A Season in the Snow by Isla Gordon

A Season in the Snow by Isla Gordon

 

Publisher: Sphere 48390373._sy475_

Publishing Date: 28th November 2019

Source:  Received from the publisher, thank you!

Number of pages: 400

Genre: Women’s Fiction

 Buy the Book:  Kindle | Paperback (out on 15.10.2020)

 

 

 

Synopsis:

Escape to the mountains this Christmas…

Alice Bright loves her life. She has a job she adores, a devoted family, and friends she’d lay down her life for.

So when tragedy strikes, bringing with it Bear – a rapidly-growing puppy in need of a home – it turns Alice’s whole world upside down. She retreats inside her flat, and inside herself, with only her new companion for company.

But one-bedroom London flats aren’t made for mountain dogs, and so Alice lets Bear push her out of her comfort zone to his homeland: the mountains of Switzerland. Could a change of scene in snowy serenity be just the thing to help Alice fall in love with life again?

A Season in the Snow is the perfect read this Christmas, promising snowy mountains , Christmas markets and heart-warming seasonal romance. Perfect for fans of Sarah Morgan and Heidi Swain.

Rating: four-stars

 

Alice is happy – she has a nice job, lovely family and a group of brilliant, supporting friends. However, one day, something really bad happens and Alice’s world is turned upside down – will she be able to recover, get back on track? Maybe a change of scene, moving for a few months to Switzerland, and a little dog that grows incredibly quickly will help?

So. This book. Honestly, it gave me a headache. I adore Lisa Dickenson and her books and I know that as Isla Gordon the novel would be a little different, however as soon as the typical Lisa’s humour and wit appeared on the pages, I was reassured. However! It didn’t happen often, guys, and I was already panicking, not knowing what’s happening with this story. First of all, at the beginning the book felt so chopped. The events in the chapters felt unarranged and half – hearted, as if the author simply wanted to get through this part of the book to start writing about this what she wanted so much: the dog (I’ll come back to the dog in a moment). Only after the festival the book started to read like a book, felt smooth and coherent. But. And this is the next. You know, I also have dogs. I love my dogs but not to the point that I would write a book about them, and I had a feeling that Lisa/Isla simply wanted to share her unconditional love to her pet. And it was too much. If Bear were my dog I’d kill myself and I’d be ashamed with having such a spoiled, whiny dog at home. And I know how cute Bernese Mountain Dog can be, my sister has one, and actually all dogs can be brilliant actors when they want something. Don’t get me wrong, please, I loved him, and I loved Alice’s interactions with him, I loved how she spoke with him and how she treated him like a partner but I don’t have to read about the cute orange spots and Bear’s antics on every single page. And I love Switzerland. Especially in winter. But when I want to read about its traditions I’ll buy myself a tourist guide. So there. Rant over.

What Lisa Dickenson/Isla Gordon showed is that she can beautifully write about the most hidden feelings and emotions and brilliantly mix them with the best humorous one – liners. There were moments, especially when Alice talked with Bear, that made my eyes moisten, and there were moments that really brought smile to my face. This was a different take from this author and she’s proved that she is a great writer that can touch upon deeper issues in a sensible, gentle way. She’s not shy of making her story sadder and difficult and hats off to her for this fact, however I still prefer the author’s exceptional humour and ability to write the most funny, brilliant, light banter. The main character, Alice, is so incredibly well fleshed out! It’s amazing how well the author has captured her insecurities and hopes, trepidation and excitement, making her a believable, relatable person. I found myself keeping my fingers crossed for her, willing her to try, to not forgive but to allow herself the little joy. She had a great sense of humour and I was waiting for the rare moments when she’s allowed this side of her to show. She was simply so real, so natural in everything she did and said that it was impossible not to like her, in fact, I was rooting for her and wishing her all the best.
Actually, all the other characters were very well developed – after we moved to Switzerland, that is. Because I, honestly speaking, couldn’t stand putting Jill on this pedestal anymore. Maybe she was worth it but I had a feeling we didn’t know her as well as Alice did. I loved how supporting Alice’s parents have been, and how lovely and colourful the new neighbours of hers were, how they accepted her without a second glance and how embarrassing Marco’s mum was – she was ace!

