Posted in Book review, Books, Fairy Tales, Reading, Reading Challenge 2021

Reading Challenge 2021: Grimm Tales for Young and Old – Philip Pullman Collection

Good afternoon lovelies!

How are you all? I hope you’re well and enjoying the beauty in the change of nature right now. Outside my window I can see leaves dancing and their colours changing. Autumn is a really beautiful time of year – it’s so important that we notice it. In fact, I’ve been worried recently that I’m missing all of this happening around me so I’ve taken time this weekend to relax, read and observe. We are so lucky to have our natural world in all its beauty. We need to take care of it.

As promised in my previous post, I’m here today to share with you my book choice for my reading challenge. September’s theme was: Read a traditional fairy tale. Now, this is where I have to admit that my knowledge of fairy tales really only extend to the Disney versions I spent my childhood watching. I knew a couple of tales from growing up too but these really were quite hazy and the more modern fairy tales or the modern adaptation of them I knew also fell into that category. Therefore, my choice for this month came at the right time as these were an easy read (helps massively with school) and also thoroughly enjoyable… if that’s the right word! I’m really looking forward to sharing my favourite three with you all!

What’s it all about?
First of all, I just have to say that my edition here, the Penguins Classics edition, really is stunning. There’s something truly magical about owning a clothbound book I find. This collection contains the classics: Snow White, Hansel and Gretel, Rumpelstiltskin and Rapunzel to name a few but also some that I’ve never even heard of. However, I have to start with my favourite: Cinderella.

Cinderella
Written in 1812, the tale begins with the death of a young girl’s mother, leaving her with the lesson of being good and praying faithfully. The following Spring the girl’s father marries an evil woman with two daughters of her own. They turn the young girl into a servant and make her sleep on the floor in the fire cinders, hence the name Cinderella. She remains true to her beloved mother and remains humble despite the years of abuse and suffering she suffered.

Meanwhile, the King announces a three day festival so that the prince can pick his bride. Cinderella is desperate to attend but her step-mother has different plans. She purposely throws lentils into the ashes and forces Cinderella to clean them up instead of attending. However, Cinderella gets a helping hand from her trusty birds and the mess is quickly cleared. The magic tree, one which has helped her often, gives her a dress and slippers of the most beautiful gold, silver and silk. Once she’s at the ball, she is the most stunning girl there! Under her disguise, nobody knows it’s her and rather fortunately, the prince sees her and falls in love.

At the end of the festival, Cinderella escapes leaving one slipper behind. The prince knows that the woman he loves can fit into that shoe and so the search begins to find her. The step-sisters are desperate for him to think it’s one of them. One decides to cut off her toe to enable her foot to fit and the other cuts off her heel. Yet, it’s the birds who show how the shoe rightfully belongs to and punish the evil step-sisters of their behaviour towards Cinderella.

“Roocoo-coo, roocoo-coo
No blood in the shoe!
It’s not too tight,
This bride is right!”

The Elves
Written in 1806, this little collection of tales all feature one thing: elves. In the first tale, we see a hardworking but poor shoemaker struggling to make shoes due to his lack of leather. In fact, he was only able to make one single pair. He left the pair unfinished, for the morning, heading for bed to commend himself to God. After waking the following morning, saying his prayers, he returns to his workbench. What he sees is a miracle! A completed pair of shoes in perfect condition.

A customer entered the shop and offered a huge sum for the shoes, more than they usually sold for. Following this, the shoemaker decides to stay up and see exactly who had helped them. Hidden in the corner of the room, they waited patiently. What they saw were two little men working quickly and nimbly on a pair of shoes, running away once they were completed.

The wife decides that they have to show thanks to the little people because they truly have changed their lives. Noticing they have no clothes, she makes them little clothes for them and the shoemaker finishes each outfit with a pair of shoes. Once they had finished the clothes and shoes, they left them for the men and saw how happy it made them. They danced out of their home, never to be seen again. However, the shoemaker prospered in his business.

The second tale centres on a girl this time. A poor but hardworking servant girl was sweeping out the house when she found a letter. She couldn’t read so instead took the letter to her masters. They told her the contents of the letter – that she had been invited to an elf baptism and asked to be a godmother. She hesitated not really sure of what she should do but her master manages to persuade her to accept.

Upon arrival the girl saw just how beautiful it was where the elves lived. They did everything to keep her comfortable and happy but she wanted to leave. The elves continued to work hard but after three days she was desperate to return. They ave her gold but let her leave. Once she got back home she learnt that it wasn’t three days but seven years that she had spent with them.

The final tale shows a woman who had her child taken from the cradle by elves and substituted with a changeling. She was advised by a neighbour to set the changeling on the hearth, make a fire and boil water within two eggshells. This should make the changeling laugh and he would leave. The woman did everything in her power to follow her neighbour’s instructions. Finally, the changeling laughed and a band of elves appeared to swap the child and changeling back.

“We’re finer than before –
We shan’t be cobblers anymore!”

The Golden Bird
Every year, a king’s apple tree is robbed of one golden apple during the night. Frustrated with this regular theft, the king sets his gardener’s sons to watch to find out who it is. The first two sons fail in their mission as they both fall asleep. However, the youngest son manages to stay away to see that the thief isn’t a person, but it is in fact a golden bird. He tries to shoot it but only manages to knock a feather off. The king decides that this feather is so valuable that he must also have the bird that it belongs to.

The king sends the sons again onto their next mission – capture the bird. On route, they meet a talking fox who gives them some advice. The first two sons ignore the advice but the third doesn’t. He obeys the fox so the fox further advises him to use the wooden cage from the castle and not the golden one. However, this he disobeys and the bird rouses the castle, resulting in his capture. The fox offers further advice – to use a grey leather saddle, not a gold one, but the son disobeys too. He now has a bird and a horse. He is sent after the princess from the golden castle. The fox advises him not to not her say her farewell to her parents but he disobeys again. As a result, princess’s father orders him to remove a hill for eight days as the price of his life.

The fox removes it and then they set out together again. He further advises the prince on how to keep all the things he has won since then. It then asks the prince to shoot it and cut off its head. When the prince refuses, it warns him against buying gallows’ flesh and sitting on the edge of rivers.

On route back home, he finds his older brothers who have been living in sin throughout this ordeal. Because of their actions, they are to be hanged on the gallows. He buys their liberty and they find out exactly what he has been up to. When he sits on the river’s edge, they push him in. They steal all of his things and the princess and begin back to their father. Nevertheless, the bird, horse and princess all grieve for the youngest son. The fox also rescues the prince. When he returns to his father’s castle dressed in a beggar’s clock, the bird, the horse and the princess all recognise him as the man who won them and become cheerful once again. The older brothers are punished for their deeds and he marries the princess.

Lastly, the third son cuts off the fox’s head and feet at the creatures request. The fox is revealed to be a man, the brother of the princess who had been enchanted by a witch after being lost of may years.

“And from then on nothing was missing from their happiness as long as they lived.”

Final Thoughts
I think there is (obviously) rather something magical about fairy tales. I found reading this a complete joy really. The majority are cautionary and I do wonder how younger audiences would find them now. Some are fairly barbaric and brutal but all have their own lessons. We all are desperate for good to overcome evil, for light to beat darkness, for kindness to be rewarded and that’s really what these tales show us. I’m so glad that I had this as a theme on my challenge because without it, I’m sure I wouldn’t have got to them! The reading list is forever growing, let’s face it. But I’ve loved reading them! No regrets.

