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Sunshine Over Wildflower Cottage
Sunshine Over Wildflower Cottage
by Milly Johnson
Edition: Paperback
Price: £3.85

5.0 out of 5 stars A Heart-Warming Summer Read, 11 July 2016
I’m a big fan of Milly Johnson, I look forward to the arrival of a new book from her every year and she never lets me down! Sunshine Over Wildflower Cottage is an absolute pleasure to read, as always Milly’s writing is full of warmth, love and humour and sweeps you away to a place that you never want to leave.

The book follows a young woman called Viv who takes on an admin job at Wildflower Cottage – a home for mistreated animals and birds of prey. Despite the beautiful animals and gorgeous countryside setting, Viv is here for more than just a new job. As kindly Geraldine and grumpy vet Heath take Viv into their hearts as well as their home, can Viv bare to tell them the real reason as to why she’s here?

Back at home, Viv’s mum Stel is missing her daughter terribly but manages to get by with the support of her friends the Old Spice Girls who meet every week to put the world to rights. When Stel gets together with a guy from her work she quickly finds herself in a whirlwind relationship but is Ian all he seems to be?

One of my favourite things about Milly Johnson’s books is that her characters feel like the women that I know and love in my own life making them so easy to root for. We meet and hear from lots of different characters in this book and each of them has their own unique story. I’m always in awe of how Milly ties each characters story into the overall plot so that by the end of the book all of the little jigsaw pieces fall into place nicely creating a bigger picture.

Stel’s chapters were my favourite to read. They’re so cleverly written and show how misleading appearances can be. I also loved the Old Spice Girls and their weekly meetings, their friendship and support of one another was so lovely to read.

Sunshine Over Wildflower Cottage is without doubt one of Milly Johnson’s best books to date. It’s a beautiful story of strength, new beginnings and friendship with an unexpected sprinkling of magic and mystery. Milly Johnson manages to make the world a little bit sunnier with her books and I’d recommend this to any reader looking for a heart-warming summer read.

Under Rose-Tainted Skies
Under Rose-Tainted Skies
by Louise Gornall
Edition: Paperback
Price: £5.99

5.0 out of 5 stars An Important Book, 7 July 2016
Under Rose-Tainted Skies is a book that I was completely taken aback by, it puts every little thought or feeling that I’ve ever had since living with anxiety down on to paper in the most magical way. It’s a book that I have a strong, personal connection with and it has found a special place in my heart.

The book follows a girl called Norah who is housebound due to agoraphobia and severe anxieties. Louise Gornall captures those feelings of panic and fear perfectly, describing Norah’s mental health problems so eloquently to the reader but what made this book stand out to me was that not only is the anxiety and agoraphobia depiction spot on, but the author goes one step further and shares Norah’s personal thoughts and feelings towards her mental illnesses with such honesty.

Norah worries about being judged and how other people see her, she struggles with feelings of being different and weird, there is frustration there and sadness at missing out on life and also concern about her loved ones worrying about her. Under Rose-Tainted Skies not only seamlessly captures the symptoms of Norah’s mental illnesses but also what it means to actually live with them and how it affects your sense of identity – especially as a young person trying to figure out who you are and your place in the world.

I loved how Under Rose-Tainted Skies showed how having a mental illness can impact so many different aspects of your life. Norah really struggles with relationships and letting people in and I was happy to see that didn’t change and that her mental illnesses didn’t suddenly vanish as soon as she met her love interest Luke. Instead this book took a realistic approach showing how Norah struggled to maintain their relationship. Norah never did anything she wasn’t ready to and Luke respected the boundaries put in place by her illness, only ever gently encouraging her progress. I really appreciated the honest representation of their relationship, it was never smooth sailing and neither was Norah’s recovery process. As she moves forward there are still bumps in the road and setbacks to overcome yet she continues to dust herself down and try again.

Under Rose-Tainted Skies is an incredibly special and important book that I’m sure I’ll be raving about for the rest of the year. Unflinching, honest and quietly hopeful it’s an absolute must read for anyone living with, or who is affected by, mental health (which means all of us, right?)

