Saturday, 29 April 2017

Then. Now. Always. by Isabelle Broom

I would like to thank the publishers for sending me a copy of this book in return for an honest review.

Isabelle Broom is fast becoming one of my favourite authors, and after reading A Year and A Day last year, I couldn't wait to get my hands on Then. Now. Always. and I am glad to say that Hannah's story, that transports us to Andalusia, does not disappoint and shows exactly why Isabelle Broom has become such a popular author.

Hannah Hodges is a researcher with a television company and is about to take off on her first working holiday to the beautiful Spanish village of Mojacar in Andalusia to assist in the making of a documentary with the company that she works for.  Hannah throws herself into her work to try to take her mind off other things in her life, such as her hatred for her half sister, Nancy, and the strong feelings of anger that she holds for her father for leaving her mother before Hannah was two years old. Hannah has often travelled to Mojacar as a teenagers while om holiday with her best friend, Rachel, and her family.  Mojacar has always held an air of magic and mystery for Hannah, and she is delighted to get the chance to return as an adult.  She's even more delighted that she gets to go with Theo, her dishy boss, who Hannah is more than a little bit in love with, and one of her best friends, Tom. While making the documentary on the beautiful Spanish Village, Hannah finds out stories that she's never known about the place and meets people that will change her life forever.

There is just something so enchanting about Isabelle Broom's books and this one is no different.  She takes you away to amazing places, all while your sitting on your own sofa.  This one was no different and sent me off the magical setting of Mojacar in Andalusia and had me ready to pack my bags and head off (if it wasn't for my exams) the minute I finished the book.  With Isabelle Broom's novels, you don't just get to experience a brilliantly written story, but also learn secrets about the fabulous settings that she chooses to set the novels in.  The beautiful, eyecatching cover of this novel was enough to make me want to retreat to the sofa and not move until the book was read from cover to cover.  I know that you should never judge a book by its cover, but the cover of Then. Now. Always. is absolutely beautiful, with an amazing purple background, that just makes the book pop.  If you look closely enough there are even gorgeous little drawings on the cover of items relating to the story, including the Indalo Man.

The characters in Then. Now. Always. are superbly written, with each one adding that special sparkle to the story.  Hannah is an instantly likable character and after spending four days with her while reading the book, she became like a friend by the time I had turned the last page.  Tom and Theo also added well to the story line and I loved that both of these characters also added their own little sub plots, which complimented the main plot beautifully.  Nancy and Claudette are also great characters and even though it took me a little bit longer to warm to these particular characters, by the time I put the book down for the final time, I had grown very fond of both characters.  However, as good as the main characters are, I felt that it was Elaine, an expat that Hannah met and interviewed about her time in Mojacar that really stole the show for me.  From the minute she was introduced to the story, she brought with her an air of mystery and I just knew that there was depth and meaning to her character.  Each and everyone of the characters that came to life within the pages of this novel were authentic and believable, something that the author has a serious talent in doing.  
While Hannah's story did bring smiles and a lot of laughter to my life while I was reading this book, it wasn't without it's drama and sad moments.  A good author will be able to make you laugh and cry and in that case, Isabelle Broom has proved herself as a great author, because there times throughout the book that she has me laughing and crying without ever having to turn the page, especially when it came to Elaine and her story.  

Then. Now. Always. is a fantastic read, that I can see doing really well this summer, while it accompanies many readers to their sun-loungers while on their holidays.  This novel is slightly different to A Year and A Day because it doesn't have that sense of sadness to it, but rest assured that if you enjoyed A Year and A Day last year, that you will devour this novel too.  Then. Now. Always. has given me back my reading mojo, when I was just about to give up on him, which shows just how much I enjoyed this book! I really couldn't have enjoyed this book anymore if I tried and I am glad that I got to travel to Mojacar with Hannah and the rest of the gang, at a time in my life when I really needed some escapism.  I can't recommend this book enough and I only hope that it gets all the of the praise that it deserves.  Hats off to the author from producing another fantastic story.

5 stars 

Thursday, 27 April 2017

The Children of Albion by Jill Turner

I would like to thank the author for sending me a copy of this book in return for an honest review.

The Children of Albion is a very unique book with the story being told from the point of view of a child called Robbie, who has seriously been let down by society.  Robbie is being brought up in an estate that is seeing children being neglected by their parents, many of whom are heavily involved with drugs and alcohol.  In a life where there is no real discipline for the children and they are allowed to run feral, there is no real place for the children to go, with their only option being to follow in the footsteps of their parents. Sometimes, Robbie needs to get away from it all and has a hideout in an old abandoned house, where he often goes to spend some time alone, but one day when he arrives in his hiding place, Robbie soon finds that he is not alone and this is where he meets Albion, who is a middle class drop out, also looking for a place to hideout in.  When the two meet, an unlikely friendship is struck up between the two and soon they have dreams of setting up a refuge for the children from the estate that Robbie is growing up on, that society seems to have forgotten about.  By doing this Albie and Robbie set out to make a better future for the children of the estate by allowing them to grow up in a better environment.

