Thriller

Sandy summer secrets

‘Last Seen’ – Lucy Clarke

4-star-rating

Last Seen

In a small seaside community, there’s always somebody watching…

Seven years ago, two boys went missing at sea – and only one was brought to shore. The Sandbank, a remote stretch of coast dotted with beach huts, was scarred forever.

Sarah’s son survived, but on the anniversary of the accident, he disappears without trace. As new secrets begin to surface, The Sandbank hums with tension and unanswered questions. Sarah’s search grows more desperate and she starts to mistrust everyone she knows – and she’s right to.

Someone saw everything on that fateful day seven years ago. And they’ll do anything to keep the truth buried.

This was a great summer mystery that I really enjoyed. I thought the book was well-written and I liked the detailed characterisation. However, I could foresee too many of the plot developments, meaning this did lessen the overall suspense of the story.

Clarke’s setting expertly conveys a juxtaposition of summer fun and swamping secrets – stumbling along the beach felt symbolic to the many truths that are hidden by the characters. Despite the idyllic setting of escaping to a beach hut, remote from ‘normal’ life, this row of coastline remains forever tainted by the accident of young Marley, who was never recovered from the sea. Told from the perspectives of Isla and Sarah, past and present, not only do readers follow the investigations into Jacob’s disappearance, but also what happened on the beach seven years previous. It would appear that there are a lot of secrets being withheld and it is like Jacob’s actions are the catalyst for the truth emerging.

Although the friendship between Isla and Sarah seems to be close, I got the distinct impression that this was never genuine. Built over many years, the two women share so much together… including, it would seem, boyfriends and pregnancy. Yet, I never fully believed this connection was honest and I think these feelings were emphasised further with the present-day narrative. In my opinion, there was always a degree of competition between Isla and Sarah, meaning I could never quite like either characters and was distrustful of their behaviours.

I liked how Clarke gradually reveals what happened on the beach when Marley disappeared. It increases the tension, particularly as the true version of events are never revealed until the final chapters. Interrupted with Sarah and Nick’s questions to neighbours about where their son could have gone, the sunny beach felt heavy with despair. Rather than the light-hearted, uplifting feeling you associate with the beach, I felt trapped on this coastline and weighed down by the secrecy. I thought this was a clever technique from the writer, adding to the intensity of the story.

Yet, far too many times I could predict the story’s direction. This was quite disappointing and I was hoping for more surprises than what Clarke could deliver. Sometimes I thought the story was a bit far-fetched, especially considering Jacob’s behaviour later on in the novel, and questioned the validity of how certain secrets could have remained hidden for so long. For me, this made the book less suspenseful but it definitely did not lessen the pace of this captivating story.

Completing this book was like a personal quest for the truth. I liked how Clarke left many ambiguities until the closing chapters, but I wish some elements were not so obvious.

Book Bingo 2022 category completed: Book from your library.

Historical

Charting the destruction

‘The Woman with the Map’ – Jan Casey

4-star-rating

The Woman with the Map

A wartime novel of a Bomb Plotter in the Blitz and her choice, decades later, to start living once more…

February 1941
The world is at war and Joyce Cooper is doing her bit for the effort. A proud member of the ARP, it is her job to assist the people of Notting Hill when the bombs begin to fall. But as the Blitz takes hold of London, Joyce is called upon to plot the devastation that follows in its wake. Each night she must stand before her map and mark the trail of turmoil inflicted upon the homes and businesses she knows so well.

February 1974
Decades later, from her basement flat Joyce Cooper watches the world go by above her head. This is her haven; the home she has created for herself having had so much taken from her in the war. But now the council is tearing down her block of flats and she’s being forced to leave. Could this chance to start over allow Joyce to let go of the past and step back into her life?

There are two versions of Joyce in this story: stoic and determined to survive the Second World War; in the 1970s, she has retreated from the world in order to protect herself. It is Joyce’s experience of the war that allows readers to understand how Joyce has altered to become the woman we see in the more modern narrative.

This is a very detailed story and I was fascinated by the concept of marking bomb sites on a large map. It’s not something I knew anything about and the way that Casey describes it all was so interesting and vivid, it is clear that the writer has done their research. It sounds like an involved job with meticulous attention to detail whilst the world is falling apart around you.

