Space Hopper by Helen Fisher #AudiobookReview #Netgalley @HFisherAuthor

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They say those we love never truly leave us, and I’ve found that to be true. But not in the way you might expect. In fact, none of this is what you’d expect.

I’ve been visiting my mother who died when I was eight.
And I’m talking about flesh and blood, tea-and-biscuits-on-the-table visiting here.

Right now, you probably think I’m going mad.
Let me explain…

Although Faye is happy with her life, the loss of her mother as a child weighs on her mind even more now that she is a mother herself. So she is amazed when, in an extraordinary turn of events, she finds herself back in her childhood home in the 1970s. Faced with the chance to finally seek answers to her questions – but away from her own family – how much is she willing to give up for another moment with her mother?

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I never had a space hopper (or skippyball as some might call it) myself when I was young but I do remember going to a certain birthday party in the late ’80s where every child was crazy to try it out, including me. It brings back memories and Space Hopper is all about revisiting the past and finding an answer to that burning question: would you go back in time if you had the chance? Maybe you better think twice before you say yes.

The novel should have been slightly out of my comfort zone since it’s about time travel but I never had a strange or uncomfortable feeling about it. One of the reasons I did like it so much is probably because it had the feeling of a contemporary novel dealing with a mother/daughter relationship more then it was about time travel. It all felt quite natural and of course it helped that Faye, the person subjected to time travel, was quite skeptic about it herself. The process of travelling isn’t glossed over and it was never just accepted as if it were nothing out of the ordinary. The fact is that it really is a big deal and more painful then you think. There are a lot of questions to ask oneself about the safety but on the other hand, aren’t all the risks, the bruises and cuts along the way, worth it if you can see your dead mother again?

Faye lost her mother when she was 8. She doesn’t remember much about it or what her mother died of exactly. She ended up with the neighbours who she called Aunt Em and Uncle Henry and she had a great childhood but they didn’t talked much about her mother or what happened to her. Faye’s a mother herself now of two young daughters and she feels that hole in her heart is still there. She wants to know what happened and who her mother was. Then a miracle happens, she finds an old space hopper box and reenacting an old picture of herself where she’s posing in the box, she suddenly falls through it and ends up in the year 1977. She only ever saw her mother through the eyes of a child so she grabs this opportunity to get to know her mother as an adult, without revealing she’s her daughter coming from the future. I loved that warm feeling of friendship between Faye and her mother Jeannie but I was in conflict sooner than Faye was… what if she didn’t get back to the present, or if she couldn’t let go of her mother, and what if she inadvertedly altered the past, would that change her life in the present?

Space Hopper was a delightful whimsical and warm novel but it doesn’t shy away exploring also bigger topics at times like having faith and living a life without fear for what is coming. I adored Faye’s blind friend Louis and his blindness brought a great perspective to the story. Albeit in a totally different context (he speaks of a very colourful emerald egg that he displays at his house) he says at one moment that you don’t need to see a thing to know it’s true.

The rollerskates that are displayed on the cover also are a wonderful reference in the story. In fact, I enjoyed many many different little scenes that played out. The ending of the novel was very touching, it wasn’t entirely unpredictable but it still gave me a sense of exhilaration (ok and a tiny bit of horror) to see how it played out in the end.

Finally, I loved the narration of this audiobook and Sophie Roberts is the best narrator I ever listened to so far, she really brings the story to life!

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

337 by M. Jonathan Lee #BookReview #337LEE

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337 follows the life of Samuel Darte whose mother vanished when he was in his teens. It was his brother, Tom who found her wedding ring on the kitchen table along with the note.

While their father pays the price of his mother’s disappearance, Sam learns that his long-estranged Gramma is living out her last days in a nursing home nearby.

Keen to learn about what really happened that day and realising the importance of how little time there is, he visits her to finally get the truth.

Soon it’ll be too late and the family secrets will be lost forever. Reduced to ashes. But in a story like this, nothing is as it seems.

