The Summer Job by Lizzy Dent

Today I’m pleased to be sharing my review on here and on my first Bookstagram Tour, for this gorgeous book. Thank you to Ellie Hudson at Viking Books for the invitation and a fabulous finished copy of the book. The end papers are stunning and my teenage daughter crocheted the lobster to match the book during her school holiday.

Synopsis:

Have you ever imagined running away from your life?

Well Birdy Finch didn’t just imagine it. She did it. Which might’ve been an error. And the life she’s run into? Her best friend, Heather’s.

The only problem is, she hasn’t told Heather. Actually there are a few other problems…

Can Birdy carry off a summer at a luxury Scottish hotel pretending to be her best friend (who incidentally is a world-class wine expert)?

And can she stop herself from falling for the first man she’s ever actually liked (but who thinks she’s someone else)

The Summer Job is a fresh, fun, feel-good romcom for fans of The Flatshare, Bridget Jones and Bridesmaids.

My thoughts:

This was the book I started my Easter holiday readathon with. After reading some ‘gruesome’ historical fiction, I needed something to read to make me smile. I’m happy to say that reading about Birdy made me smile, laugh and occasionally groan, as her summer job changed her life.

As I read the book, I found myself hoping that Birdy would make a success of her summer job, despite pretending to be her best friend. As we got to know Birdy, we discovered a deeper character than we may have initially imagined when she was getting drunk on free wine in London with her friend Tim.

I loved my virtual visit to Scotland with Birdy. Lizzy Dent has created a character with flaws but with a big heart. There are many comic moments for Birdy, involving clothes, food, customers, corks to name but a few. My family had to put up with me giggling along to this story. However we also find out more about her childhood and begin to understand why she hasn’t yet found the life she deserves.

In addition to Birdy, Lizzy Dent has created a wonderful set of characters, some with secret ambitions or ‘skeletons in their cupboards’. I’m not a regular wine drinker (the bottles in the photos were gifts to my husband), but I enjoyed learning about wine alongside Birdy. This is also a book for people who love food, with wonderful sounding menus.

The past 13 months in the UK have been strange with repeated lockdowns due to the global pandemic. As many of us will be staying in the UK again for our summer holidays, this book will be at the top of my list of books to enjoy during your holiday – no weight allowances for suitcases this year. I’ve seen lots of love for the book from other reviewers and I’m happy to confirm that this is one of my favourite books of 2021.

Extract:

To enjoy an extract for the book, visit https://www.penguin.co.uk/articles/2021/january/summer-job-lizzy-dent.html

Author Bio:

Lizzy Dent (mis)spent her early twenties working in Scotland in hospitality, in a hotel not unlike the one in this novel. She somehow ended up in a glamorous job travelling the world creating content for various TV companies, including MTV, Channel 4, Cartoon Network, the BBC and ITV. But she always knew that writing was the thing she wanted to do, if only she could find the confidence. After publishing three young adult novels, she decided to write a novel that reflected the real women she knew, who don’t always know where they’re going in life, but who always have fun doing it. The Summer Job is that novel.

Another Life by Jodie Chapman

Thank you to Michael Joseph and Penguin Random House for a proof copy of this emotional debut novel, published in the UK on Thursday 1st April 2020. This book is a BBC2 BETWEEN THE COVERS PICK. Here is my mini non spoiler review.

Synopsis:

She could be the girl dancing on tables one night, and the next she’d be hiding in the shadows.

Just when I thought I understood her, she would melt away and become a completely new person, and I’d have to start all over again.

That’s how it was with Anna.
_______

Nick and Anna work the same summer job at their local cinema. Anna is mysterious, beautiful, and from a very different world to Nick.

She’s grown up preparing for the End of Days, in a tightly-controlled existence where Christmas, getting drunk and sex before marriage are all off-limits.

So when Nick comes into her life, Anna falls passionately in love. Their shared world burns with poetry and music, cigarettes and conversation – hints of the people they hope to become.

But Anna, on the cusp of adulthood, is afraid to give up everything she’s ever believed in, and everyone she’s ever loved. She walks away, and Nick doesn’t stop her.

Years later, a tragedy draws Anna back into Nick’s life.

