Valentine’s Day at The Star and Sixpence by Holly Hepburn

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Amazon US link

Amazon UK Link

What they say: Fall in love at the Star and Sixpence this Valentine’s Day….

Love is in the air as sisters Nessie and Sam prepare for Valentine’s Day at their newly renovated pub, The Star and Sixpence. They have a star chef winging her way from London to cook a very special Valentine’s Day dinner, for all the couples in the village.

But as sparks fly in the kitchen, will love bloom in The Star and Sixpence? A romantic short story, perfect for fans of Cathy Bramley and Scarlett Bailey.

 

The Review: To start this is the second in the Star and Sixpence Series. I would say it can be read as a stand alone though there’s definitely some big things to come so I’d say go for the whole series!

I had been looking forward to the arrival of this short story since I read ‘Snowdrops at the Star and Sixpence‘ at Christmas time and I was not disappointed. We return to the small village of Little Monkham, which is home to their charming ‘sixteenth century coaching inn,’ The Star and Sixpence, to join Sam and Nessie, who, at Christmas time, had moved into said establishment after they inherited it from their late, absent father, and we find them in the midst of all the bustle of preparations for a Valentine’s night event. Obviously, given that this is a short story and not a novella, there wasn’t the amount happening that was in the first book (a novella) and I was sorry for this, I could easily have done with a novella instead, but that’s just me, more will appreciate the length and content of this.

All in all, I soon jumped back into everything, looking forward to seeing what was happening with Joss, Owen, Ruby, Frannie and all the villagers. The short story flew by in a series of the fuzzy, warm, welcoming descriptions that Holly Hepburn does so beautifully and my interest was definitely piqued enough to, again, be anticipating the next installment ‘Summer at the Snowdrop and Sixpence’ (there were a few suggestions in this story as to where the pub could go as well as some mysteries still not divulged so bring it on!). I’d definitely recommend, and if possible, given the weather for those on this side of the world, I’d say even go for the first in this series too, the Christmas one, as it’s not top heavy on the festiveness, it’s there but the story will easily take you through as it’s not quite Summer yet! At this very moment (13th February) Valentine’s Day at the Star and Sixpence is FREE ON AMAZON so make sure to treat yourself!

Rating: 4/5

The Astonishing Return of Norah Wells by Virginia MacGregor

the astonishingreturnofNorahWells

What They Say: One ordinary morning, Norah walked out of her house on Willoughby Street and never looked back. Six years later, she returns to the home she walked away from only to find another woman in her place. Fay held Norah’s family together after she disappeared, she shares a bed with Norah’s husband and Norah’s youngest daughter calls Fay ‘Mummy’.

Now that Norah has returned, everyone has questions. Where has she been? Why did she leave? And why is she back? As each member of the family tries to find the answers they each need, they must also face up to the most pressing question of all – what happens to The Mother Who Stayed when The Mother Who Left comes back?

From the author of What Milo Saw, comes this powerful, emotional and perceptive novel about what it takes to hold a family together and what you’re willing to sacrifice for the ones you love.

 

The Review: First off thanks to Netgalley and Sphere publishers for the copy of this book in return for an honest review.

Let me start the review by saying that when I tweeted first about this book I accidentally called it ‘The astonishing return of Virginia MacGregor.’ This was obviously a slip up on my part but actually, quite apt, as it WAS astonishing that the person who gave us such a gem as ‘What Milo Saw’ (click for review) should give us a second book that was so different and yet equally as unputdownable! Oh and just to add, if some of this review, rings bells with any of you, it’s because I reviewed this book as part of the Bout of Books readathon a while ago,

It is about two mums ‘The Mum who left’ (Norah )and The Mum who stayed (Fay). The Mum who stayed is credited as having kept everything together when the mum who left walked out six years ago, but now the mum who left is back.  The setting of ‘Astonishing Return of Norah Wells’ is 77 Willoughby Street, and we are transported there early on to meet the inhabitants, the husband, Adam, teenage daughter, Ella, and a child, Willa, who calls the mum who stayed ‘Mummy.’ The story is told from the viewpoint of the two mums, the husband and the two children, and looks at at the disruption and confusion caused by Norah’s return.

‘The Astonishing Return of Norah Wells’ makes us think about who the mother really is and thus started me thinking about for example the questions that arise as a result of surrogacy, adoption, fostering. Is a mother a mother because she gave birth to a baby or is it the person who raises the child? I loved that it wasn’t black and white, as life never is, and some of my prejudices towards one of the mothers were addressed, hence I learned something about both myself and my (sometimes biased) attitudes as a result of reading. Always a good thing.

I had a bit of a lull before the 50% mark, the pacing was a bit up and down for me but in general surprises were brilliant, and excellently done, and I would never have dreamed of putting it down. The telling of the story from an overseeing voice at times is magnificently done, I’m sure other authors, had they seen that it could have been done this way, could have tried to do it for the whole book, but I don’t think it would have worked, the different characters’ points of views put with this voice work gorgeously.

