The Neighbours by Nicola Gill

This is such a cute, feel-good story, that everyone who likes strong and funny characters will enjoy. Warning – spoilers in the review below

Meet Ginny, 34, and Cassie, 55. Neighbours, and (very) unlikely friends.
Some women have it all. Others are thirty-four and rent a tiny flat alone because they recently found their long-term boyfriend in bed with their boss. Ginny Taylor is certain her life can’t get any worse. But then she meets her downstairs neighbour…
Cassie Frost was once a beloved actress, but after a recent mishap she desperately needs a new publicist. And Ginny is a publicist who desperately needs a job – but can she be persuaded to work for the prickly woman who lives below her floorboards?
Ginny and Cassie are two very different women, but they have more in common than they’d care to imagine (or admit). And when their worlds collide, they realise that bad neighbours could become good friends…

This is such an amusing, and in some ways lighthearted book, that everyone would enjoy. The two characters, Ginny and Cassie, are such an excellent pairing and they compliment each other perfectly. I found them really funny at times but other times it was very touching. The way that the two women come together at the beginning is really sweet – neither one is totally happy, and they’re both going through what could be called a rough patch. This is what bonds them and some of the things they get up to together are really hilarious and relatable. I loved seeing them progress and change together, but it was also heartbreaking at times to watch them go through difficult times.

This book really helps the reader connect with the characters, I felt really bonded them and this meant that the story held a lot more emotion than normal. I was with Ginny and Cassie through all the good and bad bits and so I was hooked throughout. This book is special because it takes issues or experiences that the reader can relate to and manages to express those emotions really well, while also injecting a little bit of comedy to lift the tone when needed. I thought it was done very tastefully and really would recommend this to anyone who wants to read something that tackles topics like mental health, love and friendship in a way that’s very easy to read and follow.

The way that Ginny dealt with Cassie’s depression later on in the book was very human and real – it wasn’t perfect by any means, but that’s what made it realistic. There were times when Ginny handled things badly, but the effort was made to point out why it was unhelpful and how she could do better. I thought this aspect of the book was great and made it really emotional at times. There are events that are difficult to read, and so perhaps for this reason I would say there’s a content warning for mental health, but I really thought it was done well, considering the genre of this book. Despite the comedic moments, there are times when this book has elements of such piercing honesty and seriousness, that it almost took me by surprise. Cassie’s good and bad days are written in such an honest and straightforward way that it definitely has an element of real-ness to it that makes it very readable.

The actual story is also excellent, it has the right amount of ups and downs, with a dash of comedy and a bit of heartbreak, but that’s why it works so well. The ending was wonderful, I finished the book feeling very satisfied and happy, which is exactly how I wanted to feel. After a rocky journey, I was left feeling genuinely delighted for both women and was really sad to finish this. This is a definite must-read for me as I loved every second.

The Neighbours
Nicola Gill
Avon, 6th Feb 2020

BLOG TOUR: The Day That Changed Everything by Catherine Miller

This is a heart-warming and emotional story exploring the meaning of family and motherhood.

When you lose the love of your life, how do you find yourself again?For Tabitha, the day that changed everything started like any other.
She woke up, slid her feet into fluffy slippers, wrapped herself in a dressing gown and tiptoed out of her bedroom, leaving her husband Andy sleeping. Downstairs, she boiled the kettle and enjoyed a cup of tea as the sun rose.
Upstairs, Andy’s alarm sounded, and Tabitha took him a freshly brewed coffee, like every other morning. Except today, the incessant beeping rang out and her husband hadn’t stirred. She called his name, she nudged his shoulder. But Andy wouldn’t wake up.
Three years later Tabitha is trying her hardest to get by in the shadow of her grief. She may have lost the love of her life but she won’t give up on the family they dreamed of. Fostering troublesome teenage girls and a newborn baby is a chance to piece together her broken heart.
But being a mother isn’t easy, and neither is healing the heartache she carries around. After losing everything, could saving these three children help Tabitha save herself too?

I really enjoyed how this book explores the meaning and importance of family through the eyes of Tabitha and the girls she fosters. Tabitha herself is the key to this story, starting from the devastating moment she discovers her husband has died. It’s truly heartbreaking and the emotion pours out the page. The story flashes back and forward between two timelines. It focuses on the time directly after her husband’s death and a couple of years after when she starts fostering. It gives the reader a better idea of her character development and allows us to really connect with Tabitha as we see her progress.

The writing throughout is really beautiful at times, but it’s what I’d expect from Miller, who’s novel 99 Days With You I absolutely adored. It’s emotive, passionate, devastating at times and she writes everything that Tabitha feels so well. It’s a brilliant exploration into human emotions.

