Tag Archives: relationships

Book review: All Grown Up by Jami Attenberg

12 Apr

all grown upAndrea is a single, childless 39-year-old woman who tries to navigate family, sexuality, friendships and a career she never wanted, but battles with thoughts and desires that few people would want to face up to.

Told in gut-wrenchingly honest language that shimmers with rage and intimacy, All Grown Up poses such questions as:
- What if I don’t want to hold your baby?
- Can I date you without ever hearing about your divorce?
- What can I demand of my mother now that I am an adult?
- Is therapy pointless?
- At what point does drinking a lot become a drinking problem?
- Why does everyone keep asking me why I am not married?

Powerfully intelligent and wickedly funny, All Grown Up delves into the psyche of a flawed but mesmerising character. Readers will recognise themselves in Jami Attenberg’s truthful account of what it means to be a 21st century woman, though they might not always want to admit it.

All Grown Up is an interesting and thought provoking read. For me, it wasn’t the most comfortable of reads at times but I did enjoy it. The novel tells the story of Andrea – a complex character if ever there was one. I felt like I’d been through the wringer after spending time in Andrea’s head and, a week after finishing reading, I’m still not sure what my feelings are for her! The readers reaction to Andrea is a key premise of the book. There are scenes that might shock, her language and narration of events is no holds barred blunt and she presents a version of the truth that begs for discussion and analysis.

My feelings for Angela veered from admiration to dislike and from empathy to pity. Andrea is happy on her own but through her narrative in All Grown Up  shows how she feels that society conspires to tell her that she’s taken a wrong path, that her choices aren’t right and that she should feel bad about them. For a large part of the story, Andrea does feel bad; about her relationships, her art, her family and friends. Even her apartment conspires against her! 

My initial reaction to Andrea was to be sympathetic – I could understand the pressures and frustrations that come with parents and friends thinking that you should be doing particular things with your life at certain points and I have strong feelings that a woman should be able to be single and childless if she wants. I found myself getting a little annoyed with Andrea because she didn’t seem to know what she wanted really and her choices seemed to be making her so unhappy.

The story is put together in chapters that jump around in time to slowly reveal the big picture of Andrea and those close to her. Two threads in this picture really interested me; Andrea’s relationship with her Mother and with her friend Imogen. Andrea’s mum was actually my favourite character – I thought she was strong, independent and willing to stand by her choices and fight for her family. 

But it was the relationship between Andrea and Imogen that intrigued me most. Not so long ago, I was on the Imogen side of this relationship having just had my first son and trying very hard to maintain a friendship with a friend who actively disliked children and had a very physical revulsion to motherhood in general. Andrea’s reaction to Imogen helped me to take another perspective on this particular friendship dilemma – I love how books can do that!

At the heart of All Grown Up is the big question ‘what makes us adults?’ and I think Andrea represents a lot of the questions that we ask ourselves as we try to be grown ups. Andrea doesn’t necessarily have the answers but in reading this book I’m sure many will recognise situations and mindsets that are familiar – a great novel to debate with friends.

4/5

All Grown Up is out now in hardback and ebook formats from Sepent’s Tail.

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

Book review: If Not For You by Debbie Macomber

8 Mar

if not for youSometimes, just one person can change your whole world…

If not for her loving but controlling parents, Beth might never have taken charge of her life.

If not for her friend Nichole, Beth would never have met Sam Carney – a tattooed mechanic who is her conservative parents’ worst nightmare.

And if not for Sam – who witnessed a terrible accident and rushed to her aid – Beth might have never survived and fallen in love.

Yet there are skeletons in Sam’s closet that prevent him from ever trusting a woman again. Will he be able to overcome his past and fight for love?

I’m a big fan of Debbie Macomber’s books and always look forward to her new releases. If Not For You  is her latest stand alone novel and it certainly didn’t disappoint – it’s part of the New Beginnings series but don’t worry if you haven’t read the first two books in the collection as they do stand alone and can be read in any order but are united by the theme of new beginnings.

If Not For You is a beautifully romantic story about love against the odds, being true to ourselves and having the courage to move on from difficult situations and not close ourselves off. I always find Debbie’s books therapeutic to read and ultimately uplifting and this story is filled with Debbie’s trademark warmth, empathy and understanding.

