Keeping Mum by James Gould – Bourn / Blog Tour

Keeping Mum by James Gould – Bourn

 

Publisher: Trapeze cover186210-medium

Publishing Date: 11th June 2020

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

Number of pages: 352

Genre: General Fiction (Adult)

 Buy the Book: Kindle | Hardcover

 

 

 

Synopsis:

Danny Malooley’s life is falling apart.

He’s a single parent with an eleven-year-old son, Will, who hasn’t spoken since the death of his mother in a car crash fourteen months ago. He’s being pursued by a dodgy landlord for unpaid rent and, to make matters worse, he’s just lost his job on a building site. Struggling to find work, and desperate for money, Danny decides to do what anyone in his position would do.

He becomes a dancing panda.

After seeing street performers in his local park raking it in, he puts all sense of pride aside and spends his last fiver on a vomit-ridden costume… only to discover that the humiliation of his terrible rhythm is worth it. Not because he’s flush with cash (quite the opposite) but Will has finally spoken to him for the first time since his mother’s death. The problem is Will is unaware that the panda is in fact his father, and Danny doesn’t want to reveal his true identity in case Will stops talking to him. But Danny can’t keep up the ruse forever.

A surprising, laugh-out-loud and uplifting story of a father and son reconnecting in the most unlikely of circumstances.

Rating: five-stars

 

but-i-needmy-girls

 

Danny Mallony and his son Will have lost their wife and mother in a tragic car accident about a year ago. Liz was not only Danny’s wife but also his best friend, and together with her death he feels as if he has lost his son as well because Will simply stopped speaking. Then Danny gets himself fired from work and his landlord starts to threaten to harm him and some of his body parts because he’s late with the rent. There are no jobs out there for Danny, so it’s not a wonder that, in desperation, and with his last money, he purchases a panda suit and becomes a street performer. Dancing panda. The problem is, Danny can’t dance. However, it’s not the end of the problems because soon Danny is a witness how his son is being bullied. And then Will starts to talk – to the panda.

James Gould – Bourn has created incredible characters, real and authentic and while yes,
sure, they are also a bit clichéd and stereotyped, what with Mark the bully, or Reg the landlord, they work in this book and they are breathing and moving and jumping off the pages. Effortlessly. The background characters were phenomenal – I have never came across such brilliantly written secondaries, and Krystal must have been my favourite. Krystal with her potty mouth that would make any sailor blush, telling things how they are, not beating around the bush, full of glitter and glamour, offending with every word but deep, deep inside she was such a good fairy and I loved her totally. But no matter how much I laughed at their banter and shenanigans, they added tons of depth to the story.
And don’t forget Will’s new teacher! It’s amazing how much attention the author paid to the smallest details, taking care about things and events that we would have probably not spotted. I tell you, this book is perfect. The way the author has dealt with grief and its impact on the affected, the old – new father – son relationship, the challenges life brings is cleverly written, it’s sharp and empathetic. I loved what he did with Will – he created a strong, resilient boy who had weaker moments and I felt for him immediately, but he didn’t make him a victim that can’t stand for himself. Yes, Will was bullied and he suffered but I couldn’t stop admire his inner strength and the ability to not take things so much to heart.
And whatever happened, Danny never gave up, and this is what I really liked in him. He kept things going, not wanting Will to discover how bad the situation is. He wasn’t afraid of work, and nothing was too strange or weird to Danny, his priority was always his son and he did things in a way he though are right.

The writing style, and the storytelling, were exceptionally good. I loved the banter the author used in his story, and I loved the situational comedy. He has perfectly blended sadness and humour together, let’s just think about Ivan and his reactions, Jesus, the moment when they were looking for wood for example had me laughing out loud, and not only because of Ivan and his fears but because of the dialogue between the security people – really, guys, whatever you do, buy this book and thank me later, it’s so, so good, it’s more than good, it’s the best book I’ve read this year. I’d say, be careful Mike Gayle, there is a new author in town! But back to the writing, that was funny without being sarcastic – because it didn’t need to be in that case, and engaging.

The probably only thing that didn’t sit with me so much was the title. I don’t know but it somehow didn’t work, and I’m guessing it was also published as “Bear Necessity”? I must admit I like it much better. Or even “Pandemonium” sounds great to me 🙂 Or “Panda Days”.

About the end… I loved what has happened in the pub, it was so unexpected and so karma – wise, ha, it was simply brilliant. However, I have been expecting something more for Danny, been building my hope through the whole story to be honest – am probably reading too many romances. Sigh. Oh well. Maybe there will be something more from the author about Danny in the future.

I truly adored this book, from the start to the end, and I was sad when I’ve reached the final pages as it’s really this kind of book that you don’t want to end. I can’t remember the last time a book left me feeling so warm inside as “Keeping Mum” did. It was a poignant and also incredibly funny father – son story that had me captivated right from the first page. It touched upon so many important things: grief, hope, friendship, trying to reconnect, trying to keep going no matter what, about second chances. It was absolutely unique story that I’m going to buy in paperback as well to keep re – reading it all the time. Truly, highly recommended!

