#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.

#BookReview by Lou – The Bookshop of Second Chances By Jackie Fraser @muninnherself #TeamBATC @simonschusteruk #RomanticFiction

The Bookshop of Second Chances
By Jackie Fraser

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Charming, uplifting, but without life’s complications in a Scottish town – The Bookshop of Second Chances is one you won’t want to miss! Thanks to Team Books And The City – part of Simon and Schuster for inviting me to the blog tour to review and for gifting me a copy of the book in exchange of an honest review. Please find more about the book in the blurb and the rest of my review below, as well as some buy links. Please note, I am not affiliated to anything.

The Book of Second Chances 2           The Book of Second Chances

Blurb

The Book of Second Chances 3Set in a charming little Scottish town, The Bookshop of Second Chances is the most uplifting story you’ll read this year!

 

Shortlisted for the RNA Katie Fforde Debut Romantic Novel Award 2021.

Thea’s having a bad month. Not only has she been made redundant, she’s also discovered her husband of nearly twenty years is sleeping with one of her friends. And he’s not sorry – he’s leaving.

Bewildered and lost, Thea doesn’t know what to do. But, when she learns the great-uncle she barely knew has died and left her his huge collection of second-hand books and a house in the Scottish Lowlands, she seems to have been offered a second chance.

Running away to a little town where no one knows her seems like exactly what Thea needs. But when she meets the aristocratic Maltravers brothers – grumpy bookshop owner Edward and his estranged brother Charles, Lord Hollinshaw – her new life quickly becomes just as complicated as the life she was running from…

An enchanting story of Scottish lords, second-hand books, new beginnings and second chances perfect for fans of Cressida McLaughlin, Veronica Henry, Rachael Lucas and Jenny Colgan.

The Book of Second Chances starts on Valentine’s Day. The day for lovers and shed loads of romance, but it is the exact opposite for Thea. She’s not got a lover anymore and needs to work out what furnture she wants and to top it all off, she’s also just lost her job. Just the year before, her Great Uncle Andrew died in Scotland. She’s pretty restrained, perhaps too nice, after all that, but then she also has her interests to protect too. You get a feel for her character and how she deals with things.

When a surprise letter is found from a solicitor, Thea’s life dramatically changes. It ups a lot of gears and suddenly she finds herself travelling to Scotland to a huge estate she has inherited, including a lodge and an array of precious first edition books. Jackie has created a history of the lodge, as though this was a true story and has made it feel like it is real and been around for centuries. It feels authentic as a result of her research and/or knowledge. It sounds amazing and many people would jump at the chance of staying, but Thea’s recent past holds her back initially as she considers selling it.

Readers, along with Thea then start to meet the locals, like Jilly and Cerys and get an impression of the surrounding areas.

This is also great for librarians who will appreciate the mention of The Dewey System and shudder at even the mere thought of repairing a book with sellotape. The chat about social media also seems so familiar too. There are lovely snippits of book and music as well.

The bookshop is absolutely wonderful, but all isn’t well with Charles and Edward there with a longstanding feud, with a dark and brooding atmosphere, as Thea discovers and ends up being caught up in. Life then becomes rather complicated for Thea in ways she wasn’t expecting, since she is trying to work out how to leave the complex life behind. Thea, however shows she is pretty reslient most of the time, which works really well for her characterisation. She has her principals, but there’s always that bit of a tug between going home to Sussex or staying in Scotland and making an area there her home. There is also the unescapable fact that there is romance brewing and that bookshop really providing a second chance at life, but you’ll need to read to find out all the nuances and if Thea really thinks this is so and will work well for her or not. It’s not a straight-cut decision to make, which brings some realism in this otherwise relaxing read.

The Bookshop of Second Chances is overall a warm, cosy delightful read that is highly enjoyable.

Buy Links

Waterstones       Bookshop.org     Amazon

#BookReview by Lou of The Meeting Point By Olivia Lara @olilara_writes @Aria_Fiction #TheWriteReads #UltimateBlogTour #RomanticFiction #ContemporaryFiction

The Meeting Point
By Olivia Lara

Rating: 4 out of 5.

The Meeting Point, newly published, is a book within a book in some respects and is great for romantics and those who love cafes.

Blurb

The Meeting Point LBT P3What if the Lift driver who finds your cheating boyfriend’s phone holds the directions to true love?

‘Who are you and why do you have my boyfriend’s phone?’

‘He left it in my car. You must be the blonde in the red dress? I’m the Lift driver who dropped you two off earlier.’

