**Book Review** Sleigh Rides and Silver Bells at the Christmas Fair

Sleigh rides and silver bells at the Christmas Fair by Heidi Swain

I am on a roll with books and the minute. I have this book in real life and on audible so it was a mix of reading and listening for this one, which was a journey I tell you.

When Anna takes on the role of companion to the owner of Wynthorpe Hall, on the outskirts of Wynbridge, she has no idea that her life is set to change beyond all recognition.

A confirmed ‘bah humbug’ when it comes to Christmas, Anna is amazed to find herself quickly immersed in the eccentric household, and when youngest son Jamie unexpectedly arrives home it soon becomes obvious that her personal feelings are going all out to compromise her professional persona.

Jamie, struggling to come to terms with life back in the Fens, makes a pact with Anna – she has to teach him to fall back in love with Wynthorpe Hall, while he helps her fall back in love with Christmas. But will it all prove too much for Anna, or can the family of Wynthorpe Hall warm her heart once and for all…?

I love a Christmas story, you know I do! I especially love one when I am feeling a little down or sad as I remember to carry Christmas spirit with me always, and to funnel my energy into making people smile, positive energy and being kind and considerate to others. I remember these things and it reminds me how lucky I am and I start feeling a little better. So a Christmas story will always be welcome on my books shelf.

Heidi Swain is one of my favourite authors, I have read her other books and I have truly enjoyed them. This book was no exception, I liked reading about Wynthorpe Hall and all the excitement of Christmas. I didn’t fall in love with the main characters Anna and Jamie like I usually would. I am not sure why, I guess I didn’t connect them. I think maybe I didn’t fully engage with their stories or history. Jamies character felt somewhat flat, without any spoilers there is a section of the story where I really didn’t like him very much at all. Which is unusual for me with a male lead. I am usually very forgiving. I didn’t really fall for the love story either, it seemed a little forced and somewhat pretentious. The relationships between the main characters and the secondary characters were much more interesting and exciting than the romance story. However, the secondary characters made this book oh so worth it. I loved all the characters from Angus’ larger than life, loveable father figure to the local villages Anna meets on her travels around the village.

Heidis description of Wynthorpe did make me fall in love with the fictional hall and village and it made me long for our family visits to National Trusts. The warmth and love she described was adorable and I absolutely would recommend this to anyone who needs a little festive cheer up.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️★ 4/5 stars I would definitely recommend.

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**Book Review** Murder at the Smithsonian

Murder at the Smithsonian by Margaret Truman

Hi Everyone!

So I managed to find time to read an actual real life book. It made me so happy to hold a book in my hand and smell its pages. I am loving audible and the freedom it is giving me to hear a story and continue with other stuff, but there isn’t anything quite like holding a real life book and immersing yourself on a reading adventure. However, my excitement may have peaked with just holding this book as I can’t say it will become one of my favourites.

Murder at the Smithsonian isn’t a bad book, it just didn’t keep my interest all the way through. I feel like a book needs to have dips, twists and turns and a healthy dose of “normal” descriptive writing to keep the story going, and I feel like this book maybe fell a little short.

Dr. Lewis Tunney, a brilliant historian who had stumbled onto an international art scandal, was brutally murdered in front of two hundred guests at an elegant party at the Smithsonian. When his fiancee, Heather McBea, flies in from Scotland to learn more, Mac Hanrahan, the captain in charge of the case, takes a heated interest in her. And when two more murders are committed, Hanrahan has reason to worry about Heather’s sleuthing. But Heather is stubborn and insists on going her own way–right into the arms of a killer….

From this blurb, the story itself sounds like it was going to be right up my street, an engaging tale of murder, mystery and intrigue. What I got was a soft version of a hard-boiled egg tale of murder and not a lot of mystery!

I feel like maybe I am being too harsh, the story itself could have been amazing, it had so much potential. But I feel like the story dragged when it should have galloped and came to a screeching halt just as it started to get good. If a story is like a heart monitor, you want the dips and mountains to come evenly and throughout the book to keep your interest, not peak at the beginning, then nothing for a while with the odd potential for a good plot point to come to nothing, and then everything happen all at once at the end which made the rest of the book a little bit pointless.

I guessed early on who the culprits were, and I even pretty much had how and why down too, which in my opinion isn’t necessarily always a good thing. Sometimes you want the reader to have some ideas, but then with red herrings and the rest of the story developing, you still want them to question their own minds. In this case, I did not. I had pretty much guessed and confirmed a few chapters in.

It was a good book to pass an afternoon, it wasn’t great but I am glad I read it, I just think it had so much potential to be a great book. The characters were easily the second best part of this book for me. The leading characters didn’t draw me in as much as a book usually would, but the secondary characters were incredible. It was still fairly predictable guessing every ones motives and storylines, but they were at least enjoyable to read about.

My favourite part of the story was the scenery and exploring the varying museums. I have yet to travel to America, so for me discovering places in books is my favourite part of reading. I love hearing about the different museums and parts of Washington.

Overall, it was a good afternoon read and was enjoyable to a point. My mum read it after me, and she enjoyed it much more than I did. So, it just goes to show every book is a special journey but different for all of us. I would recommend it and I am going to find another of Margaret Trumans books to try.

