2 April 2017

Book Review: My Sweet Revenge by Jane Fallon

"I want to make my husband fall back in love with me. Let me explain. This isn't an exercise in 1950s wifeydom. I haven't been reading articles in old women's magazines. 'Twenty ways to keep your man'. That couldn't be further from the truth. I want him to fall back in love with me so that when I tell him to get the hell out of my life he'll care. He won't just think, 'Oh good'. I want it to hurt. 

Paula has had Robert's back since they got together as drama students. She gave up her dreams so he could make it. Now he's one of the nation's most popular actors. And Paula's just discovered he's having an affair. She's going to remind Robert just what he's sacrificing. And then she's going to break his heart like he broke hers. It will be her greatest acting role ever. Revenge is sweet. Isn't it?"

Rating: 5/5

I love Jane Fallon's books and was thrilled to be sent a review copy of her brand new book My Sweet Revenge. The story is a bit of a twist on the 'wronged wife' story we see so much in this genre, and I loved that Jane Fallon took it and made something different out of it. Paula is devastated when she finds out her husband of many years is cheating on her with someone much younger and prettier than her, and is determined to get revenge. She's going to remind him just what he's losing, and make him want her back before breaking his heart once and for all. Will she be able to get the revenge she wants and break Robert's heart?

I have to say I loved Paula from the beginning, and was on her side the whole way through the book. She was truly broken by finding out the man she loves is cheating on her, after sacrificing her own career many years ago to raise their daughter, and now wants to make him pay. She has very low self-esteem but I admired how she got herself up and changed the way she did everything, so she could become the best version of herself before hurting her husband in the way he hurt her.

What I enjoyed about this book was partway through, the narrative changes from Paula to the woman that Robert is supposedly having an affair with. This throws the whole thing on its head, shows us the real truth, and made me have such contempt for Robert and his bit of the side. I was just willing it to all go wrong for them because they just didn't deserve to be happy at all. I did enjoy seeing the whole story from a different perspective though, it was so fun to read, and kept my interest piqued throughout the whole book.

The book does keep you guessing for a big portion of it, as to whether or not Robert is really cheating on poor Paula, and Fallon's writing gets right into Paula's head, showing her uncertainty, her hesitance over what she is doing because she just wants an answer. I had to admire her for not wanting to confront her husband either, I don't know she kept it in! This was a real page-turner from the first page right up until the last, and it's quite possibly my favourite of Jane's books so far, and that's no mean feat! It takes a typical story about a cheating, no-good husband, and turns it into a fabulous revenge tale, one you hope will work out for the best! A brilliant must-read.

24 March 2017

Book Review: On the Other Side by Carrie Hope Fletcher

"Your soul is too heavy to pass through this door, 
Leave the weight of the world in the world from before.

Evie Snow is eighty-two when she quietly passes away in her sleep, surrounded by her children and grandchildren. It's the way most people wish to leave the world but when Evie reaches the door of her own private heaven, she finds that she's become her twenty-seven-year-old self and the door won't open.

Evie's soul must be light enough to pass through so she needs to get rid of whatever is making her soul heavy. For Evie, this means unburdening herself of the three secrets that have weighed her down for over fifty years, so she must find a way to reveal them before it's too late. As Evie begins the journey of a lifetime, she learns more about life and love than she ever thought possible, and somehow, some way, she may also find her way back to the only man she ever truly loved . . ."

Rating: 2.5/5

I had been really excited to read Carrie Hope Fletcher's debut fiction novel On the Other Side for a while, so was pleased to recently be accepted to read it on Netgalley. Carrie is a star of musicals, sister of Tom Fletcher and sister-in-law of one of my favourite authors Giovanna Fletcher, so I went into this one with quite high hopes, especially after reading some other reviews of the book. However, by the end I have to say I was a little disappointed and felt perhaps this book was more suited to YA/New Adult genres rather than women's fiction, as I felt it was just wasn't for me.

Evie is 82 when she dies quietly in her sleep, but suddenly wakes up to find herself much younger again, in her old home but unable to pass through the door into heaven. She soon learns that her soul is too heavy to allow her to pass through the door, so has to complete a few tasks that have weighed her down throughout her life in order to leave her affairs in perfect order, allowing her to pass through. We see Evie's life as she goes back through her past, keen to right some wrongs, and leave those she has left behind settled. Will Evie be able to unburden herself and pass through to her own version of heaven?