The author can for sure bring the setting, easily and effortlessly, to life, and can capture both the idyllic winter wonderland that can quickly and suddenly turn into danger. She’ll sweep you to a country full of cable cars, snowboarding, skiing, mountain rescues, warm and gorgeous cafes, and snow! Lots of snow. And even if it is not strictly Christmas book, read it with “Last Christmas” on the loop and a hot chocolate with a double cream and marshmallow because this is the feeling it’s going to leave you with.

“A Season in the Snow” was a poignant, moving story about healing, about finding yourself afresh and letting the joy come back to you, and not forgetting that there is always hope. I absolutely adored the bunch of characters, supporting each other without knowing that they’re doing it, it was beautiful. And yes, after the initial reservations I found myself adoring the story, though as lovely as Bear was I still think he needs to learn manners. Recommended!

Pretty Guilty Women by Gina LaManna

Pretty Guilty Women by Gina LaManna

 

Publisher: Sphere 46281093._sy475_

Publishing Date: 24th September 2019

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

Number of pages: 336

Genre: Women’s Fiction

 Buy the Book: Kindle | Hardcover

| Paperback (out on 05.03.2020)

 

 

 

Synopsis:

You are cordially invited to the wedding of the year, at the famously luxurious Serenity Spa & Resort on the Californian coast . . .

Ginger is an overworked, under-pampered mother of three who’s barely holding the family together when she learns a secret about her daughter that could ruin everything.

Lulu is a wealthy retiree with four ex-husbands, and a fifth on the way.

Emily harbours a dark secret, which she’s become expert at forgetting with the help of a bottle of wine.

Kate is a powerhouse lawyer with her life in order – except for one little problem that won’t go away.

Only twenty-four hours later a man is found murdered.

All Detective Ramone knows for certain is that these four women sit calmly across from him, offering four very different confessions, each insisting they acted alone.

Why would they confess to the same crime? Only they know the answer – and they’re not telling.

A sharp, twisty and utterly addictive suspense novel that is perfect for anyone who loved Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty, I Invited Her In by Adele Parks and The Last Mrs Parrish by Liv Constantine

Rating:  three-stars

 

Three college friends meet up at a luxurious Serenity Spa and Resort in California for another friend’s wedding. Their friendship has mostly fallen apart but nevertheless, they’re making their way to the wedding celebrations that are supposed to take one whole week – Whitney is getting married in the right way, no?
However, it immediately becomes clear that a man has been killed at the resort and along with Lulu, related by marriage to the groom and befriended at the hotel, all the women claim to have killed him. Why? What has happened?

Each of the characters is different, they face different challenges and I liked this variety, even when I couldn’t connect with them as much as I’d like to. I mean, they were really interesting, normal characters, they kept supporting each other when it was needed, even with their friendship disintegrating over the years, but they simply felt too repetitive, and I think the author could have written them in a sharper way, instead of making them so unhappy with all their shortcomings in life.
Ginger is married to Frank, they have three children and their family life is rather exhausting, and money is also short supply. She has to do extra shifts at a hotel she’s working in to be able to attend the wedding, and her relationship with her teenage daughter Elsie is unravelling. Emily Brown is trying to come to terms with a dramatic past, has a drink problem and is the one to have sex with a man she has only met on the plane. Her friendship with Ginger has been jeopardized years ago, when something happened. Kate Cross is, on the surface, a happy, successful lawyer with no problems, a partner in a New York firm and has a great boyfriend. Under the surface though it looks totally different, her boyfriend Maximilian Banks dumps her right after arrival to the Resort, in reception, after years of trying for a baby he has enough. They all get to know Lulu at the hotel. Lulu, married for the fifth time, loves her husband with all her heart but she’s afraid he’s going to leave her for another woman. The truth is different.
All the women are different, but all have problems, troubles and keep secrets, trying to live up to the expectations and not wanting to admit to each other that their lives are not beds of roses.