One thing I don’t think I was prepared for was how long Casey’s chapters are. The more modern narrative, alternating with the 1940s, are shorter chapters and I found these sections to be the least interesting to start with. Switching back to the war, these sections took a long time to get through; I was grateful for then narrative breaks that were interspersed throughout these sections. However, the more I read of this book, the more I found 1970s Joyce to be appealing and I think this is because I had an even greater understanding of what happened to her during the war.

As I read the book, I gradually became aware of the significance of the chapter titles. I could not foresee how Casey would develop the story and the amount of tragedy that surrounds Joyce is devastating. At the same time, it is undoubtedly a reflection of what so many experienced during the Blitz and I could not even begin to imagine how Joyce pulls through. Yet, it also helped me understand why Joyce behaves the way she does after the war has ended.

The novel finishes on a welcome note of optimism in both timelines. Of course, the end of the war was met with jubilation and celebrations, which Joyce experiences on a very detached level. Therefore, for her, the victory is bittersweet because it marks a new period of her life. Consequently, the final chapter of the novel were particularly poignant for me because it showed that Joyce finally felt able to reinsert herself in life around her, rather than watching from the side lines. In my opinion, the ending reminded me of the youthful, hopeful Joyce that we meet at the beginning of the story.

I liked this book and the attention to detail that Casey provides. It was not a story I was expecting and it provided another, new insight into the experiences of living in London during the Blitz. The grit, determination and heart-ache surrounding Joyce and her companions became a symbol of survival during this time, which I think Casey expertly captures in this story.

With thanks to Aria fiction and NetGalley for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Drama

A bunch of selfish individuals

‘His Other Woman’ – Sarah Edghill

2-star-rating-1

His Other Woman

Her husband is with another woman—but it’s not who she thinks it is, and the results may be more devastating than an affair . . .

Lucy’s husband has been missing for days while she tries to pretend to those around her, including her distracted teenagers, that everything is normal. In desperation she uses a phone app to track him—and discovers he’s with another woman.

As her life falls apart, Lucy realises nothing is as it seems. There is another woman in her husband’s life, but it’s someone she has known—and hated—for twenty years.

As the story unfolds, including in the national press, the family must pull together before lives are destroyed . . .

This book really fell flat for me. I was expecting a mystery, thriller, suspense and instead was presented with a family-orientated drama that was predictable and underwhelming.

In my opinion, the book started really slowly and a lot of time is spent describing Lucy’s agony as she cannot fathom why her husband has suddenly left her, with little explanation as to why and where he has gone. Despite plaguing him with messages and phone calls, Lucy is at a loss as to why this has happened. It was only until about a quarter of the way through did the plot feel like it was moving forwards, and not in a direction that I wanted.

Meeting all of Lucy’s family, I could not abide any of them. All of portrayed as incredibly selfish and self-centred. In fact, I think Lucy and her husband take some pride in how awful their three children are and I particularly could not stand the demanding ways of Abi, even if she is just about to have a baby. Furthermore, Tom’s twin sister, Stella, also was a pain in the neck and I despised how Lucy constantly whines about the closeness her husband and sister-in-law have. Throughout the novel, Lucy is repeatedly complaining that she feels Tom prioritises his sister over his wife and that she does not feel her marriage will last. Well, in that case, pack your bags, love, and get out of there!

Unfortunately, I did not sympathise with any of the characters and thought the plot direction was too obvious. There may have been an intended surprise revelation at the end… but I had predicted it way before then. In addition, the ending was far too open and I think the writer could have written just a couple more paragraphs to conclude the story in a more satisfactory way.

Overall, I thought this was a bland, obvious read that did not deliver what I expected. It didn’t help that I disliked so many of the characters although the writer definitely piqued my interest. I was keen to know what was going on with the family, but I don’t think this was executed in the most gripping of ways.

With thanks to Bloodhound books for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Thriller

Social butterflies, secret murderer

‘The Influencers’ – S. V. Leonard

2-star-rating-1

The Influencers

A filter can hide all manner of secrets…

When budding true crime blogger Maggie Shaw is invited to the Influencer of the Year awards, it feels like everything is finally falling into place. Held on a glamorous yacht, the awards are the perfect opportunity for Maggie to network and achieve her dream of turning her channel into a full-time job. But by the end of the night, the party is in ruins and there’s one question on everybody’s lips: who killed Stella Knight?

