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rathertoofondofbooks

Rather Too Fond Of Books

Hi, I'm Hayley,

 

I've been reading books for as long as I can remember and have recently re-discovered my book blog (Rather Too Fond of Books), which has made me excited to have a place to share what I'm reading, to review some books and to share my bookish memories. I have combined a newer blog of mine with this one and this is where I'll always post.

 

I am happy to consider any books to review. I post all of my reviews on here and on my book likes page, then I will be promoting the posts on Twitter and Facebook.

 

My email: rathertoofondofbooks@gmail.com

 

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Review: The Winter Wedding by Abby Clements

Confetti at Christmas - Abby Clements

I’m a huge fan of Abby Clements and always look forward to a new novel from her. I especially loved her Christmas novel, Meet Me Under the Mistletoe, so when I was offered a chance to read this novel, I jumped at the chance.

 

Hazel feels lost when her sister moves out of the flat they share. She struggles with the idea of a new flat mate and she’s not getting the chances she deserves at work. Her life seems to be standing still while those around her are moving on at great pace. Lila asks Hazel to help plan her wedding and a sideline job is born for Hazel as guests at Lila’s wedding ask her to help plan their big day. She enjoys helping these couples out but her heart is really in the miniature sets she’s been creating in secret.

 

Hazel’s love life is at something of a standstill too ever since she made a pass at her best friend Sam the previous Christmas. With terrible timing she begins to realise she has fluttery feelings for her work colleague Josh just at the time he asks her to plan his wedding to Sarah.

 

I loved Hazel and was willing her on to find happiness throughout this novel. She was such a likeable character who I warmed to straight away, she is such a well-rounded character that she felt like someone I actually knew. I loved seeing her friendship with Amber grow.

 

I enjoyed how the novel kept taking me in different directions with regards to not only who Hazel might end up with but also if she’d end up with someone at all. I so wanted her to find her Mr Right and didn’t want her to either settle for steady or to be responsible for breaking up someone else’s relationship. I felt all warm and fuzzy when the right man saw Hazel’s miniature set designs and encouraged her to follow her dreams.

 

I loved the descriptions of the miniature sets that Hazel created, I could picture them so vividly. I wish these sets really existed, I’d love to see them and be able to buy them as gifts. How lovely it would be to have a miniature set of your wedding day!

 

This book is a warm and cosy read, perfect for curling up with on a cold winter night. It’s not a festive read but it still has a sense of the festive because it is mainly set in the winter and in the run up to a Christmas wedding.

 

I rate this book 4.5 out of 5.

 

I received this book from Simon and Schuster in exchange for an honest review.

 

The Winter Wedding is out now and available from Amazon.

 

This review was originally posted on my blog: RatherTooFondofBooks

Source: http://rathertoofondofbooks.wordpress.com/2015/11/19/review-the-winter-wedding-by-abby-clements

Review: Sky Lantern by Matt Mikalatos

Sky Lantern: The Story of a Father's Love for His Children and the Healing Power of the Smallest Act of Kindness - Matt Mikalatos

Sky Lantern is the story of a man who finds a sky lantern at the end of his driveway, and on picking it up to put it in the bin notices a message written on it. The message is from someone called Steph and she has written it to her father about how much she misses him. Matt can’t help but think and reflect about how his own young daughters would feel if he were no longer with them, and it leads to him writing an open letter to Steph on his blog in the hope that one day she, or even his own daughters, might find the letter and be comforted.

 

Matt’s open letter is very moving. He deliberately made it quite non-specific so that it would apply universally but he talks about how proud a father is of his daughter and how much he loved her. He gives life advice about finding those who love you and filling your life with them. He explains that he knows you miss your father and that you can’t replace him but that you have to keep moving forward. I was crying by this point in the book, my mum died a few years ago and it made me think of her because it’s the sort of letter that I know she would have written if she had had more time. Matt’s letter reminded me a little of Mary Schmich’s commencement speech (that was later turned into a song by Baz Luhrmann called Wear Sunscreen). It’s a life-affirming letter that everyone will be able to take something from even if not all of it relates to them.

 

Matt’s letter ended up around the world, he received many letters from people who weren’t Steph but who appreciated the letter all the same and found comfort in it. He received many letters from women who believed they were the Steph who sent the lantern but even while Matt wasn’t sure they were the right Steph, he still wrote back and showed real kindness and compassion.

 

Throughout this book, Matt learns lessons himself about not taking his loved ones for granted. He is obviously a lovely dad to his children, but as is the case with all of us, life gets busy and sometimes we brush off a loved one wanting a few minutes of our time. Matt’s book is a reminder to always tell the people we love that we love them.

If I was to be at all critical it would be to say that at times this book does feel a little drawn out; I’m not sure that there was enough to make a full-length book out of this experience. Having said that, it is a very moving and life-affirming read and I’m sure it will offer great comfort to people who have been bereaved. I cried over a chapter where Matt wrote about loss and how we make sense of it and how our lives can never be the same. It’s the silly thing of still picking up the phone to call a loved one who has been gone for a while but in that moment our brains forget for an instant until the phone is in our hand. I did this so many times after my mum died so it resonated greatly for me.

 

It is wonderful that a new friendship came from Matt finding the sky lantern, and that he helped not just one woman find solace but hundreds or even thousands of people who were comforted by reading his letter. This beautiful book really is a lesson to us all that showing a little more kindness to others can go a really long way.

 

I rated this book 4 out of 5.

 

I received this book from Howard Books via Net Galley in exchange for an honest review.

 

Sky Lantern is out today and available from Amazon.

 

This review was originally posted on my blog: RatherTooFondofBooks

Source: http://rathertoofondofbooks.wordpress.com/2015/11/17/review-the-sky-lantern-by-matt-mikalatos

Review: The Single Feather by R. F. Hunt

The Single Feather - Ruth F Hunt

The Single Feather is a novel that takes an unflinching look at what it is like to be disabled in modern Britain and it doesn’t shy away from confronting the big issues.

