Tuesday, 7 July 2020

The Ringmaster's Daughter by Carly Schabowski

Paris, 1940. The city of lights has gone dark.

Twenty-year-old Michel Bonnet lives on the edge of the law, finding work where he can breaking in horses on the outskirts of Paris. But when the Nazis invade, Michel takes refuge as a stowaway on a rickety train bound for the rural south of France. It’s a journey that will change his life forever.

The train is property of Le Cirque Neumann – a travelling circus owned by the troubled and irritable showman Werner Neumann. Neumann offers Michel a job caring for the company’s horses – a lucky break, but with an unusual condition attached. Michel must keep to himself and never speak of what he sees behind the glittering curtain of the big top.

But as Michel finds himself pulled into the strange and wondrous world of the great spectacular it becomes more difficult to keep his promise. Why does the man with the performing monkey never speak, and the sword swallower turn his face away? Who are the silent, shadowy figures who flit like moths between the wagons when the sun is down? It’s clear that Neumann is keeping his performers hidden away… but why? And how can Michel win the love of the beautiful and exotic trapeze artist Freida – the graceful, green-eyed star of Neuman’s spectacular – when he’s been forbidden to even meet her gaze?

As soon as I see the cover for The Ringmasters Daughter, I was intrigued to read the synopsis as I haven’t read many novels to do with circus folk and after reading the synopsis I was looking forward to what sounded like a spectacular read.

The storyline is set in France beginning in Paris in WW11, our leading character Michel was encouraged by a dear old friend to flee Paris as the Germans began to take over. As Michel tries to keep a hold of his freedom, we watch him on his travels which by chance lead him to a travelling circus. Struggling to find his place amongst the circus folk he wonders if he should leave but there is someone who has captured his heart giving him reason to stay.

I was captivated by this storyline, I found the historical background of the events and effects of WW11 on France interesting and this gave a prefect platform for the storyline and made everything feel a little more realistic. The circus theme is not something I have read about much in books which just made me more inquisitive and eager to learn more of their day to day lives and the circus folks struggles and this is certainly something that comes across in this storyline it shows a how hard life is in the circus.

Michel was a young likeable character who hasn’t had the easiest starts in life but he was such a kind, caring and hard working man who we see grow through this storyline and its not long before I found myself hoping for a happy ending for him. There were a vast and varied amount of supporting characters in this novel all who were well developed and many of whom become friends of Michel’s and showed that in times of hardship community spirit is still strong with people going above and beyond to help and protect in any way they can.

I was entertained all the way through this novel and the gentle romance that is woven through this storyline was beautiful and honest although personally the big surprise to Michel was not a surprise to the reader considering the title!

I would definitely recommend this book and it is one that will stick in my mind thanks to its vast lovable characters and entertaining storyline my only criticism was I found the ending felt really rushed to me. The rest of the storyline flowed at a continual pace and was quite in depth but the ending felt rushed and almost like the author had run out of time, it was clear she knew what the outcome was that she wanted for her characters so it wasn’t that she didn’t know how to end the novel but it was just done in a rushed and brief way which let the novel down a little for me because the ending did reveal something that if told in more depth and feeling could have made this book spectacular.

This is a wonderful novel of friendship, survival, romance and traditional entertainment and this is certainly an author whose books I will look out for in the future.

Friday, 3 July 2020

The Phone Box at the Edge of the World by Laura Imai Messina

When Yui loses her mother and daughter in the tsunami, she wonders how she will ever carry on. Yet, in the face of this unthinkable loss, life must somehow continue.

Then one day she hears about a man who has an old disused telephone box in his garden. There, those who have lost loved ones find the strength to speak to them and begin to come to terms with their grief. As news of the phone box spreads, people travel to it from miles around.

Soon Yui makes her own pilgrimage to the phone box, too. But once there she cannot bring herself to speak into the receiver. Then she finds Takeshi, a bereaved husband whose own daughter has stopped talking in the wake of their loss.

