Book Review: Ten Years by Pernille Hughes

Becca and Charlie have known each other since university.
Becca and Charlies have also hated each other since university.

Until now. Until Ally’s bucket list. The death of their loved one should mean they can go their separate ways and not look back. But completing the list is something neither of them can walk away from.
And sometimes, those who bring out the worst in you, also bring out the very best…
Over the course of ten years, Becca and Charlie’s paths collide as they deal with grief, love and life after Ally.
Not since Emma and Dex in One Day and Will and Lou in Me Before You will you root for a couple as much.

The book starts with Ally dying and her fiancé Charlie, and best friend Becca, being completely devastated. They clearly don’t like each other – and both envisage never seeing each other again after her funeral.

However Ally – assisted by her Mum – had other plans! Ally has a bucket list of things she wanted to do – and she has tasked Becca and Charlie with doing these things. Their love for Ally – despite their loathing of each other – means they agree to do the tasks around the anniversary of Ally’s death.

I have to say, you can probably guess how this is going to end after the decade of tasks – but it isn’t a straightforward rom com. There are plenty of twists and turns along the way – both in what is happening in the present day – but also in unravelling the past too.

The tasks are all different – so give lots of varied settings for the plot to develop.

Whilst Becca and Charlie both have their character flaws – fundamentally you are rooting for them both.

I really enjoyed this book – and devoured it really quickly – and would definitely recommend it.

Thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for my advance review copy in exchange for an honest review.

Book Review: The Retreat by Sarah Pearse

I was offered an advance review copy of The Retreat by NetGalley – and having really enjoyed her previous book, The Sanatorium, I jumped at the chance. I hadn’t realised at that point that it’s the next book in a series featuring DS Elin Warner – so that was a surprise when I started reading.

For those of you who actually read the blurb before picking up a book, here it is:

This is a warning for all our guests at the wellness retreat.
A woman’s body has been found at the bottom of the cliff beneath the yoga pavilion.
We believe her death was a tragic accident, though DS Elin Warner has arrived on the island to investigate.
A storm has been forecast, but do not panic. Stick together and please ignore any rumours you might have heard about the island and its history.
As soon as the weather clears, we will arrange boats to take you back to the mainland.
In the meantime, we hope you enjoy your stay.

As the book starts it is very reminiscent of Sarah Pearse’s previous book – lots of middle class people in a holiday environment, and again there were a lot of names and connections to juggle in your head – but you can’t blame the author for sticking to a format that worked so well with her debut novel which was a Sunday Times best seller!

There is a family and their other halves on holiday at a wellness retreat which is set on an island off the coast of Devon. The island has had a chequered past – but the recently opened wellness retreat is supposed to give it a new lease of life – and has been designed by Elin’s partner – and his sister is the manager. As with The Sanatorium, you kind of have to suspend your disbelief at co-incidences – of which there are very many!

The family have their own history and relationships which all appear quite fractured – I have to say I didn’t particularly like any of them and wasn’t rooting for one person in particular. However the shared dislike didn’t detract from enjoyment of the book.

Overall it twists and turns and is an enjoyable read. Whilst it would stand alone – I would suggest reading the author’s debut novel would mean you understand Elin’s back story a bit better.

The Retreat was published late July 2022 – so if you like the sound of it you can read it right now.

Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for my ARC.

Book Review: One In A Million by Lindsey Kelk

This book has sat on my bedside table for what I thought was months – but upon further investigation was actually years! (I suspected when reading it that it might be – given it’s based around social media but is pre TikTok) However due to a Kindle with no charge, I started reading this one night – and enjoyed it so much it took priority over my Kindle book (which I eventually gave up on altogether). I follow Lindsey on Twitter – and I have a dim recollection she pointed out this was for sale on Amazon for 99p and I actually paid hard cash for it – which is very unlike me when I’m lucky enough to get lots of book freebies!!

Here’s the blurb:

“Everyone wants that special someone….
Annie Higgins has one goal this year: to get her tiny business off the ground. But – infuriated by the advertising agency across the hall making fun of her job – Annie is goaded into accepting their crazy challenge: to make a random stranger Instagram-famous in just thirty days.
And even when they choose Dr Samuel Page PhD, historian and hater of social media, as her target, Annie’s determined to win the bet – whether Sam likes it or not.
But getting to know Sam means getting to know more about herself. And before the thirty days are out, Annie has to make a decision about what’s really important…
Funny, real and heart-meltingly romantic, Annie and Sam’s story is My Fair Lady for the social media age – and the perfect feel-good read.”

