Tag Archives: 5/5

Book review: The Summer of Impossible Things by Rowan Coleman

8 Jul

impossibleHow far would you go to save the person you love?
Luna is about to do everything she can to save her mother’s life.
Even if it means sacrificing her own.

The Summer of Impossible Things is the book that I’ve been waiting for! It’s a wonderful, magical, hopeful dream of a book and I cannot recommend it highly enough. I’ve been a fan of Rowan Coleman’s novels for a long time now but my favourite parts of her writing are the ones that show us the magic in life and I’m so pleased that she’s taken this theme and really explored it in her latest novel.

Set mainly in Brooklyn in 1977 and 2007, the story follows Luna and her sister Pia as they return to the place where their mother was born and grew up. For Luna it’s a literal return to the time and place as she finds that she is able to visit the summer of 1977 and comes face to face with her mum as a young woman.

The Brooklyn of 1977 that Rowan creates is brilliant; it’s atmospheric and detailed and I could see the scenes Rowan describes like film scenes playing out as I read. This is the summer that the movies came to Bay Ridge with the filming of Saturday Night Fever and the era is so evocative – it’s also the year I was born so for me it’s always held a special fascination!

For Luna’s mum, it’s a summer of love and something darker – the summer that she left New York for England because of the events that played out. Past and present are inextricably linked through the book which plays out over just seven days in July. Luna’s visit to New York isn’t just a case of settling her mother’s estate; the events of that summer thirty years ago have affected her mother every day since, ultimately leading to her death. Rowan creates a strong sense of mystery in this novel and that makes it a compelling page turner as well as a beautiful and exciting read. I wanted to race through the book to find out what had happened to Marissa thirty years ago but I also wanted to savour and enjoy every word!

Luna is a brilliant character; clever, brave and wise, she’s a physicist and I loved how Rowan used her scientific mind to question what was happening to her and to give perspective on the events of the book. Rowan creates ‘real’ characters who have demons to fight and the other women in the book are all strong in their own ways. The Summer of Impossible Things is a love story on so many levels which captures beautifully the complex and unconditional love between parents and children, siblings and partners and it made my heart sing!

I loved the principles and philosophies that Rowan examines in this story; how we as humans experience time, how we understand our place in the universe and just how much is yet to be understood or uncovered! I said in a recent interview for the RNA blog that I think we all need a bit of magic in our lives and that I hoped to see more of this sort of novel in future; The Summer of Impossible Things is a perfect example of what I meant. Rowan’s books just keep getting better I can’t wait to see what she writes next.

5/5

The Summer of Impossible Things is out now in hardback, ebook and audio formats.

I’d like to thank the publisher for providing me with a review copy of this book.

Find out more about Rowan and her writing at: http://rowancoleman.co.uk/

Book review: Beneath a Burning Sky by Jenny Ashcroft

5 Jul

beneath burningWhen twenty-two-year-old Olivia is coerced into marriage by the cruel Alistair Sheldon she leaves England for Egypt, his home and the land of her own childhood. Reluctant as she is to go with Alistair, it’s in her new home that she finds happiness in surprising places: she is reunited with her long-estranged sister, Clara, and falls – impossibly and illicitly – in love with her husband’s boarder, Captain Edward Bertram.

Then Clara is abducted from one of the busiest streets in the city. Olivia is told it’s thieves after ransom money, but she’s convinced there’s more to it. As she sets out to discover what’s happened to the sister she’s only just begun to know, she falls deeper into the shadowy underworld of Alexandria, putting her own life, and her chance at a future with Edward, the only man she’s ever loved, at risk. Because, determined as Olivia is to find Clara, there are others who will stop at nothing to conceal what’s become of her . . .

Beneath a Burning Sky is a novel of secrets, betrayal and, above all else, love. Set against the heat and intrigue of colonial Alexandria, this beautiful and heart-wrenching story will take your breath away.