The idea of this book sounded really good, a quite serious look at an issue I really don't read much of in women's fiction, but for me the problems came in the execution of the story. It soon started to become more of a fairy tale, with things happening that didn't sit right for me, and I just found myself struggling to enjoy it. By the end, the whole business with the tree (I don't want to spoil it but for me, this just tipped it into slightly ridiculous territory) was too much and I was pleased that it had reached a conclusion. It was a shame but the magical, fairy-tale elements just didnt' work for me, such a shame.

I did enjoy the characters and the family at the heart of the book, although the names were a little bit bizarre. Evie was the leading lady throughout, and I enjoyed her life story, through both its ups and downs. Her family are the other main people - her husband, children, lovers and more frequent the story and it was fascinating to see them both with Evie, and learning how to cope without her around. However, I did feel at times they all felt quite immature, not completely fleshed out as characters, and I can't say I connected fully with any of them. Fletcher is good at writing the emotions these characters are feeling, from love to grief, heart-break and hope, there's a lot going on in here.

However, I felt due to the nature of the story, and the magical, almost fantasy elements within, I do feel this would have been far more suited to a younger audience, the teen or New Adult market would perhaps have been the target age range for this book. There were a few parts where I felt it dragged on a bit too much, and it could have lost a fair bit of narrative without affecting the flow or gist of the story. It's a shame when a book you've been looking forward to doesn't live up to your expectations, and I'm a bit sad that this was the case for me and this book. Carrie has a new book called All That She Can See due out this summer, which I will be trying, so fingers crossed I'll feel a little more positive towards that.

23 March 2017

Book Review: The Little Bookshop of Lonely Hearts by Annie Darling

"Once upon a time in a crumbling London bookshop, Posy Morland spent her life lost in the pages of her favourite romantic novels.

So when Bookend’s eccentric owner, Lavinia, dies and leaves the shop to Posy, she must put down her books and join the real world. Because Posy hasn’t just inherited an ailing business, but also the unwelcome attentions of Lavinia’s grandson, Sebastian, AKA The Rudest Man In London™.

Posy has a cunning plan and six months to transform Bookends into the bookshop of her dreams – if only Sebastian would leave her alone to get on with it. As Posy and her friends fight to save their beloved bookshop, Posy’s drawn into a battle of wills with Sebastian, about whom she’s started to have some rather feverish fantasies…

Like her favourite romantic heroines, will she get her happy ever after too?"

Rating: 4/5

You can buy the book now!

This was one book I thoroughly enjoyed reading last year, and I am trying to catch up with some book reviews I somehow haven't gotten around to! I love books set in bookshops, my favourite kind of shop, so jumped at the chance of reading this one by debut author Annie Darling. The book is the story of Posy, who inherits a book shop from longtime friend Lavinia. However, Lavinia's grandson Sebastian is less than happy at not being gifted the shop in his grandmother's will, and is sure that Posy is going to fail in revamping the secluded bookshop. Which one will come out on top... Posy or Sebastian?!

While I have to say that the story was a little bit predictable, and it all went as I had expected, it was the relationship and banter between the two main characters that I most enjoyed reading. Posy and Sebastian were wildly different people - the only thing that they had in common was the love they both have for Lavinia. Posy is passionate about making the shop a success, sure that a new, fresh look is what it needs to get it off its feet and works hard to try and ensure it will work out. I also admired her for her positive outlook considering her upbringing - pretty much raising her younger brother after the death of her parents, and having to do whatever she has to make ends meet. She's certainly a woman made of strong stuff, and I think Sebastian was surprised at her strength.

He was a hilarious character in many ways, but I also disliked how he tried to railroad Posy into doing what he wanted, sure that his way was the best way and that was it. Posy writes a historical romance in her spare time, and I loved how she kept weaving Sebastian into it without really realising it, so funny, and these excerpts certainly made me laugh! I also loved Posy's passion for books and reading - it comes across so well. and as a fellow bookworm, I loved it and thought Darling captures the essence of a book lover perfectly.

The bookshop itself was a wonderful setting for the book, and I loved reading about it. You can see why Posy was so determined in her ambition to do Lavinia proud and make the shop a success, as well as proving Sebastian wrong of course! The book was a fun read from start to finish, a very heart-warming and uplifting read with characters to care about and that I enjoyed following throughout the book. The chemistry between them is really great, and I thoroughly loved their story. Luckily, there's another Lonely Hearts Bookshop book due out next month called True Love at the Lonely Hearts Bookshop, this time starring the bookshop manager Verity and I'm really looking forward to reading it. Recommended!

22 March 2017

Book Review: If Ever I Fall by S. D. Robertson

"Is holding on harder than letting go?