⭐️⭐️★★★ 2/5 stars

***Book Review*** The Little Village of Happiness

The Little Village of Happiness

By Holly Martin

I don’t know how it happened but it was an absolutely wonderful day when I was asked by one of my favourite authors to write a review of her latest book. As a book reviewer, it is wonderful when you get approached to review a book. I don’t do blog as a business or for a fee, I just do it for my love of books and reading, and to be asked to do a review is, just, well it’s wonderful. So to be asked again, is a dream come true!

I couldn’t wait to start my new book, and Holly has wrote a beautiful, funny and lively story. Once again, I started and I couldn’t put it down.

As you are all aware by now, the plot of a book can be similar to others but I will still fall in love with it, if I can fall in love with the characters. Personality, character development and chemistry are all huge priorities for me. Holly ticks all these boxes and always delivers a wonderful storyline too, so I have no need to worry.

Willow has taken a leap of faith and moved to a little village called Happiness to start afresh after her long term relationship ended in a disastrous failed engagement. To avoid the stares, the gossips and the humiliation, not that she was too bothered but the break up, but gossip can take a while to disappear. She has taken a chance to move rent free to Happiness for a year to help the village grow. She has no idea what to expect and is slightly shocked to see the state of the village, however she is soon distracted by the presence of the very attractive and kind estate manager Andrew.

When I started The Little Village of Happiness I wasn’t sure about Willow, but it only took until the second chapter to fall deeply in love with her. Willow’s positive outlook in life, combined with her ability to not just see the beauty in the world, but also see the negatives and sadness and turn it into a positive experience is wonderful. She is a bubbly, flirty bundle of energy, I can relate to on a personal level.

Andrew might be the perfect literary man! I have never been instantly attracted by a character as much as am I to him. He is absolute perfection, he obviously makes a few mistakes but he owns them straight away and there is nothing more attractive than that. Between the two main characters, Willow has my heart. To move to some where new, taking a leap of faith and trying out new experiences, is incredible. I was in awe of her quirky, happy go lucky attitude throughout the whole book.

I love this style of book so I knew I was going to enjoy it before I even started to read it. But every author brings something new to the table when it comes to chick lit and Holly does it like no other. The Little Village of Happiness sounds so beautiful, I want to discover it for myself and pack up my bags and head there. I am not sure I would be able to add anything productive in a business sense to the village, but I think I would really fit in with the villagers. Throughout the story, I adore how it isn’t just the romance blossoming between our two protagonists that make this story shine. The idea of bringing happiness back to Happiness, and encouraging community spirit within the village is absolutely beautiful.

All the little tiny details in this story are what make it special, it is also these wonderful additions that will make me pick it up to read it again and again, and recommend it to other people. I love how Holly’s characters always add something new and different to the book. Willow is a small business owner, she makes candles. How cute and adorable is this, but also such a good business for a crafty person, but not something you might read about. There is an artist within the village, landlord and lady of the local pub, and the post lady controls the post office with a record book and a friendly face. How unusual but so quaint. Romance blossoms for a senior couple, and Willows friend Ruby might even find love in the village. Every little thing that happens, comes together to make this a really cute but wonderful story.

My final comment is about Andrews character being deaf, obviously this a huge part of his character and something that drives the story. Personally I have no experience with deaf people similar to Holly, (she mentions in her comment that she doesn’t either) and she was worried about writing this character. But I think it is awesome she still has chosen to write Andrew and with such confidence. I don’t know any deaf people but I have friends who have been labelled for other reasons, and I think Holly’s approach in this story is spot on; seeing deafness as something that is just part of a person, not a negative, not something to be ashamed of, but something we should empathise with and help/encourage if we can, not judge someone or alter our behaviour because of it. This is absolutely the best part of this book for me. Willows speech to a Ruby regarding Poppy is a truly inspiration and outstanding message and I think more people need to hear it.

“And stop with the ‘poor girl’ crap, Deaf people don’t need or want our pity, they don’t want to be labelled as an abnormality or different. They just want understanding, to have the same opportunities as us, to have access to the same stuff that we do. And sometimes that can be difficult for the, but they want empathy not sympathy.” Its a beautifully written speech, and shows Willows, and through her Hollys view of the world and it really impressed me. The whole book has left a lasting impression of kindness, understanding and empathy with me, and I think everyone should read it.

I adore Holly Martin and I love this book and I cannot wait for the next instalment to see what happens between Ruby and Jacob. I have thoroughly enjoyed getting to know all the residents of Happiness. I especially liked the idea of secret gifts; what a wonderful idea to spread community spirit and joy. My favourite is Roger asking for a Chris Hemsworth half naked calendar, I can fully appreciate that gift.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️5/5 stars. I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who likes a cute, romantic easy read. Would be ideal to take on a summer holiday.

My Top 10 Pride and Prejudice (numbers 10 – 6) adaptions

It is Sunday evening, the kids are in bed, it is my time to relax and unwind. I might take some time to write my blog as I am doing now, I might read some books, have a bath or just watch a bit of tv.

