Goodbye, Vitamin by Rachel Khong

Goodbye, Vitamin by Rachel Khong

35126418Publisher: Scribner UK

Publishing Date: 1st June 2017

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

Number of pages: 208

Genre:  Literature/Fiction (Adult)

 Buy the Book: Kindle | Hardcover

 

 

 

Synopsis:

Ruth is thirty and her life is falling apart: she and her fiancé are moving house, but he’s moving out to live with another woman; her career is going nowhere; and then she learns that her father, a history professor beloved by his students, has Alzheimer’s. At Christmas, her mother begs her to stay on and help. For a year. Goodbye, Vitamin is the wry, beautifully observed story of a woman at a crossroads, as Ruth and her friends attempt to shore up her father’s career; she and her mother obsess over the ambiguous health benefits – in the absence of a cure – of dried jellyfish supplements and vitamin pills; and they all try to forge a new relationship with the brilliant, childlike, irascible man her father has become.

Rating: three-stars

“Goodbye, Vitamin” is very different to what I thought it’s going to be, but it doesn’t mean that it made reading worse. However, as there is such a great emphasis on Ruth’s father’s Alzheimer’s in the blurb I was prepared for the story to focus mostly on him and his medical condition – but there was also a lot about Ruth’s life and memories of the past, which – and I appreciate it – in a book about a character suffering from dementia is logical and foreseeable.

The characters are not perfect, all of them have their flaws but this make them more realistic and believable. Ruth is the main heroine in this story. She agrees to quit her job and leave her life behind to move back with her parents and look after her father while her mother is working. Ruth herself felt very normal, very casual. Overall I had a feeling that we don’t know too much about the characters, that they are mostly superficial. What I really liked when it comes to the characters is how well the author could describe the impact of Alzheimer’s on all of them – the affected and afflicted ones.

At the beginning it was hard for me to get into this story, and I am not sure why. Maybe because of the Ruth character herself, there was something in her that made me feel there is a distance between me and her, that she isn’t allowing me to get too close to her. I was also not sure about her choices and there were moments I really didn’t know what kind of point she’s making. There is not a lot happening in this story. Present is interwoven with past, we got to know about Ruth’s break – up and a little about her past but it mostly focuses on her relationship with her ex – boyfriend.

What confused me was not the fact that it was written in a diary format, this only made the reading quicker and easier, without going to deep into descriptions, but that it suddenly switched from telling Ruth’s story to keeping track of what her father was doing. It was as if the author has just recalled, wait, it is about Ruth’s dad, let’s write about him now. It felt too rushed and too forced for me, to be honest. I appreciate the idea – keeping this track is done in the same way as Ruth’s dad has written about her in a notebook he gave her to her birthday (one of the best moments in the book were the short notes Howard has written when she was a child. They are incredibly sweet and they brought smiles to my face but they also pull at the heartstrings, as they’re also such touching and they remind you of the farthest, cherished memories), but maybe it should have been done earlier? Or interwoven into the story?

Altogether, “Goodbye, Vitamin” is a melancholic story about family and how important it is to appreciate it, and every day we can spend with our closest ones. It is filled with funny and sad moments, with lovely memories that it is so nice to keep. A bitter – sweet and very sharp – observed novel about forgetting and forgiving and healing , and some of those observations may feel raw but I liked this rawness.

The Last Piece of My Heart by Paige Toon

The Last Piece of My Heart by Paige Toon

31694817Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Publishing Date: 18th May 2017

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

Number of pages: 400

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

 Buy the Book: Kindle | Paperback

Synopsis:

Meet Bridget, a successful travel journalist with ambitions to turn her quirky relationship blog into a novel. But, after numerous rejections from publishers, she accepts an alternative proposition: Nicole Dupre died leaving behind a bestselling novel and an incomplete sequel, and the family need someone to finish it. Bridget is just thankful to have her foot in the publishing door. But as she gets to know Nicole’s grieving family, and the woman behind the writing, Bridget’s priorities begin to change …

Rating: five-stars

My love to Paige Toon and her novels has been growing slowly but steadily, in due course and with every new book by this author I am more and more in love with her stories – I just think that each new novel by Ms Toon is better than the other one and soon I am probably going to run short of rating stars, and if I could I’d give them 10 or more. I desperately wanted to read “The Last Piece of My Heart” and when my review copy arrived I was over the moon with joy. Really. Don’t judge me but this is what the books do to me.