But rekindling their relationship leaves Anna and Nick facing a terrible choice between a love that’s endured decades, and the promises they’ve made to others along the way.

My thoughts:

This was an emotional read. Nick’s life was filled with loss, he lost his mum at an early age (we don’t find out what happened until part way through the book) and the book starts with his brother in the grip of severe depression.

The story moves backwards and forwards in time, through Nick’s childhood, the summer he spent working at his local cinema (and met Anna) and then to more recent times as he travels to New York to visit his brother.

Anna has had a very different childhood to Nick, but is drawn into a relationship with him whilst her on/off boyfriend is away. Will it be a summer fling or can it last forever?

A thought provoking read about love, family, loss and the future. I enjoyed Jodie Chapman’s storytelling and look forward to reading more from her in the future.

Author Bio:

Jodie Chapman has spent twelve years working as a photographer and lives in Kent. In 2016, she was accepted on the Curtis Brown Creative novel writing course. Another Life is her first novel.

Before I Saw You by Emily Houghton

I’m pleased to be joining the Random Things Tours blog tour for this wonderful debut novel by Emily Houghton. Thank you to Anne Cater for the invitation to join the tour and a proof copy of the book. The book was published in ebook format this week and will be available in hardback next week in the UK.

Synopsis:

CAN YOU FALL IN LOVE WITH SOMEONE YOU’VENEVER SEEN?

Alice and Alfie are strangers. But they sleep next to each other every night.

Alfie Mack has been in hospital for months recovering from an accident. A new face on the ward is about as exciting as life gets for him right now, so when someone moves into the bed next to him he’s eager to make friends. But it quickly becomes clear that seeing his neighbour’s face won’t happen any time soon.

Alice Gunnersley has been badly burned and can’t even look at herself yet, let alone allow anyone else to see her. Keeping the curtain around her bed firmly closed, it doesn’t stop Alfie trying to get to know her. And gradually, as he slowly brings Alice out of her shell, might there even be potential for more?

My thoughts:

I loved the look and sound of this story, with a colourful cover and an intriguing synopsis. So I was thrilled to have the opportunity to read and review this debut novel before publication. But would it deliver the escapism I was craving at the start of lockdown 3? Well I’m pleased to say it certainly did.

The style of the book reminded me of The Flatshare, where the story is told by both main characters in alternate chapters. In this story, we have Alfie, a sociable PE teacher recovering from a life changing car accident, who has been keeping the other patients on the rehabilitation ward entertained. Alongside Alfie, hidden away behind curtains is workaholic Alice, who was badly burnt in a work place accident.

Alfie may be recovering from his physical injuries but he is struggling to deal with the emotions of losing friends in the accident and the reaction of loved ones to his injuries. Alice is refusing to look at herself and to allow others to see her. Both have experienced a traumatic event and need support, can they help each other more than the professional staff at the hospital?

I loved this book, quickly I was so involved in the lives of Alfie and Alfie I didn’t want to put the book down and ended up staying up much later than normal to carry on reading. Alfie and Alice became real as they teased each other and gave each other the opportunity to talk about their past and their worries. Life had been difficult for both of them since their accidents and both continued to have ‘bad’ days, made worse when they fell out on a number of occasions.

I liked the fact that this story didn’t wave a magic wand and suddenly make everything perfect. Alfie and Alice had to face up to their ‘new’ lives and to make major decisions, including whether they would stay in contact. As this is a no spoiler review, I will encourage you to read this emotional book to find out what happens to Alfie and Alice.

Thank you to Emily Houghton for a brilliant book to escape into, I look forward to reading more of your books in the future.

Author Bio:

Emily Houghton is an ex digital specialist and full-time creative writer.
She originally comes from Essex but now lives in London. Emily is a trained yoga and spin teacher, completely obsessed with dogs and has dreamt of being an author ever since she could hold a pen.

Emily is available for written features about her experiences and learnings on topics including; dating and the vulnerability of meeting people, self-love, body confidence, processing pain and the physical emotional body connection.

For more information please contact Hayley Barnes, Senior Press Officer, Transworld Publishers: HBarnes@penguinrandomhouse.co.uk | 020 8231 6730

The Glass House by Eve Chase

Today I’m pleased to be sharing my review again for The Glass House, to celebrate the paperback publication day

Synopsis:

Outside a remote manor house in an idyllic wood, a baby girl is found.