How to Find Love in a Book Shop
How to Find Love in a Book Shop
by Veronica Henry
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £5.00

4.0 out of 5 stars The Wonder of Books, 29 Jun. 2016
I’m a sucker for books about books so I couldn’t resist How to Find Love in a Bookshop by Veronica Henry. This is my first book by the author and it won’t be my last! I loved this charming tale of a family owned bookshop set in a Cotswold town.

Julius Nightingale lives and breathes books, after the death of his young wife he’s a single father bringing up their baby daughter Emilia alone. He opens a bookshop ‘Nightingale Books’ and creates a happy home full of stories for his daughter. Julius’s warmth and passion for books soon draws in the bookish locals looking for some escapism and therapeutic advice from the kindly bookseller.

Thirty years later and Julius’s untimely death leaves a gaping hole in the local community. After inheriting the book shop, Emilia struggles financially to keep it open and running – but books have a special way of leaving a mark on our hearts and those Julius has touched over the years with his recommendations are determined that Nightingale Books isn’t going down with a fight. Can a community of book lovers save their beloved bookshop?

How to Find Love in a Bookshop follows a large cast of characters. As well as Julius’s chapters set in the past and Emilia’s chapters set in the present, we also follow the town’s locals whose lives Nightingale Books has touched in some way. I really enjoyed reading about how books bought these characters together and loved how their individual stories tied in with the main plot. Julius was by far my favourite character, he was such a sweetheart and I felt the impact of his death just as much as the characters in the book. He’s everything you want in both a bookseller and a friend.

Any book lover will enjoy spending time in Nightingale Books, the independent bookshop that is the beating heart of this story. It’s everything you envision a good bookshop to be. I wanted to crawl inside of the book and spend hours exploring this little shop.

How to Find Love in a Bookshop is a wonderful story that shares a special message with its reader about how books have the power to bring people together. It’s a celebration of reading, bookshops and booksellers demonstrating how it only takes one story to change your life forever.

Distress Signals: An Incredibly Gripping Psychological Thriller with a Twist You Won't See Coming
Distress Signals: An Incredibly Gripping Psychological Thriller with a Twist You Won't See Coming
by Catherine Ryan Howard
Edition: Paperback
Price: £12.08

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the Standout Thrillers of 2016, 9 Jun. 2016
Distress Signals is a stunner of a crime debut! I was sucked into this book from the opening chapter and it had me absolutely transfixed throughout.

The book follows Adam Dunne a struggling artist who dreams of a career in screenwriting. The last few years have been hard for Adam but his long-term girlfriend Sarah has stood by his side and supported him throughout. Finally, Adam is given his big break in America and he’s looking forward to a fresh start.

However Adam’s happiness is short-lived when Sarah doesn’t return home after a brief business trip abroad. It turns out that Sarah has been having an affair and leading a double life and all signs suggest that she has left him to be with her lover which Adam struggles to believe – it just doesn’t sound like the Sarah he knows.

When Adam is sent Sarah’s passport and a note that reads “I’m Sorry - S” in Sarah’s handwriting he goes on a mission to find her. Adam’s search leads him to a cruise ship called the Celebrate and to a mystery surrounding a woman who went missing in eerily similar circumstances a year before. Did Sarah leave or was she taken? As Adam boards the Celebrate he begins a dangerous journey to find out.

What fascinated me about Distress Signals was the unique cruise ship setting. You imagine a cruise ship as being a place of fun and relaxation but add in a disappearance and it suddenly feels very claustrophobic and scary. The Celebrate sounded incredibly corrupt and like the perfect place to commit a crime and get away with it. Distress Signals is a perfect read for the summer but it’s definitely not one to take on a cruise- this book has put me off them for life!

This books pacing is excellent with so many twists and turns that change the course of the story and in turn keeps you turning the pages effortlessly - I read this book at breakneck speed! I did unfortunately guess some of the revelations towards the end of the book but that’s quite common for me and there were a lot of surprises that I didn’t see coming at all.