Bridget is an aspiring author and travel writer who’s writing about her travels on her blog. She’s also come up with this idea of a feature where she has to contact all of her ex – boyfriends to get the pieces of her hearts that they carried with them back. She hopes to turn it into a novel. But her agent has other ideas and Bridget gets a work as a ghost – writer, writing a sequel to a best selling novel by an author who unfortunately passed away shortly after her book was being published. Little Bridget knows how much agreeing to take this job is going to change her life… Moreover, to write this sequel, Bridget must travel to Cornwall and is spending 7 weeks camping in the gorgeous Padstow, while researching and going through Nicky’s notes and diaries to find what she’s had in mind for her characters. However, it quickly turns out that there are many similarities between Nicky’s life and the story in her book – what does this mean for the book and for Charlie?

I was hooked from the very first page. Seriously. I found myself racing through the pages wanting to know what’s going to happen but also not wanting it to come to the end so I could enjoy it longer and longer. To be honest, I was expecting something different when I’ve read the synopsis, now please don’t laugh but I thought that Charlie is going to be a very, very old widower, handicapping Bridget’s life and work, so I was a little surprised, but not at all disappointed, as Charlie is an ultimate swoon – character and I fell for him immediately, head over heels.

There is a great bunch of characters in this book and their stories are so captivating! There is so much depth to them all and thanks to it they just feel like real people, with real problems. Bridget was just great. So adventurous, wearing her heart on her sleeve, strong – minded and independent, and following her dreams. Charlie’s story has touched all the right heart – strings. He loved Nicky so much and now he was left alone with their daughter April. Watching him struggling with bringing the lovely little girl up, grief and everyday life was heartbreaking. I fell for him immediately, even though there were moments that I was very annoyed with him, but on the other hand I could understand him, he didn’t know what’s right or what is wrong, he was grieving but he also wanted to live his life, and it was so complicated. Seeing him come out of his shell was the greatest thing ever, guys.

I only had one “but” this time, and it’s the ending. The last few chapters seemed so, so rushed, everything there happened incredibly quickly. Don’t get me wrong, it was a lovely end but in comparison to the whole story, to its pace, it was just too quick. It takes Bridget, but especially Charlie, really, really long to realize what it is they’re feeling, and in the last few chapters it looks like Bridget has just decided she’s going to do it, no matter what, click your fingers, mumbo jumbo, and here we are, at the end of the story. I don’t mean that it doesn’t suit the novel, it fits perfectly and I LOVED this end, I’m just saying. So there. BUT – the way the author has written about the feelings and emotions is freaking brilliant! She can put all kinds of them into words and describe things that I had no idea exists – the feelings just jump out of the pages.

Paige Toon also writes beautiful descriptions of the settings and she always chooses them so carefully and they are always so spot on. This time we not only have London, but also Cornwall, that is so easily brought to life and the scenery is stunning – Bridget needs to do some research and the places were gorgeous! We are also taken on a journey to Thailand, where everything I read about was so vivid, colourful and full of scents.
This book balances humour and the hard – hitting emotions in a perfect way. I absolutely, totally adored the romance aspect in this novel – it was beautiful and so down – to – earth, Paige Toon has captured all the awkward moments so, so well and every element of it just perfectly fitted the other one. You could literally see how the characters were falling for each other, and I don’t think I’ve read about blossoming relationship captured so, so well before!

“The Last Piece of My Heart” is incredibly beautiful story about love, loss, grief and hope. It made me smile, it made me cry, this rollercoaster journey of emotions was just perfect. I instantly fell for the characters and I lived through all the ups and downs with them, I kept my fingers crossed for them, I also got angry with them sometimes, especially when they didn’t see what was so obvious. It was filled with adventures, heart – breaking moments and just this overwhelming feel – good factor. I loved this story, and I am sure you’re going to love it too – highly recommended!