 

Rachel is paralysed from the waist down; she has recently escaped a terrible situation and has moved into an adapted home in a small town. She is trying to come to terms with the new reality of her life and eventually joins a local art class in an attempt to meet some new people and to make friends.

 

This book was a difficult read for me at times, but it’s an important read at the same time. Hunt doesn’t shy away from showing the very real prejudices that disabled people still experience. The way that Rachel was treated by the guards was extreme but it made a very important point about the lack of care given to disabled people at times and the lack of dignity that is so often a common experience. Likewise, with the words that some of the people in the art group used. Anne always referred to Rachel as handicapped, and Rachel felt uncomfortable explaining that disabled is a more socially acceptable word. Hunt cleverly distinguishes between the genuine malice in the way Rachel was treated in the past, and how often some people just don’t realise that the terms they are using are offensive. It doesn’t make it alright but there is a big difference between ignorance and intolerance and I’m glad this was shown in this novel.

 

This is a novel that starts off quite slowly but Hunt gradually builds it up and it really comes into it’s own as you get a bit further into it. Once the back story of the characters starts to come through, you begin to understand their struggles and their motivations. The way they had behaved earlier in the novel began to make sense and it became possible to have real sympathy and understanding for them. Hunt never shies away from the realities of disability or mental health, and in this novel she really demonstrates that old adage about how everyone is fighting their own battle, you just might not know it. Hunt really does give you something to think about.

 

I wish the reveal about what really caused Rachel’s disability had come earlier in the novel as when it eventually is revealed it allows us to understand so much more about who she is, and perhaps would’ve have given the earlier parts of the novel a bit more depth. Having said that, I do completely understand how difficult it is to explain, for many reasons, what your disability is and what caused it so it does make sense that Rachel felt such reticence to be open.

 

I really enjoyed Kate and Rachel’s budding friendship, and as this became a closer friendship and we got to know more about them both it really added to the novel. I think Kate became my favourite character, she was well-adjusted and had the strength to speak out when necessary.

 

There was much more introspection as the novel neared its end and I found some of it very powerful. The part where Rachel finally understands what her mum meant by it being her own views that needed changing, was striking. The idea that sometimes, as a disabled person, it is easy to sometimes assume that the whole world is automatically going to be against you because of how some people have treated you in the past. Once Rachel opened up about the past and began to share with select members of the group they all had a new-found respect and a deeper connection with her. Kate’s words of wisdom stuck out the most for me though when she was trying to get Rachel to understand that just because people don’t always mention her wheelchair or her disability it doesn’t automatically mean they’re feeling awkward about it; sometimes people see the person first and the disability and the wheelchair fade away because they’re not important. These words had such resonance for me and I’m going to be taking Kate’s advice on board in my own life.

 

Ultimately, what really shines out of this novel is its representation of disability and mental health; how it shows a young woman doing her best to find a new normal and who is getting on with her life in spite of her disability, and there are very, very few books, if any, that show this. I rate this novel 4 out of 5 stars.

 

I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

 

The Single Feather is out now and available from Amazon.

 

This review was originally posted on my blog: RatherTooFondofBooks

Source: http://rathertoofondofbooks.wordpress.com/2015/11/16/review-the-single-feather-by-r-f-hunt

Review: What Happens at Christmas by T. A. Williams

What Happens At Christmas... - A.T. Williams

What Happens at Christmas is a gorgeous, feel-good novel that has some real depth to it. Holly Brice has recently found out that her estranged father has died and that she has inherited his cottage in a quaint little village in Dartmoor. Holly makes a trip to the remote village to clear the cottage out to get it ready for selling and it ends up being a real trip down memory lane for her. Holly also discovers that not only has she inherited her father’s home but also his lovely one-year-old labrador, named Stirling.

 

Holly ends up on a real journey of discovery as she gets to know some of the locals in the village and also as she begins to clear her dad’s cottage out. She discovers that she may not have known the whole truth about her dad and starts to see him in a different light. I found some of the things Holly finds out about her dad incredibly moving. It was lovely to to see how Stirling was so in tune with Holly’s emotions and was always on hand to offer comfort.

 

Stirling was the star of this book for me, he was such an affectionate dog and so well-behaved that it’s impossible not to fall in love with him. He was a character in his own right and I really loved how an animal could be written into the story in such a big way.

Holly soon meets the desirable men in the village: Jack the handsome and lovely next-door neighbour, who is a bit mysterious; Justin, who is also a very attractive man but who has issues of his own to work though; and Howard who is lovely and just a little flirtatious in a harmless way.

 

I love that this book was set in the few days leading up to Christmas, it really did make me feel festive. Often with Christmas novels they are set in the months or year leading up to Christmas but there is something really lovely about a novel where the whole book is set in the immediate run up to Christmas.

 

This novel has everything you could possibly want in a Christmas story! It’s set at Christmas, it’s in a gorgeous location, it’s heart-breaking but more so it’s heart-warming, it has romance, it has crackly log fires, and it has snow!

 

I rate this book 8 out of 10 and recommend it to anyone who’s looking for a heart-warming Christmas novel.

 

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

 

What Happens at Christmas is out now and available to buy from Amazon.

 

This review was originally posted on my blog: RatherTooFondofbooks

 

Source: http://rathertoofondofbooks.wordpress.com/2015/11/12/blog-tourreview-excerpt-what-happens-at-christmas-by-t-a-williams

Review: Wendy Darling by Colleen Oakes

Wendy Darling: Stars - Colleen Oakes

I can never resist books that are in any way connected to Peter Pan, I’m just fascinated by Neverland and what it represents. So when I was offered the chance to review Wendy Darling, I couldn’t say yes fast enough!

 

Wendy Darling is a re-telling of Peter Pan told from 16 year old Wendy’s perspective. John is Mr Darling’s favourite child and Wendy feels desperate to be noticed by her father, she tries so hard to see the star that John can see so easily but she struggles and the disappointment she feels from her father is palpable.

 

Wendy spends as much time as she can visiting the local bookshop. She loves to read, but even more than that she loves to visit the bookseller’s son Booth. The two are growing closer but their romance seems to be doomed from the start as society dictates that Booth is just not an appropriate suitor so they meet in secret.

