Wednesday, 14 August 2019

When You were Mine - Lisa Swift

Date of Reading: 09/09/2019
Author: Lisa Swift
Publisher: Hera
Publication Date: August 14, 2019
Source: NetGalley 
My Rating: 5/5
About the book:
Life is a love song when you find the right notes
Maggie and Ibby make up a happy – if unconventional – family. After meeting at university, they now live in the village of Applecroft on the beautiful West Country coast.

Okay, so Ibby’s gay and prone to disastrous dates, while couples’ counsellor Maggie spends her days helping people with their relationship problems despite having no sex life of her own. Nevertheless, they’re devoted to bringing up teenage daughter Amelia – the result of a drunken one-night stand when they were students – in a stable and loving family.

Until a face from the past – in the form of hard-partying rock star Jordan Nash – disrupts their quiet lives. As Jordan struggles with his personal demons and old secrets are revealed, can Maggie and Ibby stay strong? Or will bringing back the past threaten all that they’ve built in the present?

A feel-good, heart-warming novel about first loves and second chances. Fans of Holly Martin, Dani Atkins and Heidi Swain will be captivated.

Lisa Swift is the pseudonym for bestselling women's fiction novelist, Mary Jayne Baker.
My Review:
       Ok, I know what you are thinking. This is totally weird. A family of three where the father is gay, mother is . . . let's say. . . straight, and they have a daughter (created not by artificial means). And before you ask, no, they are not a couple. In my opinion this is weirder than 'I've Got Mail'. What puzzled me most was how it is possible (even in a fictional sense) for a gay man to have child. If you are bothered by this, please don't let this spoil your reading as all will be explained by the end.
      This is Mary Jayne Baker's first novel as Lisa Swift. Though I don't really get the reason for different names, I enjoyed it just like her other novels. Of the three novels I am familiar with, this is my favourite. Her signature style shines through even with the change of name. There is the ever present humor, gay characters and most of all the theme of friendship that knits together all her novels.   
      Even with its light hearted tone, the novel discusses some weighty issues like homophobia, coming of age and  drug addiction. This is the story of a family wading through the storm and also that of a friendship beating the odds. The characters are likable, good hearted (a rare breed indeed) even with the human frailities and . . . ya, they are going to stay with me for a very long time.
     Amelia is by far my favourite. She shows a maturity that is unheard of but is not unreal. Whatever sacrifices Iggy and Maggy made to provide her a stable, healthy childhood is totally paid off. Message of the story is simple and probably as old as the universe itself . . . love conquers all. It doesn't matter how odd your family is, if you stand together and welcome the changes with an open heart, anything can be overcome. 
      A remarkable story which is hard to put down. It will embrace you like an old friend and will fill a hole in your heart that you never knew existed.
Meet the author:
Lisa Swift grew up in rural West Yorkshire, right in the heart of Brontë country... and she's still there. After graduating from Durham University with a degree in English Literature, she dallied with living in cities including London, Nottingham and Cambridge, but eventually came back with her own romantic hero in tow to her beloved Dales, where she first started telling stories about heroines with flaws and the men who love them.

Lisa also writes romantic comedy novels under the name Mary Jayne Baker.

Thursday, 8 August 2019

Sunshine over Bluebell Castle - Sarah Bennett (Blog Tour)

Date of Reading: 31/07/2019
Author: Sarah Bennett
Publisher: HQ Digital
Publication Date: July 1, 2019
Source: NetGalley
My Rating: 4.5/5

(This review is part of the blog tour organised by Rachel's Random Resources)

About the book:

The summer she will never forget…

Time’s running out for Iggy Ludworth to restore the wild gardens of Camland Castle in time for the Summer Fete, so she ropes in hotshot gardener Will Talbot…

But she regrets her decision as soon as he sets foot in the historic grounds – not only is Will arrogant and bossy, he’s totally gorgeous!

And very soon, sparks are flying amongst the bluebells. Yet with summer nearly over, will their summer fling convince Will and Iggy to go the distance?

Perfect for fans of Trisha Ashley, Rachael Lucas and Hilary Boyd.

