Monday, 19 March 2018

The Temptation of Gracie - Santa Montefiore

The ladies of the Badley Compton Book Club are left astounded when their usually unadventurous member, Gracie Burton, impulsively books a holiday to an old castle in Italy, where she'll learn authentic Italian cookery. Gracie is a widow and lives alone in Devon, with only her dogs for company. She does have a daughter, Carina, but she lives in London and is always busy, immersed in her own business, (and herself), and hardly ever visits or even rings her mother. When her granddaughter, Anastasia, finds out what her grandmother has planned, she provokes her mum into going with Gracie and taking her along too. So the three of them fly off to Castello Montefosco in Tuscany, where hopefully they'll get to know each other a little better.

It's not long before Gracie begins to share her long kept secret with Anastasia. It seems Gracie has had more adventure in her life than everyone thought! The present catches up with the past, that is a past that's filled with hidden crime and scandal, a count and a castle, love, deception, and tragedy.

I loved this book. The delicious characters are all bursting with personality, and you can actually taste the scorching Italian atmosphere. It's a wonderful story that swept me away to another time and place. A compelling read, oh, and perhaps just a little reminder that we shouldn't always judge a book by its cover.

Friday, 16 March 2018

Villa of Secrets - Patricia Wilson

Villa of Secrets is far more than just a good read. It's a journey, an adventure and an epic love story.

In Paradissi, a village in Rhodes, Naomi looks after her grandmother who is recovering after a recent stroke. She is given some old diaries to read and so discovers the truth about the horrors endured by the Jews living on the island during the war.

Meanwhile, in London, Naomi's estranged sister, Rebecca, receives several strange packages from Rhodes. Her future in turmoil, she returns to the island ten years after the terrible fight that had caused her to leave. Reunited, the sisters begin to uncover their grandmother's incredible past.

This book encompasses it all. Tales of unbelievable atrocities, courage and the struggle to survive and of friendship and devotion, love, loss, and tragedy. It's a history lesson - a real eye-opener but it's also a truly exceptional love story. Literally breath-taking in parts, it's a book you'll get lost in and certainly one you won't forget.

Tuesday, 6 February 2018

Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine - Gail Honeyman

I've heard so much lately about this book, but who or what is Eleanor Oliphant? Well, she's a young lady working in the office of a graphic design company. Eleanor is a bit of a loner, certainly not part of the 'in crowd' at work, far from it. She's very intelligent, but when it comes to social skills, her naivety is often funny and almost always painful. Early on in the book, there are hints of some kind of terrible trauma in her childhood which has obviously impacted on her adult life. The details slowly emerge, but it's not until the end that the full horror of her early life is revealed.

Eleanor strives to be normal. She wants to love and be loved and she thinks she knows what to do to achieve just that. When she catches sight of Johnnie Lomand, she knows that they are destined to be together and she hatches a plan to achieve her goal. Unfortunately, Eleanor learns that reality isn't quite that straightforward and things don't exactly go the way she had hoped.

Eleanor's adventure was full of unexpected events. I found her story totally captivating. I willed her on to do the right thing, make the right decision, flinching when she failed and at one point I even feared for her life.

I was totally absorbed in this book. I couldn't stop thinking about Eleanor and she was on my mind way after I finished the last page. Meeting Eleanor was a wonderful, unique experience and one I shall always treasure. I think she found a little spot in my heart that hadn't been touched before. She made me laugh and she made me cry and this is the book that I'll be buying as presents and recommending to all other family and friends. This book is pretty special.

Thursday, 24 August 2017

The Last Secret of the Deverills - Santa Montefiore

It is 1939 and peace has flourished since the Great War ended. But much has changed for the Deverill family and now a new generation is waiting in the wings.
Martha Wallace came to Dublin from her home in America to find her birth mother. But instead she has lost her heart to the impossibly charming JP Deverill. Then she discovers that her mother comes from the same place as JP, and her fate seems sealed.

Bridie Doyle, now Countess di Marcantonio and mistress of Castle Deverill, is determined to make the castle she used to work in her home. But her flamboyant husband Cesare has other ideas. And as his eye strays away from his wife, those close to the couple start to wonder if he really is who he says he is.

Kitty Deverill has come to terms with her life with her husband Robert, and their two children. But then Jack O’Leary, the love of her life, returns to Ballinakelly. And this time his heart belongs elsewhere…

What I thought:

This is the third book in the Deverill Chronicles, and after loving books one and two, I couldn't wait to be swept away back to Ballinakelly, Ireland, for book three.

It's now 1939 and this captivating, historical drama, centered around Castle Deverill and the lives of Kitty, Bridie, Celia and co. continues. We say a sad farewell to some favourite characters but also welcome a new generation who have to deal with the devastating consequences of their elders' secrets and lies, both past and present. The outbreak of war brings a distraction from torment for some but tragedy for others.

A tale of forbidden love, brutal murders, bitterness and regret, but also of forgiveness, this book ticked all the boxes for me. It took me to another time and place, far away from real life, where it made me gasp, smile and with a wipe of my eye, left me heaving a sigh of total contentment.

Although the final book in this trilogy, it can be read alone, but honestly, you really should read all three and you'll enjoy a truly wonderful fictional journey.