The Harrington family takes her in and disbelief quickly turns to joy. They’re grieving a terrible tragedy of their own and the beautiful baby fills them with hope, lighting up the house’s dark, dusty corners. Desperate not to lose her to the authorities, they keep her secret, suspended in a blissful summer world where normal rules of behaviour – and the law – don’t seem to apply.

But within days a body will lie dead in the grounds. And their dreams of a perfect family will shatter like glass.
Years later, the truth will need to be put back together again, piece by piece . . .

My thoughts:

Thank you to Gaby Young at Micheal Joseph, Penguin Random House for a digital review copy of this book – my thoughts are my own.

Initially I was drawn to the cover design – which fits the book title perfectly. This is a book with a dual timeline – a feature of many historical fiction books at the moment, and this is an excellent example of it being used well.

The 1971 timeline looks at the Harrington family as they leave London to stay at Foxcote Manor in the Forest of Dean. The detailed descriptions of the darkness of the forest by Ruth, leave the reader in no doubt that this not going to be a light hearted and happy summer. Ruth has had a tragic past but had been enjoying her job looking after the Harrington children. However after a tragedy, the family are spending the summer away from home, a summer full of secrets, lies, a foundling and a sudden death. This is told by Ruth and the elder Harrington sibling.

Running alongside, we have the current day story of Sylvie, her mum who is rushed into hospital and her daughter Annie, all of whom have secrets from each other, some of which link back to the summer of 1971.

This is a book to curl up with and enjoy the magic of the storytelling. The darkness of events in 1971 is interspersed with the love Ruth feels for the young children in her care. Ruth has taken her own glass house, a terrarium to Foxcote Manor and this follows through both timelines.

I don’t want to spoil the story by giving any of the details away – this is a story that needs to be read and enjoyed in the order it is written in. As each new secret is revealed, a new mystery is created.

The author, Eve Chase:

Website http://www.evechase.com/


Twitter EvePollyChase

Eve Chase is the author of Black Rabbit Hall and The Wildling Sisters, and the pseudonym of journalist and novelist Polly Williams. She lives in Oxford, England with her husband and three children.

Love Your Life by Sophie Kinsella

Thank you to Becky Short at Transworld Books for this gorgeous proof copy. My thoughts are my own and not influenced by the gift.

Synopsis:

Call Ava romantic, but she thinks love should be found in the real world, not on apps that filter men by height, job, or astrological sign. She believes in feelings, not algorithms. So after a recent breakup and dating app debacle, she decides to put love on hold and escapes to a remote writers’ retreat in coastal Italy. She’s determined to finish writing the novel she’s been fantasizing about, even though it means leaving her close-knit group of friends and her precious dog, Harold, behind.

At the retreat, she’s not allowed to use her real name or reveal any personal information. When the neighboring martial arts retreat is canceled and a few of its attendees join their small writing community, Ava, now going by “Aria,” meets “Dutch,” a man who seems too good to be true. The two embark on a baggage-free, whirlwind love affair, cliff-jumping into gem-colored Mediterranean waters and exploring the splendor of the Italian coast. Things seem to be perfect for Aria and Dutch.

But then their real identities–Ava and Matt–must return to London. As their fantasy starts to fade, they discover just how different their personal worlds are. From food choices to annoying habits to sauna etiquette . . . are they compatible in anything? And then there’s the prickly situation with Matt’s ex-girlfriend, who isn’t too eager to let him go. As one mishap follows another, it seems while they love each other, they just can’t love each other’s lives. Can they reconcile their differences to find one life together? 

My thoughts:

Thank you to Sophie Kinsella for a book full of laugh out loud moments and for making Harold the beagle such an important part of the book.

I’ve read many of Sophie’s books over the past few years, and this was another lovely book to escape into, much needed in the year of a global pandemic and repeated lockdowns.

Ava has a colourful life and is the opposite of Marie Kondo, rescuing unloved items from charity shops whilst Matt has a much more minimalist approach to life and enjoys striking art, such as a hairless wolf. Will the two very different people be able to find a happy balance?

There are lots of fun moments to enjoy, quite a few featuring Harold, but also some more thoughtful moments, looking at how parents may not understand that their children may not want to run the family business and how important friends can be.

