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ARCs Book Reviews Books Featured Fiction Romance

Chasing the Italian Dream by Jo Thomas

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A summer escape she’ll never forget . . .

Lucia has worked hard as a lawyer in Wales, aiming for a big promotion she hopes will shortly come her way. Finally taking a well-earned break at her grandparents’ house in southern Italy, the sunshine, lemon trees and her nonna’s mouth-watering cooking make her instantly feel at home. 

But she’s shocked to learn that her grandfather is retiring from the beloved family pizzeria and will need to sell. Lucia can’t bear the thought of the place changing hands – especially when she discovers her not-quite-ex-husband Giacomo wants to take it over! 

Then bad news from home forces Lucia to re-evaluate what she wants from life. Is this her chance to carry on the family tradition and finally follow her dreams?

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Rating: 5 out of 5.

Chasing the Italian Dream by Jo Thomas

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Such savory stories and writing. I would like to thank Random House UK, Transworld Publishers for providing me with an advance readers copy via access to the galley for free through the NetGalley program. I’d recommend it to anyone, especially those who are looking for a refreshing travel escape while on lockdown or feeling bogged down by life circumstances.

The Story
Reading stories by Jo Thomas are always such a treat to dive right in and be whisked away to a lovely place.

Reads like the first glance at a restaurant menu, where everything sounds so delicious and you want to devour it all, a good restaurant with good conversation, one where you leave happy and satisfied.

Took me right there. First sip of morning coffee. An early day’s work of homemade pizza dough divided and ready for a lunch time feast, fired in a wood oven. Wandering around the plaza, the market, the people I might meet. The aroma of fresh cut citrus, garden basil, garlic, tomato, mozzarella bubbling, ready for your heart’s content. I was there enjoying it with Nonno and Nonna.

And this one was all about Italy, family, and love. With deeper sentiments, life circumstances, with crossroads that were unexpected, interesting, and dynamic enough to make me think about my own.

The Writing
Every book I’ve read thus far has delivered its promise and this was was no exception. Inviting and not overly descriptive. Just enough to create alluring atmosphere while just enough to allow my imagination to feel like it was my own experience.

I really liked the initial and subsequent use of Italian language and translational presentation.

Questions I had were later answered in more subtle, internal monologue and character interaction. Super gratifying when that happens and when it doesn’t feel forced, jarring, or overly-explanatory. Makes for a good reading experience that doesn’t feel either rushed or boring.

I thoroughly enjoyed this one and am looking forward to the next read!

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Chasing the Italian Dream by Jo Thomas Pizza | Erica Robbin
Pizza I craved and ate after reading this book.
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Audiobooks Book Reviews Books Featured Fiction Mystery Romance

Agatha Raisin and the Terrible Tourist (Agatha Raisin #6) by M.C. Beaton

Agatha Raisin’s marriage was put off when her ex-husband showed up, unfortunately alive. Fortunately, he was murdered and Agatha solved the crime.

Now she is off to Cyprus to track down her ex-fiance. Instead of enjoying their planned honeymoon, however, they witness the murder of an obnoxious tourist. Two sets of terrible tourists surround the unhappy couple, arousing Agatha’s suspicions. And, much to James’ chagrin, she won’t rest until she finds the killer.

Unfortunately, it seems the killer also won’t rest until Agatha is out of the picture. Agatha is forced to track down the murderer, try to rekindle her romance with James, and fend off a suave baronet, all while coping with the fact that it’s always bathing suit season in Cyprus.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Agatha Raisin and the Terrible Tourist by M.C. Beaton

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Love this series so much! They are such a joy to listen to. Brightens up my mood no matter what. The perfect in-between books and I don’t want them to end. 19 more to go. I listened to the audiobook version, narrated by Penelope Keith, always so good. I’d recommend this series to anyone looking for a plot that unfolds like an adult version of Scooby-Doo. Amateur sleuthing that’s set in semi-reality, a little love intrigue, some character frustration, and always hilariously entertaining.

The Story
Loved the comments on the socio-economic climate. Certainly insightful and relative to today, even for having this book being written in 1997.

