#Review by Lou of The Imperfect Art of Caring By Jessica Ryn @Jessryn1 @alliyabouyis @HQstories @HarperCollins #BlogTour #Fiction #ContemporaryFiction

The Imperfect Art of Caring
By Jessica Ryn

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Realistic, identifiable and heartwarming. The Imperfect Art of Caring shows so much in its character’s lives. Find the full review below the blurb. Thanks first to HQ Stories for gifting me the book and for having me on the blog tour.

Blurb

The Imperfect Art of CaringOne small act can make a big difference

Violet Strong is strong by name but not by nature, or so she thinks. She listens but never talks about herself. She’s friendly but doesn’t have many real friends. She’s become good at keeping people at a distance ever since she left home at eighteen and never looked back.

But when Violet is forced to return home to care for her estranged mother, Glenys, she quickly finds out that life as a carer isn’t easy. Feeling overwhelmed, she’s forced to turn to the other local carers, including childhood friend, Adam, for help.

Although returning home still feels like a mistake, maybe it will help Violet right some wrongs. After all, she can’t keep running from her past forever, and in learning to look after others, perhaps Violet can start to finally love herself…

Review

Caring, it’s a position so many people find themselves in and there are the challenging conversations to have with family for what to do for best. This is the situation sisters Violet and Jodie find themselves in, when it comes to the time to chat about what to do with their mum, Glenys. Then there’s also the added complexity that Violet hasn’t seen Jodie for years and what to do with her mum’s house, thinking of residential care and also caring for her in the interim period, whilst they decide what to do for best and sort out necessary arrangements. There’s also the assessments, when Violet, ends up looking into care homes and the way that Glenys is feels true to life.

There is some humour and some lovely descriptions and book series titles, blogs, life to be lived, which gives it a 3 dimensional feel, because when you’re dealing with caring there are other things going on too and the world doesn’t just stop. This book is heartwarming and shows kindness within its characters.

The book moves onto Tammy, who is also needing care. There’s only her and her mum and Tammy, who has a disability is trying to live independently, something that her mum finds a bit hard to get her head around at times. The descriptions of how silence is, is intense.
Their stories converge as they end up being neighbours. There are thoughtful, poignant moments throughout and some wise advice from a guy called Adam Croft.
It’s interesting seeing Tammy trying to get on with her life, but also bearing in mind all that her mum has told her. Violet also helps a bit and gives some sound advice. There’s also a search for Tammy’s father, but also a bit of doubt kicks in as to whether it is a good idea or not. In the meantime, it is interesting and positive seeing Tammy progress in life.

For both Violet’s and Tammy’s stories of how life is playing out for them, there is strength of character through the emotions and the getting through life the best they can. There is also a bit of potential romance in the offering.

There’s the highs and lows of caring that are within the book and whether you’re caring for someone or not, even though this is a fictional book, there’s lots both sets of people can take away with them. For carers, it is that it is an “Imperfect Art of Caring” that people try their best to muddle through, and also gives ideas of how to find some support.
For the cared for, there is the drive and determination running through life as well as support.
For those who don’t care for anyone in the sense that this book is talking about, it gives a pretty good picture of the situations faced, at least from a point of view, but without being too heavy.

There’s also the care shown for libraries and a campaign to support them, which is pleasing as so many are lost. It also demonstrates that they are places to ask people for help in. It’s short, but really stands out.

The book is realistic and shows that caring is indeed an “Imperfect Art”, which, anyone who is caring for someone in any situation will know and will have experienced some of what is in the book to a certain extent, depending on situations, including juggling their own life. I see the book as pretty realistic as I am an unpaid carer, writing a blog and juggling other life things as well as caring.

#Review By Lou of Woman In The Middle By Milly Johnson #bookreview @MillyJohnson @SimonSchusterUK #TeamBATC @ed_pr #WomanInTheMiddle

The Woman In The Middle
By Milly Johnson

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Moving with a personal feel to it is what Milly Johnson brings to her latest book – Woman In The Middle. It’s got a bit of a different feel from other books I’ve read and that’s still okay in this pleasant read that delves so much into family life. Thanks to Books And The City at Simon & Schuster for gifting.

Blurb

woman in the middle cover picThe emotional, uplifting and completely relatable new novel from Sunday Times bestseller Milly Johnson.

Shay Bastable is the woman in the middle. She is part of the sandwich generation – caring for her parents and her children, supporting her husband Bruce, holding them all together and caring for them as best she can.

Then the arrival of a large orange skip on her mother’s estate sets in motion a cataclysmic series of events which leads to the collapse of Shay’s world. She is forced to put herself first for a change.