My Review:

    It seems only yesterday that I have read the first book in the Bluebell Castle series. I enjoyed the story of Arthur immensely and was hoping to know more about the triplets, especially Tristan. Well, so a tad bit disappointed knowing that this is about Iggy, the eldest who lost her title due to her gender.
      Iggy was not one of the prominent characters in the first novel but here her personality and gardening skills completely take over the story. And Will compliments her character perfectly so much so that I eventually ended up loving this more than the first. The story follows the dual narrative technique contributing much to the emotional turmoil we are going to endure throughout. Igraine is a lovable lady (even with all her insecurities) and I am so happy that she found her own path at the end. 
     That being said, we also get to follow our first couple to their marriage vows and there comes a wedding of revelations and new beginnings (ah! not only for those two). On the whole, a beautifully put-together storyline for a relaxed and lazy evening. Can't wait for the last story in the series. . .

Meet the author:

Sarah Bennett has been reading for as long as she can remember. Raised in a family of bookworms, her love affair with books of all genres has culminated in the ultimate Happy Ever After – getting to write her own stories to share with others.

Born and raised in a military family, she is happily married to her own Officer (who is sometimes even A Gentleman). Home is wherever he lays his hat, and life has taught them both that the best family is the one you create from friends as well as relatives.

When not reading or writing, Sarah is a devotee of afternoon naps and sailing the high seas, but only on vessels large enough to accommodate a casino and a choice of restaurants.

You can connect with her via twitter @Sarahlou_writes or on Facebook

Sarah is the author of the Butterfly Cove, Lavender Bay and Bluebell Castle series for HQ Digital UK. 

Sunday, 4 August 2019

A Question of Us - Mary Jayne Baker

Date of Reading: 04/08/2019
Author: Mary Jayne Baker
Publisher: Aria
Publication Date: September 5, 2019
Source: NetGalley
My Rating: 5/5

About the book:

Two best friends. Eight pub quizzes. One shot at love...

Some people seem like they have all the answers in life. Clarrie Midwinter isn't one of them.

At the age of 26, tomboy Clarrie is still struggling to become a 'proper' grown-up. She's eternally strapped for cash, she hasn't had a date in nearly a year and her attempts to quit smoking tend to take a nosedive after the second pint. Most annoyingly of all, her ladykiller best friend Simon just won't stop asking her out. The only thing keeping her sane is her pub quiz team, the Mighty Morphin Flower Arrangers.

But when Simon bets her a date their team will win the quiz league, Clarrie is forced to confront what she really wants out of life – and love. Is it finally time for her to grow up?

Gloriously irreverent, badly behaved romantic comedy from the author of Meet Me at the Lighthouse.

My Review:

      There is no contesting the fact that enemies to lovers is my favourite trope, but friends to lovers can always bag the second position. And this lovely book undoubtedly goes straight to my favourite shelf. Set in a typically British village, the story had me in the hooks from the very beginning and the pages flew by . . . just like that.
      When I said 'village' that doesn't mean the story is all about a cosy, little Edenic place. On the contrary, most of the story surrounds a tightly knit group and pub quizzes and so we see more booze and talk than any real village life. The humour is irresistible and the banter (with sexual overtones) is spot on. Yup, if you want to pick some British slangs, this is your right pick.
      Main characters are Clarrie and Simon aka Si. They are close since their birth but never could manage that final leap to love, all thanks to Carrie's anxiety. Now, at the age of twenty-six, she is finally cornered into a bet. Well, let fate make a decision and all that. Si is not your typical macho guy (with all his cockiness, he sobs when he learns that his mom is ill) and I just love him for that.
        The other members of the gang have their own major parts too with stories going on their own. We have Sonny (or Sunil) an Indian Sikh, Dave and Gemma. Everyone knows practically everything about each other and that creates the whole fun scenario. Couples are made (not unmade, fortunately) and life goes on. 
       I am practically jealous of them all actually. One of the drawbacks of village life is that there are no secrets, but the support of the tight-knit community can never be replaced. They make you appreciate the little things. I loved the way the story turned out, expected but still quite romantic. Wooh!
       So what are you waiting for guys? Stock your drink cabinet and keep your tissues at hand; this cute little story is going to make you misty-eyed one moment and howling with laughter the other. A great comfort read for the weekends!

