Sunday, 26 March 2017

Review - The Idea of You by Amanda Prowse

For a very long time now, Amanda Prowse has been a favourite author of mine whose new books I always look forward to and whose books are always heartbreaking yet at the same time beautiful, powerful and inspiring. That was most certainly the case with Amanda’s latest book, The Idea of You, which is worth so much more than just five stars. It was a truly stunning masterpiece!

Within The Idea of You we meet Lucy Carpenter who is quickly approaching forty and seems to have it all, from a successful career to her wonderful new husband Jonah. However what they are missing, something that would really make their world that little bit more perfect is a baby of their own. Indeed, knowing that she is ready for motherhood and that she would make a good mother with so much unconditional love to give, there is nothing that Lucy wants more than to hold her own baby in her arms. But as is so often the case in life, as we accompany Lucy on an unforgettable journey through loss, grief and hope, we see that this isn’t going to be easy. 

Amanada Prowse has an incredible talent for writing stories with characters that seem so real and believable, characters who you really can’t help but fall head over heels in love with and this is something which allows you to become so much more invested in the novel. Lucy was one of these characters who I warmed to right from the very start of this novel and as things got harder and harder for her, it broke my heart to read of all she was experiencing. Although I couldn’t, I wanted nothing more than to be able to make things better for Lucy and for Jonah to have acted slightly differently to how he did on more than one occasion. I think the most inspiring thing about this novel is the way in which it demonstrates the characters getting through what life throws at them, no matter how difficult it is. 

As I have come to expect from all novels written by Amanda Prowse, The Idea of You deals with a difficult theme, this time of miscarriage, in what can only be described as a beautiful and sensitive manner. Even without the deeply moving note at the start of the novel, from reading it I could tell just how much honesty had gone into writing it, that it was based on something that Amanda like many of her readers had personally experienced. This was something which left me with even more admiration and respect for the author than I already had from reading her previous novels. From beginning to end it was written in a way that I found to be entirely captivating and was a book that I found to be deeply touching. 

Discovering Amanda’s books was one of the best discoveries I ever made and I feel so incredibly lucky to have been able to read yet another wonderful novel by her. In fact as I’ve read more and more of Amanda’s books over the years I’ve found that they seem to get better and better, and The Idea of You was absolutely no exception to this. Upon finishing The Idea of You, my only hope is that Amanda will continue writing for many more years to come and that I will have the privilege of reading much more by her in the future. 

If you’re looking for a new domestic tale to get stuck into by an author who really does know what she’s doing, then The Idea of You is most definitely for you!

Tuesday, 21 March 2017

Review - A Girl Called Owl by Amy Wilson

The beauty of reading so much is that you’ll often come across a book that is a little bit different but is at the same time truly special and that was most certainly the case with A Girl Called Owl by Amy Wilson. Although, being a middle-grade book, it’s primarily aimed at an audience much younger than myself I was intrigued enough by its description to give it a go and I’m so very glad that I did. Including so many different elements, it certainly captured both my heart and my imagination. 

With a mum who had the not so clever idea of calling her Owl, a best friend whose going through a difficult time and needs her support and a new boy at school giving her weird looks it’s safe to say that Owl really doesn’t need any more drama in her life. Owl’s always been told that she’s special, but she only begins to believe it when she starts seeing strange frost patterns appear on her skin. Knowing this is something that makes her stand out from her peers, Owl can’t help but wonder where she gets this extraordinary talent from, whether it’s from her father who she has never met before. Keen to find out more about her father, she goes on a journey of discovery but just where will it take her?

As a story that is mainly narrated from the perspective of Owl, one thing that can definitely be said is that Amy has created a wonderful lead character in her and, despite the age difference between both myself and her, I found that I was able to relate to her and the things that she was going through. Her story and everything that she experienced really did intrigue me and I was keen to read on and stay with her as she discovered all that she did. For such a young character I really loved Owl’s strength and determination and I also thought that it was a pleasure to see how she interacted so well with those around her, being an incredibly caring character and treating others with respect. When she eventually found her father, I loved seeing the way in which their relationship developed as the story progressed. 

Growing up I read a few stories about young people who had never met one of their parents before, but none that I can remember were quite as imaginative as A Girl Called Owl turned out to be. Although the parts that went into the third person did sometimes throw me off the main storyline, I thought that overall it was a wonderfully well written book, one that most certainly had a very interesting plot. I really loved the way in which Amy had managed to include so much within her story, one that wasn’t just to do with relationships but one that also looked at a number of mythical characters that may so often be overlooked.

