Where We Belong by Anstey Harris

Where We Belong by Anstey Harris

 

Publisher: Simon & Schuster 49128139._sy475_

Publishing Date: 14th May 2020

Source:  Received from the publisher, thank you!

Number of pages: 400

Genre: General Fiction (Adult)

 Buy the Book: Kindle | Paperback

 

 

 

 

Synopsis:

One summer.
One house.
One family learning to love again.

Cate Morris and her son, Leo, are homeless, adrift. They’ve packed up the boxes from their London home, said goodbye to friends and colleagues, and now they are on their way to ‘Hatters Museum of the Wide Wide World – to stay just for the summer. Cate doesn’t want to be there, in Richard’s family home without Richard to guide her any more. And she knows for sure that Araminta, the retainer of the collection of dusty objects and stuffed animals, has taken against them. But they have nowhere else to go. They have to make the best of it.

But Richard hasn’t told Cate the truth about his family’s history. And something about the house starts to work its way under her skin.
Can she really walk away, once she knows the truth?

Rating: five-stars

 

Cate has been struggling since her husband Richard died, moreover so as she’s been made redundant and she and her and Richard’s son Leo must now leave their London place and move into Richard’s family home, at least for the summer. But actually, it’s not your usual, normal home – it’s a museum with some rooms where they can stay. A museum full of menagerie of dioramas, mounted animals, beautiful gardens, glass – domed library. Its caretaker Araminta Buchan is not too happy with their arrival, though while cold and stiff with Cate she’s much softer towards Leo. She tells things how they are: the museum is under threat of closure. Is it now on Leo, the descendant of Colonel Hugo Lyons – Morris, to save the place? Are they going to learn more about the family that Richard wanted nothing to do with?

The more I read, the more invested in the story I was and the more I adored this book. It is this kind of novel that has this magical “something” that you look for in your books, that pulls you in and doesn’t let you go, the best kind of “something”. I have never came across such a museum and at the beginning it was really hard to imagine it, but with Ms Harris’s beautiful, vivid descriptions it quickly changed. Still, the idea was such a novelty to me and I think it was a real breath of fresh air. Hugo, Leo’s grandfather, was an explorer and then a collector, bringing many species of animals back from his travels, as he wanted to show people who weren’t able to travel the world. The way the past was reflected here was so clever, and it added so much to this book.

The characters are all so well written, they simply feel like living and breathing people, and all of them had their own story to tell. The author wasn’t afraid of challenging them and often putting them in difficult situations, situations that seemed impossible to be solved, and letting them to take the lead, to show how strong they actually are and how much passion and determination they hide.

It is beautifully written, almost poetic but still the language is so modern and up – to – date, and the words flow so seamlessly, and you just want to read, and read and read, they’re so well – rounded and they work so well together, creating a vivid and colourful story. The author immediately draws you into the heart of the book, transports you into the characters’ world and you feel as if you knew them personally. Yes, it was a slight slow – burner, however there was always something happening in this story, and I think that the end was than quite filled with action and events and all the secrets have actually came out in the end, but believe me, it doesn’t mean that it is rushed, because it’s not. It simply wraps everything together and ties up all the loose ends, leaving you satisfied but sad that the book came to its peak.

“Where We Belong” brilliantly describes and captures all kind of complex relationships and touches on all possible emotions and feelings, addressing some heavier issues such as mental health and grief. It was a moving, poignant but also heart – warming and uplifting tale, a story about the ups and downs of having a family, about second chances and actually never losing hope. The characters were growing and evolving, the descriptions made your imagination soar and there was much depth hidden between the pages. There was also an element or two of mystery and the pace of unveiling the secrets was perfect. It was not absolutely unpredictable, however there are things that you won’t probably be able to guess before they’re revealed. I think that this novel is even better that the author’s debut offering, which was also brilliant, so it’s really telling something. Highly recommended!

 

How Not to Fall in Love, Actually by Catherine Bennetto

How Not to Fall in Love, Actually by Catherine Bennetto

 

Publisher: Simon & Schuster 33640874._sy475_

Publishing Date: 26th January 2017

Source:  Received from the publisher, thank you!

Number of pages: 512

Genre: Romance,  Women’s Fiction

 Buy the Book:  Kindle | Paperback

 

 

 

 

Synopsis:

Emma has a job in television which is distinctly less glamourous and exciting than it sounds. She’s managed to claw her way up the ranks from Tea-Maker and Rubbish-Collector to 2nd Assistant Director (heavy on the ‘assistant’. Even heavier on the ‘2nd’).

So when she finds she’s accidentally very pregnant and at the same time accidentally very sacked (well, less accidentally: she did tell her boss to stick his job up his bum), she knows things are going to have to change.

Luckily she’s also accidentally the heir to a lovely cottage in Wimbledon, with a crazy Rottweiler-owning octogenarian as a neighbour and a rather sexy boy as an accidental tenant. But this baby is coming whether she likes it or not, and she needs to become the sort of person who can look after herself let alone another human being – and quickly.

Rating: four-stars

 

Emma George has a job that she’s not that great at. She has a boyfriend that has his head in the clouds. She doesn’t have much hope for the future. Rightly so: because soon after we get to know her she no longer has a job, finds herself boyfriendless and pregnant. Moreover, also homeless and penniless. But then things start to look a bit better – she inherits a cottage from her grandmother so at least has a place to live. She starts to work as a chaperone to her 4 – year – old nephew on a horror film set. And Joe, a drunken stranger turns up on her new doorstep one night and somehow stays. Will Emma start to appreciate that, in fact, she’s more lucky than she thought, with a loving family around the corner or willing to put everything behind and travel for her around the world? With a great bunch of friends and people simply there to help and support her?

