Monthly Archives: May 2016

BOOK REVIEW – The Second Chance Shoe Shop by Marcie Steele (Mel Sherratt)

The Second Chance Shoe ShopMany thanks to NetGalley and the fabulous folks at Bookouture for my advance copy of this in return for my honest review.

So, as most of you know, this is not my normal type of read lately. I’m more prone to the dark, twisty side. Occasionally though, I do venture back to the bright and shiny side of life and when I do I’m thrilled if it’s for a book like this. I personally dislike the term ‘chicklit’ so I’m not going to call it that, but I suppose that many would classify this into that category.

Riley Flynn is plodding through her life, hoping optimistically (and rather absurdly, at her age, and after the knocks she’s endured) for a ‘happily ever after’. Despite a promising academic outlook when she was younger, she’s landed up managing Chandlers shoe store for quite a few years now despite having had the ability to attain a much more lucrative career. But as one does, she’s grown comfortable and with the support of her colleagues Sadie and Dan, has decided that she’s quite happy staying where she is.

Sadie is mourning the loss of her young husband while dreading the upcoming first anniversary of his death. She finds comfort is caring for her young daughter, and in the online grief forum she’s joined, although she wonders if it’s helping or hindering her ability to move on. Dan is trying to find ‘Miss Right’ but is starting to wonder if dating sites are the right way to go about doing that, as he endures one disastrous date after another, much to the hilarity of his friends.

And then their secure world is thrown into turmoil when it seems that Chandlers might have to close down. Their shoes aren’t modern, they’re not in demand, and they’re prices aren’t market competitive – in fact their high street shop just can’t compete with the stylish mall boutiques that are far more desirable. Not to mention that the ghastly owner is going out of her way to make their lives as miserable as possible, so why do they actually want the shop to stay open?

Marcie (Mel) has created a cosy cocoon of friendship that many people yearn for. Yes, there are misunderstandings, the odd upset, and a couple of nasty people thrown into the mix, but isn’t that just life? Here are characters who wake up every morning intending to head out into the day doing their best – for themselves, and for those around them. They attempt to work around the curveballs that get thrown their way; sometimes successfully, and sometimes not so much.

I especially loved the use of social media in this book. It made it real and current, not only because of its actual use but because of the very genuine struggle that some of the characters had using these channels, and their resistance to change in the approach that social media naturally brings to things like marketing and publicity. It also showed how very rapidly messages spread via social media – specifically Twitter – and how damaging that can be.

Ultimately it’s a feel-good read. Put all those cynical thought aside (if I can manage it, so can you) and just enjoy it. 4 stars from me.

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BOOK REVIEW – See How They Run by Tom Bale

See How They RunThanks so much to NetGalley and Bookouture for my copy of this book, received in return for an honest review.

Right from the very first line, Tom Bale wastes absolutely no time in alerting his readers to the fact that this is going to be an edge-of-your seat roller-coaster ride of a book!

Harry and Alice are exhausted new parents, sleeping fitfully at the best of times with 8-week old Evie in their room, when Harry suddenly realises that a noise has woken him; something other than the baby.  He’s instantly on high alert, but it’s too late – there are masked men right inside his bedoom! And so begins a nightmare from which they keep wishing they’d wake up. This is not a random burglary, and this is no mistake.

In the aftermath of this devastating home invasion, and the subsequent events. both Harry and Alice are understandably quite shattered and at odds with how to handle what’s happened. At first they naively think that if they carry on with their ordinary lives, it will all just go away. They very quickly comprehend that this is quite impossible, as they immediately find themselves embroiled in an intricate web of deception and crime, none of their own making, but out of which they now need to extricate themselves.

But how exactly do you do this, when you’re dealing with people who have chosen lives of criminality and transgression, as opposed to yourselves, who lead very conventional, everyday lives?

As we join Harry and Alice in their race against the clock to win back everything they hold dear we meet a band of rather unsavoury characters. There’s Renshaw (or is he Grainger?), where all their problems began – without them even knowing; Ruth, who I alternated between liking and wanting to bash over the head with a brick; Nerys and her son Michael – well you’ll have to meet them to understand them, I wouldn’t even want to begin to explain; and then there’s the nasty little gang behind a rather long-running crime-syndicate: Nathan Laird, Mark and Sian Vickery and their various henchmen.

Tom Bales has skilfully create a tightly bound, fast-paced thriller that ensures you won’t know where the next twist is coming from – and there are plenty of twists. His characters are well rounded and believable. He’s created a ‘what-if’ situation where a very ordinary couple are placed into a life-threatening situation and have to do their best to overcome it, and he succeeds in sustaining the credibility of both his plot and characters throughout.

4.5 stars from me.

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BOOK REVIEW – Don’t You Cry by Mary Kubica

Don't You CryMany thanks to NetGalley and the publisher, Harlequin UK for my advance copy of this book in return for an honest review.

Quinn Collins is at a bit of a loss when she realises that her reliable, dependable flatmate, Esther, seems to have inexplicably disappeared from their Chicago apartment one Saturday night. Quinn, being slightly scatterbrained and not quite as grounded as Esther, isn’t quite sure what to do about this strange turn of events. She depends on Esther to keep her centered, well actually she depends on Esther for most things! In fact, she’s not even sure what to eat without her friend there. Actually, initially, she’s not even sure Esther’s really disappeared. Surely someone so sensible and down-to-earth wouldn’t do something like that? But as the hours stretch on, Quinn slowly realises that this is indeed the case. She decides that maybe if she takes a look through Esther’s belongings, she might find out something that will hint at where she’s gone, and why. As she does this, she becomes increasingly aware of the fact that she knows very little about someone who she considers to be her best friend!

