The Olive Tree by Lucinda Riley

Olive Tree

The Olive Tree by Lucinda Riley

EXCERPT: July 2006 – Arrivals – Alex’s Diary
10th July 2006
For some reason, whenever I’m on a plane I think about dying. To be fair, I think about dying wherever I am. Perhaps being dead is a bit like the weightlessness you feel here, now, in this metal tube. My little sister asked if she was dead the last time we flew because someone told her Grandpa was up on a cloud. She thought she was joining him when we passed one.
Why do adults tell kids such ridiculous stories? It only leads to trouble. For myself, I never believed any of them?
My own mother gave up trying to use them on me years ago.
She loves me, my mother, even if I’ve morphed into Mr Blob in the past few months. And she promises that one day, I will have to crouch down to see my face in the water-splashed mirrors such as this one. I come from a family of tall men apparently. Not that this comforts me. I’ve read about genes skipping generations and knowing my luck, I shall be the first fat dwarf in hundreds of years of Beaumont males.
Besides, she forgets she’s ignoring the opposing DNA which helped create me . . .
It’s a conversation I am determined to have during this holiday. I don’t care how many times she tries to wimp out of it and conveniently changes the subject. A gooseberry bush for a father is no longer satisfactory.
I need to know.

ABOUT ‘THE OLIVE TREE’: Please be aware that in some parts of the world, this book is published under the title ‘Helena’s Secret’.

It is said that anyone who comes to stay at ‘Pandora’ for the first time will fall in love . . .

It has been twenty-four years since a young Helena spent a magical holiday in Cyprus, where she fell in love for the first time. When the now crumbling house, ‘Pandora’, is left to her by her godfather, she returns to spend the summer there with her family.

Yet Helena knows that the idyllic beauty of Pandora masks a web of secrets she has kept from William, her husband, and Alex, her son. At the difficult age of thirteen, Alex is torn between protecting his beloved mother, and growing up. And equally, he is desperate to learn the truth about his real father . . .

When Helena meets her childhood sweetheart by chance, a chain of events is set in motion that threatens to make her past and present collide. Both Helena and Alex know that life will never be the same, once Pandora’s secrets have been revealed.

MY THOUGHTS: It is not just the house named Pandora that has secrets – so has Helena.

I always love Lucinda Riley’s characters, and those in The Olive Tree are no exception. I really felt for Alex, who sees himself as the cuckoo in the nest of his mother’s perfect family. Alex is an incredibly intelligent and obliging almost teenage boy. Despite feeling the odd one out, he loves his younger siblings Immie and Fred. He gives up his room at Pandora to sleep in a ‘broom closet’ so that visitors can have it.

I loved Helena’s character despite her refusal to face up to reality and acknowledge her past. She adores her husband William, and he her, although he can never quite rid himself of the feeling that Helena is holding something back from him. As, indeed, she is.

As old and new friends cycle through Pandora over the summer, Alex falls in love for the first time, and Helena’s past collides with her present with an unexpected revelation that generates an explosive fallout.

The story is told over two timelines, 2006 when Helena and her family are holidaying at Pandora, and 2016 when they all return to Pandora for the first time since 2006. There are also occasional flashbacks to Helena’s past life.

I cannot help but become totally immersed in Lucinda Riley’s stories. Her characters become friends, flawed but irresistible. This is a book that I will read/listen to again.

The narration of the audiobook is superbly performed by Lucinda Riley herself and her son, Harry Whittaker. There is also an interesting discussion between the two at the end of the audiobook where they discuss Lucinda’s writing.


#TheOliveTree #WaitomoDistrictLibrary

I: @lucindarileybooks @panmacmillan

T: @lucindariley @panmacmillan

THE AUTHOR: Lucinda Riley is an Irish author of popular historical fiction and a former actress. She spent the first few years of her life in the village of Drumbeg near Belfast before moving to England. At age 14 she moved to London to a specialist drama and ballet school. She wrote her first book aged twenty four. Lucinda died in June 2021.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Waitomo District Library for the loan of the audiobook of The Olive Tree by Lucinda Riley for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.

For an explanation of my rating system please refer to my profile page or the about page on

This review is also published on Twitter, Instagram and

First Lines Friday

Photo by Karolina Grabowska on

Happy Friday & welcome to First Lines Friday hosted by Reading Is My SuperPower.

