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Notki z tagiem ‘Hall of Fame’

Book of the Month: July + Q&A with Katie Marsh

01 sie

Today is 1st August. Already. Winter is coming, guys! I’ve just come back from a very well – deserved (even if I say so myself) short break at the Lake Constance and I could move there, to be honest. I’d have water, my husband would have mountains and everybody would be happy. But as it’s rather impossible, I’d stay happy on my reading sofa at home with my books. Am a little behind with my TBR pile, but will do my best to get on track again asap. In the meantime, it is time to let you know about my Book of the Month July. The choice was obvious for me this time – I loved „A Life Without You” by Katie Marsh with my whole heart!

 

And here you can read why I loved this book so much.

I am also absolutely thrilled to have Katie on my blog today – she was so kind and sgreed to answer some of my questions about „A Life Without You”. Thanks so much, Katie and you guys, enjoy!

1. Katie, could you tell us a few words about your new novel „A Life Without You”?

 The book is about mothers and daughters and the joys and complexities of that relationship. It tells the story of Zoe, who is about to get married when she gets a call telling her that her estranged mum, Gina, has been arrested. The two reconnect, but Gina has signs of serious memory loss and is a different woman to the one Zoe remembers. At the end of each chapter is a letter from Zoe to Gina, written on every birthday, charting how their relationship has developed, from the exhaustion and mess of early motherhood to the secret that tears them apart. It’s a page-turning story of rediscovery and family secrets and about making the most of every single moment – and every scrap of love – that you have.

 

2. Both of your novels have turned me into emotional wreck – they are so full ofemotions and there is whole range of them, from sadness to happiness, from love to hate… – how hard is it to write a book balancing those feelings?

 I always think that if I don’t feel something when I’m writing, then the reader won’t feel it when they’re reading, so I work really hard to get into situations and really feel them as I write. It is really difficult to keep emotions feeling real and vivid on the page – but I find that as I edit and re-edit scenes tend to clarify. I read my dialogue out loud to make sure that it feels realistic and not over-dramatic (heaven knows what the neighbours think), and my editor is brilliant at helping me to maintain the emotional balance of the story and of the characters.

 

3. I am always wondering – some scenes made me laugh, some made me cry – did you also laugh and cry when writing the book?

 I certainly did. I come from a family of cryers – we cry when we are proud or happy just as much as when we are sad. I even put a warning in the Order of Service at my wedding, telling people that I would inevitably spend much of the day in tears so they didn’t think I was unhappy!  I don’t laugh out loud when I’m writing, but I do consciously weave humour into my stories to lighten the more emotional moments. I am a massive giggler and I hope that shows in my writing. I cried buckets writing ‘ALWY’ – especially the ending. That chapter had about twenty rewrites and I knew I’d got it right when I was glued to a packet of tissues for about an hour after typing that final sentence.

 

 4. Your first book, „My Everything”, was immediately one of the most beloved books among bloggers and readers. How did it feel to write this dreaded second novel? Were you scared that „A Life Without You” won’t live up to readers’ expectations?

 Yes. It was terrifying. During the structural edit, I really had to pull the story apart and try to make it both pacey and believable, and I kept thinking about all the ‘My Everything’ fans and worrying about whether this was a worthy successor. However now that it’s finished I am incredibly proud of ‘ALWY’ and am so happy with the reception it has had from bloggers, readers and the press.

 

5. Who is your favourite character in „A Life Without You”?

 Gina. I absolutely love her. I love her heart, her humour and her complete inability to keep her mouth shut – writing her was an absolute dream.

 

 6. What did you want the readers to take from your novel?

 This book is fundamentally about a character learning to make the most of every single day she has – not to be held back by the past or too focused on the future. I would love it if readers felt a little bit carpe diem when they put down the book and went out to make their dreams happen. Equally, some people have told me they finished it and instantly called their mums to tell them they loved them, which made me very happy too.

 

 7. Are the characters, in the book, inspired by people you know, facts from your life?

 My granny had Alzheimer’s in her eighties, so some of the scenes in the book are very much inspired by that. One scene is directly taken from my times with granny – I’ll leave readers to guess which one. But the characters always arrive in my head, pretty much fully formed – and are never taken from real life (though I’m sure some of my friends secretly believe they are walking the pages of my books…)

 

 8. What was the best moment of being an author for you?

 The launch of my first book was very special – all my friends and family were there and they had heard me banging on for YEARS about writing books and were all so happy and proud. However – to be honest – it’s the smaller moments that really mean the most. My daughter proudly picking my book off the shelf in a shop and beaming. Or the messages I get from readers – one the other week told me that ‘My Everything’ had inspired her to write again. Moments don’t get much sweeter than that.

 

A Life Without You by Katie Marsh

12 lip

 

A Life Without You

by Katie Marsh

 

 

Publisher: Hodder

Publishing Date: 14th July 2015

Source:  Copy provided by the publisher, thank you!

Number of pages: 369

Genre: Women’s Fiction, General Fiction (Adult)

 Buy the Book: Kindle | Paperback

 

 

 

 

Synopsis:

Can you ever outrun the past?

It’s Zoe’s wedding day. She’s about to marry Jamie, the love of her life. Then a phone call comes out of the blue, with the news that her mum Gina has been arrested. Zoe must make an impossible decision: should she leave her own wedding to help?

Zoe hasn’t seen Gina for years, blaming her for the secret that she’s been running from ever since she was sixteen. Now, Gina is back in her life, but she’s very different to the mum Zoe remembers. Slowly but surely, Gina is losing her memory.

As she struggles to cope with Gina’s illness, can Zoe face up to the terrible events of years ago and find her way back to the people she loves?

A Life Without You is a stirring and poignant novel about the power of the past – and the possibilities of the future.

Rating: 5/5

 

Oh guys, I’ve been waiting to read Katie Marsh’s second novel since the moment I’d finished her debut „My Everything” – it was such a beautiful, moving story that I immediately fell in love with and I couldn’t wait to see what more Ms Marsh has in store for us. Yep, that’s me, I always want more and more of good books :) And I think that it was really worth to wait over a year for „A Life Without You” – it is another great read, a gem of a novel proving that Katie Marsh is a fantastic author.