Meet the author:

Mary Jayne Baker grew up in rural West Yorkshire, right in the heart of Brontë country... and she's still there. After graduating from Durham University with a degree in English Literature, she dallied with living in cities including London, Nottingham and Cambridge, but eventually came back with her own romantic hero in tow to her beloved Dales, where she first started telling stories about heroines with flaws and the men who love them.

Mary Jayne also writes uplifting, feelgood romances under the pen name Lisa Swift.       

Saturday, 13 July 2019

Five Wakes and a Wedding - Karen Ross

Date of Reading: 16/06/2019
Author: Karen Ross
Publication Date: July 22, 2019
Source: NetGalley
My Rating: 4.5/5

About the book:

Undertaker Nina Sherwood is full of good advice. For example, never wear lip gloss when you’re scattering ashes.

Nina is your average 30-year-old with a steady job, a nice home – and dead bodies in her basement. As an undertaker, she often prefers the company of the dead to the living – they’re obliging, good listeners and take secrets to the grave.

Nina is on a one-woman mission to persuade her peers that passing on is just another part of life. But the residents of Primrose Hill are adamant that a funeral parlour is the last thing they need… and they will stop at nothing to close down her dearly beloved shop.

When Nina’s ‘big break’ funeral turns out to be a prank, it seems like it’s the final nail in the coffin for her new business. That is, until a (tall, dark and) mysterious investor shows up out of the blue, and she decides to take a leap of faith.

Because, after all, it’s her funeral…

The perfect antidote to all those books about weddings, this book will make you laugh until you cry, perfect for fans of Zara Stoneley’s Bridesmaids, Four Weddings and a Funeral and The Good Place.

My Review:

    How many books do we get to read on undertakers? For me: Not a single one. So without a doubt, this was a fresh breeze in a genre I love so much. But don't be misled by the blurb, it is not as intriguing as it sounds. It is your usual relaxing story even if it is all about funerals. Oh! don't make that face like the residents of Primrose Hill. Death is one of the realities of life and we need to face it whether we like it or not. But how you want to make your grand exit is entirely up to you.
       Yes! I know love and death are polar opposites. One is a nourisher while the other is destruction. So a love story featuring funerals (five in fact) is strange indeed. What is stranger is that we are going to love the funerals much more than the wedding at the end. Nina's passion for business clearly dominates the story of her love life. If I have to pick a favourite among the funerals, it is going to be the second one. It was spectacular as well as surprising. 
      If you haven't thought about your funerals yet, this book is a good place to start. Do you want everyone to weep over your death or be glad about the moments they were able to share with you? So don't miss this precious gem, you are bound to get a lot of ideas.     

Friday, 12 July 2019

Muhammad Bin Tughlaq - Anuja Chandramouli

Date of Reading: 20/06/2019
Author: Anuja Chandramouli
Subtitle: Tale of a Tyrant
Publisher: Penguin Ebury Press
Publication Date: May 10, 2019
Source: ARC provided by the author in exchange for an honest review
My Rating: 4.5/5

About the book:

Muhammad was a good man who did terrible things and a tyrant of a Sultan who tried to do good

When his father dies, Prince Jauna Khan succeeds to the throne of Delhi as Muhammad bin Tughlaq. His reign will prove to be epic and bloody, but unsurpassed in splendour, innovation and defeat. 

A formidable strategist and remarkable scholar, the Sultan will go down in history for his brutality as well as his brilliance, unfairly remembered only as a cruel tyrant who might have been raving mad. His high-flown aspirations and grandiose ambitions may have met with crushing failure, but even so, Tughlaq was a great hero of the fourteenth century, albeit a tragic and fatally flawed one.

In this fictional retelling, Anuja Chandramouli, one of India's best mythology writers, reimagines Muhammad bin Tughlaq's life and times in incredible detail to bring to life the man behind the monarch.


