Posted in Book Review, Friendship, Impulse Book Club, Literary Humour, Romance, Romantic Comedy

Don’t You Forget About Me – 4* #Review -Mhairi McFarlane – @MhairiMcF @HarperFiction @HarperCollinsUK

It began with four words.

‘I love your laugh. x’

But that was twelve years ago. It really began the day Georgina was fired from The Worst Restaurant in Sheffield (© Tripadvisor) and found The Worst Boyfriend in the World (© Georgina’s best friends) in bed with someone else.

So when her new boss, Lucas McCarthy, turns out to be the boy who wrote those words to her all that time ago, it feels like the start of something.

The only problem? He doesn’t seem to remember Georgina – at all…

I received an electronic advanced reader copy of this book from Harper Collins UK – Harper Fiction via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

My Thoughts…

Believable characters, realistic humour and poignant moments are all to be found in this likeable story set in Sheffield. Georgina’s life has not followed her teenage plan, but then whose does?

However, there’s more to her story than is first apparent, and although I did find this book, dragged a little in parts, I enjoyed it and appreciated the important issues it raises. Particularly, how a young person’s life can be irreparably damaged, by a single action or event.

The story is romantic and humorous, but it goes deeper than a romcom usually does. The humour is often dark or double-edged, and the romance is there, but not in the voluminous quantities the reader would expect from romantic comedy fiction.

Georgina’s family seem to treat her as the ‘joke’, the one who never grew up, but this is her perception and not necessarily their intention. Families are made up of individuals, drawn together by birth and blood, there is always likely to be a generational difference of opinion, which comes across well in this story, as does Georgina’s reactions and thoughts about their opinions on her life choices.

The romance of the story hinges on whether Lucas remembers Georgina, I think he does. His actions are not blameless, but they are understandable, given what he believes, how he feels about her, and what has subsequently occurred in his life.

The sibling relationship in this story is one of its strengths; competitiveness, bossiness and a hierarchy are evident, but the sister bond is unbreakable when threatened by outside forces.

The last quarter of this story has the most impact. Especially, when Georgina finally faces up to and shares what changed her young life. It is heartbreaking to read, but there will probably be parts of it that you can relate to, from your teenage life.  The difficulty Georgina has in verbalising her painful experience is relatable and makes her character memorable.

Well- written, topical and varied this is worth reading, but it’s not a quick, easy read.

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Posted in Book Review, Festive Read

5* Review- Zara Stoneley – No One Cancels Christmas @ZaraStoneley#Festive @HarperImpulse

 

A holiday she’ll remember forever…

It’s the most magical time of the year, and for travel agent Sarah it’s also the busiest! But this year one man threatens to ruin Christmas for Sarah’s customers – Mr Grinch, Will Armstrong.

The Shooting Star Mountain resort is a magical place, and Sarah has fond memories of Christmas here as a little girl – visits to Father Christmas, husky rides in the snow and hot chocolate by a roaring fire. But as the resorts new owner, Will refuses to play snowball or to deck the halls with anything remotely resembling tinsel!

With customers complaining their Christmas is ruined, Sarah decides it’s up to her to convince Scroogey Will just how magical Christmas can be….

But getting Will into the Christmas spirit is hopeless – he is Bah Humbug personified! But as Sarah gets to know him better, she realises that underneath all the gloom is a man struggling with a pain of his own.

With the big day approaching, Sarah realises that the magic and sparkle can wait. This year, she’s going to spend Christmas day with someone special her very own Mr Scrooge…

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My Thoughts…

Funny, festive and fabulous, everything you want in a Christmas holiday read.

Sarah is such an authentic, believable character, her sense of responsibility makes her confront Will, co-owner of a holiday resort that is threatening the reputation of her aunt’s travel agency. The emails soon turn from caustic to cosy, and when she decides to visit the resort, the fun really starts.

Will has secrets and hides them well under a Mr Scrooge persona. The romance is slow to build but so worth waiting for and really threatens to melt the snow. There are plenty of poignant moments, as Sarah lets go of past hurts and finds out things are not always right or wrong but somewhere in between.