I liked Annie from the start – she just seemed a ‘good egg’. The way she fitted into her work life with her work friends, and her family life with her sister and sister’s family – was lovely and completely believable. I particularly loved her relationship with her best friend and business partner Miranda.

The banter with the other people in her building was also really well written, modern and amusing.

There are some excellent twists and turns which make it even more of a page turner – and I loved the fact that it wasn’t a ‘simple’ romance.

A fabulous read – yet again Lindsey Kelk has written a great book. It’s made me want to explore her back catalogue even more. Although it’s also made me realise how quickly a contemporary book can be out of date – as Annie would be all over reels and Tik Tok now!

Book Review: Time After Time by Louise Pentland

I follow Louise on social media – so when I saw she had a new book coming out, I requested a copy from NetGalley. Having just given up on a ‘literary-type’ book as I just couldn’t get into it – I fancied what I suspected to be an easier read – and as this is out on 21 July 2022, it was perfect timing.

Here’s the blurb:

Sometimes you have to go back, to move forwards.
Tabby is stuck. She still lives in the small town she grew up in . . . the town she’s barely ever left.
So, when her dad drops a bombshell over their weekly Sunday dinner, Tabby takes a look at her own life. She lives firmly in her comfort zone and doesn’t know how to break out. Sometimes she wishes she could go back and start all over again.
When she meets Bea, a free spirit like no one else she’s ever known with an ‘interesting’ sense of style, Tabby quickly befriends her, recognising in Bea the change she’s been craving. But soon it becomes clear that more has changed than her new friend. Somehow Tabby has been transported back to the 1980s.
With the chance to reinvent herself in another time, will Tabby finally manage to move forward?

I enjoyed this from the start – liking Tabby as a ‘main character’. Her relationship with her parents, best friend (and best friend’s daughter) were all lovely – as was her developing friendship with her new mate Bea. Her crumbling relationship with her boyfriend was less good – but that was kind of the point. David was a dick!

The book runs through the two time lines – the present day, and back in the 1980s. I have to say I guessed some of the twists – but not all of them – so enough to feel smug but still entertained!

I felt like a secret squirrel for recognising that the shop that Tabby works in, ‘Pearls and Doodles’ – is what Louise calls her daughters in real life – gold star to me!! I also thought that Louise would have drawn on her own personal experiences to write some of the emotional scenes – but I can’t explain more without giving away plotlines – and I 100% won’t do that in a review.

The descriptions of the ‘vintage’ clothes – be that 80s or earlier – were great. Equally the night out chapter in the 80s was a reminiscent of my teenage nights out (albeit very early 90s for me!)

Overall it’s a lovely read – perfect for a sun lounger on holiday where you want to be entertained but not too mentally challenged whilst drinking cocktails at the same time.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for my advance review copy.

Book Review: It Was Always You by Emma Cooper

Having very much enjoyed previous books by Emma Cooper, when I saw she had a new one coming out I requested a copy from NetGalley. I’d got my publication dates muddled and didn’t think it was out until September 2022 – but actually the Kindle edition was out on 1 June 2022 – so you can download it now if you like the sound of it!

Here’s the blurb:

“On the last night in October 1999 the clocks went back, and Ella and Will’s love began.
A teenage Ella sat around a bonfire drinking with her future husband and her oldest friend Cole.
As Ella wandered away from the group, she found herself leaning against a derelict
archway before passing out.
The next day, Ella remembered fractured images of a conversation with a woman
in a green coat and red scarf but dismissed it as a drunken dream.
Twenty-three years later, with her marriage to Will in trouble, and Cole spiralling out of
control, Ella opens a gift which turns her life upside down: a green coat and red scarf.
When she looks in the mirror, the woman from the archway is reflected back at her.
As the last Sunday in October arrives, Ella is faced with a choice.
Would she choose a different life, if she could do it again?

The book follows two timelines – ‘then’ in October 1999 and ‘now’ in 2022 (in a world with no Covid, as Emma explains before the book starts).