Stella was beautiful, famous, and hiding a host of secrets behind the perfect façade. During her short career, Stella had made a number of enemies in the industry, and all of them were at the awards. Maggie is trapped on a boat with a killer and must work out who is telling the truth, and who is faking it before they strike again…

I found the plot of this book to be quite tedious and far-fetched. With the protagonist running around London interviewing potential suspects, I found it incredulous that complete strangers were so willing to speak with Maggie. Although the ending was a clever twist, it was not enough to keep me fully interested throughout.

At first I was relishing in the premise of this ‘who dunnit?’ story and the glitz and glamour that is associated with the media awards. The excitement and nerves that Maggie feels is palpable and I think this is intensified further by the blazing heat. (I actually thought this book was being set somewhere abroad because the weather was so nice!) Setting off on a luxury yacht along the River Thames was a great way to isolate the characters, but I had hoped the story would stay adrift, adding to the intensity of the plot. For me, once the novel had returned to land, I thought the plot became less exciting and I could not get a feel for Maggie’s determination to solve the murder.

For me, Maggie is too keen to befriend complete strangers. Despite being a true crime blogger, she is presented as incredibly naïve and willing to partner up with potential suspects. In my opinion, it would have worked better if Maggie was working on this crime completely independently; instead I cringed at her desperation of making friends with Reiss, who lives the rich and lavish lifestyle that Maggie clearly craves. Furthermore, Leonard frequently makes ambiguous references to Maggie’s past. Often, I felt that I had mis-read sections, not properly processing clues about Maggie’s character. Although I had not, it made me feel frustrated that large parts of her personality are not developed until the final reveal at the end. In my opinion, it would have been more interesting if Leonard had added more depth to Maggie, instead of leaving it until the Epilogue.

This novel lacked the pace of a thrilling murder mystery and the first part of the story was definitely my most favourite. After disembarking, I think the pace lessened incredibly and I could not believe how Maggie was able to get so far involved in the police investigation, without actually annoying the authorities for interfering. Furthermore, knocking on people’s doors and asking questions about Stella’s death did not provoke suspicion and I was a bit taken aback by how readily characters would let Maggie into their homes without knowing anything about her, or that she is clearly not a detective.

So, the big question of all, why did I carry on reading? To be honest, I was fixated on a character being the murderer and I really wanted to be proven correct! As it turns out, I was incredibly wrong but enjoyed the final reveal in the penultimate chapter – it certainly was not something I had foreseen. In addition, I liked how the murder mystery was established and I think it would have been more intense if Leonard had somehow kept everybody on the boat. Perhaps this would read too similar to an Agatha Christie novel, but it would have created a feeling of claustrophobia as Maggie seeks the truth.

This was not my favourite read and I was disappointed by how slow and unbelievable the plot became. I have seen a lot of promotion about this author, so maybe their debut novel is more up my street.

With thanks to Canelo books and NetGalley for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Women's fiction

Finding love the old-fashioned way

‘The Meet Cute Method’ – Portia MacIntosh

5-star-rating

The Meet Cute Method

Do movie romances ever happen in real life…?

Frankie doesn’t believe in true love. As relationships expert at popular magazine Stylife, she has learnt that dating disasters are far more common than happy ever afters.

So when she is tasked to find out if meet cutes can work in real life she is up for the challenge – but whether it’s being a damsel in distress with a flat tyre, or spilling coffee over a stranger, she isn’t convinced this can really lead to love.

But little does Frankie know that the ultimate meet cute opportunity is just around the corner. As she is whisked off her feet (all in the name of her work project of course…) perhaps true love isn’t just for the movies after all…?

With an opening line that grabbed me straight away, I thoroughly enjoyed this book from MacIntosh, especially as, to be honest, I had no idea what the title meant!

When Frankie is tasked with an article that could save her or fire her, she knows she has her work cut out. As a dating/romance writer for a women’s magazine, Frankie is investigating whether love can be found through old-fashioned, chance meetings, rather than the digital, remote world of dating apps. Yet, every time Frankie creates such an opportunity, the results are a hilarious catastrophe that had me laughing out loud at the hopelessness of the situation. Even when she happens to get stick in a lift with a cutie, Frankie is haunted by the demands of her article, leading her to even more falsified actions that sees her travelling to Hawaii and meeting a very rich and influential family.

I did laugh with this book; it was the light-hearted tonic that I needed. I can always rely on MacIntosh to write a romantic yet entertaining story, and this ticked all the boxes. I think it helped even more that the story moves to Hawaii and I very much felt like I was experiencing the sun, sea and snorkelling with Frankie. The setting is described as very extravagant and I could vividly picture Frankie’s eyes popping with disbelief at the luxury of the resort and her companions.