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337 is a new and thoughtful story by author Jonathan Lee. In the first 16 pages the author seems to randomly zoom in more and more as if watching from the sky and finally selecting one family that draws his attention. It stops at an idyllic scene, a picknick to be more exact of 2 children Sam and Tom, their parents and their grandparents. The following day Sam and Tom’s mother went missing.

The novel is constructed in such a way that you then have to flip the novel over and with a lovely new cover on the other side you can then read on from where you left off and get the whole story. I love novels that are a bit special and this is the first time I came across such a flip-over novel, so I’m very proud to have such a novelty in my library. (A small note: the book with two covers is only available in the UK and not in other countries)

I already had an uneasy feeling about this picknick scene because there was a certain coldness present that I couldn’t place, a sense that something about that scene wasn’t quite right. I wondered what they were thinking right there, was someone plotting on murdering Sam’s mother there, or did she really plan to leave the next day?

Sam’s grandmother has an impact on the story and his development, even though she’s merely being present and is not an actively participating in the conversations. Her role was significant though and she did get to me. I wish I could have slowed down Gramma’s imminent death so many times while reading but it was clear from her physical descriptions that time was ticking away. While Sam doesn’t make a lot of progress, other mysteries are answered one by one. I found out about the whereabouts of his father, why his brother isn’t there, and in the end why there was a rift between Sam and his Gramma. They hadn’t seen each other in many years, so I could only guess (well I actually didn’t guess this) what caused this family to fall apart even more after what happened to them.

If you love a beautifully written novel with a lot of meaning you must read this novel. It’s a novel that makes you think things over, not to solve a mystery but to understand the characters and how you yourself feel about what Sam’s dealt with. Also, even when I’m someone who’s not very receptive for lyrical prose in novels, this author finds just the right balance to make it easily accessible and beautiful to read, the language is so poetic. I love how the author uses metaphors in his novels, they are easy to comprehend and wonderful to read at the same time.

Although I really enjoyed this novel and didn’t even mind that I thought we would never even get an answer in the end, the answer that we did get left me practically even more curious because in only an instant so much more was left unsaid. If it were up to me I’d have loved an epilogue or an extra chapter. The final line was definitely a shocker and didn’t miss its effect but it left me a bit hanging about the past. Another little thing that I wondered about was the title, I still have no idea what 337 stands for. It’s an intriguing title but not explained in the novel. The only thing I can come up with is that 337 months could be 28 years, and maybe that’s the amount of time his mother went missing but I couldn’t find the exact amount of time in the novel.

337 is a different kind of novel, it has mystery but not in the traditional sense and if the investigation itself is your main interest I wouldn’t recommend it BUT if you want to take an interest in finding out more about a dysfunctional family, if you want to really get to know the main character and see how he’s dealing with grief, with the aftermath of losing a mother, of coming to terms with never knowing, of finally starting to live in the present and letting go, then do pick this one up. 337 is a very engaging, intimate and poetic read.

I received a free hardback copy of this novel from the publisher, Hideaway Fall, in exchange for my honest opinion.

You can also read my reviews of M. Jonathan Lee’s novel Drift, Stumble, Fall by clicking here and Broken Branches here.

Stand By Me by S.D. Robertson #BookReview

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Lisa and Elliot have been best friends ever since the day they met as children. Popular, bright and sporty, Lisa was Elliot’s biggest supporter when the school bullies made his life a misery, and for that, he will always be grateful.

Twenty years later, life has pulled the pair apart and Lisa is struggling. Her marriage is floundering, her teenage kids are being secretive, and she’s so tired she can’t think straight. So when Elliot knocks on the door, looking much better than she remembers, she can’t help but be delighted to see her old friend again.

