Monday, 27 April 2015

Billy and Me by Giovanna Fletcher

Sophie May has a secret.

One that she's successfully kept for years. It's meant that she's had to give up her dreams of going to university and travelling the world to stay in her little village, living with her mum and working in the local teashop.

But then she meets the gorgeous Billy ~ an actor with ambitions to make it to the top. And when they fall in love, Sophie is whisked away from the comfort of her life into Billy's glamorous ~ but ruthless ~ world.

Their relationship throws Sophie right into the spotlight after years of shying away from attention. Can she handle the constant scrutiny that comes with being with Billy?
And most of all, is she ready for her secret heartbreak to be discovered with the nation?

"A gorgeous, gloriously romantic read with buckets of charm ~ I absolutely loved it!" ~ Jilł Mansell.

I appreciate I'm a little behind the Billy and Me hype, but having read Giovanna Fletcher's latest book, Your The One That I Want, fairly recently, I made sure that this was on my to be read list. Luckily my friend passed me her copy and I'm pleased to say that I, like most of the reviews on this I've seen, completely fell in love with Sophie and Billy's story! 

Sophie May works in a little tea shop, Tea-On-The-Hill, with her good friend and the shops owner, Molly. It's perfectly clear from the outset that Molly is older and wiser than Sophie yet this doesn't effect their friendship. What was also clear was the fact that whatever had troubled Sophie in her past, it was Molly that helped her eventually come through.

One day, rumours between the regulars are rife that their quaint little village is to become the set on a new film being made, and when it becomes true we come across Billy, a budding actor who is a teen heartthrob! 
When he enters the teashop, Sophie is none the wiser to begin with until the usual teenage girls come in after school for their 'skinny muffins'and spot him... Credit to Giovanna for capturing the fan girl moments perfectly!

Sophie allows Billy to take her on a date and that is where the I love affair starts. What I particularly liked about this book is that whereas in most romance novels the couples don't get together until the end of the book, here they become inseparable fairly quickly.... So quickly infact that before we know it, Sophie is moving to London and in with Billy to be nearer him!

As their story unravels we follow them through the trying times of what it's like to be in the public eye, with Giovanna being married to Tom from the band McFly, her knowledge and understanding of the tabloids exploiting and twisting the truth comes through brilliantly, and over time we can see how the pressures of the job can effect relationships.... Here the final straw is when Billy gets too big headed and does anything to ensure he's career plunges forward, including explicit scenes in a new film with his ex girlfriend actress, much to Sophie's concerns.

Prior to Billy's mistakes, we discover Sophie's secret. Throughout the book we know that her dad is absent but it isn't until the second half that we know why, when a story is printed in the papers telling the world of her heartache at losing him when she was just eleven years old. 
Sophie blames herself for his death despite Molly and Billy telling her otherwise.

The story touches on several relationships alongside Sophie and Billy's along with trust, guilt, heartbreak, failure and dreams!
There's Sophie and her mother whom are struggling to build bridges after her fathers passing, both shutting each other out of their feelings rather than grieving an comforting each other.
Sophie and Paul, Billy's manager, who from the outset appears two faced and arrogant, being harsh in what he tells Sophie and then being all nicey nicey to Billy.
And of course, Sophie and Molly. Two great friends who have both lost people they love and confide in each other - well about most things...
Sophie's world is again turned upside down with tragic news about Molly but the outcome is a fitting tribute to Molly in which also shows Sophie finally doing something she wants to do.

Billy and Me had me smiling through to crying within the space of 24 hours with real character you feel like you know.
It's a real page turner as I waited to see whether Sophie and Billy got back together and could work things out and a fabulous debut novel for Giovanna Fletcher.. It might be the end of April but I loved these characters that much I'm tempted to download Christmas with Billy and Me right now!! 

Sunday, 26 April 2015

Father Unknown by Lesley Pearse

Losing her adopted mother threatens all she's ever had....

Daisy was adopted, but when her mother dies, she finds her secure existence thrown into turmoil by the discovery of a scrapbook. Inside is information of her real mother.

However, when Daisy drops everything to go in search of her roots, she uncovers a harrowing story of greed, misery and corruption. She also risks hurting her adored Dad, the only tru family she has left.

Can she cope with the truth of her real parents? And more importantly, who is the real Daisy?

"Characters it is impossible not to care about" ~ Daily Mail.

I'd previously discovered Lesley Pearse a few years back when I read her book, Stolen, which was brilliant. I'd always planned to read another of hers but you know what it's like when you get a pile to read, I'd just never gotten round to it.

I discovered Father Unknown in my local shop and the back of the page information had me gripped as did the title. What I expected and what I got from the book, however, were two things entirely different!