This book had it all, the tension, the surprises, I cried, I laughed, and at one point I laughed through tears, which a book has never caused me to do before. It was atmospheric, beautiful and had characters that were vivid and very, very real. The ending was unusual and unexpected, and I appreciated it. One thing to look out for is the relationship between little Willa and the dog, Louis. It’s a special one that will wow you.

This is one to put on the wishlist (unfortunately, at over £7 at time of posting this review, it’s a bit of an investment, though when you look at all the 99p books we buy without thinking, maybe some of these could be sacrificed?) Anyhoo, as I said before, hopefully this book will do really well and we’ll be seeing a lot more from Virginia MacGregor. Highly recommended.

Rating: 4.75/5

Somewhere Only We Know by Erin Lawless

 

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What they Say: Boy meets girl…

Alex Bradley can’t help but feel that life is rather passing him by. And not just life – promotions, invitations, romance; the girl he loves only has eyes for his flatmate and his 9-5 job as the Immigration department skivvy is slowly numbing his soul. Until he meets Nadia.

Girl meets boy…

Nadia Osipova is running out of time. With no money, no lawyer and a totally fictitious boyfriend, she’s got one last summer and one last appeal before the British government deport her back home.

Girl gets deported?

It’s going to be a bumpy ride, one she’s dragging her new friend Alex along for. As Nadia races through a list of all her favourite London adventures, for what may be the last time, Alex can’t help but start to see the city, and his life, through Nadia’s eyes.

From hazy summer days on the Common and heady nights in Soho’s basement bars, to twilight walks along the Southbank, will Alex realise what he’s got before it’s too late?

Funny, addictive and always honest, this is a love letter to London, friendship and the unexpected from the author of the bestselling The Best Thing I Never Had.

 

The Review: I’m afraid I’ve been sitting on this one a long, long time. A huge pity considering at the time I wanted to talk about it, tell everyone that it was one of those reads that was perfect for locking yourself away from the world for and just settling down and enjoying. Then again, at least it will remind people it’s out there and one to go for!

As you can see from above, we meet Alex Bradley, sleepwalking from day to day, in love with someone who does not return his affections, and not really feeling his job in the Immigration department. The book grabbed me straight away, as Alex appeared vividly in front of my very eyes. I loved that the author not only put us in his shoes, but allowed us to read a file as he read, containing a letter requesting that a deportation order not be served. We got to hear Alex’s disillusionment with the system in general, and see how people become faceless numbers after they are victims of assumptions made about their lives and so either tick the boxes or don’t.

Meanwhile we meet Nadia (Nadezha) , stressed out because she is sure she is to be arrested and deported at any time. We hear her hopes and dreams in London, and see how she is living her life in a way that will let her experience as much as possible as she knows her time is limited. The thing that grabbed me the most was how we got to see her through Home Office’s eyes and then experience the true Nadia. If Alex was vivid, then Nadia was painted in technicolour. She shone and jumped off the page, and I nicely settled into life with her and her band of friends who were also bright and interesting, with a loyalty and devotion that was so lovely.

This book contains a fair amount of coincidences which are very nicely done. The meeting of Alex and Nadia in the first place could be a ‘oh come on’ moment and yet it wasn’t at all for me. There were misunderstandings and mix-ups that were really well done and I was carried along by the story-line of Nadia, trying to show Alex how to enjoy life, while she prepared for the end of hers as she knows it. There are twists and turns, the pacing is great, the book lively, fun, enjoyable and intelligent. My only gripe would be with the ending which for some reason was just suddenly ‘there,’ it was as if it were an afterthought. All in all ‘Somewhere only we know’ will be predictable for some, not for others. Me? I loved it. Highly recommended.

Rating: 5/5

 

Blog Tour: Maybe Tomorrow by Erin Cawood

Maybe Tomorrow Cover

Hi everyone, and welcome to my stop on the blog tour for Maybe Tomorrow by Erin Cawood and hosted by the amazing Chick Lit Plus. I’m so excited to have been able to interview Erin and also to share my review with you. Also, there’s some  AMAZING giveaways!!

What they say: Welcome to the FORGIVE OR FORGET series, a compelling contemporary women’s fiction love story and family saga series. Cawood’s love inspired medical romance series follows the close-knit McGowan siblings; Keon, Kiera, Cormack, and Cara, as they face the difficult choice between forgiving or forgetting true love after a broken heart.
Does a heart ever really heal from its first break? 

On an unseasonably hot night in late September, Dr. Keon McGowan is called away from a family gathering to a hospital emergency. Amongst his patients that night is a blast from his past he’d rather forget. He’ll certainly never forgive butterfly hunter Darcia Davenport for leaving him alone as a single dad while she chased butterflies through the Amazon rainforest.

