Friday, 21 April 2017

Ballerina Dreams by Michaela DePrince

Ballerina DreamsBallerina Dreams by Michaela DePrince
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

One windy day, a magazine blew down the road. I reached out and caught it. A pretty picture of a woman was on the front cover of the magazine. She wore a short pink dress that stuck out around her in a circle. She looked very happy.

At the age of three, Michaela DePrince found a photo of a ballerina that changed her life. She was living in an orphanage in Sierra Leone at the time, but was soon adopted by a family and brought to America. Michaela never forgot the photo of the dancer she once saw, and decided to make her dream of becoming a ballerina come true. She has been dancing ever since, and after a spell as a principal dancer in New York, now dances for the Dutch National Ballet in Amsterdam.

Beautifully and gently illustrated by Ella Okstad, Ballerina Dreams is the younger-reader edition of Michaela DePrince's highly moving memoir, Hope in a Ballet Shoe.

This is a nicely illustrated book, perfect for anyone who has a dream, however big or small and it identifies that it doesn't matter who you are or where you come from. You ambition and dreams can come true with a bit of determination and faith.

Reading this as an adult I feel gives a totally different opinion of the story and perhaps some of these thoughts and feelings may not be obvious to children. I think this would be an enjoyable book for adults and children alike.

I would like to thank the publisher for sending this in exchange for an honest review.

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

The One Plus One by Jojo Moyes

The One Plus OneThe One Plus One by Jojo Moyes
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

One single mum

With two jobs and two children, Jess Thomas does her best day after day. But it's hard on your own. And sometimes you take risks you shouldn't. Because you have to . . .

One chaotic family

Jess's gifted, quirky daughter Tanzie is brilliant with numbers, but without a helping hand she'll never get the chance to shine. And Nicky, Jess's teenage stepson, can't fight the bullies alone.

Sometimes Jess feels like they're sinking . . .

One handsome stranger

Into their lives comes Ed Nicholls, a man whose life is in chaos, and who is running from a deeply uncertain future. But he has time on his hands. He knows what it's like to be lonely. And he wants to help . . .

One unexpected love story

The One Plus One is a captivating and unconventional romance from Jojo Moyes about two lost souls meeting in the most unlikely circumstances.

What made the experience of listening to The One Plus One the most enjoyable?
I really enjoyed the different character voices throughout the performance, it was also really engaging from the beginning.

What other book might you compare The One Plus One to, and why?
I wouldn't compare it to any others that I have listened to before,

Have you listened to any of the narrators’s other performances? How does this one compare?
This was the first from these narrators.

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?
I did want to although being so long I was unable to, I saved this and listened to it on 2 separate plane journeys, this is something I would recommend.

Any additional comments?
I would recommend this to others, this was the first Jojo Moyes book I have read/listened to and really, really enjoyed it. My previous thoughts were that her books were sad and quite depressing. This book was neither of these and I would now not hesitate to pick up another one of her books.

Monday, 17 April 2017

What a Way to Go by Julia Forster

What a Way to GoWhat a Way to Go by Julia Forster
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

1988. 12-year-old Harper Richardson's parents are divorced. Her mum got custody of her, the Mini, and five hundred tins of baked beans. Her dad got a mouldering cottage in a Midlands backwater village and default membership of the Lone Rangers single parents' club. Harper got questionable dress sense, a zest for life, two gerbils, and her Chambers dictionary, and the responsibility of fixing her parents' broken hearts. Set against a backdrop of high hairdos and higher interest rates, pop music and puberty, divorce and death, What a Way to Go is a warm, wise and witty tale of one girl tackling the business of growing up while those around her try not to fall apart.

I'd probably equate this as a young adult novel. Told through the eyes of a 12 year old girl called Harper it had a charm and evoked memories of the 1980's well. It takes quite a dysfunctional family unit seen through the eyes of a teenager {Harper) who is quite wise for her years through growing up in the 1980's while she tries to make sense of a world of adults, their problems, heartaches and her often witty unique way of handling life.

