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The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid. - Jane Austen

Denise Grover Swank – The Substitute

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I have very mixed feelings about this book. I decided to read it on a whim while I was stuck in traffic on a bus and I’d forgotten to bring my paperback with me, so I quickly loaded up the top free books list on the Kindle app, and the cover for this one jumped out at me as I’m currently preparing for my wedding next year.

In many ways, this was the perfect romantic story. But the cynical part of me just couldn’t help scoffing that everything seemed to fall into place way too perfectly.

I found Megan’s character a little spineless. I mean, if you’ve split up with your fiance, you should probably tell your parents instead of just flying home for your wedding without a clue what you’re going to do. And going along with the story that a complete stranger is your fiance is completely bonkers.

But although the story was ‘too good to be true’, I couldn’t help but be drawn in by it. There was something so magical about the way that the book had been written that I couldn’t help but keep reading and rooting for Megan and Josh to somehow work things out and end up together.

I’d say if you’re looking for a deep and meaningful story, this probably isn’t the book for you, but as a light-hearted feel-good romance, it was perfect.

Milly Johnson – The Wedding Dress

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I decided to read this as it combines my favourite author with my current occupation – weddings!

Unfortunately, I kind of wish I hadn’t read the set of three short stories. It carries on from White Wedding, and although I wanted to know more about the characters when I finished reading that, I think this book was a little bit of a disappointment.

Not in writing, Milly Johnson doesn’t disappoint like that, just that the three short stories were really short, and I finished each of them feeling a little rushed and still hoping for more. I’d hoped that the stories would give me a bit of closure, but I kind of felt deflated. It would have been nice if each story was longer, or just a little more fleshed out, I think this would have made me much happier.

My main problem however, was in the editing of the book, there were a fair few obvious mistakes that left the book feeling less than professional. I’d love to be an editor, getting paid to read books (yes, I’m sure there’s more to it than that), but when a wrong person’s name is used, it just leaps off the page at you (or at least it does to me).

For a 99p ebook, it wasn’t bad, just not what I was expecting!

Jojo Moyes – After You

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I had built this book up so much after how much I loved Me Before You, but sadly, I have to say it disappointed me.

It’s taken me almost a month to read it, which is unusual and a sign of how I wasn’t completely absorbed. I just couldn’t get into the first half of the book at all, it seemed very slow and I didn’t feel the same connection to Louisa as I felt when reading Me Before You. The second half of the book did improve dramatically and I really got into it, but I just couldn’t say I loved the book after such a disappointing start.

Obviously as this is a sequel, the review will contain spoilers to Me Before You, so if you haven’t read that yet, I probably wouldn’t read on from here!

We start the book after we left off, Louisa still recovering from Will’s death, trying to get to grips with life without him and failing quite miserably. Her lowest point comes when she’s completely drunk and falls off the roof of her flat, seriously injuring herself and forcing her to temporarily move back with her parents.

Everyone is concerned for her, but she soon has more worries of her own when a teenage girl turns up at her door claiming to be Will’s daughter. Desperate for a connection to Will, Louisa finds herself completely involved in the life of this complete stranger, putting her life on hold in an attempt to hold on to a part of Will.

During all this, Louisa finds herself a new love interest, which quite frankly was one of the most interesting parts of the story and the reason that the book picked up further along.

But I kinda feel that the ending wasn’t entirely as I would have expected or wanted, although it did make me cry, so it can’t have been all that bad. It does seem like it may have been deliberately left open as it was to leave the author open to another sequel. I just hope if she decides to do it, it’s a bit more gripping like Me Before You.

Milly Johnson – The Barn on Half Moon Hill

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The Barn on Half Moon Hill is a 99p e-book that Milly wrote to raise money for Claire Throssell, a woman whose children tragically died in a fire started by their dad. There’s a fundraising page if you want to read more.

I went into the book knowing it was only short (85 pages), and that I was probably going to finish up yearning for more (as always with a Milly book), and I wasn’t wrong. When I got to the last page, I was dying for it to go on further, but maybe there’s more of a story to be told, who knows?

