Posted in Book Review, Family Drama, Friendship, Literary Fiction

The Other Half of Augusta Hope – Joanna Glen 4* #Review @HarperFiction @BoroughPress @JoannaGlenBooks #LiteraryFiction #PublicationDay

You’re not lost. You’re just looking. #AugustaHope

Augusta Hope has never felt like she fits in. And she’s right – she doesn’t. At six, she’s memorising the dictionary. At seven, she’s correcting her teachers. At eight, she spins the globe and picks her favourite country on the sound of its name: Burundi.

And now that she’s an adult, Augusta has no interest in the goings-on of the small town where she lives with her parents and her beloved twin sister, Julia.

When an unspeakable tragedy upends everything in Augusta’s life, she’s propelled headfirst into the unknown. She’s determined to find where she belongs – but what if her true home, and heart, are half a world away? 

Amazon UK

Waterstones

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

My Thoughts…

Perhaps, it is a societal backlash that novels’ featuring, main characters who aren’t accepted because they don’t conform to society’s unwritten expectations, despite their obvious intelligence, and generosity of spirit, are so popular now.

Augusta Hope, a twin born in August, is a cuckoo in the nest, she and her twin appear opposite in every trait. Augusta is a caring, clever, curious child, devoted to her sister, but it seems, a mystery to her almost stereotypical middle class, conformist parents. This leads to some humorous incidents during her childhood. Overall her memories of childhood are poignant. Even at a young age, she realises she isn’t like her sister and will never secure the parental love she needs.

Parfait is the eldest of a loving family, but living in war-torn Burundi, means that his happiness is transient. His journey to happiness is pathed with tragedy.

The two points of view tell their respective stories in tandem, but with little obvious connection, until serendipity gradually draws them into each others’orbit.

The writing style is part of the charm of this story, and one l enjoy. Words are important and used well here, regardless of whether they are strictly necessary, or fashionable. On a literary level, this is lovely. The plot tells an epic story, which some may not connect to. The characters are well created, believable, and you want them to find each other, and somewhere they can be themselves and flourish.

Parts of this story are difficult to read, but they are all necessary to the telling.

Something for everyone who enjoys an emotional story with vivid imagery and a hopeful outcome.

Advertisements
Posted in Blog Tour, Book Review, Friendship, Literary Fiction, Romance

With or Without You – #Paperback #Blog Tour – Shari Low – @sharilow @HoZ_Books @Aria_Fiction

Have you ever made a life-changing decision and then wondered if you made the right one…?

When Liv and Nate walked up the aisle, Liv knew she was marrying the one, her soul mate and her best friend.

Six years later, it feels like routine and friendship is all they have left in common. What happened to the fun, the excitement, the lust, the love?

In the closing moments of 1999, Liv and Nate decide to go their separate ways, but at the last minute, Liv wavers. Should she stay or should she go?

Over the next twenty years we follow the parallel stories to discover if Liv’s life, heart and future have been better with Nate… Or without him?

Buy links

Amazon UK

Amazon

Kobo

iBooks

Google Play

I received a paperback copy of this book from Head of Zeus Books in return for an honest review.

My Thoughts…

If like me you believe in fate and love the film ‘Serendipity’, you’ll enjoy this well-written ‘what if’ story. Most people in a long-term relationship wonder, whether they are with their soulmate, or if under different circumstances they would be with someone else. This story explores Liv’s decision taken at the cusp of the 21st-century, stay with Nate or split up and live their lives apart.

A story of two halves, the outcome of being ‘without him’ is explored first and then ‘with him’. There’s friendship, conflict, romance and sadness but the ultimate conclusion is satisfying in both stories. The setting and relationships are believable, and though flawed, the characters endear themselves to the reader, and you want them to find happiness and fulfilment.

The pacing of the story makes it easy to read, and even though the storyline focuses on ordinary, everyday life, it is full of suspense, poignancy, laughter and love and makes this a lovely lighthearted read.

Guest Post – Serendipity – Shari Low

Some may have said it was serendipity. Some may call it love at first sight. But when a complete stranger walked towards me one night 25 years ago, I smiled because I knew I was in the right place at the right time. A week later we got engaged, and we’ve stuck together through a lifetime of children, books, ups, downs, dodgy fashion choices (but perms were so in!) and a labradoodle.

However, what would have happened if we hadn’t met? Would someone else have been the love of my life? Would I never have found this kind of happiness? Would I have married a rock star and settled for a life of loud music, wanton behaviour and leather trousers?

