Poisoned by Jennifer Donnelly

Today I’m sharing my review for this new book being published by Hot Key Books today. I received my copy via Readers First after reading the opening chapters and requesting a copy.

Synopsis:

From Jennifer Donnelly, author of the acclaimed New York Times bestseller Stepsister, comes a fairytale retelling that’ll forever change the way you think about strength, power, and the real meaning of “happily ever after.”
Once upon a time, a girl named Sophie rode into the forest with the queen’s huntsman. Her lips were the color of ripe cherries, her skin as soft as new-fallen snow, her hair as dark as midnight. When they stopped to rest, the huntsman took out his knife . . . and took Sophie’s heart. 

It shouldn’t have come as a surprise. Sophie had heard the rumors, the whispers. They said she was too kind and foolish to rule — a waste of a princess. A disaster of a future queen. And Sophie believed them. She believed everything she’d heard about herself, the poisonous words people use to keep girls like Sophie from becoming too powerful, too strong . . .

With the help of seven mysterious strangers, Sophie manages to survive. But when she realizes that the jealous queen might not be to blame, Sophie must find the courage to face an even more terrifying enemy, proving that even the darkest magic can’t extinguish the fire burning inside every girl, and that kindness is the ultimate form of strength. 

My thoughts:

This is my first novel by Jennifer Donnelly and I have to say that I was very impressed. This is a modern version of Snow White and personally I believe that it is the best version I have read. I enjoyed watching Once Upon a Time on TV over the past decade and this would make a great film or TV show too.

Sophie has been bullied to believe that a Queen cannot be kind or to care about other people and finds herself facing death. However the kindness of strangers at her time of need, and the repayment for her own kindness from the past, mean that Sophie may be stronger than she thinks when facing her enemies.

A great retelling full of dark magic, a poisoned apple, a handsome prince, an archer and an evil stepmother with a reminder about how to seize your own happy ever after.

Homeward Bound by Richard Smith

I’m pleased to share my review for Homeward Bound as part of the blog tour organised by Rachel of Rachel’s Random Resources. Thank you to Matador Books for a copy of this book – my thoughts about the book are my own. This is a debut novel and one I’m happy to recommend.

Synopsis:

Homeward Bound features 79-year-old grandfather George, who didn’t quite make it as a rock star in the ‘60s. He’s expected to be in retirement but in truth he’s not ready to close the lid on his dreams and will do anything for a last chance. When he finds himself on a tour of retirement homes instead of a cream tea at the seaside his family has promised, it seems his story might prematurely be over. 

He finds the answer by inviting Tara, his 18-year-old granddaughter, to share his house, along with his memories and vast collection of records. She is an aspiring musician as well, although her idea of music is not George’s. What unfolds are clashes and unlikely parallels between the generations – neither knows nor cares how to use a dishwasher – as they both chase their ambitions. 

My thoughts:

Having read the blurb on the back of the book, I was keen to find out more. This is the third book I’ve read this year with an elderly protagonist – the other books being Saving Missy and Away with the Penguins.

The story looks at George and his family after the recent loss of his wife. His son-in-law, the obnoxious Toby, is desperate to put his father-in-law into a retirement home. George finds a compromise by inviting his granddaughter Tara to share his house near her new University so she can keep an eye on him and report back to her mum, Bridget.

During the story, we find out more about how George’s dreams and ambitions in the music world were derailed, how Tara needs to find her own path in life (and not be railroaded by her boyfriend) and how Bridget needs to find some happiness. Tara and George develop a new relationship, based on their enjoyment of music.

There are lots of funny moments to make you laugh out loud but also heartbreaking moments too. As readers of my reviews know, I always appreciate a dog being included in the story and George has Hunter, his ageing Labrador. I also thoroughly enjoyed the music references and found myself watching Homeward Bound by Paul Simon on You Tube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WHI2nWdRdXw

This is a book I’m happy to recommend as a feel good but thought provoking read. Ideal for all ages.

Purchase Links 

https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/homeward-bound-richard-smith/1136313433?ean=2940163088645

https://www.waterstones.com/book/homeward-bound/richard-smith/9781838591595

https://www.ink84bookshop.co.uk/product-page/homeward-bound-by-richard-smith

The author – Richard Smith:

Richard Smith is a writer and storyteller for sponsored films and commercials, with subjects as varied as caring for the elderly, teenage pregnancies, communities in the Niger delta, anti- drug campaigns and fighting organised crime. Their aim has been to make a positive difference, but, worryingly, two commercials he worked on featured in a British Library exhibition, ‘Propaganda’.

