Review

The Art of Inheriting Secrets by Barbara O’Neal

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Published: Lake Union Publishing
Date: 17th July 2018
Format: e-ARC
Pages: 364
Genre: General Fiction
Source: Publisher via NetGalley

Rating
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When Olivia Shaw’s mother dies, the sophisticated food editor is astonished to learn she’s inherited a centuries-old English estate—and a title to go with it. Raw with grief and reeling from the knowledge that her reserved mother hid something so momentous, Olivia leaves San Francisco and crosses the pond to unravel the mystery of a lifetime.


One glance at the breathtaking Rosemere Priory and Olivia understands why the manor, magnificent even in disrepair, was the subject of her mother’s exquisite paintings. What she doesn’t understand is why her mother never mentioned it to her. As Olivia begins digging into her mother’s past, she discovers that the peeling wallpaper, debris-laden halls, and ceiling-high Elizabethan windows covered in lush green vines hide unimaginable secrets.

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The Art of Inheriting Secrets by Barbara O’Neal – a read I enjoyed.  Why?

  • Set in the English countryside
  • A falling down estate – especially the old English house – more than a small house – a stately house.
  • A woman who has just lost her mother and has come to England because she has found papers amongst her mother’s things.  She is about to find out she is now a Countess and the owner of the large estate.
  • A cold case – a young missing girl and a missing man, her mother’s brother.
  • Unscrupulous people who are out to get their hands on the estate and any money there.
  • Food – Olivia is a food editor and she appreciates the best tastes going.  To her delight she comes across and English /Indian family who are well versed in delightful tastes
  • Samir – a young man who is working as a thatcher but is so much more.
  • An old Earl who turns out to be a darling
  • A treasure hunt of sorts that Olivia’s mother has set up for her to find what she needs.
  • Warm friendships that start to form
  • The possibility of taking on Rosemere – the estate – and bringing it back to its former glory

All these things kept me reading, at times I found a little too much going on and some things then a little undeveloped for my taste, but that said, it was a great read.

Review

The Lost for Words Bookshop by Stephanie Butland

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Published: St Martin’s Press
Date:  19th June 2018
Format: e-ARC
Pages: 304
Genre: Fiction
Source: Publisher via NetGalley

Rating
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Loveday Cardew prefers books to people. If you look carefully, you might glimpse the first lines of the novels she loves most tattooed on her skin. But there are some things Loveday will never, ever show you.

Into her hiding place – the bookstore where she works – come a poet, a lover, and three suspicious deliveries. Someone has found out about her mysterious past. Will Loveday survive her own heartbreaking secrets?

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I chose this title for the word bookshop, it will I think always catch a reader’s eye. And it did mine. The cover for The Lost for Words Bookshop is kinda cute but it wouldn’t have really pulled me in. However the character of Loveday Cardew was the gem within the pages that caused me to fall in love with this story.

The story begins at a gentle walk, then moves to a trot and finally a gallop you might say. There is a slow revelation to begin with as the book seamlessly moves between present day and Loveday’s childhood. Slowly we find out why our Loveday is like she is.

And what is she like?  Well prickly… a loner kind of figure, and a great lover of books. She loves to work in the second hand bookshop, and mostly hide out from customers. She also loves poetry and wait for it… writes a bit of her own.  I liked how very occasionally Loveday addresses the reader, just enough for me to sit up with a jolt because I wasn’t expecting it!

Archie is the bookshop owner, we only see him really through Loveday’s eyes so we learn about him slowly, but everything we learn about him I loved. He has the perfect heart, well almost anyway.

Archie isn’t young so he isn’t the love interest. Leave that to Rob and ….   Rob doesn’t last too long and as you read you’ll see very soon why. But…. now quite a different person comes into the picture, he’s a keeper but will Loveday keep him?

This is a touching, quirky, delightful story. It does tackle the difficult subject of domestic violence so if that’s a trigger for you maybe avoid, although it is mostly off stage.

Often when I read I skip words/paragraphs. No word was lost while reading this book!