All the supporting characters are vivacious and add to the story’s imagery. The setting is well-described and breathtaking and the plot is full of twists, turmoil and tenderness.

I received a copy of this book from Harper Impulse via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

Posted in Book Review

‘Broadsword Calling Danny Boy’ On Where Eagles Dare – Geoff Dyer- 3* Review

 

A thrilling Alpine adventure starring a magnificent, bleary-eyed Richard Burton and a coolly anachronistic Clint Eastwood, Where Eagles Dare is the apex of 1960s war movies, by turns enjoyable and preposterous. ‘Broadsword Calling Danny Boy’ is Geoff Dyer’s tribute to the film he has loved since childhood: an analysis taking us from its snowy, Teutonic opening credits to its vertigo-inducing climax. For those who have not even seen Where Eagles Dare, this book is a comic tour-de-force of criticism. But for the film’s legions of fans, whose hearts will always belong to Ron Goodwin’s theme tune, it will be the fulfilment of a dream.

My Thoughts…

If you love ‘Where Eagles Dare’, this in-depth study of the film, with many amusing observations will appeal.

For other readers who are not devotees of the film, you will learn a lot about it from the author’s observations, but it’s like an ‘in’ joke you have to be there to find it funny.

The quality of the writing is evident, but I lost interest at times with the content, and I have seen the film more than once.

Conclusions, am I glad I read this book? Yes. Would I have read it if I’d realised how detailed the content is? No.

I received a copy of this book from Penguin Books UK via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

Posted in Book Review

Jane Wenham- Jones – Mum in the Middle-5*Review

Tess has downsized to a lively new town and is ready for “me” time. But her Zen-like calm is tested by her boomerang offspring, who keep fluttering back to the nest (usually with a full bag of dirty washing) and by her elderly mother’s struggle to hold on to her independence.
Tess is also surprised to discover that there are dark resentments simmering beneath the vintage charm of her new hometown and a spate of vandalism has exposed the rift between the townsfolk and new arrivals like Tess.
Tess enlists the help of gruff newspaper editor Malcolm to get to the bottom of the mystery, but when her ex-husband pays an unexpected visit, and her mother stages a disappearance, Tess starts to feel her new-found freedom wearing just a little thin…

Amazon UK

My Thoughts…

I loved this story. It’s well-written with just the right amount of humour, romance and family drama and I can empathise with the main protagonist.

Tess’s move from London isn’t working out well. She misses her family and friends and wonders whether she’s made a mistake. Very soon, she is inundated with family including a very irritating ex and has more friends and admirers than she can cope with.

This contemporary comment on motherhood when the children are grown up and supposed to have left home is topical; with many young adults remaining in the family home until their late twenties because of financial constraints.

Tess is the hub of family life and her new friends’ dramas, so much so that she struggles to find any ‘me’ time. The resultant chaos is often hilarious and thankfully involves copious amounts of champagne. There is also a lovely sprinkling of mature romance, and every character is complex and adds to the story.

If you’re looking for a book to make you smile, this is the one.

I received a copy of this book from Harper Impulse via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

Posted in Book Review

The Rise and Fall of Becky Sharp -Sarra Manning- 5* Review

Posted in Book Review

Blog Tour: Finding Felix – Jo Platt – Extract and 4*Review

Singleton Dot Riley’s grandmother, Nanny Flo, is on her deathbed, surrounded by family and distraught at the thought of Dot being all alone in the world.  Desperate to make Flo’s final moments happy ones, Dot invents a boyfriend – plumping in panic for her childhood friend, Felix, a firm favourite of Flo, but whom Dot hasn’t actually seen for 15 years.

But when Flo makes an unexpected recovery a few weeks before a family wedding, Dot is faced with a dilemma.  Should she tell her frail grandmother that she lied and risk causing heartache and a relapse?  Or should she find Felix and take him to the wedding?

Dot opts for finding Felix.  But it’s not long before she discovers that finding him is the easy bit: liking him is the real challenge.  