“How Not to Fall in Love, Actually” is a hilarious and funny book, yes, a bit bonkers, a bit crazy but this is just what I needed right now. It’s a feel – good book that is highly entertaining and refreshing.

Despite Emma being a bit of a woe – is – me character, I liked her. I liked that, even though she went through some tough times, even if sometimes at her own request, she managed to pull through. And I think she started to learn from her own mistakes, and it was lovely to see her growing into a different person, a bit more mature but still chaotic and funny. She was a very accident – prone character, just my favourite kind, and well, anything that could go wrong for her, did go wrong for her and it was so entertaining to read and see how she deals with all those mishaps.
The bunch of the supporting characters was absolutely brilliant. Emma’s mother was absolutely hilarious, her sister Alex was always there to support Emma and I loved Joe, just like that, he can knock on my doors anytime he wants, even if he’s drunk, no problems there, I’ll keep him.

There were many, many subplots running through this book and each one more ridiculous than the previous one, and the film – set was probably one of the most hilarious, but they were all so brilliantly written and I loved spending my time with the characters and their mishaps.

I have really and truly enjoyed this book, it gave me laughs, but the more I think about it, the more things I find that actually shouldn’t have find themselves in this novel – I think. The book started brilliantly, and it was so hilariously funny, really. Nevertheless, it was a bit too long in my opinion, and there were moments that felt like a chewing gum, dragging a bit. It had it ups and downs, there were things I didn’t agree with, some of the character’s decisions that I didn’t approve and sometimes it felt too patronizing and “ist” (sexist, fattist) and it started to feel ugly when the author started to be very judgemental about one of the characters. Emma has a young and beautiful friend who spends each night with a different man, and it’s OK. But when the overweight Martha does the same, she’s described in very mean and hateful terms, her body is ridiculed, and I must admit, this bitter hate in her words shocked me. They weren’t funny anymore, they were simply ugly and unnecessary, as no one is deserving of shaming, and the book really didn’t need it. Nevertheless, altogether it was finally a read that delivered what it promises on the cover: a laugh – out – loud romantic comedy.

It was for sure not your usual romance, oh no, and this must be why I enjoyed this book so much. It was a pure entertainment, with so many hilarious and amusing scenes and one – liners. Don’t go too over – thinking into this story, simply find a comedy in it and enjoy it as much as I did. There were moments that it was too far – fetched and some scenes navigating towards the extreme end of the scale but still the characters felt authentic and honest and even relatable. It is a story about growing up into believing in yourself and your feelings and I am so, so happy that I finally found time to read it! Really. Recommended!

The Secret Seaside Escape by Heidi Swain

The Secret Seaside Escape by Heidi Swain

 

Publisher: Simon & Schuster 51199278._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 | Paperback

 

 

 

Synopsis:

Escape to the seaside with the brand new novel from Heidi Swain, the Sunday Times bestselling author of feel-good women’s fiction!

Tess Tyler needs a break. Weighed down by her high-pressure job and her demanding father, she’s left little time to take care of herself. But after a shocking discovery sends her spiralling, she flees to Wynmouth, the seaside town she fell in love with as a child, to escape it all.

With its sandy beaches, stunning rock pools and welcoming community, Tess feels like she can finally breathe again. And as she grows ever closer to local barman Sam, she dares to dream that she might never return to her real life. But when a familiar face returns to town, Tess realises that there are secrets in Wynmouth too, and that her own past may be about to catch up with her . . .

The Secret Seaside Escape  is the perfect read this summer, promising sandy beaches, stunning rockpools and breath-taking romance. Perfect for fans of Carole Matthews and Sarah Morgan.

Rating:  three-stars

 

“The Secret Seaside Escape” introduces us to Tess Tyler, working for her father’s PR firm really hard – she has to prove to him and to the others that she’s worth his trust. It also helps her – or at least is supposed to help – to get over death of her beloved mother. And so, for over two years she actually doesn’t have a private life and hasn’t been on holidays… To say that she lives under pressure would be an understatement. So it’s no wonder that she catches herself thinking back to the better times, when they, as family, spent some of the best holidays in the seaside village of Wynmouth in Norfolk. When going through her mum’s possessions she finds a photo of Crows Nest Cottage, and also a printed diary that puts her parents’ relationship in a completely different perspective, Tess decides it’s time for a break – from work, from her father, from life. She hopes that returning to a place that made her happy so many years ago will help her and will bring her so much needed joy. But will it?

The book has a wonderful setting, with a very picturesque location in Norfolk, at the seaside, with a cosy pub Smuggler’s Inn, with its moody owner Sam, where you can play Scrabble and listen to some spooky stories, and lovely beach cafe where you can taste some brilliant and unusual recipes of Caribbean fusions. The author can easily transport you to her setting, she has a way with words and her descriptions are vivid and reach. I also do have such a place of my many happy childhood memories, where I spent the best time during my summer holidays, and I could truly relate to Tess’s need to travel to Wynmouth, to try and bring back this small bit of happiness back and thanks to Heidi’s writing I could really see why she loved this place so much, and why she felt like at home there.

As much as the story was light and undemanding, I simply wanted to bang the characters’ heads either together or on the wall – they were desperately immature, jumping to the worst kinds of conclusions immediately and offended at anything and everything at the word go. I know that you can’t always communicate with each other, that it’s hard to talk, but please, get a little depth, be more real and genuine, you the characters from “The Secret seaside Escape”.

