The Woman at Number 24 by Juliet Ashton

womanatnumber24Synopsis 

When your marriage falls apart, the last place you’d want your husband to move to is downstairs. Unfortunately for Sarah, up in the eaves at number 24, her ex-husband now lives one floor beneath her with his new wife. Their happiness floats up through the floorboards, taunting her.
 
A child psychologist, Sarah has picked up great sadness from the little girl, Una, who lives with her careworn mother three floors below, but is Sarah emotionally equipped to reach out?
 
The Spring brings a new couple to the house. Jane and Tom‘s zest for life revives the flagging spirits, and Sarah can’t deny the instant attraction to handsome Tom. Having seen at first hand what infidelity does to people, she’ll never act on it … but the air fizzes with potential.
 
The sunshine doesn’t reach every corner of number 24, however. Elderly Mavis, tucked away in the basement, has kept the world at bay for decades. She’s about to find out that she can’t hide forever.

Review

Having read Juliet Ashton’s previous novel I was looking forward to her next book as I adored ‘These Days of Ours’, especially when I received and read the sampler.
 
It sounded quite a light read but it was much more emotional and mysterious than I expected. This only added an extra layer of depth, to what was already a pretty fantastic book. It is so easy to read and find yourself consumed by this book, so much so I stayed up till the early hours of the morning, unable to put it down. While most of the book takes place in the house and it’s gaden, because it’s converted to flats you get a nice variety of characters and story all intertwined.
 
The main character is Sarah and it’s from her viewpoint we read the book. At times I really liked Sarah, she was naturally kind and willing to give people a chance, like Mavis from the basement flat. However this also extended to her ex husband, Leo. She wasn’t over him, and therefore was quite naive I think, especially in the hope that helping her paint the flat proved he still loved her. She accepted that his careless, hapless nature was the way he was, and made excuses for him.  At the worst times he came off really creepy, and at best he was inconsiderate as to how Sarah may feel. I was begging Sarah to have more strength in her, and at times she did, seeing Leo squirm when she told him how ridiculous the situation was, was great, but then she went back to defending him to everyone else. It was easy to dislike Leo initially, but by the end I think Sarah somehow hypnotised me. I didn’t like him as such but thought that maybe he had changed, and could see growth in a character, that for the first part of the book, I saw no hope for.
 
Despite her grumpy exterior, I loved Mavis. Yes she was cantankerous, but at times her light shone through and you could see she wanted to change and make amends, and become and better neighbour and more importantly, a friend to everyone.
 
Jane was certainly a larger then life character, she was instantly someone trustworthy and you wanted to become best friends with.
 
This book delivered so much more than I expected. Emotion, laughs and mystery, I simply adored every minute of reading it.
 
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Published by: Simon & Schuster
Gratefully received from the Publisher for review
 
View Book on Goodreads
Order on: Amazon UK | Amazon US | Book Depository
 
 
 
 

Top Ten Reads of 2016

You may be very surprised to hear, I have actually managed to stick to 10 books for a top ten list, rather than renaming it ‘My Favourite Reads’ to excuse the fact I’m indecisive! So in no paticular order, here is my top 10 books that I read in 2016!

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A Summer At Sea by Katie Fforde
This is the first book I’ve read by Katie Fforde, and even then I listened to it on audiobook. Regardless it was a really good read and I loved it!

Miracle on 5th Avenue by Sarah Morgan (99p on kindle till January 3rd 2017)
It’s no secret this is my favourite of the series, I absolutely adored all 3, but this one was by far the one that I fell in love with the most.

 

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You Had Me At Merlot by Lisa Dickenson
Wine, Italy and a lovely man in one book? This book is too wonderful!

The Affair by Amanda Brooke
Loved this novel by Amanda, an interesting subject and wonderfully told.

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The One We Fell In Love With by Paige Toon
The most predictable book in my top ten, but what can I say? I love Paige’s books and this is fighting with Chasing Daisy to be my number one book by her.

Valentina by S E Lynes (Another bargain at £1.99 on kindle right now)
This book was the biggest surprise of the year. I didn’t know what I was expecting, but it surpassed all expectations.

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Out Of Practice by Penny Parkes
I loved this book, it was endearing, and I can’t wait to read more books from Penny!

The Missing by C. L. Taylor (99p at time of writing)
This book was easily the best out of C L Taylor’s thrillers. It completely captured my attention from page one.

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The Night That Changed Everything by Laura Tait and Jimmy Rice
I loved Laura and Jimmy’s first book, but this one was even better. Loved the ending, however emotional it was. This book was pretty much perfect!

Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult
I read this book a few months ago and I am still struggling to put into words just how fantastic this book is. Just go and read it!

What have been your favourite reads of 2016?

Blog Tour Extract ‘The Affair’ by Amanda Brooke

Thank you to the publishers for inviting me on this blog tour, I’ve wanted to read a book from Amanda for ages and this one sounded a great one to start.
Order on Amazon: Paperback (Published 12th January 2017) Ebook (Out Now)
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“You might as well know from the start, I’m not going to tell on him and I don’t care how much trouble I get in. It’s not like it could get any worse than it already is. I can’t. Don’t ask me why, I just can’t.”
 
When Nina finds out that her fifteen-year-old daughter, Scarlett, is pregnant, her world falls apart.
 
Because Scarlet won’t tell anyone who the father is. And Nina is scared that the answer will destroy everything.
 
As the suspects mount – from Scarlett’s teacher to Nina’s new husband of less than a year – Nina searches for the truth: no matter what the cost.
 

Extract

By the time Nina was ready to face her daughter, Scarlett had turned her back on them and was inspecting the contents of the fridge. Gone were the days when her daughter looked cute in her new uniform. Her plaid skirt had been rolled up at the waist so that it was a couple of inches higher than the regulatory knee-length, although thankfully still longer than most of the outfits she was inclined to wear these days.

When Scarlett picked up a half-eaten bar of chocolate, Nina said, ‘Why don’t you try a flapjack?’

‘Chocolate’s good for you,’ Scarlett said, snapping a piece from the bar.

Nina tutted. ‘You do know that’s just a myth? There’s no scientific evidence behind it.’

Scarlett popped the chocolate in her mouth and beamed a smile. ‘I’ll take my chances.’

‘The flapjacks will keep, I’ll put them in a container,’ Bryn said. ‘They’re only a hundred calories each, and they have slow-releasing energy.’

Under her mother’s withering glare, Scarlett’s conscience was pricked. ‘I suppose I could take some out tonight for my mates.’

‘Out? Tonight?’ Nina repeated. ‘I don’t think so. Summer holidays are over and you have your GCSEs this year. No socializing during the week and only once at the weekend.’

Scarlett’s jaw dropped. ‘You can’t do that!’

‘It’s not open for discussion, Scarlett. That’s how it is. And by the way,’ Nina added, dropping her gaze to Scarlett’s hands, ‘when I told you last night to take off your nail varnish, I meant take it off. You know the school rules, and by my reckoning you’re breaking at least half a dozen.’

‘But, Mum, nobody cares. Everyone wears makeup and nail varnish, and the teachers don’t say a thing. If you’re that bothered, I’ll put nail-varnish remover in my bag and, if any of the teachers freak out, I’ll take it off.’

‘No, do it now.’

Scarlett shoved another piece of chocolate in her mouth before returning the remainder to the fridge. ‘If I do, can I still go out tonight? It’s not as if school’s started properly.’ In the midst of their negotiations, Liam had appeared like a spectre only vaguely aware of the world around him. Without uttering a word, he grabbed something from the fridge and wedged it between two slices of bread before disappearing.

‘I give up, honestly I do.’

Scarlett’s face lit up and she ran over to give her mum a dramatic hug. ‘Thank you, Mum,’ she said, scurrying outof the kitchen before Nina realized her daughter thought she had been talking to her. Nina was going to have to up her game if she were to avoid being outmanoeuvred by her children in the coming year.

Nina stood on the landing staring at two firmly closed bedroom doors, and as she listened to Bryn preparing dinner downstairs she could feel her frustration get the better of her. She accepted that they were all in a period of adjust- ment, but was it too much to expect Liam and Scarlett to at least acknowledge the efforts their stepfather was making, even if they chose not to reciprocate? Her marriage could be a great opportunity for them to have a male role model in their lives at long last, if only they would recognize it.

Liam and Scarlett’s dad worked on the North Sea oil rigs and lived a single life in Aberdeen as far as Nina was aware. His children rarely had contact with him and it had been a year or two since either of them had made noises about going to stay with him. Nina had been a lone parent in every sense of the word and, despite heroic efforts, there had been limits to the advice and support she could offer her children, not to mention time. Bryn could bridge the gap. He was bridging the gap, and while Nina wasn’t quite ready to drive the point home forcefully, she wasn’t averse to helping things along.