I found A Girl Called Owl to be a gorgeous, magical little book and one that I ended up adoring far more than I ever thought I would. As a book that focuses on the themes of identity, friendship and how to adapt to change, this is a story that should easily appeal to most readers over the age of 9 and I also think it would be ideal for those interested in mythical characters. A really beautiful debut novel that I hope many others will fall in love with! 

Sunday, 19 March 2017

Review - The Breakdown by B A Paris

Last year I read Behind Closed Doors by B A Paris which was quite honestly one of the best thrillers I read all year. I was therefore eagerly anticipating the arrival of her second novel, The Breakdown, hoping it would be just as good as the first. Having read it all in the space of just one day, I can truly say that The Breakdown was an incredible book. It was everything I hoped it would be and so much more and was in my view a very worthy five star read. 

We first meet Cass, a school teacher, on the last day of term before the summer holidays on a dark and stormy night. Keen to get home to her partner and out of the bad weather, on the way home she takes a shortcut through the woods. Whilst driving she notices that a car has broken down on the side of the road but, despite being concerned, decides not to stop. When she wakes up the next morning she discovers that the person who was in the car was a woman, someone she once met and she has been found dead. Feeling guilty for not having stopped to help the previous night, over the coming weeks Cass finds it hard to get the woman out of her head and not only does she receive a number of silent phone calls but she also starts to forget things. As she fears for her sanity, is she going mad or is there another explanation? 

Cass was a character whose story I couldn’t help but become incredibly involved in from the start. What was nice about Cass was that you could tell, from the way she felt so bad about not having stopped, was that she was a character who had a conscience and one who would do the right thing. She was a character who cared deeply for her friends, one who would do anything tc ensure that they were happy. Subsequently it broke my heart to read of her declining mental state and I really felt her fear that was present throughout the majority of the novel - the fear that she was experiencing early onset dementia like her mother did. 

Unlike in Behind Closed Doors in which it was pretty clear what was happening, The Breakdown was much more of a mystery. From one moment to the next it was impossible to predict what was going to happen and what was going to be discovered. I thought that B A Paris had done an incredible job at writing this novel, creating something that was atmospheric, addictive and breathtaking. As a relatively fast-paced novel in which the tension did nothing but grow, there was twist after twist and it was the sort of novel that certainly played on my mind when I had to put it down for just a few minutes. 

The Breakdown is the author’s second novel to date and all I can say is that B A Paris has proven that she is here to stay, an author who is so capable of having success after success. I really couldn’t have enjoyed this book any more than I already did and I’d urge readers not to miss out on what is truly an outstanding read. I’ll definitely be back to read more by B A Paris in the future! 

Thursday, 16 March 2017

Review - The Girl Who Lied by Sue Fortin

From the very first moment that I picked up The Girl Who Lied by Sue Fortin I was glued to it. Originally drawn to this book thanks to the atmospheric cover and intriguing title, this was a story that delivered so much more than I thought it was going to. It was the first of Sue’s novels that I have ever read before and all I can say is that it most certainly won’t be the last. 

After her father suffers a terrible fall which sees him end up in hospital, Erin is forced to return from London to her hometown in Ireland - the village of Rossway, County Cork to support her mother and sister. Having recently received some unwelcome threats via email from Roisin, a former childhood friend who most certainly holds a grudge against her, it’s safe to say that Erin isn’t particularly pleased about going home. Whilst Erin makes herself busy spending time with her family and helping run the family business, a delightful little cafe, it becomes clear that Roisin’s not going to leave Erin alone. Just what has Erin done that Roisin cannot let go and what will happen when its made public knowledge? 

As the main characters of The Girl Who Lied, both Roisin and Erin were two who I felt completely different things for. I have to say that whilst I appreciated the fact that she had been through an awful lot in her life, Roisin was a character who I really didn’t like. Throughout everything that went on she only thought of herself and what would make her happy, not thinking about anyone else and the difficulties they were facing. Meanwhile Erin was a character who I both liked and admired as, despite everything, she was brave enough to face up to her past whilst also caring very deeply about what other people were going through and what they were feeling. I became invested in Erin’s story and keen to see just how things would turn out for both her and her family. 

This book is what I would primarily describe as a psychological thriller during which the relationships that exist between families are investigated and big secrets are revealed, with us seeing how different people react in very different ways. Piece by piece, Sue provides us with information and I became desperate to turn the pages to find out just what exactly was going on in a book where there was twist after twist meaning I genuinely didn’t know where the book was going to take me to next. This alone turned the novel into a very addictive read but Sue also very cleverly included another element which kept me intrigued in the form of a romantic relationship between two of the story’s characters. 