The Children of Albion is a unique read that will appeal to both young readers and adults alike.  It shows how children can find ways to survive in the worst situations.  This book doesn't try to cover up the sad and destructive way that some children have to live and acts as a huge eyeopener to the fact that there are children who have to live in situations like this in some places all over the world, which is extremely upsetting to think about, but is reality all the same.  As well as being a huge eyeopener, this story also focuses in friendship, with this being the main theme running through the story, focusing mainly on the friendship that has been struck up by Albie and Robbie, but with some other friendships also thrown in along the way, especially towards the end.

The characters in this book are so relatable and I was really rooting for them the whole way through the book.  Their stories are real and really make you think about how others have to live their lives.  As someone who has worked in childcare in the past, I found the some of the topics that were covered in the book very interesting.  I couldn't put this book and read it cover to cover in one sitting, which is very rare for me these days.

The Children of Albion is a story that focuses on friendship and society and how society had failed so many children in the past.  This book could have taken place anywhere in the world, because it is clear that there are people with stories similar to this one living in every country all over the world.  What I loved the most about this book is how two people came together in order to change the future for others and I found it to be a very powerful story.  You won't be disappointed if you read this one and I have a feeling that when you do read it, the story will stay with you for a very long time to come.

4 stars

Friday, 14 April 2017

The Mills & Boon Modern Girl's Guide to Turning into Your Mother by Ada Adverse

I would like to thank Mills and Boon for sending me a copy of this book in return for an honest review.

The Blurb:

Have you ever…?
A) Opened your mouth and heard your mother come out?
B) Wondered whether a bunch of flowers and breakfast in bed once a year really makes up for the 37 hours your mum spent in St Agnes’ Maternity Ward?
C) Voiced a heartfelt opinion on the weather?
If so, the Mills & Boon Modern Girl’s Guide to Turning Into Your Mother is for you: a guide to the joys of motherhood – with a feminist twist.

My review:

I was delighted to see this book coming through the door, and I decided to read it straight away.  Even though this is a short read, it took me a while to read through it because of the laughs that it contains.  It really is one of the funniest books that I have ever read and it is so simple.  The photos going along with each page add to the humour and make the book hilarious.

I loved every bit of this book and it was the break I needed from reality to just leave my hair down and laugh for a while.  I can't say too much because I would be giving away some of the jokes, but I can't recommend that you read this book enough.  It's definitely one that you will pass around to family and friends. 

4 stars

Tuesday, 11 April 2017

The American Girl by Rachael English

Thank you to the author, Rachael English, for sending me an advanced proof of this book in return for an honest review.

The American Girls tells the sad and courageous story of Rose, who is daughter to Irish Parents living in America in the 1960's.  When Rose finds herself pregnant at the age of 17, her mother and father decide to send her to Ireland to have the baby in a mother and baby home, so that she doesn't bring shame on the family.  Alone, in a strange country, Rose gives birth to her daughter, who is eventually taken away from her.  Fast forward to 2013 and we meet Martha, whose life has come undone so much that she doesn't even recognise her own life anymore.  Her marriage is over and her husband has wasted no time in moving on and settling down with another woman.  The only person that she has now is Evanne, her teenage daughter, who has out her under immense pressure to find her birth parents.  The search for the woman who gave her up all those years ago leads Martha on an emotional journey that takes her all the way to Boston and back again, unearthing deeply buried family secrets in the process.  

This book came into my life at a time when there was a lot happening in my life, and I'm not sure if it's because of that, or just because the book was so well written that I felt every emotion in the book, making it nearly painful to read at times.  But, no matter how painful it was, I couldn't seem to draw my attention away from it, spending hours laughing and crying at the story that was unfolding in front of me.  As mother and baby homes have featured in the news recently, telling horrific stories, reading this book at the same time made it all the more real and the characters all the more relatable.

The main characters in this books, especially Rose and Martha, are so authentic and believable. I loved how they are so clearly created out of love and without them, the story wouldn't hold half of the plausibility.  I wanted nothing but the best for these characters and I laughed and cried along with them.  From the very beginning of the book, I felt every emotion that Rose was feeling and I was blown away by the bravery and courage of the character.  Cat, Martha's best friend and Evanne, bring a lighthearted element to the book, making me laugh with their brilliant one liners. 

The cover of this book is so eye-catching and beautiful, and even though you're not supposed to judge a book by its cover, I adored this one.

