Book Review: Fur Coat, No Knickers by Anna King

Fur Coat, No Knickers

Book number 48 (nearly there!) in my Goodreads Reading Challenge is Fur Coat, No Knickers by Anna King.

“A city torn apart by war. A family torn apart by tragedy

At the top of Lester Road in London’s East End stands ‘Paddy’s Castle’, the three-storey, red-bricked Georgian house that is home to Grace Donnelly and her family.

Life may be hard in the late 1930s, but it is nothing compared with what is about to follow. Grace’s beloved fiancé Stanley decides to enlist in the fight against Nazi Germany. And as the sirens signal blitz after blitz of bombers, the family can only hide in the cellar and hope they will survive.

But Grace has more than just the Germans to worry about. The good-looking Nobby Clark is keen to do more than just look out for his best friend’s fiancée. And scheming barmaid Beryl Lovesett is determined to worm her way into the family home, seducing Grace’s uncle with her fur coat, no knickers…” (Thanks Netgalley!)

As we all know, I love a bit of World War II historical fiction so this was right up my alley.  The novel is based around the Donnelly family and their friends as they find themselves in London for the duration of World War II.  They face tragedy, love and loss as they find themselves in a new world that involves bombings, blackouts and rationing.  The story centres on Grace, Violet and Polly, three sisters who are each trying to find their way in the world at a time of great uncertainty.

I really do love novels based during this time period.  In the face of adversity, the characters are brought together in a way that hasn’t happened since.  There isn’t anyone that hasn’t suffered the loss of a loved one as the men of the population are shipped off to war.  However the women left behind pull together to keep the country running, and to keep each other going despite their personal battles and grief.  Grace, Violet and Polly are three very different women, which is very apparent in the novel.  Grace fights to be strong and keep her family together; Violet is fiercely independent and in the new world finds herself conflicted between gaining more independence and the draw of her family. Polly is the frightened youngest Donnelly who is struggling to hold it together when faced with terrifying evenings in bomb shelters, as the Germans rain down on London with truly horrific results.

The fear and solidarity of those times in the late 1930s and early 1940s really comes across in this novel.  These women fight for themselves and for their family as they struggle to survive.  This is a story of tragedy, heroism, love, loss and family.  Go and grab yourself a copy of this novel!

Rating: 📖 📖 📖 📖

Thanks to Netgalley and Canelo for providing me a copy of this lovely novel!  My review is all mine, voluntarily given.

Book Review: Tanner by Sarah Mayberry


Book number 47 in my Goodreads Reading Challenge is Tanner by Sarah Mayberry.

‘He’s used to risking it all in the ring, but nothing prepared him for love…

After flying half-way around the world to surprise her boyfriend, Evie Forrester finds herself heartbroken and stranded in a strange city. What could be a total disaster becomes something else when a tall, dark bull rider turns out to be a white knight in disguise. Evie isn’t sure she needs saving, but Tanner Harding is a difficult man to deny. He’s even harder to resist…

Tanner Harding can tame a monster bull with ease, but he never expected to be floored by someone like Evie. Sparks fly between them until injury threatens to end Tanner’s career –and suddenly he’s the one in need of a rescue.

Evie can’t turn her back on her wounded hero and, as Tanner struggles with his recovery, she’s not sure she can guard her heart against him either. Tanner knows Evie has slipped under his skin, but she lives in Australia and his future is under a cloud. Can two people with too many reasons to walk away make the bold decision to stay?’ (Thanks Amazon!)

Tanner and Evie meet by accident when Evie flies over from Australia to surprise her boyfriend, the man she has loved since adolescence who had finally noticed her on his last visit home.  When the surprise does not go to plan, Evie finds herself lost in an unfamiliar country with little money, completely heartbroken and no plans for two weeks before her return flight home.

Tanner Harding is a bull rider, who upon seeing the broken Evie, could not bring himself to leave her alone.  What follows is the two of them leaning on each other for support as they are each faced with heartbreak, injury and threats to Tanner’s career.