With Elliot back in their lives, Lisa’s family problems begin to improve – he’s like the fairy godmother she never had. As their bond deepens, she realises how much she’s missed him, and prays that this is one friendship that will last a lifetime. But sometimes, life has other ideas…

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In these (corona) times where we are confined to spend much time alone in our homes, I felt a need to wrap myself into a warm blanket of (fictional) friendship and if you need a friend too and want your heart filled then you must meet Elliot and Lisa because you’re going to wish for a friend like these two after you meet with them.

I’m very lucky to have received a wonderful copy of Stand By Me from an even more wonderful blogfriend and if you want to read an extract about the time Elliot and Lisa had to say goodbye when Elliot moved to Australia you can read it on her blog here. It’s definitely a scene that gives your heart a little squeeze but you don’t have to worry that you’ll be sobbing your heart out from start to finish, the heart of the story is a happy one that celebrates friendship and shows the meaning of a true friend, someone who literally stands by you when you need him or her the most.

The story flashes between present and past and the flashbacks convey just how great a young Lisa is for defending Elliot and being his best friend. And whereas it was Lisa who came to the rescue when they were young, it is now Elliot who is turning things around. Lisa doesn’t know he’s there to come to her rescue this time. She tries very hard to help everyone in her little family but sometimes a little help from someone else can go a long way.

Her husband, a deputy head at a school, was accused by a pupil of attacking him and since then he’s not himself anymore, taking up drinking more and more and putting a real strain on their marriage. He’s not the only one with a problem though, their children Chloe and Ben also have a very real secret, something they are struggling with and are facing all alone and it is Elliot who will help them come to terms with it as he’s always just showing up at the right time at the right place. It seems he has a sixth sense and dare I say magic skills because it looks like he knows things. It’s almost like he’s a godsend, an angel, or is he?

I knew from the beginning it was going to be ‘one of those stories’ but I didn’t really mind, it worked well here. I did think there was a lot of build-up towards the end about repaying for the past and I expected something else, something big and ominous to still happen to one of the members of Lisa’s family but I was completely wrong about that, I guess I made it worse in my own head :-). In the end it was a bittersweet ending but I couldn’t help but smile anyway. Stand By Me was a really heartwarming story of a friendship forming a bond for life. All this with a few extra sprinkles of love and a little magic. Exactly what I needed!

Mini #AudioBookReviews – liar, liar, tongue on fire!

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Two women. A dying wish. And a web of lies that will bring their world crashing down.

Nina and Marie were best friends-until Nina was diagnosed with a terminal illness. Before she died, Nina asked Marie to fulfill her final wishes.

But her mistake was in thinking Marie was someone she could trust.

What Nina didn’t know was that Marie always wanted her beautiful life, and that Marie has an agenda of her own. She’ll do anything to get what she wants.

Marie thinks she can keep her promise to her friend’s family on her own terms. But what she doesn’t know is that Nina was hiding explosive secrets of her own…

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star three and a half

I read Karen Hamilton’s debut novel The Perfect Girlfriend in 2017 as one of the first and I couldn’t shut up about it at the time so it went without saying that I had to read – or listen to – her next novel. It did take me a while to get into the story but it was worth pushing through. I like revenge stories but sometimes it grows old to read about an obsessive jealous protagonist. Marie, the main character, seems calculated, wanting nothing else than Nina’s life who seems to have all her ducks in order. Nina has a wonderful relationship with Stuart and two children, a boy Felix and a girl Emily, until she dies. Cue Marie who sees an opportunity there… but while I thought I knew how this story was going to go it veered into a completely different direction and the past that I had overlooked at first, plays a much more important role than I initially thought and I saw literally everyone in another light by the end of the novel.

The narration of Marie’s and Camilla’s (the other woman in the picture who Marie rather want to see going than coming) voices were quite pleasant to listen to but I didn’t really like Stuart’s. The narrator (Michelle Ford) made his voice croak and he sounded much older than he should be in my head, he also spoke rather slowly, making me feel that he was a bit simple minded. It’s a small qualm but still. I know I was wrong about him though, he’s not a dumb ass and neither is Marie. My opinions about her changed greatly and I even felt sorry for her (the one I called the bitch in my head I have to admit) at a given point. She tries so hard to have Nina’s life and when she finally almost has it, only then does she realize that Nina had quite a few secrets and now she’ll have to make her own decisions if she wants to keep the secrets too. Personally, I think I’d give this 4 stars if I had read it, it had quite a few suspects and twists involved in the second part of the novel, there’s only a teensy bit more love for this author’s debut that had me hooked right away.  