I am a new reader of Gina LaManna, so I didn’t know what to except, though I was hoping for something Liane Moriarty – worthy (as stated in the premise and why I actually requested this book). And yes, the book started brilliantly, and I was incredibly intrigued how it’s going to develop, however it quickly went downhill. It started to be repetitive and there was actually nothing happening, it felt flat and as if the idea run out. Yes, there are similarities between these books but let’s be honest, “Big Little Lies” is on absolutely different level.

There were some moments that made me nod my head, as they were so relatable, and some that made me smile, especially the banter between Ginger and her daughter, and the interviews between the Detective and the characters – they were, I think, the best parts of the book, thanks to the characters and the way they approached them.

Nevertheless, it was a quick, entertaining read, a story filled with bigger and smaller dramas, lies, unconditional love, abuse, friendship and being ready to sacrifice a lot. The friendship is very honestly portrayed, with all the ups and downs, grudges and rivalries.

The Other Mrs. Miller by Allison Dickson

The Other Mrs. Miller by Allison Dickson

 

45047287._sy475_Publisher: Sphere

Publishing Date: 16th July 2019

Source:  Received from the publisher, thank you!

Number of pages: 336

Genre: Mystery & Thrillers

 Buy the Book:  Kindle | Paperback (out on 19.03.2020)

 

Synopsis:

In this unputdownable domestic suspense debut, a lonely suburban housewife finds her life entangled with the family that moves in across the street at the same time that she becomes convinced someone is watching her–perfect for fans of The Couple Next Door and The Last Mrs. Parrish.

Once a darling of Chicago’s social scene, Phoebe Miller fears she’s become irrelevant and cliché: just another miserably unfulfilled housewife who drowns her sorrows in Chardonnay and ice cream and barely leaves her house. Maybe it’s her dark thoughts and fertile imagination that lead her to believe the worst about everything she spies going on in the exclusive suburban cul de sac she calls home. But surely that rusty blue sedan that keeps idling by her driveway is a sign that she’s being watched. And that new family that just moved in across the street–Dr. Ron Napier, his vivacious wife, Vicki, and their handsome college-bound son, Jake–can’t be as perfect as they appear. Especially not with the bruises on Vicki’s arms and the fear in Jake’s eyes.

When a chance introduction to the exuberant Vicki–and a forbidden encounter with Jake–draws her out of her shell and deeper into the Napiers’ orbit, Phoebe’s life finally gets the infusion of excitement she’s been missing. But when anonymous threatening notes begin landing on her doorstep, she’ll have to ask herself just how well anyone can truly know their neighbors…and how close to home unforeseen danger sometimes lies.

Rating: three-stars

 

Phoebe Miller is a bored housewife, spending days at home, cleaning and baking. Her marriage to Wyatt is on the brink of collapsing. After a scandal revolving around her father, Phoebe finds herself even more isolated from reality, drinking more and more to pass the time. It’s then that she notices a car, parked in the neighbourhood, and she has a feeling that whoever it is, they’re watching her, so she starts to note down when she’s seen the car. Then a new family moves across the street, and Phoebe is interested in them, especially in the Napiers son, Jack. But things start to seem to go out of hand for Phoebe. Do the Napiers have something to hide? Who is the person in the blue sedan?

The book is divided into two parts and I must say that the first part was better than the second one. Firstly it focused on Phoebe and her life and even though she was not a character that I warmed to, I was fascinated with her life, past and present, and the new neighbours seemed truly intriguing. Whereas the second part felt much slower, much too forced and bit unbelievable, and it felt like reading two different stories. It was hard to believe in the characters’ actions and honestly, I was not so invested in the plot any more.

The whole stalker idea also didn’t seem completely thought over, and as I don’t want to spoil your reading I can’t say anything more! But it was illogical for me, wanting something from Phoebe but instead of approaching her they wanted to blackmail her, threaten her and maybe even kill her instead of telling who they were.