If you’re looking for a tension-filled read that perhaps isn’t quite as dark as some of what is currently on the shelves, then The Girl Who Lied is a book that you definitely want to pick up. I for one am so glad that I made the decision to read this novel and am really looking forward to reading more by Sue in the very near future. 

Monday, 13 March 2017

Review - When Only Cupcakes Will Do by Daisy James

When Only Cupcakes Will Do was the first book written by Daisy James that I have ever read before and I can certainly guarantee that it will not be the last. Released in 2016, one thing that has to be said from the very start of this review is that I found this book to be every bit as beautiful on the inside as its gorgeous cover is on the outside. From beginning to end this book was full of humour, romance and, as the title suggests, lots of tasty treats. 

This is a book that wastes no time in throwing us straight into the action where we meet Lucie as she is getting ready to propose to her boyfriend in Tiffany’s. After not getting the answer of her dreams she experiences a meltdown which sees her making a terrible mistake at work when she mixes up cocoa powder and chilli powder on a dish that gets served to a food critic. Insisting on meeting the food critic, they share an exchange which is filmed and ends up going viral, something which forces her to re-evaluate her life and results in her setting up the Travelling Cupcake Company with her sister. After all that’s happened, one thing that Lucie doesn’t expect is to fall in love with someone new…

When Only Cupcakes Will Do is full of so many characters, the majority of whom I absolutely fell in love with. Lucie was a character who I adored throughout the novel as she demonstrated a remarkable amount of strength, unafraid to stand up for herself and what she believed in even if doing so didn’t always have the most desirable outcome. I had so much admiration for her determination to make her new business venture a success. She was the sort of character who you could tell worked hard in life and so I couldn’t help but sit with my fingers crossed, desperately hoping that she would get the happy ending she deserved. 

Being new to Daisy’s writing, I went into this novel with absolutely no idea what to expect but I absolutely loved it. The level of description that this book contained was absolutely spot on, I could picture everything, including all of the wonderfully creative cupcakes and cute cake pops that were being baked perfectly -  they sounded divine and it certainly felt like I was part of the action! I really loved the effort, thought and creativity that Daisy had put into this novel, particularly with regards to the ice cream van, which kept me interested from beginning to end. 

When Only Cupcakes Will Do was a heart-warming and uplifting story that I think any reader would be guaranteed to fall head over heels in love with. Whether you choose to read this book on a rainy or sunny day, it’s a book that will leave you with a smile on your face. I’m now really looking forward to picking up There’s Something About Cornwall, which is Daisy’s latest release to date. 

Friday, 10 March 2017

Review - The Good Daughter by Alexandra Burt

Back in October 2015 I read Alexandra Burt’s debut novel, Little Girl Gone, which I thought was absolutely brilliant. Since then I’ve been eagerly waiting for the author’s second novel which has finally arrived in the form of The Good Daughter. Given how much I enjoyed Alexandra’s previous book, I went into this one expecting great things and even though it was quite different to what I was expecting it to be overall I can most certainly say that I was not left feeling disappointed. 

In the book we meet Dahlia Waller a character whose earliest memories consist of spending an extraordinary amount of time in the car with her mum, Memphis, as they travelled from state to state and from one motel to the next. Receiving the majority of her education from an encyclopedia as opposed to attending school, it’s fair to say that her childhood was far from conventional and, now grown up, Dahlia is keen to distance herself from her past. However with many questions that are preventing her from doing so, Dahlia decides to return to her mother in the town of Aurora where something is most definitely not right. As her mother starts to talk, just what will Dahlia discover?

As a book that is told from the perspective of multiple characters, at its heart this is a story that digs deep and investigates a relationship between a mother and daughter. Despite it taking a little while for me to figure out exactly what was going on and who was who, I became keen to see where Alexandra was going to take the characters to next. Whilst I couldn’t always relate to the characters in terms of the things they had experienced,  some of which were truly dark and shocking, I found that the characters were wonderfully well-developed and I ended up feeling a great deal for each of them.

Quite unlike Alexandra’s first book which I thought was fast-paced from beginning to end I felt that The Good Daughter took a while to really get going. That said it’s a book that I believe is well worth sticking with as when it did get going I genuinely struggled to put it down. I ended up really loving the way in which it was written with Alexandra blending a number of different themes into her writing. 

A complex, clever and compelling read, The Good Daughter was a book that I’m so glad I had the opportunity to read. With this now being the second of Alexandra’s novels that I have read and enjoyed, I’ll certainly be looking out for more written by the author in the future. A book you definitely want to give a chance! 

