Five Hundred Miles from You by Jenny Colgan

 

Publisher: Sphere 49294977._sy475_

Publishing Date: 28th May 2020

Series: Scottish Bookshop #3

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

Number of pages: 400

Genre: Women’s Fiction

 

Synopsis:

They live five hundred miles apart. Yet their lives are about to collide…

Lissa loves her job as a nurse, but recently she’s been doing a better job of looking after other people than looking after herself. After a traumatic incident at work leaves her feeling overwhelmed, she agrees to swap lives with someone in a quiet village in Scotland.

Cormac is restless. Just out of the army, he’s desperately in need of distraction, and there’s precious little of it in Kirrinfief. Maybe three months in London is just what he needs.

As Lissa and Cormac warm to their new lives, emailing back and forth about anything and everything, finally things seem to be falling into place. But each of them feel there’s still a piece missing. What—or who—could it be?

And what if it’s currently five hundred miles away?

Rating: five-stars

Lissa is a follow – up nurse living in London, spending her days driving from one patient to another to make sure they’re following the doctors’ orders, getting the treatment, doing well. One day she is a witness to a terrible hit and run where a 15 – years – old boy dies. She tries hard but she can’t shake off the horror and she’s simply not coping. The hospital’s HR team notices it and advises her strongly to participate in a professional exchange program – it means she’ll be sent to a rural area where her skills are also needed. A nurse from this area will come to London and take her place for the time being. Not absolutely convinced but also left without a choice, Lissa agrees and soon finds herself in Kirrinfief in the Scottish Highlands.
Cormac, an ex – army, is the nurse who swaps places with Lissa. He’s also not too convinced about the whole swap idea and is afraid of London, its noise, pollution and so many people. The two have never met but now they exchange patient notes and it looks like an unlikely friendship is forming between them, even if they’re a bit reluctant. And can it be that the WhatsApp professional banter turns into something more private and intimate?

„Five Hundred Miles from You“ is another, third, beautiful story in the Scottish Bookshop series, brilliantly researched, with a lovely, warm storyline and a bunch of fantastic characters, some of which we have already met in the previous novels. Yes, you could read this book as a stand – alone, absolutely, but as the other two are truly gorgeous reads you’d simply miss too much.

The characters are extraordinarily well developed and I loved them from the very beginning. Cormac maybe even more than Lissa but I also fell for her immediately. We get to know her so well as we are able to accompany her from the very beginning of the trauma, of her PTSD developing and it’s written in such a way that it’s very easy to sympathise with her. She doesn’t have it light, our Lissa, the author takes her our of her comfort zones, letting her either sink or swim – while it was sometimes heart – breaking to see her pain, it was also a real joy to see how she tries to come to terms with her new surroundings and people.
I loved Cormac from the start, he was so easy – going and had his heart in the right place. He’s still having flashbacks to his time in army when serving in Fallujah and to be honest I am truly thankfull to Jenny Colgan that she didn’t focus so much on his memories – it would be too hard for me.

What I love in Jenny Colgan’s books is the writing style. It’s exceptional, and sometimes just the one – word – sentences bring the whole essence, with just one word she can relay this what other would write about for two or more pages – and it’s brilliant. Not that I don’t like her descriptions, because they are beautiful and vivid, but here also, without using overdone words and flowery language she can so easily transport me to her fictional world – and I love it. She covers so many heavy issues with so much sensitivity but without making them feel overdone and too meh. This time she highlights the importance of the national health system, and I think it doesn’t only concern the UK but we can all shuffle it to our own better known grounds – simply to appreciate how important it is, how hard those people work and how much they sometimes have to sacrifice and they for sure don’t deserve racist comments or any other negative vibes. She also touches upon the importance of organ donors, and the last scene in the book had me in real tears. Her writing will tug at all your heart – strings, you simply can’t stay indifferent to her books and her characters. And I love her dry humour, it must be one of the best.

This book was – again – a real and pure escapism. It was, at the same time, heartbreaking and heart – warming and it really messed with my emotions – and there were many hard and emotional moments in this book and they were so realistic, with reality biting and hitting the unsuspecting people. It is a story about second chances and starting again, about love, hope, trust, sadness and happiness. Another gem from this author and I can’t wait fort he next offering. Highly recommended!

