Sunday, 26 July 2015

A Man Called Ove - Fredrik Backman



At first sight, Ove is almost certainly the grumpiest man you will ever meet. He thinks himself surrounded by idiots - neighbours who can't reverse a trailer properly, joggers, shop assistants who talk in code, and the perpetrators of the vicious coup d'etat that ousted him as Chairman of the Residents' Association. He will persist in making his daily inspection rounds of the local streets.

But isn't it rare, these days, to find such old-fashioned clarity of belief and deed? Such unswerving conviction about what the world should be, and a lifelong dedication to making it just so?

In the end, you will see, there is something about Ove that is quite irresistible...


What did I think?

On a rare day off from work, I popped into my local library and snatched this book off the shelf - it must have just come in as I was the first person to check it out.  I had already read Fredrik Backman's second book, My Grandmother Sends Her Regards and Apologises, and loved it, so naturally I had A Man Called Ove in my wishlist.

I really love the cover of this - it almost tells the story in its own right.  Grumpy old man and the Cat Annoyance.  I felt that the cat was a bit of a Jiminy Cricket for Ove, turning up at just the right moments and "saying" just the right things with its actions.  I think of Ove as a bit of an egg (and not just because the name Ove reminds me of the word "oeuf") hard and solid on the outside but soft on the inside. It was lovely to see the cracks starting to appear, brought on my Ove's relationships with the cat, his pregnant neighbour Parvaneh and the local youth Adrian, to name but a few.  There were some very funny and poignant moments in the book and I won't spoil any of them here - you'll just have to read it for yourself.

To me, it's very much a modern telling of It's a Wonderful Life.  Ove thinks he's on his own and has nothing to live for and nobody to miss him.  I loved reading about Ove's interactions with every single character in this book, it's clear from the wonderful writing that Ove has touched many lives.  He is such a principled man, with almost a childlike innocence at times - like when he meets Adrian's friend and boss, Mirsad, he certainly won't win any awards for political correctness!

I did shed a few tears when I was reading this book, but it has left me with a lovely warm glow around my heart.  I think sometimes we see grumpy, miserable, or angry people and make an immediate assumption, without questioning the reasons behind their attitude.  It's a wonderful portrayal of the human spirit and I think deep down we all have a bit of Ove in us.

The kindest grumpiest guy I expect I'll ever read about.  I absolutely loved it!

My rating:




Buy it now! From the Book Depository with free delivery
Head over to Amazon - everyone should have this book in their library

Saturday, 25 July 2015

The Morning After Memoirs - Kate Michaels


A smart, irreverent slant on modern dating, Kate Michaels’ sexy, laugh-out-loud debut reimagines the world of Sex And The City with the biting realism of Lena Dunham’s Girls. Twenty-nine-year-old Jess wakes up on New Year’s Day a touch hungover and a whole lot confused. The man in bed next to her is not her boyfriend, Ben. In fact, she doesn’t even remember Not-Ben’s name. It won’t be the first time she finds herself in a questionable situation in a year that proves her new single-in-the-city lifestyle is far from the glamorous, Sex And The City world she’s been promised on TV. Between hacking through last year’s leg hair, accidentally snogging someone who may well be her cousin, getting hit over the head with a sex toy that isn’t even hers, and ending the night with a walk of shame into her parent’s garage, Jess’s single life is turning out more cockroaches than cocktails. The Morning After Memoirs is the story of one woman’s search for love, meaning, and a low-calorie alternative to wine.

What did I think?

I absolutely loved this book from beginning to end.  It was written with so much underlying humour and I frequently laughed out loud at not only the antics of Jess but also of her parents.  I chortled, guffawed, and giggled my way through it in no time at all - leaving me wanting more!

I had an instant affinity with Jess as she gives names to people like I do (Not-Ben, Hot Waiter Number Two, Tweedledum and Tweedledumber) and even used one of my frequent phrases - stranger danger!  Jess was an immediately likeable character because she's not perfect and seemed a bit clueless - a bit more Bridget Jones than Carrie Bradshaw, but a perfect mix between the two.  She's a normal girl who makes mistakes and struggles with her weight like most normal people - there's an extremely amusing reference to fat jeans!  Amusing to those of us with said fat jeans at the bottom of our wardrobe, or not so amusing to those of us with them on our bottoms!