Beneath a Burning Sky is a brilliant debut from Jenny Ashcroft that has all the qualities that I love in an historical fiction read; well developed and interesting characters, an exotic and well detailed setting, a simmering romance thread and plenty of mystery to keep me turning the pages.

Many of my favourite books this year so far have been historical fiction reads and it’s wonderful to see exciting new authors developing this genre. After reading Beneath a Burning Sky, I will certainly be watching out for more from Jenny Ashcroft. Jenny’s love of history shines through in this novel as she vividly evokes the era of colonialism. I love being transported as a reader and learning about new places and Jenny does that so well in this book, showing both the glittering riches and an altogether darker and grittier side of the city.

The story focuses on Olivia who has been brought to Egypt from England as the wife of business man, Alistair Sheldon. It’s soon clear that Alistair is a horrible man and that Olivia is deeply unhappy. Whilst Olivia’s situation immediately made me sympathetic to her, it was her past and her determination not to give in that really endeared her to me and I was gripped by her story for the entire book, especially when she met Edward and was so tantalisingly close to finding love!

After a dramatic opening, the first part of the book is entitled ‘Before’ and charts the time leading up to the disappearance of Olivia’s sister Clara. The novel then breaks into sections covering the days that Clara is missing starting with ‘Day One’. I loved how this gave the book great pace and I felt like I was living the story with Olivia as I read. Like Olivia I had so many questions and I couldn’t guess the answers to them. Jenny Ashcroft weaves a story that had me on the edge of my seat and I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough!

5/5

Beneath a Burning Sky is out now in paperback, ebook and audio formats.

I’d like to thank the publisher for providing me with a review copy of this book.

Book review: All the Good Things by Clare Fisher

26 Jun

all the goodTwenty-one year old Beth is in prison. The thing she did is so bad she doesn’t deserve ever to feel good again.

But her counsellor, Erika, won’t give up on her. She asks Beth to make a list of all the good things in her life. So Beth starts to write down her story, from sharing silences with Foster Dad No. 1, to flirting in the Odeon on Orange Wednesdays, to the very first time she sniffed her baby’s head.

But at the end of her story, Beth must confront the bad thing.

What is the truth hiding behind her crime? And does anyone – even a 100% bad person – deserve a chance to be good?

All the Good Things is a brilliant debut from Clare Fisher. It’s a novel that is both dark and light, heartbreaking and hopeful. It made me sad for the world we live in but also positive that sometimes people can make a difference; it made me remember that we shouldn’t judge actions without knowing the full story and it reminded me why reading can be so important to let us see inside different lives and to meet and understand new characters and the world around us.

Beth is just twenty one as we meet her and she’s in prison for doing an “100% TM certified bad thing”. We don’t actually find out exactly what Beth has done until nearly the end of the novel and wanting to know certainly drew me into the story initially but this book is so much more than a page turner with a big reveal. From the very first pages, I loved Beth’s voice – it’s a compelling mix of adult who has seen too much and lost child. Beth’s honesty and the simplicity of some of her statements took my breath away. She felt real and despite knowing that she’d done something terrible, I wanted to get to know her better, to understand her and what led her to where we meet her.

Beth’s counsellor Erika has suggested that she write a list of the good things about her life and so the chapters are titled with the things on Beth’s list. From “Smelling a baby’s head right into your heart” to “Flirting on orange Wednesday” and “running as fast as the thames flows”, each ‘thing’ forms a chapter of Beth’s life and as I read I began to piece together the picture of who she is.

It soon becomes clear that Beth has seen, been through and dealt with, a lot. All the Good Things is very hard to read in places and as the picture built of the many times that Beth had been failed by the people who were supposed to care for and protect her, I could see similar stories to hers in headlines and news stories. It made me sad to think that there are women and children out there right now going through the same things as Beth has. It made me angry that opportunities to help her were missed in the book and that vulnerable women and children are in the same position in reality every day.