This is a love story between two people thrown unexpectedly together in adverse circumstances.  Evie and Tanner do not plan to meet, and they certainly do not expect to care for one another when they each both need that care and support the most.  What happens next is not unexpected – but that doesn’t make it any less enjoyable.  Sarah Mayberry provides two very likeable characters, both of whom face their own issues and ultimately come out of the other side changed people.  I really enjoyed this novel.  There was a romance which had to overcome barriers and a little bit of sauciness thrown in for good measure.  This is a great piece of escapism which you can lose yourself in for a few hours (preferably with a glass of wine!

Rating: 📖 📖 📖 📗

Book Review: Christmas at Conwenna Cove by Darcie Boleyn

Christmas at Conwenna Cove

Book number 46 in my Goodreads Reading Challenge is Christmas at Conwenna Cove by Darcie Boleyn.

‘When Grace Phillips travels to Conwenna Cove to help her parents move there 30 years after their honeymoon in the village, she sees why they fell in love with the place. The festive decorations, carols in the air and constant supply of delicious mince pies certainly make it hard to leave. Grace soon meets local vet Oli Davenport and initially finds him rude, but learning about his passion for animals and how much he cares for his two kids helps Grace to see a softer side to Oli.

It’s been three years since Oli lost his wife to cancer. Though he loves eleven-year-old Amy and five-year-old Tom more than anything it’s hard to be mum and dad. He has no interest in romance until he crosses paths with beautiful and kind-hearted Grace. The sparks fly but both Oli and Grace are holding onto fear about letting someone into their heart.

As the snow falls and Christmas wishes come true can Conwenna Cove work its magic and help Grace and Oli find the happiness they both deserve?’ (Thanks Netgalley!)

Grace Phillips is a successful author, who has a close relationship with her parents and is more than happy being single.  When her parents move to Conwenna Cove, she follows them to help them settle in, always with the intention of returning to her flat in Cardiff.

Oli Davenport has spent the last three years just surviving.  His beloved wife lost her battle with cancer, leaving him alone with his two young children and his veterinary practice.

I must admit that I have not read Summer at Conwenna Cove – so I look forward to picking it up! At no point did I feel like I was missing any vital details in this novel though, so I can confirm that this can be read as a standalone.  This novel is full of festive cheer, which despite it being only October, I loved!  I really enjoyed both Grace and Oli’s characters, and following the journey that they are both on.  Both characters have suffered a great personal loss, and are able to relate to each other in a way that some others cannot.  Grace and Oli both feel guilt at their attraction to each other, something they each have to overcome during their journeys.

As I have said on many book reviews previously, nothing about this novel is a surprise.  You know how it is going to end.  However that is exactly the point.  This novel is a piece of festive escapism, set in a beautiful village with no surprises.  It is a lovely romance, and reading it is the perfect way to spend a Saturday afternoon with a glass of wine!  So go grab yourself a copy, whilst I go and grab myself a copy of Summer at Conwenna Cove and reacquaint myself with that gorgeous village!

Rating: 📖 📖 📖 📖

Thank you to Netgalley and Canelo for giving me a copy of this novel in exchange for my honest review.

Book Review: Make Believe Wedding by Sarah Mayberry

Make Believe Wedding

Book number 45 in my Goodreads Reading Challenge is Make Believe Wedding by Sarah Mayberry.

‘Everyone in Marietta, Montana, is in love and getting married – at least that’s the way it feels to Andie Bennett the night of the Valentine’s Ball. As she watches the man she’s loved from afar for half her life dance with another woman, Andie allows herself a moment of sheer fantasy as she fills out a stray entry form for the Great Wedding Giveaway. Andie channels years of fantasy and yearning for Heath McGregor onto the page, but she never intends to actually enter the Giveaway. Only a crazy woman would do that. But fate has other ideas….

When Heath learns he and Andie are last minute finalists in the Great Wedding Giveaway, he’s completely baffled. How on earth could anyone make such a ridiculous mistake? When it becomes clear that Andie will be humiliated if the slip-up becomes public, Heath does what any good friend would – he suggests they pretend the engagement is real until the Giveaway is over and then quietly “break up” when no one is paying any attention. It’s the perfect solution, except Heath very quickly realises that pretending Andie is his is no hardship at all. In fact, it may just be the best thing that’s ever happened to him…’ (Thanks Amazon!)