I very much enjoyed meeting Sam and Beth and reading as their relationship developed. Beth is twenty five and has recently moved to Portland from Chicago to escape the clutches of her overbearing mother and find her own new beginning by setting out on her own for the first time. I was shocked how much Beth’s mother had tried to control her life, particularly her love life and I immediately had a lot of sympathy for Beth as she grasped at her first taste of freedom.

Beth’s new teaching colleague Nicole invites Beth to dinner and tries to set her up with Sam, best friend to Nicole’s husband Rocco. Sam and Beth couldn’t be more different and the initial meeting is certainly not a case of opposite’s attracting! As Beth and Sam leave the dinner, Beth is involved in a bad car accident and Sam is the witness and the person first to help Beth at the scene. Debbie cleverly uses the accident as a catalyst to develop a relationship between Sam and Beth where it has seemed very unlikely that one would flourish and I loved the way that Debbie moved the story along but kept me guessing as both Sam and Beth and their pasts throw up obstacles.

I thought the characters in If Not For You were very well drawn and believable. Sam is rough around the edges but charming. Rocco and Nicole have a great relationship and I loved Beth’s aunt Sunshine – isn’t that just a brilliant name?! Sunshine’s sub story had me gripped as she also has to revisit her past to be able to move forward.

If Not For You is a positive. heartwarming read just perfect for Spring!

4/5

If Not For You is released on 9th March in paperback and ebook formats from Arrow.

Find out more about Debbie Macomber and her novels at: https://debbiemacomber.com/

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

Book review: Relativity by Antonia Hayes

16 Jan

relativityEthan is an exceptionally gifted young boy, obsessed with physics and astronomy.

His single mother Claire is fiercely protective of her brilliant, vulnerable son. But she can’t shield him forever from learning the truth about what happened to him when he was a baby; why Mark had to leave them all those years ago.

Now age twelve, Ethan is increasingly curious about his past, especially his father’s absence in his life. When he intercepts a letter to Claire from Mark, he opens a lifetime of feelings that, like gravity, will pull the three together again.

Relativity is a tender and triumphant story about unbreakable bonds, irreversible acts, and testing the limits of love and forgiveness.

I’ve been very lucky to start 2017 by reading a series of excellent new books and discovering some wonderful new authors. Antonia Hayes is an author who has jumped straight onto my ‘must read their books’ list; Relativity  is her debut and is a cleverly and beautifully written novel that tugged on my heart strings, made me hug my sons a little closer and left me feeling inspired and hopeful.

This is the story of twelve year old Ethan and his parents. Ethan is astonishingly bright for his age and loves physics and astronomy. Events when Ethan was just four months old have left him and his mum to pick up the pieces. Claire, Ethan’s mum has done all she can to protect him from the truth about what happened and the novel follows their story as events conspire to bring Ethan’s Dad Mark back into their lives at the same time as Ethan is becoming more curious about his Father and why he isn’t in their lives.

Hayes takes a shocking event and plays it forward to examine the impacts both physical and emotional on all parties over a decade later. I liked the fact that the book doesn’t focus too much on what actually happened to Ethan (the actual facts of which are hazy for the majority of the story) and focuses on the after effects. Each chapter of the story has a physics-based title and I loved how Antonia combined physics with the feelings and relationships of Claire, Ethan and Mark to make the scientific emotional and in many ways, magical.

Relativity gets to the heart of the mother-child bond perfectly – I had such empathy for Claire. But interestingly, I also felt sympathy for Mark as the book progressed and I liked that Antonia Hayes let me as a reader make judgements on both parents and their actions. This book raises interesting questions about family bonds, forgiveness and the nature of love and I liked that it made me consider that even situations that seem clear cut, often aren’t.

I’ll end my review with a mention for Ethan’s friend Alison who he meets while he’s in hospital – she was one of my favourite characters in the book and although her role is supporting, I loved the way she is written and how she gives Ethan perspective as well as assisting his grand schemes! I sped through Relativity – it has excellent pace and such an engaging story with characters that I could picture and believe in and I highly recommend adding Antonia Hayes to your reading list!

5/5

Relativity is out now in ebook format and is released in paperback on 19th January by Corsair.

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

Find out more about Antonia and her writing at: http://antoniahayes.com/

Book review: The One We Fell In Love With by Paige Toon

6 Jun

one we fell in love withPhoebe is caught between a rock and a hard place. Settle down and get married, or return to the French Alps to pursue her passion?
 
Eliza is in love with someone who is no longer hers. In fact, he probably never was… And her dream of becoming a successful musician seems to be vanishing before her eyes.

