Alice in Brexitland [Lucien Young]

Lying on a riverbank on a lazy summer’s afternoon – 23rd June 2016, to be precise – Alice spots a flustered-looking white rabbit called Dave calling for a referendum. Following him down a rabbit-hole, she emerges into a strange new land, where up is down, black is white, experts are fools and fools are experts…

She meets such characters as the Corbynpillar, who sits on a toadstool smoking his hookah and being no help to anyone; Humpty Trumpty, perched on a wall he wants the Mexicans to pay for; the Cheshire Twat, who likes to disappear leaving only his grin, a pint, and the smell of scotch eggs remaining; and the terrifying Queen of Heartlessness, who’ll take off your head if you dare question her plan for Brexit. Will Alice ever be able to find anyone who speaks sense?

My thoughts on the book: What an incredible tribute to the mad world created by Lewis Carroll! Just over 100 pages long, Alice in Brexitland is a deliciously witty and uproariously funny take on the notorious Brexit referendum.

The author really managed to capture Carroll’s signature style and transposed it in a Brexit modern context. The writing style is intricate and refined. It is unapologetically subjective and very much eye-opening on how politics and our society really work.

Obviously, you might find it more relevant if you aren’t particularly pro-Brexit, but you have to admit that the author created a really sobering gem that will give food for thought to anyone willing to get some much-needed perspective.

A satirical story filled with dark humour and sarcastic remarks. Highly recommended!

My score: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ (=A must-read)

Kitty McKenzie [Annemarie Brear]

223788391864 – Suddenly left as the head of the family, Kitty McKenzie must find her inner strength to keep her family together against the odds. Evicted from their resplendent home in the fashionable part of York after her parents’ deaths, Kitty must fight the legacy of bankruptcy and homelessness to secure a home for her and her siblings. Through sheer willpower and determination, she grabs opportunities with both hands from working on a clothes and rag stall in the market to creating a teashop for the wealthy. Her road to happiness is fraught with obstacles of hardship and despair, but she refuses to let her dream of a better life for her family die. She soon learns that love and loyalty brings its own reward.

My thoughts on the novel: If you enjoy reading Downton Abbey-inspired historical novels, Kitty McKenzie is a must-read. After the untimely death of their parents, the McKenzie siblings lose everything after learning their family is deep in debt. Snatched from their comfortable life as members of the upper class, Kitty and her brothers and sisters must fend for themselves and find themselves living in the squalid conditions of the 19th century working class. A reverse rag-to-riches kind of tale. Can they work their way back in the upper class?

Kitty is a strong-willed, endearing character who must now act as a mother and a big sister to her younger siblings after realising that none of their relatives or so-called friends will come to help them. Without references or specific skills, she has difficulty finding employment. Luckily, she’ll find an unexpected source of help and support from Connie and Max Spencer, a childless couple living upstairs from their cellar. As the McKenzie brood navigate their new, tough daily life, Kitty finds some hope for a better future when she meets Benjamin Kinglsey, an attractive young man, heir to a major York fortune. Kitty will have to face the wrath of her future mother-in-law who strongly disapproves of this union. With the help of Benjamin’s father and grandmother, Kitty may stand a chance to pull her family from misery and experience a true love story. To what lengths will she have to go to reach that goal?

I couldn’t put down this book. It’s a riveting and moving tale about family, friendship and love. The author created complex and touching characters who struggle with profound life changes. Fortunately, it’s a tale about hope and new beginnings that will leave the reader with a new appreciation of life and relatives.

After finishing the book which ends on an open conclusion, I was overjoyed to learn that the author wrote a sequel. I cannot wait to read it!

My score: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ (= a must-read)

When we Danced at the End of the Pier [Sandy Taylor]

Brighton 1930: Maureen O’Connell is a carefree girl, but her family is on the brink of tragedy, war is looming and life will never be the same again.

Jack and Nelson have always been dear friends to Maureen. Despite their different backgrounds, they’ve seen each other through thick and thin.

As Maureen blossoms from a little girl into a young woman, the candle she’s always held for Jack burns bright. But just as she’s found love, war wrenches them apart. The man she cherishes with all her heart is leaving.

When the bombs start to fall, Maureen and her family find themselves living in the most dangerous of times. With Jack no longer by her side and Nelson at war, Maureen has never felt more alone. Can she look to a brighter future? And will she find the true happiness she’s dreamt of?

An utterly gripping and heart-wrenching story about the enduring power of love, hope and friendship during the darkest of days.

My thoughts on the novel: It was an absolute delight to read the novel When we danced at the end of the pier by Sandy Taylor. The story was deeply emotional and moving. As the reader, you see Maureen grow up at a time of great tragedy: the looming threat of a possible war and the actual horrors of the Second World War (deaths, bombing, evacuees), all in a poor section of Brighton called See Saw Lane.

Throughout their childhood, Maureen and her sister Brenda have had to deal with a “broken daddy” who seems to be wrestling with his own demons. It made them grow up faster, a matter that is obvious in Maureen’s narrative voice and strong personality. Apart from that, Maureen’s friends also have to deal with their share of family and personal drama, from poverty to abuse. She shares a very strong bond with her best friends, including Nelson, Monica and Jack! She will live an incredible love story, as well as an incredible loss that will move you to the core (courtesy of a great narrative and writing style from the author’s part).

