#First Line Fridays # The Last Ocean by Nicci Gerrard

This is the first time I am using this meme which is originally hosted by Hoarding Books. The idea is to share the first few lines of a book you are reading or have recently read and then present it.

The first lines:

The year before my father died, he came with us to Sweden for the summer. He had been living with his dementia for over ten years by then, and – mildly, sweetly, uncomplainingly – he was gradually disappearing, memories falling away, words going, recognition fading, in the great unravelling.

The book is The Last Ocean: a journey through memory and forgetting by Nicci Gerrard.

Synopsis from the publisher:

From the award-winning journalist and author, a lyrical, raw and humane investigation of dementia that explores both the journeys of the people who live with the condition and those of their loved ones

After a diagnosis of dementia, Nicci Gerrard’s father, John, continued to live life on his own terms, alongside the disease. But when an isolating hospital stay precipitated a dramatic turn for the worse, Gerrard, an award-winning journalist and author, recognized that it was not just the disease, but misguided protocol and harmful practices that cause such pain at the end of life. Gerrard was inspired to seek a better course for all who suffer because of the disease.

The Last Ocean is Gerrard’s investigation into what dementia does to both the person who lives with the condition and to their caregivers. Dementia is now one of the leading causes of death in the West, and this necessary book will offer both comfort and a map to those walking through it. While she begins with her father’s long slip into forgetting, Gerrard expands to examine dementia writ large. Gerrard gives raw but literary shape both to the unimaginable loss of one’s own faculties, as well as to the pain of their loved ones. Her lens is unflinching, but Gerrard honors her subjects and finds the beauty and the humanity in their seemingly diminished states.

In so doing, she examines the philosophy of what it means to have a self, as well as how we can offer dignity and peace to those who suffer with this terrible disease. Not only will it aid those walking with dementia patients, The Last Ocean will prompt all of us to think on the nature of a life well lived.

He was very happy on that holiday. he was a man who had a deep love for the natural world and felt at home in it; he knew the names of English birds and insects, wildflowers and trees.

When I was a child, I remember him taking me to listen to the dawn chorus in the woods near our house. Standing under the canopy of trees in the bright wash of sound, he would tell me which song was the mistle thrush and which the blackbird.

At least, I think I remember this, but perhaps I make it up as a story to tell myself when I am sad.

The Last Ocean is poignant and tender, and like many amazing non-fiction books may go unnoticed, although it is extremely pertinent in our aging world.

  • Have you read this book or is it on your tbr? Do you read a lot of non-fiction?
  • Are you familiar with Nicci Gerrard’s work?
  • What is the best book (fiction or non-fiction) dealing with the topic of aging you have read recently?

# Book review #Middle Grade/YA #Fledgling by Molly Harper # Sorcery and Society 2

The second book in The Sorcery and Society series makes us revisit the wonderful magic world of Sarah Smith (a.k.a Cassandra Reed) and her friends, brought to us by ever so entertaining Molly Harper.

If you haven’t read the first book of the series, it is probably better to go back and start from the beginning (Changeling). Having said this, I think the author does a great job of easing the reader into this fascinating world, reminiscent of the Regency Era (if you’re a fan of Jane Austen and Charlotte Bronte, you’ll find yourself quite at home). We learn how the magic people, called the Guardians, took over the running of human society to prevent the non-magic Snipes from using the power of newly emerging technology to invent weapons capable of destroying life on Earth. Unfortunately, the Guardians or the Upper Class have all but enslaved the lower classes and turned them into their servants. Sarah, born into a Snipe family, is not only gifted with magic, but is also a Translator, a rare person who can understand the spells revealed by the Mother Book, full of encoded ancient spells. Sarah’s family decide to hide her unusual nature and give her magic suppressors which cause Sarah grow smaller and weaker than other children. Sarah accidentally outs herself in front of the Lady of the House- powerful Mrs Winter, who decides to help the little Changeling by passing her for a distant relative of hers and sending her to Miss Castwell’s, a magic school for young ladies from Guardian families. Sarah makes fantastic friends, bravely faces adversity and destroys a formidable enemy. She even manages to procure attentions of a smart and gorgeous boy, Gavin McCray.

The second book takes us straight into one of the classes at Miss Castwell’s Institute for the Magical Instruction of Young Ladie, where Sarah/Cassandra shows a great presence of mind in fighting an evil kind of unicorn. I bet you didn’t know that there existed a malevolent carnivorous version of these magic animals- hollowhorns, which was, I’m afraid to say, summoned by the girls’ appaling lack of grace in ritual dancing and regrettable use of wrong tempo…

Molly Harper’s wit and amazing skill of creating a spellbinding story was what attracted me to the book in the first place and I was not disappointed. Great worldbuilding, sense of humour that permeates every scene and well-developed characters– everything I like in a fantasy book. I enjoyed reading about Ivy and Alicia, Sarah’s loyal friends and their witty banter as well as other more secondary characters: Owen Winter, Gavin, Wallace, the girls from Sarah’s remedial study group. And I did love the Art of Healing class, despite Nurse Waxwing’s unorthodox teaching manner.

It is difficult to be original in this genre. Yes, the book is going to remind you of Harry Potter, Charmed and even His Dark Materials. Yes, it is aimed at female audience. Still, the mix is delightful and I will be looking forward to reading the next part to find out if Sarah and her friends manage to overhaul the unjust system their society is based on and defeat their powerful and resourceful enemy.

Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for the ARC provided in exchange for an honest opinion.


#Book Review # Things You Save in a Fire by Katherine Center

Some books leave you feeling better about the world and people in it. Either because their main message is that of love, hope, and forgiveness, or because they have amazing characters: strong, calm, caring. They put your feet a bit more firmly on the ground, because you recognize they are rooted in reality, and uplift you, help you raise your head and notice that, despite everpresent tragedy and suffering, our world is full of beautiful souls, ready to lend a helping hand.
This is one of these books…

26 year old Cassie Hanwell is a person you would like to have next to you in an emergency. She doesn’t get scared (and if she does, she continues doing her job), she never panics– in fact, the opposite happens, when everybody else is freaking out, she gets calmer and more alert. Above all, Cassie lives to help and save oher people. All of this makes her one hell of a firefighter. One of the best and she knows it.

That’s why I didn’t wind up an ER doc. You don’t want me just after the emergency. You want me during the emergency. I am at my very best when things are at their very worst.

When Cassie commits a potential career suicide by standing up for herself in front of a hundred person crowd during an award giving ceremony, she is given a choice: apologize to the despicable politician she had this very public ‘interpersonal conflict’ with and get a deserved promotion to a leutenant or have her contract with Austin Fire Department terminated. Only she can’t do either of these things. Her job is ‘her whole identity’. Cassie finds a third option – move to Rockport, near Boston to help her half-blind estranged mother with groceries and house chores, find a temporary position in a firehouse near her mother’s house and, slowly, work her way up again. Her captain puts in a good word for her leaving until the very end ‘the bad news’ of Cassie being a woman. The new boss is desperate for anybody to fill the position, although he has a deep mistrust female-firefighters and won’t make it easy for Cassie to start it all over at the new place. Cassie’s brave and wise captain, knowing that Cassie has always been welcome and eased in all her firefighting jobs so far and doesn’t know what discrimination and hostility is, gives a few pieces of advice:

No makeup, perfume or lady-scented deodorant, no jewelry. Cut your hair off-or keep it back. Make them less aware you’re a girl whenever possible. If you make eye contact, make it straight on, like a predator. Don’t ask questions. Go above and beyond at every chance. Don’t ever act afraid. Don’t ever hesitate. Don’t ever admit it when you don’t understand- figure it out like a man. If you go up against anybody, make sure to win. No fear! If your hands start shaking, sit on them. Never admit to being hurt. Pain is for the weak.

They will ignore you. They will exclude you. They will resent you. Working hard won’t matter. Just by your very presence there, you are attacking them, trying to steal something that’s rightfully theirs, trying to infiltrate and dismantle their brotherhood.

Do’nt have feelings. Don’t talk about them, don’t explore them, and for God’s sake, whatever you do, don’t cry…Do not sleep with firefighters. Because there’s no faster way for you to go down in flames than to screw one of the guys.

My best advice to you ? Find one person you can count on. Just one.

Cassie is going to follow every single point on this long list, but for one. Unexpectedly for her, she is going to find that after years and years of loneliness and thinking that love was for the weak, she did need human connection, however much gutwrenching courage it took.

She gradually re-establishes and re-defines her relationship with Diana, her mother, and finds out that not everything she believed about her mother abandoning Cassie and her Dad was true.

By the time we reached each other, the resentment I’d been feeling had mixed with so many other feelings and impulses- sorrow, regret, loneliness, protectiveness, admiration, affection- that it became something else completely.

Diana teaches her something extremely valuable, something that will help Cassie not only survive, but actually live- forgiveness. I have to give Cassie credit. It isn’t easy, and a lot of people would just close their mind to these words, and never face the hard task of trying to forgive your own gullible, naive 16 year old self. Cassie does try the three steps, described by her mother: acknowledge to yourself that someone hurt you and accept that. Accept that the person who hurt you is flawed, and try to understand them better. Look at what happened afterwards and find the positive things that came about, not just the hurt. Yes, you can laugh at Cassie’s reply that the upside of her abandonment (and the other tragedy that happened on the same day) was getting freakishly good at basketball.

But the truth is what happened that Cassie became herself: calm, professional, attuned to other people, good at seeing what is true and what is fake, being able to stand up for herself and others, good at learning from whatever life threw at her. Also, knowing when to risk everything because the person you are risking it for is worth it. Like the Rookie, Owen Callaghan, her amazingly good-looking, smiley, kind-hearted, forbidden crush, her road to learning what true courage is.

Telling you more would be giving the story away, and I don’t want to rob you of this heartwarming experience. You probably know by now that I’m in love with the author’s ability to create strong, complex, believable  characters. I’m also in love with her writing style and sense of humour. Anybody who can give their lead character a childhood ambition of becoming the Tooth Fairy deserves a special mention. That and making a seasoned firefighter join a Crotchet Club…

There’s also wonderful storytelling– there are twists and turns that will tug at your heartstrings, as well as other calmer scenes that show the stuff everyday life is made of. My favourite ones show the firefighters both at work and rest, including practical jokes well-meaning colleagues played on Cassie and the Rookie. I loved the way Cassie acknoweledged the differences between her progressive, well-equipped firehouse in Austin and the new situation, and quietly set out to find a way to improve it, including getting super-expensive cyanide antidote kits. If it was a fantasy book, I’d give it five stars for the worldbuilding. As it isn’t, I’ll just acknowledge how fascinating it was to get a glimpse into what living this kind of life would be.

