Sunday, 13 August 2017

The Illusionists by Rosie Thomas


From Goodreads

London, 1885.
As a turbulent and change-filled century draws to a close, there has never been a better time to alter your fortune. But for a beautiful young woman of limited means, Eliza’s choices appear to lie between the stifling domesticity of marriage or a downwards spiral to the streets – no matter how determined she is to forge her own path.

One night at a run-down theatre, she meets the charismatic Devil Wix – showman, master of illusion, fickle friend. Drawn into his circle, Eliza becomes the catalyst of change for his colleagues – a dwarf, an eccentric engineer, and an artist – as well as Devil himself. And as Eliza embarks on a dangerous adventure, she must decide which path to choose, and how far she should go when she holds all their lives in her hands.

My thoughts

I gave this 3.5 stars or 7/10.

Whilst I did enjoy this bittersweet story, I felt it wasn't one of the best that I've read by her. You really do need to check out this authors back catalogue as she has written some amazing stories that have stayed with me.

This is a gothic tale, that I found to be a slow burner about Eliza and how she becomes the linchpin to how this story evolves ~ she is drawn in by the enigmatic Illusionist Devil Wix and his performing friends. She appears to have them all eating out of the palm of her hand, but as her future becomes uncertain who will become her saviour. The story is mainly set around a theatre where they all perform their different acts. With lots of infighting between one another as to whose performances bring in the biggest audiences, Devil wields his cunning and soon manipulates things in his favour.

Sad to say I found this a little over long and lacking, I found myself with my mind wandering at times yet I still was invested in the story enough to find out how everything panned out.

Where the Bodies are Buried (Sharp Investigations #1) by Chris Brookmyre


From Goodreads

Detective Catherine McLeod was always taught that in Glasgow, they don't do whodunit. They do score-settling. They do vendettas. They do petty revenge. They do can't-miss-whodunit. It's a lesson that has served her well, but Glasgow is also a dangerous place to make assumptions. Either way she looks at it, she recognises that the discovery of a dead drug-dealer in a back alley is merely a portent of further deaths to come.

Elsewhere in the city, aspiring actress Jasmine Sharp is reluctantly - and incompetently - earning a crust working for her uncle Jim's private investigation business. When Jim goes missing, Jasmine has to take on the investigator mantle for real, and her only lead points to Glen Fallan, a gangland enforcer and professional assassin whose reputation is rendered only slightly less terrifying by having been dead for twenty years. Cautiously tracing an accomplished killer's footsteps, Jasmine stumbles into a web of corruption and decades-hidden secrets that could tear apart an entire police force - if she can stay alive long enough to tell the tale.

My thoughts

I gave this a 4 stars or 8/10. Chris Brookmyre has written many books, but I have to admit that this is the first one that I've read by him and where better to start than at the beginning of a series.

Jasmine Sharp, wants to be an actress. However, short of acting work she finds herself working for her Uncle Jim, who runs a private investigation business. Detective McLeod is investigating the death of a drug dealer are the two at all linked?

As Jasmine finds her Uncle missing she sets off on a journey to discover what has happened to him. As the future soon begins to collide with the past and secrets that had been buried are unearthed, Jasmine learns things about her past that she didn't know.

The book features both the police investigation and Jasmine's own investigation and at times feels a little disjointed. However, it did keep me reading and I found it a relatively easy read even with all the local dialect thrown in.

I read this as part of my local Library reading group reads and I will be reading more in this series.

Friday, 11 August 2017

The Art of Hiding by Amanda Prowse


From Goodreads

What would you do if you learned that the life you lived was a lie?

Nina McCarrick lives the perfect life, until her husband, Finn, is killed in a car accident and everything Nina thought she could rely on unravels.

Alone, bereft and faced with a mountain of debt, Nina quickly loses her life of luxury and she begins to question whether she ever really knew the man she married. Forced to move out of her family home, Nina returns to the rundown Southampton council estate—and the sister—she thought she had left far behind.

But Nina can’t let herself be overwhelmed—her boys need her. To save them, and herself, she will have to do what her husband discouraged for so long: pursue a career of her own. Torn between the life she thought she knew and the reality she now faces, Nina finally must learn what it means to take control of her life.

Bestselling author Amanda Prowse once again plumbs the depths of human experience in this stirring and empowering tale of one woman’s loss and love.