What happens next will warm your heart, even when it feels as though it is breaking.

The moment I saw the cover for The Phone Box at the Edge of the World I was intrigued, I loved the soft delicate design and when I read the synopsis I was eager to read this novel as I have always had an interest in Tsunamis and this sounded like it would focus on coping with life after the event which would be a completely original read to me.

This was such a tender read that although centers around grief and loss was not a depressive read it was actually full of light and hope showing how by talking to those our characters miss they begin to gradually take a step forward in their lives but still feel like they were connected to them in some way by including them and updating them with the daily goings on in their lives.

There are a handful of characters in this novel who we get to know but Yui and Takeshi take the main focus, both have lost loved ones and are stuck in that hole of grief unable to move forward with their lives and the friendship and trust that builds between them was such a joy to see.

I was surprised to find that this novel was inspired by an actual phonebox where people go to speak to there loved ones and I think this is such a beautiful idea that obviously brings comfort to so many both in the novel and in real life.

The only thing I would say that affected my enjoyment of the novel was the structure of the chapters which alternated between the storyline and then a random short chapter about something that was mentioned in the previous chapter which personally I found stopped the flow of the novel and at times I found my interest wavering.

This was a poignant read that brings love, light and hope to a heartbreaking situation.

Thursday, 25 June 2020

The Waffle House on the Pier by Tilly Tennant

For as long as she can remember, Sadie’s grandparents have run the waffle house on the pier at Sea Salt Bay. With its pretty painted chairs, sweet smells, and the warm advice of her beloved grandparents, the waffle house is like a second home

But when Sadie’s grandfather dies, leaving her grandmother without an anchor, Sadie must make a difficult decision. She quits her job and moves back home, determined to keep things going. The trouble is, she knows nothing about running a business, and learning at a million miles an hour with a shop full of hungry people isn’t easy. When she nearly burns the waffle house down, she has to admit she needs to get some help.

Her ex-boyfriend Declan promises to be there for her but Sadie worries that getting too close is a mistake – especially as he has a new girlfriend now. And anyway she’s just met newcomer Luke, with his gorgeous suntan and mellow voice…

Sadie’s family have always loved Declan and they’re not too sure about Luke, leaving Sadie unsure which way to turn. A terrible accident at sea forces her to look into her heart, but what if it’s already too late to tell the right man that she loves him?

I have a weakness for storylines that revolve around the running of sweet treat businesses, Meet Me at the Cupcake CafĂ© by Jenny Colgan is one of my all time favourite novels and so these kind of books lure me in just from their titles. I came across The Waffle House on the Pier by Tilly Tennant who is an author whose books I hadn’t read before so I was looking forward to discovering a new author and having my diet put to the test with a novel set in a Waffle House!

The Waffle House at the end of the Pier in Sea Salt Bay has been in Sadie’s family for years but after the devastating lost of her Gampy the future of the business is uncertain. Gammy still wants to carry on the business as normal despite the loss of her husband but she cannot do this alone, Sadie makes a big decision to walk away from her teacher training to help her Grandmother but it isn’t long before Sadie realises running the business with her Gammy is not going to be as straight forward as she hoped.

Sadie is our protagonist in this novel and she is a likeable character who many of us will relate to, she seems to be living in limbo still living with her family and training in a career she isn’t even sure is right for her. She finds herself in some what of a love triangle too and I love how the author managed to keep me guessing the whole way through as to where Sadie’s heart would finally lay it kept me intrigued. I was a little wary of Luke as there seemed to be a little mystery surrounding him and he came on incredibly strong after only two dates.

The strong family bond was felt through this storyline especially between Sadie and her Gammy and also Sadie and her brother Ewan who was very protective of his sister.

I was surprised that my taste buds were not teased by the delicious treats in the waffle house I was expecting to read about the mouth-watering delights the waffle house had to offer but this was probably a god send for my waist line in theory!

I enjoyed this storyline with its unpredictable romance and engaging characters, I will be sure to read future books by this author.

