Sunday, 28 May 2017

A House To Mend A Broken Heart by Alison Sherlock (Romance, Contemporary, /10E, short 'n' sweet review)

Content: grief, ignorant workmen, 

Summary from Aria
Everyone is hiding from something... 

Willow Tree Hall has seen much better days and has been the proud ancestral home of the Earl and Countess of Cranley for centuries.

With no qualifications and escaping her past Annie Rogers takes the job as housekeeper to widowed Arthur, the charming current Earl of Cranley. After a bad fall puts Arthur in hospital, it's up to a reluctant heir apparent Sam Harris, to lend a helping hand and try to find a sustainable future for the Estate.

With the house requiring a full renovation Annie suddenly finds herself completely out of her depth with a team of dodgy builders and Sam watching critically from the side-lines.

With Sam running from his past and Annie hiding from hers, just maybe together they can bring Willow Tree Hall back to life.
Nayu's thoughts  
This is such a sweet read. When slowly Annie's secrets were revealed one by one, I was surprised at her inner strength and courage because of what had happened to her. While she has issues because of her stepfather, somehow she isn't broken, just a little lost and needing a lot of love. She finds that in Arthur, who she cares for like the grandparents she doesn't have. That's why it was hard when Sam showed up as he thought the worse of her, making everything she did look ridiculous. Thankfully Sam's brother Will helps him see some sense, as does the travesty that is the cowboy builders. 

I don't have words for them they are the worse builders in history! What they do is tragic, and no wonder poor Annie ends up eating a jar of nutella when their destruction (not reconstruction) reaches it's most devastating point. I nearly cried for how they were ruining the old hall that clearly could survive, if it was left in tact. 

It takes a while but Sam does realise what an asset Annie is to his father and the hall. He realises she wasn't exaggerating about how awful the builders are (you have to read it to believe it), and with his childhood memories literally crumbling in front of him he digs deep in his pockets and soul, decides to make the hall a home again, and gives Annie a chance. 

I like Annie! She is very sweet, kind hearted, and has a lot of oomph when she needs it. Yes she makes a few silly choices but they can all be rectified. I love her fighting spirit, although when a perfect occasion looks less than perfect she loses the plot a little, but it's her friends who rally round and make the event amazing. Annie has been hurt so badly, but as the grand house is rebuilt so too is her heart and soul. It's hard to tell who the title refers to, as all it's residents have a broken heart in one way or another. Definitely a sweet read (with next to no romance!) that'll be on my reread shelf.

Keep up to date with Alison on Twitter.

Amelia Moore #7 The Lighthouse Secret by Linda Weaver Clarke (Audiobook, Cozy Mystery, 9/10E)

 April 2017, Red Mountain Shadows Publishing, 5 hours 46 minutes, Audiobook, Review copy 

Content: mild romance, domestic violence (off the page)

Summary from Linda's website
Rick Bonito's uncle supposedly drowned five years ago and his body was never found, but something did not seem right about the report. Uncle Antonio was an excellent swimmer. His disappearance seems quite suspicious to Rick's father. He never felt the complete truth had come out about his brother. It is now up to Amelia and Rick to find out the truth about his uncle.

Nayu's thoughts  
I so didn't want to finish reading this because it's the last (for now) in the Amelia Moore series! The only reason it didn't get full marks was because unlike other Amelia adventures there didn't seem to be an instance where Amelia and Rick were in danger. I think this may not have happened just because domestic violence is mentioned in the story (off the page but significant to the story line), so perhaps extra danger would have made it less of a light read than it is. 

Aside from that it's absolutely excellent, as the Amelia stories are. Amelia is pluckier than other, having me smile when she yet again for at least a second book confronts a stalker with courage and some annoyance at being followed. The mystery was close to her heart as it's her husband's relative who is being investigated. I love how sweet the romance is between them – minus the blushes both Amelia and I shared at a certain point. Linda works her magic making the continuing friendship and romance between the two be realistic and offer good advice for readers in similar situations. 

For some unknown reason I adore the concept of lighthouses, how all the rooms are round and it's not like a normal house. However, in real life I'd never go up one because I'm afraid of heights and hate being near water – lighthouses, in case you don't know, are right by the sea with a light at the top to guide ships safely to shore. I think a lot are electric and automatically operated these days, but there are some which are manualy operated. I wished for more of those details in the book but they weren't there.