 

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The Staycation by Michele Gorman / Blog Tour

The Staycation by Michele Gorman

 

Publisher: Trapeze 53126367._sy475_

Publishing Date: 1st June 2020

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

Number of pages: 336

Genre: General Fiction (Adult)

 Buy the Book:  Kindle | Paperback (out on 23.07.2020)

 

 

 

Synopsis:

An uplifting, hilarious read about a cancelled holiday… and how love, laughter and fun can always be found close to home. For fans of The Holiday, Lindsey Kelk and Sarah Morgan.

Two families. One cancelled flight. And a last minute house swap…

Things get desperate for strangers Harriet and Sophie when they become stranded with their families in Heathrow’s Terminal 5. Each woman has her own reason for really really really needing the family holiday they’ve anticipated for months. But an unruly volcano has other plans for them. When their flights are cancelled, the families swap houses and discover that sometimes the best things in life happen close to home.

This ash cloud has a silver lining, even if no one can quite see it yet.

Rating: four-stars

 

Sophie and Harriet don’t know each other but they’re going to become acquainted soon – as soon as their flights that were supposed to take them on the much needed holidays in Italy are cancelled because of a volcanic ash cloud. Well, they already got chatting to each other, right, so why not swap houses? Harriet will get her city break in London and Sophie her spa treatments on a small goat farm in a very rural Gloucestershire – it’s a win – win, right? Because what could possibly go wrong?

It quickly became clear that both characters have some secrets and troubles. Sophie’s were more plain to see for us but not so for Sophie, and Harriet’s were a bit more hidden and she allowed us to unpeel layer after layer of her problems. At the beginning I had huge problems to distinguish who is who and to whom they belong, to be honest, and I’m not sure whose fault it is, probably mine, as I absolutely wasn’t in the mood, so apologies book.

The friendship between Harriet and Sophie blossomed somehow suddenly and unexpectedly, at least for me, once they were only swapping their houses and then, after few phone calls, they were calling each other “friend” – did I miss something here? It happened completely out of blue to be honest. But whatever. I liked both of them, Harriet and Sophie, and I think Harriet even more, because under the shell there was a brilliant, funny and clever woman hiding. They were both so very different but this is what made them so interesting. While Harriet is a successful solicitor, Sophie is a stay – at – home mum. While Harriet is über – organized, Sophie is much more laid – back, following the rule there’s luck in leisure. While Harriet is brisk and efficient, Sophie is chaotic and very accommodating. Absolutely brilliant to have such different characters. Both their husbands are very much focused on their jobs, James as a goat farmer and Dan as a solicitor, but while James was much more laid – back, the more we got to know Dan, the more we were able to see that there is something wrong, that he’s treating Sophie and their two children like another thing on his to – do list, all the time expecting gratefulness. He was absolutely controlling, to the point of booking all Sophie’s spa treatments, without informing her what she’s going to have, and making all the other decisions in a way that his family might have thought they have made them, but it was him, in fact, pulling all the strings. The more I read about him, the more I disliked him. It was not Harriet’s over – efficiency and planning that annoyed me, it was not Sophie with her whatever – attitude, it was Dan that grated on me, such irritating and annoying he was. However, they all, with all their ups and downs and unexpected announcements felt authentic and realistic. And what’s more lovely is the fact that the women were slowly starting to find that their attitudes change and that they started to do something, according to those changes.

But it’s not only the contrast between the characters and their life – styles, it is also the contrast between the settings that is also brilliantly captured, and the author could truly put into words why it is that Harriet struggles at the goat farm, and why Sophie feels out of her depth in London and everything that Dan work brings with it.

The author put the characters through trials and tribulations, challenges and surprises that they both had to overcome. The plot was engaging and simply the idea of the swap has worked in this book brilliantly, and I loved the contrasting settings, the hustle and bustle of London and the peace and lovely community of the countryside – I may be biased, as I myself live in such a rural place, but as much as I appreciated both places, I’d choose the goat farm. Anytime. The author’s writing is fluent, seamless and chatty.

“The Staycation” is a great summery read with much, much more depth than you could expect at the beginning, light but it also dealt with some heavier topics and issues and I really liked the way how skilfully the author has interwoven and integrated them in the plot. There is fun but there is also seriousness, perfectly blended with each other. It’s a story about growing – up, about finding yourself and your own luck and place, packed with laughter, family relationships, and some drama. A great summery read that I truly recommend!

 

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The Staycation

 

Would Like to Meet by Rachel Winters

Would Like to Meet by Rachel Winters

 

Publisher: Trapeze cover176150-medium

Publishing Date: 30th April 2020

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

Number of pages: 368

Genre: Women’s Fiction

 Buy the Book:  Kindle | Paperback

 

 

Synopsis:

Long-suffering assistant Evie Summers will lose her job unless she can convince her film agency’s biggest and most difficult client, Ezra Chester, to finish the script for a Hollywood romcom. The catch? He hasn’t started writing it.