We are introduced to Zoe at her wedding’s day – she’s about to marry Jamie but in the last moment she receives a phone call that makes her flee from her own wedding. It turns out her mum was arrested – her many – years – no – see – no – speak mum, let’s add, so why did Zoe feel the need to run to her rescue? Isn’t she sure about Jamie, about the wedding? Or is it something else? Sense of guilt? Why does she feel obliged to help her mum right now, right there?
Little does Zoe know how much the visit to the police station is going to change her life. What is happening to her mum? Are they going to make up for the lost years? What has happened at all in the past that drove the mother and daughter apart? Is Jamie going to forgive Zoe for running away from the wedding?

This is a story about a very complicated, very realistic, very powerful relationship between mother and daughter. The story is told by Zoe and the chapters alternate between her narration and letters that her mother has written for Zoe’s birthdays. The letters were brilliant, as they not only gave as much deeper insight of Zoe and her mum’s relationship, into the history, into clearing and explaining what has happened, but they were also full of the deepest feelings and emotions. It was a great way of organizing the story this way and making the flashbacks into the past through these letters, but keeping the plot in the present. It also, with the way it is built, let us slowly but steadily understand why this relationship looks like this, what has happened and allow us to make our own picture, to make our own opinion.

There are so many questions but each of them is going to eventually find their answers, and believe me, the journey to find them is one of the most captivating, hooking, beautiful journeys ever. What we get from the author is a complicated but true to life story about unconditional love. We mostly get Zoe’s point of view in this story, and as much as I liked her and kept my fingers crossed for her sometimes her actions and the way she reacted appeared to be a little too immature. She was stubborn, our Zoe, but I could see when she was coming from – she felt betrayed and hurt. However, the more letters from her mother Gina we read, the more her point of view came to light and the situations and events were explained, the more I felt my heart went to her. Her actions as mother were brilliantly explained and, in my opinion, she did her best, and in perspective I can truly say that in my eyes Gina was right. I can’t explain more as I don’t want to give any spoilers, but I am sure that when you read the book you’ll understand what I mean. Nevertheless, the book shows how a little misunderstanding can destroy the very precious and short time that we have for our beloved ones and it made my heart – and eyes – swell.

„A Life Without You” has everything that I am looking for in a book. It made me sob, and it made me smile, even though the characters were facing some really difficult situations and decisions. This story has many layers and each of them made me gasp, but all of the layers have something in common, and it is love, different kind of love. And as all of us can relate to love, this makes the book even more interesting and emotional. But it is not only love that we can relate to in the book, as I am sure that all the readers will find something for themselves that will make them perceive this tale in a very special way.

You know, to be totally honest, it was a really hard review to write because how often and in how many ways can you tell how much you loved something – and I really, really, really loved the book. Katie Marsh is such a talented author, she brings all the characters and situations so effortlessly to life and what’s so important to me, the plot, the protagonists, they seem so true to life and realistic. I felt a part of the characters’ world and I went with them through each high and low, every twist and turn. Katie Marsh has in an incredibly gentle and so very realistic way written about Zoe’s mum and her disease – I, thankfully, have no experience of this disease and I truly hope it’ll stay this way, but Ms Marsh has written it in a way that it gave me shivers and I had a feeling I am through it together with Zoe. What I so adored in Katie’s previous novel, as well as in „Life Without You” is that the books make you think about your own life and how much you start to appreciate all the little things of your everyday – gorgeous, just gorgeous, beautiful and evocative novel about love, hope, forgiveness. Strongly, highly recommended!

 

 

Book of the Month: June

06 lip

Hi there guys! So here we are, already in July, even if it doesn’t feel like this – this day last year it was one of the hottest days in Germany, with over 40°, and what we have right now? Rainy, windy days, we were only once in the open swimming pool this year, can’t believe it! But whatever, with a right book it doesn’t matter what the weather looks like, no? And here is my Book of the Month June, of you haven’t read it I can only say drop whatever you do and buy it! It is a MUST READ this summer, and not only summer because it’ll brigthen the most grim days. So ladies and gentlemen, standing ovation to…

Yes! Exactly! „You Had Me at Merlot” by the one and only Lisa Dickenson! It was such an easy choice this time – this book has all what I am looking for in a book and even more and I. FREAKING. LOVED. EVERY. SINGLE. MINUTE.OF. IT. So there. Yes. I loved it. In case you don’t believe me, check my review here pretty please.

 

You Had Me at Merlot by Lisa Dickenson

21 cze

Hi there lovely reading people. Today I am so absolutely thrilled to be a part of Lisa Dickenson’s blog tour for her newest novel „You Had Me at Merlot„. I love Lisa, simple like that, and I am dreaming that I’m going to meet her one day and that perhaps then somehow I’ll become as funny as she is, but until then I always have her books :) I also have a guest post from Lisa about researching the places for her books, and you can find it here . Enjoy!

 

You Had Me at Merlot

by Lisa Dickenson

 

 

Publisher: Sphere

Publishing Date: 16th June 2016

Source:  Copy provided by the publisher,  thank you!.

Number of pages: 368

Genre: Women’s Literature, Contemporary

 Buy the Book: Kindle | Paperback

 

 

 

 

Synopsis:

Elle and Laurie are the last ones standing: they’re single, they’re not having babies any time soon and their weekends aren’t filled with joyful meetings about mortgages. For Elle, this is fine. She likes her independent life, but Laurie wants love and she wants it now.

So when Laurie begs Elle to come with her on a singles holiday to a beautiful vineyard in Tuscany, Elle is reluctant. She has no intention of swapping her perfectly lovely life for someone else’s idea of her Mr Perfect, but ten days under the Italian sun with her best friend and lashings of wine? How bad could that be?

Full of sultry summer nights, hilarious moments and plenty of adventure, You Had Me at Merlot will warm even the most cynical of hearts and have you believing in the magic of romance (and the power of a decent glass of wine).

