are the most unusual ones because she also takes us to Paris or Rome for example, but no matter where we find ourselves, and this time on small and remote island of Islay, west coast of Scotland, she brings all the settings to life and offers us the most gorgeous views and descriptions. The scenery of this Scottish island is breathtakingly beautiful, and I loved how realistic the descriptions were, how they highlighted how dependent the islanders were on the weather, how harsh could it be for them. But also the distillery was a part of the setting, and well, you could ask how much can you write about whisky, but believe me, you can, or Karen Swan can – it was incredibly interesting to find out about the steps of making whisky. The way the distillery was the heart of the community, how much depended on it was brilliantly brought to life.

Plot. Absolutely brilliant! I know that when I read Karen Swan’s book I am for surprises, twists and turns that can change everything dramatically. I love how her books, and also “The Christmas Secret”, are like puzzles, with the missing elements slowly, in the right pace, falling into places. This time one of the background subplots was a sinking of one of the liners transporting American troops to Europe during the First World War, that was torpedoed by the Germans, and so Alex’s story intertwined with chapters full of retrospections. At first glance those stories has nothing in common, but slowly you start to see the whole picture, and you see in what way the stories are connected.

Writing style. Karen Swan knows her way with the words and her writing style is simply gorgeous, guys. She knows perfectly well how to write a complex, deep book. She touches upon so many issues in “The Christmas Secret” but no matter what it is she writes about it’s not only brilliantly researched but it’s also brought to us in the most beautiful, rich descriptions and you immediately feel like part of the story.

“The Christmas Secret” was a gorgeous story about life on a small island and its community, about love, friendship, forgiveness, family bonds and – let’s not forget it – whisky. It was an impressive piece of fiction. It was filled with emotions and feelings, hot and cold, it was honest and genuine and it was also a great love story, both in the present and the past. I really loved every single page of this book, and I loved how Karen Swan made me think (as usual!) that I knew what’s going to happen and then dropping a surprise or two on my not expecting it self – I love this, when the plot is unpredictable, you can’t see through it, when there are moments that you don’t expect, and this is this kind of plot – you know, the one with the “BAM” or “Yesss!” moments. This is another winner from this author and I highly recommend this book to you – Karen Swan at her best, and there really wouldn’t be Christmas without a new Karen Swan!

The Rome Affair by Karen Swan

The Rome Affair by Karen Swan

34513672Publisher: Pan

Publishing Date: 13th July 2017

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

Number of pages: 480

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

 Buy the Book: Kindle | Paperback





The glamorous capital city of Italy is brought to startling life in The Rome Affair, a compelling summer novel by Karen Swan.

1974 and Elena Damiani lives a gilded life. Born to wealth and a noted beauty, no door is closed to her, no man can resist her. At twenty-six, she is already onto her third husband when she meets her love match. But he is the one man she can never have, and all the beauty and money in the world can’t change it.

2017 and Francesca Hackett is living la dolce vita in Rome, leading tourist groups around the Eternal City and forgetting the ghosts she left behind in London. When she finds a stolen designer handbag in her dustbin and returns it, she is brought into the orbit of her grand neighbour who lives across the piazza – famed socialite Viscontessa Elena dei Damiani Pignatelli della Mirandola. Though the purse is stolen, Elena greets the return of the bag with exultation for it contains an unopened letter written by her husband on his deathbed, twelve years earlier.

Mutually intrigued by each other, the two women agree to collaborate on a project, with Cesca interviewing Elena for her memoirs. As summer unfurls, Elena tells her sensational stories, leaving Cesca in her thrall. But when a priceless diamond ring found in an ancient tunnel below the city streets is ascribed to Elena, Cesca begins to suspect a shocking secret at the heart of Elena’s life.