 

One night Mr and Mrs Darling go out for the evening and something very strange happens at the house. It is really quite sinister and leaves the children feeling very shaken, until Peter Pan appears at the window and takes them all off on an adventure.

I have to be honest and say I found some of the things that happened in Neverland a little long-winded and slow, I was initially more captivated by Wendy’s romance with Booth and was longing to see more of that, I didn’t want to be taken away from that storyline. Having said that, where the book keeps you hooked is with this much more overtly sinister version of Neverland. It was always possible to see the darkness in JM Barrie’s original story but it’s much more extreme in Oakes’ re-telling. Oakes takes the nightmarish elements to fantastic extremes and danger is everywhere, especially for Wendy. It’s about how nothing is as it seems, and the idealism of a perfect world is never going to be as you’d thought.

 

Peter Pan has always felt a little creepy to me but in this version he is sociopathic. He appears very loving and kind one minute and the next his personality becomes very menacing, and actually often downright evil. I loved that Wendy was older in this re-telling as it gives a whole new dynamic to her and Peter’s relationship. There is an undeniable sexual chemistry from the beginning of the book, Wendy is drawn to him and cannot stop herself from staring at him and wanting to be closer to him. Peter ultimately uses this against her though and there are a couple of scenes later in the book that are very shocking and disturbing. The contrast between the rather innocent kissing with Booth and the way that Peter Pan treats Wendy really highlights the way that Neverland represents the desires of a teenage girl and her inability to fully comprehend how dangerous the world can be for someone still so naive and innocent.

 

Wendy Darling is ultimately the story of an awakening, it’s about Wendy discovering her power as a young woman and how she can fight back against the things that imprison her. It’s about her discovering her longing to be a mother; the way Wendy takes to nurturing the lost boys is beautiful, she seems to have found her place with them and they adoringly look up to her wanting her to be their mother. I did very much appreciate how empowered Wendy is in this re-telling; she’s been taken from a character who is almost always portrayed as weak just because she’s just a girl to a young woman who can stand her ground, and who will speak up when she feels she needs to. It was fascinating to see the character of Wendy in this way.

 

I do have a real bugbear with this book though and that is that even when a book is a part of a series I strongly feel that each book in the series should have some sort of ending. I know they have to lead into the next book so you will want to buy it but this novel just stops and ends with the title of the next book. I have to be honest and say that this really irritated me and I’m not sure that I would read the next one because I would always be wondering if I was ever going to get an ending. I love open endings, I enjoy being left with lots to think about but to just stop dead at the end of a scene and announce the next book is actually infuriating.

 

There are aspects of this novel that are fascinating and compelling, but there are times when it falls a little flat and the lack of an ending is something I can’t ignore so I rate this novel 7 out of 10. I still highly recommend it, especially to people who are fascinated by Peter Pan, it’s a brilliant look at his character and it takes him to really sinister levels that always seem to be underlying his character in the original story.

 

I received this book from SparkPress in exchange for an honest review.

 

Wendy Darling is out now and available from Amazon.

 

This review was originally posted on my blog: RatherTooFondofbooks

 

Source: http://rathertoofondofbooks.wordpress.com/2015/11/10/review-wendy-darling-by-colleen-oakes

Review & Giveaway: What Rosie Found Next by Helen J Rolfe

What Rosie Found Next (Magnolia Creek Series Book 1) - Helen J Rolfe

What Rosie Found Next is a gorgeous story about Rosie Stevens, a professional house sitter who hasn’t had the easiest life but is trying to move forward. She just wants to settle down and have some stability and security. Adam is Rosie’s long-term boyfriend but he’s very career-driven and, in the short term, this keeps preventing them from having the life that Rosie craves. Owen is the son of the home owners that Rosie is now house-sitting for. Owen is the opposite of Rosie, he leads a nomadic lifestyle with no home of his own and has no intentions of settling down with anyone ever.

 

I loved the dynamic between Owen and Rosie! From the very beginning, when he arrives unannounced at his parents’ home where Rosie is housesitting, and immediately starts antagonising her it was apparent that there was an underlying chemistry between these two characters. So from the start I was very much looking forward to seeing how things developed between them. As the novel went on, I really did like how these two characters became closer, they  got to be friends and started looking out for each other and forming a much deeper connection. It wasn’t a straightforward boy meets girl novel and I very much enjoyed that it was different.

 

The mystery element, regarding Owen’s family, that runs through much of this novel was really interesting. I couldn’t work out why Owen was so set on searching his parents’ house but it is apparent that whatever secret is being kept from him, it’s something that has been affecting him for a long time and has perhaps made him the way he is. It works well because Owen goes away to find out the truth about the past and in his time away from Rosie we get to see the development of his character through what he finds out.

I adored Magnolia Creek, what a gorgeous setting; the descriptions of the town are such that you can really picture the place and I’d love to actually go visit! I loved Bella’s cafe, and Bella herself. She is the lynch-pin of the town bringing everyone together and lifting their worries for a little while with tea and freshly-baked scones.

 

I really enjoyed this novel, it was different to what I had been expecting but I loved that parts of it surprised me. It has a real depth to it and I became so invested in these characters and was really willing them on to find happiness. It’s a really heart-warming read and I can’t wait to read more books by Helen J. Rolfe in the future!

I rate this novel 8 out of 10.

 

What Rosie Found Next is out now and available from AMAZON UK and AMAZON US

Thank you to Brook Cottage Books for sending me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

 

This review was originally posted on my blog: RatherTooFondofbooks

 

There is a giveaway on my blog with a chance to win a £10/$15 Amazon gift card so please check out my blog (RatherTooFondofbooks) for all the details!

Source: http://rathertoofondofbooks.wordpress.com/2015/11/09/blog-tour-giveaway-review-what-rosie-found-next-by-helen-j-rolfe

Review: The Boy at the Beach – Short Story (Meet Cute) by Katey Lovell

The Boy at the Beach: A Short Story (The Meet Cute) - Katey Lovell

This is the second short story in Katey Lovell’s new Meet Cute series. I loved the first one because I can’t resist books or stories about bookshops (my review for that one is here). This second book was irresistible to me because it’s about two people who meet online. I met my husband on twitter many years ago so stories about couples who met online always interest me.