To be honest, I was a bit sceptical about the opening of the novel, thinking that MacIntosh’s writing had taken a very new turn. However, I was so pleased I didn’t bin the book because it establishes the fun tone for the rest of the story. I really enjoyed listening in my head to Frankie’s narrative: she is portrayed as so ‘normal’ and ‘girl next door’. I think this made the story so appealing – Frankie is a realistic character who does not seem to be able to find love so easily when apps are apparently there to help navigate the dating game.

I have read several books by this author now and have never been disappointed. This novel is a perfect candidate for a beach read and I found that I just could not put it down because I was desperate to see what meet-cute disaster would befall Frankie next. It’s an entertaining book with love, laughter and sunshine – a perfect combination.

With thanks to Boldwood books and NetGalley for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Book Bingo 2022 category completed: A great first line: I’ve seen some seriously weird things on my way to work over the years…’

Historical

A happy ever after

‘A Ration Book Victory’ – Jean Fullerton

5-star-rating

ARBVI high res cover

In the final days of war, only love will pull her through . . .

Queenie Brogan wasn’t always an East End matriarch. Many years ago, before she married Fergus, she was Philomena Dooley, a daughter of Irish Travellers, planning to wed her childhood sweetheart, Patrick Mahone. But when tragedy struck and Patrick’s narrow-minded sister, Nora, intervened, the lovers were torn apart.

Fate can be cruel, and when Queenie arrives in London she finds that Patrick Mahon is her parish priest, and that the love she had tried to suppress flares again in her heart.

But now in the final months of WW2, Queenie discovers Father Mahon is dying and must face losing him forever. Can she finally tell him the secret she has kept for over fifty years or will Nora once again come between them?

And if Queenie does decide to finally tell Patrick, could the truth destroy the Brogan family?

I have really enjoyed this series and I think Fullerton did the right thing ending it here, as I don’t think there are many other ways to have created different stories about the Brogan family.

Reading this book, I felt that it had a joyful, celebratory tone, as if Fullerton was writing this experiencing the highs of completing a series. In that sense, it felt like the last day of the school term, before the lengthy summer holidays, and I think this made the book even more enticing. Coupled with the fact that this novel focuses on my favourite Brogan, Queenie, I was excited to learn more about the vivacious grandmother.

Slightly different to the other books, each chapter also includes a small flashback to Queenie’s time in Ireland. Through these episodes, readers learn about the history between her and Father Mahone, which has always been debated over the series. I was fascinated by these scenes because it gave so much more depth to Queenie’s character and I loved watching the past shared between her and Mahone.

A Ration Book Victory

Yet, at the same time the book focuses on all the other characters of the expanding Brogan family. In this sense, all the plot ties conclude rather satisfactorily at the end of the book, leading to a jolly good, happy ending – just what I was hoping for! Based on all of these back stories, this is definitely a book best enjoyed when you have read the other books in the series because there is so much history that you need to be aware of. Therefore, when I started reading this novel, it did feel like I was returning to a neighbour, a family I knew so well. It was a lovely, heart-warming sensation.

This was a satisfying read and so well-written. I can’t believe how Fullerton has managed to make each book individual from the last and the writer has done it again this time around. Although the war does not feature prominently in the story, being over by about half-way through the novel, it showed how society moved onwards from the conflict, including the all-important election which resulted in the end of Churchill’s leadership.

I’m sad that this series has ended as I have thoroughly enjoyed every page. True to the end, Fullerton’s research makes this historical read feel very accurate and I particularly liked the cameo from two very young Kray brothers in this story. It has all felt very realistic and like I was living through this period of history with the Brogan family. A great, victorious series with likeable characters, this is a historical read that I would highly recommend.

Author bio:

Born and bred in East London Jean is a District Nurse by trade and has worked as aPortrait_Jean-1022 RNA resized NHS manager and as a senior lecture in Health and Nursing Studies. She left her day job to become a full-time writer in 2015 and has never looked back.

In 2006 she won the Harry Bowling Prize and now has seventeen sagas published over three series all of which are set in East London.

She is an experienced public speaker with hundreds of WI and women’s club talks under her belt, plus for the past fifteen years she has sailed all over the world as an enrichment speaker and writing workshop leader on cruise ships.

