Friday, 29 July 2016

Review - Florence Grace by Tracy Rees

I’m going to be totally honest here and say that I completely missed out on the first book writen by Tracy Rees so approached her second novel, Florence Grace, with very little idea of what to expect. Not being a big reader of historical fiction I was a little bit apprehensive and worried that it might not be a book for me, but I’m pleased to say that I didn’t just like this book but loved it. There was just something about the way in which it was written that really captivated me and made the whole reading experience such a pleasure. 

When we first meet Florrie Buckley she is just thirteen years old and living with her Nan who she has lived with for many years following the death of both her parents in a small village community in Cornwall. Despite, like many others, not having much money to their name Florrie and her Nan seem happy enough and indeed Florrie is at one with the moors and loves nothing more than to roam and run around them. One day Florrie and her two friends are asked to help out at an engagement party of the wealthy Grace family, a massive adventure which causes a great deal of excitement for young Florrie. Little does Florrie how life-changing this party is as not long after a massive secret is revealed which sees young Florrie whisked away to London where a whole new life awaits her. 

Throughout the entirety of this novel, Florrie is an absolutely delightful character who is so strong, memorable and admirable. No matter what life throws at her, she approaches life with an incredibly positive attitude and is one of those characters who never really stops to dwell on the negative but instead remains hopeful about finding happiness even when life gives her plenty of reasons not to. Subsequently, whilst I was reading this novel I really couldn’t help but want everything to turn out well for her and she was definitely a character who I learned a lot from. I really liked the way she stayed true to herself and everything that she believed in. 

Admittedly, the writing style throughout Florence Grace was a bit different to what I normally read but this didn’t stop me from enjoying it and I was still able to get into the book incredibly quickly. By having written the book in the way that she did, Tracy Rees really helped to set the scene and transport the reader to a whole new world and period of time. I really enjoyed reading and getting to know more about Victorian England and how life was back then. Tracy’s done such a wonderful job at writing a book that is beautifully detailed, descriptive and fascinating. 

A special mention also has to go to the cover of this book which was absolutely perfect. Not only was it stunning and captivating, but it provided such an accurate depiction of the book, summing up everything that the book was about excellently. 

Overall I thought that Florence Grace was a brilliantly compelling read that provided a fabulous introduction to Tracy’s writing. It’s a book that is bound to appeal to all lovers of historical fiction and I’m so glad that I had the opportunity to pick this book up and that I enjoyed it as much as I did. Given how much I loved this book I’m really looking forward to picking up Tracy’s first novel and am really excited to see what she will write next. Definitely an author whose books I’ll be looking out for. 

Monday, 25 July 2016

Review - We've Come to Take You Home by Susan Gandar

We’ve Come to Take You Home by Susan Gander is a book that instantly intrigued me from the moment I read the description of it. It was a bit different to the books I usually read but it’s always a pleasure to read something that’s a little out of my comfort zone, particularly when I end up enjoying it. Well I certainly enjoyed reading We’ve Come to Take You Home, that was so striking and moved me in a way that I was quite honestly not expecting it to. 

The book was told from the perspective of two characters - Jessica Brown and Sam Foster - who are separated by time. For Jess, it’s 1916 and the time of the first world war and we witness her as a young girl who deals with the death of her father who died whilst fighting for his country and the death of her baby brother before being sent away by her mother to work as a maid for a relatively well-to-do family in London. Meanwhile Sam Foster lives some 100 years later and sees very little of her father who is often away, flying all over the world in his job as an airline pilot. One day Sam’s world is thrown upside down when her father’s future life is in jeopardy following his involvement in an accident. Whilst not becoming clear until towards the end, the lives of Jessica Brown and Sam Foster are very closely linked in a way that was quite unexpected...

Both Jessica’s and Sam’s stories were enjoyable and engaging in their own ways, which meant that both were characters who I felt able to connect to in one way or another. Both girls had a story to tell which I couldn’t help but feel quite emotional about at times and it was a pleasure to get to know each of them as the novel progressed. However, there was one particular story that really stuck out for me and that was Jessica’s, whose experiences I found especially interesting and who I could quite happily have read a whole book about. 