As you can see, this story brought out a lot of emotion in me!  It is beautifully written and it really did make me think about the ‘facts’ that we see and what is really behind those stories. I cannot wait to read more from Clare.

5/5

All the Good Things is out now in hardback, ebook and audio formats.

I’d like to thank the publisher for providing me with a review copy of this novel as part of the blog tour.

Find out more about Clare and her writing at: https://clarefisherwriter.com/ 

Book review: Leopard at the Door by Jennifer McVeigh

27 May

leopard at the doorStepping off the boat in Mombasa, eighteen-year-old Rachel Fullsmith stands on Kenyan soil for the first time in six years. She has come home.

But when Rachel reaches the family farm at the end of the dusty Rift Valley Road, she finds so much has changed. Her beloved father has moved his new partner and her son into the family home. She hears menacing rumours of Mau Mau violence, and witnesses cruel reprisals by British soldiers. Even Michael, the handsome Kikuyu boy from her childhood, has started to look at her differently.

Isolated and conflicted, Rachel fears for her future. But when home is no longer a place of safety and belonging, where do you go, and who do you turn to?

Leopard at the Door is Jennifer McVeigh’s second novel but the first that I’ve read. Her debut, The Fever Tree was chosen for the Richard and Judy book. I love discovering authors that are new to me and I’m so pleased to have been given the opportunity to read an early copy of this book – it is everything that I look for in an historical fiction read; beautifully described, evocative of another time and place, with a gripping storyline and a strong and interesting female lead.

McVeigh’s descriptions of place in Leopard at the Door are amazing; sights, smells, dress and people are all captured with such richness that I felt transported as I read. I’ve never been to Africa but the excellent scene setting in this novel meant that I didn’t have to work to imagine it and I particularly loved the vistas that McVeigh creates featuring wildlife.

Against this natural beauty, McVeigh sets a story of love, war and division that contrasts sharply. With her lead character Rachel we are given an observer’s insight into events and I loved the way that Rachel’s character was used to give perspective and also represented the divides in the story – it made for gripping reading. The story is shockingly violent in places yet there are also wonderful scenes of gentleness, compassion and love which makes it all the more heartbreaking to read.

As Rachel returns to her father’s farm in Kenya after a six year absence she is also trying to find her place in the world. Sent to England at just 12 following the death of her beloved mother, Rachel is just eighteen when she returns and is still trying to make sense of her fathers’ actions and find her place in the family. But the farm that she returns to is subtly changed from the idyll of her childhood memories and immediately there are tensions in the house.

Charting the violence and horrors of the early 1950s and British Imperialism in Kenya, McVeigh shines a spotlight on a part of history that I know little about making this book much more than just an excellent read. McVeigh brings history alive and I was completely swept up in this story; it’s a must read for fans of Dinah Jefferies and readers who love historical fiction coupled with dramatic settings and love against the odds.

5/5

Leopard at the Door is out now in ebook and audio formats from Penguin. It will be released in paperback on 13th July.

Find out more about Jennifer and her writing at: http://www.jennifermcveigh.com/

I’d like to thank the publisher for sending me a review copy of this book.

Book review: The Forever House by Veronica Henry

19 May

forever coverWould you know your forever house if you found it?

Hunter’s Moon is the ultimate ‘forever’ house. Nestled by a river in the Peasebrook valley, it has been the Willoughbys’ home for over fifty years, and now estate agent Belinda Baxter is determined to find the perfect family to live there. But the sale of the house unlocks decades of family secrets – and brings Belinda face to face with her own troubled past.

The Forever House is another absolute treat from Veronica Henry. Whether set by the sea or in the beautiful Cotswold countryside as this book is, Veronica’s books always offer a perfect reading escape. In this book we get to visit the charming village of Peasebrook and a beautiful house called Hunter’s Moon, the home of the Willoughby family. Hunter’s Moon is so beautifully described and I loved how Veronica wove the history of the house into the history of the family giving their home its own character.