My thoughts

My thanks to the Publishers and NetGalley for the opportunity to read this in exchange for an honest review. I gave this a 4 star or 8/10.

This story relates the life of Nina and her two sons following the death of her husband, their father who was killed in a car accident. As Nina's life unfurls in front of her eyes, she begins to realise that she had been living her life as a lie. Nina needs to become the strong one in the family know, the person to hold the family, what's left of it as a unit.

I do not want to say too much about the book as I don't want to spoil it for others. As I was reading the book I was ambivalent about it, it was similar in lots of ways to others that I've read in the past not in content as such, but it wasn't completely gripping me. However, as I neared the end events began to happen that piqued my interest and I found that I didn't want to put it down as it had drawn me in.

I would recommend reading this story with tissues to hand as you might need them. I found myself sat on a local supermarket car park crying as I read to the end of the story. I then felt the need later that night to tweet @MrsAmandaProwse to let her know that I hated her for making me cry!!

Overall this was a bittersweet tale, that will make you wonder what you'd do if you found yourself in Nina's shoes. Don't get me wrong at times I felt like slapping her for the way she'd acted while her husband was still alive. If you like thought provoking contemporary reads then this is the book for you.

Feel free to tweet Amanda Prowse if you hate her too for making you cry. :-)

Thursday, 10 August 2017

31 Days of Wonder by Tom Winter


From Goodreads

'And in that instant, he knows in his heart that today is a momentous day; come what may, he and Alice will meet again, and life will never be the same.'  

Alice is stuck in an internship she loathes and a body she is forever trying to change.

Ben, also in his early twenties, is still trying to find his place in the world.

By chance they meet one day in a London park.

Day 1
Ben spots Alice sitting on a bench and feels compelled to speak to her. To his surprise, their connection is instant. But before numbers are exchanged, Alice is whisked off by her demanding boss.

20 minutes later
Alone in her office toilets, Alice looks at herself in the mirror and desperately searches for the beauty Ben could see in her.

Meanwhile, having misunderstood a parting remark, Ben is already planning a trip to Glasgow where he believes Alice lives, not realising that they actually live barely ten miles apart.

Over the next 31 days, Alice and Ben will discover that even if they never manage to find each other again, they have sparked a change in each other that will last a lifetime. In 31 Days of Wonder, Tom Winter shows us the magic of chance encounters and how one brief moment on a Thursday afternoon can change the rest of your life.

My thoughts

My thanks to Corsair Books via NetGalley for the opportunity to read this in exchange for an honest review. I gave this a 3.5 stars or 7/10 depending on which rating you prefer.

This is the tale of Ben and Alice who meet on a bench in a park one day. Told in 31 chapters which mimic a 31 day period that could be a calendar month or just 31 consecutive days. This story is quite a quirky read that would make a fab reading group read.

Both Ben and Alice have issues. Ben has health issues that aren't that apparent at first, but is one of the reasons that it took me awhile to settle into the story as I found it quite hard to tell what was going on with him. I read a review that basically told me what his problem was, this did help me understand him a little more. However, it did spoil it for me a little bit too. Alice has body issues that she has to come to terms with, none of us will admit that our body is perfect and I am sure that all of us will be able to relate to Alice.

As Ben and Alice both go on their separate journeys, we learn so much about both of them and they both learn so much about themselves.

Wednesday, 26 July 2017

First a Dream (Dreams Come True, #1) by Nicole Andrews Moore and Emma Nichols


From Goodreads

Her life had never been a fairy tale. Adopted at birth, Isabella never felt like she fit in. All she ever wanted was a happy family and a love of her own. When she suddenly became a single mother of two, her life changed for the worst until she ran into a handsome stranger.

A billionaire playboy, Gabriel had lived a charmed life. Never one to settle down, he didn’t understand why he was drawn to this woman he knew his father would never accept. Still, one date leads to another and suddenly he had the life he never knew he always wanted. 

Together, their life was perfect, until the lies were exposed. Then, their happily ever after couldn’t be further away.

My thoughts

I got this as a freebie via BookBub through Amazon, it was part of the Boxed set (Dreams Come True #1~#3). However, I'm reviewing them as separate books. I gave this a 2 stars or 4/10.

This was a very gentle romance that centred on Isabella, a mother of two young children and Gabriel a wealthy businessman. Whilst, a lot happens within a short period of time the relationship between the two main characters seemed a little too good to be true. The story in general lacked a little depth to be honest and the character development was rather rushed.

