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Not Exactly Chaucer by Wendy Mason

I have to admit that I was excited by the title of this one. Having read Chaucer, once upon a time, I can say with much certainty that something that is “not exactly Chaucer” is much more to my taste. However, Wendy Mason’s literary talent shines through in this book.

Blurb:

In this contemporary twist on Chaucer’s ‘The Canterbury Tales’, tour manager, Bailey, strives to ensure that her guests enjoy their three-week tour of Australia – for many, the holiday of a lifetime.
Then Bailey discovers that her tour operator – Australia Unleashed – has been taken over, she has a secret shopper among the guests and her career is on the line. She remains determined in her quest. However, her good intentions disintegrate into a cocktail of chaos!
Take a slice of mystery; a shot of skulduggery; a measure of prejudice; a twist of romance and a dash of humour. Put them all together, shake and enjoy, as the twenty-one travellers each tell their stories, form new relationships and discover things about themselves that will change their lives forever.

My thoughts:

This has been such a fun and easy read. With 21 characters, and containing 21 different tales or excerpts from each character, it had the potential to get very messy. However, Wendy’s talent and skill shines through in this well-organised, original and entertaining book.

There are a few things going on here: an overall plot, mainly involving the tour guide Bailey and mystery man Miller, the tales of the guests, and the cocktail recipes and setting descriptions.

The overall plot gives the book an overarching direction and purpose. I really liked Bailey as a character and found I was intrigued by her relationship with Miller. Bailey seems to be a hard-working, dedicated and caring person and there were times where I really felt some of the treatment she received was unfair. However, I believe she portrays the highs and lows of working in the service industry well.

Mason has done well to create such an eclectic and vibrant cast of characters who, through their stories, add something important to this book. The stories, which Bailey constantly reminds us should be entertaining and not controversial, actually deal with some very pertinent and complex issues, including: crime, revenge, sexuality, religion and relationships. I loved reading these stories. I found myself to be lost in thought after reading each one, but also eager to move on to the next.

The cocktail recipes and the sometimes detailed descriptions of the varied settings they visit across Australia definitely ensure that this book appeals to the reader’s imagination and senses. After reading, I’m definitely looking forward to trying an “Aviation cocktail” and  I’m even more keen to visit the natural beauty that is The Great Barrier Reef.

I feel like the word original doesn’t quite do this book justice. It tackles so many themes and scenarios, has some wonderful structural elements and is completely unlike anything I’ve read before. It is, however, definitely a compelling and entertaining read.

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

The Borrow-A-Bookshop Holiday by Kiley Dunbar

I was drawn to this book as I’ve previously read One Winter’s Night by this author which I really enjoyed. I love the concept behind this story and was really excited to pick it up.  I think you’ll also agree that the fully illustrated cover is gorgeous and enticing.

Blurb:

The Borrow-a-Bookshop Bookshop Café invites literature lovers to run their very own bookshop … for a fortnight.

Spend your days talking books with customers in your own charming bookshop and serving up delicious cream teas in the cosy café.

Bookworms, what are you waiting for? Your holiday is going to be LIT(erary).

Apply to: The Borrow-a-Bookshop Bookshop Café, Down-a-long, Clove Lore, Devon.

Jude Crawley should be on top of the world. She’s just graduated as a mature student, so can finally go public about her relationship with Philosophy professor, Mack.

Until she sees Mack kissing another girl, and her dreams crumble. And worse, their dream holiday – running a tiny bookshop in the harbour village of Clove Lore for two weeks – is non-refundable.

Throwing caution to the winds, Jude heads down to Devon, eager to immerse herself in literature and heal her broken heart.

But there’s one problem – six foot tall, brooding (but gorgeous) Elliot, who’s also reserved the bookshop holiday for two weeks…

As Jude and Elliot put their differences aside to run the bookshop, it seems that Jude might be falling in love with more than just words. Until she discovers what Elliot is running from – and why he’s hiding out in Clove Lore.

Can Jude find her own happy ending in a tiny, tumbledown bookshop? Or is she about to find out that her bookish holiday might have an unexpected twist in the tale…

My thoughts:

I loved the dramatic opening to this book. It definitely hooked me in immediately. There is suddenly lots of change and upset in Jude’s life, which sets the reader up for a journey and a (hopefully) happier conclusion.