 

This story is a little different from the first one in that the majority of the story is about the two characters getting to know each other online, but it always feels absolutely believable that Lauren was beginning to fall for this boy through emails. I could feel the butterflies that Lauren had in the build up to her meeting Toby; she had already developed feelings for him and so badly wants to feel the same way when he’s standing in front of her, to find out if the chemistry they’ve felt through emails is there in real life. For me, this story had more depth to it than the first one because there is naturally more back story with them communicating online from the start.

 

The actual meet up is gorgeous. I reckon a few years from now these two could well be happily married and planning their whole lives together!

 

The amount of detail Katey packs into these short stories is incredible, she is such a talented writer. I’m not the biggest fan of short stories but these stories have me hooked, I found myself completely absorbed in this one. They are so succinctly written, it feels like it surely must have been longer than it was because it’s such a complete story – it has everything you could want in a meet cute!

 

I was very pleasantly surprised at just how different this story is to the first one, I did wonder if a series of very short stories all with the same theme of a meet cute might seem a little formulaic but I could not have been more wrong. Katey’s writing style is recognisable but beyond that this story is completely different. I can’t wait for the next one now!

 

This story cannot fail to make you feel smiley; it’s impossible for it not to give you a mood boost too so it’s perfect for a coffee break when you might want a little escape to a different place for ten minutes. I highly recommend this story, it’s fabulous! I rate it 10 out of 10.

 

The Boy at the Beach is available now on Amazon. The third story in this series, The Boy at the Bakery is available for pre-order on Amazon and is due to be published on 12th November.

 

This review was originally posted on my blog: RatherTooFondofbooks

 
Source: http://rathertoofondofbooks.wordpress.com/2015/11/08/review-the-boy-at-the-beach-short-story-meet-cute-by-katey-lovell

Review: The Boy in the Bookshop – A Short Story (Meet Cute) by Katey Lovell

The Boy in the Bookshop: A Short Story (The Meet Cute) - Katey Lovell

The Boy in the Bookshop is the first in a new series of short stories. I don’t normally buy single short stories but I just couldn’t resist giving this one a try; I’m utterly powerless to resist a book or short story set in a book shop and I’m so glad I picked this up, it’s gorgeous!

 

This is a very short read and is absolutely perfect for a coffee break. Katey has packed so much into this story, it’s wonderful. The Beautiful Books bookshop sounds amazing and I really want to go there. Jade works in the book shop, and the cute boy is a customer; it’s very succinctly written with all the detail you need to fall in love with the characters and the story itself. You’re left with such a warm, fuzzy feeling by the end of the story!

 

This is such a fabulous meet cute, I love Katey’s writing style and I can’t wait to read more by her. In fact, I’ve just been to Amazon and bought the second one in the series, and pre-ordered the third! I’m hooked on these Meet Cute books!

 

I rate this 10 out of 10.

 

The Boy in the Bookshop is out now and available from Amazon.

 

This review was originally posted on my blog: RatherTooFondofBooks

Source: http://rathertoofondofbooks.wordpress.com/2015/11/07/review-the-boy-in-the-bookshop-a-short-story-meet-cute-by-katey-lovell

Review: How To Stuff Up Christmas by Rosie Blake

How to Stuff Up Christmas - Rosie Blake

How To Stuff Up Christmas is a brilliant novel that is both hilariously funny and incredibly heart-warming, I enjoyed reading it so much!

 

Eve recently split up with her fiancé after she accidentally spotted a rather incriminating photo on his phone. After spending a couple of months feeling heartbroken, Eve realises that she can’t face spending Christmas with her family this year as there will be too many reminders of how happy she was the previous Christmas when she and Liam got engaged. Eve considers lots of options for her break but in the end she rents a narrowboat for a month so that her dog, Marmite can go with her. She also signs up for pottery classes to keep her occupied while she’s away.

 

Greg is a man of mystery for quite a lot of the novel. He is obviously a lovely man, he’s a vet with a heart of gold who not only wants to do the best for the animals he cares for but he shows real kindness to their owners too. Greg has something in his private life that he doesn’t want to talk about and it’s weighing heavily on him.

 

Greg and Eve meet when he comes to her rescue, there is obviously a mutual attraction between them but they’re both wary of getting involved. They become friends and Greg helps Eve learn to cook. At some points in the novel the story is told from Eve’s point of view and then in the next chapter there is the same scene told from Greg’s perspective. It was great to see how they were both really feeling, and it really showed how they were putting their guards up to protect themselves from getting hurt. It made me want to climb into the novel and tell them to give each other a chance, I was willing them to get together!

 

I loved Eve’s friendship with Daisy. The way they were together at work finding ways to run rings around their boss, the way Daisy supports Eve through her break up with Liam. It’s the kind of friendship we’d all love to have; the kind of friend who’ll forgive you for giving them food poisoning! I spent the novel hoping that Daisy didn’t know anything that could hurt Eve, it was worrying because sometimes even your best friends can let you down.

 

The closer it got to Christmas the more I was willing Eve’s broken heart to heal faster. Her family have always made a big deal of Christmas, like most families they have their traditions and they stick to them every year. Eve’s family really don’t want her to go away for Christmas and her mum especially doesn’t want to face the fact that she really isn’t planning on being there. It made me sad to think that Eve, who had always had such wonderful, big happy Christmases could feel they were completely ruined by Liam. It made me hate Liam even more for what he’d done!

 

There are some brilliant characters in this novel. I especially loved Eve’s colourblind dad and all his wacky outfits, and I nearly spat my drink out laughing when we met Minnie at the art course and she describes to Raj what she’s making in the pottery class! I just wasn’t expecting her to say what she did, it’s hysterical! I have to mention the crazy geese too, they were funny (and also a little bit terrifying!).