Rating: 5/5

Guys, after being published in four parts, „You Had Me at Merlot” is finally out in paperback, in all its shiny glory, and it looks gorgeous! I still can remember how much joy it was for me to download each part to my kindle and escape for an hour or two to the sunny, full of scents Italy, but it was also incredible joy to eventually see it as a whole novel and re – read it. This book belongs to the highest category of funny, funny with a big F, tactful funny, hilariously funny, laughing out loud funny, making you cry with laughter funny. My kinda funny, absolutely.
And Lisa herself is one of the funniest, warmest person EVER. I often cry with laughter reading her one – liners on Twitter, so just imagine what’s she done to me writing a whole book. I was in stitches. Lisa has incredible way of creating FUN out of a very ordinary sentence and describing situations that could be dull in a most witty way, and inventing situations that had me shaking my head, kicking my legs, gasping, rolling, together with a very honest, belly – laugh.

The book introduces us to Elle. Elle is single, she enjoys being single in fact, she has a job that she loves and is good at and she hopes for a promotion soon. Elle’s best friend Laurie is also single but she starts thinking that perhaps it’s time to settle down. So Laurie, using many different arguments, persuades Elle to go on holiday with her. Tasting wine, driving Vespas, hot sun… And do not forget that it’s holidays for singles.
Elle isn’t thrilled but with Laurie’s persuading skills she soon finds herself on a plane to Italy. A very eventful plane. Of course, Elle is going to enjoy only wine, vespas and hot sun, she doesn’t believe in relationships, for sure not in a relationship with somebody that she knows only for few days and is going to leave this part of You Had Me at Merlot holidays for Laurie. On the other hand, holidays under the sun, with a glass of wine in one hand and best friend – it can’t be too bad, can it? But well, life – as usual – is full of surprises and hey, never say never!
And here starts the best holidays EVER. Holiday full of, yes, wine, Vespas and hot sun, but also many, many embarrassing situations, many new friends, attractions prepared by the owner of the hotel, hot men, unexpected visits from ex – girlfriends, playing spies and making wine with their own feet. And co – singles, in the form of Elle’s boss, who arrives screaming and kicking, for a good start. Dream holiday, isn’t it?

I fell in love with Elle and Laurie from the very beginning. Laurie became my hero after her Botox incident, it was HILARIOUS! Elle, with her down – to – earth, doesn’t give a damn attitude could be my new book best friend. She was incredibly funny, incredibly clever, incredibly loyal and incredibly gullible and incredibly prone to accident, let’s mention only her photo session at the museum or her Vespa ride. Only two out of the very, very many, one more ridiculous than the other.

The owners of You Had Me at Merlot were sweet and charming and I can’t imagine now a better idea for my holidays, I could pretend I’m single for ten days, no problem. The attractions they prepared for their guests were brilliant, Sebastian with his direct attitude was just the best!
And Jamie. Helloooo!!! I had lots of luck lately for the best male characters in the books ever but Jamie is just THE best. He’s not only sexy as hell, he doesn’t only look like a Love God, but he can make his own wine AND chocolate. Did all my dreams come true at once? AND he has a dog, leonberger. AND he’s witty. But also stubborn. Oh yes, there were moments that I wanted to shake him strongly.
All the characters were livid, just popping out of the pages and coming to life next to you. All the other singletons on the holidays, even Elle’s devil boss, who then appeared to be not devil at all, were fantastic, I giggled over them and their adventures, and especially over relentless in adoration lothario George. He was amazeballs! Lisa can create wonderful heroes that feel warm and totally realistic and are the most funny people in the world. The dialogues, the banter between them, the one – liners were one of the best I have ever read, and I know that I said it few times this year, but those are really THE BEST.

The book has absolutely the right pace and is a real page – turner. It belongs to this category of books that I want to finish asap but don’t want them to end. Every page brought more sun and more warmth than the other, more laughter and more positive feelings. It had me hooked from the get – go and took me on a brilliant, adventurous and full of surprises and beautiful sights journey to Tuscany.
Lisa’s humour is actually beyond description, what I would do to be at least half as funny as she is! But it’s not only the humour that won me over, it is also the story, the plot which is simple but hooking and worked out for me, and the writing style: fresh, modern, fast, light, easy to follow and gripping too.

You Had Me at Merlot is as sunny as Tuscany itself and as tasty as the chilli wine made by Jamie. It is a MUST read for this summer, and not only for summer. It absolutely belongs on my FAVOURITE shelf. And I will never be able to drink wine again without giggling over blind – fold wine testing. A warm, uplifting read, a feel – good read, with quirky characters, plenty of good humour, funny scenes and drooling over Jamie – highly, highly recommended.

PS. Please DO NOT count how often I used the words „funny”, „the best” and „ever” in this review. Pretty please.

BE SURE TO CHECK ALL THE OTHER BLOG TOUR STOPS!

 

The Little Bookshop of Lonely Hearts by Annie Darling

17 maj

The Little Bookshop of Lonely Hearts

by Annie Darling

 

 

Publisher: HarperCollins

Publishing Date: 19th May 2016

Source:  Copy provided by the publisher via NetGalley, thank you!

Number of pages: 416

Genre: General Fiction (Adult), Contemporary, Romance

 Buy the Book: Kindle | Paperback (out on 25. 08. 2016)

 

 

 

 Synopsis:

 
Where happy ever after is only a page away…
A delightful new series set in a quaint old bookshop, for fans of Lucy Diamond and Jenny Colgan

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

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

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

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

Rating: 5/5

Guys, really. I don’t remember when I adored a book so much – „The Little Bookshop of Lonely Hearts” is one of the most gorgeous, sweet, charming stories EVAH. Though the beginning of it was not so promising, I must say it – I had a feeling it drags on too much and that actually nothing is happening there, and you know, I’ve already started to panic and wonder what’s going on? I had such good feeling about this book, and I wanted to love it so much and Oh. My. Word. The cover. THE COVER. It is gorgeous! It is more than gorgeous and I love it with my whole heart and if I saw such a book shop somewhere on the street I’d go there and beg them to either give me a job or let me live there, and yet I had some problems to get into it. But. Guys. Those were only some difficult beginnings and soon, very soon, I found this book unputdownable.