Dan’s life has fallen apart at the seams. He’s lost his house, his job is on the line, and now he’s going to lose his family too. All he’s ever wanted is to keep them together, but is everything beyond repair?

Maria is drowning in grief. She spends her days writing letters that will never be answered. Nights are spent trying to hold terrible memories at bay, to escape the pain that threatens to engulf her.

Jack wakes up confused and alone. He doesn’t know who he is, how he got there, or why he finds himself on a deserted clifftop, but will piecing together the past leave him a broken man?

In the face of real tragedy, can these three people find a way to reconcile their past with a new future? And is love enough to carry them through?"

Rating: 3.5/5

This is the second novel I have read by author SD Robertson. His first, Time to Say Goodbye, was a heart-wrenching, emotive read, so I was curious to find out if this one would follow the same track. I was right, and after reading the blurb I was sure it was going to be a hard-going read, and I was right. This time, the book follows the failing marriage of Dan and Maria, following a complete tragedy in their family. They've tried to work it out, but the grief is just too much, they simply can't cope with their loss. Away from this, Jack has woken up after apparently falling from a ladder, but has no idea who or where he is. He relies on a local man to look after him, but is desperate to piece his life back together and find out who he is.

The story was a very intriguing one from the beginning, with me wondering straight away who Jack was and what had happened to him. This was a slow-burning part of the story, but I did guess around halfway in exactly who he was and why he had ended up there. The other characters, Maria and Dan were in such a sad situation, my heart completely broke for them. It isn't clear for a while exactly what tragedy has befallen the couple but as things become clear, the story takes on a whole new perspective. You can understand why they are broken by what has happened, and its just a painfully awful situation.

Robertson really taps into the emotion of these situations really well. I can't imagine how hard it must have been to write about such a scenario, it isn't something I would want to think about, and it certainly made for hard reading. Reading Maria's letters, one she knew would never be answered, are heart-breaking, I couldn't help but feel so terribly sorry for her. Dan, too, struggles with comforting his grieving wife, and it was hard to read how hard he was trying, and the fact he was just getting nowhere. Add into that their young daughter and her own grief, well, it wasn't easy reading.

Jack's mystery was a bit intriguing, although I did find myself getting a bit perplexed towards the end as to how it all comes together. It felt like it all suddenly hurtled to this big conclusion, and I felt it all sort of felt a bit strange for me. The narrative of the book switches between the three main characters, so we get a good feel for all three of them, which I felt exposed their stories well enough, and gave us differing perspectives on things that were happening.

For me, this was a good read, and although it was a hard topic to read about, it was a very well written and handled book. It can't have been easy to read, yet Robertson has managed to put himself in the shoes of these grieving parents, and shows us the hard side of a tragedy like that. Jack's mystery kept me hooked, I was so keen for him to somehow escape and find out what had truly happened to him and who he was! Due to the nature of the themes in this, it won't be for everyone, but it was a good read, and I did enjoy it, even if it left me feeling a bit emotionally fragile. I will be looking for more from SD Robertson.

21 March 2017

Book Review: The House of New Beginnings by Lucy Diamond

"Number 11, Dukes Square, looks just like the other houses on the Brighton seafront: a Regency terrace with elegant sash windows, a winding staircase, and post piled up in the hall for its tenants. It might be part of the city's history, but it's also a place of brand new beginnings.

Georgie has followed her childhood sweetheart to Brighton but is determined to carve out a career for herself in journalism. Throwing herself into the city's delights is fun and exciting, but before she knows it, she's sliding into all kinds of trouble . . .

Charlotte's in the city for a new start, hoping to keep her head down and somehow get over the heartbreaking loss she's suffered in the past. But Margot, the stylish old lady on the top floor, has other ideas. Like it or not, Charlotte must confront the outside world, and the possibilities it still holds.

A terrible revelation sent Rosa running from London to start again as a sous chef. The work is gruelling and thankless but it's a distraction at least . . . until she comes up against the stroppy teenager next door who challenges her on her lifestyle choices. What if Rosa's passion for food could lead her to more interesting places?

As the three tenants find each other, it's as if a whole new chapter of their lives has begun."

Rating: 5/5

I absolutely love Lucy Diamond's books so was super thrilled to be sent a review copy of her brand new book The House of New Beginnings. It was a massive book, but I just couldn't wait to get stuck in. I have to confess I was absorbed by this story from the very start - it draws you in and I just couldn't put it down, so eager to find out what was going to happen with Charlotte, Georgie and Rosa in the end. Lucy's writing was, as always, brilliant and for me, it was one of the best stories I think I had read from her so far!