The Gin O’Clock Club by Rosie Blake

The Gin O’Clock Club by Rosie Blake

 

Publisher: Sphere cover184571-medium

Publishing Date: 20th August 2020

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

Number of pages: 400

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

 Buy the Book: Kindle | Paperback

 

 

Synopsis:

Bring the sparkle and fizz back into your life with the help of The Gin O’Clock Club.

Lottie is always in a hurry, rushing through her days ticking tasks off her to-do lists. Teddy is worried about his granddaughter – and he knows that his late wife, Cora, would have known exactly what to say to make things better. Now that Cora has gone, it’s up to Teddy to talk some sense into Lottie.

With the help of Arjun, Geoffrey and Howard, the elderly reprobates who make up his Gin O’Clock Club, Teddy makes a plan to help Lottie find her way back to the things that really matter – family, friendship and love. But as Lottie balances a high-powered job with her reluctant attendance at whist drives, ballroom dances and bingo, Teddy wonders if she’s really ready to open up her heart to the possibility of true happiness…

Laugh, cry and fall in love with this colourful cast of characters in THE feel-good novel of the year!

Rating: five-stars

 

Barrister Lottie Campbell is always in a hurry – the only thing that keeps her going is her work. She doesn’t have time for her boyfriend Luke and friend Amy and she often finds herself short – tempered and snapping at them. Then her beloved grandmother Cora dies, and Lottie is determined to re – evaluate her life, spend more time with her Granddad Teddy, Luke and Amy but the road to hell is paved with good intentions, right? Nothing changes, moreover, Lottie is even more under stress and her relationships are suffering but Lottie can’t split herself into four or more pieces to make everyone happy. But Teddy sees how stressed Lottie is, and how much her relationship with Luke suffers. Together with his friends from his Gin O’Clock Club, Arjun, Geoffrey and Howard, he comes up with a plan to help the young with old – fashioned versus modern dating. Is it going to help or will it be too much for all involved?

I’ll be honest, I was a bit afraid to read this book – I was scared that the octogenarian characters are going to spoil the reading experience totally, and not because I don’t like octogenarian characters but because it’s so, so hard and difficult to find believable octogenarians in the books. They’re either serene, having the whole world’s wisdom in them or too overdone and unrealistic. However, and oh my god, thank you Rosie Blake for this, she has written brilliant, real characters that I absolutely adored! The close knit group of Teddy’s friends must probably be one of the best I have come across in my books, their antics are priceless, they’re funny and authentic and their friendship and their support of each other were an absolute joy to read. They were prone to interfere, but within reason, and they really cared about what’s going to happen with Lottie and Luke. The dates they had in store for them were amazingly different! Finally something new and fresh and the dating the old – fashioned way was a highlight of this book. Though I must admit that I wouldn’t say no to more of Teddy’s modern dates.

I think that the author has done a great job in creating Teddy’s character, he was the unspoken hero of the novel. She has captured all his emotions so well, his devastation at Cora’s death, at trying to live life without his beloved wife and the desperation in him missing her so much was so palpable through the pages. Yet he tried so much to stay strong for Lottie and his friends and I really wanted to give him a standing ovation more than once, especially as he so often was forced to jump over his own shadow in trying to comfort Lottie, as it was always Cora who has handled all the emotional problems.

My only problem was Lottie. Yep. I liked her at the beginning though the more I got to know her, the more I felt myself taking a dislike to her. I really couldn’t understand the way she was behaving and really, she had better luck that she was surrounded by people who didn’t judge her and who had a lot of patience. I felt so sorry for Luke and for Teddy when she was in one of her moods, and I was all the time wondering how long are they going to cope with this? Yes, she was torn, I get it, and she really tried to prioritise the things she thought were important, but in the end she took all her frustrations out on people that were always there for her, and while yes, it works like this in real life, I simply didn’t want to see Lottie destructing even more in her life.

There is a lot happening in this story, there is not a single moment that you won’t feel entertained, and it’s full of emotional and unforgettable scenes, both funny and poignant ones. There is golf playing, women’s protest, vintage cars, art classes, ballroom dancing, music making and a lot of gin, of very different flavour. It is told in alternating narrations, between Lottie and her grandfather, and this last one in the form of letters to his late wife, and those letters were beautiful. Full of love and emotions, and it was great to see Teddy opening up, at least on the pages, writing how the things really are. And Teddy had a great sense of humour and was a brilliant observer!

