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Mummy Loves Books "lilly36" (Falkirk, Scotland)

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Stillwater Rising
Stillwater Rising
Price: £3.98

3.0 out of 5 stars It's no ninteen minutes, 22 Jun. 2016
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This review is from: Stillwater Rising (Kindle Edition)
One of the most poignant books that I've ever read, and one that has remained with me for may years since I read it is Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult. A book which explores the events leading up to and after a school shooting from the perspective of mothers of the children involved. It was because of this very subject matter that I was drawn to Stillwater Rising by Steena Holmes. I'm a regular reader of books by Steena Holmes having loved her Finding Emma series a few years ago and I had high expectations that she would tackle this sensitive subject matter in a way that would be both emotional and enjoyable. I anticipated lots of exploration of the emotions of the characters and perhaps some of the moral dilemma I felt after I read Picoult's novel.

Based in a small oceanside town called Stillwater we meet Jenn and Charlotte. Both women are trying to move on from the recent shooting at the local elementary school where 10 children and 2 teachers were killed by a local teenager in a mass shooting. Jenn has lost her son Bobby and is trying to come to terms with her loss but is finding it difficult to cope with constant reminders around her such as the school still being open and her daughter having to return. Charlotte is the town mayor and wife of the school principal and is trying to hold her small town together and ensure every member of their community is cared for, including the mother of the teen responsible for the killings.

When the book started I was really optimistic, the character situations were perfect to make from the book a real emotional read, I expected lots of dialogue between the women about the events that had taken place and how they were healing. Instead I was left feeling that the surface of the book had never quite been scratched. Had we focused purely on the two main characters in the book there is a possibility we may have been able to gain the insight I hoped for, however we also have a number of other stories running alongside and a large amount of characters from the town who pop into and out of the dialogue frequently but not often repeatedly. They pop up on the radar and next thing they are gone, plot fillers not developers.

It began to strike me that Stillwater Rising was Ninteen Minutes meets Cedar Cove, a sort of mellowed down version of Picoult's novel where the real gritty moments of what has happened to our characters will never quite reach the surface, instead there was an ongoing layer of respectability about it all as our characters dotted around between the school fayre, teddy bears picnics and parades. It was wonderful for building the community of Stillwater but I never really got the answers I wanted about the events of the shooting and really what the mothers who lost children experienced. It's never fully addressed only hinted at as a retrospective moment they are trying to forget.

This is also a relatively short book, I could see lots of places where the story could be going then suddenly realised I had only 3 chapters left. Suddenly it became clear. Holmes wasn't writing one book about Stillwater, she intends to write many. This book is perhaps her first glimpse into the world she has painted with many more stories in mind. In fact the culmination of this book leaves us with a real cliffhanger that will lead into the next novel, one which perhaps will give us more insight into the events on that fateful day.

I didn't dislike the time I spent with Holmes' Stillwater characters but for me it was more fluff and filling than emotional exploration for me and I have to say I was a little disappointed. I don't think I'll look back and remember this as a standout book for me, I personally have read the author produce better work and for this reason I would explore other novels by her but next time I would probably approach Stillwater and it's subsequent books with less high expectations.

Price: £8.99

4.0 out of 5 stars A new genre for Ahern, 8 April 2016
This review is from: Flawed (Kindle Edition)
Cecelia Ahern has been a firm favourite in my author list for years, in fact one of the best chic lit books of our generation (P.S. I Love You) was penned by this wonderful Irish author. This is her first foray into young adult fiction and it also is a move away from a standard romance format to one that fits more into the dystopian fiction that has become so hugely popular with teens in the last few years.

As with some of the more popular dystopian series of recent years we have a strong female central character, Celestine. We also have a society which due to corruption has chosen to impliment strong rules and regulations for it's citizens, in the case of Ahern's Flawed it is that society will make an example of anyone found to make a decision that is deemed immoral or not in line with decent society. This can be anything from bad business decisions to aiding a family member with assisted suicide. In this case people found guilty of being Flawed are deemed to be lesser citizens and they therefore have to live life with a different set of rules around jobs they can hold, how and where they can socialise and children they bear.