But in order to move forward with her present, Shay needs to make sense of her past. And so she returns to the little village she grew up in, to uncover the truth about what happened to her when she was younger. And in doing so, she discovers that sometimes you have to hit rock bottom to find the only way is up.

Review

Shay Bastable has a lot to juggle in her family. Caring for parents, keeping her own family going will be relatable to many people. I certainly relate to the caring for parents, in my case to keep the rest of the more adult family than in the book, going in some ways. For Shay it’s a struggle to keep all the balls freely in the air and they do indeed come crashing down all around her. Shay also has children and all their demands, especially determined, strong-willed daughter – Courtney to take care of,then there is her son who is supposed to be getting married, but she is concerned that something isn’t right within the relationship.  You feel that this would no doubt have quite an impact. The book explores this as well as how her sister does little to help and her husband, Bruce is not at all useful and practically ignores what is going on around him, which makes matters even worse as there’s not the backup needed in such a situation. There’s definitely a lot to feel sorry for Shay and how her life is panning out. So, she tries to then put herself first, which seems somewhere between sensible and losing selflessness for awhile, but you can see where she is coming too and shows the challenges of life faced in this situation, trying to also take care of yourself as well as others.

You really get the sense that Shay is The Woman In The Middle instead of at the top of her family, yet is also the glue of her family holding it all together, even though the stickyness of that glue is waining along with her resillience as the weight of pressure, conveyed so well by Milly Johnson gets to her more and more, making its impact. You get the feeling that so much has shaped her life and is still shaping it, but not necessarily as she would have planned.

#Review By Lou – A Little In Love By Florence Keeling @KeelingFlorence @simonschusterUK #TeamBACT #DigitalOriginals @BookMinxSJV #Fiction #Romcom #RomanticFiction

A Little In Love
By Florence Keeling

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

A Little In Love is a laugh out loud rom-com and there aren’t many rom-coms I say that about. It’s so much fun. Thanks to Books And The City, Simon & Schuster for gifting me a copy of the book of which you can find out more in the blurb and the rest of my review below as well as praise by other authors for this book.

A Little in Love cover pic

Blurb

The little village of Weddington is fast becoming THE place to get married. With its stately home, castle and two churches it has something for everyone, and now, famous after appearing in huge romcom movie hit A Little In Love, it’s hosting a monthly wedding fayre…

Rose Pedal is the proud owner of Pedals & Prosecco, a brand new business serving ice-cold fizz from a vintage bicycle, and she’s excited to be attending her first wedding fayre. But, on the way to Weddington Hall she’s involved in a near miss crash involving dashingly handsome James from Blume’s Florist.

Arriving at the beautiful stately home drenched and disheveled, Rose is horrified to find James is not only not sorry for nearly knocking her off her bike, but he’s gatecrashing her allocated spot on the lawn. His arrogance gets her back up and it’s definitely a case of hate at first sight.  But as the wedding fayre season continues, James gently wins Rose over, and their relationship starts to bloom.

Can being just ‘a little in love’ help Rose and James find their own happy-ending…

Review

Rather apt for now, the book opens up with a bit about the environment and gas guzzling vehicles.
This is a gorgeous book about Rose Pedal and her new business – Pedals & Prosecco, set up after dropping out of university for reasons that are rather funny. She first gains some experience in the working world from working with Mr Booth at his off-licence and all wasn’t lost as there are connections to what she learnt there to her inspiration to what she would do in her new business, running from a vintage bike, complete with wicker basket and then she looks for a trailer to put her bottles of fizz in. She has a penchant for weddings, so makes this her customer base. The book is all rather warm and cute with an edge of conflict. At a wedding when a florist turns up and tensions arise. It’s great that Rose stands her ground. She’s a woman with some sass and gumption, which is great to see in such a book.

The book is rather fun, with that cosy, entertaining rom-com feel and it’s so easy to get swept along with the romance of the wedding atmosphere as well as seeing the changing atmosphere between James Blume and Rose Pedal. There’s the most fun conversations between Megan and Rose about James. The dates between Rose and James aren’t exactly what you would expect, certainly not traditional things to do at venues and there’s always something going on. There are also places like The Copper Kettle, a quaint cafe turns out not to be so easy to find either. The book becomes more hilarious as it goes on. It’s most certainly a laugh out loud book with chemestry and all the fun and splendour of weddings.

The book ended unpredictably and that was rather nice indeed.

The book is just perfect for sitting back with a glass of fizz as the words, creating fun scenes on the page lightly bubble through the book.

