#BookReview MY PEAR-SHAPED LIFE by CARMEL HARRINGTON #MyPearShapedLife

ABOUT THE BOOK

This is a joyful, uplifting book for those of us who sometimes wake up and feel we’re not good enough. Spoiler alert: we are!

Meet Greta.

She’s funny.

She’s flawed.

She’s hiding so much behind her big smile she’s forgotten who she is.

But Greta is about to discover that the key to being happy is…being you.

Greta Gale has played the part of the funny fat one her entire life, hiding her insecurities behind a big smile. But size doesn’t matter when you can laugh at yourself, right?
Until Greta realises she’s the only one not laughing. And deep down, she’s not sure if she’ll ever laugh again.

But with her world feeling like it’s falling down around her, Greta is about to discover she’s stronger than she feels. And that sometimes the best moments in life come when it’s all gone a bit pear-shaped…

PUBLISHED BY HARPERCOLLINS

PURCHASE LINKS – e-book format – out now

Amazon

hive.co.uk

paperback – out 16th April 2020

MY REVIEW

I adore Greta!! She is me! She is you! That woman who is smiley on the outside, pretending life is sweet and making fun of herself, but full of crippling doubts on the inside and wishing the pain would just go away. And what the author has done brilliantly in this book is use that connection to us always beating ourselves up that we’re not good enough, and we get what we deserve… when that’s not the case. We are worthy and we need to be true to ourselves to find that happy place we all deserve to live in.

Greta comes from a ‘thin’ family – that’s how she sees it as a woman of a fuller figure, and she seems to react well to the digs and ‘banter’ but beneath the smiles she’s hurting and she’s playing a dangerous game with her health. It’s only when things go too far that her family find out the severity of the situation and she’s forced to face up to how her life is spiralling out of control.

The saving grace in her life is her namesake, Dr Greta Gayle, a hugely successful American lifestyle guru, who she is obsessed with due to them sharing the same name. It’s the only thing they have in common, but she always seems to find inspiration from the Dr and her Instagram posts when she needs guidance.

While in rehab she is stripped away from her crutches in life, and that makes things begin to fall into place for her. Why has she been so afraid to be herself? What is she hiding from? It’s often at our lowest points that life becomes a little clearer and she is forced to make changes in her way of thinking thanks to a therapist and the others she meets while in there. She sees she’s not alone in feeling a failure, or useless, or out of place and that makes her feel a little more connected.

What follows is a trip to America with her beloved Uncle, and both of them find out a lot about themselves while over there and facing up to their pasts. He has lived his life with regrets too so thinks this is the perfect opportunity for both of them to live a little, and I loved their bond and how much they meant to one another. And I loved the nods to The Wizard of Oz throughout!! Read the book and you’ll find out more!

It’s so much easier to say ‘be yourself’ than actually go through with it, and this book perfectly demonstrates that struggle we all go through of trying to fit in, losing sight of who we are and the reliance of outside influences to get us through the day. In Greta, there’s a character who is funny, pretty, smart but yet she can only see her size, and following her on her often painful journey was uplifting, emotional and a delight to be part of! Highly recommended!!

★★★★★

#BookReview MIRACLE ON CHERRY HILL by SUN-MI HWANG

ABOUT THE BOOK

Celebrated bestselling author Sun-mi Hwang is back with a heartwarming new novel about renewal and friendship.

This is the story of a man named Kang Dae-su. His whole life is a miracle, rising from poverty to running a successful construction company. In his twilight years, Kang is diagnosed with a brain tumour. He returns to his childhood home of Cherry Hill. He acquires a crumbling old house in which to retreat from the world, yet the residents of the town have other plans. They seem hell-bent on intruding on Kang’s private property. But who does the house, and Cherry Hill, really belong to? Is it owned by the construction company who is trying to rejuvenate the neighbourhood? Or does it belong to the residents who have used the land to play, think, walk, love and explore for generations? And how is the bitter and despondent Kang’s childhood tied to this magical place?

