Playing Nice by J.P.Delaney Book Review

IMG_4538[1119]Pete Riley is a stay-at-home dad; his partner Maddie works in advertising. After Pete drops two-year-old Theo off at nursery one morning, he’s politely accosted by a man who looks just like Theo.
The man, Miles Lambert, breaks the devastating news that Theo is in fact not Pete’s son, but his – the two babies got mixed up at hospital, and Miles and his wife Lucy now have the Rileys’ son at home. They’ve already carried out DNA testing to prove it. The two couples agree that, rather than swap the children back, they’ll try to involve each other in the children’s lives. But a plan to sue the hospital triggers an official investigation that unearths some disturbing questions about just how the babies got mixed up.  And when Theo is thrown out of nursery for hitting other children, Pete and Maddie have to ask themselves: how far do they want this arrangement to go? What are the secrets hidden behind the Lamberts’ smart front door? And how much can they trust the real parents of their child – or even each other?

Rating 4/5

Maddie and Pete experience every parent’s worst nightmare when Miles Lambert arrives on their doorstep and announces that the little boy, they have raised for the past two years isn’t theirs. Theo was in fact swapped in the hospital with Maddie and Pete’s real son David. In a truly unique situation, all four parents decide its best for the children to remain with the people who have raised them until that point. They feel there is a way to be in each other’s lives without involving the courts. However, what starts out as amicable relationship soon becomes fraught and we follow Maddie and Pete as secrets and lies become unearthed with things taking a very dark turn.

This was my first J.P.Delaney book and I was unsure what style of this book would be. I would describe it as a domestic drama with some dark twists and turns that make it veer into the thriller zone. The concept of this story really appealed to me be as it sounded very unique and unlike anything I had read before. It turned out to be quite a wilds ride. Once I was about 20% of the way in, I could not put it down and read the bulk of it in a couple of days. It really was so compelling, and I was completed absorbed in seeing how it played out.

We follow two couple who are thrust into the truly awful situation of learning their children they have both been raising are not actually theirs. Both Maddie and Lucy gave birth to premature, sick babies in a private hospital before being transferred to an NHS hospital and somewhere along the way their children were switched. I found this incredibly thought provoking as a basis for a story. With every decision the couples made, I was asking myself what I would do in the same situation, it really made me think.

The four main characters that this plot centres around made for extremely interesting reading. All of them, at one time or another come across as really unlikable or do things that as a reader I disliked. They were all certainly floored. However, despite this you cannot help but feel for them because of the situation they are in. This is particularly true of Maddie and Pete whose perspective the story is told from. I don’t want to give too much way, but it felt as if they ended up on a runaway steam train that they couldn’t get off of. They found out that a lie here or a silly choice there can lead to devastating consequences. I found I spent half of my time really sympathising with them and feeling frustrated for them and half of my time feeling frustrated with them thinking ‘No no, do not do that!’

Whilst the bulk of the story felt like a drama playing out, I loved the dark twists it took as the book went on and became more thriller like. I also appreciated how well passed it was with lots of well times secrets and reveals meaning I wasn’t waiting for the big twist at the end. I was constantly satisfied with little shocks I wasn’t expected as we went along. I also found I could not predict how the story would go and how it would end which I loved.

Overall, I found this such an interesting and compelling book. I haven’t read many domestic thrillers, but I really enjoyed seeing all the nitty gritty play out with solicitors, social workers and courts. It has made me excited to check out more books in this genre. I was completed absorbed and invested in the characters’ lives and was shocked throughout. I am definitely going to check out some more J.P.Delaneys previous works after reading this.

Thank you to Netgalley and Quercus Books for providing me with a copy of this book for review.

 

The Little Bookshop of Love Stories by Jaimie Admans Book Review

IMG_3536Having lost her job and humiliated herself in front of a whole restaurant full of diners, this is absolutely, one hundred percent, the worst day of her life. That is until she receives an email announcing that she is the lucky winner of the Once Upon a Page Bookshop! Owning a bookshop has always been Hallie’s dream, and when she starts to find secret love letters on the first page of every book, she knows she’s stumbled across something special. But Hallie’s beloved bookshop is in financial trouble, and with sales dwindling, she can’t help but wonder if she is really cut out to run a business. Things start to look up when she meets gorgeous, bookish Dimitri and between them, they post a few of the hidden messages online, reuniting people who thought they were lost forever. But maybe it’s time for Hallie to find her own happy-ever-after, too?

Eternally unlucky and accident-prone Hallie gets the shock of her life when she wins a raffle and the prize is none other than her favourite bookshop. Completely overwhelmed by the task of running a business and with a local property developer hassling her, Hallie finds help in Dimitri. He is a local artist who using a rare copy of a book to base his illustrations on. Equally accident prone as Hallie, he everyday arrives armed with baked good, helps her find her feet and quickly becomes a great friend. But could something more than friends be on the cards?

This was such a lovely book and one it took me way too long to read. I actually started it in May but didn’t finish it until the end of July! That certainly isn’t a reflection of a book but my rather chaotic reading.

Without a doubt my favourite thing about this story is its bookshop setting. Hallie enters a raffle at her favourite bookshop as owner Robert is retiring. The history of the shop states the owner must not sell it but rather pass it on to someone worthy of loving and running the shop. Hallie’s ticket is the winner and its rather shocking for her as she’s so used to having bad luck bestowed upon her. The book then follows Hallie as she moves into the flat above the shop and learns to run this business on the spot. This means virtually the whole book is set against the backdrop of the bookshop with two main characters (I’ll get to those in a minute) It meant this was the perfect book for readers and bookshop lovers and all of us who have dreams of running our own bookshops. I would say this is honestly the best book about books I have read in terms of the setting, it was just perfect.