@RichardWrites2    

richardsmithwrites.com





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The Little Bookshop of Love Stories by Jaimie Admans

I’m thrilled to share my review for this gorgeous book again to celebrate the paperback publication this week. Thank you to HQ Digital for a digital review copy via NetGalley – my views are my own.

Synopsis:

Today is the Mondayest Monday ever. Hallie Winstone has been fired – and it wasn’t even her fault!

Having 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 pages of every book, she knows she’s stumbled across something special.

Things get even better 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?

My thoughts:

This is the first book I’ve read by Jaimie Admans – I saw positive comments on Twitter about the book and was pleased to be approved – I was missing visiting real bookshops and looked forward to a virtual visit.

Hallie is a great character – I giggled through the opening chapter describing how she lost her waitressing job. Her love of books and passion to keep Once upon a Page open was a delight to read. The book looks at her family relationships and how her friendship with the ‘resident artist’ develops.

This was a great feel good read, full of books, love for books and community spirit. A perfect book to read for book lovers.

Jaimie Admans:

Jaimie is a 32-year-old English-sounding Welsh girl with an awkward-to-spell name. She lives in South Wales and enjoys writing, gardening, watching horror movies, and drinking tea, although she’s seriously considering marrying her coffee machine. She loves autumn and winter, and singing songs from musicals despite the fact she’s got the voice of a dying hyena. She hates spiders, hot weather, and cheese & onion crisps. She spends far too much time on Twitter and owns too many pairs of boots.
She will never have time to read all the books she wants to read.

She has been writing for years but has only just plucked up the courage to tell people.
She is the author of chick-lit romantic comedies Kismetology and The Chateau of Happily Ever Afters, and young adult romantic comedies Afterlife Academy, Not Pretty Enough, and North Pole Reform School.

Find out more on http://www.jaimieadmans.com or find me on Twitter @be_the_spark



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The Hopes and Dreams of Libby Quinn by Freya Kennedy

Today I’m sharing my review for this lovely book again. The book is currently free on the Kindle in the UK – time to grab a copy and enjoy visiting Ivy Lane.

Synopsis:

Libby Quinn is sick and tired of being sensible. After years of slogging her guts out for nothing at a PR company, she finds herself redundant and about to plough every last penny of her savings into refurbishing a ramshackle shop and making her dream become a reality.

She hopes the opening of bookshop on Ivy Lane will be the perfect tribute to her beloved grandfather who instilled a love of reading and books in her from an early age. When her love life and friendships become even more complicated – will Libby have the courage to follow her dreams? Or has she bitten off more than she can chew?

My thoughts:

Thank you to Boldwood Books for a digital review copy – my thoughts are my own.

I really enjoyed this book. Libby Quinn has loved stories since she was tiny and dreams of owning her own bookshop – something many avid readers would also wish to be able to do. This book follows her as she tries to make her dream into reality and remembers how she loved reading with her grandfather.

This was a great book to read during our current lockdown situation – it emphasised the importance of family, friendships and community support. Libby’s bookshop idea sounds lovely – books, desks and a coffee shop area.

An uplifting book in a time of uncertainty.

The author:

Freya Kennedy is the pen name of Derry based author Claire Allan – who is perhaps best known for her psychological thrillers!
However, before turning a life of crime, Claire wrote women’s fiction for Irish publisher Poolbeg Press, her reinvention as Freya Kennedy will see her bring some love, laughter and heart-warming happiness to readers.
A true Derry girl, Freya Kennedy has lived all her life in the north of Ireland. She worked for 18 years as a journalist and has been writing full time since 2016. 
She is a huge fan of all kinds of books, from Marian Keyes (she cried the first time she met Marian), to Rowan Coleman, to Jane Fallon, to Jojo Moyes.
She also enjoys a good murder!
She continues to live in Derry with her husband, her two children, two cats and the best dog in the world.



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The Sight of You by Holly Miller


I’m pleased to share my review for this beautiful book, the debut novel of Holly Miller. Thank you to Hodder and Stoughton for granting my wish to review a preview copy via NetGalley after seeing such many positive comments on social media – I now understand why so many people love this book.

Synopsis:

Joel is afraid of the future.
Since he was a child he’s been haunted by dreams about the people he loves. Visions of what’s going to happen – the good and the bad. And the only way to prevent them is to never let anyone close to him again. 