I loved every minute of this book and was sorry to turn the last page. A wonderful, humorous story of love and forgiveness with a strong and endearing main lead, ‘Things you save in a fire’ is a book you won’t forget.

Thank you to Edelweiss and St.Martin’s for the ARC provided in exchange for an honest opinion.

‘Things you save in a fire’ by Katherine Center is out on the 13th of August 2019.

  • Have you read Things that You Save in a Fire or is it on your tbr? If you have read it, what did you think of the ending? Did you like Diana?
  • Have you read any other books by Katherine Center? This is my first one, and I would appreciate your recommendations


He, she, baby bottle and Baby B # Book review #Call her mine by Melissa Foster


Two besties and a baby make for an instafamily and a surprising romance in a delightful series by Melissa Foster, the New York Times bestselling author of the Sugar Lake novels.

Ben Dalton has always been honest, except where his heart is concerned. He’s been in love with his best friend—saucy, smart-mouthed Aurelia Stark—forever. But Ben’s a planner, and timing has never been on his side. When he finally decides to make his move, Aurelia beats him to the punch with a move of her own—to a different town.

Aurelia loves her new life in the charming town of Harmony Pointe. She has a great apartment and her very own bookstore, and best of all, the sinfully hot, commitment-phobic friend she’s crushed on for years is no longer just around the corner. Maybe she’ll finally be able to leave her unrequited love behind and move on.

But when a baby is left on Ben’s front porch—a baby that is presumably his—Aurelia is there for him. Neither one knows the first thing about babies, but how hard can it be? Ben and Aurelia are catapulted into a world of love, laughter, and tracking down the baby mama, and it might even add up to a very happily ever after… just not one either of them expects.

My thoughts:

A twist on the trope of a handsome but slightly wild single man with a homely best friend ready to come to his rescue when a baby girl is left on his doorstep. It is always a baby girl, although baby boys are equally cute and loud when in need of feeding or a diaper change. Mostly the book follows the trope, although a few things are different…

First of all, I wouldn’t call Ben Dalton a playboy. Yes, he is a successful (read: rich and slightly overbearing) businessman, but it all came from a ridiculous amount of hard work and sound planning. I loved the way Ben’s father commented on his personality: “Oh, Ben. You’ve spent your entire life strategizing. You did it as a kid in every endeavour, from baseball to freaking Halloween. I remember you mapping out the streets, figuring out the quickest routes to cover the most houses and make sure you didn’t miss the ones that gave out the best candy.” An unplanned pregnancy just wasn’t something anybody could have predicted or expected from him.

Ben has been in love with his best friend Aurelia for years, fearing he has been friendzoned, secretly taking dancing lessons to impress her, hoping that when the right moment arrives, he’ll make his move. An old adage says: you are what you do with your free time. Aurelia spends all her free time with Ben, listening to him, wathcing movies, cooking for him, going to parties with him, spending nights on his sofa and the list goes on. Are you surprised their friends and relatives treat them as an old married couple? Eventually, it dawns on her that she needs to turn the new leaf and put some distance between herself and her unattainable bestie. Aurelia decides to buy a book store and move to a town nearby, and Ben is finally ready to profess his undying love, when Baby B makes her appearance in a basket in front of Ben’s luxurious bachelor pad.

The trope wants you to keep guessing if the baby is his or not his. The story isn’t usually about the baby, but about how the playboy in question becomes an adorably cute and clueless Dad which totally makes the girl swoon. Here you have two adorably clueless insta-parents, trying to cope with unexpected lifestyle changes as well as taking their relationship to the next level. Ben’s tirade on why there are never any changing tables in men’s bathrooms is hilarious and shows perfectly well how seriously he’s taken to the task of becoming the best father possible. What about Relsy.?…well. she, kind of, disappears from everybody’s focus, exhausted by midnight feedings and working on opening her new business. Luckily, Ben’s parents and sisters are only willing to give the brand-new parents a hand, while Ben is busy searching for the irresponsible mother.

This light-hearted, fun summer read is essentially family-focused (despite a few very hot and steamy romantic scenes). I might have enjoyed it more if it were slightly shorter. The ending was a bit melodramatic, but, ultimately, you do want a happy ever after for Baby Bea and this one brought everything to conclusion.

This was my first book by this author and now that I have met the Daltons brood (as well as my favourite character in this book- Flossie, Aurelia’s grandmother), I would like to read the previous books about Ben’s sisters as well as any future ones in the Harmony Pointe series. Am I right in guessing that one of them will be about a sexy single doctor? Only Melissa Foster and time can answer, but I’ll be looking forward to whatever she writes.

Thank you to NetGalley and Montlake romance for the ARC provided in exchange for an honest opinion.

  • How do you feel about the Friends-to-lovers and Baby-on-the-doorstep tropes? What are you favourite tropes?
  • What kind of books do you enjoy reading in summer? Are they different from your usual reads?

#Book Review # Keeping Lucy by T.Greenwood

Dover, Massachusetts, 1969. Ginny Richardson’s heart was torn open when her baby girl, Lucy, born with Down Syndrome, was taken from her. Under pressure from his powerful family, her husband, Ab, sent Lucy away to Willowridge, a special school for the “feeble-minded.” Ab tried to convince Ginny it was for the best. That they should grieve for their daughter as though she were dead. That they should try to move on.