I also loved our two main characters of Hallie and Dimitri. I completed empathised with Hallie and her eternal bad luck. She struggles to keep jobs because of mistakes and accidents she makes, and I just felt so bad for her. She then meets her equal in Dimitri who makes quite an entrance in the shop on her first day! The two quickly become friends and we begin to see Hallie may not have as much bad luck as she thought. She seems to find her home in the shop and, with Dimitris help soon settles into her role. However, she and he both stay as accident prone as each other throughout. Dimitri is a sweetheart and totally believes in Hallie from the off. He really helps her grow in confidence with his belief in her. They really bring out the best in each other and are a perfect match.

Another element I enjoyed in this story was Hallie and Dimitri’s discovery of messages in the second-hand books in the shop. The shop is in a bit of a mess when Hallie inherits it and as she starts tidying a categorising, she discovers lots of books that have messages other people have written in them. They begin to wonder what happened to the people behind the messages and if they could use them to reunite people with their lost loves. It was a lovely idea for the characters to explore this and it created some quite mixed results! Dimitri also finds a message quite relevant to him and this leads to some interesting parts of the story.

Hallie and Dimitri’s relationship was so sweet from the off. They immediately clicked and formed a lovely friendship which quickly leads to feelings beginning to bubble away that may indicate they want to be more than just friends. I loved that this story was a straight romance. We see the characters go from friends to having feelings for each other. We them enjoying each other’s company and sharing their love of books. There is no messing around or denying their feelings for each other, they just got for it! Of course, the path of love is never that smooth so there is a little conflict, but it doesn’t last long. I would say if you like angsty romance this book isn’t for you. If you like a romance with two adorable slightly bumbling characters falling in love than this would be prefect.

This was such a great story and I must admit I think I may have rated it higher if I hadn’t put it down for so long. It created a more disjointed reading experience than I would have liked but that certainly was not the books fault. When I did get around to finally finishing it, I loved it. I definitely could see myself re-reading if I want a sweet, wholesome, feel good romance. I think it has the potential to be my book equivalent of a favourite rom-com film that I could visit again and again and love more each time I read it.

 

 

 

Life Lessons by J.E.Rowney Book Review

IMG_4263Violet wants to be a midwife, but she has struggled with anxiety throughout her teenage years. With her best friend Zoe at her side, she gets a place at University and starts training for her dream job. Can she overcome her fears and find the self-confidence to make it through her first year? Will Zoe’s romance with their housemate spell dating disaster?

Rating 5/5

Violet and Zoe have always been the best of friends and dreamed of going to university together. Zoe wants to be a teacher whilst Violet wants to train to as a midwife. Their dreams finally come true and they embark on their first year at university together. Once there, they meet housemate Luke and quickly become a trio. Told from Violets point of view we follow her through the first year of midwifery study and training. From classroom to hospital and all the highs and lows in between. We also see her battling terrible anxiety that has the potential to ruin her dreams if she can’t overcome it.

I absolutely adored this book! It ended up being such a personal book for me that I couldn’t not love it. The reason this book initially appealed to me is because it was compared to This is Going to Hurt, A Hard Push and Call the Midwife. I love books that focus on and share stories from medical settings, and one told from the perspective of a student midwife sounded different to other books I have read. Now because this book was compared to those aforementioned books which, are all nonfiction I assumed this book was also a nonfiction. To be completely honest I spent the first 30% of this book believing it was a nonfiction. I only realised it wasn’t when I went back on to Netgalley and noticed it was marked as fiction. However, once I knew this it didn’t change my reading experience. It did read very much like a nonfiction story and I think that played a part in how quickly I read it as I tend to read nonfiction quite quickly. It also meant the characters felt incredibly real and I immediately became invested in their lives and story.

The main reason this book struck so strongly with me is studying midwifery is almost ‘the one that got away’ scenario for me. I picked my degree on a total whim and continued to study it despite knowing it wasn’t right for me. This was driven by fear and lack of confidence in admitting I made the wrong choice and starting from scratch. When picking my degree at college we were offered very little guidance and I didn’t know a quarter of the options that were out there and where they could lead. It was only later on when I began to research this career path and wished I had given it a go. I actually started the process of applying a few years ago but again I chickened out and didn’t continue with this. This book offered me a mall window into what it may have been like to study midwifery. I adored how much detail went into documenting violets journey. We learnt so much about what she did in lectures and then at her placements. It really documented the academic process and made me feel like I was there with her learning and that’s what really made me love this story. I just felt a real personal connection with it. I obviously cannot comment on how accurate the portrayal of studying this degree is, but it felt very authentic. There was so much detail in here that I can only assume the author had personal experience or spent a lot of time researching the topic.

Violet also really struggles with anxiety and once again I related to this on such a personal level. I too suffer from anxiety and could empathise with violets feelings on so many occasions. She spoke about her feelings of worthlessness and feeling she is a fraud. She also addresses her feelings of being a burden on people around her. Having experienced all of these feelings I really felt for violet. There was a scene where her anxiety really got the better of her in an exam and I had a very similar experience when I was taking my initial exam to study midwifery and it meant I couldn’t finish. Although it was hard watching Violet battle these things it was great to see her go through these experiences, grow in confidence and come out the other side.

I have also always loved books set at university, particularly those where the students live away from home. It gives me the opportunity to relive my student years through them. Although Zoe, Luke and Violet were all quite tame! They were far more interested in studying than partying. It was just fun following along with them on their journey.