 It was too early for birdsong. Harold lay beside her, his hands neat on his chest, looking so peaceful she wondered where he travelled in his sleep. Certainly not the places she went: if she closed her eyes, she saw roadworks. Dear God, she thought. This is no good. She got up in the pitch-black, took off her nightdress and put on her best blue blouse with a pair of comfortable slacks and a cardigan. ‘Harold?’ she called. ‘Are you awake?’ But he didn’t stir. She picked up her shoes and shut the bedroom door without a sound. If she didn’t go now, she never would.

Like what you’ve just read? Want to keep reading? (I did!)

The book is Maureen Fry and the Angel of the North by Rachel Joyce.

Ten years ago, Harold Fry set off on his epic journey on foot to save a friend. But the story doesn’t end there. Now his wife, Maureen, has her own pilgrimage to make.

Maureen Fry has settled into the quiet life she now shares with her husband Harold after his iconic walk across England. Now, ten years later, an unexpected message from the North disturbs her equilibrium again, and this time it is Maureen’s turn to make her own journey.

But Maureen is not like Harold. She struggles to bond with strangers, and the landscape she crosses has changed radically. She has little sense of what she’ll find at the end of the road. All she knows is that she must get there.

Published October 20th, 2022 by Doubleday


I: @rachelcjoyce @randomhouse @transworldbooks @doubledayukbooks

T: @randomhouse @transworldbooks @doubledaybooks

#contemporaryfiction #friendship #sliceoflife

The Lost Girls of Willowbrook by Ellen Marie Wiseman

EXCERPT: As she neared the double doors of the bus station, she slowed. Help wanted ads, business cards, and what seemed like a hundred missing kid flyers covered a bulletin board next to the door – row after row of innocent smiling faces lined up like faded yearbook photos. She’d always hated those photos: the word MISSING all in caps knocking you between the eyes, the grainy photos taken on happier days before the kids were abducted, when everyone was still blissfully unaware that they’d be stolen from their families some day. The flyers were plastered all over Staten Island, inside the grocery stores and post offices, outside the bowling alleys and movie theaters, on the mailboxes and telephone poles. Something cold and hard tightened in her chest. Would her twin sister’s face be on one of those damn flyers too? And where were all those poor innocent kids? What horrible things had they endured? Were they dead? Still suffering? Crying and terrified, wondering why their parents, the people who had promised to love and protect them forever, hadn’t saved them yet? She couldn’t imagine a worse fate.

ABOUT ‘THE LOST GIRLS OF WILLOWBROOK’: Sage Winters always knew her sister was a little different even though they were identical twins. They loved the same things and shared a deep understanding, but Rosemary—awake to every emotion, easily moved to joy or tears—seemed to need more protection from the world.

Six years after Rosemary’s death from pneumonia, Sage, now sixteen, still misses her deeply. Their mother perished in a car crash, and Sage’s stepfather, Alan, resents being burdened by a responsibility he never wanted. Yet despite living as near strangers in their Staten Island apartment, Sage is stunned to discover that Alan has kept a shocking secret: Rosemary didn’t die. She was committed to Willowbrook State School and has lingered there until just a few days ago, when she went missing.

Sage knows little about Willowbrook. It’s always been a place shrouded by rumor and mystery. A place local parents threaten to send misbehaving kids. With no idea what to expect, Sage secretly sets out for Willowbrook, determined to find Rosemary. What she learns, once she steps through its doors and is mistakenly believed to be her sister, will change her life in ways she never could imagined…

MY THOUGHTS: I am torn by this book and may revise my rating once I have thought on it some more.

I honestly think a better title may have been ‘The Lost Souls of Willowbrook’.

I worked in a government mental institution in New Zealand in the 1970s and I am happy to report that it was mostly nothing like Willowbrook. There was the occasional ‘old school’ attendant or nurse who could be cruel and uncaring, but mostly we were bright young men and women who had learned respect and were intent on improving the lot of the residents by providing the best care possible. The only ‘locked wards’ were the ones that housed the criminally insane or the extremely violent. Our wards, even the old ones, were bright and clean, the residents well fed and, where possible, their independence nurtured. It wasn’t perfect, but it was ‘home’ to many long term residents, and a welcome refuge for acute admissions.

So Willowbrook came as a bit of a shock to me. After I finished listening to the audiobook I read some of the archived articles and examined the photos. I couldn’t get over the sheer size of Willowbrook, and the design of the building made it eminently unsuitable for housing the disabled, the ‘feeble-minded’. Mr Dewey, what were you thinking? There was obviously a demand, a need for accommodation and care; but just as obviously Willowbrook was not the answer.