Overall Distress Signals is unique, clever and incredibly well written. It’s definitely one of the standout thrillers of 2016. Catherine Ryan Howard is a major new crime fiction talent and breathes new life into an overcrowded genre.

My Map of You
My Map of You
by Isabelle Broom
Edition: Paperback
Price: £3.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Will Give You Serious Wanderlust!!, 6 Jun. 2016
This review is from: My Map of You (Paperback)
I wanted to read My Map of You as soon as I set eyes on that gorgeous cover! What is inside this book is just as beautiful as a story of family, heartbreak, grief and secrets unfolds on the Greek island of Zakynthos.

After a difficult upbringing full of heartache life has finally settled down for Holly Wright. Now she works and lives in London and has a devoted boyfriend. Holly’s done a good job of putting her past behind her but that all changes when she receives a letter from a late aunt she never even knew existed who has left her her house in Zakynthos. Holly flies out to Greece to get her aunt’s affairs in order and the house ready to sell but her family has deep roots on the island and there is a secret family history that Holly knows nothing about. As Holly falls in love with Zakynthos and learns more about her family old wounds begin to reopen. Can Holly find the strength to forgive and forget in the place where it all began?

I’ve never been to Greece but it feels like I have after reading My Map of You. Isabelle Broom’s descriptions of the island are so evocative that I closed the book feeling like I’d been on holiday. I fell in love with everything about Zakynthos from the white sand beaches, to the sea turtles, to the fresh food and the friendly locals. It sounds like a lovely relaxed way of life and a trip to the island has now made it on to my bucket list! This book should come with a warning that it’ll give you a major case of wanderlust.

In the book, Holly follows a map of all the places that were special to her mother and aunt on the island. I thought the idea behind this was lovely and made Zakynthos seem even more special and more of a home for Holly’s family than a holiday destination. I loved how this book shows that a place can change you and leave a permanent mark on your heart like a passport stamp on your identity.

I really enjoyed the characters in this book, they weren’t always the most likeable – especially Holly and her mother – but their flaws only made them feel more real and tied into the themes of mistakes, regret and forgiveness. Holly especially goes on a real journey of self-discovery which makes her grow as a character throughout the book.

Overall I thought that My Map of You was a stunning and accomplished debut with a slow burning mystery at its heart. Isabelle Broom is a new talent to watch and I’m already looking forward to seeing where her next book will sweep me away to.

The Raven King (The Raven Boys Quartet) (The Raven Cycle)
The Raven King (The Raven Boys Quartet) (The Raven Cycle)
by Maggie Stiefvater
Edition: Paperback
Price: £5.99

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Make Way For The Raven King!, 27 April 2016
The Raven King is a book that I’ve been both anticipating and dreading. I’ve fallen in love with this world where magic is ripe, dreams can be brought to life, curses are destined and death is a promise. For four books I’ve been spellbound by Blue and her Raven boys, a family of psychics and the poetic, dreamlike way their story is told. From start to finish this series has been pure magic.

As with most final books in a beloved series there were things I was both happy and dissatisfied with. There were some things that I’ve been dying to see come about since book one that happened that I was so happy with but there were also other outcomes that I found disappointing and a little anticlimactic after so much build up throughout the series.

For me, the most important thing about a final book is for the characters that I’ve come to know and love to have an ending that I am happy to leave them with. Overall I was really happy with the outcome of the book but there were one or two characters who I felt deserved more of an ending. I loved how Maggie really brought this series full circle but in some situations I’d have liked a little more clarity and closure.

The pacing for this book was pitch perfect, I never once wanted to skip to the end to find out what happened because so much was happening throughout to change the course of the story. The big things that I wanted to happen were delivered perfectly at just the right moment; a certain kiss went way beyond my expectations. Again there were a few plot points that I found somewhat anticlimactic but for the most part my expectations were more than met.

I truly feel like I’ve been on a magical journey with The Raven Cycle and I’m so sad that our time with these characters has come to an end. Each book has read like a haunting dream that I find myself getting lost in; every word has delivered beauty and has held me enchanted. I was so sad to turn the final page and wake up.