This evening, I am going to continue in my celebration of literature but veering away for one briefest moment to talk about adaptions. Ah yes, I hear you cry but how is this related to literature. Well. I think a good film or tv adaption can still tell a good story, and it may tell a story to someone whom might not ever had the chance to read a book, and sometimes it may encourage people to read the original book/script/poem that inspired those adaptions. As much as I love a good book, and you all should know by now, I really do. I am also not ashamed to admit I do like a good bit of tv too. And this counts for my favourites too, often I like the book better and I wouldn’t choose the tv/film over the book but I do still enjoy them, and on very rare occasions I quite fall in love with it even more so, because of the film or tv series. Pride and Prejudice is one of those such things. The more books I read, (sequels, based on, spinoffs), or tv mini series or films I see, the more I fall in love with the characters and love the original even more.

So for now, here is my run down of my top adaptions/spins off/ sequels; lets say “Pride and Prejudice” adjacent list:

10) Austenland

This British-American romantic comedy based on a novel by Shanon Hale is a funny, slapstick parody of Pride and Prejudice. I am not sure it is meant to be but that’s how it comes across. From Jennifer ‘Stiflers mum’ Coolidge’s funny turn as a very stereotypical American lady to the haughty Mr Darcy character, it is all a lot of fun and laughs, very bright and comedic. Possibly not the best adaption to ever grace the screens but still worth a watch.

The film is centred around a thirty something American, Jane Austen obsessed lady, favourite being the bbc mini series starring Colin Firth, it seems as though she confuses reality with imagination, and is expecting her own love life to be similar to a novel, but hasn’t really thought through how life would actually be like in an Austen novel.

After another failed relationship and her house starting to resemble an Austen novel. In an attempt to get her to sort her life out, her friend suggests she try one last thing to get herself a Mr Darcy and then she must quit with the obsession. She spends all her savings on a trip to Austenland: A Jane Austen themed holiday resort in England.

The guests have paid for varying packages but all should get an escape from 21st century modern living and transported back to regency era England. All the guests are given pseudonyms, regency dress and attend various different activities. Our main character befriends a wide variety of people, and it soon becomes apparent the cheapest option, which she could afford does not give her the same luxuries as everyone else. But she is determined to make the most of it, as one of the guarantees at the end of the holiday is romance at the ball.

The resorts wealthier guests, on the platinum package are all rather silly and overact and swan around, well, flounce around making up words half of the time, but it’s silliness is rather funny, and all part of the general feel of the film. Without giving much away, there is a Darcy and a Wickham character lots of cute little tippets of Austen thrown in, so it gives just enough Austen to be on this list, but is still rather silly.

Overall, it is not a classic and will not be everyone’s cup of tea, but if you’re looking for a fun, easy watch, with little bites of Austen, this could be for you.

9) Pride and Prejudice (2005 – Directed by Joe Wright)

I can hear you all silently judging me for putting this quite low on my list, but as an Austen fan and a lover of the mini series, this film didn’t really do it for me. It’s not awful, and it has so,e wonderful scenery and I love some of the filmography of it, but as far as adaptions go, I personally don’t believe it is the best. I love Kiera Knightley, I think she’s really good in some things, but she didn’t sell the admirable, complexity of her character for me. She was just a bit, well, meh! 😕 But in that same regard Mathew MacFadyen didn’t really give me amazing Mr Darcy feels either, although there were moments where I definitely could have fallen in love with him, I think! 😀

I loved the music, and landscape and the general sweeping of scenes, but something in this version is just, a little flat for me. Overall, it is a wonderful story and I think it was going to be successful as it comes from a great source, and I thoroughly enjoyed it and have and will rewatch it, but again not my favourite.

8) The Jane Austen book club

Taken from an adaption of the book of the same name, it is not a direct Pride and a Prejudice adaption but has many characters resembling certain characteristics in P&P and is a close enough link to allow myself to include it, as I actually quite enjoyed the book and film.

It is not at all an accurate adaption of any of Austen’s book, but as we get to know the characters, we get to see which is their favourite book, why they like it and often how their relationships resemble a modern take on the relationships featured in Austen’s novels. This is the reason I love this “adaption”, some people will say an Austen novel will provide nothing for a modern generation of lovers, but I beg to differ. We all have essences of traits that many of the leads in the Austen’s novels have. I think taken in exact context of a Regency time, you are correct, none of us could take it to heart. We don’t have dowry’s upon us, and women don’t have to marry to survive in life, however we do sometimes need to overcome our own pride and vanity, like Elizabeth and Darcy, or make promises when are young and don’t know any better that we will struggle to keep as grown ups, a la Edward Ferrars. And who hasn’t tried to set up friends, or put our noses in other people’s business without appreciating whether they want it or not, much like the heroine of Emma.

For me, this book/film isn’t a literary/cinematic masterpiece, but it does bring Austen into a more modern context without, the comedic, sometimes silliness other books/films have included.

7) Lost in Austen

I am never quite sure how I feel about this adaption. Catch me on some days and I love the modern girl stuck in another time aspect, and it would appear higher on my list. Other days, It doesn’t do it for and it ends up further down my list of favourite adaptions.

Lost in Austen is about a modern Austen lover who finds she has a link via her bathroom to the world of her favourite novel Pride and Prejudice. Elizabeth Bennet wanders in and decides to stay. Amanda decides to live out her fantasy in the novel for a bit but when characters start acting up and changing the story, Amanda has to decide what she is going to do to fix it.

