Monday, 29 June 2015

Lillian on Life - Alison Jean Lester


Synopsis:

Lillian, a single, well-travelled woman of a certain age, wakes up next to her married lover and looks back at her life. It's not at all the life she expected. Walking the unpaved road between traditional and modern options for women, Lillian has grappled with parental disappointment, society's expectations and the vagaries of love and sex. As a narrator she's bold and witty, and her reflections - from 'On Getting to Sex' to 'On the Importance of Big Pockets' or 'On Leaving in Order to Stay' - reverberate originally and unpredictably.

In Lillian on Life, Alison Jean Lester has created a brutally honest portrait of a woman living through the post-war decades of change in Munich, Paris, London and New York. Her story resonates with the glamour and energy of those cities. Charming, sometimes heartbreaking, never a stereotype, Lillian is completely herself; her view of the world is unique. You won't soon forget her.


What did I think?

This was a really unusual book; I almost felt like I was reading Lillian's diary as we're privy to her innermost thoughts and observations.

I felt that Lillian has been unlucky in love and it takes her several failed relationships to finally realise what it is that she is looking for. Her Mother couldn't hide her disappointment that Lillian was 35 and unmarried, something that wouldn't get the bat of an eyelid these days.  Despite her judgemental Mother, Lillian has a loving and comfortable relationship with her Dad who she affectionately calls Poppa.

There are some wonderful lines and anecdotes in the book but I don't want to release any spoilers here!  Lillian is a smart modern lady who would not be out of place as a young woman in the 21st Century.  She was not afraid to travel the world at the end of the war, meeting new and interesting people along the way.

It's a book that made me laugh and also made me feel sad at times, a true observation of life with all its ups and downs. I absolutely whizzed through this book and it's a book I will pick up again and again to fully appreciate the wise words of Lillian.  

I received this book from the publisher via Bookbridgr in exchange for an honest review.


My rating:





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Sunday, 28 June 2015

All My Secrets - Sophie McKenzie


Synopsis:


The shocking reality behind a £10 million inheritance turns Evie Brown's world on its head. Unable to find out the truth from her parents, Evie ends up on the mysterious island of Lightsea, where her desire for answers leads her towards a series of revelations that threaten everything she holds dear . . . including her life.

What did I think?

I haven't read a YA title for a while and this one sounded quite intriguing.

Evie gets a bombshell dropped on her when she finds out that her Mum is not her biological Mum.  Her life spirals out of control and she is sent to Lightsea island with other troubled teens.  There she meets the obligatory love interest and has the dilemma of choosing between two boys while fighting for survival.

I'm not really sure what to make of this book.  The two boys fighting over Evie is reminiscent of the Hunger Games.  The whole story has a Scooby Doo or Famous Five type feel to it but I didn't really warm to the characters.  The story itself wasn't bad, I did guess who was ultimately behind putting Evie's life in danger but his accomplice was a surprise.  I enjoyed the part about her relationship with her parents and her ultimate appreciation of them at the end did bring tears to my eyes.

For fans of YA, this is a good read and I will read Girl, Missing if I come across it in the library.

I won this title in a Goodreads First Reads giveaway.

My rating:




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What Milo Saw - Virginia Macgregor


Synopsis:

A BIG story about a small boy who sees the world a little differently

Nine-year-old Milo Moon has retinitis pigmentosa: his eyes are slowly failing and he will eventually go blind. But for now he sees the world through a pin hole and notices things other people don't. When Milo's beloved gran succumbs to dementia and moves into a nursing home, Milo soon realises there's something very wrong at the home. The grown-ups won't listen to him so with just Tripi, the nursing home's cook, and Hamlet, his pet pig, to help, Milo sets out on a mission to expose the nursing home and the sinister Nurse Thornhill.

Insightful, wise and surprising, What Milo Saw is a novel filled with big ideas, simple truths and an emotional message that will resonate with everyone. Milo sees the world in a very special way and it will be impossible for you not to fall in love with him, savour every moment you spend with him and then share his story with everyone you know.

What did I think?

This was another book that hooked me from the first page; I couldn't put down and finished it in two sittings.  Milo is such a wonderful character and despite only seeing a little bit of the world through his "pinhole" he sees things that other people don't notice.  I finished this book thinking "wow, I really do take my sight for granted".  As Milo rushes to expose the Forget Me Not nursing home before he loses his sight, I found myself swept along with the gang and was punching the air in delight every time Nurse Thornhill got captured on camera and the noose around her neck tightened.