First of all, it is a perfect book for such book – freaks like yours truly. It is full of books, mentions of books and authors and bookish things and it was lovely. Secondly, the characters. Thirdly, the humour. The humour – the bloody humour! Just my kind of humour, full of sarcasm, having distance from oneself and I was snorting with laughter almost all the way through it. Fourthly, the brilliant way the plot mixes some more serious issues with light – heartedness. Yes, it reminded me a little of Bridget Jones, but there is nothing wrong with this as I think I am the biggest Bridget’s fan in the world. The way Posy was, so helpless when it came to men, so willing to crying, and especially the one scene with Sebastian and Piers when they were fighting – I could so see Mark and Daniel and hear „It’s Raining Men” in the background. And I loved it!

But let’s get back to the second point. Characters. Oh Jesus, how brilliant the characters were. First of all, welcome Posy, who loves books above all, especially romances, and after inheriting the bookshop Bookends and getting a job of bringing it back to life she decides that romance is the future of the shop (though Sebastian, „the rudest man in London” who was ordered by his grandmother to keep an eye on Posy and to help her in a way that she doesn’t know he helps her, thinks that romance is meeeeh and wants to re – organize the shop into selling only crime. Who is going to win this duel?) To be honest, Posy has never thought about being Bookends’ owner – she loves book but being her own, and her colleagues, boss… well… it’s not her thing. But what must be done, must be done, right? So yes, Posy loves books above all and I love people who love books so no wonder that I immediately fell for Posy, right. But it was not only her love of books that made me like her so much. She was just so believable in all what she did and the way she acted, she had her ups and downs, she had better and worse days, she doubted in herself and wasn’t sure if she’s cut to be the owner of Bookends, she was not a long – legged size 0 sex – bomb, she was prone to accident and she more than often found herself in embarrassing situations and life was not a bed of roses for her, and this all, plus her inner warmth, sense of humour, loyalty made her so realistic and normal and I think you just can’t not like Posy.
But now enter Sebastian, „the rudest man” in London, and oh my word, he really took the rudeness to another level! He was telling the things just like he saw them, no matter if it was going to hurt the recipient. He was obsessed with his suits and he didn’t react to the word „no”, which I personally find not such a bad feature, I’d also love to be able to resist the word „no” :) He, in contrast to Posy, was not having his head in the clouds but was a having his feet on the ground entrepreneur and he had a little different to Posy’s idea what to do with Bookends, and while Posy wanted to paint the shop pink and specialise in romance, he saw it in red and black, selling crime only. But you know what, even with his rudeness, that I, by the way, found not irritating only entertaining (maybe because it was not directed to me personally, haha) and I loved the scenes with Sebastian – they were so full of sarcasm and you needed to take them with a pinch of salt, but it was just my kind of humour and I’d personally love to pat him on, and cry softly into, the lapel of his jacket.
At the first sight Posy and Sebastian were like chalk and cheese, full of contrasts, but you know what they say, right? That opposites attract, and these two were like two peas in a pod, and they complemented each other brilliantly. I adored the banter between them, I adored Posy`s „Fine. Whatever” and its consequences and there is one more aspect that I loved this book so much, and it is Posy’s historical novel that she’s writing. I’m not going to tell anymore but guys, you will understand me when you read this book. I WOULD LOVE to read „Ravished by the Rake” as a novel, absolutely, haha. This was a very unusual romance, I’d say, especially at the end, and I loved the way it was written.
There were of course some other characters, like Posy’s younger brother Sam or her colleagues from the book shop, or people that Sebastian brought with him, and oh my word, they were all brilliant. Just brilliant. Full of warmth, each of them with a very distinctive voice and their own personalities, and they added tons to this story. Tons of warmth, action and fun. All of them vivid and larger than life, even if they were present only in few scenes, but I grow to love all of them.

The plot is a brilliant mix of fun with some more serious issues and the author has wonderfully balanced those things. The way Posy was still grieving over the death of her parents was realistic and tugged at the right heart – strings, and it was the same with the way she tried to cope with the fact that suddenly she was the owner of the Bookends, responsible now not only for her younger brother but also for her colleagues. Then we have humour. Annie Darling has one of the finest sense of humour and I so GOT all her jokes, the irony, the sarcasm and I begged for more. Absolutely, totally my kind of humour, thank you Annie!

„The Little Bookshop of Happy Ever After” is an uplifting, funny story with fantastic, larger than life characters that I was rooting for and wanted to be a part of their gang. My heart went to Posy so many times, and when she cried because she missed her parents I wanted to comfort her. Life didn’t spoil her bur she was still so good and she saw only good in other people. Yes, there were moments that she was too tearful and too naive but this all was a part of her and made her so exceptional and likeable. She must have dealt with so many things in her short life but she never lost faith and went for what she believed is right.

It is a lovely story to escape from the world and when I got into it after my initial problems, I didn’t want to leave the characters and the bookshop for a single moment. You know this feeling, when the book is so good that you want to race through the pages and see how it’s going to end but on the other hand you want it to go on for ever – this is this kind of a book. It’s humorous and hilarious but also realistic and relatable and even though there is going to be Happy Ever After, the author complicates characters’ way to it. Annie Darling’s writing style is fun, warm and I had a feeling it’s embracing me in a hug – she has incredible way with the words and can describe the most normal situation in a hilarious, entertaining way, but she can also made you shed a tear or two. If you don’t believe in Happy Ever After, after reading this book you’ll start to believe in it, such convincing the author is. I highly, highly recommend this novel to all, not only book – lovers. Loved it!

 

Book of the Month: April

06 maj

Hi guys! It’s happening again – it’s time to share my Book of the Month with you, which I am only too happy to oblige. I’ve noticed that even though I am reading the same great number of books in one month, I’ve become much more picky and only few books give me a bookish hangover this time. In April it was a book by Anna McPartlin – „Somewhere Inside of Happy„. I laughed and I cried when reading it, and I couldn’t stop to admire the incredible writing style and the way the author has written this story, and I can tell you one thing: whatever you do, please read this novel! Here you can read my review of this emotional, exceptional story.