All the characters are endearing and touching. The dramatic scenes are heart-wrenching, especially those dealing with bombings. The descriptions are incredibly vivid, which makes for a very realistic novel. You can almost feel and sense everything at the same time as Maureen. The author really managed to write a beautiful tale about family, true love and friendship. If you are a bit of a softie, expect a few tears rolling down your cheeks!

My score: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

The Christmas Surprise [Jenny Colgan]

The Christmas Surprise par [Colgan, Jenny]Rosie Hopkins, newly engaged, is looking forward to an exciting year in the little English sweetshop she owns. But when fate deals Rosie and her boyfriend Stephen a terrible blow, threatening everything they hold dear, it’s going to take all their strength and the support of their families and their friends to hold them together.

After all, don’t they say it takes a village to raise a child?

My thoughts on the novel: It doesn’t take much convincing for me to pick a Jenny Colgan novel. A few years back, I absolutely adored the Cupcake Café series. However, when adding The Christmas Surprise to my Christmas book reading list, I hadn’t realised that it was another adventure from the Rosie Hopkins series which I haven’t read yet (although they are in my ebook waiting list!). But, I wouldn’t let that keep me from a Christmas story. So, I entered Rosie’s world as a complete newbie and thanks to the introductory note the author added at the beginning, I had enough background info to get my Ws straight: who, what, when, where.

Now, plot-wise, let me start by saying that the intrigue is as beautiful as the cover lets on. I admit that I didn’t expect such a deep, emotional story. The part set in Africa is very moving with vivid descriptions, you can almost feel the local atmosphere. The first major twist about Rosie and Stephen is touching and tearful. It marks the beginning of a rollercoaster of emotions for the couple. Can they weather this major storm? They’ll have to go through some difficult moments that will put the solidity of their relationship to the test.

It’s a very sensitive, family-oriented novel. It definitely convinced me to read the first installment, Welcome To Rosie Hopkins’ Sweetshop Of Dreams.

On a side note, I liked the recipes at the end of the book. I hope the author won’t mind too much that I’m correcting her on a teeny tiny mistake. Yule log in French is spelled “bûche de Noël” with a circumflex accent on the “u”. The dots for Noël are correct though. (I know it can be a difficult language at times!) 🙂

All in all, I highly recommend The Christmas Surprise. It’s another successful story from one of my favourite chick-lit writers.

Score: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

 

 

The Little Christmas Kitchen [Jenny Oliver]

The Little Christmas Kitchen par [Oliver, Jenny]Christmas at the Davenports’ house was always about one thing: food!
But when sisters Ella and Maddy were split up, Ella to live in London with their Dad, and Maddy staying in Greece with their Mum, mince pies lost their magic.
Now, a cheating husband has thrown Ella a curved snowball…and for the first time in years, all she wants is her mum. So she heads back to Greece, where her family’s taverna holds all the promise of home. Meanwhile, waitress Maddy’s dreams of a white Christmas lead her back to London…and her Dad.
But a big fat festive life-swap isn’t as easy as it sounds! And as the sisters trade one kitchen for another, it suddenly seems that among the cinnamon, cranberries and icing sugar, their recipes for a perfect Christmas might be missing a crucial ingredient: each other.

My thoughts on the novel: From England to Greece, the author embarks the reader on a lovely Christmas adventure where two sisters must come to terms with their difficult past marked by their parents’ divorce and a childhood spent apart from one parent.

On top of that, Ella and Maddy have personal issues of their own to resolve, whether a marriage on the rocks or dreams of a big career in the music industry. Will they be able to find the answers they’re looking for? Both characters are endearing and touching. The plot is well-paced and entertaining. It was particularly fun to read about the creation of a girls’ band. It will give food for thought about the concept of fame!

This festive book is about knowing oneself and learning to forgive and move on. To make it all sweeter, the novel is filled with great baking ideas and Greek specialties.

This heartwarming novel will make your mouth water and your heart melt.

Score: ♥ ♥ ♥

A Very Merry Manhattan Christmas [Darcie Boleyn]

Lucie Quigley hates Christmas. It’s the time of year when everything goes wrong in her life. So this year, when she’s asked to be a bridesmaid at her friend Petra’s Manhattan wedding, she jumps at the invitation to escape the festivities.

Dale Treharne has been best friends with Lucie for as long as he can remember. He’s used to looking out for his oldest friend and when she asks him to be her plus one, he can’t seem to find a reason to refuse. Instead, he sees it as a way to help Lucie get through what is, for her, the most miserable time of the year.

In New York, as the snow starts to fall, Lucie and Dale start to realise that their feelings run deeper than just friendship. But can they overcome their pasts, and make it a very merry Manhattan Christmas?


My thoughts on the novel: A Very Merry Manhattan Christmas is a true gem. This feel-good novel is both moving and enchanting. From Tonbridge, England to Manhattan, New York, the reader gradually learns more about the deep, complicated relationship between Lucie and Dale, two best friends who’ve known each other since childhood.

Lucie has a difficult, heartbreaking past. I thought the author wrote beautifully about Lucie’s struggle with the memory of her mother dying on Christmas Eve all these years ago. Dale is a sensitive, affectionate character that you’ll grow very fond of. You know they’re made for each other and yet, it’s lovely to see the whole process they have to go through to reach the same conclusion.

Manhattan around Christmas time offers the perfect backdrop for the most romantic scenes. The whole drama around Petra’s big fancy wedding is very entertaining, especially because of the clash between these two opposite worlds — Lucie and Dale vs Petra and her clique.

It’s a festive, poignant read you won’t be able to put down until the end.

Score: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