When She Was Bad
When She Was Bad
by Tammy Cohen
Edition: Paperback
Price: £3.85

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fresh and Exciting, 21 April 2016
This review is from: When She Was Bad (Paperback)
When I read the synopsis for When She Was Bad I immediately wanted to read it. There are so many psychological thrillers out at the moment that it’s hard to find one with a unique premise. The idea of a murderer at work was so intriguing to me and made a refreshing change from the missing child stories that are currently so popular in this genre.

When She Was Bad is told in alternate chapters, one thread of the story follows a group of work friends in the UK whose once friendly workplace is growing toxic and competitive with the arrival of new boss Rachel. The other half of the story is set in the United States and follows Anne, a child psychologist, who is treating a highly traumatised child called Laurie. Both plots grow more sinister as the book goes on but they also read completely separate from one another. The two storylines kept me invested in this story. I just had to know if and how they were connected!

My only complaint about this book is that it took a while to get going. It’s a thriller that ends on an explosion rather than starts with one so it opens slowly and gathers speed as it goes along. The real fun of this book is getting to know the large cast of characters who all have their secrets and sinister side. Are any of them capable of murder? As the tension in their work environment and personal lives rises, the characters are on tenterhooks with each of them growing more troubled. I loved guessing who would snap first!

I pride myself on usually being about to guess “who done it?” in a thriller but When She Was Bad had such a clever ending that I was completely taken aback by. It also ends on a deliciously twisted final note that teases at what might be in store for these characters when we close the book and leave them.

Overall When She Was Bad is a fresh and exciting read that stands out as different in an overcrowded genre.

When We Collided
When We Collided
by Emery Lord
Edition: Paperback
Price: £5.59

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the Standout Contemporary Reads of this Year, 12 April 2016
This review is from: When We Collided (Paperback)
Emery Lord is fast becoming one of my favourite contemporary authors. I’ve fallen hard for her vivid and vibrant characters and her beautiful way with words that wrap around my emotions and tug hard. I’ve read and enjoyed all three of her books and am so glad she’s now published in the UK.

When We Collided is told in alternate chapters between our two main characters Vivi and Jonah. Vivi is spending the summer in Jonah’s hometown Verona Cove, she’s a burst of bright light in this small summer beach town and quiet, sweet Jonah is drawn to her like a moth to a flame. Vivi bursts into Jonah’s life like a whirlwind picking up his large and lovable family who hit rock bottom when they lost their dad. Suddenly Jonah’s grey world is once again bright with colour but sometimes those who burn the brightest have a tendency to burn out. Vivi’s life is far from the colourful portrait she paints it to be and she’s hiding her own darkness from Jonah. But Jonah has lived in the dark and knows that letting in love means letting in light.

Vivi and Jonah are two very different characters but I loved them both equally. Jonah comes from a large and close family; he’s incredibly grounded and has been trying to fill in his dad’s shoes both at home and at his restaurant since his death. Vivi comes from a single parent family; she’s wild, free and incredibly artistic. The two go together like peanut butter and jelly and the result is a sweet one that has you craving more.

Despite their differences they have one thing in common – they both live with mental illness. Jonah’s mum’s grief has slowly slipped into depression and Vivi is struggling to accept her bipolar. I loved how honestly this book represented both living with a mental illness and loving someone with a mental illness. It has some really positive messages on how best to support someone with a mental illness and most importantly, how to support yourself.

I absolutely adored everything about this book. It balanced the light and dark in life so beautifully creating a fun summer read that carries an important message. It’s a real emotional rollercoaster that made me goofy-grin at the cuteness and get teary eyed when the characters hit their lows. When We Collided is one of the standout contemporary reads of this year and is an unmissable treat for anyone who likes their book boys cute, their heroines strong and their stories powerful.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Apr 13, 2016 8:53 PM BST

Who's That Girl?
Who's That Girl?
by Mhairi McFarlane
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £6.49

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Who's Edie Thompson?, 12 April 2016
This review is from: Who's That Girl? (Hardcover)
Mhairi McFarlane is one of my favourite authors and Who’s That Girl is her best book yet! Her stories are always funny, smart and slick and despite their length I never want them to end.

