The High Moments by Sarah-Ella Ozbek #BookReview

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Scarlett makes mistakes – over and over again.
She’s not perfect, she has a tricky relationship with her mother and is desperate for people to like her.

She repeatedly goes back to the people that hurt her, no matter how badly.
She moves to London with no plan (of course), but manages to land a job at a modelling agency. Finally, she’s getting her life on track, but the fashion industry is a murkier place than she had imagined.

She changes herself to please others.
Just as she starts to find her place, Scarlett’s life begins to spiral. But at least people know her, she is starting to become someone. And surely it’s better to be someone – even if it’s someone you hate?

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I find myself in a mood recently where I like to alter dark thrillers with uplifting fun novels and this bright colourful cover made me think I was holding just that. I can’t say I was exactly right with my assumption.

So I’m afraid to say I’m not a fan. I don’t really like reading novels where people throw themselves into destruction for no good reason and this one had such a negative vibe with nothing to act as a counterweight. You can forgive some people for not seeing clearly or for making mistakes because they just don’t get that some people are bad news but I wanted to slap, shake and yell at Scarlett, the main protagonist, so many times. I know she’s young but surely everyone knows that drugs are bad news and you don’t just jump in that ugly puddle? And do you just trust any guy you meet right away?

The High Moments offers an insider’s look into the world of high fashion and particularly the modelling of haute couture. It is clear where the author found the inspiration but whereas The Devil Wears Prada was focused on poor-girl Andrea Sachs who learns new skills fast and is climbing the upward hill, The High Moments shows you the other side, pretty much how you should not do it. The story is a downward spiral of mistakes, all because Scarlett Willems is so desperate to be liked. At the start of the novel I was rooting for her to go to London and to make it, and it was looking good because she did get an opportunity to be someone but then she just follows around the wrong kind of people. Ugh I know when you are young you don’t always see who you have in front of you but still it was painful to watch and I was sure that Scarlett knew that it was all fake and there were no real friendships to find there. All the clichés you think you know about the fashion industry, the sex, drugs and rock & roll (but especially the first two) are very much true. I used to think it was only the models who did this but it turns out that it includes everyone, even the models’ agents snort the night away. Scarlett is only too happy to join the club.

She’s also very hung up on this bad boy kind of type but from the first time I met him I didn’t hold much hope that he would be a good guy underneath it all, even though it is an often used plot devise in romance novels. But then this is not a romance novel, obviously :-).

I kept on reading mostly because I wanted to see Scarlett take a turn and free herself of the bad influences. I wanted to see the girl she was in the first pages of the novel. She was in so deep that I did wonder how she was going to pull this off. The ending is somewhat satisfying but by that time all my sympathy for her was drained down so much that my heart didn’t really jump up and down like it should have when she was forced to see what she was doing to herself.

The novel isn’t perfect, the characters could have been developed more and Scarlett’s naivety isn’t particularly charming. But if you like to set your teeth into a gritty, unflinching novel about what happens behind the curtains of a modelling agency though, this will leave you wide-eyed.

Maybe there’s a lesson to be learned here though and that is that you have to be your own self and not let others decide who you are.

I received a free proof copy of this novel from the publisher and BATC. This is still my honest opinion.

 

The Switch by Beth O’Leary #BookReview @OLearyBeth @QuercusBooks

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Eileen is sick of being 79.
Leena’s tired of life in her twenties.
Maybe it’s time they swapped places…

When overachiever Leena Cotton is ordered to take a two-month sabbatical after blowing a big presentation at work, she escapes to her grandmother Eileen’s house for some overdue rest. Eileen is newly single and about to turn eighty. She’d like a second chance at love, but her tiny Yorkshire village doesn’t offer many eligible gentlemen.

Once Leena learns of Eileen’s romantic predicament, she proposes a solution: a two-month swap. Eileen can live in London and look for love. Meanwhile Leena will look after everything in rural Yorkshire. But with gossiping neighbours and difficult family dynamics to navigate up north, and trendy London flatmates and online dating to contend with in the city, stepping into one another’s shoes proves more difficult than either of them expected.

Leena learns that a long-distance relationship isn’t as romantic as she hoped it would be, and then there is the annoyingly perfect – and distractingly handsome – school teacher, who keeps showing up to outdo her efforts to impress the local villagers. Back in London, Eileen is a huge hit with her new neighbours, but is her perfect match nearer home than she first thought?