The book starts and ends at consecutive New Years with a hilarious look at a year in the life of Jess in between.  Jess goes through a breakup, moves house, finds a new job and turns 30 - all with very amusing results.  I liked how every time a new character is introduced they get a dating website style mini bio, often with irrelevant information but that's what makes it funny.  Chris - 5ft 8", brown eyes, likes pugs...nope, Jess doesn't have a pug!

In my opinion, this was better than Bridget Jones' Diary as it was more realistic and completely my brand of humour.  This ain't chicklit, it's so much better - a funny, sassy look at the life of a modern woman living in London.  Don't get me wrong, this isn't a comedy but with so many water bombs of comedic excellence dropped in, it was definitely a 5 star read.

A great read for Bridget Jones and Sex and the City fans or anyone who's ever bought an exercise dvd and sat on the sofa to watch it!

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

My rating:




You really must buy this book! Head over to Amazon now!

Wednesday, 22 July 2015

A Game for all the Family - Sophie Hannah



Justine thought she knew who she was, until an anonymous caller seemed to know better...

After fleeing London and a career that nearly destroyed her, Justine Merrison plans to spend her days doing as little as possible. But soon after the move, her daughter Ellen starts to seem strangely withdrawn. Checking Ellen's homework one day, Justine finds herself reading a chillingly articulate story about a series of sinister murders committed at the family's new house. Can Ellen really have made all this up, as she claims? Why would she invent something so grotesque, set it in her own home and name one of the characters after herself? When Justine discovers that Ellen has probably also invented her best friend at school, who appears not to be known to any of the teachers, Justine's alarm turns to panic.

Then the anonymous phone calls start: a stranger, making accusations and threats that suggest she and Justine share a traumatic past - yet Justine doesn't recognise her voice. When the caller starts to talk about three graves - two big ones and a smaller one for a child - Justine fears for her family's safety. If the police can't help, she'll have to confront the danger herself, but first she must work out who she's supposed to be..

What did I think?

I was a bit disappointed with this one.  I have had Sophie Hannah on my radar for a while and this was the first book of hers that I have read.  The idea was good but I didn't like any of the characters.  Justine just seemed to charge about everywhere swearing her head off; her husband, Alex, travelled a lot as an opera singer and to be honest I didn't notice whether he was there or not most of the time; and her daughter, Ellen, was a bit of a silly sulky teenager.

I struggled with the chapter numbers of the story that Ellen was writing being out of sync with the chapters in the book - I'm odd like that!  I did quite like the story that Ellen was writing about the family called the Ingreys - they were much more interesting than the Merrisons.  Ellen's story was quite dark at times and gave a Victorian gothic type feel to the book.

The book did get more gripping towards the end as the mysterious Anne Donbavand appears and we approach the final showdown - although I was expecting someone a bit more scary than crazy.

Although I wouldn't particularly recommend this book, I will still look out for some other Sophie Hannah books.

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

My rating:




Buy for Kindle from Amazon

Tuesday, 21 July 2015

You Belong To Me - Samantha Hayes


The compelling new psychological suspense novel featuring DI Lorraine Fisher, from the author of Until You’re Mine and Before You Die. Perfect for fans of S J Watson and Sophie Hannah.
Fleeing the terrors of her former life, Isabel has left England, and at last is beginning to feel safe.
Then a letter shatters her world, and she returns home determined not to let fear rule her life any more.
But she's unable to shake off the feeling that someone who knows her better than she knows herself may be following her.
Watching. Waiting.
Ready to step back into her life and take control all over again.

What did I think?

This was a really good psychological thriller.  It was really creepy at times and I found that I was becoming suspicious of everyone, even the police.  I could feel the tension building with every page turn and when Felix was introduced my suspicious mind went into overdrive!

This was the first Samantha Hayes book I have read but it is the third containing the character DCI Lorraine Fisher.  I didn't feel like I needed to have read the two earlier books as I immediately liked Lorraine.  We are introduced to her as she is being treated for stress, which shows her as a normal person rather than a superwoman police officer.  I think she is a great character, a strong woman who lives and breathes each case she is given, to the point that she continues to work a case when she is supposed to be off work relaxing!