Actually, I quite like the sound of that option.

Or perhaps that chance meeting was meant to happen, and we were somehow destined to cross paths, if not that night, then at some other point in the future.

Those thoughts were the starting point for my new novel With Or Without You.

The main characters, Nate and Liv, have been together since they were teenagers. Now in their mid-twenties, their all-consuming love has faded to friendship and they’ve decided that their marriage has run its course. They agree to separate at midnight on the final day of 1999, but at the last minute, Nate wavers. The storyline then splits into two strands, one following the couple over the next eighteen years if they stay together, the other if they part.

Will they find each other again? Or will they discover a greater love elsewhere? Does serendipity really exist, or is everyone’s fate already pre-determined, our lives like tangled paths that will end at the same destination no matter what choices we make? 

As the stories unfold, Nate and Liv, and the people who share their lives discover the answers to those questions.

As for me? Excuse the uncharacteristic sentimentality, but I’ll never regret being in that place at that time and meeting that bloke. 

Leather trousers go out of fashion. Soul mates never do.

With Or Without You was published in paperback by Aria on 7th Feb 2019

Shari Low is the No1 best-selling author of over 20 novels, including With Or Without You, Another Day In Winter, One Day In December, A Life Without You and The Story Of Our Life. And because she likes to over-share toe-curling moments and hapless disasters, she is also the shameless mother behind a collection of parenthood memories called Because Mummy Said So. Once upon a time she met a guy, got engaged after a week, and twenty-something years later she lives near Glasgow with her husband, a labradoodle, and two teenagers who think she’s fairly embarrassing except when they need a lift. 

Twitter

Facebook

Posted in Book Review, Romantic Comedy

5*#Review I Owe You One Sophie Kinsella- @KinsellaSophie

Fixie Farr can’t help herself. Straightening a crooked object, removing a barely-there stain, helping out a friend . . . she just has to put things right. It’s how she got her nickname, after all.

So when a handsome stranger in a coffee shop asks her to watch his laptop for a moment, Fixie not only agrees, she ends up saving it from certain disaster. To thank her, the computer’s owner, Sebastian, scribbles her an IOU – but of course, Fixie never intends to call in the favour.

That is, until her teenage crush, Ryan, comes back into her life and needs her help – and Fixie turns to Seb. But things don’t go according to plan, and now Fixie owes Seb: big time.

Soon the pair are caught up in a series of IOUs – from small favours to life-changing debts – and Fixie is torn between the past she’s used to and the future she deserves.

Does she have the courage to fix things for herself and fight for the life, and love, she really wants?

Amazon UK

I received a copy of this book from Random House UK- Transworld Publishing – Bantam Press via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

My Thoughts…

This is my first Sophie Kinsella novel and what a treat it is. I was smiling as soon as I met Fixie. The characters are vividly depicted, they jump off the page.

The story’s a curious mix of family drama and serendipitous romance. Fixie’s siblings are so irritating, but maybe all the fault doesn’t lie with them. Fixie’s obsessively helpful nature makes it easier for them to let her do everything.

The plot is easy to follow, not too many surprises here for the reader, but many for Fixie, as she embarks on a journey of self-realisation.

The romance is gentle and riddled with conflict, but there’s a satisfying ending. If you like to see ordinary people and situations made extraordinarily, this book will be a perfect read.

Posted in Festive Read

Festive Read: Josie Silver – One Day in December – 5* Review

Two people.

Ten chances.

One unforgettable love story.

Laurie is pretty sure love, at first sight, doesn’t exist. After all, life isn’t a scene from the movies, is it? But then, through a misted-up bus window one snowy December day, she sees a man who she knows instantly is the one. Their eyes meet, there’s a moment of pure magic…and then her bus drives away.

Laurie thinks she’ll never see the boy from the bus again. But at their Christmas party a year later, her best friend Sarah introduces her to the new love of her life. Who is, of course, the boy from the bus.

Determined to let him go, Laurie gets on with her life. But what if fate has other plans?

Amazon UK

Amazon

My Thoughts…

As a believer in serendipity, this book blurb appeals, and even though it’s more about life choices rather than fate, this magical story makes a lovely festive read.

Laurie, in her early twenties, is still looking for the perfect job, working as a hotel receptionist pays the bills but doesn’t fulfil her journalist potential. Travelling across London at Christmas time she makes eye contact with a similarly aged man sitting at the bus stop, they share a moment and so the story begins.