I immediately identified with the main character, Jude. She is a true bookworm and a likeable character. She has lots of wonderful qualities, such as her caring nature, her intelligence and the way she treats family as a priority. However, her vulnerability, lack of self confidence and struggles with maths make her appear raw, real and relatable.

I loved the setting of Clove Lore. I immediately thought that Kiley’s descriptions were too detailed and vibrant for this to be a completely made up place, and after reading I definitely want to visit Clovelly. I loved how she explained that she took a real place and added her own sprinkle of magic to make it fit the story and the characters.

This has been quite a rollercoaster of a read and I have been rooting for Jude’s happiness. At the beginning of the book, her home and what she knows as “stability” in her life is completely overturned, so it has been interesting to see how she has coped with the new challenges and changes that the much needed trip to Clove Lore has caused.

Throwing Elliot into the mix was a great choice. He is described in such a mysterious way that he could go either way – is he a hulk of man on the outside, covering a soft centre that is going to win Jude’s heart? Or is he as threatening and brute-ish as he first appears, making her need to look elsewhere

I have adored this gentle, beautiful and uplifting book about making the most of new opportunities and finding the courage to pick yourself up and dust yourself off. I would definitely recommend this book and author to fans of Cressida McLaughlin and Heidi Swain.

To end, a quote from the book: “Words are just as important as medicine, for healing.” ♥️♥️♥️♥️

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Summer at the Chateau by Jennifer Bohnet

I was drawn to this book by the beautifully illustrated cover and the title, which made it sound like this would be an uplifting and escapist read. I have also had this author recommended to me SO many times, and I knew it was about time I picked up one of her books.

Blurb:

When Pixie Sampson’s husband tragically dies, she inherits the beautiful Château Quiltu in Brittany, Northern France.


But unbeknown to her, she also inherits a mysterious lodger, Justine Martin and her 4-year-old son Ferdie.
Heartbroken and with her adventurous Mum, Gwen in tow, they travel to France to put the Château on the market but are soon drawn into a quest to seek the Château’s secrets.
Who is Justine? Why is she living at the Château? How did she know her husband?


Over the Summer months, the Château fills with family and laughter and secrets are discovered and old wounds begin to heal.

My thoughts:

The beginning of the novel was engaging and in some ways, devastating as Pixie had lost her husband in tragic circumstances after 35 years of marriage. It definitely set an emotional tone to the novel, and set the novel up for an exploration of new beginnings.

I really find it refreshing to have the two main characters as being older ladies as this definitely in some ways made their relationship and emotions more believable.

I really feel like this book has taken me on a trip to France. Jennifer’s experience of living, or having lived, in France, is clear from the vibrant and lively descriptions of the Château and the surrounding areas of Brittany. I really feel I have escaped wet and windy Newport to visit this myself, just by reading this novel.

As the novel progresses and the initial shock and drama wears off, the pace slows slightly then the mystery and secrets of the past come to light and the pace ramps up again, which I loved.

Overall, this has been a gentle and enjoyable reader by an author that I am now keen to visit the back catalogue of.

⭐⭐⭐⭐

The Nurse by J A Corrigan

I was drawn to this book by the cover, which of course screams responsibility, danger and risk. I also liked the thought provoking tag line and it made me eager to pick this one up. It also, of course, reminded me of The Silent Patient, which was one of my favourite books of 2020.

Blurb:

Rose Marlowe is a hard-working nurse, a loving wife, and a merciless killer. Or so she says. Despite her confession, it is hard to believe that this beautiful, kind woman could have killed her vulnerable patient in cold blood.

Down-on-his luck author and ex-journalist, Theo Hazel, is convinced that there’s more to what happened than Rose is telling, and so decides to visit her behind bars to write her story. His first surprise comes when Rose reveals that the victim was not a stranger to her.

As time goes on, it seems that Rose is letting Theo see behind her perfect mask. With each new visit, he learns terrible new things about her heart-breaking past. With each new visit, he becomes more and more convinced that she can’t be a killer. But is he trying to free an innocent victim, or falling prey to a calculating murderer?

A gripping and unputdownable thriller that will keep you guessing into the early hours of the morning. Perfect for fans of The Silent Patient, Shari Lapena and JP Delaney.

My thoughts:

The opening of the book is completely gripping, haunting and shocking. I loved the fact that it started with the death scene and from there moved forward and backwards, to be before and after the incident. This was definitely a strong start for me.