Wednesday, 24 June 2020

Sunset over the Cherry Tree Orchard by Jo Thomas

It's time for Beti Winter to dance to her own beat.
After three failed engagements Beti is in desperate need of a fresh start. What better place than the sun-drenched hills of southern Spain?
But it's not all sangria and siestas. Beti finds work on an old Andalusian cherry farm where there are cherries to be picked, trees to be watered and her fiery boss, Antonio, to win over.
As the sun toasts her skin, Beti finds herself warming to the Spanish way of life. Embracing the art of flamenco, she discovers there is much to learn from the dance of passion. She just has to let loose and listen to the rhythm of her heart. 

Looking at the positives of lockdown and it means I finally have time to enjoy and tackle some of my TBR books on my list. I wants to escape somewhere warm and idyllic so Sunset over the Cherry Orchard by Jo Thomas seemed like the perfect novel to provide this.
Beti has had her fair share of misfortunes when it comes to romance and she has never quite made anything of herself. Her dream is to get married and run her own bar abroad and when she sees a bar available in Spain she convinces Will that this would be a fabulous opportunity for them both and would set her dream in motion but do dreams really come true?
This was such a wonderful uplifting read that follows such a determined, kind hearted main character in Beti. No matter how many times things go wrong for Beti she soon brushes herself off and gets up and tries and tries again so you can not help but admire her character and will her to get her happy ever after.
This novel is set in Spain and thanks to the authors beautiful skill in descriptive writing we are transported off with Beti on her journey walking amongst the beautiful Cherry Trees, smelling the sweet aroma and having our taste buds tantalised by the wonderful cuisine that has left me with a craving for potatas bravas.
The author has clearly undertook a lot of research for this novel especially in regards to Flamenco dancing where not only does she educate us in the origins of this traditional dance but she also talks about the passion involved and how it is more than just merely learning a few steps and how powerful this dance is.
There is as we expect a sprinkling of romance weaved around this storyline which only adds to the appeal of this wonderful uplifting and enjoyable read that gave me the pure escapism I craved. Another winner for me by Jo Thomas.

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Thursday, 11 June 2020

The Sight of You by Holly Miller

Joel is afraid of the future.
Since he was a child he's been haunted by dreams about the people he loves. Visions of what's going to happen - the good and the bad. And the only way to prevent them is to never let anyone close to him again.
Callie can't let go of the past.
Since her best friend died, Callie's been lost. She knows she needs to be more spontaneous and live a bigger life. She just doesn't know how to find a way back to the person who used to have those dreams.
Joel and Callie both need a reason to start living for today.
And though they're not looking for each other, from the moment they meet it feels like the start of something life-changing.
Until Joel has a vision of how it's going to end . .

With bookshops currently closed I miss the lure of book covers enticing me over to the bookshelves. One beauty though has continually caught my eye on social media with its delicate and simplistic pretty cover, The Sight of You by Holly Miller there was something about this book that kept intriguing me and once I read the synopsis I was sold, I just HAD to read this book.

Our main character Joel has what some people would call a gift but that isn’t how Joel sees it. Troubled by dreams he has about those close to him that come true he is scared to let anyone close to him. Callie has been affected by the loss of her friend and it is time for her to start living again, try to achieve some of her ambitions and dreams she had.

What a praise worthy novel this book is, Holly Miller has such a beautiful style of writing that sweeps you away and she has a true skill at developing such detailed and believable characters it is so easy to become invested in them and their story which is why I found their romance and situation had such an impact on me.

I love a storyline to feel believable and although you may think that a man whose dreams come true is far fetched it didn’t feel like this at all. Both Callie and Joel were very down to earth likeable characters who have hearts of gold and all you hope for is a happy ending for them both as it is what they truly deserve. I loved watched the friendship and then the romance between them both blossom.

This is such a beautiful tragic storyline that has well and truly broken me without giving to much away and there is one scene in this novel particularly that without giving too much away, was so heartbreaking and was written with so much tender care an emotion that a full on ugly cry escaped from me.