Phoebe is a complex and complicated character, and not easy too like, she has actually awakened ambivalent feelings in me. I’ve never warmed to her but I felt sorry for her, although I also think that she put herself in the situation she was living. Yes, I did understand her but I couldn’t understand why she simply didn’t do anything to have the life she wanted to have – she simply wallowed in her own misery, pitied herself, drinking and eating away at her problems. But altogether I don’t think she was a bad person, probably she simply didn’t know how to deal with all her problems, the traumatic childhood when most of the time her father didn’t acknowledge her existence or labelled her as worthless, and as a result she was living like in a limbo, without hobbies, friends, career, wallowing in her past, convinced that everyone knows who she is and who her father was though the truth may be totally different – people are not aware of who she is, at all.

It was an interesting domestic thriller where events start to roll slowly like a snowball and then take on epidemic proportions of an avalanche. Unexpected and unpredictable and you simply want to know what’s going to happen next, though not one to have blown my mind. The end left me, I don’t know, confused would be probably an understatement – yes, it surprised me but not in a positive way. Don’t get me wrong, please, I did enjoy the book but there were too many things that simply didn’t sit well with me, but that’s me and maybe you’re going to enjoy the book more than I did. And I’m curious what the author will come up with next.

Secrets and Seashells at Rainbow Bay by Ali McNamara

Secrets and Seashells at Rainbow Bay by Ali McNamara

 

42846112._sy475_Publisher: Sphere

Publishing Date: 27th June 2019

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

Number of pages: 368

Genre: Women’s Fiction, Romance

 Buy the Book: Kindle | Paperback

 

Synopsis:

The sun is shining on the golden castle on Rainbow Bay – and change is in the air!

Amelia is a single mother, doing her very best to look after her young son, Charlie – but money is tight and times are tough. When she first hears that she is the last descendent of the Chesterford family and that she has inherited a Real-Life Castle by the sea, Amelia can’t quite believe her ears. But it’s true!

She soon finds that owning a castle isn’t quite the ticket to sorting out her money problems that she’d first hoped: she can’t sell, because the terms of the ancient bequest state that any Chesterford who inherits the castle, must live there and work towards the upkeep and maintenance of the family home. So ever-practical Amelia decides to uproot her little family and move to this magnificent castle by the sea.

Living in a castle on the beautiful Northumberland coast is fun at first, but organising the day-to-day running is a lot more complicated than Amelia first imagined. Luckily she has help from the small band of eccentric and unconventional staff that are already employed there – and a mysterious unseen hand that often gives her a push in the right direction just when she needs it most. It’s only when she meets Tom, a furniture restorer who comes to the castle to help repair some antique furniture, that Amelia realises she might get the fairy-tale ending that she and Charlie truly deserve..

Rating: four-stars

 

Down on her luck, single mum Amelia struggles everyday to bring up her son and keep their heads above water. It wasn’t always like that, she was happily married, that is until one day her husband simply left her and everything changed in this moment. One day she is contacted by a genealogist telling her that, through a very distant relative, she is the heir to Chesterford Castle in the Northumberland. sure, at first she thinks it’s a joke, because who in those times simply inherit a castle, right? However, it turns out that it’s true, so Amelia and Charlie move to the castle. It’s lacking visitors and this final touch, and so Amelia comes up with some ideas to get the castle earn some income. But when she fells in love with the place, and it starts to run smoothly, it turns out that perhaps there is another heir to it…?

The cover of this book is simply stunning, I love the colours and it corresponds with the whole story so very, very well!

I warmed to Amelia immediately, though I must say that I liked her even more with every page turned. She was first feeling so down, what is absolutely understandable, and I have a feeling that she simply couldn’t/didn’t want/was too fed up to show her other, funnier and sharper, side. From the very beginning you saw that she’s doing all to make Charlie’s life better and my heart went to her, understanding how she felt when she couldn’t afford better food, let’s not mention longer trousers for her son. Later, I loved the ideas she had to get the castle earn money again, she was really the right person in the right place, determined to make the place a success, and the digging she has made into the castle’s history was great, I truly enjoyed this aspect of the story. She wanted the castle to work not only for her own and Charlie’s benefit but also for the staff and the community.
The staff working at the castle is another story, Ali McNamara has created a bunch of vivid, colourful characters. There is Arthur, the gruff caretaker but underneath all this grumpiness he was a lovely and loyal man. His wife Dorothy, a housekeeper, loved the castle and was the best cook in the world probably. Joey, who helps Arthur, and Tiffany who works in the office are like a breath of fresh air, adorable and likeable. And Tom and Benji, which brings us to the more romantic side of the story, that I personally liked very much. It was absolutely not predictable – well, at least to one moment when there was the big reveal, or at least big to me as I haven’t seen it coming, but until this moment I was really all the time wondering which of the two potential love gods would be better for Amelia. I am actually thankful to the author for resolving this for me.