Rating: five-stars

Karen Swan is one of the authors from my auto – buy list. I love all of her books and she always surprises me with the plot, the storyline and the setting, easily transporting me to the fictional world of the characters and getting me immersed in her multi – layered novels. And also this book, “The Rome Affair”, was so exceptionally well done, and the way it was unravelling all the secrets had me hooked. Guys, I think this book would make an excellent movie! I’d say that it was a character driven story. There were surprises on the way, and secrets, some of them really shocking but to be totally honest there were maybe two or three real twists, and all of them actually at the end of the book, so the whole long story was actually a great build – up to a brilliant, explosive ending, and while usually such constructed story would drag on, “The Rome Affair” was a complex, curvy, totally brilliant book that I fell in love with. And the end was so fantastic that I could cry. Really. And I also loved how many meanings the title of this book – The Rome Affair – had.

The characters are more than brilliant. They are unforgettably complex, multi – layered, all of them experienced so much in their lives, and it was such a great thing to see all the layers slowly unpeeling, our eyes getting bigger and bigger not totally believing what they see. The author has – again – so easily transported me to the characters’ worlds and I quickly found myself immersed in their lives, feelings, emotions and history. Elena, thrice married, is a proud, enigmatic woman. The story shows us her past, both happy and unhappy and how she was actually made to love. Francesca is confident, lovely and you just want to have such a girl in your circle of closest friends. A barrister from London, but fleeing from her past and now living in Rome, working as a tour guide – and she’s the one who’s going to write Elena’s memories. You could trust Cesca, no matter what she was always telling the truth. She had principles and she wasn’t afraid to put her foot down when things started to go out of a hand. They are the two main characters in this story, accompanied by some really great background characters that won’t want to leave your head, even days after you’ve finished reading the book.

The story flips between past and present, between lies and truth and I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed the two versions of Laney’s life! This juxtaposing of Elena’s “real” life and the version she gave to Cesca worked so, so well and I couldn’t wait for the moment that she’s going to discover the truth – because I hoped that she will do. We were in much better and comfortable position than Cesca as we were able to quickly establish that there are many layers to the Principessa and so many layers to her life. And so we follow Laney – also known as the luckiest girl in America – but was she really? – starting when she’s 16 years old in the 1960s, then following her to California and the NYC in the 1970s and finally to Rome in 1980s. We accompany her in her journey through life, as young bride, wife, divorcee, widow… Elena is not a straight – forward character. At the beginning you can’t help but fell for this poor, rich girl schema but then, gradually, you start to think if she’s really worth your feelings, if it’s the real face she’s showing to the world – and I loved this complexity! And then there comes the end and you change your mind again, seeing that she was a woman with passion, a woman who loved unconditionally. There were so many faces to Laney, guys, and it was thrilling and fascinating. To be honest, I couldn’t wait for the story to get us back to Laney’s story again, it was engrossing and so colourful, and while I loved Cesca, Elena’s life was truly much more fascinating – even with Cesca having her own secrets! However, after those secrets being so highlighted in the story, with Cesca mentioning them all over again you could expect it is going to be a huge part of the book, or be a very significant point of the story – but the thing is, it wasn’t. It didn’t change anything. It maybe helped to understand Cesca this little bit more. But still, it brilliantly work altogether with the whole plot.

No one can probably do a setting like Karen Swan do. I loved the setting of this book – the very idyllic city of Rome, with restaurants, piazzas, with the forgotten places and glamorous, majestic palaces with 1000 rooms. It was like a much better version of a travel guide, introducing us to Rome’s culture, traditions, secret places, food and people.

It was simply an addictive read, even though it was not the easiest one – you know how sometimes you just go with the flow and everything is so light – hearted and easy? Well, it was a little different with this book and I can put my finger on why it was like this, but it also doesn’t mean that I couldn’t get into this story – I could, however I had to concentrate more on this beautiful, expressive and very vivid prose – I loved the writing style. It is a slow burner, this book, and the beginning feels a little slow, when the author introduces us to the characters and their history, but I also appreciate the fact she took her time to do so and gave us the opportunity to get to know every single smallest detail of their lives. Altogether, “The Rome Affair” was incredibly clever and absorbing novel about the lengths one will go for unconditional love, about sorrows, grief and appearances, showing us that often behind the glamour, designer clothes and jewels there is loneliness, lies, scandals and tragedy. The mystery there was so clever and so intriguing, with plenty of lies and secrets, misunderstandings, glamour, glitter, mystery and intrigue, written in incredibly clear way – there was not a single moment that I felt confused, it was so easy to keep track of all the things. Brilliant and well – developed, this book took me on a great roller – coaster ride into emotionally charged past and present. A gorgeous story full of dolce vita and romance about passion, abuse, loss, heartbreak and hope. A must – have page – turner! Highly recommended!