 

I also loved the recipes at the start of some of the chapters; the recipes always relate to food that is mentioned in the chapter. I thought it was brilliant how in amongst recipes for chocolate biscuit cake and gingerbread were recipes for making a Pot Noodle and beans on toast – this made me laugh so much. It just said so much about Eve’s ability to cook!

This is such an enjoyable novel and I highly recommend you buy it! It’s heart-warming, it’s hilarious, it’s just a perfect book to curl up with on these cold autumn/winter nights!

I rate this book 8 out of 10, it’s such an enjoyable read. This is the first novel I’ve read by Rosie Blake but I’ve already bought her previous book, How To Get A (Love) Life and hope to read it very soon.

 

Thank you to Corvus for very kindly sending me How To Stuff Up Christmas.

 

How To Stuff Up Christmas is out today and available on Amazon.

 

This review was originally posted on my blog: RatherTooFondofBooks

 
Source: http://rathertoofondofbooks.wordpress.com/2015/11/05/review-how-to-stuff-up-christmas-by-rosie-blake

Review: Out of the Darkness by Katy Hogan (and a giveaway for those in the UK)

Out of the darkness: A tale of love, loss and life after death - katy hogan

Out of the Darkness is genuinely one of the best books I’ve read in years and will absolutely be in my top 10 books of this year!

 

it is an incredibly moving, and very beautiful novel about three women who are each dealing with a loss; it’s a really honest look at the ways people grieve and how it affects everyone around them, but it’s also about the way people heal after loss and the novel is ultimately a very uplifting read that brings real solace with it.

 

Jessica is heartbroken over the death of her mum, they were best friends and life just doesn’t feel worth anything to her anymore. She sleepwalks through the things she has to do but nothing is enjoyable to her, she just can’t see a way through life without her mum. Then one evening she meets Finn and the two of them just really connect. Finn is the first person to make Jess feel like there might be something to be happy about again and she hopes he will be in touch again after they go their separate ways the following morning.

 

Hannah attends the same bereavement group as Jess but she is completely closed down about her loss. She is grief-stricken and it’s affecting every aspect of her life, she is consumed with guilt but just can’t bring herself to share what has happened.

 

Alex has just moved to Brighton, and is now living in the house next to where the bereavement group is held. Soon after moving in strange things begin happening in her home and she starts to think the place is haunted.

 

One day, after the bereavement group, Jess faints outside and Alex and Hannah rush to help her and make sure she is okay. From this point the three women become friends and offer a much-needed support to each other. Their lives begin to become intwined and the psychic medium they later go and see together plays a huge part in the bond they form.

 

This novel is an exploration of how people deal with grief. Jess and Hannah both grieve differently for their losses loved ones but ultimately they relate to each other because they have both experienced loss. The three women have such different expectations when they begin to explore mediums and experts in the paranormal. Hannah wants to know her loved one is okay, Alex wants to know if her house is haunted and what she can do to be rid of the ghosts, and Jessica doesn’t really believe in any of it. Yet they all ultimately find comfort from what they learn. I found it fascinating how the idea of ghosts and the spirits that come through for psychic mediums were explored as one and the same thing in this novel. I think most of us think of ghosts as being a spooky or malevolent entity, and yet when we think of the possibly of an afterlife for lost loved ones, it is seen as a comforting concept. Katy Hogan has brought the two together as one thing, considering the idea that perhaps ghosts can be lost loved ones trying to contact or help those left behind. It gave me a lot to ponder over.

 

This is also a novel that really celebrates how wonderful and strong female friendship can be. Jess and Hannah meet at a bereavement group at the lowest points of their lives, and they meet Alex right after one of these meetings. They begin to let each other in to their respective lives and they form such a close bond very quickly, and the bond is never broken. To see women support each other was really lovely. There was never a moment of jealousy or cattiness between these women, it’s quite a rare thing in a novel. It was refreshing to see how their relationship to each other is bonded by how they support and look out for each other.

 

I deliberately took my time with this book and I read it slowly over quite a few days as I wanted to savour it and take it all in, I’m so glad I did as it gave me chance to really absorb what I was reading each day. This novel has so much depth to it and works on so many levels, it is such brilliant writing. The friendship between Jess, Alex and Hannah is a wonderful story in itself and gives the novel a grounding in reality that then makes the exploration of mediums and the afterlife much more intense and real. I think the biggest theme in this book though is the exploration of fate and destiny. From the very start of this book it felt like these women were destined to meet, like they were being brought together for a reason. I had no idea why but it just felt that way. Even Jess meeting Finn and him making her feel like she might be able to be happy again just seemed like either fate or like something was pushing them towards each other. This again gave me so much to think about because fate can be considered as just a series of coincidences that when we look back and see how things came together it seems like it was engineered that way, or it can be seen as our lost loved ones finding ways to point us in the direction we need to go in to find happiness again.

 

This novel can also be read on a very metaphorical and at times allegorical way, I loved the part of the book where Alex goes out on a boat called Guiding Light. It seemed like she was almost out of her own body and seeing the world from a different angle, and at the same time like she was receiving a message about the direction of her own life. I don’t want to post any spoilers for this novel so I’m being careful in what I write but I highly recommend taking your time with this novel so you can fully appreciate how much meaning and depth there is in it.

 

Out of the Darkness broke my heart in the first few chapters; I could feel Jess’s devastation at the loss of her mum. I wanted to reach through the pages of the book and tell her that in time she would feel better, that she would be able to deal with it once the rawness of her initial grief began to pass. I understood her feelings about visiting The Beacon to see a paranormal expert for the first time with Alex. I’m very like Jessica in that I’ve never really believed in an afterlife but then I still have moments where I can smell my mum’s perfume all of a sudden and it’s like she’s right there in the room, and just for that moment I stop and wonder. Perhaps it’s just a memory popping up but you can’t help but feel comforted when it happens, just like how Jess does.