I’ll continue catching up with you all whilst getting through my final week before half term break. I feel like I’ve been counting down since week two to be honest but it will be good to switch off and recover. The reading pile isn’t going to read itself, is it? Until next time my loves.

Big love all xxx

Posted in Book review, Books, Reading, Reading Challenge 2021

Reading Challenge 2021: The Island of Sea Women – Lisa See

Hi Loves!

Well, term time began and that’s really when my free time ended. I didn’t expect the start of the new term to be this hard but it’s been nothing like I ever imagined. The words ‘Covid Catch-Up’ are haunting my ears and my zen like state from the summer seems a little less zen and a little more bleugh. I can only apologise for my absence and hope that you all forgive me. I’ve tried to keep up with you all, something I will endeavour to keep on doing. I’ve fallen behind in my own reading and blogging which frustrates me but I’m here now! Hopefully I can make up for it.

Today I am here to share with you my book choice for August for my reading challenge. The focus was: Read a book which takes you to the beach. Now, my default position would be to pick a sunny skies book, with beach vibes and the hint of suncream in my imagination. However, I opted for something more harrowing, more gritty than you’d probably expect. I read The Island of Sea Women by Lisa See. I hope you enjoy the review and the book!


What’s it all about?
Set in Jeju, you enter the matriarchal world of these fiercely independent women skin divers. In a culture where the men stay at home to look after the children, to discuss the latest gossip in the village square. These women head out into the sea day after day to provide food from the sea for their families. The book covers several decades, from 1930s right through to the modern world today. Mi-ja and Young-sook are two young girls in the 30s with ambitions to be a part of the diving collective. Their backgrounds are very different. Mi-ja is the daughter of a collaborator with the hated Japanese Occupation Forces whilst Young-sook lives at the heart of the collective, born into a long line of haenyeo (sea women) divers. Despite Mi-ja’s damaged reputation Young-sook befriends her and together they learn to dive.

‘From that day on, I believed I could trust her with my life. So did my mother. All of which meant that by the time Mi-ja and I turned fifteen – we were as close as a pair of chopsticks.’

The opportunity came for Young-sook to join her mother and the haenyeo diving for the precious abalone. These creatures are extremely valuable but can be incredibly dangerous to try and catch as you can easily become trapped against the rocks. Young-sook gets her abalone and surfaces triumphantly but soon realises that her mother is trapped under the water. Lacking the experience, she fails to free her despite repeated attempts and at the moment of her success she faces the bereavement of her mother, the breadwinner for her entire family.

She grabbed my knife and tried to slice through the leather. In her rush, she slit a deep gash in her forearm. Her legs began to kick frantically. I pulled on her arm, trying to help. I couldn’t last much longer…’

The death of Young-sook’s mother puts a massive strain on the family and on her in particular as she is now expected to provide for the whole family, including her father. So when the girls have the opportunity to participate in ‘Leaving-Home Water-Work’, Young-sook jumps at it. This is when they haenyeo were hired to dive in other countries. In this instance, Mi-ja and Young-sook were hired out for nine months in Vladivostok. On their days off, the girls would take rubbings of anything that caught their eye as a way of collecting memories and telling their stories. This opportunity would have been a great adventure for the girls as they were away from home in a strange country and had the opportunity to meet young men. At one point they were walking through the town when they were approached by two Russian sailors. The boys bought them ice cream which was an extravagance that they would never have been able to purchase for themselves. However, despite some serious flirting, the girls returned to the Korean district, leaving the boys disappointed.

‘I stuck my tongue out all the way – like I’d seen other people do – and took a big lick. The air was already cold, but this was so cold! It froze the top of my head just as intensely as diving off the boat into icy waters, but while the ocean was salty, this was sweeter than anything I’d ever tasted.’

On their return to Jeju the girls have a life changing encounter. In the port they are struck by the enormous number of Japanese soldiers, sailors and guards. Both girls feel unsafe and threatened by all these leering men. But, salvation comes in the form of Lee Sang-mun who helps them get themselves and all their luggage safely to the truck which will take them back to their village. Young-sook is convinced that there is a spark between them and her thoughts turn to weddings. However, it transpires that he is interested in Mi-ja and Young-sook feels rejected and for the first time, resents her friend. Lee Sang-mun is a wealthy man but works with the Japanese. Young-sook’s grandmother is pleased to see the back of Mi-ja as she is married off to a collaborator.

“He’s a collaborator and he has too much Japanese thinking in him.” ‘This was about the worse thing she could say about anyone since she so hated the Japanese and those who helped them.’

Young-sook isn’t left behind as her grandmother also has her married off, this time to a school teacher called Jun-bu. This brings some stability to her life and a measure of settled calm. Her sister has joined the haenyeo which brings more income to their household. Inevitably, Young-sook becomes pregnant. During this time it becomes clear that the Japanese are fighting a desperate end to the war against the American forces. The build up of war materials on Jeju is intense and their lives are disrupted by the constant passage of planes overheard and war ships through the sea. Upon her return to the summer work in Vladivostok, four of the girls from Jeju give birth. In typical haenyeo style, this barely stops their work and the newborns accompany them on the boat from birth, as the women continue to dive.

‘In mid-June, Mi-ja went into labour in the sea. She kept working until the final hour, when In-ha and I joined her on the deck for the delivery. After all her foreboding, that baby practically swam out of Mi-ja.’

At the end of the war, the Japanese were driven out by the victorious American forces but as far as the people of Jeju were concerned, they just replaced one set of occupiers with another and worse, the American suspicion of communism meant that they were hostile to the naturally communal approach of the haenyeo. As tensions grew on the island, it culminates in an American strategy called ‘The Ring of Fire’. This is an attempt to trap the ‘insurgents’ and remove them entirely. Young-sook, her husband and her children are caught in this ‘Ring of Fire’. As the atrocities committed by the militia mount, the risk that they will kill everyone to hide what they have done is very real. However, Mi-ja and her influential husband have the power to save them but faced with the choice, Mi-ja turns her back and leaves them. Her son and her husband are murdered before her eyes in an event called the ‘Massacre at Bukchon’.

‘Sang-mun grabbed Mi-ja’s arm and began to walk away. “Mi-ja!” I screamed. “Help us!” She kept her face turned, so she didn’t see what happened when the soldier decided to stop wasting their time with Yu-ri… Her agony was my agony. Then she stopped screaming.’

The novel ends in a way that should give us a sense of hope. Things aren’t always as they seem and this is a prime example of this. But, can we really forgive or even acknowledge seeing things in a different way? That’s something that is explored as the novel closes. No spoilers here – you’ll need to read it to find out…


Final Thoughts
I did enjoy reading this book. Don’t get me wrong, it is harrowing, horrifying and a completely alien culture to what we are used to. It is nothing like our every day lives and so my eyes were opened to a new experience completely. It isn’t a traditional beach read – no summer vibes here! Regardless, this book is one that I am so grateful to have read. That’s the beauty of these reading challenges – reading something you wouldn’t normally read. This book is exactly that.

Thank you all so much for your patience, care and love. I’ll be back soon – I promise!

Big love all xxxxx

Posted in Book review, Books, Box of Stories, Reading, Thriller

The Pocket Wife – Susan Crawford

Hey guys!