It was a very easy and lightly predictable read, and everything happened as it should happen, you could easily just tick all the boxes. I would call this book “chick lit for beginners”, as there is really everything you should expect from this genre.

The family related twists at the end turned out really well. It was a thing you could see coming but the outcome was totally different to what I was expecting, and I liked it, this bit different view at the family.

As usual, the author also touched upon some heavier issues in her book, softening them through the lovely setting and light overall tone, but altogether, this book truly felt slightly heavier. And while Ms Swain has managed some of the heavier issues, the others dragged on as if they overwhelmed her? I would really love to read Tess’s mother’s diary, there was so much told about it, and it took ages before Tess even read one page, even though it was so important to her, and I must admit, I’ve lost my interest before it even picked up pace. Nevertheless, kudos to the author for trying to make the book this little bit more ambitious by adding mystery and intrigue to the plot.
There is, of course, everything you can expect from Heidi Swain: gorgeous food, friendship, romance and she, as usual, highlights the importance of community. If you’re in a need of a fresh, light and relaxing read then look no further – you’ve found your book!

Messy, Wonderful Us by Catherine Isaac / Blog Tour

Messy, Wonderful Us by Catherine Isaac

 

Publisher: Simon & Schuster 48543139._sy475_

Publishing Date: 5th March 2020

Source:  Received from the publisher, thank you!

Number of pages: 400

Genre: General Fiction (Adult)

 Buy the Book:  Kindle | Paperback

 

 

 

 

Synopsis:

What if loving someone means keeping a secret that will break your heart?

In late 1983, a letter arrives from Italy, containing secrets so unthinkable that it is hidden away, apparently forever. More than three decades later, it is found . . . by the last person who was ever supposed to see it.

When Allie opens an envelope in her grandmother’s house, it changes everything she knows about her family – and herself.

With the truth liable to hurt those she loves most, she hires a private detective to find out what happened to her late mother in the summer before Allie was born. Taking leave from her job as a research scientist, she is led to the sun-drenched shores of Lake Garda, accompanied by her best friend Ed. But the secrets that emerge go far beyond anything they were expecting. Now, Allie must find the courage to confront her family’s tangled past and reshape her own future.

Messy, Wonderful Us is an enthralling and emotional story of human loss, love, friendship and the mystery that binds them all together from the bestselling author
of You Me Everything.

Rating: five-stars

 

Allie’s life is comfortable. She has a job that she loves and family that she adores. However, one day, she finds a letter that she was never supposed to find, and her life changes – suddenly she doesn’t feel like she belongs. She’s desperate to uncover the secret from her mother’s past, and as her grandmother doesn’t want to help, she decides to go to Italy, on a trip to unearth the truth. Her best friend Ed, who doesn’t feel like his marriage to Julia is working anymore, needs a break to think things over, and as he speaks Italian, he decides to travel with Allie. They both need this time out but they have no idea that they’re going to get more than they bargained for – but at what costs?

The story basically changes narration between three characters. Allie and Ed are the heroes of the present, and there are also diary entries from the past from an unnamed character, a young woman, telling her tragic story. Initially we can think the subplots have nothing in common, but the more we read, the tighter all the threads become, until there comes a moment when everything is beautifully wrapped up and explained. The characters are like living and breathing people, credible, believable and full of flaws, and yes, I think you can say they have a messy life, but nevertheless it’s still a wonderful life. They all simply feel honest and natural, their actions are not forced and the banter between them is genuine, and it’s a real joy to have such characters for once.

I really liked how well the author has balanced her plot, making it complex, filling it with various elements. The story covers many topics and touches upon many issues, and while they are serious and heavier, the book doesn’t feel sad. The overall atmosphere is light and full of hope. The author writes with gentleness, sensitivity and insight about adoption and domestic abuse. She explores family dynamics, father – daughter relationship and friendship in a dynamic, modern and surprising way. The writing style is so vivid, especially the parts the author takes us on the journey to Italy – I had a feeling of being there, seeing the things together with Allie and Ed. I think we can easily say that it is a slow – burner, in this sense that it takes its time to peel off all the layers, explore all the stories it hides on the pages, but it works perfectly, creating a compelling and complex read.

I must admit that this important twist came out of the blue for me – I actually guessed it at the same moment as the character did. I really didn’t see it coming, it came and hit me on the head, and I had this eureka – moment and everything became clear then. Needless to say, there is not the only twist, there are plenty of them, it’s an intriguing read, and the way to the end is bumpy and curvy. I really liked how the author has written this story – while it is sweet, and while it is a bit predictable and romantic, it is absolutely not overdone and there are really enough turns to have made gallop through the pages.

“Messy, Wonderful Us” is a story about love, grief, forgiveness and all emotions accompanying those feelings, creating us – messy and wonderful and unique, shaping our lives. It’s another winner from Catherine Isaac, a little gem of a book, hiding real treasures inside, and discovering them was a real joy. I fell in love with the setting, the characters and the idea, and the execution of it was perfect – it made me gasp and it made me laugh, and it’s a sign of a great book. Truly recommended.

 

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My One True North by Milly Johnson

My One True North by Milly Johnson

 

Publisher: Simon & Schuster 51200241._sx318_sy475_

Publishing Date: 5th March 2020

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

Number of pages: 496

Genre: Women’s Fiction

 Buy the Book:  Kindle | Hardcover

 

 

 

 

Synopsis:

THE QUEEN OF FEEL-GOOD FICTION!
‘The feeling you get when you read a Milly Johnson book should be bottled and made available on the NHS’ Debbie Johnson
The brand new novel from the Sunday Times bestselling author of The Magnificent Mrs Mayhew – a gorgeous read full of warmth and heartfelt emotion.