Suffering from ‘writer’s block,’ he will only put pen to paper if singleton Evie can prove to him that you can fall in love like they do in the movies. Forget internet dating, Evie can only meet a man the way that Sally met Harry, or Hugh Grant meets anyone. Cue her entering into one ridiculous romcom scenario after another. But can life ever be like the movies?

Of course, real life is never that straightforward . . .

For readers who enjoyed Hot Mess, Everything I Know About Love and To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before

Rating: four-stars

 

Evie loves screenwriting, however, once badly criticised, she stopped writing and now is working as an assistant to a very ungrateful agent, is overworked and underpaid. She’s desperate for promotion and doesn’t seem to notice that her boss takes her for granted. But now she has her chance – Ezra Chester, the hot name in screenwriting, is their client and now it’s up to Evie to make him deliver the long awaited second script for a rom – com. Evie nicknamed Ezra NOB – Number One Boychild, and it’s not without a reason. And so, now, she has to find out if you can fall in love in real life just like couples seem to do in the movies, save the agency and bag herself a promotion to an agent. Easy peasy, right?
No. Disastrous results on the horizon.

I couldn’t believe that Evie really wanted to recreate all the most famous meet – cutes from Hollywood movies, to be honest. But that’s true, and when I finally believed that yes, it is actually what this book is about, I was so intrigued and curious to see them all and how they’re going to work out in real life. And well, some of them ended hilarious, some of them ended disastrous but altogether, even for me, not the hugest movies fan, it was a real joy.

I liked Evie and her life approach, the way she didn’t take herself so seriously, though there were moments that I wanted to bang her head on the closest wall. Sometimes she behaved as if she was spineless, she let people tramp over her and treat her like a doormat, and it didn’t sit well with me, and I didn’t understand why she allows for such things to happen – because in other situations she was bold, brave and sharp – minded. However, our Evie is such a lovely and warm person, even if sometimes a shitty friend, that you’ll find yourself rooting for her and hoping she’ll find success and happy ending.
Evie is surrounded by a group of brilliant friends with a Bridget Jones’ vibe – there is of course the gay best friend. They are always there to help her when needed, even if Evie keeps forgetting them. Her friends were fabulous, not only as friends but as well developed characters. Each of them with a huge personality and distinctive voice, and each of them with their own story, as interesting as Evie’s. What I really liked, and what we don’t often get in books, is the fact that they weren’t afraid to tell Evie when she messed up. And you can’t help but immediately fall for Annette and her dad Ben, even though he was blowing hot and cold, and those two turned out to be Evie’s hugest cheerleaders in the matter of her meet – cutes. Even if they involved projectile vomiting.

I also liked what the author did with the romance aspect in this story. For a long time there was this possibility of a love – triangle, and it was not obvious who Evie is going to end up with – until the very last moment actually.
The end, in comparison to the whole story, felt rushed and I didn’t like some of the things that happened before it. Sure, there is a message hidden there, and all the bad guys get what they deserve but it was painful to see what Evie has to put with.

At first I had huge problems to get into the book – no idea why, to be honest, I just couldn’t click with the plot and the writing style, and the character, I couldn’t understand why Evie allows her boss to treat her like this, just think about #MeeToo and you’ll know what I mean, and yes, I was a bit confused. But then, all my initial problems simply disappeared and I started to enjoy the story immensely – I think I just needed to get used to the writing and the way the story was told and come to terms with the plot. There were lots of clichés in this novel, this must be said, but I also think it couldn’t be different, with the way the plot has been developing, and it really didn’t bother me so much and it was really too much fun for me to care about it.

“Would Like to Meet” was an event – packed, funny and light – hearted story with hidden depth that I enjoyed very much. It was a lovely and bumpy journey to self – appreciation, allowing us to get deeper into some certain toxic issues but through the prism of humour. It’s a story that shows you that it’s not always the happy end that you so strongly needs that is enough but that you must feel happy with yourself and stay true to yourself.
This book is filled with disastrous and hilarious situations that yes, will make you roll your eyes and that, yes, are mostly unbelievable, and yes, it’s a bit cheesy and over the top but it’s the strength of this debut and you simply have to go with the flow. I adored it, it was just what the doctor ordered and I am already looking towards Rachel Winters’ next offer. Truly, highly recommended!

Four Minutes to Save a Life by Anna Stuart / Blog Tour

Four Minutes to Save a Life by Anna Stuart

 

Publisher: Trapeze 49143148._sy475_

Publishing Date: 20th February 2020

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

Number of pages: 352

Genre: General Fiction (Adult)

 Buy the Book:  Paperback | Audio

 

 

 

 

Synopsis:

There’s always time to help out a stranger…isisn’t there?

Supermarket delivery driver Charlie enjoys his new job because he doesn’t have to spend too long with people, who, he’s found, are nothing but trouble. But when he’s assigned the Hope Row street, he realises there are a lot of lonely people out there – and for some, he’s their only interaction.