Miracle on Cherry Hill is a redemptive story of a damaged man regaining his trust in humanity. It explores the fragility of nature and human lives and is much-loved classic in South Korea. Includes beautiful illustrations inside.

PUBLISHED BY ABACUS

PURCHASE LINKS

Amazon

WHSmith

hive.co.uk

MY REVIEW

Stunner of a little book that gives you all the feels! It’s always a delight to read a story that is told in a gentle way and features a character who is returning ‘home’ with the intention of seeing out his last days all alone, but he finds that the home he remembers has been reclaimed by the community. This angers him to begin with, but as he starts to spend time amongst the young and old who use his land for a variety of daily activities, he begins to soften his approach to what he perceives as a harsh world and embraces the warmth he receives from the local community.

The way that Kang deals with his illness by addressing ‘Sir Lump’ is a really clever way of telling his story and the way he looks back on his memories trying to make peace with them. That’s why he wanted to spend time alone, but seeing the world through the eyes of others allows him to take on new things to pass his days. Through talking to others he gets to learn more about himself as a person and the past that he thought he remembered has light shed on it.

There are no big shocks, no twists and turns but it was a beautiful little book that was easy to read and one I’ll be going back to over time.

★★★★

#BookReview FINDING HENRY APPLEBEE by CELIA REYNOLDS

ABOUT THE BOOK

Here Henry was, once again in a bustling train station, ready to resume where he had left off all those years ago…

Finding Henry Applebee is a charming, tender and uplifting story about unlikely friendships, the power of love – and how it’s never too late to change your life. Perfect for fans of The Single Ladies of the Jacaranda Retirement Village and The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry.

Eighty-five-year-old Henry Arthur Applebee has had a pretty good life. But one regret has haunted him for the last sixty-five years.

And so, on an ordinary December morning, he boards a train from London to Edinburgh. His goal is simple: to find the woman who disappeared from his life decades earlier. But Henry isn’t the only person on a mission. Also bound for Edinburgh is troubled teen, Ariel. And when the two strangers collide, what began as one humble journey will catapult them both into a whole new world… 

PUBLISHED BY ONE MORE CHAPTER

PURCHASE LINK

Amazon UK

MY REVIEW

This was a sweet and charming read, following the story of the loveable Henry Applebee as he sets out on a journey looking to find ghosts from his past, and wondering if the path he’s chosen to take is the right one! And this story really does show you how fate is destined to play a part – the world really does move in mysterious ways!

Henry and his dog Banjo lead a very simple life – he’s 85 and has led a good life but has regrets and they seem to be playing on his mind now more than ever. For him it’s now or never to find the answer to his questions so he sets out on a trip to Scotland, after his niece tracked down someone for him. She was supposed to go with him but had to cancel last minute, and at the train station a good samaritan, Ariel, helps him out when it looks like his journey might be over before it’s even started!

Ariel is also on her own personal journey with a mission to deliver an envelope personally to someone in Scotland. She’s just lost her mother and it was so important to her to pass this message on that she must get this done. Ariel is a real sweetheart and I really enjoyed seeing how her character dealt with all that life threw her way. When she and Henry end up travelling together they’re also introduced to Travis, an american musician, and the 3 of them make for an interesting combination as they share stories on the journey up.

The fascinating pasts of all the characters really help you as a reader gain an interest and connection with them all. They all seem a little unsure of whether the path they’ve chosen to take is the right one. The more you learn about them, the more you start to sense a connection between them as people. I also really enjoyed the way the story went back in time so that we could see Henry as a younger man, a soldier, who finds love in the Tower ballroom and the story of his romance with Francine is very sweet and touching.

A really enjoyable adventure!

★★★

#BookReview THE WISH LIST OF ALBIE YOUNG by RUBY HUMMINGBIRD @bookouture

ABOUT THE BOOK

This unmissable, unforgettable book will crack your heart in two and piece it back together again. Have a packet of tissues handy…

Sometimes you have to hit the bottom before you can float to the top.