I was a little surprised that another major life change didn't happen to Amelia by the end of the novel, as that would have been a good spot to end the series, but maybe she will return in the future! I'm looking forward to rereading this charming cozy mystery series, that's for sure! 

Suggested read  
Be sure to check out the rest of the series! Book #1A Bali Mystery by Linda Weaver Clarke (Cozy Mystery 10/10E)

Taken by Rosemary Hayes (Young Adult, Thriller, 9/10E, short 'n' sweet review)

January 2017, Ransom Publishing, 200 pages, Paperback, Review copy 

Content: some teen romance, mystery, stalking, kidnap, 

Book summary
Four years ago, Kelly s dad disappeared, apparently having taken his own life. His family are left devastated and are only just beginning to move on. Then, one day, Kelly thinks she sees him again. It is only a glimpse - and it can t have been him - but it is enough to bring back all the painful memories. Why did he kill himself? What was so terrible that he couldn t go on? The thoughts won t leave her alone. Kelly confides in her friend Jack and as theytry to find out more about Dad s past they unearth a confusing mass of inconsistencies and unanswered questions. Gradually they are sucked into a murky world where nothing is as it seems. They are out of their depth; someone is trying to stop them finding out more and they are in real danger. Who is following them? Who can they trust? And why does Gran refuse to talk about Dad?

Nayu's thoughts 
Having read some of Rosemary's past my interest grew at Kelly's mysterious dad's disappearance. As wrong as it can sound I love tales where characters are followed and Stuff Happens. That is in part why the book didn't get a perfect grade. As curious as I was about Kelly, as much as I loved the insight to her small family, how she slowly grew closer to her brother Nat, the semi-weird relationship she has with her mum, having to realise her dad is mostly gone (or is he?), for my personal tastes it was a bit too slow paced. I feel when Stuff Happens could have been a bit sooner and more drawn out. 

What happens is awesome, and I hadn't guessed all that accurately with the little clues I had. Kelly has her very good friend with her, and slowly becomes friends with Jack which both helps and jeopardizes them both. I love how the stalking was done, and the reason behind it gave me more chills than when it happened. Kelly has to grow up fast again-the first time was when her dad disappeared, and she gains a lot of inner strength and confidence because of what she experiences. I'm seriously hoping this isn't the end of her adventures because there's potential for a lot more Stuff To Happen. 

Her Gran is one of my favourite characters, both how she reacts to things and how people react to her. I didn't want the book to end because of her! There is a bit of mild romance, which was sweet in its own way. Definitely one for the reread pile! I'm eager to try and pick up hints earlier on now I know what happens. 

Find out more on Rosemary's website.

Saturday, 27 May 2017

The Summer Seaside Kitchen by Jenny Colgan (Audiobook, Romance, Contemporary, 9/10E, short 'n' sweet review)

February 2017, Hachette Audible, 10 hours 9 minutes long, Audiobook, Review copy

Content: some romance, humour 

Book summary from Audible who I received this copy from
Flora is forced to move back to the tiny island of Mure from the bright lights of London. It's tough: even the beautiful landscapes and bright blue sea can't lift her spirits - she's too busy looking after her dad and her feckless brothers. Then she chances upon her mum's collection of recipes and begins to cook her way through it. As she reconnects with her family and the place she was born, might she also find herself? 

Nayu's thoughts
I had to listen to this twice because the first time I was under the influence of heavy medication and didn't understand the story. When I restarted it all made much more sense, and meant I'm not writing how unlike a Jenny Colgan book it is. Flora doesn't have a major event happen that starts her off on her cooking journey like the other Colgan books I've read, not exactly. I liked the randomness of how she ends up back in the island  community she was born in. She is there because she has to be-if she had a choice she would never have gone because of a mystery incident which is revealed much later in the story. It's interesting how an event is perceived to be a set way by Flora but in actuality not everyone hates her for what happened. 

That's not the only life lesson she learns, but it's a big one. I loved getting to know how live in a small community can be for both actual and perceived outsiders. It was interesting how one outsider had no clue how they were alienating themselves with the community, that by doing a few easy enough acts they would find it easier to gain local support for their project. Flora points this out, as well as unexpectedly enjoying visiting her childhood home which leads to Great Things Happening. I possibly would have liked a bit more focus on the cooking side of the story, but overall it's another fun Jenny read/listen which I will reread/relisten at some point! The narration was perfect with different characters being distinguished from their voices (including what sounds like accurare accents).