Finally, I adored the friendships in this story. Zoe and Violet really are the best of friends who were always there for each other when needed. They knew each other so well and could tell instinctively when the other was upset. It was lovely to read about such a positive depiction of female friendship. Luke was also a great character and settled well into the girl’s dynamic. I also liked that for Violet there was no romance at any point for her. I loved following a character who was focused on friendship and her studies. I was also excited there is a new installment in this series coming out in August where we re-join Violet in the second year of university. From the synopsis it does sound like romance may be on the cards, so I am interested to see how violet balances this with her friends and studying.

Overall, I chose this book thinking it would be a collection of nonfiction stories from a student midwife and got something so much more. Despite it being fiction, it felt very real, authentic and like it could have been a nonfiction account. It was great gathering an insight into what it may have been like study midwifery. That teamed with violets experiences with anxiety really struck a chord with me. It meant this book really provoked strong emotions in me. It meant a really enjoyable, coming of age story become something more to me. I think it’s a book I will continue to think about and return to many times in the future.

Thank you to Netgalley and the Publisher for providing me with a copy of this book for review.

 

 

 

 

Reflecting on my first YALC

This coming weekend the 24th – 26th July should have been when the book community descend on Olympia for the annual Young Adult Literature Convention. A fun filled weekend allowing book bloggers, vloggers and fans alike to immerse themselves in in a host of activities including talks/panels, a chance to meet authors as well as other book lovers, competitions and of course a lot of shopping! Unfortunately, it just wasn’t meant to be this year and I know I wasn’t alone in feeling very disappointed when YALC was cancelled (I obviously completed understand why!). Luckily the organisers along with many publishers have joined together to give us a book filled weekend of fun. I know I am going to be spending the whole weekend listening to online talks, participating in Twitter take overs, reading YA and watching some vloggers videos from last year. 2019 was the first time I had attended YALC and I had an absolute blast! It was such a positive experience for me but at the time I wasn’t blogging so I never documented my first trip. I therefore thought It would be fun a year on to reflect on my first experience of YALC, all the highs, lows and everything in between.

Getting to YALC was never going to be fun for me as I really dislike the underground and usually avoid it at all costs. However, this year I was determined to get there. It just so happened that the event occurred on the last day of a heatwave so it was ridiculously hot and it set the tone for the day. When arriving at Olympia we were met with a whole host of queues and we a little unsure where to go. We did the typically British thing of finding the longest queue and assuming we needed to join it. After asking someone in said queue we realised we had joined a line for 3-day pass holders. Surprisingly the queue we needed was on the other side of the building and was very short. We ended up being some of the first people through the door, much to ours surprised. We took an empty lift to the correct floor and we were in! it was a pretty stress-free easy experience. I am not sure it would have been so if we had 3 day passes and had to join a very long queue or if we had attended over the weekend as I believe those days were much busier.

Upon arrival the whole of the YALC floor was pretty much empty and immediately felt very overwhelmed, having no idea what to do next. This year YALC had introduced a system virtual queues by giving out numbered tickets for each author to manage the lines at the meet and greet/signings. We were told there would be giving out tickets for all authors and they would decide at the time of the signing if they were going to implement the virtual queue. The only author I met who they did enforce the virtual queue was Alice Oseman. My husband (who was my reluctant companion for the day) suggested we grab tickets for any authors I want to meet. I did just that and all the numbered tickets I got were quite low and impacted on how long I queued later one to meet Alice. I believe that was a good shout and something I would definitely do again.

Once I had my tickets, I went back to feeling a little lost. At that point we just began to wander around and look at publisher stalls. As I mentioned at this point it was still very quiet so many of the stalls were empty. This would be a great opportunity, if you interact with different publishers online to go and speak to the people behind the screens. For an anxiety filled person like myself I just felt quite awkward. I did venture to some stalls though and bought a few books, picked up some book swag (bookmarks, book samplers, pin badges) and got tickets for any ARC raffles that I was interested in.

I did go to one panel; I had planned to go to more but as mentioned I did have my hubby with me and I was conscious that listening to authors chat for 45 minutes wasn’t really his thing. The panel I did attend I got a front row seat for, I arrived maybe 10 minutes before to get this. The panel I watched, the first of the day was chaired my Akemi Dawn Bowman and featured Holly Bourne, Sara Bernard, Emma Smith-Barton & Amelia Manderville discussing mental health in YA. I really enjoyed listening the authors talk about books I have read and enjoyed and coming away with lots of new recommendations from authors I hadn’t read from before.

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My next big hurdle was meeting the authors! As mentioned, I suffer from anxiety and I am going to be honest and say I had a small melt down as I was about to join the queue to meet the first author, Sara Bernard. I just became completed overwhelmed with how many people were around, how hot it was and the prospect of meeting someone who is stranger and having to talk to them! I think at one pointed I joined the queue and left again; I was getting in a real pickle. I stepped away from everyone else and took some time to calm myself down. I was really aware that I would regret not getting my books signed if I turned away now. I asked my Hubby to find somewhere to wait whilst I queued on my own as that just seemed to make me feel a little calmer. I am so glad I persevered, not just because I got to meet authors whose books I have loved but because I felt quite proud of myself that I overcome something that felt like quite a battle for me. Throughout the day I met Sara Bernard, Holly Bourne, Emma Barton-Smith, Alice Oseman, Laura Stevens, Anna Mainwaring, Kate Mallinder, Gill Stewart, Rachel Churcher & Karen Gregory, all of which were so lovely. I didn’t have one bad interaction with any of the authors. The longest I waited to meet an author was around 20 minutes for Alice Oseman and as mentioned I was one of the first few in the virtual queue. However, all other authors I met within 5/10 minutes so I believe it was so worthwhile getting tickets to meet the authors right at the start.