Praise for the Author By Other Authors

A warm, delightful joy of a book’ PATRICIA SCANLAN, Sunday Times Bestselling author

‘The perfect romantic read’ HEIDI SWAIN, Sunday Times Bestselling author

‘You’ll fall a lot in love with A Little in Love. Weddington is the village we all dream of living in, and there’s really no mystery why our heroine Rose falls for the handsome James. Secrets, romance, escapism – yes please!’ JULIET ASHTON, bestselling author of The Sunday Lunch Club

‘An absolutely charming and joyful read with lots of laugh-out-loud moments along the way.  Overflowing with fabulous friendships, dreamy romance and all things weddings, it really did warm my heart and leave me with a big smile on my face’ KIM NASH, author of Moonlight Over Muddleford Cove

‘I fell more than a little in love with this book. Florence is an incredible storyteller and this book is the perfect cute romance read’ LUCY KEELING, author of Just Friends

‘A warm, comfort read of a book with the kind of rom-com characters you recognise and root for’ ANNA MANSELL, author of What We Leave Behind

‘I thoroughly enjoyed this heart-warming and ever-so-cute story. What an adorable tale!’ LUCY MITCHELL, author of Instructions for Falling In Love Again

‘Fun, fresh and full of fizz, I loved it!’ LAURA KEMP, author of Under a Starry Sky

‘I absolutely loved this charming romance! It was funny, fresh and an utterly fabulous read’  HOLLY MARTIN, author of Sunlight Over Crystal Sands

‘Tender and engrossing, this romance will touch your heart and make you smile’ RACHEL HORE, Sunday Times bestselling author

‘A good old fashioned ‘will they, won’t they’ romance filled with as much fun and sparkle as the bubbles in Rose’s prosecco. Perfect escapism, best enjoyed with a glass of fizz!’ KATHLEEN WHYMAN, author of Wife Support System

#Review By Lou – My Policeman by Bethan Roberts (Soon to be a film) #BethanRoberts #MyPoliceman #Fiction #ContemporaryFiction

My Policeman
By Bethan Roberts

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

My Policeman was first published in 2012, but has re-emerged because it is going to be a major film starring Harry Styles and Emma Corrin. So, now’s your chance to read it before you see the film. I read this book in a day. Check out the Blurb and my Review below. Thank you for a physical copy of the book.

Blurb

My PolicemanAn exquisitely told tragic tale of thwarted love, My Policeman is soon to be adapted into film by Amazon Prime starring Harry Styles and Emma Corrin.

It is in 1950s’ Brighton that Marion first catches sight of Tom. He teaches her to swim in the shadow of the pier and Marion is smitten – determined her love will be enough for them both.

A few years later in Brighton Museum Patrick meets Tom. Patrick is besotted with Tom and opens his eyes to a glamorous, sophisticated new world.

Tom is their policeman, and in this age it is safer for him to marry Marion. The two lovers must share him, until one of them breaks and three lives are destroyed.

‘I loved it. Devoured it! A wonderful read. Tense, romantic, smart; a beautiful portrait of a seaside town poised at an exact moment in history, with people trapped by laws and mores’ Russell T. Davies

Review 

My Policeman sounds from the blurb that it could be a heavy read, it is anything but… It is such a well-written romance and tale that encompasses some of social history. I sailed through this book and I can see how it would make a great film.

It’s a sensuous love story that starts off with all the promise of young love and then it starts to become more complex as Tom and Patrick love each other, but Marion, loves Tom and by the end, the consequences of certain actions made in 1957 reverberate through to 1999.

The book skips between 1999 and 1957 with the setting beginning in Peacehaven and leading readers into Wormwood Scrubs.
There are some beautiful descriptions at the seaside that also lures readers into the time period.
This is a book that has themes still talked about today, a decade on from its first publication. It also provides an insight as to how far the world has come and its history in some of the attitudes of the times. The book illustrates how, even between 1957 and 1999, things were changing. This is the story of Marion, Tom, Patrick and Sylvie. The writing is romantic, warm and sensual in the beginning, in 1999, with its pool setting. There are however some dark undercurrents in mood.

Tom is the policeman, who trained in National Service first, in 1957. The book is like an account of his life, written by someone who cares for him deeply. In 1999, he is incredibly unwell and being nursed at home. The writing is powerful, caring, with some sense of matter-of-fact. 1957 focusses more on the romance. There’s Sylvia with Roy, who know exactly where they’re heading in life and there’s Marion and Tom and she knows what she wants, but then, there is also Patrick…
The relationship changes and Marion and Patrick end up sharing Tom. There is an undercurrent of the intolerances of the time in 1957, they are written truthfully and prick through this great, complex, yet tender love story that unfolds. There’s emotion and very challenging times in both years for many reasons, that are faced for all of the character, especially Marion, Tom and Patrick. All is, however, beautifully written and evocative and keenly observed.