The residents were a spunky bunch and sometimes Nurse Thornhill's actions were difficult to read about, as we have seen bad press about nursing homes.  I know the majority of homes are respectable and well run, but unfortunately this story could be more fact than fiction for some residents of nursing homes.

I liked the story of Tripi - we often hear of illegal immigrants in a negative way, but Tripi was willing to work and make a better life for himself.  The story of his escape from Syria was heart-wrenching and again with the things we have seen on the news, we can apply this to real life which makes it even more poignant.

I mustn't forget Hamlet the pig!  He is as loveable as Milo.  They complement each other and it was lovely when Milo sent Hamlet to Gran's nursing home to keep her warm at night.  A completely unselfish act by a wonderful little boy.  Now where do I buy one of these teacup pigs?

This book is ideal for readers who loved Mark Haddon's The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time but I would also put it alongside RJ Palacio's Wonder.  As I can't imagine what it would be like to lose my sight, this book really made me feel grateful for what I have.  I am in awe of people who don't let things like losing their site get in the way of life, as I'm sure I would be afraid to leave the house.  Although it is sad that Milo is losing his sight, he doesn't feel sorry for himself, and I found myself feeling respect for him rather than feeling sorry for him.

Despite the sad subject matter, it really is a feel good book!  I laughed out loud quite often at some of Milo's observations.  The author has really got inside Milo's skin and has written a most excellent book that everybody should read.

I received this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

My rating:




Saturday, 27 June 2015

Pirate Hunters - Robert Kurson


Synopsis:


The gripping true story of bitter rivalries on the high seas, a brilliant 17th-Century pirate captain, and the two adventurous men determined to find his treasure.

Captained by English nobleman-turned-pirate Joseph Bannister, the Golden Fleece was a pirate ship sunk by the Royal Navy in 1686 taking with it many fortunes’ worth of gold. When present-day adventurers John Chatterton and John Mattera hear of it, they know they have to risk everything to get their hands on it.

Bestselling author Robert Kurson not only recreates the break-neck excitement of their search for the lost ship, but also vividly re-imagines life on the high seas in the Golden Age of piracy in this thrilling true-life adventure.


What did I think?

This was brilliant.  I often like to read a true story and what a true story this is!  It's not only the story of Joseph Bannister, but the story of the men who were looking for his ship, The Golden Fleece - John Chatterton and John Mattera.  Giving such an insight into the background of the two Johns meant that I could empathise with them and understand their frustrations at times.  In fact the early years of John Mattera was almost like reading about an episode of the Sopranos!  John Chatterton on the other hand flirted with danger and showed no fear diving to places where others would not contemplate on going.  I'm not sure what is more scary - the threat of the mob or the danger of the bends.

I was really interested in the process of hunting for a wreck - I had no idea that you had to have a lease to search the waters.  In this case, the lease belonged to the renowned treasure hunter, Tracy Bowden, who gave the Johns instructions on where to look for the Golden Fleece.  The story gets really interesting when the Johns become frustrated with their futile search in one area and try to persuade Tracy to search elsewhere.  I thought it was going to come to blows on more than one occasion!

Mattera's interest in history meant that he cleverly used historical records to try to get into the mind of Joseph Bannister that ultimately led to the discovery of the Golden Fleece.  This is where the events of 1686 and the 17th Century are described in such vivid details for us.  Why men, and sometimes women, became pirates and what the could expect of life on the high seas.  There was a heart stopping moment beforehand when somebody claims to have found the Golden Fleece and I let out an audible "Oh No!!" - this isn't a spoiler, history tells us that Chatterton and Mattera found the Golden Fleece but I was so engrossed in the story that I felt their disappointment and incredulity with them!

The book touches on the German U-boat that John Chatterton discovered off the coast of New Jersey and I'll certainly be adding Robert Kurson's Shadow Divers to my reading list.

This is a must read book for anybody wanting to learn more about the real Pirates of the Caribbean.  It really does read like a fast paced thriller and I sometimes forgot I was reading a true story.  A real swashbuckler of a read that has piqued my interest in underwater salvage. 