There’s always the magical element in Ali McNamara’s novels and either you buy it or not. I do. And actually, I don’t only mean the obvious magic, like ghosts in that case, but the magical and spellbinding atmosphere that the author can capture so well.

Overall, “Secrets and Seashells at Rainbow Bay” was a light, entertaining read, brilliantly written – the writing style is flying, it’s so welcoming and warm and fabulously chatty – introducing us to well – drawn characters, including some cheeky ghosts! There is also a slight mystery throughout the pages and while it isn’t life changing, or taking your breath away, it added this last finishing sparkle touch to the story. Full of gentle humour, feelings and emotions, a charming summer read. Recommended!

 

The Bookshop on the Shore by Jenny Colgan

The Bookshop on the Shore by Jenny Colgan

 

44315343Publisher: Sphere

Publishing Date: 13th June 2019

Series: Scottish Bookshop #2

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

Number of pages: 432

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

 Buy the Book:  Kindle | Hardcover | Paperback (out on 06.02.2020)

 

Synopsis:

A grand baronial house on Loch Ness, a quirky small-town bookseller, and a single mom looking for a fresh start all come together in this witty and warm-hearted novel by New York Times bestselling author Jenny Colgan.

Desperate to escape from London, single mother Zoe wants to build a new life for herself and her son Hari. She can barely afford the crammed studio apartment on a busy street where honking horns and shouting football fans keep them awake all night. If she doesn’t find a way out soon, Zoe knows it’s just a matter of time before she has a complete meltdown. On a whim, she answers an ad for a nanny job in the Scottish Highlands, which is about as far away from the urban crush of London as possible. It sounds heavenly!

The job description asks for someone capable of caring for three “gifted children”, two of which behave feral wolverines. The children’s widowed father is a wreck, and the kids run wild in a huge tumbledown castle on the heather-strewn banks of Loch Ness. Still, the peaceful, picturesque location is everything London is not—and Zoe rises to the challenges of the job.

With the help of Nina, the friendly local bookseller, Zoe begins to put down roots in the community. Are books, fresh air, and kindness enough to heal this broken family—and her own…?

 

Rating: five-stars

but-i-needmy-girls

 

Zoe is a single mum, struggling to bring up her son Hari in a tiny bed-sit in Wembley. Hari is a lovely 4 – year – old boy, but he can’t speak – at all. His father never seems to have money to help, so when Zoe’s landlord raises the rent on the flat and then the opportunity of a job as a nanny and a bookseller in the remote Scottish village arises, she doesn’t hesitate long. However, Zoe quickly learns that the three children she should look after have recently gone through 6 nannies and are determined to get rid of the 7th, immediately. The bookshop’s customers simply rely on Nina, the owner, to know which books they want to read and Zoe has no idea. Was this a mistake to move so far away from her old life?

Jenny Colgan is one of the best storytellers ever, period. Her writing style is exceptional, chatty and so natural, and there is always so much humour and wisdom in her words. Each time when reading her book I simply feel better, as if the book and characters were hugging me, making me feel better and more optimistic. It is also her unique talent to transport the reader into the setting of her stories, this time to the beautiful, wild Scottish Highlands – the descriptions are incredibly gorgeous and vivid and you immediately feel like being there, seeing rather than reading.