Book of the Month: January & February + Q&A with Alice Peterson

Oh guys! Oh my word! I know, I know, it’s almost the end of March and I am posting about my favourite books in January and February only now! Mea culpa, really, but you know that life is a bitch, all the time getting in the way. I have so little time to read right now, moreover, not only have I a little time for it but I started to read so, soooo slowly – WHY??? OK. Whatever. Here are the two of my most favourite books this year and if you scroll down a little, there is also a Q&A with Alice Peterson – this lovely girl found some time in her tight schedule to answer my questions about one of the most special books in the world – “A Song for Tomorrow”. THANK YOU SO MUCH, Alice!

da11a84440f9c5ab9723e5ec7ed63659_1920x1080

So let’s start with January. It was a really good bookish beginning to the year but there was one novel that made me laugh out loud, that made me cringe, that made me cheer the characters on and also made me feel inspired by the main character! It was “My Sweet Revenge” by Jane Fallon, a story that I’ll be getting back to many, many times – though I’d love to be able to read it for the first time over and over again! Here you can read my review.

c1e1cfowqaatc-7

So. And then there came February, bringing with one of my most anticipated releases this year. Alice Peterson belongs to my top favourite author but with “A Song for Tomorrowindexshe has overdone herself – this book is an absolute gem, a book like no other that turned me into a a weepy mess but that was also full of hope. Please, read my review of this heart – breaking novel here and if you haven’t read the book yet, do this immediately! Also, here is a link to my Alice Martineau’s favourite song “IF I FALL” – it’s is beautiful. The first things my daughter says when we get into the car is that she wants to hear the songs of this beautiful lady – she means Alice.

img_20170206_150557

Q&A with Alice Peterson

  1. “A Song for Tomorrow” is a book full of incredible emotions – how hard was it to write this novel? To put all those feeling into words? To do Alice justice?

For each book I write, I put my heart and soul into all my characters, but this book is different in that my main character Alice is inspired by the singer Alice Martineau, who was born with Cystic Fibrosis (CF). In some ways, it was easier writing about Alice Martineau than a fictional character as I was able to talk to her family and friends, her boyfriend, her music manager, her vocal coach, her consultant, and people who live with CF, so I got to know Alice from every single perspective. I remember her father, David, saying to me with a twinkle in his eye, ‘you will know things about our Alice that I don’t know’. At times it was emotional writing the story because it was true. I found describing the mother’s point of view particularly poignant. I wanted to do Alice justice because she was a wonderful inspiring person but I also wanted to do her justice for her family and friends. I wanted them to feel the book truly celebrated her life and talent in the way she deserved.

  1. Alice is a true inspiration – did she inspire YOU in some ways?

Oh yes, in every way. CF is a genetic life-shortening condition that slowly, through repeated infections, destroys the lungs, but never once did Alice moan or feel sorry for herself that this was the pack of cards she’d been dealt. Nor was she some saint who sweetly put up with it. She was one of those people who turned her life experiences into something positive – which was her music. Alice also knew her time was short (life expectancy with CF in the 1990s was 31) so she lived life intensely – and by that I mean she threw herself into friendships and relationships. Clearly Alice had a huge heart and capacity to give, and people fell in love with her. Central to A Song for Tomorrow is the love story between her and Tom and this part of the book really inspired me. It made me realize the strength of having someone by your side. Alice’s success in becoming a signed recording artist with Sony (her album, Daydreams, was released in 2002) wasn’t only down to her own ambition – she was helped so much along the way with the unconditional love and support of her parents, her brother, her close friends and her boyfriend.

  1. Alice, what happened with Tom? I need to know – please, do tell us.

The lovely Tom has married and had children, but he remains close to Alice’s family. He still flies planes too!

  1. How much fiction and how much truth is in the story?

Alice in my book is very much Alice Martineau. I shall never forget Alice’s brother, Luke, reading the book for the first time and saying ‘Alice walks off the pages’. So, the heart of the book is true – Alice’s journey to become a singer when faced with the obstacles of living with CF. We also kept Alice’s medical condition, the love story and her family as close to the truth as possible. The surrounding characters, including the anti support group, are entirely fictional – as are many of the events that take place.

  1. I am sure there are many such inspirational people like Alice in the world – why did you choose to base your book on her and her story?

You’re right, there are many inspirational people out there, but as a writer you have to strongly identify with someone so this is why I chose to write about Alice. I read about her in a weekend magazine back in 2002. Immediately I was drawn to the headline: Alice Martineau – beautiful, talented and on a triple transplant list. There was a picture of a twenty-eight year old woman sitting on some garden steps attached to an oxygen machine. I admired Alice’s ambition to be a singer when she was attached to machines keeping her alive. I also connected to Alice’s courage when faced with overwhelming adversity since I too live with a chronic autoimmune condition. I understand the emotional and psychological impact an illness can have, not just on the individual but on an entire family. It’s their story just as much as Alice’s.