The story moves between the present where estate agent Belinda Baxter has been commissioned to sell the Willoughby’s beloved home and the late 1960’s when a young girl called Sally visits Hunter’s Moon for the first time and becomes housekeeper for the family. I loved the dual timeline storylines for this book as difficult events in the present force the sale of the house and prompt its residents to reflect on the past and how the house became the home it is today.

Veronica evokes a wonderfully glamerous and spontaneous history for Hunter’s Moon with the eccentric bestselling romance author Margot Willoughby, her daughter Phoebe who creates fabulous fashion designs from the dining table and handsome son Alexander who is very much the dashing man about town. These parts of the story had a brilliant ‘Mad Men’ feel to them and I loved the contrast between the chaotic Willoghbys and Sally who just wants to put everything in order and create a homely atmosphere following the heartbreaks of her own past.

In the present Belinda is also coming to terms with past events that have left her heart bruised. I loved her dedication to her career and the boutique business that she has built from scratch and I was in heaven with all of the wonderful decor and design details of the houses that Belinda sells and her attention to detail – I only wish she was real and could find me my dream home!

Veronica Henry builds this story beautifully with events in the past and present bringing dramatic surprises and keeping me as a reader on my toes! Both parts of the story have excellent pace and plenty of to keep the reader thinking and each time the narrative moved between past and present I was left eager to find out what happened next so I flew through this book – I didn’t want it to end but I couldn’t put it down!

Belinda’s story runs perfectly alongside the story of Hunter’s Moon and Sally’s story in the past and I loved how the two stories came together as the book concluded. The characters are believable and interesting and I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know them, especially Belinda and Sally. The Forever House is an entertaining, heartening read about family and the special places that we call home and I highly recommend adding it to your bookshelves!

5/5

The Forever House is out now in paperback, ebook and audio formats from Orion.

Find out more about Veronica Henry and her writing at: http://www.veronicahenry.co.uk/

I’d like to thank the publisher for sending me a review  copy of this book.

A cup of tea with: Geekerella by Ashley Poston

17 May

Today I’m launching something new! I was contacted by the lovely people at Adagio Teas and they proposed a rather fab idea; that I pair some of the books I read with their teas! Who doesn’t love a good cuppa when they curl up with a book so of course I jumped at the chance and my new feature ‘A Cup of Tea With…’ is born!

I must admit, to this point I’ve not been very adventurous when it comes to tea – its usually a good strong cup of the Yorkshire variety and the occasional foray into green or herbal teas so when I opened the box of samples that Adagio sent me, it was like stepping into a whole new world and I’m loving it and so are my tastebuds!

The Tea: Earl Grey Moonlight 

IMG_8024

For this review I’ve paired Ashley Poston’s Geekerella with Adagio’s Earl Grey Moonlight.  This tea smells and looks amazing and I’m pleased to say it tastes just as good! It’s got a wonderfully creamy vanilla scent and was lovely to drink – I truly am converted! I chose to pair it with Geekerella partly because of the name – Moonlight fits perfectly both with the Cinderella and sci-fi fandom theme of the book and also  because this is such a clever surprising story and I felt the same about this tea :-)

The Book: Geekerella by Ashley Postongeekerella

Geekerella is one of my favourite books of the year so far. It’s quirky, funny, romantic and original and I fell in love with the two lead characters. This is a very clever retelling of the fairytale Cinderella – it stays true to the original story but is different enough to keep the reader guessing and I loved that it had a story within a story with the world of Starfleet and the story of Prince Carmindor.

Ashley Posten has created a new sci-fi fandom for this book; the Starfleet fans are as passionate, committed and loyal as any other fandoms and Starfleet with it’s ‘Look to the Stars. Aim. Ignite’ call to action sits believably amongst the scifi series’ like Starwars and Startrek that we know so well already. Ashley has crafted a fabulous and uplifting love letter to fans everywhere and I was enchanted by the story.