Laurie and Pete should never have met.
But fate has pushed them together for a reason.

Six months ago, on the same night, Laurie and Pete both lost their partners.
Struggling to manage the grief, they join the same counselling group – and meet each other.

From their sadness, Pete and Laurie find happiness growing and they sense a fresh new beginning.
Except, the more they talk, the more they begin to spot the strange parallels in their stories.
Then Pete discovers a truth that changes everything.

But, as surely as a compass points north, some people cannot be kept apart.

My One True North is a story of friendship and what love means, of secrets uncovered, teashops on corners and the northern lights.

Rating: three-stars

 

Laurie and Pete don’t know each other but fate has it planned for their paths to cross. After losing both their partners, they meet at a small counselling group run by Molly where, over tea and cake, those two and some other people who are grieving, try to start live again. Even though finding a new partner is absolutely not an agenda for them, they find themselves drawn to each other, enjoying their company. But some awful secrets and lies are going to see the light of day that may destroy their new friendship, and more.

It is grief and sadness that is a catalyst for the story but no worries, guys – yes, the book has some very poignant moments, but I wouldn’t call it desperately sad, no, because there is this lovely, overwhelming feeling of hope, and you keep hoping, together with the characters, that no matter how bad it is at the moment, it’s going to be better. And Milly Johnson has smashingly captured it in her newest story. And let’s not forget it – the articles from the magazine Laurie works for were absolutely brilliant!

Milly Johnson can for sure write feelings and emotions, taking her readers on a rollercoaster journey of experiencing them all together with the characters. I loved the way she has shown us that grief has many faces, she has made it so real and human.

There were twists and turns aplenty in this novel, and while I enjoyed them, I also felt desperate for the author to finally bring the two characters together. It is also full of lies and secrets and it was a real joy to slowly disentangle all the threads, to peel off the layers and to have confirmed this what I thought has happened.

But now. Milly Johnson has already proven so many times that she can write great characters, and while they are really well developed in this book, I didn’t like what she has done with them. We were practically forced to like or dislike them. If the character belonged to the “good ones”, they were put on a pedestal, they didn’t have any flaws, they did all the right things. On the other hand, and it hit me right at the beginning, which confused me a little to be honest, because I thought we were supposed to like the victims of the accidents, the author immediately started to hint at things that put the characters in bad light, which means I didn’t like them. What I mean here, the author didn’t give me choice and chance to make my own mind about them. It was the same with Tara’s sister – the author has painted her in such a wrong way, making her a laughing stock, and it was the same with Pete’s dad’s girlfriend and Laurie’s boyfriend’s parents – right from the beginning they were made looking bad. And I think that such author as Milly Johnson doesn’t have to forge such moves in describing her characters, she can do much better, leaving the readers more room for imagination and making their own minds.
I also had a feeling that the book is dragging on and is repetitive, especially when the characters recounted the same events to each other. And we were so obviously pushed towards the end, towards this what is unavoidable to happen, and really, I was glad when the book has eventually ended and we really arrived to the conclusion. Don’t get me wrong, it was a lovely read, I love Milly Johnson’s stories, but the last third of this book felt so chopped, so abrupt and so long.

Nevertheless, this is Milly Johnson’s 17th novel already, and picking her book you can be sure that you are in safe hands, as her stories are always compelling and complex. “One True North” is about friendship, love, betrayal, grief and joy, and many more, all the feelings seamlessly weaving through the pages. Sadness is perfectly balanced with humour, the characters, especially the secondary ones, feel deep and fresh. The author isn’t shy of writing about heavier and thought – provoking issues, telling things how they are. It is heart – breaking, but it’s also uplifting and warm. Sadly, it was not my favourite read, but Milly Johnson stays at the top of my favourite authors list.

The Fall and Rise of Sadie McQueen by Juliet Ashton / Blog Tour

The Fall and Rise of Sadie McQueen by Juliet Ashton

 

Publisher: Simon & Schuster 48997438._sy475_

Publishing Date: 26th December 2019

Source:  Received from the publisher, thank you!

Number of pages: 480

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

 Buy the Book: Kindle | Paperback

 

 

 

Synopsis:

This is a novel about community, love, laughter and healing. Think Cold Feet meets David Nicholls, with a dash of the joy of Jill Mansell added for good measure.

It doesn’t look like much from the outside, but Cherry Blossom Mews is a miraculous place. It’s somewhere that finds you, rather than the other way around.

Sadie McQueen has leased a double fronted space in this small cul de sac in a culturally diverse corner of central London. The cobbles muffle the noise of double-deckers roaring past the arched gates. Turn right and you are in a futuristic maze of corporate glass monoliths. Turn left and you see a wide street with many different houses. Towering above the mews are the degenerating tower blocks of an infamous estate. The old folks home and the nearby school are both in need of TLC; the private members’ club that set up shop in a listed Georgian building has been discreetly refurbished at huge expense.

Into this confusion comes Sadie. She fell in love with the street the moment she first twisted her ankle on its cobbles. Her double-fronted unit is now a spa. She has sunk all her money into the lease and refurbishment. She’s sunk all her hope into the carefully designed treatment rooms, the calm white reception space, the bijou flat carved out of the floor above.

Sadie has a mission to connect. To heal herself from tragedy. Sadie has wrapped the mews around her like a warm blanket, after unimaginable loss and unimaginable guilt. Her hard-won peace is threatened, not only by the prospect of the mews going under but by a man aptly named Hero who wakes up her comatose heart.
Sadie has a lot to give, and a lot to learn, not least that some ghosts aren’t ghosts at all.