The thing I loved most about this book was the way that it was written with some very short, bite-sized chapters that were at the same time packed full of action. For me, I found that the length of the chapters contributed a great deal to this book as they added to the sense of tension and drama that was building from the very start of this very unique and cleverly-crafted novel. Throughout the duration of the novel, Susan Gander’s style of writing was really something very special and overall she did a wonderful job at writing a very complex and intricate novel. My only complaint is that the ending of the book seemed a little bit rushed and I would’ve liked to have seen a bit more to it. 

We’ve Come to Take You Home is without a doubt a book that really gets you thinking about all of the possibilities as to how the two girls are going to end up meeting. It's also one that makes you stop, think about and feel grateful for all you have in life. It was a highly compelling read that I could not bear to be parted from and one that subsequently made for very quick reading. For a debut novel it was mightily impressive and I hope that this won't be the first and last book written by Susan. 

Saturday, 23 July 2016

Review - My Husband's Wife by Amanda Prowse

I’ve only read a few of Amanda Prowse’s books but every one I have read has been extremely special and has never failed to move me. Amanda’s writing is, in one word, divine and she has a very real talent for writing very powerful tales about domestic issues that get right to the heart of the subject matter. When her latest novel, My Husband’s Wife, dropped through my letterbox I couldn’t wait to get started and it was just as outstanding as I thought it would be. 

In My Husband’s Wife we meet Rosie Tipcott who, having never known her mother, was raised solely by her father. Whilst undoubtedly affected by not having that all important maternal influence, Rosie is now married to Phil with two adorable children, Naomi and Leona. As far as she’s concerned life’s not perfect but she’s relatively happy and determined to be the best wife to her husband and mother to her two children. One day the unthinkable happens when she gets home to hear her husband reveal that he’s leaving her for another woman. What happens in the aftermath and how does Rosie come to terms with such devastating, life-changing news?

Rosie was a character who I not only admired for her strength but also had a lot of empathy for. Despite suffering a great deal, she was always mindful of the needs and feelings of other people and often even thought of them before herself. Witnessing her go through all that she did, my heart broke for her on more than one occasion and I couldn’t help but feel desperate for her to find the peace and happiness she deserved after an exceptionally difficult time. Her two children were an absolute credit to her and their childish chatter and innocence really helped to make this novel as super as it was. 

What Amanda has done within My Husband’s Wife really is quite extraordinary. She’s taken what is both a very serious and realistic theme that I fear many people will be able to relate to and created something that is injected with humour and hope at the appropriate times. Everything about it was powerful and emotive which led me to laugh and cry in equal measure. Amanda’s signature writing style that I have fell in love with more and more as time’s gone on shone through throughout the duration of this book which is so worthy of every five star review it receives. 

This was a novel that once started I wanted to devour but at the same time never wanted it to end. As I was reading I genuinely had no idea how to do it the justice I knew it deserved as it was flawless. I cannot recommend this book enough to anyone who is looking for an unforgettable and unputdownable read. It was spectacular and I can’t wait to read more written by Amanda in the future. 

Tuesday, 19 July 2016

Guest Post - 'Leave Me Alone' by Ollie Quain

Today, I'm delighted to be hosting a piece that was written by the wonderful Ollie Quain, the author of She Just Can't Help Herself. It's a really brilliant piece about how to cope with the solitude of writing. So, without further ado...

I am mates with a few novelists. (Obviously, none within the same genre as I write because if they were more successful than me I would have to pretend to be happy. And maybe even forced to attend their bigger, better book launch parties. With more flamboyant drinks. Worst case scenario, a cocktail a-c-t-u-a-l-l-y named after their latest central protagonist. At a free bar. Financed more-than-happily by the publishing company. Kill. Me. Now.) But anyway, I asked these writers how they coped with the solitude which the job entails. All said they loved it now... but had learned to love it. This surprised me as the solo aspect of writing was probably the one thing I found least daunting when attempting a career as an author. I am the sort of person who can spend days on their own pottering about, but admittedly, if the time is being spent at my laptop I need to put certain parameters in place to make sure I actually get shizzle done. Here are a few tips on coping with, well, being with you... and only you. 