The supermarket boss tells Charlie he’s a driver, not a social worker – but Charlie can’t abandon the Hope Row residents and he sets about trying to draw them out of their shells and back into the world. But will his helping hand make everything worse?

Rating:   four-stars

 

Charlie needed to start a new life, so he changed his surname to Sparrow, burned all of his possessions and starts a new job as a delivery driver for a large supermarket. His round includes Hope Street, where he recognises one of the names on the list of deliveries – he is desperate to make amends with this person. But he also finds that some of the other residents may profit from a little help. But can he change anything when he only has 4 minutes pro delivery? And why does he want to change things at all?

This was an absolutely uplifting, charming and touching book with some twists that I didn’t see coming and that I enjoyed immensely – I do love a book that succeeds to surprise me. Judging the story on its cover I was expecting it to be much more light – hearted, it turned out to be much darker and touching and about heavier issues than I have expected but I loved those elements of this tale.

The characters are all so different but they all have troubles, problems and are not flawless, and thanks to this fact I quickly got the feeling that they’re believable and relatable. They all felt so human and true to life, with Vik and his cooking, Ruth and her mending, Greg and his honesty and Charlie with his huge, huge heart. The more I read about them, the more involved in their lives I was and I fell for them all, for their loneliness, their sadness and hope that Charlie was giving them. There was this “something” in Charlie that has made him a perfect leading character, and the way the author has written him was brilliant. There was a feeling of mystery around him, and the build – up to the reveal has showed his character as a reasonable, responsible, lovely soul who couldn’t forget what has happened, who felt so guilty and this guilt was killing him inside but you were also able to see that he tries so much to somehow atone – he doesn’t want to forget, he simply tries to start living again, without guiltiness, which he deserved, in my humble opinion.
I was desperate to know who it is that Charlie was so desperate to help and why, and even though the group of characters is rather a small one, I didn’t guess it, as well as the reasons – it was really cleverly and well plotted.

I really liked the way the story was developing and it was totally not obvious. I really wasn’t sure in which direction the author is going to take us, I couldn’t tell where the book is leading us, and it was great. Anna Stuart has a great way with words and is a truly great story – teller, delivering us a tale like a rollercoaster ride filled with feelings and emotions. And even though it’s so emotional and full of serious topics, I still found it a light – hearted and easy read that left me feel so satisfied at the end. I sometimes found it a bit too dragging on, and the end felt too rushed but other than that it was a lovely read that had me invested in the characters’ lives.

Altogether “Four Minutes to Save a Life” was such a lovely emotional tale that dealt with many heavier issues, such as depression, suicide, grief, feeling guilty, broken family relationships, in such a gentle and careful way. The small acts of kindness are so cheerful, they can truly brighten up your mood, especially when you see how huge a difference they can make to people. It was a warm book about friendship and forgiveness that felt like a warm blanket on a cold winter night. Hugely recommended!

 

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The Mothers by Sarah J. Naughton

The Mothers by Sarah J. Naughton

 

Publisher: Trapeze 48222452._sy475_

Publishing Date: 9th January 2020

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

Number of pages: 288

Genre: Mystery & Thrillers

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

 

 

 

Synopsis:

Five Women.

They meet at their NCT Group. The only thing they have in common is they’re all pregnant.

Five Secrets.

Three years later, they are all good friends. Aren’t they?

One Missing Husband.

Now the police have come knocking. Someone knows something.

And the trouble with secrets is that someone always tells.

For fans of Big Little Lies, The Rumour and I Invited Her In, this is first class psychological suspense from the critically acclaimed Sarah J Naughton.

 

Rating: four-stars

Five women, Chrissy, Electra, Skye, Jen and Bella, never would be friends if it weren’t for one thing they have in common – children. They met at a prenatal classes and somehow their friendship remained and they keep meeting at each other’s houses for a drink or two. But can we really call it a friendship? Do they like each other? Will they help each other if, let’s say, Bella’s husband went missing? Because he did, and police investigates, although they don’t seem too worried. Until some other events come to light and they start to dig deeper. What has happened? And do the mothers have anything to do with him missing?

The story jumps between past and present, recalling the events that happened, leading up to the disappearance, and what happened later. It’s more a character driven story but the pace is well enough to keep you hooked to the pages. Now, in retrospect, I think that really, the chapters dedicated to the police investigation didn’t really bring anything new or fresh to the story, but I get it, they had to be there. Nevertheless, we are given a chance for a great insight into the characters’ lives, and into the unusual friendship, and also to all the secrets and lies. Knowing all of those things, of the mothers’ stories in more details, gave us another view, another dimension. But the less you know, the better, you simply have to read the book for yourself!