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Have I got the book for you this week! If you’re looking for something uplifting, a read you can really relax into, then you don’t need to search any more, The Switch is the perfect remedy to cure #lockdownloneliness!

I’m not going to lie, I did go into this with high expectations. I loved Beth O’Leary’s debut novel The Flatshare so much, it being one of the biggest surprises of last year for me, so where does this leave this novel? Maybe it’s not as swoonworthy as The Flatshare because a lot of the story’s progress is about developing friendships whereas in the first novel you felt the excitement for a blooming romance (through notes) between two people but I have to say that I was invested in the characters again and I was pleasantly surprised by how much I liked it.

The author chose another format and a completely different story to tell in her second novel, not about two strangers of the opposite sex this time, but rather two main characters Eileen and Leena (well actually also Eileen but lucky the author gave her a nickname here) with about 50 years of an age difference and she made the right move to choose a very different relationship.

So, the women in this novel step into each other’s lives while still very much being themselves and I must say I really love these type of tropes (I’m still a fan of The Holiday starring Cameron Diaz) and the novel gave off a little bit of that vibe of the movie. It was refreshing to see 79-year old Eileen dipping her toes into the world of online dating in the bustling city and to see her granddaughter Leena at the same time in the rural countryside trying to take the local neighbourhood committee serious, to get invested there and roll with the slow life, as well as take care of her mum who she hasn’t been in contact with after her sister died.

The story had enough drive on both sides and I was never bored, even if the neighbourhood watches issues were not really crucial to start with, but it’s more about the people instead of the issues of course and getting to know them and the feeling that they are looking out for each other. If I’m really honest I think for once that I liked the part of the older Eileen with her multiple love interests maybe a little bit more – she’s far from a cliché for her age – because it’s always interesting how someone deals with being dropped into a totally different world, although Leena and grumpy next door neighbour Arnold were quite entertaining too and it was so nice to see them both softening up to each other.

The Switch is a story of one closely knitted community and another community that is about to be changed forever. A few of the themes involved in this novel are love and friendship, reconnecting with people, being forgiving, and especially finding yourself again or should I say accepting that you can’t sometimes be the person you were but that you are a new you.

Beth O’Leary has proven with this sequel that she’s definitely here to stay and her name belongs to be mentioned in the lists with Lucy Dillon, Jojo Moyes and so many others. She’s a brilliant author and if you want a novel to give you a warm fuzzy feeling and a satisfactory smile then I definitely recommend both of her novels. I hope we don’t have to wait too long for her third one now :-).

I received a free copy of this novel from the publisher Quercus Books via Netgalley. This is still my honest opinion.

My One True North by Milly Johnson #BookReview

 

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Laurie and Pete should never have met.
But fate has pushed them together for a reason.

Six months ago, on the same night, Laurie and Pete both lost their partners.
Struggling to manage the grief, they join the same counselling group – and meet each other.

From their sadness, Pete and Laurie find happiness growing and they sense a fresh new beginning.
Except, the more they talk, the more they begin to spot the strange parallels in their stories.
Then Pete discovers a truth that changes everything.

But, as surely as a compass points north, some people cannot be kept apart.

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There’s romance and then there’s ‘Romance’ and My One True North falls in the latter category, the one I absolutely love. Milly Johnson willed me to see Pete and Laurie together very early into the novel because I could see sooooo clear as day they were meant to be together. The story was perfectly paced and it had a very satisfying build up for me, their surprisingly easy connection wasn’t left too long hanging but didn’t come too quick either.

There were a few mysteries and secrets woven into the story that made it even more interesting even if is not so difficult to spot what is going on. The main thread is still about people having lost their loved ones, yet the comments and the situation the characters were in didn’t make me feel utterly sad for either party. Pete and Laurie are missing their partners but they are not stuck in their grief and both want to move forward with their life at the start of the story. It also helped that I already had a sense of the direction the plot developments were going to take so I couldn’t feel too bad about what I thought was coming.

Laurie and Pete meet each other and others too, Maurice, Sharon and Michelle at Molly’s tea club, a small support group that comes together at a tea shop where they chat over cake about the difficulties they are all experiencing. Each person deals with grief but I really appreciate that the author had one character grieve the passing of her dog. It is so underestimated what that does to someone and the important place a pet has as part of the family so I really liked there was attention given to this kind of grief. This lovely bunch of people find friendship and even a few laughs too when they have their meetings, something I hadn’t expected immediately but healing comes in several formats and it made me happy when I saw them dealing with it in such a great way.

