Review: One Summer in Paris by Sarah Morgan

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One Summer In Paris
by Sarah Morgan

Yet another wonderful story from one of my favourite authors. Emotional and addictive I very much enjoyed this story of an unlikely friendship.


THE BLURB

One charming bookshop, two unlikely friends, and a summer in Paris that will change their lives forever…

Grace can’t believe it when her husband of twenty-five years announces he doesn’t want to join her on their anniversary trip to Paris – instead, he wants a divorce. Reeling from the shock, Grace makes the bold decision to go on this holiday of a lifetime alone.

Audrey leaves behind heartache of her own when she arrives in Paris. A job in a bookshop is her ticket to freedom, but with no knowledge of the French language, her summer adventure seems doomed to fail. Until she meets Grace, and everything changes…

Living in neighbouring apartments above the bookshop, Grace and Audrey form an unlikely friendship. They came to Paris to find themselves, but finding each other might be the best thing that’s ever happened to them.


MY REVIEW

I love Sarah Morgan’s books, I love Paris and I love stories about friendship so it seemed pretty certain I was going to love this book, and for the most part I did. As always the writing is wonderful, the characters likeable (or at least the ones you’re supposed to like) and it’s very easy to become immersed in both the story and the setting. In fact I became so immersed in it that yet again I devoured the whole thing in an afternoon as I just couldn’t stop reading.

The story itself follows, and is told from the pov of, two very different women, Grace and Audrey. Grace is approaching middle aged and happily married with a teenage daughter who is about the fly the nest when all of a sudden her marriage falls apart and she’s left facing a future on her own. Audrey is a teenager, with a troubled home life who can’t wait to make her escape. They both end up in Paris alone, but a chance encounter results in an unlikely friendship between them as they discover they have more in common than they thought.

I’m not always sure about books told from multiple pov’s (I prefer to stick with one character) but I thought it worked incredibly well in this book. Grace and Audrey have very distinctive voices and I was impressed with how convincingly the author wrote from Audrey’s perspective in particular (although not being a teenager myself I can’t really speak to authenticity). Both characters were likeable and even though I didn’t initially connect with either one they really grew on me and I definitely became emotionally invested in their stories (yep Morgan made me cry again).

The story is a little heavier than many of the author’s previous books and deals with some serious issues making it an emotional read but as well as the tears there are a few laughs too and overall it has quite a hopeful and positive feel to it. There is a little bit of romance for both women but while it is quite sweet it’s very definitely secondary to the friendship that develops between them. They seem like such a mismatched pair but each is exactly what the other needs in their life at that point and watching them grow to trust and support each other was wonderful. It also makes a nice change to read a book about female friendship.

If I had one criticism of this book however it’s that I felt it didn’t make the most of the Paris setting. There are various places mentioned but a lot of the story takes place within the bookshop or in the hotel. I mean I’m not going to complain about a bookshop setting but it would have been nice to see them venture out a little more and to bring in more of the French culture and way of life.

Overall though, this is yet another wonderful story from Morgan.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with an advance copy of this book. This has in no way influenced my review.

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Scandal by Fredrik Backman

The ScandalThe Scandal by Fredrik Backman

My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

Wow… This book was not at all what I was expecting, I actually put off reading it because I didn’t think it’d be my thing but…. wow.

Brilliant, powerful, atmospheric, frustrating, emotional, hopeful, beautiful and cold. The writing in this book is incredible, I think I ended up highlighting most of the book.


The Blurb

‘Late one evening towards the end of March, a teenager picked up a double-barrelled shotgun, walked into the forest, put the gun to someone else’s forehead and pulled the trigger. This is the story of how we got there.’ 

Beartown is a small town in a large Swedish forest.

For most of the year it is under a thick blanket of snow, experiencing the kind of cold and dark that brings people closer together – or pulls them apart.

Its isolation means that Beartown has been slowly shrinking with each passing year. But now the town is on the verge of an astonishing revival. Everyone can feel the excitement. Change is in the air and a bright new future is just around the corner.

