Disobedient Women By Sangeeta Mulay Review (Fly On The Wall Press Blog Tours)

Today dear readers I am on the blog tour for Disobedient Women (Published 25 Nov. 2022) By Sangeeta Mulay. A big thank you to the publishers Fly On The Wall Press for sending me a copy to read and review, always appreciated.  

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Disobedient Women

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Set in contemporary India, Sangeeta Mulay’s unforgettable debut novel is a compelling story of four unforgettable characters:

Aparna – a courageous campaigner of rationality and freedom of expression. Will the patriarchal grip of a religious society manage to silence her?

Hari – the passionate founder of a religious organisation. As Hari becomes a rising star for the local Hindu right-wing, will he lose himself?

Naseem – Aparna’s wise daughter who is discovering her sexuality. Will she have the strength to stand up for her mother against societal stigma?

Kashi – Hari’s daughter who is in love with science and…girls? Confused about her sexuality, will she be able to lead life on her own terms?

Confronting issues of religion, bigotry, sex and politics, Disobedient Women tells the interwoven stories of two families and their battle of ideologies. A novel of the choices women make under pressure, where to be disobedient is the only option that offers change.

About the Author

About the writer Sangeeta Mulay was born in Pune in India and now currently works in London as a UX writer. She received an honourable mention in the 2021 NYC midnight micro-fiction challenge. Her book for young adults, ‘Savitribai Phule and I’ was a notable book of 2020 for The Bombay Review. She has also had a short story highly commended in the Sydney Hammond short story competition. Another of Mulay’s short stories will be published in a 2022 Fox and Windmill anthology.

Review

The reader finds themselves in contemporary India where Aparna Soman is an anti-superstition campaigner, promoting rationality under the patriarchal grip of a religious society that seeks to silence her. She will stop at nothing to get her voice heard. In contrast to Aparna the reader also follows Hari Sabnis, the founder of religious organisation Dharma Sanstha. Their goal is to convert India from secular to Hindu nation. But when Hari starts to become a rising star for the local religious right-wing can he trust his feelings or will he lose himself and forget the real fight he’s fighting for?

It was fascinating to read parallel lives and beliefs, to see two sides of the story. It added an extra depth and brought a wholeness to the narrative. Two families with two different views. Both Aparna and Hari share one similarity in the fact that they both have daughters. Naseem is wise at 18 years old and is only just discovering who she is. She loves her family and is in awe of her mother Aparna and how she fights strongly for her voice to be heard. But she is struggling to stand up for her and is still trying to understand her own sexuality. Kashi loves science and girls but with her father being Hari this places her in an unfortunate situation. She is confused and wants to live her life her way but is trapped with the brutal force of opposing opinions and views saying what she desires is wrong.

Aparna was inspiring to read, she is stubborn and determined to stand up for what she believes in. I found her a force to be reckoned with, one that is needed more in these times of change. She worries where will women go for help if they can’t trust their local police, who will stand up for them when making a sexual harassment complaint against a Godman. It takes great courage to stand up in a world where you are not seen as an equal and a mere tool for procreation. But someone has to say and do something.

I found Mulay’s writing about modern day Hindu vs Muslim culture clashes in India incredibly brave. It is a sensitive topic to discuss that most will shy away from but Mulay has served it more than justice. It needs to be talked about, to keep being talked about, how else will anyone learn and grow? Women are being forced to make choices under pressure and are seen as disobedient if they want change. It needs to be talked about and not dismissed. Things needs to change.

I give Disobedient Women By Sangeeta Mulay a Five out of Five paw rating

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Strong and empowering to all women, I highly recommend this book to everyone. You NEED to read this dear reader.

Don’t forget to follow the rest of the blog tour, dates below, enjoy!

Disobedient Women Blog Tour (5)

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If the River is Hidden By Cherry Smyth and Craig Jordan-Baker Review

Today dear readers I am reviewing If the River is Hidden (Published paperback 24th Nov 2022)  By Cherry Smyth and Craig Jordan-Baker. A big thank you to the publishers Epoque Press for sending me a copy to read and review, always appreciated.

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If the River is Hidden

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If the River is Hidden charts the journey of two writers from the source to the mouth of the Bann, Northern Ireland’s longest river. Through a dialogue of prose and poetry the history, landscape and divisions that have come to define the North are explored and challenged. With backgrounds from each side of the sectarian divide, theirs is a journey of uncovering a sense of place and of searching for meaning; a reshaping of the authors’ own memories, experiences and expectations. For like the river, it is not just what is visible, but what is hidden, that comes to define us.

If the River is Hidden has also been developed as a performance piece with the flautist Eimear McGeown.

About the Authors

Cherry Smyth is an Irish writer, living in London.  Her first two poetry collections, When the Lights Go Up, 2001 and One Wanted Thing, 2006 were published by Lagan Press.  Her third collection, Test, Orange, 2012, and fourth, Famished, 2019 were published by Pindrop Press.  Her debut novel, Hold Still, Holland Park Press, appeared in 2013. Famished tours as a performance in collaboration with vocalist Lauren Kinsella and composer Ed Bennett. Cherry was nominated as a Fellow for the Royal Society of Literature in 2022 and is also a Hawthornden Fellow. She is Associate Professor in Creative & Critical Writing at the University of Greenwich. 

 Craig Jordan-Baker has published fiction in New Writing, Text, Firefly Magazine, Potluck and the époque press é-zine. His drama has been widely performed in the UK and he has had work commissioned by institutions such as The National Archives, Brighton Museums and the Theatre Royal Brighton. Craig lives in Brighton and is a Senior Lecturer in Creative Writing at the University of Brighton. The Nacullians, Craig’s debut novel, was published by époque press in 2020. 

My Review

If the River is Hidden tells the journey of two writers who follow from the source to the mouth of the Bann, Northern Ireland’s longest river. Their journey is one of pain filled with sweat and blisters but also personal experiences of childhood and loss. They are searching for meaning on their pilgrimage, what is hidden and will help come to define them. They are listening to the Bann, intrigued by what it has to say.