 

Blog Tour: Somewhere Inside of Happy by Anna McPartlin / Book Review

04 kwi

Somewhere Inside of Happy

by Anna McPartlin

 

 

Publisher: Black Swan

Publishing Date: 7th April 2016

Source:  Copy provided by the publisher, thank you!

Number of pages: 432

Genre: Literature/Fiction (Adult)

 Buy the Book: Kindle | Paperback

 

 

 

 

Synopsis:

‚And just like that my boy was gone.’

Maisie Bean is a fighter. A survivor. Seventeen years ago, she went on a first date that went so badly it was enough to put the girl off chips. The marriage that followed was hell but it gave her two children: funny, caring Jeremy and bullish but brilliant Valerie.

Just as it seems everything might finally start going right, sixteen-year-old Jeremy goes missing. The police descend and a media storm swirls, over five days of searching that hurtle towards an inevitable, terrible conclusion.

Maisie is facing another fight, and this time it’s the fight of her life. But she’s a survivor. Whatever the odds, she’ll never give in.

From the bestselling author of The Last Days of Rabbit Hayes comes this heart-breaking yet uproariously uplifting new novel about love, resilience and the life-changing power of hope.

 Rating: 5/5

 

The first book that I read in 2015 was Anna McPartlin’s „The Last Days of Rabbit Hayes” and believe me, I have never forgotten this novel. It made such an impression on me that I couldn’t stop talking about it every time when I had a chance, and I kept my eyes peeled for Anna’s next release. When my review copy of „Somewhere Inside of Happy” arrived I couldn’t stop admiring this book’s cover – it’s in a rather unusual yellow colour, but it’s beautiful and so very optimistic. And I didn’t wait long to start reading, and when I started, I couldn’t put it down.

 I know I’ve read only two books by this author, but one thing  grows clear for me, that Anna McPartlin  is an absolute expert of writing books about often difficult, taboo, emotional subjects in a way that always leave you feel warm deep in your heart and optimistic.

 The story is told from multiple points of view, and each of the voices is incredibly distinctive and clear. So we have Maisie there, and her story is bitter – sweet, fun and sad; Jeremy, so much more mature than his age, the responsible and loving Jeremy; his sister Valerie, larger than life and with big mouth, but it’s all only a mask, as she’s fighting her own demons and she only wants to hide her insecurities; Bridie, Maisie’s mother, and it was incredible how well the author captured her characters and how well she pictured a person suffering from dementia, how much emotion and understanding she was able to put into Birdie’s words; Fred, the police officer who knows the family and its history and who so often picked Maisie up after she fell; we also have Jeremy’s friends and Maisie’s ex – husband, and Anna McPartlin did it again – she wrote incredible, down – to – earth characters that made you root for them immediately from the beginning. Maisie Bean Brennan deserves standing ovation. I loved her from the opening scenes and I’ve never stopped loving her. She was strong and fierce, and vulnerable, and so normal, and I am not going to forget her. She had such a hard life and yet she finally found the courage to leave the abusive husband, and when she thinks her life is maybe not perfect but OK enough, the next tragedy strikes, and I don’t know how I would cope in this situation and if I would be able to forgive, just like Maisie did. We also get a chance to experience about Maisie’s very turbulent past, especially the times when she was married – reading it I have unconsciously clenching my fists and my heart went to Maisie. She’s a fighter, this one. A real fighter.

As we read, it turns out that almost all of the characters have some issues  that overwhelm them, that have secrets but they try not to show anything, they want to be strong and keep going.

 However, I have one small, teeny tiny „but”. We know from the beginning that something very sad and emotional is going to happen, and we also know what it is: that Jeremy dies – this is NOT a spoiler! There came a moment that I started to feel desperate for it to happen. Don’t get me wrong, I DIDN’T WANT it to happen, my whole being was begging NO, if I could I would change it, but on the other hand this whole situation felt a little too dragged on. I also started to hope that, somehow, it isn’t going to happen, the whole story in between has kind of watered down my alertness. But even with this feeling, the pace was brilliant and the story has broken my heart.

 The story also surprised me with its message, to be honest, but not in a bad way. Maybe I didn’t realise that it’s still such a taboo subject, still so controversial but Anna’s take on the issue was truly heart – breaking and incredibly sad. It also gives us a very clear insight into what life in a small town in Ireland in the mid 90s could look like for some people.

Also, Anna McPartlin has managed to put into words the absolute feeling of despair and disorientation the family felt after Jeremy went missing, from all the family member – they all missed him so much and all in their own way, and she wonderfully, brilliantly described all these feelings. They were palpable through the pages and they broke my heart more than once, but also, in a very clever way, the author managed to divert our attention from these sad events using this fantastic, inimitable, down – to – earth Irish humour – I loved it!

There were many moments in the book that made me laugh and cry, but I must mention one of them, that especially stuck in my memory. It was so moving in my opinion – when Rave used the words „somewhere inside of happy” about Jeremy. It was a short scene, a moment, but I am never going to forget it.

 ”Somewhere Inside of Happy” is this kind of book that I’d love to be able to read over and over again for the first time. It had me hooked from the start to the end, it was a powerhouse of a book and it made me feel so very emotional. It is already one of my top reads this year. It is so emotional that it made me cry actual tears, and I don’t often cry like a crocodile when reading. Yes, the books might make me sad and shed some tears, but they don’t often leave me in such a snotty state, and at the same time feeling so optimistic and full of hope.

 ”Somewhere Inside of Happy” is one of the warmest, heartbreaking books I have ever read. The author perfectly mixes the darkest, important issues with her exquisite sense of humour and delivers a fantastic, unputdownable book with fierce, strong and vivid characters. It is a story that for sure is going to stay with you for much longer –  just like „The Last Days of Rabbit Hayes” is still with me, I won’t forget „Somewhere Inside of Happy”. It tugged at my heart – strings, I felt a part of this story, I kept my fingers crossed for the characters and I cried together with the broken family. With such a subject you could think it’s going to be a sad book, and it is, but it is also incredibly uplifting and I felt so proud at the sight of Maisie telling us to be proud and live the life we want to live. It was a beautiful book. Beautiful. Highly, highly recommended!