Coming face to face with the woman who broke his heart after all this time, Keon realises that he has never fully healed from it. But any chance of finding closure is ripped away when Darcy chooses to end treatment and live her final weeks without regret. Can Keon let her go? Or will he fight for the tomorrow they might never have?
MAYBE TOMORROW is an emotional journey of love caught between fate and destiny, and Keon is forced to choose between his head and his heart, his wants and his responsibilities, forgiving Darcy or forgetting all about her, and between a second chance family or an ill-fated heartbreak romance.

**Maybe Tomorrow is only 99 cents while on tour!**

Now to the interview (which was such a joy to be a part of by the way, Erin is lovely!)

Hi Erin, first off, congratulations on ‘Maybe Tomorrow,’ I really enjoyed it!

Thank you! I’m happy that you enjoyed Keon and Darcy’s story. And thank you for hosting me on your website today.

Can you tell us a little bit about Maybe Tomorrow?

When Darcy walked of their marriage without warning Keon McGowan would have done anything to have her back. Then, the baby he didn’t know they had was dropped on his doorstep and he vowed never to forgive her. Ten years later, twice divorced head of A&E, Keon is blindsided by Darcy’s imminent death. She has liver failure and she’s choosing not to have the transplant that will save her life. Darcy wants to die as the Monarch butterflies migrate from Mexico.

In an attempt to change her mind, Keon invites Darcy to his family’s annual weekend get together in Sherwood Forest, asking her to give their daughter Lily, memories of the mother she’s never met. But with the close proximity to Darcy, Keon soon realises that he’s still in love with her. Keon has to choose between supporting Darcy’s right to die and fighting for a second chance at happily ever after, knowing she might still die anyway.

Keon’s dealing with a lot. He’s a single parent and the head of the largest trauma centre in London. He hates the fact that his job prevents him from being a father, leaves him to rely on others to raise his daughter and he blames himself for his second wife’s alcoholism and the demise their marriage as a result. He’s eventually doing something about all of that when Darcy swans back into his life and makes him question everything he’s ever believed in, including the reason she left him in the first place.

If I could describe Maybe Tomorrow in terms of television shows, I’d have to say ABC’s Brothers and Sisters meets Grey’s Anatomy. The McGowans are a close-knit family of doctors with a lot of secrets. Its high stakes drama and just when you think you’ve figured it out, someone else throws a plot twist.

Can I ask, what inspired you to write it?

I couldn’t tell you where the inspiration came from. I woke up one morning with Keon in my head telling me he hated butterflies. The love of his life left him to chase butterflies through the Amazon rainforest and seeing butterflies reminded him of her.

Of course… their daughter is totally fascinated by butterflies, just like her mother and therefore he unable to escape from them.

There’s a lot of medical detail in the book, which I found to be very intriguing, can you tell me was there a lot of research to be done?

I had to find a condition that could kill Darcy. Something that would stop Keon’s world from turning, but Darcy could shrug off as ‘nothing’ because she’d been dealing with it for a while and has already had the time to contemplate what she wanted and didn’t want in terms of treatment choices. It also needed to be something that could be both explained by the demands Darcy’s adventurous lifestyle and masked by it.

Hepatitis B attacks the liver. It doesn’t always have symptoms, and those symptoms can be minor such as cold/flu like symptoms, and can be treated without the need for medical attention. But it also possible to manage long term with medication.

I was lucky that on Maybe Tomorrow, I had a team of editors who come from a medical background, and my sister is a medical professional. They all answered a lot of questions and provided a lot of guidance on hospital protocol.

Were there any characters you found difficult to write?

As a writer you have to put yourself into the headspace of your characters. Keon came naturally to me. He knew what he wanted from start to finish. He wanted Darcy to live. He wanted that second chance. It was always Keon’s story. But Darcy…? Not so much. She’s such a secretive complex person, with so many regrets and not one but two inflictions. She didn’t reveal very much to me at all. She was tough to crack because she had contemplated her death, now was her time to die, and all Keon had to do was let her go. They both talk about following your heart, rather than your head, and I think the moment Darcy started to fight back was the moment she started to listen to her heart rather than her head.

Can I ask when you started writing ‘Maybe Tomorrow’ did you know what the ending would be?

I always knew that Keon and Darcy’s story would come to an end in the middle of the Mexican rainforest as the Monarch butterflies migrated. One of the first scenes I wrote was a letter from Keon, explaining to ten year old Lily, why he had to leave her. Why, when he returned, he would not be the same man and he wouldn’t be able to tell her why. He hoped that one day, she would be old enough to understand, that he’d gone to be with Darcy, that he couldn’t not be there with her when she died.

Unfortunately, that letter never made it into the final version, because as both Keon and Darcy’s characters developed it became clear that Keon would never leave Lily, and Darcy would skin him alive if he did!

Can you tell us a little bit about your writing habits or share some tips with us?