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Extract

‘And here’s Becca in her Hawaiian outfit at the school fete. Do you remember that, Becca?’ My mother passed the photograph to my sister, who was sitting to her left.

Becca laughed. ‘How old am I here? Four?’

‘It was 1989, I think. So you’re five,’ said my mother, leaning towards her to peer again at the photograph. ‘It took me hours to make that crêpe-paper hula skirt and all those flowers for the lei and the headdress.’

‘It did,’ agreed Dad. ‘And then just three minutes for heavy rain to turn everything to mush and leave Becca in nothing but her vest and pants.’ He laughed loudly, and I joined in, reaching for the photo.

It had, against all my shameful expectations, been a lovely evening with my parents and Becca. We had met in the lounge of the Bear in Devizes marketplace for drinks at six thirty, before moving through to the cosy wood-panelled restaurant at seven. Mum told us that she had booked early so that we could all get our beauty sleep, although as I was actually staying at the Bear that night, I knew I could be in bed within fifteen minutes of waving them off.

Mark was spending the night with his best man, and my sister had, quite valiantly I thought in light of my mother’s pre-wedding nerves, insisted that Mum and Dad stay with her. I was invited to stay too, but, as I wasn’t quite as valiant as Becca, I had declined, instead booking myself in for an extra night at The Bear.

I smiled down at the glossy 6×4 picture of my little sister and then up at Dad, feeling grateful for his suggestion that Mum bring along the photographs she hadn’t found room for on the wedding reception storyboard. The snaps had been viewed between courses, prompting memories and anecdotes which had kept the evening firmly focused on Becca, which was just what I had hoped for.

‘You were beautiful from the off,’ I said to Becca, returning the picture to her. ‘And you’ll be at your most beautiful tomorrow.’

She sighed. ‘I just hope I can make it down the aisle without tripping.’

‘It’s me you’ve got to worry about,’ said Dad. He reached out and took her hand. ‘But together we’ll make it,’ he added a little emotionally.

There was a short pause, during which my mother murmured, ‘Oh Don,’ and dabbed at her eyes with her napkin.

Becca looked at me across the table, offering me an affectionate eye roll.

I cleared my throat. ‘Come on then,’ I said to Mum. ‘Show us the next picture. Dessert will be here soon.’

‘Ooh, yes,’ she said, returning her attention to the pile of photographs sitting next to her on the table. ‘Here you are on top of Cat Bells, in the rain, in the summer of ’91,’ she said, handing one to Becca. ‘And swimming in Derwent Water, in the rain, in ’92. And waiting for the launch at Hawes End, in the rain, in ’93.’ She paused, putting a hand to her mouth and giggling. ‘And oh my goodness, I’d forgotten I’d found this one. Just look at that, Becca!’ She laughed again, but my sister, although smiling, didn’t seem to find the picture quite so funny.

‘What is it?’ I asked, smirking and holding out my hand. ‘It’s not Becca’s Hawaiian costume post-downpour, is it?’

‘No, no, it’s you, darling,’ said Mum. ‘You and Felix in the school play.’ She turned it over. ‘It says Christmas 1994.’

‘Oh.’ I stopped smirking and took the picture from her as she held it out to me.

‘Yes, just look at him. There he is. Such a sturdy boy.’ My mother leaned forward and tapped the picture. ‘Didn’t he make a marvellous Christmas pudding? And there you are, the candle, a good four inches taller than him, right next to him. See? You’ll have to show him that tomorrow.’

‘I will,’ I said quietly, extending the long list of falsehoods told to date, whilst retrieving my handbag from the back of my chair and slipping the picture inside without looking at it.

When I looked up, my mother was still smiling broadly at me, increasing my sense of guilt.

‘I’ve forgotten what I’m having for dessert,’ I said. ‘Did I go for the torte or the cheesecake in the end?

‘That was the only picture of him I came across. But I wasn’t really looking and you’ve probably got lots of him now, haven’t you?’ My mother looked at me expectantly. ‘On your phone,’ she added, nodding her head towards my bag, which was still on my lap.

‘I have a few,’ I said, wondering what number lie that was. I decided that I must have hit the high nineties by now.