The murder reveal, like always, a little late in the book. I’m sort of getting used to it. Though at least this time there was a little tail end of them getting settled into their lives again.

Everything else read like intriguing gossip you’d overhear at the dog park and can’t help but tune your ears to.

The Characters
I didn’t remember Charles. The ones that we met were a little dry. I sort of hoped there would be a typical Mr. and Mrs. Howell type character during the encounter. There just wasn’t a whole lot of development to set them apart. Back stories were kind of just thrown in there. Which sort of makes sense when meeting other tourists. That initial meetup, that sometimes turns into a divulging of saturated personal story. But somehow I wanted a stereotypical and distinguishable personality that made me say “Aha, I’ve met that one before.”

The Setting
Loved that it took place in Cyprus. I was absorbed in the setting, everything from historical tidbits to the brochures Agatha read along the way as a tourist.

The Writing
M.C. Beaton even called her own characters out. Hilarious. Along with so many good reading the room observations and discourse.

Always looking forward to the next in series.

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Audiobooks Book Clubs Book Reviews Books Featured Fiction Mystery Romance

Agatha Raisin and the Murderous Marriage (Agatha Raisin #5) by M.C. Beaton

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The morning of Agatha’s longed-for marriage to James Lacey dawns bright and clear. But her luck runs out in the church when Jimmy, the husband she had believed long dead, turns up large as life and twice as ugly. Agatha has a go at strangling him.

It’s all too much for James, who breaks off the engagement. So when Jimmy is found murdered the next day. Agatha and James are both suspects.

And they’ll have to work together in order to clear their names…

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Agatha Raisin and the Murderous Marriage by M.C. Beaton

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Oh Agatha! You’ve gone and done it again! I listened to the audiobook version, narrated by Penelope Keith, always amazing. I’d recommend this series to anyone looking for a light-hearted, good time, appreciate a bit of snickers as it reads like a bit of juicy gossip you’d overhear at a dog park.

The Story
I loved the commentary on the world situation. It was amazing how relevant to today and this book was written 25 years ago.

The Writing
One thing I’ve noticed as I’ve read along is how the author only really gets into physical descriptions when describing what people are wearing and they’re hilarious at that, really captured the whole essence of the person.

I love this series so much!

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Book Clubs Book Reviews Books Featured Fiction Romance

Kiss My Cupcake by Helena Hunting

Blaire Calloway has planned every Instagram-worthy moment of her cupcake and cocktails shop launch down to the tiniest detail. What she didn’t plan on? Ronan Knight and his old-school sports bar next door opening on the very same day. He may be super swoony, but Blaire hasn’t spent years obsessing over buttercream and bourbon to have him ruin her chance at success.

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Rating: 4 out of 5.

Kiss My Cupcake by Helena Hunting

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was just cute! I read this one for All things books! Book Club month long February challenge of reading romance genre. I think anyone looking for a sweet, cutesy, cupcake-themed story with an enemies to lovers trope will enjoy this one.

The Story
The banter, the rival, comedic, the warm up, the peak of the plot all following the theme of opposites attract, yet enough commonality in the relationship to keep the romance fresh with present day relevance, made for a fun, high anticipation development of story.

The Characters
Loved the picture the author painted of people, the tension, their trailing thoughts.

Pacing
Just perfect. It started as a slow simmer and had enough support at the end to hold the plot together to the very end. And gladly the end wasn’t just a drop and end.

Loved the end chapter sayings.

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ARCs Book Reviews Books Featured Fiction Romance

Lost Property by Helen Paris

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Dot Watson’s life is stuck. She wasn’t meant to be single at this point, or still working in a temporary job she started over ten years ago. She was supposed to be in Paris, falling madly in love, building an exciting career. Instead, every day in Baker Street’s Lost Property office, she diligently catalogues hundreds of lost umbrellas, lone gloves and an alarming number of shoes.

There’s a comfort in her routine that Dot has become quite attached to. But then Mr Appleby arrives at her work asking for help to find his late wife’s purse. 

Dot recognises his desperation and grief – and they stir something unexpected in her: determination. As she resolves to help Mr Appleby, what else might she find along the way?

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Rating: 4 out of 5.