Book of the Month: April

Hi guys, and welcome to my Book of the Month feature. It’s not regular, as you can see for yourself – I think the more books I read, the more picky I start to be, and the book must be really, really special for me right now. I mean, I love most of the novels that I am lucky to read but only a few of them WOW me. In April there was one book that I loved incredibly, with my whole heart, and here it is.

So. The author of this books writes under different pen – names, but not matter what name it is, I just ADORE her stories. They are down – to – earth, realistic, with tons of sharp, dry humour and brilliant characters, and I could read them all the time. They are those kinds of book that I’d love to be able to read for the first time over and over again, and it was the same with Claire Sandy‘s newest release, “A Not Quite Perfect Family“.


Here you can read my review, to see how much I really loved this story about the Carlile’s family. I am already looking forward to reading “The Woman at Number 24” that the author has written as Juliet Ashton and I haven’t had time to read yet – could you pretty please make my day this little bit longer?

A Not Quite Perfect Family by Claire Sandy

A Not Quite Perfect Family by Claire Sandy


33387208Publisher: Pan

Publishing Date: 6th April  2017

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

Number of pages: 432

Genre: General Fiction (Adult)

 Buy the Book: Kindle | Paperback



Funny, feisty and all-too-true, A Not Quite Perfect Family by Claire Sandy is for anyone who loves their family so much they’d just like a weekend away from them.

Fern Carlile has a lot on her plate. It’s a good thing she loves her big, imperfectly perfect family, because she’s the one who washes their pants, de-fleas the dog and runs her own business. A hearty meal is the one thing that brings the Carliles together – but over the course of a year, the various courses also pull them apart.

Around the table sits an eight-year-old militant feminist, a pair of teenage accidental parents, and a cantankerous OAP. Fern’s husband needs an extra seat for his spectacular midlife crisis.

Will Fern’s marriage be over by the time coffee is served? Perhaps she’ll give in and have the hot new dish that looks so tempting. Decisions, decisions . . .

Rating:  five-stars


Heck, guys, I am really not sure why this book is not being shout about from the rooftops! No matter under which pen name the author is writing, over the last couple of years all of the books by Claire Sandy I’ve read proved to me that she is a fantastic writer with an exceptionally sharp observations skills and her stories are down – to – earth but written with tons of dry humour, and this is what I so love. Also, please don’t ask me which book by Clare Sandy/Juliet Ashton is my favourite because there isn’t one – I love them all just the same! I just can’t get enough of her books, guys, they are utterly brilliant and “A Not Quite Perfect Family” was just the same.

Welcome the Carlile family. Fern’s life is perfect – well, sort of. She has a house, great children and lovely partner Adam and no money problems more, as Adam has written a song that is being played all over the TV. But then, suddenly, Fern and Adam decide to split. The plot takes place within one year, starting in June and ending June next year, at Midsummer supper in Carlile’s garden. However, this one year the things go not as smoothly as usually and the party ends in a disaster. During those twelve months there is A LOT happening in the family – as they say, it never rains but it pours, right, so there is not only the temporarily break – up going to blow the Carlile’s family up – there are many other surprises waiting for the unexpecting adults. Each chapter is titled with a month and a name of a dish that Fern and Adam ate for their anniversary, and really, the dishes were a great equivalent of this what was happening in the chapter.