I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

My rating:




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Thursday, 25 June 2015

Killing Monica - Candace Bushnell


Synopsis:


This is the book fans of Candace Bushnell have been waiting for. From the author of "Sex and the City," "Lipstick Jungle," and "The Carrie Diaries" comes an addictive story about fame, love, and foolishness that will keep readers enthralled to the very last enticing scene. 

Pandy "PJ" Wallis is a renowned writer whose novels about a young woman making her way in Manhattan have spawned a series of blockbuster films. After the success of the Monica books and movies, Pandy wants to attempt something different: a historical novel based on her ancestor Lady Wallis. But Pandy's publishers and audience only want her to keep cranking out more Monica-as does her greedy husband, Jonny, who's gone deeply in debt to finance his new restaurant in Las Vegas. When her marriage crumbles and the boathouse of her family home in Connecticut goes up in flames, Pandy suddenly realizes she has an opportunity to reinvent herself. But to do so, she will have to reconcile with her ex-best friend and former partner in crime, SondraBeth Schnowzer, who plays Monica on the big screen-and who may have her own reasons to derail Pandy's startling change of plan.

In KILLING MONICA, Candace Bushnell spoofs and skewers her way through pop culture, celebrity worship, fame, and the meaning of identity. With her trademark humour and style, this is Bushnell's sharpest, funniest book to date.

What did I think?

Pandy Wallis has created a character that she writes about called Monica.  Pandy invented Monica to teach her sister, Hellenor, the wonderful ways of being a good girl.  The Monica books prove so popular that they are made into films and casting for Monica proves difficult, as Pandy modelled Monica on herself.  Then Pandy spots a photograph of a model who will be perfect to play Monica, so she arranges to meet SondraBeth Schnowzer.  The pair quickly hit it off, SondraBeth lands the part of Monica, and they become inseparable and known around town as PandaBeth.

They typically fall out over a man, Pandy gets married and divorced, and her husband Jonny is out to take every penny she has.  Pandy’s agent, Henry, advised her to get Jonny to sign a prenup but she didn’t do it as she was so in love!

Pandy goes back to spend some time at her ancestral home after her historical novel about her ancestor, Lady Wallis, failed to get accepted by her publisher.  Then Pandy, through a case of mistaken identity, accidentally gets reported as being killed in a fire. SondraBeth pays a visit to who she thinks is Pandy’s sister, Hellenor, but it is actually Pandy.  “Hellenor” is now the owner of the Monica franchise, and when “Hellenor” reveals to SondraBeth that she is in fact Pandy, the pair cook up a plan to get revenge on Jonny.

It sounds a bit silly, but it wasn't too bad really.  It is my first Candace Bushnell novel so I don't have the Carrie Bradshaw yardstick with which to measure it against.  I didn’t really pay much attention to the snippets about the real Hellenor, who apparently lived in Amsterdam, but part way through we find out that Pandy has a secret that involves Hellenor.  Then when the real Hellenor makes an appearance we realise that she was under our noses all along!

I received this e-book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

My rating:




Summertime - Vanessa Lafaye



Synopsis:
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...

What did I think?

Summertime starts us off quite gently (for just a few minutes) with Missy, the Kincaid’s maid, trying to cool down in the heat then immediately grabs us by the throat as an alligator enters the garden.  Missy freezes in horror and I was almost screaming at her to grab the baby and run!  While Missy is still running through all the scenarios in her head, her neighbour Selma comes running with her shotgun!  Fire up the barbecue it’s gator steaks all round!

As we are introduced to the whole town of Heron Key, there are quite a few characters in the book so it can sometimes get confusing but the main characters quickly shine through.  We learn about Missy’s employers, Nelson and Hilda Kincaid, and their less than perfect marriage despite the birth of their son Nathan.  Missy is still living with Mama as she is waiting for the love of her life, Henry (Selma’s brother), to return from war.  Thanks to Selma’s Haitian love spells, Henry returns from war and his heart skips a beat when he sees Missy, but he returns with other veterans and lives with them at the veterans’ camp.  The veterans are quickly ostracised and when a white woman gets attacked the veterans’ camp falls under immediate suspicion.  Meanwhile, a storm is brewing…

It’s quite shocking to read about the degree of racial segregation that was enforced in America back in those days (the book is set in 1935).  It is even more disturbing when the storm comes, and lives are at stake, that colour of skin becomes a ticket to safety.  I was completely gripped by the whole story of the storm, and I did indeed gasp out loud as the storm claimed its first victim.  The ferocity and danger of the storm followed by the temporary peace and tranquillity of the eye was felt in every page and I almost felt like I was living through it with the residents of Heron Key.