 

Katy Hogan explores grief in such a beautiful and gentle way. She has written a book that will more than likely make you cry but it will ultimately leave you feeling healed. I wish I could put into words exactly how this book made me feel when I got to the end but I can’t seem to express it, it’s just the most amazing and brilliant novel and it made me feel better. I read this as an ebook but now so badly wish I had a paper copy so I could just hold it for a little while and then put it down where I can see it. I think I need a physical reminder in my home of all that this book stands for. It doesn’t shy away from death, it doesn’t take an easy road. At times the story turns in a way you don’t expect and it leaves you quite breathless. But ultimately this book makes death feel a lot less scary, and it makes the weight of grief feel that little bit easier to bear.

 

Out of the Darkness is absolutely going to be my book of the year. It’s both broken my heart and healed it; it was moving and beautiful and perfect. I’d rate it a hundred out of ten if I could, but as I can’t it’s a huge ten out of ten and it’s getting a very rare place on my favourites book shelf.

 

Out of the Darkness: A Tale of Love, Loss and Life After Death is out now and available from Amazon.

 

For more information about Katy and Out of the Darkness, check out her website here: http://www.outofthedarknessnovel.com

 

This review was originally posted on my blog: RatherTooFondofBooks

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Katy Hogan has very kindly offered me a fabulous prize package so that I can run a giveaway. The giveaway is UK only this time. The prize is for one paperback copy of Out of the Darkness, a gorgeous Yankee Candle and a box of chocolates from Hotel Chocolat. 

 

 

 

To enter, please visit the review on my blog and follow the information on there:

 

Out of Darkness Review at RatherTooFondofBooks

 

Good luck!

 

Source: http://rathertoofondofbooks.wordpress.com/2015/11/04/review-giveaway-uk-of-out-of-the-darkness-by-katy-hogan

Review: Time to Die by Caroline Mitchell

Time to Die  - Caroline Mitchell

Time to Die is a real thriller of a book and the supernatural aspects of it will have you on the edge of your seat throughout! This is the second book in the series about psychic detective Jennifer Knight, but it’s the first one I’ve read and it works perfectly well as a standalone. Jennifer is working as part of Operation Moonlight, a group of officers who deal with cases that have a paranormal angle to them. They are currently working on infiltrating a particularly disrtubing cult known as The Reborners.

 

Whilst in the midst of that case Jennifer is called out to a suspected suicide but it soon becomes apparent that all is not quite as it seemed. Operation Moonlight begin to wonder if there could be a connection to The Reborners. The officers’ abilities are tested to the limit when they realise they have a serial killer on their hands, he is known as The Raven; he has psychic abilities of his own and can seemingly use his tarot cards to predict the deaths of everyone he reads the cards for. The more we learn about The Raven the more creepy and sinister the novel gets.

 

There is definitely a nod to Hitchcock throughout this novel, there are elements of Psycho and The Birds. The scene in the woods with the ravens and Jennifer is the stuff of nightmares, but even the way ravens seem to be following Jennifer or waiting for her when she comes home is incredibly creepy; it really is sinister.

 

I liked Jennifer, she was an interesting character and I’d like to know more about her. I found the way she and The Raven had little quirks in common made the novel fascinating, like they almost mirrored each other at times, with her on the good side and he on the evil. The Raven was always scratching at his skin and Jennifer has OCD when it comes to keeping her hands clean, they both had visions that at times seemed to be connected. I also liked that Jennifer’s past was delved into a little bit and also that we begin to see her form a relationship, it was great to see a well-rounded detective; it wasn’t just about her psychic abilities and her desire to solve the case.

 

The reason I haven’t read Caroline’s first novel yet, and why I put off reading this one is because I’m a total wimp, and the thought of anything supernatural or paranormal just absolutely terrifies me. I’m so glad that I was encouraged to pick this book up though because while it was the stuff of nightmares for me, I found I couldn’t put it down. It’s such a well-written novel that even though there were times I was quite literally on the edge of my seat, holding my breath with fear, I just had to keep reading. It is so good!

 

I rate this book 8 out of 10. This was the first book I’ve read by Caroline Mitchell but I’m definitely going to go back and read the first book in this series, and I absolutely can’t wait for the next book!

 

I received this book from Bookouture via Net Galley in exchange for an honest review.

 

Time to Die is out now and available from Amazon.

 

This review was originally posted on my blog: RatherTooFondofBooks

Source: http://rathertoofondofbooks.wordpress.com/2015/11/03/review-time-to-die-by-caroline-mitchell

Review: The Little Bookshop on the Seine by Rebecca Raisin

The Little Bookshop on the Seine (Once in a Lifetime: The Little Paris Collection - Book 1) (The Bookshop series) - Rebecca Raisin

I knew I was going to love The Little Bookshop on the Seine as soon as I read the blurb, it just sounded magical and exactly my type of book. I’ve always adored books about books and bookshops.

 

Sarah runs a little bookshop in Ashford, a small town where she has always lived, and where she knows everyone and everyone knows her. She gets offered the chance to do a six-month book shop swap with her dear friend Sophie, who runs the Once Upon a Time book shop in Paris and decides to go for it.

 

Sarah is a total romantic, she is whimsical and a daydreamer. She adores her books and she absolutely believes in happily ever afters. She’s always wanted to go to Paris and immediately dreams about exploring the city hand-in-hand with her man, Ridge, but it doesn’t quite go as she imagines it would. She finds she has to hit the ground running when she arrives in Paris. Once Upon a Time is a very busy shop with staff that seem to come and go at will, and who offer no support to Sarah. She quickly becomes exhausted and stressed and begins to question whether she has made the right decision in coming to Paris.

 

Then she meets Oceane, who also works at Once Upon a Time part-time, and she takes Sarah under her wing. She helps her shop for new clothes to update her look, she encourages her to take time away from the shop and helps her to explore the real Paris and not just the tourist side of the city. Oceane introduces Sarah to Anouk, who runs an antique jewellery shop, and I loved meeting her. She is just so quirky; the idea that she picks pieces out for customers and will only sell them what she feels is right for them! Just wonderful!