The reader shares Christmas, New Year, Valentine’s day, her birthday and other memorable events for the next decade. Jack and Laurie are in and out of each other’s lives after their first fateful meeting but are they destined for a happy ever after and who will lose out if they are?

This story flows from year to year, reflecting the seasons and the emotional changes in Laurie, Jack and their friends and family. Romance, humour and poignant moments resonate as their lives’ move on, with believable quirks of fate that inexplicably draw them back together.

The tenth year is iconic for everyone. Jack and Laurie finally face their destiny but will they make it happen or watch it drift away. The final chapters laced with festive spirit and heartwarmingly romantic, give this charmingly addictive story the ending it deserves.

A festive tale with a difference, and an enjoyable read whatever the season.

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

Posted in Book Review

Ivy and Abe – 5*Review – Elizabeth Enfield

Two people. One love story. A million possibilities. They’re soulmates. Ivy and Abe were inseparable as children until an accident tore them apart. Several decades later, when both are in their seventies, a chance encounter reunites them. But time is not on their side. What if they’d met in a different time and place? In another life, Ivy and Abe meet in their forties, when both are married already. Unable to resist the attraction between them, they embark on a passionate affair. In yet another, they marry young, with a bright future ahead of them – only for a dark shadow to threaten their happiness. Throughout various incarnations of their lives, they come together and go their separate ways, fall in and out of love, make or break promises. In every universe, Ivy and Abe are meant to meet. But are they meant to be? 

Amazon UK

Amazon

My Thoughts…

Everyone meets people in their lives that they seem to know or act out of character inexplicably drawn to a stranger. Are they supposed to be together or merely to meet?

‘Ivy and Abe’ meet in school and then are torn apart only to meet again in the Autumn of their lives. This story explores what happens to them when they meet again and all the ‘What If?’ scenarios. Told from Ivy’s point of view, all the stories have common characters, but they have different importance in Ivy and Abe’s lives.

Poignant, romantic, selfish and tragic the stories map out possible lives and their consequences.
Whether Ivy and Abe are soulmates is left to the reader’s interpretation. The ending adds yet another possible outcome but the hope for the future is undeniable and a fitting end for such a lovely story.

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

Posted in Book Review

Blog Tour: The Distance – Zoe Folbigg – Extract – 4*Review

Under the midnight sun of Arctic Norway, Cecilie Wiig goes online and stumbles across Hector Herrera in a band fan forum. They start chatting and soon realise they might be more than kindred spirits. But there are two big problems: Hector lives 8,909km away in Mexico. And he’s about to get married.

Can Cecilie, who’s anchored to two jobs she loves in the library and a cafe full of colourful characters in the town in which she grew up, overcome the hurdles of having fallen for someone she’s never met? Will Hector escape his turbulent past and the temptations of his hectic hedonistic life and make a leap of faith to change the path he’s on?

 Zoe Folbigg’s latest novel is a story of two people, living two very different lives, and whether they can cross a gulf, ocean, sea and fjord to give their love a chance.

 Buy now links:

Amazon UK

Amazon

Kobo

iBooks

Google play

 

Extract

Cecilie looks up. Ordinarily, she would be pleased to see young tourists walk in; a chance to improve her English, to learn some more modern words and slang. But today she isn’t. She doesn’t see the point. Cecilie no longer feels the desire to learn new ways of saying that something is wicked, ace or sick; or to practise her they’re, there and theirs any more.

Cecilie nods, as she writes down an order she and fellow staff Henrik and Stine know by heart anyway, although today just Cecilie and Henrik work a sleepy afternoon shift.

‘Take a seat, I’ll be right over,’ Cecilie says to the couple at the counter as she tucks her pen behind her ear and it disappears into a cascade of heavy hair. Somehow, Cecilie can tell that these tourists are Canadian, even before she sees the maple leaf sewn onto the North Face daypack on the young man’s back. She wonders what brought them here; where in the world they have been already. Might they have seen his hometown too?

The Hjornekafé manager, Henrik, has already started making the drinks. He exchanges a look with Cecilie, as they usually do when Gjertrud and Ole have their little tussles, only today Cecilie isn’t rolling her eyes and smiling warmly. Today, Cecilie’s face is tense and terse, her eyes dulled, as she makes her way to the cake display cabinet at the end of the counter. The dark and rickety wooden furniture is brightened by the mirrors on the walls in the modest cafe space, and what little is left of the spring daylight streams in through the floor-to-ceiling window façade to the street.