To write you cannot be at the behest of FOMO (Fear of Missing Out). You need to celebrate JOMO (Joy of Missing Out). Or at the very least be able to muster up TOMO (Tolerance of Missing Out). I cannot write on even a hint of a hangover, so when I was writing my first book I didn't go out on the razzle dazzle. I would tell myself that there is ALWAYS another party - I moved to Ibiza so I was right! - and the only thing I was “missing out” on was having a published book sitting on my own Amazon page. 

On full days which you have assigned to writing, do an intense work out in the middle. Put aside an hour and push yourself... I mean to a point where there is no way that thirty minutes in you'd upload a Millie Mackintosh style selfie on Insta. A post cardio endorphin rush focuses your concentration and boosts confidence in your ideas. This helps to curtail any inward looking negativity which increasing hours in isolation can often cause. 

If you have spent your professional life in busy offices, then sitting at a computer on your own to write will feel alien. Alien and most likely... whisper it... boring. Really effing boring. (Especially if you are working in the evening after returning from that busy office.) So, start with a totally achievable schedule, that way you won't clock watch or fidget. Sixty minutes of pure focussed writing is easily accomplished. If you have a problem to even do this, remind yourself how effortlessly that hour would slip by if you were Googling online... say, checking out before and after surgery pictures of Bella Hadid. Or researching the advantages of Argan Oil. Or enjoying videos of cats knocking over babies. You know what I mean. Anyone? Oh. Just me then. 

The most exciting aspect about being on your own is exploring where your mind can take you... and then seeing what that results in on the page. Being around other 
people or other human stimulus (social media, Smartphones, the Daily Mail showbiz website etc) is obviously essential to day-to-day living but can become a creatively stifling white noise. I find all of the above makes me overly self-aware and consequently, self-conscious. To dig deep on an emotional level I need to create an environment where I feel that my characters are the only real people in the room. 

Or any other coffee shop chain or independent snack outlet. You will not work. This is a fact. Not productively, anyway. You will start off by banging out a few paragraphs thanks to a hyper caffeine/syrup/lactose buzz, but then you will get distracted. By the barista. By the other customers. By the muffin options. By the unidentifiable sticky residue on your table. But most of all by the uncomfortable truth that you have become the living breathing new millennium urban freelance cliché of someone who takes their laptop to Starbucks.

I'd like to end this post by saying a massive thank you to Ollie Quain for writing such a fabulous piece, which I hope you all enjoyed reading as much as I did!

Tuesday, 12 July 2016

Review - Now and Then Friends by Kate Hewitt

Not that long ago I read When He Fell by Kate Hewitt and having enjoyed it so much couldn’t wait to get started on Now and Then Friends, which is the second book of Kate’s that I’ve read. It turned out to be an incredible piece of contemporary women’s fiction that, once started, made for a very compelling read. I couldn’t tap the screen of my Kindle fast enough to turn the pages of it and it was impossible to predict how it was going to end. I highly recommend this book and am delighted to be on the blog tour for it today and also bringing you an international giveaway for your chance to win a copy of The Rainy Day Sisters by Kate Hewitt, which is the first book in the series. 

In Now and Then Friends the reader is transported to a small English seaside village where everyone knows everyone and everything there is to know about other people’s business. Here we meet Rachel, a young woman who not only runs her own cleaning company but who also spends a large amount of her time looking after her younger sisters and nephew following their mother’s terrible accident. One day she arrives at the house of the West’s which she cleans to find someone very unexpected there - Claire West. Claire and Rachel used to be best friends during primary school but it didn’t take long for that to change and for many years they’ve had very little to do with one another. However, now both in need of a friend, are they able to bury the past and move on?