Rose is out of a job and out of a boyfriend. To make matters worse, she’s been forced to move back in with her mother…
 
But these very different girls have one thing in common. Angus. The one they fell in love with…

I’m beginning to run out of things to say about how fab Paige Toon’s books are. Honestly, each one is a perfect little package of escapist reading heaven. And like delicious chocolates I always have to slow myself to stop from gobbling it all up on one sitting!

The One We Fell In Love With has all of the trademarks I’ve come to love from Paige; handsome, thoughtful and just a little bit dangerous men, female leads who you either want to be or be best friends with and an edge of my reading spot storyline that kept me guessing and yet again managed to surprise me! As I said before, a perfect little shiny piece of book heaven.

The focus of the title and story is Angus, the boy who moves in next door to identical triplets, Phoebe, Eliza and Rose when they are seventeen. As you can image, one handsome boy and three pretty girls is a recipe for trouble, especially with sisterly rivalry thrown in. The sisters’ relationships with each other are as much part of this story as their relationships with Angus are and I loved how Paige got their individual personalities across as well as examining how it might feel to have two other people in the world who look exactly the same as you.

Rose, Phoebe and Eliza are all very different and their choices and reactions as they grew up have seen their lives take very different paths. I don’t want to give anything away so I’m not going to say much more but despite telling myself to go slowly, I still read this book in just two days and I was hooked from the start. For me, the ending was absolutely perfect! There are two characters who I rooted for through the book and I’d love to know what happens next to them.

As with all of Paige’s books I was hoping there would be a little link to previous stories or a cameo from some characters that I knew and I wasn’t disappointed – I love the little details that Paige adds in. If you haven’t read a Paige Toon book yet, I can’t recommend her highly enough and if you’re a fan, enjoy!

5/5

The One We Fell in Love With is out now in paperback and ebook formats.

Find out more about Paige and her writing at: http://www.paigetoon.com/ and don’t forget to sign up to Paige’s ‘Hidden Paige’ newsletter for extras and more!

 

Book review: The Chic Boutique on Baker Street by Rachel Dove

21 Apr

chic boutiqueThe perfect escape to the country…

Recently single and tired of the London rat race Amanda is determined to make her dreams of setting up an idyllic countryside boutique come true, and the picturesque village of West¬field is the perfect place to
make a fresh start.

Local vet Ben is the golden boy of West¬field, especially to resident gossip Agatha Mayweather, who is determined to help Ben get his life back together after his wife left.

When a chance encounter outside the ‘chic boutique’ sets sparks flying between Amanda and Ben, Agatha is itching to set them up. But are Amanda and Ben really ready for romance?

 

The Chic Boutique on Baker Street is Rachel Dove’s debut novel and was just the light summery read that I was looking for this week. Set mainly in the little Yorkshire village of Westfield, this is a sweet romance that follows Amanda as she leaves her job as a lawyer, escapes London and tries to start a new life by opening a little village shop.

There have been a lot of books recently charting new starts and the opening of shops, cafes or other ventures and though I love this kind of story,  as I started reading I wondered what would make this one different? I’m pleased to say that Rachel has put her own fab spin on this type of story and has created a lovely village of characters for readers to get to know including handsome vet Ben and a fantastic group of older residents that act as the village gatekeepers, match makers and crafty fairy godmothers!

As we first meet Amanda, she is a very successful lawyer, living the life of a city girl. The daughter of two high flying lawyers, Amanda has had her life mapped out for her from a young age and has more than risen to the challenge but when events conspire to turn her life upside down she begins to question how happy she really has been with her life to this point and jumps at the chance for a new and very different life. But the occupants of Amanda’s new home, especially Ben, are not all as enthusiastic as she is and she soon realises that she will have to earn her place in the community and win the village over if she is to succeed.

I enjoyed the tension between Amanda and Ben and I liked how both their back stories wove into the story playing out in the present, complicating the story with their own issues and past secrets. My favourite characters in the book by far though were not the leads but the older residents of Westfield who provide so many of the heartwarming and funny moments of the book. Village organiser Agatha Mayweather is a force to be reckoned with and I wasn’t sure I’d like her at first but she won me over and I loved the turn that her own story took as the book progressed. Ben’s receptionist and surrogate Mum Dottie was my absolute favourite, especially in the moments when she told Ben a few home truths!

Together the wonderful group of ladies with their crafts and matchmaking plans pulled the story together for me and gave it a little extra magic. And as Amanda has several trials to contend with during the story and both Amanda and Ben’s pasts come back to haunt them, I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough to find out what would happen.