The story literally takes place in one house in Brighton, lived in by different people going through different times in their life. There's Georgie, who has moved down to Brighton because of her boyfriend, but it isn't all sunshine and roses for the pair, so she decides she has to find herself a job to occupy her time. Charlotte has moved to Brighton to escape a devastating past, but it seems the world is determined to make her show her face once more and start living life. Finally, there's Rosa, who again is running from a secret, to try and live out her dream of working as a chef. The three strangers soon become friends as they get to know each other, but what surprises does the house have in store?

I love a book that revolves around multiple people, rather than just one character. I feel it adds something to the book, gives us lots to follow, and always keeps things interesting. This was definitely the case in this book, and I loved each of the women that I was reading about. They were all very different, with very differing pasts but bought together by the fact they don't seem to really have anyone else around them to be friends with. I think these days, people can live much more solitary lives, choosing to stay in rather than go out, and this was certainly the case with a few of these characters.

My favourite of the three women was possibly Charlotte - she was the one I felt I could relate to most of all, and I enjoyed seeing her flourish as the book progressed, how she opened her mind to new friendships and experiences. Her story was completely heart-breaking, very sad, and you could feel all the emotions along the way, the honesty within the words Lucy Diamond writes was very raw, and you could completely sympathise and feel for Charlotte. The way the three women gradually become a part of each others lives was good to read as well, it felt very natural and I enjoyed the fact they opened up to each other as well, unburdening themselves by sharing their secrets at long last.

The house itself was the perfect setting as well - it sounded charming, and the perfect hideaway for the women. There's many issues covered in the book, covering a vast range of emotions; grief, sorrow, fear, deception and more, and these women really have hit the lowest points in all of their lives in different ways, showcasing these range of emotions. Diamond's story-telling is brilliant throughout, handling the more delicate issues with ease and making even the hardest parts completely readable.

For me, this was a superb read from start to finish. It's believable, with characters you can relate to and empathize with, and a setting that I loved to read about. There were some surprise characters along the way, including a wonderful elderly resident called Margot, poorly resident Jo and her angsty teenage daughter Bea (which is another very heart-warming storyline), and others that pop in and out - they are as vital to the book as the main ones, and its a skill that Diamond can so easily weave them together perfectly to create one of my favourite reads of the year. It's a heart-warming, emotional and yet ultimately uplifting read that I can highly recommend, you won't be disappointed!

20 March 2017

Book Review: The Singalong Society for Singletons by Katey Lovell

"A charming, feel good novel about the healing powers of friendship…and Frozen!

Monique and Issy are teachers, housemates and lovers of musicals! Their Friday night routine consists of snacks, wine and the Frozen DVD. So when Monique’s boyfriend moves to America for a year and her sister Hope moves in because of her own relationship woes, Friday nights get a new name… ‘The Singalong Society for Singletons’!

It’s a chance to get together, sing along to their favourite tracks from the best-loved West End shows, and forget the worries of work, relationships and love (or lack of it). But when Issy shares the details of their little group further afield, they get some unexpected new members who might just change their opinions on singledom for good…"

Rating: 4/5

Another book I have had sat on my Kindle for a few months now is the debut novel from author Katey Lovell. I loved the cover for this book as soon as I saw it, and the book sounded right up my street too. The main characters of this story are Monique and Issy, a couple of teachers who like to let their hair down when the school week has finished. Together with their sister and another friend, the group sets up a Friday night movie club, and you can probably guess what it's called! With a couple of new male additions, the group gathers steam, and enjoy lots of movies every week, with a lot of singing along the way. Will Monique decide she wants to wait around for her boyfriend's return, or is singledom becoming an attractive prospect?

The idea of this book is great, and sounds just like something I would be up for! I'm not one for going out, but I do love a good movie night in, and I don't mind some singing being thrown in too! The movies mentioned throughout this book are ones we would all have heard of, although there were a few in there that I haven't personally seen. Of course, there were the obvious ones like 'Frozen', 'Mamma Mia' and 'Chicago', but there were some of the old classics in there too... 'Singing in the Rain', and 'Grease' make an appearance, and it made me want to watch some of these again for myself.

I loved the addition of some male characters into the book too, and the fact they enjoyed the musicals as much as the girls was great. Clearly there was some chemistry there between Ray, Liam and a couple of the girls, and I enjoyed watching it play out, hoping that they might have a happy ending despite the fact I knew Mon was waiting around for her boyfriend to return from America from a year long job transfer! I was surprised she waited behind for him, especially given the things she saw on his social media, but there we go, each to their own!