But two years later, when Ginny’s best friend, Marsha, shows her a series of articles exposing Willowridge as a hell-on-earth–its squalid hallways filled with neglected children–she knows she can’t leave her daughter there. With Ginny’s six-year-old son in tow, Ginny and Marsha drive to the school to see Lucy for themselves. What they find sets their course on a heart-racing journey across state lines—turning Ginny into a fugitive.

For the first time, Ginny must test her own strength and face the world head-on as she fights Ab and his domineering father for the right to keep Lucy. Racing from Massachusetts to the beaches of Atlantic City, through the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia to a roadside mermaid show in Florida, Keeping Lucy is a searing portrait of just how far a mother’s love can take her.

(Book synopsis)

My thoughts:

A captivating and thought-provoking read. It is difficult to imagine that the time when women were powerless to this extent is not that far away (in some places or in some aspects it is still here with us).

Ginny Richardson is told that her newborn daughter Lucy has Down Syndrome and a heart condition that will not permit her to live long. Ginny’s husband Ab, forced by his overbearing wealthy lawyer father, agrees to place Lucy in an institution for ‘feeble-minded’. Ab tries to persuade Ginny that this will be in Lucy’s and everybody else’s interests and they just have to grieve and then continue with their life.

Ginny’s heart daily goes to her daughter but for two long years she doesn’t see her (something I find both heart-wrenching and incredibly passive), until her friend Marsha tells her about a newspaper article exposing deplorable conditions children in Willowbridge live in. Ginny decides to check the situation and is shocked to see that it was true. She signs Lucy out (effectively kidnapping her daughter) and embarks on a road trip together with Peyton, her six-year-old son, and Marsha, her larger than life, reckless, swearing, big-hearted, loyal friend. Ginny has to grow a backbone in order to protect her children.

The story is beautifully-written (although perhaps a bit melodramatic, how can it be anything else with this plot that is bound to tug at your heartstrings?) and is essentially about love, guilt, family, and friendship. Ginny has to go through an enormous character evolution in short time to become stronger and capable to fight for what is right.

Thank you to Edelweiss and St.Martin’s Press for the ARC provided in exchange for an honest opinion.

  • Have you read Keeping Lucy or is it on your tbr? What did you think of the portrayal of little Lucy?
  • Have you read any other books by T.Greenwood? which ones would you recommend?

#Middle Grade Monday #Book Review # The Bone Garden by Heather Kassner

“Remember, my dear, you do not really and truly exist.”

Made of dust and bone and imagination, Irréelle fears she’s not quite real. Only the finest magical thread tethers her to life—and to Miss Vesper. But for all her efforts to please her cruel creator, the thread is unraveling. Irréelle is forgetful as she gathers bone dust. She is slow returning from the dark passages beneath the cemetery. Worst of all, she is unmindful of her crooked bones.

When Irréelle makes one final, unforgivable mistake by destroying a frightful creature just brought to life, Miss Vesper threatens to imagine her away once and for all. Defying her creator for the very first time, Irréelle flees to the underside of the graveyard and embarks on an adventure to unearth the mysterious magic that breathes bones to life, even if it means she will return to dust and be no more.

With echoes of Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book, debut author Heather Kassner crafts a gorgeously written story humming with magic, mystery, and dark imaginings. (From Book Synopsis)

My thoughts: What a flight of imagination! A spooky story full of magic, adventure, friendship, and hope.

The protagonist of the Bone Garden Irréelle (‘ Unreal’), made of bone dust and her creator’s magic imagination is so loveable. She is a pure soul, ever mindful of the needs and feelings of the others. The beginning of this eery, Gothic tale transports you to dark and drafty underground tunnels under a graveyard, and Irreelle is on her mission to collect (extract) bone dust that will permit Miss Vesper restore her vitality. All Irréelle wants is to be a real girl, like little girls with pigtails in the neighbouring garden who she quietly observes, making sure nobody notices how deformed, unaligned and crooked her limbs are.

Nothing ever pleases Miss Vesper who is always quick to remind Irréelle that she doesn’t really exist and can be easily replaced. When Irréelle tries to protect herself from a strange creature, brought into life by Miss Vesper’s magic, and accidentally breaks it, Miss Vesper wants to destroy her in a really painful and cruel way. After all, Irréelle is disposable, she is neither loved, nor appreciated. Irréelle manages to run away and hide in the tunnels she knows so well by now. Here she helps to free another creation of Miss Vesper, a boy who defied her orders and was buried under a pile of boulders moved by the sheer will of Miss Vesper’s ire and revenge. Guy becomes Irréelle’s first friend who helps her to make their way outside and challenge her inexplicable connection to her tormentor. But if you think the scary part is over, you’re mistaken. The adventure only begins. Together, Irréelle, Guy, and two other fugitives Lass and Hand (who seem to be more assetive and proactive than Irréelle ) must solve the mystery and origin of Miss Arden Mae Vesper’s dark magic.

Irréelle undergoes a huge transformation from a quiet, obedient, awkward girl, who wants to do everything in her power to please her creator, even if, deep down, she knows it is wrong. Gradually, she begins to accept her own worth and the fact that she is a brave, smart, tenacious, perceptive girl ‘with a big heart and a will of her own’.

The setting is really dark (most of it happens either undergound or in the graveyard), so it might not be suitable for young children, but midlle graders will appreciate the dark Gothic charm of the magic world created by Heather Kessner.