Cherry wants to learn the North again, to walk beside it. There is a part of her that won’t let go, it’s pulling her towards North, her family and a desire to be near her old home again. Cherry suggests to Craig that The Bann should be walked and they should do it together. But Craig has spent the last year in his small flat and wonders why would they follow the river. He looks at a map charting the river and realises that rivers are already stories and wonders what story new or old may be told on their journey. Craig starts to come around to the idea as the river will take him towards Banbridge, a part that is family and he has a strong desire to be near an old home. Craig doesn’t want to stick to them using physical maps, that they should enjoy working out the path and embrace the uncertainty that lies ahead. They are learning where Irish and English meet, discovering more about themselves, meeting new faces and hearing stories of old. 

What I enjoyed most about this book was how the story was narrated through the mixture of prose and poetry. The reader discovers the history of the landscape and the divisions that define Northern Ireland.

I give If the River is Hidden By Cherry Smyth and Craig Jordan-Baker a Four out of Five paw rating

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The writing is rich and full of memories, folk tales and past lives. It’s absorbing as you soak up the atmosphere, I highly recommend dear reader, this is a book that will help you discover the raw beauty that runs freely throughout Northern Ireland.

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When Cherry Lost Terry By Penny Phillips Review (Random Things Tours)

Today dear readers I am on the blog tour for When Cherry Lost Terry (Published 26th April 2022 By Old Street Publishing) By Penny Phillips, illustrated By Clare Mallison. A big thank you to the publishers for sending me a copy to review, always appreciated. Also to the wonderful Anne for the invite to take part in the tour, you making being a part of this community amazing.   

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When Cherry Lost Terry

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When Cherry lost Terry one day, Where was he? Could anyone say? Asleep in a tree? Or down by the sea? He couldn’t be TOO far away. The animals searched high and low, Unsure what to do, where to go. Would Terry appear? The story is here… Just read it – and then you will know!

About The Author

Penny Phillips began making up poems when she was four, which was far too long ago. Having worked as an editor in publishing for over 30 years, she finally got round to writing a book herself. When Cherry Lost Terry has been extensively tested on children but not on animals. Penny is now the Sub-editor of The Oldie and lives in London with her husband.

About The Illustrator

Clare Mallison has only one photograph of herself in which she is not eating or drinking. She has worked as a freelance illustrator for various publications, including The Times, Financial Times, New Statesman and New York Times. When Cherry Lost Terry is her first book.

My Review

This adorable picture book for 3 to 5 year olds tells the story of a white cat called Cherry who has lost her dear friend Terry. One day Antelope Ann spots trouble at sea so goes off to find out what’s happening along with Badger Billy. They jump in Billy’s boat Little Lilly and go out to sea. All of a sudden Cherry comes flying past on a ferry and asks the animals for help. Her friend Terry has fallen into the sea and she can’t find him. Soon all the animals start to help looking for Terry. There is a giraffe called Grace, a hippopotamus called Hank, a Panda called Penny and many more animals who join the adventure to find Terry. Where is Terry? Who is Terry? Come find out dear reader. 

I enjoyed how Phillips used the alphabet with the name of the animal beginning with the same letter as their species. I thought this was a useful and fun way for children to learn. My boys loved the mixture of animals that were included in the story, they kept trying to guess what kind of animal Terry could be. The story taught my boys about friendship and helping each other out in times of need. And how could you not want to help Cherry, she’s a talking white cat!

The flow of this story is perfect for bedtime as it uses limericks, the rhymes roll off your tongue creating a cosy and relaxing atmosphere. My boys love rhymes and kept trying to guess what the next word would be. Our favourite character was Wayne the Whale, we are desperate to take a ride on him with the other animals on his back.

Mallison’s illustrations are beautiful to look at, they bring Phillips’ words to life as the animals jump out at you on the page. Mallison uses gentle and warm colours that help you absorb into this animal adventure, you feel like a kid again and stop at nothing to help Cherry find Terry. Mallison brings wonder and warmth with her illustrations, you are transported into a magical world that you will love visiting time after time.

I give When Cherry Lost Terry By Penny Phillips a Five out of Five paw rating.

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An absolute joy to read! This is the perfect bedtime adventure for your little ones. We loved it!

Don’t forget to follow the rest of the blog tour, dates below, enjoy!

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Cat Lady By Dawn O’Porter Review (Random Things Tours)

Today I am on the blog tour for Cat Lady (Published 27th October 2022) By Dawn O’Porter.  A big thank you to the publishers HarperCollins for sending me a copy to read and review, always appreciated. Also to the lovely Anne for the invite, you make being a part of this community wonderful.

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Cat Lady

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SINGLE – INDEPENDENT – ALOOF – CUNNING – AGILE – CANNOT BE TAMED

We’ve all known a cat lady – and we’ve probably all judged her too. But behind the label – the one that only sticks to women – what if there’s a story worth nine lives? Told with Dawn’s trademark warmth, wit and irreverence, CAT LADY is a story about defying labels and forging friendships. It’s for the cat lady in all of us – because a woman always lands on her feet . . .

About The Author

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DAWN O’PORTER lives in Los Angeles with her husband Chris, her two boys Art and Valentine, cats Myrtle and Boo.

Dawn is the bestselling author of the novels The Cows and the Richard and Judy Book Club pick So Lucky, and her non-fiction title Life in Pieces was also a Sunday Times bestseller.

Dawn started out in TV production but quickly landed in front of the camera, making numerous documentaries that included immersive investigations of Polygamy, Size Zero, Childbirth, Free Love, Breast Cancer and the movie Dirty Dancing.

Dawn’s journalism has appeared in multiple publications and she was the monthly columnist for Glamour magazine. She is now a full-time writer of eight books, designs dresses for Joanie Clothing, LOVES instagram, and has a large following on her Patreon blog.

