#BlogTour The Story Of Our Lives by Helen Warner

Today I’m thrilled to be part of the blog tour for The Story Of Our Lives by Helen Warner

StoryofOurLives_FrontCover.jpg

Length: 400 pages

Please note that the book image leads to a universal buy link for the book

What they say: Four friends. Twenty years. One powerful secret.

Everyone remembers where they were on 31st August 1997, the day Princess Diana died.

Sophie, Emily, Amy and Melissa certainly do -– a beautiful cottage in Southwold, at the start of an annual tradition to have a weekend away together.

Every year since, the four best friends have come back together. But over time the changes in their lives have led them down very different paths. And it’s when those paths collide that the secrets they’ve been keeping come tumbling out.

One Day meets Big Little Lies in this unputdownable read about four friends, one long-buried secret and the histories we all share.

The Review: I saw this on a number of blogs and headed over to Amazon to buy but before I did for some reason I stopped and went into my email. And what was there? An email asking if I’d like to review this very book! Was I happy? Well I actually did some form of a happy dance and said ‘yes please,’ straight away!!

I’ll tell you straight off this is definitely a book that should accompany people as a holiday read this year. As you can see above it follows four women over twenty years. Each chapter starts with the defining event of that year-Princess Di dying, the Twin Towers attack, the London bombings, and each one sent a chill as, yes, I remembered where I was. It also did the job in cementing you into their story, although for the most part I’d have preferred the event to also have been threaded into the story, but that’s just me. To be honest the only issues I really had was that at four hundred pages I found it a little bit long, which sounds pernickity of me, but I think it could have been shortened to make it a bit snappier in places, plus there was some repetition of words that may slightly jar.

The characters, the tensions, the jealousies and envies, as well as the ‘thank God it’s not me’ aspect that always exists between a group of friends, were woven in expertly, and you actually felt like you were there as life moved on and people got married, had children and unearthed secrets. The secrets, the suspense that was building was perfection, and at (many!) points I was actually really nervous as to what was going to happen. This is a light read, and some will find it too light, but for me it was very well done and I really enjoyed it. Thanks so much to the brilliant Isabel at HQ and to Netgalley for this book in return for an honest review.

Rating: 4/5

 

About the author

Helen Warner Author Photo

Helen Warner is Director of Daytime for ITV where she oversees a wide range of programming from ‘This Morning’ to ‘The Chase’. Previously, she was at Channel 4 where she was responsible for shows including ‘Come Dine With Me’, ‘Coach Trip’ and ‘Deal or No Deal’.

She lives in Essex with her husband and their two children and she writes her books on the train to and from work.

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Fall Into Magic by Melissa Baldwin

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Length: 128 pages

Please note that the cover image leads to a universal Amazon buy link for the book

What they say:

After a devastating breakup in the middle of her summer vacation, Summer Peters knows she needs something to distract her. What better than the arrival of fall, Halloween, and a new client? Though she assumes that Alexander Williams will be a hands-off client, she is surprised to find him very down-to-earth. She’s immediately drawn to him, much to the dismay of his overprotective assistant. When it becomes obvious that he feels the same, she begins to wonder if their meeting was meant to be.

Just when she thinks she could be ready to move on with her life, her ex-boyfriend Jake returns for a second chance. She’s in for even more of a surprise when she learns her nosy, meddling neighbor is actually a psychic pushing to reveal details of her future.

Summer doesn’t know which way to turn as she feels like she’s being pulled in different directions. Between Alexander, his assistant, and her ex-boyfriend, she fears she may not be ready to move on after all. She considers turning to her neighbor for advice but the fear of knowing exactly what the future holds is more frightening than not knowing.

The Review: From Christmas to Autumn (or Fall as it is known across the seas) and onto a another book I’ve been waiting to review for too long. This is part of the Seasons of Summer Series (see books on Amazon here) This follows Summer Peters, who has been dumped on holiday. Summer is lost and returns home to work away on ‘Summer Interiors.’ Here we get to meet Alexander, a new client, and I looked forward to the interior design aspect, which I’m always a big fan of in books.