The Canadians marvel at the wrought-iron latticework trimming the ceiling and scrape their chairs back to sit down. The noise of wood dragging on wood tears through Cecilie’s brain but is drowned out by another rotation of So, ro, lilleman.

Cecilie looks at her watch. It is 3.18 p.m. She silently counts backwards as she raises the thumb and four fingers on her left hand and the thumb and index finger on her right hand. Seven. Always counting back seven. She feels a blow to her abdomen and recedes to take it as she bends down to pick up a tray from under the counter. Cecilie’s not sure if she feels hungry, winded or heartsick, but she stands up with the tray, standing to stay strong. She takes out the spiced Arctic cloudberry cake, made by Mette at her home this morning. Bright orange berries burst with pride atop vanilla cream, layered three times on sponge swathed in playful cloudberry-coloured jam. Flecks of nutmeg, cinnamon and cloves pepper the pristine pale crumb. Arctic berries shimmer golden and warm surrounded by spices. The orange hues remind Cecilie of photographs she’s seen in books in the library and on the internet, of a place a world away, where buildings are painted ochre and terracotta; where doorways bask in a shade of sunshine, she has never seen for herself. Cecilie carves out a square of cake with a knife and places it on a vintage floral plate that doesn’t go with the black and white cups Henrik is preparing the drinks in. Nothing matches in this hotchpotch corner of the world, but that doesn’t matter. Customers slink in reliably for a quiet slice of cake between hiking to the world’s northernmost cathedral, or summiting the mountain ledge in the Fjellheisen cable car by day, and chasing the Northern Lights at night.

With heavy feet and a heavy heart, Cecilie plods into the cavernous kitchen out the back to the freezer. She takes out a tub of blackcurrant ice cream and thoughtfully curls a cornelle to accompany the cake. The ice cream at the Hjornekafé is made by Mette’s daughter and Cecilie’s best friend, Grethe, who owns the ice cream parlour on the high street. Ice cream sells surprisingly well in these parts, and Grethe churns the best.

Henrik, a bookish man with round glasses and floppy brown hair parted in the centre, places the pot of tea, cup of coffee and two glasses of icy tap water next to the cake plate on the tray. Cecilie collects two forks and clinks them down next to the plate, knowing she will be coming back for another slice in a few minutes anyway. She walks around to the front of the counter, gives the Canadian tourists two menus with the small illustration of the Hjornekafé on the front from her shaky hands, and picks up the tray from the counter to take it to Gjertrud and Ole at their end of the cafe.

As she walks the short distance to the back wall, Cecilie’s mouth dries, her hands shake, and the tray feels like the weight of an iceberg as it releases from her pale grip. She looks down and sees it fall in slow motion beneath her to the floor, smashing onto the ground in hot and cold shards. The vintage cake plate smashes, sending flowers flying, splatted and smeared with varying shades and textures of orange and purple and cream, all over Cecilie’s boots. Hot tea and coffee scold Cecilie’s legs in her pale blue jeans as she lets out a little gasp of pain and embarrassment. The Thing That’s Happening Today, that Cecilie is dreading, is actually happening and there’s nothing she can do about it. At that precise moment, eight thousand nine hundred and nine kilometres away, eyes widen, and pupils shrink.

Hector Herrera has woken with a start, to a crash, on the morning of his wedding day.

My Thoughts…

The writing style and setting for this story show originality, and even though the trope is popular, the story’s quirky content sets it apart.

It took me a while to get into the story and warm to the characters, I have to confess I like Kate better than the two main protagonists, probably because her personality and circumstances are more familiar to me and more comfortable to empathise.

The plot is dynamic, chronologically and geographically and this demands concentration on the reader’s part. It’s not something you can dip into, you need to keep reading, or you’ll forget salient plot points.  Kate’s role in the story is not immediately apparent, although she is pivotal to the ending.

This book is my first by this author, not having read her first bestseller and in many ways, this is probably useful to make an objective assessment of the story. 

Overall I like the story; it’s one for the Chick-lit fans.

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

Zoë Folbigg is a magazine journalist and digital editor, starting at Cosmopolitan in 2001 and since freelancing for titles including Glamour, Fabulous, Daily Mail, Healthy, LOOK, Top Santé, Mother & Baby, ELLE, Sunday Times Style, and Style.com. In 2008 she had a weekly column in Fabulous magazine documenting her year-long round-the-world trip with ‘Train Man’ – a man she had met on her daily commute. She has since married Train Man and lives in Hertfordshire with him and their two young sons. She is the bestselling author of The Note. 

