The Last Charm by Ella Allbright.

Thank you to netgalley and the author for allowing me to read this ARC in exchange for an honest review.

About the book: When Leila loses her precious charm bracelet and a stranger finds it, she has to tell the story of how she got the charms to prove she’s the owner. Each and every one is a precious memory of her life with Jake. So Leila starts at the beginning, recounting the charms and experiences that have led her to the present. A present she never could have expected when she met Jake nearly twenty years ago…

My thoughts:

I feel incredibly privileged to have been able to read this book as I completely fell in love with it and it is a story that has stayed with me constantly since I finished it. I felt every emotion whilst reading it, some quite overwhelmingly at times and I am not afraid to say that at certain moments I sobbed. But that just shows what a powerful story Ella Allbright has written, and it definitely surprised me with the depth of emotion I felt towards characters and situations. I have discovered lately that I really enjoy reading books where the characters challenge me, particularly those I don’t always immediately warm too. It’s as if they have to work even harder to get into my affections, and the two main characters certainly managed that by the end…..Leila more so as I felt she went on an even bigger journey of self-discovery than Jake. I always got the feeling that even though we meet the two characters when they are just children, Jake was always going to turn out alright, whereas Leila needed to find more awareness of herself and those around her.

I loved the way that the story followed the two main characters as they are growing up, meaning it had to span over such a pivotal time in anyone’s life, moving from childhood to adolescence, and into the rigours of adulthood. Ella Allbright very effectively encapsulated all the emotions that everybody goes through growing up.

I would easily give this story 5 stars – particularly so for the last quarter of the book. It was such a stunning read, with plenty of twists that I didn’t see coming, times when I just wanted to shake the characters to see what we as readers could see, and for the depth of emotion it evoked in me.

I would also like to say that having spoken to the author on Twitter as well she is just a thoroughly nice person, and I can’t wait to read more of her work.

The Last Charm will be published on 18th August 2020 but I would highly recommend you preorder it now.

The Flatshare by Beth O’Leary

About the book:

Tiffy and Leon share an apartment. Tiffy and Leon have never met. Tiffy Moore needs a cheap flat, and fast. Leon Twomey works nights and needs cash. Their friends think they’re crazy, but it’s the perfect solution. Leon occupies the one bed flat while Tiffy’s at work in the day, and she has the run of the place the rest of the time. But with obsessive ex-boyfriends, demanding clients at work, wrongly imprisoned brothers, and of course the fact that they still haven’t met yet, they’re about to discover that if you want the perfect home you need to throw the rule book out the window.

My thoughts:

I loved this book – I thought it was so funny and very well written, but also with a layer of depth to it that I wasn’t at first expecting. Tiffy and Leon were both brilliant characters, I loved the form of communication they developed and thought it was unique and fresh – something I had not seen in a book before. Unusually for me, I liked both characters equally the same……however I developed an impassioned hatred for the character of Justin – I think I shouted at my kindle at one point as he was annoying me SO much. Testament however to the brilliant way that he had obviously been written.

I would highly recommend this book as one that does keep you on your toes – every time I thought there would be a happy ever after there was another twist or something/one else (Justin) came along and spoilt it. I have immediately bought Beth O’Leary’s next book as a result of reading this one.

Definitely 5 stars from me.

The Hopes and Dreams of Libby Quinn by Freya Kennedy.

A gorgeous new romantic comedy about taking chances and realising your dreams. Libby Quinn is sick and tired of being sensible.
After years of slogging her guts out for nothing at a PR company, she finds herself redundant and about to plough every last penny of her savings into refurbishing a ramshackle shop and making her dream of owning her own bookshop become a reality.
She hopes opening ‘Once Upon A Book’ on Ivy Lane will be the perfect tribute to her beloved grandfather who instilled a love of reading and books in her from an early age.
When her love life and friendships become even more complicated – will Libby have the courage to follow her dreams? Or has she bitten off more than she can chew?

Buy it on Amazon here: https://amzn.to/32fcf1C

My Thoughts

I have always said that my dream job would be to own a bookshop so this book appealed to me from the very first chapter.  I instantly liked all the characters as well and wanted to become a part of the Ivy Lane community myself – I could vividly imagine the pub and the corner shop – it took some time to remind myself that it wasn’t me in the story!

 I loved this book, it was such a lovely summery read and had everything I like in a story – a nice plot, a bit of romance and a lovely ending.  I loved the way her grandfather was threaded throughout the whole story and how her reason for opening the bookshop remained the same throughout.  The other characters were all equally likeable, and Jo in particular just seems like someone everyone should have as a friend. 