The story line was absolutely heartbreaking and at times was very difficult to read, but what kept me reading was the realisation that this is real life for some people.  Even though I've read a few books that follow a similar story line, this is the first one that I have read that goes inside the home and tells what it was like for the girls who had to live there.  

I have fallen in love with books that move back and forward through times, so I knew from just reading the blur that this book would be a winner for me.  However, I had no idea of what a rollercoaster of emotion I'd be taken through in my time reading this book and I loved it even more that I could have imagined.  It's not all sad, as there are many parts that had me laughing out loud, and there is the perfect balance of happiness and sadness within the pages on The American Girl to keep the reader interested.

The American Girl is a heartbreaking story, that will leave you with a lump in your throat and a tear in your eye.  Moving back and forward through time, it tells the courageous story of two women who are trying to come to terms with what has happened in their lives.  This book tells the story of family and friendship and why both are so important.  I really can't recommend this book enough.

5 stars

About the Author:

Rachael English is a presenter on Ireland's most popular radio programme, Morning Ireland.
She lives in Dublin, but was born in England and grew up in County Clare.
Her first novel, GOING BACK, was shortlisted for the most-promising newcomer award at the 2013 Bord Gáis Irish Book Awards.
Her second book, EACH AND EVERY ONE, was published in September 2014, and like GOING BACK, was a top five bestseller in Ireland.
Her third book, THE AMERICAN GIRL, will be published in 2017.

You can buy the book here.

Monday, 10 April 2017

Blog Tour: The Odense Series

Today, I am delighted to be hosting a guest post by Sarah Surgey as part of the Odense Series Blog Tour

Nordic Noir meets Brit Crime
By Sarah Surgey

Nordic culture has been part of our working and personal lives for quite some years now.

I am British but have a part of my close family that are Danish. We visit often and celebrate Nordic culture with them. I started freelancing as a writer interviewing and featuring Nordic Noir authors, for several magazines. I then moved on to running a site dedicated to all Nordic talents but, specifically in literature and the arts.

Emma is Australian married to a Norwegian and now lives with him in Norway, and on a professional level she owns and edits her own Nordic inspired magazine, Cinema Scandinavia. She is also going to be involved with the next Scandi Film Festival.

So when Emma and I met through our freelance writing of Nordic film and literature, we decided immediately that our thriller novels would be within the Nordic Noir genre.

Both having a love of this genre meant that we also had a grounded knowledge that as non-Nordic authors, we felt, would give us a certain credibility.
But, studying Nordic Noir and speaking with many famous authors, script writers and actors in this field we also knew that some readers were coming to a point where they wanted it to go down a slightly different road.

We were confident that blending another sub-genre in with it would work and brit crime just felt right.

They run parallel with each other, the stark harsh realities of daily living, cold isolated surroundings and not always reaching that happy ending!

The Odense Series was born. Our first book in the series 'A Presence of Absence' leads the way, builds the character profiles up so they are strong and introduces their back history.

Two suicides, two countries, decades apart leads to murder in the birthplace of Hans Christian Andersen, Odense and to the lies and deception back in our protagonist, Detective Simon Weller's home city, London.

We take our British detective and place him in the middle of Odense where he has to work alongside local officer, Jonas Norgaard. They have to track a killer. But, when Simon's wife, Vibekes' name appears in some evidence, his integrity is compromised and London and Odense seemed to be linked by past demons.

The second book is currently being written. We obviously stay in Odense and london but our detectives are pulled up to the most northern part of Norway after a young girl's body is found in a burned out church in Odense. Clues lead them up to Norway where Norse Mythology and murder are found hand in hand.

Odense was once Odin and this was our perimeters to explore Nordic history once more whilst incorporating a crime thriller.

About the Authors

Sarah Surgey
Sarah Surgey is a 36 year old British feature writer for various magazines. She lives in the UK with her husband and 4 daughters.
She has had an interest in all things Nordic for many years and has written about many genres within this subject for publication. Although British, she has Danish family and enjoys exploring Denmark and its culture whenever the opportunity arrives.
Sarah was brought up with crime books and inevitably has always had crime story scenarios going around inside her head. After interviewing many famous authors for different magazines within the Nordic literary circle and always knowing the answer to her question of "why did you start writing?" she felt now was her time to get her stories out there, for people to read!

Emma Vestrheim
Emma Vestrheim is the owner and editor-in-chief of Cinema Scandinavia, a Nordic film and television journal that analyses popular Nordic titles. Part of her work includes working with directors, actors and filmmakers, and her numerous interviews with the biggest names in Nordic film and television have given her a privileged access to what makes Nordic narratives so successful. Cinema Scandinavia publishes bimonthly and is available in major Nordic film libraries.
Check out the other stops on the blog tour here:

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