It's quite difficult to review this one without giving away any spoilers.  There are some nice twists in the book, some I did see coming and others I didn't, but even though I guessed some things I still enjoyed the book immensely.  The writing was excellent as I really couldn't put the book down, I didn't know what was real or who was crazy, and my interest was held from start to finish.  So much so that I'll definitely be looking to read more books by Samantha Hayes.

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

My rating:




Thursday, 16 July 2015

BLOG TOUR: Exclusive extract from The Olive Branch

I am absolutely thrilled to be today's stop on The Olive Branch Blog Tour by Jo Thomas and have an exclusive extract from this wonderful book to share with you.  The Olive Branch was published by Headline on 2nd July 2015.




Prologue

My hand hovers over the mouse. My heart is pumping and I’m not sure if it’s the Prosecco we’ve drunk or pure madness racing through my veins.
I take in the bare room around me. It’s soulless, empty of furniture and feelings.
I look at my friend Morag, her eyes bright with excitement.
The clock is ticking, and with every passing second my heart beats louder.
‘Ten, nine . . .’ The timer clicks down. My mouth is dry.
‘Eight, seven . . .’ I feel sick, again not sure if it’s due to Prosecco or tension. This is insane.
‘Six, five . . .’ I look around the place I once called home – now an empty shell, like me.
‘Four, three . . .’ I consider my options. There’s only one as far as I’m concerned.
‘Two . . .’ And it’s utterly reckless.
‘One.’ I glance at Morag, who looks as though she might burst, and I don’t know if I do it intentionally, or if my finger just twitches involuntarily. But I press the button, and we fall giggling into a Prosecco-fuelled slumber on the lumpy settees.

The next morning, after paracetamol and gallons of water have started to take effect, a slow realisation creeps over me like cold custard. I rush to the computer and check my emails. There it is, in black and white, bringing back my moment of madness and reminding me of why it should be compulsory to take a breathalyser test before using the internet late at night.
Congratulations! You were the successful bidder! My heart jumps into my mouth and bangs noisily against my ears. Now what am I going to do?
My panicked thoughts are interrupted by a knock at the door, and as I stumble across the room to open it, my heart thunders some more.
‘Hi, we’ve come for the sofas,’ says the bright, wellspoken young woman who is standing there with her eager boyfriend. I look at the couch where Morag is still sleeping. ‘We’ll just be a moment. I’m nearly done here,’ I say as the young couple start lifting the sofa that was my bed until a few minutes ago. There’s only one thing I can do, says the mad, impetuous voice in my head. And I realise it’s mine.