Life as a writer is like a perpetual hourglass, you’re always running out of time. If you’re not making a full time income from writing then, in addition to the usual demands on your time; day job, family, housework, etc, you have to you have to spilt your ‘writing time’ between writing and marketing. That’s just the way it is!

I try to write every day. I make use of my daily commute to and from work on public transport to plug in my earphones and write on my phone. I used to do it when I walked to work but I almost got run over one too many times! I also try to make use of my breaks to get online and catch up on social media!

When it comes to writing. I’m a halt-plot-half-pantser kind of gal. I take an idea and I run with it until I’ve completed a brief outline of the story and the characters, then I email them to myself and save it in an ideas folder. I never forget a story idea this way and I now have over a hundred stories waiting to be written.

Thanks so much for talking to me today, I look forward to reading more from you in the future!

Thank you so much for opportunity to share Maybe Tomorrow with your readers!

It was a pleasure, Erin, thanks for coming over!:)

 And the review …

So, starting from the very beginning I have to say the book began with a bang that I hugely appreciated! I loved how just after meeting Dr Keon McGowan, working in a very London’s busiest trauma centre, we were thrown into the deep end with Keon coming face to face with his ex-wife, Darcy, who had abandoned him and his daughter. The descriptions were brilliant, I was AT the hospital, and it was like any episode of ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ or ‘ER’ I’d ever seen with amazingly precise medical detail. As for Keon and Darcy, their meeting was very dramatic, a drama which carried on throughout the book not only with the two leads, but also with many other characters. One character that jumps to mind was his sister, Keira, who was quite over the top and so served to keep the tension going, though I found her to be unlikable.

 

We met not only his family, but Darcy’s too, which I really enjoyed, although at times I was a little confused, simply by the switching between characters. The romance, the banter, the chemistry, the feistiness, the tears, all kept me hooked. The pacing was great, the book absolutely flew by and I was disappointed on realizing I was nearing the end. All in all I really enjoyed ‘Maybe Tomorrow’, though as I said above it is a bit dramatic in places, so a little less easy-going than I’m used to, but definitely worth a read.

 

Thanks so much to the author, Erin Cawood, her publisher, Booktroupe and Chick Lit Plus for a copy of this book in return for an honest review as part of the blog tour.

Rating: 4/5

Stops on the ‘Maybe Tomorrow’ blog tour. Check them out!

MaybeTomorrowblogtour

January 25 – Jersey Girl Book Reviews – Review. Q&A & Excerpt

January 25 – Wendi Nunnery – Review

January 26 – Change the Word – Q&A

January 27 – Chick Lit Plus – Excerpt

January 28 – Queen of All She Reads – Review & Excerpt

January 29 – Authors and Readers Book Corner – Excerpt

February 1 – BR Maycock’s Book Blog – Review & Q&A

February 1 – Bookabie  – Review, Q&A & Excerpt

 

Author Bio

erin cawood

Erin Cawood is a commercial women’s fiction author, with a taste for dramatic storylines and a passion for strong lead characters she really gets behind, cheering on right to the very end of their story. Her focus? Taking romance into the darker, edgier side of contemporary fiction.

Get 2 free books when you sign up to Erin Cawood’s newsletter HERE!

Enter HERE to win a Kindle!

 

Links

Erin on Facebook

Erin on Twitter

Erin’s website

Amazon

Barnes and Noble

Goodreads

 

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The Girls From See Saw Lane by Sandy Taylor

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What they say:I loved this novel so much, even though it’s probably the most heart-breaking story I’ve read all year…it will totally absorb you and capture your heart.That Thing She Reads

Brighton 1963. Mary Pickles and I walked along the street with our arms linked, looking in shop windows. We were best friends and together we were invincible.

Dottie and Mary forged a friendship over a bag of penny sweets when they were eight years old. They’ve shared everything together since then – the highs and lows of school, family dramas, hopes and dreams and now, at seventeen, they’re both shop girls, working at Woolworths.

As they go out in the world in pursuit of love and happiness, the simplicity of their childhood dissolves as life becomes more complicated. The heady excitement of first love will consume them both, but the pain of unintentional betrayal will test their friendship in ways neither of them could ever imagine…

A charming, heartbreaking and ultimately uplifting novel which brings a bygone era vividly to life. Fans of Nadine Dorries, Mary Gibson and Pam Weaver will love The Girls from See Saw Lane. Counting Chimneys coming soon.