How are you all? I hope summer is treating you beautifully. I’m having the best time – reading, exploring, holidaying. We’re so lucky to be able to experience everything we’ve got on offer right now. It sounds like such a cliche but I’m so grateful for what I have right now. I’ve had some wonderful quality time with my family and I’ve made a big dent in my TBR pile. (They have since been replaced by books purchased from various days out but we won’t say too much more on that matter…)

Today I want to share with you a book that I couldn’t put down or stop thinking about. For those of you who have followed me for a while, you’ll know how much I love my psychological thrillers and this one did not disappoint. I got The Pocket Wife in one of my book subscription boxes. I’d never heard of it and didn’t know anything about it. Regardless, I read this book in a few hours. It was that good. Most importantly, it was one of those books where I just had to find out what happened. It kept me guessing until the penultimate chapter. I have to confess, I didn’t manage to work this one out! Don’t worry – no spoilers here! I hope you enjoy reading my review!

What’s it all about?

Centred around Dana Catrell and her husband Peter, we are at once given an unreliable narrator. Why? Dana has bipolar disorder. She lives at home whilst her husband is the high flying attorney. As a result, he hasn’t a clue about the deterioration of Dana because he isn’t there to notice the changes in her mood and character. This change is worsened with their son’s move to college.

We awkwardly see Dana move between the bleakest depression to manic euphoria. There is no way to know which side of that she will fall on each and every day. On a particularly down day, Dana pops to see her neighbour, Celia. The women talk and Celia is only too aware of the mental health issues faced by Dana. Dana discloses to her that she feels like she is treated incorrectly, like she’s a ‘pocket wife’ and that she doesn’t exist. The crux of it is, she feels alone and rejected. Celia understands and listens.

“She and Celia were friends, neighbours, sharing piecrust recipes and gossip and yard-sale outings, an occasional languid conversation over coffee or an afternoon trek through the mall with bags in hand. But not secrets. Not until today.”

On a subsequent visit, Dana tells Celia that she is becoming increasingly convinced that Peter is having an affair. He leaves to talk on the phone and constantly finds excuses to leave the house. Like any good friend, Celia checks that Dana is taking her medication as well as seeing her psychologist. She believes it is best that she talks about those fears with someone who is trained and who can give the best advice. Dana discloses that she has opted for alcohol rather than medication thus adding to the unreliability of her narrative.

“There were times over the years when her demons won out, when she wore her lipstick too dark, her mascara too heavy, her dressed too short.”

Regardless, Celia offers Dana wine and the pair of women spend the afternoon together. They chat and enjoy each other’s company but it isn’t long until Dana is drunk. Celia tries to show her a photograph on her phone but Dana passes out before she can make any sense of it. What does this photograph show? When she wakes up, she sees that she is back within the confines of her own house. More worryingly, she learns that Celia has been murdered.

As the last person to see Celia alive, this puts Dana in quite a difficult position. She obsessively tries to put the memories together of the previous night but she struggles. Her frustration with herself only makes the task more impossible. Ultimately, her biggest fear is that because she has a key, she went back over there and killed her. Dana has very little recollection about where she’s been or what she has done.

The one factor that Dana keeps returning to is the photograph. It is the one image that is returned to repeatedly through the novel. It’s what the plot is hung off. Dana believes (or persuades herself) that the photograph she wanted to show her must have something to do with her death. She doesn’t trust her husband at all so talking with him is out of the question. She makes the decision to try and work this one out for herself. When the lead detective, Jack Moss, arrives to ask some routine questions, Dana sees this as an opportunity to get some help from him.

For Moss, his own personal life is somehow mixed into this case too. When he gets the return back on the fingerprints they ran, he didn’t expect to see the fingerprints of his own son, Kyle, on the report. Both Moss and Dana now each have something they want to hide which impacts the progress of the case. Prosecutor, Lenora White, is constantly applying pressure to Moss to make an arrest and get the case solved.

Following this, Dana discovers Celia’s mobile number stored on Peter’s mobile. In her heightened emotional state she worries because he’s told her that he only knows her in passing. Yet, his phone tells a different story. When she looks at the same phone later the number has been removed. This reinforces to her that something is going on and that Peter is potentially hiding something from her. Let’s not forget her emotional state though. Everything is already heightened and distorted.

“Not only are her memories of Celia’s actions on that afternoon a sham, but memories of her own as well. She gets up quickly, before the ceiling covers her, before the walls enfold her, crush her.”

Meanwhile, Dana manages to remember who was in the photograph on Celia’s phone: another woman. She manages to get Celia’s phone but this time the photograph has been deleted. This leads her to the horror and believe that she could have made the whole thing up or imagined seeing it there. She is certain she’s going crazy. She soon falls into another manic state but this time she chooses to use this to help her solve the case.

During his own enquiry, Moss learns that Kyle knows Celia as he was one of her students. He is certain that there’s a rational explanation for his fingerprints to be at her house. His son isn’t a murderer. But if he isn’t, who is? Celia is still dead. Increasing pressure comes from Lenora who wants the case wrapped up.

Evidence is found which then shows things in a very different light. Moss has a duty to investigate and does so. By the end of the novel, the murderer is revealed as well as their motive. After all, forensics don’t lie.

What about Dana? Well, she accepts that she needs help with her mental illness but also now acknowledges that her marriage is also a sham. Everything is tied up neatly by the end of the novel leaving the reader wholly satisfied.

“This is the way the world ends. Not with a bang but a whisper.” ‘No, she thinks, it wasn’t a whisper; it was something else.’

Final Thoughts

For fans of The Girl on the Train, this book is a pacy little number that will keep you guessing until the end. I particularly found the writing surrounding the bipolar incredibly shocking. Psychologists at the time of publication found Crawford’s description accurate and sound. For me, that makes it authentic. We have a character who is clearly flawed but is desperate to know if she has killed someone in a manic state where she has no recollection of it. In that sense it’s incredible emotive. It also means we have a highly unreliable narrator. Can we believe anything she says or is it all a delusion?

Anyway, I loved this little book. It has everything a thriller should have and more. You’ll have to read it to find out who really killed her and why.

I’ll be back next time with my review of my August book as well as my round up for August. I can’t wait to catch up with you all then!

Big love all xxxx

Posted in Book review, Books, Reading

Where the Crawdads Sing – Delia Owens

Hello Lovelies!

I hope you’re all well and enjoying August. I absolutely love the summer. I’ve no idea what it is, maybe the longer summer days, but it always feels like the best time in the year. I also feel much more productive and I tend to get a lot more reading done over the summer. This may have something to do with not being at school! (I’m in complete ignorance of this until the night before we go back so moving swiftly on…)

I wanted to share with you today another book I read from my sun lounger but one I absolutely couldn’t not write about. It’s been a while since I had the urge to blog as soon as I’ve put a book down. That isn’t to say that I’ve not enjoyed books I’ve read, it’s just the reading and the writing really have to marry up and sometimes that just doesn’t happen. Regardless, this time it has and it’s all down to the AMAZING book, Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens. So far this is my favourite book of 2021. It’s a bold statement but I enjoyed it sooo much. I was a little late to the party with this one but I’m so glad I picked it up one day in my local book store. Let’s get on with the review! I hope you enjoy it!

What’s it all about?

Told in two parts, The Marsh and The Swamp, this novel follows the story of Catherine Danielle Clark, nicknamed Kya. At six years old (in 1952) she sees her mother abandon her and her family. Hopelessly, she waits for her mother to return but as time passes she stubbornly doesn’t. Not only that, she also sees her older siblings, Missy, Murph, Mandy and Jodie all leave home too because of their father’s drinking and physical abuse.