Social Media Links:

Website: http://jeanfullerton.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Jean-Fullerton-202631736433230/?ref=bookmarks

Twitter:  https://twitter.com/JeanFullerton_

Purchase Link – https://amzn.to/3KIKxA5

With thanks to Corvus books and Rachel’s Random Resources for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

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Thriller

Life Out There

The Safe House’ – Louise Mumford

4-star-rating

The Safe House

“The house keeps us safe,” she says. “There’s nothing left for us outside.”

Esther is safe in the house. For sixteen years, she and her mother have lived off the grid, protected from the dangers of the outside world. For sixteen years, Esther has never seen another single soul.

Until today.

Today there’s a man outside the house. A man who knows Esther’s name, and who proves that her mother’s claims about the outside world are false. A man who is telling Esther that she’s been living a lie.

Is her mother keeping Esther safe – or keeping her prisoner?

I enjoyed Mumford’s writing style in this novel, particularly the use of extended metaphors. On the other hand, I thought the novel was a lacking a certain ‘spark’ and found the narrative quite sleepy, like reading a story on sedatives (significant plot reference here). In this way, I felt the ending rather prolonged and I would have liked to see a bit more action in the story.

Early on in the book, Mumford establishes that Esther’s mother wants nothing more than to keep her daughter safe. Suffering from increased asthma attacks, Esther’s mother is convinced that the next time she is whisked away in an ambulance will be fatal. Esther’s father cannot fully comprehend the paranoia that her mother feels and this grows to an obsession, leading to Esther and her mother living in the House. Separated from the outside world, this House is all that Esther has really known and, with her mother insisting that isolating themselves in this building, Esther will remain safe from harm. Consequently, Esther grows to fear life Out There because of the harm it will cause her.

Initially I thought I was reading a dystopian novel because of Mumford’s descriptions. However, as we learn more about Esther’s mother, it becomes clear that there is more to her obsession than just wanting to protect her daughter. I liked the flashbacks to Hannah’s past and her perspective on Esther’s health, getting a true sense of desperation that her husband does not take her concerns seriously. At the same time, it establishes the basis of the novel and how Esther’s existence has been shaped by everything her mother tells her.

Throughout the novel, Esther’s asthma is described as a ‘demon’ living inside of her. I liked the references to this type of dragon that has the ability to strangle Esther’s lungs and how it can easily be awoken. Indeed, it did remind me a little bit of Tolkein’s dragon, Smaug, and I could vividly picture this personified illness sleeping inside of Esther’s body. Based on how Esther’s mother has depicted her asthma, it becomes another form of control that Esther gradually realises she needs to confront.

Similarly, Esther makes many comparisons to films she has seen. This is significant because of how isolated her life has been, living experiences through her mother’s teaching. When Esther’s way of life starts to change, Esther draws on her understanding from films, emphasising to readers how little she has experienced herself. It adds a surrealism to the story which I think is intensified further by the slow, relaxed nature of the plot – as if readers are also tranquilised by Esther’s safe way of life.

An unusual story with some surprises along the way, I was hoping for a bit more action. The ending felt like it could have been condensed and I don’t think the final couple of chapters from Mumford were quite necessary: I would have preferred to imagine Esther’s next steps for myself. That being said, I did feel a certain satisfaction about the closure given, feeling assured that Esther would live a life that made up for being starved of so many experiences.

There are a lot of references to the environment and air pollution in this story, which I think is considerably thought-provoking. At times I thought Mumford was getting a little preachy through Esther and her mother’s characters, but I could not help but draw comparisons to the world post-pandemic and how our lives have altered with this awareness. Indeed, it is a central theme to the story and I found it interesting to draw comparisons between Esther’s understanding and how new people her in life interpret impacts on the environment.

This was an enjoyable read from Mumford and demonstrates the extent a mother will go to protect her child. An unusual story that may have been a little slow, but interesting nonetheless.

With thanks to HQ Digital and NetGalley for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

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Thriller

It’s time to play

‘The Game’ – Scott Kershaw

5-star-rating

The Game

The rules are simple. To save their life, you have to play.

[text message]

DEAR PLAYER,

THE PERSON YOU LOVE MOST IS IN DANGER.

TO SAVE THEM, YOU MUST PLAY THE GAME.

THE RULES ARE: THERE CAN ONLY BE ONE WINNER.

IF YOU LOSE, YOUR LOVED ONE WILL DIE.