Lost Property by Helen Paris

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I would like to thank Random House UK, Transworld Publishers for providing me with an advance reader copy via access to the galley for free through the NetGalley program. I’d recommend this one to anyone who enjoys romance. It’s fresh, has a unique storyline, and deeper themes that will tug at you heart.

Loved the backstory, side stories, the insight into what really happens to all this lost luggage, research clearly done. Not that I would even know what happens on the back end, but I travel a lot and definitely found some incredible relatability here! The support for this premise was super unique.

One of my favorite aspects of the book were the tidbits of lost items and their owner. Really characterized items from the type of person who wears such clothing items or such luggage pieces, or whatever the item may be. Clever.

The Story
I don’t think I’ve ever read a book quite like this one with its plot, main setting, or occupation. They added so much interest and dimension to the overall story.

Themes of regret, loss, grief, self doubt, frustration, resentment, and hints of jealousy, were all integrated into the plot which made for a stronger, grounded narrative much deeper than I was expecting and I really enjoyed these aspects of the book.

I will say it was a little rather rocky in beginning. I guess bits were less memorable and I didn’t know their purpose nor their context. I didn’t quite identify the bigger picture dilemma or tension early on, aside from typical day to day work complaints. There was some clutter with detail that was somewhat interesting but I kept thinking less would be more. Too many tangents, made me lose focus of what was really happening. But it did come together nearer to the end though, definitely worth reading through.

The Writing
Even though my least favorite, first person present tense narration was used, it worked rather well with carefully curated perspective into her day to day tasks.

Loved the conversation-like writing style. Some casual pop culture references some I got, super clever, others I had to dismiss because I just wasn’t sure I understood, some verbiage I had to look up. Which was ok, I just had to leave the book quite a few times, taking me out of the book when I wanted to keep reading further one. It’s more because when I do that I get distracted and will end up definition, root words, other languages, looking up many other things, then check my email, then… I do love looking things up, particularly fact-checking and such when reading historical fiction/nonfiction, but any other genres not so much.

Descriptions
I enjoyed majority of the descriptions, especially more toward the end, but some became quite sore. Not every noun needs an adjective, especially a color at that. Just my own personal preference, others may love it, I don’t.

Some other examples, perhaps more to do with the writing, is why did I need to know about this character who wore hair gel, slicked back, mentioned, reemphasized as many times. Like one mention was enough, then maybe later a thought about not a hair was out of place or perhaps a mention of some other characteristic that made a more clear picture of the character as rather polished, classic, cool, or rockstar person of the sort. And I still wasn’t sure at second mention whether his slicked back hair made him more rebel rocker-esque John Travolta in Grease or Leonardo DiCaprio, waiting at the top of the staircase. Maybe it was just a simple tease or inside joke unbenounced to me that was I was waiting for to play a bigger role or deeper insight into a character.

It’s just the way my brain thinks I suppose. When I see a recurring description I interpret it as a hint, then tend to wait for some further reveal or deeper insight that will add deeper connection or insight into some bigger reveal in the end. Like I want everything in a book to count. It’s just I found some descriptions didn’t add much meaning, context, drive, or embellishments to the characters or story in their repetition when told the exact same way every time, especially at the beginning when I was loosely connected to the characters and plot.

The Characters
The hardest time I had with the book overall was with the main character. I didn’t get the main character. She commented on stuff happening around her but lacked emotional response. The emotion didn’t come through until about page 120. That was when the writing became the strongest and the plot more captivating. When the emotion was there is when the writing began to shine. Again, it wasn’t until later in the book where more vulnerable, intimate scenes and character expression, reaction, and reflection guided me into what I was wanting to embrace and understand to a certain extent early on.

The main character had great insight, seemed to read people well, but she was sort of lifeless early on I guess. I Iiked her character role, but elements to define her as a person were quite lacking. I needed some reflection earlier on to understand who she was to make a more complete characterization to connect with for stronger understanding later on.

Dialogue
Everyone read the same to me and too much of it. Most of the dialogue didn’t add anything or help me identify characters as unique individuals.