The Chic Boutique on Baker Street is a fab debut and a lovely escapist romance, perfect for curling up with this weekend and I’m looking forward to reading more from Rachel in future.

4/5

The Chic Boutique on Baker Street is out today in paperback and ebook formats.

Find out more about Rachel and her writing at: https://racheldoveauthor.wordpress.com/

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

Ten Books to Travel With – Summer 2015

22 Jun

Whether you are jetting off to somewhere exotic or enjoying a staycation this summer there are lots of lovely books to take you on adventures around the World. Here are my top ten books to travel with this summer. I’ve listed them in release date order and highlighted the locations so you can easily decide where to visit next!

the sunriseThe Sunrise by Victoria Hislop (Cyprus) Out now from Headline

I really enjoyed this excellent new novel from Victoria Hislop and it’s my favourite of her books since The Island. Victoria expertly mixes love, ambition and family drama against a backdrop of violence and unrest based on true events – the result is a novel that you won’t forget!

In the summer of 1972, Famagusta in Cyprus is the most desirable resort in the Mediterranean, a city bathed in the glow of good fortune. An ambitious couple open the island’s most spectacular hotel, where Greek and Turkish Cypriots work in harmony. Two neighbouring families, the Georgious and the Özkans, are among many who moved to Famagusta to escape the years of unrest and ethnic violence elsewhere on the island. But beneath the city’s façade of glamour and success, tension is building.

When a Greek coup plunges the island into chaos, Cyprus faces a disastrous conflict. Turkey invades to protect the Turkish Cypriot minority, and Famagusta is shelled. Forty thousand people seize their most precious possessions and flee from the advancing soldiers. In the deserted city, just two families remain. This is their story.

 

The Little Paris Book Shop by Nina George (Paris and Provence, France) Out now LITTLE PARIS BOOK SHOPfrom Abacus

This is a must read for book lovers  – a beautiful novel that examines the power of books and reading to change lives. I loved Jean Perdu’s ‘literary apothecary’ and wished I could pay it a visit! With a quirky cast and a love story with a difference, this is an excellent book to escape with this summer.

On a beautifully restored barge on the Seine, Jean Perdu runs a bookshop; or rather a ‘literary apothecary’, for this bookseller possesses a rare gift for sensing which books will soothe the troubled souls of his customers.

The only person he is unable to cure, it seems, is himself. He has nursed a broken heart ever since the night, twenty-one years ago, when the love of his life fled Paris, leaving behind a handwritten letter that he has never dared read. His memories and his love have been gathering dust – until now. The arrival of an enigmatic new neighbour in his eccentric apartment building on Rue Montagnard inspires Jean to unlock his heart, unmoor the floating bookshop and set off for Provence, in search of the past and his beloved.

 

summertimeSummertime by Vanessa La Faye (Florida, USA) Out now from Orion

A gripping historical fiction debut that swept me up from the first pages and didn’t let go. No surprise that this novel is one of Richard and Judy’s Summer Book Club picks. Read my interview with Vanessa to find out more!

In the small town of Heron Key, where the relationships are as tangled as the mangrove roots in the swamp, everyone is preparing for the 4th of July barbecue, unaware that their world is about to change for ever. Missy, maid to the Kincaid family, feels she has wasted her life pining for Henry, who went to fight on the battlefields of France. Now he has returned with a group of other desperate, destitute veterans, unsure of his future, ashamed of his past.

When a white woman is found beaten nearly to death, suspicion falls on Henry. As the tensions rise, the barometer starts to plummet. But nothing can prepare them for what is coming. For far out over the Atlantic, the greatest storm ever to strike North America is heading their way…

 

The Umbrian Thursday Night Supper Club by Marlena de Blasi (Umbria, Italy) Out umbrian thursdaynow from Hutchinson

I was constantly hungry whilst reading this lovely book – it is packed full of mouthwatering descriptions of food and also includes wonderful recipes. This is a true story and I enjoyed getting to know each of the women as they cooked and ate and discussed their lives. With beautiful descriptions of both food and scenery, I really did feel transported to Italy as I read.

Pull up a chair for the true story of the Umbrian Thursday night supper club.

Every week on a Thursday evening, a group of four Italian rural women gather in a derelict stone house in the hills above Italy’s Orvieto. There – along with their friend, Marlena – they cook together, sit down to a beautiful supper, drink their beloved local wines, and talk.