Thank you to Edelweiss and Henry Holt and Co. for the ARC provided in exchange for an honest opinion.

  • Have you read The Bone Garden or is it on your tbr?
  • What are the best Middle Grade books you have read recently?
  • Are you a fan of Tim Burton’s and Neil Gaiman’s work?

#Book Review # Because you’re mine by Rea Frey

The truth will set you free. But it’s the lies that keep you safe.

At the beginning of the book a woman dies, falling down from a treacherous mountain path and leaving her child motherless. Who is she? what kind of secrets and frustrations made her go on the fateful mountain climb when she was clearly not in the right kind of shape and state to do it?

And so our guessing game begins… We meet Lee, a single mom of Mason, a delightful and amazingly gifted child with a sensory processing disorder, which means Lee has to run hairstyling business from home, so that Mason can be homeschooled and given occupational therapy. We also meet Grace, Lee’s best friend, who is a kind and symathetic divorced mother of seven year old Luca. Lee became friends with a few playground mothers long time ago when Mason was still asymptomatic. They all want to help Lee, and they all have different strengths and roles, but it is Grace that Lee confides in and feels safe around. It does help that Grace adores and understands Mason better than anybody else.

Lee’s life is full of relentless responsibilities, so when her friends suggest a weekend away, she doesn’t even take it into serious consideration. Eventually, Noah, Mason’s tutor and occupational therapist, persuades her to go by saying he will take care of the boy and send hourly updates all weekend. But as we know forty-eight hours later a tragedy strikes.

We get three points of view in this book, as well as two timelines of present (before and after the fall) and past. Fairly quickly, we realise that Grace, lee and Noah are all keeping secrets from each other, secrets that they are not willing or not ready to share, because they can destroy the lives they have been carefully constructing.

Rea Frey’s writing is compelling and you get drawn into the book from page one. We see that the narrators are unreliable for various reasons, and the clues left by the author may or may not be leading us to the truth. I must admit I didn’t see the final revelation coming, which made it all even more fascinating, although not entirely believable.

What I liked the most about this book is the emotional engagement the author carefully creates. Any mother will recognise the worry of having a child diagnosed with a disorder that will require special care, the worry of not being able to meet their physical, emotional or developmental needs. How do you make sure your child is going to thrive and live their life to the fullest without exposing them to unmitigated risks? Similarly, any reader will understand a single mother’s desire to meet ‘an appropriate, responsible, honorable’ friend or a future partner.

A well-crafted domestic thriller with twists and turns that will keep you reading compulsively.

Thank you to Edelweiss and St.Martin’s Griffin for the ARC provided in exchange for an honest opinion.

  • Have you read Because you’re mine? What did you think of the ending?
  • Is it on your tbr? Have you read Rea Frey’s previous book? Did you like it?

#Book Review #A Highlander walks into a Bar by LauraTrentham

An entertaining read just perfect for summer when my head stubbornly refuses to concentrate on merits of literary fiction, but wants romance, romance, romance….

And I got plenty of it with two lovely Scottish-American couples exploring what home, tradition and love is under the hot Georgian sun.

Isabel (Izzy) Buchanan is such a mix of contradictory character traits. A passionate redhead with unruly curly hair, wild imagination and a very practical job of an accountant, Isabel is both thoughtful and hilariously outspoken. Isabel’s father started Highland Games in his little southern town with higher than usual percentage of Scottish descendants. The festival was designed to help local businesses and bring in tourists, so you can see how important it is for Isabel to continue her family tradition after her father’s death. However, she would also love to travel and write a great Southern novel. It’s just that her writing is lacking something and she doesn’t know how to re-capture the magic flow of her childhood stories.

Izzy is usually helped by her mother, but this year Rose Buchanan ( a great southern lady, elegant, wise, hospitable) might be a bit negligent in her duties of the festival organiser. She’s just come back from Scotland accompanied by a guest. Gareth is the caretaker of a real Scottish manor and is a real gentleman as far as Rose is concerned. But Izzy’s suspicions are only doubled, when another Highlander walks in and claims to be an old mate of Gareth’s. It’s just that Alasdair Blackmoore is way too young (Izzy’s age) and heart-stoppingly gorgeous with his dark wavy hair, a hint of stubble and sexy brogue (okay, here I am picturing my favourite Dr Who, can you blame me?). We quickly find out that Alasdaire is based in London and works for an investment company. Are they here to trick Rose and Isabel out of their beloved Stonehaven property? and what would happen to the festival if the Buchanans were not there to safeguard the tradition?

I love the way the novel is written from two POVs and Alasdair’s intentions are more similar to Isabel’s than she gives him credit for. He is here to protect Uncle Gareth, both his property (his origins are not as humble as he led Rosie to believe)and his heart.
As the events unfold (Alasdair unwittingly complicates the situation by involving his London boss), there are plenty of fun moments, tension building and yes, romance.
I enjoyed the first and the last third of the book a bit more than the hot and steamy scenes. Maybe I appreciated more the humour, banter and inexplicable attraction between two almost strangers. Maybe the traditional me doesn’t expect insta-love to last and I really was rooting for these two couples to overcome their geographic incompatibility and Izzy’s rueful lack of coordination (which resulted in a few accidents). Not that Alasdair proved to be much more athletic, just more determined to woo his lass.