We also meet apsychic, Mrs Rothera, and I was very intrigued as she dispensed advice that made me wonder what may lay in store for summer. Actually as this was so short I should just have read on and so I really have to get back to this series to see just how accurate Mrs Rothera was, with ominous warnings for Summer’s heart! Both comedy and drama were light and enjoyable and I liked the characters that were seemingly likeable and glowered at the characters who seemed to be troublemakers! I would have liked to have a bit more of the FEEL of Halloween and Autumn, but saying that it was still a warm, enjoyable and satisfying read and I will definitely look forward to reading on!
Rating:4/5

Moonlight Over Manhattan by Sarah Morgan

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Length: 400 pages

Please note the cover image leads to a universal Amazon buy link

After yesterday’s review (Tracie Banister’s Mixing It Up) I wondered where to go next. At the mo I’m working through a list of titles which, criminally, I’ve read, made notes on, but not reviewed yet, and on opening it up, I came to this and my finger stopped. Since the previous review was all about sophistication, sparkle and amazing romance and chemistry, where better to move to than the gorgeous Moonlight Over Manhattan by Sarah Morgan?

What they say: Determined to conquer a lifetime of shyness, Harriet Knight challenges herself to do one thing a day in December that scares her, including celebrating Christmas without her family. But when dog-walker Harriet meets her newest client, exuberant spaniel Madi, she adds an extra challenge to her list – dealing with Madi’s temporary dog-sitter, gruff doctor Ethan Black, and their very unexpected chemistry.

Ethan thought he was used to chaos, until he met Madi – how can one tiny dog cause such mayhem? To Ethan, the solution is simple – he will pay Harriet to share his New York apartment and provide 24-hour care. But there’s nothing simple about how Harriet makes him feel.

Ethan’s kisses make Harriet shine brighter than the stars over moonlit Manhattan. But when his dog-sitting duties are over, and Harriet returns to her own home, will she dare to take the biggest challenge of all – letting Ethan know he has her heart for life, not just for Christmas?

The Review:

Here, we meet Harriet, who has a brother and sister who are in relationships. Harriet is lonely and wants to change something and so has decided to do one thing a day that challenges herself. I loved the idea of this, although I think I’d probably have liked to have seen a bit more of it, as I had ideas of far out, oddball things she could have done! Saying that, Harriet’s predicament at the start of the book had more than enough quirkiness to stand out and make it very memorable, having me settling down very excited to read on.

Harriet is co-owner of a dog walking business which I loved. The dog aspect of the book is brilliant, especially as we meet Ethan, a very organised ER doctor, who is not quite sure what to do with a dog that is disturbing the peace and his apartment. I loved how Harriet stepped in and immediately was part of the furniture and how everything developed from there. The setting, as always, was perfection, and I drew a breath at how beautiful and magical everything was. The comedy was subtle and well timed and suited me perfectly, as did their back and forths, and I really enjoyed the background characters and the drama, as well as learning about hospital life and procedure.

All in all, dogs, Christmas, comedy and beautiful romance, coated expertly in chemistry made this a very very satisfying Christmas read. People will already know that this book is part of the ‘From Manhattan with Love’ series, but these books don’t need to be read in order, they can most definitely be read as standalones, as the characters are delivered to us in their entirety, with any background needed nicely divulged along the way. Saying that I do have to direct you to some of the other of Ms. Morgan’s Christmas books I’ve adored, below,  as I think they slightly , slightly pipped this one to the post (I’d say just have a Sarah Morgan marathon this Christmas to be honest, she has got the title ‘Queen of Christmas’ for a reason!!!) including Miracle on 5th Avenue (book 3 of this series) or Christmas Ever After. Thanks so much to HQ for this book in return for an honest review.

