The Secret by Kathryn Hughes #BookReview

About this book…

Mary has been nursing a secret.

Forty years ago, she made a choice that would change her world for ever, and alter the path of someone she holds dear.

Beth is searching for answers. She has never known the truth about her parentage, but finding out could be the lifeline her sick child so desperately needs. When Beth finds a faded newspaper cutting amongst her mother’s things, she realises the key to her son’s future lies in her own past. She must go back to where it all began to unlock…The Secret.

My review…

I absolutely loved this authors debut book, The Letter, so was thrilled to bits to get an advanced review copy of The Secret. I adore the writing style used in Kathryn Hughes books and so was pleased to see that this again follows a similar pattern where the past and present both have separate threads until the big reveal when they both come together.

Mary is a very happily married woman desperate to start a family with her childhood sweetheart. But tragically the day she finds out she’s finally pregnant, disaster strikes. In the present we are then introduced to Beth and her husband, who’s 5 year old son Jake is in hospital. His health is declining and he needs a kidney transplant. The action then switches back to the Seventies where an unexpected drama is about to unfold.

I just love the way the author brings everything together in her books. There were twists and turns that I really hadn’t been expecting- especially towards the end. The only reason I have given this a 4* rather than the full whammy of 5* is that I had a slight issue with the character of Daisy. Some of the things she did I could understand when they were in the past (even though I didn’t particularly agree with them) but towards the end when everything is in the open, I thought her actions were slightly diminished-almost as though they were there to simplify the plot. Saying that I still had a few years in my eyes once I reached that epilogue! And I loved how the characters developed as they journeyed from past to present, especially the warmth created by the relationship between Daisy and little Mikey which I found to be quite endearing.

Kathryn Hughes really does have a gift for being able to create family dramas with heartfelt consequences for her characters. You become totally caught up in the world she has created, slowly to start with and then, before you know it, you’re hooked! This is a worthy follow up to The Letter and I thoroughly enjoyed chilling out with it over a lazy weekend.

I received my review copy of The Secret from Bookbridgr.

The Secret: The #1 Bestselling Author of The Letter was published on 1st July 2016 and is available to buy here from Amazon UK

About the author…

71xjrunxz0l-_sx150_

Kathryn Hughes was born in Altrincham, near Manchester. After completing a secretarial course, Kathryn met her husband and they married in Canada. For twenty-nine years they ran a business together, raised two children and travelled when they could to places such as India, Singapore, South Africa and New Zealand. Kathryn and her family now make their home in a village near Manchester. Her first novel, The Letter, was a Kindle Number One bestseller.

Nice Day for a White Wedding by A.L. Michael **Blog Tour** plus giveaway!

n-d-for-a-white-wedding-for-jenny

So today I am absolutely delighted to be on the blog tour for Nice Day for a White Wedding by A.L. Michael organised by Jenny in Neverland blog tours. This book is the second book in The House on Camden Square series and today I have a review and an extra special giveaway for you as well. So read on!!

29912901

About this book…

Sometimes, Happy Ever After is where the real trouble begins…

Chelsea Donnolly wasn’t supposed to amount to anything. But if there’s one thing the bad girl from the estate liked better than trouble, it was a challenge. So, to the amusement of her best friends Evie, Mollie and Ruby – and the disbelief of her teachers – this bad girl turned good.

These days, Chelsea is the kind of girl people are proud to know – and, after a surprise trip to Venice, she has a ring on her finger to prove it. But to get there, she’s had to learn to keep her deepest secrets from everyone – even her fiancé. And when wedding preparations threaten to blow her cover, Chelsea can’t help but wonder: in her battle to the top, might she have left the best parts of herself behind?

My review…

Although this is the second book in The House on Camden Square series it absolutely can be read as a standalone novel but to be honest WHY WOULD YOU?! Ruby Tuesday was the first in the series of books that have played with my emotions and made my mascara run and I would love it if you started with that one so you can meet the friends and get some more background on them. And then if you enjoy Ruby Tuesday you will HAVE to read Nice Day for a White Wedding as I think it is…..EVEN BETTER! A.L. Michael can really write the most amazing and emotional scenes for her characters that just feel so realistic. I don’t know how she gets under my skin but she does it in such a way that you don’t even realise she’s doing it until you look up from your book and hours have past!! I absolutely adored this book from start to finish!