  1. Which of the books that you’ve written means most to you and why?

That’s a hard question! They all mean so much to me in different ways. If I had to choose, I’d say A Song for Tomorrow, just because it’s so closely based on truth, and I have greatly enjoyed working on the project with Alice’s family and friends. But By My Side is also close to my heart. And then there’s my own personal story, Another Alice – which is important to my family… Sorry, can I have three?

A Song for Tomorrow, Simon & Schuster, February 9 2017

www.alicepeterson.co.uk

www.cysticfibrosis.org.uk

The Queen of Wishful Thinking by Milly Johnson

The Queen of Wishful Thinking by Milly Johnson

 

33862163Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Publishing Date: 9th March 2016

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

Number of pages: 496

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

 Buy the Book: Kindle | Hardcover | Paperback (out on 04.05.2017)

 

Synopsis:

When Lewis Harley has a health scare in his early forties, he takes it as a wake-up call. So he and his wife Charlotte leave behind life in the fast lane and Lewis opens the antique shop he has dreamed of. Bonnie Brookland was brought up in the antiques trade and now works for the man who bought out her father’s business, but she isn’t happy there. So when she walks into Lew’s shop, she knows this is the place for her.

As Bonnie and Lew start to work together, they soon realise that there is more to their relationship than either thought. But Bonnie is trapped in an unhappy marriage, and Lew and Charlotte have more problems than they care to admit. Each has secrets in their past which are about to be uncovered. Can they find the happiness they both deserve?

Rating: 5/5

Oh yes, it was the perfect – and highest! – time to dive into the new Milly Johnson’s book, “The Queen of Wishful Thinking”. It is already a long time since I’ve read last Milly’s book – it’s the lack of time’s fault! – so I was incredibly giddy with excitement to receive my review copy and started to read it almost on the spot. And my verdict is – it was gorgeous! It was so great to be back with Milly Johnson’s brilliant writing and storytelling, to get to know the new fantastic characters. So I can tell you right at the beginning of my review, whatever you do, guys, just drop it and make sure you have this book on your list – it is warm, uplifting and incredibly genuine. This is for sure Milly Johnson at her best. I think that if you gave me the book without telling who the author is, I’d guess it immediately – Ms Johnson’s writing style is one of the most recognisable and inimitable. It’s lovely, it’s warm, it’s inviting and it is so very easy to feel part of the story. She has again delivered a brilliant novel full of friendship, loyalty, finding courage and starting new.

There is probably the greatest bunch of characters in this book, and I mean not only the main characters but the colourful group of antique dealers who are always there when Bonnie needs them. They all had their own stories and they were all full of love, friendship, broken hearts and happy endings – though not always, but they were always warm and uplifting. Also, they all had lovely nicknames that usually described what they were most interested in, and they all knew Bonnie since she was a child and they for sure knew what the word loyalty means, and I applauded them for it so very much.
All the characters are so different, and their lives are different as well. The story shows how some of them has changed because of the money went straight into their heads and how some of them must live, trying to keep their heads above water, and the contrast was so huge and greatly portrayed.
I loved Bonnie, simple as that. Yes, there were moments that I felt desperate with her, felt sorry for her living a life so manipulated but they quickly passed away – the more I got to know her, the more I understood her and I really could get where she was coming from and why she was so scared. She was a woman with a heart in the right place and she was always looking for good in people, even if they didn’t deserve it. Kind, polite and creative and even though she lived with a secret that overwhelmed her, she’d rather live like this than betray the memory of the person.
Stephen is a character that you start to dislike at the very beginning. Bonnie’s manipulative and controlling husband and to say that he was cold – hearted would be an understatement. Blackmailing his wife to stay with him, even though he didn’t love her, he just needed someone to boss around. I also think that there was something wrong with the mental state of his. While Lewis was, of course, a very different story! The owner of the antique shop Pot of Gold where Bonnie finds her second job, he was a lovely, fair kind of man – unfortunately married to a very awful woman who so didn’t deserve him!