‘I think you’re having the torte, Dot,’ said Becca. ‘I’m having the cheesecake.’

‘I’d love to see a picture of what he looks like now,’ said Mum, pointing at my bag.

‘You’ll see him in the flesh tomorrow, Helen,’ said Dad.

‘I know, Don, but I may not recognise him if he’s very changed, and how embarrassing would that be? Apparently he looks quite different now, doesn’t he, Dot? Shorter hair and less sturdy.’

I experienced a sinking feeling. She actually had a valid point. ‘My phone is dead,’ I said desperately, and waited with grim resignation for her to insist that I check.

But she didn’t. Instead, she looked over my shoulder towards the entrance to the restaurant, her eyes narrowing and her lips thinning. It was the kind of look she used to give me as a teenager whenever I mentioned Sean Dowse’s DIY tattoo in front of her sister-in-law, my Auntie Dawn, with whom she was fiercely competitive. I glanced at Becca and together we turned and followed my mother’s gaze.

I saw Alistair just as he saw us.

He smiled in surprise and then waved hesitantly. My father was the only one of us with the wherewithal to respond. ‘Alistair,’ he said, standing up and holding out a hand as my ex-walked uncertainly towards us.

‘Hi, Don,’ he said, shaking Dad’s hand. ‘Helen, Rebecca, Dot,’ he added, smiling at each of us in turn.

‘Hello, Al,’ smiled Becca.

My mother folded her arms. ‘Good evening, Alistair,’ she said coldly.

I frowned at her before turning back towards him. ‘Hi,’ I said, trying to keep my voice light. ‘Are you here for a drink?’ I looked at Becca. ‘Is Mark coming here?’

Alistair answered for her. ‘No, I’m meeting Mark in the Three Crowns at…’ he checked his watch, ‘just about now, actually. But I need to check in first.’ He gestured with his thumb over his shoulder while smiling down at me. I nodded and tried desperately not to miss him.

‘You’re staying here?’ asked my mother unsmilingly. ‘That’s interesting, because so is Dorothy.’

‘Oh?’ Alistair’s eyebrows raised slightly as he nodded his acceptance of the fact.

‘Yes. And so is her boyfriend, Felix,’ continued Mum, repeating an assumption which, for obvious reasons, I hadn’t bothered to contradict. ‘He’s a lovely accountant with his own business and he is completely smitten with her.’

I closed my eyes briefly and heard my father murmur, ‘Helen,’ and my sister, ‘Mum,’ simultaneously.

When I opened my eyes, Alistair was still smiling. ‘That’s great, Dot,’ he said, and to my devastation, he sounded like he meant it. ‘I take it he hasn’t arrived yet? Or is he having a drink with Mark?’

‘He doesn’t get here till tomorrow,’ I said quietly.

‘OK, I’ll look forward to meeting him then,’ said Alistair. ‘And now I’ll leave you to your meal, but I’ll see you all at the church tomorrow. Especially you,’ he added, pointing at Becca. ‘Don’t keep the man waiting.’

 

 

My Thoughts…

Like all the best romantic comedy, this story starts with a dilemma that forces the well-meaning heroine to do anything to achieve the desired end, regardless of the consequences for herself. Dot wants to make her dying grandmother’s wish come true and so plucks a friend out of her past and turns him into her fantasy boyfriend. Not unsurprisingly her well-intentioned lie comes back to haunt her when her grandmother rallies and wants to see the mystery boyfriend for herself.

Full of misunderstanding, which provides the story’s humour and an undeniable wake-up call for Dot that Felix, in reality, is not how she remembered him. There’s something there though, and despite the opportunity to extricate herself from the lie, she doesn’t. An excellent supporting cast of believable characters adds depth to the story, which like all good romcoms ends happily.

Sophisticated romantic comedy that’s fun to read and guaranteed to make you laugh.

I received a copy of this book from Canelo via NetGalley in return for an honest review.


