Review: The Last Piece of my Heart by Paige Toon

last pieceWhat I thought:

I have long been a fan of Paige Toon’s books. She is one of those authors whose books you just know you will love; a go-to author. Women’s Fiction, chick lit, holiday reading, call it what you will – when all said and done, they are feel-good and will melt the hardest of hearts.

What I like about Paige Toon’s books is that characters from previous books quite often pop up (no plot spoilers, usually just a brief mention by way of a call or email but it always puts a smile on my face to hear from them). In The Last Piece of my Heart, Bridget re-locates to Cornwall to ghostwrite a sequel to a best-selling novel, only the widow of the author who wrote the first book is still grieving and not especially pleased to see her. I don’t want to say more than that, as I find that with these books it’s best to get swept up in the unfolding story without knowing which direction it might go in  (I say that because in some of Toon’s books we’re not actually sure who the lead character will end up with).

I do like books like this in between crime and more literary reads – I consider them palate-cleansers, and I don’t mean that to sound in any way derogatory, as some have become firm favourites of mine; a respite or an escape, real comfort reading. What I especially love about Paige Toon’s books, among all of this genre that I enjoy, is that they are probably the books that make me root for the characters the most. We watch them fall slowly for each other and cheer them on towards the hoped-for conclusion.

Verdict:

Another belter. Feel-good, romantic, pure escapism. Big thumbs up.

Have you read any of Paige Toon’s books? Which other authors from this genre would you recommend?

Thank you to Simon & Schuster for my copy of this book in return for my honest review.

The Book Whisperer’s Month in Review – March 2017

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March appears to have been a mixture of Historical and crime fiction for me, with 7 books read in total, and all bar one having been reviewed (the missing one to come shortly). I’ve discovered 5 brand new (to me) authors and out of those 5, four of them were debuts.

I have listed them in order (best first), although I really enjoyed all bar one (of the ones I finished – there are also some that didn’t make the cut because I couldn’t finish them). The stand out books for me this month were Larchfield and Six Stories. Links to full reviews in the book titles.

Larchfield by Polly Clark

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Larchfield was a book I felt I wanted to savour and not attempt to read quickly due to my ever-increasing TBR pile. It was a book I looked forward to getting back to when I wasn’t reading it, not because it was a great thriller or mystery and I needed to know what was happening, but because I was happy in the company of the characters and the gorgeous prose.

Six Stories by Matt Wesolowski

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A great book: original, engaging and written by an author that is one to watch. Highly, highly recommended!

The Girl Before by J P Delaney

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I found this to be a real page-turner and  I thoroughly enjoyed it. The chapters are short, there are unreliable narrators so you’re never really clear on what’s real and what’s not. It was pacy and entertaining and I give it a big thumbs up.

To the Bright Edge of the World by Eowyn Ivey

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I think I wanted to love this book more than I did. And that’s not to say I didn’t enjoy it – I did, very much. Perhaps it was a case of great expectations and it didn’t quite hit the mark. Would I recommend? Yes, I absolutely would.

Fierce Kingdom

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I liked the fact that this isn’t your normal type of thriller and, there were genuine edge-of-your-seat moments that ensure those pages kept turning. And I actually didn’t see the end coming…

The Gustav Sonata by Rose Tremain

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I loved this book and was moved by it, and yet there were parts that left me strangely cold. The boys, as adults, seemed hardly to have matured at all which is a shame and in terms of character development, I didn’t feel there really was any. Or perhaps that was the point? The blurb talks about the book being about friendship but I found it very one-sided, and never really felt the friendship in maybe the way I was intended to. That said, I would still highly recommend this book: Rose Tremain is a fantastic writer.

After the Crash by Michel Bussi

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Review to follow.

The Vanishing by Sophia Tobin

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I am left with a feeling that is somewhere between perplexed, disappointed and scratching my head with incomprehension. Unbelievable motives, unconvincing and clichéd characters and a feeling that I have wasted several hours of my life. Every now and then I would have a moment of hope / joy when I thought the book might just get back on track again but unfortunately those were all too infrequent and brief.

Have you read any of these or are you planning to? I’d love to hear what you think.

Throwback Thursday: Villette by Charlotte Bronte

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Throwback Thursday is a meme created by Renee at It’s Book Talk to share old favourite books rather than just the new shiny ones. This is a great idea to bring back to life some much-loved books. Please feel free to join in.