Callie can’t let go of the past.
Since her best friend died, Callie’s been lost. She knows she needs to be more spontaneous and live a bigger life. She just doesn’t know how to find a way back to the person who used to have those dreams.

Joel and Callie both need a reason to start living for today. 
And though they’re not looking for each other, from the moment they meet it feels like the start of something life-changing. 

Until Joel has a vision of how it’s going to end . . .

My thoughts:


The Sight of You is the story of Joel and Callie – I loved the way the characters developed and began to interact with each other. This is a really difficult book to review without giving away any spoilers – it should be read without any hints or clues about what will happen – and without any interruptions. I curled up on the sofa and ignored the family to enjoy the story of Joel and Callie.

As we currently live in very uncertain times (this book is set in non-Covid times so people can still socialise normally and sit in a cafe – if only!), this book gives you a break from reality to fall in love with Joel and Callie. This is a book that made me cry at the end – a good sign of being emotionally involved in the characters and their lives.

The Sight of You is published in hardback and ebook on 11th June in the UK, and in paperback in January 2021. One of my favourite books of the year, thank you Holly Miller. I totally agree with the Hodder and Stoughton marketing slogan – “the love story of 2020 that will break your heart”.

Amazon purchase links https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B07RHV8LF5/ref=cm_sw_em_r_mt_dp_U_45G2EbMRY623E

Waterstones purchase links https://www.waterstones.com/book/the-sight-of-you/holly-miller/9781529324341



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Book Review for Hello, Again by Isabelle Broom

Today I’m thrilled to share my review of this beautifully written book – Hello, Again by Isabelle Broom.

Synopsis:

Philippa Taylor (Pepper to her friends) has big dreams. When she closes her eyes, she can picture exactly who she ought to be. The problem is, it’s about as far away from her real life in a small coastal town in Suffolk as she can imagine. 

So when her elderly friend Josephine persuades Pepper to accompany her on a trip to Europe, she jumps at the chance to change her routine. And when Pepper bumps (literally) into the handsome Finn in Lisbon, it seems as though she might have finally found what she’s been looking for.

But Pepper know all too well things are rarely as they seem. Her own quiet life hides a dark secret from the past. And even though she and Finn may have been destined to find each other, Pepper suspects life may have other plans as to how the story should end.

My thoughts

Thank you to Hodder & Stoughton for a digital review copy via NetGalley – the comments are my unbiased opinion.

I’ve read a few books by Isabelle Broom and have enjoyed being whisked away to different countries such as Sri Lanka, Greece and New Zealand. This book offers a scenic tour of three European cities in Spain, Portugal and Germany – all of which sounded wonderful in very different ways.

The story follows Pepper as she finally starts to move forward with her life after the tragic loss of her sister many years ago. Visiting Lisbon and Barcelona with her older friend and art client Josephine inspires Pepper to seek out happiness, resolve family conflicts and find creative inspiration.

I thoroughly enjoyed this story. Beautifully written as usual, characters to care about, relationships to develop and an epilogue that made me weep. I’ve also found myself googling how to make mosaics having been inspired by the story.

The ebook publication date has been brought forward to 4th June 2020 and the paperback is due to be published on 9th July 2020 in the UK – these can be ordered from https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B083L7QWGB/ref=cm_sw_em_r_mt_dp_U_Jf40EbD79868C

Isabelle Broom was born in Cambridge nine days before the 1980s began and studied Media Arts in London before joining the ranks at heat magazine, where she remained for 12 years. Always happiest when she off on an adventure, Isabelle now travels all over the world seeking out settings for her novels, as well as making the annual pilgrimage to her true home – the Greek island of Zakynthos. Currently based in Suffolk, where she shares a cottage with her two dogs and approximately 467 spiders, Isabelle fits her writing around a busy freelance career and trying not to be crushed to oblivion under her ever-growing pile of to-be-read books.

If you like pictures of dogs, chatter about books and very bad jokes, you can follow her on Twitter and Instagram @Isabelle_Broom or find her on Facebook under Isabelle Broom Author.







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Book Review for The Hopes and Dreams of Libby Quinn by Freya Kennedy

Libby Quinn is sick and tired of being sensible. After years of slogging her guts out for nothing at a PR company, she finds herself redundant and about to plough every last penny of her savings into refurbishing a ramshackle shop and making her dream become a reality. She hopes the opening of bookshop on Ivy Lane will be the perfect tribute to her beloved grandfather who instilled a love of reading and books in her from an early age. When her love life and friendships become even more complicated – will Libby have the courage to follow her dreams? Or has she bitten off more than she can chew?