Rating:  five-stars

but-i-needmy-girls

 

Sadie McQueen lives on Cherry Blossom Mews, in a community that – you quickly start to learn – is made up of people that are in troubles, have problems, tragic pasts, feel no hope, and even if they don’t realise this, the landlord of the mews has realised it and amassed all those lost souls together. The residents meet regularly at their association meetings where they are supposed to have an “agenda” but the meetings always end with gossip and exchanging news. They support each other incredibly, even if they do this without knowing this.
The little community means everything to Sadie. It is a place where she can heal her heart and start her life again after a tragic event in the past. She sets up Sakura, a spa, where she employs the incredibly honest and mouthy Fi and, even if she isn’t sure if it’s a good move, Cher, a sister to the local mafia – twins. And then U – Turn, a therapy centre for addicted moves to the mews, even with some opposition from the neighbours, and there is Hero, and Sadie has a chance to move with him, to come out of her shell, maybe even find love, but can she forgive herself for what has happened in the past?

It is really, really hard to write review for this book, I actually put it off for the last moment, a day or two before my stop on the blog tour, and the reason for this is very obvious – this book is so wonderful, this book is everything, this book is a gem of a read – what more can I say? I loved it from the beginning to the end, lived and breathed with the characters and yes, it left me in pieces but also feeling so positive.

Juliet Ashton can for sure write her characters, giving them incredibly huge personalities. The banter and interactions between them feel so real, raw and genuine. There is a whole eclectic bunch of them, all so different and with different personalities but all with strong, distinctive voices and you can’t help but immediately fell in love with all of them. Amber and her Yummy Mummy Cafe and Party Emporium, serving all things vegan and showing her perfect live on Instagram. Bob and Mrs. Bob with their cafe, Mary with the dogs, slowly learning about her family betrayal and regaining hope, running officially MOBuk charity shop and, unofficially, another charity that you’re going to learn about when you read the book, Hero with his broken marriage and privileged background, Cher and her notorious criminal twins, Michael with Qwerty bookshop, Fi, feisty, quirky and strong on the outside but so vulnerable inside. And there are some other characters, that I won’t mention but that are so important and significant to the plot – all of them were endearing, all of them broken, all of them needing each other and , deliberately or not, healing each other through their acceptance, friendship and compassion.
And Sadie, who is at the heart of this book, so brave and strong. The more I read, the more I loved this woman, my heart went to her. There were things in the past she’d rather forget, and honestly, if I were Sadie, I’m not sure I’d have enough strength and determination to get back up and try again. She, on the other hand, lost herself to find herself afresh, went where nobody knew her to build a new life for herself. I wished all the best for her, and seeing her coming across every new obstacle that life has been throwing her way, I wanted to give her a standing ovation. Learning about the horrors of her past and her losses helped to understand her wanting to be anonymous, not being able to open to new love, her terrible guilt but also it made me wish desperately that she’s going to find the highly deserved peace.

Each chapter starts with the invitation to the weekly Cherry Blossom Mews Residents Association meeting, and the more you read, the more you start to appreciate them, as they brilliantly capture the nature of the hosts. The meetings themselves are incredibly entertaining, fabulous parts of the book, where more gossip was shared than actual work done but there was so much heart in those meetings! And they actually tell the real stories of the characters, sharing their illnesses, betrayal, deaths, addictions and hopes, while dealt with empathy and understanding from the other residents, showing that also a community of generally strangers can be closer to you than your family. But of course, there are also things happening between the meetings, things that will make you smile, laugh, cry and start to believe that there is hope.

The book is full of poignant moments that are brilliantly written with humour added to them. It’s not too saccharine, not all sugar, and there isn’t always a happy end, and the balance between sad and funny, happy and heartbreak is absolutely perfectly measured. Sure, there were things that were too coincidental, and some that didn’t ring so true to me – though I don’t want to tell you what exactly it was, as I’m immediately going to spoil one of the biggest turns in the story – but really, everything happens for a reason, right, and it did work in this story perfectly well, as the plot was solid, thoughtful, well concocted and believable, even with the little hiccups.

“The Fall and Rise of Sadie McQueen” was a heart – breaking and heart – mending beautiful story about small community, about friendship, hope, love, loss and grief, filled with secrets, lies and misunderstandings, about finding support and friendship that is stronger than any other bonds. The author, as usual, touches upon many serious issues, she writes about alcoholism, abuse, addictions, social media but she writes with tons of understanding, without judging, giving us a wider spectrum. It’s a gorgeously written book and the characters were full of life, feelings and sentiments, being able to speak about emotions in a way I wasn’t even sure is possible. It shows life how it is, raw and brutal, full of surprises and twists that don’t always lead to happy ends. The book, the characters are going to stay with me for a long time, I will be recommending this book left and right – it’s a MUST read that deserves to be shouted about from the rooftops.

 

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Those People by Louise Candlish

Those People by Louise Candlish

 

Publisher: Simon & Schuster 42427483._sy475_

Publishing Date: 27th June 2019

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

Number of pages: 384

Genre: General Fiction, Mystery & Thrillers

 Buy the Book:  Kindle | Hardcover | Paperback (out on 26.12.2019)

 

 

 

Synopsis:

Could you hate your neighbour enough to plot to kill him?
Until Darren Booth moves in at number 1, Lowland Way, the neighbourhood is a suburban paradise. But soon after his arrival, disputes over issues like loud music and parking rights escalate all too quickly to public rows and threats of violence.
Then, early one Saturday, a horrific crime shocks the street. As the police go house-to-house, the residents close ranks and everyone’s story is the same: Booth did it.
But there’s a problem. The police don’t agree with them.