So we hear each women’s point of view. And believe me, they managed to pull the wool over my eyes. They are not immediately likeable, to be honest, or they don’t become likeable, but I couldn’t help but feeling sympathetic towards them. Nevertheless, they were really well drawn and quickly become real, living and breathing people, with all their biggest or smaller problems and troubles. They are full of flaws but all the same you’ll find yourself rooting for them. Chrissy, Electra, Skye, Jen and Bella couldn’t be more different, even if they tried, but it is this diversity that made them so intriguing and interesting. They simply worked well together, and the friendship, even if they didn’t share a lot in common, seemed real and genuine – maybe because of the fact that they didn’t share a lot in common, that they were honest with their opinions. They were believable and well developed, and written in a way that had you hooked to all of their stories, without singling out one character or the other. Each of the mothers’ voice is distinctive and clear and you don’t forget who you are following.
And really, I couldn’t care less with what has happened with the missing husband – he was such an awful person that whatever would have happened to him, he deserved it. The more I learnt about him, the more convinced was I that Bella would be really better without him, so there.

Somewhere in the middle the book seemed to have lost its impact but the end changed everything. I couldn’t stop chuckling to myself and I wanted to give the women a standing ovation.

It is absolutely not a straightforward and predictable story, oh no, it is full of secrets, lies, betrayals and turns and twists. The author has so cleverly plotted the story, filling it with really normal, natural and human characters and events, creating sometimes witty, sometimes sad and desperate tale of parenthood and friendship, mixing it with the element of mystery. There were many possibilities and scenarios and I liked how the author allowed for this to happen, and even better was the end, so surprising and actually funny, but moreover, hugely satisfying.

“The Mothers” is a slow but cleverly plotted book, refreshing and a bit different. It touches about friendship, betrayal, hope and the human side of each of us. It is so much more than only a case of a missing husband. It explores relationships and hardships, ups and downs of everyday life and it was so cleverly constructed, letting us to slowly peel back all the layers throughout a compelling story full of secrets and lies. Truly recommended!

The Matchmaker by Catriona Innes

The Matchmaker by Catriona Innes

 

Publisher: Trapeze 44563587._sy475_

Publishing Date: 14th November 2019

Source:  Received from the publisher, thank you!

Number of pages: 320

Genre: Women’s Fiction

 Buy the Book: Kindle | Paperback

 

 

 

Synopsis:

For Caitlin Carter, love means business.

She’s taken matchmaking back to basics. There is no swiping left. No creepy location tracker. Definitely no unsolicited pics of areas of the anatomy literally no one wants to see. She’s made dating great again: personal, patient… and profitable. Her startup is going from strength to strength, the brand her very own happy marriage (her wedding went viral), and now she even has celebrities wanting to use her services.

Caitlin is living the perfect life.

Except it’s all a perfect lie. And Caitlin doesn’t know how long she can keep it up.

In an era of social media and dating apps, when we have never been more connected yet more isolated, the matchmaker is a story about love, loss and loneliness, and learning to accept your reality.

This is an emotionally charged, funny and warm novel, perfect for fans of THE MAN WHO DIDN’T CALL by Rosie Walsh, SOME KIND OF WONDERFUL by Giovanna Fletcher and IT STARTED WITH A TWEET by Anna Bell.

Rating:  three-stars

 

Caitlin Carter is a matchmaker, and she’s perfect for this job, usually depending on her gut feeling when matching people together and usually having right! She simply wants to share love, happiness and joy that she herself shares with her husband Harry. But while everything is well on the job – front and it even attracts celebrities, Caitlin is, in fact, hiding the truth about her marriage, worrying about the reputation of her business.  

The characters were well written, however I couldn’t connect with them. Also, I couldn’t understand, for example, what was the point of adding the Instagram influencer subplot, she was so unsympathetic and in the end, well, it didn’t add much to the story, right?

Altogether, right from the beginning, there was something missing from the story for me. I think my main problem is that I was expecting something totally different – a light – hearted, lovely story with the promised humour. However, it turned out that the book is rather sad, sometimes even depressing and I didn’t get any of the positive vibes that I was hoping for. Also, I think that keeping the “secret” a secret for so long was not the best idea. Yes, I was wondering what has happened with Harry, has he left, betrayed, run away, went on a journey around the world on his bicycle, no idea, but eventually it started to feel too flat, you know? There was no tension, no interest more and Caitlyn’s actions and reactions stopped making some sense. Sure, I’ve guessed what has happened, and this time it turned out I was right but to be honest this revelation didn’t have any impact on me. On the other hand, after the secret becoming an open case, the book focused only on this part and it felt as if I was reading two different stories.

 “The Matchmaker” touches upon reality and the unfairness of life, not too light but also not too deep. I am really sad that it didn’t wow me, that it didn’t work for me as much as I hoped but it doesn’t mean that it wouldn’t work for you – I’ve seen also raving reviews of this book. Actually, I’ve notice people are in two minds about this story, while some says it was full of emotions and feelings the others state that it lacked in those features, and unfortunately I belong to the latter ones – but I mean it’s because of my own expectations and however clichéd it sounds, book – it’s not you, it’s me.

Things Can Only Get Better by David M. Barnett / Blog Tour

Things Can Only Get Better by David M. Barnett

 

Publisher: Trapeze 46019524

Publishing Date: 14th November 2019

Source:  Received from the publisher, thank you!