Until the day it is all put in jeopardy by a single, brutal act. It divides the town into those who think it should be hushed up and forgotten, and those who’ll risk the future to see justice done. At last, it falls to one young man to find the courage to speak the truth that it seems no one else wants to hear.

No one can stand by or stay silent. You’re on one side or another.

Which side will you find yourself on?


My Review

I have to admit I kind of wish they’d kept the title of this book as Beartown rather than The Scandal for the UK market as this story is about so much more than one event, it’s the story of a town, of a community. Yes there is a scandal (although I personally think that’s the wrong word to describe what happens) but really it’s about the environment that allowed such a thing to happen and the reaction of the residents and neighbours when it does.

It’s about a community that’s slowly being destroyed and has one final hope, one last chance, one thing they can be proud of and how they’ll go to any lengths to protect it. It’s about belief, faith, determination, hope and bravery but also about divisions in class and status, despair, grudges and inequality. It’s also about ice hockey, which may be only a game, but for the residents of Beartown hockey is everything. It both unites them and divides them. It’s their one final hope to save a town in the middle of nowhere which is slowly disappearing.

It’s only a game. It only resolves tiny, insignificant things. Such as who gets validation. Who gets listened to. It allocates power and draws boundaries and turns some people into stars and others into spectators. That’s all.

I have to confess I know very little about hockey but for this story you could just as easily substitute in any sport as it’s more about the relationship between the sport and the town, although I suspect hockey was picked because it’s such a hard and violent sport (much like Beartown). Everyone has their hopes pinned on the junior team winning but they all have very different reasons for it. Some see it as a business opportunity, some a chance to escape and move up in the world and some just see it as proof that their town can still win at something.

It’s a very insular community. Small, isolated and fiercely proud of who they are. They have their own hierarchy, rules and beliefs all based around hockey. The more you can do for the team, the more power you have and the more you can get away with. The town is pretty much run by the best players and the sponsors but it’s unwise to ignore the hardcore working class fans either who feel the team belongs to them. Incomers, who don’t know the rules or have the same beliefs aren’t welcome. It’s very old fashioned, with only men allowed to play or even like hockey and the women expected to stay at home and support them. Everything is cold and hard and at times the whole story feels very claustrophobic, particularly when you see how everyone can turn on whoever falls out of line.

There aren’t really any main characters in this story but rather it’s told from multiple perspectives all of the time, jumping from one person to the next every page or two or sometimes every few paragraphs. These multiple view points and swift changes between them make it feel very episodic. I will admit I found it a little confusing in the beginning but it is brilliantly done and really gives you a feel for every aspect of the story. You’re very much in each and every moment and with every character and every single thing that happens feels completely real.

As you would expect there are some characters that are more likeable than others but as with all great stories I found my feelings towards them changing throughout as they developed and we found out more about them. A character I felt sorry for in the beginning turned out to be not very nice and one who didn’t really register, I kind of fell in love with by the end.

The story is slow, particularly in the beginning, but it’s captivating. The writing is beautiful and I found myself taking my time just to enjoy it. The author has such a wonderful way of capturing thoughts and beliefs. I always highlight sentences I like or that speak to me in some way as I read but had to stop myself from just highlighting everything it’s soo good.

I will say that I did find it frustrating in places, there are so many hints of what’s to come it began to drive me crazy, but it was literally impossible to put down. I read the majority of it in a day and this was while I was in the midst of a reading slump. I do think there was a little bit of the emotion missing, it didn’t stay in one place long enough, but it is a truly brilliant book.

I do feel like I have to add that there are a few events which may be triggers (I won’t put details here but happy to discuss in comments) but they are all handled with real sensitivity by the author.

Overall, this is definitely a book I’d recommend even if like me you’ve been put off by the idea of a book about hockey.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with a copy of this book. As always all thoughts are my own.


 

Review: Ginny Moon by Benjamin Ludwig

Ginny MoonGinny Moon by Benjamin Ludwig

My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

Completely original, compelling and a little bit heartbreaking this is an incredible debut novel from Benjamin Ludwig. It’s not my usual type of read and I didn’t expect to love it but I totally did.