Chapter One
As I watch the goat marching up and down the courtyard, like a foot guard at Buckingham Palace, I wonder if I’ve bitten off more than I can chew.
‘Recalculating! Recalculating!’ My sole companion for the entire journey continues shouting, her voice cutting through me like a dentist’s drill. I switch her off firmly, with pleasure, before turning off the engine of my little Ford Ka. The windscreen wipers let out an exhausted whine and the screen is a whiteout of water in seconds, like fake rain in a low-budget film. Only this is not fake, it’s very real, I remind myself, as the water drums noisily on the car roof.
I take a deep breath. It’s been like this ever since I left Bari, the sprawling port at the top of Italy’s heel, where I stopped off to do a quick shop in Ikea for essentials and lunch. This is another thing I wasn’t expecting, aside from the goat: torrential rain in summer in southern Italy.
I gaze out of the car window and pull my lightweight hoodie closer around me. A collection of silver bangles jangles on my wrist and I look down at my Rolling Stones T-shirt, which I’ve cut into a crop top, and my paintsplattered cut-off Levi’s. I’m definitely underdressed.  Grabbing my favourite vintage leather jacket from the seat beside me, I pull it on and shiver. I should be in waterproofs and wellies.
Taking another deep breath, I pull the handle and push the car door open against the driving rain. I straighten up, holding one hand over my eyes, and shiver again as I look down at the envelope in my hand.
The rain lashes against the paper, making the ink run, and I have to keep shutting my eyes against the deluge. The goat glances in my direction and I’m sure I hear it snort.
I use one hand to shield my eyes and strain to look at the house in front of me, then back at the long, potholed drive I’ve just driven down. I can hardly see the big stone pillars and red metal gates at the entrance. I shove the envelope back in my pocket and pull out a printed picture of the house. The image is papier mâché in seconds, disintegrating and landing on the wet stones at my feet. If I’m not quick, my canvas slip-ons will go the same way. This has to be the right place; there’s nowhere similar nearby.
I passed a couple of small houses on the way in, as the narrow road led me up and down and round and round like a fairground ride, with occasional potholes for added fear factor. Some of the houses had curved roofs, while others were modern and flat-roofed. I also spotted the occasional collection of dilapidated trulli – small circular houses with conical roofs, like clusters of field mushrooms. But I’m not looking for a trullo. The house in front of me now is like something from a film set. It’s old, weatherworn, faded pink and big – much bigger than I imagined. There’s nothing else like it on the lane. This must be it.
I hold my hand up against the punishing rain, and half wonder whether a plague of locusts is going to follow next. Perhaps this is a sign . . . I push the silly thought away, along with the memory of my mum’s despairing phone messages and Ed’s disapproving emails.
My T-shirt is stuck to my skin and the rain is dripping down my short hair and on to my face, running off round my nose stud like a little waterfall. There’s no point in rummaging in the boot for my raincoat now, so I sling on my lavender leather satchel and wonder what I’ve let myself in for. I could get back in the car, drive away from here as quickly as possible and email Ed to tell him he was right all along: I am daft, impetuous and irresponsible.
But then again, at least I’m not boring and stuck in my ways. There’s only one way to go: forwards! I bow my head, pull my bag tighter to me and run towards the listing veranda groaning with an unruly and neglected bougainvillea.
With my chin tucked into my chest, I spot a large pothole and sidestep it, slipping and skidding on the worn cobbles. I’m startlingly close to the cross-looking goat, which is now standing across the front door. I am in the middle of my worst nightmare.
‘Maah,’ the goat bleats, making me jump. God, that was loud. I stare at the goat and it stares back at me. Its eyes are different colours: one scarily yellow, the other blue. For the first time in weeks, I have no idea what to do. Guard goats were not on my list of essential information.
I wonder whether ‘shoo’ has the same meaning in Italian as it does in English. It’s not something I can remember covering in my evening classes. But I need to do something. I’m freezing out here.
‘Shoo, shoo!’ I say, waving my hands in the goat’s direction and backing away at the same time. I don’t want it to run at me with its horns, which look pointy and sharp. You don’t get goats standing in the way of your front door back in Tooting. The odd drunk camping out for the night, maybe, but somehow they seem easier to overcome than this.
‘Shoo, shoo!’ I try again, this time with more handwaving. The goat flinches, as do the terrified butterflies in my stomach, but still it doesn’t move from its position in front of the big, dark wooden door. Even the three-day drive down through France and Italy, with stop-offs in laybys to catch forty winks and only an irritating, indecisive satnav for company, is nothing compared to this.
I’ve spent the past six weeks dealing with estate agents, flat viewings and solicitors, packing up and dividing the belongings Ed and I shared. I separated everything out and gave over custody of our joint retro record collection and the player I found on eBay. I sold off redundant furniture, oversaw its collection and moved myself out of our flat. It all went without a hitch; nothing fazed me. But territorial goats? No idea! I throw my hands up and turn my back on it.
Opening up my satchel, I search around for some kind of magic bean that will help me out here. Then I spot it: a half-eaten Kit Kat I bought in a service station somewhere outside Rome. I thought the sugar boost might get me round the greater ring road – that and Dolly Parton on the CD player. It sort of worked. I got round on a wing and a prayer, nerves jangling, heart in mouth, high on energy drinks and with a lot of hand gestures and horn honking – not necessarily mine. I pull out the Kit Kat and wave it at the goat. It steadfastly ignores me, looking the other way from its sheltered position. I quickly pull back the wrapper.
‘Come on. It’s chocolate.’ I wave it, immediately feeling like the Child Catcher in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, and break off a piece to toss in front of the goat. As it backs away, I think I’m going to have to give up and look for somewhere else to stay tonight until I can find the owner. Then it sniffs at the taster and snaffles it up with appreciative noises, walking towards me, no doubt hoping for more.
‘See, it’s good.’ I break off another bit, tossing it in front of the goat, which is now moving faster and faster. I walk backwards, getting quicker all the time. I feel like I’m in a scene from You’ve Been Framed. I’m miles away from home, in the heaviest rain I’ve ever seen, with my worldly possessions in a Ford Ka, trying to tempt a goat away from a front door with half a Kit Kat. I’m beginning to understand how Noah felt, and I’m debating whether there would be room for goats on my ark.
This is all Ed’s fault! I think irrationally. And my mum’s. The goat keeps hoovering up the Kit Kat and I’m nearly at the edge of the slippery forecourt. I step back and my heel hits a low stone wall, giving me a reality check.
I step up on to the wall and my phone springs into life. I pull it out, hoping for some kind of encouraging words. Two text messages and some missed calls. I don’t bother to check the calls. The texts are from Ed and my mum. That’s all I need. If Ed knew that at this moment I was trying to bribe a territorial goat, he’d start by saying ‘I told you so,’ with lowering eyebrows. It’s his reaction to everything I do – he thinks I’m impulsive; ‘hot-headed’, he calls it. He’s forever telling me I always leap before I look. He, on the other hand, doesn’t do anything without consulting Google or Facebook first. We’re total opposites. At first, that was the fun part about it. But now he thinks I knee-jerk-react to everything. I think he thinks too long and hard about things and doesn’t take risks. It could’ve been the perfect combination. But it wasn’t.
If Ed had been here, it would be a whole different story. He wouldn’t have stepped out of the car without a team of health and safety officers inspecting the place first, and he’d’ve employed Bear Grylls himself to get rid of the goat.
No, I can’t fall at the first hurdle now, even if this goat does have the guarding instincts of a Rottweiler. It pushes its face up towards my hands and I can’t move. I do the only thing I can: reach out a tentative hand and scratch it between the eyes. It seems to like it. But I’m stuck here now. If I stop, it nudges me, hard. There’s nothing for it, it’s now or never.
I throw the last piece of Kit Kat as far as I can, beyond the uneven cobbles. The goat turns and nearly topples over in its excitement to get to it, slipping, sliding and clattering across the stones before leaping on the tasty treat. I throw myself towards the front door. My hands shake as I pull out the big, rusting key and push it into the lock, whilst trying to keep one eye on the goat. In the process, I drop the envelope on the wet floor. I pick it up and push really hard against the door. It doesn’t budge. The goat is trotting back towards me. I pull away, dip my shoulder and give the door an almighty shove; it flies open just as there is a huge crash of thunder and a silver sliver cracks across the sky. I fall through the front door, desperate to escape the elements, into a cavernous room, along with the goat.
‘Maah,’ it says loudly, dripping all over the floor. A great wave of despair washes over me. What on earth have I let myself in for?