Also just to let you know the order of the books in this series (universal buy link for them here)

Book 1 Sleepless in Manhattan (read review here)

Book 2 Sunset in Central Park

Book 3 Miracle on 5th Avenue (review 5 star here)

Book 4 New York Actually

Book 5 Holiday in the Hamptons

Book 6 Moonlight Over Manhattan (um, above;))

And, while we’re here I have to add one of my favourite Christmas books ever, Ms. Morgan’s Christmas Ever After, 5 star review here )

Rating: 4.75/5

 

From Manhattan with love 3: Miracle on 5th Avenue by Sarah Morgan

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Length: 352 pages

As always the cover image leads to a universal Amazon buy link for the book

What they say:

Hopeless romantic Eva Jordan loves everything about Christmas. Even if she is spending it alone housesitting a spectacular Fifth Avenue apartment. What she didn’t expect was to find the penthouse still occupied by its gorgeous–and mysterious–owner.

Bestselling crime writer Lucas Blade is having the nightmare before Christmas. With a deadline and the anniversary of his wife’s death looming, he’s isolated himself in his penthouse with only his grief for company. But when the blizzard of the century leaves Eva snowbound in his apartment, Lucas starts to open up to the magic she brings…This Christmas, is Lucas finally ready to trust that happily-ever-afters do exist?
The review: At the end of the last book I read by Sarah Morgan I have to admit I was a little bit worried. I was afraid I was getting too old, or perhaps too cynical or something for Sarah Morgan’s gorgeous books, and by that reasoning all of chick lit (I know, drama queen!). This made me hold off on reading this for some time, which was a pity! I am thrilled to say this book brought me back to the magic and sparkle that have always surrounded me as I swallowed her work, book by book (maybe I was coming down with something last time?!)

Anyhoo the book begins with a lovely foreword by Ms. Morgan, that readied me for the off and made me smile and get comfy. Miracle on 5th Avenue follows the same format as before (if it ain’t broke, etc, etc!), with ingenious quotes from each of the characters starting us out. I remembered the characters straight away and listened as Paige and Eva discussed a Christmas proposal as part of their business Urban Genie. Their business and everything surrounding the business was so interesting and I loved their dedication and excitement (it was more professional than I remembered last time too). What was even better, though, was the comedy and the great atmosphere that came when the friends were together, with Eva, Paige and Frankie constantly making me smile.

Eva was working on decorating a writer’s (yes!) apartment for Christmas while he was away. The only thing is, he’s not away, he’s hiding out from his family, who are worried about him, as he struggles with writer’s block for a book that he hasn’t begun which is due imminently. I loved everything about Lucas’ story. I loved that he was a horror writer, which gave an unexpected layer of darkness that fit well into a warm, sparkling book such as this. I could picture him straight away, and warmed quickly to his indifferent, sometimes seemingly cold (I knew that wasn’t really him!) interior, that spilled out when he just wanted to get writing (we’ve all been there!) Their meeting was perfection although I did wonder how it was going to spin out into the length of a book. Enter a storm and a number of issues that meant that everything had to happen as I hoped it would (most entrancing romance and hottest chemistry I’ve read in some time) !

So to recap: Excellent characters, realistic scenarios that forced events to unfold (yes they could happen!), Lucas’ dark writing and romantic past, Ms. Morgan’s trademark descriptions that invoked both magic and wonder, comedy that was bang on the mark, gorgeous romance and sizzling, phenomenal chemistry made for one unputdownable, satisfying book.

Thanks (a million!) to Netgalley for this book in return for an honest review. By the way I read this in one night and it was in February, sitting by the fire as it was frosty outside. Apologies for not posting before now-it may be a Christmas read but Christmas doesn’t take over the full book, most is within Lucas’ apartment. Saying that I’d definitely read as a Christmas one as I can, just because, you know, it’s Sarah Morgan! Also can totally be read as a standalone. And sorry for the gushing but this book was like coming home for me.
Rating:5/5

They All Fall Down by Cat Hogan

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Length: 322 pages

Please note that the cover image leads to a universal Amazon buy link for the book

What they say: Ring-a-ring o’ rosie . . .
… Someone wants to play.
… Who’s not playing the game?
… Now Someone must pay.

Jen Harper likes to play it safe. She is settling into life on the outskirts of a sleepy fishing village with her little boy, Danny. Life by the sea – just how she wanted it.

When she meets Andy, she feels the time has come to put her baggage and the scars of the past behind her. Then she is introduced to Scott, Andy’s best friend, and is stung by his obvious disdain for her. Why is Scott so protective of his best friend? What is the dark secret that threatens all of them?