My thoughts:

4.5 stars

Thank you to Boldwood Books for a digital review copy – my thoughts are my own.

I really enjoyed this book. Libby Quinn has loved stories since she was tiny and dreams of owning her own bookshop – something many avid readers would also wish to be able to do. This book follows her as she tries to make her dream into reality and remembers how she loved reading with her grandfather.

This was a great book to read during our current lockdown situation – it emphasised the importance of family, friendships and community support. Libby’s bookshop idea sounds lovely – books, desks and a coffee shop area.

An uplifting book in a time of uncertainty.

The author:

Freya Kennedy is the pen name of Derry based author Claire Allan – who is perhaps best known for her psychological thrillers!
However, before turning a life of crime, Claire wrote women’s fiction for Irish publisher Poolbeg Press, her reinvention as Freya Kennedy will see her bring some love, laughter and heart-warming happiness to readers.
A true Derry girl, Freya Kennedy has lived all her life in the north of Ireland. She worked for 18 years as a journalist and has been writing full time since 2016. 
She is a huge fan of all kinds of books, from Marian Keyes (she cried the first time she met Marian), to Rowan Coleman, to Jane Fallon, to Jojo Moyes.
She also enjoys a good murder!
She continues to live in Derry with her husband, her two children, two cats and the best dog in the world.



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The Perfect Dress – Louisa Leaman #bookreview

Fran’s wedding dress shop isn’t like any other. A treasure trove of history, filled with gowns from every decade for every type of bride. But not as you’d expect.

Something bold for the shy and retiring.
Something simple for the woman who is unafraid to stand out.
And something dazzling for the bride who wouldn’t normally dare to be different. 

No matter your expectations, you’d never guess your own perfect dress. But Fran knows… she feels the wisdom woven into every gown, a gift from the previous owner waiting to be handed down to the next bride.

When Fran finds a dress that seems to be perfect for her she can’t wait to know its complex history which starts with her getting to know the son of the previous owner…

My thoughts:


I enjoyed this book – romance, mystery, psychology, reality TV stars all packaged into one book along with stories of brides and their gowns.

My favourite part of the book is when Fran matches the brides to be to their ‘perfect dress’ – often with interesting results.

Well worth reading – not a traditional romantic fiction book.

Thank you to NetGalley and Random House UK for a free digital ARC in return for an honest review – my opinions are my own.

This updated review is shared because the paperback was published this week.


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Book Review of Where We Belong by Anstey Harris

One summer.
One house.
One family learning to love again.

Cate Morris and her son, Leo, are homeless, adrift. They’ve packed up the boxes from their London home, said goodbye to friends and colleagues, and now they are on their way to ‘Hatters Museum of the Wide Wide World – to stay just for the summer. Cate doesn’t want to be there, in Richard’s family home without Richard to guide her any more. And she knows for sure that Araminta, the retainer of the collection of dusty objects and stuffed animals, has taken against them. But they have nowhere else to go. They have to make the best of it.

But Richard hasn’t told Cate the truth about his family’s history. And something about the house starts to work its way under her skin.
Can she really walk away, once she knows the truth?

My thoughts:
Thank you to Simon and Schuster UK for a digital advanced review copy via NetGalley – my views are totally my own.

This is the first novel I have read by Anstey Harris (I do have a copy of The Truths and Triumphs of Grace Atherton on my bedside cabinet waiting to be read). I have seen great reviews for both, so was thrilled to be given the chance to read and review this.

The book is very different to anything I’ve read before. The story looks at loss, grieving, secrets, a teenager growing up, dealing with prejudice, and a museum full of treasures from the past.

The storytelling is wonderful, full of little details and flawed (but mostly) loveable characters. At this current time with the world hit by a global pandemic, it is a story to escape into and to feel uplifted by the community spirit.

A five star read for me – looking forward to getting a proper copy in a bookshop after lockdown.

The author, Anstey Harris:

Anstey Harris is based by the seaside in south-east England where she lives with her violinmaker husband and two dogs. She teaches creative writing in the community, local schools, and as an associate lecturer for Christchurch University in Canterbury.

Anstey writes about the things that make people tick, the things that bind us and the things that can rip us apart. In 2015, she won the H G Wells Short Story Prize for her story, Ruby. In novels, Anstey tries to celebrate uplifting ideas and prove that life is good and that happiness is available to everyone once we work out where to look (usually inside ourselves). Her short stories tend not to end quite so well…

Things that interest Anstey include her children and granddaughter, green issues and conservation, adoption and adoption reunion (she is an adopted child, born in an unmarried mothers’ home in Liverpool in 1965), stepfamilies, dogs, and food. Always food. She would love to be on Masterchef but would never recover from the humiliation if she got sent home in the first round.








