Barty and Darcy by Mo Bird | Review

About The Book

How often do we come across a couple who are complete opposites and yet bond brilliantly?

This book tells of a pig and a duck who suffer similar fates. Both of them run away from home and by chance meet up where they create a bond which proves unbreakable. Together they decide to seek a new future which is reliant on the pig finding a cure for his affliction.

Like a lot of mothers who encourage their children to pursue their talents Barty Hog’s mother was convinced her son was going to be a World famous singer. Unfortunately, neither she or Barty were aware of a serious problem he had with his voice.

There was also a similar situation with Barty’s new friend Darcy. The problem with Darcy was the fact that her legs were too long to pursue her first chosen career. Follow them both as they journey through their young lives trying to overcome what they call their handicap.

There could be a tear at the end, not only from Barty and Darcy but also you the reader!

My Thoughts

What an adorable, simple, little book! “Barty and Darcy” is a sweet and entertaining tale of a piglet, Barty, that aspires to be an opera singer and a duck, Darcy, a budding ballerina.

When I opened this wonderful book, my first thoughts were how beautifully it had been illustrated by Brenda Howden.

Bartholomew (Barty) lives on Gentle Farm and anyone who lives there is certain to have a long and peaceful life. He also has a magical voice and his dream is to sing at the most famous opera house in the world.

His mum, Elsie, makes it her mission to give Barty every opportunity to become a world famous singer.

Unfortunately, Barty suffers from Aqua Voce, a non-life-threatening condition that renders him unable to sing unless submerged in water.

In order to achieve this Elsie creates the Gentle Farm Symphony Orchestra with the help of the other farmyard birds and animals.

However, Barty’s fellow animals mock and boo him and embarrassed and upset, he runs away.

He meets Darcy at a pond some miles away, who, having failed at becoming a synchronised swimmer, empathises with him. Long-legged Darcy now hopes to become a ballerina.

The couple find out from a wise old owl that there is a cure for Aqua Voce but they have to travel to Italy to find it.

“Barty and Darcy” communicates a positive message of perseverance and eventually finding solutions to problems, no matter how big they might seem, in order to realise your dreams. The pig and the duck eventually became world-famous, but they never forgot the support of those who believed in them.

This story, as well as being very amusing in parts, was beautifully and vibrantly illustrated using different animals throughout and I would definitely recommend it. The book would make a lovely addition to a family library.

Thank you to NetGalley and Troubador Publishing Limited (Matador) for the complimentary ARC. This is my honest and totally voluntary opinion.

Brianne’s Book Reviews Rating | Five Stars

Happy Reading!

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The East End by Jason Allen | Blog Tour 

@HarperCollins @parkrowbooks @justine_sha @EathanJason #TheEastEnd.

I am delighted to join the blog tour for The East End by Jason Allen today! My thanks to Justine at Park Row Books for the invitation to join and the wonderful review copy received via NetGalley!

The East End is available to buy NOW!

Buy Links:

Harlequin

Amazon

Barnes & Noble

Books-A-Million

Powell’s

THE EAST END

Author: Jason Allen

ISBN: 9780778308393

Publication Date: 5/7/19

Publisher: Park Row Books

BOOK SUMMARY

THE EAST END opens with Corey Halpern, a Hamptons local from a broken home who breaks into mansions at night for kicks. He likes the rush and admittedly, the escapism. One night just before Memorial Day weekend, he breaks into the wrong home at the wrong time: the Sheffield estate where he and his mother work. Under the cover of darkness, their boss Leo Sheffield — billionaire CEO, patriarch, and owner of the vast lakeside manor — arrives unexpectedly with his lover, Henry. After a shocking poolside accident leaves Henry dead, everything depends on Leo burying the truth. But unfortunately for him, Corey saw what happened and there are other eyes in the shadows.

Hordes of family and guests are coming to the estate the next morning, including Leo’s surly wife, all expecting a lavish vacation weekend of poolside drinks, evening parties, and fireworks filling the sky. No one can know there’s a dead man in the woods, and there is no one Leo can turn to. With his very life on the line, everything will come down to a split-second decision. For all of the main players—Leo, Gina, and Corey alike—time is ticking down, and the world they’ve known is set to explode.