This book was a really fun read from start to finish, and I thoroughly enjoyed Katey Lovell's writing. As well as the fun elements of the movies and the singing, there were some more serious things going on as well, such as Mon and Issy's jobs as teachers, something I enjoyed reading about especially as I work in the sector myself. There was also their friend Connie's trip abroad, Issy's personal secrets she really doesn't want to reveal, and Hope's relationship dramas thrown in. I loved the friendships between the women, they were genuine and caring, and I loved how supportive they were of each other. It was a joyful read from beginning to end, and I loved it. I will definitely be looking for more from Katey Lovell. I can definitely recommend this for a light-hearted, fun read to leave you with a smile on your face!

19 March 2017

Book Review: Secrets of a Happy Marriage by Cathy Kelly

"Bess is hoping to show everyone just how happy her recent marriage is, but behind all the party-planning the cracks are beginning to show. Why is joining a family so difficult?

Jojo, Bess's stepdaughter, has a point to make. Bess is not her mother, and she won't replace the one she's been missing every day for the last two years. And will she ever get the chance to become a mum herself?

Cousin Cari is a fierce career-woman who isn't unnerved by anything - apart from facing the man who left her at the altar, and he's on the guestlist. Her job has been a safe place to hide ever since - but is it time to let love into her life again?

Thanks to laughter, tears and one surprise appearance, the Brannigans might just discover the secrets of a happy marriage . . . But will they find out before it's too late?"

Rating: 5/5

I was recently sent a copy of Cathy Kelly's brand new book Secrets of a Happy Marriage for review, and very much looked forward to reading it. Cathy's stories always make for wonderful reading, and the past few books I have read by her have been great, and so I had high expectations for this one. This book centres around one family - the Brannigan's, and the various people within that family. There's Bess and her new husband Edward, her step-daughter Jojo who is struggling with her own issues as well as the death of her beloved mother, her cousin Cari who is getting over her own heart-break, and a few more besides. With a big birthday celebration approaching, can Bess sort out the Brannigan's issues, or is it going to end in disaster?

I found this book very easy to get into from the beginning, despite the large amount of characters going on throughout the book. The Brannigan extended family is quite large, and they all make appearances throughout the book, and tell us about their various stories. The main ones throughout the book are Bess, Cari and Jojo, although the others pop up during the story. I liked Bess a lot, and felt quite sorry for her. Her only crime was to marry the man she loves, Edward, after years of being alone, and doesn't feel at all welcomed into the family by her new step-children and others. She was a strong woman outwardly, but you could tell she was crumbling inside. It was horrible to read but of course this is a common theme.

However, I could also understand Jojo's point of view, because she is still not over the shocking death of her wonderful mother, and doesn't want anyone replacing her in her father's affections. She's also struggling in her own marriage to Hugh, not telling anyone about their difficulties, so is shouldering the burden of it all by herself. It's quite a sad situation in many aspects because these women could get so much from each other if only they'd allow themselves to. Finally, there's Cari, another strong Brannigan woman who has had her heart broken by a man. Left at the altar, Cari is sure she will not ever make the mistake of falling in love again, but of course there are surprises around every corner.

I loved that Cari was a book editor, passionate about books and finding exciting new authors, and the book really showcases the job of a book editor, which is eye-opening if you don't know much about the process. Cari was very nuturing, excellent at her job, and certainly doesn't deserve how she is treated throughout the book by her colleagues, and I was really hopeful she would come out of it better off by the end. The relationship the family has with each other was lovely to read. Cari and Jojo were very supportive of each other, even if they do have their little tiffs and you can see how much Jojo adores her father, and her brother. Poor Edward was trying to juggle everyone and keep them happy, so I did have a lot of sympathy for him too.

Cathy Kelly's writing throughout the book was really good, I found myself being drawn into the world of the Brannigan's and their many dilemmas, and I always wanted to keep reading, to find out if the rifts would ever be healed. The book doesn't preach about how to have a good marriage, but highlights the importance of talking to each other, being honest and truly caring about the person and their wellbeing. Things like that can go a long way, as the characters in this book often discover. I thought all of the characters were excellently written, the drama is there throughout, and a surprise entrance near the end of the book is heart-warming and so well done. I really loved this book, and I think it's one of the best I have read by Cathy Kelly in recent years. A thoroughly enjoyable read, and one I can definitely recommend.