My Review

Narrated in first person the story follows Mia who finds it safer to play the part of loving wife to Tristan, devoted stepmother to Oliver and high-driven career woman as MD at Isabella May jewellery. She dresses the part and brings order and routine to her life. Mia goes above and beyond to make sure her husband is happy. She will host a dinner party for his friends who don’t particularly care for her and want Tristan to still be married to his ex-wife Belinda who cheated on him. But she tries because she knows it makes Tristan happy. She even cooks meat for them when she is a vegan and has to put up with their rude, obnoxious comments about her lifestyle choice. Mia is used to being the odd one out but does her best at finding ways to fit in. She loves her step-son Oliver and has a strong bond with him. She will hide treats in his lunchbox as a little reminder that she loves him because saying it makes him uncomfortable. Belinda despises Mia and enjoys putting her down at every possible opportunity, dismissing her role as a step-mother. Mia is determined to not be the villain and has to grin and bear the torment. She wants the best for Oliver and so keeps the peace with Belinda by not saying anything and letting her waltz in and out of her home as she pleases.

Things appear to be going well for Mia, she has a loving husband, a lovely home and her work has an exciting pitch coming up at Selfridges. However on the day of the pitch Mia discovers something disturbing that changes everything. She is instantly thrown into the lion’s den and forced to claw her way out. Her life is ripped to shreds right in front of her. O’Porter gets you hooked from the moment you start reading, the story, the characters, the humour, it’s all brilliantly written. I lapped up every second, I wanted more.

The relationship Mia has with her husband looks perfect and loving on the outside yet when you look closer it lacks intimacy and passion. Tristan enjoys her sense of humour as his ex-wife doesn’t have one and she loves it when he laughs at the things she says. They still have sex but there is a set of rules they have to follow, Tristan instructs her on what to do and she does it. They also sleep in separate bedrooms because of Pigeon, Tristan thinks sleeping with animals is unhygienic. Pigeon is everything to Mia, her baby, and takes the responsibility of owning a cat seriously. Mia prefers to have her own room, her own space with Pigeon. She hates the idea of giving it up because Tristan wants to wake up next to his wife, he doesn’t just want her sexually but craves the affection that she shows towards Pigeon.

Pigeon is exceptional to Mia. She found her when she was a kitten, Pigeon saved her in the darkest moment of her life. She doesn’t know how her life would continue if anything was to happen to her. When people learn Mia has a cat she automatically becomes cat lady which is an insult as no one means it as a compliment. When you are called a cat lady people are saying you are lonely and isolated. Mia goes out of her way to make Pigeon’s life as exciting as she can. One of the things she loves about cats is the way they rely on routine, they eat, sleep, do everything together. Mia loves routine and struggles when things are out of her control. When chaos rears its ugly head she spirals and things become dark. Mia comes from disorder, chaos. Her mother passed away when she was young and her father scared her. He would drink and show no interest in his daughters.

Mia doesn’t have many friends, more coworkers and acquaintances. She speaks to her sister Liz occasionally, they were a lot closer when they were younger but drifted apart as they grew older. I often felt sad at the loneliness and isolation that surrounds Mia. I could understand and see why her cat is everything to her.

Mia takes her job at Isabella May jewellery extremely seriously. She dresses how she thinks an MD of a business should dress, smart, serious and together. It’s a role she has become accustomed to playing. She keeps to herself at work as she doesn’t see it as a place to grab attention, only to be good at her job. She has to have routine and organisation in her life and often judges her coworkers arrival times. She doesn’t understand why they arrive late or have breakfast at home before coming to work.

Mia finds herself attending a pet bereavement group at a Methodist Church. She has attended other groups in the past, AA and eating disorders but has never found her place. She feels guilty for attending as her cat is still alive but senses that this is a safe space to express yourself. Animals give you a special kind of love and a loyalty that knows no bounds. Mia feels welcomed by the group facilitator Tiana and the other members that attend. Mia loves being around pet lovers as they understand. They connect more to their furry friends, they bring them joy more than humans do. She feels good to be in a group that makes her feel better. Mia feels more herself in a room full of strangers than anywhere else. Slowly she starts to open up and starts talking about her husband, she isn’t sure that he gets her or understands the things that have made her who she really is. She loves him but does’t feel herself with him and wonders if cat lady suits her better. She worries she has to be someone else to keep her marriage going.

What I enjoyed most about this book was the journey that Mia went on. She went from having everything to nothing. Her character development was fascinating to read, to learn and understand why she is the way she is. I wanted her to succeed in her job, with friends, in love. I was hanging on every last word in the hopes that she would come out of this on top.

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I give Cat Lady By Dawn O’Porter a Five out of Five paw rating

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Purrrfectly empowering! I had tears in my eyes from laughing and crying throughout this book. I highly recommend dear reader, you will become addicted!  There is no such thing as just a cat.

Don’t forget to follow the rest of the blog tour, dates below, enjoy!

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The Parlour Game By Jennifer Renshaw Review (Random Things Tours)

Today I am on the blog tour for The Parlour Game (Published 30th Aug 2022) By Jennifer Renshaw. A big thank you to the author for sending me a copy to read and review, always appreciated. Also to the wonderful Anne for the invite to take part in the tour, always a pleasure to work with.   

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The Parlour Game

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DEATH IS ONLY THE BEGINNING… a dark gothic tale for fans of The Clockwork Girl and The Woman in Black.

London, 1873.

Ivy Granger, an amateur botanist, is plagued by disturbing dreams and faceless whispers. Misunderstood by her father, she fears for her sanity – threatened with the asylum or worse, the hands of a man she loathes.

But a stranger at her mother’s funeral reveals Ivy’s world has been a lie and she could have a different life, for she is capable of so much more…

Miss Earnshaw, London’s most renowned spiritualist, is Ivy’s only hope of revealing what secrets her mother took to the grave and discovering her true purpose.

Ivy’s journey for knowledge takes her to Blackham House, a building haunted by a terrible past – full of macabre artefacts and ancient studies of the supernatural. But behind closed doors, the Blackhams collect more than relics alone, and Ivy will soon find herself at the centre of a conspiracy spanning generations and a hidden evil waiting to be unleashed.

Can Ivy survive in a world where women must play their part or risk being silenced?

 

About The Author

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Jennifer Renshaw grew up in Sussex, England, and is a former analyst. She has always been fascinated by history and enjoys a gothic mystery. She now lives in Denmark with her family and two portly cats.