Told through multiple points of view, THE EAST END highlights the socio-economic divide in the Hamptons, but also how the basic human need for connection and trust can transcend class differences. Secrecy, obsession, and desperation dictate each character’s path. In a race against time, each critical moment holds life in the balance as Corey, Gina, and Leo approach a common breaking point. THE EAST END is a propulsive read, rich with character and atmosphere, and marks the emergence of a talented new voice in fiction.

I THOUGHT…

My word, how exciting and enthralling was this début novel by newcomer Jason Allen?!  

Being honest, I went into The East End without much enthusiasm, thinking “Oh well, yet another novel about dysfunctional behaviour and taking drugs.” (Huge sigh). But if I had continued with that line of thought and not read The East End, I would have missed out on so much as it turned out to be one of the best reads of the year so far.

I was immediately blown away by all of the drama, from page one. Yes there was some drug-taking – well a lot actually – however, it was absolutely essential to the story-line.

The book opens with a break-in. Living with his mum, Gina, in the Hamptons, Corey Halpern has just graduated from high school and Gina  is employed as a housekeeper for billionaire Leo Sheffield. Full of angst towards the filthy rich, Corey spends much of his time breaking into their homes, not to steal but to play pranks on them. He decides to break into the Sheffield mansion which is home to Leo, wife Sheila and teenage daughter, Tiffany and witnesses something he wished he had not. But what will he choose to do next?  

The East End was told from several different perspectives which is normally something I am not too fond of, however, Jason Allen achieved this admirably and without any confusion for me.

The characters that Jason Allen created were so well drawn it was almost unbelievable. I felt that I was part of the unfolding drama with every chapter, as I found myself shouting out advice to the particular character who was facing their latest dilemma. I found it difficult to choose a favourite character so I opted for three of them – Leo, Gina and Angelique. Leo, I felt huge sadness for, as he was so down on his luck, though he did habitually make a lot of bad choices. I had so much empathy with Gina and who could not adore Angelique? She was so feisty, gutsy and full of hope despite her start in life.

The emotional complexity of the story was definitely one of the highlights of The East End and I loved the tenderness between Corey and Angelique.

Jason Allen’s writing style was very unique. There were longer paragraphs of narrative and less dialogue in this book than I’m used to, however, the plot was so engrossing that it didn’t prevent me from loving the story.

This book has everything from secrets, love and family to addiction, scandal, desperation, tragedy and greed. The plot was presented in the form of a slow burning mystery with underlying themes of class, social structure and discrimination packaged as a family drama but with added comedic aspect.

The ending was a surprise and, for me, very fitting and fulfilling. All in all, I found this book to be a fantastic and very worthwhile read and I look forward to reading more from Jason Allen.

Thanks to NetGalley, Park Row Books and the author, Jason Allen for my complimentary ARC of The East End. My honest review is entirely voluntary.

#TheEastEnd #NetGalley

Brianne’s Book Reviews Rating | Five Stars

🖤 🖤 🖤 🖤 🖤

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jason Allen grew up in a working-class home in the Hamptons, where he worked a variety of blue-collar jobs for wealthy estate owners. He writes fiction, poetry, and memoir, and is the author of the poetry collection A MEDITATION ON FIRE. He has an MFA from Pacific University and a PhD in literature and creative writing from Binghamton University, and currently lives in Atlanta, Georgia, where he teaches writing. THE EAST END is his first novel.

Social Links:

Author Website

Twitter: @EathanJason

Facebook: @jasonallenauthor

Goodreads

Jason Allen is also doing a book tour on the east coast to the cities listed below.

Until Next Time, 

The Better Sister by Alafair Burke | Review

About The Book

From Alafair Burke – New York Times bestselling author of the runaway hit, The Wife – comes another twisty tale of domestic noir. When a prominent Manhattan lawyer is murdered, two estranged sisters – one the dead man’s widow, the other his ex – must set aside mistrust and old resentments . . . but can they escape their past?

Though Hannah was the younger of the two Taylor sisters, she always seemed to be in charge. She was the honor roll student with big dreams and an even bigger work ethic. Nicole was always restless . . . and more than a little reckless – the opposite of her ambitious little sister. She floated from job to job and man to man, and stayed close to home in Cleveland.