I was expecting a novel of a girl trying to find her father, what I got was a novel starting off based in Chiswick, London in 1990, with young girl named Daisy caring for her sick mum, Lorna.
The first couple of chapters of the book are based around Lorna passing, Daisy was there and had wanted to phone her dad and twin siblings, John, Tim and Lucy but her mother declined and instead the book gives you the image of an emotional embrace between mother and daughter on their precious last few moments talking about memories and Lorna's wish for Daisy to find her biological mother. 
When the others arrive home, Lucy in particular isn't impressed Daisy was there without the others and blames her for not calling them. As the next few weeks follow and Lorna's funeral arrives there is much sibling rivalry between the two girls resulting in a massive argument in which Daisy accidentally injures her sister. 
Feeling like an out cast to the family, Daisy fleas to her boyfriend, Joel's house.
When her dad pays her a visit to say how missed she is, they have a deep heart to heart and as a reader we discover a little more about their family background and more of the two girls... Daisy is beautiful, more carefree and jumps in without thinking, where as Lucy is plain, a planner but has the brains. Each envys the other ones traits. 
John leaves with Daisy agreeing to go home after the weekend and to work things out with her sister, he then hands her a box in which Lorna had made for and memories from childhood.. At the bottomed the box there were two envelopes. 
The first containing adoption papers and Daisy's original birth certificate. The second a heartfelt and emotion letter from Lorna.

Chapter Three of Father Unknown is based in Cornwall and takes you back to 1955. The main bulk of the book from here on in is based on Ellen and Josie Pengelly, two sisters with a mass of curly red hair, daughters to a farmer, Albert and his wife,Violet.
Ellen discovers that Violet is in fact her step mother, Josie therefore being her half sister. Her mother died with a sibling when she jumped to her death long before Ellen could remember.

One of the things I love about Pearse's writing style is her ability to write great details. Through the next several chapters I felt like I was in Cornwall to a time before TVs and social media!! I developed a great sense how difficult times were and not only that, the story of of the Pengelly's was in such detail I could instantly picture the scenes and conversations everytime I picked the book up.

As the novel unfolds, it's very clear that both sisters are unhappy with aspects of their home life. Ellen isn't loved by Violet, is the apple of Alberts eye and loves helping on the farm. Josie is loved by their mother but isn't shown so much effection from Albert. 
The girls however much is thrown in their way, are close and tell each other everything, suddenly they are parted when Violet takes Josie away and Ellen throws herself into her summer job. 
When a circus comes to town, she falls for one of the trapeze artists, Pierre, and ends up offering  him her virginity the night before the circus moves out of town ~  Pierre leaves without a goodbye breaking Ellen's heart.
The only thing that keeps Ellen going when she discovers she's pregnant is that Josie is home again and the one other person she can confide in, an older neighbour, Mrs Peters who helps her see a way out keeping her secret safe from her father.

Eventually Ellen moves to Bristol to become a mothers help until she gives birth, meanwhile Josie runs away from Cornwall back to London where is is dead set on becoming a model. 
The girls keep in touch via letter before the occasional visits however it's is clear they aren't as close as they once were. Ellen is trying to move on from her heartbreak of giving away her daughter Catherine, whilst Josie is heading down a road of no return getting herself caught up in drink and drugs, being exploited and used for sex. 
Every time she gets in trouble she heads to Bristol where Ellen would bail her out and hear promises to change, except whenever the next visit came the trouble was double if not more.

The last third of the book is back with Daisy in 1991. Not really knowing what to do with her life despite  becoming a qualified chef since her mothers death, or knowing if she really belongs with her family or even of that she still loves Joel, she decides to head firstly to Bristol to see where her real, biological mother, Ellen, lived before going to Cornwall to see if she can find out who she really is.
Whilst there she meets Mrs Peters who tells her of a tragic fire at the Pengelly farm a few years back where Albert, Violet and Josie, whom had moved back with her parents, had all lost their lives. Ellen hadn't kept contact with Mrs Peters, presumably through heart break and bad memories, and this sparks off a new search for Daisy.

A search in which leads her back to London, where eventually she finds her birth mother Ellen, although some things don't sit right with Daisy she knows that she has to give things time, and when Ellen still doesn't budge on giving details of her birth, contacting Mrs Peters or meeting her adoptive family, Daisy takes matters into her own hands and arranges a meeting anyway.

The shock comes, and I certainly didn't see this one coming, was the line from Mrs Peters when Daisy took her to Ellen, claiming it wasn't Ellen but in fact Josie!! 

As Daisy listens to the now elderly ladies reasons for her new found mother being her aunt she realises from the stories she'd read and the things she knew there had to be some truth in it and so rather than going home she decides to confront Josie for the truth... Not knowing what the real Josie is actually capable of!

Daisy eventually discovers the reasons on why Josie modelled herself to her sister, the jealously, the drink, the drugs and life she left feeling worthless and in turn realises that even though throughout discovering her biological roots and the history of the Pengelly's she still has no idea of her real dad, she has all the love, support and family she ever needed in John, Tom, Lucy and of course Joel.