In her attempt to find answers, Jen must confront her demons and push her relationships to their limits. By digging up the past, she puts Danny and herself in danger. Will she succeed in uncovering the truth before they all fall down?

Raw and energetic, They All Fall Down is a fast-paced and addictive novel exploring the depths of flawed human nature, the thin line between love and obsession and the destructive nature of addiction.

The Review: Having met the lovely Cat Hogan a number of times before, I was very excited to get to this, which so many top author’s have lauded and recommended.

As you can see above the book is set in a fishing village and, actually before I go on I have to highly commend the author for an astoundingly vivid and stark setting, that had me daydreaming of the majesty of waves lashing against rocks. This was further punctuated on reading of Cat Hogan’s fabulous bio, which showed her love and affinity for the sea. From the start of the book I was happy out, with a read that at times turns away from the thriller genre I’d put it in, leaning more towards an irishy fiction one instead.  I’m not always a fan of books that are so irish in terms of the nuances and language (yes I do know where I’m from), and for a while struggled to connect with the villagers (some of them were very unlikable) but then the thriller part, the meeting of the baddie of the story, via one heck of a backstory, soon put time to that.

Jen moves into a new house with her gorgeous son Danny, who I adored. A prerequisite is that they move in with Andy, a friend of her Aunty Pat, who is recently deceased. Andy is a lovely character but unfortunately brings some baggage with him in the form of his extremely jealous best friend Scott, a rich playboy who thinks the world owes him something. Here we get some insight into an evil that is about, as he uses wealth and power to destroy all around him and I couldn’t wait to see where it all went. The climax was excellent and I was very excited to see that there was actually a sequel There was a Crooked Man (which is now on my Kindle!) All in all a book I really enjoyed.

Rating: 4/5

A Dog Like Lloyd by Jacqueline Sheehan

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Length: 304 pages

Please note that the cover image leads to a universal Amazon buy link for the book

What they say: Happiness can be found in the most unexpected places…

Roxanne Pellegrino’s world collapses when her husband dies unexpectedly, and overwhelmed by her all-consuming grief, she runs away for a new start on Peaks Island.

But her new life of solitude is interrupted when she meets Lloyd – a stray black Labrador with an equally unhappy past. As both slowly begin to heal, a remarkable friendship blossoms, and Roxanne will soon discover she’s not so alone after all…

The Review: Considering half of the volume of books I used to read were stories about dogs and horses (other half were Dean Koontz, Stephen King, Patricia Cornwell and John Grisham- bet you’d never have guessed!) I don’t read enough stories with pets and dogs as the subject matter. I figured this out the other week when my son came home with a Michael Morpungo book and it got me thinking back to how I’d fall into stories of loveable, honest pets that would give up their life to get back to their master, would save humans at the drop of a hat no matter how they’d been treated, or who were strugging to find ‘the one’ in terms of an owner.

This is the story of Lloyd. Lloyd had found ‘the one,’ but has somehow been separated from them, and has landed in the hands of the new Animal Control warden of Peaks Island, Roxanne. Roxanne is struggling after the loss of her husband, the lovely vet, Bob, who she feels she could have saved. It is a beautiful, rich story, and I found myself immersed in it, but was sometimes disappointed that it wasn’t told just a little bit more simply, that it had to be on a bit of a grander, more spiritual level, but this is just personal preference (you know at this stage I like them kept simple!).

Although Roxanne is very familiar with the animal world from being with Bob, we get to study and experience the warmth and vividness of the descriptions of the animals as she meets them in text and in real life and we learn so much, both in relation to what they are and their care.

There is also the story of Melissa, a teenager, who is also finding life tough and we wonder where the lives of the three (Lloyd being one), will cross over. Melissa’s story is a tough one, she is hiding an eating disorder, and at times I found it a bit difficult to read.

I adored Lloyd, the big black Labrador, who even told us his story at one point in the book, a piece I had most definitely been looking forward to. The descriptiveness of the rugged, wild surroundings was fantastic, as were the nuggets of information on different, unusual animals that came to them, and I found Roxanne’s actual journey to be well done too, although very sad in places. All in all it was a lovely, thought provoking read that will get me looking out more doggy tales! Thanks so much to Ebury Publishing for this book in return for an honest review.