As it was the few hours I spent with this book flew by too fast and I was sorry to leave Highland, Georgia. Fortunately, this is just the beginning and the second book is brewing somewhere (I wanted to say in Scottish moors, but I’m not sure where the author resides and comes up with her wonderful ideas). All we have to do is wait for the ancient magic and modern romance to make its appearance again.

Thank you to Edelweiss and St.Martin’s for the review copy provided in exchange for an honest opinion.

  • Have you read this book or is it on your tbr? Would you like to know more about Rosie and Gareth’s future?
  • Is Izzy right sacrificing her dreams and ambitions to keep up her family tradition?


#Book review # Escape Room by Megan Goldin

On Monday morning a security employee hears two gun shots coming from a largely unused elevator. He calls the police who manage to open the door…and retreat in shock at the amount of blood covering the small space. What exactly led to this situation? Who were the four people confined in this elevator and why did they hate each other to this extent?

To answer these questions we have to go back to Friday evening when four investment bankers Vincent, Sylvie, Jules and Sam receive identical e-mails requesting them to participate in a meeting outside their office. Things haven’t been going that well recently, the threat of losing their lucrative positions and being fired is real, and they all feel they cannot afford to miss this particular meeting, which turns out to be a kind of a team building exercise, known as an escape room. In a classic escape room scenario, you get clues to decipher, situations to show your leadership skills and promote team spirit and…what was the word…Trust (they have well and truly forgotten the meaning of this word)? If you manage to solve the mystery in 60 minutes, you get a round of applause and a pat on the shoulder. If not, the door opens anyway, you get a message of encouragement, a pat on the shoulder, and everybody is ready to go for a Friday drink.

If only this was a classic escape room! Or at the very least, if only the four people locked in it, could trust each other. Oh they do get a series of clues, but the aim of the game is different this time: try to stay alive and work out the mystery behind this set-up.

The Escape Room is an incredibly addictive read. You’d think that the ruthless world of ridiculuosly overpaid, overworked and overstressed bankers is something that has been described and discussed to death and there’s nothing new to add. Yet, the much more personal narrative of the second POV (there are two: one giving a blow-by-blow account of what was happening in the elevator, and the other one that gives you an insight into more distant past events that led to the deadly game) is what made this book so fascinating.

Well-written, compelling, gripping?– yes! Believable?eh, no, not really. Oh, I do believe the descriptions of long hours, glass ceiling, gruelling work hours, sacrificed relationships and totally absent work-life balance, sexism, elitism, alcoholism and drug abuse. It’s the details of the revenge set-up that required me to suspend my belief. I didn’t care – it was way too entertaining.

Thank you to Edelweiss and St.Martin’s for the ARC provided in exchange for an honest opinion.

The Escape Room is out on the 30th of July 2019.

  • Have you read The Escape Room or is it on your tbr? What did you think of it?


# Sunday Morning for Kids #The way to Treasure Island by Lizzy Stewart

Is it possible to be best friends with a member of your family? Do you think it is easier to be friends with somebody who is similar to you in character or is your opposite?

# Sunday Morning for Kids is a variation on the meme started by Rae Longest at Powerful Women Readers.

I have recently discovered a wonderful blog Ragamuffin Books (All Things Children’s Literature) with book reviews and tips on how to write children’s fiction. I really encourage you to check out her posts on the importance of reading to children to help them develop their creativity, empathy and confidence at school.

The book I spent this Sunday morning reading to my little ones is The way to Treasure Island by Lizzy Stewart.

This is a sweet story of a girl and her Dad trying to find a treasure island and having a fun day together.

Matilda and her Dad are very different. In fact, in many ways they are the opposites -she is tidy, he is messy; she is fast, he is slow; she is quiet, he is loud. Naturally, they don’t always agree on how to do things. Despite this, they are best friends and have a lot of patience for each other. They complement one another: without Matilda’s ability to lead and pay attention to detail, her Dad would be lost, without Dad’s ability to notice exciting things, Matilda’s life would be so boring.

One day, they decide to spend a day at the beach. Matilda has a special map, but in order to follow it you can’t get distracted. They find a boat and set off on an exciting adventure. Although they do things their own way, in the end, they do discover the most wonderful treasure at all, that of each other’s company.

A delightful book with beautiful illustrations, this little book provides an example of a great father-daughter relationship.

Thank you to NetGalley and Frances Lincoln Children’s Books /Quarto Publishing Group for the ARC provided in exchange for an honest opinion.

Title: The way to Treasure Island
Author: Lizzy Stewart
Published by: Frances Lincoln Children’s books
Expected publication Date: 4th of June, 2019

  • Have you read The Way to Trasure Island? if yes, did you like it?
  • Is this the kind of book your little readers might be interested in?


‘Books live your life while you live theirs’ # ‘Reading quirks’ by the Wild Detectives

What is the strangest thing you’ve done for the love of reading?

I once read a book… half an hour at a time, 20-30 pages at most, for two weeks…in a bookshop! I’d come, read a bit, sigh at how expensive it was and leave… After two weeks somebody bought the book. Can you imagine my despair? I had almost finished it. Luckily, two things happened the following day: a new copy arrived and my pay check got through.

I just adored ‘ Reading Quirks’ by Javier García del Moral, Andrés de la Casa Huertas and Laura Pacheco and couldn’t help sharing this discovery with my bookloving tribe.