Website

https://www.instagram.com/zolington/Twitter

Facebook

Instagram

Posted in Book Review

Blog Tour: Shari Low – With or Without You – Guest Post – 5* Review

  When Liv and Nate walked up the aisle, Liv knew she was marrying the one, her soul mate and her best friend.

Six years later, it feels like routine and friendship is all they have left in common. What happened to the fun, the excitement, the lust, the love?

In the closing moments of 1999, Liv and Nate decide to go their separate ways, but at the last minute, Liv wavers. Should she stay or should she go?

Over the next twenty years we follow the parallel stories to discover if Liv’s life, heart and future have been better with Nate… Or without him?

 Buy links:

Amazon UK

Amazon

Kobo

iBooks

Google Play

Guest Post – Shari Low

So here we are, on the publication of my 21st book and I’m still as excited and terrified as the very first time.

My first novel, What If? was released in January 2001. The year before, I’d found out that I had a publishing deal and twenty minutes later, I’d discovered I was pregnant with our first child.

What if your whole life changed in the space of a few ticks on a clock?

That year, I went from living in London, with an all-consuming career in sales management and roots that were touched up every six weeks, to a life as a full-time mum and writer back in my native Scotland. I don’t think I found my make up bag for the best part of a decade.

That transition came with countless what if’s.

What if leaving the security of a full-time job is a mistake? What if I only have one story to tell? What if I miss the excitement of a carefree life with no little humans depending on me? And, when my second baby came along the following year, what if these kids don’t sleep through the night until they’re 21 and I never get peace to write?

Thankfully, it wasn’t, I didn’t, I definitely didn’t, and they eventually did.

But that theme of what if was a starting point for my latest novel, With Or Without You. What if one decision changed the rest of your life?

Everyone has reached a crossroads at some point, where they had to move left, more right, go forward, go back. For me, the biggest one happened a few years before that life-changing time in 2000, when my husband and I had only been married for a few years, and we agreed to go our separate ways. There was no drama, no fallout, just an amicable realisation that we both wanted different things.

In the end, we got back together a few months later, and now, twenty-five years after we met, I couldn’t imagine finding more happiness in any other life.

But I’d love to know where fate would have taken us if we’d made a different choice.

That’s the dilemma facing Liv, a palliative care nurse, and Nate, a PE teacher, in the opening chapter of With Or Without You. Married straight out of college, they both feel like something is missing in their relationship, so after a year of trying to reignite the spark, they agree to go their separate ways on the last day of 1999. However, as the clock ticks down to midnight, Nate changes his mind and asks Liv to give it another try. In the moment that the new millennium dawns, the narrative splits, with one storyline following their lives over the next eighteen years if they stay together, and the other covering their future if they stick to their plan to part.

What if staying together is the right thing to do? What if it’s not? What if they miss out on another great love? What if they never find their happy ever after? What if their decision irrevocably changes the lives of the people they love the most? What if they discover they were right for each other after all? What if they don’t?

I hope readers will love following the two different paths as much as I enjoyed writing them. I fell hopelessly in love with Liv, Nate, and their group of friends, flawed as they are, and it brought me to yet another of those deliberations.

What if I bring a few of them back in book number 22?

Happy reading!

Love, Shari x

With Or Without You will be published by Aria – available in ebook on June 1st.

 My Thoughts…

If like me you believe in fate and love the film ‘Serendipity’, you’ll enjoy this well-written ‘what if’ story. Most people in a long-term relationship wonder, whether they are with their soulmate, or if under different circumstances they would be with someone else. This story explores Liv’s decision taken at the cusp of the 21st-century, stay with Nate or split up and live their lives apart.

A story of two halves, the outcome of being ‘without him’ is explored first and then ‘with him’. There’s friendship, conflict, romance and sadness but the ultimate conclusion is satisfying in both stories. The setting and relationships are believable, and though flawed, the characters endear themselves to the reader, and you want them to find happiness and fulfilment.

The pacing of the story makes it easy to read, and even though the storyline focuses on ordinary, everyday life, it is full of suspense, poignancy, laughter and love and makes this a lovely lighthearted read.

Shari Low has published twenty novels over the last two decades. She also writes for newspapers, magazines and television. Once upon a time, she got engaged to a guy she’d known for a week, and twenty-something years later, they live in Glasgow with their two teenage sons and a labradoodle.

Twitter: @sharilow

Facebook: @ShariLow