The Tuscan Contessa by Dinah Jefferies

I’m pleased to share my review for The Tuscan Contessa by Dinah Jefferies on my book blog today – the ebook is currently 99p on the Kindle. Thank you Penguin Books for a digital review copy via NetGalley – my thoughts are my own and not influenced by the gift.

Synopsis:

In 1940s Tuscany, Contessa Sofia de’ Corsi’s peaceful home in a medieval villa among the olive groves has been upturned by the arrival of German soldiers. She is desperate to help her friends in the village fight back in any way she can, all while keeping her efforts secret from her husband Lorenzo, who fears for their safety.

When Maxine, a no-nonsense Italian-American, arrives in Tuscany to help the resistance, the two women forge an uneasy alliance. Before long they find themselves entangled in a dangerous game with the Nazis, each trying to save the ones they love…

My thoughts:

This is the first Dinah Jefferies novel I’ve read, although I do have a copy of one of her previous books on my Kindle ready to read. I enjoyed listening to Dinah talking to Catherine Isaac recently on a Facebook Live meet the author session about how she researched the story.

This book is so beautifully written that I could imagine myself in Italy watching the story unfold. Sofia, Maxine and the other women in the story are so strong and so determined to believe that the Allies will rescue them from the Germans. I’ve read many books about life in France during the Second World War but this is the first one set in Italy.

Dinah brought the area to life, with vivid descriptions of buildings, food and people. The end of the story, as all the smaller stories are woven together, is a very emotional read – I’m sure I was holding my breath in places and I also had damp eyes a few times during the book.

I’ve enjoyed reading a lot of historical fiction novels recently and this is now one of my favourites.

Dinah Jefferies (from Amazon):

Dinah was born in Malaya in 1948 and moved to England at the age of nine. In 1985, the sudden death of her fourteen year old son changed the course of her life, and deeply influenced her writing. Dinah drew on that experience, and on her own childhood spent in Malaya during the 1950s to write her debut novel, The Separation. 

Now living in Gloucestershire with her husband and their Norfolk terrier, she spends her days writing, with time off with her grandchildren.

The Better Half : On the Genetic Superiority of Women by Sharon Moalem

Today I’m pleased to share a review for a non fiction book on my blog. Thank you to Penguin UK for a digital proof copy via NetGalley – apologies for the delay in reading and reviewing.

Synopsis (from Goodreads) :

An award-winning medic and scientist makes the game-changing case that genetic females are stronger than males at every stage of life

‘A powerful antidote to the myth of a “weaker sex”‘ Gina Rippon, author of The Gendered Brain

Here are some facts: Women live longer than men. They have stronger immune systems. They’re better at fighting cancer and surviving famine, and even see the world in a wider variety of colours. They are simply stronger than men at every stage of life. Why? And why are we taught the opposite?

Drawing on his wide-ranging experience and cutting-edge research, Dr Sharon Moalem set out to understand why men are consistently less likely than women to thrive. The answer, he reveals, lies in our genetics: the female’s double XX chromosomes offer a powerful survival advantage.

Moalem explains why genetic females triumph over males when it comes to resilience, intellect, stamina, immunity and much more. And he calls for a long-overdue reconsideration of our male-centric, one-size-fits-all view of the body and even of how we prescribe medications – a view that still frames women through the lens of men. 

Revolutionary, captivating and utterly persuasive, The Better Half will make you see women, men and the survival of our species anew.

My thoughts:

This book was published back in April 2020 in the UK, at the start of Lockdown. I had a dip in my ability to concentrate and read mostly ‘light fiction’ full of uplifting stories. However, as a female in the middle of a global pandemic, I really should have read this because I now appreciate that my body may be more able to fight Covid-19 than those of the males in our house.

This was an interesting read. Admittedly I didn’t fact check the science but I did understand the majority of it, with my A level science and medical underwriting knowledge. My major concern was discovering that women are much more at risk of autoimmune conditions (a cousin has MS) and that many medicines haven’t been tested on women, so the dosages are based on men..

Definitely worth a read, to see why the X and Y chromosomes mean that we have different health issues and the risks to be aware of.

Author Bio:

Sharon Moalem, MD, PhD, is an award-winning physician-scientist and geneticist. He is the author of the New York Times bestseller Survival of the Sickest and Inheritance, an Amazon Best Science Book of the Year, among other books. His work brings together evolution, genetics, and medicine to revolutionize how we understand and treat disease, and his clinical research led to the discovery of two new rare genetic conditions, and to his discovery of a first-in-class antibiotic which targets ‘superbug’ infections. His books have been translated into more than 35 languages.

