#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.

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Happy Publication Day for The Lucky Escape by Laura Jane Williams @laurajaneauthor @AvonBooks @ElliePilcher95

The Lucky Escape
By Laura Jane Williams

Happy Publication Day to Laura Jane Williams for her book The Lucky Escape. It is available in paperback, e-book and audio book. Discover more in the blurb below and you can purchase this feel-good summer read from today. Thanks to Ellie Pilcher at Avon Books for giving me the opportunity to share this with you all.

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Blurb

The wedding? Cancelled. 
The bride? Heartbroken.
The honeymoon? Try and stop her…

 
The Lucky Escape by Laura Jane Williams is OUT TODAY in ebook, paperback and audiobook. Escape to Australia this summer in this hilarious feel-good read!       

Purchase Link –  Waterstones

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#BookReview by Lou – What Planet Can I Blame This On by Ellie Pilcher @ElliePilcher95 @Hodder_Studio

What Planet Can I Blame This On
by Ellie Pilcher

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Laugh out loud funny, this book is one comedy of life that is great to relax into and tickle those funny bones.
Thank you to Ellie Pilcher and Hodder Studio for the invite to review and for gifting me a book.

What Planet Can I Blame This On

Blurb

The stars are not in position  and Krystal Baker is determined to make them fall in line.

It’s Krystal’s 29th birthday. This year:

· Her boyfriend finally proposed after six years of dating (only for her to find out he cheated on her for five and a half of them)

· She landed her dream job as a writer at Craze magazine (which swiftly fell into administration)

· She moved into her dream flat overlooking the city (just for the pipes to explode making the place unliveable)

As she mourns everything wrong in her life, her best friend mutters the dreaded words: Saturn Return. The time in a woman’s life where Saturn returns to the position it was in on the day of their birth, 29.5 years ago, and, according to legend, everything falls apart. Krystal has never bought into astrology but maybe it’s time to re-evaluate – because if the stars got her into this mess, they can get her out of it. And she only has six months to make things right.

Loaded with crystals, horoscopes, tarot cards and a carefully aligned chakra or two, Krystal’s determined to have her life back on track by the time Saturn returns. No longer shall she brand herself a ‘human disaster’ because this time it’s not her fault, it’s written in the treacherous stars.

It’s Krystal versus the universe in a fight for her future that she’s determined to win.

Review

This is surprisingly very funny. It starts with Krystal’s birthday and her bemoaning her playlist, of which I may have furrowed my brow at Stay Shakespear’s Sister, but each taste is different. Moving on… It’s her birthday and her playlist dislike is the absolute least of her worries. Her boyfriend and his behaviour is her biggest problem. Luckily she has friends, Tina and Paige to turn to. The conversation that ensues is seriously funny and the humour in the descriptions and dialogue continue throughout as they decide what they want to do with the bad boyfriend. There’s also a funny description and reference to Villanelle in Killing Eve and Harry Potter and other references to things such as pop culture and more, carefully placed, and in a witty way
Life just tumbles for her as she then loses her job and finds herself which planet or star she can blame it all on. It’s a book that lives and breaths in grown-up millienials in some ways and in another, in the most funniest ways, that the planets and stars have a lot to play in her life. As much as throughout, it is fun to laugh with Krystal and her friends and at her, it is easy to cheer her on and hope that things pick up in her life again, from all the freefalling catastrophes that life can throw at people. She then relies on horoscopes and planet alignments to help her re-evaluate her life and to try to change it and her friends are there too, full of kindness.
Whatever stage you are in life, there will be something relatable and it is ultimately a laugh-out-loud book, that’s as good as some sitcoms in some of the humour.

The humour makes this a wonderful book to sit with a glass of wine or something, out in the sun.

 

#Review by Lou – How To Save A Life By Eva Carter – Happy Publication Day @KateWritesBooks #MantleBookClub @MantleBooks #ContemporaryFiction #Fiction

How To Save A Life
By Eva Carter

Rating: 4 out of 5.

How To Save A Life will show you exactly how to do that in many ways, that becomes interweaved into the characters lives as it transforms into a sweeping story of romance and characters inextricably linked with one moment that happened minutes before the millenium… find out more in the blurb and my full review.

How To Save A Life

Blurb

A heart stops. Their story starts.

‘A sweeping, brave, epic love story. I was hooked from the very first page’ – Josie Silver

Sometimes saving a life is only the start of the story . . .

It’s nearly midnight on the eve of the millennium when eighteen-year-old Joel’s heart stops. A school friend, Kerry, performs CPR for almost twenty exhausting minutes, ultimately saving Joel’s life, while her best friend Tim freezes, unable to help.

That moment of life and death changes the course of all three lives over the next two decades: each time Kerry, Joel and Tim believe they’ve found love, discovered their vocation, or simply moved on, their lives collide again.

. . . Because bravery isn’t just about life or death decisions; it’s also about how to keep on living afterwards.