And with these words, the life of the brunette and t-shirt wearing Maya Maas is turned upside down. Having planned to surprise her boyfriend, she finds herself single and stranded in an unknown city on her birthday.

So when the mystery driver rescues Maya with the suggestion that she cheers herself up at a nearby beach town, she jumps at the chance to get things back on track. She wasn’t expecting a personalised itinerary or the easy companionship that comes from opening up to a stranger via text, let alone the possibility it might grow into something more…

Review

The book has such an intriguing beginning. It instantly pulls you into the imagination of Maya Mass and instantly you’ve jumped into the imagination of Maya Mass, who is creating a story. The Meeting Point begins as a story within a story. It instantly draws you in because it is written, especially at the beginning, like you’re watching something unfold on a screen or like a trailer for a movie on the first page. Then you get to know who Maya Mass actually is. There is the impression she relies on her imagination to get through life and because there is an element of lonliness and some hard times, so she creates characters and their lives inside her head and scribbles them down as readers are again pulled into her imaginative worlds, as well as her own life. Soon Maya’s life turns into something as strange and interesting as her imagination. It all starts with the opening of a text from someone not know and all becomes like amazing serendipity as it really opens up her life and brings some real colour as she begins to also live again outside her imagination too, not that she loses that of course. Just all seems to fit more together in a healthier way. Not, of course that it is as simple as that. 

The book whisks readers to a whole year later and Maya isn’t at all happy and makes you wonder how come and it shows that even in a romance, such as this, the whimsical warmth of the possibility of romance, a job, isn’t all perfect. There are also the stresses of relationships and how the emotions can feel so complicated with romance and what to feel about the former boyfriend and a new guy on the scene – Ethan Delphy, who Maya isn’t entirely happy with and writes to this American author and you can feel the frustrating when the reply is not directly from him. She is then compelled to track him down, encouraged by publishing friend – Ailsa.

It’s easy to lose yourself in the book and wonder if things will come good for Maya or not and it’s hard not to hope that they do, but there are some love/hate relationships going on, that it’s easy to just hope get sorted out one way or another and that she gets what she wants, but she has to make some decisions on that first. It’s interesting to see where The Meeting Point is and what then unfolds from that.

This is a delightful book for the romantics and for people who also like to hear about snippets of conversations about other books and going to lovely cafes. It’s a lovely relaxing and entertaining read for the most part. 

The Meeting Point WR poster

#BookReview by Lou Orphans of the Storm by Celia Imrie – rated 5 stars @CeliaImrie @BloomsburyBooks #HistoricalFiction #WomensFiction #GeneralFiction #OrphansOfTheStorm #Titanic

Orphans of the Storm
By Celia Imrie

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Orphans of the Storm is a refreshing and captivating historical read that show a different side to relationships in the 1900’s. This is gripping and so engaging, with a fascinating truth about the characters within the story at the end. This is a book I highly recommend!
Discover more in the blurb and then onto my full review.
*Thanks to Bloomsbury for gifting a copy of the book, in exchange of an honest review.

Orphans of the Storm cover

About the Author

Celia Imrie is an Olivier award-winning and Screen Actors Guild-nominated actress. She is known for her film roles in The Best Exotic Marigold HotelThe Second Best Exotic Marigold HotelCalendar Girls and Nanny McPhee. Celia Imrie has recently starred in the major films Bridget Jones’s BabyAbsolutely Fabulous: The MovieYear by the Sea and A Cure for Wellness. In 2016 she also appeared in FX’s new comedy series Better Things, and returned to the stage in King Lear at The Old Vic. 2017 so far has seen Celia Imrie appear in psychological horror A Cure For Wellness. Celia Imrie is the author of an autobiography, The Happy Hoofer, and two top ten Sunday Times bestselling novels, Not Quite Nice and Nice Work (If You Can Get It).

Website: http://www.celiaimrie.info   Twitter: @CeliaImrie

Blurb

‘Gripping … An epic adventure’ ROSIE GOODWIN

‘Smashing … I was hooked on page one and literally could not put it down. I loved all that she wrote about the true story behind this thrilling tale’ JOANNA LUMLEY

Orphans of the Storm coverNice, France, 1911: After three years of marriage, young seamstress Marcella Caretto has finally had enough. Her husband, Michael, an ambitious tailor, has become cruel and controlling and she determines to get a divorce.

But while awaiting the judges’ decision on the custody of their two small boys, Michael receives news that changes everything.

Meanwhile fun-loving New York socialite Margaret Hays is touring Europe with some friends. Restless, she resolves to head home aboard the most celebrated steamer in the world – RMS Titanic.

