The Summer of Serendipity by Ali McNamara

Synopsis

One summer, property seeker, Serendipity Parker finds herself on the beautiful west coast of Ireland, hunting for a home for a wealthy Irish client. But when she finds the perfect house in the small town of Ballykiltara, there’s a problem; nobody seems to know who owns it.
 
‘The Welcome House’ is a local legend. Its front door is always open for those in need of shelter, and there’s always a plentiful supply of food in the cupboards for the hungry or poor.
 
While Ren desperately tries to find the owner to see if she can negotiate a sale, she begins to delve deeper into the history and legends that surround the old house and the town. But for a woman who has always been focussed on her work, she’s remarkably distracted by Finn, the attractive manager of the local hotel.
 
But will she ever discover the real truth behind the mysterious ‘Welcome House’? Or will the house cast its magical spell over Ren and help her to find true happiness?

Review

I’ve read most of Ali McNamara’s books, and enjoyed them, and with this book set in close proximity to my favourite of Ali’s “Breakfast at Darcy’s”, I was very excited to start this novel. It is clear that Ali has fallen under the magic of Ireland, the was she writes about it is beautiful, not just the sights, but the enchanting spiritual feeling to it. I wasn’t expecting the book to have a magical side to it, but it definitely added to the overall atmosphere and I really lied that addition.
 
The hotel sounded wonderful, luxurious, but with a cosy, rustic charm. Full of Irish spirit and some local legends which all added to the magical atmosphere and it was a great mix.
 
Ren was a very focused character and for a lot of the time, far too serious for her own good, amplified by the sharp contrast to her assistant, Kiki’s personality. Also she was grilling Fin on his secret, yet when Kiki asks her questions she was equally as secretive, so she was quite hypocritical, and realised it herself at times. Though even when Ren is in full serious or secretive mode, you do get a glimpse of her fun-loving nature when she lets her hair down, and it’s these moments that she shone and I knew I was being maybe a bit harsh on Ren.
 
Kiki was wonderful. She brightened up the room, and yes, she could be naive and a little ditzy, but she was just simply always happy and eager to please. As I said above her personality was a complete contrast to Ren’s and this balanced the book perfectly. I loved Kiki so much I would easily read a whole book with her as the star.
 
Finn is the manager of the hotel and he is simply lovely, if as mysterious as Ren at times.It’s clear that he and Ren are well matched, the ore both conscientious, caring, serious but genuinely fun when relaxed.
 
All of the other characters were equally as charming and friendly, especially Father Duffy.
 
The whole welcome house idea is fascination and while I am quite a sceptic (like Ren) when it comes to ‘feelings’ in a supernatural sense, I did enjoy Ren discover the house and learn to understand it.
 
Overall this book entranced and mystified me. I was desperate to discover the secret of the welcome house, just as much as Ren was. The book pulled me in and its mixture of fun and folklore kept me turning pages till the end.
 
 
Published by: Sphere
Gratefully received from the Publisher for review 
 
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Girl 99 by Andy Jones

Girl99Synopsis

When Tom’s girlfriend walks out on him the day before Christmas, he feels humiliated but not necessarily heartbroken. Sadie wasn’t, after all, The One. If we’re being precise, she was number eighty-five.
 
And so, for reasons that are only mostly wrong, Tom embarks on a mission to bring his number of encounters up to a nice neat one hundred.
 
Over the course of his quest he sleeps with a colleague, a colleague of a friend, a friend of a friend, a friend of a friend’s wife, the estate agent selling his flat and several more besides.
 
Everything is going, if not well, then at least according to plan…and then Tom meets Verity. Whether she’s The One remains to be seen, but she’s certainly more than just another number.

Review

I’ve read the first two books by Andy Jones and they were both very good, so I was definitely looking forward to this one. It has a slightly lighter tone than the other two, but still has the same sense of fun, and I was soon relaxing as I delved into the story.
 
The writing is as sharp and observant as the other two. You have the funny moments, even when it’s also quite bad at the same time, there is some humour to it.
 
I was worried initially that I wouldn’t like Tom because I couldn’t relate to his objective and at the start he was more about the numbers than the people in one way, but I was stupid for worrying. I actually really liked him, he’s flawed (aren’t we all?!) but likeable. I loved reading about him and his family. As he was a fair bit older than his sister, it left him in the middle a bit, but he stuck up for his sister a lot which was great to see. Also to see his sister grow as well, especially when going on
 
This book also stars El, who also starred in Andy’s book ‘The Two of Us’, but this book is set before then, so El’s illness is less progressed. This didn’t stop the emotion being there. el’s relationship with Phil was absolutely heartbreaking. It added a bit more depth, to a story that is relatively light hearted.
 
This book was a fairly quick read that offers a lot of heart, but also the sense of fun I’ve come to enjoy from Andy’s books, even more so than the other books given the lighter overall tone.
 
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Published by: Lake Union
Gratefully received from the Publisher for review
 
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andyjones_croppedAbout The Author

Andy Jones lives in London with his wife and two little girls. During the day he works in an advertising agency; at weekends and horribly early in the mornings, he writes fiction.
 
You can find Andy on Twitter, Facebook & Instagram as andyjonesauthor
 

The Secret Lives Of The Amir Sisters by Nadiya Hussain

secretamirsistersSynopsis

The eagerly awaited debut novel from the much-loved winner of The Great British Bake Off
 
The four Amir sisters – Fatima, Farah, Bubblee and Mae – are the only young Muslims in the quaint English village of Wyvernage.
 
