See You in the Cosmos [Jack Cheng]

An astonishingly moving middle-grade debut about a space-obsessed boy’s quest for family and home.

All eleven-year old Alex wants is to launch his iPod into space. With a series of audio recordings, he will show other lifeforms out in the cosmos what life on Earth, his Earth, is really like. But for a boy with a long-dead dad, a troubled mum, and a mostly-not-around brother, Alex struggles with the big questions.But for a boy with a long-dead dad, a troubled mum, and a mostly-not-around brother, Alex struggles with the big questions.

Where do I come from? Who’s out there? And, above all, How can I be brave?

Determined to find the answers, Alex sets out on a remarkable road trip that will turn his whole world upside down . . .

For fans of Wonder and The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, Jack Cheng’s debut is full of joy, optimism, determination, and unbelievable heart. To read the first page is to fall in love with Alex and his view of our big, beautiful, complicated world. To read the last is to know he and his story will stay with you a long, long time.

My thoughts on the novel: What a lovely surprise! See You in the Cosmos is an entertaining, touching tale about a young boy passionate about space and alien lifeforms and who embarks on a riveting journey through America.

I thought the author really managed to capture and recreate this very particular stream of thought youngsters have. You get a narration made up of long sentences reflecting the incredible amount of ideas that go through the mind of Alex.

I was not only moved by his perspective of the world, but also very amused by his candor and funny interpretations of things he hears and sees, especially when faced with young adult problems. He tries to make sense of everything and everyone surrounding him.

He’s a very smart, mature eleven-year-old who has to deal with a broken family — a strong character who helps make this story a beautiful tale with a strong message about love, family, friendship and chasing after your dreams.

I highly recommend this novel to the young public who can easily identify with Alex, but also to teenagers and adults who will definitely get something out it too.

My score: ♥ ♥ ♥

The Dressmaker [Kate Alcott]

Torn between her dreams and the truth, she was faced with an impossible choice . . .

Tess, an aspiring seamstress, is stunned at her luck when the famous designer Lady Lucile Duff Gordon hires her to be a personal maid on the Titanic‘s doomed voyage. When disaster strikes, Tess is one of the last people allowed on a lifeboat – her employer also survives. On dry land, savage rumours begin to circulate: did Lady Duff Gordon save herself at the expense of others?

Tess’s dream of becoming a skilled dressmaker is within her grasp but now she is faced with a terrible choice. Suddenly she finds herself torn between loyalty to the fiery woman who could help her realise her ambitions and the devastating truth that her mentor may not be all she seems.

My thoughts on the novel:  The Dressmaker isn’t just another book about the Titanic. Much has already been said and written about the tragic event, but this novel offers a fresh and compelling new perspective by focusing on the aftermath of the shipwreck — especially the U.S Senate hearings, the inquiry and all the press scandals. From the characters to the plot and the writing style, everything is of top quality. The reader cannot but feel as though he/she were travelling back in time one chapter after the other. It is a riveting, engrossing novel that cannot leave you unmoved.

The part taking place onboard the Titanic is beautifully written, and deeply emotional when the actual sinking occurs. But, the rescue on the Carpathia isn’t the end of troubles for the main characters. From New York to Washington, they find themselves dealing with press scandals, public humiliation and political turmoil. The context is very much detailed, you can almost sense how it must have been like living there at the beginning of the twentieth century.

What’s striking is how the author leads the reader to reflect on the notion of bravery, especially when a scandal broke about the almost empty Lifeboat One and some alleged bribes. How would one react if they found themselves in a profoundly distressful situation? Would they act as heroes or would they let fear dictate their behavior? Are there really villains or simply flawed human beings trying to survive a terrible ordeal? The Dressmaker offers an enlightening perspective on the choices we all make, especially in dire situations.