Celestine is a popular girl, dating the son of the ruler of the flawed court. She has great prospects for her future and is deemed to be almost perfect by those she knows. One day she makes a mistake which will change her life forever and see her faced with the prospect of living life as one of the 'Flawed'.

The first in a series this book contains all the checklist formula required for books in this genre, we have the fiesty good looking heroine, two potential suitors who fall into distinctly two categories (the good boy and the one from the other side of the tracks), a bad guy we can all hate who is in charge of the system and a society beginning to question the rules under which it lives. Ahern has ticked all the boxes and you cannot fail to draw parallels between this series and The Hunger Games and The Divergent series.

I really enjoyed the book, perhaps more than I believed I would initially. I liked the way in which Celestine's crime was written. It was an ideal example of how corrupt the society in which she lived actually was. I liked some of the characters that weren't featured that much in the book, especially Celestine's grandfather, who I believe should play a larger role moving forward in the series as it would appear he has much to share. The family around Celestine was also well constructed, especially her mother and it was nice to see how she changed throughout the book.

In relation to the piece of evidence Celestine is seeking throughout the book, I have a sneaking suspicion I know exactly where it is and I'm sure I'm not alone, surely we aren't as readers so much smarter than the lead character? I did find this frustrating and kept silently shouting at the book, "You haven't looked there yet!" Unless there's a major plot twist it would appear to be clear where it's gone.

I'm definitely going to read the second book in this series, I just hope that unlike Hunger Games and Divergent that it doesn't become too embroiled in the breakdown of society through mass fighting, I'd have to say I like it when people win through words not through action and at times I felt the latter books in the other series could be let down by this and it would be nice to see this series break the mould.

by Rosamund Lupton
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.83

4.0 out of 5 stars A brilliant tale of sisterhood, 8 April 2016
This review is from: Sister (Paperback)
I came to this book very late in relation to it's immense publicity and popularity a few years ago when it featured on the Richard & Judy reading list. It's been lingering in my e-reader for some time and I've always seemed to flick past it but I knew it would pull me in eventually and I am very glad indeed that it did.

Beatrice is living in America with her fiancé when she receives a call from her mother to notify her that her sister Tess has gone missing. Despite Tess being somewhat of a 'free spirit' Beatrice immediately hops on a plane and comes home to search for her. The book is written retrospectively in a letter to her sister as Beatrice relates the tale to a representative of the Criminal Prosecution Service as a statement.

The story unfolds really nicely through reflective passages that flick back into the shared past of the sisters and we learn a great deal about their relationship and how they differ with Tess being an art student who lives near to their mother but is regarded as a little eccentric whereas Beatrice is the high flyer with secure job and a good future who flew the nest for life abroad. The differences between them has had no bearing on their closeness and it is this relationship which makes Beatrice sure that something terrible has happened to her sister and forces her onward till she finds the answers to where she has gone.

It is book with many different potential options of what happened to Tess, we are presented a large list of possible suspects and motives throughout and it is hard to decipher who actually is to blame, I found myself swaying on several occasions and questioning everything. I didn't guess the ending before the closing chapters and that in itself was hugely refreshing as often with this genre you are almost groaning at the end with a sense of "I could have told you that 7 chapters ago", it is lovely that this book didn't give me that. It dropped a huge bombshell at the end which turned the whole book on it's head.

I've read some people found the ending frustrating, and I can understand why that was the case. I didn't find myself disliking it so strongly it impacted my enjoyment of the rest, I just felt it didn't reach a proper conclusion which because of how it had been written I was expecting to be able to gain, instead it was very much a quick and dramatic end with no conclusion.

I really enjoyed the central theme of the book, the relationship between the sisters and the way in which we pull for Beatrice to find the solution to Tess' disappearance, we believe her innately and know that she is doing the right thing. The surrounding characters are really well written and as a result we suspect everyone and believe nothing. This is the art to good mystery writing.

I thoroughly enjoyed this, my first Rosamund Lupton book and I am looking forward to reading more in the months and years ahead.