The two teenagers that Tabitha fosters, Syd and Max, are an excellent addition to Tabitha’s life. They are funny, stroppy, typical teenagers, but they are also genuinely struggling with their own emotions and experiences. The way that Miller manages to get this across without writing from the perspective of the twins is truly excellent.

This is a book less about a dramatic storyline and more about the characters and themes. I would highly recommend this for someone who wants to lose themselves in a character-driven, emotional and well-written book.

The Day That Changed Everything
Catherine Miller
Bookouture, 17th Jan 2020

Pretty Guilty Women by Gina LaManna

This was an emotional, tense and brilliantly written character focused novel.

You are cordially invited to the wedding of the year, at the famously luxurious Serenity Spa & Resort on the Californian coast . . .
Ginger is an overworked, under-pampered mother of three who’s barely holding the family together when she learns a secret about her daughter that could ruin everything.
Lulu is a wealthy retiree with four ex-husbands, and a fifth on the way.
Emily harbours a dark secret, which she’s become expert at forgetting with the help of a bottle of wine.
Kate is a powerhouse lawyer with her life in order – except for one little problem that won’t go away.
Only twenty-four hours later a man is found murdered.
All Detective Ramone knows for certain is that these four women sit calmly across from him, offering four very different confessions, each insisting they acted alone.
Why would they confess to the same crime? Only they know the answer – and they’re not telling.

I loved how this was divided between the four women, offering different perspectives on the same events, and on each other. I particularly love character-focused novels, and this did exactly that.

Ginger was the typical over-worked mother, caring and protective but also exhausted and frazzled. She gave life to her parts of the story, and I really liked her chapters especially.

Lulu was actually quite hilarious, despite her story being quite heartbreaking to read. Her attitude in the face of change was brilliant. She was independent, strong, but yet still really vulnerable, and her character had such depth.

Emily was a really fascinating addition to the group. Her issues ran deep, and this was clear right from the beginning. She gave a real darkness to the group in my opinion, but it balanced really well with the other women in the group.

Kate was absolutely my favourite. She was pretty badass, easy to like and easy to empathise with. Her story and character arc was by far my favourite of all the four women, and I was so pleased with how her story ended.

The actual plot was pretty slow, but this is a character-focused novel, and it does that really well. The women all have different and unique personalities and it’s such a fascinating examination of womanhood, female relationships and life itself. The ending did take me by surprise, and it was very satisfying, with the right amount of tension and surprise.

Pretty Guilty Women
Gina LaManna
Sphere, 24th September

BLOG TOUR: Lucy’s Last Straw by Debbie Viggiano

This book was SO much fun to read, I tore through it in a day because it’s such an enjoyable, hilarious yet heartwarming book.

It was the toothpaste smeared around the sink that broke my marriage. As I rubbed it away AGAIN, I was reminded of everything else I’ve put up with these twenty-five years. My husband’s obsession with his pension, his ability to charm me into every single one of his ideas, never being taken on a romantic date, let alone ravished on the patio (like the woman who lives next door)… small things, but the realisation was huge.
Just when Lucy Jones thinks her marriage is about to screech to a halt over toothpaste, her husband, Leo, announces he wants to move to tumbledown (clapped-out) Rose Cottage, and Lucy knows she’ll be the one managing the renovations.
Then along comes gorgeous builder Will, ten years younger and the only person actually listening to Lucy. His twinkly eyes and blowtorch smile are causing Lucy to break out in a hot sweat – but is it love, lust or simply dodgy hormones that are causing her heart to flutter?
Lucy loves her husband, but everyone knows that little things build up. And then they explode. Can Lucy keep it together, or will there be one last straw she might not be able to get over?

I have one main thing to say about Lucy… What. A. Character! She’s brilliant, with extreme emotions, funny conversations with her dog, truly hilarious inner monologues and a radiating confidence in herself and her abilities. She’s so outgoing, and I really warmed to her – I think it would be hard not to! I don’t read too many books from this genres, but this has well and truly made me a convert, as I had so much fun reading this.

The plot itself is funny, off the rails, with lots of larger than life characters, and that’s the whole fun of it. It is over the top and the unexpected always seems to happen, but it’s just great to read. It centres around Lucy’s husband Leo persuading her to buy a run-down house to renovate, then jetting off to America for a new job, and a hunky builder hanging around Lucy’s house all the time while the hubby’s away… It’s outrageous, it’s laugh-out-loud funny, and totally fun to read. Lucy’s reactions to everything are always so over the top, but it makes the book unpredictable, and that’s the whole fun of it. Her theories and suspicions about her husband and his affair, while they have a hint of seriousness at times, are generally assumed from the most obscure clues so there is still a sense of lighthearted-ness about it. There are moments when her insecurities show through, and this is why she’s such a relatable character, but her inner confidence soon radiates through and she’s back to her usual loud and outrageous self!