Here, surrounded by candle light, good food and friendship, Miranda, Ninucia, Paolina and Gilda tell their life stories of loves lost and found, of ageing and abandonment, of mafia grudges and family feuds, and of cherished ingredients and recipes whose secrets have been passed down through the generations. Around this table, these five friends share their food and all that life has offered them – the good and the bad.

sunlit nightThe Sunlit Night by Rebecca Dinerstein (Norway) Out now from Bloomsbury)

A quirky and very enjoyable fiction debut from Rebecca Dinerstein. As well as being beautifully described, this novel is a captivating look at the nature of families and love.

Shortly after her college graduation, Frances flees a painful breakup and her claustrophobic childhood home in Manhattan, which has become more airless in the aftermath of two family announcements: her parents’ divorce and her younger sister’s engagement. She seeks refuge at a Norwegian artist colony that’s offered her a painting apprenticeship. Unfortunately, she finds only one artist living there: Alf, an enigmatic middle-aged descendant of the Sami reindeer hunters who specialises in the colour yellow.

Yasha, an eighteen-year-old Russian immigrant raised in a bakery in Brighton Beach, is kneading bread in the shop’s window when he sees his mother for the first time in a decade. As he gains a selfish and unreliable parent, he loses his beloved father. He must carry out his father’s last wish to be buried ‘at the top of the world’ and reconcile with the charismatic woman who abandoned them both.

And so Frances’s and Yasha’s paths intersect in Lofoten, a string of five islands ninety-five miles above the Arctic Circle. Their unlikely connection and growing romance fortifies them against the turmoil of their distant homes, and teaches them that to be alone is not always to be lonely, and that love and independence are not mutually exclusive.

heavenly italien ice creamThe Heavenly Italian Ice Cream Shop by Abby Clements (Amalfi Coast, Italy) Released on 2nd July by Simon and Schuster

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed all of Abby Clements’ previous novels so am really looking forward to reading this one!

Anna and her husband Matteo are ready to embark a delicious Italian adventure. After a year and a half running their ice cream shop on Brighton beach and raising their baby Isabella, Matteo is starting to miss Italy. A shared passion for ices means it’s easy to settle on a new business idea – they’ll open a shop in the town’s cobbled square, a short walk from the sparkling blue sea. For a while, life is sweet; but then Matteo’s overbearing family get involved…

Anna’s younger sister Imogen feels like things are finally coming together – she’s living with boyfriend Finn in a beach house in Brighton, and her photography is taking off. Then her career stalls, and the lure of Capri – and a man from her past – prove difficult to resist.

Join Anna and Imogen and share a summer on the Amalfi Coast that you’ll never forget.

 

Enchanted August by Brenda Bowen (Maine, New England, USA) Released on 2nd enchanted augustJuly by Vintage)

I saw the cover for this book on Twitter earlier in the week and had to find out more. Once I’d read the blurb this book went straight on my summer reading wish list – it sounds like a great read.

Everyone needs a place like Hopewell Cottage – a romantic holiday rental on a small, sunny island.

For Rose and Lottie, it’s a refuge from the frenzy of the school gates.

For Beverly, it’s a chance to say goodbye to two lost loves.

And for disgraced movie star Caroline, it offers the anonymity she craves.

But on tiny Little Lost Island, with its cocktail parties, tennis matches and Ladies’ Association for Beautification, will they really find the answers to their very modern problems?


the blueThe Blue by Lucy Clarke (The Philippines) Released on 30th July by HarperCollins 

I’m such a big fan of Lucy Clarke’s books! Having loved The Sea Sisters and A Single Breath I can’t wait to read The Blue!

They had found paradise.
What would they do to keep it?

With a quick spin of the globe, Kitty and Lana escape their grey reality and journey to the Philippines. There they discover The Blue – a beautiful yacht, with a wandering crew.

They spend day after languorous day exploring the pristine white beaches and swimming beneath the stars, and Lanadrifts further away from the long-buried secrets of home.

But the tide turns when death creeps quietly on deck.

A dangerous swell of mistrust and lies threatens to bring the crew’s adventures to an end – but some won’t let paradise go…whatever the price.

The Sea Between Us – Emylia Hall (Cornwall and beyond!) Released on 27th Augustsea between us by Headline

Having recently been on a brilliant holiday to Cornwall, I stumbled upon this book while I was looking for novels set there. I’ve not read any of Emylia’s books before but this sounds like an excellent place to start and I love the gorgeous cover!