Behind Closed Doors
Behind Closed Doors
by B A Paris
Edition: Paperback
Price: £3.85

0 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An engaging story with lots of tension, 6 Mar. 2016
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This review is from: Behind Closed Doors (Paperback)
Behind Closed Doors by B.A. Paris

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I was excited by the description given of this book pre-release and when it arrived on my Kindle on release say I delved in pretty quickly and somehow in under 24 hours I’d completely devoured this book.
It is a book that starts out innocently, a tale of affluent and seemingly perfect couple Jack and Grace, they host perfect dinner parties for friends, take fabulous holidays abroad and are soon to take over care of Grace’s sister who although suffering from Down Syndrome is a huge part of their world.

Their new neighbour senses something is off, the broken lunch dates Grace doesn’t attend, her absence of mobile phone or email, the way she seems to have no negative comments about her husband. Even when she calls to drop off a book during the day she finds bars on the Windows and nobody home.

This book was fascinating, it was dark and tense and had a great story. It didn’t feel revolutionary or ground breaking but it was gripping and just kept you turning the pages to see how on earth this story would end.

The sheer planning that Jack must have had to undertake to even begin to put together his life is mind boggling. A nastier or more devious character I’ve had more distaste for I can’t think.

I’d recommend this book, it despite it’s story contained a lot of touching moments, especially those between Grace and her disabled but hugely endearing sister. It was a light and engaging ready.

After You
After You
by Jojo Moyes
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £10.00

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Moyes sequel struggles to live up to its predecessor, 20 Feb. 2016
This review is from: After You (Hardcover)
As we approach the release date for the movie adaptation of Jojo Moyes book 'Me Before You' I took time a week or so ago to watch the trailer of the film and was immediately reminded of the sadness, joy and overall greatness of the story of Will and Louisa who fall in love in unusual and very difficult circumstances. It comes at a time where Moyes is also releasing this book to the world, 'After You' the story of how Louisa is coping after the assisted suicide of her love Will.

It was always going to be difficult to trump the original story, after all we did fall in love with Will Traynor alongside Louisa and cried with her when he ended his life in a Swiss Dignitas clinic. It was such an iconic love story that they have achieved the status shared by famous book couples like Darcy and Elizabeth, Bridget Jones and Mark Darcy, Heathcliff and Cathy. For our generation we had Louisa and Will and no matter how Moyes wrote her sequel there was going to be as big a hole in which her readers hearts as her main character was living through. The absence of Will was palpable, you could feel it from beginning to end.

The opening of the book finds Louisa involved in a fairly major accident herself and she meets a paramedic called Sam. As a result of her family questioning whether her accident was in fact a result of her grief she also begins attending a grief support group. With a dead end job and few friends Lou feels she is letting Will down because she promised him that she would live a full life.

The most interesting aspect of the book for me though was the arrival of 17 year old Lily in Lou's life and the announcement that she is Will's daughter. For me this story was the most heartfelt part as Lou tries to introduce Lily to her grandparents and learning as she goes the trials of parenting a teen with a host of problems and parents who seem to have disowned her. The blossoming friendship between Lily and Lou is for me the only parts where I became so drawn in that my mind wasn't wandering a little.

The story was about 50% amazing and 50% chic lit filling, I wanted Lou to do something monumental and to find true happiness, instead I felt the story set itself up for possibly another book in a series, the story didn't feel complete. Lou seems to be off on a grand adventure and I suspect we may get to join her but I ask myself if some of this books characters didn't come along for the ride would I miss them and Lily aside I'd have to be honest and say I wouldn't. I felt Lou has yet to find the same depth of emotional connection as she had with Will.

I haven't been surprised to read mixed reviews on this book as I suspect like me many people just didn't connect emotionally with it as much as they did with its predecessor, no tears this time, I'll need to save them for the cinema when I go to watch the movie of Me Before You.

Career of Evil (Cormoran Strike)
Career of Evil (Cormoran Strike)
by Robert Galbraith
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £7.00

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Strike bursts back with Case 3 in the series, 25 Jan. 2016
I've always been a real supporter of J.K. Rowling's foray into the world of crime writing through the Robert Galbraith series of books. After all, publishing of The Casual Vacancy wasn't a huge success under her own name purely because people couldn't separate the author from her most famous character, Harry Potter.

Book 3 in the series, Career of Evil was one that got out of the starting gate very quickly. Within a few pages we've had our first introduction to the murderer and his plans and have had him deliver an amputated leg to Robin, the partner and Secretary of our hero Cormoran Strike.