I would highly recommend this book if you are a book lover.  It was very clever that each new chapter was named after a different book, which has definitely added to my ‘to be read’ list!

Author Bio

Freya Kennedy lives in Derry, Northern Ireland, with her husband, two children, two cats and a mad dog called Izzy. She worked as a journalist for eighteen years before deciding to write full time. When not writing, she can be found reading, hanging out with her nieces and nephews, cleaning up after her children (a lot) and telling her dog that she loves her. She has met Michael Buble and even kissed him. It was one of her best ever moments. She believes in happy ever afters.
Freya Kennedy is a pen name for Claire Allan, who also writes psychological thrillers.

A Patchwork Family by Cathy Bramley.

This story follow the main characters of Gina, Dexter, Violet and Bing. Gina is recently divorced and is beginning to learn that taking risks both personally and professionally can be a good thing. She lives on the edge of The Evergreens, a beautiful old mansion house. When its future is threatened she has to find a way of achieving the one thing she really wants, despite a range of obstacles getting in her way…some much closer to home and more personal than she first realised. This is a beautiful story about love, hope and ultimately who your family really are.

I first came across Cathy Bramley when I read the short story “We’ll Meet Again” and it instantly made me want to read A Patchwork Family. This was a lovely feel-good book and it just made me feel happy. I really liked the natural progression of all the characters and it all felt very real as a result. I liked how there were plenty of entertaining moments and it created a really nice pace for the story…..there were points where I genuinely didn’t know if there would be a happy ending and it made me root for all the characters even more.

This was the perfect spring-time read and I really warmed to Gina, wanting the very best for her. As a result of reading this book I instantly downloaded some more books by Cathy Bramley, and cannot wait to immerse myself in her world of writing again!

Brunch and Other Obligations by Suzanne Nugent.

This book is about three “frenemies” – Nora, Christina and Leanne. They all knew each other when they were younger, but are properly reunited due to the death of their mutual best friend Molly. They have to navigate their way through their own personal grief by attending monthly brunches – one of the final requests that Molly has made of them. As the brunches progress and the story moves on, they start to re-evaluate their decisions and paths that their own lives have taken. They are all incredibly different from each other and this does serve as a sticking point in them being able to form any sort of relationship, however maybe being different to each other is not such a bad thing after all?

I really enjoyed seeing the dynamic between the three women and I was particularly intrigued by Nora, and I think I enjoyed her story the most – she seemed to me to have the biggest journey through a readers’ eyes – although I’m not sure she would have realised that herself! The whole story idea was a really interesting concept and I liked the chatty narrative style being consistently in the first person. It felt like we were almost being allowed to watch these lives from afar, with a narrator picking up on key points.

I would definitely recommend this book. I am always intrigued how the death of a close friend has an impact on those left behind and I felt that this book summarised it all really well.

Thank you to Netgalley for giving me this book in exchange for an honest review.

The Girl in the White Dress by Paul Barrell

Thank you to the author for sending me a review copy to read in exchange for an honest review.

The Girl in the White Dress centres around the main character Paul, who has a recurring dream / vision / nightmare about being on a ship with a mysterious girl. He knows that something happened but his memories refuse to be unlocked. This leads him down a path of discovery where he uncovers that his dream was infact true, and it leads to a series of events where he meets acquaintances from his past.

I thought that this story had a lot of potential and I was intrigued to find out the truth and discover whether his dreams were just dreams, or whether there was some truth to his visions….I think I was just hoping for a bit more depth throughout. I liked the way it shifted from 1974 to 2005 and the more modern day storyline did flow nicely – I was just waiting for some bigger cliff hangers, but that’s just my personal opinion.

I would however recommend this book if you like a bit of mystery in a story – and the fact that it was believeable gave it a good sense of credibility.

The Binding by Bridget Collins

This was just one of those stunning books that will stay with me for a long time.  I can’t explain in enough words just how much I adored reading this book, and I really didn’t want it to finish.

The Binding follows the story of Emmet Farmer as he becomes a binder’s apprentice and learns the trade of locking people’s memories away in books – meaning their minds get wiped and they can continue their lives as normal.  Whilst living with the mysterious Seredith, Emmet meets a man called Lucian Darnay – and struggles to identify with the huge range of emotions and dreams he keeps having regarding him.  The story then follows the incredibly complex relationship that envelopes Darnay and Emmet and we see the huge consequences for many other characters, simply as a result of Darnay and Emmet knowing each other.