Even though I had some problems with Lottie I still adored this book. It was brilliantly written and I loved the story – telling and the fact that it felt so refreshing and different. Rosie Blake has written a brilliant, uplifting novel, filled with a wide cast of colourful and unforgettable characters. This novel was entertaining, a bit thought – provoking, full of feel – good factor and touching moments at the same time. It was a story about family and friends, about grief and finding your way again that I highly recommend!

Kate and Clara Curious Cornish Craft Shop by Ali McNamara

Kate and Clara’s Curious Cornish Craft Shop by Ali McNamara

 

Publisher: Sphere 51lfr-cggcl._sx316_bo1204203200_

Publishing Date: 23rd July 2020

Source:  Received from the publisher, thank you!

Number of pages: 352

Genre: Romance, Women’s Fiction

 Buy the Book: Kindle | Paperback

 

 

 

 

 

Synopsis:

Welcome to the glorious little Cornish town of St Felix – where romance and magic sparkle in the summer air

‘An enchanting escape to the seaside. Pure magic!’ Heidi Swain

‘St Felix has stolen my heart yet again; a perfect, sparkling, summer read.’ Cathy Bramley

Kate thinks all her wishes have come true when she opens her own little craft shop in the idyllic harbour town of St Felix.

But she soon finds a mystery lingers in her new shop – a sixty-year-old love story told through beautiful paintings and intricate embroideries.

Jack, the owner of the nearby art shop, volunteers to help Kate unravel the mystery, but in doing so they realise their own lives share some uncanny similarities with Clara and Arty, their 1950s counterparts . . .

Can Kate and Jack put right a decades-old wrong, and maybe find their own happy ending on the way?

Rating: three-stars

 

Kate and her teenage daughter Molly have moved to St Felix some time ago and they’re happy there, Kate running her own art supplies shop. However, this summer things change, as someone new opens a shop with similar goods to her. Their first encounter doesn’t get off to a good start but then some weird things happen in both shops and Kate and Jack decide to bury the animosity between them and work on putting the pieces of the jigsaw together, trying to work out the mystery that is unfolding before their eyes.

It was a relaxing, simple and undemanding read that will make you forget the world for the time you’re reading it – a great escapism, filled with colourful characters and magical happenings. It wouldn’t be an Ali McNamara book without some magic, right? I always say that putting a touch of magic in a book can go two ways, the right or wrong one, but with Ali you’re in safe hands, because she knows how to write those things. You know it’s impossible to happen, yet you keep reading, hoping for more of magic to happen, believing.

The characters were easy to like, though I missed depth in them. They were well written but they didn’t feel authentic to me, and their actions, reactions and dialogues sometimes felt too forced. Nevertheless, I enjoyed them, and even though they and their behaviour sometimes really annoyed me, I still spent some great hours in their company, keeping my fingers crossed for them.

The author has a way with words, and she writes with her heart on her sleeve. Especially when she writes about disability and how it really is to live with it, and she knows something about it, as she herself has been diagnosed with chronic fatigue as far as I know. Through Jack she has shown us some insights into living in a wheelchair, and well, Jack’s character would be for sure not as interesting as he was without the added challenges. I personally think that he was a much more interesting character than Kate, he was much more authentic, filled with emotions and feelings, fighting his battles determinedly, while Kate felt in comparison a bit flat.

The town of St Felix we already had a chance to get to know, as it’s another book set here, and I still love this place. It’s wonderful to explore it through the characters’ eyes and it’s always exciting to see what kind of magic is going to happen there again. I only think that the exploring of the secrets in the past and the present could have more depth to it and be done in a more challenging and complex way and maybe the development of the relationship between the characters could be more integrated into the story as I personally think it was a huge part of it, and sometimes it felt like an after thought.

This is a dual – time story and the switches between the times sometimes felt too sudden to be honest. In the past we are the witnesses to a blossoming romance in 1957, and in the present we are helping to solve a mystery from those times. Uncovering the secrets together with Kate and Jack was entertaining and there were some twists, ups and downs on the way that took me by surprise, even though the final reveal didn’t take my breath away.

“Kate and Clara’s Curious Cornish Craft Shop” had an interesting promise but it didn’t deliver for me, it felt slow and simplified. For me it felt repetitive and honestly I was not as invested in the characters’ lives. So what I’m saying is not that it is a bad book but that probably I’ve grown out of such novels. Nevertheless, it was a lovely love story, very comforting and cosy tale about second chances, new beginnings, but also about past secrets that could change your life by bringing some lost souls into it. There is magic in the air, and the Cornish background adds lots of warmth and colour to the story.