Cariad Williams has been writing to movie star Franco Mezzaluna (half moon, geddit?) since she was a small girl, but he’s never written back to her. She’s convinced that he isn’t getting the letters, but she can’t stop writing. She’s told her obnoxious flatmates that he is her boyfriend (not that they really believe her), but the story looks like it will unravel when it’s announced that he’s going to open the new attraction at Winterworld, the Christmas theme park where Cariad works.

She writes one desperate last letter to him, before her mind goes into overdrive thinking of how she can get away from the terminal embarrassment that’s bound to be coming her way when her flatmates are finally proved right that she was lying.

But little did she know that Franco has been reading and saving all her letters, they’ve been like a lifeline to him. And there’s a reason he hasn’t written back to her, one that nobody knows. So when Franco arrives at Winterworld and he knows how she is, Cariad is able to spend one splendid day with the man of her dreams. And as they both reveal secrets about themselves that no-one else knows, it soon becomes obvious why these two people were fated to meet.

As I said at the start of this post, I was dying for more when I turned the last page, but I understand why this was only a short story. I can only hope that Milly might give us a sequel so we can spend more time with Cariad and Franco. A lovely, heart-warming and uplifting book whose only fault is that there aren’t enough pages!

Milly Johnson – Sunshine Over Wildflower Cottage

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IMG_20160623_145804I’ve been looking forward to this book for ages, and it finally came out last Thursday. And for the first time, I went to meet Milly Johnson to get my copy signed! I was the second person in the queue and so excited to meet her, and she was just as lovely as I thought she would be!

We start the book with Viv, driving into a lovely (albeit extremely foggy) village called Ironmist, looking for her new job at Wildflower Cottage, an animal sanctuary. Viv is a very mysterious character, we find out that she doesn’t like animals, so it’s weird that she’d accept such a low-paying job in the sanctuary, even if it is just an admin job. To begin with, we’re left completely in the dark as to her true motives for being in Ironmist, and she remains an elusive character until much further through the book.

When Viv arrives at the cottage, she meets a lovely lady called Geraldine, who is completely attached to the cottage, but also seems to have secrets of her own. And she hears all about the owner of the sanctuary Heath, imagining him as a grumpy curmudgeonly old man. And it turns out that while she might have got the personality right, he’s most definitely not old, he’s a gorgeous young man, and it’s only his stroppy personality that stops Viv from falling head over heels for him at first sight. Well, that and whatever is her actual reason for coming to Ironmist. It doesn’t seem like she’s set on putting down roots here, just get what she wants and leave.

As well as Viv, we also follow the lives of Viv’s mum Stel and her group of friends, who call themselves the Old Spice Girls. Stel is a hopeless romantic, seeming to fall instantly in love with anyone who pays her attention, no matter how bad for her they turn out to be. But when she falls for Ian, the gardener at the hospice she works for, it looks like her luck has changed, he seems perfect!

But one thing we learn from Stel and her group of friends is that you might think that someone’s life is perfect, but you can only see what they let you see, and you don’t know what they’ve been through to get to the life they’re living now. As the saying goes, you can’t judge a book by it’s cover. Everyone has secrets and it’s up to them when they choose to share them, all you can do is be a good friend until they’re ready.

I found this book completely gripping, full of romance, mystery, suspense, drama, friendship and of course, a gorgeous location! If I wasn’t on so many painkillers at the moment after my recent hospital stay and still falling asleep all the time, I would have devoured this book in one sitting!

I’d definitely recommend this book to any Milly fans, and anyone that loves a romance with a twist, it was a lovely, lovely book, probably my favourite Milly book so far!

My favourite quote came from the first page of the book, it really struck a chord with me:

“It looked both beautiful and weird; but then weird was good sometimes.”

Giovanna Fletcher – Always with Love

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After reading Billy and Me while I was in hospital, I was so glad that I’d already purchased the sequel so that I could read it straight away. I loved Sophie and Billy’s story and was desperate to know what happened next for their relationship.

After deciding at the end of Billy and Me that they’re going to spend some time living in Rosefont Hill away from the press intrusion and the distractions of Billy’s celebrity life, their lives are turned upside down yet again when Billy is offered a part in a film which would he simply can’t say no to (and not just because of his mother’s meddling!).