“If anyone would understand loneliness, the moon would.”

Being the only child left at home, her father gives up drinking and instead turns his attention to his daughter. He teaches her how to fish and gives her a collection of shells and feathers. Whilst she cannot read or write, she can paint and she enjoys painting the landscapes, birds and coastlines immensely.

“She knew the years of isolation had altered her behavior until she was different from others, but it wasn’t her fault she’d been alone. Most of what she knew, she’d learned from the wild. Nature had nurtured, tutored, and protected her when no one else would.”

One day she finds a letter in their mailbox which is from her mother. She leaves it on the table for her father to find but when he reads it he is infuriated and burns it. Whilst the fire is going he also burns most of her clothes and canvases too. Her father spirals back to alcohol and also takes long trips out for gambling. One evening, he fails to return home at all leaving her completely alone and isolated on the marsh. Kya has to learn self resilience quickly in order to survive. She learns gardening and trading in fresh mussels and smoked fish for money for gas from Jumpin’. Jumpin’ runs a gasoline station for boats and is one of the good guys along with his wife, Mabel. They become good friends with Kya, with Mabel helping to collect clothing donations for her.

Whilst growing up alone, Kya faced many prejudices from the people of Barkley Cove. They called her ‘The Marsh Girl’. She was laughed at by schoolchildren, called nasty and filthy by the pastor’s wife. The one person who does become friendly with her is Tate Walker. As an old friend of Jodie, he is arguably one of the few nicest people to her. When she gets lost one day, it is Tate who leads her home in his boat.

Time progresses and he starts to leave her feathers from rare birds because he knows she will like them and teacher her how to read and write. The intimacy between the two increases and they have a relationship until Tate leaves for college. He promises to return, yet realises Kya cannot possibly live in this more civilised world because of her wildness and independence. He leaves without saying goodbye.

Part Two begins with Kya in 1965 aged 19. Chase Andrews (their star quarterback and playboy) invited her to a picnic where he tries to have sex with her. He later apologises and the two embark on a relationship together. He takes her to the abandoned fire tower and she gives him a gift of a shell necklace. She doesn’t trust him entirely, she wants to, but she has doubts. However, she believes that he will marry her so the two consummate their relationship. Unfortunately, whilst shopping for groceries she stumbles across a newspaper where she sees that he is already engaged to another woman. She ends the relationship, leaving her a tarnished woman.

“Female fireflies draw in strange males with dishonest signals and eat them; mantis females devour their own mates. Female insects, Kya thought, know how to deal with their lovers.”

Meanwhile, Tate returns from college having since graduated and apologises relentless for leaving her. He confesses his love for her but Kya, still hurting from his actions and her previous revelation rejects him. What she does do, however, is allowed him inside her shack and he is impressed by her collected, now much expanded, of seashells.

He persuades her to publish a reference book on seashells. At the age of 22 she achieves this and publishes her own book on seashells and then in seabirds. Following the success of this and the royalties she hires someone to install running water, a water heater, tub, sink, flushing toilets and kitchen cabinets. she also orders soft furnishings to make her place more homely.

Jodie also returns expressing regret that he too left her. He also tells her that their mother suffered from mental illness and died two years ago from leukaemia. Kya decides to forgive her mother for leaving but can’t understand why she didn’t once return. Before leaving for Georgia, he also tries to convince her to give Tate a second chance.

“Go as far as you can—way out yonder where the crawdads sing.”

Chase also makes an appearance but ends up as an argument where Kya is attacked. He beats her and attempts to rape her. Kya manages to defend herself and manages to escape. Two men witness the attack too… Kya knows that reporting will be futile because everyone will naturally blame her. She decides to leave it.

Kya has the opportunity to meet her publisher in Greenville which she gracefully accepts. Whilst she’s away, Chase is found dead beneath the fire tower. The sheriff, Ed Jackson, believes it to be a murder on the basis of having no tracks or fingerprints. To make matters more complicated, the statements he receives are all conflicting too. One thing he does learn is that the shell necklace he was wearing the night before was no longer on his body. Evidence does seem to pin Kya there but is it to be believed?

There’s a trial. There’s a verdict. Lives continue to be lived. By the end of the novel, Kya is with Tate in a loving relationship knowing that they were the ones for each other. Also, Kya sadly passes away aged 64 in her boat leaving behind a wealth of secrets and stories.

“Some parts of us will always be what we were, what we had to be to survive…”

Final Thoughts

I loved this book so so much. I was totally taken in with the story right from the beginning. I love Kya and felt for her in so many way. She was a really well written and developed character and I found myself feeling a wealth of emotions about her. This is a book I’ll be giving to friends and family as well. In fact, as soon as I finished it my mum read it and was the same as me – she couldn’t put it down. This book is contemporary and so well written. It absolutely deserves the accolades it has. It’s a stunning read.

Posted in Book review, Books, Reading, Reading Challenge 2021

Reading Challenge 2021: A Double Life – Charlotte Philby

Hello!

I hope you’re all doing well. Today I need to catch up with you all regarding my reading challenge book for July. You may remember from my previous post that it was the first time this year that I didn’t read this book in the month it was from. Eek! Never mind. I made sure it was the first book I read in August so it’s not too bad…

Anyway, the focus for July was: Read a book where your name is on the cover (title or author) Now for me, there are some really obvious ones: the Charlotte Bronte novels, Charlotte’s Web by E.B.White, Charlotte by Helen Moffatt, The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman etc. However, I wanted to go for one I’ve never read before and hopefully never heard of before. The whole point of the reading challenge is to push myself. My final decision was A Double Life by Charlotte Philby. I liked the cover and the blurb was intriguing so it made sense to me. Let’s get on with the review.

What’s it all about?

First of all, my review may not be as long as usual. I don’t want to ruin any surprises for you – so forgive me for the elusiveness of it! However, I’ve given you just enough to tempt you in – hopefully!

The novel centres around two very separate and very different and contrasting women: Gabriela and Isobel. These women are worlds apart but by the end of the novel, we see how there’s ‘two sides to every story’ and then we know the truth too.

Firstly, Gabriela who is a senior operator in a FCO counter terrorism unit, leading a small Whitehall based team. She’s ambitious and is desperate to be promoted and acknowledged with accolades in that field. She’s also the family breadwinner whilst her partner (an interesting character in itself – he comes across as quite feeble) Tom, a freelance architect, looks after their children.

In stark contrast to her ordered life, complicated only by the over familiar FCO creep of a boss, Emsworth, Isobel is a mess. A journalist who has failed to see just how good she could be and as a result, drifts this an alcohol and drug endured haze of an existence. She works for a local paper in Camden, writing local news stories with very little enthusiasm.

One evening Isobel witnesses a horrific attack whilst walking home from a party. She didn’t feel like she could report it because of being under the influence of alcohol and drugs. She made the assumption that no one would believe her or that her statement wouldn’t be reliable. Yet, someone knows she was there and makes themselves known to her in a number of frightening ways. The journalist in her knows there’s a story here so starts to investigate. Little did she know that she would end up in the murky waters of a dark network of human trafficking and exploitation.

‘As I talk him through the details, I feel the events of Saturday morning begin to fade, the woman’s face sweeping in and out of focus in my mind like a figure stepping in and out of the shadows, until, for the moment, she vanished altogether.’