I loved the characters, from the very beginning, even though I had some problems with Aunt Nora, but quickly I started to love her probably most of all the characters. You need a very short “getting used to”- phase to Aunt Nora but then I couldn’t wait for her to enter the scenes and for her remarks, even though there were still moments that I wanted to shush her personally. Fern on the other hand, well, she was a woman wearing her heart on her sleeve. She was the one keeping the family firmly in control, cooking, looking after the bills, sorting out birthdays’ presents, walking the dog, cleaning, doing the laundry… well, shortly, looking after the family, the close and distant one – truly, your typical woman. But – she was exceptionally well written and even though she was so normal, so usual, it didn’t mean she was boring. On the contrary, she was all but boring. Because of the feeling of normality you couldn’t help but root for her and really, Claire Sandy gave this normality a face lifting and believe me, you will all fall for Fern. The way she was dealing with everybody and everything, with the problems, troubles, twists and turns that life was throwing her way was the way I personally would love to deal with them – she was troubled but she was also as cool as a cucumber and even when she was hot inside she stayed cool on the outside.
So Fern just wants to live her life as it is but – sadly – Adam seems to have other ideas. Oh guys, his midlife crisis made me laugh, roll my eyes, cringe with embarrassment and it was so, so entertaining! Suddenly he wanted a life without problems, he wanted to enjoy his second youth and make use of all this money that wham – bam was there to be spent. There was everything you could expect: younger woman, penthouse, diet, leather trousers and being all “cool”.
The children, Ollie and Tallulah, were brilliant. Especially Tallulah, with all of her feminist views, and this only in the lovely age of 8 years old! Go into hiding, Suffragists! It was sweet and hilarious at the same time, because you could just see in your mind how serious she was, and knowing that she’s actually only still a child made it so ridiculously funny.
This colourful group of eclectic characters was brought to life and they made the book so vivid and vibrant. Just imagine, so many different personalities under one roof! Problems, misunderstandings and arguments are recipe for disaster. I bought them all just as they were, even Fern’s “cleaner” Evka – you need to take them with a pinch of salt sometimes but altogether they worked together perfectly and they made the story unputdownable for me. It doesn’t happen often that I fall so much for the characters, and here they were like my own family to me. This bunch of characters care about brilliant dialogues, hilarious one – liners, and shows all kind of different relationships and dynamics. They’re all so unique and so distinctive.

So yes, I am actually a little bit in love with this book. It was fun and quirky, with brilliant characters, and the author tells about things like they are, with no holds barred. She has written about normal family – with all the ups and downs, function and dysfunction, troubles and successes but she has made this family not only special but down – to – earth. They could have their differences but in the end they all stuck together, they supported each other, just like it should be. “A Not Quite Perfect Family” was full of laugh – out – loud moments, but also there were moments that were much, much more poignant. A cringey, embarrassing moments intertwined with deeper, poignant ones and I loved this mix – it was perfect.
This is a story telling us that there are not perfect families out there, that they all have their ups and downs but that the most important thing is to communicate and be there for each other. It was incredibly realistic read, so fresh in its sharpness and down – to – earth observations of everyday life. It also shows that we should live our life just like we want it to live, without worrying or being ashamed of it. It was really a fantastic read, this kind of book that I’d love to be able to read for the first time over and over again. Highly, highly recommended!

Christmas Under the Stars by Karen Swan

Christmas Under the Stars by Karen Swan


31937542Publisher: Pan

Publishing Date: 3rd November 2016

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

Number of pages: 512

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

 Buy the Book: Kindle | Paperback



A gripping, festive novel, Christmas Under the Stars by Karen Swan reveals the devastating power of secrets.

Worlds apart. A love without limit.

In the snow-topped mountains of the Canadian Rockies, Meg and Mitch are living their dream. Just weeks away from their wedding, they work and play with Tuck and Lucy, their closest and oldest friends. Meg and Lucy are as close as sisters – much to Meg’s sister’s dismay – and Tuck and Mitch have successfully turned their passion for snowboarding into a booming business.

But when a polar storm hits, tragedy strikes. Alone in the tiny mountain log cabin she shares with Mitch, Meg desperately tries to radio for help – and it comes from the most unexpected quarter, a lone voice across the airwaves that sees what she cannot.