Seventeen year old Elle grew up on Starfleet. Her parents were superfans – her Dad even started his own Con dedicated to his passion. Having sadly lost both parents too young, we meet Elle as she is living with her stepmom and twin stepsisters in a miserable existence (you know the story).  Elle has a secret passion and is one of the leading Starfleet bloggers with her blog Rebelgunner read by thousands. When a big screen reboot of the series is commissioned and teen heart throb Darien Freeman is chosen to play the male lead Prince Carmindor Elle writes a scathing blog post in reaction sharing many fans’ thoughts that the producers have gone for heartthrob over a true believer.

Darien has his own set of problems. He’s recently found fame in TV series Sunset Cove but wants to break onto the big screen and Starfleet is the perfect way for him to do that but can he live up to the fans and his own expectations? Darien also has a secret; he’s a massive Starfleet fan; this is the role of his dreams but will his controlling father and the fickle movie industry let him be who he wants to be?

Narrated in turn by Elle and Darien, the story had me gripped and I so wanted them to both find their happy ever after! As the Cosplay contest approaches both will get a lot more than they bargained for! There are a lot of wonderful heartfelt truths in this book and it’s also a brilliantly diverse read with more than a few surprises up its sleeve as Elle enlists her Magic Pumpkin co worker (the brilliantly named Sage) to help her.

If you’re looking for a book that is sweet, geeky, romantic and clever, this is the one that you should be reading this summer!

5/5

Geekerella is out now in paperback and ebook formats from Quirk books.

Find out more about Ashley and her writing at: http://www.ashposton.com/

I’d like to thank Jamie for sending me a copy of this book to review.

I’d also like to thank Danielle at Adagio Teas for providing the tea that accompanied this review! Do check out the ‘Fandoms’ section of the Adagio website for some brilliantly fandom inspired teas: http://www.adagiotea.co.uk/signature_blend/fandoms.html

 

Book review: Catch Me If You Cannes by Lisa Dickenson

10 May

9780751565171Jess has decided it’s time to get out of her comfort zone and live a little. So when her best friend Bryony, a journalist on a gossip magazine, is sent to cover the Cannes Film Festival, Jess decides to seize the day and go along for the ride. Two weeks of sun, glamour and exclusive entry into celeb-filled parties is just the kind of adventure Jess needs.

Reality soon bites though when Jess and Bryony find they’re staying in a dingy hotel far away from all the action and Bryony’s expenses budget barely covers a glass of local wine. Undeterred, the two women are determined to live like the elite and enjoy one fancy night out to begin their holiday. So what if they have to tell a few white lies along the way? It’s just this once. No harm done . . . right?

Are you looking for a little escape? Well, I have the perfect escape right here for you – and you don’t even have to move to enjoy it! Lisa Dickenson’s sunny new novel, Catch Me If You Cannes has just been released in paperback format. The novel was originally released as a four part serial in ebook format and has now been packaged up with this fab summery cover, just in time for some holiday reading!

Last summer Lisa took us to Italy with You Had Me At Merlot and this year we’re heading to the South of France with Jess and Bryony for a fun and funny adventure at the Cannes Film Festival. With two fabulously funny leading ladies, a potential love interest (or two) and is buckets of quick wit and spur of the moment adventure this book is so much fun!

Lisa is great at creating characters that will make you laugh but also have more than just fun banter going on underneath and as I read this book and learned a little of each girl’s history, I took them both to my heart.  Jess runs a cafe in Cornwall and is taking the opportunity to escape some of the worries that have been preoccupying her lately by escaping for a holiday with her best friend.

Bryony is more than happy to have her friend along for the ride as she sets out to report on the film festival for the gossip mag that she works for whilst dreaming of the day that she’ll be taken seriously as a journalist. From horrible bosses, feeling stuck in a rut, dealing with failed romances and wondering what the future holds, Lisa hits on issues all readers will identify with whilst keeping the story light and making us laugh.