From there we are led into a story where someone is trying to destroy Cormoran Strike by targeting his reputation and plotting to abduct and hurt his partner Robin. Strike and Robin are unaware of his precise plans but simply know he is attacking young women, stealing body parts from his victims and is following Robin. There are several suspects from Strike's past, some from cases he investigated from his Special Branch of the army career and one who is connected to his mother's suspicious death.

It was at this point I felt the story could have used a little clarity. Strike and Robin spend much of the book tracking down these 3 individuals, recounting their back stories with Strike and following up on where they were when certain crimes took place. Unfortunately their back stories were at times quite similar and sometimes I had to stop and remind myself of which one linked to which tale we'd had recounted. Just as we seemed to be gaining clarity on one we would be off on another's trail and you had to be alert to keep track of each story and possible Villain we were tailing now.

In this book we spend a lot more time with Robin, learning more about her life before she met Strike, her desires to become a detective and her relationship with her fiance Matthew. Rowling takes time to really round out the character giving us a real modern day Watson to Strikes at sometimes bumbling Holmes.

It is a book that goes through some high points, I found the interviews conducted to establish back stories and information about their suspects to be the high points of the book. The dialogue in these chapters is inspired, it was at these points I truly wanted to keep reading and perhaps contributes to my dissapointment when we'd leave that behind and go chasing down another lead, leaving the suspense and real character based detective work behind. There are also some great characters in this story who added much to the story and who I'd love to see in future books, Shanker is a stand out for me. This shady thug from Strike's early life comes bursting to life in this book and leaves you rooting for him, he is clearly a thug with a heart of gold and was a high point for me.

Low points were that the book kept building towards a storyline that didn't actually materialise. Instead we got a few pages of it potentially happening then nothing. All that tension as a reader was left a little unfulfilled. Also our dynamic duo ended this case pretty fractured and with their own agendas. They didn't catch their guy together but instead kind of caught him separately and didn't share that success, which was a shame.

I enjoyed this book a lot more than book 2, The Silkworm. This was based on the chapters that were dedicated to Strike and Robin really outlining and defining who their potential suspects were and the lives they had already affected. For me this was a real return to the brilliance of The Cuckoos Calling.

Strike remains one of my favourite series characters and I always look forward to reading the next installment and this time is no different. I'll be excited to see his next adventure and how his relationship with Robin continues to grow, very much in the way I wait patiently to see what modern day Holmes and Watson will do next.

The Lake House
The Lake House
by Kate Morton
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £9.00

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Kate Morton delivers another outstanding read, 15 Dec. 2015
This review is from: The Lake House (Hardcover)
Waiting for a new Kate Morton book is always a combination of excitement about what awaits and frustration that it’s not coming quickly enough. The magical ability she has to write wonderful novels steeped in mystery that blend the past and the present have made her one of the most highly regarded authors today.

The Lake House was so very well worth the wait and absolutely what I needed to pull back my love of reading after a dry spell where I couldn’t find anything engaging. From it’s opening chapter in 1930’s Cornwall where someone is burying something deep in the woods we are left in no doubt that Morton is sowing the seeds for another wonderful mystery.

The other wonderful thing Morton does is link her stories to the places they occurred using the house as almost a character in the story. In this case the house is Loeanneth the home of the Edevane family, it’s magnificent grounds hold so significant a part in this book that it’s wonderful to have Morton provide such wonderful flowing descriptions of it and you long to be able to be there having such a clear picture painted for you.

Morton’s story revolves around the unsolved disappearance of a young baby Theo Edevane from Loeanneth in 1933, found missing from his nursery the night after a large party he was never found nor any answer reached as to who took him and why.

This was perhaps the most gripping book I’ve read in many years, the characters are many and shift between Cornwall in the present day and Loeanneth in the 1930’s and back to the time of the first world war. Each and every character plays their part in the story and each hold their own secrets about what may or may not have happened to Baby Theo. In present day we follow detective Sadie Sparrow as she, whilst on forced sabbatical from the met, investigates the case after stumbling across Loeanneth.