The characters, as always, were a perfect mix of personalities, all with such distinctive voices and all bringing so much to the story. I loved reading about Zoe and Hari, even though their lives are not like a garden full of roses. I actually immediately warmed to her and she was instantly growing on me more and more.
The children were simply hilarious, in their own ways, all already struck by the reality of life in different ways and Zoe is determined to help them all to get out of their shells, to enjoy life, even though it’s not too easy, especially at the beginning, and she has to struggle to earn their trust. She quickly realises that the children simply feel abandon and they are hurting, and their father is so remote that he might as well not be there at all. She knows that what the children need is love and attention, and I loved how right she was in her assumptions, and how much she tried to give them boundaries, rules and love.

What I also adored so much in this story is the sheer love of books and reading shining through the pages. There are so many quotes from some great books and it was brilliant, and the books really felt like characters of their own.

The element of the mystery was there as well, and the author also touches upon mental health issues, of course in a sensitive, gentle way, but she also writes about those things as if they were the most normal things in the world – which they are. There is also the issue of a patchwork family dynamics, the way it can affect us all but also how much it can give us, and really, no matter what Jenny Colgan writes about, it is simply brilliant.

“The Bookshop on the Shore” was charming, uplifting and so incredibly poignant story with quirky and sharp characters and there is so much more to it then a simple romance: problems, troubles, mayhem and humour, struggles of being a single parent, particularly to a child with some issues, about unconditional love and simply being strong. I loved every single word of this book and I can’t recommend it highly enough!

 

Absolutely Smashing It by Kathryn Wallace

Absolutely Smashing It by Kathryn Wallace

 

41uiiujq7vl._sx309_bo1204203200_Publisher: Sphere

Publishing Date: 7th March 2019

Source:  Received from the publisher, thank you!

Number of pages: 320

Genre: General Fiction, Parenting, Humour

 Buy the Book:  Kindle | Hardcover | Paperback (out on 09.01.2020)

 

Synopsis:

***Unmissable, hilarious and kind, this is the first novel from Kathryn Wallace, who blogs as I Know, I Need to Stop Talking***

“SAM! AVA! Get downstairs, NOW. Have you done your TEETH? HAIR? SHOES? Come on, come on, come on, we’re going to be bastarding late again. No, I haven’t seen Lego Optimus Prime, and nor do I give a shit about his whereabouts. Sam, will you stop winding your sister up and take this model of the Shard that I painstakingly sat up and created for you last night so that I wouldn’t be in trouble with your teacher. I mean, so that you wouldn’t be in trouble with your teacher. No, it doesn’t smell of ‘dirty wine’. Well, maybe it does a little bit. Look, Sam, I haven’t got time to argue. Just hold your nose and get in the car, okay? AVA! TEETH! HAIR! SHOES!”

Gemma is only just holding it together – she’s a single parent, she’s turning 40 and her seven-year-old daughter has drawn a cruelly accurate picture which locates Gemma’s boobs somewhere around her knees. So when her new next-door neighbour, Becky, suggests that Gemma should start dating again, it takes a lot of self-control not to laugh in her face.

But Becky is very persuasive and before long Gemma finds herself juggling a full-time job, the increasingly insane demands of the school mums’ Facebook group and the tricky etiquette of a new dating world. Not only that, but Gemma has to manage her attraction to her daughter’s teacher, Tom, who has swapped his life in the City for teaching thirty six to seven year olds spelling, grammar, basic fractions – and why it’s not ok to call your classmate a stinky poo-bum…

It’s going to be a long year – and one in which Gemma and Becky will learn a really crucial lesson: that in the end, being a good parent is just about being good enough.