Rating: three-stars

 

Lowland Way is a quiet, community – and family friendly street in South London. The neighbours are a tight – knit community and they were even awarded for a great concept “Play – Out Sunday” that allows children to play safely on the street when it’s closed to traffic on a Sunday. Until everything changes, when one day the Booths move into number 1, immediately starting with the bad neighbour things such as loud music at all hours, noisy renovations, running the illegal car dealing business from home, taking all the free parking spaces there are on the street, forcing the residents to look for a space somewhere further away. And generally, they’re unfriendly and not willing to cooperate.
The neighbours gather their strengths again the Booths but the complaints go unheeded and it seems nobody can do anything, their hands are tied. They can’t even sell the houses it they wanted because the prices radically went downhill. And then someone dies – but is it really so obvious what has happened? It turns out the list of suspects is as long as Lowland Way itself…

The characters were brilliantly drawn, however none of them were especially likeable but I guess it was intended. However, they feel like real people and I could really follow their frustrations, desperations and anger. But no matter my own feelings towards the characters, I really felt empathy for them, and I could easily imagine how the whole unfairness of the situation made them feel. What was interesting was the way the characters were portrayed – there were many of them, and it takes time to eventually get them all under control, knowing who is who and to whom they belong, and, as I have already mentioned, not likeable at all, and all of them seemed so happy with their lives on the surface, but it turned out that all of them, literally all, had murderous tendency – though, perhaps, it’s not a wonder in those circumstances. However, as much as I was a bit disgusted with them, I thoroughly enjoyed their stories. Because of the multiple points of view it takes time for the mystery to unfold, to actually begin, but the characters were honest and genuine, so we really know what they think. Louise Candlish has a great sense of observation and she really knows how to write about domestic dynamics and manipulation, and it was really sometimes shocking to see the real faces of the characters as the cracks started to appear after not everything runs as smoothly as they wish.

I liked how much interpretation there is left to us about “those people”, because I’ve found myself, more than once, wondering who’s really worse. I mean, I wouldn’t accept breaking down walls, playing loud music, parking wherever you want, not following the general rules but then, on the other hand, would I accept neighbours policing the neighbourhood, meddling everywhere, thinking they have the right to decide about what’s good and what’s wrong? Oh my, I am blessed with my neighbours, really… I also liked the pace of this book, it was fast and the changing points of view made it feel even quicker. It was great to read not only about their feelings about the new neighbours but the author also gave us a deep insight into their private lives, letting us see what’s really happening behind the closed doors.

Sadly, I enjoyed this book, but not as much as Ms Candlish’s previous novels. There were moments that made me feel wow, especially the accidental death, I couldn’t get by it, but there weren’t enough of those moments. When I finished reading, I though, and that’s all? The ending, in my opinion, felt a bit too rushed compared to the fact how long the main story was, and I don’t know, but it was not completely this what I was expecting.

“Those People” is for sure a gold standard example of domestic noir/suspense, a genre that Louise Candlish has already proven herself in. Her writing style is so vivid and descriptive, and really, I could easily imagine the horrors of the new neighbours, could hear the shrills, thrills, loud music through her words. Altogether, it was, sadly, not my personal favourite by this author. I think there was so much potential in it but the execution just missed the mark for me, this “something” that I always found in Louise Candlish’s books.

Love Songs for Sceptics by Christina Pishiris

Love Songs for Sceptics by Christina Pishiris

 

Publisher: Simon & Schuster cover174102-medium

Publishing Date: 28th November 2019

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

Number of pages: 320

Genre: General Fiction, Women’s Fiction

 Buy the Book:  Kindle | Paperback (out on 30.04.2020)

 

 

Synopsis:

My brother’s getting married in a few weeks and asked for help picking a song for his first dance. I suggested Kiss’s ‘Love’s a Slap in the Face’.

It didn’t go down well.

When she was a teenager, Zoë Frixos fell in love with Simon Baxter, her best friend and the boy next door. But his family moved to America before she could tell him how she felt and, like a scratched record, she’s never quite moved on. Now, almost twenty years later, Simon is heading back to London, newly single and as charming as ever . . .

But as obstacles continue to get in her way – Simon’s perfect ex-girlfriend, her brother’s big(ish) fat(ish) Greek wedding, and an obnoxious publicist determined to run Zoë – Zoë begins to wonder whether, after all these years, she and Simon just aren’t meant to be.

What if, despite what all the songs and movies say, you’re first love isn’t always all it’s cracked up to be? What if, instead Zoë and Simon are forever destined to shuffle around their feelings for each other, never quite getting the steps right . . .

With a smart, relatable central character and razor-sharp wit, Love Songs for Sceptics is perfect for fans of Mhairi McFarlane, Lucy Vine and Lindsey Kelk. 

Rating: three-stars

 

Zoe is a music journalist and editor for a cool magazine Re – Sound. It may not be the best paying job, but she loves it and it gives her the opportunity to meet new, interesting and creative people. When Zoe was 13 years old, she fell in love with her best friend, Simon Baxter but she never told him what she feels. Now, in her thirties, her job is her life but then Simon comes back from the States, separated from his wife, so maybe now is the time for them?
In the meantime, the things at work are not running smoothly and the magazine may be closed down. The only salvage is an interview with someone special, and Zoe knows who that can be – her favourite music artist, Marcie Tyler, bit will she manage to get this interview? Namely, Marcie’s publicist Nick and Zoe are not the best friends.