Maria Birch is seventy years old and, for her, every week is the same.

On Monday, she does her weekly shop. On Tuesday, she goes for a blow-dry. On Wednesday, she visits the laundrette. But Thursday is her favourite day of all – everything hurts less on a Thursday.

Every Thursday Maria walks to her local café. Waiting for her at one of the red gingham-topped tables is Albie Young, a charming man with a twinkle in his eye and an impressive collection of tweed flat caps. Every week, the pair share a slice of marble cake and a pot of tea.

Except, one week, Albie doesn’t turn up.

When Maria finds out what has happened, her perfectly ordered life is ripped apart at the seams. Suddenly, she is very lonely. Without her Thursday friend – her only friend – she no longer has the energy to circle the weekly TV listings, she has no reason to leave her apartment, no reason to laugh.

Then she discovers that Albie isn’t who she thought he was, and she’s left wondering if she knew her friend at all. But Albie has left behind a legacy – a handwritten list of wishes he never got the chance to complete.

Maria is resigned to facing the rest of her days heartbroken and alone. But fulfilling Albie’s wishes could hold the key to her happiness – if only she’s able to look past his secret…

This life-affirming and heartfelt tale is for anyone who has ever looked at their life and wanted more. Fans of Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine and The Keeper of Lost Things will love this poignant story, which shows us that for the truest loves, the end is never really the end…

Published by Bookouture

Publication Date – 12th November 2019

PRE-ORDER LINK

Amazon UK – 99p

MY REVIEW

Spoiler alert – books about old people always make me cry! And you’ll have to have a heart of stone if you don’t find yourself shedding a tear or two during this stunning debut from Ruby Hummingbird that captures beautifully those little moments that often end up meaning the most and how just a simple action can start a wonderful chain reaction off, bringing hope to those who need it.

It’s set in Brighton, and we follow the story of Maria.  She lives alone and has a weekly routine that she sticks to rigidly – Thursday is her favourite day though after a chance encounter with a man in a cafe, means she now meets up with him every Thursday for tea, cake and a chat.  Until one day he doesn’t show and she’s devastated to lose that connection.

When she receives a call from a lawyer, the truth about Albie is revealed and it was heartbreaking to see how Maria reacted to the news. But Albie has done something rather wonderful for her and her life and routine is set to change, if only she can cope with the loss.

With the discovery of a list that Albie left behind, she finds out he’s been a good samaritan  in his life, with a wish list where he helps a number of local people. Many of the plans he had are still unticked so she sets out to carry on his good work and starts to meet up with the people that Albie had gone out of his way to spend time with.  From a homeless man, to a troubled youngster and even to Albie’s sister, Maria starts to disover a life outside of her routine and the wonderful feeling you get when you can help someone  – it’s one of those stories that makes your heart burst with happiness when you see the positive effects a simple action can create.

Maria finds her own name on the list and ticking her ‘wishes’ off the list might prove the most difficult as she has to face some heartbreak from the past.

Maria finds that helping people isn’t always taken in the right spirit but the sense of purpose and responsibility really makes her shine, and knowing that Albie wasn’t doing these things for attention, but just to help, is just another heartwarming aspect of this whole book.  

Totally adorable and a wonderful antidote of a read to the often heartless and harsh world we are living in. A must read!!

★★★★★

My thanks to the team at Bookouture and Netgalley for the advanced e-copy in return for a fair and honest review.

#BookReview The Woman Who Wanted More by Vicky Zimmerman

ABOUT THE BOOK

Two lonely women. An unlikely friendship. And one big life lesson: never be ashamed to ask for more . . .