#BookReview By Lou – Underneath the Christmas Tree By Heidi Swain @Heidi_Swain @harriett_col @simonschusterUK @BookMinxSJV @TeamBATC #UnderneathTheChristmasTree #ChristmasRead #Fiction #RomanticFiction #ContemporaryFiction #BlogTour

Underneath the Christmas Tree
By Heidi Swain

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Halloween is now over, so now is the time that is ripe for thinking about Christmas. I am pleased to be on the blog tour for Underneath the Christmas Tree for some festive cheer. I thank Simon and Schuster for the book and for the other gifts too (please note my review is not influenced by this). Please find more in the blurb and then head down to my review.

Underneath The Christmas Tree pic

Blurb

***The sparkling new Christmas novel from the Sunday Times bestselling author Heidi Swain!***

Underneath the Christmas TreeWynter’s Trees is the home of Christmas. For the people of Wynmouth it’s where they get their family Christmas tree, and where Christmas truly comes to life.

But for Liza Wynter, it’s a millstone around her neck. It was her father’s pride and joy but now he’s gone, she can’t have anything to do with it. Until her father’s business partner decides to retire and she must go back to handle the transition to his son Ned.

When Liza arrives, she discovers a much-loved business that’s flourishing under Ned’s stewardship. And she’s happy to stay and help for the Christmas season, but then she has other plans. But will the place where she grew up make her change her mind? And can it weave its Christmas cheer around her heart…?

Underneath the Christmas Tree is the perfect festive read, promising snowfall, warm fires and breath-taking seasonal romance. Perfect for fans of Milly Johnson, Carole Matthews and Cathy Bramley.

Review

It’s a joy to return to Wynmouth, on the Norfolk coast, and this book has so much warmth to it that makes it great for cosying up with thick cosy jumpers, doors locked and a nice drink and snacks so not much moving is required, until the end. Underneath the Christmas Tree is heartwarming in the colder weather, with life decisions to be made and a good dollop of Christmas cheer to brighten the darker days.

Things aren’t always easy or comfortable for Heidi Swain’s characters and this time it is Liza Wynter who has choices to make, especially about the Christmas Tree business – Wynter’s Trees that was once her dad’s. The business is full of Christmas cheer within its grounds and there’s a sense of heritage, of preserving what went before, which I like and appreciate and think is important, except this isn’t without its issues within the business itself as Liza wants to give up her shares in Wynter Trees, which she has with David and Edward (Ned). There’s the decision how to tell the public to be made, but there is also a feeling of gumption as she tries to do what she feels is right for her in deciding whether forging a new path, knowing the business could still be in good hands, is for her or not. There are sad an bittersweet moments with memories for Liza about her dad.

There is also Maya and a some jealousy emerges from Liza, even though Liza herself is more popular amongst the customers than she thinks. Tangled up in this is Ned and there comes a bit of a love story.

As with most books by Heidi Swain, there is some lovely sounding food and drinks to also get your appetite going.

This is a book that I thoroughly recommend to get you in the festive Christmas mood.

Underneath the Christmas Tree Blog Tour

#CoverReveal plus Blurb of Violets By Kyung-Sook Shin #Violets @orionbooks @wnbooks

violets cover reveal graphic copy (1)

Today I am excited to announce that I have a cover reveal for Violets, set to be published in 2022.
VIOLETS is a powerful story of desire, violence and isolation in contemporary Korean society.
Check out the blurb and the beautiful cover below…

violets cover reveal graphic SHARLENE TEO

Blurb

We join San in 1970s rural South Korea, a young girl ostracised from her community. She meets a girl called Namae, and they become friends until one afternoon changes everything. Following a moment of physical intimacy in a minari field, Namae violently rejects San, setting her on a troubling path of quashed desire and isolation.

We next meet San, aged twenty-two, as she starts a job in a flower shop. There, we are introduced to a colourful cast of characters, including the shop’s mute owner, the other florist Su-ae, and the customers that include a sexually aggressive businessman and a photographer, who San develops an obsession for. Throughout, San’s moment with Namae lingers in the back of her mind.

A story of desire and violence about a young woman who everyone forgot, VIOLETS is a captivating and sensual read, full of tragedy and beauty.

violets cover reveal graphic.- insta sq copy