Sophie’s life was recently turned upside down by the death of her closest friend Molly, and she has the cafe to think about now that she owns it, so she can’t just drop her life and jet to LA to be by Billy’s side, but they’re both unsure about whether their relationship can withstand the distance.

And when Molly’s son Peter comes back from Australia, and when it seems like Billy is being tempted back into his party lifestyle, it seems like they might have been right.

I have to say, as much as I loved Sophie and Billy’s relationship in Billy and Me, I think my favourite relationship in this book is Sophie’s Mum Jane and her fiance Colin, as they prepare for their wedding. They’ve both lost their first partners, and the way that they’re healing each other of terrible grief just warmed my heart completely.

I won’t say too much more to spoil the story, although I will say I was delighted with the magicalness that was Jane and Colin’s wedding in the closing chapters of the book, it was as perfect as I thought it would be!

My favourite quote from this book came right at the end, and I read it a few times as I just loved it so much:

“Love makes the world a better place and I want the life I lead to be the one that’s driven always with love.”

I’d definitely recommend this book to anyone who loves an enthralling romance, just make sure you’ve read Billy and Me first!

Giovanna Fletcher – Billy and Me

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I’ve been following Giovanna Fletcher on Twitter and Instagram for quite some time, but never got around to reading her books. But as I was still in hospital when I finished reading Me Before You, I decided to buy this on Kindle to keep me occupied.

And a good decision it turned out to be! I worried a little at the start as the writing style seemed a bit simplistic, but this improved throughout the book and I soon didn’t notice the writing style at all as I was completely enveloped by the story.

Many chick-lit books seem to focus on people trying to find their way into the limelight with a famous partner, but in Billy and Me, Sophie doesn’t even realise that the guy she’s fallen for is famous, and she most definitely doesn’t want to be the centre of attention.

Sophie has had a troubled past which led to her cutting herself off from the world, and she has trust issues that make it hard for her to open up completely to Billy. And when his next acting job requires him to get ‘up close and personal’ with his gorgeous ex, it seems that Sophie just can’t handle it, especially when Billy seems to have no consideration for her feelings.

I have to say, the flow of the book was great. I was swept up with the romance of Sophie and Billy’s relationship, and had no problems identifying with Sophie and feeling the huge range of emotions that she goes through.

One thing I didn’t expect though was the major plot twist towards the end of the book. To just drop something so huge on us (no spoilers here), without any prior warning was a major shock. I actually sat with tears rolling down my face as it unfolded, not wanting to read the inevitable, but unable to stop turning the pages.

Great job Giovanna, I’m so glad that I bought the sequel already so I don’t have to wait eagerly to find out what will happen next for Sophie!

Review: Jill Mansell – The One You Really Want

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51KENSqnCCLWell after a lot of heavy fantasy books, I decided to give my brain a bit of a break and catch up on some of the books I’ve got downloaded on my Kindle. I’m not one to dismiss chick-lit as useless or mind-numbing, and I definitely don’t use chick-lit as a derogatory word. When it’s well written, I find it more like a warm, comforting, relaxing experience, more like watching a lovely film.

And this one was quite lovely. When I first got in to reading, I used to read quite a bit of Jill Mansell, she seemed to be quite a popular option at my local charity shop where I used to buy my books for 25p a pop. But it’s been a while since I read any of her books, so when this one came up in the ‘Top 100 free’ list on Kindle, I just couldn’t say no!

The book starts with a fateful ride-on lawnmower. Not exactly the romantic Christmas present a woman wants to receive from her husband,and especially not when she’s just received a Christmas Card from a jewellers through the mail. It’s not hard for Nancy to put two and two together, and she decides to leave her husband and move in with her friend Carmen in London.

Carmen is still grieving for her late husband Spike. He was in a supremely successful rock band with his brother Rennie, but he also liked to experiment with drugs, which led to his untimely demise. And when Rennie rocks up on Carmen’s doorstep, she can’t deny that she feels something for him, try as she might.

The book contains a lot of speedbumps on the way to true love for each of the characters, who I came to love so much by the middle of the book that I was sat hoping and praying that they’d end up with the right people. Of course, you can tell quite early on how the book is going to end, but that doesn’t stop you from laughing and crying along with the characters and enjoying a thoroughly good read.