My choice for this week is:

Villette by Charlotte Brontë

villetteI am a huge fan of all the Brontë sisters and Jane Eyre is actually one of my favourite books of all time. However, I wanted to share one of her lesser known books instead – Villette. Funnily enough when I first picked it up, I reached page 100 and put it down for a while but something kept pulling me back and it ended up being in my Top 20 ever books.

This review is taken from my original review in 2009

What I thought:

Reader, I heart Ms. Brontë! Reading Villette was like reading a huge epic that I was so immersed in that I walked in Lucy Snowe’s shoes, I felt what she felt. How many authors can do that to you?

Lucy Snowe is difficult to get to know at first. In fact, she is difficult to like. This is deliberate; she tells you about other people, what they think, what they feel, but precious little about herself, of whom she appears fiercely private. Only as the story unfolds does she start to let you in – I remember being surprised when she showed such tender, gentle thoughts and actions towards the sick daughter of her employer; that, I believe, was the first glimpse of emotion from Lucy and it really endeared me to her. Lucy Snowe’s name was not an accident – Brontë toyed with Lucy Frost for a while before settling on Snowe. She also allows us to see her as others do: “Crabbed and crusty” said Ginevra, a pupil at the school, and “unfeeling thing that I was” written to her in a letter. The point is, she isn’t unfeeling at all. She is lonely and trying to make her way in an unfamiliar world. Lucy’s past is only hinted at but it appears to have been an unhappy one.

Brontë’s prose is gorgeous, Villette is such a richly embroidered account of a young woman trying to make a life for herself in a foreign country and fighting for independence and friendship. This book isn’t a romance in the same way that Jane Eyre is. I wasn’t sure for a long time who the leading man would be (in fact he doesn’t even appear until the second half of the book). And it isn’t love at first sight, we watch it grow.

I absolutely adored this book and it is now a firm favourtie of mine.  I finally closed the book in a daze. I don’t want to give anything away, but I was not expecting what happened at the end at all. That came completely out of the blue for me.

Go ahead, indulge and enjoy!

Have you read any books by the Brontë’s? Which ones are your favourites?

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Review: A Secret Garden by Katie Fforde

a-secretWhat I thought:

Katie Fforde always comes up trumps. I was first introduced to her books about 10 years ago when I was looking for something heart-warming and escapist and started with Practically Perfect (which included a rescued greyhound called Caroline – and I am a sucker for books with animals in them) and I instantly fell in love with the way the book took me somewhere else entirely. I have since read almost all (with just one or two left for when they might desperately be needed).

A Secret Garden has all the ingredients of Katie Fforde’s books that I love. An unlucky-in-love protagonist (or two) and a dashing, brooding Mr Darcy type. I have to admit, though, that the men in A Secret Garden were not as aloof as most of the male characters start out being; they were nowhere near as grumpy or oblivious to the attentions of the women around them which I found a tad disappointing.

Lorna is a gardener and Philly is a plantswoman and they work in the grounds of a beautiful manor house in the Cotswolds, where both of them come to work on a project that puts them in the path of potential new suitors. There is the supporting cast of quirky characters too, that I have come to expect from Katie Fforde, this time in the form of Philly’s Grandpa and Lady of the house, Anthea who inject some real humour into the book. And what I really love about these books is that everyone seems so frightfully posh (but down to earth so relatable).

Verdict:

Katie Fforde’s books, for me, are like curling up by the fire with a mug of hot chocolate. It’s so easy to slip between the pages to that familiar world of sweet, but not sugary, funny and romantic. A Secret Garden is a real joy to read.

Review: This Love by Dani Atkins

this-loveWhat I thought:

Dani Atkins is one of my author crushes. Of her 5 books, I have read and adored 4 of them (and still have one to read, which makes me happy). In fact, Our Song was in my Top 10 books for 2016. Dani’s books have a reputation for being tear-jerkers and they really are, but in a way that breaks your heart and lifts it up at the same time.

In This Love, Sophie lives a fairly reclusive life, not allowing herself to get close to many people for fear of losing them, thanks to a tragedy in her teens that has never let her go (or rather she has never let go of). One autumn night, a fire breaks out in her apartment and she is helped to safety by a random passer-by, Ben. What results is a friendship that alters the way Sophie looks at life. With a cast of colourful and endearing characters that surround what has become the authors trademark, a story about life and death, this is yet again a wonderful book to get lost in.