For a while, it seemed like both sisters had found happiness. Hannah earned a scholarship to an Ivy League school and moved to New York City, where she landed a coveted publishing job. Nicole married promising young attorney Graham McIntosh, and gave birth to a baby boy they named Ian. The Taylor sisters became virtual strangers.

Now, more than fifteen years later, their lives are drastically different – and Hannah is married to Graham. When he’s murdered by a masked intruder at the couple’s East Hampton beach house, Hannah reluctantly allows her teenaged stepson’s biological mother – her estranged sister, Nicole – back into her life. But when the police begin to treat Ian as a suspect in his father’s death, the two sisters are forced to unite . . . and to confront the truth behind family secrets they have tried to bury in the past.

My Thoughts

I have both seen and heard so many great reviews about the author, Alafair Burke, particularly with reference to ‘The Wife’.

I couldn’t believe I hadn’t picked up anything by her before – until recently! I was therefore ecstatic to receive a copy of THE BETTER SISTER. The premise of this was pretty exciting, too, as a keen mystery and thriller reader.

The suspense and intriguing story-line immediately grabbed my attention from the start, planting me firmly into the lives of the two sisters, Chloe and Nicky.

With perfect pacing and many twists and turns, I was totally absorbed all the way through, until the fulfilling and very strong conclusion. The author’s writing style was very appealing, brilliantly encapsulating the core of the scenes that I was visualising whilst reading. The characterisation was also pretty impressive, particularly with regard to the interaction of the different characters.

Although the plot is one that that has been tried and tested before, Alafair Burke’s special way with the narrative made this complex and compelling tale quite distinct.

Overall, THE BETTER SISTER is a very worthwhile read with a side of courtroom drama and lots of family dynamics to unearth. If you’re a fan of the domestic thrillers, you should really read this book!

Thanks to Edelweiss, HarperCollins and the author, Alafair Burke for my free ARC of The Better Sister. My honest review is entirely voluntary.

Brianne’s Book Reviews Rating | Five Stars

Happy Reading!

The Summer Retreat by Sheila Roberts | Review

About The Book

Join USA TODAY best-selling author Sheila Roberts for a seaside escape to the beaches of Moonlight Harbor.

Celeste Jones has plans for a perfect summer with her boyfriend (and hopefully soon-to-be fiancé)—until he dumps her to be with the woman he’s had on the side for months. Heartbroken and furious, Celeste resolves to move on. When the going gets tough, the tough…okay, the not-so-tough go to the beach.

As soon as school lets out for the summer, she waves goodbye to her first-graders, packs up her bikini and heads for Moonlight Harbor, where she knows her big sister, Jenna, will receive her with open arms. Jenna could probably use some help at the Driftwood Inn, and Celeste is happy to do chores around the place in exchange for a relaxing summer escape. She just needs something—or someone—to distract her from her troubles.

Finding The One can be tricky, and Jenna is determined to make sure Celeste gets it right this time around. Not that Jenna’s an expert. She’s still trying to sort out her own love life. But if both sisters listen to their hearts, eventually they’re bound to discover that life—and love—is good at the beach.

My Thoughts

A Lovely Tale of Romance

Are you looking for a fantastic romance novel to take to the beach this Summer? Well, look no further because this is it! What a lovely and exciting book this was and a perfect and refreshing change from my usual, favourite genre.

“The Summer Retreat” is the third book in the ‘Moonlight Harbor’ series by best-seller author Sheila Roberts, the first book being ‘Welcome to Moonlight Harbor’, followed by ’Winter at the Beach’.

Although I’ve seen many of the author’s books around in my local library, the supermarket, and in bookshops, this is the first one I’ve read (I think) and I was not disappointed.

Celeste Jones is a primary school teacher and as the summer term has just come to an end, so has her relationship with her cheating boyfriend, Emerson. To drown her sorrows and re-evaluate her life, Celeste decides to visit her sister, Jenna who lives in a quaint town on the Washington coast where she runs the ‘Driftwood Inn’.

This was a well paced and very touching romance that had me hooked, even before I had swiped my e-reader to take me to the second page.