 

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These Days of Ours by Juliet Ashton / Book Review

11 mar

These Days of Ours

by Juliet Ashton

 

 

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Publishing Date: 7th April 2016

Source:  Copy provided by the publisher, thank you!

Number of pages: 435

Genre: Women’s Fiction, Literature/Fiction (Adult)

 Buy the Book: Kindle | Paperback

 

 

 Synopsis:

A novel about love. Raw important love. Small, beautiful love. And what happens when the person you love cannot be yours… Perfect for fans of Rowan Coleman, Jane Green and David Nicholls.

Kate and Becca are cousins and best friends. They have grown up together and shared all the most important milestones in their lives: childhood birthday parties, eighteenth birthdays, and now a wedding day as they each marry their childhood sweethearts, Charlie and Julian.

Kate has always loved Charlie – they were meant to be. Then she discovers that life never turns out quite how you expect it to. And love doesn’t always follow the journey it should.

But best friends are forever, and true love will find a way, won’t it…?

Rating: 5/5

 

Oh wow. The first book since a long time that I wanted to devour every single word. Marvellous, magnificent read! It reminded me so much oo the books by Lucy Robinson or Jimmy Rice and Laura Tait – the writing style, the story – but it’s a great thing, as I am a huge fan of the above mentioned authors. And now Juliet Ashton has just blown my mind with her new novel.
First things first, I have this extreme pleasure to be the owner of a very special signed proof copy of this book (thank you so, so much, Sara Jade and Juliet!), and I am already in love with the cover of this proof, but when I’ve seen the final cover, I’ve just fallen head over heels in love again. It’s beautiful. It’s so simple yet so sophisticated and just let me repeat that I love it.

„These Days of Ours” is a book about love. Simple like that. But can love be simple at all?
We follow here stories of Kate, Charlie and Becca, from when they were 5 – year – old kids, through they teenage years, through marriages, children, work, troubles and happiness, travelling and many, many changes, but all of them stay in touch and are thick as thieves. Especially Kate and Charlie. Thanks to these vignettes in Kate’s life, those most important moments in everyone’s lives, such as weddings, Christenings, births and funerals, parties, we are taken through twenty years of relationship – can you imagine?

What I simply adored in this story is the fact that the author managed to take me by surprise, more than once, with the twists and turns in the story. I know, it sounds so simple, but believe me, those twists and turns were amazing and I wasn’t able to see them until they came and slapped me in the face.
What was also great is that the story is told through different events, at the turn of many, many years, and concentrates on the most significant points and events in the characters’ lives. Each chapter starts with an invitation to the events that are like milestones in the characters’ lives, so there is really no a lot of blah, blah, blah – ing, we’re mostly presented with a fait accompli, but I didn’t have for a single second a feeling that I’ve missed on some information, that the author skipped something important. The time, and together with the time the pace, were passing so quickly, and we accompanied Kate and Becca on the journey through the years and were witnesses to their lives’ changing.
There is no dragging on, there is no feeling that the reading is like chewing a tasteless, dragging bubble gum, and it made the pace feel so quick. But there was one thing stable, permanent and not changing: the feeling between Charlie and Kate. It was developing, it was blossoming, it was mourning, it was in hell, but it was always there. It was in fact this relationship, this unfulfilled love that made the book so captivating – when you’ve seen Kate and Charlie together you had a feeling they just belong together, and it made me feel so helpless seeing how they’re ways drift away.

As for the characters, wow. I’m sure you know this feeling when you feel a part of the characters’ world so much that you want to turn and start to talk with them, to tell them what you’re thinking – it was like this when I was reading the book. I felt a part of this novel, and I wanted to shake Kate, Becca and Charlie sometimes and tell them what I think. They were all brilliantly drawn, they felt so realistic and I adored the way they developed and matured, it was so genuine. The bond between Kate and Charlie was lovely and unique. The relationship between Kate and her cousin Becca was realistic and genuine, and the author has captured all the smallest details that built such relationship. Sure, I think we were supposed to dislike Becca in this relationship, as she was the Beautiful One, always getting what she wanted, she was spoiled and very self – centred and she was the one to ruin everything, but there was also much more to Becca than meets the eye. This relationship between Kate and Becca was both intriguing and annoying, and yes, it was Becca’s the annoying part mostly, but in the end I think that all of us are going to forgive Becca for all the mistakes she’s made, as she really, deep down, wasn’t a bad person. And even though the story concentrates mostly on Kate, we are also introduced to other characters, such as the girls’ families and partners, and I truly loved here the subplot of the orphanage in China and Kate’s father, the orphanage that might have seen as only a subplot, but in the end turned out to be an incredibly important part of the story and it pained me that Kate’s father couldn’t follow his dream.
So yes, the characters were brilliant. Greatly developed, with their own personalities and voices, and – what’s always so important to me – they were moving. They were developing, growing and changing, and the relationships between them were really, truly complicated.

The writing style is beautiful. It is full of emotions and feelings. The author has no problems to draw the readers direct into the heart of the story and to make them feel like a part of the characters’ world. The author, just like Lucy Robinson, has this incredible talent to describe all possible feelings. She just knows how people feel and can wonderfully put it into words. „These Days of Ours” is bitter – sweet, funny and simultaneously sad, beautiful and unique love story that will stay with you for long. Juliet Ashton has an incredible talent for storytelling and I was immediately hooked to the story, I didn’t want to put the book down for a single second. She has written a novel that I was sure I knew what’s going to happen next, but after turning the page I could only gasp and see that there is a surprise waiting for me. It is this kind of book that you not only read, but LIVE. Amazing. And highly recommended. My first Hall of Fame review this year.

 

The Mill River Redemption by Darcie Chan / Book Review

08 gru

The Mill River Redemption by Darcie Chan

 

Publisher: Sphere

Publishing Date: 3rd December 2015

Series: Mill River #2

Source:   Received for review.