I thought that the whole story of The Binding had such a unique and fresh quality to it and it was quite simply beautifully written.  The book is written in three parts and  I particularly loved the second part where we found out how Lucian and Darnay properly met – I raced through the third part as a result, and instantly wanted to go back at the end and read the first part of all over again with a fresh new perspective.  The descriptions were so vivid that I could completely imagine this intricate world that Bridget Collins describes and I found myself becoming so absorbed in it.  I thought the way that Lucian Darnay in particular was written was so clever, I went from immensely disliking him at the start to wanting nothing more than for him to be happy and live the life he wants.  I think for me that was why I loved this book so much, I was really rooting for the two main characters and I found myself caring about them.

The genre of this book could be said to be historical fiction, and for a genre that I may not usually choose I just thought it was simply outstanding.  A definite 5 stars for The Binding.

The Binding

 

On a Beautiful Day by Lucy Diamond

This is a beautifully written story about four friends who meet, as they always do, for a low key birthday lunch. The horrific accident they suddenly witness has far reaching repercussions for all of them, and forms the basis of the book. Laura, India, Eve and Jo are the main characters and we follow each of their lives, with Laura facing up to a life without the baby she so desperately wants, Eve discovering a lump and the emotional turmoil that brings, Jo navigating a new relationship after a recent divorce, and India having to finally lay events from her past to rest.

I loved the way that each chapter focussed on a different character – it kept the story fresh and interesting, especially as each of the women’s lives intertwined in different ways. There were a couple of moments early on where I thought I had guessed where the story was going to go, and I felt worried that I sussed it all out so early on, but Lucy writes in such a lovely way that I was completely wrong and it was a real surprise to discover some twists and turns along the way.

I would highly recommend this book as a feel-good read, with at least one of the characters guaranteeing to pluck at your heart strings or remind you of people you may know! Although I have to say my favourite character ended up being Lewis!! The way the prologue in particular was written was absolutely beautiful and has really stayed with me.

Rachel’s Pudding Pantry by Caroline Roberts

Rachel’s Pudding Pantry was a lovely feel good read whilst I was on holiday. It’s no secret that I love books by Heidi Swain so I chose to read this one as it seemed to be a similar genre.

The main plot focuses on Rachel, her Mum Jill and Rachel’s adorable daughter Maisie, who I completely fell in love with. Rachel needs to make the family farm more sustainable after a recent family tragedy. With her Mum she sets up a pudding business and Rachel, despite a bit of an age gap, grows closer to her neighbour Tom who she has known since childhood.

My thoughts: I loved the family feel of this book and I was surprised at how quickly I took Rachel, her Mum and Maisie to my heart. I woke up wanting to know how they were getting on one day!! Having family that live in the countryside myself, I could really imagine it all happening and pictured the perfect setting in my head. This made the whole book come to life a lot more for me, and I really liked the bond of the whole community (again a similar thread that runs through Heidi Swain’s books).

Overall I would give Rachel’s Pudding Pantry 4 out of 5 stars and I would recommend it as a feel good relaxing read. I’ve already downloaded Caroline Roberts’ sequel Christmas book ready for when December arrives!

The Cherry Tree Café by Heidi Swain

I first came across Heidi Swain this summer when I was looking on my kindle for a new book to read whilst on holiday. I read “Coming Home to Cuckoo Cottage” and just instantly fell in love with the residents of Wynbridge, and Heidi Swain’s writing style. I immediately wanted to read everything she had written and immerse myself even further in the small village of Wynbridge, so I bought a further four of her books!

The Cherry Tree Café was the first book that Heidi wrote and I loved starting right at the very beginning of her journey, meeting all the characters for the first time and finding out a bit more about those that I had come across in ‘Coming Home to Cuckoo Cottage’.

The Cherry Tree Café focuses on the story of Lizzie and how she has to return to Wynbridge feeling sorry for herself and ready to start again. She faces many life-changing decisions (that I think a lot of people in their late 20’s can relate to) and this was one of the aspects that made the book so enjoyable for me, because as a reader I almost felt the need to shout at the book when it looked like Lizzie was going to make the wrong choices! For a debut novel I thought ‘The Cherry Tree Cafe’ was absolutely outstanding and I would highly recommend if you want to read a book where it feels like the characters really become friends. Whenever the door opened of ‘The Mermaid’ I felt like I was personally welcoming the characters in!

I am currently reading my third Heidi Swain book and so far they have all followed a similar pattern of a resident returning to Wynbridge and using the magic of the place to rebuild their lives. The character’s are so likeable that I have enjoyed following this same theme and always look forward to seeing how life will work out for them.

I cannot wait to continue to read everything Heidi has ever written….next up will be her Christmas offerings!