I do really love the idea of taking a modern character and a regency character and swapping them out, to live in the opposite worlds. It was a genius idea, and the casting was on the whole really good. I like that once the main character of Elizabeth abandoned the story, the other characters all became very different and the story took some very different turns. So I can’t quite put my finger on why sometimes, it doesn’t work for me. I think, and this is my most shallowest part of me coming out – I wasn’t a fan of Elliot Cowan as Mr Darcy. I am a huge fan of Austen and mostly in part because I fall in love with her characters and as with most people, Mr Darcy holds a special place in my heart, and unfortunately in this adaption, I didn’t! I think it might be as simple as that.

6) Lizzie Bennet diaries

What can I say about this adaption? I loved it, not just because it’s an adaption of one of my favourite books, but because it really hit its target audience. From initial idea to delivery, and social media engagement during its run, it really established a niche for storytelling to a modern generation. When blogging/blogging/social media is at its highest, it was remarkable to use this to provide a classic for a younger generation.

This adaption is a web series centred around a young university student Lizzie Bennet, her sisters Jane and Lydia and best friend Charlotte. There is of course, a Bing Lee and. a Darcy and all your other favourites. Each webisode is 2-8 minutes long, and most action happens off screen, we just hear all about it through these vlogging monologues/dialogues between Lizzie and her pals.

Lizzie is a mass communications student, living at home with her parents and shy Jane and party-going Lydia. Bing Lee is a wealthy medical student, with even wealthier friend in William Darcy. Childhood friend Ricky Collins provides the catalyst of Mr Collins and after Lizzie turns down his proposal for business partner, takes Charlotte as his business partner instead. Lizzie vlog starts as a thesis for her degree, but it son becomes a huge part of her life and everything gets recorded, thus causing some drama and creating opportunities. The big question, will it stay true to the novel is adapted from and all end happily?

If you can stomach the short episodes, and having to hear about a lot of the action it is worth a watch, I think if you’re from the ‘you tube’ generation, it is definitely worth a watch and hopefully will inspire you to give the book a go, if your a huge fan of the original and more period drama versions, perhaps give this one a miss. I really enjoyed it.

It is now Wednesday evening and I am half way through my run down for my favourite Pride and Prejudice adaptions. Have I included one of your favourites yet? Or are you still waiting to see if you’d will appear on my list?

What did you think of the ones I have suggested so far? Have you seen them all? Let me know in the comments section what you think?

Celebrating Literature

Good Evening!


So for the past few weeks, I have been caught up in a competition I was running to win a copy of my favourite book. My thinking behind this was to share something about myself, share my love for books and literature and give someone a small piece of enjoyment from a free book, it did come with the added bonus of opening up my audience somewhat, which is always nice, but my main motivation is my plan to spend this year celebrating literature.


Most of you who know me well, will know I always have 101 things on my to do list, and I flit between hobby to craft and back again, but within this I want to celebrate my one constant – my love for books. So kicked off my competition and today I chose a winner, I cannot wait to hear from them and share my book with them.

How else will i be celebrating? Well as a family of book lovers, encouraging the children to read and find books they love is always top of my agenda, I will be doing blog spotlights on authors and books I love, I hope to get more involvement from my online book club and I have a few other special ideas I will share with you as the year goes by.

There is no such thing as a child who hates to read; there are only children who have not found the right book. —Frank Serafini

First off, I will be re-reading my favourite Pride and Prejudice and I have asked my bookclub to join in, please feel free to join me as well and when I publish my book review I hope you will enjoy and comment with your opinions.

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Keep an eye out for some of my favourite adaptions of Jane Austen classics later in the week.

Following from this, the kids and I will be celebrating storytelling week by making up some stories, and I hope to share some of their best with you. National Story telling week runs from 26th January to the 2nd of February, which sits nicely as my birthday is the 1st of February and I love nothing more than a good bit of storytelling.

The rest of the year is pretty exciting too, as we have Harry Potter book night, new books try and review, lots of exploring to do (I have a book with walks from literature to try), and lots of more exciting authors and books to hear about over the coming months.

Books are a uniquely portable magic. —Stephen King

I don’t think I can think of anything better than snuggling down with a good book and a cup of tea, and immersing myself in a completely different world, meeting new friends and falling in love all over again, and again and again. My absolute second favourite thing is snuggling down and reading to my children. We have to take time to do this, we don’t always have time and life can sometimes get crazy busy, as I imagine it does for all of you. But we do stop and make time to read, as its something we all enjoy, I love to read to them and they love to listen. It is one of my favourites part of being a mother, telling them stories I’ve loved since being little, discovering new books with them, sharing my passion and hearing their exciting opinions on everything. I think I would find it hard if I had children who didn’t like to read, but thankfully I have two children who love a good book. Monkey is even a fan of writing, so hopefully he will be sharing his stories with me too!

Reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body. —Richard Steele

If only reading could help me shed a few of those christmas pounds!


*Book Review* Dark Matter: a ghost story

Dark Matter: a ghost story

By Michelle Paver

Dark Matter was suggested by a dear friend and member of my online book club, as a suggested spooky read for October. At first, I got it as an audible book, but for some reason I couldn’t get into it, some books I just have to read for myself, I could not get into the audible book. But I didn’t give in, I went out to buy the book, and I am so glad I did.