In a remote Cornish cove, on one of the last days of summer, Robyn Swinton is drowning. She is saved – just – by local boy Jago Winters, and it is a moment that will change both of them forever.

Over the next seven years, Robyn and Jago’s paths lead them in different directions, to city streets and foreign shores. Will the bond forged that day Jago dragged Robyn in from the sea be strong enough to bring them back to one another, or has life already pulled them too far apart?

tea planters wifeThe Tea Planters Wife by Dinah Jeffries (Ceylon – now Sri Lanka) Released on 3rd September by Penguin

Another beautiful cover and intriguing premise from Dinah Jeffries whose excellent debut The Separation came out last year. I can’t wait to escape with it!

Nineteen-year-old Gwendolyn Hooper steps off a steamer in Ceylon full of optimism, eager to join her new husband. But the man who greets her at the tea plantation is not the same one she fell in love with in London.

Distant and brooding, Laurence spends long days wrapped up in his work, leaving his young bride to explore the plantation alone. It’s a place filled with clues to the past – locked doors, a yellowed wedding dress in a dusty trunk, an overgrown grave hidden in the grounds, far too small for an adult…

Gwen soon falls pregnant and her husband is overjoyed, but she has little time to celebrate. In the delivery room the new mother is faced with a terrible choice, one she knows no one in her upper class set will understand – least of all Laurence. Forced to bury a secret at the heart of her marriage, Gwen is more isolated than ever. When the time comes, how will her husband ever understand what she has done?

The Tea Planter’s Wife is a story of guilt, betrayal and untold secrets vividly and entrancingly set in colonial era Ceylon.

Where are your literary travels going to take you this summer? I’d love to hear your recommendations.

Book review: The Life and Death of Sophie Stark by Anna North

20 May

sophie starkThe Life and Death of Sophie Stark is the story of an enigmatic film director, told by the six people who loved her most. Brilliant, infuriating, all-seeing and unknowable, Sophie Stark makes films said to be ‘more like life than life itself’. But her genius comes at a terrible cost: to her husband, to the brother she left behind, and to the actress she can’t quite forget.

The Life and Death of Sophie Stark is one of my favourite books of the year so far. I was completely drawn in to Sophie’s story as it is told by six people who knew her fairly well. I say fairly well because one of the key themes of the book is a discussion of how well you can really know a person and one of the factors that kept me glued to this book was trying to understand the enigmatic Sophie.

In Sophie’s case she’s more mysterious than most. Described through the book in turns as a genius, a child, a friend, a colleague, sibling and lover, we see six different perspectives on Sophie but we never actually hear from the woman herself. I loved the way that this book is written and the way that Anna North captured small details of Sophie’s chracter whilst maintaining a sense of never knowing her completely.

The book follows acclaimed film director Sophie s life  (not necessarily chronologically) with chapters recounting key moments and her major works from the perspective of one of the key people in her life at the time. We meet her brother Robbie, her college crush, Daniel, her husband Jacob, the star of two of her films and on-off lover, actress Allison and movie producer George. These five narrators all have distinct voices and unique perspectives on Sophie. Each of their ‘chapters’ reads like a short story in itself and the book is a cleverly collected group of recollections of Sophie which come together to build up a picture of her life and its ups and downs.

The sixth perspective was one of my favourite elements of the book and comes in the form of reviews of Sophies film from critic Ben Martin. I enjoyed watching Ben’s career develop in parallel to Sophie’s and thought this gave an excellent ‘outsider’ perspective to the story. Of the narrators, Daniel’s story captured my attention and kept me thinking and I found Robbie’s perspective was particularly poignant.

As Sophie’s career develops she becomes known for her ability to show life, characters and feelings in a ‘true’ form. In contrast Sophie’s emotional filters are often absent and her actions often hurtful to those who love her as she pursues her art relentlessly. There’s a haunting mix of sadness and happiness in the book and it’s a novel I could easily read again. This would make an excellent choice for reading groups who are looking for something a little different. It’s a well paced, quick read that completely held my attention and gave me plenty to think about long after I’d finished reading. I look forward to reading more from Anna North.

5/5

The Life and Death of Sophie Stark is out now in ebook formats priced at 99p until 26th May (£2.99 thereafter).