Seven Lies by Elizabeth Kay

Seven Lies by Elizabeth Kay

 

Publisher: Sphere 52233086._sx318_sy475_

Publishing Date: 16th April 2020

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

Number of pages: 384

Genre: General Fiction (Adult), Suspense

 Buy the Book: Kindle | Hardcover

| Paperback (out on 29.10.2020)

 

 

 

Synopsis:

It all started with one little lie . . .

Jane and Marnie have been inseparable since they were eleven years old. They have a lot in common. In their early twenties they both fell in love and married handsome young men.

But Jane never liked Marnie’s husband. He was always so loud and obnoxious, so much larger than life. Which is rather ironic now, of course.

Because if Jane had been honest – if she hadn’t lied – then perhaps her best friend’s husband might still be alive . . .

This is Jane’s opportunity to tell the truth, the question is:
Do you believe her?

Rating: three-stars

 

Jane and Marnie have been friends for a very long time, they grew up together. But while Marnie is a friendly, joyful woman, the girl from next door, there is much more darkness to Jane – darkness that she’s hiding. She’s very devoted to her friend – perhaps even too devoted, and she’d do everything to protect Marnie – from anything.
And now it turns out that Jane has told seven lies to Marnie – lies that start to spiral out of control and change their lives for ever.

I was incredibly excited to read this book – I kept hearing brilliant things about it and let’s be honest, the synopsis is intriguing. Sadly, I couldn’t warm to this read at all, it just didn’t resonate with me and I was all the time asking myself, where is the story? It somehow fizzled out into nothingness. However, as the author has managed to create Jane in a way that took me by surprise, the book was not completely lost on me.

The character of Jane started really promising, as she was the narrator the story was entirely told through her perspective and believe me, she had me wrapped around her little finger at the beginning – a poor, grieving young woman who is also losing her best friend to an unpleasant boyfriend. But the more I read, the more shocking I became and the more I was starting to despise Jane and fear about her mental health and Marnie’s safety. I truly believed that Jane is willing to do anything and I felt fear that she’s going to do something that – maybe she herself is not going to regret because she’s not able to feel anything – but that I’m not going to survive. When it was revealed who it is she’s telling her story to I thought I’m going to have a heart attack, really.
Nevertheless, I am still asking myself – why was Jane like that? I seem not to have been able to find this information, what has triggered Jane, why was she so obsessed with Marnie.

It was a slow read, no great deals happen in this book, and I think it was done on purpose, as the things that did happen were supposed to simply took our breath away, and even though it didn’t work this way in my case, I think it was the right way to do it. They were supposed to be the twists that kept the story going and, as the plot was already full with many issues, it would simply be too much adding even more drama.

What was exceptionally well was the fact that Elizabeth Kay has managed to create Jane as a very unreliable narrator on purpose, and the way you thought she’s talking directly to you was chilling and refreshing and brilliantly done. Also, the descriptions of the family dynamic were very well and sharply observed.What bothered me so much was the friendship between Jane and Marnie – please forgive me, but it didn’t convince me at all. It was not a friendship for me, there were no warm feelings between those two, it felt cold, forced and false.

I am not sure if it was the story itself, the writing style or the characters that didn’t grab my interest, but altogether I can say that the book didn’t deliver what it promised. It doesn’t mean that it was a bad book, oh god, of course not – it was clever, there was a tension and the feeling of uncertainty with a very dark undertone but for me it fell short of the mark, as if the author really tried too much. She has touched upon so many topics in her novel, like mental health, eating disorder, relationships, friendship, grief, dementia, death, single parenthood and in the end she didn’t develop any of them in a way that made me feel satisfied. It was about everything but not about the main point – that’s the way I felt when I was reading it. And frankly, some of the subplots simply seemed so far – fetched and ridiculously unbelievable, like with the journalist who stalked Jane even when someone stalked her as well, and her reasoning for wanting to write about Jane, and I was thinking, really…?
Nevertheless, it was a thought – provoking story in a sensitive way covering all the above mentioned issues. It’s a story about obsessive friendship and jealousy, combining mystery, intrigue, lies and toxic friendship. Interesting, but not enough for me. However, Elizabeth Kay is for sure a one “to watch” and I am looking toward her next offering.

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!