I am a fairly fast reader usually, as long as I have the time, I can read a book within hours. This book took a lot longer and it wasn’t because I didn’t have time. My usual time for reading is late in the evening when my kids have gone to bed, but once I got into this story I couldn’t keep this up, as I found it quite haunting to read. So I had to try to find time during the day to read. I finally managed it on New Years Day, a perfect day to finish a good book and start the new year.

Dark Matter is a chilling tale set in the cold, harsh, haunting wilderness of the Artic. A wonderful suspenseful, psychological tale which will leave you questioning everything.

Jack, our main character, has a chance to join an expedition to the Artic, and as his life has not taken the road he expected, he jumps at the chance to escape the monotony of his existence. It is his experience and diary that keeps the story moving. The trip suffers some bad luck from the beginning, and even without the ominous letter at the start, you can already sense, this isn’t going to be the end of bad luck and misfortune. The story evolves from a “boys adventure” to something much more sinister and spooky.

Pavers description of Spitsbergen, Gruhuken (although completely made up) and the Artic winter are so impressive, I could imagine everything as I read it, the bear post specifically was so clear in my mind that when the story starts to really take its turn for the hauntingly scary, I was right there with Jack.

Gruhuken, the completely made up but equally realistic setting for the tale, holds a horrific or “dismal past” as Jack puts it, that no one wants to talk about and one that should probably stay quiet, but the benevolent spirit that haunts the Island has other ideas. But the most terrifying notion in this whole ordeal is the emotional not knowing. Are the visions, the sounds, the awful things Jack experiences all real, or are they his mind playing tricks on him as he endures the loneliness, the quiet and stillness of the Artic?

Either way the story is a true masterpiece of ghost story fiction. It is more than a haunted house ghost story, the setting, the ordeal and the realistic feeling of the despair and loneliness, through to the menacing feeling of evil, all sets this apart as a truly remarkable read.

As a final thought, if a ghost story is not necessarily your cup of tea, it is worth checking this story out for the beautiful character that is Isaac the Husky. A true, loyal companion to our -at first reluctant dog person – Jack. Isaac is a flicker of happiness in the moments of fear, isolation and darkness. This tale would not be the same, the beautiful Husky brings some warmth to an otherwise chilling tale.

It’s not often I am lost for words, but in this case, I don’t want to over review and spoil it for others, I won’t go on about what happens at Gruhuken and I won’t put any spoilers in as I think, as a reader, if you think you may enjoy it, give it a go, you won’t be disappointed. It does have a slow start but bear with it. It’s worth it.

Overall, I am glad my friend suggested it, as I had never heard of it and I might not ever have picked it up in a book shop, and this would have been a shame as I really enjoyed it. Yes it took a while to finish it, but for me that just added to my experience. A book is really something, if it powerful enough to make me not want to read it during the cold nights of winter, as I may not sleep after I have put it down.

I would definitely recommend this book and give it:

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 5/5 stars.

*Book Review* This Charming Man

This Charming Man

By Marianne Keyes

This is my first Marianne Keyes novel, but based on other reviews of other books I was expecting something along the lines of a book filled with humour, quirkiness and tales of romance. Boy, did I maybe start off with the wrong book?

The book surprised me. In itself it is actually a really good read, it tells the story of a few different characters and how all their lives intertwine. Domestic abuse, alcoholism and some political storylines may not be for the faint hearted or people who have suffered in the past, as Marianne does not mince her words and she tells a very heartbreaking story. However, for someone who was expecting a light chick lit read filled with humour and romance, it was much edgier and harder to read.

I didn’t particularly like the Lola’s style of address. I am assuming it was supposed to be a journal type hand, told in the first person, in a quick “Bridget Jones style”, but I am not a fan of the whole Bridget Jones series and I like my stories to flow, and the chapters in Lola’s voice irked me and if I’m honest I did find myself skimming parts of her story to skip over to the more traditional styles of the other perspectives.

I found for most of the first part of the book, the story maybe felt as if it dragged a little, but then the end was too far the other way and everything was tied up in a neat little bow really quickly. So for a first read, probably not up there with my favourites, but for the story Marianne wants to tell, it was a good read.

I won’t go into detail and add summaries, as you can find plenty of those, and I don’t like to give spoilers if I can help it. If I can give any advice, don’t start this book with like me a skewed view of what you are getting yourself in for. I thought it would be a light summer read to entertain me one evening whilst on holiday. The story is deep, meaningful and sometimes harsh. If you are looking for a cheery happy go lucky story, this is probably not it. But if you want something to sink your teeth into, and make you think, then most definitely give it a go.

Overall, it was a good book, not great but still worth a read. It hasn’t put me off Marianne Keyes, and I have another book lined up to try again. I think if I read it again, I would take it a bit slower and really listen to the story she is trying to tell, as I think this is the sort of book/story line we should read and share and talk about. Domestic Violence, Alcoholism, abuse and any other “taboo” subject, shouldn’t be taboo in my eyes, and we all read books on the matter and openly talked about them, I would hope if I knew anyone who was going through similar situations would feel they could talk to me. So, I think its good I stumbled onto this book, as it got me looking int other books with deeper, stronger subject material. I am not turning my back on happier subjects, as I love to escape to happy worlds where the girl and boy meet and face some little trial and tribulation but alls well that ends well type of book, but it did make me think about opening up my literary perspective.