As the day went on and I felt more confident, I did chat so some people at the punishing stalls too. This led to some really nice conversations and some great book recommendation. I particularly liked chatting to the lady working on the stall of Barrington Stoke publishers. I had heard of this publisher before as they specialise in printing books in a dyslexia friendly ways. As someone with dyslexia I often struggle to read books if the font is too small/in the a type face I don’t like or the pages too white so I have always liked that this publisher offers something to help with this. It was lovely to talk to someone behind who works behind the scenes to make this happened. I picked up Holly Bourne’s short story What Magic is This?

Before the event, I heard some negatives from people who had attended previous years and hadn’t had great experiences. I had heard people discussing accessibility not being great for various reasons. I had also heard that publishers doing ARC drops could be stressful and had led to people getting a little thoughtless and that in turn impacting on the experiences of others. I can obviously only speak on the one event, but overall, it was a positive experience. I didn’t win any ARCs but that was literally luck of the draw as all the ones I took part in were raffles. I believe this was the first-year publishers had been told that they couldn’t do ARC giveaway that were first come first served or involving challenges as this had caused problems in the past. I saw one instance where a publisher was still doing first come first served and I think, particularly on the Saturday this caused complaints so was stopped on the Sunday. I also found that generally the atmosphere felt very positive, I had been to several craft shows in the past and the attendees can be ruthless when it comes to pushing, shoving and being inconsiderate to others and it can really affect your experience. I didn’t see much of this whilst at YALC (there are always going to be one or two occurrences), people seemed happy and there was a nice atmosphere you get when lots of people come together to celebrate a mutual you all love.

Finally, I, of course bought lots and lots of book! I came with a backpack full of books to be signed and went home with two full tote bags and second rucksack full of new books. I can now understand why so many people take suitcases! I always thought that was a little extreme but, it’s very easy to get caught up in the moment and get very carried away. I personally blame my husband for this as he left me unattended to go to a local emergency dentist (there is a whole saga of teeth removal and infection that this post does not need)  However, I left with absolutely no regrets and fully intend to buy just as many next time I attend. I was going to include how many of the books I bought I have read since YALC but I don’t think it’s a good idea to mention that!

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I wanted to finish this by saying that although this post is pretty lengthy, I only attended one day at YALC. I felt I packed lots into that day but there was so much I missed. From visiting the Fairyloot & Illumicrate stalls (they always had huge queues) to more panels, workshops and thats not even considering the two further days that I didn’t attend. It’s just such an amazing event with so much to do that YA book lovers can immerse themselves in to. I hope in a years’ time I am sat here planning my day at YALC 2021 but for now, I am off to plan how I want to spend my #atHomeYALC

Please do head to twitter to check out all of the great events YALC and the publishers have organised.

 

 

 

A Sweet Mess by Jayci Lee Book Review

IMG_4266Aubrey Choi has been content running her highly successful bakery Comfort Zone, with dating the least of her priorities. Then a one-nightstand with gorgeous Korean hunk Landon Kim makes her want things she didn’t think she had time for. Too bad it turns out he’s a celebrity food critic whose scathing review of Comfort Zone goes viral and nearly destroys Aubrey’s business – and her fond memory of their night together. Landon tries to clean up the mess he made by offering Aubrey a spot on the new celebrity cooking show he’s producing. To save her bakery and her reputation, she agrees – whilst vowing to protect her heart. Will their pairing be a recipe for disaster? Or will the baker and critic finally admit that they have all the necessary ingredients for love?

Rating 4/5

Aubrey took a chance when she broke away from her family and her powerful fathers desire to marry her off and maintain her family’s reputation. She took a chance, followed her dream and now runs a successful bakery in the small town of Weldon. One night everything changes for Aubrey when she meets a handsome Landon, a man from out of town who she spends a passionate night with. Unbeknownst to her the same Landon is a renowned food critic who goes on to writes a scathing review of her bakery when he eats a cake intended for a child’s birthday party. This throws the future of the bakery and everything Aubrey has worked for into jeopardy. When Landon realises its Aubrey who owns the bakery, he hatches a plan to restore her reputation and that of the bakery whilst upholding his own.

This book really was a sweet treat! I must admit it took me a little while to get into the story but once the romance got going, I was so invested. I really like the main character of Aubrey from the outset. It’s clear she’s a strong independent woman who broke away from her family to pursue her dreams that they didn’t approve of. We see this strength and resilience throughout as more things are thrown at her and I really admired that in her. I also really like the relationships between Aubrey and her best friend Tara and later with her mother. There was a great scene where Aubrey calls Tara for help in the middle of the night and her response was ‘I’ll be there in 3 hours’ she asks no questions by simply comes to get her. I think it was a nice portrayal of female characters and friendship.

Aubrey’s romance with Landon was sizzling from the off as they spend the night together. However, its later in the book when her and Landon spend more time together that the story really bloomed for me. The sexual tension and chemistry between them was through the roof! This book also featured one of my favourite romance tropes where the characters are forced to share a bed or in this case a tent and this only added to tension between them. I prefer my romances to have lots of sexual tension that’s built up between the characters and this did that so well. I also liked the fact we got to see Landon and Audrey together as their romance developed. I have said before in reviews that I don’t like books that are full of angst with the characters only get together in the last chapter. This book didn’t do that, we saw them enjoying spending time together and falling in love with each other. There is also something that occurs later in the book that brings a trope I really like into the story which I wasn’t expecting. I think it’s a divisive trope that not everyone will like but for me it really worked and as I said I didn’t see it coming.