It was an amusing read, often sad in places but still managed to maintain a lightness throughout. Not really my kind of read as I said it seems more young adult than adult reading but it was still enjoyable. Worth 3 stars for it's nostalgia and craftsmanship but not the best book I've read this year.

I would like to thank the publisher for sending this in exchange for an honest review.

Friday, 14 April 2017

War Orphans by Lizzie Lane

War OrphansWar Orphans by Lizzie Lane
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

“If at all possible, send or take your household animals into the country in advance of an emergency. If you cannot place them in the care of neighbours, it really is kindest to have them destroyed."

Joanna Ryan’s father has gone off to war, leaving her in the care of her step-mother, a woman more concerned with having a good time than being any sort of parent to her.

But then she finds a puppy, left for dead, and Joanna’s becomes determined to save him, sharing her meagre rations with him. But, in a time of war, pets are only seen as an unnecessary burden and she is forced to hide her new friend, Harry, from her step-mother and the authorities. With bombs falling over Bristol and with the prospect of evacuation on the horizon, can they stay together and keep each other safe?

War Orphans is a nice easy read, lots of heart and tugs at the heart strings. A little girl Joanna in the midst of war is a determined little fighter, she is treated badly by her stepmother and finds her salvation in looking after a little puppy who she finds left for dead after someone cruely throws a bag full of puppies into the river to drown. She rescues Harry and is determined to help him survive. The problem is that wartime means that food is hard to come by and having Harry and feeding him is against the law so Joanna hides Harry in an abandoned shed on the allotments.

Joanna grows up during this awful wartime and makes some friends along the way and those lives she crosses have their own hardships to bear.

It was a sweet little book and I suppose it does end how it should but didn't have any surprises for me; a nice distraction read and a little glimpse into this genre but not a great novel. I give this one a 3 star rating.

I would like to thank the publisher for sending this in exchange for an honest review.

Wednesday, 12 April 2017

One Little Mistake by Emma Curtis

One Little MistakeOne Little Mistake by Emma Curtis
My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Vicky Seagrave is blessed: three beautiful children, a successful, doting husband, great friends and a job she loves. She should be perfectly happy.

When she makes a split-second decision that risks everything she holds dear, there's only person she trusts enough to turn to.

But Vicky is about to learn that one mistake is all it takes; that if you're careless with those you love, you don't deserve to keep them . . .

Really enjoyed this novel, it was well written and the use of suspense building throughout was what kept the pace from start to finish. Written from two points of view over two different time scales (1992 and 2010), Emma Curtis wove these together with seamless precision. I do read a lot of psychological thrillers and it was therefore not difficult for me to guess the connection but having said that it didn't detract from the story and was an excellent read that kept me awake until the wee small hours just to finish it.

The blurb tells the outline of how one little mistake and shared secrets between her best friend Amber Vicky felt she could trust, and the realisation that you can't really trust anyone sometimes least of all your best friend is the crux of this book. It is so much more than that though, mind games, secrets, insecurities, guilt, fear and hopelessness that once the genie is out of the bottle you can't just put it back and hope that everything will be the same. Vicky quickly learns that actions have consequences and she is powerless to make things right. The seemingly easy friendship between Vicky and Amber turns into a toxic relationship and sets in motion a series of events that spiral out of control. It poses the question how well we know our friends and whether we can trust our most intimate of secrets with them in the knowledge they might use them against us. Powerfully written, great character crafting and suspense building, a thoroughly enjoyable read and deserving 4 stars.

I would like to thank the publisher for sending this in exchange for an honest review.

Monday, 10 April 2017

Girl Up by Laura Bates

Girl UpGirl Up by Laura Bates
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

They told you you need to be thin and beautiful.

They told you to wear longer skirts, avoid going out late at night and move in groups - never accept drinks from a stranger, and wear shoes you can run in more easily than heels.

They told you to wear just enough make-up to look presentable but not enough to be a slut; to dress to flatter your apple, pear, hourglass figure, but not to be too tarty.

They warned you that if you try to be strong, or take control, you'll be shrill, bossy, a ballbreaker. Of course it's fine for the boys, but you should know your place.