Number of pages: 336

Genre: General Fiction (Adults)

 Buy the Book:  Kindle | Paperback

 

 

 

Synopsis:

*FROM THE INTERNATIONALLY BESTSELLING AUTHOR OF CALLING MAJOR TOM*

For elderly churchwarden Arthur Calderbank, there’s no place like home. His home just so happens to be a graveyard.

He keeps himself to himself, gets on with his job, and visits his wife everyday for a chat. When one day he finds someone else has been to see his wife – and has left flowers on her grave – he is determined to solve the mystery of who and why. He receives unlikely help from a group of teenage girls as he tries to solve the mystery, and soon learns that there is more to life than his little graveyard.

Set during the 1990s, Things Can Only Get Better is an uplifting story about the power of a little kindness, friendship and community for readers who enjoy Sue Townsend Ruth Hogan and Joanna Cannon.

Rating: five-stars

 

“Things Can Only Get Better” is a story about a group of truly unlikely friends who found each other rather accidentally. Arthur is a pensioner whose wife, Molly, died seven years ago but he still didn’t let her go and ended up living in the old chapel in the middle of the cemetery, becoming its caretaker and being not too far away from the love of his life. Arthur is very protective of the cemetery and is not happy with the neighbourhood children who dare to use it as a short – cut, or – even worse – a hung – out. In the meantime, someone has been leaving flowers on Molly’s grave on her birthday for the past few years and Arthur is determined to find who it is. But with this happening in the night and his deteriorating health, the teenagers promise him to help to catch the mysterious visitor. A unique bond is formed between Arthur and the kids and soon they find themselves in a few different battles – together.

You can’t help yourself but immediately fell for the characters. My heart went to Arthur and I was desperate to know what has happened to him to be leading such a solitary life, and then to the kids, seeing them growing up, their determination and their blossoming friendship. The author has breathed fresh air and life into them, and into the book, showing us a much bigger picture, showing that each story has different sides. You’ll end up willing the characters to succeed. Each of the four teenagers has their own story that is incredibly captivating and I loved how much focus they brought back into Arthur’s life. Their difficulties in fitting with the “cools” at school was so authentic and brutally honest. The way the kids were portrayed was heart – breaking, especially the way they were perceived by their school – mates, neighbours and other members of society They were all outcasts at their school because they didn’t fit the “description”, they found the courage to be different and have dreams, and hence they were judged by their teachers who didn’t believe they have a chance for a better future (and if you hear already at school that the only thing you can do is work as a secretary or at the factory, well, it’s not too promising and optimistic, right?), judged by their parent’s choices of life and really, it seems that nobody sees/doesn’t want to see their potential – except for Arthur.

When I started reading this book, I immediately fell in love with it. There was this “something” that made it feel so outstanding and special, the characters were like living and breathing people, and the story was heart – breaking and also humorous, and the more you read, the more you fell in love with it. However, I must admit, that somewhere around the middle, it lost its impact a little and started to drag on a bit, but it was still a compelling, addictive read.

Mostly the novel is about social inequality and about stereotyping and determination, about grabbing life by its horns and squeezing it like lemon. It also touches upon bullying, homelessness, mental illness, loneliness and other social issues with a great sensitivity, so I wouldn’t be afraid to give this book to my teenage child should I have one, as it deals with those issues, and with all the plotlines, in a brilliant, wise – but not too wise, you know what I mean? Not too patronising, not too I know everything better – way.

“Things Can Only Get Better” made me cry, laugh, made me angry but also filled me with hope with its warm glow. Ultimately, even though there is a lot of pain, disappointment and problems under the surface and the characters have to deal with many challenges, there is humour and moments of joy and it has the wonderful feel – good factor to it. It’s deeply moving and very close to life, a brilliant read that I highly recommend.

 

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The Girl He Used to Know by Tracy Garvis Graves / Blog Tour

The Girl He Used to Know by Tracy Garvis Graves

 

Publisher: Trapeze 42170561._sy475_

Publishing Date: 8th August 2019

Source:  Received from the publisher, thank you!

Number of pages: 320

Genre: Romance, Women’s Fiction

 Buy the Book:  Kindle | Paperback

 

 

 

 

Synopsis:

Annika (rhymes with Monica) Rose is an English major at the University of Illinois. Anxious in social situations where she finds most people’s behavior confusing, she’d rather be surrounded by the order and discipline of books or the quiet solitude of playing chess.

Jonathan Hoffman joined the chess club and lost his first game–and his heart–to the shy and awkward, yet brilliant and beautiful Annika. He admires her ability to be true to herself, quirks and all, and accepts the challenges involved in pursuing a relationship with her. Jonathan and Annika bring out the best in each other, finding the confidence and courage within themselves to plan a future together. What follows is a tumultuous yet tender love affair that withstands everything except the unforeseen tragedy that forces them apart, shattering their connection and leaving them to navigate their lives alone.