The Setting
Absolutely loved the work environment and beach scenes, took me straight there. Mundane work to a lovely day at the beach.

The little visual details of chapter tags were such pleasant bonuses! Unique for sure!

I am definitely looking forward to reading more from this author.

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Book Reviews Books Classics Featured Fiction Romance

Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston

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Fair and long-legged, independent and articulate, Janie Crawford sets out to be her own person — no mean feat for a black woman in the ’30s. Janie’s quest for identity takes her through three marriages and into a journey back to her roots.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book was so rich, really loved this, even after having read it three times now, first in high school, then chosen as a character study for a women’s studies course in college, and now for Life’s Library Book Club. I’d recommend it to anyone. A great pick for book clubs.

The Story
I loved the way the author created a certain kind of nuance to the story, paralleled with the life cycle of a plant, a pear tree in particularly, blossoms, embracing each part of its growth stage, the main character coming into her womanhood, her relationships, whether romantic or platonic. Coming into her identify in social status, following the racial divide, the freedoms she wanted, the tensions she faced, the contradiction of those closest to her, even her own friends and family, some unable to relate, some in denial, some with outright hate.

It’s an important book and I feel like my perspective in reading it at different times of my life has made me appreciate it so much more.

It evoked a certain nostalgia for me.

It’s interesting how a reread of a book can take you straight back to your thoughts at the time, memories you didn’t even realize you formed. When I came across the line, “Put dat in yo’ pipe and smoke it” I was immediately taken back to high school, kids giggling as they quoted such a line, challenging the teacher, the class clown being silly, pleading “Well it was in our reading!”

I remember the book having a certain impact at a young age, how my experiences of the world and myself were not well articulated but discovering how a book like this expressed feeling you could never put into your own words, references not even well formed yet context through shared experiences.

Coupled with the very fact that accessibility to a book like this with its known contents was in my possession as a teenager. I even remember the controversy over sexual explicitness, abuse issues, historical context, language, and even the lack of proper grammar being showcased in a book that was a required read. Class discussions (quite the way to develop a sense of self I must say), taking place about how topics of the sort were being revisited, the how and why it was part of our required reading, and what was the result. What did they want us to learn? I remember thinking how honored should I be that teachers would want to invest in our education, how amazing it was to be able to read about someone else’s experience, and how dreadful it must be to attend a school that thought of a book like this as poison.

For me, it also took me back to a time of vulnerable innocence, not quite grasping all that the book had to offer. In my university women’s study course, it was brought on as a character study. A course geared toward studying what it means to be a woman. What shapes a woman. How are women identified. What women can, have, and could contribute to society. Asking how can women progress in life and find personal satisfaction individually and collectively? What holds women back? How far we’ve come? What is the life goal for a woman? What are the things that bring us joy and genuine happiness? How is that passed on generationally?

With this most recent reread, I feel it’s more of a personal read, hits me in a different way, a more relational level, looking at Janie’s companionships, her personal and family relationships, free-spirited choices in life, looking at the ones that held her back and where she ultimately ended up.

The title makes for a great discussion.

In my heart also is a deeper appreciation for literacy as a whole.

The Narration
The POV kept a certain tone consistent, all while skipping around with enough perspective that gave me a sort of strong idea of where the character was coming from. I could see why she loved Tea Cake, though he had character flaws not likely to be desired by a certain majority of women, but her life experiences brought her to accept some, reject others how she saw fit, celebrating the notion that one could choose.

Setting
Florida, 1928. I’ve traveled to Florida, have survived hurricanes, of course never been to 1928, but the cultural aspects mentioned along with the writing made it easy to imagine it as so.

Vernacular
I loved the expressiveness mixed with the formal, philosophical quotes in more lyrical fashion. This was a big point of discussion with my first read in high school. Should required reading, books in general, really be “teaching” kids improper English? How does creative writing techniques and life perspective fit into a primary school curriculum? Does it condone such things? And how does a writer draw strength in showing this in books rather than readers being told? Can you ever get the same effect? I’d say not really, which is why I probably appreciated this book so much because the risk the author took telling it like it was.