 No woman dreams of being unceremoniously dumped and moving back in with her mother on the eve of her 40th birthday. Food technician Kate Parker’s first response? Denial, long days under her duvet and bucket loads of cheesy pasta. A reluctant Kate finds herself volunteering at the Lauderdale House For Exceptional Ladies. There she meets 96-year-old Cecily Finn – spiky and sharp as a pin, but the spark has gone out of her. She has resigned herself to the imminent End.Having no patience with Kate’s self-pity, Cecily prescribes her a self-help book with a difference – it’s a 1957 cookery manual, featuring menus for anything life can throw at ‘the easily dismayed’. It promises the answers to essential life questions: ‘what shall one give to one’s rich aunt Emma that will be palatable but not prodigal; to one’s husband’s managing director, at once memorable and modest; one’s old love’s new love; the man one hopes will stay on after dinner; the man one hopes will not …’

.Can Kate find a menu to help a broken-hearted woman let go? If Kate moves forward, might Cecily too?The cookbook holds the secrets of Cecily’s own remarkable and heartbreaking story, and the love of her life. It will certainly teach Kate a thing or two. So begins an unlikely friendship between two lonely and stubborn souls – one at the end of her life, and one stuck in the middle – who come to show each other that food is for feasting, life is for living and the way to a man’s heart is . . . irrelevant!

published by ZAFFRE

Publication Date – 30th May 2019

PRE-ORDER LINKS

Amazon UK  £7.74

hive.co.uk  £5.99

WHSmith  £5.75

MY REVIEW

What a charming and delightful book! I adored the characters – especially Cecily! – and found it to be one of those books that is heartwarming and inspiring, and even made me shed a tear or two!

Kate Parker is the main character and her life is seemingly all going swimmingly – she’s in a loving relationship with Nick who shares her passion for food and cooking (note – do NOT read this book on an empty stomach!!) and is settled in her work life, but that settled life is soon disrupted by Nick dropping a bombshell while they’re away on holiday together and it leaves her feeling very unsettled and very down on life. She moves back in with her mum who is a completely different character to her – very outgoing and free-spirited – who tries setting her up with friends’ sons and offering her the advice to stop being the victim and to move on with her life. Kate isn’t so sure she’s able to and still pines for her and Nick getting back together.

While she has some spare time, a friend gets her to volunteer at a local old people’s home – Lauderdale House for Exceptional Ladies – which is full of some of the most wonderful characters, the most entertaining being 97 year old Cecily! She takes no prisoners and doesn’t mince her words and seems to enjoy heckling Kate who takes on the role of cookery demonstrator! Despite their prickly start, they soon form such a wonderful friendship as Cecily takes on the role of life advisor, and lends her an amazing cookbook that combines recipes with great life advice and Kate starts taking the pages of the book to heart.

I loved the scenes between Kate and Cecily and think I need a Cecily in my life! She’s wise, witty and wonderful! She shares her own life story with Kate, but also gets Kate to question her own life plan and pushes her to explore different things in life and to stop sitting around waiting for Nick to change his mind and to find her own worth. 

What made this story even more touching was that the author based it on her own grandmother and it really added such a wonderful feel to the book, especially with the photos of her grandmother at the end. What a woman and what a story!!

★★★★

My thanks to Readers First  and Zaffre for the advanced reading copy in return for a fair and honest review.

#BookReview Mr Doubler Begins Again by Seni Glaister @HQstories #MrDoubler

about the book

Not every journey takes you far from home…
Mr Doubler lives all alone at Mirth Farm, on top of a hill.

Back when she was around, Doubler’s wife was always surrounded by friends. But Doubler is different. The only company he needs are his potato plants and his housekeeper, Mrs Millwood, who visits every day.

So when Mrs Millwood is taken ill, it ruins everything – and Doubler begins to worry that he might have lost his way. But could the kindness of strangers be enough to bring him down from the hill?

Published by HQ

Purchase Links

hive.co.uk

waterstones

MY REVIEW

A wonderfully touching, funny and inspiring book about a man who finds solace in routine, and potatoes!, but once he is coaxed out of his home he realises there’s a world out there for him and people he can help, and who can help him!