The characters were developed well enough, although more than often I couldn’t understand their actions. The romance aspect was, I don’t know, somehow cold and not so heart – warming, I couldn’t warm to Simon at all and I really couldn’t see what Zoe sees in him – he was arrogant and, in my eyes, he used Zoe and took her for granted. Sure, they have a past and memories but as soon as they were together it all felt so unnatural for me. Actually, now I think about it, Zoe around men felt unnatural, she was also so tense around Nick and well, it spoiled the whole picture, made the reading difficult. Nevertheless, I still think that Zoe was the strongest link in this book. She is an interesting, complex character with fiery personality, who is passionate about her work and music, and I loved how the fate of the magazine was so important to her, and how much she cared about her co – workers. She is friendly and full of heart, so no wonder that she’s surrounded by friends, but she also can be stubborn and full of unexpected ideas when she wants something badly. What she doesn’t have, is luck with her love life – still holding torch for her childhood friend and not seeing what is around her.

It was a great idea to use the song titles for the chapters, they fitted perfectly, and the focus on music business, how it really is being inside it, how the music PR works, showing that it’s not only a bed full of roses, was a great idea. And the best parts of the book were for me the scenes about the big fat Greek wedding preparations and everything that regarded to it. Zoe’s future sister – in – law Alice was lovely and I really liked how Zoe allowed herself to relax in her company.

Altogether, “Love Songs for Sceptics” was a nice debut novel that had it moments but, sadly, it missed the wow – effect for me. I wasn’t completely engaged and couldn’t warm to the characters as much as I like to. The beginning, when Zoe is asked by her brother to help him choose a song for the first dance at his upcoming wedding and she chooses Kiss’s “Love’s a Slap in the Face” was absolutely brilliant and I was hoping that the book is going to stay with this humorous, witty tone but unfortunately it didn’t happen, it simply went downhill for me. I can’t put my finger exactly on what went wrong, and I can see that the story is accumulating raving reviews, so simply try this book and decide for yourself.

Snowed in at the Practice by Penny Parkes

Snowed In at the Practice by Penny Parkes

 

Publisher: Simon & Schuster 44655866._sy475_

Publishing Date: 14th November 2019

Series: The Larkford Series #4

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

Number of pages: 496

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

 Buy the Book: Kindle | Paperback

 

 

Synopsis:

Welcome to the Larkford Surgery in the Cotswolds, the heart of a tightknit community as well as a hotbed of drama, rivalry, resentment and romance – and that’s just the doctors …

Dr Holly Graham is finding life with two sets of twins exhausting. Even with husband Dr Taffy Jones and devoted friend Elsie by her side, she is completely outnumbered. Making the transition back to work will be no easy feat but a regular slot on Radio Larkford as their on-air doctor might be the perfect stepping stone, until an unexpected job offer changes everything.

Dr Alice Walker’s new canine clinic at Larkford Surgery with Coco, her assistance dog, has been a storming success. If only shipping her best friend, Dr Tilly Grainger, in from South America to cover for Holly had been such a smooth transition. It seems that Tilly isn’t finding life in the peaceful Cotswolds valley as rewarding as she’d hoped, and she is causing chaos …

Join the residents of Larkford as secrets, drama and romance are revealed, in the new novel from the bestselling author of Out of Practice and winner of the RNA Romantic Comedy Award 2017.

Rating: five-stars

 

In “Snowed in at the Practice” we are back with old, good characters and introduced to some of the new ones. Holly is on maternity leave and in her place we have the feisty Tilly, and while Holly is dealing with her second set of twins, Tilly starts to find what it is she’d love to do – but will she be able to stay at the Practice? Especially as Holly is trying to work out how to return to work – she so wants to be more than just mum again, she needs this thrill of being able to help. But will the others support her in her decisions?

This book is a brilliant catch up with Holly, Taffy and their two sets of twins but it also introduces us to a new nanny, feisty and quirky and full of life and surprises, and Tilly, Alice’s friend, but also Connor, who has moved to Larkford, a former rock star trying to get to terms with his wife’s death, wanting to lead a quiet life far away from London and taking every stray animal that he sets his eyes on. But we also see Dan and Grace’s relationship developing and there are some most poignant moments including those two. And let’s not forget Elsie – the Grande Dame with head full of ideas.

I think that every new book in the series is better than the previous ones, and I think it is because of a few factors. Penny Parkes’s writing is getting better and better, firstly, it feels like a warm hug, is so inviting, warm and vivid. Then it is always great to be back with characters that you’ve already got to know, know what makes them tick and it is always nice to simply pick up with them where we left them in the previous book, without the necessity of great introductions. And, of course, the story itself, the plot but most of all it being full of emotions and feelings, turns and twists and the most poignant but also heart – warming moments.

It was really nice to be back in Larkford, and in the Practice. This book had, I don’t know how to call it, a feeling? It had this “something” that made it outstanding, brilliant read. No matter when you read the last book in the series, you will immediately feel at home, as if you’ve never been away from the characters and their lives. Lives that felt incredibly real and realistic, with problems that are so familiar, so it was so easy to fell for them all, knowing what they’re experiencing and what they’re feeling. And this time there was a lot in store for the doctors and people surrounding them. There was not a single flat moment, and even though the author again dedicated a lot of the pages to the Practice and its patients, describing their problems, this time those problems were incredibly relatable – at least, to me – and Penny Parkes treated them with tons of understanding, care and love. So yes, there were many storylines to follow, but they were so skilfully written and so engaging that I haven’t feel confused for a single moment.

