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)

Feeling Great [Peter Vegso]

Feeling great is not something that can be bottled and bought. It does not come from where we live, what we drive, or who we know. It’s not about having a good time for a few hours, or about having money to spend. It’s about putting your life in order and remembering who you really are—an authentic way of living from the inside that will sustain you through life’s challenges.

In this treasure of a book, built on the timeless spiritual teachings of visionary Dadi Janki, you will learn the precepts for feeling great and the three keys that unlock the ability to attain it. Parables and examples further illuminate this wisdom. Coauthors Peter Vegso and Kelly Johnson reveal practical applications to help you navigate and overcome the sticking points we all encounter in our hectic, overscheduled lives.

Now is the time to start feeling great—not as a temporary indulgence, but as a lasting state of being. This uplifting book shows you how easy it can be.

My thoughts on the book: After reading the summary, I thought it would be a useful read. In a world that values being loud and doing everything super quickly, it was refreshing to read a book advocating for quietness, introspection and mindfulness as keys to a happy, content life.

Our society always urges us to purchase for more material stuff, among other superficial things. I was quite relieved to find a book that put “contentment” back in the spotlight. On the down side, I was a bit put off by the introductory note that was permeated with religious comments and references to God. I was afraid that this aspect would be too present throughout the book. In a way, it was recurring. It is obvious that religion is a major part of the author’s life, but it somehow contributed to making those who aren’t religious a bit excluded from the overall philosophy. Not everyone believes in a divine entity. That being said, you can still apply some of the advice provided in the book.

Overall, it’s an interesting, easy read that can certainly help you focus on the positive side of life.

My score: ♥ ♥

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 Secret to Falling in Love [Victoria Cooke]

Status Update: I’m going offline for a while… Wish me luck! xx

Lifestyle journalist and thirty-something singleton Melissa hashtags, insta’s and snapchats her supposedly fabulous life on every social media platform there is.

That is until she wakes up on her birthday, another year older and still alone, wondering if for all her internet dates, love really can be found online? The challenge: go technology free for a whole month!

Forced to confront the reality of her life without its perfect filters, Melissa knows she needs to make some changes. But when she bumps into not one, but two gorgeous men, without the use of an app, she believes there could be hope for love offline.

If only there was a way to choose the right guy for her…

My thoughts on the novel: If you’re looking for a feel-good, romantic novel, The Secret to Falling in Love will not disappoint you. It is a lovely, bubbly rom-com about Melissa, a thirty-something journalist who cannot wait to settle down and put an end to an endless stream of fruitless dates. She spends an incredible amount of time online and up until now, it has failed to provide her with a good partner. Has Tinder really killed romance?

The writing style is lively, the characters endearing and the plot interesting — going offline and trying to live life the old-fashioned way. Will Melissa find life better when she’s unplugged? Has technology really become an obstacle to social life? If you’re looking to know what Melissa’s conclusion will be after this enlightening experience, don’t forget to pick your copy of The Secret to Falling in Love due to be released on February 9th.

It is a vibrant chicklit novel that will appeal to those who enjoy a good read with a happy ending.

My score: ♥ ♥ ♥

The Toorak Jackpot [Rosemary Macindoe]

Before Rupert Murdoch married Jerry Hall and Tony Abbott was Prime Minister of Australia, enterprising shoe salesman Bert Smith got an offer he couldn’t refuse—to live the high life in Melbourne’s premier suburb—Toorak!

There was a catch, however…

He had to tell everyone within cooee that he was a prince—a Toorak prince!

And that’s when all the fun began for Bert!

Writing from her experience growing up in Toorak, Rosemary Macindoe blends a mélange of humour, satire and with a dash of poignancy in “The Toorak Jackpot”. This modern fable, inspired by Dickens’ “Great Expectations” explores what it means to be truly wealthy.

My thoughts on the novel: The Toorak Jackpot is a fun, entertaining novella with a deep message about fame, money and happiness. What is the true meaning of life? Can happiness only be achieved by becoming a billionaire or a prince? These are the main themes being dealt with in this well written story.

Set in beautiful Melbourne, the story unfolds at a good pace, with interesting characters like Bert Smith, a successful shoe salesman who gets dumped by his wife just before hitting the jackpot — he inherited a fortune and a mansion in Toorak, a fancy suburb renowned for being the home of the Melburnian socialite.

Bert must go through an interesting inner process to find out what happiness and wealth really are about.

How refreshing it was to read about this modern story set in Australia and specifically in Melbourne which I was lucky enough to call home in another life! 🙂 Yes, technically the story was great, and, icing on the cake, it struck a personal chord.

If you are keen on reading a riveting story with an Aussie flavour, I strongly recommend it.

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: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