Characters
A lot to unpack here. Nuances. The character arc is subtle and is shown through a few actions/inactions, but mostly mirrored in her relationships as they come along. Maturity, discretion, desire, hope, fulfillment.

My Favorite Lines
“Put dat in yo’ pipe and smoke it.”

“There are years that ask questions and years that answer.”

“When God had made The Man, he made him out of stuff that sung all the time and glittered all over. Some angels got jealous and chopped him into millions of pieces, but still he glittered and hummed. So they beat him down to nothing but sparks but each little spark had a shine and a song. So they covered each one over with mud. And the lonesomeness in the sparks make them hunt for one another.”

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ARCs Book Reviews Books Featured Fiction Romance

A Surprise Christmas Wedding by Phillipa Ashley

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It’s been a year since Lottie’s fiancé walked out, leaving her heartbroken. But things start to look up when she lands her dream job at a beautiful Lake District estate, with a handsome groundskeeper for a neighbour.
 
So when Lottie is asked to organise a last minute Christmas wedding at Firholme, she can’t wait to get started. Until she meets the couple, and discovers that Connor, the man who broke her heart, is the groom-to-be.
 
As snow falls on the hills, can Lottie put aside her past to organise the perfect winter wedding? And will there be any festive magic left to bring Lottie the perfect Christmas she deserves?
 
Curl up with this gorgeous story about love and second chances, perfect for fans of Trisha Ashley and Milly Johnson.

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A Surprise Christmas Wedding by Phillipa Ashley

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


FTC disclosure: I would like to thank Avon Books UK for providing me with an advance reader copy via access to the galley for free through the NetGalley program.

I love Phillipa Ashley’s stories and writing style. The plot, the twists were well thought out. I liked the feeling that something was lulling, something in the background, a secret still to be revealed, all while instant gratification reveals were woven throughout the plot.

I think anyone looking for Christmas story to read as the days lead up to the holiday will enjoy this book. Romance, tension, cutesy bits, family bond, fun, this book had it all. It followed a timeline like an advent calendar which I quite enjoyed. Built on relational aspects, it was an endearing look into love and loss, life tragedy with hope and cheer, a feel-good story that was not the typical predictable plot one would expect, and a real Christmas mood setter for me because the scene descriptions were so well-fitted to capturing Christmas spirit and described in a lovely way without being over-the-top..

Had all the elements I love in a book. A lovely Christmas setting, enthusiastic characters with life choices and places they wanted to go, descriptions that weren’t over-embellished, and a deeper life roadblock that was realistic and heart-felt.

Though, toward the end, the characters annoyed me. Some disconnects for me, like the mother-in-law reaction of only hoping they were meant for each other. I admit I wasn’t really hopeful for the happy couple either, not the other couple either I suppose. I wanted to root for them at the beginning, but I just wasn’t feeling it toward the end. The elements of the story were there but I guess there was more focus on the details of the event than working through the feelings that I wanted more of.

Some of the overall situations in the relationships were a bit weird to me. Like certain dilemmas made for detours I was less interested in. It was the feelings that were a bit displaced and lesser developed. I guess all-in-all it was hard for me to grasp the coming to terms of their feelings because a high emotion sequence needed a higher emotional response that I just didn’t see in the end. Time or pacing may have been a big factor, maybe from that aspect it could have lingered more in increased length of time to provide resolutions that would have been a bit more realistic. Started out strong though, but I wanted to see it carried out just as strong.

It was just their circumstances and being stuck inside each other’s feelings rather than finding their own. The characters, and I mean actually majority of the characters, didn’t seem to understand how their hurt was being projected. They all reminded me of that Simpsons episode where the family zaps each other as a form of aversion therapy… unsuccessfully: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JFCgz….

“Hey I thought we were making real progress…” Marge Simpson

Marge’s response “Hey I thought we were making real progress…”

A bit patched up, a bit packaged up in a very presentable way; however, all while being a bit oblivious to their own being.

I thoroughly enjoyed all the Christmas magic and the way the cutesy parts were displayed, the dog, the pizza party, the gorgeously decorated venue, all for a very lovely time I spent reading and escaping the year’s exhausting moments.