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HowNotToDieAlone audio

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Andrew’s been feeling stuck.

For years he’s worked a thankless public health job, searching for the next of kin of those who die alone. Luckily, he goes home to a loving family every night. At least, that’s what his coworkers believe.

Then he meets Peggy.

A misunderstanding has left Andrew trapped in his own white lie and his lonely apartment. When new employee Peggy breezes into the office like a breath of fresh air, she makes Andrew feel truly alive for the first time in decades.

Could there be more to life than this?

But telling Peggy the truth could mean losing everything. For twenty years, Andrew has worked to keep his heart safe, forgetting one important thing: how to live. Maybe it’s time for him to start.

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First of all, the narration was performed by Simon Vance and we hit it off right away, I loved the fast tempo in which he told the story. He sounded a bit on speed, going a hundred words an hour, but I liked it. You had no choice but to pay attention, there’s not a single chance that you risk a wandering mind when listening to this one. Peggy’s accent was rather special to my ears, I don’t know where she was from. It was still understandable so there were no worries but let’s just say Andrew’s voice was easier.

Secondly, I really liked Andrew’s job. He works for the city council and he has to investigate dead people’s homes, looking for evidence of next of kin in the form of letters, cards, any contact details, and also see if there are any financial statements or official documents lying around that can shed a light on their finances. I was intrigued and interested in witnessing what he came across when entering someone’s home.

I know this might sound weird but I had already thought about this before this audiobook and I actually think this could happen to me when I’m old. I think that’s why I also connected quite well with Andrew, we are actually pretty much alike. For one, he’s also in the same situation as the people of the houses he visits, he lives a very solitary life and he also happened to have told a little white lie about having a family. A white lie that is hard to keep up and is going to get him into trouble, especially as his boss is insisting at organizing dinner’s at everyone’s homes. Where is he going to find a wife and two kids in a fortnight so to speak? 

I found the story itself rather slow and not all of the characters were equally interesting or fleshed out enough. I liked the friends Andrew had online and the plotlines revolving around them, and I liked how understanding Peggy was but I didn’t care for his other colleagues or his boss at all. In the end you know how this is going to end and while the journey towards the end is just as important, I felt was just not quite so memorable as I would have liked and for once I liked the narration more than the story itself. 

#CoverReveal: A Sky Full of Stars by Dani Atkins @HoZ_Books @AtkinsDani

Book Cover reveal

It’s a real pleasure to be involved in the cover reveal for A Sky Full of Stars by Dani Atkins. You don’t have to take my word for it but it’s such a gorgeous cover, I absolutely love it!

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He’d have done everything differently, if he’d known. He’d have held her tighter, kissed her longer. He’d have refused to let her go.

When Lisa married Alex, she gave his life meaning. She was a professional astronomer: a stargazer. And when she gazed at Alex, she saw that behind his tough exterior was a man she could love.

Alex, Lisa and their young son Connor made a happy little universe. But then Lisa dies in a train crash, and their universe is destroyed. Alex is shattered by loss, and overwhelmed by the difficulties of being a single father to a six-year-old boy. How can he and Connor carry on without Lisa lighting up their lives?

Then Alex meets four strangers. Two men and two women, who never met Lisa, but whose lives changed profoundly because she died. As Alex hears their stories, he begins to realise the world may not be as cruel and senseless as it seems. Perhaps, after all, the future is written in the stars…

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So … Are you ready to take a look? Well here it is

Cover A Sky Full of Stars

Doesn’t it look amazing?! If you can’t wait any longer you can pre-order A Sky Full of Stars right now:

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The novel is out on February 4th in hardback and e-book and on August 5, 2021 in paperback.