I’ve read a couple of books recently where the “back and fore” style hasn’t really worked. It’s slowed down the pace of the book, or it’s made me a bit confused, or I’ve favoured one narrative over the other. This is definitely not the case for this book. The “present” events and the events of 1991/92 definitely both have their relevance, merit and a story to tell. This was definitely a strong element of the book for me.

I struggled with the characters in this one. Something about Daniel creeped me out from the very beginning, and the same goes for Ed, and Abigail after a time. I have to admit that despite her horrifying story, I did struggle to build a connection with Rose. However, I was definitely invested in her story from the beginning.

In some ways, the psychological element in this story is quite subtle and in that way it makes it all the more shocking. There were definitely some unpredictable twists.

Overall, this is a well written and intriguing psychological thriller that I would recommend to fans of the genre.

⭐⭐⭐.5

Songs For Your Mother by Gordon MacMillan

I am so happy to be involved in the blog tour for this book. The cover is absolutely gorgeous, and I was looking forward to reading a book about family, music and romance.

Blurb:

When Johnny meets Lauren in a bar in Santa Cruz, there’s an instant connection. On an American road trip with best friend Will, Johnny promises to return to the girl who has stolen his heart.

Until tragedy strikes, forcing Johnny to fly back home without ever seeing Lauren again.

Six years later, Johnny is living his life in London, even if he’s never forgotten the girl with the grey eyes and dark hair.

Until one September morning, he opens his door to find a little boy standing there – a child, Johnny quickly comes to learn, who was created that one magical night. Lauren is dying, and her last wish is to reunite five-year-old Luke with the father he doesn’t yet know.

Thrown into unexpected parenthood, Johnny finds himself navigating school-gate politics, Disney movies and tantrums, guided by the notes Lauren has written for him.

Life as an instant dad isn’t always easy, but as Johnny and Luke open their hearts to each other, Johnny is about to discover that life’s joy isn’t always where you expected it.

An emotional, feel-good read that will have you laughing while you wipe away a tear – readers of Dani Atkins, Mike Gayle and Jojo Moyes will be captivated.

My thoughts:

“Intriguing is always interesting as a place to start, as you never know where it might take you.”

This quote is taken from the book and definitely sums up how I felt during the opening pages. Johnny is on a physical journey: a road trip with his best pal Will. However, a chance encounter with Lauren makes it clear that Johnny may be about to embark on an entirely different, emotional and life changing journey…

The characters in the book are wonderful. I really felt empathy for Johnny from the beginning and thought Lauren came across really well.

There were some really upsetting and shocking twists in this book and that definitely kept me gripped and captivated. There are also some beautiful and emotional scenes that show the power of human connection.

I loved that the story skipped time frame so we were able to see into the future of Johnny’s life and what happens when Luke arrives. These scenes remind me a little of one of my favourite films, Big Daddy, in that there was some soft humour but also touching scenes and an honest exploration of the change and chaos, but also joy, that being a parent brings to your life.

Overall, this has been a beautiful, heart-warming and dramatic book that I have enjoyed from beginning to end. I loved the emotion that was packed into the ending. I would definitely recommend this book to fans of authors such as Rachel Marks and JoJo Moyes.

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

The Promise of Summer by Bella Osborne: Cover Reveal

I am very excited to be involved in the cover reveal for for a wonderful romantic fiction author. Check this book out! I can’t wait to read this one. It sounds funny and original.

Blurb:

Ruby’s life is about to change for ever…

After years of dating losers, cheats and one guy who did something unrepeatable to her kettle, Ruby has all but given up on romance. But then a stranger sits next to her on a train to London and explains his plan to propose to the woman of his dreams. Maybe true love does exist after all?

When the man accidentally leaves the engagement ring behind, Ruby is determined to save the day. But she hasn’t counted on fellow passenger Curtis stepping in and insisting he should be the one to track the stranger down.   
 
As summer closes in, the unlikely pair make a promise to reunite the ring with its owner. But can they find their own happy ever after along the way?

Pre-order Links 

Amazon UK – https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B08R6Q4T66/

Universal Amazon link – http://mybook.to/ThePromiseOfSummer

KOBO – https://www.kobo.com/gb/en/ebook/the-promise-of-summer

Publication Date – 22nd July 2021

A Thousand Goodbyes by Ruth Graham

I am very excited to be involved in the publication push for an original and uplifting take on the “career memoir” style books. I think the cover of the book is absolutely gorgeous and is enough alone to make you want to pick this one up. Plus I love this style of books, so that’s a bonus.