Andie Bennett is a bit of a tomboy.  She works for her brothers best friend Heath as an electrician, working on his construction sites day in and day out.  Oh, and she’s known that Heath is ‘The One’ since she hit puberty.  Which is a problem, because he’s her brothers best friend and he’s never actually noticed her.  So, after spending an evening at the Valentines Ball getting incredibly drunk, she inadvertently enters them into the Great Wedding Giveaway.

Heath is a good guy.  He runs a successful construction business, he enjoys the company of women and he’s close with his best friend Beau.  So close in fact, that he has steered clear of his little sister Andie other than to employ her.  She’s one of his best workers, and he doesn’t know what he’d do without her.  But he also doesn’t know what he’d do without Beau which is why she off limits.

When Andie and Heath are shortlisted for the Great Wedding Giveaway, Heath is baffled.  But he also knows that he can’t let Andie lose face in her male-orientated workplace.  So, together they decide to go ahead with their fake engagement.

There is nothing surprising about this novel.  It’s the story of two people who grew up together, but are kept apart romantically due their love for a mutual friend (or brother).  However it is a great light read full of romance with sauciness thrown in for good measure!  I really enjoyed reading this, more so than I had expected actually.  It is a great chick-lit with some naughty bits appearing through-out the novel (if you don’t like a bit of sauciness in your romance novels then this might not be for you).

Give it a read and let me know what you think.

Rating: 📖 📖 📖

Book Review: The Christmas Holiday by Maxine Morrey

The Christmas Holiday

Book number 44 in my Goodreads Reading Challenge is The Christmas Holiday by Maxine Morrey.

‘As winter comes to London, journalist Mia Walker is desperately hoping for her big break as a travel writer, dreaming of exotic locations and sun-soaked beaches. When she’s invited to write a romantic travel piece that ends in a huge winter wedding in London, she jumps at the chance. The only trouble is, the photographer is renowned adventure-junkie Hunter Scott, who Mia last saw five years ago when she ended their engagement.

It’s the opportunity of a lifetime, and Mia knows she’d be mad to say no – even if it does mean spending weeks travelling round the world with the one man she never wanted to see again! But as the wedding approaches, and the magic of Christmas begins to take hold, Mia can’t help looking out for mistletoe – and wishing she hadn’t cancelled her own engagement after all…’ (Thanks Amazon)

When I saw this novel was coming out by the lovely Maxine Morrey I was rather excited.  I loved The Christmas Project, and I knew that The Christmas Holiday would be just as good.  I was a little dubious about reading my first Christmas themed novel in September, but I really shouldn’t have worried.  This novel is more about seeing some amazing sights across the world than it is about Christmas, so please don’t worry about reading this novel too early in the year.

Mia Walker is a journalist who despite enjoying her job as the ‘Hatches, Matches and Despatches’ writer, longs to be a travel journalist.  She finds herself presented with the perfect opportunity – her boss asks her to travel alongside his daughter Olivia and her fiancee Sandeep to document the big worldwide trip they have planned before they get married at Christmas.  This is a once in a lifetime opportunity for Mia and she is determined to prove herself in the world of journalism.

Hunter Scott is a world renowned photographer, who also happens to be close friends with Olivia and Sandeep.  Oh, and he’s Mia’s ex-fiancee.  Awkward!

So, Mia and Hunter are forced to embark on a two month journey around the world together, documenting Olivia and Sandeep’s trip with words and photographs.  I really enjoyed getting to know the four main characters of this novel, although particularly Mia and Hunter.  As the novel progressed, I found it harder to understand Mia’s reasons for ending her engagement to Hunter, although it was also quite difficult to understand why Hunter walked away.  These two characters are clearly very stubborn who both had issues that they needed to deal with.

What blew me away about this novel though was the locations.  The travel destinations are described with such vibrancy that it is difficult not to get caught up in Mia’s excitement about visiting these places.  They are colourful places, full of culture and wonder.  They have definitely inspired me to add some places to my ‘to visit’ list!