As the girls seize the chance to live a glamerous life of cocktails, parties and beautiful places and people for just a night or two they are forced to throw in a few little white lies. As the fibs build, Jess and Bryony find themselves caught in a number of tricky situations that I had no idea how the were going to get out of and kept me turning the pages as fast as I could.

The descriptions of Cannes and the surrounding areas made me wish I could go there and a visit to the playground of the rich and famous, Monaco also features. As a reader who loves travel and discovering new places, I really enjoyed the descriptions of beautiful new places. As Jess gets to know hunky love interest Leo, the exotic locations couldn’t provide a better backdrop and combined with a little mystery the story really sparkles and has some excellent twists.

Lisa certainly knows how to write a killer one-liner and Catch Me If You Cannes is full of them – I defy anyone to not smile while reading this book. I loved enjoying sunshine, smiles, glamour and romance with Jess and Bryony at the Cannes Film Festival and the ending of the book was the icing on the cake!

5/5

Catch Me If You Cannes is out now in paperback and ebook formats from Sphere.

Find out more about Lisa and her books at: http://www.lisadickenson.com/

I’d like to thank the publisher for providing a review copy of this book.

Book review: The Hourglass by Tracy Rees

5 May

hourglass2014. Nora has always taken success for granted, until suddenly her life begins to fall apart. Troubled by anxiety and nightmares, she finds herself drawn to the sweeping beaches of Tenby, a place she’s only been once before. Together with a local girl she rents a beautiful townhouse and slowly begins to settle in to her new life. But Tenby hides a secret, and Nora will soon discover that this little town by the sea has the power to heal even the most painful memories.

1950. Chloe visits Tenby every summer. She stays with relatives, and spends the long, idyllic days on the beach. Every year is the same, until she meets a glamorous older boy and is instantly smitten. But on the night of their first date, Chloe comes to a realisation, the aftermath of which could haunt her forever.

The Hourglass is a moving novel about finding love even after it seems too late and the healing power of a magical place by the sea.

I read my first Tracy Rees book, Florence Gracelast year and absolutely loved it so I was very excited to be sent a copy of Tracy’s new novel, The Hourglass. Tracy’s two previous books have both been historical novels so The Hourglass is a little bit of a new direction as it’s set partly in the present (2014) and partly in the 1950s. I wondered how Tracy’s writing would move to the timeslip format and I have to say she’s aced it!

Tracy has a wonderful way of making you feel that you’re ‘there’ in her writing, whether ‘there’ is a desolate moor in the 1700s or a sunny beach in 1950s and I was completely swept up in her descriptions of Tenby in the 1950s and today. The Hourglass follows the stories of Chloe and Nora. Chloe is Welsh a teenager who visits her Auntie Susan in Tenby for three weeks every summer starting when she’s ten.

Rees perfectly captures the excitement of a summer seaside holiday from a bygone era and I loved following each summer Chloe as she grew up, went to the much coveted ‘Tenby Teens’ dances and spent long happy days exploring with her best friend Llew. Tracey evokes an era of Famous Five style adventures and I couldn’t get enough of these parts of the book.

In contrast, Nora as we meet her is very unhappy. She’s just about to turn 40 and is very successful at her job as an administrator for the history department of a big London University, has recently dumped her boyfriend and is suffering from severe anxiety attacks. Her free-spirited mother Jasmine thinks she’s having some sort of mid-life crisis and for the first time their close relationship begins to falter. Nora finds herself wishing for open beaches and space and finds herself drawn to Tenby, a place that she visited once as a child.

I could identify so much with Nora; for me, turning forty earlier in the year has made me evaluate where I am in life and where I’m going! My life is very different to Nora’s but I loved that Tracy captured that sense of a turning point in a book and coincidentally captured my own desire to live by the sea (which has been stronger than every this year) rather than to remain in London forever!

As regular readers will know, I love books set by the sea and especially the British seaside so the setting for this book ticked all the boxes for me and I enjoyed how Tracy captured the wonderful sense of calm that can come with being at the coast. As Nora begins her own adventure in Tenby, the story moves back and forth between her story and Chloe’s and links begin to emerge. The Hourglass is very cleverly written to drip feed clues to the linkages between the stories as the novel progresses and I was absolutely hooked!