ALL PLAYERS ENTER ALONE.

DO NOT SHARE THIS MESSAGE. DO NOT SEEK HELP.

WELCOME TO THE GAME.

YOU’VE JUST STARTED PLAYING.
[end of message]

Unfortunately my copy of this book must have been coated with super glue… because I just could not put it down! Gripped from the opening chapter, Kewshaw’s debut novel was a pacey thriller with an explosive ending.

Never mind that there are several characters, they are all contrasting enough that it is not difficult to identify the different ‘players’ of this game. I liked how the chapters are labelled according to the player number, even more so that the chapters move methodically through each participant, like you are watching them taking turns in a game. However, as the story develops, there are also some ‘pre-game’ episodes and I enjoyed how these added further depth to such an unusual plot.

Fear, adrenalin and desperation run throughout this story as the characters are powered by distressed energy to escape the game and protect their loved ones. Frequently, I found my heart was in my mouth because of the cliff-hangers that Kershaw often puts into the narrative, adding to the suspense of this read. Juxtaposing this, the feelings that the three mothers in particular experience, really captured the maternal emotions and I felt connected to them far more than Noah or Brett. I think this is because the writer really plays on the relationship a mother has with her child and the vulnerability that these women display merely intensified the helplessness they feel throughout the story.

As much as I tried, I could not fathom how this story would end. It was surprising until the very end and I was almost sad that the book finished. Addictive like a game itself, the atmosphere was tense and there were a few sickening, toe-curling moments in the story as well. I liked how the main characters are all so disparate, even down to where they come from, making it even harder to determine why the game has chosen these players and what connects them.

For a debut novel, this was suspenseful and breath-taking. It’s an impressive story from Kershaw and I am really excited to see what this author produces next. Highly recommended, this is a book you won’t want to miss and, quite honestly, would you want to lose your turn at the game?

With thanks to HQ Digital and NetGalley for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

TheGame_BTB

Women's fiction

Not one for the Dentists!

‘The Sweet Shop of Second Chances’ – Hannah Lynn

4-star-rating

The Sweet Shop of Second Chances

Starting over never tasted so good.

Holly Berry has it all; a good corporate career, a steady boyfriend, and enough savings that they will soon be able to buy a nice little house. But when she finds out her boyfriend has been cheating on her, she decides to retreat to the Cotswolds and a place full of far sweeter memories.

Quite literally.

However when Holly discovers the quaint village sweet shop that she worked in as a teenager is starting to crumble she decides that maybe the sensible life isn’t what she wants after all. Putting all her chocolate eggs in one basket, she says goodbye to the city, and sets her sights on Just One More.

After all, how hard can running a sweet shop be?

With charismatic Giles, ready to rescue her at every turn and the local bureaucrats breathing down her neck, it certainly isn’t the quiet life she expected. Can Holly really save the place from the the wicked developers, or will she be the reason Just One More closes its doors for good?

Full of laughter, sweet clean romance and cosy village life, The Sweet Shop of Second Chances will make you believe that the best things in life really are worth fighting for.

I really enjoyed this literally very sweet story and if it wasn’t so formulaic, I would have been able to award this book the full five stars. As it was, I could see how the plot would unfold too early on and instead wanted a few more narrative surprises along the way.

Holly is a very likeable character, but I did think she was rather dim throughout, especially when I thought it was blindingly obvious what was going on around her. I loved her tenacity towards the sweet shop and even though she is concerned about acting so spontaneously, she is determined to make a success of the business. Despite so many set-backs, Holly wants to make sure she honours the legacy established by Maud and Agnes, the previous owners. Finding new friends in the village, Holly grows to realise that this is more than just a sweet shop, but a place for the community to come together and, quite simply, make people happy.

The two male protagonists were a bit too obvious and I think the writer could have developed their characters further. I enjoyed watching the juxtaposition between the two and how Holly sees them so differently in regards to her shop. As this is the start of the series, I am hoping that Ben and Giles feature more in the later stories because I think there is so much more potential than what is shown in this novel.

The Sweet Shop of Second Chances

Overall, there wasn’t anything that I particularly disliked about the story and I relished in the confectionary setting! It reminded me a little bit of a Jenny Colgan novel, and I hope the rest of the books about this sweet shop are just as good. The community around Holly are all very kind and helpful and I loved watching them come together to help Holly make a success of the shop.