Author

Dani Atkins is an award-winning novelist. Her 2013 debut Fractured 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.

Connect

Twitter: @AtkinsDani
Facebook: @DaniAtkinsAuthor

Lost You by Haylen Beck #BookReview

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Libby would do anything for her three-year-old son Ethan. And after all they’ve been through, a holiday seems the perfect antidote for them both. Their hotel is peaceful, safe and friendly, yet Libby can’t help feeling that someone is watching her. Watching Ethan. Because, for years, Libby has lived with a secret.

Just days into their holiday, when Libby is starting to relax, Ethan steps into an elevator on his own, and the doors close before Libby can stop them. Moments later, Ethan is gone.

Libby thought she had been through the worst, but her nightmare is only just beginning. And in a desperate hunt for her son, it becomes clear she’s not the only one looking for him.

Who will find him first?

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Oh this one’s a sneaky surprise!

I was eating the cake right away in this novel because my lord, the opening chapter couldn’t have been a more harrowing scene. A woman is standing on a hotel’s rooftop ledge with a little boy in her arms, claiming he’s her son and threatening to jump. All I can say is that the chapter ended what a real cliffhanger and a lot of screaming. It immediately begged for answers. Who is she? Did she really do it and what on earth got into her?

With this in mind I dove into the next chapters where I was introduced to the three and half year old boy’s ‘real’ mother Libby where she is preparing herself and toddler Ethan for their first holiday together. I followed Libby and Ethan enjoying their first days at a splendid hotel and the lead-up to that heart-pounding moment. There was not a doubt in my mind that she wasn’t his mother until

… the story backpedals to 4 years earlier. I’m not saying I was disappointed because I love the writing style but as the story unfolded I could clearly see how this one was going to unfold… Libby wants a baby so much but it looks like nature is not on her side in this, while Anna is having financial problems. Surrogacy isn’t far from anyone’s mind right? Well it certainly comes into play but the story really isn’t so simple, and while it might seem very easy whose side to take, it really wasn’t, my loyalties and beliefs about who should raise this boy went in the tumbler while reading.

Libby and Anna were both well-developed characters that you can’t help sympathise with at different moments. Love is beautiful and ugly at the same time and I certainly felt a few stabs in my heart. But what is right and what is wrong and how far can they go for what they want? Who to root for? I found this a tough decision! There were some not so smart decisions on both sides and it made me totally invested in their stories but then the author made it even better by adding a thunderbolt of a twist so the story didn’t end up where I thought it would at all. I think I even cried out at one specific moment when I saw what was happening! I was maybe not entirely convinced at first about the novel’s originality but I seriously had to reconsider that opinion. I’m not really a fan of novels about surrogacy but if it’s like this… more please!

Final verdict: emotional, thought-provoking and twisty! I promise I won’t underestimate Haylen Beck (aka Stuart Neville) again ;-).

I received a free paperback copy of this novel from the publisher for review. This is still my honest opinion.

The Travelling Cat Chronicles by Hiro Arikawa #BookReview

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It’s not the journey that counts, but who’s at your side.

Nana, a cat, is devoted to Satoru, his owner. So when Satoru decides to go on a roadtrip one day to find him a new home, Nana is perplexed. They visit Satoru’s old friends from his school days and early youth. His friends may have untidy emotional lives but they are all animal lovers, and they also wonder why Satoru is trying to give his beloved cat away. Until the day Nana suddenly understands a long-held secret about his much-loved owner, and his heart begins to break.

Narrated in turns by Nana and by his owner, this funny, uplifting, heartrending story of a cat is nothing if not profoundly human.

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I was a little bit afraid to pick this one up because I believed and had heard that there would be tears involved when reading this (I couldn’t resist buying a copy at the airport last year though) so I left it sitting on my shelf. It has a wonderful cover so I looked at it regularly since then and suddenly I felt I could handle whatever was laying ahead and I went through all my nine boxes to find it again :-).