         I took a lot of time to finish this particular historical fiction, partly due to the awfully small letters characteristic of Penguin and also because this is a book which, as per Baconian dictums, should be chewed and digested. Meanwhile, I took it wherever I went -- meetings, academic gatherings -- and unsurprisingly it drew a lot of attention. 'Are you implying that the agendas we are discussing are of Tughlaquian in nature?' One teased the presence of the book. Well, that aptly summarises what Tughlaq means to Indians -- a mad monarch with crazy projects. And we are forgetting, quite conveniently it seems, that most of his crazy plans are practised nowadays including that of paper money.
      If a writer's function is to remind, inspire and correct, then Anuja Chandramouli has completed that task to perfection. Here is the best defence to a monarch who is largely misunderstood due to his innovative schemes. It is said that a wise man goes with the people, a foolish man against them and a great man brings the people to his way. Looking it in that way, it seems there is only a thin line that separates the foolish and the great. Though Muhammad will surely be categorised with the former (he could never stand the foolish whims of his people), his ideas are nothing short of great. 
       In a way, Chandramouli's cleverly crafted work is a eulogy to a monarch who was too modern for his times and who never cared what history speaks of him. We close the book with a heavy heart mourning for a great man whose intentions never really came to fruition.

Meet the author:

Anuja Chandramouli is a bestselling Indian author and New Age Indian Classicist. Her highly acclaimed debut novel, Arjuna: Saga of a Pandava Warrior-Prince, was named by Amazon India as one of the top 5 books in the Indian Writing category for the year 2013. Kamadeva: The God of Desire and Shakti: The Divine Feminine are her other bestsellers. Currently, all three books are being translated into Hindi, Marathi, Gujarathi and Bengali, a real achievement for one so young. 

Her epic fantasies called Yama’s Lieutenant and its sequel has received an overwhelming response. Her books on Kartikeya, Padmavati and Prithviraj Chauhan have been very successful. Her latest book is Ganga: The Constant Goddess

An accomplished orator, she regularly conducts workshops on Creative Writing, Story Telling and Mythology in schools, colleges and various other platforms. Her motivational speeches have also been well received. According to Chandramouli, her work with youngsters in the rural belt helping them improve their Spoken English and Writing skills has been wonderfully satisfying and enriching. 

This happily married, mother of two little girls, lives in Sivakasi, Tamil Nadu. She is a student of classical dance and Yoga. 


Sunday, 7 July 2019

Our Stop - Laura Jane Williams

 Date of Reading: 03/07/2019
Author: Laura Jane Williams
Publisher: Avon
Publication Date: June 13, 2019
Source: NetGalley 
My Rating: 4/5
About the book:
What if you almost missed the love of your life?
Nadia gets the 7.30 train every morning without fail. Well, except if she oversleeps or wakes up at her friend Emma’s after too much wine.

Daniel really does get the 7.30 train every morning, which is easy because he hasn’t been able to sleep properly since his dad died.

One morning, Nadia’s eye catches sight of a post in the daily paper:

To the cute girl with the coffee stains on her dress. I’m the guy who’s always standing near the doors… Drink sometime?

So begins a not-quite-romance of near-misses, true love, and the power of the written word.

My Review:

       This is indeed 'Serendipity' reborn. I loved that movie and so was in no doubt got engrossed with this prettily written novel. With an exciting start (Nadia's first day of new beginnings), the story turns out to be unputdownable halfway through. I am not a regular fan of dual narration, but here I grudgingly admit that the technique was perfect.
        There are so many near misses to make you groan aloud in frustration and will also push you to see it to the end. And the meeting at last . . . ah! it was so worth it. The train guy was right in front of her the whole time. If that is not a lesson to get acquainted with our neighbours, I am not sure what is.  
     Altogether if you are looking for an easy to finish, exciting romance, just go for this blindly. Mind you, better start believing in destiny and true love because as the story of Nadia and Daniel teaches us, miracles do happen. 

Meet the author:

Laura Jane Williams is the author of cult non-fiction memoirs Ice Cream for Breakfast and Becoming, as well as rom-com Our Stop. Our Stop is a HELLO! Magazine summer book club pick and RED Magazine called it "a must read". She is currently working on her next novel - and Instagramming at @laurajaneauthor
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