 

Review

The year is 1873 and Ivy Granger stands alone at her mother’s grave. Ivy secretly wishes they had rather buried her cousin Edith who is already busy trying to marry her off or send her away. Now with her mother, Lillian gone Ivy fears for her future and doesn’t understand what her purpose is. When her mother was alive she had encouraged her pursuit of botany, studying and drawing the plants all around. Ivy has hopes of becoming a botanist and continuing her studies but fears her dream fading now as she is left with her father and the interventions of Edith who sees her as an inconvenience. 

From a young age Ivy has always woke to voices and strange dark figures lurking in her bedroom. She would hide under her blankets fearing that the devil had found her. On the way to her mother’s funeral an old woman rushes at the carriage and warns how the spirits follow her. Shaken up by this encounter Ivy worries now that her mother has passed, who will keep the voices and creatures at bay in the night.

Ivy has no friends, no one she can safely confide in. She has always hidden in the shadows and listened to what others say about her, how she’s quiet and odd. Ivy herself doubts she would be missed if she died and thanks to her knowledge of plants would know how to end her suffering. As she stands at her mother’s grave her thoughts are suddenly interrupted when a striking woman approaches her. She introduces herself as Miss Earnshaw, Rosetta, a dear friend to her mother. Miss Earnshaw says they are family and has come to warn Ivy about the dark forces working against them. She tells Ivy that she has been protected for a reason but now she has to know who she really is. Miss Earnshaw advises that Ivy must come to London with her, that she can teach and protect her but before Ivy can accept her father appears telling Miss Earnshaw to stay away, before she leaves she hands Ivy a card and tells her to find her in London. Ivy is bewildered by this invitation but wants to learn more about her mother and the possibility of being related to Miss Earnshaw. Maybe she can help her understand why she sees and hears strange things at night.

Told in four parts the reader follows Ivy’s journey to disocver the truth behind this mystery woman who calms to have known her mother. She travels to London and seeks her out only to discover that she has disappeared. Her investigations lead her to Blackham House, the last place Miss Earnshaw was seen attending a party to conduct a séance. Thanks to good fortune Ivy is mistaken for the new maid and accepts the job in the hopes she will learn more about Miss Earnshaw’s disappearance. It doesn’t take Ivy long to realise that the Blackham house holds many dark, disturbing secrets. The house is full of strange, unusual collections from all over the world that many would and have died for, the infamous Blackham House collection is well known among many. The family is obsessed with shiny objects.

Blackham House has a mind of its own as doors bang and windows open letting in a cold wind that sends shivers up your spine. The food deteriorates quickly, often rotting the next day after being purchased, life does not last long in the house. Magpies surround the garden where exotic plants grow. Ivy notices how they shouldn’t survive in this climate and is desperate to take a sample. The more Ivy learns about the house the more she knows she has to find out the truth. The house is short staffed, Mrs Higgins the cook mentions how a few have left recently as Ivy works alongside another maid Hannah who takes an instant disliking to her. But when Ivy finds a truck full of possessions members of staff must of left behind she begins to question what would make them leave so hastily. Renshaw hooks you in, you are desperate, determined to learn the truth about Miss Earnshaw and the horrific secrets buried under the house.

Master Blackham, his new wife Angelica and his mother, Lady Blackham all live in the house along with the staff. Master Blackham has returned home with Angelica from Italy with the hopes that the ghosts from his past will no longer torment him. It is his mother’s wish that the vacant position in the household should be corrected as soon as possible but Master Blackham fears he has made a grave mistake in marrying again. He drinks himself unconscious most nights, stumbling about the corridors while his wife hides away in her room, drinking tonics to help her sleep and forget the nightmares. Ivy feels sympathetic towards Master Blackham at times but finds it hard when she hears how he treats his wife by locking her bedroom door at night. Ivy dreads going into Lady Blackham’s room as it is consumed with death. She feels uncomfortable and uneasy in her presence. There is something about Lady Blackham that scares her, makes her want to scream and run. But she can’t, she has to stick it out until she knows what happened that night at the séance. The truth will send your jaw to the floor dear reader. I did not see that coming.

Ivy is a strong, determined character to follow. She only wants to follow her own ambitions which do not include being someone’s wife. She wants to be free to study, draw, do as she pleases. Her mother wanted better for her and Ivy will do anything it takes to avoid a fate chosen for her by others. I enjoyed watching her develop and her confidence in herself gaining. It was fascinating to read and I cheered her on every step of the way.

I give The Parlour Game By Jennifer Renshaw a Five out of Five paw rating

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Renshaw creates a suffocating atmosphere that fills the reader with dread at each turn. You never know what lies in wait in the shadows. I constantly felt like Ivy, that I was being watched. It was haunting and I loved every second.

The Parlour Game is book one in The Corvidae Hauntings, I can’t wait to see what happens next!

Don’t forget to follow the rest of the blog tour, dates below, enjoy!

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Shrines Of Gaiety By Kate Atkinson Review (Random Things Tours)

Today dear reader I am on the blog tour for Shrines Of Gaiety (Published 27th September 2022) By Kate Atkinson. A big thank you to the publishers Doubleday for sending me a copy to read and review, always appreciated. Also to the wonderful Anne for the invite to take part on the blog tour, always a pleasure to work with.   

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Shrines Of Gaiety
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A mesmerising novel set in the glittering world of Soho in the 1920s – a place of gangsters and showgirls, Bright Young Things and one remarkable woman.

1926, and in a country still recovering from the Great War, London has become the focus for a delirious new nightlife. In the clubs of Soho, peers of the realm rub shoulders with starlets, foreign dignitaries with gangsters, and girls sell dances for a shilling a time.

The notorious queen of this glittering world is Nellie Coker, ruthless but also ambitious to advance her six children, including the enigmatic eldest, Niven whose character has been forged in the crucible of the Somme. But success breeds enemies, and Nellie’s empire faces threats from without and within. For beneath the dazzle of Soho’s gaiety, there is a dark underbelly, a world in which it is all too easy to become lost.