Find out more on Jenny's website

Friday, 26 May 2017

Nayu's News #232 Annual Ramadan Review Policy Changes

It's that time of year!
As is normal every time we reach Ramadan (tomorrow = yay!) I'm changing my review policy for the holy month. Due to being under the weather a lot lately I haven't been able to post up romance themed reads in time, so I am pre-scheduling them today & they will technically be posted during appropriate hours over the next week or so. I will not be reading any romance reads until the end of June, except for any I've already commited to do a blog tour for already. 

I can read romance books outside of fasting hours, but they are times I'm usually tired and it's just easier to not read them until the month is over. That's all for this temporary review policy change!

Vets at Green Hope by Sheila Norton (Romance, Contemporary, 10E/10E)

1st June 2017, Ebury Press, 336 pages, Paperback, Review copy

Content: romance of mostly sweet nature, pregnancy, cranky people, lots of humour

Summary from Penguin
Sam has always dreamed of working with animals...

But her receptionist job in a London vets is not hitting the spot. Unsure whether a busy city life is for her, she flees to her Nana Peggy’s idyllic country village.

But despite the rolling hills and its charming feel, life in Hope Green is far from peaceful. On first meeting Joe, the abrupt and bad-tempered local vet, Sam knows she must get him on side, but that is easier said than done...

With her dream close enough to touch, will she get there, or will events conspire against her...

Nayu's thoughts 
This is the type of read I enjoy, with Sam wanting to start afresh and discovering life in her grandmother's village. I had no idea that beyond the first chapter title lay a mega plot twist that isn't hinted at in the book summary - a plot twist which ups the stakes in Sam's journey of self-discovery. I was happy with the decision she ended up making and cheered her on with each new friend (and enemy) that she made. 

There's the usual instances of people misunderstanding each other, Sam being in the wrong place at the wrong time and giving the wrong impression, and lots of times where she is at the right place at the right time - the pig farm incident can be put in both categories!!! Her grandmother is sweet and funny, enjoying Sam's company and not giving advice unless Sam asks for it (along with a phrase that kept making me laugh) and I liked the firm friends who Sam makes, as they genuinely want her to be welcome in the village, and help her in any way that they can. Sam reciprocates the friendship which will help her make her final decision about her life.

From the summary I assumed that Sam would be staying in the village for all the novel, but it takes quite some time and a lot of events to pass before that happens. However I was still hooked on her story regardless of where she was. As the for the plot surrounding Joe...this is where a big plot twist happened that I didn't expect. This type of book usually has a set pattern to the romance, but that was not the case for Joe and Sam, which made a refreshing change. As usual for this type of book her ex boyfriend is a royal idiot (not literally royal, thankfully) and I hated him with quite a passion. No one should have to put up with what he does, which thankfully Sam realises. 

As for the animals...there are lots of them, creating both chaos and love in equal measure.  I cheered for the way Sam dealt with Ebony, as it's exactly what I'd have done if I was in the same situation. Cats always have a special place in my heart, just as this book will have a place on my reread shelf! 

Find out more on Sheila's website

Suggested read

Thursday, 25 May 2017

Blog Tour: Review + Q&A for Wishbones by Virginia MacGregor (Young Adult, 10E/10E)

 18th May 2017, Harlequin Teen, 384 pages, Paperback, Review copy 

Summary from HarperCollins
Feather Tucker has two wishes:

1)To get her mum healthy again

2) To win the Junior UK swimming championships
When Feather comes home on New Year’s Eve to find her mother one of Britain’s most obese women- in a diabetic coma, she realises something has to be done to save her mum’s life. But when her Mum refuses to co-operate Feather realises that the problems run deeper than just her mum’s unhealthy appetite.

Over time, Feather’s mission to help her Mum becomes an investigation. With the help of friends old and new, and the hindrance of runaway pet goat Houdini, Feather’s starting to uncover when her mum’s life began to spiral out of control and why. But can Feather fix it in time for her mum to watch her swim to victory? And can she save her family for good?

Nayu's thoughts
I was intrigued by how Feather (an apt name when you get to know her) copes with her mum's weight issues as well as another key character's issues. In an ideal world children shouldn't have to worry about a parent, but Feather does because of the major health implications of her mum's weight. While she is old enough to worry and do her best to get her mum on the road to healthier living, Feather doesn't always get told the reasons why her efforts aren't working. Because she isn't an adult who has a wider experience of life and can cope with the emotionally hard reality of why her mum gained so much weight, the adults try to shield Feather from the truth. She goes the extra mile and them some, but unfortunately for a good part of the story her mum simply isn't interested in changing herself. As a result Feather goes through many emotions, anger and frustration being hard to handle. 