I also adored the settings of this book. Part of the story takes place in the small town of Weldon. I had such a clear picture in my head of this quaint oldie world town and how I thought it would look. Part of the book then takes place in California when Aubrey takes part in Landons TV show. Whilst there we are treated to more beautiful descriptions of the winery’s they visit and I particularly enjoyed reading about Moonstone Beach. Once again, I had such a clear picture in my mind of this beautiful setting built by the authors descriptions. I was really pleased to find out this is a real Moonstone is a real beach. I have always wanted to do a West coast of America trip and I have now added a new spot to my list of places to visit.

I cannot review this book without mentioning the food as its such a huge part of this story. The covers of both the UK and US editions of this book are beautiful and the food descriptions inside mirror this. I am a big foodie so I love reading books about food, particularly baking. The descriptions will without a doubt have your mouth watering! A favourite of mine was Aubrey’s pretzel bread pudding! I went straight online to see if such a recipe existed. The good news was I found one and will be testing it out very soon! There were also so many wonderful descriptions of Korean food in this story. The author just seemed to be able to write such emotive descriptions whether it be of the setting or the food the characters were eating. I have never actually tried authentic Korean food but this book made me want to. I also really liked that this book included some recipes to try at the end, I always thing that’s a lovely addition.

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Overall this book was (Cheesy line alert!) all of the sweet with none of the mess! It had the most adorable romance between two great characters that was jam packed with food references that will leave you feeling very hungry.  I would like to catch up with Aubrey and Landon one day and I have heard this book is being made into a TV show which I will look forward to seeing.

Thank you to Netgalley and the Publisher Headline Eternal for providing me with a copy of this book for review.

The Shelf by Helly Acton Book Review

IMG_4070Ever feel like you’re losing a race you never signed up for? Everyone in Amy’s life seems to be getting married, having children and settling down (or so Instagram tells her), and she feels like she’s falling behind. So, when her long-term boyfriend surprises her with a dream holiday, she thinks he’s going to finally pop the Big Question. But the dream turns into a nightmare when, instead, she finds herself on the set of a Big Brother-style reality television show, The Shelf. Along with five other women, Amy is brutally dumped live on TV and must compete in a series of humiliating and obnoxious tasks in the hope of being crowned ‘The Keeper’.

Rating 4/5

32-year-old Amy thinks she’s happy in her relationship with her long-term partner Jamie, so happy in fact she believes he’s about to whisk her away on a lavish holiday and finally pop the question. Jamie, however, has very different ideas, his surprise for Amy is taking her to the set of a new reality TV show The Shelf. There, he unceremoniously dumps her leaving Amy confused and heartbroken. Amy then discovers there is 1 million pounds on the line if she wins the show, offering her the chance to fulfil her dream of traveling and starting her own blog. She throws caution to the wind and decides to stick the show out. She then finds herself living with 6 other dumped ladies and competing in tasks in order to be declared ‘the keeper’, the perfect women that men would want to marry.

This book immediately appealed to me when I read the synopsis and saw our main character would be appearing on a Big Brother style reality show. I am a self-confused reality TV fan, having watched every series of Big Brother from when it started to the final series in 2018. I had a moment of realisation a week or so ago when I realised that nearly all the shows on my backed-up SKY box are some form of reality show. I, however, have never read a book with a reality show concept so I thought it could be very interesting.

From the first meeting with our main character Amy I immediately liked her and felt for her. She is in a relationship with Jamie who we find out rather quickly is a pretty shocking person and not very nice to her. As a reader we also know it’s likely no proposal is coming, and my heart was hurting for her. She is then very quickly thrust into the TV show The Shelf. I wondered why she would stay and take part after being dumped but there is a hefty cash prize on offer and Amy is aware it may be good for her to stay and help with the process of getting over Jamie.

We are introduced to a whole host of fellow contestants. When I read books where lots of characters are introduced at once I always make notes to remember who is who. I did find in this book though that all the characters were quite distinct and individual in their own ways which meant I felt I knew them really well really quickly. All the girls had their own reasons for staying and for most of them their experience on the show, no matter how long they were part of it led to them becoming a stronger version of themselves.

The show itself is pretty awful, awful in the sense that it is completely sexist and some of the tasks the ladies have to do to show they are ‘a keeper’ are pretty horrid. However, I found myself questioning if this show was real would I watch it? And the answer is yes, I would. I found myself completely invested in the show, I couldn’t put the book down as I wanted to know the outcome of the tasks and who would be evicted. I feel Helly really captured the essence of reality TV in that the story evoked feelings of investment from me, it felt very plausible and real.

One thing I loved about this story was the relationships and friendships that develop between the women. I found myself questioning at the start how I would feel if I was in Amy’s position and I think being in the house with a group of fellow dumped women would be quite appealing as they would know exactly what your going through. As mentioned, all the ladies come to the show under different circumstances, but I loved the bond they immediately shared. They then spent their time building each other up and supporting each other which I loved. I think the friendships formed were fantastic and I felt this tapped into a side of reality TV shows that aren’t always well know. Shows like the one portrayed in this book often get bad wrap, but I have watched so many shows where the biggest thing contestants take from them are new friendships. This was definitely my favourite part of the story.