This is a work of fiction based on fact so it can't help but reach into your soul and leave an imprint of the events of that fateful day in 1935.  It is an amazing story about courage and strength in the face of adversity - fight for what you believe in and never give up hope.  

My rating:




Saturday, 20 June 2015

First One Missing - Tammy Cohen


Synopsis:

There are three things no-one can prepare you for when your daughter is murdered:
- You are haunted by her memory day and night
- Even close friends can't understand what you are going through.
- Only in a group with mothers of other victims can you find real comfort.
But as the bereaved parents gather to offer support in the wake of another killing, a crack appears in the group that threatens to rock their lives all over again.
Welcome to the club no one wants to join.

What did I think?
This has an amazing twist!  I really didn't see this one coming, and I've read my fair share of psychological thrillers!
This kept me hooked from the first few pages, although I did have to note down who was who as I kept getting the journalist and the family liaison officer mixed up.  There are also quite a few names thrown around due to the families of the missing children, but they each have their own characteristics so you quickly get to know them.
The guilt of the remaining children is absolutely heart-wrenching and the parents are trying so hard to keep it together themselves that they don't really notice what the children are going through.
There are so many puzzles to work through, including leaks to the press and nasty texts, that this book grips you from the beginning and refuses to let go.  Even when I thought that the killer had been identified, a twist pops up and I searched my memory for clues I might have missed.
A thrilling page turner that I wouldn't hesitate to recommend.
I received this e-book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
My rating: 


Thursday, 18 June 2015

Little Black Lies - Sharon Bolton


Synopsis:


What's the worst thing your best friend could do to you?
Admittedly, it wasn't murder. A moment's carelessness, a tragic accident - and two children are dead. Yours.
Living in a small island community, you can't escape the woman who destroyed your life. Each chance encounter is an agonizing reminder of what you've lost - your family, your future, your sanity.
How long before revenge becomes irresistible?
With no reason to go on living, why shouldn't you turn your darkest thoughts into deeds?
So now, what's the worst thing you can do to your best friend?

What did I think?

Well I didn't see any of that coming!  This was quite a page-turner and the author has us leaning one way, then the other, then BAM! it hits us right between the eyes.

Catrin's sons were killed in an accident when her best friend, Rachel, was looking after them.  Catrin's pain and quest for revenge was evident in every page.  She's an empty shell with only one goal, to get revenge on Rachel.  Then a child goes missing and Catrin, along with her friend Callum, is drawn into the search for him, but little Archie is not the first nor will he be the last to go missing...

When Rachel's son, Peter, goes missing three people own up to killing him - I couldn't read fast enough to find out what had happened to him.  Who is telling the truth and who is bring protected?

The book is split into three parts telling the story from the point of view of the main characters - Catrin, Callum and Rachel.  Rachel's story is quite poignant - although Catrin lost her sons, it is Rachel who has to live with the guilt, particularly because of the reason she took her eyes off them.  Callum was a soldier in the Falkland's conflict and his story, including his PTSD, is told with honour and respect.  Catrin comes across as a bit of an emotionless machine, and it's not surprising following the death of her sons.  She has nothing left to live for and nothing to lose in hatching a plan to avenge her sons' deaths.

An absolutely incredible read with two amazing twists that I certainly didn't see coming.

I received this e-book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

My rating: 




The Other Child - Lucy Atkins


Synopsis:


Sometimes a lie seems kinder than the truth ... but what happens when that lie destroys everything you love?.
When Tess is sent to photograph Greg, a high profile paediatric heart surgeon, she sees something troubled in his face, and feels instantly drawn to him. Their relationship quickly deepens, but then Tess, single mother to nine-year-old Joe, falls pregnant, and Greg is offered the job of a lifetime back in his hometown of Boston. Before she knows it, Tess is married, and relocating to the States. But life in an affluent American suburb proves anything but straightforward.
Unsettling things keep happening in the large rented house. Joe is distressed, the next-door neighbours are in crisis, and Tess is sure that someone is watching her. Greg's work is all-consuming and, as the baby's birth looms, he grows more and more unreachable. Something is very wrong, Tess knows it, and then she makes a jaw-dropping discovery...
What did I think?
This was really creepy at times, when Tess feels like somebody is watching her, the phone rings and nobody is there and things get moved in the house.  My heart was pounding on several occasions and I felt that something terrible was going to happen, and felt relieved rather than disappointed that there was no knife wielding killer in the kitchen.