Saying that though, the story is pure escapism as it doesn't take much in the way of concentration. Although, I did have one niggle chapter 18 and 19 appear to be the wrong way round in my opinion. I would've contacted the publisher but I couldn't see who that was, so I've tweeted Nicole Andrews Moore about it, as she appears to be the Author although Emma Nichols is also credited.

This is the first in a trilogy, I feel that it could be read as standalone as the other feature other main characters with some characters in common in all three stories.

Saturday, 15 July 2017

We are all Made of Glue by Marina Lewycka

From Goodreads

Georgie Sinclair's life is coming unstuck. Her husband's left her. Her son's obsessed with the End of the World. And now her elderly neighbour Mrs Shapiro has decided they are related.

Or so the hospital informs her when Mrs Shapiro has an accident and names Georgie next of kin. This, however, is not a case of a quick ward visit: Mrs Shapiro has a large rickety house full of stinky cats that needs looking after and that a pair of estate agents seem intent on swindling from her. Plus there are the 'Uselesses' trying to repair it (uselessly). Then there's the social worker who wants to put her in a nursing home. Not to mention some letters that point to a mysterious, painful past.

As Georgie tries her best to put Mrs Shapiro's life back together, somehow she must stop her own from falling apart.

My thoughts

I gave this an 8/10 or 4 stars. I've read several books by Marina Lewycka and she has the ability to pull together a story that has humour at it's heart. It's a thought provoking read though and perfect for reading groups with so many things that can be discussed.

I loved the relationship that developed between Georgie and her newly found relative Mrs Shapiro. The relationship between them both was hilarious at times. Tasked with looking after the Mrs Shapiro's house, Georgie is keen to find out more about her elderly neighbour. In doing so, she opens a can of worms in some respects and not all is as it at first seems.

Two particular observations by Marina Lewycka made me smile and both were aimed at men ~

'The B & Q store was tattier than the one at Tottenham and almost empty, silent with a hush of reverence - like a temple, I thought, dedicated to some male peculiar cult.' We always said that B & Q was my brothers church on a Sunday as he never seemed to be away from it.

'Have you ever noticed the similarity between BBQ and B & Q? My theory is that that's why men feel the urge to take over cooking on these occasions.' She's probably right you know, as men do seem keener to cook when it's a BBQ rather than a normal night's tea.

Marina Lewycka certainly has a knack of making great observations and weaving them into a great story.

Friday, 14 July 2017

One Christmas in Paris by Mandy Baggot


From Goodreads

They say Paris is the City of Love, so bring your je ne sais quoi and don’t forget the mistletoe!

Ava and her best friend Debs arrive in Paris just as the snow starts to fall. The Eiffel Tower glitters gold and the scent of spiced wine is all around, but all Ava can think about is Leo, her no-good, cheating ex.

Debs is on a mission to make Ava smile again, and as they tour the Christmas markets, watch lamplight glittering on the river Seine, and eat their body weight in pain-au-chocolat, Ava remembers there’s more to life than men ... Until they cross paths with handsome, mysterious photographer Julien with his French accent and hazelnut eyes that seem to see right inside her.

Ava can’t ignore the intense chemistry between them, but her fingers have been burned before and she can’t forget it, especially when her ex, Leo, starts texting again. Can Ava really trust Julien – and what exactly is his secret?

Will Ava go home with a broken heart, or will she find true love amongst the cobbled streets of Paris?

Join Ava and Julien in the most romantic city in the world this Christmas, as they discover the importance of being true to themselves, and learn how to follow their hearts.

One Christmas in Paris
 is a gorgeous, laugh-out-loud romantic comedy – perfect for fans of Jane Costello, Miranda Dickinson and Lucy Diamond.

My thoughts

My thanks to the Publishers and NetGalley for the opportunity to read this in exchange for an honest review.

I gave this feel good romance set in Paris an 8/10 or 4 stars.

I really enjoyed this story and it was pure escapism. It's a long time since I've been to Paris and the story made me feel as if I was there. Mandy Baggot knows how to tell a good story and this was definitely a good story.

Ava and her friend Debs travel to Paris, to have a break. Ava is nursing a broken heart and Debs would like to find someone for Ava to take her mind off her ex. To find out how successful Debs is, you'll have to read the story.