‘I absolutely loved this book and couldn’t put it down. It has all the ingredients for a perfect read: fantastic, loveable and very real characters, an emotional and compelling storyline, and a brilliant setting in time and place.’ Louise Douglas

‘Sandy Taylor has proven herself to be a very talented and gifted storyteller with an immense insight into family, friendship, love, and forgiveness…This is one of the most endearing, yet heart-breaking, novels that I have encountered in quite some time and will certainly not soon forget…Witty and humorous dialogue written with such ease truly brought this story to life and swept me away between the pages. Filled with unexpected twists and turns, you’ll want to keep the box of tissues nearby!’ Kimberly’s Bookshelf

‘I have just started to read this one and am hooked! I love the vivid details of the time period and the closeness of the best friends.Weekend Reading

‘I would recommend it to anyone who loves stories about female friendships, books set in the past…and for anyone who wants an emotionally stirring read!’ My Bookish Ramblings

A beautiful tale of friendship, love, betrayal and forgiveness and one that will stay with me for a long time to comeThe Girls From See Saw Lane is a truly beautiful story that will touch your heart. Mary and Dottie will certainly live on in my head and my heart.’ By The Letter Book Reviews

‘I find it very hard to believe that this is Sandy’s first book. This book is so well written…The relationship between the girls is very heartwarming, but also extremely heartbreaking, there will be times when you will need tissues at hand.The Reading Head

‘I recommend this book to all who want to take a wonderful trip back to the 60’s. I would give it more than 5 stars if there were more to give.’ Library Thing

When you read this book, be prepared to laugh and to cry (it gets really sad)The Girls from See Saw Lane is a good book to settle in and read on a rainy afternoon.’ The Avid Reader

‘Wow this book had me laughing out loud one minute and bursting into tears the next..A massive page turner.Nat’s Reading Cloud

‘I absolutely adored it…so wonderful and so captivating.The Book Cafe

Will make you smile, laugh, reminisce and perhaps even cry a little…an absorbing and charming read.’ Portobello Book Blog

The Review: First off, such a mahoosive thanks to Netgalley for this book in return for an honest review. There’s books where you enjoy every single word, and this was one of them.  It was the story of Dottie and Mary, starting with them aged 8 and continuing into teenagedom and then adulthood. I adore books told from multiple points of views and this was told through Dottie, the character who saw herself as the lesser of the pair, although I thought of her as only slightly more innocent, with a tiny diary extract by Mary sealing everything. Both characters were as strong and as lovely as each other and you could see that both through story and diary extracts.  The story was great, Dotties family aiding in the comic moments and both Dottie and Mary’s ‘beaus, Ralph and Elton’ adding to drama, warmth and gorgeous romance.

The beauty is in the everyday, the ordinary, the many examples of what great friends the two were, two people who were always looking out for each other,

” ‘Well they won’t tease you any more, Dottie Perks … Not if I have anything to do with it.’ We smiled at each other, and in that moment it was as if we both knew that something wonderful and special had just happened.”

and how their friendship continues through. There was no waiting for the next Big Bang, or whatever was going to happen at the end (although the beginning of the story did continue to return to my mind), I just read and enjoyed each description, each daily event.

There’s betrayal, of course, a betrayal that packed a punch, with repercussions both heartbreaking and beautiful that I floated through, they were so vivid. The reviews I read all told of how one of the main characters obviously didn’t appreciate the other, but there are countless examples that tell otherwise. The ending had me in floods of tears, my heart truly broke and after I put the book away it still continued to enter my mind. I cannot recommend enough and I was shocked to see this was a debut, it was so beautifully crafted.

Rating: 5/5

 

4 in the Afternoon by Geralyn Corcillo

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What they say: Bestselling and award-winning author of romantic comedy Geralyn Corcillo has just released this collection of 4 RomCom short stories. Dates, dogs, football, monsters in the attic, misunderstandings, and unexpected discoveries abound in these tales of modern love.

***All Summer on a Date: The gorgeous Kyle Hunter is taking reformed iconoclast Summer Hodiak to the party of the year. But when an unexpected dilemma slams into their exquisite evening, will Summer follow her date…or follow her heart?

***Random Acts of Violet: Cautious loner Violet Parker needs a new playbook when her quiet summer on campus collides with an unexpected eight year-old, a monster in the attic, and Noah…

***Miss Understanding in the Ballroom with the Wrench: Jesse and Peter meet at a party, but each is hiding the one thing that they think makes them un-dateable. Will their subterfuge and all the ensuing misunderstandings wreck everything, just as the spark between them is about to ignite?

***Jane Austen Meets the New York Giants: The NYT Bestselling true story of true love that kicked off Geralyn Corcillo’s writing career.

 

The Review: I have to admit I had a couple of things making me wary of this collection, I know Geralyn through social media and find her to be so bright, friendly and helpful since I’ve started writing. Obviously it was only a matter of time until I went looking for her work and I was afraid it wouldn’t live up to expectations and then what do you do? It didn’t matter, I was glad I did! This leads me into my other worry, that Geralyn is from the US and so I was afraid that there would be a disconnect in terms of language and content but you know what they say, that good writing transcends boundaries (Disclaimer: I may or may not have made that up myself!). It first came to my attention with talk of the NFL, which obviously we don’t have over here, then again with the description of the temperature, but to be honest, in general, I didn’t notice much of a difference.