They told you 'that's not for girls' - 'take it as a compliment' - 'don't rock the boat' - 'that'll go straight to your hips'.

They told you 'beauty is on the inside', but you knew they didn't really mean it.

Well I'm here to tell you something different.

Hilarious, jaunty and bold, GIRL UP exposes the truth about the pressures surrounding body image, the false representations in media, the complexities of a sex and relationships, the trials of social media and all the other lies they told us.

I am not sure really how to review this book. It sits slightly awkwardly with me. I am not a feminist and never tried to be and so some of the way this book has been written wasn't for me.

This book is very crude in places, just not my cup of tea. Yes there are lots of good points in the book and I feel other women/ younger girls should know and read but perhaps not in this way. If you are a lover of feminism or even writing an essay for university on this subject I would recommend you pick this book up as there are lots of great points in it and the author is honest throughout.

I enjoyed the fact the book was broken up with illustrations and diagrams throughout, I thought this stopped it being too 'heavy'. I can recognise that the author has spent a lot of time researching and clearly has a passion for this area, but I feel that sometimes it has been represented in a crude way. One that doesn't sit kindly with me. This is probably a bit of a controversial review as I can see most people who have read this have really enjoyed it. However, I have always reviewed a book honestly. There were parts of this book that I skimmed as I could see I wasn't enjoying the way it was written. Saying this, it doesn't mean it is an awful book as many will love this and be able to relate to it.

I have given this book 3* for the authors clear interest in this area and the fact she has backed her thoughts and writing up with expert opinions. The grammar and English is also correct throughout which makes a book much more enjoyable to read.

Although this is not a book for me, others have loved it and I would recommend you read it to for your own opinions on it.

I would like to thank the publisher for sending this in exchange for an honest review.

Saturday, 8 April 2017

We never said goodbye blog tour with extract

When Louise is dumped by Mike on their twentieth wedding anniversary, she faces the daunting task of picking up the pieces of her life. She can either choose to persevere in her adopted hometown of London, bolstered by dear friends and the fashion business she loves, or return to her native Sweden alone. Can she find happiness with an old flame in a city she avoided for two decades? Or will her ex’s violent, criminal past haunt her forever?

As Mike become increasingly unhinged, the choices Louise makes could prove fatal. Will she ever be able to say goodbye to the past and start afresh?

Helen has stopped by to include a guest post for the tour today, I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. Thanks Helen!

The moment they arrived at Malmö Airport, both took a deep breath and inhaled the fresh air, so different to the pollution of London. The weather was sunny with a cool breeze. Taking a cab outside the airport, they were grateful they’d opted to wear jeans, T-shirts and jackets. They asked the cab driver to drop them close to the pedestrian walk, then stood, gazing around at the crowds of people talking and laughing. Many spoke a different language.

Malmö, like London and so many parts of Europe, was inhabited with people from other cultures.

“Let’s fika at Café Hollandia! I’m gasping for proper coffee and a cinnamon bun.”

Minutes later, seated in a plush velvet chair at a table by the counter and drooling over the assortment of scrumptious delights before them, Louise and Trine decided to share a prawn and egg sandwich, followed by chocolate mousse gateaux.

“This is simply delicious,” Trine declared, taking a bite of the cake and savouring it in her mouth. No matter how tasty the snacks were in her favourite Fulham café, nothing compared to Swedish confectionary in her view.

“Mamma used to take me here when she and I went shopping together. We’d cycle from our home in Limhamn and spend hours together talking and relaxing. Pappa and I visited art galleries every Saturday. I’ll never forget all the special times we shared.”

Louise’s voice faltered. Every time she returned to Malmö, the overwhelming sense of loss crushed her. This time wasn’t any different. She’d never get over losing her parents.