Rating: 4/5

The Cinderella Reflex by Joan Brady

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Length: 338 pages

Note: The cover image leads to a universal Amazon Book link 

What they say:It’s time to stop waiting for prince charming and rescue yourself

No matter how strong and independent Tess Morgan appeared on the outside, she was always let down by her inner five-year-old – who persistently believed that one day her Prince would come.

Real life is tough. For Tess, her job with struggling local radio station Atlantic 1FM is very tough. Between dealing with the demands of her megalomaniac presenter Ollie Andrews, her neurotic boss Helene Harper and the crazy workload associated with her role as producer on the This Morning programme, sometimes she just wants someone who will make all the problems go away.

Helene, meanwhile, is having difficulties of her own. Coming up to her fortieth milestone birthday, her career has taken a wrong turning down an unpleasant cul-de-sac and she’s becoming impatient for the day when her married lover will make an honest woman of her.

Things go from bad to worse when Atlantic 1FM is suddenly bought over by mogul Jack McCabe, who immediately launches a competition for a new star at the station. Soon nerves are frayed and friendships strained as everyone battles to keep their jobs.

Tess gets back in touch with the ex she still thinks of as The One Who Got Away. Helene tries to pull strings with her influential lover.

But what will it take for both women to stop playing Cinderella and find a way to launch their own rescue?

The Review: I had seen both this book and the author, Joan Brady at the Wexford Literary festival and it had gone on my tbr straight away and so I was beyond thrilled to be offered it for review. But instead of starting with the beginning of the book, I’ll move to a little bit before that and turn to the dedication:

‘For Vera, who inspired me to write in the first place with these words of wisdom: “All you have to do to get good marks in English is to make things up.”‘

which, straight off the bat, I found to be so charming, and so, smiling, I settled down to read, happy to get going.

Tess Morgan is struggling at her job at a radio station. This setting was excellent, as we got a real feel for day to day events and issues and the problems that will kill a good, or indeeed sometimes average shows. These shows are more the problem for Tess, along with a highly strung presenter, Ollie Andrews, who she is charged with managing. This was coupled with the daily chore of dealing with her boss, Helene, who is constantly on her back, a falling listenership and talk of a takeover. The book is very much character driven and there were some characters I loved and others I didn’t warm to as much, but I loved that we got to know Helene too, that it wasn’t just Tess’ opinion of her.

The whole book had a lovely homely feel to it, very Irish, and I read it in two nights, very much engrossed and unable to put it down, in fact I was loathe to put it down and would easily have read in one night had I been able to. I predicted some of the occurrences and was thrilled when they happened exactly as I hoped they would. This was especially true for some of the comedy moments, which I really enjoyed.

At times there were a few niggles, some repetition in terms of wording, but that could have been me being a little pernickety. My other  issue turned out to be quite a big one for me, that perhaps it felt a little like I’d read it in the wrong time, I felt that I’d have connected with all of that better a few years ago during the recession as opposed to ‘post recession’ (I know we’re not fully post recession but for some reason I just couldn’t reconcile this with the present day).

Even though the subject matter is one that could potentially and rightly cause debate, how talented, intelligent women don’t fulfill their destiny because they’re waiting for their prince to rescue them, I found this to be a very enjoyable, light, easy-going read, one for people who like some homely, charming comedy.

Thanks so much to the author Joan Brady, Poolbeg and to Tracy Brennan from Trace Literary Agency  for the book in return for an honest review.

About the author

joanbrady

 

Joan Brady is is an award-winning Irish journalist and broadcast producer. She started her career as a features writer and newspaper columnist for Independent Newspapers and later worked as a researcher, producer and scriptwriter for RTE, Ireland’s national television and radio station.

The Cinderella Reflex is her first novel and is published by Poolbeg press

Her second novel, Reinventing Susannah, also published by Poolbeg, is coming soon!

Joan is represented by US-based Tracy Brennan from Trace Literary Agency

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