I would have loved to have heard more about some of the characters – what happened after Henry wrote the letter after 72 years? what was the reaction of the wife whose husband learned the piano secretly just for her? Did Carla ever get to any of the places on her travel wish-list? These would almost make stories in their own right and I, for one, would love to read them.

Verdict:

As with the previous books, I found This Love to be pure escapism. Real relationships, friendships, love and romance. Never corny, always charming. This book is about letting go, opening up to new experiences, looking forward and learning to live again. If you’ve never read any of Dani Atkins’ books I can highly recommend them. Feel-good reading at its best.

 

 

Review: Sealskin by Su Bristow

SealSkin-Vis-3.jpgWhat I thought:

Have you ever read a book where, when you turn the final page, you are simultaneously enraptured, enchanted and bereft at having to leave the characters right there on the page and carry on without them? This is that book.

Inspired by the legend of Selkies (seals who can transform into people) and set in a small fishing village in Scotland, this is a book about love, redemption and an awakening, all with a sprinkling of magic. Donald is a young man who is always on the outside, preferring his own company to being among those who mock him and one day, while out on the seas, he is involved in something that will change the course of his life forever. The act is shocking and unexpected but it is a talented writer who can lead you gently in Donald’s footsteps as he learns to atone himself and allow the reader to begin to forgive him as he begins to forgive himself.

What did I love most about this book? Everything. Really, just everything. There was almost a childlike wonder to reading this book; a fairytale that bewitched and enchanted. It is the sort of story that I would want someone to read to me while tucked up under a blanket with a hot chocolate. That’s how it made me feel. I miss it now it’s over. I miss them.

Haunting and evocative with such fluid prose, this is a book of beauty and magic. I fell in love: with the landscape, the cast of characters and with the awakening of a whole village. I was there in the pages. I tasted the salt on my lips, I felt the wind whip through my hair, I felt the bitter cold of rain-soaked clothes and I felt the freedom of running through the grass with abandon.

Verdict:

This book is special.  January is not yet over and I already know that Sealskin will be in my Top 10 books for 2017. I will be recommending this book to everyone I know. And I will read it again. And again.

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NB/ Thank you to Orenda Books for a copy of this wonderful book which I chose to read and review honestly.

A Boy Made of Blocks by Keith Stuart

512kltzit-lWhat I thought:

I hadn’t heard of this book until the reveal of Richard and Judy’s new Spring book club reads, but it had some great reviews and sounded like it might be a book I would enjoy.

Alex Rowe is newly estranged from his wife Jody and moves in with his childhood friend, Dan. Alex and Jody had been having problems as they have an autistic son, Sam, who has taken every ounce of their attention since he was born eight years ago. I don’t have children and can only imagine how hard it is to raise them, but autism brings its own set of unique issues that must be incredibly difficult to navigate. Alex had been withdrawing as he didn’t seem to know how to get through to Sam and was living his life walking on egg-shells just waiting for the next outburst that he knew he wouldn’t be able to deal with. The author has a son who is autistic and I would imagine that many of the feelings he describes are ones he’s lived with as it certainly felt very authentic; I held my breath along with Alex on many an occasion worrying that Sam would be upset or overwhelmed by something that he wouldn’t know how to fix.

The book focuses on Alex’s realisation that it is him that needs to change in order to understand his son. He starts to read books but it is the video game of Minecraft that finally begins to break down the barriers between them. It wasn’t plain sailing and the road ahead of them still has to be carefully navigated but they finally start to trust each other.

I don’t know about video games either and there was a lot of Minecraft talk in this book which sometimes resulted in me skimming parts. I guess it was appropriate, however, to the plot as it was the vehicle to their bonding. The strengthening of their relationship unfolded slowly but was a joy to watch.

“”Daddy!”

It’s the sweetest sound, piercing four days of blank grey silence. My son, miles away, but suddenly right here under the same boxy clouds.”

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“I struggle to my feet, taking his hand and walking on, thinking it is all over, this little window of intimacy.

But when we stop at a road, he slips his hand out of mine for a second, then softly pats me on the back.

“My Daddy,” he says.

And the moment is so perfect, I feel the stars will fall upon us.”

Verdict:

I really enjoyed this book. It was simple and sweet and felt genuine. I wasn’t so drawn to some of the other main characters however: Dan never felt fully fleshed out to me and Alex’s sister Emma was a complete enigma (I just couldn’t fathom a strong enough reason she had for not wanting to come home or speak to her mother). The ending, however, was just lovely. Heart-warming and feel-good.