“Life’s much too precious to waste. Could you live here again?” Trine asked between mouthfuls of cake. She and Jasper had discussed it before the trip. Both agreed it would be the start of a new life for Louise and they’d look after the flat and The Studio if Louise wanted to return to Malmö. “You’ve been through so much in a short period of time. Jasper and I know you’re not happy. However much you try to hide it, we can see straight through you. We love you too much to turn a blind eye to it. Face up to it, Louise. You’ve not been happy for a very long time. Not even when you and Mike were together. You know it just as much as we do.”

“You seriously propose I relocate to Malmö? Is that the reason you persuaded me to come with you?” Louise wasn’t sure if her friend was right. She’d lived in London for many years. Malmö hadn’t changed that much yet Louise knew nothing was quite the way she remembered it. The political and cultural landscape had changed beyond recognition, both for better and worse. Furthermore, she’d lost touch with her aunt and close friends. What if she didn’t fit in? “Malmö’s not how it used to be. I can feel it in here.” Louise pointed to her stomach.

“If that’s how you feel, all I can tell you is that it takes time and perseverance to adjust. I know you’re apprehensive of starting over but you needn’t be! After decades in London, it won’t take long to feel at home.”

“If I didn’t know better, I’d imagine you want rid of me! Is that the real reason we’re in Malmö? Trine, I’m forty-five years old, with a business and a home in London. I’m too old and set in my ways to start over. Don’t you want us to work together anymore? I can’t imagine a life without you, Jasper and the kids.”

“You’ll never get rid of us! I’m not a selfish person, Louise. If I were, I wouldn’t tell you to move back to Malmö. I love our friendship and partnership but you’re just going through the motions of everyday life. Seeing you so unhappy is killing me! I know you say you’ve come to terms with what happened with Mike and I wish that was true. You’ve not dealt with it sufficiently, Louise. Malmö is

your chance for a new life. If you don’t like it, all you have to do is book a flight back to London. We’ll always be there for you.”


Louise’s initial thought when she woke up the next morning was how much she was warming to the idea of returning to Malmö. She hadn’t lived there since her parents died, yet in her heart she knew that her aunt and friends were right. There was no reason for her to remain in London except Trine and her family, and The Studio. Having breakfast in the small living room, Louise felt more alone than when Mike first left her. I’ll discuss it with Trine, she decided, recalling the Larsens’ promise to look after her flat and her share of the business in case she decided to return. I’m lonely. Mamma loved dogs. Perhaps I ought to get a rescue dog to keep me company? I’ll call Natasha tomorrow. She’s bound to know of someone who’s got puppies.

She was browsing through an old photo album when Trine called to ask if she’d like to join them for lunch. “Jasper’s been busy in the kitchen since dawn. The aroma is out of this world! We’ve got Sunday roast with hasselback potatoes and chocolate cake on the menu. Please say you’ll come.”

Salivating at the thought of all the food, Louise realised she was famished. “Alright! But I’ll not stay for long. Tell Jasper I want him to prepare a large G&T. I’ll catch a cab.” Louise refused to use the local transport that never arrived on time and had sold her BMW convertible after she moved into her flat, only a few minutes’ walk from The Studio.

Contrary to what she’d told them, Trine, Jasper and the kids persuaded her to stay much longer. Just as she was about to accept a lift home from Jasper, Trine took her aside.

“Do you recall that guy you used to date when your parents were alive? I can’t for the life of me remember his name. He was so sweet.”

“Why are you bringing him up now? Nicklas and I were kids.”

“That’s the one! Nicklas. You were deeply in love with each other. I wonder what happened to him.”

“He’s probably married with five kids. Honestly, I can’t figure you out, sometimes! Do you recall every guy you’ve dated? I sure don’t.”

“Nicklas wasn’t just a fling. The two of you were inseparable. Don’t you ever look back and wonder what might have happened had you not met Mike and moved to London?”

“Not really. What’s the point? Life’s transient. Nothing stays the same.”

Later, seated in Jasper’s van on the way back to Fulham, Louise couldn’t shake off Trine’s comments. I hope Nicklas has found someone who loves and understands him, she thought, then pushed his image to the back of her mind.

We Never Said Goodbye by Heléne Fermont is out 6th April (Fridhem, £9.99)