Book Review: The Last Laugh.

thelastlaugh“What’s your book about?” Mark asked.

“A woman diagnosed with a terminal illness on the same day she finds out her husband is cheating on her.”

Mark looked horrified: “Why on earth would you want to read that?”

“It’s really good, honestly.”

He didn’t look convinced but maybe I didn’t sell it very well?

Although a new author to me, if Tracy Bloom’s other books are like The Last Laugh she definitely has a new fan.

Yes, on the surface it doesn’t seem like a novel about dying and infidelity would be especially enjoyable but it really is – plus it’s about so much more than that.

Tracy writes with a sort of gallows humour that I really like but also with so much emotion, I felt instantly connected to the main character, Jenny, like I was part of her life.

It helped also that there is a massive hit of nostalgia for the year 1996 in this book, which was not only a particularly good year for Jenny but also for me (I was still at uni having the time of my life). Some of her memories brought a huge smile to my face.

Anyway, here’s the blurb:

‘I’ve googled it, how to die,’ Jenny says to Maureen. ‘It was full of climbing this mountain, swimming that sea, becoming a marathon runner and raising millions for charity.’

‘Sounds like bloody hard work. You can make it more fun than that surely?’

Jenny discovers her days are numbered at the same time she discovers her husband is having an affair…

Frankly, her life was tough enough already. Two tricky teenagers, her mother’s constant complaints, friends who aren’t up to the job and a career which has been spiralling downwards since she won ‘Sunseeker Tour Rep of the Season’ twenty years ago.

And now this: a cheating husband and a death sentence.

Enough is enough. Jenny vows to keep both catastrophes a secret. She takes her life – and death – into her own hands and decides to live as she did when she was happiest… in 1996. She plans a spectacular 1990’s themed party in place of a wake that she herself will attend. But will she be able to keep her secrets for long enough to have the party of a lifetime?

While death is obviously a lingering theme, family and friendships play a huge part in this book – especially as Jenny attempts to get everything in order (I’ll warn you now, I shed some tears).

The fact that she’s only a couple of years older than me certainly hit home and, after I had finished, I definitely felt thankful to have my health but it also inspired to try and make the most of the life I have.

If there is one small criticism it would be that I felt like some fairly big issues were resolved a little too easily – such her husband’s infidelity but also her son’s clinically diagnosed anxiety. Although, it was only a couple of hours after I had finished that I really thought about that. At the time I was just happy that it ended the way it did. It certainly didn’t put me off from immediately going in search of her other books – of which, I am happy to say, there are several.

Format: Kindle.

Price: £1.99 (via Amazon).

My rating: Four and a half stars.

With thanks to Bookouture (via NetGalley) for the ARC in return for my honest opinion.

Advertisements

Book Review: The Little Cottage On The Hill.

Thelittle cottageRolling my eyes at the main character of a book in the first few chapters wouldn’t usually end well but, actually, part of the joy of The Little Cottage On The Hill, by Emma Davies, is seeing how Maddie changes and grows.

She starts off not listening, being judgmental and condescending and completely ignoring what our hero, Seth, is saying but gradually the beauty and magic of the place (and people) does its job – and she turns into someone I wouldn’t mind being friends with.

Once again Emma has created a supporting cast who are engaging and immensely likeable – I can see at least three more spin off stories I’d like to read from this one book.

Here’s the blurb:

There’s blossom in the trees and daffodils as far as the eye can see. Maddie is looking forward to a fresh start in the countryside, but there’s just one little problem…

Following a scandal at her high-flying PR agency, twenty-six-year-old Maddie flees London to help promote what she thinks is going to be a luxurious holiday retreat in the countryside. Everything is riding on her making a success of this new job…

Yet when she arrives, Maddie is horrified to find a rundown old farm in a terrible state. The brooding and secretive owner, Seth, spent all his money on leasing the land when he fell in love with the beautiful, dishevelled farm cottages and the very romantic story behind them.

When Maddie discovers an old painting by the original owner’s wife, she unlocks the secret of the farm’s history and quickly realises she must start getting her hands dirty if this very special place is going to have any chance of survival. As she and Seth begin working together, the stunning view from the top of the hill is not the only thing that’s leaving her breathless…

After weeks of hard work the dream looks like it might become a reality, until a secret from Maddie’s past threatens to snatch it all away again.

Can Maddie find a way to save the business and herself? Will she finally find a place to keep her heart within the crumbling walls of the little cottage on the hill?

Described on the lovely front cover as a “feel-good romance” I’d say it’s pretty spot on, I definitely felt good once I had finished and the romance, though gentle, still had me sighing with pleasure.

This is a warm, sweet tale, written in a lively way that makes it hard to take a break.
I loved learning the back story of the previous inhabitants and the way everything came together felt magical.

The ending left me with a massive grin on my face – although that was after a few tears (both happy and sad) too.

Another great book from Emma, I can’t wait for the next.

Format: Kindle.

Price: 99p (via Amazon).

My rating: Four and a half stars.

With thanks to Bookouture for the ARC in return for my honest review.

Book Review: A Vicarage Reunion.

cover130912-mediumIt is unfortunately still something of a taboo so the fact that miscarriage plays such a big part in Kate Hewitt’s latest book, A Vicarage Reunion, feels like an important step to me.

Having experienced two early pregnancy losses, I was drawn to this novel – the second in this series – but what kept me reading was the fact it’s a brilliantly told story, with barely suppressed emotions, which I knew had to come out eventually.

Here’s the blurb:

Welcome to Thornthwaite, a quaint village tucked up in England’s beautiful but rainy Lake District… where homecomings and surprises await the four Holley sisters…

Esther Holley, the eldest in the family, has always had her life firmly in control until a miscarriage knocks her off course. Two months later, still emotionally spinning, she separates from her husband Will, a sheep farmer and man of few words and moves back in with her parents.

Life as a singleton thirty something living in her parents’ house is miserable, but Esther is determined to re-boot her life, including going on a few unfortunate dates. She’s shocked when tight-lipped Will shows up on her doorstep determined to woo her back. They’ve been married for seven years, but Will wants to return to the beginning, dating and getting to know each other again.

New challenges face them as they start over–and new chances too. Can Esther and Will save their marriage, especially when faced with the hardest decision of all?

While it might be too raw to read if you’ve just experienced it, nearly seven years after my first loss I found the book comforting. Obviously everyone grieves differently but I could relate to the way not just Esther but also Will were dealing (or maybe not dealing) with what happened.

I’ll admit I wasn’t sure about Esther at first but the more I got to know her, the more I liked her – and in the end I desperately wanted her to have a happy ending.

The miscarriage was a catalyst for them splitting up but I also felt it helped them to understand each other better. They had settled into a rut after years of marriage, as can so easily happen, but this was their wake up call.

Despite the fact I haven’t read the first book (yet), I was able to easily understand the family dynamics at the vicarage and really enjoyed meeting the engaging cast of characters.

I thought the whole story was exceptionally well written and can’t wait to read more.

Format: Kindle.

Price: £1.99.

My rating: Five stars.

With thanks to Tule Publishing for the ARC (via NetGalley) in return for an honest review.