Lucy’s flirtation with Will seems harmless, but definitely gets steamier throughout, until it reaches possibly one of the most hilarious scenes of the whole novel… Lucy’s descriptions leave little to the imagination! There are lots of other great characters in this, from her sweet daughter Amy, to her bullish and prissy daughter Jessica, and my personal favourite, her best friend Patsy. All of them bring something to the novel, whether it be a serious tone, a friendly lecture, or a reminder that life is about having fun!

This is a laugh-a-minute, fast-paced, compulsive and generally heartwarming book, about friendships, love, betrayal and romance. The ending just sums up the book perfectly, with a final detail that definitely made me chuckle! It’s a perfect summer read.

Lucy’s Last Straw
Debbie Viggiano
Bookouture, 15th July 2019

Monthly Wrap Up – May Edition!

Hello! Well May was not my best month for getting reviews done – I decided to catch up on some reading purely for fun, as I like not always having to review everything I read. A lot of May has involved blog tours which are always great to be a part of, so check them all out below:

The Swap by Fiona Mitchell was my first review of May and it was a brilliant read. It was an extremely emotional and touching look into what family can mean, with two brilliantly written main female characters.

I next reviewed Closer Than You Think by Darren O’Sullivan which was a very intriguing mystery, a very unusual motive and some really fascinating insights into the mind of the criminal. It also offered a very in-depth look into the main character Claire, so it’s definitely something a bit different to read.

They Call Me The Cat Lady by Amy Miller was the most fun I had reviewing a novel this month. This was such a touching, personal and lovely read, with a beautiful exploration into the growth of the main character. The descriptions in this book are truly gorgeous, and it’s a really heart wrenching read.

I then read The Manhatten Project by Paul McNeive, and this is genuinely quite a terrifying read, if only because of the stark reality it forces the reader to face. This is a very detailed book, showing the psychological consequences of events from our history in a fascinating political thriller with a terrorist plot.

Heartlands by Kerry Watts had some great characters and an emotional crime, but was slightly confusing at times. I found the vast amount of characters didn’t allow enough time to be spent on developing all of them, but it was still a good read with a great lead detective.

I next took part in a blog tour by Bookouture for Fierce Girl by Emma Tallon which has absolutely hooked me into this series. The main couple is completely awesome, totally badass, and I loved it. This was fast-paced, intriguing and really well written.

Finally is my review for the blog tour by Tracy Fenton from Compulsive Readers for The Dangerous Kind by Deborah O’Connor which is a completely emotional, fascinating and relevant story, with plenty of plot twists and a really emotive thread throughout. This book is pure brilliance, and I’d definitely recommend reading it.

Book of the Month
Okay, this month I’ve been seriously torn. I loved both The Swap and They Call Me The Cat Lady, but my absolute favourite was The Dangerous Kind. The whole story, the brilliantly written characters, the plot twist and the emotionally satisfying ending – it’s all amazing. I’ll be recommending this to everyone!

The Swap by Fiona Mitchell

This was a powerful and poignant tale about discovering the real meaning of family, parenthood and love.

Two women. Two children. One swap.
Tess and Annie both went for IVF at the same clinic, at the same time. They both went home with a child, but that child isn’t theirs. Their embryos were mixed up, and they went home with the wrong child.
Three years later they discover the devastating error. Tess wants to swap the children back while Annie doesn’t, so they embark on a hard journey of discovery about themselves, motherhood and family.

*warning: minor spoilers*

I loved this. I thought it was really inspiring and gave a lot of food for thought about what family really means. It makes you consider what it takes to create and build a family, about nature vs nurture and the love a parent has for their child.

Tess was such a painful and heartbreaking character. She had pain and grief etched over her throughout the novel, but it wasn’t clear why until quite far through, and it was emotional to see how much the events of her past have affected her relationship with her children in the present. Her sheer desperation to have a relationship with her daughter who was born to Annie was really intense. It made her so frustrating to read at times, as she made some potentially destructive choices throughout. This, however, is what made her such a ‘real’ character, it’s what made her story so heartbreaking to read and it really intensified her story, gripping the reader even more.