Queen Bee by Jane Fallon


I’m pleased to share my review of the latest book by Jane Fallon today. Thank you to Penguin UK -Michael Joseph for a digital review copy via NetGalley, my thoughts are my own and not influenced by the gift. The book was published in the UK on 9th July 2020.

Synopsis:

Welcome to The Close – a beautiful street of mansions, where gorgeous Stella is the indisputable Queen Bee . . .

It is here that Laura, seeking peace and privacy after her marriage falls apart, rents a tiny studio. Unfortunately, her arrival upsets suspicious Stella – who fears Laura has designs on her fiancé, Al.

When Laura stumbles on the big secret Al is hiding, suddenly Stella’s perfectly controlled world, not to mention Laura’s future, are threatened.

Taking a chance on beating Al at his own twisted game, these two former strangers are fast becoming best friends.

But has Laura forgotten that revenge never comes without a sting in the tail?

My thoughts:


I’ve read a few Jane Fallon novels over the years and enjoyed them, so I was pleased to receive a digital review copy back in January 2020. As lockdown hit the UK in March, the publication date was moved to July 2020 and I only read the book in June. Sadly, this was my loss as this is an enjoyable book.

This is a no spoiler review so I will be careful not to spoil any of the surprises in store for the characters. Laura has moved into The Close, a ‘posh’ area after splitting up with her husband and needing somewhere to rent – she is in the ‘servants flat’ owned by Gail and Ben. Laura is an entrepreneur – running her own cleaning company and employing a number of staff. The people she meets in The Close lead very different lifestyles and probably wouldn’t know what a vacuum cleaner was.

One of the residents is Stella, who with her two mini me daughters, aren’t nice to Laura and her daughter. However due to a series of events, Laura and Stella suddenly find that they have more in common than they ever expected.

I really enjoyed the book and likened it to a modern day Downton Abbey – where the ‘rich’ people have no idea how the majority of people live – everything is done for them. I laughed out loud at the ‘pizza in the oven’ story.

The Close is full of secrets and I enjoyed how Jane Fallon shared them one by one, changing your opinion about some of the characters as the story unfolded. There is so much more that I would love to share about the book but I don’t want to give any spoilers. I recommend this for your staycation 2020 summer read.

Jane Fallon:

Jane Fallon is an English producer and novelist, most famous for her work on popular series Teachers, 20 Things To Do Before You’re 30, Eastenders and This Life. She has also written many successful novels.

Fallon has been in a relationship with popular comedian Ricky Gervais since 1982, after they met while studying together at the University College London. The couple has lived together since 1984 and are based in North London.


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How to Disappear by Gillian McAllister

I’m thrilled to share my review for this page turner of a book by a new author to me, Gillian McAllister. Thank you to Penguin Books – Micheal Joseph for a digital review copy via Net Galley – my thoughts are my own and not influenced by the gift.

Synopsis:

You can run, you can hide, but can you disappear for good?

Lauren’s daughter Zara witnessed a terrible crime. But speaking up comes with a price, and when Zara’s identity is revealed online, it puts a target on her back.

The only choice is to disappear.

From their family, their friends, even from Lauren’s husband.

No goodbyes. Just new names, new home, new lives.

One mistake – a text, an Instagram like – could bring their old lives crashing into the new.

As Lauren will learn, disappearing is easy.

Staying hidden is much harder . . .

My thoughts:

Over the years, I’ve watched many TV shows and films where people disappear into witness protection without really thinking about the implications of how this works. This book made me sit back and think about what the reality would be like.

The story starts with the death of a young homeless man and one witness. As the story develops, we discover that Zara hadn’t been totally honest about what she witnessed and now a gang are out to silence her for ruining the life of a young and talented footballer.

The story looks at Zara’s relationship with her mum, her step dad and step sister, and how all four of them will deal with the life changes and dangers they face.

This is a no spoiler review so I will say no more about the story except to say it is excellent. This was a book I didn’t want to put down (always the sign of a good thriller) and wanted to discuss with my family. This is well written, full of tension and intrigue, where no one actually appears to know the full truth. One of my favourite thrillers of 2020 (a 5 star read) and I will be busy recommending this book (and looking to read Gillian’s previous books).

Gillian McAllister:

Gillian McAllister is the Sunday Times Top 10 bestselling author of Everything But The Truth, Anything You Do Say, No Further Questions and The Evidence Against You. 