As the ship sets sail for America, carrying two infants bearing false names, the paths of Marcela, Michael and Margaret cross – and nothing will ever be the same again.

From the Sunday Times-bestselling author, Celia Imrie, Orphans of the Storm dives into the waters of the past to unearth a sweeping, epic tale of the sinking of the Titanic that radiates with humanity and hums with life.

Review

Orphans of the Storm whisks readers back in time to September 1911, Nice, France, where readers meet Marcella, who has children and is in the process of divorcing her husband. Celia Imrie really captures that sense of nerves as Marcella wonders if she should go through with it or not, even though she has already stepped foot into the solicitor’s office. Readers also see what happened in the lead up as time flips back to 1907.
It’s an interesting part of history with this slant of life, as not many women would have contemplated this at that time, but there were some that certainly did. It brings a bit of history that isn’t talked about much or shown very little at this time. It’s certainly attention grabbing and brings, perhaps, a fresher appeal, so even if it is isn’t a reader’s usual genre or time period for reading about, I think they’ll find something different in Orphan’s of the Storm.

Marcella works as a tailor and readers are treated to all sorts of fabrics, in words, but really she would rather be a singer. The romantic entanglement was one between Marcella and Michael, but all isn’t what it seems. It becomes one of controlling behaviours. Celia Imrie captures love and this darker side very well and shows how things start to turn in this relationship and the increasing jealousy of Michael. It’s written with disarming authenticity and readers can really be pulled in further by this.

There is also some humour to be found within the characters, which lifts it and brings something more jovial to the story.

The book also shows what was happening from Michael’s life from 1912 in Calais and the people he meets. It also shows his life in London. The attention to detail is inspired. Celia Imrie has a talent for creating an epic story that enthralls and holds you there in the world she creates. There’s the crowds of people at RMS Titanic and the atmosphere and the sense of the scale of the journey being embarked, that readers then join too.

There are twists and turns that ensue, involving Marcella, Michael and the children in reaction to what happened in previous years.
There is also the fact of being on the Titanic. Although everyone knows what happens, there is still drama injected from involving the family and of course the iceberg. Tension, action and emotions are written very well, in a believable manner. The book also takes readers beyond that fateful day of the Titanic and illustrates what happened next most excellently. Moving onwards from that is a bit about the characters you’ve just read about. This book is based on some real people. A great deal of research has clearly gone into this to create not only a compelling story, but one that goes onto say a bit more about the people behind the fictional story beforehand, which is as fascinating as fiction.

The Orphans of the Storm is even better than I thought it would be and the writing really is exquisite and captivating. This is a book I highly recommend.

#BookReview by Lou The Beginner’s Guide to Loneliness by Laura Bambrey @LauraBambrey @simonschusterUK@BookMinxSJV #TeamBACT #Fiction #ContemporaryFiction #WomensFiction

The Beginner’s Guide to Loneliness
By Laura Bambrey

Rating: 5 out of 5.

This is an absolutely incredible book that will take you on a rollercoaster of emotions through a farmland retreat, all the way to a huge and unexpected twist that I honestly did not see coming…
I am finding it hard to sleep at nights… oh, not just because of the heat, but because this book is too hard to put down. It’s a Must Read in my opinion.
Find out more in the blurb and more about my thoughts in my full review below.

The Beginners Guide to Loneliness

Blurb

The perfect feel-good read from an exciting new voice in women’s fiction, for fans of Heidi Swain, Cathy Bramley and Jenny Colgan.
 
Tori Williamson is alone. After a tragic event left her isolated from her loved ones, she’s been struggling to find her way back to, well – herself. That’s why she set up her blog, The Beginner’s Guide to Loneliness, as a way of – anonymously – connecting with the outside world and reaching others who just need a little help sometimes.
 
When she’s offered a free spot on a wellbeing retreat in exchange for a review on her blog, Tori is anxious about opening herself up to new surroundings. But after her three closest friends – who she talks to online but has never actually met – convince her it’ll do her some good, she reluctantly agrees and heads off for three weeks in the wild (well, a farm in Wales).
 
From the moment she arrives, Tori is sceptical and quickly finds herself drawn to fellow sceptic Than, the retreat’s dark and mysterious latecomer. But as the beauty of The Farm slowly comes to light she realizes that opening herself up might not be the worst thing. And sharing a yurt with fellow retreater Bay definitely isn’t.  Will the retreat be able to fix Tori? Or will she finally learn that being lonely doesn’t mean she’s broken . . .
 