On the outside, despite not quite fitting in with their neighbours, the Amirs are happy. But on the inside, each sister is secretly struggling.
 
Fatima is trying to find out who she really is – and after fifteen attempts, finally pass her driving test. Farah is happy being a wife but longs to be a mother. Bubblee is determined to be an artist in London, away from family tradition, and Mae is coping with burgeoning Youtube stardom.
 
Yet when family tragedy strikes, it brings the Amir sisters closer together and forces them to learn more about life, love, faith and each other than they ever thought possible.

Review

First off, I love the Bake off, so was clearly intrigued when I found out Nadiya was releasing another book, but not cooking or baking, oh no, it was women’s fiction. So would this book be as good as her cakes look? The answer would be yes.
 
The writing is sharp and funny and certainly kept me reading as all the characters were relatable in someway. They evoked sympathy, annoyance and a whole range of emotions. We hear from all four sisters at separate times, each is distinct from each other and it was interesting to see the inner workings of a family that were close knit, but equally, secretive at the same time. Each sister having to navigate pleasing their parents with their own struggles.
 
While we hear from all four sisters, the main focus is on Fatima. She is shy and incredibly self-conscious. I completely warmed to her and connected with how she was feeling, relating to her weight issues and it also saddened me how disconnected she seemed from the family. You could tell she loved her sisters and parents dearly, but always worried they looked down on her, because of how useless she felt. I think her driving instructor, Ash was a great influence on her.
 
I also really liked Mae, despite doing something incredibly naïve which hurts her family, I think it shows the age difference between the sisters, and I can imagine the fascination i’d have with youtube and twitter etc. if I was that age. She clearly meant no Malice.
 
I felt sympathy for the secret Farah was keeping, and then to have her world turned upside down with all the uncertainty must be very hard.
 
The only thing I wish was that there was more conclusion to Bubblee’s story, we didn’t really get to know her as much as the other sister’s I feel, it does lead me to hope there is a sequel about her, and maybe more from Mae. As I said this book mainly focused on Fatima, and actually there was a fair bit on Farah too, so I think another book focusing on Bubblee and Mae would be perfect.
 
Overall I really enjoyed this book, I could barely put it down. It was funny, completely true to life, you can definitely imagine each of these characters being alive, as if it was an autobiography rather than fiction. More please!
 
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Published by: HQ
Gratefully received from the Publisher for review
 
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Falling by Julie Cohen

falling-juliecohenSynopsis

Can you imagine keeping a secret so devastating, you couldn’t even tell the people you love?
 
Honor’s secret threatens to rob her of the independence she’s guarded ferociously for eighty years.
 
Jo’s secret could smash apart the ‘normal’ family life she’s fought so hard to build.
 
Lydia’s could bring her love – or the loss of everything that matters to her.
 
Grandmother, mother and daughter – three women whose lives are falling apart. But one summer’s day, a single dramatic moment will force their secrets into the open.
 
Can they save each other from falling?

Review

I’ve never read a book by Julie Cohen, and judging by the amount of praise I read about Julie’s books, I was clearly missing out so I was eager to make amends and start with this book.
 
Julie’s writing is fantastic. She manages to create a mixture of emotions. The first chapter, I felt concern for Honor, then jumping straight to the second chapter I found myself laughing as Jo attempts to get him on the bus with two young children, on a day where nothing is going right and much later on I found myself crying, with a whole load of feelings in the middle.
 
The three viewpoints means we get to know the three women’s secrets in great detail, ensuring we feel for them, especially Lydia and Honor. Personally for me, I didn’t really get why Jo’s secret was really such a big deal, I know it breaks a promise with her 16 year old daughter, but then again, I have the advantage of knowing why Lydia was so adamant about this promise in the heat of the moment, and also, I think it’s a very motherly thing and I’m not a mother, nor am I terribly broody so I think if I was then I would get it.
 
Honor starts out as grumpy and as snobby as her reputation promises. Her distaste for Jo, her daughter-in-law, couldn’t be more obvious. However she knows she needs help, so has to reluctantly accept Jo’s offer. Despite her grumpiness, I always felt it had a tinge of loneliness to it. It was hard to dislike Honor when reading her chapters. However her barbed comments when Jo was commentating sometimes felt a bit mean.
 
Jo is one of those people who is generally upbeat and a people pleaser. She clearly hopes her upbeat attitude rubs off on other people, and her need to please people means she worries and then has the tendency to flap about, much to the annoyance of Honor and Lydia.
 
This was also to her detriment. She never found time for herself, or think about what she wants from life. In her mind she was a housewife or mother, and that’s all she needed to be. But as cliché as it is to ‘find yourself’, I wish she had spent some time doing just that, before she met Richard, or while she had the au-pair to help out with the two young children.
 
Lydia’s chapters mostly start with an inner monologue where you soon start to learn her secret, and for me her story was my favourite. Her secret was so huge, especially for someone who is only 160 and seeing her struggle pulled on my heart-strings at times. I did like seeing her bond with Honor towards the middle-end of this book, it was great reading their scenes together.
 
While I probably seem really harsh on Jo, I did like all three women pretty equally. They clearly needed each other and it was a simply beautiful story. A fantastic read that made me feel a real mix of emotions, as I hoped it would.
 
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Published by: Transworld

Gratefully received from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
 
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