Each of the stories were unique, and when I say unique I mean stand alone individuals as you’ll see from the descriptions above. They each had their own little bite to them that made them stand out and me sit up. The misunderstandings were textbook and yet not clichéd, I could see some coming and missed others, getting a nice surprise when I realized what was going on. The dialogue was very clever, and the romance was perfect, that brilliant kind of sparkling sweetness that some would ‘swoon’ for! I loved how each of the lead characters were so strong and independent, and at one stage I had the vision of a female Bruce Willis (he wears a vest all the time in Die Hard, the lead here was just in a vest and boxer shorts in her attic, so you have to kind of see where I’m going here? No, oh, okay, sorry then!)

Then to finish, the final story speaks of Jane Austen and then brings a modern day story about what happens when all that’s left in a relationship is the modern day humdrum all back around, so the modern day story is mirrored in the narrator’s thoughts on Jane Austen. It was so lovely! All in all a very satisfying read, plus the dip in dip out aspect that’s perfect as a weekend read! Very much recommended. Go get!

Rating 4.5/5

Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

ThegirlonthetrainWhat they say:

THE NUMBER ONE BESTSELLER.
YOU DON’T KNOW HER. BUT SHE KNOWS YOU.
Rear Window meets Gone Girl, in this exceptional and startling psychological thriller

‘Gripping, enthralling – a top-notch thriller and a compulsive read’
S J WATSON, bestselling author of Before I Go To Sleep

Rachel catches the same commuter train every morning. She knows it will wait at the same signal each time, overlooking a row of back gardens. She’s even started to feel like she knows the people who live in one of the houses. ‘Jess and Jason’, she calls them. Their life – as she sees it – is perfect. If only Rachel could be that happy.

And then she sees something shocking. It’s only a minute until the train moves on, but it’s enough.

Now everything’s changed. Now Rachel has a chance to become a part of the lives she’s only watched from afar.

Now they’ll see; she’s much more than just the girl on the train…

 

The Review: Chances are, you’ve heard of this. Neatly coupled with ‘Gone Girl’ by Gillian Flynn for every mention, it’s the book that everybody wants to know if you’ve read. So I read it. I had read ‘Gone Girl’ some time ago and I was firmly in the ‘loved it’ camp (yes, you have to take sides, apparently it’s not possible to just like it, it’s a black and white love or hate game).

As you can see above, it’s the story of Rachel, who is taking the train every morning. Up until now, Rachel had been stumbling through life, reeling from the break up of her marriage, and was dealing with alcohol issues. We start to get some of her back story, while seeing her struggling to keep it together. I loved her reasoning and justifications, and I felt for her, although there were times when you did wish she could get it together (I felt a bit guilty for thinking this.) Anyhoo, in first person, we experience Rachel imagining the stories of a couple she sees from afar when the train stops at a signal. She is obsessed with them, thinking of them as the perfect couple, no flaws, no secrets. One morning, she thinks she sees something, and this, coupled with a news story, brings her life new meaning. The alcohol was a great tool in the story as you weren’t quite sure what Rachel was remembering or whether she was credible at all, but then, there weren’t a lot of credible people in this story!

The story is given to us mostly from her point of view, and then we get the point of view of other people who are involved with what happens. I did wish we could have had one or two more points of view to even it out a little.

A psychological thriller, ‘The Girl on the Train’ is actually a light enough read, I didn’t get fully absorbed into it as I did ‘The Girl with no Past‘ (they coupled it with these two books so I’m going to go there too!) but I did enjoy it. I think, had this been the first thriller I’d read, I’d possibly have enjoyed it more, but ‘Gone Girl’ was in the back of my head and I was constantly making comparisons and clumping them together. Conversely, if I read ‘Gone Girl’ now I don’t know if I’d think it was so innovative or enjoyable. I’d say read it and enjoy. Either way, you’re probably going to read it anyway, aren’t you? I would say it’s more for those of us who don’t read a lot of thrillers, and who are on the lookout for something not too violent or gruesome.

Rathing: 4/5

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Inconceivable by Tegan Wren

inconceivable

What they say: A popular, young royal couple can’t produce an heir? INCONCEIVABLE!

When Ozarks native Hatty goes “whole hog” during karaoke, she catches the eye of Prince John. He isn’t what she expects the heir to a small European nation to be: he’s affable, witty, and isn’t put off by her tell-it-like-it-is demeanor. Their flirtation should be short lived, but a force stronger than fate—Hatty’s newspaper editor—assigns her to cover the royals. After spending time together, she and John soon begin dating, and Hatty finds herself making headlines instead of writing them.

But challenges loom that are even more complicated than figuring out how to mesh Hatty’s journalism career with life at Belvoir Palace. Hatty and John soon find themselves embroiled in an unusual sex scandal: they can’t produce an heir. Tabloids dub Hatty a “Barren-ess,” and the royals become irate. Hatty politely tells them to shove it. But beneath her confident exterior, she struggles to cope with a heartbreak that invades her most intimate moments with John.