There were so many times in this book I thought I had it all figured out, I’d have a neat and tidy culprit and explanation only to have it shift away by another discovery in the next chapter. It was driving me crazy and the result was just a compulsion to keep reading and reading till I figured it out.

The ending was outstanding and so well crafted as not to have it glaringly obvious early in the book, it creeps up on you as a reader and is eminently satisfying. It was truly wonderful book as a result of outstanding writing throughout and Morton’s ability to release information at just the right times to drive her narrative forward with pace and atmosphere.

A standout book for me, it is one of the best books I’ve read in a very long time and I could not recommended it more highly.

Two Brothers
Two Brothers
by Ben Elton
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Ben Elton's Two Brothers was exceptional and worth waiting for, 15 Dec. 2015
This review is from: Two Brothers (Paperback)
This book had been on my Amazon wishlist for ages, I kept saying I’d buy and read it but am not ashamed to say I was waiting for an optimum price. Eventually I secured it and having waited so long I delved straight in. During my many years at school I have to admit to having been somewhat underwhelmed by all the lessons about the Second World War, all the teaching of the politics of it all never made it jump off the page for me. As I have matured however I’ve found it becoming more real to me as I’ve read fictional and real accounts of the every day people who lived through the war.

Starting in 1920’s Berlin with a young Jewish trainee doctor Freida and her jazz musician husband Wolfgang we follow their journey to hospital where Freida gives birth to their twin boys, one however is sadly stillborn. A doctor mentions that another baby has just been born in the hospital, an orphan whose mother died in childbirth and father was killed as a communist. Freida agrees to the adoption of the child and she takes both boys home, telling no one that one of her boys was not the twins she carried, only adoption papers at the hospital bearing witness.

On the same day the twins are born the German Nationalist Socialist Party is formed, that which we know as the Nazi regime begins. The book follows the twins childhood in Berlin, raised as Jewish boys they have a secure childhood until 1932 when the madness of Nazi anti semitism begins, bit by bit growing its isolation of Jews and the German hatred for them. Thrust into a world where they are ostracised and sidelined for their faith they are inseparable the only thing between them their love for a Jewish girl Dagmar.

This book was so engaging that I struggled to pull myself away from it, it is so atmospheric that in reading it you are fully immersed into the world of Germany in the 20’s and 30’s. The book is stated as being about the twins Otto and Paulus, but it was so much more than that its the story of their parents and grandparents, their friends and their families also. How life was changed for rich and poor and how your blood became the tender knife edge on which fate was balanced.

There’s a love story intertwined amongst it, the twins love for Jewish heiress to Fischer’s department store Dagmar, her manipulation of both boys affections initially and laterally her utter dependence upon them to help her survive. Ultimately though this book is one about survival and the lengths we will go to to do just that when we have no other options available to us. Whom would we lie to, who would we protect and how long lasting will the damage be?

It was an absolute joy to read this book, it was an outstandingly crafted story and absolutely one I immersed myself in. I feel a little bereft now I’ve finished it, restless and unsure of what to read next, sure it won’t measure up to this.

Summer Secrets
Summer Secrets
by Jane Green
Edition: Paperback

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A good but not up to standard summer novel from Jane Green, 10 July 2015
This review is from: Summer Secrets (Paperback)
I’ve been hanging on this summer waiting for Jane Green’s newest novel Summer Secrets to lift me out of my readers block I’ve been having the last month or so. Green’s novels are generally very very readable and heartwarming and engaging so I thought this book, if it fit the authors normal high standards, would provide me the salvation I sought.

The lead character Cat is immediately engaging but clearly harbouring issues in her past with alcohol and in the first few chapters she talks us through her teenage years with a difficult father with whom she struggles to form a relationship and a mother who suffers from black bouts of depression. She openly outlines how she found comfort in alcohol as it dampened the hurt of her life. This relationship with alcohol ultimately becomes the most important in her life and after her father dies and she continues to struggle she finally is confronted by her mother who explains about an old family secret that may explain her addiction.

There are lots of time jumps throughout this book, from present day in London with Cat we travel back to Nantucket in the 70’s with her mother and then follow Cat to Nantucket on two further occasions in her life as she seeks answers to who her family are and where she belongs. Throughout all these travels we are never far from Cat’s addiction and the grip it has on her life, in fact ultimately that is the story of this book, it is a story about the daily struggle to stay sober, to never give into that pull of temptation and about the horrible hurt addiction can cause with those we are close to and how sometimes those wounds cannot heal.

