Monday, 17 October 2016

Book review: The Alchemist's Secret - Scott Mariani

Where there’s Hope there’s trouble…

THE ALCHEMIST’S SECRET introduces hero Ben Hope, a former elite SAS soldier tortured by a tragedy from his past, who now devotes his life to rescuing kidnapped children.

But when Ben is recruited to locate an ancient manuscript which could save a dying child, he embarks on the deadliest quest of his life.

The document is alleged to contain the formula for the elixir of life, discovered by the brilliant alchemist Fulcanelli decades before. But it soon becomes apparent that others are hunting this most precious of treasures – for far more evil ends. It seems that everyone – from the Nazis of the past to the shadowy modern organisation known as Gladius Domini – wants to uncover the secrets of immortality.

Teaming up with attractive American scientist Dr Roberta Ryder, Ben is led on a wild and dangerous trail from Paris to the ancient Cathar strongholds of the Languedoc, where an astonishing secret has lain hidden for centuries…

My opinion.
The Alchemist's Secret is a fast paced thriller that takes you across France, searching for a centuries old mystery while being hunted down by a small army of professional killers.
Ben's motivation behind this dangerous - and what sometimes seems or feels to be futile - quest, is the life of a little girl. By uncovering this ancient knowledge he hopes to find a cure that will save her. A noble goal, but for some reason that motivation or urgency didn't translate - nor did it feel real.
The story is fast paced in the sense that things happen in quick succession to one another. But for the entire novel I felt like I was a bystander, seeing things unravel from a distance rather than feeling involved. Although some details about Ben's past are revealed, they're just not enough to make you, as a reader, feel as if you know the character. The same goes for Roberta. There's potential there for an awesome team, but it felt as if the author was too busy killing off hired killers and planning attacks on their lives, than to actually invest in his main characters.
The book showed an interesting and 'forgotten' part of history and takes you on an adventure - one that's covered in mystery and bloodshed.

Saturday, 15 October 2016

Book review: The One Plus One - JoJo Moyes


Jess Thomas wants . . .
. . . to be more than a single mum getting by day after day
. . . to do her best for her gifted but sensitive daughter Tanzie
. . . to find a way back from the loneliest place on earth
Ed Nicholls is hoping . . .
. . . he won't go to jail
. . . there's a way back from the biggest mistake of his life
. . . something or someone will make it all go away
Jess and Ed are . . .
. . . two strangers looking for a little kindness
. . . two lost souls with a lot to learn from each other
. . . about to find out that one plus one makes more - so much more - than two

My opinion.
Starting The One Plus One, I had no idea what to expect. I was taken completely by surprise by the turn of events and felt myself hopelessly invested in these character's lives. I'm not even sure how or if I can describe how intensely I felt for them.
A weird road trip, almost comical in its absurdity, turns into a little bubble where these characters - all broken in different ways - find themselves safe and included, and maybe even healed?
The entire reading experience was emotional and it's just not the kind of story you can put 'on hold' while closing the book - this little group of misfits stays with you.
The One Plus One doesn't shy away from difficult topics. From family bonds, bullying and standing up for who you are, to what it's like to live on minimum wage trying to make ends meet while raising a family. Jess' reality is in stark contrast to Ed's, for whom money lost almost all meaning, and therefor handles it without thinking of the (legal and other) consequences. The way they live their lives and the priorities they have couldn't be more different, but what could (or should) have driven them apart, may not be as much as a deal breaker than they - or you as a reader - might have thought.
Tanzie and Nicky stole my heart from the very beginning and you can't help but want to protect them. I laughed when they were happy, I cried when they were hurt. 
An emotional roller coaster I couldn't put down - absolutely loved this book.



Friday, 7 October 2016

Book review: The One We Fell In Love With - Paige Toon

Phoebe is caught between a rock and a hard place. Settle down and get married, or return to the French Alps to pursue her passion?

Eliza is in love with someone who is no longer hers. In fact, he probably never was… And her dream of becoming a musician seems to be spiralling down the drain.