Sheila Roberts has drawn a pleasant, easy-going and genial character in Celeste. However, at thirty-six and a half, she thinks it’s about time she finds herself a husband who will not cheat on her and she has plans to settle down, have a family and live happily ever after.

“The Summer Retreat” was such a delightful, though predictable, tale  and once I had started reading, I found I was totally invested in the story. It held my interest right until the fulfilling conclusion.

I will be reading the first two books in the series and I eagerly wait to see what Sheila Roberts is going to be releasing next. This is a must-read for anyone who loves women’s fiction or romance novels, so you need to order your copy!

Thanks to NetGalley, Harlequin – MIRA and the author, Sheila Roberts for the free advanced copy. This is my honest and totally voluntary review.

Brianne’s Book Reviews Rating | Four Stars

Happy Reading!

Trouble on the Books by Essie Lang | Review

About The Book

Essie Lang’s series début is perfect for fans of Lorna Barrett, Vicki Delany, and book lovers everywhere.

Rookie book-store owner Shelby Cox must hit the books to learn the ropes before she loses a killer in the stacks.

Shelby Cox never intended to become a bookseller, so when the former editor returns to her home-town of Alexandria Bay, nestled in up-state New York’s breathtaking Thousand Islands region, to take over her aunt’s book-store, she has no idea what to expect. To her amazement, she discovers that she now owns a fifty-percent share in Bayside Books, and will also run the store’s second location in the majestic castle on nearby Blye Island.

But just as Shelby is gearing up for the start of the tourist season, the Castle volunteer coordinator is found murdered in the nearby Grotto. Castle caretaker Matthew Kessler is suspect number one, but Shelby thinks the killing may be connected to an earlier era, when violence among Prohibition-era smugglers was rampant in the region. As Shelby launches her own investigation, handsome and unnerving Special Agent Zack Griffin of the Coast Guard Investigative Services tries to quell her smuggling theory and keep her safe. But Shelby is determined to summon all her savvy as a book editor to plot the murder—and find the killer before he strikes again—in Trouble on the Books, Essie Lang’s clever and captivating series début.

My Thoughts

As a lover of cozy mysteries, I knew I would be onto a winner with this début in a new series! “Trouble on the Books” ticked all the right boxes before I had even started reading. The setting – a cosy book-store in a castle, no less – and an eye-catching, colourful front cover – all the makings of a great read for me. And I was even afforded a rare opportunity to begin a series from the offset as I always seem to pick them up half-way through. Here was my chance to, hopefully, discover another new favourite author to add to my ever-growing list.

There aren’t many settings as perfect as a bookshop located within a castle, and Essie Lang made great use of this. Alexandria Bay is a fine lakeside town, with a real sense of community and a general feeling of nostalgia. This, as well as a town full of secrets, made it a brilliant backdrop for a murder investigation.

Essie Lang has drawn some fascinating and very useful characters in this début. Protagonist Shelby has the necessary attributes of any great sleuth – intelligence, curiosity and attention to detail – but lacks some of those needed to make a success of the book-store, ‘Bayside Books’, as she is not great at dealing with people. I could see avenues for Shelby’s progression as the main character in any future books in the series.

I was especially fond of Essie Lang’s portrayal of Shelby’s endearing Aunt Edie. She was depicted as having great strength-of-character and was someone who always wanted to be on-the-go.

Even though the murder investigation itself took some time to get going, this did not detract from the story in any way as this book had many of the components that make a really good story: from the mood and undercurrents to the very clever writing and the existence of family secrets. There was a true sense of increasing danger as the story progressed, which definitely helped to keep my interest.

Another of my favourite aspects of this novel was the fluidity of the writing. The details of the plot were brilliantly executed and every chapter left me with a compelling need to read on.

I also enjoyed the little sparks of romance in this wonderful cozy mystery.

I very much look forward to returning to ‘Bayside Books’ in  Alexandria Bay with Shelby and Aunt Edie on a future occasion!

[Thanks to NetGalley, Crooked Lane Books and the author, Essie Lang for my free ARC of Trouble on the Books in exchange for an honest review.]

Brianne’s Book Reviews Rating | Five Stars

Happy Reading!

Apple Of My Eye by Claire Allan | Review

About The Book

‘Utterly addictive. Compulsive, twisty, tense.’ CLAIRE DOUGLAS, author of Local Girl Missing

Just how far is a mother willing to go?