The series is based around four old friends who had lost touch but after the events of the first book they are back in each other’s lives. But this second book concentrates on Chelsea although Mollie and Evie do pop in and out and so does Ruby in flashbacks to their teenage years. Chelsea is living a very different life to the one lived as a child and she has the most amazing boyfriend Kit who seems like her perfect “happy ever after”. And a surprise proposal means that the fairy tale wedding is on its way…or is it? And that’s what kept me turning the pages of this book, it wasn’t the fluffy romantic comedy  I was expecting…it was so much more. There was real depth to Chelsea’s character which seems bizarre when you realise how far she has actually reinvented herself! The scenes where Chelsea meets Kits family were just so well balanced between humorous observations and bittersweet revelations that I just devoured every little vignette. I wanted to punch Jemima and I am not an aggressive person!

I just love Andi Michael for making me live every emotion alongside her characters-I felt as if I was amongst friends and when I finished I missed them. I just want to Face Time them to find out how they are!! Book 3 can’t come quickly enough for me. One of the easiest 5* reviews I have ever given. Loved it!

 

Nice Day For A White Wedding (The House on Camden Square, Book 2) is available to buy here from Amazon UK

Goodbye Ruby Tuesday (The House on Camden Square, Book 1) is the first book in the series and you can find out more here!

About the author…

a1cxyuuujel-_sy200_

A.L. Michael is hurtling towards the end of her twenties a little too quickly. She is the author of ‘Wine Dark, Sea Blue’, ‘The Last Word’, ‘My So Called (Love) Life’, ‘Driving Home for Christmas’, and ‘If You Don’t Know Me By Now’, based upon her experiences as a London barista.

She is a Creative Therapeutic Facilitator, currently researching the power of creative writing to be helpful in recovering from eating disorders.

Her new three book series, The House on Camden Square, is being released in 2016, starting with ‘Goodbye Ruby Tuesday’ is available now.

When she’s not writing, she likes yoga, trying to bake healthy treats and was a hipster before hipsters were hipster. Well, she likes chai lattes and owns a Mac.

You can find out more about A.L. Michael at (surprisingly)  Her website and on Twitter Facebook or Pinterest

Enter the giveaway here…

This is a giveaway for an Italian themed goodie bag that has been prepared by the author herself. It contains lots of goodies like Prosecco, biscotti and other Italian themed yummy treats! You can enter the giveaway HERE

And follow the rest of the tour here!!

img_20160915_113643

 

The Day I Lost You by Fionnuala Kearney

About this book…

THE DAY I LOST YOU WAS THE DAY I DISCOVERED I NEVER REALLY KNEW YOU

When Jess’s daughter, Anna, is reported lost in an avalanche, everything changes.

Jess’s first instinct is to protect Rose, Anna’s five-year-old daughter. But then she starts to uncover Anna’s other life – unearthing a secret that alters their whole world irrevocably . . .

THE DAY I LOST YOU WAS THE DAY YOU TORE OUR FAMILY APART

My review…

This was my status update that I wrote on Good read as soon as I finished The Day I Lost You. I’ve kept it in as Kaisha Holloway at The Writing Garner thought it summed up a lot of how I felt.

“Ok so review will follow tomorrow for this one as I need some time to gather my thoughts so that I can do it justice (which I know already I won’t be able to!!) And also because I’ve sobbed so much my eyes are sore and I’ve had to remove my glasses and I can’t read a thing without them…..till tomorrow!!”

So that was how I felt the moment I put down The Day I Lost You which is DEFINITELY in my top 10 books of 2016. It is utterly heartbreaking and totally compelling and I couldn’t bear to put it down until I had devoured every single word written. In fact even when I had finished it I couldn’t part with it-it is still sitting beside me awaiting the bookcase. I loved this book so much I want to shrink it and wear it in a locket around my neck! Yes, I know I sound emotional but right from the very first few pages this book touched me very deeply. The author has such a way with words that it’s like she’s is slowly hypnotising you with her story, she’s such a natural storyteller. The images she created for me were so vivid, the themes of loss, grief, family and friendship running through it were totally on point and she handled the tragic circumstances perfectly. I am pretty much unable to convey in words the emotions that ran through me as I read.

I think it helped (or hindered!!) me that I felt a very strong connection to Jess. Her reactions to situations were very similar to the way I react to things so her journey made perfect sense to me. Her way of seeing the world in black and white with no shades in between meant that her actions were very much inevitable from the start. And I also loved her reaction to ginger, as it is something that I have in common with her and made me smile, a lighter moment to relieve some of the building tension.