I really enjoyed all of the characters in the novel, not only Pete and Laurie are positive and wonderful people (Pete is a firefighter who rescues kittens and dogs in the most touching way, how can you resist him after that?!) but so many others really made this story, from Pete’s father Nigel to Lucy and Griff, his brother and sister in law, to Alan, Laurie’s employer, even Keith Richards and Pong (a goldfish and a cat) had me under their spell.

My One True North is a lovely novel to read, giving hope when you think there might be none to be found again, and truly sends out the message that you can’t waste time and you should be living. It is full of warmth, great friendship and love. It’s contradictory – I do know how it sounds given the subject of the novel – but it really is the truth: if you’re feeling down My One True North will certainly lift up your mood!

I received a free ecopy of this novel from the publisher Simon & Schuster via Netgalley. This is still my honest opinion.

The Sight of You by Holly Miller #BookReview @ByHollyMiller @HodderBooks

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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 . . .

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This is one of those books that take a bit of time to get over them and this one is asking for a couple of days… even though this novel is so bittersweet in the end, I want to keep it alive in my head for a little bit longer. Ever since I read The Man Who Didn’t Call I’ve been searching for a novel to match it, a novel that could make me feel the same way and I had to wait until this one to finally find it, The Sight Of You is the answer to my quest. I felt my throat closing up and a single tear (that’s all I’ll admit to!) might have snaked its way out of the corner of my eye. My suffering was silent, much like how this novel presented its secret. Nothing was overdone or written to be sensational or super dramatic, there was in fact just a quiet kind of sadness that you can feel and read throughout the pages.

I love novels about impossible love stories, but is this one impossible? At times I thought so, other times I felt the exact opposite. There’s so much love though, even if people keep fighting it, if they don’t admit it, if they don’t want to fall in love. What are you going to do? The heart wants what it wants and love hurts, every single time. And then it really begins. Joel has dreams about the people he loves. It’s his best kept secret and has messed up his life since he was about 9 years old. So you can’t blame him for not wanting to fall for Callie. It’s not a big surprise how the story develops, the title is pretty much an omen, but that doesn’t matter because it’s just written with the right amount of dazzle.  

My heart is so full for this novel, and I think I could talk about it for days. It’s very much a head versus heart kind of novel, and one that makes you think too. How would you react? There’s an important lesson here to live your life and I was happy to see both Joel and Callie do just that. A beautiful novel, very highly recommended! Don’t miss out on this heart-breaking tale!

I received a free copy of this novel from the publisher Hodder and Stoughton in exchange for my honest opinion.

A Million Dreams by Dani Atkins #BookReview #Blogtour @AtkinsDani @HoZ_Books

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Beth Brandon always dreamed of owning a florist, but today the bouquets of peonies and bright spring flowers are failing to calm her nerves. Because today, Beth has a life-changing decision to share with her husband.

Izzy Vaughan thought she and her husband would stay together forever, but sometime last year, their love began to fade. They both find such joy in their young son Noah – but is he enough to keep them together?

Eight years ago, something happened to these two women. Something that is about to bring them together in a way no-one thought possible…

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Author
Dani Atkins is an award-winning novelist. Her 2013 debut FRACTURED (published as THEN AND ALWAYS in North America) has been translated into sixteen languages and has sold more than half a million copies since first publication in the UK. Dani is the author of four other bestselling novels, one of which, This Love, won the Romantic Novel of the Year Award in 2018. Dani lives in a small village in Hertfordshire with her husband, one Siamese cat and a very soppy Border Collie.

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Can I give more than 5 stars? A Million Dreams shot daggers through my heart. If you want to read a novel with heart and emotion you need to read this! I was completely lost in this novel again, just like it happened when I read This Love.

I loved that novel so I didn’t have to think twice when I saw the title of this new book and that there was a book tour being organised for it. So yes I was expecting to love it but I loved it even more than I thought, which is especially impressive given the baseline of this novel.

Now, I don’t know if anyone’s noticed it yet, but I usually stay away from novels that deal with that unfulfilled dream of having a child. I always fear that I won’t be able to experience it and feel it as deeply as someone who already has or wants to have children. Well, if there’s someone who has no problems squeezing my heart, then it’s certainly Dani Atkins.