Definitely not tedious.


Synopsis

Meet Ginny. She’s fourteen, autistic, and has a heart-breaking secret…

‘Brilliant’ – Graeme Simison, author of The Rosie Project

Ginny Moon is trying to make sense of a world that just doesn’t seem to add up….

After years in foster care, Ginny is in her fourth forever family, finally with parents who will love her.

Everyone tells her that she should feel happy, but she has never stopped crafting her Big Secret Plan of Escape.

Because something happened, a long time ago – something that only Ginny knows – and nothing will stop her going back to put it right…

A fiercely poignant and inspirational story a lost girl searching for a place to call home. Ginny Moon will change everyone who spends time with her.


Thoughts

They like you, Ginny, and believe me, it’s hard to find people like that. It’s much easier to love someone than it is to like them.

Let me just start by saying that I’m completely in awe of anyone who cares for an autistic child and having read Ginny Moon I’m now even more in awe. I have to admit that it’s not something I know a lot about as I don’t really have anyone in my life who’s autistic but this definitely opened my eyes. The whole story is told from inside Ginny’s head giving a completely unique and fascinating view of what it’s like to have a brain that just doesn’t quite work the same way as everyone else’s. It’s compelling, frustrating, amusing, touching and emotional. Once I started reading I literally couldn’t stop.

Ginny is an absolutely fabulous character and I couldn’t help but love her, even though she drove me and everyone around her crazy at times. She is completely single minded and once she’s on a path there is absolutely no way you’ll change her mind. She takes everything literally and picks up the most bizarre words and phrases from those around her. I found myself laughing at some of the things that come out of her mouth one minute and being so incredibly frustrated the next that I wanted to shake her.

Ginny was brought up in an abusive home (trigger warning: there are some disturbing scenes) but despite being in her newest forever home she can’t let go of the past and is determined to escape and find her birth mother Gloria who she hopes has her baby doll. I felt so sorry for her adopted parents Brian and Maura and I could feel their frustrations that they want to give her a stable and loving home but she seems determined to leave. While Ginny is unable to interpret their emotions and reactions the author still managed to transfer them to the reader through her observations, something I thought was incredibly well done.

There were more than a few occasions where I felt like crying or shouting because Ginny just doesn’t see what she’s doing to those around her. Her aunt “Crystal with a C” in particular really got to me. Her guilt, frustration and just desperation to do the right thing was a little bit heartbreaking.

I have to confess that I was surprised the story held my attention the way that it did. It’s not my usual type of read and I would stop every so often and think “I don’t know where this can possibly go” and “I’m not sure how the author can keep this level of engagement and intensity for the remaining x number of pages” but somehow he did. I found myself unable to put it down and even when I wasn’t reading it I was thinking about it or talking about it.

It’s not a perfect book, there are elements that are a little unbelievable, but I definitely think it’s a worthwhile read for everyone. There aren’t anywhere near enough characters like Ginny in books and it gives a real insight and unique perspective to their everyday lives and thoughts as well as those around them.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with an ARC in exchange for an honest review and apologies for taking so long to read it.

Review: And I Darken by Kiersten White

And I Darken (The Conqueror's Saga, #1)And I Darken by Kiersten White

My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

When I originally read the blurb for this I immediately thought “must read”. Seriously, gender switching Vlad the Impaler story, how could I resist….and then I saw some of the reviews which weren’t exactly glowing and it gave me pause. Thankfully I trusted my initial instincts and I’m so glad I did as this book is absolutely brilliant.

It’s packed full of action, political maneuvering and intrigue and has some incredible world building and a strong female main character. I can’t wait for the rest of the series.

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Review: Blacklist by Alyson Noel

Blacklist (Beautiful Idols #2)Blacklist by Alyson Noel

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Blacklist, the second book in Alyson Noel’s Beautiful Idol’s series is even more addictive than the first. It’s a fast paced and enjoyable read and there are plenty of reveals and twists to keep you hooked. With another cliffhanger ending I will definitely be looking out for the third and final book in this trilogy.

Note as this is the second in the series there are some spoilers for the first book.

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