I have been deeply moved by the excellent narrative, the underlying messages and the complexity of the characters. Tess is an intriguing character. She’s as strong-willed as she is sensitive. I was particularly enthused about the ending she gets. Some would say that she’s a clueless ingenue for being distraught by having not one, but two love interests. If you look beyond the surface, the author is sending a strong message about women’s possibilities in life. She embodies a modern, inspiring female figure. As for Lady Lucile Duff Gordon, you might initially believe she’s a caricature because of how arrogant and condescending — borderline bipolar — she comes across. But, do read till the end, there’s more to it than you might think. Lastly, I’ll mention the character of Pinkie, a fearless, independent reporter who will make your day when you read the final chapters.

The Dressmaker is a vivid, touching, deeply emotional novel that I strongly recommend.

A true gem not to be missed!

My score:  ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

Christmas At The Gingerbread Café [Rebecca Raisin]

Christmas At The Gingerbread Café (The Gingerbread Café, Book 1) par [Raisin, Rebecca]Christmas is the season the Gingerbread Café in Ashford, Connecticut was made for…but owner Lily couldn’t be feeling less merry if she tried. She’s spent another year dreaming of being whisked away on a sleigh-ride for two, but she’s facing festive season alone – again. And, just to give her another reason to feel anything other than candy-cane perky, a new shop across the road has opened… Not only is it selling baked goods, but the owner, with his seriously charming smile, has every girl in town swooning.
But Lily isn’t about to let her business crumble — the Gingerbread Café is the heart of the community, and she’s going to fight for it! This could be the Christmas that maybe, just maybe, all her dreams – even the someone-to-decorate-the-Christmas-tree-with ones – really do come true!

My thoughts on the novel: From the gorgeous cover to the yummy title, I knew I would delightfully delve into this festive short story. Not only is it filled with all the Christmassy elements you expect in such a seasonal novel, but it’s also very entertaining and fun. I really enjoyed the little war between Lily and her new, good-looking business neighbour.

You cannot but appreciate the lovely dynamic there is between Lily and business partner CeeCee, a real mother figure who helps Lily in the process of moving on from ex-husband Joel who broke her heart and left her for someone else. Will Lily finally get the happy ending she longs for?

All in all, Christmas at the Gingerbread Café is a great, enchanting story for this time of year. I’m definitely adding the next two installments in the Gingerbread series to my reading list for 2017!

Score: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

All I Want for Christmas [Jenny Hale]

Snowflakes are falling, there’s carol singing on every corner, and Leah Evans is preparing for a family Christmas at her grandmother’s majestic plantation house in Virginia. It won’t be the same now that her beloved Nan is gone, but when Leah discovers she has inherited the mansion, she knows she can give her daughter Sadie the childhood of her dreams.

But there’s a catch. Leah must split the house with a man called David Forester. Leah hasn’t heard that name in a long time. Not since they were kids, when Davey was always there to catch her.

Now David is all grown up. He’s gorgeous, successful, and certain of one thing: Leah should sell him her half of the house.

They can’t agree, but as they share memories over wine by the log fire, Leah notices a fluttering in her stomach. And by the look in his eyes, he’s starting to feel it too.

Will it be Leah or David who must give up their dreams? Or, with a little bit of Christmas magic, will they finally understand Nan’s advice to them both about living life without regrets … and take a chance on true love?

My thoughts on the novel: A special thank you to Bookouture, NetGalley and Jenny Hale for letting me read this heartwarming Christmas tale. All I Want for Christmas is a must-read feel-good novel for this holiday season.

Single mother Leah Evans is an interesting character. She’s strong-willed, sensitive and loving. I really enjoyed reading about her relationship with daughter Sadie and her close friends a.k.a The Girls! After learning about all her struggles, you cannot help but feel resentment when the news break that Nan, Leah’s beloved grandmother, actually didn’t leave the family property solely to Leah as originally planned. A certain David also inherited half of it. This intriguing turn of events makes you really wonder what could have happened for lovely Granny to throw such a wrench in Leah and Sadie’s dream!

As the plot unfolds, the reader eventually grows to appreciate Nan whose secret is unveiled with poignancy. Leah and David share childhood memories that resurface as they spend quality time together. Step by step, you realise that all Nan did was with a specific purpose in mind.

All I Want for Christmas is a festive, touching novel about family, friendship and love.

Score: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