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Read my review here.

Wednesday, 15 July 2015

The Hiding Place - John Burley


Dr Lise Shields works with the most deadly criminals in America. At Menaker psychiatric hospital all are guilty and no one ever leaves. Then she meets Jason Edwards.
Jason is an anomaly. No transfer order, no patient history, no paperwork at all. Is he really guilty of the horrific crimes he’s been sentenced for?

Caught up in a web of unanswered questions and hastily concealed injustices, the spotlight begins to shine on Lise. She’s being watched, and the doors of Menaker psychiatric hospital are closing in.

In Lise’s quest to discover the truth, is there anywhere left to hide?

What did I think?


This was an interesting read and although I guessed the twist half way through, I still enjoyed it.  We are introduced to psychiatrist Dr. Lise Shields as she is treating a patient, Jason Edwards, in Menaker asylum.  Jason is being treated for insanity after protecting his sister by falsely admitting to killing his partner, Amir.  Jason's life comes under threat and Lise is approached by two FBI agents trying to protect him, but then Jason gets abducted and the abductors come after Lise.  While trying to elude capture, Lise falls and breaks her arm - while she is under anaesthetic we get a glimpse into her earlier life.  We read about her close relationship as a child with her schizophrenic Uncle Jim and his incarceration in an asylum - it was really quite sad reading about his struggle with his mental health and the effect it had on his family.

While Lise is on the run, the chase was very gripping and I couldn't put the book down at this stage.  She is picked up on the side of the road and helped by an ex-military guy called Haden.  At the time I found it a bit odd that she trusted a complete stranger, so I felt like the end of the story lacked a bit of an explanation about Haden.  I can't say too much without ruining the story!