Rating: five-stars

 

Gemma is a single parent, after her husband (Nick the Dick) decided to go on an adventure of his life (with his secretary), juggling a full – time job and all the usual things you have to juggle in your everyday life. She’s turning forty soon, her boobs are somewhere around her knees on her daughter’s picture and of course she didn’t know she should read at least one hour with her children during the Christmas break… Then Becky moves next – door and they hit it off immediately. She tries to persuade Gemma to start dating again and she’s very persuasive – and so they make a pact that before Gemma turns 40 she will finally have sex and for Becky to land a perfect job.
It’s going to be a long, long year for both Gemma and Becky, what with disastrous dates, job interviews, school, homework and dogs…

I loved Gemma from the very beginning, she was just my kind of girl. Honest, genuine, without beating around the bush, telling things how they really are. She didn’t always manage to make all the things right, she often forgot things and this is why I wanted to high – five her, as she so reminded me of myself. I am also not perfect. I liked her friendship with Becky, who was like a breath of fresh air, albeit very quick and loud breath, also telling the truth direct into your face, no matter if you wanted to hear it or not.
I absolutely, totally loved Gemma’s dates and I am really, really sad that there were only a few of them put in the story. They were hilarious and I could probably read a whole new book only about Gemma’s adventurous meetings.
I also liked that the author didn’t only concentrate on Gemma but also took Becky under scrutiny as well and her struggles to find a job. You could think, Becky, so privileged, with nothing to worry about, successful husband at her side, a total liability of a dog as well, and I really, really applauded her desire to find herself a job. There comes a moment when you simply can’t stand sitting at home and you need to feel like a competent human being again. Becky’s adventures with finding the right place were not only hilarious but also – let’s admit it – sad and awfully relatable, but they only made the book more valuable and real. And I can of course remember taking my daughter to two interviews – however both times I’ve got the job so perhaps she’s brought me luck, but also both of those jobs were to work with children so maybe she was like a bonus point?

I really liked the writing style. It was so light and relatable, and the author has such a great way with words, and her writing is absolutely addictive. It has made me laugh out loud, nodding my head with understanding, roll my eyes and shake my head with disbelief. I must admit, my daughter was thanks god a very brave toddler and small child in comparison to so many others, nevertheless so many situations just rang a bell and it felt so personal. Though I must say that it’s getting serious now as she’s just started school and the whole school runs start to resemble those described by the author – cliques and ignoring each other is just normal. Hallelujah for ma daughter going to school by bus, really – I’m done, those few times that I had to go to school and meet some other parents.
The end of this story was, however, just too fairy tale – ish for me, to be honest. I like a happy end, but this one just too happy in my eyes, and I know, the characters have been struggling through the whole book and sure, they all deserved their own piece of happiness eventually but I’m just saying. As the whole story was so down to earth and so scarily relatable, the end seemed simply too soppy.

It was a hilarious, brutally honest and relatable story that I absolutely and whole – heartedly enjoyed. Personally I can read those funny stories about the challenges of parenthood and #FML moments over and over again, simply because they show me that I. Am. Not. Alone in all this parenthood malarkey, that there are others going through exactly the same things. Brilliantly funny but not too overdone, it was a perfect read for me. Highly recommended!

Happiness for Beginners by Carole Matthews

Happiness for Beginners by Carole Matthews

 

41828647Publisher: Sphere

Publishing Date: 21st February 2019

Source:  Received from the publisher, thank you!

Number of pages: 464

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

 Buy the Book:  Kindle | Hardcover | Paperback (out on 30.05.2019)

 

Synopsis:

Molly Baker is living her best life.

Thirty-eight years old, she lives on the twenty-five-acre Hope Farm in Buckinghamshire, surrounded by (mostly) four-legged friends and rolling hills. There’s Anthony the anti-social sheep, Tina Turner the alpaca with attitude, and the definitely-not-miniature pig, Teacup.

Molly runs the farm as an alternative school for kids who haven’t thrived in mainstream education. It’s full on, but she wouldn’t have it any other way. So when the well-groomed Shelby Dacre turns up at Hope Farm asking to enrol his son Lucas, Molly isn’t fazed.

But Lucas is distant and soon Molly realises he might be more of a handful than she anticipated. And then there’s the added problem that his dad is distractingly handsome. Molly has her beloved farm to think of – could letting Lucas and Shelby in be a terrible mistake, or the start of something wonderful?