When a mysterious note arrives for seven months pregnant nurse Eliana Hughes, she begins to doubt every aspect of her life – from her mixed feelings about motherhood to her marriage to Martin, who has become distant in recent months.

As the person behind the note escalates their campaign to out Eli’s husband as a cheat, she finds herself unable to trust even her own instincts, and as pressure builds, she makes a mistake that jeopardises her entire future.

Elsewhere, someone is watching. Someone who desperately wants a baby to call their own and will go to any lengths to become a mother – and stay a mother…

My Thoughts

“Apple Of My Eye” is a compulsive and digressive thriller that has been beautifully put together, with motherhood at its core.

This is my second time of reading a book by this author and I was not disappointed! I have previously read the outstanding ‘Her Name was Rose’ which was a five-star read for me, so there was a lot for Claire Allan to live up to.

“Apple of My Eye” brings to life an incredible family account of mistrust, jealousy and suspicion. It is a book about motherhood and all that it means to all of womankind. In this novel, the reader is categorically and unequivocally made aware of how it affects the lives and relationships of different women. It is also a divulgence of desperation, loneliness and all the different layers of love.

As always, I am having a run of strong, inspiring thrillers and this is on the list, along with my other favourites. The plot for this book is awesome and incredibly thrilling. I’m always looking for something in a book in this genre that makes it more notable than the rest. This could be amazingly drawn characters, a super plot, great originality or something entirely different that I couldn’t even imagine.

This book has many of the components that make a really good story: from the mood and undercurrents to the very clever writing and the experience of family secrets, jealousy and incredibly tense relationships.

For myself, the one thing that made this a memorable read was Claire Allan’s ability to send me off course in nearly every chapter. Narrated from three different perspectives – that of Eli, her mother Angela and the mysterious Louise – I found that it was the chapters told from Louise’s angle that added a real sense of apprehension to the plot. Claire Allan managed to create so much suspicion and mistrust through her story-telling and there was an overpowering sense of menace that emanated from the pages of this addictive read which is chock full of mystery. I found that I had no idea who or what I could trust. The emotional, distressed and pregnant wife or the mother who wanted to protect her daughter from an adulterous husband, or the revealing anonymous notes? 

Another of my favourite aspects of this novel was the fluidity of the writing. The details and twists of the plot were brilliantly executed and every chapter left me with a compelling need to read on.

”Apple Of My Eye” is a supreme accomplishment, mixing women’s fiction with a chilling, sharp slice of thriller, culminating in an emotive and fulfilling ending. I absolutely adored every chapter of this pacey novel and I would certainly recommend it.

Thanks to NetGalley, Avon Books UK and the author, Claire Allan, for my free ARC of Apple of My Eye in exchange for an honest review.

Brianne’s Book Reviews Rating | Five Stars

Happy Reading!

Let Her Go by D. J. Adamson | Review

About The Book

Murder, Betrayal, Love Gone Wrong

Dr. Conrad’s family is attacked. His wife is murdered. He and his son are seriously injured. Teenage daughter, Peyton, is missing. Lillian Dove needs to find Peyton Conrad to set the minds of Frytown at ease.

Book 3 of the Lillian Dove Series offers readers another page-turning romp of suspense as Lillian is pulled into another one of the Frytown Police Department criminal cases.

Advance Praise

“Let Her Go by D.J. Adamson is a fantastic, gripping story of betrayal, love, and suspense, not to mention the murder.”

–Reader’s Favorite

My Thoughts

How many times have I asked this question of myself?

“If only I could go back and do life differently. Isn’t that what people say? Life would be so much better. Would it?”

Gosh, what a book this turned out to be! “Let Her Go” by D.J. Adamson is a book you ought to read. Highly amusing, risqué and calamitous is a description of it, just like Lillian’s life.

“ Let Her Go” is the third novel in D.J. Adamson’s ‘Lillian Dove’ series, the first book being ‘Admit to Mayhem’ followed by ‘Suppose.’ Although I haven’t yet read these two from the series, it wasn’t a problem for me as the author provided plenty of history. This was interwoven very neatly with the current story and indeed, for me, complemented it.