The story is about a cat called Nana (and he is the narrator of the story)  and his owner Saturo. the story of how they found each other and what happens when they visit Saturo’s old friends. There’s a great deal of friendship, of selflessness and of kindness to be found in the novel and of course it is a perfect novel for cat owners. I don’t know if everyone gets how much you can love an animal but I do, I understood Saturo’s affection to Hachi (his first cat) and to Nana fully.

In the end the author sums up a few of the things the duo came across on their travels and it filled my heart because then I fully felt how wonderful their friendship and journey was together. Of course there was the expected heartbreak as well, it wasn’t really a surprise what was coming and in what form it was going to present itself. In fact I knew as soon as they started their roadtrip. The ending was indeed very touching. There were no traumatizing Marley and Me moments though, it’s nothing of the sort. No it’s the sheer beauty of love and loyalty to ones owner, an owner who’s like a cat whisperer. Saturo knew Nana’s thoughts and Nana was a well-behaved cat who absolutely loved her owner. I can only hope my cat feels the same about me, I’d like to think she does anyway and this heart-warming novel makes me want to give her extra cuddles!

I bought a copy of this novel. This is my honest opinion.

Love is in the air: Dear Emmie Blue by Lia Louis #BookReview @LisforLia @TrapezeBooks

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At sixteen, Emmie Blue stood in the fields of her school and released a red balloon into the sky. Attached was her name, her email address…and a secret she desperately wanted to be free of. Weeks later, on a beach in France, Lucas Moreau discovered the balloon and immediately emailed the attached addressed, sparking an intense friendship between the two teens.

Now, fourteen years later, Emmie is hiding the fact that she’s desperately in love with Lucas. She has pinned all her hopes on him and waits patiently for him to finally admit that she’s the one for him. So dedicated to her love for Lucas, Emmie has all but neglected her life outside of this relationship—she’s given up the search for her absentee father, no longer tries to build bridges with her distant mother, and lives as a lodger to an old lady she barely knows after being laid off from her job. And when Lucas tells Emmie he has a big question to ask her, she’s convinced this is the moment he’ll reveal his feelings for her. But nothing in life ever quite goes as planned, does it?

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How many times do you read a novel and when you finished it you want to start reading it all over again? It really doesn’t happen very often to me but this time it did! I absolutely adored this novel! Dear Emmie Blue is a novel about loneliness, homeliness, about family, friendship and love, about caring for someone and being cared for, and of course there’s an utterly enchanting romance involved at the very, very end as well. It’s not only the romance though that makes this book so amazing, all the other characters are so lovely and caring and fill your heart when reading (except maybe Emmie’s mother and Ana, Eliot’s girlfriend). A special mention though for Rosie and Fox, Emmie’s friends and colleagues who work with her at the hotel and who were wonderful and lightened up the mood every time, their comments were truly funny.

I don’t want to get into the plot, if you pay a little attention and have a sixth sense like me you will know where the story is going but that’s absolutely fine because it only builds that anticipation and makes you ache and long for that perfect happy ending.

A little word of warning that this novel does include the mention of abuse, a moment already spoken of in its first pages, but that moment is not written in any detail in the novel, it does play a role in the story though but it certainly shouldn’t hold you back from reading this emotional rollercoaster of a novel.

Dear Emmie Blue was able to do the craziest thing, it brought tears to my eyes and gave me a great big lump in my throat the size of eh.. an avocado more than once when I was reading this. They weren’t all sad tears and I often smiled through my tears but my heart did get a serious beating. The best romance novels are the ones where you truly fall in love a little yourself and you definitely don’t have to worry here, you’ll fall so hard you’ll hit your head. It’s not about the big words, it’s about the small gestures, am I right? The guy in this novel has my heart!