When Gabriela returns from her seven month trip to Moscow, her life begins to fall apart at the seams. The promotion she so desperately wanted eludes her, she actually ends up losing her job instead, and it makes her completely disillusioned, questioning the value of her life and all that’s within it. She loves her children but is adamant she doesn’t want to be a stay at home mum.

Whilst working in Moscow, she meets a very charming and charismatic gentleman, Ivan. She falls for him and they start to have an intimate relationship. She barely knows anything about him and the information she gives him about herself isn’t exactly the truth… She falls pregnant and flees back to Moscow leaving her two children behind with Tom. In Moscow, she decides to have the baby, a little girl, and have a double life. Meanwhile, Isobel is getting closer to finding out what is actually happening. The links between the two women are getting clearer…

‘But she loved Ivan, that was also a fact. He was the antidote to everything she resented about her life with Tom, and so, unlikely as it might seem to some, she reasoned that moving between these two worlds was the perfect solution. As long as no one found out, and maybe they didn’t have to.’

These two women are so desperate that the novel is essentially a story of hide and seek. One is desperate to hide the truth whilst the other is desperate to reveal it. The lives of the two women converge through the auspices of Madeline, Gabriela’s former FCO mentor, now leading a unit at the National Crime Agency, investigating trafficking and prostitution. By the end of the novel, everything becomes clear and the truth is out.

‘For a moment, as Madeline had spoken, she’d felt sorry for him. All along, he was waiting for her to tell him she’d chosen him. Despite all the evidence telling him she would never leave her family, he had still chosen to believe she would.’

Final Thoughts

Well, as books go, this one was quite a good read. However, I didn’t realise it was part of a series. I’ve never read or heard of the first book so I feel like I need to go back there to see if some of the clues are given. By the end of this book, I must say I had many questions. But, it seems there is a third book coming out which I’m sure will answer them. For me, I’m not great with series – sometimes the commitment puts me off. Also, there’s nothing more disappointing than a really good start and a poor finish. (Not that I’m saying this has happened here!) I did enjoy reading this book and found myself not liking the women either way really which was an interesting reaction. You could argue that it takes a while to find out how the two are linked as it isn’t revealed until right at the end of the book but it’s questionable. I guess it’s to keep the sense of mystery. Regardless, I like the mix of Russia and London and found this really helped with the double life ideal of the novel.

All in all, this was an enjoyable read if not frustrating because I didn’t have all the information. Would I have picked this book if I’d have known? Probably not. BUT I am grateful I did because it was a worthwhile read. The writing style is good and as Charlotte’s go, Philby clearly is a talented one!

I’ll see you next time for more reviews from my sun lounger! Long live the summer! Take care all!

Big love xxxx

Posted in Book review, Reading, Reading Challenge 2021

Reading Challenge 2021: Stella – Takis Würger

Hello Lovelies!

I hope you’re all safe and well. As always, I am still playing catch up but that’s ok. I’ve bought a lot of books this week which is always exciting but now I just need to find the time to read them all. Evenings and weekends are not enough. If only we could have a five day weekend and a two day working week… now that would be useful!

Anyway, I am here today to share with you the book I read for the Reading Challenge for May. The focus for the month of May was: Read a book that is based on real life events. Now, in the current situation we find ourselves still living in, I wanted to avoid anything related to the pandemic. I’ve read some brilliant books centred on this during this but I think I’m just desperate for this all to be over now really. Therefore, I went for a war related story of which there are many! Stella by Takis Würger was heartbreaking in many ways but so well written it was bordering sublime. This book is dedicated to the great grandfather of the author, so it feels personal too. This novel was released back in March and I finally managed to get my hands on a copy. It fits the theme of the month perfectly being as it is a blended approach of fact and fiction, incorporating excerpts from witness statements documented at a postwar trial of the real-life Stella Goldschlag, who continued to inform for the Gestapo throughout the war. I knew little about her so really wanted to learn more from the novel and to have my eyes opened just a little bit further.

I can’t wait to share this with you now. This will probably be much shorter because I don’t want to spoil anything for you. The magic behind this book needs to be experienced when reading it, not by me now. Don’t forget, if you’d like to take part or find out more information on my reading challenge, please click here. Here goes!


What’s it all about?
Set in Berlin during World War II, the novel focuses around Friedrich, a Swiss national who is travelling through Europe. To begin with, the war seems a distant thing happening to others elsewhere and not something to be mindful of at this stage. Whilst in Berlin, Friedrich meets Tristan, an affable Berliner who takes him under his wing. He meets him in a jazz club on evening which has become illegal under the Nazi morality laws. He is obsessed with a singer at the club called Kristin. The trio then form a friendship together and start to attend a variety of different social events together. They socialise more often than not and appear to be very much a unit. Then, it is through these social events or parties that the the spectre of Nazi Germany begins to rear its ugly head. At a party attended by SS officers and other Nazi party officials, Friedrich sees both his friends joining in with anti-semitic songs and jokes. He begins to wonder who his friends are and how they can have such monstrous views.

‘Every day in Germany I had been going through this, acting as if I could live with what was happening to the Jews in Germany. I’d put up with the flags with swastikas and with the people greeting me and roaring at me with their right arms outstretched. At this moment, I felt how wrong this was.’

Over time, there is a growing sense that there is something hidden, something not quite known about Kristin. We know that she is a Jew and we know that she has to keep her identity hidden from everyone. Friedrich has fallen in love with her and couldn’t care less about her background or religion. They spend hours together but she never stays over night with him. However, there is unease throughout the whole narrative whereby we hear new rules specified by the regime as a constant reminder that war is ever approaching; coming one step closer to them each and every day. The narrative splits to give us police reports, representing a later period of time, where people are being questioned about what was happening at the time. This blended structure means that we are torn between the past and the present as the narrative evolves. Regardless, the war creeps closer and the rules become much tighter and the lives of the Jewish people are constrained further.

‘The eight commandment of Dr. Joseph Goebbel’s Ten Commandments for Every National Socialist is issued: “Don’t be a rowdy anti-Semite, but beware of the Berliner Tageblatt.”.’

It is really difficult to explore the plot further without revealing the secrets hidden within. However, we were right to feel that things are not as they seem regarding Kristin. Whilst Kristin returns Friedrich’s affection, she also disappears for days at a time with no warning or explanation. It becomes clear that she has another, hidden life where she is working for ‘undesirables’ who have some kind of hold over her. This doesn’t seem to be a choice she would make willingly, but it shows the corruption of the human soul in order to make people do atrocious things to others. We are much more used to reading books about the heroes of the war, who fight and stand up for what is right. Nevertheless, this book tells us a story which is more likely to be common which challenges a reader still today.

‘Her cheeks were sunken; she had a scarf wrapped around her head. She had bruises under both eyes. One of her eyeballs was also dark – blood had seeped into the vitreous body… “I thought you left me.” “I wasn’t careful enough,” she said again. “Not careful enough.”‘

Unfortunately, there is no happy ending in this book. That is the nature of life sometimes and especially during a period of time like this. One thing that is clear though, is that by the end of the novel all the mystery and elusive strands all come together to complete the narrative. We learn the truth about Kristin and the extent of her own story. Friedrich, Tristan and Kristin all make individual choices that lead them to very different experiences. They are tied or linked together as this trio of friends but they each ultimately have a different ending. This novel gives you a eyeopening, heartbreaking insight into what it would have been like during this period.