I didn’t have any particular expectations when starting this book, other than I had assumed it would be a typical thriller. This would have been great so I was very surprised to find that it began with Lillian’s disappearing Christmas tree! It was a delightful and highly amusing beginning to start this book and I couldn’t have imagined the impact this would continue to have throughout the story.

D.J. Adamson has drawn a truly fascinating character in creating Lillian Dove. I dare say that she probably won’t appeal to everyone, but she was definitely pretty remarkable for me. Lillian is a recovering alcoholic, among other things.

She has a dynamic, though flawed character whose personality and often ill-thought actions made her the scourge of law enforcement officials in her home-town of Frytown, Iowa. Though scorned by many, she had a kind heart and warm personality though a few would have preferred her to keep her opinions to herself and not ask so many searching questions.

As the narrator of the story, Lillian couldn’t be relied upon because she had a tendency towards self-doubt and frequently questioned her own opinions and actions. 

In “Let Her Go” there is a heavy focus on Lillian’s self-development rather than the mystery itself, as she copes with the trepidations of her sobriety, relationships, and her own financial situation. The fast pacing and many twists and turns all increase the anticipation for what is a very fulfilling final reveal.

Many of the character interactions were tremendously entertaining, especially those between Lillian and Detective Jacque Leveque or her mother, Dahlia. There were a lot of unresolved, emotional issues from their past between Lillian and Dahlia, problems that Lillian needed to address in case it became too late. Just to add a bit of icing on the cake, an only partially ended affair with the Chief of Police is thrown into the mix, adding another layer to the already complex, thrilling plot.

Brilliantly written, impressionistic, with a delicious and at times, vicious humour and populated with fabulous characters, this is a mystery like no other. I’m so glad that I had the opportunity to read it and look forward to checking out the previous instalments. I thoroughly enjoyed the darker tone and grittier nature of the story that made this such a suspenseful read! 

Verdict: Read it and whatever you have to do to bag your copy, do it. 

Thanks to NetGalley, BooksGoSocial and the author, D.J. Adamson, for my free ARC of Let Her Go in exchange for an honest review.

[#NetGalley #LetHerGo]

Brianne’s Book Reviews Rating | Five Stars

Happy Reading!

The Mother-in-Law by Sally Hepworth | Review

Book Synopsis

A twisty, compelling new novel about one woman’s complicated relationship with her mother-in-law that ends in death…

From the moment Lucy met her husband’s mother, she knew she wasn’t the wife Diana had envisioned for her perfect son. Exquisitely polite, friendly, and always generous, Diana nonetheless kept Lucy at arm’s length despite her desperate attempts to win her over. And as a pillar in the community, an advocate for female refugees, and a woman happily married for decades, no one had a bad word to say about Diana…except Lucy.

That was five years ago.

Now, Diana is dead, a suicide note found near her body claiming that she longer wanted to live because of the cancer wreaking havoc inside her body.

But the autopsy finds no cancer.

It does find traces of poison, and evidence of suffocation.

Who could possibly want Diana dead? Why was her will changed at the eleventh hour to disinherit both of her children, and their spouses? And what does it mean that Lucy isn’t exactly sad she’s gone?

Fractured relationships and deep family secrets grow more compelling with every page in this twisty, captivating new novel from Sally Hepworth.

Praise for Sally Hepworth: 

“With jaw-dropping discoveries, and realistic consequences, this novel is not to be missed. Perfect for lovers of Big Little Lies.” —Library Journal, starred review

“Hepworth deftly keeps the reader turning pages and looking for clues, all the while building multilayered characters and carefully doling out bits of their motivations.” —Booklist

My Thoughts

If you enjoy a good family saga then you might want to read Sally Hepworth’s latest novel. This is my first time of reading a book by this author and I was not disappointed! “The Mother-in-Law” brings to life an incredible family account of greed and betrayal.

This book, set in Australia, has many of the components that make a really good story: from the mood and undercurrents to the very clever writing and the experience of deep family secrets and fractured relationships, not forgetting the feelings of hope, the fear, the utter desperation and failure.

“The Mother-in-Law” focuses on Lucy’s fractious relationship with her husband’s mother, Diana. Lucy has married Ollie, who is from a wealthy family, dominated by the matriarch.

