Saturday, 27 May 2017

The Summer Seaside Kitchen by Jenny Colgan (Audiobook, Romance, Contemporary, 9/10E, short 'n' sweet review)

February 2017, Hachette Audible, 10 hours 9 minutes long, Audiobook, Review copy

Content: some romance, humour 

Book summary from Audible who I received this copy from
Flora is forced to move back to the tiny island of Mure from the bright lights of London. It's tough: even the beautiful landscapes and bright blue sea can't lift her spirits - she's too busy looking after her dad and her feckless brothers. Then she chances upon her mum's collection of recipes and begins to cook her way through it. As she reconnects with her family and the place she was born, might she also find herself? 

Nayu's thoughts
I had to listen to this twice because the first time I was under the influence of heavy medication and didn't understand the story. When I restarted it all made much more sense, and meant I'm not writing how unlike a Jenny Colgan book it is. Flora doesn't have a major event happen that starts her off on her cooking journey like the other Colgan books I've read, not exactly. I liked the randomness of how she ends up back in the island  community she was born in. She is there because she has to be-if she had a choice she would never have gone because of a mystery incident which is revealed much later in the story. It's interesting how an event is perceived to be a set way by Flora but in actuality not everyone hates her for what happened. 

That's not the only life lesson she learns, but it's a big one. I loved getting to know how live in a small community can be for both actual and perceived outsiders. It was interesting how one outsider had no clue how they were alienating themselves with the community, that by doing a few easy enough acts they would find it easier to gain local support for their project. Flora points this out, as well as unexpectedly enjoying visiting her childhood home which leads to Great Things Happening. I possibly would have liked a bit more focus on the cooking side of the story, but overall it's another fun Jenny read/listen which I will reread/relisten at some point! The narration was perfect with different characters being distinguished from their voices (including what sounds like accurare accents).

Find out more on Jenny's website

Friday, 26 May 2017

Nayu's News #232 Annual Ramadan Review Policy Changes

It's that time of year!
As is normal every time we reach Ramadan (tomorrow = yay!) I'm changing my review policy for the holy month. Due to being under the weather a lot lately I haven't been able to post up romance themed reads in time, so I am pre-scheduling them today & they will technically be posted during appropriate hours over the next week or so. I will not be reading any romance reads until the end of June, except for any I've already commited to do a blog tour for already. 

I can read romance books outside of fasting hours, but they are times I'm usually tired and it's just easier to not read them until the month is over. That's all for this temporary review policy change!

Vets at Green Hope by Sheila Norton (Romance, Contemporary, 10E/10E)

1st June 2017, Ebury Press, 336 pages, Paperback, Review copy

Content: romance of mostly sweet nature, pregnancy, cranky people, lots of humour

Summary from Penguin
Sam has always dreamed of working with animals...

But her receptionist job in a London vets is not hitting the spot. Unsure whether a busy city life is for her, she flees to her Nana Peggy’s idyllic country village.

But despite the rolling hills and its charming feel, life in Hope Green is far from peaceful. On first meeting Joe, the abrupt and bad-tempered local vet, Sam knows she must get him on side, but that is easier said than done...

With her dream close enough to touch, will she get there, or will events conspire against her...

Nayu's thoughts 
This is the type of read I enjoy, with Sam wanting to start afresh and discovering life in her grandmother's village. I had no idea that beyond the first chapter title lay a mega plot twist that isn't hinted at in the book summary - a plot twist which ups the stakes in Sam's journey of self-discovery. I was happy with the decision she ended up making and cheered her on with each new friend (and enemy) that she made. 

There's the usual instances of people misunderstanding each other, Sam being in the wrong place at the wrong time and giving the wrong impression, and lots of times where she is at the right place at the right time - the pig farm incident can be put in both categories!!! Her grandmother is sweet and funny, enjoying Sam's company and not giving advice unless Sam asks for it (along with a phrase that kept making me laugh) and I liked the firm friends who Sam makes, as they genuinely want her to be welcome in the village, and help her in any way that they can. Sam reciprocates the friendship which will help her make her final decision about her life.

From the summary I assumed that Sam would be staying in the village for all the novel, but it takes quite some time and a lot of events to pass before that happens. However I was still hooked on her story regardless of where she was. As the for the plot surrounding Joe...this is where a big plot twist happened that I didn't expect. This type of book usually has a set pattern to the romance, but that was not the case for Joe and Sam, which made a refreshing change. As usual for this type of book her ex boyfriend is a royal idiot (not literally royal, thankfully) and I hated him with quite a passion. No one should have to put up with what he does, which thankfully Sam realises. 