All the girls go on their own journeys and I couldn’t have been happier with the outcome for everyone of them. I didn’t feel any of them changed who they were because of their time on the show but rather they remembered something’s about themselves that life and relationships had taken out of them. I loved seeing how this group of women who didn’t know each other at the start of the month were instrumental in building each other confidence. They all became so important to each other as a result. The end for me was just spot on and I would love to catch up with Amy one day. As I write this, I am already wondering what she is up to!

This was the first book I read by this author and I would be keen to read more in the future. I found this book so uplifting and funny and just wanted I needed. I loved that it had the reality TV element and showed the good side of them, not just the bad. I thought all the characters were great, particularly Amy. I enjoyed watching her journey and would like to leave this review with a quote from her that totally tapped into how 25 year felt a few years back. “I’m thinking I want to have it all. But I know that having it all is impossible. I want to settle down, but I also want to travel. I want children, but I also want my freedom. The truth is when I see babies, I don’t feel broody, I feel anxious. They’re like anchors. But I shouldn’t feel like that at my age, should I? how can I want a home and want to sleep in a tent on the edge of a ravine? Its like I’m two Amy’s” I felt this summed up Amy’s character and I identified so much with this. I really hope other readers pick up this book and see a little of Amy in themselves because she was s pretty great character.

Thank you to Netgalley and Bonnier Books UK for providing me with a copy of this book for review.

 

 

Read with Pride by Lucy Powrie Book Review

IMG_4046Olivia Santos is excited for her last year at secondary school. But when a parent complains about LGBTQ+ content in one of the books, the library implements a new policy for withdrawing books. Olivia is distraught – she’s demisexual and knows how important it is for all readers to see themselves represented. Luckily, she’s the mastermind behind The Paper & Hearts Society book club, and she knows exactly what to do: start a new club, find ways of evading the system, and change the policy for good! With two book clubs to run, exams to prepare for, and a girlfriend, just how long will it be before Olivia burns out? After all, creating a book club and trying to get the #ReadWithPride hashtag to get noticed is going to take a lot of energy. Sometimes, when you’re in too deep, it’s up to your friends to look out for you ..

Rating 5/5

Following a summer of fun with her book club, The Paper and Hearts Society are back at school and college. However, upon returning Olivia quickly realises her favourite place, the library has implemented big changes over the summer. Suddenly LGBTQ + books come with warning stickers and are not accessible to all without parental permission. Furious, Olivia who is worried the books are not reaching the people who need them decides to launch an anonymous campaign. She, along with lots of new friends, bought together by the cause work to make these books accessible to everyone. The Read with Pride club is officially formed.

This is the second instalment in The Paper and Heart Society series and as with book one I rated it 5 stars, but I think I enjoyed this one a fraction more than the first. I seem to have a real thing for second books in series and they tend to be my favourites. One of the large draws of this series is how heavily it speaks to books lovers. Most book lovers enjoy books about books and they also enjoy reading about people enjoying books! This series is a homage to books in my opinion and one of the best series I have found that truly celebrates the joy of reading. A large proportion of this story is set in a library and the focal point of it is ensuring the books within are accessible to everyone. We also had scenes set in bookshops and lots of references to modern books that I can imagine many readers will have read. The characters feelings towards books just tap into mine and almost validate that its ok for books to be a passion. There is a lovely quote in this story about identifying with a character in a book and seeing yourself in them can make you feel like part of your heart is heeling. Although I cannot identify with this in the way it is spoken about in this story, I think its relevant to a whole manner of personal struggles people may face. For me personally discovering characters with anxiety and seeing feelings I struggle to articulate written down was a real turning point for me and it continues to help me every time I find a new character I can relate to. I just found this to such a beautiful and poignant quote that I wanted to mention it.

A huge focus of this book is on friendship, new friendships Olivia forms and her current ones. We see Olivia through various circumstances making friends with a little group of seven people who all have their own reasons for wanting to ensure LGBTQ+ are easily accessible in the library. I thought the little group they formed was awesome. I would have loved to have friendships like these when I was Olivia’s age, in fact I would love friends like them now!. They were so accepting and caring towards each other despite not having been friends for long and just generally were such a positive bunch. Initially we see Olivia finding it difficult to balance her two friendship groups and feel she needs to keep them apart. However, when she starts to struggle, we see each group take it upon themselves to come together and support her. It just showed what a great cast of characters they were and how important friendships can be.

I really liked how the book explored mental health in Olivia’s character. We see her go from a very together student to someone who suddenly struggles to cope. Pressures start to mount in the form of juggling her GCSE schoolwork, friends and her campaign involving the library. It allowed us to see how lots of small things can build up and really add pressure to someone as we see Olivia sprawling downwards in front of us. It also showed how talking about these matters can make all the difference in their outcome. I just feel Lucy handles sensitive topics in a really delicate and relatable way and this means that everyone, particularly teens could identify with this.

This was just the perfect book for book lovers that really celebrated reading, love of books, particularly those involving LGBTQ+ characters, the need for these books to be around and get into the right people’s hands. It celebrated friendship, standing up for what you believe in and not underestimating the need to take care of your own mental health. More importantly it shows the importance of sharing your stories and reading with pride.

Thank you to Netgalley and Hachette Children’s Group for providing me with a copy of this book for review.