I loved this novel.  It was light-hearted, even if it did touch on some more difficult topics (I don’t want to give anything away so you’ll have to read it to find out what these are for yourself).  There’s plenty to see with lashings of romance thrown in for good measure.  Go grab yourself a copy, there’s no need to wait until Christmas to experience some Christmas magic!

Rating: 📖 📖 📖 📖

Thanks to Netgalley for a copy of this lovely novel in exchange for my honest review.


Book Review: True Love at the Lonely Hearts Bookshop by Annie Darling

True Love at the Lonely Hearts Bookshop

We’ve made it to book 43 in my Goodreads Reading Challenge – Annie Darling’s True Love at the Lonely Hearts Bookshop.

‘Verity Love – Jane Austen fangirl and an introvert in a world of extroverts – is perfectly happy on her own (thank you very much), and her fictional boyfriend Peter is very useful for getting her out of unwanted social events. But when a case of mistaken identity forces her to introduce a perfect stranger as her boyfriend, Verity’s life suddenly becomes much more complicated.

Johnny could also use a fictional girlfriend. Against Verity’s better judgement, he persuades her to partner up for a summer season of weddings, big number birthdays and garden parties, with just one promise – not to fall in love with each other…’ (Thanks Amazon!)

So I chose to read this book based entirely on it’s sweet cover, the Jane Austen references and the fact that it has a bookshop in it – what more do you need!

Verity Love is one of five daughters to a Vicar, and as such she is quite the introvert.  Obviously, she absolutely does not need a man in her life, despite what her match-making friends think.  In social situations she often finds her asking what Elizabeth Bennet would do (and who wouldn’t – Elizabeth Bennet knew everything!). Verity is more than happy with her fake Oceanographer boyfriend Peter Hardy, however with it becoming increasingly difficult to come up with reasons for his absence she finds herself thrown into an unusual social situation with Johnny.

Johnny is becoming increasingly irritated with his friends attempts at matchmaking.  He is more than happy, particularly given the fact that he is already in love.  So when he finds himself cornered with Verity, he grabs the opportunity to create a mutually beneficial fake relationship that will cover them both for the entire summer, keeping both of their friends at bay with their matchmaking schemes.  There is only one rule in this arrangement – they must not fall in love with each other.  Which will be easy.  Right?

This novel is not one to read if you are looking for surprises.  You begin reading it and automatically know how it will end.  That is not the reason that I chose to read this novel though.  It is light-hearted, funny with some romance thrown in for good measure.  It’s a great novel to curl up with on the sofa with a cheeky glass of wine on a Sunday afternoon.  I’m aware that this is the second novel in the Lonely Hearts Bookshop series, so I look forward to reading the first one!  As the nights draw in and the temperature drops, light a fire, grab a blanket and enjoy this lovely feel-good novel.

Rating: 📖 📖 📖 📖

Thanks to Netgalley and Harper Collins Publishers for providing me with a copy of this novel in exchange for my honest review.

Book Review: A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara

A Little Life

Book number 42 of my Goodreads Reading Challenge (and book number 10 of my holiday reads) is Hanya Yanagihara’s A Little Life.

‘When four graduates from a small Massachusetts college move to New York to make their way, they’re broke, adrift, and buoyed only by their friendship and ambition.  There is kind, handsome Willem, an aspiring actor; JB, a quick-witted, sometimes cruel Brooklyn-born painter seeking entry to the art world; Malcolm, a frustrated architect at a prominent firm; and withdrawn, brilliant, enigmatic Jude, who serves as their centre of gravity.  Over the decades, their relationships deepen and darken, tinged by addiction, success and pride.  Yet their greatest challenge, each comes to realise, is Jude himself, by midlife a terrifyingly talented litigator yet an increasingly broken man, his mind and body scarred by an unspeakable childhood, and haunted by what he fears is a degree of trauma that he’ll not only be unable to overcome – but that will. define his life forever.’ (Thanks Amazon)

Firstly I must confess that it has taken me months to get round to reading this, despite two of my friends continuously pressing me to pick it up.  Clearly I am a very keen reader, however it’s sheer size was quite off putting!  Then, when I did finally pick it up I actually put it back down again.  I got three chapters in and honestly, I just wasn’t getting it.  I couldn’t understand why they loved it so much.  At their insistence however, I returned to this novel when I made it to my holiday.  Plenty of uninterrupted time to lose myself in this harrowing, beautiful and tragic novel of life, love and friendships.