As for the animals...there are lots of them, creating both chaos and love in equal measure.  I cheered for the way Sam dealt with Ebony, as it's exactly what I'd have done if I was in the same situation. Cats always have a special place in my heart, just as this book will have a place on my reread shelf! 

Find out more on Sheila's website

Suggested read
 

Thursday, 25 May 2017

Blog Tour: Review + Q&A for Wishbones by Virginia MacGregor (Young Adult, 10E/10E)


 18th May 2017, Harlequin Teen, 384 pages, Paperback, Review copy 

Summary from HarperCollins
Feather Tucker has two wishes:

1)To get her mum healthy again

2) To win the Junior UK swimming championships
When Feather comes home on New Year’s Eve to find her mother one of Britain’s most obese women- in a diabetic coma, she realises something has to be done to save her mum’s life. But when her Mum refuses to co-operate Feather realises that the problems run deeper than just her mum’s unhealthy appetite.

Over time, Feather’s mission to help her Mum becomes an investigation. With the help of friends old and new, and the hindrance of runaway pet goat Houdini, Feather’s starting to uncover when her mum’s life began to spiral out of control and why. But can Feather fix it in time for her mum to watch her swim to victory? And can she save her family for good?

Nayu's thoughts
I was intrigued by how Feather (an apt name when you get to know her) copes with her mum's weight issues as well as another key character's issues. In an ideal world children shouldn't have to worry about a parent, but Feather does because of the major health implications of her mum's weight. While she is old enough to worry and do her best to get her mum on the road to healthier living, Feather doesn't always get told the reasons why her efforts aren't working. Because she isn't an adult who has a wider experience of life and can cope with the emotionally hard reality of why her mum gained so much weight, the adults try to shield Feather from the truth. She goes the extra mile and them some, but unfortunately for a good part of the story her mum simply isn't interested in changing herself. As a result Feather goes through many emotions, anger and frustration being hard to handle. 

It was sweet of her to never give up, even when something she tries fails spectacularly. She figures out a new plan which is inventive in giving her mum the support she needs. It was harder when Feather's best friend Jake isn't quite himself, and their friendship gets a bit unstable. I correctly guessed the reason for that distance, something which Feather didn't see coming. I loved the swimming part of the story, how she had something to work for outside of her family issues. I adore the fancy dress shop owner who takes Feather under her wing when Feather needs some time away from her family after a major plot twist. I wish every child with issues had such a good adult figure in their life! Without her I don't think Feather would have successfully figured out how she felt about the revelation, and what path she needed to take next. It's a brilliant read combining several weight and mental health issues into a read that I couldn't put down. Definitely one for the reread shelf! 

Find out more on Virginia's website.


Question and Answer session with Virginia MacGregor
Another book by Virginia

Nayu) It's with great pleasure that I was able to ask Virginia some questions about the book! 
 
1)  What drew you to pick both obesity and diabetes as diseases that Feather's mum has to deal with, and the topic of being a young carer?
Both in my adult and young adult fiction, I like to focus on strong contemporary issues that have a resonance in our lives.  Obesity, eating disorders and their related complications like diabetes, are increasingly common, especially in the Western world. My feeling is that both over and under-eat eating have a closer relationship that we realise at that their root is psychological rather than physical: this is something I explore through Feather’s mother and Feather’s friend, Clay. I believe that fiction develops our understanding and empathy for those going through difficulties; fiction also makes helps us feel more understood when we are struggling. This is particularly important for young adults who often feel very alone and misunderstood. 

As regards being a young carer, this came partly through my own experience. When I was thirteen my parents went through a messy divorce which left my mother broken both physically and emotionally. Overnight, I went from being a child to an adult: I was the only one  there to care for her. I know that there are children all over the world who have to care for sick parents or relatives and that this puts a huge burden on them. It’s also something I explored in my first adult novel, What Milo Saw, in which a nine year old boy looks after his great-grandmother.


2) Did you ever think about having Feather have some mental health issues (which from the summary I'm guessing her mum has), instead of her mum?
Not really. I wanted her to be the strong, constant pillar in both her family and her community. Although her mother could be said to have mental health issues, it’s more just grief and coming to terms with something tragic that has happened in her past.