From the very first chapter, I found myself immediately drawn in, following the grave news of Diana’s death, the circumstances of which were being treated as suspicious by the police. Her death had the appearance of suicide due to the presence of a note, but then became a matter slightly more deceiving. Diana, inclined to be rather aloof, left behind her husband Tom, son Ollie and daughter Nettie, not to mention her impressive estate…

This story is told from dual perspectives – Lucy’s and Diana’s – in the present with flashbacks to the past. Sally Hepworth has drawn a great character in Lucy, the outsider, trying hard to please her mother-in-law, to be accepted into her husband’s family, only to repeatedly fall short of the mark.

Sally Hepworth has also done a brilliant job with her portrayal of Diana and this really complements the story for me. Diana was not simply a typical mother-in-law mischief-maker; she was a person with many attributes – mother, wife, friend, daughter and do-gooder. Some of her drive was quite understandable which made it difficult for me to completely scorn her. As past and present merged it  became clear that nobody in the family really knew or understood each other.

One of my favourite aspects of this novel was the fluidity of Sally Hepworth’s writing. She managed to provide the details and twists of the plot without messing with the tone of the storyline. Each brilliantly executed chapter left me with a compelling need to read on.

For me, “The Mother-in-Law” was a tale of dramatic suspense but also one of deep reflection. At times, it made me dwell on my own family relationships and dynamics, especially those of the past. This novel definitely leaves you in a reflective mood, both during and after the story ended.

The book definitely has a strong mystery element, culminating in a thrilling and fulfilling ending. I really enjoyed it and I would certainly recommend it. This novel has left an impression on me and I will be reading more from Sally Hepworth. She has now become an author to watch out for!

Thanks to NetGalley, St Martin’s Press and the author, Sally Hepworth, for my free ARC of The Mother-in-Law in exchange for an honest review.

Brianne’s Book Reviews Rating | Five Stars

Happy Reading!

Boy Swallows Universe by Trent Dalton | Review

Book Synopsis

An utterly wonderful début novel of love, crime, magic, fate and a boy’s coming of age, set in 1980’s Australia and infused with the originality, charm, pathos, and heart of Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close and The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time.

The mind can take you anywhere you want to go.

Eli Bell’s life is complicated. His father is lost, his mother is in jail, and his step-dad is a heroin dealer. The most steadfast adult in Eli’s life is Slim – a notorious felon and national record-holder for successful prison escapes – who watches over Eli and August, his silent genius of an older brother.

Exiled far from the rest of the world in Darra, a seedy suburb populated by Polish and Vietnamese refugees, this twelve-year-old boy with an old soul and an adult mind is just trying to follow his heart, learn what it takes to be a good man, and train for a glamorous career in journalism. Life, however, insists on throwing obstacles in Eli’s path – most notably Tytus Broz, Brisbane’s legendary drug dealer.

But the real trouble lies ahead. Eli is about to fall in love, face off against truly bad guys, and fight to save his mother from a certain doom – all before starting high school.

A story of brotherhood, true love, family, and the most unlikely of friendships, Boy Swallows Universe is the tale of an adolescent boy on the cusp of discovering the man he will be. Powerful and kinetic, Trent Dalton’s début is sure to be one of the most heartbreaking, joyous and exhilarating novels you will experience. 

My Thoughts

If I had to describe this novel in three words they would be emotional, effortful and impactful in more or less equal measures.

After having read “Boy Swallows Universe” I feel that I am completely indebted to Trent Dalton! This book has all the components that make a really fantastic story: from the mood and undercurrents to the very clever writing and the experience of love and friendship, not forgetting the feelings of hope, desperation and failure. Trent Dalton has drawn a remarkable young narrator to adore in Eli, growing up in his vastly dysfunctional family. 

There were instances where this was a very difficult read for me, being as it was a little like sitting on a roller-coaster, however, it was extremely worthwhile even though, by my standards, it was a fairly lengthy novel. 

 I enjoyed “Boy Swallows Universe” so much and I’m hoping to read more by Trent Dalton soon…

[Thanks to Edelweiss, HarperCollins UK and the author, Trent Dalton, for my free ARC of #BoySwallowsUniverse in exchange for an honest review.]