Lesley Pearse tackled many issues of love and loss, sex and drugs in the height of the sixties, sibling rivalry and greed in Father Unknown yet managed to keep the readers interest by keeping the themes linked throughout where before I've found that other authors are unable to do so resulting in a boring book. 
This was a truly wonderful read that had me gripped as I'm sure it will others too.

Saturday, 18 April 2015

Me Before You, by JoJo Moyes

Lou Clark knows lots of things.

She knows how many footsteps there are between the bus stop and home. She knows she likes working in The Buttered Bun tea shop and she knows she might not love her boyfriend Patrick.

What Lou doesn't know is she is about to lose her job or that knowing what's coming is what keeps her sane.

Will Traynor knows his motorcycle accident took away his desire to live. He knows everything feels rather small and joyless now, and he knows exactly how he's going to put a stop to that.

What Will doesn't know is that Lou is about to burst into his world in a riot of colour. And neither of them knows they're going to change the other for all time.

Having seen this book down various social media feeds I was eager to get my hands on it, and I can honestly say that I was gripped from page one which resulted in the book being read within 48hours... I admit, if I hadn't had the alarm set for work this morning I would have stayed up to finish it.

For me this book I one of them ones where you instantly fall in love with the characters. From the off I adored Lou's quirky dress sense and the way she described things in detail, it really builds up the setting of the book in your head.

Lou lives at home with her parents, sister and nephew. She has a long term boyfriend who is more interested in his running and personal training business that he is in Lou, cue myself forming an instant dislike to Patrick's character! She lives in a quaint village that has a castle bringing in a steady stream of  tourist each summer. The Buttered Bun where she works suddenly closes and Lou is at a loss. The vacancies at the job centre aren't much to go by and just when she thinks thes hit rock bottom something turns up - being a carer for Will.

Will is a quadriplegic as a result of a motorcycle accident and has made his mind up about his life, it's the only decision he seems in control of making. I won't tell you about this decision here as I feel it will ruin part of the story for you. Lou is hired on a six month contract as Will's carer and from the beginning Will is difficult however it doesn't take Lou long to realise that the best way to get along is by purely talking to Will (and she doesn't have an issue chatting!) and allowing him to make choices.

Slowly they start to form a relationship and Lou gains his trust and day trips out become a regular thing. As Lou and Will grow closer, Lou and Patrick grow farther apart - thumbs up from me!
Lou's biggest challenge comes when her and Nathan, Will's daily nurse, take him on holiday. She's super organised so that nothing goes wrong... After all there is a lot riding on this, and on the last night finally admits her feelings for Will... Something the book is aiming towards and as a reader something I hoped would happen. 
What I wasn't expecting however was Will's reaction. Usually with a good chic-lit there is always a happy ever after ending but this was not the case.
Again without totally spoiling the plot line for you, Will is stubborn and sticks to that one decision he made before he met Lou, however she does come to accept this.

At a few intervals of the book there would be a chapter written from someone other than Lou although she narrates most of the story. There's a chapter from Will's mother, one from Nathan and one from Katrina, Lou's sister, and each give their view and prospective of the situation. I particularly liked the way these were thrown in the mix to keep my own views open minded and it added a little freshness to the book.

Despite Me Before You first being published in 2012, JoJo Moyes is a new author to my book corner and quickly became a favourite.
The book is a tale of love, lost and bravery. It genuinely had me laughing out loud on one page and then wiping my eyes a few later and I would thoroughly recommend to anyone who's not already read this or or some of Moyes' work.

Monday, 13 April 2015

We Are Completely Besides Ourselves, Karen Joy Fowler

What do you do if both your brother and sister disappear from your lives? How would you cope knowing your childhood was just an experiment to your father?


This book was not like my usual chiclit style and I found it very slow and difficult to get into.

The book is a story about a female, Rosemary, and starts with her being at college. Rosemary narrates the book herself and the first half of the book jumps back in time to various memories, then back to college before more memories and for me, didn't really flow into a natural reading pattern.
The second part of the book was no doubt easier and quicker to read. Once Rosemary brought you back to college life it then moved forward to her present.

If you can get past the topsy-turvy layout of the book, there is a fairly good story laid down of which at just 5 years old, Rosemary is shipped off to her grandparents for a few weeks. 

On her return home her sister, Fern, has suddenly disappeared. No one talks about Fern or asks too many questions, that is until their brother, Lowell, also vanishes.

Over time we learn that Fern is a chimpanzee and Lowell is on the run from the FBI.

The book takes you through many paths of blame, guilt, sibling rivalry and trying to understand why Rosemary's life is as it is and is well worth a read if your open to new styles.
The book goes to show however, that it doesn't matter how different we are in appearances, you can form bonds with any human or animal and call them family.