I would recommend this book, if they had an idea about content, or if we had discussed it previously. I give it 3/5 stars, I have taken 2 off, not because of the story, content of most of the writing. But I really could not get along with Lola’s journal style of writing.

★★⭐️⭐️⭐️ 3/5 stars.

If you did fancy a read you can find it using the link below and purchase from amazon.

This Charming Man


*Book Review* One Summer in Italy


One Summer in Italy

By Sue Moorcroft

As you may be aware, I have just returned from my own holiday in Italy. In the post blues of a holiday, I love nothing more than to to curl up with a good book and escape to other places, stories and meet new characters. And as I was feeling particularly sad about leaving the glorious sunshine of Italy, what better way was than to curl up with a book describing and delighting in all the beauty of Italy.

One Summer in Italy is a beautiful tale for more than one reason. Sue Moorcraft’s descriptions of Italy, make me feel as if I am still there myself. And if you have never been, she invokes such wonderful pictures, senses and beautiful story telling that I believe anyone can imagine the beauty that is Italy.

As for the story itself, I love a good chick lit romance story to tide me over the summer holidays, but when the story deals with grief, sadness, family drama, loneliness, homelessness and so much more, well you’ve got me hooked. From the first moment we meet Sofia, I already feel like I want her as my friend. She has spent a huge portion of her life caring for her father, and at the beginning of the story, she sadly loses him after a long fight with illness, and he asks Sofia to make him a few promises, and this is where the story starts.

In amongst Sofia trying to fulfil these promises, we see her dealing with the grief and after effects of a life filled with love, but also of loneliness and dependancy. She has never truly been free to do as she pleases, not in a bad way as she loved her father deeply, but she has been held back because of this. She is taking her steps into being an independent woman and she does it with ease and decorum. Which is the complete opposite of the young girl Amy whom Sofia befriends and helps out. Sofia will have to tackle family drama, meet a handsome man Levi, help out Amy more than she realised and will probably do more travelling than she was expecting this early on her journey.

I won’t go into too many details but the main characters of Sofia, Amy and Levi, are all interesting in their own ways, and are all facing some truly heartbreaking family situations. Sofia and Levi have age and a bit more wisdom on their side. Amy is a very young 18 year old and hasn’t seen much of the world or experienced a lot of it. I have read some reviews that think she is a little selfish or a little too naive and a lot fo other not too nice adjectives. But I don’t think she is, I just think until this slight blip in her family life, she has had a wonderful upbringing. She has loving parents, and she gets along with her siblings and has some good friends, and has always gone to school and done as she has told. So for her first time out in the real world all on her own, she is going to scared, and possibly acting a little naive or entitled but I don’t think its a negative thing, she just is experiencing life for the first time without the safety net of her parents, family and friends, and that is daunting.

I love the character of Sofia and Levi, and I adore their friendship. Sometimes, in stories like these the main character will make a huge mistake or do something silly and it will put a strain on the relationship until they see sense and apologise and forgive and live happily ever after. I love how in this story, none of our main characters, have really done anything wrong, or silly. They are all in impossible situations and have tried to work through it in the best way they knew how. I didn’t have any moments where I groaned inwardly at their behaviour or cringed with the characters. It was a joy to read from cover to cover. There are some sad moments, and moments where you feel for them all, but it was a very entertaining and beautiful read.

Overall, my love for Italy was already deeply cemented, as I love the country and would gladly go back there over and over. But when you are in a post holiday slump and you want a lively, engaging story that also delights in the beauty of a place, and makes it feel like a character all of its own. This is the book for you.

I give it 5 out 5 stars! I adore Sofia and think her tale of finally getting to experience independence and happiness for herself is wonderful. Levi is beautiful creation and as soon as he stepped of his motorbike to aid Sofia in her battle against her employer, I knew I would fall in love with him. If you like a light summer read to pass the time whilst away on holiday or just something to cheer you up, I would definitely recommend it.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 5/5 stars.

If your looking for a read to finish up the summer holidays, definitely give this a go and you can get it from amazon by clicking the image below.

And just because I can’t help but share my love for Italy – here is a shot from our recent holiday.

Tuscany view
Driving from Rome to Pisa through the glorious Tuscany landscapes.


*Book Review* The Outsiders

The Outsiders

S.E Hinton

So this book review is going to be a little different, as it is my first book featured in my Facebook Butterfly Child book group. So I am going to share my insight, and review of it first and then once I have had a nice chat with my fellow readers, I will update with more opinions.

I have always considered The Outsiders one of my favourites books, but I haven’t read it since I was at school. I had a very romanticised, teenaged view of the book and I wasn’t sure if this would stand up to my now adult (I was going to say grown up but that’s not accurate! 😂) viewpoint. I was a little worried going in, as I have realised that my view of things have changed since I have gotten older and have my own children; for instance I can now quite understand King Tritons anxiety in The Little Mermaid!

However, I didn’t need to be so worried. As soon as I started reading I instantly remembered why I love this book! It draws you in from the first line, for a short book the character development is incredible and I for one feel like I really got drawn into the story and taken a long for the ride.

Normally I try to avoid spoilers but in this instant, I will be giving a brief synopsis on the book, so if you want to read it for yourself please look away now!