This was a book I enjoyed relaxing with and I’m happy to recommend. 2020 has been a strange year and this book allowed me to visit Ava-land and Matt-land.

Author Bio:

Sophie Kinsella has sold over 40 million copies of her books in more than 60 countries, and she has been translated into over 40 languages.

Sophie Kinsella first hit the UK bestseller lists in September 2000 with her first novel in the Shopaholic series – The Secret Dreamworld of a Shopaholic (also published as Confessions of a Shopaholic). The book’s heroine, Becky Bloomwood – a fun and feisty financial journalist who loves shopping but is hopeless with money – captured the hearts of readers worldwide. Becky has since featured in seven further bestselling books, Shopaholic Abroad (also published as Shopaholic Takes Manhattan), Shopaholic Ties the Knot, Shopaholic & Sister, Shopaholic & Baby, Mini Shopaholic, Shopaholic to the Stars and Shopaholic to the Rescue. Becky Bloomwood came to the big screen in 2009 with the hit Disney movie Confessions of a Shopaholic, starring Isla Fisher and Hugh Dancy.

Sophie has also written seven standalone novels which have all been bestsellers in the UK, USA and other countries around the world: Can You Keep A Secret?, The Undomestic Goddess, Remember Me?, Twenties Girl, I’ve Got Your Number, Wedding Night, and My Not So Perfect Life, which was a Goodreads Choice Awards finalist for Best Fiction in 2017. 

In 2014 she published a Young Adult novel Finding Audrey about a teenage girl with social anxiety and her madcap family, and in January 2018, Sophie published her first illustrated book for young readers about the charming adventures of a mother-daughter fairy duo, Mummy Fairy and Me (also published as Fairy Mom and Me).

Because of YOU by Dawn French

Thank you to Sophie Shaw at Michael Joseph, Penguin Random House for granting my wish for a sneak preview of this new book, being published later this week.

Synopsis:

Tick-tock, tick-tock, tick-tock . . . midnight.

The old millennium turns into the new.

In the same hospital, two very different women give birth to two very similar daughters.

Hope leaves with a beautiful baby girl.

Anna leaves with empty arms.

Seventeen years later, the gods who keep watch over broken-hearted mothers wreak mighty revenge, and the truth starts rolling, terrible and deep, toward them all.

The power of mother-love will be tested to its limits.

Perhaps beyond . . .

Because Of You is Dawn French’s stunning new novel, told with her signature humour, warmth and so much love.

My thoughts:

This is the first book I’ve read by Dawn French (although I do have a couple of her previous books on my shelves waiting to be read). I was intrigued to see how this would compare to her comedy writing.

I must admit that I enjoyed reading this story – there is a mixture of tragedy and humour, and the female characters are very strong, especially Hope, Minnie and Anna. We do have to suspend belief slightly with the story – this is a piece of fiction, and not based on a true story. I must admit that I struggled a little with the ending, but that was due to the nature of one of the events, rather than the writing of the actual story.

Anna’s husband, Julius and DI Thripshaw, are both portrayed as having character defects, one narcissistic and one mixing his metaphors. Thankfully, Lee is revealed to be a kind and caring male, as is Isaac.

A solid four star rating from me for this. Thank you again to Michael Joseph for the chance to read this before publication, my thoughts are my own and not influenced by the gift.

Author Bio:

Dawn Roma French is a British actress, writer and comedian. In her career spanning three decades, she has been nominated for six BAFTA Awards and also won a Fellowship BAFTA along with her best friend Jennifer Saunders. She is best-known for starring in and writing her comedy sketch show, French and Saunders, alongside her comedy partner Jennifer Saunders, and for playing the lead role of Geraldine Granger in the sitcom The Vicar of Dibley

Expectation by Anna Hope

I’m happy to be sharing my review for Expectation by Anna Hope today on my blog. Thank you to Alison Barrow of Penguin Random House UK for a copy of the paperback book. My thoughts are my own and not influenced by the gift.

Synopsis:

Hannah, Cate and Lissa are young, vibrant and inseparable. Living on the edge of a common in East London, their shared world is ablaze with art and activism, romance and revelry – and the promise of everything to come. They are electric. They are the best of friends.