As with all good books, on the one hand I couldn’t wait to find out what had happened to Chloe all those years ago and what would happen to Nora in the present but I also didn’t want the story to end! I said in my review of Florence Grace that the book had a philosophical air to it and was peppered with timeless and insightful advice and the same is true of The Hourglass.

The Hourglass has gone straight onto my list of favourite books of 2017 and I can’t wait for more from Tracy!

5/5

The Hourglass is out now in  paperback, ebook and audio formats from Quercus.

I’d like to thank the publisher for providing me with a review copy of this book.

Book review: Paper Hearts and Summer Kisses by Carole Matthews

18 Apr

paper hearts cover

Christie Chapman is a single working mother who spends her days commuting to her secretarial job in London and looking after her teenage son, Finn.

It can be tough just getting through the day but Christie has always found comfort in her love of crafting and any spare time she has is spent in her parents’ summerhouse working on her beautiful creations. From intricately designed birthday cards to personalised gifts, Christie’s flair for the handmade knows no bounds and it’s not long before opportunity comes knocking. 

All of a sudden Christie sees a different future for her and Finn – one full of hope and possibility, and if the handsome Max Alexander is to be believed, one full of love too. It’s all there for the taking.
And then, all of sudden, Christie’s world is turned upside down.

Christie knows that something has to give, but what will she choose? Will she give up her dreams and the chance of real love? What price will she pay for doing the right thing? Can Christie find her happy ending in . . . Paper Hearts and Summer Kisses.                                                                                                                                                                                                                           I’ve read a number of Carole Matthews’ books over the years and they are always lovely, heartwarming reads but Paper Hearts and Summer Kisses is, for me, Carole’s best book yet. It has all the characteristics that I love in a good story; realistic characters that I could root for, a leading lady that I could identify with, lovely family relationships, emotional ups and downs and of course, a little romance. Not to mention the crafting – I loved learning about paper craft from Christie’s story and crafting fans will definitely enjoy this book.

Christie endeared herself to me straight away and I liked her more the more I read. She’s a single mum to fifteen year old Finn and the pair have a very close bond which was a joy to read. I loved that Christie is around the same age as me and as she did the dreaded commute into London each day, there was a lot that I could identify with. Christie has a great sense of humour as she tries to keep on top of holding down a full time job at a city law firm and caring for Finn who has been having some health problems and I admired her determination. Carole has based the character on her real life friend ‘Christine’ and her love and admiration for her and her son shines through on the pages.

Christie’s support network is wonderful and she has a brilliant relationship with her parents who live nearby. It was so lovely to read a story with such a positive emphasis on family – I wanted to move in with Christie’s Mum and Dad as I read! As Christie gets the opportunity to take her craft hobby to the next level by working with an American company, her family and friends rally round to support her – her law firm boss Robyn is another brilliantly written character who got a big thumbs up from me.

But just as things begin to look up, there’s more bad news on the way and this book certainly played with my emotions – it was only too easy to put myself in Christie’s shoes and to think how I’d feel if one of my sons was in Finn’s situation. I was on the edge of my seat rooting for both Finn and Christie to have the happy ending they deserved.

In addition to the family drama, Paper Hearts and Summer Kisses has a wonderful romantic thread to it too as Christie meets handsome American CEO Max and her fellow commuter Henry and they both show an interest in her. I loved Christie for staying true to herself as both men vied for her attention and Carole conjures up some seriously romantic ‘dates’ in very glamorous locations whilst keeping the reader guessing!

Paper Hearts and Summer Kisses is a fab and inspiring read about weathering the many ups and downs that life can throw at us – a lovely uplifting read that left me with a smile on my face.

5/5

Paper Hearts and Summer Kisses is out now in paperback, ebook and audio formats from Sphere.