Annie, the other mother affected in this story, seemed to balance on that thin line between judgmental and concerned. At times she was annoying, because she seemed to be assuming things about Tess’ relationship with her son that weren’t completely true – although Mitchell did offer a rather intense and revealing insight into the way that the assumptions Annie made can easily happen. Annie starts to questions the relationship she sees between Tess and Freddie, convincing herself that something isn’t right – yet Mitchell really digs deeps into this to show the various layers and emotions that are involved between Tess and Freddie. Families are incredibly complex, and this book really highlights this in such an effective and emotive way. Apart from this, Annie’s relationship with her daughter Willow was really sweet, yet it was clear that she was being torn apart by the discovery that she actually had a son. In some ways she seemed more vulnerable that Tess, but she turned this into a strength, and coped with the discovery admirably.

The two children themselves were adorable – they seemed unaware of what was happening in their lives and the massive potential changes that were happening, but they also weren’t oblivious. Willow’s obvious distress at times around Tess was sad to see, but completely understandable. Freddie’s anger and frustration really heightened the emotions in various situations, but the times in the book when he was quiet and subdued were even more upsetting to read. They were written so well, especially considering they were in some ways the focus of the novel, despite it being written from the perspective of the mothers.

The journey that the two mothers went on was really insightful. It was such an interesting look at family and motherhood, and I felt the ending was exactly as it should have been. It provided a sense of calm after a truly rocky journey, but at the same time, it hinted at irrevocable change and acceptance that would benefit both mothers and children.

I loved this book, it’s stayed with me long after I read it and would definitely recommend it!

The Swap
Fiona Mitchell
Hodder & Stoughton, 18th April

If Only I Could Tell You by Hannah Beckerman

This was such a powerfully moving story, really emotional and with such beautifully written characters.

*warning, spoilers*

Every family has their secrets. But none so heartbreaking, or emotional, than Audrey’s family.
Audrey’s daughters, Jess and Lily, haven’t spoken to each other in decades. Her teenage granddaughters aren’t allowed to meet. But Audrey is running out of time, and she’s determined to solve the rift between them.
As they each delve into their past, secrets will come out, and the choice that one of them made years ago is about to come out. Can they find happiness as a family again?

This is one of those books that’s going to stay with me long after I read it. It starts with one of those chapters where you know there is a lot being unsaid or left until later, and although it hooks you in, it’s not necessarily the plot itself. The writing is simply beautiful – ‘She does not know it yet, but by the time she gets home this afternoon, the fabric of her family will have been altered irrevocably, and the morning’s events will repeat in her mind like a record stuck under the groove of a needle for the next thirty years’.

How is this not one of the most beautiful sentences? It’s one of those pieces of writing that sticks in your mind, you know exactly the feeling or event behind described, and it will affect anyone who reads it. The rest of the story continues to be written like this, with momentous parts of the book marked by gorgeous similes and metaphors that make complete sense. It’s honestly one of the most beautifully written books I’ve read in a long time.

I really enjoyed how the story flicks between the present and various moments of the past. Audrey, the mother, is a fascinating character, who clearly has stuff from her past that’s holding her back. Her decision not to have chemotherapy to treat her cancer was a difficult part of the novel to read, but I really felt like Beckerman wrote it incredibly sensitively and well. Because Audrey was balancing this with her desire to reunite her daughters, there was a real sense of urgency throughout the novel to uncover the reason for Jess and Lily’s estrangement. This didn’t take away from the story however, and instead played to it perfectly, by highlighting and enhancing the emotions of the characters.

Jess was a very defensive but caring character, protective in her own way but it was clear to the reader that she had some serious trust issues and unresolved feelings holding her back. Her relationship with her daughter was also frustrating because the reader could see how Jess was trying to push her own dreams on her daughter. Jess’ secrecy and unwillingness to trust anyone however, made her a very vulnerable character, with her pain clear to anyone whether she meant it to be or not. Beckerman wrote this character outstandingly, bringing to attention the power of childhood memories and experiences.

Lily was, in some ways, harder to read than Jess as it was clear that her marriage was breaking down and she was in denial about it and that was really hard to watch. She was also a really strong woman, as becomes clearer nearer the end, and was perhaps able to keep her emotions in check better than Jess (not that either way of coping is better or worse). Her ability to maintain patience in the face of hatred and unfriendliness was honestly astonishing, but she was also extremely vulnerable and open to pain.

The mysterious events from the past weren’t revealed until the very end, and I think this worked really well. It allowed the reader to gain a deeper understanding of the characters rather than focusing too much on the story itself and have it overshadow the characters.

Overall, I truly loved this. It was so poignant, beautifully and deeply moving, with really human and relatable characters. I would recommend this to anyone, it’s a 5 star read.

If Only I Could Tell You
Hannah Beckerman
Orion, 21st Feb 2019