Tuesday, 4 July 2017

The Ludlow Ladies Society - Ann O'Loughlin

From the bestselling author of The Ballroom Café and The Judge's Wife comes a new story of friendship, resilience and compassion, and how women support each other through the most difficult times.
Connie Carter has lost everyone and everything dear to her. Leaving her home in New York, she moves to a run-down Irish mansion, hoping to heal her shattered heart and in search of answers: how could her husband do the terrible things he did? And why did he plough all their money into the dilapidated Ludlow Hall before he died, without ever telling her?
At first Connie tries to avoid the villagers, until she meets local women Eve and Hetty who introduce her to the Ludlow Ladies’ Society, a crafts group in need of a permanent home. Connie soon discovers Eve is also struggling with pain and the loss of having her beloved Ludlow Hall repossessed by the bank and sold off. Now, seeing the American Connie living there, the hurt of losing everything is renewed. Can these women ever be friends? Can they ever understand or forgive?
As the Ludlow Ladies create memory quilts to remember those they have loved and lost, the secrets of the past finally begin to surface. But can Connie, Eve and Hetty stitch their lives back together?

What I thought:

Ann O'Loughlin's last book, The Judge's Wife, was one of my favourite books last year, so I was absolutely delighted to receive a copy of her new release, The Ludlow Ladies Society. I didn't know if I would be disappointed after her last amazing book, but I needn't have worried - The Ludlow Ladies Society is a stunning read. 

First of all, don't be fooled into thinking this book is just about the gossip from a ladies' sewing group - it is SO much more. Enriched with friendship and loyalty, it also tells of raw grief and sadness, a little shocking and uncomfortable at times, but so very compelling.

It was quite difficult for Eve Brannigan to see someone else take ownership of Ludlow Hall. She had often affectionately been called "Mrs Ludlow" and the women in her sewing group called themselves The Ludlow Ladies Society. Before her husband's suicide, their meetings were held at the Hall, but since the bailiffs moved in and she moved out, the group had struggled to find anywhere suitable for the ladies to sew their patchwork quilts.

Connie Carter, a dance teacher, seeks solitude to come to terms with her overwhelming grief. Unknowing to her, her late husband had bought Ludlow Hall, so she decides to leave everything behind in New York and she moves to the Hall in Rosdaniel, Co. Wicklow. She has no idea about the history of Ludlow Hall or of the Ludlow Ladies Society, and her arrival causes quite a stir in the village.

The Ludlow Ladies agree to make a memory quilt for an exhibition in the Town Hall. The winners will go forward to exhibit at a special event to be visited by the First Lady, Michelle Obama. It soon becomes clear that not everyone's memories are happy ones and some shocking secrets are unearthed.

 I adored the endearing characters of the Ludlow Ladies Society. It's a book that is equally heartwarming and heartbreaking and delivers a shockingly, unexpected twist. A truly beautiful book to read.

Monday, 3 July 2017

The Summer of Impossible Things - Rowan Coleman

If you could change the past, would you?
****This summer, get ready to believe in Impossible Things with the brand new book from international bestseller, Rowan Coleman. ****
How far would you go to save the person you love?
Luna is about to do everything she can to save her mother's life.
Even if it means sacrificing her own.

What I thought:

I would never normally choose to read a book about time  travel. It usually brings to mind Doctor Who and the like, and not something I would really be interested in, but this story is nothing whatsoever like that. It's just a delight, the time travel just adds another layer to this fabulous read.

It's 2007 and after many years of crippling depression, Luna and Pia's mum tragically takes her own life. It's only when they watch a video that she left for them, that they discover the shocking secret she was unable to share with her family while she was still alive.

It was 1977 in Brooklyn, when their parents met and fell in love. Henry, their father, was with a film crew filming Saturday Night Fever and when his work there was done and he returned home to England, she left everything behind and came back with him.

The girls return to Brooklyn to finalise the sale of their mother's childhood home, and it's then that the magic begins to happen. Slipping back to 1977, Luna comes face to face with her mother, then a teenager, and she sees a chance to change the past and maybe even save her mother's life.

This is a wonderful story. The word, magical, keeps coming to mind, probably because that's just how it felt. The time travel aspect just sort of fits. At the end of the day, it's a story, a story of love and sorrow and of impossible, magical happenings. A delight to read.


Wednesday, 28 June 2017

Dead To Me - Lesley Pearse

Spring 1935. Two girls meet by chance on Hampstead Heath. To an outsider, they could not appear more different. Verity is well-mannered and smartly dressed, living with her parents in a beautiful house close to the heath. Ruby is dishevelled and grubby, used to a life of squalor where she is forced to steal to survive. Yet there's an instant affinity between them, and when their fortunes are shockingly reversed, it is the strength of their friendship that keeps them resilient to the challenges and hardships they face.
As Britain prepares for war, Ruby finds herself in Devon with the world at her feet and enjoying her first taste of romance. Meanwhile, hundreds of miles away, Verity is forced to leave behind everything she has ever known and a shadow from the past threatens her chances of a new beginning. But through it all, the girls are always there for each other. Until the day Verity does the one thing that will break Ruby's heart.
In a country torn apart by fighting, will Verity and Ruby survive long enough to find a way back to each other? Or do some betrayals go with you to the grave . . .?

What I thought:

If you love drama, then you're in for a treat with this book.

From the moment they first met, Ruby and Verity formed a special bond. With nothing in common but a desire to befriend each other, neither girl could have possibly imagined how each of their lives would be turned upside down. The story follows the girls as they face the challenges that lay ahead.

Ruby has a really sad life but she's given a lifeline when she's taken in by a widowed carer, Wilby and she begins her new life in Babbacombe, Devon. On the other hand, Verity seemingly has it all, until one day when it is all taken away and she begins her new life living with her grumpy maiden aunt and her mother who refuses to accept her new position.

Through it all, the girls stay in touch, as chapter after chapter brings love and heartache, secrets and sorrow, lies and deceit. Then when the country goes to war, bombs are a constant threat, but it's hurt and betrayal that ultimately threatens their friendship.

Dead To Me is a truly gripping read, but it's also a tale of true friendship. I absolutely loved it.