Jo Platt was born in Liverpool in 1968 and, via the extremely winding route of rural Wiltshire, London, Seattle and St Albans, she is now happily settled in Bristol with her husband and two daughters. She studied English at King’s College London before going on to work in the City for ten years. In 2000 she escaped into motherhood and part-time employment, first as an assistant teacher in a Seattle pre-school and then was a Bristol-based secretary to her husband.  

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Posted in Book Review

Blog Tour: Caroline Roberts The Cosy Seaside Chocolate Shop – 5*Review

 

When Emma opened her gorgeous little chocolate shop in the harbour village of Warktonby-the-Sea, she realised a lifelong dream. Love is also blossoming with her hunky beau, Max, who’s slowly healing her fragile heart. Summer is here, and life has never felt so sweet. Until the rain clouds start to gather… A rival sweet shop and killjoy landlord give Emma a headache, and when a face from the past turns up unannounced, Emma finds herself spiralling down memory lane. With Max’s crazy work schedule driving him to distraction, Emma’s in danger of making some choices she might regret . . . With close friends, spaniel Alfie, and the whole village behind her, can Emma get the chocolate shop and her love life back on track? Only time will tell in this deliciously romantic novel of love, loss, hope and second chances.

Amazon UK

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Tips for Writers: By Caroline Roberts

Write what you are passionate about. If you love what you write this will make the writing process so much easier, and it will come through to readers (and hopefully publishers/agents if you are looking to be published) and spark their imagination and interest too.

Finish the book! Don’t pressure yourself that it has to be perfect. Just keep going forward and get the story out. Make time to write regularly, and you will get there. Editing is for later.

 Submitting – If publication is your aim, finish the whole book, check it over and polish up your first 3 chapters, spend time on your synopsis and cover letter, and only then start sending it out. Try to be as professional as possible. Do your research on who you are submitting to – and send exactly what they ask for. (Try the Writers’ & Artists’ Yearbook and use Google to help find suitable agents and publishers, then read their websites carefully). Do try and personalise your cover letter to show you have spent time finding out about them/their company.

 PERSEVERE – the submission process can be long and hard, and rejection is never easy. Try not to take it too personally – easier said than done, I know – but keep going and try to learn from any critical feedback you might get and keep writing. It might be your second or third novel or even a short story or poem that gets someone’s attention. Don’t give up!

Link up with other writers. Look for local groups or groups within your genre. For me, the support and friendship within organisations such as The Romantic Novelists’ Association were,  and still is, invaluable. (It was only by taking a deep breath and pitching at the RNA Conference that I got my book deal with HarperCollins and my agent.)

 Good luck!

My Thoughts…

Any story that features Northumberland gets my attention and having read the first book in the series ‘The Cosy Christmas Chocolate Shop’ I was looking forward to seeing what happens next to Emma and Max, whose deepening relationship faces several tests in this Summer story.

Emma’s business is growing, but despite her hard work and creativity, she is still at the mercy of an unscrupulous landlord. There are lots of colourful events in this book, including prosecco parties and food festivals. They celebrate the culture and vivacity of Northumberland life adding both authenticity and depth to this romantic story.

Emma’s tragic loss of her fiance Luke made her wary of falling in love again, and even though she is committed to Max now, the unexpected appearance of a face from the past makes her remember what she’s lost and threatens her future happiness.

The village characters make this romantic tale resonate, they are believable and demonstrate the community spirit associated with English village life. There’s also plenty of gossip and lots of advice, not all of it welcome but again this underpins village England and makes the story realistic.

The lovely chocolate descriptions are a bonus, so good you can almost taste them. Recipes are included at the back of the book if you want to sample the chocolate delights.

The ending is heartstoppingly romantic, the perfect conclusion to this sweet story.

I received a copy of this book from Harper Impulse via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

Family, friends, food, a glass of bubbly and, of course, a good book make Caroline smile. She loves writing emotional stories about love, loss, betrayal and family, which explore how complex and yet beautiful love can be. She also likes to write romantic comedy, letting the characters have a bit of fun too! Caroline believes in following your dreams, which led her to HarperImpulse and a publishing deal after many years of writing. Stunning Northumberland is her home – sandy beaches, castles and gorgeous countryside have inspired her writing! 

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