Genre:  Women’s Fiction, Literature/Fiction (Adults)

 Buy the Book: Kindle | Paperback

 

 

  Synopsis:

Having unexpectedly lost her husband and lacking the means to support herself, Josie DiSanti and her two daughters take refuge in the small town of Mill River, to live with Josie’s aunt, Ivy. The sisters, Rose and Emily, are inseparable growing up – until a shocking tragedy tears them apart.

Years later, Rose and Emily return to Mill River for the reading of their mother’s will, where they learn that Josie would do anything to force their reconciliation: the sisters must move into neighbouring houses for the summer and work together to locate the key to Josie’s safe deposit box, which contains their inheritance. And so, left with no choice, Rose and Emily reluctantly begin their search. But in a place known for its magic and miracles, little do they know that an even greater treasure awaits them . . .

 Rating: 5/5

 

„The Mill River Redemption” belongs to books that leave me speechless for a long time after reading them. This novel was a perfection in every single detail and I find it really hard to write a review that is going to do this book a justice.  Thank you so much Clara for offering me this book to read and review, you really do know my tastes!

Even  though „The Mill River Redemption” is a second book in „The Mill River” series , you can easily as a stand – alone novel.

 JosieDiSanti has lost her husband and house in the fire and we meet her when she and her two little daughters Rose and Emily are on their escape from New York to Josie`s only living relative, her mother’s sister Ivy, to Mill River. Ivy has her own bookshop and decides to take her niece in although they don’t know each other at all.

Josie and the girls easily settle to their new life in Mill River, and it’s also thanks to an anonymous person, who tends to help people of Mill River in their hour of need. Josie gets a house  across the street from Ivy and the life goes on, with Josie starting to train to be a real estate agent after the girls went to school. But when the girls are adults, a tragedy happens, a tragedy that tears the sisters apart for years.

Fast – forward some years on and we meet the sisters and Ivy at Josie’s funeral. Desperate to bring her daughters together even from beyond her grave, Josie writes a will. Rose and Emily will get their inheritance but first they must move to Mill River again and work together for clues that are going to allow them to obtain the inheritance.

Is this possible to bring the girls together at all? Are they able to work on their differences and their grudge?  Would it be possible for them to find the hidden key? What else are they going to discover?

 

Darcie can wonderfully describe the dynamics of the family, the feelings between the family members and she doesn’t left any doubt why the bonds look like this. And she also perfectly writes characters that you love or love to hate, which was a case with me. I had a problem with Rose from the very beginning, she seemed to me to be a very cold, very unhappy, very dissatisfied woman and what I learnt through the book only confirmed me in my belief. In my eyes she and only she was to blame for a life that she had, she wanted to be so independent, she was too proud to ask for help or admit defeat. But on the other hand there was more to Rose than our eyes saw. She carried a great amount of guilt in herself.

I was looking for any flaws in Emily but didn’t find any. She’s down – to – earth, very lovely character and to be honest, I didn’t suppose that she can hold to her traumas so long. She was easy – going and open to the world and I guess you couldn’t not like her.

I admired Josie. We get to know her as a helpless, heartbroken widow and tell our goodbyes later to a strong, successful woman. I adored her determination to make the girls’ life better and at ease and really admired how far ahead she went to show her daughters what is important in life.

There was a bunch of other brilliant characters in the book as well. Ivy was a great aunt and friend, Daisy was so good – natured, Father O’Brien with his hidden secret, they were all written in a fantastic, vivid way and added so much warmth to the whole story. It wouldn’t be the same book without them all. But I still am not sure about the plot with Claudia and the young police officer. Yes, of course, they were a part of some scenes, and while Kyle was in some ways significant to the story, I couldn’t really place Claudia. The way she was described and the way some of the chapters were dedicated to her I was sure she’s going to be an important part of the story, of the plot but in my eyes, she was not. Hers served maybe as a kind of a getaway, a breath of fresh air between the drama developing.

The characters are very mobile, they all grow up and develop in this book, they are complex and they’re just popping out of the pages to embrace you and drag you into their lives.

 The things that the sister did to each other as a revenge were ridiculously funny! I guess I would never hit upon such ideas. Of course it hurts to see that, firstly, they did such things, and secondly, that they could only see the way to solve the problems through police.

The setting of the story, Mill River, couldn’t be better. Darcie describes it as a friendly, charming town, full of nice people, people helping each other, town where the biggest misdemeanour was to destroy someone’s lawn or cut the tires in someone’s car . And this all actually after the sisters moved into the town…

 I was immediately drawn into the story, into the drama and the mystery puzzle.  There was not a single flat moment in this book, the tension was palpable through the whole story. We gradually learn that there happened something very tragic in the past, something that brought the two sisters apart but Darcie keeps us in uncertainty what it was almost till the end, but I must tell that waiting for this secret to be revealed didn’t spoil the reading at all. There are some books when you wait, and wait, and wait for something important to be told and the waiting makes you desperate and bored but it was absolutely not the case here, there was so much happening in this book, drama intertwined with humour and there were many twists and turns to keep your attention the whole time.

The story jumps back and forth in time, and it starts in 1983 with Josie’s arrival, and takes us on a journey to 2013, when she unexpectedly dies. In between we get to know Josie, Ivy and the girls, and learn about how they settled in the town, and how their lives looked life, with the girls going to kindergarten and school, with the girls growing. The sisters couldn’t be more different, they’re like chalk and cheese, and it was visible from the very beginning. Rose, the wilder one, the one so seeking independence, is now a wife with a rich husband and a very intelligent, young son, who in fact helps her to resolve the mystery. But apart of the inheritance Rose has a lot of other problems, starting with her husband, his job and ending with alcohol. Emily, on the other hand, is a carpe diem type of girl, she doesn’t have a firm, solid place, she moves a lot and appearances are not as important for her as they are to Rose. She drives old car (you wouldn’t see Rose in such one), she has a dog (Rose hates dog), she feeds birds (birds are full of bacteria and germs for Rose) and can do things that usually no other girls do: plumbing, repairing cars, changing the tyres… Such things. The day of her mother’s funeral is the first day that she sees her nephew Alex. The time gap let us to catch on all the development the characters undergo, I especially loved how Josie blossomed, from the  widow in despair to a very successful businesswoman.