I cried intermittently throughout and sobbed for the last few pages. No apologies, no excuses about menopausal emotions from a grandmother-I embraced the feelings that it gave me. This book surprised me constantly throughout, it didn’t follow the path I was expecting and I loved it even more for that.

Highly recommended by me but please have tissues ready! You have been warned!

Thanks to Book Connectors and the author for organising my paperback review copy.

The Day I Lost You: A heartfelt, emotion-packed, twist-filled read is available in e-book now from Amazon UK and is released in paperback on 22nd September 2016

About the author…

51tfaan4prl-_sy200_

Fionnuala Kearney lives in Ascot with her husband. They have two grown-up daughters (both with deliberately simple monosyllabic names). One of seven children, Fionnuala likes to write about the nuances and subtle layers of human relationships, peeling them away to see what’s really going on beneath. This her second novel, her first was the Top Ten Irish Times bestselling You, Me and Other People.

Return to the Little French Guesthouse by Helen Pollard

About this book…

Blue skies, new love, and a glass of Bordeaux . . . what could possibly go wrong?

When Emmy Jamieson leaves her life behind and moves toLa Cour des Roses, a gorgeous guesthouse amidst vineyards in France, everything is resting on her success as the new guesthouse manager.

Looming in the calendar is the biggest booking ever, when the entire eccentric, demanding Thomson family will descend for a golden wedding anniversary. With airbeds on the floor and caravans in the garden, La Cour des Roses will be bursting at the seams.

Emmy knows she’s up to the challenge, especially with the support of the gorgeous Alain, the half-French, half-English, caramel-eyed accountant. But she hadn’t counted on a naked, sleepwalking travel blogger, or the return of owner Rupert’s venomous ex-wife Gloria.

Gloria has a few things to say about Emmy’s new role, Rupert’s finances, and the unsuspecting Alain, which send everybody reeling. Just when Emmy can see a future for herself of endless sunshine, true love and laughter, are her dreams about to be ripped at the seams?

My review…

Having read The Little French Guesthouse earlier in the year I definitely had to make sometime in my busy reading schedule to catch up on this sequel. If you haven’t read the first book then you really should before picking up this one to get the most out of it!

I just loved immersing myself back into the lives of Emmy and Rupert and all the rich and colourful characters who make up this seriously warm and sunny feel good romance. Although it’s more a book about friendships I think and how true friends always come back together to help each other through life’s adversities. There’s a huge bombshell dropped into the cosy and settled lives at Last Cours Des Roses when Gloria comes back, not with her tail between her legs but with her head held high and an eye for causing trouble. Emmy has her work cut out when a large party come to stay and it needs to go well after The Silver Fox has had his say on his blog about his holiday there.

I absolutely love the way the author makes you feel as if you are there in the warm sunshine with Emmy and co, this really does feel like a real place to me! I can imagine the house and the gardens and the kitchen with all the delicious food prepared there. Even the local town and chateaux feels familiar as if I’ve visited there before and this book is a real memory of that time! I’m actually missing the place and people already now that I’ve finished.

This is a book that lives up to its “feelgood” tagline and anyone taking a holiday to France would be well advised to pack a copy to take with them. Even the cover makes me smile!

I received a copy of this book via netgalley in return for an unbiased review.

Return to the Little French Guesthouse: A feel good read to make you smile (La Cour des Roses Book 2) is available to buy now from Amazon UK

And  I’ve made you curious about book 1 The Little French Guesthouse by Helen Pollard then you can read my review here!

About the author…

81mwl1q37bl-_sx150_

As a child, Helen had a vivid imagination fuelled by her love of reading, so she started to create her own stories in a notebook.

She still prefers fictional worlds to real life, believes characterisation is the key to a successful book, and enjoys infusing her writing with humour and heart.

Helen is a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association and The Society of Authors.

You can find her online at:

http://helenpollardwrites.wordpress.com
http://facebook.com/HelenPollardWrites

http://goodreads.com/author/show/8647878.Helen_Pollard

The Beauty of the End by Debbie Howells

About this book…

I was fourteen when I fell in love with a goddess . . .

A love he’d never forget

Ex-lawyer Noah has never forgotten his first love. When, years later, he hears that she’s suspected of murder, he knows with certainty that she’s innocent. With April on life-support and the evidence pointing towards her guilt, he’s compelled to help her. But he’s also unprepared as he’s forced to confront what happened between them all those years ago.