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ARCs Book Reviews Books Featured Romance

Finding Love at the Christmas Market by Jo Thomas

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As a single mum, care-home caterer Connie has thrown herself into online dating – or she had until one dating disaster too many. Now she’s hesitant…hurt in the past and with her son to consider, she won’t rush into anything. Then one of Connie’s elderly patients sets her up on a date at a beautiful German Christmas market – with the promise she’ll take a mini-bus load of pensioners with her… 

Amongst the twinkling lights and smell of warm gingerbread in the old market square, Connie heads off on her date with a check-list of potential partner must-haves. Baker Henrich ticks all the boxes, proving to be reliable, thoughtful and keen. But when Connie meets Henrich’s rival William, she starts to wonder if ticking boxes is the answer.

Will Connie find the love of her life this Christmas, and if so – who will it be?

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Finding Love at the Christmas Market by Jo Thomas

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


FTC disclosure: I would like to thank Random House UK, Transworld Publishers for providing me with an advance reader copy via access to the galley for free through the NetGalley program.

This was such a sweet Christmas story. Loved the opening scene with life dynamic, getting right into both the middle of a story yet the beginning of an adventure.

I think anyone looking for a delightful, heart-melting, uplifting, lighthearted, yet meaningful Christmas tale will appreciate this book. It follows characters through relationships and the quirky things about aging, those learning to relish the little victories in life through grief and gain and finding satisfaction and purpose.

The story. With the foreshadowing of tidbits, coming full circle, made for a nice reveal of excitement and hope, the kind of feelings that come with Christmas. I loved the strides the characters made through the conflict.

The writing. I loved how Jo Thomas wrote. The authentic experiences, the setting, the character interactions, all were genuine. Gentle and not over the top, deep enough to bring real life into each character. She wrote appealing to all the senses and I adored the details in the baking scenes, and I especially adored the elderly insight and social activities. Nice way to shape the characters, coaxing them through their celebrations and dilemmas, all while providing entertainment and commentary along the way.

I would have liked a little more conversation of one certain relationship, to have developed a bit more in recognition of reconciliation. And one aspect teetered on less moral ground for my preferences. However I liked the inner monologue which helped to make the teetering situation more palatable for me, especially when the permissiveness and timeline of the situation, from this aspect of single and available both on paper and emotionally finally came to be.

I can’t comment on the recipes as they weren’t contained in the ARC I received. Bummer.

Overall the story was a well thought out plan. It kept my interest. Perfectly packaged but not without some bumps in the relationships, I loved the tension, the anticipation, the wonderings, the joy, the delightful way it all unfolded in this Christmas tale.

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Book Blog Book Reviews Featured Fiction Romance

Spring Tides at Swallowtail Bay (Swallowtail Bay, Book 1) by Katie Ginger

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Licking her wounds from her divorce, Stella impulsively buys a gift shop and two holiday lets in glorious Swallowtail Bay, hoping for a fresh start with her King Charles Spaniel Frank.

When the neighbours meet her with a warm welcome, Stella knows she’s found the new home she was looking for. Even gorgeous but grumpy local Miles can’t take the shine off things. But then her ex-husband announces he’s getting married again, and someone in the village starts gossiping about Stella…

Is Stella’s dream over already? Or, with her new friends behind her, can Stella fight back and save her new life – and find the happy ever after she’s been waiting for?

Spring Tides at Swallowtail Bay by Katie Ginger

My rating: 2 of 5 stars


This was ok, sort of liked it, sort of teetering on my opinion about it. I really wanted to like this one more than I did though. I couldn’t stay focused on it. I think those who like a slow, easy feeling read will enjoy this one more than I did.

I loved the idea of the story, the business, the shops, the bay, the small town, people being friendly, learning about the character circumstances, how they got there, how they were coming to be, the things everyone was doing, the setting.

But getting through loads of descriptors after the first 20-30 pages really bogged down my reading experience.

I felt like I was wading around the surf in JNCO jeans. Almost two pages dedicated to describing the flat was unappealing to me. The overly detailed descriptions didn’t add much depth or interest, rather they became incredibly distracting as I read on.