Final Thoughts
In many ways, this book was difficult to read and challenging to write about. I’ve made a very conscious effort to not ruin anything at all. One thing I can and will repeatedly say is that it is incredibly well written. The writer’s own personal links with this mean that, like I said at the start, it feels more real. It’s always problematic to say you enjoyed reading a book like this but the honest reaction of mine is that it was uncomfortable, unnerving and horrifying. It explores the nature of love and betrayal. It also gets us to challenge what we think is real or right. It’s a powerful piece, structured in months with an opening summary of the Nazi atrocities. When you become wrapped up in the characters, this serves as a reminder that it is built up on real life events. Friedrich serves as a moral compass – he thinks and notices – but he’s also a fool in love. To repeat, this book needs a read but it will be harrowing along the way.

I hope you enjoyed this review. I apologise that I didn’t manage to get this done in May but I’ve been sitting on it and the uncomfortable nature of it. I’ve also been battling with what to reveal and what not to.

I’ll be back next time to share with you the book I read for June and hopefully sharing some other excellent reads along the way too! Stay safe and well everyone!

Big love xxx

Posted in Book review, Books, New Books, Non Fiction, Reading

Sleeping With A Psychopath – Carolyn Woods

Hello Loves!

Can you believe we are in June? I’m embracing the lighter days and the gloriously summery weather we have been having in the UK this week. It’s felt like a long time coming but gosh, isn’t it a breath of fresh air really? I hope you’re all okay and embracing the longer and brighter days. Would you believe me if I told you I had to put sun cream on his week?!

Anyway, we’ve celebrated my blogs birthday well. Thank you so much for all your lovely messages – I’ve loved reading them! I’ve got a couple of posts that are in the pipeline but I wanted to share with you today a book I’ve just finished. I love it when I finish something and want to write about it straight away! Anyway, prepare yourself for the thrilling real life story of Carolyn Woods. Her novel, Sleeping With a Psychopath reads like a work of fiction. However, I find it utterly terrifying that this is actually a true story. I hope you find it as compelling as I did!

What’s it all about?
The novel opens with a prologue where Woods reflects back over the past eighteen months of her life. Her journey is one of our own worst nightmares yet she has a story to tell, a cautionary tale of the modern day. Looking back, Woods sees herself as vibrant, positive, successful and happy. Following her divorce, she rented a beautiful cottage in a Cotswold town and got herself a little job in a shop which she thoroughly enjoyed. What could possibly go wrong? She was about to find out following a visit from a handsome stranger. Little does she know that this man is about to ruin her life, take away her independence and her reasons for living.

“He has isolated me and I have become frightened, depressed and introverted. I am very confused. It feels as though someone has opened the top of my head and put a blender into my brain.”

The novel then takes us back to the beginning, June 2012, when Woods was working in the little clothes shop. As the sun was setting on another day in the Cotswolds, the door announced a visitor: immaculately dressed, handsome in his features and incredibly attractive. His name was Mark and he certainly said all the right things. Woods admits she liked him instantly and felt that he liked her back. She guessed that he was a spy – there was something very James Bond about him after all. He did nothing to dissuade this, claiming he was a rich Swiss banker. She is captivated. After all, it’s not every day a handsome stranger walks into your life and likes you! Woods decides to do something she hasn’t done before. She gives him her phone number and the end of yet another working day has come. What follows next is text conversations where plans are made and the intimacy between the two increase. Upon reflection, Woods punctuates her narrative with comments showing how naive she has been and statements that were originally said showed no signs for concern, are obvious red flags now.

“Thinking back on those first early encounters, with the knowledge I have now, I can see exactly how Mark was operating. I believe him to be a psychopath.”

The pace of the narrative increases again. This time we see lavish gifts that Mark gave to Carolyn: the brand new Audi, the need to get away, the promise of luxury wherever they went. You can see how easy it was to be swept away by the magic and mystery of it all. They started to look for a house with a budget of 2-3 million pounds. Their whole future was planned out before them quite rapidly. However, Mark took control of her mobile phone, saying that all messages had to be deleted because of people watching. He also claimed to know a lot of wealthy, powerful people of status – Hilary Clinton and Vladimir Putin, to name two. He also asked her to marry him, something which she accepted and was excited to do. But, the lavish lifestyle, the new cars and the expensive budget for a house doesn’t match up to the day where Mark asks to borrow £26,000 due to a cash flow problem. She fell deeply and head first. She was in love with him so said yes.

“As I tell my story, I can understand how astonishing people find it that I should have been taken in so easily, and looking back, I cannot believe I behaved so recklessly. But Mark is a conjuror – I was spellbound…”

For a time, life continued. The wedding was being planned, the dress exquisite and Mark was here, there and everywhere: London, Bath, Spain, Italy and Syria. Woods became more and more isolated and was spending the vast amount of time alone. More time alone meant that frustrations and anxieties grew. Mark was around less and less. His narrative becomes more alarming the deeper we progress into the novel. He appears to get injured abroad, has a brain tumour and continues to blow hot and cold with Woods. More and more money was being transferred and Woods found herself in a desperate situation: alone, broke, fragile. Trips together turned into nightmares where Mark didn’t show. Hotels that were booked for her, weren’t paid for meaning she was stranded in a foreign country. Things finally came to an end when the truth about Mark was clear. He wasn’t Mark Conway. He was Mark Acklom, a known criminal from his childhood, forever taking money from different people for promises he could not keep. Eventually, his actions caught up with him and he was arrested and imprisoned.

“Before I met Acklom, I was a happy, sociable, positive person; by the time he was through with me, I could barely function and had become deeply suspicious of people.”

By the end of her story, Woods has lost £850,000 – her entire savings pot. Despite this, it is the love and strength of her daughters and the friends who stood by her that carried her through. Justice was eventually (and legally) served but that also wasn’t as simple or ‘black and white’ as it should have been. Woods now has the opportunity to tell her story, the set the world straight and to start and rebuild her life.

“Mum has lost everything: her money, her job, her home, her security… but the one thing he couldn’t take away from her was the love of her daughters.”

Final Thoughts
I was completely captivated by this book for so many reasons. Firstly, I think Woods really discusses and highlights the gender inequality in this book. As a divorced, middled aged female, her perception is that she was ‘stupid’ and she ‘should have seen it coming’. Yet, the male businessmen that were conned were ‘sensible’ and ‘right’. I also found it interest (and horrifying) that the police both here and abroad didn’t believe her. This story is years of fighting, years of a life taken away by one person. It is easy for us to sit here and judge today and see the warning signs for that they are. But, I can see how easy it would have been. This book shows us the art of manipulation. It didn’t read like it was a true story – it reads like a fictional thriller. Personally, I think it takes a lot of bravery from Woods to be as frank, honest and as reflective as she has been.

And that’s it! Definitely read this book, especially if you love thrillers as much as I do. I am off to read something lighter now so I don’t become completely paranoid.

Have a wonderful weekend!

Big love xx

Posted in Book review, Books, Children's Literature, Illustrations, Reading, Reading Challenge 2021

Reading Challenge 2021: Oskar’s Quest – Annika Perry

Hello Lovelies!