****Spoiler Alert****

The Outsiders is written from the perspective of one of the main characters Ponyboy, and yes as he points out early on, this is his real name as on his birth certificate. To be fair to him, he also has a brother called Sodapop. We learnt early on they have lost their parents; but I think I would have loved them.

Greaser: The greasers were poorer than the Socs or the Middle Class. They were wilder, too. When a Soc or Middle Class person saw a greaser, they immediately thought dirty troublemaker. If you actually got to meet them they were nice, kind, caring people. They loved to hang out in gangs, but their kinds of gangs were a group of friends. Their gangs were like their families.

Ponyboy is a Greaser – a generic term for a boy with longer hair, greased back, a bit rough and rugged and probably but always the case, not so highly educated. Greasers were from the East Side of town, the poorer communities. Ponyboy ticks a lot of these boxes, and he is part of a gang of greasers, although as you read it, you realise this little gang is more than that, they are a family and Ponyboy is not a normal greaser. He is actually really smart but doesn’t always use his head. Where a lot of the other boys, use their head to navigate life but didn’t do so well in school. The main crux or theme running through the story is this idea that we can all be labelled based on one small thing and it define us, but really we are just people and we all have our individual nature. Ponyboy is actually really smart, does well in school and doesn’t agree with quite a lot of the activities some of his friends partake in. The opposite side to this coin, is the “soc”.

The Socs were the rich kids. They lived on the West Side. The Socs were always getting drunk and looking for fights with greasers. The Greasers always thought that the Socs had it better than them, but they find out that the Socs are cool to the point of not feeling anything.

The higher society middle to upper class teenagers who look like they have everything, money, the good clothes, the better reputation. But who also cause quite a lot of mayhem and are not always good/ bad guys but get away with a lot more because of the society they live in. But as with the Greasers, not all Socs’ are inherently bad, some even have tough lives. Again coming back to this main theme running through the book is that life isn’t always fair for anyone, and we all have our crosses to bear. Everyone at some point will feel like an Outsider, won’t know where or how to fit in, and we will all have moments where we think our life isn’t fair, but as this novel so aptly points out, this is all a matter of perspective. Life is never black and white, we all actually live in the grey areas, but when we feel lonely, sad, out of our depths; we see everything in extremes. The Outsiders is written to show the extremes of this outsider perspective but it does so, in such a way that we can all relate, even in our own mundane lives.

The first part of the book is establishing the characters, looks, personality and a quick view into the world they live in. Fighting and being jumped are par for the course, skipping school, stealing and carrying weapons seems to be the norm for most of the greasers. But the main story arc is based on Ponyboy and poor sweet Johnny; taken from Ponyboys perspective over two weeks of their lives; they get into trouble with a pack of Socs’ and end up on the run with the help of Dally. Ponyboy initially doesn’t realise the consequences, and I think this is his age, as even though Johnny seems quite young, he has lived in a not a perfect world and understand things a little better. He may not be as educated “smart” as Ponyboy but he sees the world, and has a lot of street smarts, and he often understands things Ponyboy cannot get his head around. I think its important to understand Johnny has some really bad parents and does not have a good life, and even though Ponyboy has lost his parents, he has two brothers who would give anything for Ponyboy, and he doesn’t realise this, but Johnny does. Johnnys understanding of the world is what makes  his final, sad statement to Ponyboy so poignant, even though he has a terrible home life, he had an amazing family in the shape of his friends and he wanted his last words to be words of wisdom to Ponyboy, to  show him that he doesn’t need to grow up, he doesn’t need to act like the others, he should stay young and live how he wants to and to appreciate the family his has. Even though he is scared of dying, his last thought is that of Ponyboy, and the others carrying on living and making a difference, he just wants Ponyboy to stay gold, and I think that is beautiful.

If you haven’t realised already, this is a book written by a teenager from a teenagers perpesctive, in a very teenager based world, adults are almost not mentioned, and the odd ones that are (other than Ponyboy parents) are talked about in a very negative light. But the emotion and the understanding we take from this book are universal. Back when I first read it, this was quite unique, and really gave you a sense that this person understood the teenage angst, worry and issues. As a grown up, I still feel like this. We all often feel judged or labelled and I think this book is still relevant, to teenagers and grown ups alike. Obviously without the drama of the deaths and the outright fighting, but I think sometimes its so easy to lose that perspective that at the end of the day we all do watch the same sunset and we all have our own and often the same worries. Even though times have changed, and some of the issues may not seem relevant, it is the underlying feelings, emotions and currents running below the surface which keep it relevant to today.

The book gets a bit of stick, for the portrayal of some characters, saying Johnny and Pony-boy talking about Literacy and Poetry doesn’t really reflect young people back then, but I think people who say this, missed the point of the story. The point is not to judge everyone, not to label people and that we all often see what we want to see or have been taught to see. There probably are teenagers or have been teenagers, who just want to read, and probably know a lot of poetry, they just probably wouldn’t have talked about it with others. Even in todays modern society, plenty of people still feel like this. Still feel labelled or marked, and we should act in a certain way, or do things in a particular way, and a huge majority of people still feel like they are lesser, or are treated differently or that feel like they are an outsider. This book should be a reminder, that we are all the same, all equals in the sense that we all live on this planet, and that we should get to be who we want to be, do what we want to do and that yes at some point we all will feel like Outsiders, but that won’t always be the case. Don’t label each other, of if you feel the need to label things, let us pick our own and live how we want to.