Just the flat, knowing everything about it being dirty, the layout, the furniture, actually leading to repetition and over-emphasis throughout the book. Then the activities of walking up to meet someone, reaching for a knob, opening doors, closing doors, glancing out windows, putting a cup to their mouth, setting the cup down, using a napkin, picking up a fork, loading the fork with cake, taking a bite, setting the fork down, their every physical move documented with every interaction.

It was just too slow-paced and bulky, cluttered for my style, obstacles to my enjoyment of what I thought was actually a really story so I will look forward to exploring more from that aspect.

I’m interested in checking out the others in the series and seeing what they are like.



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Escape to the French Farmhouse by Jo Thomas

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A heart-warming tale about reclaiming your life, set amongst the lavender fields of Provence.

Can Del find her recipe for happiness? 

Del and her husband Ollie moved to a beautiful village in Provence for a fresh start after years of infertility struggles. But six weeks after they arrive, they’re packing the removal van once more. As Del watches the van leave for England, she suddenly realises exactly what will make her happier…a new life in France – without Ollie. 

Now alone, all Del has is a crumbling farmhouse, a mortgage to pay and a few lavender plants. What on earth is she going to do? After discovering an old recipe book at the market run by the rather attractive Fabian, Del starts to bake. But can her new-found passion really help her let go of the past and lead to true happiness?

Perfect escapism from the author of Late Summer in the Vineyard and The Honey Farm on the Hill.

Escape to the French Farmhouse: The most refreshing, feel-good story of the summerEscape to the French Farmhouse: The most refreshing, feel-good story of the summer by Jo Thomas
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

FTC disclosure: I would like to thank Random House UK, Transworld Publishers for providing me with an advance reader copy via access to the galley for free through the NetGalley program.

Such a great book for the perfect reading escape!

I loved this book, all the components. As far as the story goes there were elements of connection, community, and belonging interlaced with real life challenges and celebrations that were relatable on so many levels.

The author brought forth all the emotion in just enough detail where I could easily sink my teeth into without feeling an incompleteness or feeling drained. The book overall was actually happy and uplifting, even though some stories were quite sad and deeply resonating with me. Stories with subplots that read like I was having a conversation with a best friend. Sometimes the main character was like, ok, what are you doing? But it was a story, her story, and life is not perfect and all the elements of her life were brought in full circle.

I was looking forward to wherever the story was going to take me.

As far as the writing goes, I loved the pacing and tone. Just enough moving the story forward, balanced with backstory, revelation, and self-reflection. Overall the amount of events were fast for the length of time they were set in, but it worked as a driving, yet delicate force to include necessary happenings that were realistic enough to be attainable.

1st person present is my least favorite POV to read, but this was done well because every word, every sentence was intentional, purposeful. It was written with such fluidity that it was a joy and pleasure to read.

The subplots with bigger stories flourished with a diverse enough cast of characters where each had distinguished charm all in their own both in the main character’s description and interaction with them, as well as in dialogue.

And simply the setting. The description of the French countryside, encompassing the main character’s house, market, and lifestyle centered around the beautiful scenery and delicious bakes from the star of the show, lavender, really made me feel like I was there enjoying it along with them. I’ve only been to Charles de Gaulle airport mind you, but through this story of imagine, I was among the lavender fields and dining out, the warm sun on my face, with a crisp, chewy lavender macaron and glass of wine, loving every bit it.

Highly recommend for an absolutely lovely summer read and I will be looking forward to reading more from this author.

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Audiobooks Book Reviews Books Featured Fiction Romance

Beach Read by Emily Henry

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Augustus Everett is an acclaimed author of literary fiction. January Andrews writes bestselling romance. When she pens a happily ever after, he kills off his entire cast.

They’re polar opposites.

In fact, the only thing they have in common is that for the next three months, they’re living in neighboring beach houses, broke, and bogged down with writer’s block.

Until, one hazy evening, one thing leads to another and they strike a deal designed to force them out of their creative ruts: Augustus will spend the summer writing something happy, and January will pen the next Great American Novel. She’ll take him on field trips worthy of any rom-com montage, and he’ll take her to interview surviving members of a backwoods death cult (obviously). Everyone will finish a book and no one will fall in love. Really.