I adored this book! And devoured it super quickly (have just been a bit remiss in blogging about it – mostly because I don’t want to give away any spoilers!)

The title of the book means you know someone is going to declare undying love – but all the way through you’re not sure who it’s going to be – and if it’s going to be reciprocated.

As with other Emma Cooper books there is an element of mystery – with Ella being hypnotised in an attempt to unlock her memories of October 1999 to see what she could do, and if she could or indeed should, attempt to change history.

I don’t want to give any of the storyline away – especially the last chunk – but it’s totally worth reading!

Many thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for my ARC.

Book Review: Book Lovers by Emily Henry

I’ve really enjoyed Emily Henry‘s previous books – so when I saw she had a new one coming out, I requested a copy from Net Galley. Here’s the blurb:

Nora is a cut-throat literary agent at the top of her game. Her whole life is books.
Charlie is an editor with a gift for creating bestsellers. And he’s Nora’s work nemesis.
Nora has been through enough break-ups to know she’s the one men date before finding their happy-ever-after. To prevent another dating dud, Nora’s sister has persuaded her to swap her city desk for a month’s holiday in Sunshine Falls.
It’s a small town straight out of a romance novel, but instead of meeting sexy lumberjacks, handsome doctors or cute bartenders, Nora keeps bumping into…Charlie.
She’s no heroine. He’s no hero. So can they take a page out of an entirely different book?
Brimming with witty banter, characters you can’t help but fall for and off-the-charts chemistry, BOOK LOVERS is Emily Henry’s best novel yet.”

Yet again I really enjoyed this Emily Henry book.

Nora’s sister – who is called Libby (not many Libby’s in literature – so I was quite chuffed to have a namesake!) – takes Nora away for a month before Libby’s third baby is born. Nora loves romance novels (I was vicariously proud when one of my other favourite authors Mhairi McFarlane was name checked in the book!) and the sisters have a checklist of standard old school romance fodder to complete whilst on their month away together in the countryside.

As with previous books the main characters are based in the book industry – although this time as an agent and an editor rather than as authors – and I liked this variation on a theme. Also as with Beach Read you have to suspend belief a bit at the total coincidence that Nora would bump into her work nemesis, Charlie, whilst miles and miles way from Manhattan.

Sunshine Falls has a large group of ‘supporting cast’ who feature in the book – with some typical caricatures of ‘country life’ in there – but as Nora surmises, the tropes have to come from somewhere!

After their Mum’s death a decade before, the sisters are incredibly close – despite Libby now being married with an ever expanding family – and Nora is clearly still very much governed by her role as eldest sister.

Nora and Charlie’s relationship develops throughout the book – and the banter between them in texts and emails is brilliantly written. Cutting, witty, emotional – and entertaining.

I don’t really want to give too much away of the storyline, as you need to live it with the characters – but I thoroughly enjoyed it and would highly recommend it – and it’s available NOW!

A big thank you to the publishers and Net Galley for my ARC.

Book Review: The Saturday Night Sauvignon Sisterhood by Gill Sims

I’ve adored Gill Sims ‘Why Mummy….’ series, so when I saw she had a new standalone book out, I asked NetGalley for a copy – but there was tumbleweed silence from them. I thought I’d missed the boat – but then on publication date (12 May 2022) they suddenly approved a copy for me – and I’ve devoured it since! Here’s the blurb:

“‘Oh, for f*ck’s sake’ muttered Claire under her breath, as she opened the fridge to see what she could find for a no effort dinner. The children continued to fight behind her. They regarded any form of fish not encased in breadcrumbs as toxic, and were resistant enough to the delicious homemade fishfingers Claire had made for them, insisting they much preferred Captain Birdseye’s version. White wine was starting to look like quite an appealing dinner actually.  Maybe just a small glass.
‘Are you having wine, Mum?  You know you’re not supposed to have wine every night.  We did about alcohol units at school.  That’s quite a big glass of wine, how many units do you think are in it?’
’Bet the bastards didn’t tell you that wine is remarkably good at cancelling out whining though, did they?’ muttered Claire.
Claire’s family has gone nuclear. Her precious moppets keep calling Childline when she feeds them broccoli, she’s utterly Ottolenghied out at weekends, and her darling husband is having an affair with her best friend.
The question isn’t whether she needs a glass of wine, but is there one big enough?
Enter the Sauvignon Sisterhood, a new set of friends brought together by a shared love of liquid therapy. Together they might just be able to convince Claire that, like a good bottle of red, life really can get better with age. Or at least there’s more to it than the joy of an M&S non-iron school uniform.”