Review

Two Steps Forward by Graeme Simsion and Anne Buist

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Published:William Morrow
Date: May 1st 2018
Format: e-ARC
Pages: 384
Genre: Fiction
Source: Publicist via Edelweiss


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From the New York Times bestselling author of The Rosie Projectcomes a story of taking chances and learning to love again as two people, one mourning her husband and the other recovering from divorce, cross paths on the centuries-old Camino pilgrimage from France to Spain.

 

Zoe, an artist from California who’s still reeling from her husband’s sudden death, has impulsively decided to walk the Camino, hoping to find solace and direction. Martin, an engineer from England, is road-testing a cart of his own design…and recovering from a messy divorce. They begin in the same French town, each uncertain of what the future holds. Zoe has anticipated the physical difficulties of her trek, but she is less prepared for other challenges, as strangers and circumstances force her to confront not just recent loss, but long-held beliefs. For Martin, the pilgrimage is a test of his skills and endurance but also, as he and Zoe grow closer, of his willingness to trust others—and himself—again.

 

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I have heard about the Camino walk because a friend’s husband walked much of it, I heard an interview about it on the radio by another person who walked it, so when Two Steps Forward by Graeme Simsion and Anne Buist presented itself, I opened it and started reading with interest.  I have no desire to walk it myself but I was very happy to vicariously experience it this way.

It is described in acknowledgements at the end of the book as a mature-age love story, and it is, but so much more. It is about challenge – physical challenge for sure, ouch all that walking and all those blisters.  The challenge of being by yourself, facing difficulties sometimes in life or death situations. The challenge of walking with others and hitting off them and sometimes eventually losing your sharp edges.

The walk is an invitation to go inwards and discover who you are, what you are made of? It gives you a change to examine your life so far, the emotions, the things facing you now. It breaks you open, it questions you.

There are two main characters – each chapter alternatively told between Martin and Zoe.  I came to love them both and to be honest it was with regret that I closed the book and let them go.  I loved how Zoe really came into herself, it was wonderful to watch. Martin took a little longer but the lessons he learned so important and most likely apply to us all.

There were many other pilgrims along the way, as well those who ran the hostels and places where the pilgrims stayed. The description of the walk was very real, the places so well described. As both authors have walked the walks of Zoe and Martin it rang with authenticity.

I started this book with a little caution, I finished it with a gratefulness for the experience.

Review

The Greatest Gift by Rachael Johns

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Published: MIRA (Australia)
Date: 23rd October 2017
Format: e-ARC
Pages: 416
Genre: General Fiction
Source: Publisher via NetGalley

Rating
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Radio host Harper Drummond lives for her career. Every day she meets fascinating people doing extraordinary things, but has begun to wonder whether there could something more for her out there. She’s financially secure, happily married to Samuel and has a great group of friends — what more could she want? It’s only when she interviews one special couple that she starts to think about whether she could make a different kind of contribution.

Claire and Jasper Beggs are passionate about their thriving hot air balloon business and know they’re lucky to find such joy in their work and in each other. But while Jasper has accepted that he will never be a father, Claire has found it hard to come to terms with her infertility. She doesn’t want Jasper to regret choosing her over a child in the years to come. Is there a way to give themselves a real chance at being a happy family?

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In her latest book The Greatest Gift Rachael Johns explores the issues of wanting children but being infertile and the amazing role those who make egg donations take on, to help those who have a strong desire to be a parent. This was actually a new idea to me, not sure why I hadn’t heard of it before but I hadn’t and so this book was a marvellous way for me to gain insight into it.

Harper is a woman who doesn’t want children and neither does her husband Samuel. However Harper does want to contribute and find deeper meaning in her life so she decides to explore the possibility of donating some of her eggs. Thereby creating the greatest gift.

Claire is infertile due to a childhood illness and so when she wants children one possibility is to look for an egg donor. In Australia this is unpaid and donors willingly make the gift. How things follow up in terms of whether the egg donor has any further communication with the new parents was another interesting aspect.

Of course this is a story that does not just go from A to B and new baby and every one goes home happy. Rachael Johns throws in a few curly twists and turns that made for some heart in the mouth reading.

I liked the development of the characters, especially that of Harper – her journey was in the end the one that grabbed me. Jasper – husband of Claire, was another character whose reactions and feelings seemed totally believable. How they change and take up the challenges of the journey they are on made for some very good reading.