With her unique Dickensian flair, Kate Atkinson brings together a glittering cast of characters in a truly mesmeric novel that captures the uncertainty and mutability of life; of a world in which nothing is quite as it seems.

About The Author

Kate Atkinson is one of the world’s foremost novelists. She won the Costa Book of the Year prize with her first novel, Behind the Scenes at the Museum. Her three critically lauded and prize-winning novels set around the Second World War are Life After Life, an acclaimed 2022 BBC TV series starring Thomasin McKenzie, A God in Ruins (both winners of the Costa Novel Award) and Transcription.

Her bestselling literary crime novels featuring former detective Jackson Brodie, Case Histories, One Good Turn, When Will There Be Good News? and Started Early, Took My Dog, became a BBC television series starring Jason Isaacs. Jackson Brodie later returned in the novel Big Sky. Kate Atkinson was awarded an MBE in 2011 and is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature.

My Review

The year is 1926 and the country is still tending to its wounds from the Great War. Soho has been set ablaze with the glitz and glamour of its intoxicating nightlife. All manner of people brought together with the promise of drink and girls selling dances for a shilling. The shining jewel of all the nightclubs is the Amethyst, ruled by the Queen of Clubs, Nellie Coker. But there are many lurking in the shadows just waiting for her to fall from grace and snatch her crown. Change is coming, Nellie can read it in her cards. She’s tired and for the first time in her life is weary of the constant drive that is needed to keep her family’s lives moving forward. She can feel the heavy anchor of the Amethyst pulling her under. She knows she will not survive prison a second time around. Maybe it’s time to finally hand the keys over to her children, but at what price? And what dark secrets stalk the alleyways of Soho waiting to pounce on more unsuspecting prey?

The narrative follows array of characters which only strengthens Atkinson’s world. Nellie Coker has just gotten out of Holloway prison after one of her clubs were raided six months ago. She was publicly humiliated as they dragged her away in handcuffs. Chief Inspector Frobisher would love nothing more than to see the whole Coker empire fall like a house of cards as he investigates missing girls. He believes strongly that the Cokers are somehow involved. He needs to get someone on the inside, to find out what really goes on behind closed doors. Who would ever suspect Gwendolen, a librarian who has spent the past few years tending to her dying mother. Now free of her chains Gwendolen seeks out Frobisher’s help to find two missing 14 year old girls Freda and Florence. They have run away to London to find their fame and fortune. They have no idea what dangers lurk behind the curtains. I loved how the Amethyst felt like a character as well. It needs the night to come alive and demands more and more people to be fed. It doesn’t have pretences, pretending to be high end society but it isn’t fishing for scraps in the gutter either. A beautiful mixture of people from all ends of life can be found in the Amethyst, gangsters, writers, artists, ordinary members of the public all rubbing shoulders with each other. It’s an hypnotic scene to behold and entices you further into its clutches.

I found Nellie to be an intriguing character. She is ruthless and determined to not let all her hard work over the years be destroyed. She has worked when she can and saved the pennies, always having a plan in mind. She is an exquisite business woman and believes that one endeavour should finance the next. She has five nightclubs but the jewel in her crown is and will always be the Amethyst. No one gets in for free, not even royalty. Nellie’s clever and when starting out had acquired the services of the law, a policeman, Detective Sergeant Arthur Maddox who would turn a blind eye. Nellie sees nothing wrong with having a good time as long as she doesn’t have to have one herself. Out of sight, out of mind is one of her rules that have guided her life. Everything Nellie has done she has done for her children but not from love, more to protect the future generations, making sure the Cokers will go on until the end of time. She knows she doesn’t have much time left and must prepare, make a plan. Maybe only then will the ghosts from her past stop with their torment.

I give Shrines Of Gaiety By Kate Atkinson a Five out of Five paw rating

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Absolutely fantastic! I could not put this book down. I was obsessed! Atkinson creates a deliciously absorbing atmosphere that enchants you. I devoured each page greedily and yearned for more. I could not get enough of her writing style, my senses were mesmerised. I loved every second. 

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Japanese Home Cooking By Maori Murota Review (Random Things Tours)

Today dear readers I am on the blog tour for Japanese Home Cooking (Published By Murdoch Books 5th July 2022) By Maori Murota. A big thank you to the publishers for sending me a copy to read and review, always appreciated. Also the lovely Anne for the invite, always a pleasure to work with.    

Japanese Home Cooking

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Learn to cook authentic Japanese food from scratch at home, with step by step recipes for the traditional classics like ramen noodles, broth, sushi rice or homemade tofu as well as recipes for more contemporary fusion dishes. Maori Murota takes you to the heart of today’s Japanese family home cooking, sharing the recipes she learned while she watched her own mother and grandmother cook. Here are 100 recipes – eggplant spaghetti, pepper and miso sauce, donburi, baked sweet potato, soba salad, roast chicken with lemongrass, onigiri, hot dog, Japanese curry, steamed nut cake – many of which are vegan friendly and plant-based, to take you to the heart of Japanese home cooking.

About The Author

Author Maori Murota grew up in Tokyo and was inspired to write this book by her mother’s cooking and memories of growing up in Tokyo, cooking at home, eating out. Her mission is to demystify Japanese food, to make it accessible and understood by anyone and everyone interested in learning about a food culture and eating well. Maori left Japan when she was 17 to live in New York, and also spent time in Indonesia. In 2003 she settled in Paris, where she worked as a stylist, before exchanging the world of fashion for food in 2009. Completely self-taught, Maori became chef at Parisian restaurants Do and Bento at La Conserverie. Now an event caterer and private chef, she also gives classes in authentic Japanese home cooking. Her book Tokyo Cult Recipes, also published by Murdoch Books, is an international best-seller. 

My Review

There is nothing more satisfying or comforting than home cooked food. It brings families together and creates memories that soothe the soul. In this book the reader will learn how to cook authentic Japanese food from scratch at home. They will follow a step by step guide for traditional classics like ramen noodles, sushi rice and onigiri. There are also some contemporary fusion dishes to try that will dazzle your tastebuds into submission. Murota takes the reader into the heart of today’s Japanese family home where she shares recipes that she has learned from watching her mother and grandmother cook. There are 100 recipes, plenty to explore and discover which ones will become your favourite. What are you waiting for dear reader? Dig in.