Review

Starting with a heartstopping “A Guide To The Chain of Survival” (which is weaved throughout the book and links well with the story), that is then what draws you into this unflinching book and then introduces readers to Kerry. It’s 31st December 1999 and she is celebrating the fact there are minutes to go until the beginning of the new millenium, with her future planned and a hope of a kiss at the bells. She is brave when it comes to giving first aid.

There’s Tim who is with Kerry and freezes when it comes to giving CPR to Joel and reacts in a way he cannot fathom out. 

There is an immediate intensity with every breath and push given, and it is thought-provoking. No one knows until it is upon them, how they would react to a situation of having to actually give CPR on a real person as opposed to a dummy.

There is Joel, who the CPR ended up being performed on and what happened to him and how he was feeling on the eve of the millenium.

The book is very different in its plotting as it very much focuses on First Aid for quite some time. It is also interesting to read about their lives outside of that moment, but how that moment is always inextricably there, amongst the highs and lows of the characters lives. The book also delves into how people’s perceptions and attitudes to things can change when something dramatic happens in their lives or when life or death hangs in the balance, whether at home or when travelling. Even with all that going on, there is a love story within there too, but with bumps in the road that need ironing out and some introspective thoughts and discussions that go on, within the characters.

The book could literally help people save someone’s life, almost in the way that Holby City or Casualty can, and also help put people’s lives into perspective. There is a timely feel to the themes within the book, that will hook you in easily, to find out more and more until the very end of a book that evokes sympathy, empathy, thought-provoking and love.

#Review by Lou – The Post Office Girls by Poppy Cooper @Kirsten_Hesketh @hodderbooks #HistoricalFiction #WW1

The Post Office Girls
By Poppy Cooper

Rating: 4 out of 5.

The Post Office Girls is full of characters you will want to get to know in a fascinating story that feels full of authenticity, with a Sunday period drama feel. Thanks to Hodder and Staughton for inviting me to review and for gifting the book.
Please follow through with the post to the blurb and my review.

Blurb

With the Great War raging, can they keep Britain going?

The Postoffice Girls cover1915. On Beth Healey’s eighteenth birthday, she hopes that she will be able to forget the ghastly war and celebrate. But that evening, her twin brother Ned announces that he has signed up to fight.

No longer able to stand working in her parents’ village shop while others are doing their bit, Beth applies to join the Army Post Office’s new Home Depot on the Regent’s Park, and is astounded to be accepted. She will be responsible for making sure that letters and parcels get through to the troops on the front line.

Beth is thrilled to be a crucial part of the war effort and soon makes friends with fellow post girls Milly and Nora, and meets the handsome James. But just as she begins to feel that her life has finally begun, everything starts falling apart, with devastating consequences for Beth and perhaps even the outcome of the war itself. Can Beth and her new friends keep it all together and find happiness at last?

The Post Office Girls is perfect for fans of Johanna Bell, Daisy Styles and Nancy Revell.

Review

The history that gave the inspiration behind this fictional story, which is the first in a brand new series, is truly fascinating. It’s worth reading the note by the author at the beginning of the book for this.

It’s Beth’s 18th birthday and its 1915 and has the formidable sounding Mrs McBride at the shop, where both of them work, on her case over butter. The scene with the tones of voices opens up magnificently.

It has the nostalgic air that you’d perhaps expect, but just manages not to be saccharine sweet. It does have a Sunday night, gentl-paced period drama feel about it, but doesn’t shy away from certain hard-hitting, home-truths about war here and there. It can be bit slow in places, but stay with it as a whole world opens up and it does become quite hard to put down.

The war is captured well, from those staying at home, in the rationing at the shop, a clever hint of people trying to, not quite bulk buy, but certainly buy a bit more than they need and not thinking of others and leaving enough of even flour to go around and the emotion of Beth from this, it’s like a subtle thought to people today, which I approve of; and Florence who had stepped out with Ralph, a footman from Maitland Hall who went out to fight and the worry about hearing from him and the excitement of letters when she does. It has a feel of authenticity and the scenes are picture perfect in Woodhampstead.

Beth later, travels to London as recruitment in Regent’s Park, where a mailing depot is set- up for army post, and encounters Sergeant Major Cunningham. The reactions of an 18 year old is captured well to the  Major, who had a very different life, as a postal worker before and all is new to Beth, who was a shopworker, now to work in the Home Depot, sorting through the mail coming in from soldiers.
You can feel her coil up a little and then ping into anger as she attempts to stand-up for herself. The empathy of soldiers at war and the letters that show signs of where they are and perhaps been whilst writing, further hits home to her. The details from an envelope and codes add interest and the interesting markings as each new chapter starts is too as are the letters between her brother Ned and her. She does however come across a gentler mannered man – Mr Blackford. Her achievement of getting an interview for the post hasn’t got the reaction she would have liked from her parents, different from today’s times, but very true of the times of the setting. 

There are a few twists that grab you further in, here and there and no more so than near the end, within the characters lives you will want to continue to get to know.

Readers of the book would do well to read the acknowledgements. It gives a fascinating insight into the research that was done for the book and some real-life photos of the women working in the Home-Depot.