Ten years on, they are not where they hoped to be. Amidst flailing careers and faltering marriages, each hungers for what the others have. And each wrestles with the same question: what does it take to lead a meaningful life?

EXPECTATION is a novel of the highs and lows of friendship – how it can dip, dive and rise again. It is also about finding your way: as a mother, a daughter, a wife, a rebel. Most of all, it explores that liminal space between expectation and reality, the place – full of dreams, desires and pain – in which we all live our lives. 

My thoughts:

As a woman, a mother, a daughter and a wife this book certainly did resonate with me. The dreams and aspirations we have as we finish our school exams, leave University, start our first jobs, fall in love, agree to marry someone, and/or conceive a child all change over time – sometimes we achieve our original dream but often we take subtle diversions, which may or may not lead back to the original dream.

In this day of social media, we often see the high points in other peoples lives – we don’t see that the singleton out partying is actually lonely, that the new mother is struggling with sleep deprivation and that the career woman would give it up at the drop of a hat to be a mother. As the saying goes “the grass isn’t always greener on the other side” but still so many of us dream of changing something without realising how lucky we are to have what we already have.

Anna Hope has captured the modern life of many women in the UK perfectly. Her writing brings the characters of Hannah, Cate and Lissa to life. All three have flaws and face challenges, especially as their friendship is challenged by some major challenges and betrayals.

At times the book made me feel uncomfortable, would friends really betray each other in this way. However, the writing made it all too believable. My daughter is almost 15 and developing into a young woman. I will be putting my copy of the book aside for her to read when she becomes a woman and heads out into the world, full of her own hopes and dreams.

Anna Hope:

ANNA HOPE studied at Oxford University and RADA. She is the internationally prizewinning and bestselling author of Wake and The Ballroom. Her contemporary fiction debut, Expectation, explores themes of love, lust, motherhood, and feminism, while asking the greater question of what defines a generation. She lives in Sussex with her husband and young daughter.

The Glass House by Eve Chase #bookreview

Outside a remote manor house in an idyllic wood, a baby girl is found.

The Harrington family takes her in and disbelief quickly turns to joy. They’re grieving a terrible tragedy of their own and the beautiful baby fills them with hope, lighting up the house’s dark, dusty corners. Desperate not to lose her to the authorities, they keep her secret, suspended in a blissful summer world where normal rules of behaviour – and the law – don’t seem to apply.

But within days a body will lie dead in the grounds. And their dreams of a perfect family will shatter like glass.
Years later, the truth will need to be put back together again, piece by piece . . .

My thoughts:

Thank you to Gaby Young at Micheal Joseph, Penguin Random House for a digital review copy of this book – my thoughts are my own. I’m looking forward to joining the blog tour – thank you for inviting me.

Initially I was drawn to the cover design – which fits the book title perfectly. This is a book with a dual timeline – a feature of many historical fiction books at the moment, and this is an excellent example of it being used well.

The 1971 timeline looks at the Harrington family as they leave London to stay at Foxcote Manor in the Forest of Dean. The detailed descriptions of the darkness of the forest by Ruth, leave the reader in no doubt that this not going to be a light hearted and happy summer. Ruth has had a tragic past but had been enjoying her job looking after the Harrington children. However after a tragedy, the family are spending the summer away from home, a summer full of secrets, lies, a foundling and a sudden death.
This is told by Ruth and the elder Harrington sibling.

Running alongside, we have the current day story of Sylvie, her mum who is rushed into hospital and her daughter Annie, all of whom have secrets from each other, some of which link back to the summer of 1971.

This is a book to curl up with and enjoy the magic of the storytelling. The darkness of events in 1971 is interspersed with the love Ruth feels for the young children in her care. Ruth has taken her own glass house, a terrarium to Foxcote Manor and this follows through both timelines.

I don’t want to spoil the story by giving any of the details away – this is a story that needs to be read and enjoyed in the order it is written in. As each new secret is revealed, a new mystery is created.

The author, Eve Chase:

Website http://www.evechase.com/


Twitter EvePollyChase

Eve Chase is the author of Black Rabbit Hall and The Wildling Sisters, and the pseudonym of journalist and novelist Polly Williams. She lives in Oxford, England with her husband and three children.