Not far from Chicago, a young man named Alex is living a simple life in a small town where not much appears to happen. But as with most small towns there are secrets, and the odd legend or two. Everyone knows that Alex had great potential when he was in school, but because his mom left when he was still just a small boy and his dad is the town drunk, Alex has stayed home washing dishes in the local diner and doing various other chores for whoever might need them in his immediate neighbourhood. He’s pretty much on a road to nowhere, until he becomes intrigued by a beautiful stranger who walks into the diner one day.

Told from the alternating perspectives of Quinn and Alex, this is a slow-burning psychological thriller. Don’t expect fast-paced, page-turning action. This is one of those cunning, crafty, deftly woven stories that insinuates itself into your mind until you’re so absorbed that everything else tends to fade away!

As Quinn learns more and more about Esther, she questions everything she thought she knew about her, and in turn, so does the reader. And as Alex pursues his mystery lady, we wonder if he’ll find the type of happiness he thinks he’s looking for.

I enjoyed reading Quinn’s story more than Alex’s purely because I think I related to the city perspective more than the small-town point of view. But I did find the telling of Alex’s side beautifully atmospheric – in a Twin Peaks kind of way!

It took me a while to truly find my way into Don’t You Cry, but once I did I was hooked! 4 stars from me.

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BOOK REVIEW – Somewhere Inside of Happy by Anna McPartlin

Somewhere inside of happyThank you to NetGalley and Random House UK for my advance copy of this book in return for an honest review.

Anna McPartlin has a unique way of taking an absolutely devastating topic, and writing about it with such unique warmth and vitality that her readers just cannot help smiling through the bittersweet tears that are undoubtedly pouring down their cheeks  as she gently coaxes them through the heartfelt pages of her stories.

Maisie Bean Brennan is about to speak in front of an audience on the twentieth anniversary of the death of her beautiful son Jeremy … and so opens a story so unexpected that it will lead you to a place you never expected to go. I will admit that when I saw that this book was about someone who’d lost a child I was, at first, reluctant to read it. But then I remembered that I had also been reluctant to read about Rabbit Hayes, a young mother dying of cancer, who became one of my all-time favourite characters!

Despite working two jobs, Maisie has created a warm, loving home for her children Jeremy and Valerie, despite having been abused by their now absent father, Danny. And now she also looks after her mother Bridie who suffers from Dementia. It’s not easy, money’s tight, times are tough, but there’s an abundance of love and warmth to be found in their home and they all take care of one another. Jeremy especially goes out of his way to make up for the fact that there’s no adult male role model around and is kind and caring, while trying to deal with a best friend from a family even more dysfunctional than his own.

But then Maisie’s tentative security crumbles when Jeremy goes missing. Her precious boy … gone! She knows he’d never leave his family – the mother he loves, the grandmother he has such a special bond with, and the little sister he’s so fond of. But where is he?

Immerse yourself in another of Anna McPartlin’s remarkable Irish extended families. Where they take care of their own, against all odds and where strength and support come from the most unlikely places when they’re needed most.

5 stars from me.

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BOOK REVIEW – When I Lost You by Kelly Rimmer

When I Lost YouMany thanks to NetGalley and Bookouture for my advance copy of this book in return for an honest review.

Molly is in Italy, anxiously waiting by her husband Leo’s bedside where he’s recovering from a critical injury. While she’s relieved that he’s woken up and is seemingly on the mend, she’s anxious because he’s lost his memory and she’s not sure she wants it to return. While Leo is thrilled to have Molly by his side, he clearly has no recall of the past few months of their marriage that were most definitely a long way off from the earlier honeymoon phase of their relationship that they’d enjoyed.

Alternating between 2011 and 2015, the story unfolds and we slowly learn about how the extremely unlikely relationship between wealthy, privileged Molly and ‘wrong-side-of-the-tracks’ Leo, develops. It doesn’t help that he’s Aborigine and that her parents completely (albeit unfairly, and quite arrogantly, as is the way of the obscenely wealthy) blame him for the death of their only son, Molly’s brother, Declan.

The attraction between the two is immediately evident, despite their vast age and class differences, the clear opposition from Molly’s family to their relationship, and the fact that Leo is a hardened war correspondent who spends more time dodging bullets in war-zones than he does shopping in the aisles of the local supermarket. Of course they throw caution to the winds and against all odds decide that they’re going to make things work.

I plodded through Molly and Leo’s story – their budding romance, their marriage and all it entailed, Leo’s injury and recovery – but I’m still not entirely sure that I actually liked either of them! Despite the fact that both of them knew what they were getting into I find their lack of maturity and their pure selfishness quite breathtaking!

Does Molly really give up all that she ‘thinks’ she gives up to marry Leo? I really don’t think she did, to be honest – and you’ll have to read the book to find out what I mean because I’m not giving anything more away about that here.

In the end though, the remaining idea that you could get the chance to discover someone again and build your relationship differently is most definitely an appealing one. That second chance is something that so many people wonder about, and Kelly Rimmer explores that possibility here quite realistically.

This is bound to be a popular choice for many. I give it 3.5 stars.

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