I hope you’re all well and are getting into the Easter spirit 🐣! I’m thoroughly enjoying my Easter break – reading plenty, spending time with my family (my support bubble), in the garden and spending time soaking up the warmer days. I seem to have got my writing mojo back so whilst I appreciate it is now April, I have a couple of posts I need to catch up with. Today’s post is the book I chose to read for the reading challenge. The focus for March was: Read a book that was gifted to you. If you’d like to catch up or take part in my reading challenge, please click here for more information. I’m sure all my avid reader blogging friends get books for birthdays, Christmas and then when you decide to treat yourself… or is that just me? Anyway, I had the perfect book in mind for this month from my dear friend, Annika Perry. Those of you who have seen my blog will remember that a couple of years ago, I blogged about Annika’s first book, The Storyteller Speaks. You can see this post here. Annika is a blogger who was here from day one of my journey and I’ve been so honoured to be a part of her writing journey. You can find her wonderful blog here. I was privileged to receive a copy of Oskar’s Quest, Annika’s second book. I can’t wait to share this with you all today.

What’s it all about?

This children’s book hits all the right notes. It’s about courage, kindness and friendship – all the ingredients for a meaningful and happy life and all the lessons we teach children and young people today. There is a simple premise behind the book but it stands for so much more which is why it personally appeals to me as an adult. Oskar is a blue bird who finds himself on Roda, a little lost. This mysterious island is filled with beautiful flowers and interesting creatures but Oskar is afraid. He sees the red bell-flowers and notices they look lonely.

‘The flower nodded sadly as one more leaf drifted to the ground. A drop of water followed.’

The reason for all the sadness is because their songbird, Maya has been taken by Drang, the darkest cloud in the sky. What can Oskar possibly do? He’s just a little blue bird. He decides he wants to be brave and help. He makes the decision to go to Drang and ask for her back. After all, the island needs her beautiful music to bring them happiness once again. But he can hear the fear and the names inside his head. This doesn’t deter him, he will get the songbird back. As he gets closer to the cloud, the worse the weather is. He has to really hold his nerve and be the bravest bird he’s ever possibly been.

‘Maya opened her golden beak but stopped, swallowed her screech and hiccuped loudly. Her body trembled with fear and hope.’

Drang booms and bangs and scares both the birds. However, he is misunderstood. He saw the happiness of the other birds and felt left out. He has no friends so he thought that by taking Maya, she could make him happy too. But she stopped singing and cried instead making Drang cry too. It was this that caused the terrible weather! Oskar’s bravery and kindness meant that they could all head back to the island together and be friends there.

‘At her words, all the birds, flowers and trees of Roda sang a song of celebration. The music made Drang so happy he could not help but shed a few tears of joy.’

Oskar has to return home where he hears the calls again, mocking him for being scared. Yet this time was different because he was not scared and because he had new friends. He was a much braver bird than he was before. Rather than act in nastiness towards the birds, he invites them to join them on their new adventures.

Final Thoughts
There’s a real art to writing children’s books and I think Annika has produced an excellent one. It teaches us that we can be brave and we can use kindness to defeat anything. It’s also made me reflect back to my own childhood and how I could have done things differently, if only I were a bit more brave. The illustrations are also stunning and support the story wonderfully. I naturally loved Oskar and Maya’s illustrated beauty was matched perfectly to the writing about her. I am really in awe of Gabrielle Vickery’s drawings.

This book fulfils my criteria for this month perfectly because it is a treasured gift and it always will be. I have read this book three times now and it’s magical with each read. Annika really knows how to keep her audience entertained whilst also teaching them that kindness, bravery and friendship mean the world. Adult or child – read this book. Felling sad or lost – read this book. Gift it to anyone that has ever been afraid fo anything. Thank you so much, Annika. ♥️

See you all next time for my round up post. Take care all and HAPPY EASTER.

Big love xxx

Posted in Book review, Books, London, Places, Reading, Romance

The Flip Side – James Bailey

Hello Fellow Book Lovers 📚 !

How are you all? I hope you’re all keeping safe, well and reading plenty. I’m sorry for the two week absence. I’m still at school but all of my lessons are online so I’m clocking up some screen time! I’ve been reading plenty, I’m on book 15 as we speak, but the words have escaped me. However, I’m hoping with this lovely read, I can get back into it. I have been reading a lot of thrillers so I wanted an easy, cute read – hence my choice for today! I read it today and I’ve had the urge to write ever since. The Flip Side by James Bailey was an utter delight. I really enjoyed it and I hope you do too!

What’s it all about?
The novel opens on New Years Eve where the protagonist, Josh, has prepared a magical evening for his girlfriend, Jade Toogood on the London Eye. After months of research, everything was in the place. With their own pod on the London Eye with champagne, truffles and the panoramic stunning views of London, it would bound to be a success. After all, this was going to be the perfect event which would start the rest of their lives, something they’d tell the grandchildren about. However, Josh doesn’t get the answer he expected. Jade says no. Unfortunately (and rather comically) for Josh, they still have a good twenty minutes, in silence, in their pod.

‘I check my watch. Twenty-seven minutes to go. What is wrong with this wheel? Is it broken?’

Immediately, I love the character of Josh. My heart just melts for him. This rejection is even worse. In the space of a few minutes he becomes single, homeless and jobless due to Jade’s father owning where they live and the hotel he works in. Josh has no other option but to go back to his parents. His return home isn’t the quiet non event he wanted, his mum seems to have the whole town there. Thankfully, Josh’s grandpa – Pap – is hiding in the bedroom watching a film. Josh joins him and this is the turning point of the whole story. Their indecisiveness about the film calls for action: a coin toss. And so it begins…

‘And then, just like that, as I flip the coin and watch it spiral into the air, the idea comes to me. And it’s fantastic.’

Josh’s friends, Jake and Jessie, naturally think he’s absolutely insane. For the next year, all decisions that Josh needs to make will be decided by the fifty pence piece in his pocket. Even though they’re dubious, they go along with it even when it cost them the quiz team win. After all, that’s what friendship is. Or maybe fate. Helping Josh to get back out there, his friends convince him to try dating apps or at least, finding someone to date. But his experience of a blind date was a complete disaster. His Tinder date was a little better until his parents came bumbling in, taking the fish and chip supper and scaring her off. Another date, another opportunity but with only £17 in the bank, it was going to be difficult. Thankfully Josh had 2-4-1 voucher (which didn’t quite go down too well), neither did removing the tip or charity donation, or forgetting his wallet…

‘Mum and I stand in the porch waving my Tinder date off as Dad drives her home. She sits in the front seat looking petrified. I didn’t need to worry about Emma being a weirdo. That was me. Poor girl.

However, fate had other things in mind for Josh. The London Marathon brought the friendship group into the city again to cheer Jessie on. The use the coin to decide who should go where to cheer her on. Josh ends up near the National Gallery and pops inside to use the loo. Once finally inside, he sees her. The one. Talking to her is easy. He shares with her a story from his childhood where he would go to the gift shop with his grandpa first and buy a few postcards. Then they would try and find them in the gallery, like a treasure hunt. They pick Canaletto by Renoir, a Degas and Sunflowers by Van Gogh. This was the reason she was in the city in the first place. But time was ticking and Jessie would soon be running past. They planned to see the Sunflowers painting after but fate would have other ideas. They lose each other. There is another problem – he didn’t ask her name.

“I’m working abroad at the moment in an English bookshop and saw his Sunflowers painting at the gallery nearby. I realised how bad it is that I’ve never seen this version, given I’m from London.”

The rest of the novel is a journey around Europe finding the Sunflower girl. She has to be out there somewhere and Josh just can’t seem to forget about her. Extensive research shows how there are versions of Sunflowers in Munich, Amsterdam, Philadelphia and Tokyo. He and his friends head to Bristol airport and flip a coin to see where he will end up: Amsterdam or Munich. (The other two are ruled out due to a lack of funds, naturally.) Munich it is, but it isn’t as successful as Josh had hoped. Amsterdam next and this provides luck but not as Josh expects it. He meets Eva who helps him with the local bookstores and learns he is an internet sensation, unbeknown to him. His friends have to be behind this.