Rating: four-stars

 

Molly Baker is a shy, single and also lovely and welcoming woman, running Hope Farm in Buckinghamshire, which she inherited from her beloved Aunt Hettie. It doesn’t bother her that she lives in an ancient caravan, with neither TV not shower, the main thing is that her animals and students are happy. Students – because the farm is also an alternative school for children with learning difficulties, autism, behavioural problems. One of the new students, Lucas, finds a way to Molly’s heart – his father finds this way as well but because of their totally different life styles it’s a recipe for a guaranteed heartbreak, right? Also, Molly’s farm, that is so much more to her than only a farm, it’s her home, a place to live and to bring happiness, is facing being closed down for good. Will she manage to save the farm and her heart?

I haven’t mentioned any lovely covers lately and this one deserves a standing ovation. It’s gorgeous, and I love this beautiful yellow colour – you can feel spring in the air only by looking at this cover, and the little flowers dotted around are so lovely. And it is as uplifting and full of warmth as the book itself.

I loved Hope Farm, it was simply my kind of heaven, even with all of its inconveniences. OK, I’d maybe need a TV and a good internet connection but I so could live with the rest, just like Molly. I know it is said one shouldn’t work with children and animals but I work with both and I am still going, so it can’t be that bad, right, and so I immediately connected with Molly and could resonate with her on all levels. I also feel the best in my wellies and I always smell of dogs and horses treats. The assortment of animal at the farm was absolutely perfect, and their personalities were very, very well captured by the author.
But Hope Farm was not only about animals, and here comes the great idea – it was to help children who couldn’t find help anywhere else, it was their last chance saloon – they, usually already excluded from schools, could come to the farm and learn how to be around animals, some practical skills as well, and also learn from animals and about them being so good at simply being there. I totally loved all of the animals on the farm, they were all so special, and well, yes, it weren’t only the pupils that had problems but the animals as well. The children react to animals, learn to bond with them, to open to them and to develop the so much needed self confidence, and it was incredibly important for them, and it was really well described by the author.

I immediately fell for Molly. Immediately. Her love and passion to the things she has devoted herself to was overwhelming and palpable. She really knows what her animals of all shapes and sizes need, and her students as well. She was so chilled and relaxed and I really could get her reluctance to engage with other people. Her side – kicks Bev and Alan were also special, absolutely loveable and it was impossible not to like them. The story is told from Molly’s point of view and her narration is flowing, it’s chatty and honest, and the short chapters are what I really like in Carole Matthews’ books.

I always appreciate the fact that Carole Matthews tries to touch upon more serious issues in her books as well, of course with this gentle touch of humour. This time she’s factoring children with learning difficulties and dealing with grief – through Lucas, still grieving for his dead mother, feeling neglected by his father, lonely and mobbed at school. Molly tries to come through to Lucas, get him to open up and quickly she finds herself involved not only in his life but also this of his father’s, the famous soap opera actor Shelby Dacre. The relationship between Molly and Lucas, and actually between Molly and all of her charges, was so genuine and heart-warming and it was a real pleasure to read about them.

Even though you know from the very beginning that the book is going to end with a happy end, it is still full of moments that are going to make your heart stop beating, and you’re going to keep everything crossed for Molly and her charges. Because – of course – life is not a bed of roses for Molly and her farm, and she’s struggling financially, but there is also one small problem of finding a new place for the farm. Why? Read for yourself, you’re really going to fall for Molly and Hope Farm.

This book would be perfect if it weren’t so slow. I loved this story, and the characters – it was warm, funny and uplifting but not too sappy but I had a feeling that it doesn’t move, that we stay in one place, that the one idea has been taken and written on thousand different ways. As much as I enjoyed reading it, I simply wished for something to happen, for something refreshing to arrive and take us by surprise. And this time I missed the depth a little.
However, altogether, “The Happiness for Beginners” was a funny, uplifting and overflowing with charm story, full of the feel – good factor that I know I can expect from Ms Matthews’s books. Carole Matthews is simply a natural storyteller. She has a way with words and she describes her characters in such a way that you quickly feel like knowing them all since childhood, and not only the main characters, but also the secondary ones as well. She makes them relatable, genuine and realistic. The book was emotional, it was funny and poignant at the same time, a great mix of laughter, tears, emotions and feelings. You won’t want to miss it!