How To Disappear is her latest release, a witness protection thriller. 

All of her novels are standalone and can be read in any order. She is published in ten countries around the world. The Good Sister is her US debut, released by Penguin USA, and is the American title for No Further Questions. The Choice is her second American release which is the US title for Anything You Do Say. 

You can find her on Twitter and Instagram @gillianmauthor. She also blogs at http://www.gillianmcallister.com.

Beach Read by Emily Henry

I’m pleased to share my review for the latest book by Emily Henry on my book review blog today. Thank you to Penguin Books UK for a digital review copy via NetGalley – my thoughts are my own and not influenced by the gift.

Synopsis:

January is a hopeless romantic who likes narrating her life as if she’s the heroine in a blockbuster movie.
Augustus is a serious literary type who thinks true love is a fairy-tale.
January and Augustus are not going to get on.

But they actually have more in common than you’d think:

They’re both broke.
They’ve got crippling writer’s block.
They need to write bestsellers before the end of the summer.

The result? A bet to see who can get their book published first.
The catch? They have to swap genres.
The risk? In telling each other’s stories, their worlds might be changed entirely..

My thoughts:

This book was actually very different to how I expected it to be – not as ‘light and fluffy’ as the title suggests. Instead I enjoyed meeting two writers dealing with hefty amounts of emotional baggage who had known (and kissed) each other during college and who are now neighbours overlooking a beach.

The story starts as we meet January, Gus, and Pete and slowly start to find out more about January and Gus. I enjoyed how the story evolved, as we found out what had happened in the past and how that had led them both to be living next to the beach, struggling to write their next books.

This is a book that looks at how our families shape us and how we love others, and how everyone has a different background story (including the families who lost family members to cults). There is sadness and humour, anger and love in this story. I enjoyed the book and will be recommending it to friends.

Emily Henry:

Emily Henry writes stories about love and family for both teens and adults. She studied creative writing at Hope College and the now-defunct New York Center for Art & Media Studies.

Find her on Instagram @EmilyHenryWrites. 

#BookReview The Heatwave by Kate Riordan

Under the scorching French sun, a tense homecoming unearths a long-buried family secret in this deliciously propulsive beach read of a mother’s greatest fear brought to life. 

Elodie was beautiful. Elodie was smart. Elodie was manipulative. Elodie is dead. 

When Sylvie Durand receives a letter calling her back to her crumbling family home in the South of France, she knows she has to go. In the middle of a sweltering 1990’s summer marked by unusual fires across the countryside, she returns to La Reverie with her youngest daughter Emma in tow, ignoring the deep sense of dread she feels for this place she’s long tried to forget.

As memories of the events that shattered their family a decade earlier threaten to come to the surface, Sylvie struggles to shield Emma from the truth of what really happened all those years ago. In every corner of the house, Sylvie can’t escape the specter of Elodie, her first child. Elodie, born amid the ’68 Paris riots with one blue eye and one brown, and mysteriously dead by fourteen. Elodie, who reminded the small village of one those Manson girls. Elodie who knew exactly how to get what she wanted. As the fires creep towards the villa, it’s clear to Sylvie that something isn’t quite right at La Reverie… And there is a much greater threat closer to home.

My thoughts:


Thank you to Michael Joseph and Penguin UK for a digital review copy – my thoughts are my own.

This is my second visit to Provence, France via a book in the past 6 weeks. My last visit involved fields of lavender and new friendships in Summer in Provence by Lucy Coleman. Kate Riordan transported me to a very different Provence, full of secrets, mother/daughter relationships, heat and forest fires.

This was a book I didn’t want to put down. So many secrets slowly being fed to the reader about Sylvie, her dead daughter Elodie and why the younger daughter Emma hadn’t been told the full story about her older sister.

Sylvie and her family have stayed away from the house for 10 years since there was an incident. Now Sylvie and Emma return, and slowly the story is fed to the reader, with lots of twists and turns along the way. The story moves backwards and forwards in time throughout the book and we start to see how the past impacts the actions and events happening now.

The end of the book is fast and tense – I’m sure I was holding my breath whilst reading. It is difficult to say much more without giving spoilers. I thoroughly enjoyed the book and didn’t want it to end.

Being published in ebook 23rd April 2020.



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#BookReview Saturdays at Noon by Rachel Marks – a five star read

Emily just wants to keep the world away.
She doesn’t want anyone to know all the ways her life is messed up.
Going to anger management every Saturday, talking to strangers, was not part of the plan.