This was a remarkable read that will stay with me for a long time to come. One word of warning is to make sure you have those tissues to hand because this is a heartbreaker. Holly Miller is definitely an author to look out for and this book is one to share far and wide.

Kindle                    Hardback

Wednesday, 10 June 2020

Sunshine and Second Chances by Kim Nash

Debs is newly single, Fiona is caring for her mum, Samantha is grieving, and Liv has the perfect life – or so she’d like her friends to think…

This year, these four life-long friends are turning fifty, and Liv is determined they will honour their promise to each other – made on a beach at sunrise twenty-nine years before – to celebrate this milestone together.

And what better place than a gorgeous villa where they will be spoiled and enjoy the stunning beaches, picturesque fishing towns and glorious climate of the Algarve?

But time away from home doesn’t always make the heart grow fonder. Sometimes it makes the thought of returning to your life too hard to bear. Especially with more than one gorgeous Portuguese man making hearts unexpectedly flutter...

It begins as a reunion in the sunshine, but little do the four friends know what life-changing decisions they’ll all be making before their flight home.

The Summer of Second Chances is the third novel by Kim Nash and this time she is jetting us off to Portugal with four friends who are all escaping the daily grind of lives they are deflated by to celebrate their 50th Birthdays.

This is perfect Summer reading set in a gorgeous luxurious setting, a light and easy read that focuses on many difficult aspects in the womens lives that many of us will find we relate to from weight to romance, health problems and grief there are many day to day struggles touched upon but the firm friendship and support they have for one and other means that they are all their to soundboard their problems.

There is a hint of romance and a splash of humour which brightens the mood of this storyline. I was a little worried at the start of this book when we meet each of the women that with there being a vast amount of main characters that it would be hard to differentiate between each of them but Kim Nash has developed each of the women’s characters so well that their personalities and characteristics shone through making it easy to keep track of who was who.

The storyline does get your mind ticking and make you think that life is too short and you have no control of certain things that will happen to you so it is so important to do what you can for yourself to make you happy and live every day of your life as if it is your last.

Monday, 8 June 2020

The Minute I Saw You by Paige Toon

When Hannah meets Sonny, she's irresistibly drawn to him: he's sexy and confident, but only in town on holiday. That's fine with Hannah - she doesn't do long-term relationships. And luckily for her, neither does Sonny. But before they can even so much as kiss, Sonny receives some shocking news and commits to making serious life changes - ones that can't and won't include romance.

With even a short fling now off the cards, Hannah and Sonny settle for being friends. But as summer hots up and their chemistry shows no signs of cooling, they start to question their reasons for shutting each other out.

Are they both too broken to find love? And if they tear down the walls between them, will they still like what's on the other side?

The Minute I Saw you is the latest beauty by Paige Toon and wow this novel doesn’t disappoint. Sonny and Hannah’s lives weave together after Sonny visits the opticians where Hannah works and what could have easily passed as a brief meeting there was a sizzle of passion between them and the pair strike up a friendship when they both lay their cards on the table to declare that they both don’t do relationships.

Paige Toon has written such a passionate storyline with the chemistry fizzling between Hannah and Sonny but without it being seedy or explicit, the connection between the pair as they begin to let their barriers down at actually get to know each other was beautiful to read.

I have struggled to write this review because I am conscious of not giving away an unexpected revelation or two in this book, there are topics that are new to me in fiction and also devastating but written with such tender care which only impacted me more because I felt so invested in the characters and almost feel like they had built trust in the reader as Sonny as they reveal their secrets to us.

The friendships that are also built around Sunny and Hannah brought a comfort and support to them both. I also found it a slight learning curve too discovering how important eye tests are not just for your vision but the other illnesses that can be found through an eye examination.

For me Paige Toon hits the nail on the head in every book she delivers and this book is no exception, full of raw emotion, passion, devastation and romance this book is unforgettable and captivating.

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