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The Love Child by Rachel Hore #bookreview

A young mother’s sacrifice. A child’s desperate search for the truth . . . 
London, 1917

When nineteen-year-old Alice Copeman becomes pregnant, she is forced by her father and stepmother to give up the baby.  She simply cannot be allowed to bring shame upon her family. But all Alice can think about is the small, kitten-like child she gave away, and she mourns the father, a young soldier, so beloved, who will never have the chance to know his daughter.

Edith and Philip Burns, a childless couple, yearn for a child of their own. When they secretly adopt a baby girl, Irene, their life together must surely be complete. Irene grows up knowing that she is different from other children, but no one will tell her the full truth.

Putting hopes of marriage and children behind her, Alice embarks upon a pioneering medical career, striving to make her way in a male-dominated world. Meanwhile, Irene struggles to define her own life, eventually leaving her Suffolk home to find work in London.

As two extraordinary stories intertwine across two decades, will secrets long-buried at last come to light?

My thoughts:

4.5 stars

Thank you to Simon and Schushter UK for a digital copy via NetGalley during lockdown 2020 – my thoughts are my own.

This is the first book I’ve read by Rachel Hore although my Kindle tells me that I have bought (but not read) A Week in Paris and The Dream House – I have now bumped them up my tbr (to be read) list.

I enjoyed this historical fiction, set between the First World War and the start of the Second World War. Life was very different and an unmarried mother would be frowned on, so Alice is encouraged to give up her baby, Stella. The book follows the lives of Alice and Irene (formerly Stella).

The book covers adoption, mental health, challenging male dominance in medicine, birth control, family secrets, and the social changes after the end of the war. It is well written, full of historical detail and makes you care for the characters.

If you enjoy historical fiction and/or watching shows such as Call the Midwife, then I believe that you will also enjoy this book.

The author, Rachel Hore:

I’m the author of ten novels, the most recent of which is The Love Child. I came to writing in my forties, after a career in publishing in London. My husband and I had moved out to Norwich with our three young sons and I’d had to give up my job and writing was something that I’d always wanted to try. I originally studied history, so it was wonderful finally to put my knowledge to good use and to write The Dream House, which is partly set in the 1920s in Suffolk and London.

Most of my novels are dual narrative, often called ‘time slip’, with a story in the present alternating with one set in the past. I love the freedom that they give me to escape into the past, but also the dramatic ways in which the stories interact. My characters are often trying to solve some mystery about the past and by doing so to resolve some difficulty or puzzle in their own lives.

The books often involve a lot of research and this takes me down all sorts of interesting paths. For The Glass Painter’s Daughter I took an evening class in working with coloured glass. My creations were not very amazing, but making them gave me insight into the processes so that my characters’ activities would feel authentic. For A Week in Paris I had to research Paris in World War II and the early 1960s through films and books and by visiting the city – that was a great deal of work for one novel. Last Letter Home involved me touring a lot of country houses with old walled kitchen gardens in search of atmosphere and to explore the different kinds of plants grown there.

Places often inspire my stories. The Memory Garden, my second novel, is set in one of my favourite places in the world – Lamorna Cove in Cornwall – which is accessed through a lovely hidden valley. A Place of Secrets is set in a remote part of North Norfolk near Holt, where past and present seem to meet. Southwold in Suffolk, a characterful old-fashioned seaside resort with a harbour and a lighthouse, has been a much loved destination for our family holidays and has made an appearance in fictional guise in several of my novels, including The Silent Tide and The Love Child.

Until very recently I taught Publishing and Creative Writing part-time at the University of East Anglia, but I’ve just become a full-time writer, which feels a bit scary. My boys are all grown up now, but we still see a lot of them, and our black labrador, Astra, gets much more attention. My husband David is a writer, too (he writes as D.J. Taylor), so we understand each other’s working lives.

I find I have to have a regular routine with my writing, not least to keep the book in my head. My aim is to sit down at 9am every morning and write till lunchtime, then again the afternoon, but there is often something ready to interrupt this so I go with the flow.

I hope that you are able to find my books easily and enjoy them – I am always happy to hear from readers!

Happy reading!  

Visit Rachel at http://www.rachelhore.co.uk, or follow her on Twitter @rachelhore or Facebook



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