Sunday, 24 June 2018

Review - The Story of Our Lives by Helen Warner

The Story of Our Lives is a book written by Helen Warner and was the first of her books that I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading before. From the outset I have to say that I found this novel to be very impressive and was one that I enjoyed from beginning to end. As an avid reader, I’ve come across a lot of books that deal with the subject of friendship and whilst The Story of Our Lives is one of them, it was certainly one of the best I’ve ever read. 

When the book begins it’s 1997 we meet Sophie, Emily, Amy and Melissa who all became best friends at university but have not seen eachother for many years. At the time we first meet them, they are reunited at a beautiful cottage in Southwold for what will be just the first of their annual trips away together. As each of the four girls look forward to these trips away, they think they know eachother very well but as they catch-up with eachother as each year passes and reflect on their past lives, a huge secret is soon revealed, one that has the potential to shatter their friendship. 

Sophie, Emily, Amy and Melissa are four ladies who between them have most definitely experienced many ups and downs and highs and lows in life, something which made it so very easy to relate to them and become immersed in their story. Each character was fabulously well developed with each having a strong and distinctive voice and with the book spanning many years, by the end of the book it felt like I was an additional friend of theirs having got to know them all so very well. 

One of the very best things about The Story of Our Lives is the way in which it is written, I simply adored it and thought that Helen Warner has done an absolutely incredible job with it. Containing so much detail that you are never left with questions, the book moves smoothly and beautifully on from one year to the next. I particularly loved the way in which the book used real live events to introduce us to the new year and, although they didn’t relate to the story, they really got me thinking and reflecting on my own life, about where I was and what I was doing at that time. Despite dealing with some difficult themes, there were many memorable moments throughout the book that really cheered me up and put a smile on my face. 

At its very heart, The Story of Our Lives was a fabulously enjoyable and engaging book about friendship that highlighted how even through the hardest of times true friendship will never die. It was a really wonderful introduction to Helen’s writing and has left me feeling incredibly excited to go on and discover more written by her in the future. 

Sunday, 3 June 2018

Review - The Summer of Second Chances by Maddie Please

The Summer of Second Chances is the debut novel by Maddie Please and it was one that I absolutely adored. With a gorgeous cover and a beautiful story, The Summer of Second Chances was an uplifting, feel-good read that was so very easy to become immersed in. At a time when I needed it most, this book was the perfect distraction from daily life and was one that really did leave me with a huge smile on my face. 

Within the Summer of Second Chances we meet Lottie who has very recently experienced a very traumatic and difficult time which resulted in her losing everything - her home, her relationship and her money. Desperately in need of somewhere to live, her best friend Jess offers her a roof over her head in the form of a cottage in Devon which Lottie agrees to redecorate in exchange for free rent. Whilst Lottie cannot forget the past, after settling into the cottage she quickly gets to work on it with the frequent help of the handsome neighbour Bryn, but after everything she’s been through will she allow herself a second chance? Will she ever learn to live and love again? 

Maddie Please has created a marvellous character within Lottie whose journey was an absolute pleasure to follow from beginning to end. As someone whose world was falling apart when we were first introduced to her, Lottie was a character who I had a great deal of empathy for and was one who I loved from the start. As I couldn’t bear to be parted from Lottie’s story, I desperately hoped that things would turn out well for her, that she would get to where she wanted to be in life and have the happiness she so desperately deserved. All of the characters that surrounded Lottie were equally as marvellous, including Bryn whose relationship with Lottie was so lovely to see develop and grow. 

The Summer of Second Chances was a book that was so wonderfully written and whilst it was mainly light-hearted Maddie has also included a number of deeper and darker themes within it, handling them in a wonderful manner with much sensitivity and tact. One thing that I particularly loved about the way this book was written was the way in which it switched seamlessly between the past and the present, something which allowed the reader to see the bigger picture. I also adored the way in which this book reinforced an important life lesson about not letting the bad things in life hold us back or prevent us from moving forwards and achieving our dreams. 

All in all The Summer of Second Chances was a gorgeous little book that really did feel like a ray of sunshine on a rainy day. It was a fabulous debut novel and one that has left me feeling really excited to go on and discover more of what Maddie writes in the future. She’s definitely an author to look out for!