 

I assumed this novel was going to be focused on the romance between Sarah and Ridge but actually that isn’t really the main focus at all. Their relationship doesn’t quite go as Sarah hoped while she is in Paris and the romance of the book is actually very much more between Sarah and Paris itself. She falls head over heels in love with the city as it begins to cast its magical spell on her. Sarah goes from being quite naive and gauche to slowly, with Oceane’s help, beginning to find her sense of style and to dress with a more chic Parisian look. She gradually becomes more comfortable with the language and it’s wonderful to see her confidence grow. Sarah really does find herself in Paris, she becomes bolder and stronger and it’s wonderful to see. I loved that she never stops being herself though: she doesn’t change into a different person entirely, you still see all her nervous tics but she becomes the best version of herself. It was great how the focus wasn’t what I expected, it added another dimension to the novel.

 

I adore the way Sarah feels about her books; her ‘book babies’ as she refers to them. The sound of a spine cracking, the way old books smell, the ‘lemony-scent’ of new books. I swear I could hear and see and smell everything that Sarah was experiencing in the book shop, the descriptions were that vivid. The sheer love of books just radiates off the page in this novel. Sarah’s face actually flushes with love at one point, like someone in the beginning of a new love affair, when she explores Once Upon a Time! I think all of us bookworms have been there on discovering a fantastic new book shop! I want to go visit Once Upon a Time, I want to sit and read in all the little rooms, I want to buy books there. This novel is a love letter to Paris, and even more so a love letter to books; it is absolutely a must-read book for book lovers.

 

I rated this book 10 out of 10, I absolutely loved it!

 

This review was originally posted on my blog: RatherTooFondofBooks

 

Source: http://rathertoofondofbooks.wordpress.com/2015/11/02/review-the-little-bookshop-on-the-seine-by-rebecca-raisin

Review: Merry Mistletoe by Emma Davies

Merry Mistletoe (Kindle Single) - Emma Davies

I loved this novella, it was just the kind of gentle and heart-warming book that I want to be reading at this time of year.

 

Freya Sherborne runs her family mistletoe business from her childhood home, but this year is her first Christmas running it alone after the death of her beloved father. The debts are mounting up and Freya knows she’s going to have to sell up very soon.

 

The novella is set out as a countdown to Christmas, starting 29 days before. I loved how it was set so close to Christmas and had the build-up, it meant it really was a proper festive read and that is my favourite kind of Christmas book!

 

I was intrigued by Amos Fry all through this novella, he’s a great character though. He was like a cross between Mary Poppins and Father Christmas and I loved how he seemed to be magically nudging things in the right direction for Freya to find happiness again.

 

I loved the symbolism of the white feathers that kept appearing throughout the novella, especially the one that appeared near the robin. This novella had a lot of symbols running through it, even the mistletoe itself and it was added an extra layer to the Christmas novel that I really appreciated. Christmas is forever changed when you lose a loved one but the symbols that are around can really offer comfort. I love how Freya and her father had bought a new tree ornament every year, and that Freya decided to continue with that after losing him. The tree ornament that she was helped to find for this year was so perfect, I wanted it to be from a real shop so that I could buy one!

 

This is the first book I’ve read by Emma Davies but it won’t be the last, it was wonderful. I’ve already bought Letting in Light and have it waiting for me on my TBR!

 

I rate this novella 9 out of 10.

 

I received this book from Lawsome Books via Net Galley in exchange for an honest review.

 

This review was originally posted on my blog: RatherTooFondofBooks

 

Source: http://rathertoofondofbooks.wordpress.com/2015/10/31/review-merry-mistletoe-by-emma-davies

Review: Written in the Scars by Mel Sherratt

Written in the Scars (The Estate Series Book 4) - Mel Sherratt

Written in the Scars is the fourth book in The Estate series, and although it can absolutely be read as a standalone I highly recommend reading the whole series purely because it’s brilliant and you don’t want to be missing out!

 

Donna Harvey is a hard-working mum to two grown up children, Sam and Keera, and still spends most of her time running around after them. She also frequently checks in on her elderly mother, Mary who has dementia and is living in a care home. Her life is hard and she feels very down-trodden so when she meets Owen and he lets her know he’s interested in her she is flattered and can’t wait for life to be more exciting and fun.

 

Lewis Prophett has been out of the army for two years but is still suffering with anger issues and flashbacks due to undiagnosed PTSD. As a result of his unpredictable behaviour he’s had to move out of the home he shared with his wife, Amy and their son, Daniel and is now back living with his mother. I commend Mel for how she portrayed this character, she absolutely got the presentation of PTSD right and really gives readers an insight into this terrible condition. I have personal experience of PTSD and it’s not often that it gets portrayed as well as it has been in this book.

 

Megan is a hard-working young woman who juggles her caring and her cleaning jobs along with caring for her mum, who is suffering from Osteoarthritis. She’s a lovely girl, and very pretty; she’s always pleasant and chatty with the people she looks after. Megan is hiding her own scars though. She has hidden herself away from the life she could be living as her scar has led to a real loss of confidence and she finds it hard to make friends.

 

Thank goodness that Josie Mellor still works on the Mitchell Estate, I was so pleased to see her in this novel. Josie has featured in all of the Estate books so far, and I love how her recurring appearances help tie the books together. It’s like catching up with an old friend, I actually do now feel like i know her! I love how she really cares about the people on the estate, she’s always fair and gives people a chance where she can but she doesn’t suffer fools and can be tough when it’s absolutely necessary.

 

I think this is my favourite of the Estate books, even though I’ve loved them all. The title is brilliant and absolutely sums up the theme of the book; the scars that all of these characters have tell the story of what they have been through, or are going through still. It’s great that scars were represented in so many different ways throughout this novel and after finishing reading it I was pondering on how actually every single character in this book, even the more minor ones have been damaged in their lives yet not all these characters openly seemed damaged. It shocked me to realise this and it really does give you something to think about.

 

The Estate series as a whole is so good, it’s gritty but with real heart and compassion. I hope there will be many more books to come!

 

I’m rating Written in the Scars 10 out of 10, it’s brilliant!