This is a series of vignettes on strange things we do for the love of books. The characters are cute and come from all walks of life. You are bound to find the situations described in this collection all too familiar:

Have you ever…

  • waxed lyrical about the merits of a book to a total stranger who might or might not have been interested?
  • been desperate because you lost a book you were just about to finish?
  • found irresistible the smell of a new book?
  • packed way too many books in a suitcase (and left out most clothes)?
  • liked the book so much that you felt sad that you were about to finish it?
  • realized you love somebody because they get your reading habits?

For some of them I thought: No, surely not. Actually, let me think…Yes, I have done that.

I know some of my friends are going to find these pictures irreverent. I love you for the respect you pay to your books and the way you treat reading not as a pastime, but almost as a religion.

My favourite vignette?

Have a great Friday and happy reading!

Thank you to Edelweiss and Deep Vellum Publishing for the ARC provided in exchange for an honest opinion.

Title: Reading quirks
Authors: Javier García del Moral, Andrés de la Casa Huertas, Laura Pacheco (illustrations)
Publisher: Deep Vellum Publishing
Expected date: October 8th 2019


# Teen Tonic Tuesday # Just for Clicks by Kara McDowell

Twin sisters Claire and Poppy are rising Internet stars thanks to their Mum blogging about their lives since they were born. Imagine all those cute but so embarrassing details open to strangers’ scrutiny just a click away.

One day their Mum sets up a Youtube channel for them and off they go making their own name and building up their own brand. While Poppy loves it and sees the fame as a way of gaining power, Claire, the geeky web designer part of the duo, hates the pervasive lack of privacy brought by their stardom.

When she meets a new boy during the school lunch hour, she can’t believe he doesn’t know who she is. For the first time in her life Claire has a clean slate and can finally satisfy her ‘craving for freedom and anonymity’.

I loved the way this book touches on many issues relevant to teenagers.

First, there is the issue of identity. People who read the blog think they know who Poppy and Claire are, but Claire is conscious of the fact that the image, the brand, is carefully constructed. So, she rightfully questions ‘If I am not that, then who am I?’

We are so much more than a mere sum of other people’s opinions and images of us.

Then, there is the issue of privacy and consent. Claire’s mother chose to tell her story in her blog because it was her life, but she also involved her children and imposed her choice on them.

Thirdly, the issue of family: how do I stand out? How do I fit in? Does my Mum prefer my sibling to me? and if yes, should I feel resentful? Am I being selfish if helping my sister achieve her dream makes me feel miserable? Is family more about shared genetics or years of shared life? Despite the dark secret and evident lack of communication, family relationships in this book do ring true.

There were quite a few twists in the story which made this book so gripping.
I loved the slow-burn romance: the getting-to-know-you-as-well-as-myself’ part opening oneself up to rejection and the sweetest delight of being really listened to and understood.

Although I did feel the ending was a bit rushed, and some of the secondary characters were flat and sketchy, this did not take away from my enjoyment of the book.
I found this book refreshing and original and would definitely recommend it.

Thank you to NetGalley and Amberjack publishing for the ARC provided in exchange for an honest opinion.

How do you feel about parenting blogs and parents sharing their children’s lives on social media?

#Sunday Morning for Kids # A warm Friendship # Bruno has a hundred friends

# Sunday Morning for Kids is a variation on the meme started by Rae Longest at Powerful Women Readers.

Both books I read and would like to present today are on the topic of friendship. In my opinion, they are most suitable for older children due to the issues they deal with.

A warm friendship

Ellen DeLange is becoming one of my favourite authors. I already blogged about her books ‘The boy and the egg’ and ‘When I look up’, both of which dealt with the power of imagination, love and acceptance.

In ‘A warm friendship’ we meet cute and curious Squirrel that finds a lonely Snowman who’s shaking and shivering in the cold. She comes up with a plan to help him. Not only does she bring him a woolen scarf, but she also encourages other animals to stop by and bring a scarf or a blanket to wrap around and warm the poor thing up. They become great friends, until the warm spring sun melts the snowman, and the squirrel is sad to see that all that is left is a colourful pile of scarves. Wise Owl reminds Squirrel that she can see Snowman in every flower and leaf, as well as other animals’ hearts who also loved her little friend.

Sometimes we make friends for a brief time and then move on, and we have to learn to be kind to each other, even if we are in a temporary situation. There are many different ways of explaining this story, which is essentially about caring for each other while we are together and sometimes having to let it go, without forgetting your friend. You can also talk about the seasons and nature, or if your child older and is mature enough, you can also touch upon loss, grieving, and cherishing our memories of the loved ones who are not with us any more.

The illustrations by Jacqueline Molnar are adorable, and are probably the feature of the book I liked the best.

Bruno has one hundred friends

Bruno is on his way to spend time with his friends when he finds a curious object- a phone. Bruno quickly understands that the phone lets him do lots of new things and have experiences he has never had, but above all, it allows him to have many more friends. In fact, when his old friends, Renzo and Rico, ask him what this object is for, he doesn’t hesitate: ‘It’s for making lots of friends all over the world’. Unfortunately, what happens next is a bit sad, because Bruno gets so absorbed in what is going on online, that he forgets to pay any attention to Renzo and Rico, who are trying very hard to involve him in ‘real life’ activities. Until one day the phone breaks and Bruno loses his virtual friends only to discover that Renzo and Rico are still there for him and will always be.