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

Find out more about Anna North and her writing at: www.annanorth.net

Book Review: That Part Was True by Deborah McKinlay

27 Jan

THAT PART WAS TRUE JACKET (1)When Eve Petworth writes to Jackson Cooper to praise a scene in one of his books, they discover a mutual love of cookery and food. As their letters criss-cross the ocean that lies between them, friendship and then romance blossoms despite Jackson’s colourful love life and Eve’s tense relationship with her soon-to-be-married daughter. Little by little, Eve and Jack begin to believe that they may have a chance to change their lives and possibly get a second chance at happiness. They just need to actually meet…

That Part Was True is a thoughtful and captivating story of friendship, family, love and loss. The story is set in the UK and US and I enjoyed reading about the very different lives of the lead characters, Eve and Jack. This is a novel that grew on me quickly as I read and although fairly slow paced, is an intriguing look at the lives of two people who make a connection through their love of food and cooking.

Narrated in the third person, this That Part Was True is really two separate stories linked by the letters and notes that the main characters send each other and I was carried along by the way that their relationship developed against the backdrop of all that was going on in their separate lives.

Author Jackson (Jack) Cooper  lives in The  Hamptons and is facing something of a mid-life crisis. His wife recently left him and he is questioning everything, including his career as a best-selling popular fiction author as a result. I loved the subtle glamour of Jack’s lifestyle and the contrast between his life and that of Eve Petworth, who is focussed on living a quiet life in the English countryside.

Eve writes to Jack to praise his latest novel and Jack responds. Little by little, their friendship develops through their correspondence. As this develops Deborah McKinlay begins to fill in the detail and history of their lives for the reader. From Eve’s domineering mother, her fraught relationship with her daughter and anxiety attacks to Jack’s attempts at romance and concerns over his career; what makes this book are the lead characters’ insecurities and the complexity of their emotions.

I’ll admit that I didn’t particularly warm to either as I started the book and actually disliked Jack in the beginning, but as their experiences come to the fore I began to see them as the fully rounded characters that they are and felt sympathy for Eve in particular and admired her bravery and determination to overcome her anxiety attacks.

The concept of romance developing through a series of letters is a lovely one and gives Eve and Jack’s relationship a timeless quality that marks this book as different. But That Part Was True is more than a love story; it’s also an inspiring novel about second chances, not just in love but in family relationships too as Eve helps her daughter plan her wedding and the pair try to negotiate their difficult relationship.

The ending to this book was a wonderful surprise and not what I’d expected but left me with a feeling of satisfaction; That Part Was True is a compelling read with honestly flawed characters who will find a place in your heart.

That Part Was True is out now in paperback and ebook formats.

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

Find out more about Deborah McKinlay and her writing at:http://www.deborahmckinlay.com/ 

Book review: Landline by Rainbow Rowell

5 Aug

landlineGeorgie McCool knows her marriage is in trouble. That it’s been in trouble for a long time. She still loves her husband, Neal, and he still loves her – but that almost seems besides the point now.

Two days before they’re supposed to visit Neal’s family in Omaha for Christmas, Georgie tells him that she can’t go. She’s a TV writer, and something’s come up on her show; she has to stay in Los Angeles. She knows that Neal will be upset with her – he is always a little upset with her – but she doesn’t expect to him to pack up the kids and go home without her.

When her husband and the kids leave for the airport, Georgie wonders if she’s finally done it. If she’s ruined everything.

That night, Georgie discovers a way to communicate with Neal in the past. It’s not time travel, not exactly, but she feels like she’s been given an opportunity to fix her marriage before it starts…

Is that what she’s supposed to do?

Or would Georgie and Neal be better off if their marriage never happened?

Confession time! Landline is the first book by Rainbow Rowell that I’ve read. Despite the fact that I have gorgeous editions of all of her books to date on my shelf, like so many other books since I’ve been book blogging, the ones I’ve bought myself have sat waiting patiently for me to read them. I plan to change that while I’m on my summer holidays though!

So, back to the point; Landline is the first Rainbow Rowell book I’ve read and I loved it. Rainbow’s writing is smart, funny and perceptive and right from the off I liked leading lady Georgie. One of the reasons I liked her most is that she’s far from perfect but she’s a really good representation of the constant juggling that goes with being a working Mum. I had so much empathy with her as she worried what her job was doing, not just to her relationship with her daughters but her husband too.

Set in the run up to Christmas, Georgie and her writing partner finally get the chance to pitch their show to a big network. The problem? They have to write 5 episodes in a week and Georgie is supposed to be leaving the next day to spend Christmas in snowy Omaha with her family and in-laws.  Georgie stays behind and as her world begins to fall apart a little she heads to her mum’s for some TLC. It’s there that she discovers she can talk to her husband in the past via her mum’s old landline phone!