Pressured to choose between invasive medical procedures and abandoning John’s claim to the throne, the couple feels trapped until a trip to Ethiopia shows them happy endings sometimes arrive long after saying “I do.”

“As someone who has experienced infertility, I empathize with Hatty’s struggles. Wren beautifully illuminates the joy, grief, and adventure of creating a family against all odds in this heart warming and impactful story.” America Olivo Campbell, actress: DeGrassi: The Next Generation, Chicago PD, Mission Impossible 5.

“Not only was this a very well written and entertaining story (I flew through it), but I feel it’s also a very important story.” -Meredith Tate, author of Missing Pieces

“Tegan Wren’s debut novel is by turn funny, heartbreaking and ultimately inspiring.” JDC, author and journalist

“Inconceivable is not only an intelligent read, but a candid chronicle of a condition that can disrupt anyone’s longing to create a family.” -Pamela Hirsch, Founder, Baby Quest Foundation

 

The review: To start I have to gush about that beautiful cover. Doesn’t it just lure you in? Add to this the fact that the start of each chapter contains that very silhouette and you’re in heaven (Just as I’d reach the first page of each chapter, I’d smile, thinking of that beautiful picture. I know, I know!)

From the start of this book I was very much taken. Meeting Hatty, a journalism intern, I warmed to her immediately, her strength, her intelligence, her sense of fun. She was loud and bright and yet not irritating and I warmed to her, enjoyed her fun parts, and felt for her when the chips were down. I loved how she and Prince John Meinrad, Toulene’s most popular royal, were put together, and the chaos that followed. By the way I suppose I should throw in here that the banter between the two was lovely, and the chemistry great. I wasn’t always sure about John, but given his status that just made him all the more three dimensional to me.  The detail into the royal family’s customs, traditions and nuances were captivating, especially when taken with the descriptions of relevant royal locations and tales  of various family members.

If you look at the blurb and recommendations above, the hype is nearly fully devoted to the fertility issues that Hatty and John have, understandable, of course, given the title of the book, however I feel this is selling the rest of the book short. All of this happens later on, and the prequel to this, the story of John and Hatty, of a prince dating a journalist who wants to be recognised for the mark she wants to make on the world as opposed to who she’s with, the Royal family’s reaction to her; THESE are what makes the book for me. I know the fertility issue is so important, but I just don’t think that that needs to be the hook for ‘Inconceivable,’ which I found to be an intelligent, giggle out loud, satisfying read with good characters, lovely romance and some great sticky situations. Very enjoyable.
Rating4.5/5

Top read of 2015: A Memory of Violets by Hazel Gaynor

 

A Memory Of Violets

What they say: The author of the USA Today and New York Times bestselling novel The Girl Who Came Home has once again created an unforgettable historical novel. Step into the world of Victorian London, where the wealth and poverty exist side by side. This is the story of two long-lost sisters, whose lives take different paths, and the young woman who will be transformed by their experiences.

In 1912, twenty-year-old Tilly Harper leaves the peace and beauty of her native Lake District for London, to become assistant housemother at Mr. Shaw’s Home for Watercress and Flower Girls. For years, the home has cared for London’s flower girls—orphaned and crippled children living on the grimy streets and selling posies of violets and watercress to survive.

Soon after she arrives, Tilly discovers a diary written by an orphan named Florrie—a young Irish flower girl who died of a broken heart after she and her sister, Rosie, were separated. Moved by Florrie’s pain and all she endured in her brief life, Tilly sets out to discover what happened to Rosie. But the search will not be easy. Full of twists and surprises, it leads the caring and determined young woman into unexpected places, including the depths of her own heart.

 

The review: It is very unusual to adore a book where the hype surrounding it is so momentous. From the second I began to read this book I was hooked. Unfortunately to now I hadn’t read much historical fiction but this is very likely to change that. The book opened with a prologue; ‘Florrie’ speaking to us of her sister as a baby, how she decided how and why she loved her so much and the bond that connected them. Life was hard for Florrie

“my leg won’t grow proper, see, cause of the polio I had as a baby. I’ve an old stick for a crutch”

and her sister, Rosie, who

“lives her life in the dark, so she does. Poor little Rosie with her useless eyes.”

Together they go about selling their flowers in Covent Garden, barely surviving and yet happy to exist solely because of their love for each other.

“And then we wait for the morning to come and the flowers to arrive. Just me an’ Little Sister. Waiting in the dark. ‘Don’t let go, Rosie,’ I whisper. ‘Don’t let go.’”

The descriptions of their living conditions reeled me in and contrasted spectacularly with those of the flowers they sold, spectacular beauties of varying hues that illuminated the dark, gloomy streets of London.