With plenty of sugar and sweetness, this book is not for the Dentists out there! It was a lovely, light read about Holly’s new venture and the romance element was not a dominating factor. This meant that I really enjoyed the sweet shop theme and I took great pleasure in picturing this old fashioned shop and all the colourful, sugary happiness inside.

Author bio:

Hannah Lynn is a multi award winning novelist. Publishing her first book, Amendments – a dark, dystopian speculative fiction novel, in 2015. Her second book, The Afterlife of Walter Augustus – a contemporary fiction novel with a supernatural twist – went on to win the 2018 Kindle Storyteller Award and the Independent Publishers Gold Medal for Best Adult Ebook.

Born in 1984, Hannah grew up in the Cotswolds, UK. After graduating from university, she spent 15 years as a teacher of physics, first in the UK and then Thailand, Malaysia, Austria and Jordan. It was during this time, inspired by the imaginations of the young people she taught, she began writing short stories for children, and later adult fiction.

Now settled back in the UK with her husband, daughter and horde of cats, she spends her days writing romantic comedies and historical fiction. Her first historical fiction novel, Athena’s Child, was also a 2020 Gold Medalist at the Independent Publishers Awards.

Social Media Links:Hannah_Lynn-7

Instragram –https://www.instagram.com/hannahlynnwrites/

Tiktok – https://www.tiktok.com/@hannahlynnwrites/

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/HannahLynnAuthor/

Twitter @HMLynnauthor

Goodreads – https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/13830772.Hannah_M_Lynn

Bookbub – https://www.bookbub.com/profile/hannah-lynn

Purchase Link –  mybook.to/hollyberrybook1

Win one of Five Signed Paperbacks – https://www.subscribepage.com/hannahlynncomp

With thanks to Rachel’s Random Resources for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

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Childrens

Plenty of tea and cake

‘Yesterday Crumb and the Storm in a Teacup – Andy Sagar

5-star-rating

Yesterday Crumb

Yesterday Crumb is no ordinary girl. She was born with fox ears that have cursed her to a lonely life working in the circus and her origins are a complete mystery. But she is about to escape into the adventure of a lifetime when she learns that she’s a strangeling who’s lost her magic.

Taken in by Miss Dumpling the flamboyant tea witch, Yesterday is introduced to a magical, walking teashop filled with fantastical customers, a flying teapot turtle called Pascal and powerful spells in every teacup!

Yesterday starts to rediscover her magic and to feel a sense of belonging. But a mysterious figure of darkness is working hard to ensure her new life comes crashing down – and it all starts with a deadly shard of ice in Yesterday’s heart…

But there’s nothing that can’t be solved with a pot of tea, a slice of cake and a BIG dash of magic!

This is a delightfully fun, magical tale featuring plenty of tea and cake. Following Yesterday Crumb on an adventure that changes her life forever, readers accompany her on this journey, discovering that there is more to her than just her unusual fox ears.

I felt pulled into this narrative from the beginning and think this will delight readers from about 8 years and upwards. A part of me thought it a shame there were no illustrations because of Sagar’s vivid descriptions, but I think this then adds credit to your own imagination and the delights of what being a tea witch actually means.

Meeting Miss Dumpling for the first time, she was a character that was my cup of tea (pun totally intended!). Such a sweet, caring and patient witch, she believes that Yesterday has the skills to become her successful apprentice, even if Yesterday’s brews tend to be more energetic and explosive than necessary. The description of Dwimmerly End teashop sounds absolutely delightful: a magical place that is frequented by fairies and creatures, with floating tea pots and a enchanting walking tea urn too. Furthermore, imagining this cafe having flamingo legs made this an even more curiouser location and I loved discovering this place with Yesterday as she learns about her new friends.

Throughout the story, Yesterday is having to break a curse that is gradually freezing her heart. However, although Miss Dumpling is confident about which brew is required, Yesterday’s nemesis is determined that she should not succeed. Therefore, the book takes readers on a journey to a goblin market, mystical portals and even the Land of the Dead as Yesterday tries to stop Mr Weep claiming her life. As time starts to run out, I found the story to become even more of a page turner as I could not foresee how the novel would conclude.

I think young readers will delight in this mystical, magical story and all the characters are very lovable. The cafe has such personality and I think this setting makes the book so different from other stories in this genre. Learning that this is the start of a new series, I’m looking forward to seeing the next adventure that Yesterday and her friends embark upon.

I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.