Now, a decade later, fate reunites Annika and Jonathan in Chicago. She’s living the life she wanted as a librarian. He’s a Wall Street whiz, recovering from a divorce and seeking a fresh start. The attraction and strong feelings they once shared are instantly rekindled, but until they confront the fears and anxieties that drove them apart, their second chance will end before it truly begins.

Rating: four-stars

 

In the early 1990s, Annika and Jonathan were together at the University. They got to know each other at the chess club – a place where Annika felt relatively safe. She used to get anxious in social situations and chess club felt always the same and she didn’t have to engage into conversations. One day she’s supposed to play against Jonathan, and he starts to see her in a different light than others. They eventually start dating and everything runs smoothly, until one day when something happens that tears them apart.Fast forward ten years and Annika lives in Chicago, working her dream job at the library. Shopping at a grocery store, she runs into Jonathan and slowly they start to get to know each other again. But will they be able to sort the past out? To move on? 

I adored Annika and I loved to see her growing, finding herself and accepting herself. She is altruistic, kind and honest, and maybe she doesn’t understand the world around her completely, but she knows what falling in love is. The wonderfully blunt observations of hers are so true to life and genuine, she was simply strong, brave and loyal. Her best friend Janice is another winner in this story, the kind of bad ass best friend that we all need in our lives, and I loved her patience with Annika, the way she explained her the world and it was so great to finally see a girl supporting another girl, and not bringing her down.

The story is narrated by Annika and Jonathan and it worked really well in this book, as we get two points of view, often on the same situation, and it gives us a really great insight into how their minds worked and what made them tick. Each chapter has a date but I must admit that I only cottoned on why it is so important at the end of the story, when THIS happened. Gah. I really didn’t see it coming and while I also didn’t find it necessary, I was OK with it. We watch their love unfolding, and I must say this feeling was so pure and raw and genuine, and I liked it so much because they were not playing games, they simply followed their instincts and feelings – it was so different to all the will they/won’t they stories, felt like a breath of fresh air. Although I must admit that I wasn’t so sure of Jonathan’s feelings, let me explain why – we were all the time left with a feeling that it was Annika’s fault that they broke up with each other, and for me Jonathan was fully accepting this, however, when it was eventually revealed what has happened it became clear that it was as much his as Annika’s fault, and he let her blame herself all the time, and I simply didn’t find it brilliant. For me he was like yes, ok, let’s try again because it suits me and I forgive you for what has happened. And it really seemed Annika has invested much more in the relationship, that she loved him more. But please, don’t get me wrong here, he WAS a loving, caring person and Annika tried new things with him, she was founding her courage with him – but it was really Annika that made the story for me.

The writing style is flowing and it feels so lyric and Annika’s voice is so special and distinctive, with all her feelings of anxiety, uncertainty and emotions brilliantly captured by the author. It was as if the author has got into her characters’ heads and I found myself engrossed in their lives. I would only like the end not to feel so rushed and abrupt after everything that has happened in the book.

“The Girl He Used to Know” is a story about taking your life in your own hand, compelling and sensitive. It was so much more than a second chance romance, there was much more depth to it and it touched upon many serious issues but in an accessible, gentle way. A captivating tale of love and acceptance – truly recommended.

 

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The Escape Room by MeganGoldin / Blog Tour

The Escape Room by Megan Goldin

 

Publisher: Trapeze 44293962._sy475_

Publishing Date: 25th July 2019

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

Number of pages: 368

Genre: General Fiction (Adult), Mystery & Thriller

 Buy the Book:  Kindle | Paperback

 

 

 

Synopsis:

Welcome to the escape room. Your goal is simple. Get out alive.

In the lucrative world of Wall Street finance, Vincent, Jules, Sylvie and Sam are the ultimate high-flyers. Ruthlessly ambitious, they make billion-dollar deals and live lives of outrageous luxury. Getting rich is all that matters, and they’ll do anything to get ahead.

When the four of them become trapped in an elevator escape room, things start to go horribly wrong. They have to put aside their fierce office rivalries and work together to solve the clues that will release them. But in the confines of the elevator the dark secrets of their team are laid bare. They are made to answer for profiting from a workplace where deception, intimidation and sexual harassment thrive.

Tempers fray and the escape room’s clues turn more and more ominous, leaving the four of them dangling on the precipice of disaster. If they want to survive, they’ll have to solve one more final puzzle: which one of them is a killer?

Rating:  four-stars

 

Four co – workers from a high financial firm in Wall Street are summoned to a meeting that is supposed to be a team building exercise, a challenge that they’ve been told is compulsory. Even though it’s after hours and they have their own plans they actually know that something like “after hours” doesn’t exist in their world and so they all show up. So now they are all about to enter an elevator that in a matter of seconds is going to turn into an escape room, but not an ordinary one. Locked there over the next few days they are slowly working out why they are here but still have no idea who has entrapped them.