It was a real pleasure to be reunited with Kate’s wonderful writing style which flowed so beautifully from beginning to end and was so easy to become wrapped up in. Kate has written an extremely readable story in Now and Then Friends, that wastes absolutely no time in throwing the reader straight into the midst of the action. That said, even though there’s very little pre-amble the book doesn’t lack any description and is wonderfully detailed throughout. 

What particularly struck me about this novel was how powerful and emotive the entire storyline was, and as a result I was really able to connect with both Claire and Rachel to the extent where I fully understood why they each felt the way they did. Not only do I think the book is extremely memorable but I feel that it is one that a lot of people would be able to relate to as I think most people have been in the position of these characters in terms of experiencing the breakdown of a friendship at some point in their lives. However, as this book quite rightly demonstrates, what’s important is how that breakdown is dealt with and how important it is to eventually find a way to move on from your upset in order to have a brighter future. 

Whilst I'm sure that the first book in the series is great, I should say that it is definitely possible to read Now and Then Friends without reading the first instalment. I missed out on the first book, but when reading Now and Then Friends didn't feel that I was missing out on anything vital and it certainly didn't prevent me from enjoying the novel. 

Although it can undoubtedly be read at any time of the year, with the beautiful beach setting, incredible cast of characters and divine storytelling throughout, Now and Then Friends is the perfect summer read. I can safely say that Kate Hewitt is an author whose future books I’ll definitely be looking out for!

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Thursday, 7 July 2016

Review - Sunset in Central Park by Sarah Morgan

Earlier on this year I read Sleepless in Manhattan by Sarah Morgan. It was the first book of Sarah’s that I’d ever read and I absolutely loved everything about it. I, therefore, couldn’t wait to read the second book in the series, Sunset in Central Park. Given how much I enjoyed the first installment it had a lot to live up to but it turned out to be just as perfect as the first one. It really helped to cheer me up and put a massive smile on my face. 

In Sunset in Central Park we are once again reunited with Paige, Frankie and Eva, three best friends who run their own events company, Urban Genie. This time round, the story’s told from the perspective of Frankie, a young woman who having witnessed the unpleasant aftermath of her parent’s divorce at a young age does not believe in love, weddings or happy ever afters. However, in addition to Paige and Eva, another one of Frankie’s very good friends is Matt. Matt is Paige’s brother and has always had feelings for Frankie which as time goes on become harder to control. The question is, can he convince Frankie to change her mind and convince her that love does exist?

It was so good to be back with Paige, Frankie and Eva who I grew to love so much whilst reading Sleepless in Manhattan. It very much felt like I was reconnecting with old friends and it was great to see how the dynamic between them all hadn’t changed - they still connected with eachother really well and were all still incredibly supportive of eachother. Even though I highly recommend reading Sleepless in Manhattan because it is an incredible book, each of the characters backgrounds is described in enough detail throughout the novel to mean that Sunset in Central Park could very easily be read as a standalone novel. 

Sarah Morgan’s beautiful writing style that made Sleepless in Manhattan so good for me really shone through during the whole of Sunset in Central Park. It didn’t falter once and was so easy to become wrapped up in to the point that I lost all track of time and temporarily forgot that real life existed. Throughout the novel there are some really memorable moments and all in all I strongly believe that this will make the perfect summer read. 

“A book can give you most things a relationship can. It can make you laugh, it can make you cry, it can transport you to different worlds and teach you things. You can even take it out to dinner. And if it bores you, you can move on”. I’m not one to quote books in reviews, but when I read this in Sunset in Central Park I couldn’t help but think how true that statement is and knew I had to share it. With the exception of boring me, Sunset in Central Park ticked pretty much all of those boxes - it made me laugh, it made me cry, it transported me to a city I’m now even more desperate to visit and taught me a lot about life in general. 

In case you haven’t already been able to tell I loved Sunset in Central Park so much, and it has confirmed exactly why I will not hesitate to pick up any of Sarah’s future books. I’m already looking forward to reading, Miracle on 5th Avenue, when it’s out later this year but for now award Sunset in Central Park with five shimmering gold stars!