Check out Carole’s fab website for more information on her books and the background to this story: http://www.carolematthews.com/

Please do check out the other stops on the blog tour and stop by here again later today for the chance to win a copy of this lovely book!

Guest book review: When My Ship Comes in by Sue Wilsher

5 Apr

My lovely Mum is back today and she’s been reading Sue Wilsher’s debut novel, When My Ship Comes In.

shipKeep the family together, that’s what her old mum always said. Put up and shut up. And that’s what everyone else did around there.

Essex, 1959. Flo earns her money as a scrubber, cleaning the cruise ships and dreaming of a day when she might sail away from her life in the Dwellings, the squalid tenements of Tilbury docks. Then the Blundell family are evicted from their home.

Fred, Flo’s husband, finds work at Monday’s, a utopian factory town. Suddenly, it seems like everything is on the up for Flo Blundell and her children. Even Jeanie, Flo’s sulking teenage daughter, seems to be thawing a little in her shiny new surroundings.

But when Flo’s abusive husband Fred starts drinking again, he jeopardises the family’s chance to escape poverty for good.

Flo is faced with a terrible decision. Must she fight to keep her family together? Or could she strive for the life of her dreams – the kind of life she could have when her ship comes in?

GRIPPING! From the first page!

Sue Wilsher has an amazing ability with words – hauling the reader into this book, warts and all! No feeling is spared just true and real descriptions that have you on the edge of your seat – not because this is a story with an amazing adventure thread or a deceptive dark secret – but because this story is REAL! You live the minute, every minute!

Flo Blundell has awful and desperate decisions to make from the outset of the story, based around Tilbury docks and set in 1959, when folk were still feeling the scars of war but light was beginning to dawn on a better future for some.Flo is very loyal to her family, eight year old Mikey, fifteen year old twins Jeanie and Bab’s and her dear elderly ailing mother who lives in the tenement next door.

Although her husband is a drunkard and treats her aggressively – when he is at home, Flo remains the loyal wife, for she relates to her husband’s dark secrets of the past, and excuses him because, “He can’t help it.” Flo has a secret plan of her own; the Oxo tin in the larder helping to hide her dreams of a better life across the sea, but that is dashed when the contents are needed to deal with a very imminent and demanding problem, which can’t wait.

Cleverly the book switches from the third person to the first person – at first I found this a bit odd and had to do a double take to decide who was relaying events – but then I realised this was a very good tactic, because the person describing events was actually the character who chose to say very little – this was a wonderful way of getting inside someone’s thoughts and actually helping the reader to understand their way of thinking.

One dilemma leads to another and poor Flo has to deal with many dramas and heartbreaks all because of Fred’s inability to control his temper!  Amazingly life seems to turn a corner at this point, but cleverly Sue still has the reader with heart in mouth expecting the worst and then just when you start to relax – Wham! Everything turns upside down again!

Sue’s descriptions are so real that you can smell the smog, taste the grime and feel every punch and kick launched at Flo. Thankfully there are some saviours in this traumatic world and Flo finds friendship and support in the least expected quarters. She never gives up on herself or her family and latterly makes a very brave decision.

Jeanie is the quiet moody twin who seems angry with the world, no matter what – she has her own plans and ambitions and although she has an affinity with her twin, when the time comes to face one of the cruellest decisions, she does so alone. Sue Wilshire has obviously researched her facts and because of my age I could relate to many things that happened, hearing similar stories when growing up and remember well the tin bath in front of the fire!

This isn’t a ‘Happy ever after story’ but it is a heart wrenching and heart-warming story of life in the late fifties and early sixties, for the working classes. A lovely read and I look forward to other volumes from Sue.

5/5

When My Ship Comes In is released in paperback and ebook formats on 6th April by Sphere.

Find out more about Sue Wilsher and her writing at: https://historicalwriters.org/writer/sue-wilsher/

I’d like to thank the publisher for sending us a review copy of this book.