Welcome to The Beginner’s Guide to Loneliness! Where you can learn to move mountains by picking up the smallest of stones…

Review

Loneliness is on the rise, so it is said, not just in the elderly, but in all younger age groups too. It is also perhaps quite apt as the main character – Tori, is off to a farm she has been invited to review for her blog, and that’s exactly what I am doing as I sit in the hot sun, in my garden, with a farm behind me, is writing a review of the book for my blog, for all you readers out there.

The Beginner’s Guide to Loneliness is a group set up to conquer, exactly that and to make new friends, some of the main people being Tori, Nathalie and Sue and they chat sometimes in the specially created chatroom for the group, so occassionaly readers will see that format in the book.

Some of the humour comes from Tori’s reactions to travelling on a beaten old track in a beaten, well-worn LandRover, as she was expecting grander things. It’s all in the way it is written…

The book has everything in it, friendships, anxieties, relieving anxieties, perfection v imperfection, grief, and one huge theme that is so important, but I won’t say as it will spoil the story, but will leave you absolutely gobsmacked! I never say that about a theme in a book, but, for this, it had to be said.

On the farm she meets Lizzie and Ted, who are using the farm to run a wellbeing retreat and where a small group of guests are affectionately known as “Beardy Weirdies” and are rather more enthused than Tori, who of course has to participate if she has any hope of writing a review. She does however, get right into the retreat, jangling nerves of what she’s got herself into and all.

Each new chapter has a little snippet about loneliness and anxieties and life, in a retreat/wellbeing style way, almost like affirmations, but with useful and thought-provoking tips that are practical for anyone’s everyday life, before it takes readers back into the fictional story. In some parts, it is a relaxed read, but in others it is intense, in a way that goes with the book’s setting and themes.  Time just flies by and I’m sure many a reader will get themselves lost down on the farm for awhile as it oozes with escapism. There is also an absolute rollercoaster of emotions throughout this, all of which are completely and utterly absorbing.

Readers really are taken into the heart of the retreat, what happens in one, from therapeutic talking to mindfulness and much more, all given in different sessions (although each will be different, this gives a great example) and how people can be and feel within them and the release of their inner secrets and inner truths to overcome their fears etc in the confines of the retreat.

It’s pretty hard to put down and a residue of the book is left behind within you when it is finished as it is hard not to think about it, even though that last page has been read.

#BookReview by Lou – The Art of Loving You by Amelia Henley @MsAmeliaHenley @HQstories #Fiction #Books #RomanticFiction

The Art of Loving You
By Amelia Henley

Rating: 5 out of 5.

The Art of Loving You is a love story in a complex, devastating situation, written beautifully and well observed.
Thanks to publisher HQ Stories for gifting me the book to review, especially since. Find out more in the blurb and my review.

The Art of Loving You

Blurb

They were so in love . . .
And then life changed forever . . .
Will they find happiness again?

Libby and Jack are the happiest they’ve ever been. Thanks to their dear friend, eighty-year-old Sid, they’ve just bought their first house together, and it’s the beginning of the life they’ve always dreamed of.

But the universe has other plans for Libby and Jack and a devastating twist of fate shatters their world.

All of a sudden life is looking very different, and unlikely though it seems, might Sid be the one person who can help Libby and Jack move forward when what they loved the most has been lost?

Review

The Art of Loving You starts with a pretty gripping beginning, during the prologue. Jack and Libby have a lovely life together and have a nice relationship with 80 year old Sid, who is in a carehome and is in contact with them by having Face to Face Time on the computer and he’s ready and willing to help them out in many ways. It’s all a very sweet, tender friendship that Libby and Jack have with Sid. Life was great and then there’s a horrific incident that happens to Jack. It is so sudden that you can’t help but wonder what happens next. You really feel for Libby, her pain and feel her time moving so slowly, this isn’t to say the book moves slowly, it does not. The pacing is spot on.

The Art of Loving You shows the turning upside down of life in a way that unfortunately may well resonate with some readers and other readers should pay attention to because what occurs, covers a serious subject.
So many emotions that come through this book that is written so beautifully, with intent and purpose.

The Art of Loving You is a love story, but not, as you can tell, a straightforward one. It has complexities within this relationship. Each one presents itself with such deep emotions, even to the point of playing the “What If game”. 

This is sad and heartwrenching and so well observed, but it also turns corners that brings a light and beauty to the situation of life, love, death. It’s such an absorbing book that will take readers through the whole gambit of emotions and leave you perhaps thinking “phew” and leaves a rather sombre, but satisfied feeling of it being a great book, but then, when you land on the very last page, it also leaves you wanting to give everyone a huge hug.

ArtofLovingYou(The)_BTB (3)