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)

Diary of a Single Wedding Planner [Violet Howe]

25765182Wedding planner Tyler Warren left heartbreak behind when she ran away from her small Southern hometown and started a new life in a big city. Years later, she wants to believe in the fairy-tale endings her job promotes, but the clients she meets day after day seem to be more “Crazily Ever After” than “Happily Ever After.”

Meanwhile, her own attempts at romance play out as bizarre comedies rather than love stories, and she’s starting to think Prince Charming either fell off his horse or got eaten by a dragon. When unresolved issues from Tyler’s past complicate things even further, she discovers she may yet have some things to figure out before she can find her own happy ending.

My thoughts on the novel: When I picked up the book, I was attracted to the girly cover and the light subject matter which made me think of countless Hollywood movies about Bridezillas. I thought I would get a funny, witty, entertaining rom-com. In the end, I felt mostly frustrated and bored. Poor Tyler has to deal with brides and grooms who seem to be blatant clichés of the worst-case scenarios for any wedding planners (except for one or two exceptions). On the personal front, Tyler doesn’t fare better with a smothering, borderline hysterical mother who just never seems to stop ranting about how inconsiderate her daughter is. On top of that, Tyler finds herself dealing with her ex-boyfriend/love of her life (Dwayne) who is back in her life completely out of the blue, five years after cowardly dumping her to marry another one — almost right after their breakup, basically. A betrayal of great magnitude. I mean, there were just too many major caricatures to be a credible narrative.

BUT, not all the characters are caricatural. I must admit that Ty’s best-friend Cabe is an interesting protagonist with a credible personality. So, not all was bad.

The book is less than 300 pages and it felt like it took me forever to finish it. I just couldn’t believe what I was reading, especially the way Tyler deals with the pathetic ghost of boyfriend past. It was so frustrating to see her get sucked into a toxic relationship and actually allocate precious time to a guy who broke her heart in one of the cruellest ways. The author tries to sugar-coat in a “I-have-to-get-a-proper-closure” kind of way, but to me, it was just plain clichéd and hard to believe, especially the way Dwayne addresses Tyler: he sounds oh-so-very pathetic almost the entire time. I couldn’t understand why Tyler would put up with that; “for old time’s sake” has its limits.

Maybe the subject of wedding planners and bridezillas has just been receiving too much coverage in books and films, and now it all seems like déjà-vu?! Who knows, maybe. What I know is that I really hoped to have a good time enjoying a light story, but I ended up hating the way Tyler navigated the curveballs fate threw at her. She rarely could catch a break. Even the dates she goes on are mind-boggling (in a negative way).

To be fair, the final chapters were more to my liking. Tyler finally gets to tell Dwayne how she really feels and she gets her happy ending after all. Although it was predictable, it was nice to end on a positive note after everything else.

I’ll conclude by saying that even though the book definitely didn’t appeal to me for a wide variety of reasons, it seems that it gets some very good reviews. So, don’t just take my word for it, by all means.

Like the author mentions at the very end, there is no such thing as bad publicity. 😊

My score: ♥ (= Quite so-so)

Disney Beauty and the Beast Volume 2 [Mallory Reaves]

In Disney’s live-action film “Beauty and the Beast,” Belle, a bright, beautiful and independent young woman, is taken prisoner by a beast in his castle. Despite her fears, she befriends the castle’s enchanted staff and learns to look beyond the Beast’s hideous exterior and realize the kind heart and soul of the true Prince inside.

This manga explores the Beast’s struggle as he tries to move on from his past and learn what it is to love.

My thoughts on the book: Contrary to the first volume which was very difficult to read due to the odd disposition of the pages in the PDF version, I must admit that this volume 2 was far easier and more pleasant to read because it was displayed one page at a time. It made the reading experience less frustrating.

Overall, the illustrations are as good as the first book — very elaborate and neat. However, I didn’t find the Beast very convincing. I think the face looks too human. Anyway, that’s quite minor flaw in the bigger picture of this manga. Speaking of which, I’m not really a manga reader (not at all actually), but given the theme, I was really looking forward to discovering this version of the classic tale.

Based on the Beast’s perspective, this second volume offers a different, interesting angle. The drawings and sketches are expressive and vibrant. I do prefer the first volume because it’s more girly, but this one is worth having a look as well even though it’s more masculine and rough around the edges since you have direct access to the tortured soul and stream of thought of the Beast.

My Score: ♥ ♥ ♥ (= I liked it a lot)

 

Disney Beauty and the Beast Volume 1 [Mallory Reaves]

In Disney’s live-action film “Beauty and the Beast,” Belle, a bright, beautiful and independent young woman, is taken prisoner by a beast in his castle. Despite her fears, she befriends the castle’s enchanted staff and learns to look beyond the Beast’s hideous exterior and realize the kind heart and soul of the true Prince inside. This manga explores Belle’s innermost thoughts as she learns that true beauty comes from within.

My thoughts on the book: In this manga art concept, you’ll discover a beautifully rendered version of the story of Beauty and the Beast. It closely follows the script from the live-action film. If you have already seen it, you won’t have any trouble recognising all the fabulous scenes. The illustrations are very nice and sleek. It really matches the magic of the film.

The only downside of reading a manga in a PDF version is the fact that it’s a real hassle to read from bottom to top (yeah, manga must be read the opposite way). It was really a nuisance to read in that format. But as it is a free copy from NetGalley, it was a necessary evil. I can only recommend you to get the paper-based manga. It really does justice to the film.

My score: ♥ ♥ ♥ (= I liked it a lot)

The Tenth Kingdom [Kathryn Wesley]

308039Do You Believe In Magic?

The Tenth Kingdom is a contemporary drama, set in a world where fairy tales, folklore and traditional myths come to life.

The story follows the fortune of Virginia, a New York waitress, who unwittingly finds herself in the fantasy world of the Nine Kingdoms, where she must save a prince from the clutches of his evil stepmother, and restore him to the throne.

This is a modern, epic tale of good versus evil that will grip the imagination and leave you spellbound.

My thoughts on the novel: The Tenth Kingdom is one of my favourite fantasy books. It’s based on a successful Hallmark mini-series. Famous fairytales, myths and legends are revisited in this captivating story where magic and reality merge beautifully.
The characters are very endearing, the intrigue is action-packed, and carefully sprinkled with a lovely sense of humour. Will Virginia and her father manage to find the traveling mirror to return to New York? Can they defeat the Evil Queen and help Wendell take his throne back?

It is an emotional journey from down-to-earth Manhattan to the incredible, multifaceted lands of this magical realm where you’ll meet trolls, fairies, princes and princesses, among many other fascinating creatures.

It will appeal to both the young and the young at heart.

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: ♥ ♥ ♥

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: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