Murota enjoys sharing with the reader the traditional recipes for the everyday Japanese dishes that she grew up with as well as her own inventions inspired by other cultures’ foods. It’s fascinating to disocver and read about this mixture of traditional and modern fusion with Japanese cuisine.

The reader learns about the contents of a kitchen in Japan and how it will often have stored in its cupboards olive oil, nuoc cham, gochujang (spicy Korean paste) and cheese. The Japanese are extremely interested in foods from other cultures and often adopt them to add novelty to their cooking. However they still honour and hold dear to their traditions that past generations used.

What inspired Murota to write her cookbook was the changes of life with her daughter being born and Covid-19. The lockdowns changed her view on food and she began wanting to use more locally produced food with less of an environmental impact. Murota and her family were on a small island in France when the first lockdown happened. It was difficult to find Japanese products and so she started to make her own. She surprised herself with how delicious it was and not at all as complicated as she worried it might have been. She realised how much joy there was in cooking at home, making everything from scratch just like her mother and grandmother did. She didn’t need to worry abut not finding any Japanese grocery stores as she could make it herself.

Murota follows mostly a vegan diet and adds where she can in her recipes vegan versions. She provides as many vegan alternatives as she can in this book and assures the reader that you can cook totally plant-based Japanese dishes that taste amazing. Murota wants to share her recipes with everyone, no matter what their religion or diet. She adapts and doesn’t exclude anyone from experiencing the wonder that is Japanese food. She hopes that her cookbook will inspire the reader’s everyday cooking and that they enjoy making the dishes. She would be over the moon if it helps them find their own version of Japanese cuisine.

I enjoyed learning a brief bit of history on some of the recipes and how Murota shares memories. Her father used to prepare Nikuman and Yasaiman (pork buns and vegetable buns) on the weekend and the smell of them wafting from the kitchen would make her mouth water. Her father loved cooking which was a surprise as a Japanese man of his generation, men were not allowed in the kitchen. Murota learned to cook with passion and love thanks to her father and it definitely shows in the recipes. There is such warmth and love kneaded into each one.

The photos in this book are mouthwatering to look at. Every dish displayed looks delicious and I can almost smell how heavenly it’s going to taste. The photos are clear and help show the reader how they should prepare the dish. It’s useful to see and makes the whole cooking experience that much smoother as you feel you have a teacher, helping and showing you what to do.

Me and my family love Japanese food, If I could afford it I would live off sushi. We tried making onigiri together and it was heavenly. There are no Japanese grocery stores where we live and no restaurants nearby to indulge in. Thanks to this book we now have an easy to follow, step by step recipe and can buy the ingredients to make it at home, bliss! Next on our list to make is some gyoza and strawberry and anko mochi. I love, love mochi!

I give Japanese Home Cooking By Maori Murota a Five out of Five paw rating

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Deliciously divine! Every recipe is crafted with passion and a desire to seduce the tastebuds.

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A Gypsy in Auschwitz By Otto Rosenberg Review (Random Things Tours)

Today dear readers I am on the blog tour for A Gypsy in Auschwitz (Published By Monoray/Octopus Books 4th August 2022) By Otto Rosenberg. A big thank you to the publishers for sending me a copy to read and review, always appreciated. Also to the wonderful Anne for the invite to take part, you make being apart of this community just lovely.

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A Gypsy in Auschwitz

Otto Rosenberg is 9 and living in Berlin, poor but happy, when his family are first detained. All around them, Sinti and Roma families are being torn from their homes by Nazis , leaving behind schools, jobs, friends, and businesses to live in forced encampments outside the city. One by one, families are broken up, adults and children disappear or are ‘sent East’.

Otto arrives in Auschwitz aged 15 and is later transferred to Buechenwald and BergenBelsen. He works, scrounges food whenever he can, witnesses and suffers horrific violence and is driven close to death by illness more than once. Unbelievably, he also joins an armed revolt of prisoners who, facing the SS and certain death, refuse to back down. Somehow, through luck, sheer human will to live, or both, he survives.

The stories of Sinti and Roma suffering in Nazi Germany are all too often lost or untold. In this haunting account, Otto shares his story with a remarkable simplicity. Deeply moving, A Gypsy in Auschwitz is the incredible story of how a young Sinti boy miraculously survived the unimaginable darkness of the Holocaust.

About The Author

Otto Rosenberg was born in East Prussia in 1927 and grew up in Berlin. He was 9 when he was sent to the Roma and Sinti camp in Marzahn, ahead of the 1936 Olympic Games, and 15 when he was sent to Auschwitz. He was then detained in Buchenwald and Bergen-Belsen concentration camps before being freed in 1945. In later years, Rosenberg was the chairman of the Regional Association of German Sinti and Romanies Berlin-Brandenburg and fathered seven children. He passed away in 2001.

Otto’s daughter, Petra Rosenberg, is the current Director of the Central Council of German Sinti and Roma Berlin-Brandenburg.

My Review

This inspiringly powerful true story of survival follows Otto Rosenberg, a boy of 9 who is living a happy, peaceful life in Berlin with his family when in the middle of the night Stormtroopers along with the police raid his home. His family is torn apart and loaded onto trucks with other Roma and Sinti families. They are taken to Berlin-Marzahn Rastplatz were they are dumped and detained, being forcefully told that they are forbidden to leave. The camp in Marzahn is known as the gypsy camp and Otto is quickly forced to adjust to the dire living conditions. Then people start to go missing, whispers of them being sent East and before he knows it it’s Otto’s turn. When Otto arrives in Auschwitz he is 15 years old. He is later transferred and detained in Buchenwald and Bergen-Belsen concentration camps before finally being freed in 1945. He was the only member of his immediate family, besides his mother to survive the war. This is his story.