As the snow melts and they try to live with their loss, the friendship Meg thought was forever is buckled by tensions, rivalries and devastating secrets. Nothing is as she thought and only her radio contact understands what it is to be truly alone. As they share confidences in the dark, witnessed only by the stars, Meg feels her future begin to pull away from her past and is forced to consider a strange truth – is it her friends who are the strangers? And a stranger who really knows her best?

 Rating: 5/5

“Christmas Under the Stars” is the winter offer from Karen Swan, as she’s now writing two books a year. Having incredibly enjoyed “The Paris’ Secret” I was impatiently waiting for the new release, as the author is a very talented story – teller, and her books are so different to each other, so you can never tell where the Karen is going to take you this time.

“Christmas Under the Stars” is set in Canada, in Bannf in Alberta, and I couldn’t imagine a better setting for this book. Personally I am fascinated by this country, and I would do anything to be able to go and visit it some time, and after reading the book even more so. Karen Swan’s writing makes is crystal clear that she also loves Canada – the descriptions are very detailed, minutiae, and they don’t leave a lot to be imagined, as the author covers every aspect. While sometimes it doesn’t work, this time I was absolutely stunned with all the views and could easily see them in my mind – they were so vivid and the author has so easily brought all the places to life. I can’t say that I had my favourite place as I myself am kind of an outdoor girl and love to spend my time in the nature, so really, all the places in the story were as if they were created especially for me and I truly appreciated the beauty of the wilderness. But! Karen Swan has also mentioned how much risk and danger such a wilderness can bring, and believe me, even the encounter with the bear sounded so realistic that I kept looking over my shoulder when I went for a walk in the wood later on, after reading the scene. The gorgeous and cosy mountain log cabin that Meg and Mitch were living in was my idea of heaven, though there were moments that it felt particularly remote and off the beaten track, so am not sure if I could live there constantly, alone.

The book was so complex and it touched upon so many issues! I admit, at the beginning, and it was a relatively long beginning, I was starting to feel panic, as it took a lot of time before the story gained some speed and focused on the significant things. Significant for the plot! I was like, oh man, what’s happening? Why is it so dragging on? Where is the story? It was probably also because I had some problems with the characters. While I warmed to Meg immediately, I wasn’t so sure about her fiancé Mitch. From this little what we were able to get about him he came across as a cold, somehow indifferent and always irritated guy, who put everything over Meg, even though they were supposed to get married in a week. Yes, throughout the story there came a picture of a passionate, talented young man and it was eventually explained why he behaved this way but I still couldn’t shake off my initial feelings to him. Then we had Lucy and Tuck, best friends of Meg and Mitch. Tuck was an absolutely unlikeable character for me, and I really, truly felt for Lucy – however Lucy had her moments as well. Tuck seemed so very childish to me, and I hated that when he spoke with people that the second word he said was “man” – no idea why but it irritated me incredibly. In my eyes he was a guy who was interested in anything but his own family, a guy who always tried to keep up with his best friend and almost always failed. As I don’t want to spoil the read to you I won’t say a word more but, as the story is full of surprises, twists and turns, keep your eyes peeled and let me know what your final thought about Tuck were. Back to Lucy – as I have already mentioned she had her moments when I truly despised her and didn’t understand where she was coming from – her jealousy, her determination to belittle Meg, the way she was sure she can judge her best friend – I just couldn’t get this girl, to be honest, and as it turned out, I was right not to trust her. While Meg… Well, I loved Meg. She had such a complicated past and she had to fight for herself, and yet she felt so normal and down – to – earth and I totally fell for her. Sure, she made mistakes, she was stubborn sometimes, but she was loyal, which you couldn’t say about Lucy foe example, she had her heart in the right place and I so wanted that life will stop throwing obstacles at her all the time.
The only male character that I loved from the very beginning was Jonas. He had so much distance to himself and all the things, he’s seen things just like they really were and he was just so, so clever, but not too patronizing. And his job was so, so cool, I don’t want to spoil it for you so not going to tell you what it was he was doing, but it was the first hero in my books doing this! I loved the conversations and then email exchange between him and Meg, and their jokes were really bad, but they made me laugh so much nonetheless. Jonas was so genuine in what he did and said and I so wanted him to stay significant in this story – he so deserved it!
But likes and dislikes away, the characters were perfectly drawn. They were complex and full of emotions and feelings personalities. They all felt so solid, you know, like real people. They made mistakes, they lied, they had secrets, they drunk too much, they behaved unreasonably, they jumped to conclusions, they loved and all of this, and much, much more, was so brilliantly captured by the author in their personalities. I felt like I knew all of them, to be honest, like I was together with them on the pages of this book, going with them on this very curvy journey.