Blurb: If you liked Adam Kay’s book, ‘This Is Going To Hurt’, you’ll love the joyously life-affirming memoir, ‘A Thousand Goodbyes’.
When Ruth Graham left the world of stand-up comedy to become a funeral celebrant, she’d imagined a less combative career.
Over a thousand services later … she knows better.
Probably her most demanding role to date, Ruth has needed every ounce of diplomacy, courage, humour and her wits about her to juggle the daily challenges. From grief-stricken families to amorous widowers through to plate-smashing, warring siblings and even a flock of stoned doves at a Rasta funeral.
As the story unfolds we witness her new career developing into a
24/7 commitment. Will it break her?
Or will it be the spur she needs to get her own life in order?
Jaw-dropping, informative, moving and hilarious in turn, ‘A Thousand Goodbyes’ is a reminder that nobody is guaranteed a tomorrow; whilst encouraging everyone to seize their day.

My thoughts:

Having worked closely with someone who left a long and successful career in drama teaching to be a funeral celebrant, I was interested to find out that Ruth had tried out a number of different jobs before settling on this one.

Her talent for storytelling and timing things for maximum impact, a skill that probably developed in her early years of stand up comedy, definitely shines through this book. She manages to tell humorous stories from her job in a touching, funny but inoffensive way.

I also loved the “Celebrant Shares” sections as this further added to my enjoyment and laughter whilst reading this book. I also think this was a great way to give the book an original feel and separate it from other similar books.

I really enjoyed getting to know Ruth and seeing her journey. She is clearly dedicated to her job and as a tolerant, caring, sensitive and organised professional.

Of course, it is hard not to read this book and think of our own experience (good and bad) of funerals and funeral celebrants. Although it feels little strange to say, it brought back fond memories of a friend’s mum’s funeral who was not religious at all in the traditional sense of the word, but still had a strong sense of spirituality. The service ended up with a rendition of ‘Spirit in the Sky’, to which we were encouraged to sing-along. It definitely left us smiling and feeling like this vibrant, wonderful woman had had the send off she deserved. As I was reading, I imagined the people working with Ruth having that same level of satisfaction.

It is a big statement for a book to compare itself to best selling books such as This Is Going To Hurt, but I definitely feel like this heart-warming, life-affirming and beautiful book lives up to it.

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Italy Ever After by Leonie Mack

I am so excited to be involved in the blog tour for this wonderfully fun and uplifting romantic fiction book. I’m all about the feel good vibes at the moment as my professional life is reaching the stress pinpoint of the year, so I was looking forward to escaping to Italy in this one!

Blurb:

TV journalist Lou feels battered and bruised after her divorce from Phil, the father of her daughter Edie. Her confidence and sense of fun have steadily been drained away, and she isn’t sure who she is any more.

When the opportunity arises to accompany Edie on a music camp in Italy for a month in the summer, Lou jumps at the chance for new adventures, new horizons and new friends. The hazy warmth of the summer sun, shining brightly over the stunning Lake Garda, slowly brings Lou back to life.

Nick Romano, Edie’s music teacher, loves being home in Italy, but coaching his students for their concert in Milan, is bringing back difficult memories. His blossoming friendship with Lou is the perfect distraction, although a summer fling would be easier to conduct without the scrutiny of his mother Greta, not to mention the interference of his extended Italian family.

As the summer passes, full of sunshine and breath-taking scenery, gelato and delicious feasts, Lou and Nick get ever closer. But as the time for farewell creeps up on them, will they be able to say goodbye and leave their memories behind in the Italian sun, or can a summer romance last a lifetime?

My thoughts:

I was completely hooked by the opening of this book. I immediately disliked Phil (the ex husband) and every time he opened his mouth or did something (or failed to do it in lots of cases), it really made angry so I was immediately rooting for Lou and her daughter Edie to have an amazing time in Italy and hopefully, have a fresh start away from his judgemental and self-entitled nonsense.

I love how the relationship between Nick and Lou developed slowly and organically. Due to their past histories, they are both wary of opening up to new love interests, which is completely understandable. Therefore, their relationship seems to be built on a mutual respect, shared humour and a tangible chemistry that they do try to ignore, at first.

I loved escaping my current situation of wet and windy Newport and going to the wonderful, serene and sun-kissed landscapes of Italy and its beautiful lakes. The detailed descriptions of the scenery make you feel like you have been lifted up and placed in Italy itself, giving this book the perfect escapist feel.

Overall, this has been a heart-felt and endearing story which I have connected to on a number of levels. Having been divorced and lost all my confidence as a result myself, I really connected with Lou and her desire, yet hesitation, to move forward with her life. I would definitely recommend this book and author to fans of Heidi Swain, Milly Johnson and Judy Leigh.

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

The Glorious Guinness Girls by Emily Hourican

I was drawn to this book by the comparisons to Bridgerton and Downtown Abbey. Though I’ve not watched these series in their entirety, I’ve definitely felt a need to dip in and out of them due to the hype that surrounds them, so I thought a book that is comparable to them might be a good next step. I also love the alliterative and thought provoking title and tag line.

Blurb:

The Glorious Guinness Girls are the toast of London and Dublin society. Darlings of the press, Aileen, Maureen and Oonagh lead charmed existences that are the envy of many.

But Fliss knows better. Sent to live with them as a child, she grows up as part of the family and only she knows of the complex lives beneath the glamorous surface.

Then, at a party one summer’s evening, something happens which sends shockwaves through the entire household. In the aftermath, as the Guinness sisters move on, Fliss is forced to examine her place in their world and decide if where she finds herself is where she truly belongs.

My thoughts:

I loved the fact that this book once again introduced me to a place/time in history that I don’t know much about – the Irish Civil War and 1920s London. The writer effortlessly weaves clear factual history with a rather developed and intriguing family saga.

At first, I definitely found the number of different characters and roles a little overwhelming and confusing. However, as the book developed and the character of Fliss was introduced, it was easier to get into the flow of it and I liked following her journey overall.

I also think it was quite original for us to see much of the story through the young adult’s eyes as it brings a new perspective to things and allows the narrative to balance between their personal priorities and the social context around them.

⭐⭐⭐

Until Next Weekend by Rachel Marks

I was drawn to this book as this author has between recommended to me SO many times, and her first book is still sat on my Kindle TBR. Obviously, the cover too is crisp and gorgeous and the tag line drew me in. I had to know how this one would pan out.

Blurb:

NOAH AND KATE WERE MEANT TO BE TOGETHER FOREVER.

Married with two gorgeous sons, it looked like they’d got their happy ever after.

But marriage isn’t easy. And one day, Kate left, taking their two boys with her.

These days, Noah is a weekend dad – and it breaks his heart. He misses the chaotic mealtimes, the bedtime stories, the early mornings and the late homework.

Suddenly, he decides enough is enough – he has to win his family back. Starting with Kate.

The only problem?

IN SIX WEEKS’ TIME, KATE IS GETTING MARRIED TO SOMEONE ELSE . . .

My thoughts:

I’m not sure how any review I write of this book will do it justice. It is so beautifully written, so heart felt and raw.

I loved the fact that the author chose to write what is, in many ways, a romantic fiction book, from the perspective of a male main character, and especially using first person narrative. To me, this felt really original and completely refreshing.

To call this a romantic fiction book though, completely sells it short. It is about divorce, about coming to terms with your past, your present and the fact that the future is unknown. It’s about self acceptance and self preservation. It contains a realistic and quite hard-hitting portrayal of loneliness and depression, at times.

However, this is perfectly balanced with a light humour that is peppered throughout the book. I particularly enjoyed the “banter” and ease with which the characters of Noah and Kate, and Noah and Mimi, are able to poke fun at each other and make each other laugh. There was also some wonderfully graphic descriptions of working with small children (in Noah’s role as a teacher) that were downright hilarious.

I have loved getting to know the characters in this book. Despite having had a horrible time and a massive downward spiral that no-one would ever wish for, Noah is a relatable and likeable character. I was rooting for his happiness but I also felt deeply connected to the family as a whole, and hoped that the outcome would be satisfactory, and make his children happy too. Even though he has had his fair share of flawed moments and problems, it is clear that Noah is ultimately a caring and loving father that would do anything for his children.

This has been a heart-warming, gut-wrenching book that has made me chuckle at times and sob heavily at others. This has been one of those rare reads that I wish I could re-read from the beginning, and experience all over again. This is absolutely a five star read and is definitely one of the best books I’ve read this year!

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

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