I’m only giving this book four out of five because I think some of the characters were just a little too stereotyped for my liking, but a brilliant read nonetheless.

4/5

Review: Milly Johnson – White Wedding

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Milly Johnson - White WeddingWell it’s been a long time since I started reading this book, over six weeks in fact. But I’ll blame that on Game of Thrones since this book was abandoned in my bedside drawer while I went on a fantasy epic.

But after finishing Game of Thrones, and realising that I was going to a wedding last weekend, what a perfect time to pick this up again. Except not really, since I was hoping for a beautiful wedding to get me in the mood and nothing seemed to go right for these poor three girls.

Pretty much straight away you get a good idea of the personalities of the three ladies and where you think their story is heading. And although I may have been right in all three instances, there were some twists and turns along the way to keep it interesting.

I did find it hard to feel any empathy for either Max or Violet. I felt a connection to Bel, I really liked that character. But Violet was a bit wet for my liking (although understandably so) and Max was just way too stuck up and out there to be someone that I would like. But even though I couldn’t feel for the characters, I still couldn’t wait to read more about them to find out if I was right about their happy endings.

I did find this a very easy read, nothing too taxing for my poor brain, which was just what I needed after GoT. I wouldn’t say it was my favourite of Milly’s books, although I think I did it a disservice by reading it in two parts such a long time from each other, so maybe a re-read would make me feel better about the experience. Although with the length of my to-read pile, that isn’t coming any time soon!

3/5

Review: Milly Johnson – The Teashop on the Corner

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Milly Johnson - The Teashop on the CornerI’ve loved Milly Johnson ever since I first read The Yorkshire Pudding Club in a random set of books ordered from The Book People, and I can’t see that love diminishing any time soon, quite the opposite in fact! I could honestly read Milly’s books all day every day, although my poor to-read shelf wouldn’t be very happy about it if I did!

I read a lot of tweets in the build up to the book launch, which ramped up my excitement for the new book. I would have loved to make it to the actual launch event, but sadly I had to work. Next time, I’ll be there no matter what!

I knew just from the title of the book that it was going to combine two of my favourite things: books and tea, but the teashop sounded more delightful than I could have imagined; with all the lovely classic book themed stationery on sale, it sounded like my idea of heaven! If it actually existed I don’t think I’d ever want to leave, and that’s without meeting the lovely owner and her patrons who very quickly become treasured friends.

The book had everything I wanted from a book; happiness, romance, surprise and an (eventual) happy ending. Of course the happy parts wouldn’t be quite so happy if there weren’t sad parts to balance them out (after all, nobody has a perfect life), and this book contained plenty of that too. Each character is battling some demons in their life, things that have left their life in turmoil and in need of a fresh start. And some seem to be battling things that they’re not ready to talk about yet, although in true-to-life style, nothing can stay secret forever and facing up to the truth comes sooner than expected.

I wish I’d saved the final chapters of the book until I got home curled up with a cup of tea, rather than reading it at my desk on my lunch break at work and trying to hold in the tears. I felt a little emotionally battered at the end, put through a wringer and spat out the other side.

Milly has a knack of writing characters that I can instantly relate to. Not because I’ve been through the same things that they have, but because their life and their situations are written so intricately that you feel like you know each and every one of them personally.

I also love the fact that Milly is from Yorkshire and proud (just like me), and she uses Yorkshire front and centre in her books, unlike some authors who pander to the city-masses and set their books in London. Yorkshire is such a beautiful place, why would you want not want to use it as a backdrop for such a fantastic story?! It definitely wouldn’t have been the same if it had been set in a big city, the Yorkshire village backdrop is perfect for the characters who converge in the teashop.

Usually when a book is written from more than one perspective, I have characters that I prefer to read, and sometimes a character who I tend to read more quickly because I just want to get back to the others, but I didn’t find that at all, each character had something in them that made me want to get to know them more. As I said before, I really wish that the teashop existed, although if it did I’d be bankrupt within weeks with all the lovely book related items that are on sale!

I’m probably gushing a bit too much now and I should probably stop, but I have nothing but good things to say about Milly Johnson and her latest book. Time to dig up the back-catalogue and pick up the few books that I have left to read!

5/5