The first half of the story – at least this is my feeling – focused more on Canada itself, on the landscape and yes, it worried me a little, but the second part, and especially the last quarter of the book were bloody brilliant. When the action unwound, it didn’t stop for a single second and I found the book unputdownable. Yes, we can say that the end, in comparison to the rest of this rather long story, was too rushed and too quick, but to be totally honest, I didn’t care about it – it was so fantastic and brilliant ending to the story that I won’t say a single bad word about it.

And guys, how gorgeous, clever and unique the idea of introducing us to a character that doesn’t even is on the Earth, was! The whole universe, NASA, rockets was never my thing, but together with Meg and Ronnie I hold my breath when the space ship (or is it something different???) was entering the Earth again, and even the details about life out of space, about gravity and how it is to be on the firm ground again had me totally hooked. Stars I always loved to watch, and I can’t help but admire the Milky Way over my own roof when I only have a chance.

So yes, it was a slow burner but as soon as it gained speed, it was like the avalanche in the story – fast, twisty and taking you with it on the journey. One of the secrets I guessed relatively quickly but the outcome has totally surprised me, and the other twists were absolutely unexpected for me – it is really something that Karen Swan is a champion of doing in her books: she’s a specialist of dropping a totally unexpected bomb on your totally unexpecting head, and I love this feeling of surprise, but also of the pieces of the puzzle falling into a place, and always in these moments I just want to punch the air and shout Yessssss! “Christmas Under the Stars” is a gorgeous, beautiful story about love and hate, secrets, lies, friendship, sisterhood, new beginnings and second chances. It’s a story that kept me awake long after the bed time, and it’s a story that won’t leave my head for long. Complex, cleverly plotted, with unforgettable characters, beautiful setting in Canadian Rockies, with views that were taking your breath away, adventures, twists and turns, it is a must read this winter! Another winner from Karen Swan, this author always delivers and never disappoints! Highly, highly recommended!

The Things We Keep by Sally Hepworth

The Things We Keep by Sally Hepworth


31839447Publisher: Pan

Publishing Date: 8th September 2016

Source:  Received from the publisher, thank you!

Number of pages: 352

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

 Buy the Book: Kindle | Paperback



Just because you can’t remember, doesn’t mean you can’t love . . .

Anna Forster is thirty-eight years old and has started to suffer from the early stages of Alzheimer’s. She knows that her family is doing what they believe to be best when they take her to an assisted living facility. But best can still hurt. What she also knows is that there’s just one other resident her age at the facility – Luke.

As her disease steals more and more of her memory, Anna fights to hold on to all that’s left. What remains are her feelings for Luke. Before long the pair fall in love, despite the forces that are set against them.

But when a tragic incident occurs, Luke and Anna’s families decide to separate them. There is one person at the facility who can help the pair, but only if she’s willing to risk everything for them . . .

Rating: 5/5

“The Things We Keep” by Sally Hepworth is one of the many books dealing with dementia that I’ve had a pleasure to read. However, mostly when we think Alzheimer’s disease we think about older people. This time though the author tells us a story about 38 – year – old Anna, who has been diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer. I must admit, even with my whole knowledge I didn’t know that this disease can afflict even so young people, and I think it hit me so much because Anna is around my age, and I could relate to her on many levels. And also, personally I think that it is one of the most awful diseases and it’s one of my biggest fears, that it can afflict someone in my family.