Tuesday, 7 March 2017

Review - The Mercury Travel Club by Helen Bridgett

The Mercury Travel Club is written by Helen Bridgett and was one of those books that I was automatically attracted to thanks to the delightful cover and blurb. As a book that provided me with a much needed break from reality and really helped to put a smile on my face, it was full of hilarious moments and characters I couldn’t help but love. I went into it hoping for great things and can certainly say that it more than lived up to them, I was not disappointed in the slightest. 

In this book we meet 53-year-old Angie Shepherd who is newly divorced and quite unsure what she should do with herself. Taking advice, she throws herself into a selection of new and exciting activities from a book club to baking classes and speed dating to The Granny-Okes which turns out to be an internet sensation. Despite all of this, Angie wants more and so with dreams of entrepreneurial success decides to invest her divorce settlement into The Mercury Travel Club. However, just how successful will this be? 

This was a book that contained so many features that I really did love, including Angie, Charlie, Josie and Patty who were four great characters. I particularly loved Patty and the way that despite having been through more than her fair share of heartbreak she always had a smile on her face and was always there to support Angie whenever it was needed. Something that worked really well was the way in which this book was set over the course of a year as I felt that this provided the opportunity to really get to know the characters and feel invested in their story. 

The Mercury Travel Club was a wonderfully written book from beginning to end throughout which the writing style was nothing but engaging and entertaining. It was a thoroughly well-paced book with many chapters being just a few pages long, something which made it a truly irresistible novel to read and one that I ended up reading far more of than I intended to in just one sitting. Another aspect of this book that I thought was fabulous was the clever titles that were given to each of the chapters, all of which were appropriate given what happened within them. All in all this is a book which Helen has done an absolutely incredible book with. 

One thing that I can safely say is that I found The Mercury Travel Club to be a true gem of a novel that was every bit as gorgeous on the inside as it was on the outside. It was a light-hearted and uplifting novel that is guaranteed to leave any reader smiling and make for perfect reading all year round. A truly super debut novel that has left me feeling very excited to see what more is to come from Helen Bridgett in the future. 

Wednesday, 1 March 2017

Review - Beside Myself by Ann Morgan

One thing I can safely say from the start of this review is that Beside Myself by Ann Morgan proved to be quite unlike anything I’ve ever read before and I mean that in a good way. Whilst it turned out to be quite different from what I expected it to be I thought that it was a brilliantly clever, gripping and insightful novel. I most certainly do not regret reading it and can’t quite believe it’s taken me this long to finally do so! 

This is a novel about identical twins, Helen and Ellie, who couldn’t be more different from eachother - Helen is the dominant and assertive twin who seems to excel at life whilst Ellie seems to find things just a little bit more difficult. One day, when they are just six years old Helen and Ellie decide to play a trick by changing their clothes and hairstyles to make people think that Helen is Ellie and vice versa. The swap isn’t meant to last for long but Ellie quite enjoys being Helen and doesn’t want to swap back, something which doesn’t please Helen in the slightest. With Ellie refusing to tell the truth, Helen can’t convince anyone that she’s not Ellie so that’s the way things stay with drastic consequences for both girls. 

One thing that really made this book quite different from anything that I have ever read before is that it’s a book about twins and the relationship that exists between them. I found it extremely interesting to read of this throughout the novel, discovering so much about the differences that existed between both Helen and Ellie, seeing how they both adapted to the situation they found themselves in. Whilst we get a good insight into the life of the twin who was originally named Ellie, the book is told entirely from the perspective of the twin who was originally named Helen. Given that Helen was considered to be the dominant twin I feel that this is something that fits and works really well. 

Throughout the novel, so much happened to the twins and whilst there were a few times that made me laugh there were other times that I found to be truly heartbreaking, so Beside Myself certainly made for extremely powerful reading. This is a story that alternates between the past and the present, each of which is told in a very different manner. Whilst at first this became quite confusing and it took me a while to adapt to Ann’s style of writing, I soon found that it became very easy to recognise which narrative was which. Overall I found Beside Myself to be quite a complex novel which blended a number of different themes, including those of identity and mental health, in an expert manner. 

As a book that raised a few questions as it progressed which helped to keep me interested and keen to find out what would happen next, I’m really glad I read this novel and persevered with it when I at first struggled to get used to the way in which it was written. Whilst this may not have been the happiest book I’ve ever read it was a unique, well-constructed and sensitively written debut novel. I would certainly read more by Ann Morgan in the future!