I loved how Rainbow worked the ‘magic’ telephone line into the story so that I actually felt it was believable.  I love stories with a little bit of magic in them and with Landline I think Rainbow Rowell gets it just right. Landline reminded me a little of classic films like Big or 13 going on 30 :-)

As I read, I felt like Rainbow really ‘got it’ and it was refreshing to see a love story that was so real. Landline is perceptive and heartbreaking but also magical and uplifting. I thoguht the ending was brilliant and I could absolutely see this book as a film. Romantic, funny, sad and real, Landline left me with a warm glow and I can’t wait to read the rest of my Rainbow Rowell collection!

4/5

Landline is our now in Hardback and ebook formats.

Find out more about Rainbow and hr writing at: http://rainbowrowell.com/blog/

With thanks to Orion for providing a review copy of this novel.

Book review: Thirteen Weddings by Paige Toon

3 Jun

thirteen weddingsLast year, Bronte left Sydney for a wedding in England, where she met newly single Alex. After a night of passion they parted ways, and Bronte returned to Australia. Now working on a picture desk for a magazine in London, Bronte is about to meet her new colleague, who turns out to be all too familiar. Although awkward at first, as Alex is now engaged to the girl he was on a break from when they met, they soon become friends. But as the two get closer, and the wedding day looms, it is clear that Alex and Bronte have unfinished business…

I’m a huge fan of Paige Toon and her books and have been eagerly anticipating her new release. I’m totally in awe of the way she manages to pull me in to a story time and time again and make me love her characters, new and old and Thirteen Weddings is no exception. In fact, it’s up there with Chasing Daisy as one of my favourites!

Thirteen Weddings is Bronte’s story (love her name!). Bronte meets Alex on her friend’s hen night and their connection sparks, leading to a very passionate single night together. I loved the romance of Bronte and Alex’s encounter and Paige immediately sets up the tension of the story as Bronte has to return to Australia and Alex has to decide if he can salvage the relationship that he is on a break from when he meets Bronte. The story quickly moves forward a year and the fates conspire to throw Alex and Bronte together again. But Alex is now engaged and Bronte, who hasn’t stopped thinking about him, is heartbroken.

I have to admit I felt torn by the Alex and Bronte storyline; one the one hand, their connection is beautifully written and half of me wanted him to choose Bronte, but I couldn’t help feeling sorry for his long term girlfriend, now fiancé and I didn’t want Alex to throw away a long term relationship for a brief encounter! Needless to say, Bronte is just as confused as I was about what should be happening and then she meets fellow Australian Lachie which adds a whole new dimension to the plot! I’m not going to say much more about the romance aspect of the book as it would spoil the story but I think this is a book that will divide readers and it will be interesting to see if Team Lachie or Team Alex is more popular!

So, where do the ‘thirteen weddings’ of the title come into all of this? The weddings provide a brilliant backdrop to the story as Bronte meets wedding photographer Rachel and begins to help her out as her assistant. The details of the wedding photographs are excellent and Paige clearly did her research! It was lovely to read a book set in the UK that covered some different parts of the country to London and I really enjoyed reading about the different settings and themes for the weddings and the wonderful variety of guests and stories as the year moved on.

As will all of Paige’s books, Thirteen Weddings is a fab stand alone story but for those of us who are long time fans, you will be pleased to know that there are updates on a number of characters from Paige’s previous books in this one including a very exciting appearance from Lily and even a mention of Lucy (from Paige’s very first book, Lucy in the Sky). 

With plenty of involving side stories and sub-plots including the heartbreaking mystery surrounding Bronte’s relationship with her Dad, I couldn’t put Thirteen Weddings down once I’d started reading.  As the tension built towards the thirteenth wedding, I still had no idea who Bronte would end up with and my heart was in my mouth as I read but I thought the ending was perfect!

So, Team Alex or Team Lachie? Read it and let me know!

5/5

Thirteen Weddings is out now in paperback and ebook formats.

I’d like to thank Simon and Schuster for providing a review copy of this book via Netgalley.

Find out more about Paige and her books at: http://www.paigetoon.com/

Paige is also launching a new free book club this summer with a briliant twist where you’ll be able to read exclusive extra chapters, short stories and news of your favourite characters. Sign up now on Paige’s website!