‘I’m looking at an Instagram account with pictures of me. But it’s not my account. #FindSunflowerGirl.’

The fates don’t seem to want to help Josh find his Sunflower girl but he decides to head to Paris, following a phone call from Jessie who said that someone at work had seen Sunflowers recently there. Will Josh find her? Will the coin be right? It’s got him this far after all. Josh also had the voice of his beloved grandpa in the back of his head. He had to take this leap. Maybe his luck was about to change.

‘It’s her. It’s actually her.’

The stars align, he learns her name (Lucy) and they see Sunflowers with the postcard they bought in London. Life is complete. There are a few more surprises and bumps in the road for Josh in the way first but by the end of the novel, Josh has got his girl, a plan to go travelling in the not too distant future, and a sense of happiness and contentment. What makes it even better is knowing that his grandpa is right with him the whole time, the silent presence ever keeping him company and support. The novel ends in Rome without the coin. Time for a fresh start with the girl he loves.

‘Just as I have watched my coin spiral up in the air countless times over the past year, it twists and twirls in the sky, only this time it lands behind me rather than back in my hand… I wrap my arms around Lucy and kiss her strawberry gelato flavoured lips.’

Final Thoughts
This book was a lift that I needed. It was funny, heartwarming and just plain adorable. I even want to read the letters of Van Gogh because of it. The thing that intrigued me most was that the writer is male. Contemporary romances novels are normally written by women and it was this that drew me to this book to be honest. I wanted to see how it would be presented. As a girl, I only have my own experiences to go from. I found myself really feeling for Josh and secretly wishing that someone would want to travel Europe to find me. It’s a very modern romance and just made me feel really young at heart. I loved the friendships in the book and the role the family played too. I found Josh’s parents hilarious and I know we will all see glimmers of our own families in them. Honest and enjoyable, I loved this book.

Until next time where I will be reviewing my book choice for the reading challenge this year, stay safe all.

Big love xxxx

Posted in Book review, Books, New Books, Reading, Thriller

The Postscript Murders – Elly Griffiths

Hello Lovelies!

I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas. I tried to wish it to as many people as I could. Normally I’d write a Christmas Eve post but things are very different this year so I decided to use that time for quiet reflection and for sharing time with my much needed support bubble. To be honest, it’s taken me this week to recover from school. Anyway, I wanted to share with you a book I read in a day – it was just so good! The Postscript Murders by Elly Griffiths was a book I knew nothing about until I joined My Chronicle Book Box. For more information, click here: https://mychroniclebookbox.com It’s a stunning book company that I’m so glad I found. If books are you life, definitely check them out. On with the review! I hope you love this one as much as I did!

What’s it all about?
The novel centres around Peggy, a ninety year old murder consultant, living in the sleepy seaside town of Shoreham. She would spend her time plotting murders for famous writers. Therefore, her knowledge of murders is second to none. However, when she dies of what is assumed to be a heart condition, something doesn’t quite sit right with her carer, Natalka. The mystery thickens and the investigation begins.

The novel opens with an entry in Peggy’s Investigation Book, disguised as A Seaside Lady’s Diary. Peggy notes the many people who walk past the windows of her apartment. However, two men arouse her suspicions because they don’t fit into the pattern of dog walkers, cyclists, walkers or pensioners.

‘There’s an alertness about them that Peggy finds most troubling of all, and they both have their backs to the sea. Who comes to Shoreham beach and doesn’t even glance at the shimmering water, looking at its very best today, dotted with sailing boats and accessorised with seagulls?’

The following morning, Natalka knows immediately that something is wrong. She knows Peggy well enough to just be able to feel it. Sadly, Peggy had died and her son wanted the apartment to be cleared out as soon as possible. Obliged, Natalka does this but soon finds something of interest along the way. She takes her new information to DS Harbinder Kaur in the hope that it sheds some light on the matter. What is this information? Well, Peggy, an avid reader, accumulated many books. The difference with these books – they’re all dedicated to her. Natalka continues to feel convinced that Peggy didn’t just die naturally – thinks she has been murdered and ropes Peggy’s two friends, Benedict and Edwin in to help her solve the mystery. Following the funeral, Edwin was allowed to have something as a memento. He chose the last book Peggy was reading.

“I thought it would bring me closer to Peggy somehow. Anyway, when I opened it, this fell out.” ‘It’s a plain postcard and on it are the words: We are coming for you.’

The three friends decide there is much more to do now they have this information. They head back to the apartment to see if there are anymore clues there. However, it is when they are doing this they hear footsteps in the background and eventually, are confronted by a masked figure pointing a gun at them. The only thing this figure takes is a very rare, out of print book called Thank Heaven Fasting by Sheila Atkins. Why this book? What is so important about it? The group now need to add this to their independent investigation to see if they can work out exactly what is going on. A flyer promoting Dex Challoner’s event promoting his new books brings about a new opportunity to dig a little deeper. He was at the funeral but wasn’t very talkative and snuck out the back. All the attention is now on him. After the reading event, they decide to go for a drink to find out more about his relationship with Peggy. The night doesn’t end too well though.

“Is it murder?… It’s murder all right. He was shot in the head.”

Two murders and books seem to be at the centre of it all. But what does it all mean? Natalka and Harbinder meet up for a drink because Natalka has this weight on her mind, her past could potentially be coming back to haunt her. She reveals about her life in the Ukraine and the reasons why she left that country. Due to her disclosure, Natalka pushes Harbinder for information about the case. We learn that another author, Julie Monroe, who also credited Peggy in her books received the same postcard as her. Natalka immediately jumps to the conclusion that she is the next victim. Nevertheless, there is a problem – she is off to Aberdeen for a literary festival. An impromptu road trip means the trio of friends are hurtling towards Aberdeen. It does throw up new clues – yet another writer, Lance Foster, also received the same postcard. They persuade him to meet them for a chat but when he doesn’t arrive, they get increasingly worried and head to his hotel room to see if he is ok. What they are met with is something Natalka is all too familiar with recently.

‘Benedict lowers his head to Lance’s chest to listen for a heartbeat but he already knows. Lance’s body has a horrible leaden quality to it.’

It is at this point that I can’t really tell you much more. There’s still so much left of this novel but I don’t want to spoil it for you. However, by the end of the book, the many strands all come together, the plot is wrapped up and it is absolutely brilliant. The novel closes where it begins: with Peggy. It was her Investigation Book that helped solve the murders, that helped the group of friends piece together exactly what happened to those writers.

‘”To Peggy,” the others reply. And the sun streams in through the bay window.’

Final Thoughts
I’ve got so much love for this book that I don’t really know where to begin. I was taken in by Peggy from the very first page. She is an absolutely fascinating character. It’s only right and fitting that the plot evolves around her. There are many strands to this novel: murder, crime, novels, friendship, family and love. It would be impossible to explore them all here in this review but I do hope I’ve done this some justice. Elly Griffiths is definitely a writer I will be looking out for again. She’s got her own unique style which fits beautifully in with the ‘Who done it?’ plot style.

I’ll see you all before the new year where I’ll share with you the books I’ve read in 2020 and also launching my new reading challenge for next year. Until then, stay safe and well.

Big Love all xxx