Brianne’s Book Reviews Rating | Five Stars

Happy Reading!

The Lost Son by Prue Leith | Review

#TheLostSon @PrueLeith @QuercusBooks @MillsReid11

Book Synopsis

Gripping family drama from household name Prue Leith. Perfect for fans of Penny Vincenzi and Barbara Taylor Bradford.

The Angelotti family reels when the lost son, given up for adoption in the war, traces his birth family and returns to the fold, with devastating consequences.

As poverty-stricken newly-weds, Laura and Giovanni Angelotti were forced to put their first child – a boy – up for adoption. They have had other children since, and their first little Italian café has become a restaurant empire, but Laura is still haunted by thoughts of the baby she lost.

Tom is a successful businessman enjoying the fast-paced City lifestyle – until his best friend and business partner is killed in the 9/11 attacks and his world turns upside down. Searching for meaning in his life, he decides to track down his birth family: the Angelottis.

But Laura has been keeping an explosive secret about Tom’s parentage that means his reappearance in her life is bitter-sweet. She may have found her son, but will it be at the cost of everything it has taken her fifty years to build?

Advance Praise

Leith has really hit her stride as a writer and uses her own considerable catering experience . . . skilfully interweaving emotional drama with food fashions – Daily Mail

An enjoyable, well-written love story – Good Housekeeping

Prue Leith knows about colour and flavour and this has lots of both . . . a delicious family saga – Daily Mail on The Food of Love

My Thoughts

This is book three in a series named ‘The Food of Love Trilogy’ and it was such a delightful and emotional read! The other books are ‘The House at Chorlton’ followed by ‘The Prodigal Daughter’. “The Lost Son” is the only book from the food dynasty series that I’ve read and I was happy to have read it as a stand alone.

Although I wouldn’t necessarily describe myself as a devoted and loyal Prue Leith fan, I’ve read one of her books before – ‘The Gardener.’

This multi-generational family saga has something for everyone. It has love, ambition and achievement in spades and is incredibly uplifting. It also has strong themes centred around family discord, sexuality, loss, addiction and tragedy. It is about recognising vulnerabilities and personal improvement.

Prue Leith’s character development was enviable. All of the characters were very well drawn however, if I were to pick a favourite it would have to be Tom. He has had to deal with so much heartache in his life that it would be virtually impossible not to have a huge amount of empathy for him. Anna, although not without some of her own horrors and personal issues, was very likeable, warm, forthright and was very much her own person. Prue Leith’s portrayal of Jane and the other baddies, notably, Mario and to some extent, Susan, was perfect. Obviously, they were pretty hateful, but they added even more excitement and spark to create an extra dimension to the story.

There were many things that were fantastic in this book. As well as the beautiful character detail, the plot was really absorbing. It was fascinating to read the detail behind the family’s successful business adventures, all of them being food related. Some of the references to food made my mouth water – from cheese soufflé to Thai fish-cakes, roasted veal and orange, almond and polenta cake.

I was also particularly impressed by the way Prue Leith introduced more modern themes, brilliantly building on the family saga trope. The diversification into the street food scene was absorbing to read about and the enthusiasm of Anna and Sebele was really infectious. Again, the food delights were enticing – the Chicago sliders, Napoli pizza, and Peking ducked stuffed pancakes. The pacing was terrific and there was never a moment when I felt as though I was losing interest as is the case with some rambling sagas.

For me, Prue Leith showed such talent in this inspiring and delightful tale. This is one of my favourite kinds of romance – one written with imagination and with real characters who, though flawed, gradually develop a real connection with each other.

I really loved the story and the journey on which I was taken throughout ‘The Lost Son’ and I was rooting for Tom and his long lost family from the offset. Though there was so much loss, grief and angst this was nevertheless, a modern, classic saga that was deeply rewarding and so full of truth that I didn’t want it to end.

This would be a super book choice for fans of Penny Vincenzi and Barbara Taylor Bradford.

Thank you, Prue Leith. This was a great read and so extremely worthwhile. 

[Thanks to NetGalley, Quercus Books and the author, Prue Leith, for my free ARC of The Lost Son in exchange for an honest review.]

#TheLostSon #NetGalley

Brianne’s Book Reviews Rating | Five Stars

Happy Reading!