Sunday, January 13, 2019

A Year at Castle Court - Holly Hepburn

Available here

Goodreads:


Sadie is a single mum, nursing a broken heart. Her best friend from childhood, Cat, is burned out from working long hours as a chef in Paris. In need of a change, they decide to invest in their dream – running their own handmade biscuit shop in gorgeous Castle Court, a three-storey food court tucked away behind Chester's bustling streets.
They soon discover that Castle Court has its own community –  but not everyone welcomes the new business. Luckily, there's support in the form of the delectable Jaren, who owns the Dutch waffle house opposite Smart Cookies, and Swiss chocolate-shop owner, Elin. And if all else fails, the friends can drown their sorrows in Seb's cocktail bar on the third floor!

My Review:

Split into four parts, this is an easy-going and enjoyable read that is well written with characters you will adore (and some you will not). I wouldn't say it is a totally predictable read but with experience comes the knack of being able to correctly foresee who Sadie and Cat would end up falling in love with. I don't think this is a really bad thing though as the story to get there was not straight forward, it had surprises that I did not expect.

The friendship between Sadie and Cat is brilliantly written, it is easy, loving and realistic - with each character going through ups and downs and finding constant support in the other. The sense of community at Castle Court is another strong theme throughout the story - I actually would love to find somewhere like Castle Court as it all sounded divine

As mentioned, things were not always going to plan with their shop 'Smart Cookies' or personally for Sadie or Cat, it makes you wonder how many 'mini disasters' some people could put up with but with their friends, they seem to sort any issue out very quickly. 

Holly's writing is bright, cheerful and very enjoyable, this book was a lovely treat to snuggle up with. Just a bit of a warning - you'll find yourself searching for some biscuits or other edible goodness after this!
I would definitely recommend this book for anyone looking for something easy going, relatable characters and smiles along the way. 

Comfy Rating: 👍👍👍👍

Monday, January 7, 2019

Dear Rosie Hughes - Melanie Hudson

From Goodreads:
It’s been fifteen years since Aggie’s friendship with Rosie Hughes ended abruptly. But now she’s heard from the village rumour mill that Rosie is off to war, she knows her best friend needs her more than ever – despite what’s happened between them in the past.

As Rosie faces a desert full of danger and Aggie falls further from the path to love she’ so wants, the two friends write each other letters. The comfort in their shared words is an anchor to the life they knew before…and the only constant in a world as increasingly unpredictable as the wind.

My Review:

This is one of those books that will stay in my mind for a while. I don’t know what I was expecting but I got way more than I bargained for (in a brilliant way). I need to be careful as I don’t want to give anything away. You may believe it will the predictable story of lost friendships and renewed love, but it is more, and in my opinion, very well done. I had visions of how the story would go, and found myself surprised -at times.

The story is told through a series of letters, messages and emails, unusual but brilliant – it made me pay attention, focus on who was saying what and think about how their stories were playing out. I love the attention to detail and the little ‘tit-bits’ of back story every so often, enough to make you try and put the pieces in place but not too much to reveal it all in one go. I liked this, and I was eager to know why these two best friends, that seemed to slot back into each other’s lives very easily, could ever lose that relationship.  
 
I think the friendship between Rosie and Aggie was wonderfully written, funny and emotional. Aggie has a great sense of humour and is a character that I would love to have as a friend – cheerful and positive yet reassuring and full of love. Although she is outwardly confident, she does have a vulnerable and sensitive side, she’s really looking for love and has a difficult relationship with her Mum. Rosie strikes me as vulnerable too yet given the circumstances she’s showing how tough she can be.

With an eclectic mix of additional characters, you will read some light-hearted and comedic moments whilst overall the story shows how everyone has the capacity for kindness, love and that we all may find ourselves in a situation that leaves us feeling vulnerable and  in need of the care, loyalty and support of their loved ones.  I think some characters could have been included and developed more whilst some seemed a little redundant and a little unnecessary, but it didn’t ruin or distract.


 ‘Dear Rosie Hughes’ is a great read that I highly recommend. Thank you to NetGalley and Harper Impulse for allowing me an advanced copy to read so to provide an honest review.

Sunday, January 6, 2019

The Break - Marian Keyes

Available on Amazon 

Amy's husband Hugh says he isn't leaving her. He still loves her, he's just taking a break - from their marriage, their children and, most of all, from their life together. Six months to lose himself in South East Asia. And there is nothing Amy can say or do about it. Yes, it's a mid-life crisis, but let's be clear: a break isn't a break up - yet . . .