Jake just wants to keep his family together.
He’s also messed everything up.
Going to anger management is now his best hope for bonding with his six-year-old Alfie.

Emily can’t understand why Jake – who seems to have it all – is even there.
Jake can’t understand why Alfie – who never likes strangers – lights up around spikey Emily.

Everything they think about each other is about to change.
But can they change how they feel about themselves? 

My thoughts:

The first time I saw this book advertised was at the Waterstones in Cirencester – an author event at the start of 2020 (I believe) which I was unable to attend.

After seeing great reviews, I treated myself to an ebook copy and settled down to read this during the Easter holiday.

Loved the opening – the is the first time I’ve seen a book start in a weekly anger management class. Jake, Emily and Alfie are great characters but Rachel Marks brings all the characters to life so well. I loved the small details included about how to help Alfie achieve happiness and contentedness. Having worked with children over the past 17 years, they all need to be treated as individuals and to be listened to.

This is a book I struggled to put down, wanting to know what what was going to happen next and I devoured it in a day. Well written and thought provoking, covering some difficult issues but also providing some laugh out loud moments too. Definitely a 5 star read for me.

Grown Ups by Marian Keyes – 5* review – Publication day 6/2/20

Grown-Ups

Grown-Ups by Marian Keyes

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The blurb:

They’re a glamorous family, the Caseys.

Johnny Casey, his two brothers Ed and Liam, their beautiful, talented wives and all their kids spend a lot of time together – birthday parties, anniversary celebrations, weekends away. And they’re a happy family. Johnny’s wife, Jessie – who has the most money – insists on it.

Under the surface, though, conditions are murkier. While some people clash, other people like each other far too much . . .

Everything stays under control until Ed’s wife Cara, gets concussion and can’t keep her thoughts to herself. One careless remark at Johnny’s birthday party, with the entire family present, starts Cara spilling out all their secrets.

In the subsequent unravelling, every one of the adults finds themselves wondering if it’s time – finally – to grow up?

My thoughts:

Wow, just wow – this book was one of my favourite reads of 2019. It was meant to be read at the start of 2020 because I had other books to read and review first – however once I had read the opening chapters, I couldn’t put this down.

It is a long book, with lots of great characters from the Casey family, which goes backwards and forwards in time and it definitely isn’t a light and fluffy read, covering topics such as eating disorders, death of a spouse, teenage angst. However I found myself struggling to put this down, I was so eager to know what was going to happen next.

The main female characters, Jessie, Cara and Nell faced numerous challenges and I would like to thank Marian Keyes for such wonderful storytelling. I will be recommending this book to friends and family.

Thank you to NetGalley and Penguin UK – Michael Joseph for my digital review copy – my thoughts are my own.

The author:

Marian Keyes (born 10 September 1963) is an Irish novelist and non-fiction writer, best known for her work in women’s literature. She is an Irish Book Awards winner. Over 22 million copies of her novels have been sold worldwide and her books have been translated into 32 languages. She became known worldwide for WatermelonLucy Sullivan is Getting Married, and This Charming Man, with themes including domestic violence and alcoholism.

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One Winter Morning by Isabelle Broom (Paperback publication date 17/10/19)

One Winter Morning

One Winter Morning by Isabelle Broom

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

On a winter morning she lost a piece of her heart. Can she find it?

Evangeline isn’t feeling festive this December.

The frost and fairy lights only remind her it’s been a year since she lost the mother who took her in as a baby and raised her.

She’s never felt more alone – until she discovers her birth mother’s identity. And where to find her.

A lifetime and thousands of miles have separated Evangeline and Bonnie. Now, travelling to New Zealand could be Evangeline’s chance to confront the woman who gave her up.

But is she ready for what she’ll find there?

The answers she’s been looking for, a new family to heal her . . . Or someone she could never have expected?

My thoughts:

A beautiful cover for an emotional story following the life of Evangeline (aka Genie), her birth parents and her adoptive parents.

This book covers a wide variety of topics – from heart breaking tragedy to comical moments, with friendships, relationships, family drama, animals and a sales pitch for the New Zealand tourist board. As some one who hates to fly, even I found myself dreaming about visiting New Zealand after the gorgeous descriptions in this book.

Thank you to Isabelle Broom for this great story – I will be recommending it to friends and family.

Thank you to NetGalley and Penguin Books for a digital ARC in return for my review – all my thoughts are my own.



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