Beach ReadBeach Read by Emily Henry
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A spectacular read! Perfect for the beach, get out of a reading slump, or an escape type of book.

I listened to this one as an audiobook, narrated by Julia Whelan, which I’d highly recommend. Her answering machine voice was just so spot on.

The story itself was lighthearted at times, also uplifting, and with a deeper sentiment, making it a complete and memorable read for me.

I liked the life perspective the author brought out in the characters who celebrated and struggled with feelings of loss, feeling lost, hope, trust, making amends, finding peace, love, and a slew of wavering emotions ranging from hurt and disappointments, as well as wonder and gratitude.

Since it is a book about authors in and of itself, there were some pretty good bits of irony and satyrical takes on the writing process, publishing, and the authorship community. The literary references and sources of writing inspiration were timeless, some, downright hilarious.

As far as the writing goes, I liked the simplicity brought forth with a single timeline and single POV. It wasn’t complicated which was nice and refreshing, one where I could focus on the actual enjoyment of the story. It read like some people I know.

The voices were distinct and the snarky, playful banter was deeply entertaining. A few bits were a little juvenile for the age group and life stage, but they also made it more amusing in a way. The self-reflection was more of a saving-grace for those parts. Yet it was clearly understood why the characters did what they did which made all the difference in connecting and relating to the story and the characters. And to that, it was also an approachable read for most anyone anyway.

All in all, just loved it!

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ARCs Book Reviews Books Featured Fiction Romance

A Perfect Cornish Escape (Porthmellow Harbour #3) by Phillipa Ashley

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Summer in Cornwall is the perfect time for a fresh start…
Seven years ago, Marina Hudson’s husband was lost at sea. She vowed to love him for the rest of her life – but when kind-hearted Lachlan arrives in Porthmellow, should she deny herself another chance at happiness?

Tiff Trescott was living life to the full as a journalist in London – until her boyfriend’s betrayal brought it all crashing down. Fleeing to her cousin Marina’s cottage, Tiff feels like a fish-out-of-water. And when brooding local Dirk wins a day with her in a charity auction, she’s thrown headfirst into Cornish life.

This summer promises new beginnings for both Tiff and Marina. But are they too good to be true?

A Perfect Cornish Escape by Phillipa Ashley

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

FTC disclosure: I would like to thank Avon Books UK for providing me with an advance reader copy via access to the galley for free through the NetGalley program.

The stories in this book were excellent! It read as bright and cheery with unexpected deep sentiment as subjects of loss, grief, PTSD, betrayal, desire, belonging, and ambivalence in navigating life’s way were charted.

As far as writing, I really liked the way the characters were shaped. Guiding me to be drawn in rather quickly and profoundly, embracing and opposing certain characteristics of both the protagonistic and antagonistic qualities of the other, well done.

The incorporation of an inner monologue to help form/validate their actions and ideas was a little bumpy for me at first. It was the ease of reading, something about how much of the dialogue was followed by an underlying explanation for saying/feeling that way much of the time at the beginning. It just felt a little interruptive where instead I wanted the dialogue to be more genuine and more easily identifiable/distinguishable to each voice, to have a better understanding of the characters so it would come as a natural understanding without having it be pointed out in the inner workings of their head as much as it was. But I warmed up to it about 1/3 of the way in. Maybe it was more of a stylistic choice and was less pervasive and bothersome to me as the stories went on.

I also would have liked to have seen a little more involvement from the other friends and families of the characters to confirm character qualities and certain circumstances they found themselves in.

Loved the setting! Beachfront, Cornwall, England, the lifestyle of characters, jobs/businesses, leisure time, homes, all to go with it. It made so much logical sense and added a drawn in, dreamy, escapism-type attribute that complimented the overall themes of the stories and brought magnetic value to the succinct title of the book.

It was such a lovely read as far as plot was concerned. The connectedness and portrayal of relatability and realistic life circumstances, not cheesy, not overdone, nor over simplified. And the similes and metaphors, the pop culture references, I love it when writers take risks and just dive into such stuff.

I will definitely look forward to reading more stories from this author.

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