 

 

A World Full of Dickens Stories by Angela McAllister Book Review (Illustated by Jannicke Hansen)

IMG_3546Uncover the stories from one of the greatest-novelists of all time in this beautiful anthology of tales from Charles Dickens, rewritten and adapted in an accessible way for children.
This book introduces children to eight of Dickens’ greatest works, accompanied by beautiful, colourful illustrations which breathes new life into these timeless classics. Includes favourites such as Oliver Twist, A Christmas Carol, David Copperfield, and Great Expectations. A timeline at the back shows when each story was written and gives facts about Dickens’ life.
Revisit your favourite Dickens stories and introduce his legacy to next generation of readers with this beautiful first introduction to some of the greatest stories all time.  

Rating 4/5

In this beautiful anthology we experience eight of Charles Dickens famous stories, told in a condensed simplistic way, complete with lovely illustrations aimed at children. The stories that are included are: Oliver Twist, David Copperfield, Nicolas Nickleby, Great Expectations, A Christmas Carol, A Tale of Two Cities, Hard Times and The Old Curiosity Shop.

I have recently become very interested in bind up children’s illustrated compendiums following a trip to The Science Museum in London. Whilst there I found a version documenting important women in science and it seemed like a beautiful book, something I would read now and revisit later in life with any children I may have. I have since added lots of similar books to my wish list including ones that tell the stories of people, mythological tales and classics. Therefore, when I saw this book on Netgalley it really appealed to me.

This book would be a great way to introduce children to classic stories, and their authors and at a young age. I think its lovely that books like this offer the opportunity for children to experience these stories early on. However, I can imagine it would also be just as appealing for adults, like myself to read. I think we can all admit that classic books can be a little intimidating whether it’s their length subject or language. This book is a great way to enjoy these stories without the intimidation that classics sometimes bring. It could also act as a nice foundation if your looking to read the full-length stories as I find having some prior knowledge of the story makes them less intimidating.

The illustrations in this book were beautiful. They were done in a light sketchy style with a cool toned colour pallete. As the start of each story there is a list of all the characters that will feature, who they are and little picture of them. The characters illustrations are expressive in that you can easily tell who the villains of the story will be. Its then easy to recognise the characters when reading.

The actual stories themselves were lovely, well told and translated well into the short children’s versions. I knew I would like A Christmas Carol and Great Expectations before going in as these are the two Dickens books I have read and enjoyed. They were both great retellings and really captured the original stories. My favourite new to me story was A Tale of Two Cities, I would definitely be interested in checking out the original story as a result. I think the only story I didn’t enjoy so much was David Copperfield. I just felt there was too much pack into a short story and as a result it ended up feeling quite list like, bouncing from one big event to another. I also got confused whilst reading with which characters were which, there were a lot of characters in this story! I think its one Dickens story I may skip the full version of.

Overall, this was a beautiful book with some great adaptions and lovely illustrations. I think slightly older children would enjoy reading these stories but equally they could appreciate by adults too. I know Angela has quite a few compendium books like this one and I will be adding some of these to my wish list in the hope of building a little collection I can keep for many years as they are just lovely books to have.

Thank you to Netgalley and the Publisher for providing a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

The Jane Austen Society by Natalie Jenner Book Review

IMG_E3433[1]Can a village in need find hope after the devastation of war? The Jane Austen Society is a fictional telling of the start of the society in the 1940s in the village of Chawton, where she lived. There are eight main characters, all of whom are obsessed with Austen and conspire to create the society and turn the Austen cottage into a museum in her honour: a WWII war widow, a farmer, a village doctor, a local solicitor, a house-girl in the Knight estate, the anticipated heiress of that estate, an employee of Sotheby’s and a Hollywood actress. Multiple social, romantic and cultural collisions ensue.

Rating 4.5/5

 In the quiet Hampshire Village of Chawton its 1945 and the residents are coming to terms with the end of World War II. Many have lost loved ones and for some there are more losses to come. In contrast Hollywood actress Mimi and her friend chief auctioneer at Sotheby’s lead quite different lives. However, they all share one thing, a love of Jane Austen and a desire to preserve her legacy. It is this that leads to an eclectic group of people forming the Jane Austen Society with a goal of creating a long-lasting tribute to Jane. However, this society leads to so much more for these characters as they form bonds, friendships and relationships that will last a lifetime.

When I saw this book on Netgalley and read the description I was so excited; So many elements just made it sound like absolute catnip for me. Wartime/post wartime setting – tick, based around Jane Austen – tick, set in one of my favourite places to visit in the UK – tick. Lots of ticks all around so I was very excited to get to get to reading it. I am pleased to say I loved this book and it gave me just what I wanted.

Firstly, lets talk about the characters because they really are at the heart of this novel. This book switches between perspectives; there are the 8 main characters that eventually form the society plus a few others scattered throughout. This is a lot of character to get to know and could have easily become quite confusing and led to a disconnect from them. I have read books with fewer perspectives and had to make notes to remind myself who is who and details about them. However, this wasn’t the case with this book. All the characters were so expertly built that it led to them being really distinct in their characteristics, I knew who they were, their story and felt connected to all of them. The first half of this book is quite slow with the characters being introduced and the groundwork being laid for the society to be formed built I felt this really aided my connection to them. This book is really character driven so if you like a slice of life story where you really delve into the characters you will love this.

It goes without saying that there is a big focus on Jane and her works in this story. What I found really interesting were the conversations the characters had about Jane’s novels. We see them discussing their favourite books, which characters are their favourites and those they like least. I just enjoyed the level of detail. I think it’s something any Austen fan would enjoy reading but it also added a level of realness to the characters.

I think this book did really well was capturing the magic and feel of Jane’s stories. The whole story is a homage to Austen but what I really enjoyed was how some of her classic plot devices were found nestled amongst the pages. There was lots of misdirection, miscommunication, people getting the wrong impression of who was destined to be with who. There was also lots of pining over people they liked, characters not realising who they loved even though we the readers could see it. They were real classic Austen situations that I think the lady herself would have approved of.