However, for Amy it's enough to send her - along with her extended family of gossips, misfits and troublemakers - teetering over the edge. For a lot can happen in six-months. When Hugh returns, if he returns, will he be the same man she married? Will Amy be the same woman? Because if Hugh is on a break from their marriage, then so is she . . . 
The Break is a story about the choices we make and how those choices help to make us. It is Marian Keyes at her funniest, wisest and brilliant best.

My Review:

This one really took me on an emotion filled ride. I have been through every feeling, particularly for our female lead Amy.  If I'm being honest - even now I am still unsure if I actually LIKE her not. 

When Hugh decides he needs a break, some time for him to break away from everything and everyone on some kind of 'anything goes' trail around Asia, Amy and his kids are obviously devastated. Amy has trust issues, we find that out early on, from a previous marriage so this is a massive deal for her (as it would be for anyone I guess!) Hugh claims he loves her and WILL be back after six months, but realistically even before he has gone anywhere I didn't imagine for one second he'd be slotting back into place.
The story follows Amy through those next days, weeks and months of his absence. Yes, there is the sadness and she is obviously traumatised - I felt so sorry for her, I empathised and really quite disliked Hugh but rest assured it's not all gloom and doom. 

We journey through Amy making some shocking and - quite frankly - stupid life choices in my opinion. I began to quite dislike her at some points, and my sympathy towards her started to wain - we also get to see all was perhaps not what we originally thought and Hugh, well for me, he doesn't seem as such an idiot really - in fact I had more sympathy for him at some points. 

There are plenty of laughs in this story. There are so many wild and wonderful characters you are assured to find moments of true hilarity. The characters are fantastic, well written and even though there are quite a lot of them I didn't think this took anything away from the story only added some fun, interesting aspects. 

Marian's writing style is captivating, you get so engrossed in what you are reading. I read this in one sitting which is quite some feat! I love the relaxed and witty way Marian writes, makes the characters relatable too.  Though we have many lighthearted moments this story does also look at some serious, deeper issues that have need to be addressed. It's done in a brilliant way though, totally in-keeping with the tone of the book. 

As a big Marian Keyes fan, this book did not fail to live up to expectations. I highly recommend The Break. It's a keeper for me - I'll definitely re-read. 

Friday, January 4, 2019

He Wrote Her Every Day: A true story of love & courage in WW2 - Gail Lindenberg

Available on Amazon here 

In 1944, James William Hendrickson, Jr  received the news that his fighter-pilot brother, Bill, had been shot down over Germany and taken as a prisoner-of-war. Then and there, Jim decided to enlist and bring his brother home even though that would mean leaving his new wife, Irene, behind. He made her a promise - he would write to her every day while he was away.  Gail Lindenberg, their daughter, uses the original letters as well as conversations with her mother to dramatically retell their story - how one man was determined to survive the horrors of the Second World War to get back to the woman he loved. For me, this was so much more than a simple love story. Firstly we do see the pure love and devotion of one man to his wife, you can feel the adoration he has for her in the notes he wrote, you get the sense of her being his beacon of light in times that we know would have been hellish.

There is more though, a first hand glimpse into the lives these soldiers had to lead on a daily basis albeit from the perspective of finding 'lighter' things to write home to his wife about and not detailing the absolute horror he must have been encountering. 

As I read through the letters and retelling of his story,  I really was captivated by the unique descriptions of being in the army, his training and time spent travelling but also the camaraderie between soldiers that gave me a smile and is true testament to the strength of character Jim and his fellow officers had. 

This is a well written and cleverly put together memoir that lets us experience the war from a different perspective whilst giving us a beautiful story of love, separation and heroism. 
I received a free electronic copy of this from Netgalley, Gail Lindenberg, and Sapere Books in exchange for an honest review. 
 

Comfy Rating: 👍👍👍👍👍

Sunday, December 30, 2018

2018 - Falling back in love

As we are at the end of 2018 I wanted to reflect. Instead of listing my favourite books this year, I want to celebrate falling back in love with books and finding a community that I feel I'm hopefully becoming part of and absolutely loving! 

On the evening of January 1st 2018  I set myself some aims for the year ahead. Some I have not quite achieved, others I believe should be a continuous aim no matter the year but for me, the most important was what I put at number 4.

4. Read at least one book a month. 

Falling back in love with books :


One of my earliest memories is going to the library, my small chubby little hands selecting books and taking them home to read. I read to my Mum, I read to my nursery teachers but mainly, I read by myself. I was always at my happiest with a book in hand.  When my sister and I were young we shared a bedroom, we'd be sent to be at 7.30pm and out would come my book (working my way through childhood classics, Nancy Drew and then onto my Mum's Catherine Cookson books amongst many more). Hours later, I would still be reading when Dad came up to bed himself; I'd quickly hide my book under the covers as he came into turn off the light. I always thought I'd got away with it and he didn't have a clue. Looking back, he probably did know just never said anything.