A secret she would never reveal

April Moon had loved Noah. She never wanted to hurt him. But there was something – and someone – dark in her life which made happiness together impossible.

A family she could never forgive

Ella is a troubled teenager with her own secrets to tell. But no one will listen. What Ella knows holds the key to finding the killer. But as Noah, April and Ella’s stories converge, shocking revelations come to the surface. The truth is obvious. Or so everyone believes . . .

My review…

I read The Bones of You on my summer hols last year and just loved it. Even though I howled my eyes out at the end, it was a book to give you an uplifting feeling, full of beautifully written prose and emotion. So what better book to start this year’s summer reading bonanza than The Beauty of You. But would it live up to my high expectations…I am happy to admit that it exceeded them big style!

Debbie Howells just writes the most gorgeously descriptive scenes for her characters. They, in themselves, rise off the page as they become so deeply entwined around their stories that they come alive for the reader. I could just visualise them so clearly! Which is amazing really as when we meet April, she is in hospital having taken an overdose and is in a coma, not expected to survive. Her school friend Noah gets a call from his old friend Will to say that April is suspected of a murder committed before she attempted suicide. Noah has always worshipped April, mostly from afar, and calls her a goddess. Now a lawyer, he goes home to Devon to help work out what happened that night.

This is actually a very good example of why you should always give a book a chance before giving up. When I first started the story, it didn’t captivate from the very start like I had expected it to. But the more I read and the deeper I delved into the lives of this group of friends, the more it became a huge obsession to read every single word and solve the mystery of what had happened to April. But the mystery wasn’t the be all and end all of this book as it developed into a beautiful study into obsession, love and loss. It just got better and better with every turn of the page. Every relationship was eventually laid bare and it became the heartbreaking journey that I had been expecting even if the plot hadn’t been! But I absolutely loved the way it unfolded and I read slower and slower as I just didn’t want it to end.

If you love books by authors like Rosamund Lupton then this will be the perfect read for you. Debbie Howells writes so poetically and with so much emotion and she just gets better with every book so I can’t wait to see how she tops this one!

I received a copy of this book via netgalley in return for an unbiased review.

The Beauty of the End was published on 14th July in the UK by MacMillan and on 26th July in the U.S. by Kensington Books.

This Last Kiss by Madeleine Reiss

About this book…

As original as One Day and as heartbreaking as Me Before You, This Last Kiss is the perfect emotional and romantic read.

Rora Raine is finally coming home to Hastings, twelve years after she left her grief-stricken father, and fled the love of her life, Carl.

Struggling to support her bright but troubled daughter, Rora has convinced herself she’ll never love again.

When she meets a bumblingly charming stranger, Rora’s heart begins to thaw.

But, try as she might, she can’t run from true love forever.

Funny, warm-hearted and soaringly romantic, This Last Kissis the redemptive story of two star-crossed lovers, told through each and every kiss they share.

My review…

I’m probably not alone in remembering how Madeleine Reiss became a published author when she beat some very stiff competition on The Alan Titchmarsh Show to win a publishing deal. It was based on writing the first few chapters of a novel and I remember watching all the finalists on the show reading their work. I was so pleased that Madeleine won that I bought Someone to Watch Over Me as soon as it came out. And then she seemed to disappear from the limelight and it was only when I saw something on Facebook recently that I realised she had probably been hiding away writing as I saw she had another book out. Now this is a very difficult book to pigeon hole and its a different genre from her previous work but I knew that if written with the same beautifully flowing prose, then I was in for a treat. And I was!

Right from the start I knew I was going to be an emotional wreck. The way the story is told is quite unlike anything I have read for a long time, each chapter being told has a kiss as its pivotal point. And not every kiss is a romantic one but one that defines that particular relationship at that one point in time. This is inspired mainly by a book that is shared with Rora by her grandmother, and a stunning book it sounded with pictures of historical and fictional famous kisses. Rora has returned home after many years to reconcile with her father who is dying. There are flashbacks to Rora as a teenager and to the relationships that have shaped the adult she has become, the non-communicative one with her father but mainly with her mother and her first love Carl.

I found the relationship between Rora and her mother to be the hardest to read. The affects of mental illness spread so much further than people realise and my heart just ached as the author explored their mother/daughter bond and how it rippled throughout their family. Would Rora and Carl have become so dependent on each other if her home life had been different? The kiss in that chapter was the most heartbreaking for me even more so than the kiss that you are expecting from the moment you realise where the plot is going.