I don’t even know where to start in reviewing this novel.  It was heart wrenching and devastating in so many ways.  It is a long book, with so many complexities to follow as you travel alongside Willem, JB, Malcolm and Jude as they grow up together and find their way in the world.  Each has different experiences, but the constant is each other.  Their love and support for each is other is tested in so many ways over the years but they remain tied to each throughout the novel.

Ultimately the novel centres around Jude, their friend who is damaged both physically and emotionally.  Whilst the other three are open books, Jude remains a mystery to them all as the decades pass.  Even to the reader Jude remains a mystery, as only snippets of his past are revealed at any one time.  What emerges is a truly shocking, tragic story of a childhood marred by physical and mental abuse, the kind of which you just can’t imagine.  Jude is defined by his life experiences, and you watch him as he battles with his demons.

Mental health is a prominent feature of this novel, and is something I genuinely believe needs to be discussed far more openly.  Jude is a prime example of someone that is suffering in silence like so many others do.  Jude has been damaged in the most horrific way, and even though he has the love of those closest to him he struggles to overcome the horrors of his past.

I cannot recommend this book enough.  It will take you time, it will damage you emotionally and you will reach the end not knowing how to deal with the knowledge you gain.  This is one of those books that will stop you picking up any other book for quite some time.  Jude, Willem, JB and Malcolm will stay with you long after you close the book.

Rating: 📖 📖 📖 📖 📖

Book Review: The Versions of Us by Laura Barnett

The Versions of Us

We are up to book number 41 of my Goodreads Reading Challenge (and book number 9 of my holiday reads!).  My latest review is of The Versions of Us by Laura Barnett.

‘What if you had said yes . . . ?

Eva and Jim are nineteen, and students at Cambridge, when their paths first cross in 1958. Jim is walking along a lane when a woman approaching him on a bicycle swerves to avoid a dog. What happens next will determine the rest of their lives. We follow three different versions of their future – together, and apart – as their love story takes on different incarnations and twists and turns to the conclusion in the present day.’ (Thanks Amazon)

Eva Edelstein and Jim Taylor have a chance meeting one day in 1958.  From that moment on we follow the three different versions of their futures, as we explore how changing one tiny detail can affect the future.

These three versions of Eva and Jim’s lives contain different love stories, marriages and heartbreak.  The only constant throughout is Eva and Jim, their stories beautifully interwoven over the course of 50 years.  The story is reminiscent of One Day by David Nicholls, but with its own twist.  Barnett cites The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger as an influence on her as a writer, and this can clearly be seen in the way that she moves effortlessly between versions and time periods.  It is hard to believe that this is Laura Barnett’s debut novel, with its intricacies and interwoven versions of the same story.

I must admit that I found this novel difficult to read at first, despite each chapter being clearly labelled with which version of the story you were reading.  Most of the characters appeared in each version, and I did find this confusing.  However, once I had really got into it I discovered that it was worth my perseverance – each version of the story was clearly written with a love for both Eva and Jim as they dealt with the consequences of their actions from that one moment back in 1958, even if they didn’t realise it.

I picked up and read this novel with no expectations (I didn’t even realise it has been a Richard and Judy Book Club Pick until after I’d read it).  I was rewarded for choosing this novel with a beautifully written story of love and loss, family and solitude, showing how one decision can influence the path that your life takes.  If you haven’t already, go and pick up this novel.

Rating: 📖 📖 📖 📖

Book Review: Life and Other Near Death Experiences by Camille Pagan


So book number 40 (nearly there!) in my Goodreads Reading Challenge (and book number 8 of my holiday reads) is Life and Other Near Death Experiences by Camille Pagan.

‘Libby Miller has always been an unwavering optimist—but when her husband drops a bomb on their marriage the same day a doctor delivers devastating news, she realizes her rose-colored glasses have actually been blinding her.