Years ago I went through a very low and unhappy time, I lost my husband, Adrian, suddenly and unexpectedly. I became a widow at 27 years old and was totally shattered. The day before my husband died I had read a book by an author I loved, I won't say who or name the book, but the story centred around the character losing her husband suddenly and I remember being completely unable to comprehend how that would feel, I enjoyed the book but was unable to really connect with that character - little did I know less than 24 hours later I would

I know this will sound ridiculous but I blamed the book. How idiotic was I... to think that me reading a book caused something to happen, as though me contemplating such a devastating event had actually brought it into reality. I know this was just shock, grief and my own kind of crazy at play but I did think it, if only at my lowest, darkest times (when sleep deprivation was everything!) - I do realise how ridiculous it sounds, honest.
Grief broke me and for a long, long time I felt as though I was existing in a bubble. Nothing  held my interest anymore. I felt completely alien to myself, the things I had always found enjoyment in no longer did so, my ability to concentrate disappeared and my love for books just seemed to fade.  The one constant in my life, since being tiny, was my passion for books and reading but now I was not interested anymore and didn't feel I would be again. 

Fast forward a little. It's been years now.. my husband died in 2011 but it has taken me a really long time to get back to a version of myself I truly recognise. That's why this year has been so special. I have started reading again and I mean properly reading; the kind I always did, where books absorbed my interest and concentration so much the world around me disappeared. I began spending time in the library and finding comfort in books I have previously loved, authors I have adored. 2018 has been the year a massive part of the old me came back with a vengeance. 

It started with a visit to the library in July. I don't always pay attention to what books I'm picking up - I grab an armful and check out then I enjoy taking my time to look at my selections. This time I'd unknowingly selected a couple of authors I'd never read before. To say I devoured these books is an understatement, I'd read and placed holds on everything else I could find of theirs in the library by the end of the night.  From this I had an idea - what if I started a little blog so I could write up what I thought of the books I read? I didn't really have a clue what to do but jumped in and started this blog (I am still learning really... ) I started a twitter account (@thecomfychair2 dedicated to the blog and with the hope of connecting with like-minded people and finding new authors.  

The rest is pretty apparent via this blog. I've read and reviewed more books this year than any year since my husband died. I have a TBR pile that is bigger than I've ever had been and it excites me to think about adding more. I'm discovering new authors all the time, I'm trying genres I wouldn't necessarily go near before. 
Plus I smashed my reading challenge on Goodreads (not started until way into the year!) 
Connecting with people on Twitter has been a highlight of the year. So many wonderful people, discussing books, promoting authors, supporting each other. I know realistically that I'm a little pebble in the ocean of great bloggers, book lovers etc but I enjoy the connections I have made so far and going into 2019 I am excited by what is to come. I can't wait to hear about new books, find more authors I haven't read before and hopefully make more like-minded 'friends.' 

I have two authors to THANK for being that spark back in July, that reignited my love of all things books (although plenty more have now helped to reinstall my passion for reading). I hope they don't mind me saying so and I don't want to embarrass them but I wanted to acknowledge their work, to show how their hard work does have an impact in ways they may not have realised.  Heidi Swain and Jane Linfoot - Thank you.  

Please check out their books and follow them on Twitter:
Heidi Swain - https://twitter.com/Heidi_Swain 
Jane Linfoot - https://twitter.com/janelinfoot

I have fallen back in love with reading, with books and I can't wait for the reads that 2019 will bring.
"Whenever you read a good book, somewhere in the world a door opens to allow in more light."
–Vera Nazarian
x

Monday, December 10, 2018

The Christmas Spirit - Susan Buchanan


The Christmas Spirit - Blurb

Christmas is coming, but not everyone is looking forward to it.
Rebecca has just been dumped and the prospect of spending the holiday period with her parents is less than appealing. Eighty- two-year-old Stanley lost his beloved wife, Edie, to cancer. How will he cope with his first Christmas without her? Jacob’s university degree hasn’t helped him get a job, and it looks like he’ll still be signing on come New Year. Workaholic Meredith would rather spend December 25th at home alone with a ready meal and a DVD box set. Can anything make her embrace the spirit of the season?
The enigmatic Natalie Hope takes over the reins at the Sugar and Spice bakery and café in an attempt to spread some festive cheer and restore Christmas spirit, but will she succeed?