It was a lovely, charming and warm book about families, showing how they come in different shapes and sizes, and that being a family doesn’t mean you must be born in it. It also touched upon such difficult issues like being a mother and trying to hush your guilty conscience when thinking about coming back to work but also how hard it is to be only a mum sitting at home, and how complex and complicated it may be trying to bring those two facts together. About how important it is to be understood and to have a support of your closest ones, and finally about the strength of friendship. And I love the fact that the author emphasised the importance of the assistance animals, and I loved the scenes including the dogs and also Banana – a wonderful idea! Highly recommended!

The Guardian of Lies by Kate Furnivall / Blog Tour

The Guardian of Lies by Kate Furnivall

 

Publisher: Simon & Schuster 46635448._sy475_

Publishing Date: 31st October 2019

Source:  Received from the publisher, thank you!

Number of pages: 400

Genre: General Fiction (Adults), Historical Fiction

 Buy the Book:  Kindle | Hardcover | Paperback

 

 

 

Synopsis:

Discover a brilliant story of love, danger, courage and betrayal, from the internationally bestselling author of The Survivors.
1953, the South of France. The fragile peace between the West and Soviet Russia hangs on a knife edge. And one family has been torn apart by secrets and conflicting allegiances.

Eloïse Caussade is a courageous young Frenchwoman, raised on a bull farm near Arles in the Camargue. She idolises her older brother, André, and when he leaves to become an Intelligence Officer working for the CIA in Paris to help protect France, she soon follows him. Having exchanged the strict confines of her father’s farm for a life of freedom in Paris, her world comes alive.

But everything changes when André is injured – a direct result of Eloise’s actions. Unable to work, André returns to his father’s farm, but Eloïse’s sense of guilt and responsibility for his injuries sets her on the trail of the person who attempted to kill him.

Eloïse finds her hometown in a state of unrest and conflict. Those who are angry at the construction of the American airbase nearby, with its lethal nuclear armaments, confront those who support it, and anger flares into violence, stirred up by Soviet agents. Throughout all this unrest, Eloïse is still relentlessly hunting down the man who betrayed her brother and his country, and she is learning to look at those she loves and at herself with different eyes. She no longer knows who she can trust. Who is working for Soviet Intelligence and who is not? And what side do her own family lie on?

Rating: five-stars

 

Eloïse was born in rural France and grew up on her father’s bull farm, together with her two brothers. She loves the farm, but as soon as she can, she follows the footsteps of her older brother Andre and flees to Paris. She finds a job in the detective agency, as she’s fascinated by Andre’s – the brother she so idolises – job as a CIA Intelligence Officer. We get to know them both right in the opening scene that feels like a scene from James Bond film, a thrilling car chase in which Andre is injured. As she was driving, Eloïse is filled with guilt and decides to find out who has tried to kill her bother, and why. Summoned home, she doesn’t give up on her chase after the truth, but she also realises that the danger may be much closer home than she thinks.

I have immediately became absorbed in the story and the characters’ lives – but it hasn’t surprised me, as I wasn’t expecting anything different from Kate Furnivall’s book! As usual with her books, the characters felt like living and breathing people, and her leading female characters – in this case Eloïse – are strong – minded and brave. Eloïse was capable and determined, however I didn’t warm to her immediately. As much as I appreciated the fact that she’s so determined, she was also much too naive in my eyes and I had a feeling that she’s like the wind, moving in different directions, depending on what she was said. She also behaved too amateurish for my liking, lacked in skills that you’d need as an actual spy. She was too trusty, especially at the beginning, but then she started to have doubts, and she felt more mature. Nevertheless, she was so real with her emotions and feelings of guilt, fear and uncertainty, she wanted the best for all and to find peace. In her hurry and willingness to help, she often makes mistakes, and also tends to do the very opposite of what is said she should do, and really, more than once I was expecting the things to turn out not so rosy for her, and once I really thought that this is it for Eloïse. But altogether, the more I read, the more she grew on me, and I truly admired her determination and the fact that nobody and nothing could dishearten her to find the truth.
The relationships between the characters in this book are so well written! They were not easy, they were not straightforward, they were often thought – provoking but the loyalty Eloïse felt towards her family was lovely to see, even if sometimes this family didn’t show as much concern for Eloïse as she for them.

I always admire Kate Furnivall’s skills to create a brilliant, engaging and complex plot, no matter what period of times her novels are set in. This time she takes us to the mid century France involved in the Cold War. I admit, it is not a period of time that I know much about, so the more interesting it was for me and I have learnt more about post – war France that I could hope for. The loyalties of the French, that were split between America, and the communist Soviet Union, and the tension and unrest it has provoked, provided an interesting and engaging background and she creates a perfect sense of time and place.

Mostly the author has played real mind – games with me and I was like Eloïse, not knowing who was telling the truth and who was telling lies, who was the good and who was the bad one, who wants to help Eloïse and who wants to see the back of her, and how does her family fit into all of those situations. It made my head spinning but it was enthralling and very entertaining.

“The Guardian of Lies” was meticulously researched, vividly written in a way that awakens all your senses while living the story through along with the characters, and brilliantly crafted novel from one of my favourite authors. She has – again – provided us with engaging and complex plot and multi – faceted characters, bringing them all to life and effortlessly transporting the readers into the setting of her novel. It was a fast – paced, unique, compelling and addictive story about love and betrayal, courage and subterfuge, making you feel as if you had your heart in your mouth. Highly recommended!

 

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