Two women are prepared to fight for what they wanted most in life, except that it was the same dream they had. Oh the dilemma, it was excrutiating to follow and to decide on my own whose side I was on before the story told me the outcome. Alternating chapters following Beth and Izzy show their side of the story and of course the most unwelcome thing happened (winkwink), I liked both women immediately. After a while they were on opposite sides and I didn’t know who to cheer on. They were both right! How were they going to get out of this? How was this going to be solved? I actually know a real true story of a similar situation so I knew what the outcome was there and I did wonder if this would have the same one, but I had no idea how it was going to play out. Well I did say it’s an emotional story, right? It’s a story about a mother’s love that is sooo deep.

You really shouldn’t be allowed to read this novel outside of your home. A Million Dreams got me choked up as much in the beginning of the novel as at the end, and everything in between was a rollercoaster of happy, sad, hopeful, and every other feeling of the rainbow.

Enough said I think… I’m calling this one out as another winner by Dani Atkins!

I received an ecopy of this novel from the publisher, Head of Zeus, via Netgalley. This is my honest opinion.

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A Million Dreams

Tuesday Mooney Talks to Ghosts by Kate Racculia #BookReview @HMHbooks

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A handsome stranger. A dead billionaire. A citywide treasure hunt. Tuesday Mooney’s life is about to change…forevermore.

Tuesday Mooney is a loner. She keeps to herself, begrudgingly socializes, and spends much of her time watching old Twin Peaks and X-Files DVDs. But when Vincent Pryce, Boston’s most eccentric billionaire, dies—leaving behind an epic treasure hunt through the city, with clues inspired by his hero, Edgar Allan Poe—Tuesday’s adventure finally begins.

Puzzle-loving Tuesday searches for clue after clue, joined by a ragtag crew: a wisecracking friend, an adoring teen neighbor, and a handsome, cagey young heir. The hunt tests their mettle, and with other teams from around the city also vying for the promised prize—a share of Pryce’s immense wealth—they must move quickly. Pryce’s clues can’t be cracked with sharp wit alone; the searchers must summon the courage to face painful ghosts from their pasts (some more vivid than others) and discover their most guarded desires and dreams.

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When I clocked the novel Tuesday Mooney talks to Ghosts and its blurb, I was sold right away. It was the treasure hunt with clues sprinkled all over the city mentioned in the blurb that made me very excited to read this novel right away. I was beyond thrilled when I was invited to read the book then not long afterwards. With perfect timing because I wanted to read something fun and light this week. This seemed like a YA novel to me at first, at least that’s the impression I had based on the cover and blurb but Tuesday is 30 years old, she has a job as a researcher and she has real grown up problems, like the grief she feels for the people she misses, Abby and her parents, so much so that she’s trying to keep everyone at arm’s length.

The ghostly part of the story worried me a little bit but I hoped all the sleuthing around would make up for it. Surprisingly, the voice of Abby Hobbes, Tuesday’s best friend who went missing 16 years earlier when they were both still teenagers, and whose witty comments accompany Tuesday sometimes, didn’t bother me at all. I really loved how the author kept it all very much in the air whether she was a ghost or conjured up by Tuesday and I felt comfortable with both explanations so I wasn’t disappointed at all in the end. It also helped that Tuesday was realistic enough to question her own sanity at times but listened to and embraced Abby’s thoughts at the same time. That little mystery was brilliantly done as were the multiple other mysteries and surprising twists sprinkled throughout the novel.

It wasn’t all play and games though, with two missing people in the novel for years, a year-long feud between families, and the death of parents, it is more than just good fun. Grief and coping with loss are just a few of the important themes in this novel and I very much enjoyed the message of being yourself in the end as well.

I enjoyed the cast of characters, Tuesday, her best gay friend Dex, sixteen-year old Dorry and Nathaniel who seeks her help to win the game, and the complexitiy they all bring to the story with their own individual struggles. I did find Archie a bit confusing a name at some times because with Arches as a surname I often had to read it twice to check who we were talking about, him or another member of his family. I found the quirky characters a little over the top at times too, but they always remained interesting.

The ending was full of adventure and action, the discovery of Vincent Pryce’s richness and other secrets revealed was grand, sensational and majestic and very very movie worthy.

So, this novel is drama, mystery, romance (just a pinch) and a thriller all balled into one book. It works though, I liked every genre represented and they all blended perfectly together. This book was perfect escapism. If you enjoyed reading A Semi-Definitive List of Possible Nightmares, you’ll enjoy this one too!

I received a free copy of this novel from the publisher Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing. This is still my honest opinion.