The author has created really well – developed characters, with Sam, Sylvie, Jules and Vincent being your typical Wall Street financiers, even if they’re not likeable characters. In fact, they are simply awful. They’re intelligent and hardworking, and while those are not bad things, they’re also ruthless, selfish, greedy and liars. They always put work first, no matter what’s happening in their private lives and they can’t, in fact, really make a use of their luxury apartments because they don’t have time, so sucked by the adrenaline that comes from making those billion – dollar deals. I didn’t like them, but I liked that we were slowly allowed into their lives and learn why it is them that found themselves in the escape room, as the story is alternating between the present day chapters in the elevator and past, told by Sarah Hall, a former employee in the same firm as our four Wall Street wolves.

Slowly we get to learn who is controlling the elevator and why and I really liked this reveal – the author has managed to outmanoeuvre us and even though I had my suspicions, they seemed impossible. The final confrontation is made impossible by the author and I think that maybe I would like to have it? But then the end should be totally different, and here I think that maybe, just maybe, Megan Goldin has simply chosen the easier way to finish the book. Personally I think that I’d rather see the characters somewhere else, held accountable for what they’ve done.

My copy was unfortunately almost impossible to read and I thought I will have to simply put it down but I preserved, as the plot kept me interested, and then I discovered what it was – all the “fi” and “fl” were missing, and it took me some pages to understand that “y” means “fly”, “rm” means “firm” and “gure” means “figure” (figure. Really. I think that figure was every second word in this book. Everybody has been “figuring” something all the time and I thought I’m going to start to shout when I see this word once more). I know it’s not the author’s fault but when I receive a review copy I’d rather expect it to be readable.

It was a read with a difference, and as much as mostly it seemed unrealistic, I totally enjoyed it and I’ve read the first half in two hours – would read further but life got in the way. It was provocative, but also thought – provoking and I think you simply have to suspend your disbelief to enjoy this novel – then it’s going to keep you glued to the pages.The author has brilliantly captured the atmosphere of distrust, the toxic environment and ghosting in the world where money and power is everything, and she described all those power games in breathtaking way. The feeling of anticipation and something hanging in the air (and no, I don’t mind the elevator) is ever – present, and the events that start as a small snowball begin to take the size of an avalanche. Megan Goldin has created a novel that brings to life the real world of corporate finance, a world that I never could be a part of, full of greed, lies and secrets. Highly recommended!

 

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The School Run by Helen Whitaker / Blog Tour

The School Run by Helen Whitaker

 

44024870._sy475_Publisher: Trapeze

Publishing Date: 8th August 2019

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

Number of pages: 336

Genre: Women’s Fiction

 Buy the Book: Kindle | Paperback

 

Synopsis:

Two mothers. Two best friends. One school place.

Old friends, Imogen and Lily realise they are both applying for a school place at St Peter and Paul’s Infant School – one of the prestigious schools in the area. Their daughters, Enid and Winnie, quickly become the best of friends.

The two women have led different lives since their cohabiting days of hangovers, unsuitable boyfriends and wild nights out.

But from faking their beliefs to bogus breakups, as competition heats up, the two women will go to any lengths to get their daughters in to the perfect primary school. And so will all the other mothers.

my-review

 

Lily and Imogen (and many other parents) are desperate to get their daughter to the highly appraised St. Peter and Paul’s school, but it isn’t too easy – you have to live at the right address, show your dedication to the school and its beliefs, be a devoted church goer and those are only few of the things they’re ready to go. But won’t they forget, among all of those little wars and school – gate politics, what’s really important?

 I’m a sucker for any school run and not – so – yummy – mummies stories so I was probably the first in the virtual queue to sign for this blog tour. This book was, just like I hoped it’s going to be, brutally honest, and oh my, I’ll never stop wonder about all those school – gates politics, the tension, bitching and frenemies. It’s really stressful and I’m lucky that my daughter goes to school by bus, so I can avoid all of those above mentioned. However, with this book, I’m not so sure what it wanted to tell us, what was the story – yes, I know, about getting a place at school, but other than that? I missed more depth to it and consistency. But I, of course, appreciate what the author did with her story, touching upon so many burning and actual issues of being a parent, no matter if working/non – working, juggling life and job with trying to give your child the best future possible, and the book was just like real life, full of hopes and disappointments. 

“The School Run” introduces us to a great number of characters but it’s really easy to follow them all and to know who is who and to whom they belong. Lily and Imogen are the main ones, in fact, they used to be friends but they haven’t seen each other for a long time so when they meet again dropping their daughters at school maybe their friendship has a chance of reviving? Their lives are not gardens full of roses and I sympathised with both of them, though I actually never warmed to any of them as much as I thought I’m going to, no particular reason why. There is also, of course, a group of “Organic” mums, led by Yasmine, who doesn’t feed their children any chocolate because of sugar of course. But no matter who you are, who your group is, how old are you and what’s your job, the author shows that parenthood is a hard job for all of them.

It was a genuine, honest and fast – paced novel about friendship and realising what is really important in life. Helen Whitaker’s writing style is refreshing, chatty and engaging and the story she tells make you nod when you realise that you’ve been in some of the situations at least once in your life.

 

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