Tuesday 28 June 2022

Review | The Slow Lane Walkers Club by Rosa Temple

Published by Simon & Schuster on May 26, 2022

The Slow Lane Walkers Club is a pure and gentle read – a book genuinely good for the soul. With its endearing friendships and its evocative feel of the waves crashing and all the beautiful sights Cornwall has to offer, Rosa Temple’s latest novel was a true delight.

When we meet Daniel, he has just returned to Cornwall. His gran has passed away and left her house to him and his sister, Ananabelle, and he sets about clearing out her belongings. Having left his old job behind, he is at a crossroads with no real idea what he wants to do with the rest of his life. In his early thirties – is now really the time he should be settling down? It was refreshing to read a book like this that centred on a male main character and I liked Daniel straight away.

One of the first things Daniel does is create a new walking club in the hope of making friends whilst he’s back in Cornwall. Though he only gives a few days notice before the first walk, he had hoped for more than just the one person to turn up. Especially given that the one person to turn up is Hazel, the strange old lady in crocs who he’d been trying to avoid. But as I and Daniel soon discover, Hazel is a real character with plenty of tales to tell. She’s kind, entertaining and full of spirit – and maybe a walk is worth slowing down for, for the chance to build an unlikely friendship.

It took its time to build in personnel but The Slow Lane Walkers Club became this lovely community with a mix of characters with different temperaments and at different stages in life. I loved the contrast between them and their “rival” walking club, the Padstow Pace Masters. The Pace Masters were all about speeding on and rushing to their destination whereas the Slow Lane Walkers took things at a much steadier pace. They would chat away, take breaks for snacks and gossip and a spot of matchmaking and always had an eye on their surroundings. The walking club members were interesting characters, if sometimes a bit annoying with their obsession with Daniel’s love-life, and the dynamics between them all were fascinating.

I think one reason why I enjoyed this book so much was that I felt like there was so much of me in it. I moved to the seaside a few years ago and for me, nothing beats a walk on the clifftops taking in the nature and the sea views. When the members of Daniel and Hazel’s walking club stop their walk because they’re distracted by conversation or by the sight of a bird flying past, I felt like this was my life in a book and I was a part of their club.

There were so many positive messages within the pages of The Slow Lane Walkers Club. This is a book about embracing the people in life, about slowing down and really taking in what’s around you. From the people you meet to the sights you see, there can be so much more to gain from a gentle walk instead of racing from place to place with no awareness of the world around you.

I could relate plenty to some of the characters in this book and often found myself a cross between Jess and Daniel. I could identify with them both, especially the way they feel when everybody around them seems settled and like they know what they’re doing with life, when they’re still stuck in limbo. But as this book seems to put across, you should live life at your own pace. There is no need to always put pressure on yourself to plan out exactly what your future holds when you can let life lead you there.

There was so much to love about this book. Set at a relaxing pace, it’s a lovely uplifting summery read with kind characters and heart-warming friendships. Hazel is the star of the show (closely followed by Bill the cat and his empty dish) and provides plenty of light to the story as well as some more touching moments. I enjoyed every chapter and really didn’t want the book to end but I love that the author didn’t feel the need to wrap everything up so perfectly as it keeps the characters still fresh in my mind. I feel like the Slow Lane Walkers may be accompanying me on my next walk…
Review copy provided by the publisher - this was my honest review.   

Saturday 9 April 2022

Review | The Nanny by Gilly Macmillan

Published by Century on June 27, 2019

The Nanny may have been a slowburner of a thriller but it wasn’t half intriguing. Nothing and no one were as they seemed at Lake Hall and there was a lingering, unsettling feel to the place that had me gripped, obsessing over every secretive detail that was revealed and made to feel uneasy by a home embroiled with such suspenseful deceit.

This was my introduction to Gilly Macmillan and I will definitely hunt out more of her books as I loved how involving this one was – the dynamics between the characters were truly fascinating and there were moments that made me want to shout at them and shake them and force them to wake up to the danger around them.

This book had plenty of twists and turns and my feelings about some of the characters kept twisting and changing as well. To begin with, I sympathised with Jocelyn. She felt she had been left with no other option to move back in with her mother, despite their poor, pretty much non-existent relationship. The death of her husband amongst other things have lead Jocelyn and her daughter Ruby to move their lives from America to the UK and they are both grieving and unhappy. I felt bad for Jocelyn as her mother Virginia seemed overbearing and like she had nothing better to do than criticise Jo’s every move, but it wasn’t long before the tide had turned and my sympathies turned to Virginia.

Whilst at first Virginia is almost impossible to like, I found her to be a grower and my opinions changed. I felt bad for her as she is made to feel unwelcome in her own home by her daughter, as Jo just cannot allow herself to move on from the memories she has of growing up with her mother. Those memories haunt Jo and she can be pretty rude and abrupt to Virginia. She never allows herself to just listen to her mother and oh she was infuriating!

One thing I loved about this book was that it wasn’t as simple as hating the characters. It was more complex than that. Reading between the lines and seeing that yes each and every one of them had traits you could detest, but they were still human with real emotions and maybe they all had their regrets. At times, I found them all untrustworthy, and this made for great reading.