Yet again – I loved a Gill Sims book! Not least because of the many excellent characterisation of a real family life. Claire’s kids are in Year 4 and 6 – and with my youngest two in Years 5 and 7, I could totally relate. I loved the fact her kids threatened to call Childline (0800 double 1 double 1 – surely every child of the 80s / 90s can remember that?!) because she tried to feed them broccoli – one of mine once threatened the same when I’d left the lid off the tzatziki so it had a crust on the top #firstworldproblems

The book follows the implosion of Claire’s marriage – and her relationship with her best mate – as the ‘best mate’ and Claire’s husband have an affair. It then looks at Claire putting her life back together again, and gaining a new circle of friends – who are christened, right at the end of the book, The Saturday Night Sauvignon Sisterhood. As well as the new female friends – there are a couple of new love interests – one male and one canine.

As usual with a Gill Sims book the characterisations are great – and the true to life experiences of parenthood are spot on. It does feel like it ‘borrows’ from the ‘Why Mummy’ series in places – for example the ladies go to watch a poet perform, who could very easily have been Ellen’s sister in law from the previous series of books – but, I guess if a formula works, stick with it. (I’m now wondering if it is a cross over – now that would be cool!)

The school camping trip was horrific – but you could TOTALLY recognise the different groups of parents from your own playground experiences!!

There are a lot of twists and turns – one of them in particular quite shocking – which I felt really added to the book. Some pretty serious subjects subsequently get discussed.

Overall another fabulous book from Gill Sims which I would thoroughly recommend. And it’s available right now!

P.S. I have tried to edit out exclamation marks from this review as I do tend to use them with abandon – but it sounds like Gill has someone who does that from her own book drafts – so I’m clearly in good company with excessive punctuation usage!!

Book Review: Thrown by Sara Cox

I love Sara Cox and feel like we’ve grown up together – from drinking pints to keep up with the lads in the 90s, through multiple kids in the 2000s – and now settling down with good books. I really enjoyed her autobiography, and when I saw she had her first fiction book out, I asked Net Galley for a copy and was lucky enough to receive one. Here’s the blurb:

The wise and gloriously big-hearted debut novel from the much-loved broadcaster, Sara Cox
Becky: a single mum who prides herself on her independence. She knows from painful experience that men are trouble.
Louise: a loving husband, gorgeous kids. She ought to feel more grateful.
Jameela: all she’s ever done is work hard, and try her best. Why won’t life give her the one thing she really wants?
Sheila: the nest is empty, she dreams of escaping to the sun, but her husband seems so distracted.
The inhabitants of the Inventor’s Housing Estate keep themselves to themselves. There are the friendly ‘Hellos’ when commutes coincide and the odd cheeky eye roll when the wine bottles clank in number 7’s wheelie bin, but it’s not exactly Ramsay Street.
The dilapidated community centre is no longer the beating heart of the estate that Becky remembers from her childhood. So the new pottery class she’s helped set up feels like a fresh start. And not just for her.
The assorted neighbours come together to try out a new skill, under the watchful eye of their charismatic teacher, Sasha. And as the soft unremarkable lumps of clay are hesitantly, lovingly moulded into delicate vases and majestic pots, so too are the lives of four women. Concealed passions and heartaches are uncovered, relationships shattered and formed, and the possibility for transformation is revealed.”

This feels like a soap opera or a TV drama straight away. Four different women who live near each other but don’t really know each other – and how their lives intertwine, primarily around a new pottery class at their local community centre.

Each of the main characters has issues going on behind closed doors – and you get involved in all of their lives. I liked them all in their own ways – although Becky was my favourite.

I’ve never watched ‘The Great Pottery Throw Down’ – but it would appear Sara has learnt lots about potting from presenting it – and that threads through the book.

There are some gentle twists and turns – but I have to say I guessed some of the ‘shocks’ – and there were no OMG moments for me. It was a lovely, gentle, comfortable read and I did enjoy it. But I do wonder if it would have been published if it didn’t have a celebrity author?