I am in two minds about this one. On one hand, it is important to make children think about the importance of real-life friendships and ‘non-digital life’. Balance is essential, playing, running, climbing trees, cycling, discovering the world with your senses, chatting to real people you can look into eyes or give a hug is invaluable. On the other hand, there are benefits to using technology, not least of which is various online communities for people with similar interests, saying nothing of keeping in touch with real friends who happen to be far away. Again, it is up to the parent/ caregiver to talk with a child and discuss the implications and consequences of abandoning your older friends, when you could share your new discoveries and let your friends know how these enrich your life.

The artwork is beautiful and sweet, with warm colours, and endearing pictures of the three bear friends.

Thank you to NetGalley and Clavis for these ARCs provided in exchange for an honest opinion.

#Friday I’m in love #Romance Book review # Handle with Care by Helen Hunting

The next book set in Helena Hunting hilarious and sexy world of Shacking Up!

Between his parents’ messed up marriage and his narcissistic younger brother, Lincoln Moorehead has spent the majority of his life avoiding his family. After the death of his father, Lincoln finds himself in the middle of the drama. To top it all off, he’s been named CEO of Moorehead Media, much to his brother’s chagrin. But Lincoln’s bad attitude softens when he meets the no-nonsense, gorgeous woman who has been given the task of transforming him from the gruff, wilderness guy to a suave businessman.

Wren Sterling has been working double time to keep the indiscretions at Moorehead Media at bay, so when she’s presented with a new contract, with new responsibilities and additional incentives, she agrees. Working with the recluse oldest son of a ridiculously entitled family is worth the hassle if it means she’s that much closer to pursuing her own dreams. What Wren doesn’t expect is to find herself attracted to him, or for it to be mutual. And she certainly doesn’t expect to fall for Lincoln. But when a shocking new Moorehead scandal comes to light, she’s forced to choose between her own family and the broody, cynical CEO.

(From Goodreads synopsis)

My thoughts:

A lot of my friends have Helena Hunting listed as an auto-buy author of contemporary romance, and I really wanted to read one of her novels, even though this is book number 5 in the Shacking Up series.


Let me start with the characters. Wren Starling is a genius of PR. She has been hired by Moorehead Media to handle and smoothe out the inevitable repercussions of scandals associated with Armstrong Moorehead, selfish, spoilt, sex-addicted younger son of Fredrick, the CEO of the company. When Fredrick passes away, his older son Lincoln comes back to New York city for his father’s funeral and is promptly enlisted to help with the company for a few months. Lincoln has been working on building sustainable community projects in China and Guatemala, and isn’t particularly interested in living in the city beyond the six months his grandmother asked him to. Now Wren’s contract is amended to include ‘handling’ both of the brothers, that is she still has to baby-sit Armstrong, as well as helping Lincoln transition to his new city life of a rich businessman. What is she hoping to get out of this job? a letter of recommendation and help to find a good position in one of the charities Moorehead family runs, and reconciliation with her own mother, a close friend of Mrs Moorehead. Wren is professional, organised, independent, sassy, decisive and loyal to her family and her best friend Dani.

Lincoln Moorehead first resembles a bit of a bear, but then thanks to Wren’s appointments (which he moans about but stoically endures), he cleans up to reveal a sweet and gorgeous young man. I loved his relationship with G-mom, his grandmother, although his constant fighting with Armstrong was quite childish on both sides. Most importantly, you can tell his heart is in the right place and he has a good moral compass.

Although a large part of the novel is dedicated to these two characters, others are also very important. Armstrong will make you wonder about how exactly his parents managed to bring up such different sons. He doesn’t seem to have any redeemable qualitites at all. Gwendolyn Moorhead, Lincoln and Armstrong’s mother, isn’t an endearing person, either. Actually, it is she and her life story that provides the drama element in this book. Let’s say, I really needed to step aside and try to think about the events from her point of view to make sure I’m not getting a skewed picture.

I also loved Dani, Wren’s loyal bestie, who is a private investigator, a voice of reason and a shoulder to cry on. Hope there will be a book dedicated to Dani, as I would really like to get to know this character a bit better.

The plot

What I expected was something like the old trope of a poor and hard-working secretary who wins the heart of her workaholic boss. Hmmm… I don’t think this will come as a spoiler, if I say that Wren does win Lincoln’s heart. However, she is not poor, and not particularly sweet or obliging. She knows how to stand up for herself (years of self-defence classes do pay off), and is both sensible and independent, which, of course, appeals even more to Lincoln. Since these two are basically on the same page, there wouldn’t be much conflict, necessary to keep the reader’s attention, but thanks to Lincoln’s mother, even level-headed Wren gets her share of tears and frustrations. If you are reading it and wondering where all the action is, wait until the second half of the book.

The Writing

The book is fast-paced and very easy to read. It is a contemporary romance, and the contemporary life is fully reflected in the story. I didn’t particularly care for the coffee spill/whirlwind moment as well as the telephone call in the epilogue, but perhaps I am too traditional and will be in minority. There’s definitely enough good chemistry, understanding and sexual tension between the protagonists to satisfy a romantic comedy fan.


The fans of the series will be delighted, as the story of Lincoln and Wren is a fun-filled sexy summer read with a happy ever after ending. And if seeing a chin dimple makes you swoon, this is definitely your kind of book.

Thank you to Edelweiss and St.Martin’s paperbacks for the ARC provided in exchange for an honest opinion.

  • Have you read Handle with Care or is it on your tbr?
  • Have you read other books by Helen Hunting? What did you like/ dislike about them?

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