3)  Without giving away spoilers what were the easiest and hardest parts of the book to write?
Feather’s voice, her character and the quirky bits of the novel, like Houdini the goat, were fun and relatively easy to write.  Getting to the root of what happened to Feather’s parents and it’s consequences was harder: what they’ve been through is not something I have experienced directly and I knew it had to be handled sensitively. Seeing it through the eyes of a young girl felt like the best way to tackle such a delicate subject. I hope I haven’t given away any spoilers! 

4)  Is there any reason why you chose Houdini to be a goat? Do you have a goat/like goats?
I’m a great animal lover: I believe that they have a special spiritual connection, that they see and feel more than we do and that when we relate to them, and that they enrich our lives by letting us into these other worlds.  I’ve always lived with cats but I’d have a whole menagerie if I had the space (and if I could convince my husband!).  Ever since I spent an afternoon with some baby goats when I was on holiday in Austria, I’ve always dreamt of having a goat as a pet, so by writing Houdini into Wishbones, I was able to experience that vicariously! I find them wonderfully quirky and Houdini added just the right touch of light to a novel that has moments that are very sad. I think that children and teenagers, in particular, have a special bond to animals: they can confide in them and, through them, they learn important lessons about caring for other living beings. I love to watch my little girls interacting with animals.

5) Where's your favourite place to write? Do you have a favourite drink to write with? 
 I love to write in coffee shops – I wrote the whole of Wishbones in a coffee shop in England – with the most wonderful barista called Richard looking after me! Since moving to America, I’ve been writing in a gorgeous juice bar owned by one of my best friends. I find it easier to write surrounded by people and the buzz of life. My favourite drinks are either an almond latte (extra hot) or a green juice: one balanced the other out!
  
Suggested read
Check out this series about a teen dealing with a mother who has hoarding issues (I have only read book #1)  is Love, Lies and Lemon Pies by Katy Cannon (Young Adult, 9/10E)

Tuesday, 23 May 2017

Blog Tour: Review + Q&A for I Have No Secrets by Penny Joelson (Young Adult, Thriller, 10E/10E)

4th May 2017, Electric Monkey, 336 pages, Paperback, Review copy

Summary from Egmont
Jemma knows who did the murder. She knows because he told her. And she can't tell anyone. 

Fourteen-year-old Jemma has severe cerebral palsy. Unable to communicate or move, she relies on her family and carer for everything. She has a sharp brain and inquisitive nature, and knows all sorts of things about everyone. But when she is confronted with this terrible secret, she is utterly powerless to do anything. Though that might be about to change...

Nayu's thoughts
This book reached me in a magical way. Rather the publicist Nina is magical. We were exchanging emails about the blog tour one day and I mentioned I hadn't got a copy. After discussing what I'd do for content as I was after an alternate to divulging small secrets, the post came. I went to check amd the book appeared! I hastily emailed Nina back explaining how magical she is after she said we magicked the book to my door. Publicists are extremely fun people to be around!

As for the book...it's spectacularly epic. I know a friend with cerebal palsy, she can walk with sticks so unlike Jemma can move around and communicate just fine. I was intrigued by how Jemma's clearly more severe CP affected her, and was quite humbled by her life. I live with several medical issues including severe chronic pain and fatigue issues, so my life can be rather restrictive in what I can do. Jemma's life made me realise while there is a lot I can't do, what I can do has me mostly independant, able to share my views with you and anyone else in the world, something Jemma wants ever so badly.

 I think because I'm not a normal average healthy person (who in reality probably doesn't exist) I connected deeper than I expected with Jemma. Her need to share her likes and dislikes are clear, with the stakes getting higher when she knows about the murderer's identity. It's very much an edge of your seat read, with lots of learning what life is like for severely disabled people. Carers range from the amazing kind to the absolutely rubbish ones (minor spoiler when I say oh my word what was Rosie thinking!) I felt desperately sorry for all who are treated poorly because people mistakenly think because they can't speak they aren't intelligent. Not so. Jemma is the one who figures out the murderer and how to find them, something that people in power overlooked. 

Jemma and her new best friend was a touching storyline. I liked reading about the other foster children - I'm a big fan of the BBC Tracey Beaker spin-off The Dumping Ground about a care home with children of varying issues, so I was used to Finn and Olivia's behaviour. The taste of freedom Jemma got when she was able to communicate is palpable, and I can relate it to when I realised I'd be able to drive & not rely on my family to take me places since public transport is out of the question for me to use frequently. 