I think we can all appreciate all the characters, and so I don’t think I could name favourite. I think it would be like if you asked me to pick my favourite book or movie, I would keep chasing my mind as i discovered something different i lived about them all.

For me, again it is all about the characters. I know it is quite a large cast with all different names and personality, but I think it works well in this book. The whole group (family) they have made, all need each other to survive. I think if you took even one character away the dynamic would shift and it wouldn’t be the same story.

I always give my reviews stars out of five, as this is one of my favourites I would obviously give it 5, so before my final word here are its five stars!!


My favourite line will always be the first and last line of the book. As soon as I read that line, I snuggle up and get ready for a sad, poignant yet thrilling ride with Ponyboy, Johnny, Dally, Sodapop, Darry and the rest of the gang. So I leave it as my final words, in hopes that maybe you will want to follow suit and pick it up to have a read…

“When I stepped out into the bright sunlight from the darkness of the movie house, I had only two things on my mind: Paul Newman and a ride home.”

*Book Review* The Burning Maze (The Trials of Apollo, #3)

 The Burning Maze

By Rick Riordan

I was a little late to the Apollo party – I figured I could read them at my own pace, and I would never have to wait for a book to be published. But then I started reading them and I enjoying them and soon enough I had whizzed through the first few books. So I bought the third one, and I promised myself I would be patient and take it slow, and read at a slower pace, because I knew I would have to wait for next instalment like everyone else. Unfortunately/Fortunately, however you want to see it, I really, really enjoyed the book again, and read it over two days! Two days, which means I have to wait for the next book, just like everyone else and I cannot wait!!!!! 🙂

I still LOVE Apollo! Even though, you can see him growing and his humanity is making him a better person, he still has enough of his attitude and character to make him amusing and almost hopeless. I hope he remembers some of the lessons he has learnt, when he becomes a God again, but then again I kind of like when he is narcissistic and selfish.

As much as I am loving the story, a few parts have bothered me a little, I understand Gods have treated demigods appallingly for centuries, and I know Apollo has sometimes been terrible, but generally, Rick Riordan has shown demigods to be caring, altruistic and generally forgiving; but in this case, Apollo is trying; he is trying to fix things, even going as far as to put himself in danger for his friends. But they a lot of the characters are still blaming him for some of the bad things happening and I don’t believe it is all his fault. I think he started the cascade of bad omens/oracles, but Demigods get swept up in prophecies all the time. I think Apollo got a hard rap in this book, and didn’t necessarily deserve all of it.

Character Development is a huge part of reading a book for me, I like to get to know a character and move along the story with them. This instalment has really moved the characters on and I have really gotten attached to them. I have always loved Percy Jackson, Grover and Annabeth, but it took a little longer for the second set of heroes to grow on me. But Apollo and Meg are like old friends I have reconnected with, and as I read it, I’ve cried and rejoiced with them, screamed at them and with them. Apollo may be one of my favourite characters!

As for the story, it kicks off as always just after the end of the previous book, and all the characters are still suffering from the things they learnt or did in the previous books, and they all have a lot of baggage to carry around with them. Meg is still suffering from PTSD from her sad upbringing, Apollo is starting to understand that humans/demigods should not just be used just for the Gods own purposes or like pigs to the slaughter, and although he hasn’t quite fully learnt this, you can see his personality changing and adjusting the longer he stays mortal.

Again, the main storyline behind the book, is Apollo and company seeking out another Oracle to save from on the Triumvirate and facing an endless assortment of baddies and traps. In this section we visit Piper and Jason, whom appear to be having some trouble with their personal lives as well as demigod lives, and this some how ties in with Apollos adventures. Whilst Grover acts as their guide, they have to stop the Burning Maze, save the many plants and Dryads and find and save the oracle, all whilst trying to figure out the different prophecies they have heard on their journey. The crux of the book is always the same kind of format – find somewhere nearby to locate the oracle, face a few baddies, somehow manage to come out mostly unscathed, defeat but not completely defeat the big bad guy and save the Oracle, receive another clue/prophecy and find out they know someone who can help. I love the story and enjoy it for what it is, but the style makes it quite predictable, not in a way that makes it really easy to guess every little detail but to sort of know where the story is heading.

I loved the new characters introduced and it was wonderful catching up with Grover, although I miss Percy and Grover antics, it was good seeing how he has been getting on as a Lord of the Wild. It was nice and surprising seeing Piper and Jason again,  although they weren’t my favourite characters from the older series, I quite like Frank and Hazel, so I cannot wait for the next book!

I don’t want to go into too much detail as I am not a fan of spoilers but I really enjoyed the third book, and it has made me eager for the next instalment. I think it would be a really good book for children, or anyone like me who loves the classics, Ancient Rome and Greek myths or just an adventure book.

Overall, I was happy with this book and would happily recommend it to anyone, and if you enjoy an easy uncomplicated read, that makes you feel like you know the characters, this is a good book to start with.

Rating: ★⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (4/5 stars) Loses a star because sometimes the tried and tested/same old same old could wear a little thin.

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