I love when the stories in the book interweave together and in this novel it proceeds seamlessly. I also loved the antiques thread in it and I love the descriptions of the items that were for sale or were bought and how this works. This book is written in the best way possible – you feel immediately at home with the story, you immediately fell for the characters, you keep your fingers crossed for them or want to punch them in their faces. It is light and easy to follow and it flows effortlessly, from one scene to another and there is not a moment of confusion or a single moment flat. Yes, it is a long story and actually the most things happened in the last part, and it was then that I was literally glued to the pages and shooed off all those that wanted to disturb me my reading, but even if the rest of the story was slower there were enough things and information to keep us hooked, and yes, the author took her time to reveal the secret and then the consequences that followed but she has done it in a perfect way. You know, sometimes the authors mention a secret almost on every page and when it comes to revealing it you are so tired of it that no matter how life – changing or twisty it may be it just doesn’t sweep you off your feet, which was absolutely NOT the case here. We knew something happened, we knew Stephen has something in his hand to keep Bonnie with him but there were so many other important things and subplots that the waiting for it to be told didn’t drag on. But back to the writing itself – there were moments that the story made me feel sad but there were also many moments to make me laugh out loud, especially at the (in)famous articles from the local magazine Daily Trumpet. Milly Johnson’s sense of humour just wonderfully match my own.

Really, guys, it’s hard to do this book justice in a review, as it was SO good. Feel – good and totally honest and genuine, full of colourful characters that you root for, I won’t hesitate to say that “The Queen of Wishful Thinking” is a must – read this spring and I will be recommending it to all my friends.

16938813_10206430775448351_7979281882195805419_n

 

The English Agent by Clare Harvey /Blog Tour + Guest Post

I am thrilled to be a part of Clare Harvey’s blog tour today! The author’s new release, “The English Agent” is out in paperback now and to celebrate this fact I have a lovely guest post from Clare herself! Enjoy!

The glamorous life? Five secrets about Clare’s life as an author that she probably 97814711505792b252812529shouldn’t tell you…

 

When I got published I think people expected me to sling on my stilettoes, hop in a convertible and head off for the glamorous life. Some of the school run mums might even have raised a quizzical eyebrow at the sight of me still trudging round Tesco in my mud-spattered dog walking boots and then driving off in my unwashed Vauxhall Corsa. But whilst earning a living as a writer definitely counts as ‘living the dream’, glamorous it ain’t. Here are five secrets about my life as an author that debunk the glamour myth (and that I probably shouldn’t be sharing!)

Talking to myself: Yes, I talk to myself. Whilst I was writing my debut novel The Gunner clares-furry-paGirl, I even found myself having conversations (‘D’you fancy a cuppa, Clare?’ ‘Oooh, yes, thank you, Clare, a cup of coffee would be lovely!’ etc.) Writing is a largely hermit-like existence, so I suppose talking to myself became inevitable. Eventually we got a dog, and I now talk to him instead (which is not mad at all, ask any dog lover). Oh, and I talk to my characters, too, especially when I want to discover their back stories – I interview them and get them to tell me all about themselves (I’m not sure if other writers do this, too – it would be interesting to find out). So that’s number one: talking to myself and/or my dog – not glamorous at all, as I’m sure you’d agree.

Family meals consisting of chips and chocolate biscuits: When I’m pushing myself to hit a deadline I do not have time to be a domestic drudge, let alone a domestic goddess. I resent the time it takes to go to the supermarket (or even do an online shop) or plan and cook a nutritious family meal, when I have those final few scenes to do before the weekend. I tell the kids to make sure they take full advantage of their school dinner that day because ‘…it will only be a snack supper tonight’ – which roughly translates as ‘….you can forget Nigella Lawson; the only woman in my kitchen today is Mother Hubbard, so deal with it, guys.’ Number two, then: chips and choccy bics for supper – glamorous? I think not.

Wearing a coat, hat and scarf at work: It seems an outrageous extravagance to put the central heating on if it’s just me at home. Sometimes I have vague thoughts about lighting the log burner, but it’s a bit of a pfaff, and I really just want to get on with writing, usually (the log burner is a good idea if I’m feeling the need to procrastinate, though). Being a southerner, I’m a bit of a wuss in the cold weather, too. So I often work in my coat, hat and scarf (in fact, as I write this I’m wearing a scarf and a woolly hat – no coat today as the weather is ‘unseasonably mild’, according to the weatherman). Number three on the list of unglamorous author things: freezing at your desk in your entire outdoor wardrobe.

Working’ in bed: Sometimes I work in bed because I’m cold (I take my coat off first – but I often leave the hat and scarf on). And if it’s a freezing winter day and I have some research books to read, why not read in bed? But I also find writing comes easier in bed, perhaps because I have left my ‘internal editor’ behind with the laptop at the desk downstairs (I always write longhand in the first instance). But sometimes I like to prepare a scene and then take a little power nap before writing it, because I find that writing flows so much better if you’ve just woken up. It’s just getting a tad embarrassing that the window cleaners always seem to come when I’m working in bed, and I’m so worried they think I’m a slacker that at the first rattle of ladders I leap up and run down to the desk again. Which isn’t exactly glamorous, either.