She tapped on Liam’s door and, after receiving no reply, pushed against the doorstop her son used to deter unwel- come visitors. The door opened only a fraction, revealing a darkened room thick with stale air. A flicker of blue light suggested Liam was using some form of electronic device to communicate with his virtual world.

‘Liam?’

When she received a grunt in response, she asked, ‘How was your first day back?’

‘Fine.’

‘Dinner won’t be long. Bryn’s trying out a new recipe.’

Nina hadn’t posed a question so received no answer or acknowledgement.

‘Have you made plans for the weekend?’ she continued, and although it was a question this time, an answer wasn’t necessary. If Liam had friends outside school, they rarely met, not in the real world at least. ‘Sarah’s suggested we all go out for Sunday lunch. I’d like us all to go.’

There was a hiss of annoyance, but not an outright refusal.

‘OK?’ she asked.

‘OK, Mum. Is that all?’

‘Great, lovely. I’m so looking forward to having quality time with my family,’ she muttered under her breath as she closed the door and turned her attention towards Scarlett’s room.

 
This book is truly fantastic, and one you should definitely check out.
A review will be up very shortly and check out the other bloggers on this tour!
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The Regulars by Georgia Clark

regularsSynopsis

Best friends Evie, Krista, and Willow are just trying to make it through their mid-twenties in New York. They’re regular girls, with average looks and typical quarter-life crises: making it up the corporate ladder, making sense of online dating, and making rent.
 
Until they come across Pretty, a magic tincture that makes them, well…gorgeous. Like, supermodel gorgeous. And it’s certainly not their fault if the sudden gift of beauty causes unexpected doors to open for them.
 
But there’s a dark side to Pretty, too, and as the gloss fades for these modern-day Cinderellas, there’s just one question left:
 
What would you sacrifice to be Pretty?

Review

I was really intrigued by this book, especially after reading the chapter sampler that ‘Books and the City’ kindly gave me at the spring blogger event. It didn’t sound like anything I’d read before so it was very excited to try something new.
 
The book is as fascinating as it sounds. The writing style is great, it’s sharp and packs a punch, it’s a lot darker than most of the books I read and liked that about it. I’m used to very cosy and warm writing (which i equally enjoy), so it was a great contrast.
Set in New York this book is part women’s fiction and part something else. I can’t quite put my finger on what though…realistic fantasy? Obviously the Pretty potion couldn’t happen in real life, but the setting was set in the world we know. The potion was almost fairy tale or maybe fable is a better way of putting it, as there was lessons to be learned.
 
Obviously body image and beauty standards is one that comes into question, but also covers feminism quite heavily. It’s very topical as while in today’s society we are more socially aware, we still have publications that have numbers articles a week or month about who looks like they’ve gained a few pounds, or dared to go outside without make up.
 
The three characters are all flawed (as are we all), both as regular and pretty, but while I found myself wondering what the hell some of the characters were doing at times (Krista especially), I was enthralled in the story that I could barely put this down.
 
Evie started out as the most likeable character but possibly changed the most throughout the book, and until very close to the end it was for the worse. However I think that Evie wouldn’t recognise the person she changed into, both physically AND on the inside. Yes she was still a fierce feminist, but she failed to see her reliance on the potion to land her idol as a girlfriend as slightly ironic compared to her disdain at things such as makeup. We can do desperate things for love sometimes, but the potion seemed to make her forget all sense, though it’s easy to see that from an outside perspective.
It was great that in her professional life she was trying her best to make a difference, but I think she should have realised that no matter what she says, they aren’t going to change. That is a defeatist attitude I realise and if it is just one person standing up maybe things won’t change, but there are strength in numbers and the book makes you stop and think.
 
Krista is one crazy character and probably my most disliked initially. She was inconsiderate and  her antics means she didn’t help herself in any shape or form. Krista was always doing crazy things, whether it’s missing auditions for shopping or having some fun with an award statue, she was impulsive and that’s who she was throughout most of the book. However I think she possibly ended up the character I had the most fun with and she definitely seemed to grow the most as a person.
 
Willow I would love to get to know more, she was very withdrawn and incredibly sensitive and insecure. Her story was heart breaking at times and I kind of want a Novella on each character as follow ups!
 
This book was a surprise when I first heard about it, and I’m glad I had the chance to read it. Smart, fresh and an incredibly engaging read from the beginning till end.
 
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Published by: Simon & Schuster
Gratefully received from the Publisher for review
 
View Book on Goodreads
Order on: Amazon UK | Amazon US | Book Depository