It was sweet of her to never give up, even when something she tries fails spectacularly. She figures out a new plan which is inventive in giving her mum the support she needs. It was harder when Feather's best friend Jake isn't quite himself, and their friendship gets a bit unstable. I correctly guessed the reason for that distance, something which Feather didn't see coming. I loved the swimming part of the story, how she had something to work for outside of her family issues. I adore the fancy dress shop owner who takes Feather under her wing when Feather needs some time away from her family after a major plot twist. I wish every child with issues had such a good adult figure in their life! Without her I don't think Feather would have successfully figured out how she felt about the revelation, and what path she needed to take next. It's a brilliant read combining several weight and mental health issues into a read that I couldn't put down. Definitely one for the reread shelf! 

Find out more on Virginia's website.

Question and Answer session with Virginia MacGregor
Another book by Virginia

Nayu) It's with great pleasure that I was able to ask Virginia some questions about the book! 
1)  What drew you to pick both obesity and diabetes as diseases that Feather's mum has to deal with, and the topic of being a young carer?
Both in my adult and young adult fiction, I like to focus on strong contemporary issues that have a resonance in our lives.  Obesity, eating disorders and their related complications like diabetes, are increasingly common, especially in the Western world. My feeling is that both over and under-eat eating have a closer relationship that we realise at that their root is psychological rather than physical: this is something I explore through Feather’s mother and Feather’s friend, Clay. I believe that fiction develops our understanding and empathy for those going through difficulties; fiction also makes helps us feel more understood when we are struggling. This is particularly important for young adults who often feel very alone and misunderstood. 

As regards being a young carer, this came partly through my own experience. When I was thirteen my parents went through a messy divorce which left my mother broken both physically and emotionally. Overnight, I went from being a child to an adult: I was the only one  there to care for her. I know that there are children all over the world who have to care for sick parents or relatives and that this puts a huge burden on them. It’s also something I explored in my first adult novel, What Milo Saw, in which a nine year old boy looks after his great-grandmother.

2) Did you ever think about having Feather have some mental health issues (which from the summary I'm guessing her mum has), instead of her mum?
Not really. I wanted her to be the strong, constant pillar in both her family and her community. Although her mother could be said to have mental health issues, it’s more just grief and coming to terms with something tragic that has happened in her past.

3)  Without giving away spoilers what were the easiest and hardest parts of the book to write?
Feather’s voice, her character and the quirky bits of the novel, like Houdini the goat, were fun and relatively easy to write.  Getting to the root of what happened to Feather’s parents and it’s consequences was harder: what they’ve been through is not something I have experienced directly and I knew it had to be handled sensitively. Seeing it through the eyes of a young girl felt like the best way to tackle such a delicate subject. I hope I haven’t given away any spoilers! 

4)  Is there any reason why you chose Houdini to be a goat? Do you have a goat/like goats?
I’m a great animal lover: I believe that they have a special spiritual connection, that they see and feel more than we do and that when we relate to them, and that they enrich our lives by letting us into these other worlds.  I’ve always lived with cats but I’d have a whole menagerie if I had the space (and if I could convince my husband!).  Ever since I spent an afternoon with some baby goats when I was on holiday in Austria, I’ve always dreamt of having a goat as a pet, so by writing Houdini into Wishbones, I was able to experience that vicariously! I find them wonderfully quirky and Houdini added just the right touch of light to a novel that has moments that are very sad. I think that children and teenagers, in particular, have a special bond to animals: they can confide in them and, through them, they learn important lessons about caring for other living beings. I love to watch my little girls interacting with animals.

5) Where's your favourite place to write? Do you have a favourite drink to write with? 
 I love to write in coffee shops – I wrote the whole of Wishbones in a coffee shop in England – with the most wonderful barista called Richard looking after me! Since moving to America, I’ve been writing in a gorgeous juice bar owned by one of my best friends. I find it easier to write surrounded by people and the buzz of life. My favourite drinks are either an almond latte (extra hot) or a green juice: one balanced the other out!
Suggested read
Check out this series about a teen dealing with a mother who has hoarding issues (I have only read book #1)  is Love, Lies and Lemon Pies by Katy Cannon (Young Adult, 9/10E)