I haven’t read Ms Hepworth’s previous book “The Secrets of Midwives”, even though it is on my never – ending TBR pile, so I didn’t really know what to expect from her new release. I’ll admit, I started to read “The Things We Keep” a little reluctantly, not sure if I am in a mood for such a story, but immediately, IMMEDIATELY after starting reading it, I was drawn in and hooked and didn’t want to put the book down. It turned out that “The Things We Keep” is incredibly sad story, but it is also incredibly uplifting and full of brilliantly funny one – liners. Well, Anna herself had a fantastic sense of humour, she was so cynical and so intelligent, and seeing her deteriorate made it all even sadder. The author has truly perfectly mixed here sadness with humour, sorrow with happiness.

The story introduces us to Anna, 38 years old, who’s just been diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s. As the disease is progressing quickly, Anna’s twin brother decides that it’s best for her to go to Rosalind House, and one of the reason of choosing this home is the fact that Luke is living there – Luke is 41 and also suffering with a dementia. They are the youngest residents there and they quickly develop feelings to each other. But – are they real feelings? Can people with dementia feel love if they can forget the person next day? Should it be at all allowed to carry on their friendship/relationship? So many questions, so many important and thought – provoking questions there, and what I really enjoyed was the fact that the reader was allowed to see both sides, to see how complicated and complex it was, how awkward the position for all involved.

The characters in this story are unforgettable, and I don’t only mean the main characters, but also the residents of the Rosalind House. I was impressed with the way they all dealt with the difficult things that happened in their lives. At first I was assuming that the book is only about Anna so I was a little surprised when it introduced Eve to us, however there wouldn’t be this story without Eve and her daughter Clementine. Eve is left by her husband to deal with the mess he put them into and after living a life without financial problems she needs to find work, pronto, and so she’s forced to take a job at the home, where she learns Anna and Luke and their story. It turns out that Eve will be much more than a cook in this novel, as she becomes a friend to the home residents. However, I think this is Anna’s voice that is the most distinctive and strong in this story, and the author has done a brilliant job with getting into Anna’s head, into telling her tale with so much feeling and emotions. The way she described Anna and her slow (or quick!) deterioration was incredibly realistic and my heart truly went out to her. The author has also perfectly captured all the changes in Anna, such as forgetting the words, situations, people showing that for Anna herself it was a strange new world. There were confusions and frustrations involved, which is so natural in such situation, and the author beautifully and with a lot of feelings put it into words. And I really appreciate that we were given the possibility to see as many points of view as possible, those of the patients’, as well as their family members or caregivers, and we could agree – or not – with them. She shows not only the feelings of dementia patients, but also how it is for their family, seeing their beloved ones disappearing, but still being able to love and care.

The book alternates between Anna, Eve and Clementine. Yes, Clementine. She must also deal with problems, with ostracism and exclusion and it was heart – breaking to see how brave this 7 year – old – girl is. It is also interesting how the story starts in the past with Anna being first moved to Rosalind House and then slowly moving forward, with Eve’s point of view that starts in the present, when Anna’s disease is already progressed. It shows Anna first as a full of life, sharp woman and takes us on the journey of slowly forgetting words, faces, family, forming thoughts, being disoriented.

“The Things We Keep” is about love. It’s about losing people that you love, through death or through a disease that take their memories away, and I am really not sure what is worse. This is also a very beautiful, poignant love story showing that love knows no boundaries. It is about coping, caring, giving, developing the unselfish side to you. The feelings in this story, the way the characters acted and reacted felt so realistic and genuine and often I was on the verge of tears. It bothered me so, so much that such a young, great, sharp woman as Anna has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, and it broke my heart seeing how quickly it develops. It’s truly this kind of book that makes you think, makes you cheer the characters on and fall for them. It is full of emotions, even the rawest ones, and written in an honest way, without beating around the bush, showing how it really is and what people truly feel. I enjoyed every single moment of it – and I highly recommend this book to you!