This really was a great story! It was cosy, atmospheric and I think would appeal to Austen fans and those who just enjoy a historical romance. It really captured the feelings I look for when I read a retelling or a book that features Austen’s fans. I think it paid a lovely homage to Jane whilst being a great story in its own right. It also gave us some beautiful fleshed out characters.

If you liked this I think you would also like the Austen Addicts series by Victoria Connelly.

As Greek as Gets by Sue Roberts Book Review

IMG_3555Alice Clark is delighted when her boyfriend Max proposes. From her dead-end job to her straight-up-dead houseplants, her life hasn’t exactly turned out how she imagined, so she can’t wait to start some wedding planning. But the intimate affair she imagined soon grows wildly out of control, along with Alice’s doubts. Just as things reach breaking point between the couple, Alice’s best friend whisks her away for an escape to a sun-kissed Greek island. Sandy beaches, crystal clear waters and a cocktail – or three – and Alice soon finds herself letting loose and relaxing into the Greek way of life. When she visits a gorgeous village nestled in the hilltops overlooking the sea and meets a friendly local woman with a very special business – and a very handsome son – Alice is surprised by how drawn she feels to these people and this life. As the sun sets on her Greek holiday, Alice knows she has some big decisions to make. Will finding herself mean losing the life she had planned? Or could it be the start of something else entirely?

Rating 5/5

Despite Alice having a seemingly perfect fiancé and her wedding being just around the corner she can’t help but feeling that something isn’t right. She isn’t as excited as she should be and is dreading being the centre of attention in front of so many people. However, her finance Max is keen to have a big bash and Alice can’t bring herself to tell him this isn’t for her. She is then whisked away on her hen party to Malia in Crete. Under the Greek sun Alice’s head is soon turned by the prospect of a different kind of wedding. However, things get a little more complicated when she makes a connection with a local and finds her head turning in ways she didn’t expect.

I simply loved this book! It transported me to a Greek beach and was a ray of sunshine during the two cloudy days that I read it. I want to start this review by saying I absolutely adore books that involve travel, especially travel to sunny locations. I love a good road trip, travelling holiday or just a break in the beautiful sunshine like the characters in this book. Based on that, this book immediately appealed to me. Anyone who has read my reviews before may also be aware that I suffer from major Greek wanderlust. It’s a country in the world I am desperate to visit, I blame Shirley Valentine! There are so many islands I would love to visit that I doubt I would get to them all in a lifetime. This means I’m like a magpie with any books set in Greece, I gobble them up and have read a fair few. I would say this is one of the best books I have ever read in terms of its descriptions of the setting. It made me feel like I was on the island of Crete with Alice and her friends and just evoked that warm fuzzy feelings I look for in a book of this nature.

Firstly, the cover of this book sets the tone for the story, its so pretty and screams summer holidays. The book is set in three parts, you have pre-holiday which includes the girls shopping for and getting ready for their holiday and some scenes at the airport. I love books that include this because the build up to a holiday is so exciting so experiencing this with the characters excites me for their holiday too. We then follow the girls whilst in Crete and this is where the book just wowed me. Sue Roberts paints such a vivid picture of the island, the shops, the locals, the scenery that I felt like I was there with the characters. I loved the fact she references real place as I love searching these out online and making little Pinterest boards for different books. We also got to see the characters out and about enjoying the island and the activities it had to offer. There was even a day trip to Santorini, one of my top destinations to visit. I also like it wasn’t just a tradition hen party holiday. The girls experience some culture and traditions of the island as well as some partying along the way. I also appreciated the glorious descriptions of the Greek food; my mouth was watering! My husband is now going to be making me Spanakopita next week.

Moving away from the glorious setting the actual story took me on a bit of a journal. I massively mis-judged where the story would go which meant I was surprised the whole way through. We follow our main character Alice and her fiancé Max, who quite simply seemed too good to be true. Before going in I thought he would be a bit of an inconsiderate boyfriend that leads Alice to question their relationship whilst away, but Max seemed perfect. That made me suspicious of him too, as I say I thought he was too good to be true. I kept waiting for him to discovered as a bit of scoundrel. Whilst in Greece, Alice gets swept away by the island and meets a charming man who I thought would become the third part in a love triangle. I really don’t want to give away anything that happens, but I was pleasantly surprised by how it turns out.

The third part of the book follows Alice following the consequences of her holiday. The main thing I liked was how her time in Greece affected her confidence and character. I was quite frustrated with Alice at the start as she did seem to be quite complacent in her life. She was hesitant to pursue her career ambitions and allowed her mum and Max to bulldozer her a bit. Max’s sister Molly is their wedding planner and as arrangement spirals out of control, she struggles to find her voice against this. Its in the last third where we see her confront these things and I loved seeing that change in her.

In case it was unclear I adored this book. The only thing that could have improved it was reading it on holiday specifically a Greek holiday (but I would take anywhere right now!) It’s a book that made me feel on the sun on my skin despite being in a rather grey England and I could see myself revisiting and re-reading it in the future. I am pleased to see Sue Roberts has a great backlist that I can explore, all set in warm, sunny and locations and most excitingly another book set in Greece (which happens to be on Kindle Unlimited)

If you liked this book I think you would like The Bed and Breakfast on the Beach by Kat French, My Mamma Mia Summer by Annie Robertson and The Longest Holiday by Paige Toon.

Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher Bookouture for providing me with a copy of this book for review.