I felt sorry for Tess, pregnant and often alone in a strange country with less than friendly neighbours.  Her next door neighbour, Helena, was portrayed as a nasty piece of work and I could almost hear the witch theme from the Wizard of Oz in my head every time she appeared.

The passages relating to Tess's pregnancy were clearly from the author's own experiences and were written quite beautifully.  I really felt the miracle of life growing with each little somersault and hiccup!

So this wasn't a blood thirsty thriller but it was actually quite clever in the fact that it made me examine my own misconceptions of people.  I admit I jumped on the bandwagon of Greg having something to hide and whatever it was, he was guilty.  Perhaps he was wrongly accused, and he's just trying to live a normal life without the past haunting him.  I felt quite guilty when Tess drove to the cabin and it was almost a picture of perfect family life - Greg was reading with Joe tucked up in bed upstairs - what was I expecting? Joe to be thrown off a ski-lift?  Yes, probably but this reads more like an observation of real life - Greg has perhaps tried to escape a misunderstanding in his past, but when it catches up with him it's too late to untangle the lies.

A creepy page turner that will have you questioning who is telling the truth.

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Saturday, 13 June 2015

The Island Escape - Kerry Fisher


Synopsis:


Octavia Shelton thought she’d have a different life. One where she travelled the world with an exotic husband and free-spirited children in tow.


Instead she’s married to safe, reliable Jonathan, and her life now consists of packed lunches, school runs and mountains of dirty washing. She’s not unhappy. It’s just that she can barely recognise herself.

So as Octavia watches her best friend’s marriage break up, it gets her thinking. What if life could be different? What if she could escape and rediscover the person she used to be? Escape back to the island she visited years ago? And what if the man she used to love was there waiting for her?


What did I think?

What an amazing story!  I thought I was picking up a summer/beach read but this has to have the best opening page to a romance-style novel EVER!!  I thought I was reading the wrong book, so bravo Kerry Fisher!

Octavia and Roberta are best friends who have married unsuitable men.  Octavia's husband, Jonathan, is anal and pernickety whilst Roberta's husband, Scott, is a controlling selfish bully.  The story is therefore two-fold with Roberta and Octavia being the subject of alternative chapters.

Roberta, not surprisingly, leaves Scott and has to adjust to single life and find somewhere to live with their teenage daughter, Alicia. Roberta eventually dabbles her toe in the shark-infested waters of internet dating and meets the lovely Jake.  Of course Scott is still hanging around in the wings like a pantomime villain trying to spoil her Happy Ever After.

Octavia's marriage has clearly gone stale, although she has three beautiful children.  Jonathan loses his job but eventually gets offered a position in Sardinia.  He is reluctant for Octavia to visit him (we can guess why, the snake!) but she eventually does.  As Jonathan has no spare time to spend with her she takes the ferry over to Corsica where she revisits the haunts of her teenage travels and the homeland of her first love, Xavi.  Will fate intervene and bring them together again?

Do not mistake this for a no-brainer chick-lit book.  This is an engaging story of two best friends and their quest for happiness, with a sprinkling of humour along the way.  It is beautifully written, it made me laugh and almost made me cry, especially with the line "maybe hands were like memory foam mattresses, carrying the imprint of people they've loved forever."  Food for thought, indeed.

If you think I've overdone the exclamation marks, go read the book yourself - you won't be disappointed!!!