When she makes it back to Menaker, we find that Jason has also returned.  Their ultimate reconnection and brief moment of sanity was very moving.

This was a quick read due to the gripping chase scenes and short chapters, and I thought that the difficult topic of mental health was portrayed with sensitivity and compassion. 

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

My rating:





Buy from Amazon

Monday, 13 July 2015

The Prodigal - Nicky Black



Exiled from his beloved Newcastle sixteen years ago, Detective Sergeant Lee Jamieson is returning home in search of the teenage daughter he’s never met. With a good promotion under his belt and his parents gone, he’s ready to return to his roots and the warm Geordie spirit he has missed so much. 

Much to his surprise, his first assignment is in Valley Park, a forgotten sink estate and home to some of the worst social deprivation in the country – the estate where he grew up, and where Nicola Kelly, the wife of a renowned local villain, calls home. 

As Lee and Nicola’s lives become entwined through a series of dramatic events, they fall in love and embark on a dangerous affair that will change both of their lives forever. Nicola’s husband, Micky, has few scruples, and, as he feels her slipping away, tightens his grip on her affections. 

In order for Lee and Nicola to be together, Micky Kelly has to go.

What did I think?

I really enjoyed this book, I was hooked from the start and read it in two sittings.  WIth so much going on it was really hard to put it down.  The characters were true to life and likeable (or in some cases detestable) - Lee, the boy done good, moving back to Newcastle from London as a police detective; Nicola married to Micky but feeling the force of his fists if another man so much as looks at her; Margy, Nicola's friend who looks out for her as well as being a one woman citizens advice bureau for the community; Micky who's trying to be top dog in the local crime ring and doesn't care who he sets up or tramples on along the way.

The author has a way with words that had me laughing out loud one minute and holding my breath in apprehension the next.  I really admired Nicola for standing up to Micky, which wasn't an easy feat when he was an amateur boxer and nightclub bouncer.  Every time he was mentioned I felt the tension building and when Nicola was looking for the names of people in the syndicate I heard every creak of the stairs and actually found myself reading faster before he reached the bottom!

Although set in my native Newcastle, it could be applied to any area of the UK with the variety of topics covered;  domestic violence, the inadequacies of the police force, bigamy, criminal gangs and absent fathers.  The community spirit, especially in such a deprived area, really evoked the spirit of the North East.  They all stick together, perhaps not always for the right reasons, but they look out for one another.  The atmosphere of the amazing nightlife in Newcastle really shone through with a few mentions to pubs and clubs I used to frequent as a young ‘un.  Every night really is Friday night in Newcastle – orange-faced girls wearing summer clothes in rain, hail or shine.

I think it's a shame this wasn't picked up for TV.  I would certainly have watched it - it would have been like the Geordie Sopranos.  The interactions between Lee and Nicola fizzed with sexual tension – perhaps a love story in another time, another place - it was really a story of life, unfortunately a life lived by a lot of women suffering domestic violence.  It's gritty, realistic, funny and sad - a recommended read.

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

My rating:




Sunday, 12 July 2015

The Olive Branch - Jo Thomas


It's amazing what you can buy online these days:
Memorabilia
Fashion accessories
A crumbling Italian farmhouse...



After a Prosecco-fuelled girls' night in gets out of hand, Ruthie Collins awakes to discover that she has bid for her dream Italian home online - and won. Recently out of a relationship, a new start is just what Ruthie needs. Anything is better than sleeping on her mum's settee.

But arriving in Southern Italy, Ruthie doesn't know the first thing about running an olive farm. And with new neighbours, the tempestuous Marco Bellanouvo and his fiery family to contend with, all Ruthie wants is to go back home.

Life can change with the click of a mouse. But all good things - friendship, romance, and even the olive harvest - take time to grow. Can Ruthie finally put the past to rest and find her own piece of the Dolce Vita along the way?


What did I think?

I completely fell in love with this book!  The characters are wonderful - impetuous and stronger than she thinks Ruthie, dark and brooding Marco and Daphne the guard-goat, to name but a few.  It was written so beautifully that I could feel the sun shining through the pages, warming my heart in the process.

I was reminded of one of my favourite films, French Kiss, when reading this.  Especially the moment when Marco teaches Ruthie about olive oil and they are sampling different varieties.  I could almost taste them myself and it was reminiscent of the scene in French Kiss where Kevin Kline gets Meg Ryan to smell particular soil samples and herbs before tasting the wine and identifying the flavours.