 

This review was originally posted on my blog: RatherTooFondofBooks

 

Source: http://rathertoofondofbooks.wordpress.com/2015/10/30/written-in-the-scars-by-mel-sherratt

Review: The Record Store of the Mind by Josh Rosenthal

The Record Store of the Mind - Josh Rosenthal

I’m a child of the 80s so I grew up listening to my mum’s records but by the time I was old enough to buy music of my own vinyl was rapidly disappearing to be replaced by cassette tapes, and actually not long after that CDs began to appear in the shops. I still have such nostalgia for my mum’s records though. So when my husband started talking about getting a new sound system, it was a no brainer that we’d look for a turntable. Now we’re slowly building up quite a collection of records, and everywhere we go we keep an eye out for record stores. I love reading about record stores too so when I spotted The Record Store of the Mind on Net Galley recently, I simply had to request it!

 

In the introduction, Rosenthal immediately evokes the feeling of being in a record store and the feeling you get when you inspire someone else to look through the crates of records. It’s a joy to read about how he took his children around record stores and flea markets looking for a gem.

 

It’s also a wonderful thing to read about how many record stores are still going strong in America. There is a revival happening in the UK and it’s a great thing to see; new independent record stores are beginning to appear on the high streets once more and even the chain retailers are putting in vinyl sections once again. It makes your heart sing and one can only hope that vinyl sales continue to grow!

 

Rosenthal then takes the reader, chapter by chapter, through his journey in music. He shares stories of musicians he’s met and worked with, and records he’s bought and loved. He brings to our attention a mix of well-known musicians and some you many not know so much about. I’ll be honest and admit that I hadn’t heard of many of the musicians in this book but I very much enjoyed discovering them and will be seeking out some of their music next time I’m in a record store. The sheer joy and passion that Rosenthal has for music and for the musicians he has known just radiates from the page, which makes this book such an engaging read.

 

In amongst the chapters devoted to musicians themselves there are chapters that have a wider subject matters such as one about gigs, one devoted to the period between 1989-1997. These chapters were perhaps a little more of interest as I felt my own knowledge and reference points  helped my understanding and enjoyment. Nevertheless, the book as a whole is a joy to read and has definitely widened my interest in music even further.

This book is a reflection of thirty years of work in the music industry. This year Rosenthal celebrated the tenth anniversary of his own label Tompkins Square. His book is partly a memoir and partly a critical look over the music industry. It’s also part love letter to his own treasured collection of records, as throughout the book he often refers back to his own private collection. It was heartbreaking to read of how he lost part of his record collection and music memorabilia in hurricane Sandy.

 

I loved the Of Musical Interest chapter, and the Listen Up list and the Tompkins Square Discography at the end of this book, I’m definitely going to be looking out for some of the records referred to in this book. I’m always interested to try new music and find new singers and bands to listen to. This is a book that can be used as a wonderful reference after you’ve read it, I know it’s one that I will come back to again and again.

 

This is a book for anyone who loves, or has ever loved, listening to music on vinyl. I rated it 8 out of 10 and highly recommend it.

 

I received this book from Tompkins Square Books via Net Galley in exchange for an honest review.

 

The Record Store of the Mind is out today and available from Amazon!

 

This review was originally posted on my blog: RatherTooFondofBooks

Source: http://rathertoofondofbooks.wordpress.com/2015/10/27/review-the-record-store-of-the-mind-by-josh-rosenthal

Review: What We Left Behind by Robin Talley

What We Left Behind - Robin Talley

This novel begins so beautifully. I adore how Toni met Gretchen at the dance and how they just knew they were going to be together. I loved how it was purely about two people discovering a mutual attraction without the novel being too specific about what gender or sexual orientation they were. It was gorgeous and I couldn’t wait to read more!

 

However, from the point when Toni and Gretchen leave for University it felt like this novel became less of a journey of discovery for these two characters and became more of a platform to educate the reader on issues surrounding gender identity. Toni prefers to be referred to in a gender neutral way, so no he or she. The problem is that when a novel is written like this it is incredibly jarring to read; to have a person’s name repeated two or three times in a single sentence, and then repeatedly through entire paragraphs means it just doesn’t flow at all well and I found it brought me out of the story too much. I absolutely understand that Talley was putting the reader right into Toni’s place and getting us to see the world through this character’s eyes, it’s about making us see and understand how hard it is to be gender neutral and I commend the attempt, but it prevented me from getting into the book so it was problematic.

 

Toni very quickly becomes one dimensional. All the thoughts and conversations Toni has throughout the book just felt like like I was being lectured to, it was all very dry and there was very little emotion, which made it hard to see Toni as any more than a platform for awareness of gender identity issues. This really did feel like less of a novel and more of a statement being made. I don’t think we really learnt anything about Toni other than the gender identity struggles, and then the struggles seemed to be explained over and over again without any progression. I know the issues in this book are incredibly important but a novel still needs to maintain a level of entertainment and to evoke feelings in the reader, and the characters still need to be fleshed out otherwise it stops the reader making any kind of connection with the book. For me, it doesn’t matter what a character in a book is experiencing, it doesn’t have to be something I have any experience of but the character has to be three dimensional otherwise it just becomes words on a page; to get really engrossed in a novel the characters have to become real to a reader.

 

I did find more to connect with in Gretchen due to her character being a little more rounded. We see more of Gretchen relating to her new friends about a range of things, which gives her an added dimension that Toni’s character never really has. The beginning of the book when Toni and Gretchen first meet, and the point when they finally figure out their relationship are about the only times in the novel when there was a lot of emotion and feelings and therefore more depth to Toni’s character, which made Toni, just for that brief time, seem real. I really wish we’d seen much more of this emotional side of Toni throughout the rest of the novel, it would have made the character feel like a person rather than a mouthpiece through which a point could be made.

 

I can appreciate what the author was trying to do in this novel but for me it just doesn’t achieve what it seems it meant to achieve.

 

I received a copy of this book from Mira Ink via Net Galley in exchange for an honest review.

 

What We Left Behind is out now and available on Amazon.

 

This review was originally posted on my blog: RatherTooFondofBooks

 

Source: http://rathertoofondofbooks.wordpress.com/2015/10/29/review-what-we-left-behind-by-robin-talley