The blurb of this novel states boldly that it is perfect for fans of Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine. I’ll tell you even more, it is perfect for fans of Eleanor, of The Flatshare and of The Sight of You (which happen to be three of my favourite novels). If you enjoy reading romance Dear Emmie Blue should be on your list! It’s an absolute winner in the romance genre for me and if this novel doesn’t make my favorite list at the end of the year, I don’t know what will! This novel is guaranteed to be a bestseller and I can’t wait to read this author’s next novel!

I received a free copy of this novel from the publisher Trapeze Books for review. This is still my honest opinion.

The Bookish Life of Nina Hill by Abbi Waxman #BookReview

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The only child of a single mother, Nina has her life just as she wants it: a job in a bookstore, a kick-butt trivia team, a world-class planner and a cat named Phil. If she sometimes suspects there might be more to life than reading, she just shrugs and picks up a new book.

When the father Nina never knew existed suddenly dies, leaving behind innumerable sisters, brothers, nieces, and nephews, Nina is horrified. They all live close by! They’re all—or mostly all—excited to meet her! She’ll have to Speak. To. Strangers. It’s a disaster! And as if that wasn’t enough, Tom, her trivia nemesis, has turned out to be cute, funny, and deeply interested in getting to know her. Doesn’t he realize what a terrible idea that is?

Nina considers her options.

1. Completely change her name and appearance. (Too drastic, plus she likes her hair.)
2. Flee to a deserted island. (Hard pass, see: coffee).
3. Hide in a corner of her apartment and rock back and forth. (Already doing it.)

It’s time for Nina to come out of her comfortable shell, but she isn’t convinced real life could ever live up to fiction. It’s going to take a brand-new family, a persistent suitor, and the combined effects of ice cream and trivia to make her turn her own fresh page.

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star three and a half

After last week’s thriller I really needed a book to help relax and loosen my tendons and muscles and The Bookish Life of Nina Hill was the perfect cure. If you’re looking for a novel with a quirky character then Nina definitely fits the bill. It might come as a shock because I read that lots of readers found many similarities in Nina but I didn’t identify with Nina as much as I had expected and I still don’t know if we would be friends exactly.

Nina is a strong, independent woman, whip smart and she really has her opinions. She lives by her calendar (the days were printed between the chapters and I really enjoyed these little extras) and she’s pretty rigid in her timings (ok we might have that in common), and lives with her cat named Phil (ok yes that too only mine doesn’t comment on my behaviour; I haven’t decided yet if that’s a good or bad thing), but for an introvert she does have a pretty full social life, she certainly doesn’t have social anxiety. She leads several book clubs at the bookstore she works, she has trivia night every week and movie nights on her agenda, gym class and there’s also reading time of course. How can a girl still fit in a date with a cute guy with all of that going on?

One day her life is turned upside down when she finds out that the father she never knew died and that he was quite rich. He knew about her though and he left her something in his will and gave her a large extended family as a bonus. Nina isn’t really looking for either and likes her life as it is but it’ll soon turn out that she won’t have a real choice in the matter… some of them look her up and it turns out they do have some things in common. At the same time the boy from a rival trivia team catches her eye and it seems that he might have noticed her too. Can she juggle all of that and let her quiet life become so much more chaotic?

I really enjoyed reading about the new family members and I thought she had much more in common with each of them than with her love interest, who was a lovely boy with lots of patience, but I didn’t really feel the chemistry, especially when she doesn’t find ‘time’ in her schedule to meet him and is still convinced that her future lover needs to read books to be a match. She knows so much and yet she knows nothing at all. Half of us would be single if that were true, right? The love angle was more of a sideplot for me and the focus of the novel was mostly on the new family and the intruiging will, with little sideplots involving the bookshop she worked at and the boy who knows more about sports than her.

The Bookish Life of Nina Hill is a charming book, easy to read and light-hearted. I enjoyed seeing Nina getting her head out of the books and adapting to the new situations. A great holiday novel if you’re still looking for one!

I bought a copy of this novel at my local bookstore. This is my honest opinion.

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.