Sleeping in my clothes: I have only done this once. Oh, all right, twice. Here’s why: I was desperate to get the final draft of my work-in-progress finished by the school holidays, so I’d been up really late getting through it. By the time I’d cleaned my teeth, etc. it was already past one in the morning, and really cold. I remember thinking that I would have to take all my clothes off, get into my pyjamas and probably a jumper, too (my husband works away during the week, so I do tend to pile on the nightclothes without him next to me to keep me warm) and bed socks, and all the while the clock was ticking on, and I knew that I’d have to be up in a few hours to walk the kids to the tram stop in the freezing cold and…Yes, I went to bed fully clothed, and wore the same clothes the following morning. But it was only the once (well, twice, if I’m strictly honest). So there’s my final secret – I have slept in my clothes. Now, do you think I lead a glamorous life? No, me neither. But don’t breathe a word!

 

My new book The English Agent is out now in hardback, paperback and e-book. You can catch up with me and find out more here:

Twitter: @ClareHarveyauth

Facebook: ClareHarvey13

Web: http://clareharvey.net

FOLLOW THE BLOG TOUR FOR MORE FANTASTIC GUEST POSTS FROM CLARE:

the2benglish2bagent2bblog2btour

A Song for Tomorrow by Alice Peterson

A Song for Tomorrow by Alice Peterson

 

31674505Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Publishing Date: 9th February 2016

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

Number of pages: 448

Genre: General Fiction (Adults)

 Buy the Book: Kindle | Paperback

 

Synopsis:

Tom fell in love with Alice the moment he saw her. He realises that being with her will not be easy, but she is a force of nature, a burst of sunlight in his otherwise ordinary world.

Some people might look at Alice and think she has everything, but Alice knows she is not like other women. Her life is complicated, unpredictable, difficult. Alice does not like pity. All she wants to do, has ever wanted to do, is sing.

Alice has been told not to follow her dreams. So has Tom. But when fate has already dealt a tough hand, it’s time to stop listening to everyone else and only follow their own hearts.

Rating: 5/5

happy-valentines-day1

NOTE: Guys, this is going to be a rather personal and long review. I know that some readers don’t like it so please feel forewarned.

I am a big fan of Alice Peterson and is I knew from the beginning that I am going to enjoy this story, as she has never disappointed me, but in fact I had no idea how much it’s going to affect me, how much it’s going to pull at my heart strings and how special this book is going to turn out.
This book. “A Song for Tomorrow”. What can I say? That everything changed for me after reading this book? That for sure I’m not going to read such a wonderful book ever again? That now I really know what a major book – hangover is? That life is a bitch? I love Alice Peterson and her stories but with this one she has exceeded herself on each level and let me tell you right at the beginning that it is this kind of book that you want to read for the first time over and over again. If I were to describe it in one word it would be BEAUTIFUL. It was like this with this book, guys: I loved it, I loved every single word of it but I also couldn’t wait to finish it, to know how it’s going to end – as it could really go many ways. The way Alice was full of hope till the very end broke my heart, and I myself couldn’t stop but hope for a miracle, for this triple transplant to go through.

“A Song for Tomorrow” is like no other story. Based on true story of Alice Martineau, a girl born with Cystic Fibrosis, whose biggest dream was to become a singer, telling how many obstacles she needed to conquer to make her dream come true. A poignant story about incredibly strong, stubborn girl who didn’t want to live limited life and who refused to be defined by her illness. A girl who wasn’t afraid to dream and to make the dreams come true. Story of a daughter, sister, friend, girlfriend who loved and was loved so much.
When I was somewhere around 30% done with the reading, I googled Alice Martineau and guys, when I saw her photos I couldn’t believe it, because she looked exactly as I have imagined her! I also looked for her songs and after hearing the first one I immediately went and ordered her CD – her voice is incredibly sweet and mature and the songs tell us so many stories! Thank you Alice Peterson for introducing Alice Martineau to my life. She has conquered so much in her life: her life expectancy was ten years when she was born and she lived till almost thirty. She proved she can live “normal” life with CF, she can work as a model, she can have friends, she can have a boyfriend, she can have sex and she can travel. There was so much warmth and optimism in her and you could very quickly feel a part of her life. She was for sure one of the most wonderful characters I’ve ever read about. To say that Alice was inspirational would be an understatement. She was much, much more than that. She reminded me of all the things important in life, how important it is to confront a difficulty, to live full, to never give up. Alice was jumping out of the pages! Her charisma, her humour were exceptional and I wasn’t surprised that people couldn’t say no to her, what with her gift of gab. She was determined to become a singer and when Alice wanted something, she did everything to achieve it. You can’t not love Alice. Actually, all characters in this book are just brilliant, and I loved all of them. Except for Ethan, of course. Alice’s friends, her anti – support group were adorable, her family was one and only. It must be a real luck to be surrounded by so many people who love you so much, and give this love back.