Mr Doubler lives alone at the top of a hill in Mirth Farm. He seeks to be the best potato grower in the country,and devotes his every waking hour to their care and seeking to find the perfect formula to grow and create the best potatoes. He is visited daily by Mrs Millwood who is his housekeeper and keeps him in check, but she always worries about him.. When she is taken poorly it shakes him as his routine is broken, and her daughter Midge starts to visit to help him and offers him a new perspective on life and asks for his help with her mother so poorly.

What I found striking about this story is the mix of characters that we are introduced to. Many of them are very stubborn and set in their ways, but they have hearts of gold and often aren’t appreciated by those closest to them. It takes others to see them for what they are and treat them as real human beings, and it only takes a short time to hear their stories and take their feelings into account. Throughout the book we are aware that some of the characters have bad relationships and feelings towards their children, who have seemingly done little to understand them and though they might perceive what they are doing is best for the elderly parent, it is often not what the parent wanted or had hoped for and they become quite bitter in how they have been treated.

But that doesn’t stop them from caring about those around them, and as Mr Doubler finds himself more involved in the community he starts to listen to the stories of people he meets and comes up with the most delightful solutions to problems and giving meaning back to people who have been forgotten about in their retirement. It focuses on their mental health and wellbeing and how being involved and having a purpose gives them pleasure – there’s more to life than daytime TV and bingo for these characters!

I thoroughly enjoyed spending time with these characters and loved the charming feel to this story! A delightful read!

🏡🏡🏡🏡

My thanks to HQ for the advanced reader copy in return for a fair and honest review.

#PublicationDay #BookReview Days of Wonder by Keith Stuart


About the book

A story about family, love and finding magic in everyday life, Days of Wonder is the most moving novel you’ll read all year.
Tom, single father to Hannah, is the manager of a tiny local theatre. On the same day each year, he and its colourful cast of part-time actors have staged a fantastical production just for his little girl, a moment of magic to make her childhood unforgettable.But there is another reason behind these annual shows: the very first production followed Hannah’s diagnosis with a heart condition that will end her life early. And now, with Hannah a funny, tough girl of fifteen, that time is coming.Hannah’s heart is literally broken – and she can’t bear the idea of her dad’s breaking too. So she resolves to find a partner for Tom, someone else to love, to fill the space beside him.While all the time Tom plans a final day of magic that might just save them both.

Days of Wonder is the stunning follow-up to Keith Stuart’s much-loved debut A Boy Made of Blocks – and a book to fall in love with.

Published by Sphere

400 pages paperback

Purchase Links

Amazon UK

Hive.co.uk

Waterstones

MY REVIEW

Delightfully wonderful!! This is one of those books that I was a little apprehensive in picking up, after loving The Boy Made of Blocks so much, as I always worry that the follow up won’t be as fabulous. But within a few pages I was emotionally involved with the father and daughter who this story revolves around, and the tenderness and respect between these characters was just so charming that you cannot help but keep turning the pages as you are eager to find out what challenges they are set to face and hopefully conquer!

There’s always been a strong bond between Tom and his daughter Hannah, as he has bought her up on his own and has had to be there for her as she fights her illness, a heart condition that has led to many restrictions on her life. But they’ve faced these things together and he’s always looking for ways to make each day more magical for her, and each year on her birthday actors from the local theatre that he runs, put on a play for her. Within the group there are such a wide range of characters that add a nice mix to the story, and they all become like a little family as they’re all so involved with each others’ lives.

Hannah is always a realist though and is looking for her dad to find some happiness and so the story is also told from her point of view as she shares her own viewpoint on how challenging she finds her life and those that she meets along the way. She soon becomes close to Callum at her school, and he’s not without his own problems, so she gets him involved in helping to find some romance for her dad.

I loved how the story went between the two characters, and the supporting cast were also fascinating to read about that there was always something going on and new to discover. It helps put the ‘now’ into perspective and to appreciate those little things that can make each day special in its’ own little way! It was a touching, emotional and humorous book that was a delight to read!!