I'm not a regular viewer but strangely enough I happened to see a recent episode of Gino D'Acampo's Italian Escape where Gino actually visited Alberobello and showed us inside a trullo, which he used to think was a smurf's house when he was a child.  This was before I had even heard of this book, so although Jo Thomas describes these unusual conical shaped houses so vividly, I knew exactly what they were and appreciated and applauded the description even more.

The Bellanuovo family feud was a brilliant storyline, bubbling under the surface whenever the two sides of the family came in contact with each other and expecting fireworks at Nonna's birthday celebration.  It was at Nonna's birthday that I couldn't understand what had happened to my eyes when reading about Ruthie's mural being unveiled - I was crying!!  I had completely absorbed myself in this book and was lost in each and every delicious page.

La dolce vita is brought to life in this book - I laughed, I cried, I loved it!

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

My rating:




Buy from Amazon

The Daughter's Secret - Eva Holland



My daughter is a liar. A liar, liar, liar. And I'm starting to see where she gets it from.

When Rosalind's fifteen-year-old daughter, Stephanie, ran away with her teacher, this ordinary family became something it had never asked to be. Their lives held up to scrutiny in the centre of a major police investigation, the Simms were headline news while Stephanie was missing with a man who was risking everything.

Now, six years on, Ros takes a call that will change their lives all over again. He's going to be released from prison. Years too early. In eleven days' time.

As Temperley's release creeps ever closer, Ros is forced to confront the events that led them here, back to a place she thought she'd left behind, to questions she didn't want to answer. Why did she do it? Where does the blame lie? What happens next?


What did I think?

I loved the way this book was set out - counting down the days until Stephanie's teacher, Nathan Temperley, was released from prison for abducting her.  The family is clearly damaged and broken following this incident, Stephanie drinking herself into oblivion, Ros flirting with a fellow student and Dan having secret assignations of his own.  I didn't really feel like I got to know the characters, though.  I thought Ros's paranoia was brilliantly described, and perfectly understandable after what they have gone through.  

As we approach the release day, the tension does build and I was turning pages at speed towards the end, but it hadn't really been a page turner up until that point.

I did enjoy the book, but I felt that the characters lacked depth - or perhaps they were meant to be so shallow.  Nathan Temperley had destroyed them but Ros is determined to hold on to the shreds of her family whatever the cost.

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

My rating:




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Wednesday, 8 July 2015

The Two of Us - Andy Jones



Falling in love is the easy part. What matters most is what happens next...

Fisher and Ivy have been an item for a whole nineteen days. And they just know they are meant to be together. The fact that they know little else about each other is a minor detail. Over the course of twelve months, in which their lives will change forever, Fisher and Ivy discover that falling in love is one thing, but staying there is an entirely different story.


What did I think?

Fisher meets Ivy and before they know it, Ivy is pregnant.  Ivy told Fisher they didn’t need contraception so, although he is happy about the news, he does wonder whether Ivy intended to get pregnant.  Ivy is in her early forties so I was also wondering if she’d heard the tick tock of her biological clock.  At one point I was worried that Ivy was just using Fisher as a sperm donor.  I’ll not spoil the story but suffice to say, nothing is ever as it seems.

The characters are all excellent.  Fisher is a genuinely lovely guy and he’s still best friends with his mate, El, from school.  Fisher and El have remained close following Fisher’s personal tragedy when the pair visited the cinema when he was a teenager.  El has been diagnosed with Huntingdon’s disease and his partner, Phil, is struggling to cope so Fisher and Ivy do as much as they can to support them.  Ivy’s brother, Frank, is hilarious when he comes to stay at Ivy’s flat.  He’s perfectly described as a big hairy caveman!  Ivy has had to live with the scars of her own personal tragedies so at times, when I found her slightly cold or aloof, I had to remind myself of what she had gone through in her past.

It’s really refreshing to read a story from a male perspective once in a while.  It touches on some sensitive subjects that are told with compassion and a depth of feeling that frequently moved me to tears.  I felt incredibly emotional at the end of the book and had to sit and reflect for quite some time afterwards.  Usually I pick up my next book before the cover of the last book closes, but it’s a sign of such an amazing book when I paused to wipe my eyes and had a few moments alone with my own thoughts.