And to be honest, I feel ashamed. I feel ashamed in comparison to Alice Martineau and her spirit, her life motto “make every day count” and “never take anything for granted” and when I think how much of my life has already passed me by, how much happened without me and that I don’t have a dream in my life, that I am complaining because I have a headache, that perhaps I don’t enjoy life as much as I should. Don’t get me wrong, I am incredibly thankful for many things in my life, but it’s just that after reading such stories you start to think and the conclusions you come to are not always the most optimistic ones. I would love to have Alice’s spirit, to be as brave ( I know. I KNOW, the taboo word, forgive me Alice!) as she was.

We have some distant friends whose daughter has CF. She’s 7 years old now. They organize fundraisers and they collect money for CF research. They try to live normal life, however hard it is, and I think we can never imagine it. Alice Peterson, however, has showed us how difficult it is, she told us all the aspects of being ill, what does it involve and how much influence it has on all lives. I couldn’t stop admire Alice and her family, how they almost never lost their optimism, how they loved each other and supported each other, how they understood each other without words and how they tried to always find this something positive out of this serious situations. The relationship between Alice and her mum was beautiful! So full of love, partnership and understanding, and I could only admire Alice’s parents for being so strong. And there were many emotional, moving moments in this book but the ones that mostly brought tears to my eyes were the entries from Alice’s mum diary. They were written in a funny, light way and they showed how much strength were in this woman, but underneath you could easily spot how sad they were. The love story of Alice and Tom was one of the most beautiful I have ever read. Tom has fallen in love with Alice at first sight and even though he was scared, so scared to lose her, he was determined to be with her. Their love was beautiful, pure, genuine, but also not a bed of roses. All the feelings and emotions were SO GENUINE.

In the end I was a snotty, weepy mess. “A Song for Tomorrow” was the best example of how genius a writer Alice Peterson is – I can’t stop admiring how wonderfully and effortlessly she brings all the emotions to life, how she puts them into words and how she makes the reader laugh through tears. She is exceptionally good in writing heart – breaking and at the same time uplifting stories. I think that this book is Alice Peterson’s best book yet. She has never feared to write about touching, tricky issues, to bring things that make some lives unbearable but this time she’s really outdone herself. The way she has dealt with the subject is just indescribable, the story is full of compassion, understanding. If you think that this book is going to make you feel low than I can assure you that it won’t. If you think that this story is going to focus only on Alice’s disease than I can assure you it isn’t. Because it is also a story about the power of love, about unconditional love, about accepting and letting go. This book is a MUST READ. It is one of the most beautiful, captivating novels I have ever read. It is a book that you will never going to forget, I can bet. I can’t recommend it highly enough.

img_20170206_150557

A Year at the Star and Sixpence by Holly Hepburn

A Year at the Star and Sixpence by Holly Hepburn

 

32944218Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Publishing Date: 29th December 2016

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

Number of pages: 3517

Genre: Romance, Women’s Fiction

 Buy the Book: Kindle | Paperback

 

Synopsis:

The perfect escapist read, for all fans of Cathy Bramley and Scarlett Bailey.
When sisters Nessie and Sam inherit a little pub in a beautiful country village they jump at the chance to escape their messy lives and start afresh. But when they arrive at the Star and Sixpence, it’s not quite what they imagined – it’s pretty much derelict, ruined by debts, and it’s going to be a huge job to get it up and running again. But they are determined to make the best of this new life and they set about making the pub the heart of the village once again. Their first year at the Star and Sixpence won’t be easy, though nothing worth doing ever is.
But when the sisters’ past comes back to haunt them, they start to think that the fresh start they needed is very far away indeed…

Rating: 4/5

So guys, this time I haven’t read the story when it was published as series but patiently, verrrry patiently waited for it to come out as one, big, gorgeous paperback – even though I am not against novels being published in instalments. There was really no reason why I wanted to read it as a whole, I just felt I can wait. I’ve already heard many good things about this book and I was really looking forward towards reading it, and let’s be honest for a moment, I immediately fell in love with this gorgeous cover as well.