I loved the characters of Krystof and, even more so, Ursula as they provided a different perspective into the adult Rora has become. Ursula was such an adorable child but again I was desperate for her to be just a happy little girl and not to be affected by the adult relationships around her. I have read some reviews that say this is a depressing book. Yes it is very sad in places, it is after all a book about loss after all, but I found it to be realistic, poignant and ultimately uplifting. It isn’t a traditional romance, it’s far more than that, it’s a journey through relationships that are complex and recognisable to us all. The “last kiss” of the title may not be the one that you are expecting and yes, it made me cry but it also left me feeling enriched by the whole reading experience. Just a gorgeous book!

This Last Kiss: You can’t run from true love for ever is published by Bonnier Zaffre and is available to buy now from Amazon UK.

Many thanks to the author and publisher for my copy of this book so that I could write an unbiased review.

About the author…

 Madeleine Reiss was born in Athens. She worked for some years in an agency for street performers and comedians and then as a journalist and publicist. She has two sons and lives in Cambridge with her husband and her younger son. This Last Kiss is her second novel.

 

The Good Enough Mother by Anoushka Beazley

About this book…

Gatlin – a leafy, affluent town: Chelsea tractors and ladies who lunch. However all is not as it seems. Drea, a most unnatural mother, struggles to find private school fees for her step-daughter Ava after her boyfriend leaves her for another woman. Watching the yummy mummies she becomes inspired, hatching a daring and criminal plan…unleashing all hell in the quiet town of Gatlin. Can Drea survive the fallout and the wrath of the PTA? A satirical and hilarious black comedy about love, motherhood and the human condition.

My review…

Sometimes a book comes along that you hadn’t expected, a book that you probably would never have picked up if you were browsing in a bookshop (virtual or otherwise!) But after a few pages you actually say a little “thank you” in your head to whoever recommended it. And to think I nearly missed out on it as I had just closed my review list for the summer but this books blurb intrigued me so much that it sneaked in at the last minute! After reading the first chapter I just wanted to hide myself away from the world and devour every single word of this wonderful book. Of all the books I have read recently, this is the book that I would have loved to have written myself. It’s dark humour and handling of mental health issues combined to make this a hidden gem of a book and one I want to shout about from the rooftops!

At the heart of this book is the relationship between mothers and daughters but essentially, Drea isn’t even Ava’s mother! But after Drea’s partner Alex leaves her, he also leaves his 14 year old daughter whom Drea has brought up for the last 10 years. Unable to afford the fees for the private school Ava attends, Drea looks for ways to raise the money but unfortunately, her way isn’t exactly legal (okay it’s actually totally illegal!! But I was rooting for her so sort of overlooked that small fact!)

The suburb of Gatlin is brought to life so well, from the descriptions of the posh shops, to the schools and the eclectic mix of patients at the local GP surgery. Such a coming together of yummy mummys, who’s children can do no wrong and are booked into extracurricular activities from leaving the womb, was always going to be explosive but Drea is a breath of fresh air when it comes to the way she parents. Unfortunately, it’s the underlying causes that bring a dark and disturbing element to her character as we find out the further we delve into her family life.

There are some hilarious highlights within this book-the bake sale (“that’s not a cake”), Papa and his love of “movies” and Abigail In The Morning who would give Jeremy Vine a run for his money! But these darkly humorous observations masks a huge part of Drea. We alone are able to watch her taking the path she thinks is her destiny in life whilst she gives us little glimpses into what is actually pushing her along that devastating road.

As you can probably tell, I absolutely loved this brilliant book! It won’t be everyone’s cup of tea but it is one that will stick in my mind for quite some time to come. Anoushka Beazley deserves a much larger audience for this debut novel and I am so looking forward to seeing where she goes from here. Just fabulous from start to finish!

I received a copy of this book from the author in return for my unbiased review.

The Good Enough Mother is available to purchase now from Amazon UK.

About the author…

Anoushka Beazley, born Anoushka Kanagasabay and served for a while as Anushka Dahssi while treading the boards. A BA in Film Theory from the University Of Kent, a Postgraduate in Acting and a MA in Creative Writing makes for a life lived in fiction as much as written. She is currently based in London, England with her husband, three children and a posh cat.  The Good Enough Mother has been chosen as the September read for PoppyLoves Bookclub and there is an author Q&A in Daunt Books Hampstead on 15th September. If you want to find out more then you can contact Anoushka by visiting her website here or by popping over to her Facebook page or connecting with her on Twitter