We received copies of this book from the publisher for our book club.  One lady's first impression was that it was slightly predictable when Ivy got pregnant, but she wished she hadn't spoken so soon as it is anything but predictable.

An outstanding debut novel.  I laughed and I cried - Andy Jones has found the secret recipe for a perfect book.  You’ll not need a tissue when you read this; you’ll need the whole box!

My rating:




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Anything for Her - Jack Jordan



Sometimes the past comes back to haunt you.  
 

Louise Leighton’s life has fallen apart, all because of one fateful night. Her husband is an adulterer, her sister is his mistress, and soon, Louise will lose everything she owns. But she never imagined she would lose her daughter.  
 
Eighteen-year-old Brooke Leighton is missing. It’s up to Louise and the Metropolitan Police to find her. Has Brooke run away? Or has she been taken against her will? And can Louise aid the investigation without mentioning the night where all of her troubles began? 
 
If she mentions that night, she will incriminate her daughter for heinous crimes. But if she doesn’t, she may never find Brooke; and if she has been abducted, the person who took her may come for Louise, too.  
 
Sometimes the past comes back to kill you.


What did I think?

Louise Leighton is happily married to Michael with two happy carefree children, Brooke and Dominic, when an unfortunate event shatters her world.

Wow!  This book fell through my letterbox and didn't even hit the bookshelf - once I picked it up, it refused to be put down!  It gripped me from the very first page when Michael revealed that he had been having an affair with his sister-in-law.  He blames his actions on Louise, as she has changed after “that night”.  “That night” is the hook that had me turning page after page, long after I should have been asleep and dreaming of books, beer and cheese.

Jack Jordan has very cleverly chosen a mindless act for “that night” that sets in motion a series of events with cataclysmic consequences, resulting in a shared secret between Louise and her daughter, Brooke.  The tension was palpable as more details of “that night” emerge and the past doesn’t just come back to haunt them, it comes back to get even.

This is an exceptional debut novel; the writing is sublime with an abundance of magnificent metaphors that had me mentally applauding on every page.  This is definitely a contender for my book of the year.

I received this book from the author (via contact from my blog) in exchange for an honest review.

My rating:




Sunday, 5 July 2015

The Cherry Tree Cafe - Heidi Swain


Synopsis:

Cupcakes, crafting and love at The Cherry Tree Cafe...


Lizzie Dixon's life feels as though it's fallen apart. Instead of the marriage proposal she was hoping for from her boyfriend, she is unceremoniously dumped, and her job is about to go the same way. So, there's only one option: to go back home to the village she grew up in and to try to start again.

Her best friend Jemma is delighted Lizzie has come back home. She has just bought a little cafe and needs help in getting it ready for the grand opening. And Lizzie's sewing skills are just what she needs.

With a new venture and a new home, things are looking much brighter for Lizzie. But can she get over her broken heart, and will an old flame reignite a love from long ago...?


What did I think?

This was a really lovely read.  After Lizzie's break-up with Giles she moves back home and I was immediately drawn into life in Wynbridge.  It really did feel like a perfect little village where everybody knows everybody's business but, apart from the odd exception, not in a malicious kind of way.

I really enjoyed reading about Lizzie's ideas for her crafting cafe and her interactions with Ben, her old high school crush!  It was really quite cute that they were almost still acting like teenagers around each other, each one frightened to speak about their feelings. There's a really clever twist involving Ben's own heartbreak and the reasons he keeps running away, that I won't spoil here - you'll just have to read it for yourself.

When Jay, a reporter, covers the story of the crafting cafe I could feel him trying to worm his way into Lizzie's affections.  I admit, I succumbed to stereotype and felt he was a bit of a snake but he was an interesting character nonetheless.

There's a nice bit of humour in the book, in the form of Lizzie's Mum.  I immediately thought she was a bit of a Mrs. Bucket, and it was hilarious when she got carried away thinking that she had something to brag about at the coffee mornings.  Lizzie's god-daughter, Jemma's daughter Ella, is also a really funny character.  She tells it like it is!  She's a little minx at overhearing things and repeating them later, which is very true to life!

This was a lovely summer read with the tears and laughter of real life and I'll certainly be looking out for more books by this author.

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

My rating: