Monday, 27 June 2016

Review - Where is Emma Butler's Life Plan by Julia Wilmot

Written by Julia Wilmot, Where is Emma Butler’s Life Plan, was a book that I was instantly intrigued by as from the description it sounded a bit different from anything I’d ever read before. Upon receiving it, it jumped straight to the top of my TBR pile and I have to say that I thought it was great. It drew me in from the very first page and with plenty of humour contained within it is a book that I feel will appeal to many lovers of Chick Lit. I thoroughly enjoyed it and am delighted to be taking part in the blog tour for this book and also bringing you all a little giveaway, more details about which can be found below. 

Emma Butler may not have a perfect relationship, but with a good job and a nice home she seems happy enough. However, all that’s about to change and her life’s about to get more than a little bit crazy as according to her Guardian Angels she has not yet completed her life plan and is due to face her recall in just a week. With such a short amount of time and so much still left to achieve the Guardian Angels are all left feeling somewhat panicked and so they set to work trying to influence her every decision, whilst still allowing her a certain degree of freewill. What the Guardian Angels don’t realise is that there’s been a bit of a mix-up…

The book is told from the perspective of both Emma and the Guardian Angels and although it does throw the reader around quite a bit between the two narratives is quite easy to get into. Both perspectives of the novel are told in the same light-hearted tone that helps to make this book so enjoyable and I thought that Emma was such a fantastic main character who handles the unexpected events that happen as a result of the Guardian Angels’ work extremely well. She’s a character who you really want things to work out well for. 

Where is Emma Butler’s Life Plan was a book that I could not put down, presenting a concept that I found to be incredibly thought-provoking and one that I will be thinking about for a long time. Have we already planned our lives before coming to earth? Do we all have a Guardian Angel who is there to ensure that we stay on the right track and stick to our life plan? Or is everything that happens to us nothing more than a coincidence? I’m not sure how to even start answering these questions but think that they are genuinely interesting and fascinating to consider. 

Overall, it really has to be said that Where is Emma Butler’s Life Plan is such an entertaining and engrossing read that is wonderfully told. It’s clear that Julia has really pulled out all the stops with this novel to create something that is truly special and quite unique. Furthermore, the entire novel demonstrates her talent as an author who I really hope to see much more from in the future. It was an absolute pleasure to read and I highly recommed it, particularly if you’re looking for something that’s a little bit different. 

As promised at the start of this review, there is a giveaway being held for this book courtesy of Julia Wilmot and if you’d like to be in with a chance of winning one of three paperback copies just follow the instructions below. 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Sunday, 26 June 2016

Review - Last Dance in Havana by Rosanna Ley

Last Dance in Havana is the fifth book written by Rosanna Ley and the first book of hers that I’ve ever read. It was also the first book that I read as part of the Quercus Summer Reading Book Club, which is an initiative launched by the publishers - Quercus - to tie in with their library promotion, Pick the Perfect Poolside Read. It’s such a fabulous idea, one that is giving thousands of readers the chance to travel the world through fiction and discover new authors that they may not have heard of before in the process. I was incredibly excited to get started with Last Dance in Havana, which was brilliant from beginning to end.

When the book first opens we meet Elisa as a teenager in 1957 who met and fell in love with Duardo in Havana, Cuba, and spent many days together exploring their country and many nights dancing. Duardo is Elisa’s one true love but with Duardo adamant that he is going to fight and be a part of the Cuban revolution, their relationship does not last long and Elisa soon finds herself living in England. We then jump to 2012 where Elisa, although she still spends much of her time thinking about her life with Duardo and what might or could have been, is married and has a step-daughter called Grace. Grace lost her mother at a young age, has a strained relationship with her father and has strong feelings for a man who is not her husband. Both Elisa and Grace need to figure out what they want from life and whether they can have the life they both want in England or not. 

With the novel being told from the perspectives of both Elisa and Grace, the reader really gets the opportunity to get to know each of them as individuals and delve into their pasts, finding out exactly what led them to be where they are today. They are both very memorable characters, but it has to be said that Elisa was definitely my favourite of the two. Elisa was a woman who put the needs of others before her own and was a character who I desperately wanted to find the happiness in life that she so clearly deserved from the moment I first met her. Although I also hoped that Grace would discover what made her truly happy too after everything she had been through I couldn’t help but question some of the decisions she was making. 

Rosanna Ley has done a fantastic job with Last Dance in Havana, having created a beautifully-written novel that is detailed and descriptive from the start. It deals with a few difficult issues in a very tactful manner and everything about Rosanna’s writing throughout the duration of the book was powerful and emotive. What is also very clear to see is that Rosanna has really done her research with this book and has spent a great deal of her time researching and absorbing everything she possibly could about Cuba’s history and culture. The country really came to life in a way I was not expecting it to. Having studied Spanish at university, I really loved the Spanish words that were thrown in frequently throughout the novel - they really kept me on my toes and I learned a few new words in the process!

As well as being a thoroughly enjoyable reading experience, Last Dance in Havana also turned out to be a fantastic learning experience about Cuba, a place that I could previously only have imagined. You know you’ve read a good book when you find yourself not wanting it to end and are left with an overwhelming desire to visit the place which you have read about and that’s exactly what this novel does. I’m not quite sure why I’ve never picked up anything written by Rosanna Ley before but she’s definitely an author whose books I’ll be looking out for in the future. 

Monday, 20 June 2016

Review - A Summer of Secrets by Alice Ross

Despite not having read the first book in the Countryside Dreams series written by Alice Ross, when I received an email offering me the chance to participate in the blog tour for The Summer of Secrets I read the description and jumped at the chance. It sounded like the perfect, feel-good book with an absolutely gorgeous cover that really was impossible to resist. It turned out to be everything I thought it was going to be and much more and was an absolute pleasure to read from start to finish.

In this book the reader is transported to the village of Buttersley where we meet four villagers over the course of one summer. Firstly there’s Portia whose father has recently passed away. She has just returned to the family manor which is in a terrible state but which she is determined to keep hold of despite having very little money and despite a rather irresistible property developer making an appearance and offering to take it off her hands. Then there is Joe, who predominantly cleans windows but who desperately misses his ex who abandoned him, taking their child with her, for a richer man two years ago. Next up there’s Jenny who seems to spend the majority of time either looking after her demanding mother or working in the local school but who has decided it’s time to spread her wings and start living a little. Finally there is Rich who seems to live a perfect life with a beautiful wife and lovely daughter until one day someone very unexpected turns up on his doorstep. Where will one summer take these four characters? 

Although we have the stories of four individual characters to follow over the course of the novel and it jumps around quite a lot between them all, one thing that has to be said is that this isn’t confusing at all. Instead, I found that I got into the pattern of this novel extremely quickly and found that it was very easy to keep track of what they were all doing. I loved getting to know all of the main four characters throughout the novel and thought they were all very down-to-earth people who I couldn’t help but want the best for. It was also particularly nice to see the way in which their paths all ended up crossing with eachother in one way or another. 

I loved the way in which this book was written and think that Alice has done an absolutely spectactular job with it. The book contains a lot of beautiful description that really sets the scene for the reader and which allows you to picture absolutely everything that is going on. Yet at the same time it makes for extremely light reading and is really everything that a good chick-lit book should be. It’s one of those books that once started, is possible to read extremely quickly and I devoured it in the short space of 24 hours. 

Whilst I said that this is the second book in the Countryside Dreams series I have to say that I feel that it works very well as a standalone novel and I don’t feel I was missing any vital information by not having read the first installment. It certainly won’t be the last book I read by Alice Ross and believe that this book would be the perfect summer reading for any chick-lit fan whose looking for a great little book to keep them company round the poolside this year.

About the author

Alice Ross used to work in the financial services industry where she wrote riveting, enthralling brochures about pensions and ISAs that everyone read avidly and no one ever put straight into the bin. One day, when nobody was looking, she managed to escape. Dragging her personal chef (aka her husband) along with her, she headed to Spain, where she began writing witty, sexy, romps designed to amuse slightly more than pension brochures. Missing Blighty (including the weather - but don't tell anyone), she returned five years later and now works part-time in the tourism industry. When not writing, she can be found scratching out a tune on her violin, walking her dog in wellies two sizes too big (don't ask!), or standing on her head in a yoga pose. 

You can find Alice on her website and also on Twitter.

Saturday, 18 June 2016

Review - You and Me Always by Jill Mansell

About ten years ago I picked up and read my first ever Jill Mansell book and have frequently done so ever since. There’s something about Jill’s writing that completely captivates me, everything about it is simply divine and I couldn’t wait to read her latest title called You and Me, Always. This was a truly adorable story that was every bit as enjoyable and beautiful as every other book I’ve ever read by the author and it’s a book not to be missed. 

You and Me, Always is set in Stanton Langley, a small village and one of those places where everyone knows each other’s business. It primarily focuses on Lily who on her 25th birthday at the start of the novel opens the very last letter that was written to her by her mother who sadly passed away when Lily was quite young. This letter, unlike all the others that she has previously received, reveals information about her mother’s first true love who Lily cannot stop thinking about and who she is absolutely desperate to meet. So, supported by Coral who took responsibility for Lily following her mother’s death and her good friends, Dan and Patsy, Lily begins the search for the man her mother once loved so very much. Will she find him and will she also be successful in finding the one true love of her own?

The thing that made this book what it was for me was the incredible selection of characters that were introduced to us throughout the stunning story. There are quite a lot of them but they are all important in so much as they all have a part to play and they all come together, their lives are all connected in one way or another. As we get to know more and more about each and every one of them, something which I particularly enjoyed, my love for Lily grew. She was an incredibly strong character who having been through such an ordeal at such a young age was determined to make the most of every minute of her life and I admired her greatly. You can’t help but want the best for her from the minute you first meet her.

This book was really beautifully written in true Jill Mansell style in a way that I simply adored. Throughout the novel there was the perfect mixture of humour and slightly more emotional moments, with the end result being a book that I found it very difficult to put down once I had picked it up. It certainly brightened up my day when the rain was pouring down outside my window despite it being the middle of June. 