With nothing left to lose, she abandons her life in Chicago for the clear waters and bright beaches of the Caribbean for what might be her last hurrah. Despite her new sunny locale, her plans go awry when she finds that she can’t quite outrun the past or bring herself to face an unknowable future. Every day of tropical bliss may be an invitation to disaster, but with her twin brother on her trail and a new relationship on the horizon, Libby is determined to forget about fate. Will she risk it all to live—and love—a little longer?’ (Thanks Amazon!)

So Libby is dying, a fact that she finds out at the same time that she discovers a secret her husband has been keeping from her.  In the space of one afternoon, she is forced to rethink everything she has ever believed about her ‘perfect’ life, and as a result she makes a run for it, leaving behind Chicago and embarking on a spontaneous trip to the idyllic tropical island of Vieques in the Caribbean.

Spending time alone (or hiding, from both her husband Tom and her twin brother Paul), Libby is forced to examine her life up until now, including the loss of her mother which clearly had a profound impact upon her.  Whilst on her journey to self-discovery she meet Milagros who teaches her Spanish, and Shiloh, a Puerto Rican pilot who forces her to open herself up in a way she never expected.

As she contemplates death, Libby inadvertently learns how to live, a lesson which we all need from time to time.  Life and Other Near Death Experiences really makes you consider what is important in life, and it makes you explore what is good and what is lacking in your own life as Libby does the same.  Life, death, family, friends and love are all important themes within this novel, and I really enjoyed following these themes throughout the novel.  At times I found Libby to be impossible, but considering the position that she had unexpectedly found herself in, there is little I can say against her.  I enjoyed reading about her, and following her as she made her journey to self-discovery to work out just what she wanted from life in the face of death.

I am more than happy to recommend Life and Other Near Death Experiences – it is hard-hitting in places, Libby is sometimes infuriating and I can confirm that it doesn’t end exactly as you would expect.  It does however deal with a particularly difficult subject – cancer.  This is something that we have all been touched by, whether it be personally or someone we love.  The novel deals with it in a light, sometimes humorous way without taking away the heart wrenching reality of how it affects people when they discover it is now part of their future.  Please do give it a read.

Rating: 📖 📖 📖 📖

Book Review: Kahayatle by Elle Casey


Book 39 in my Goodreads Reading Challenge (and book number 7 of my holiday reads) is Kahayatle (Apocalypsis Book 1) by Elle Casey.

‘KAHAYATLE. My name is Bryn Mathis. I’m seventeen years old, and I live in a neighborhood outside of Orlando, Florida. I’m here alone because my dad died almost a year ago, along with all the other adults in the world. I’m almost out of food, and the gangs of kids that roam around my town are getting more vicious by the day. It’s time for me to leave and find another place to live … a place where I can find food and shelter … a place where they won’t be able to find me. Alone, it might have been possible, but now I’ve got company. I’m worried that I don’t have what it takes to get from here to my final destination, and I have no idea what might be waiting for me when I get there.’ (Thanks Amazon)

Kahayatle is the first book in the Apocalypsis series, a YA dystopian series aimed at older teenagers/adults due to its violent nature.  I generally really enjoy dystopian novels and so was excited to give this novel a go.

Like other dystopian novels, this one focuses on teenagers following the death of all adults in the world.  Some teenagers, such as Bryn, choose to go it alone whilst others join together in gangs.  These gangs become increasingly violent, leaving it unsafe for Bryn to remain at home or alone, as the search for food becomes more difficult.

This novel follows a trio of teenagers: Bryn, Peter and Bodo, each of whom have spend a long time alone, but find themselves pulling together in the face of a new breed of gang – the canners.  The canners force Bryn and her friends to find a place where they can live in peace; somewhere that is safe from outside dangers but hospitable enough to allow them to live there.  Along their journey to find such a safe place, they encounter unimaginable horrors and dangers, as they continue to fight for their safety and for their lives.

The first book in this four book series has left me intrigued, and I will certainly be working my way through the next three novels.  If you like dystopian novels then give this one a try!

Rating: 📖 📖 📖