Rose is out of a job and out of a boyfriend. To make matters worse, she’s been forced to move back in with her mother…

But these very different girls have one thing in common. Angus. The one they fell in love with…

My review.
To be honest, the blurb alone would not have sold me on this one. Love triangles (or... squares?) are usually not something I go for. But having read - and loved - Paige Toon novels before I decided that I'd go for it. And hurray for that!During the first half of the book I had a love-'hate' relationship with all three of the sisters. Depending on which of the girls was telling the story, I felt closer to one of them and more apprehensive about the other. Until their stories became one story, and I could see, love and appreciate all three of them individually.
Now we've all read those cover-quotes from other authors or big magazines, but never did they feel so accurate than with this book, and I have to be careful not to just copy-paste them into my review. I did laugh and cry, and the book made me both sad and happy. It made me appreciate and enjoy what I have even more - although now I maybe wish I had a sister as well as a brother ;-)
When I say I cried, I'm being a 100% serious. I didn't even care I was the "strange girl" on the train, first laughing and then crying by myself. I even had to stop for a few minutes before going into work, getting the book out of my mind. The story is intense, the relationships complicated and both heartwarming and heartbreaking at the same time.
Absolutely loved it.


Friday, 30 September 2016

Book review: The Secret Keeper - Kate Morton

During a summer party at the family farm in the English countryside, sixteen-year-old Laurel Nicolson has escaped to her childhood tree house and is happily dreaming of the future. She spies a stranger coming up the long road to the farm and watches as her mother speaks to him. Before the afternoon is over, Laurel will witness a shocking crime. A crime that challenges everything she knows about her family and especially her mother, Dorothy—her vivacious, loving, nearly perfect mother.

Now, fifty years later, Laurel is a successful and well-regarded actress living in London. The family is gathering at Greenacres farm for Dorothy’s ninetieth birthday. Realizing that this may be her last chance, Laurel searches for answers to the questions that still haunt her from that long-ago day, answers that can only be found in Dorothy’s past.

Dorothy’s story takes the reader from pre–WWII England through the blitz, to the ’60s and beyond. It is the secret history of three strangers from vastly different worlds—Dorothy, Vivien, and Jimmy—who meet by chance in wartime London and whose lives are forever entwined. The Secret Keeper explores longings and dreams and the unexpected consequences they sometimes bring. It is an unforgettable story of lovers and friends, deception and passion that is told—in Morton’s signature style—against a backdrop of events that changed the world.

My opinion.
When trying to come up with a way to describe my reading experience, reading The Secret Keeper, I kept struggling with the mix of being completely taking by surprise by several plot twists, and having found the reading progress - especially for the first half of the book - rather slow.
I think it took me rather long to really get to know the characters - both past and present - well enough to really feel a connection to them and becoming absorbed in their story.
By the time the secrets started to unravel, however, I couldn't get the book out of my mind. I loved how unexpected Dolly's story turned out to be and the setting of London during the London Blitz was something completely new to me. Without a focus on the war, the atmosphere of the time and the way people's perspectives change during a turbulent time like that were displayed wonderfully.
From reading Kate Morton before I already knew how good a storyteller she is and her descriptions of both past and present have the ability to transport you to another (time and) place with just a few lines.


Wednesday, 28 September 2016

Book tour: Green Tea Latte To Go - Aven Ellis

Perfect Drink: Green tea latte with coconut milk and raw honey.

Perfect Fashion Icon: The Duchess of Cambridge. Always on point with her fashion, dressing appropriately for every occasion and not afraid to recycle things from her wardrobe, I truly admire her class and style.

Perfect Place: Seattle.

Perfect Activity for Relaxation: Yoga. I’m terrible at it, but I’m determined to perfect downward dog. Someday.

For Seattle blogger Payton James, life is all about trying to achieve perfection. Payton is determined to be her best self in all areas, and she refuses to rest until she achieves it.

However, an imperfect moment in a coffee shop completely changes Payton’s life. When her drink order gets switched by mistake, Payton finds herself face-to-face with a gorgeous British man named Brooks. Payton is instantly attracted to the witty stranger who is quick with his words—and has a beautiful smile.