Jemma had many frustrations with the limitations of her body, but her patience is massive too, and I truly realised that I'm extremely blessed by what I can do, even when mundane activities take forever and requires an insane amount of rest after. A lot of readers may be shocked by how much care Jemma needs, which is why it's vital for carers to have compassion and understanding that no matter their capabilities everyone is human and should be treated with respect and dignity. I hope that everyone one day can communicate, as it's a vital part of life which everyone deserves, regardless of their limitations. May technology always improve! 

Keep up to date with Penny on Twitter

Questions and Answers with Penny Joelson
Here's Penny!
Nayu: Penny kindly answered my questions which were from before I'd read the book instead of partaking in the sharing secrets part of the tour! 

1) Cerebal palsy affects people in different ways: I’ve got a friend with it but she can speak, unlike Jemma. What gave you the idea to make Jemma struggle to communicate with people as a key part to the plot?
Penny: I didn’t start by thinking I’d write a story about a character with cerebral palsy. I started with the idea that the one person who knew the identity of a murderer was not able to say anything. Having met, and worked with, people with severe cerebral palsy Jemma’s character appeared in my head fully formed and she seemed a great person to tell this story.

2)  Most of us take the ability to speak without realising how blessed we are with being able to communicate with people. What are you hoping readers will take away from Jemma’s story?

I hope that readers will have more empathy with people who have communication difficulties and also will not make an assumption that lack of communication equals a lack of intelligence. I hope readers will be  more sensitive and less afraid of trying to engage with disabled people.


3)  Without giving away spoilers what were the easiest and hardest parts of the book to write?

Jemma’s inner voice came to life very easily and Dan was also easy to write. I think developing the characters, including Sarah, Mum, Dad, Olivia and Finn was the easiest part. The harder parts were those that required more in depth research and needed to be accurate rather than from my imagination. It was also hard to get the structure right as the story is quite complex.

4)  Will there be more books about Jemma in the future?
I didn’t imagine writing another book about Jemma but I wouldn’t rule it out entirely! 



5)  Where's your favourite place to write? Do you have a favourite drink to write with?

I do most of my writing in the corner of my bedroom – not very glamorous. Occasionally I will write in the garden or go to a cafĂ© but very rarely. I don’t usually drink anything while I’m writing though I do stop for coffee breaks!


Suggested read 
This book is about another teen with mental health issues that make her life really hard:Under Rose Tainted Skies by Louise Gornall (Young Adult, 10E/10E, short 'n' sweet review)


Monday, 22 May 2017

One Silver Summer by Rachel Hickman (Children's, 11 years +, 10/10E)

This may just be the proof copy cover - so pretty!
25th May 2017, Old Barn Books,  272 pages, Paperback, Review copy

Book Summary
After losing her mom in an accident, Sass is sent to live with her uncle in England. Far from her native Brooklyn, the rocky shores and crumbling castles of Cornwall seem like the perfect place to hide her grief. And when she stumbles across a silver horse in a sunlit meadow, Sass feels a surprising sense of peace . . . only to have it broken by a boy. 

Arrogant and distrustful, the horse's trainer, Alex, doesn't approve of the trespassing American. Yet after a few chance meetings, he begins to feel a connection to the curious girl with the sad eyes, and offers to teach her to ride. Sass never expected to feel anything again--least of all love--but the lessons reveal a far different Alex, and soon their friendship turns into something more.
 
But Alex has a secret--a bombshell about his family that could shatter Sass's trust . . . and force him to abandon the one girl who made him believe in himself.

Nayu's thoughts 
First of all apologies to Rachel-I skipped the non-Sass parts because I wasn't in the mood for them. I thought Alex was going to be a ghost - perhaps then t wouldn't have been such a huge surprise when his true identity was revealed. I had no idea it was that type of story which I enjoy reading. I was a bit worried the story would be too sad, with Sass's distress over losing her mother very obvious. I enjoyed how she slept where her uncle works, who has secrets of his own that had better be revealed further in a book 2!

I spied several plot threads heavily hinting at a sequel with plenty of info for misunderstandings to happen. Sass's life will certainly be different after the way this book ends. I liked that she had Harry the cat to keep her the a little distracted, although I didn't see him that much at the end. Pets are so very awesome when life is tough I may have forgotten seeing him, I was under the influence of mega strong medicine when I read it.

I loved how Sass's uncle tried to be there for her despite her keeping him at arm's length, the moments when she lets him in are touching. And yes her romance part of the tale is sweet and fairytale like. I'm not saying more than that! I will be rereading it for sure ^o^

Thursday, 18 May 2017