Available to buy here:  
http://amzn.to/1gcpTrc (UK) & http://amzn.to/KUArMU (US)

My Review:
If you are looking for a feel-good festive treat look no further. It is a heartwarming tale, an utterly charming story that will give you the warm and fuzzy feeling that is plentiful at Christmas time. 

With a lovely selection of well written characters you are drawn into each of their stories - they all face some sadness or problem but its a pleasure to read how they are interwoven into each others lives and how a special someone ensures they have a happier Christmas they thought possibly.
You can tell how unique Natalie is throughout and how she is instrumental in spreading her own Christmas magic for all the characters we grow find of.  I feel more could have been made of Natalie - she is so important to this story and although I like what I read of her, especially at the end, I feel like I wanted to know more. 
This book has it all - romance, humour and that special festive magic. It's a nice read, with a great pace. The descriptions of all Natalies special cakes will have you dreaming of cake; I'm definitely tempted to search for recipes of some! 

Looking for a quick read that will leave you with a warm feeling? Then I recommend The Christmas Spirit. 

Comfy Rating: 👍👍👍👍
Thank you to Rachels Random Resources for the opportunity to review this book.

About the Author:


Susan Buchanan lives in Scotland with her husband and their two children. She is the author of four novels: Return of the Christmas Spirit, The Christmas Spirit, The Dating Game, and Sign of the Times. She is currently working on books five and six: The Proposal and Just One Day.
Susan is also a proofreader, editor and translator, and when not working, writing, or caring for her two delightful cherubs, loves reading, the theatre, quiz shows and eating out – not necessarily in that order!
Twitter – susan_buchanan
Blog – Sooz’s journal – www.susancbuchanan.blogspot.co.uk

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Tuesday, December 4, 2018

One Day in December - Josie Silver

Available on Amazon here 

Goodreads Blurb: A love story about what happens after you meet, or rather, don't meet the one. Laurie is pretty sure love at first sight doesn't exist.But then, through a misted-up bus window one snowy December day, she sees a man who she knows instantly is the one. Their eyes meet, there's a moment of pure magic...and then her bus drives away.
Assured they're fated to find each other again, Laurie spends a year searching for him. She doesn't find him, not when it matters anyway. Instead they "reunite" at a Christmas party, when her best friend introduces her new boyfriend, Jack. 
What follows is ten years of friendship, heartbreak, missed opportunities, roads not taken, and destinies reconsidered.

Review:

One Day in December is one of those books that you start and within a couple of chapters you know you will not be putting it down - not for anything! The further into the book I read, the more involved I got and there was just no way I would, or could,  stop until the very last word.   

The story of Laurie and those she loves is engaging, frustrating yet heartwarming. You can identify the many ways one person can love and be loved - evident through the different relationships developed in this story. If you haven't had one 100% true love yet, or you have had several, if you have lost love or those that you love - you will identify with Laurie at some point in this book and that's what makes it utterly fantastic and will appeal to so many. This is not your typical love story; it isn't as simple as girl meets boy, they fall in love, something happens to break them but within a couple of chapters the book ends with them reconciled. One Day in December is full of love, all consuming and life-changing love but broken down with an interwoven tale of angst, heart break and loss.
I enjoyed the characters and though the focus is really on the situations they put themselves in, the characters are relatable and interesting, with none really pushing my buttons and annoying me like some can in other books. You grow with these characters, the time span of the story is over a decade - an emotional rollercoaster from the perspectives of Laurie and Jack.  You are given their inner most thoughts and feelings and entrusted with their heartbreaking secrets; you know they care deeply for each other as well as the other characters. 
Josie Silver balances angsty, emotional story lines with scenes of humour and light; some quirky moments alongside the ones that have you reaching for the tissues. It's a fairly short read, but it is perfect for a cold day in December; you can get cosy and enjoy the book.
I was happy with how the book ended, but I think I wanted more. I'm only being greedy (often happens when I enjoy a book)... I felt that I had come so far with the characters so the ending just wasn't quite enough , I longed to know how it all worked out - maybe fast forward a year and be given an epilogue of sorts. Maybe it's been left open for a return visit to these characters in the future?
"You tread lightly through life, but you leave deep footprints that are hard for other people to fill.

Thank you Josie Silver for giving us such a gorgeous book, full of heart and soul. I loved reading every word. It was emotional and definitely gave me moments where I could reflect on my own life and events within it that enabled a strong connection with the main character that I haven't had in many books this year. It is no surprise that Reece Witherspoons book club pick for December is One Day in December. It's truly deserved and I can only throw in my support and recommend this as one you definitely need to read.

Comfy Rating: 👍👍👍👍👍