Who’s That Girl follows Edie Thompson whose found herself in a very modern, very complicated sort-of-relationship with a guy at her work. On his wedding day he kisses Edie and his new wife witnesses it all. Labelled a “marriage wrecker” and “the other woman” Edie becomes a social pariah. Targeted by bullies both online and at work she flees London in shame and goes back home to Nottingham. Her boss throws Edie the lifeline of ghost writing famous television star Elliot Owen’s biography and the two connect over their lives being judged by other people – Elliot with the press and Edie with her online bullies but there’s more than one side to each of us and we’re more than what people see. Who’s that girl? Edie’s about to find out.

I think that what puts Mhairi McFarlane head and shoulders above the rest for me is her heroines and the way she writes them. They’re all incredibly complex and their stories aren’t solely based on their love lives. The romance in Mhairi’s books is equal to the relationships her heroines have with their friends, family, career and themselves which results in a more fleshed out, modern heroine who I relate to. Every one of her heroines comes to feel like my best friend when I’m reading their story and I see myself reflected in them.

One of my favourite aspects of Who’s That Girl is its take on social media. Like most people, Edie is addicted to her phone and has built an image online showing her best self, so when that all comes crashing down she has an identity crises of sorts. It was interesting to read about our online selves in comparison to our real selves, we live in a time where it’s very easy to feel like you know somebody and can make a judgment on them when really you’re only seeing a small part of who they are.

Who’s That Girl is a heart-warming, emotional and fist pump inducing read about claiming your own identity and sticking it to anyone who tries to tell you who you are, who you are not and puts a label on you. Who’s That Girl has left me book drunk and has utterly spoiled me for all other romantic comedies this year.

Who’s that girl? She’s Edie Thompson and she’s f***ing fabulous!

The Forgetting Time
The Forgetting Time
by Sharon Guskin
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £7.00

4.0 out of 5 stars An Impressive Debut, 14 Mar. 2016
This review is from: The Forgetting Time (Hardcover)
The Forgetting Time is like nothing I’ve ever read before. It’s a book that doesn’t fit into one set genre and is completely and utterly unique. It’s an explosive debut that has opened my mind to a subject that I knew next to nothing about, as this is a book that looks at the possibility of reincarnation.

Noah is an incredibly troubled four year old. He’s terrified of water to the point where he won’t wash and he cries at his mother Janie that he wants to go home, he wants his real mother. But he is home and Janie is his mother.

Noah’s disturbing behaviour comes to a head when Noah starts talking about guns at school. The school give Janie an ultimatum: get Noah professional help or social services will be contacted.

Desperate for help Janie’s search leads her to Dr Anderson – a man who’s seen cases like Noah’s before, but Dr Anderson’s diagnosis is not a simple one to get on board with because Dr Anderson believes that Noah could be the reincarnation of a murdered child from years before.

Janie doesn’t know what to believe but she will do anything if it means helping her son and so Janie, Noah and Dr Anderson embark on a journey that will lead them to answer humanities biggest question, is there life after death?

I think that your enjoyment of this book really depends on how open minded you’re willing to be on the topic of reincarnation. It’s not something I believed in going into this book but I went in with an open mind and ended up being absolutely fascinated by the possibilities, so much so that I ended up researching the subject online.

In between chapters there are extracts from the non-fiction book “Life Before Life by Dr. Jim B. Tucker” that document real life cases of possible reincarnation. They were such interesting true accounts that echoed Noah’s situation and really brought the fictional aspect of this book to life.

Reincarnation aside, The Forgetting Time is a hugely enjoyable mystery that will leave you not sure what to believe. It’s also a touching story about the love a mother has for her child and how far she’s willing to go to help him. There are themes of love, family and relationships – most notably the relationship we have with ourselves as individuals and what makes us who we are.

I was completely enthralled by The Forgetting Time and still think about it now weeks after reading. It’s an impressive debut that gets you thinking outside of the box. Sharon Guskin is an author to watch.

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