The scenic backdrop to the book is totally typical of Green, it is based in beautiful but very middle class America, there’s a detonate aspirational pull as a reader to hearing about the little boho boutiques and stores along the Nantucket shore and the ever so chic sores. Green seems to be most at home writing about the kind of lifestyle she as a writer is privileged to be able to enjoy and she translates it well to the reader. Normally however her other skill is the relationships I. her books which are strong and deeply formed and highly emotional. My one disappointment with this book was that I felt this wasn’t as triumphant as normal. I thought the relationship between Cat and her mother was well written as was that with her daughter Annie but I was waiting for more emotional connections between Cat and her relatives in Nantucket which didn’t ever really seem to get going. They lacked the same depth that I’ve come to expect and as a resulting wasn’t as thrilled with the book as I might otherwise have been.

It’s a good story and it’s a fairly easy read and I did get through it reasonably quickly but it is not Jane Green’s best novel, whether this is a reflection of a traumatic year in the authors own life encompassing a cancer scare, a house move and publishing a cookery book who knows?

The Summer Without You
The Summer Without You
by Karen Swan
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

3.0 out of 5 stars an emotional storyline lost in the fog, 5 July 2015
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This review is from: The Summer Without You (Paperback)
I've always been a real fan of Karen Swan's wonderfully atmospheric Christmas novels but haven't before tried any of her other novels. I chose "The Summer Without You" hoping for as much of a summer vibe as she gives to her Christmas based stories to get me in the summer mood.

The first I noticed was the sheer length of this book, it's a hefty 420 pages well beyond other books within this genre. It's a book clearly packing lots of story in, and this proved to be the case if sometimes to it's detriment.

The story of Rowena, a self employed photographer whose boyfriend Matt chooses to run off for 6 months to Asia, putting their relationship on pause rather than proposing leads us through a chance encounter to a house share in the exclusive Hamptons where Ro hopes to spend time doing the photography she loves and counting the days till her boyfriend comes home and she can pick up her life again. With her lively housemates Hump, Greg and Bobbi she is soon drawn into the exclusive and wealthy Hamptons lifestyles.

She meets town councillor and campaigner Florence who is trying to save the sand dunes which are being massively erroded by winter storms and which are needed to protect the properties along the shoreline. Florence though is receiving expensive gifts from a stranger and there's talk in town about the $3 million black hole in the council budgets and Ro doesn't want to believe her friend is guilty of wrongdoing.

There is also her new age yoga teacher friend Melody and her powerful older husband Brooke. They seem to be uber rich and although they are unwilling to share information about precisely what his job is. There is much of this book given over to strange attacks on Ro and Florence, even to the extent of a murder of an entirely useless character. There is a huge conspiracy thing going on that I found a little bit of a sideline that wasn't necessary. I truly kept skipping bits because it all seemed a bit of a surplus story that started well but got a bit melodramatic for my tastes.

The true heart of this book and the story that deserved to remain front and centre was the story of Tedd, the man Ro meets the moment she steps out of the can in the Hamptons. Shocked when he demands she deletes photographs she has taken of her two children, even to the point he threatens to destroy her camera she is shocked when later he asks her to take on a commission doing what he seemed so upset by. her photographing his two young children.As Ro goes through home videos of Tedd's children she begins to question why their mother is no longer in their lives, why the perfect dream family has grown apart. She grows chose to Tedd but remains wary of him suspecting him of being less than upfront with her friend Florence. She is drawn to the two children and aware of her growing feelings for their father. Her fiance is on the other side of the world and she wants to believe he will propose when he comes home but what if it's not what she wants.

This is the true heart of the book, or should have been, but there was so much other padding put in it got lost at times. Had we dropped 50 pages and focused purely on this relationship it would have been a much better book. It would have felt more like I'd have established an emotional connection with its true story rather than it being sandwiched between bits that didn't matter so much.

The authors real fault was trying to capture the wealthy Hampton lifestyles when a story of a summer on a beautiful beach in a lovely town spent with a damaged family would have said so much more

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