We were soon introduced to Mr Shaw’s Training Home for Watercress and Flower Girls as Matilda Harper(Tilly) began her train journey to become assistant housemother. Throughout the book we were given snapshots of what Tilly was running from, and I felt for her. The characters she met here were wonderful, so alive that, again, I was right there with them, watching the bustling housekeeper and the girls, of varying disabilities, who had such a talent and dedication towards their work with flowers. I loved especially how Tilly had remembered them all in terms of what they were lacking, but she soon came to see and understand their personalities, teaching her a thing or two!

The drama in this book was flawless. My heart broke as I read the diary entries detailing ‘Flora’s journey’ and was nervous about what had happened to her beloved sister. The secrets that surrounded Florrie and Rosie Flynn, as well as that which Tilly was running from, were revealed perfectly, with surprises and shocks that hit you hard.

I read the paperback of this book and to be honest I couldn’t imagine an e-book version; the paperback was exquisite. It was everything the content was, beautiful, breathtaking, charming. On the bookshelf that displays our scant collection of adults books (we bring adults books to the charity to allow our childrens’ books collection to flourish) it was the one that screamed to be read, matching only Kate Morton’s gorgeous ‘The Secret Keeper.’ That being said, I think this could be perfect in audioformat, it reads the way I remember books such as ‘Under The Hawthorn Tree’ and ‘The Wildflower Girl’. At the end of the book, there are notes from the memoirs of Albert Shaw, and these were such a bonus, I absolutely devoured them and Ms. Gaynor shot up even more in my estimation that she could take notes such as these and yet do them justice in such a magnificent way. I’ve seen this as quite a few people’s top read for 2015 and I’ll join them. Cannot wait to read more of Ms. Gaynor. Top read of 2015.

Rating: 5/5

 

A Beginner’s Guide to Salad by Jennifer Joyce

beginnersguidetosalad

 

What they say: Ruth loves nothing more than curling up in front of the telly with a family-sized bar of chocolate. She doesn’t do diets and she certainly doesn’t do exercise. But all that changes when she’s invited to her school reunion.

Bullied at school for being overweight, Ruth’s first reaction is to rip the invitation into a million pieces. But then Ruth hatches a plan. She’ll lose the weight and arrive at the reunion looking gorgeous and glamorous, leaving her old classmates in awe. Especially her former crush, Zack O’Connell.

With the help of her friends and a new, unbelievably hot colleague, Ruth begins her transformation. With six months until the reunion, losing weight will be a piece of cake, right?

 

The Review: As a lot of you probably know, I only started blogging last year. On commencing, I looked at many book blogs, scouring for reads that different reviewers had in common, so I had a starting point in terms of what to read. ‘A Beginner’s Guide to Salad’ was the first book that jumped out at me and I downloaded straight away. The reviews also led me to Jennifer Joyce’s website (take a look at it here) and I was hooked, not only was it bright and inviting, with so many interactive posts, but there were reviews on books I’d read that I agreed with wholeheartedly, as well as stories by Ms. Joyce that were short but clever and satisfying.

Alas, then my Kindle began to fill up and it wasn’t until I did an author Q&A with Jennifer (I know, the first name thing seems too informal, especially when you’re talking about that kind of talent, but anyhoo!), that I jumped back to it, and quickly downloaded A Beginner’s Guide to Christmas, a (free) short story that, as far as I know, is the prequel to the Salad book, and The Mince Pie Mix up (both started and tragically abandoned, following the great Kindle break-down of 2015).

The book started with some scenes that tore my heart in terms of what Ruth faced daily

‘She wished she had a friend more than anything, even more than she wanted a boyfriend’

Now if I’d thought that was bad, what followed, the description of the heartless bullying that she went through actually stopped me in my tracks. It was disgusting. This theme continued throughout the book, with ignorant salespeople and the friend of an acquaintance belittling her because of her size. When Ruth decided to lose weight to attend her high school re-union I put my hand over my eyes (in my head of course, because otherwise how could I have continued reading?!) and then settled into reading some of the gut wrenching (literally) and hilarious diets she decided to undertake, as well as exercise routines, some of which were horrendous.

The book was told from several points of view and I loved the way there was some overlap between events happening, making it unfold easily before your eyes. It actually reminded me of a film called ‘This Year’s love’ (yes, it does Feature David Gray’s song, in fact he has a cameo), which also features various couples, all trying to find their way through life, with hilarious goings-on causing miscommunications and mix-ups along the way.

In particular, some of the scenes in Ruth’s office kept me very entertained. The different characters were brilliant, the lovely housemate Billy, her best friend, Erin, who was JUST what she needed, Theo, who reminded me of Spike from Notting Hill. The Beginner’s Guide to Salad was real. Ruth wasn’t perfect and neither were the other characters. They were vivid and loud and brilliant. Throw all of this together with love triangles, love venn diagrams, whatever they were and you had my type of book perfection. I have a post coming up on authors I’m following as a result of books I’ve read as a blogger and Jennifer Joyce is one of them. I am now firmly a Fan.

Rating: 5/5