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Narrated in first person Otto tells his story of how he was born in Draugupönen, East Prussia, in 1927 and as far back as he can remember they have been a German Sinti family. His father, Herman Herzberg was a horse dealer and his mother, Luise Herzberg was a housewife with a sideline in peddling goods and telling fortunes. His parents separated when he was around 2/3 months old and he was sent to live with his Grandmother in Berlin. Otto adores his Grandmother and was closer to her than his own parents. Wherever she went, she always took him with her. Later his sisters and brothers came to live with them too. A lot of Sinti people moved around with their caravans but his Grandmother didn’t want that sort of life. They lived a simple life on privately rented sites. It was a peaceful existence. Their final move was to Sandbacher Weg in the Altglienicke-Bonsdorf district where they rented an apartment and a plot of land. They were never rich but had what they needed. Otto learns quickly that if he is helpful and does something for someone you might get something in return. Little did he know back then that this skill helped him survive the horrors of the camps in the years to come.

Otto tells the reader of his time in Marzahn and how more and more people kept arriving bringing with them infections and diseases. He was always hungry as a boy but if he wanted something to eat he needed to work long and hard for it. At 13 years old Otto had to leave the camp’s school as his Grandmother was dependent on welfare. Otto felt that he was all grown up now and had to help support her. He found work and got along well with his workmates. However as things began to change in the outside world and a misfortune on Otto’s part of being spotted with something he should’t have taken ended him up in Moabit Prison, Berlin. His aunt Camba visited him and told him that most of his family had been removed from Marzahn. He spent 4 months in solitary confinement in a cell. When he was released he was immediately arrested again and taken back to Dircksenstrafe and told he was going where his parents had gone. He was put on a train to Auschwitz, he was nearly 16 years old. When he arrived his parents were not there.

Otto’s personal account of being taken to Grob-Auschwitz, the big main camp that you come to first is heartbreaking to read. He tells of how they are sorted right away, Sinti, Jews, Poles and put into groups. He comments on how it was a well-oiled operation as all of a sudden the children were nowhere to be seen and he was surrounded by young people about the same age as him. He later learned the unspeakable fate that awaited those who were sent to the gas chambers. Thousands upon thousands of suitcases left on the platform, never to be opened by their owners. It is beyond barbaric what happened to those innocent souls.

Otto was given a number that was tattooed onto his arm Z 6084 and assigned to the main camp where he attended bricklaying classes. After a month he was taken to the gypsy camp, Birkenau. The reader learns of the inhuman way of life that they were forced to live. They had to sleep on sacks stuffed with shredded paper and wood shavings. Lice were everywhere. They were not allowed to drink water, it was forbidden because it was contaminated with typhoid. If you were caught drinking it you were beaten to death. The food was awful and sparse. They were given small pieces of bread, stinging nettles and bits of cabbage floating in a dishwater-like slop. At one point Otto fell ill and collapsed. He bluntly says that you ether recovered or you didn’t and no one cared which it was. Those who managed to not get sick and stayed strong enough to work had a bigger chance of survival. That’s what being in the camp was all about. Survival. Otto would do all he could to make it through to the next meal, the next day, to get what he could when he could without getting caught. He looks back and keeps coming back to the same single question, why did I survive? But he doesn’t have the answer. He thinks about how his family was taken and finds it hard to find joy in the world. No one should have to suffer such pain and loss at such a young age. It broke me when Otto finds out later that his family was wiped out in the camp. His words show strength and an instinct to fight, to survive, to not give in to the evil that has consumed his life. It is a difficult book to read but these stories must be told, heard. So many people had their whole worlds destroyed in seconds and we must honour their memories, their stories. They will never be forgotten or silenced again.

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I give A Gypsy in Auschwitz By Otto Rosenberg a Five out of Five paw rating.

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This book had me in tears, I was a mess because it’s a true horrific story. It’s our history, it happened to thousands of innocent men, women and children. Otto’s words are honest and speak from the heart. He tells the reader how it is, he is to the point in a simple but deeply moving way. His account is shocking and you realise quickly that Otto was a strong, resilient little boy who was forced to grow up before his time and was surrounded by death daily. A powerful story of survival, you HAVE to read this dear reader, you have to!

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Anna Newton Destroys The World By Sapphira Olson (Review)

Today dear reader I am reviewing Anna Newton Destroys The World (Published By Blam! Productions 30 Mar. 2022) By Sapphira Olson. A big thank you to the author for sending me a copy to review, always appreciated.   

Anna Newton Destroys The World

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It took Anna nearly 4000 days to get to where you are now. You do not even know Anna but you will. She is the woman who will destroy the world.

About The Author

Sapphira Olson is a bestselling author, illustrator and poet. Born in St Austell she now lives in Liskeard in Cornwall, UK. When not writing she loves spending time in the countryside and enjoys watching Audrey Hepburn movies and listening to Billie Eilish and Gorillaz.

My Review

Told in four parts, the narrative follows Anna Newton as she finds the strength to escape her prison from Tartarus and destroy god. Ten years she has been held captive, in a silent tomb, broken only by the sound of her heartbeat and constant chip of her fingernails. Anna had asked god to leave her alone and in a fit of rage he had locked her away saying she had gone mad. He had told her she will never be free and will be left in her cell for all eternity, for everyone else’s safety and well-being. But Anna has a plan, a plan to kill god and destroy the world. Forever.

From the moment you begin reading Olson throws the reader in, surrounded by death, despair and hopelessness. The pain Anna has suffered after all those years is finally going to begin healing once she has accomplished her mission. Her mission to kill god. She has to end the abuse and the trauma. But what Anna doesn’t expect is to fall in love. Once she has destroyed god she creates Aisling who is serving coffee in a cafe on her first day. Anna doesn’t want her to be alone and so also creates her a companion, Liam.

Aisling is working her first day in the cafe when she first meets Anna. She walks in and tells her to follow her before turning into a rabbit and hopping out. There are many moments like this dear reader throughout the book that will catch you off guard. It’s brilliantly bizarre to witness and pulls you further and further in. Much like the reader Aisling worries that she is losing her grip on reality after meeting Anna. She misses a few days of work and finds out that Anna has taken her form, working in the cafe so she doesn’t lose the job. Aisling asks her why is she helping her to which Anna replies that Aisling has lived her life in constant misery and believes herself to not be a nice person. Anna tells her that she is amazing. Aisling takes her old job back and in doing so meets Liam who asks her out. The two get along and begin to date but Aisling isn’t sure she believes in love anymore. Her partner died and her children have long flown the nest. But she feels something for Liam. Something she believes may be love.