Thanks to Net Galley and the publisher for my ARC – and it’s out now if you fancy some pottery based escapism.

Book Review: London, With Love by Sarra Manning

I have often taken book reading advice from Sarra Manning from her column in Red Magazine – and enjoy following her on Twitter – so when I saw she had another book out, and having enjoyed one of her previous novels, I asked NetGalley for a copy – and was granted my wish.

Here’s the blurb:

London. Nine million people. Two hundred and seventy tube stations. Every day, thousands of chance encounters, first dates, goodbyes and happy ever afters.
And for twenty years it’s been where one man and one woman can never get their timing right.
Jennifer and Nick meet as teenagers and over the next two decades, they fall in and out of love with each other. Sometimes they start kissing. Sometimes they’re just friends. Sometimes they stop speaking, but they always find their way back to each other.
But after all this time, are they destined to be together or have they finally reached the end of the line?”

Hands up – I ADORED this book! Some of this I’m sure is because I am very similar in age to Jenny and Nick – they were 2 years older than me (I was going to add at the start of the book – but TBH they stayed 2 years older than me throughout the entire book!) The book starts with their paths crossing at 6th form college in the late 1980s – and then spans the decades through to now, meeting them at various points across the 30 years. Generally a TFL station (although occasionally a New York station) features as the backdrop to that chapter.

I know Sarra Manning loves London (if you follow her on Twitter you can be pointed in the direction of some fabulous Rightmove finds in North London that she would purchase if she won the lottery!) and London is most definitely an extra character in the book – which Jenny loves with a similar intensity.

Lots of ‘major events’ in my lifetime are used as the back drop to new chapters – I blogged about a couple back in the day myself – and other times like GCSE results day and the new Millenium which I also remember really clearly. Weirdly something else I’ve blogged about – remembering your friend’s childhood phone number, and how parents answer the phone, also features! I told you I loved this book because I could empathise so much.

The story of Jenny and Nick twists and turns, with supporting characters appearing and disappearing throughout – just as happens in real life, and I don’t want to give too much away – as you need to go on their journey (see what I did there?!) with them.

I have to say that the final chapter – set in the present day – made me WEEP. I don’t think, as yet, many books have addressed the pandemic and what we’ve all been through in the last 2 years, and this was done brilliantly and felt very ‘real’.

I would highly recommend ‘London, With Love’ to everyone – and it’s out later this week on 5 May 2022.

A huge thank you to NetGalley, the publisher – and Sarra Manning – for such a fantastic book.

Book Review: With This Kiss by Carrie Hope Fletcher

I’d heard of Carrie Hope Fletcher – as Tom from McFly’s sister! We then saw her in the title role of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s new musical – Cinderella – and she, and the show, were brilliant – and I started following her on social media. When she posted she had a new book coming out, I saw if I could get an advance review copy on NetGalley – and I could! Here’s the blurb:

If you knew how your love story ends, would you dare to begin?
From the outside, Lorelai is an ordinary young woman with a normal life. She loves reading, she works at the local cinema and she adores living with her best friend. But she carries a painful burden, something she’s kept hidden for years; whenever she kisses someone on the lips, she sees how they are going to die.
Lorelai has never known if she’s seeing what was always meant to be, or if her kiss is the thing that decides their destiny. And so, she hasn’t kissed anyone since she was eighteen.
Then she meets Grayson. Sweet, clever, funny Grayson. And for the first time in years she yearns for a man’s kiss. But she can’t…or can she? And if she does, should she try to intervene and change what she sees?
Spellbinding, magical and utterly original, With This Kiss is one love story you will never forget.

I liked Lorelai and her flatmate Joanie (who I pictured wearing Joanie Clothing at all times!) from the start – and the premise of the book was different and clever. However, I felt when starting it – and it lasted throughout – that this was aimed at younger readers. I even wondered if it was tagged as ‘Young Adult’ fiction – but it’s not. It’s very safe – there’s no sex, drugs and rock and roll in it – and I’d be happy with my tween kids reading it to be honest.

The relationship between Lorelai and her friends and family are also explored – and change significantly during the book.

It’s a nice book and an easy read, and you’re rooting for Lorelai – but for me it didn’t set the world alight. I think I need something a bit more gritty and ‘grown up’!