You and Me, Always is Jill Mansell’s 27th novel and it’s really not hard to see why she’s had such a long and successful career as an author. Everything that Jill writes is always consistently well written and you can always rely on her books to pick you up if your down and leave you with a smile on your face. You and Me, Always is absolutely no exception to that rule and I thought that everything about it was absolutely delightful from the beginning to the end. Along with every other book Jill Mansell has previously written I thoroughly recommend You and Me, Always and am looking forward to reading plenty more by Jill in the future. 

Thursday, 9 June 2016

Review - This Must Be the Place by Maggie O'Farrell

This Must Be the Place is Maggie O’Farrell’s seventh novel and is the second novel of hers that I’ve read. Going into this novel I had very high hopes and I was really not disappointed in the slightest, it exceeded my expectations and turned out to be one of the best novels I’ve ever read. It was storytelling at its absolute finest, a truly special and beautiful book that I think everyone will absolutely fall in love with. 

In This Must Be the Place we meet Daniel Sullivan, an American linguist who at the start of the book is living in Ireland with his second wife, Claudette, a former film star who is now trying to keep a low profile, and his two young children. For all intents and purposes life is good for the family and Daniel seems happy enough, but one day he hears some news regarding someone he once knew that he simply can’t ignore. So he sets off on a trip to find out more about the news he heard, putting his life with his wife and children in jeopardy. Will their marriage survive? 

Maggie O’Farrell has created a truly exquisite novel with This Must Be the Place that is completely unlike anything I’ve ever read before. Told from not just one but several character’s perspectives and not just a story about the here and now, the novel jumps between the past and present. It also takes us on an unforgettable journey around the world to countries and cities I have only ever imagined. With so much going on in this book you might think that it would be confusing and difficult to follow but I can safely say that this was not the case at all, which to me is a sign of how accomplished and incredible Maggie is as an author. I laughed, I cried but I loved every minute of it!

Everything about this book seemed incredibly believable, nothing seemed false or exaggerated. As the book progressed we saw how each of the characters made mistakes, which is what makes us human, and how each of them handled the mistakes they made in different ways with very different results. Whilst there were some characters who dealt with their mistakes badly and found it difficult to see any hope in the future there were others who bounced back with relative ease. In a way it was very inspirational and led me to question the way in which I deal with life’s ups and downs. 

There was so much I enjoyed about This Must Be the Place, but there’s also so much I don’t want to give away about it to anyone who hasn’t yet had the opportunity to read it. I’m not normally lost for words when finishing a novel and I don’t normally struggle to write reviews but this is one that I struggled with as I was so desperate to do it justice. I really cannot express enough how spectacular this novel is, but believe that it’s only possible to appreciate it if you’ve read it. I thoroughly recommend this book and am incredibly excited to read more written by Maggie in the future. 

Tuesday, 7 June 2016

Review - When He Fell by Kate Hewitt

I’d had my eye on When He Fell by Kate Hewitt for a while before being asked whether I wanted to take part in the blog tour so quite literally jumped at the chance. When He Fell was one of those books that was emotional yet entirely gripping - I honestly could not turn the pages of this book quickly enough and I managed to read it in one sitting. Everything about this book, from the way in which it’s written to the issues it presents, makes it extremely memorable and I don’t think I will be forgetting this book for a long time to come. 

In When He Fell, Josh and Ben whose personalities couldn’t have been more different were childhood best friends until their lives were turned upside down when Ben suffered a nasty fall in the school playground. Following the horrific event, which also changes the lives of the boys’ parents and an entire school community, an investigation is launched. Was what happened to Ben nothing more than a terrible accident or did someone have malicious intentions? Why was no one watching Ben as he played in the school playground? With Ben’s life hanging in the balance everyone is desperate for answers, but when the truth is finally revealed there are lasting repurcussions for both families. Can they ever recover and will their lives ever be the same again? 

This book contained absolutely no preamble, there was no slow build-up or introduction. It threw the reader straight into the drama and was fast-paced and action-packed from the start. It was also extremely unpredictable, there was no telling what was going to happen next, which I think was what made this novel so addictive. The ending in particular came as a complete shock to me, totally unexpected and something I never saw coming. I don’t think I’ve read a novel like this one in quite a long time. 

Alternating between the voice of Ben’s mum, Maddie and Josh’s mum, Joanna, the novel is excellently constructed. It jumps seamlessly between the two narratives and it’s clear that the author has taken the time to research the medical details discussed within the novel. Kate’s writing style really is consistent throughout the entire book, being powerful and highly emotive. I doubt it’s possible for anyone to read this book without being moved by it in some way. 

When He Fell is based around a moral dilemma for both the characters and the reader - who’s in the right? Who’s in the wrong? Who’s to blame and who isn’t? Even now, I still don’t know the answers to these questions and think they will play on my mind for quite some time. 

All in all it has to be said that this book was possibly better than I thought it would be and I’m really glad to have finally got round to reading it. This book deserves to be talked about far more than it has been so far to date and deserves a lot of recognition for its importance and the way it deals with some sensitive issues superbly. This is the first book of Kate’s that I’ve read but I’ll certainly be back for more by her in the future.