I received this e-book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Friday, 12 June 2015

My Grandmother Sends Her Regards and Apologises - Fredrik Backman


Synopsis:

'Granny has been telling fairy tales for as long as Elsa can remember. In the beginning they were only to make Elsa go to sleep, and to get her to practise granny's secret language, and a little because granny is just about as nutty as a granny should be. But lately the stories have another dimension as well. Something Elsa can't quite put her finger on...'
Elsa is seven years old and different. Her grandmother is seventy-seven years old and crazy. Standing-on-the-balcony-firing-paintball-guns-at-men-who-want-to-talk-about-Jesus-crazy. She is also Elsa's best, and only, friend. At night Elsa runs to her grandmother's stories, to the Land of Almost-Awake and the Kingdom of Miamas. There, everybody is different and nobody needs to be normal.
So when Elsa's grandmother dies and leaves behind a series of letters apologizing to people she has hurt, it marks the beginning of Elsa's greatest adventure. Her grandmother's letters lead her to an apartment building full of drunks, monsters, attack dogs, and totally ordinary old crones-but also to the truth about fairytales and kingdoms and a grandmother like no other.
My Grandmother Sends Her Regards and Apologises is told with the same comic accuracy and beating heart as Fredrik Backman's bestselling debut novel, A Man Called Ove. It is a story about life and death and one of the most important human rights: the right to be different.
What did I think?
This was utterly charming and quirky.  Elsa is almost eight years old and she has a very close relationship with her Grandmother. Granny is hilarious, she does whatever she pleases - from dropping water bombs off her balcony to throwing monkey poo at policemen.  I was quite sad when she died but we still get to hear of her escapades through the stories Elsa is told.  There's a really funny part when Granny goes to see Elsa's headmaster as Elsa has been caught fighting with a boy.  The headmaster tells Elsa to apologise even though the boy picked the fight with her and this is like lighting Granny's blue touch paper!  It reminded me of my own Nanna, she would have picked up the globe and thrown it at the headmaster!  She was provoked...she couldn't control herself.

I loved the way Elsa gave cars names depending on their make - Renault, Kia, Audi and even Taxi.  It's almost like she felt they were a part of her family.  Her family that is about to grow as her Mum and step-Dad are having a baby - a half sibling for Elsa who she refers to as Halfie.

After Granny dies, Elsa goes on a kind of treasure hunt (with a wurse and a monster, no less) which has her delivering letters to people in her block of flats.  Each letter contains an apology from Granny and each recipient has a story about Granny and what she did for them.  As Elsa gets to know the people in her block of flats we can match them to characters from the fairytales that Granny told her and by the end I had a real sense of community and thought the block of flats was indeed a fairytale castle. 

This book is a must read for old and young alike.  It shows us that it's ok to be different and if a boy tries to fight you, just kick him in the fuse box!

I received this book from the publisher via Bookbridgr in exchange for an honest review.

Buy the beautiful hardback from the Book Depository

Sunday, 7 June 2015

Somewhere Only We Know - Erin Lawless


Synopsis:

Boy meets girl...Alex Bradley can't help but feel that life is rather passing him by. And not just life - promotions, invitations, romance; the girl he loves only has eyes for his flatmate and his 9-5 job as the Immigration department skivvy is slowly numbing his soul. Until he meets Nadia. Girl meets boy...Nadia Osipova is running out of time. With no money, no lawyer and a totally fictitious boyfriend, she's got one last summer and one last appeal before the British government deport her back to Russia.

Girl gets deported? It's going to be a bumpy ride, one she's dragging her new friend Alex along for. As Nadia races through a list of all her favourite London adventures, for what may be the last time, Alex can't help but start to see the city, and his life, through Nadia's eyes. From hazy summer days on the Common and heady nights in Soho's basement bars, to twilight walks along the Southbank, will Alex realise what he's got before it's too late? Funny, addictive and always honest, this is a love letter to London, friendship and the unexpected from the author of the bestselling The Best Thing I Never Had.

What did I think?

I was completely hooked right from the start of this one and had quite a late night reading!  I liked the layout of the chapters with sections on Alex and Nadia.  Alex working in the Home Office with pointless Friday afternoon team meetings and Nadia wanting to poke her eyes out with a fork rather than watch daytime TV.

It's fate that brings Alex and Nadia together at a pub quiz, right after he has passed along her application to stay in the UK.  There's a definite spark between Alex and Nadia but Alex doesn't really notice it so when Nadia meets Matt the same night she agrees to go out with him.  Alex and Nadia become friends and you can feel their relationship growing whilst Nadia's relationship with Matt is very flat. Events always seem to conspire against Alex and Nadia as each time you think they're going to get together something happens to get in their way.