Anna is a fascinating character to read, you never exactly know where you stand with her. One moment she will be talking to a character and the next she shifts and turns herself into a robin, taking flight into the clouds. Anna knows who she is. But a hatred of life has consumed her, she hates everything because she cannot walk with her children. She wants to destroy the world because there is so much pain and it can not go on. She is constantly battling with herself if it’s the right thing to do and worries she won’t be able to do it. But she can’t bear to leave everyone to rot and the silent screaming that torments her daily. It is then that she bumps into the women with the flowers at the airport, Dawn who changes everything.

There are a lot of strong, powerful metaphors for our way of life in this book. Olson shows the reader how all around people are living according to the gospel of conformity which they take as good news. A system that rewards those for being a part of society, working, getting married, popping out kids and owning a house. We don’t reward those who go against the grain and colour outside the lines. Those who stand up and decide to live a different lifestyle, one that doesn’t harm anyone and remains true to themselves. It’s shocking how narrow-minded the world still appears after everything it’s been through, the lack of understanding is still rife and acceptance still remains a distant dream.

There is a twist in this story that will reveal the reader’s true feelings about one of the characters when they discover it. I’m not going to spoil it for you dear reader, but it does say more about you and your reaction rather than the character. It’s brilliantly done and I applaud Olson for being blunt and honest with her writing. It’s refreshing and needed more in today’s literature.

I give Anna Newton Destroys The World By Sapphira Olson a Four out of Five paw rating.

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Wonderfully bizarre and unlike anything I have read lately, this book will leave you with so many questions, mainly about yourself. This book has made me realise that you miss so much if you spend too long thinking about things. We should all be living in the moment and not thinking about how we want to live in a near distant imaginary future. We should live now, right now. Who knows, the world could end tomorrow for all we know…

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The Only Exception (Love in the Comptons 2) By Claire Huston (Review)

Today dear readers I am reviewing The Only Exception (Published 7th June 2022) By Claire Huston. A big thank-you to the author for sending me a copy to review, always appreciated. I have had the honour of also reading and reviewing the first book in the series, Art and Soul. Click here to check out that review, enjoy.    

The Only Exception

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Lucinda Green knows something is missing from her life. But what? Her catering business is enjoying modest success and she loves her cosy house, even if she does have to share it with her irritating ex-fiancé.

Whatever’s making her unsettled and edgy, Lucinda’s certain that a lack of romance isn’t the problem. How could it be when she doesn’t believe in true love?

But Lucinda’s beliefs are shaken by a series of electric encounters with Alex Fraser, a newly notorious actor who gradually proves himself to be infuriatingly funny and smart, as well as handsome.

Not that any of that matters. Because Lucinda doesn’t believe in all that ‘The One’ nonsense. That’s the rule.

But doesn’t every rule have an exception?

This uplifting grumpy-meets-sunshine romance is perfect for fans of Phillipa Ashley, Katie Fforde and Trisha Ashley.

About the Author

Claire Huston lives in Warwickshire, UK, with her husband and two children. She writes uplifting modern love stories about characters who are meant for each other but need a little help to realise it.

A keen amateur baker, she enjoys making cakes, biscuits and brownies almost as much as eating them. You can find recipes for all the cakes mentioned in Art and Soul, her first novel, at clairehuston.co.uk along with over 150 other recipes. This is also where she talks about and reviews books.

 

My Review

The narrative follows both of the main love interests, Lucinda and Alex who find themselves in numerous situations worthy of a rom-com flick. Huston instantly places the reader in a gripping, intense situation. Lucinda owns a catering business and is on a trip to the London offices of the Richards Group in the hopes of renewing a contract. She is in a lift and trips but a Mr. Handsome who turns out to be Alex, catches her. But there’s no time for Lucinda to catch her breath as an old woman starts having a heart attack. Alex freezes unsure of what to do while Lucinda springs into action and helps her. Once the old woman is safely in an ambulance both Lucinda and Alex part their separate ways. They both felt a connection, a spark, but are both trapped in complicated situations. 

Lucinda is living with her ex-fiancé, Chris, and has no time for love. She doesn’t want to get involved with another hopeless guy who will drain her time and energy. Lucinda finds it difficult to believe in love, the one, because she has grown up believing that it doesn’t exist. Her mother drummed it into her ever since she can remember that love was a load of rubbish, a way for card manufacturers, florists, anyone to make money.  But with Alex she felt something, something that might make him the only exception.

Alex lives with his girlfriend Nicole who spends most of her time attached to her phone, addressing her thousands of followers on instagram. He doesn’t see the relationship going anywhere but has yet to find the moment to break things off. Alex works as an actor and enjoys learning and preparing for a role, especially if it gives him a reason to pick up a new skill. But since he met Lucinda he feels distracted and can’t stop thinking about her. He has been hurt in love before and has since settled for convenience rather than passion. He doubts that Lucinda feels anything for him as whenever they meet she shows a strong disdain towards him. But is that all a front and is there a reason why she is so standoffish with him?

Both characters are perfect for each other but they are just too darn stubborn to admit it. They are both convinced that the other dislikes them. However it is more than obvious that they are attracted but they struggle to find the words to express how they feel and keep missing the chance to finally open up. You will find yourself screaming at the page for these two to just kiss already and get a room. They are both broken, lost souls who have found one another and learning that maybe they deserve a second chance at love.

I give The Only Exception By Claire Huston a Four out of Five paw rating.

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Brilliant, funny and beautifully heart warming this book will melt the coldest of hearts to believe in love, the only exception.

I loved that this book is a part of the Love in the Comptons series but can be read as a standalone. They feature familiar settings and characters that intertwine with the story. Huston always surrounds her characters in gorgeous locations that gives the reader all the feels of a romantic movie. It radiates a warm, cosy, comforting atmosphere that absorbs you from beginning to end.

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