So the story introduces us to sisters Nessie and Sam who have just inherited a pub in the countryside from their father – father that they haven’t seen or talked to for many, many years. However, they both decide that it’s time for something new, they both had some changes in their lives and so they soon find themselves running an idyllic pub and everything it involves – first of all, learning everything about running the pub, that’s it, and then all the amendments, power cuts, staff problems, winning the villagers over but also dealing with their own skeletons!

There are plenty of characters introduced to us in this novel, and there is this lovely feeling of community there as well. This is Little Monkham, a little village, where everybody knows everybody else and there is always one lady keeping all the strings in her iron fist and knowing why, where, who and with whom, and it was brilliantly captured in this novel – I totally bought it, even though I must have rolled my eyes once or twice, I was more like Sam there, taking things more with a pinch of salt but eventually accepting that some things will be done whether she liked it or not. But let’s come back to the characters – there were many of them but with this being a relatively long book it wasn’t so confusing or overwhelming. I loved some of the names, for example Father Goodluck, it’s a lovely name, isn’t it? The blacksmith Owen, cellar – man Joss Felstead… All the characters had their own stories to tell and they were really great developed, full of details, happy and sad moments and it was great that the author here and there was taking a break from the pub and the central characters of Sam and Nessie – even if they were lovely heroines! I love books about families, going into details about relationships between – this time – two sisters. Sam and Nessie were so different but both brilliant women and despite all those differences they loved each other and they were there to support each other. The dynamics between them were portrayed in such an effortless and realistic way, it was not only bed of roses but the girls had their misunderstandings, which only made the read much more realistic.

The author has nailed it with all the seasons or events perfectly and I’d love to spend a Halloween or summer fest at Star and Sixpence. Especially when a sexy celebrity is an added bonus! The blossoming romance aspects were full of twist and turns, there were more of them as on a winding road to be honest. The never ending will they/won’t they between Nessie and Owen could be annoying, as it took so much time and their attitude needed a lot of patience from the reader, but it was also incredibly sweet and innocent and it worked for me this time. I think it is because sometimes you just know that the characters are DESTINED to be together, so you’re willing to give them this little more time, even though you want to bang their heads together most of the time. No hard feelings!

I loved the sense of friendship and community in the story – it was so overwhelming that I immediately felt a part of this book, a part of Little Monkham. For such a small village it offered so much, starting with games of cricket, through wedding of the year to pub quizzes, with the pub always in the centre, and it all sounded so down to earth and so idyllic. There is so much love in the detailed descriptions of the pub, the author brought this place to life so effortlessly and I could easily see in my mind the interior or make myself comfortable and warm at the fireplace.

My only “but” is that some things were started, mentioned and then forgotten, or only shortly mentioned again. I know it did probably work well when the book was published in parts but in a story like this I like all the ends to be wrapped up and to know how exactly the situations were resolved, like for example this with Sam’s unfortunate affair (it’s nice to know that the person was rightly punished but I’d love to know what exactly happened), or Nessie’s ex – husband Patrick who so tamely agreed to Nessie’s decision, even though it looked like there was still a lot of fight to be done. There were moments that it felt too chopped and the things that were big and significant for the plot felt reduced.

“A Year at the Star and Sixpence” was a lovely, romantic, humorous and heart – warming novel, a great adventure with some really well developed characters. The world created by Holly Hepburn was inviting and warm and the story of the supposedly haunted pub, its locals and two sisters facing challenges in restoring it and bringing back to its glory allowed me for a few hours of a great escape. All the holidays, seasons and the small traditions were so lovely and captured with so much feeling. It is really a perfect book to snuggle up with in front of the fireplace, with a mug of hot chocolate. I found myself involved in the sisters’ lives and adventures and rooting not only for them but also for all the other characters. There is all I am looking for in a book – laughter and sadness, lovely, awkward romances, suspense and tension, adorned by believable, easy – going characters. Looking forward to reading much more from Holly Hepburn! Highly recommended!