Alex and Nadia have an amazing time going through Nadia's bucket list of things to do in London before she's deported.  I could really feel the buzz of the city and Nadia is so vibrant whilst Alex is so British!  I liked all of the characters in the book and felt the strong bond of friendship between Nadia and Holly shining through the pages.

It's a really excellent feel good book which doesn't have a predictable ending but leaves us instead with a message to make our own lives extraordinary.

I received this e-book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.


Published August 2015 - pre-order from the Book Depository

Saturday, 6 June 2015

Just What Kind of Mother Are You? - Paula Daly

 

Synopsis:

No family is perfect.

A husband, three children and a full-time job, so many plates to keep spinning.

No wonder you forgot you were supposed to be looking after your friend's daughter.

But no one has seen her since yesterday.

And she's not the first to go missing from your small town.

So who's hiding something?


What did I think?

In Paula Daly's page turning debut novel, set in the wonderful wintry Lake District, we encounter every parent's nightmare - a missing child.  Where this novel stands out from the rest is the fact that Lucinda went missing when she was supposed to be in the care of her best friend's Mum, Lisa.  I really felt Lisa's anguish pouring out of the page as she crushed herself under the weight of blame.  I willed her on, together with her husband Joe, when she found the courage to face Kate and Guy.

When suspicions turn towards Lucinda's Dad, Guy, I knew he had something to hide and, I have to admit, I did suspect what it was but I didn't get it 100% right and I certainly didn't see the other twists coming.  

I loved the inclusion of the scenes at Lisa's animal shelter and when she was out on a rescue visit; it was written with such feeling and was cleverly linked to the abduction story.  These shelters do such amazing work and I thought it was brilliant that the author managed to raise awareness of the plight of such establishments whilst dealing with such a tense storyline.

We are also introduced to DC Joanne Aspinall, her colleague DS Ron Quigley and her auntie Mad Jackie - characters who also make an appearance in Keep Your Friends Close.  I do like to see some of the same characters in books as you feel like you get to know them.  These characters inject a bit of humour into a serious storyline - there are some hilarious pages discussing alcohol consumption and Ron says he's not much of a boozer, he just has five or six pints on an evening!

Paula Daly is certainly one to watch - her writing brings the characters to life and with more twists than a Curly Wurly, I can't put her books down and read this in one sitting (thanks to Tempur for providing the cushion).

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The Last Anniversary - Liane Moriarty


Synopsis:
One abandoned baby. Two sisters with a secret. One chance to rewrite the past.
Over seventy years have passed since sisters Rose and Connie Doughty found an abandoned baby near their home on the island of Scribbly Gum. With no one to take care of it, Rose and Connie took the baby in as their own.
Since then the 'Munro Baby Mystery' has brought fame and fortune, putting Scribbly Gum on the tourist map, especially for the island's annual celebration.
But now, with Connie dead and outsider Sophie Honeywell about to move into her home, Rose begins to wonder if they made the right decision all those years ago. How much longer can they cover up the lie that has sustained their community for generations? And what other secrets are about to be revealed?
What did I think?
Scribbly Gum Island is such a fantastic name and I loved the little map at the beginning showing where everybody's house is.  I thought a family tree would have been useful as sometimes I had to stop to think who was who.

Unfortunately, the story was a little predictable - I solved the 'mystery' quite early on but the book was still worth reading as I became more interested in Grace's story rather than Enigma's (Enigma was the name given to the Munro baby).  Grace is Enigma's granddaughter and she's just given birth to Jake but she doesn't feel anything for him.  Her husband, Callum, is completely unaware of what Grace is going through.  Grace hatches a plan to pair Callum with Sophie (who inherited Connie's house) as she thinks Sophie will be a better mother to Jake than she is.  At one point, Grace is trying to surreptitiously plant this idea in Callum's head when she goes a bit too far and starts thinking "Retreat! Retreat!"  I laughed out loud at that.

Rose's story was also quite poignant.  Without her sister Connie, she feels simultaneously lost and free.  Connie always took charge of things and told Rose what to do, so I felt Rose spreading her creaky old wings a little.

My favourite part of the book was Grace telling her son that "Every day is gift.  Of course, sometimes it's a really horrible gift that you don't want."  This sums up life perfectly, if only we had the receipt we could take the gift back.

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