 The story is told in third person, from very different point of views, but everything is clear and wonderfully explained and described, no confusions here. Written in a very captivating, elegant and tender way, it has you rooting for the characters and wanting to desperately know what’s going to happen. And it has one of the biggest twists in the books. Period.

 This book was perfect in every single detail. The characters, the descriptions, the plot, and that every thread has found its end, and it left me feel so satisfied and content. I have found answers to all my questions. I love when authors don’t choose the easy way to write the book and make it complex and complicated, and they don’t keep out of difficult situations to put the characters through. That was the case here and I have enjoyed the read through and through, I actually couldn’t put it down and some of you know that it’s really hard for me to find time to read as much as I’d like. Well, I finished this book in two days. It was unputdownable, I found myself obsessing about the story and I only wanted to dive into it again. It’s my sure bet, this book, and I would heartily recommend it to you to read it as soon as you can.

 

A Wedding at Christmas by Chrissie Manby / Book Review

25 lis

A Wedding at Christmas by Chrissie Manby

 

 

Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton

Publishing Date: 19th November 2015

Source:  Copy provided by publisher, thank you!

Genre:  Women’s Fiction, Contemporary

 Buy the Book: Kindle | Paperback

 

 

 

 Synopsis:

A warm, wonderful and funny novel of family life from Chrissie Manby – the ideal treat this festive season.

What comes to mind when you picture a wedding at Christmas? A gorgeous white dress accessorised with a thick velvet cape… bridesmaids in red velvet too? An arch of Christmas greenery: holly and ivy and boughs of fir. Candles and fairy lights. Snow!

Chelsea Benson has just twelve weeks to organise her perfect winter wedding. Her family and friends pitch in to help, but sisterly squabbling, issues with money and an Ice-Queen mother-in-law soon threaten Chelsea’s plans for her big day. And that’s without the firework fiasco…

Rescuing Chelsea’s dream of a proper family wedding might just take all the magic of Christmas…

Rating: 5/5

 

I so bloody love Bensons! I can’t believe that „A Wedding at Christmas” is the last book in the „Proper Family” series (and probably because of this fact, all the loose ends are tied and everything is wrapped up), I’m SO going to miss them! They are as imperfect as they can be, those lovely characters in the books, they are bickering, falling out, they take offence, they have problems and life is often pulling the rug from under them, and this is why I so love them! This all makes them perfect characters in my eyes, the fact that they are so normal and true to life, all their mishaps, adventures and that I can laugh and cry together with them.

This is the fourth book in the series but I think you can read it as a stand – alone (the most important parts and info from previous books are recapped here, of course), although in my personal opinion you’d miss to much not reading previous books! The family tree at the beginning of the book was a nice surprise to me and I see it as a great idea, not only for those who pick this book as a first read in the series, but for the returners to the family as well.

As soon as this beautiful, shiny, sparkly copy arrived on my doorsteps, there was nothing holding me back and I put my nose into the story, only occasionally coming up for air. Believe me – once I started reading it, I couldn’t put it down. It is written in this brilliant, warm writing style, that just draw you in and you feel a part of the characters’ world. Secondly, it is about Bensons, a family that is close to outrun my favourite family at he moment, the Walshs. Thirdly, the cover is so, so, so beautiful, all sparkly and Christmassy – what’s not to like?

„A Wedding at Christmas” focuses on Chelsea this time, and I couldn’t be more happy, as I really love her. She’s the most cool – headed out of the three sisters, but it doesn’t mean that she’s not interesting or boring! On the contrary, she’s so warm and lovely, and I’d love to have her as my friend. This time Chelsea has only 12 weeks to organize her wedding, and even though it is doable, with the Bensons involved – especially Ronnie and Annabell – some problems are going to see the light of the day and the things are not going to run as smoothly as Chelsea would like them to. Also on the Adam’s mother – in – law front – oh, I so felt for our poor Chelsea, everything she did was turned upside down and she was always the one to be blamed.

Ronnie and Annabell let the emotions run high this time. For me, Ronnie has shown her true colours in this book – uncertain, jealous, childish. On the other hand, she can be so brilliant, so funny, and she is a wonderful mum to Sophie and Jack. I understand of course where she comes from with her uncertainties, we all have them, especially as there is suddenly a new family member on the scenes, but she is an adult woman and I think she should really get a grip and not wait for something bad to happen to stop being offended with nothing. I personally didn’t have a feeling that Annabel wanted to steal the show, she just wanted to help, and I could only applause Chelsea for being so clear – headed and not letting to be blackmailed. But even with Ronnie being so difficult, I really love all members of the Bensons family, and their antics. It is not only like reading about a family next door, it is like reading about your own family, with all the ups and downs and problems – they are so down to earth, nothing is too pushed or far – fetched in the Bensons’ lives. Also, this time the children, Jack and Lilly play a big part in the story and I loved the scenes with them, especially with Jack – such a lively, brave boy with a heart made of gold! Both of them so well developed and so realistic, with the way they were talking and behaving.

The story is written in my favourite way – with short, sharp chapters. I personally find reading a book with short chapters easier and quicker, and they don’t drag on, they’re spot on. Each of the chapters is titled with the character’s name, so we know who’s going to be in the spotlight, and so we get a lot of points of view, but everything is so clear and not at all confusing – even with four generations wanting to tell their story, and so many characters. Sure, there are things that are predictable, they you see coming, but that absolutely neither bothered me nor spoiled the book to me, and nevertheless, there was always an element of a surprise.

The end was perfect – it had me laughing, but it also had me in tears. This is a big and bouncy family drama with a pinch of salt – there is this lovely humour that I loved so much in the previous parts, but perfectly mixed with truly dramatic and emotional moments, too. It is a really perfect read, full of fun mixed with emotions, and already with a festive feeling to it. Absolutely brilliant novel, with characters that you feel so drawn to, that you root for, and sometimes want to shake as well, down to earth storyline and wonderful way of storytelling – highly recommended!