When the nanny, Hannah, reappears in the lives of Jo and Virginia, at around the same time a skull is discovered in the lake, the mystery and the tension intensifies and the way the suspense builds made this book more gripping with every chapter. There was so much to enjoy in The Nanny, in a sinister kind of way. The setting of Lake Hall was creepy and unnerving, so uninviting to strangers yet deliciously inviting to thriller readers! The friction between the characters was sharp and ominous. The way the plot unfolds is beguiling and as each little twist unfolds, I was dying to see how everything ends. The author didn’t disappoint. 

Review copy provided by the publisher - this was my honest review.     

Thursday 7 April 2022

Review | This Beautiful Life by Katie Marsh

Published by Hodder & Stoughton on June 15, 2017

I’ve had This Beautiful Life on my shelves for years as I love Katie Marsh’s writing but there’s something about books with cancer in them that makes them more personal, and for me that doesn’t make them easy books to start. That’s why years after publication I still hadn’t read this novel, as I thought I may find it too triggering. Despite this, I’m not bothered if it takes me years before I get to read a certain book as they are always there for you to read and sometimes, the time you pick them up may actually be at the most perfect of moments.

This was the case with This Beautiful Life. I read it over the course of a day and found it to be moving, insightful and written with care and honesty. A book I really didn’t want to put down.

In truth, I didn’t really find this to be “a book about cancer” anyway. Instead, it was a life-affirming and poignant read about Abi, a character who is in remission and ready to face the next stage of her life. It’s not about the sickness that comes with cancer. It’s about the impact that cancer takes on everyone concerned. This was a beautiful read from the first page to the last.

There was so much to love about this book. One of my favourite parts was the soundtrack. In every phase of the book we get another song from Abi’s survival playlist and I enjoyed all the memories she had of each song and the meaning behind them. I felt like I could feel Abi’s nostalgia, hear the songs and picture the moments that made them memorable for her, and they brought true insight into her and her family’s lives.

Abi is concerned about her family. Everything has changed since her cancer diagnosis and now she is in remission, she feels cut off from her husband, John, and her son, Seb. She knows they’re hiding things and she’s not sure where her place is in her family anymore. Abi is torn between wanting to mend the cracks in her family whilst needing to start living again. Even though I didn’t always agree with her actions, I felt for Abi throughout and was rooting for a happy ending for everyone concerned. Her story is heartfelt and even though her family had their secrets, I really felt like there was nothing malicious about them. They too were just figuring out how to move forward with their lives when cancer had taken such a strong, destructive hold over them. I found the author’s writing to be authentic and compassionate and she made this story feel so real. With that, it became all the more emotional.

Other favourite parts of this book for me were characters like Abi’s dad, who had such a calming influence that I would like his help with all my problems. Rob, Abi’s brother, whose antics and disastrous small talk kept me entertained throughout. And how could I forget that ending – which somehow was absolutely perfect yet still had me scrambling for more pages.

This was another special book by Katie Marsh – she does it every time.

Review copy provided by the publisher - this was my honest review.     

Tuesday 29 March 2022

Review | Our House by Louise Candlish

Published by Simon & Schuster on April 5, 2018

I bought this book a couple of years ago after hearing loads of great things about it. Hooked by the blurb alone, it sounded fascinating and I knew I needed to get my hands on a copy. Of course, like most books I ever buy, I didn’t get to read it straight away and it took me seeing the trailer for the ITV adaptation of the book to give me the nudge to start it. I definitely prefer to read a book before watching the series or film based on it as books just contain more satisfying detail.

When I started the book, the opening chapter reminded me of all the reasons I had been eager to buy it. In fact, the opening sentence was reminder enough. It’s such an intriguing premise and I had all sorts of questions that I was dying to get answers to. The narrative is split in three ways really. There is the big day in question, when Fi discovers a couple moving into her home, and all her belongings gone. Then we also have Fi’s perspective, this time in the shape of a podcast as she goes back over the build up to this day, detailing things about her marriage and her kids and her attachment to their home. The third perspective belongs to Fi’s husband, Bram, who tells his side of the story in a Word document.

Whilst the opening to this book had me gripped, I was a bit disappointed at first to find that the following chapters told a lot more of the back story of Fi and Bram’s relationship rather than more about the reaction to the new people moving into the house. Of course, I knew when reading that this was necessary, but I loved the first chapter’s premise so much that I impatiently wanted more of it. I wanted the drama to continue and I wanted to know just why Fi had discovered a new couple moving into the house she hadn’t sold. With that being said, the dynamics to Fi and Bram’s relationship were fascinating and though the innocent party and the villain are there for you to see, I was eager to learn if all was as it seems.

The more we get to know about Fi and Bram, the more intrigued I was. Their bird's nest custody agreement – that’s something I’ve not read about before and I enjoyed it. The whole concept to the book felt fresh and different and it was a truly memorable read for me.

I don’t know the exact time but there was a moment, when I was about a hundred or so pages in, when I suddenly realised that I was finding the book impossible to put down. I can’t even pinpoint exactly why but there was just something that grabbed me and didn’t let go. I loved all the little twisty moments and the secrets and chaos that these characters lives revolved around. There were twists that weren’t all together unpredictable but still caught me off guard with their delivery, and even though you already have a fair idea of where the book is heading, due to the way it begins, it still had parts that shocked and made me have to re-read bits to get my head around them. That’s without mentioning the sinisterly clever ending that brought the book together perfectly. It was great.

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