Brooks is an exotic veterinarian with a huge passion for animals. Heartache in his past has led him to focusing on his career out of fear of getting hurt again. But there’s something about Payton that makes this vet want to know more about the bubbly blogger he has met via fate—and has him reconsidering his stance on love.

But will Brooks ever be free of his fears to truly open his heart? And will Payton’s drive for perfection cost her the one thing she loves most? Or will she learn to embrace imperfections?

And maybe perfect is the one thing Payton doesn’t want after all . . .

My opinion.
Running the risk of saying this every time I finished another one of Aven Ellis' wonderful books, Green Tea Latte To Go might just be featuring my favourite couple of hers yet. Payton and Brooks probably have one of the most easy relationships I've read. Their conversation, banter,... it all flows naturally and feels - dare I say - perfect ;-)
The one thing I can never get enough of, reading Aven Ellis, is the inner monologues of her main characters. They sound incredibly natural, spontaneous, believable and even familiar, at times. They make you 'click' with the character - even when you might not expect to have a lot in common with them - and in this case, I fell for both Payton and Brooks from the start.
I very much enjoyed the British #hotvet as a male lead and a special mention has to go to Mr. Not Bacon and Agnus, for being my favourite book pets yet. Or at the very least the most unexpected and original ones!
I very much enjoyed this story. Both Payton and Brooks and the pets never failed to put a smile on my face. Loved it!


ABOUT AVEN ELLIS. Aven Ellis has been writing fiction since she was sixteen. She studied communications at a large Midwestern university, and after graduation, Aven worked as a reporter for a community newspaper, followed by a stint at a public relations agency. But writing about city council meetings and restaurant franchises was not as much fun as writing for young women trying to figure out their careers and potential boyfriends. So Aven got herself a job in television that allowed her to write at night. Connectivity is Aven’s debut novel; Waiting For Prince Harry and Chronicles of a Lincoln Park Fashionista (New Adult romantic comedy) will be published next year. Aven lives in Dallas with her family. When she is not writing, Aven enjoys shopping, cooking, connecting with friends on social media, and watching any show that features Gordon Ramsay.

Check out more fabulous books by the amazing Aven Ellis:

Monday, 26 September 2016

Book tour: Christmas Under a Cranberry Sky - Holly Martin (A Town Called Christmas #1)


This year spend a wonderful Christmas on Juniper Island, where love can melt even the iciest of hearts… 

Piper Chesterfield lives a glamorous life travelling the world and reviewing the finest hotels. She calls nowhere home, she works alone and that’s how she likes it. For long ago Piper decided that to protect her heart she should lock it away. 

So when Piper’s next assignment brings her to the newly opened Stardust Lake Hotel for the festive season, the last person she expects to face is Gabe Whitaker, the man who broke her heart so completely she could never love again. 

But Piper isn’t the only one who has been frozen in time by heartbreak. Gabe hasn’t forgotten the golden-eyed girl who disappeared from his world without a trace. 

Now fate has reunited them on Juniper island, can the magic of Christmas heal old wounds? And can this enchanting town be the one place Piper can finally call home? 

My opinion.
Christmas Under a Cranberry Sky is Holly Martin's latest (Christmas) story... but I can tell you this: it's not 'just another Christmas story'. Seemingly effortless, Holly manages (again!) to create his wonderful, cosy holiday atmosphere. No countless jingle bells or Mariah Carey blaring "All I Want For Christmas" necessary.
Just like you're drawn into the magic of this town called Christmas (! Seriously, I want to move there. This town has my name on it.), the characters in this story find a way into your heart, basically from the start.
Piper's history is heartbreaking. She has to overcome a lot but none of those issues feel far fetched or just there to make the story. She feels like a genuine person, as does Gabe. But trust me, the actual star of the book, a little Elsa princess, will have you melted and most probably crying in no time. You'll see!Let Holly Martin transport you to Juniper Island, and enjoy this magical story - quite possibly my favourite Xmas book yet...