Now, onto the book that I am reviewing. While I admire what the author set out to do, it just didn’t resonate for me. I didn’t like the plot and failed to feel anything at all for the characters. I think that I may have enjoyed this more had Sage been a more likeable character.

The language used to describe the conditions Sage encounters in Willowbrook is repetitious. I felt like the author was trying too hard to shock me, and it all felt ‘over-exposed’. And y’all that know me know that I prefer not to be belted about the ears with a piece of 4 x 2 when you’re trying to get your point across. Less is more.

There are numerous holes in the plot (view spoiler)

This should have been an atmospheric and chilling read but, sadly for me, it felt mostly flat.


#TheLostGirlsofWillowbrook #NetGalley

I: @ellenmariewiseman @kensingtonbooks

T: @EllenMarieWise @KensingtonBooks

#comingofage #historicalfiction #humanrights #mystery #murdermystery

THE AUTHOR: A first-generation German American, Ellen Marie Wiseman discovered her love of reading and writing while attending first grade in one of the last one-room schoolhouses in NYS. Ellen lives on the shores of Lake Ontario with her husband and two spoiled Shih-tzus, Izzy and Bella. When she’s not busy writing, she loves spending time with her children and grandchildren.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Kensington Books for supplying a digital ARC and to RB Media for supplying an audio ARC of The Lost Girls of Willowbrook written by Ellen Marie Wiseman and narrated by Morgan Hallett for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.

For an explanation of my rating system please refer to my profile page or the about page on

This review is also published on Twitter, Amazon, Instagram and

Sandy’s July 2022 Reading Roundup

I started July with 18 books to read for review and ended up with 20 🤷‍♀️ Of those I read 15, and am almost finished the 16th, giving me an 80% review success rate, well up on my dismal 64% rate for June. Plus I read or listened to four books purely for pleasure during the month. And read and reviewed two titles from my backlist. So that was a total of twenty-two reads for the month of July.

I read one debut novel during July, A Murder of Crows by Sarah Yarwood-Lovett which I rated ⭐⭐⭐.6

plus I read five books by authors I haven’t previously read. They were: Aft the Flood by Dave Warner ⭐⭐⭐⭐.3

Old Friends Reunited by Maddie Please ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

The Saint of Lost Things by Tish Delaney ⭐⭐⭐⭐.5

One Last Day of Summer by Shari Low ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

#Rejected Goddesses by Natalie Watson and Nina Holmes ⭐⭐.9

My Netgalley feedback ratio is still at 69%. I wonder what it will take to crack the 70% mark. I think I would need to stop requesting books entirely, and that’s not likely to happen.

The four books I didn’t read in July that are now added to my backlist are:

Guilt Trip by Ed James

Golden Age Locked Room Mysteries edited by Otto Penzler

Mother of All Secrets by Kathleen M. Willett

Truly, Darkly, Deeply by Victoria Selman

My five star reads for July were: In the Middle of Hickory Lane by Heather Webber

Outside Looking In (DCI Matilda Darke #2) by Michael Wood

A Room Full of Killers (DCI Matilda Darke #3) by Michael Wood

The Lost Children (DCI Matilda Darke #9) by Michael Wood

One Last Day of Summer by Shari Low

Old Friends Reunited by Maddie Please

I have seventeen reads for review scheduled for August. Fingers crossed that there are no late approvals. If I don’t read anything from my backlist I should be able to get through all of these.

Happy August reading!❤📚

The Secret Life of Albert Entwhistle by Matt Cain

EXCERPT: Gracie was still asleep on his lap when I’m a Celebrity . . . Get Me Out of Here! began at nine o’clock. In this episode, a comedian Albert had never found funny, a pop star he’d never heard of, and somebody who called himself a ‘social media influencer’, a profession he’d never understood, were sitting around the camp talking about their biggest fears.

‘Mine’s spiders,’ said the pop star, pulling a face.

‘Mine’s snakes,’ said the comedian, squirming. He turned to the influencer. ‘What’s yours?’

‘People,’ Albert said out loud, talking over the influencer. ‘People.’

As the chatter on TV continued, Albert couldn’t help considering his answer. He hadn’t always been frightened of people; when he’d been at school he’d been quite sociable and had lots of friends, friends like Tom Horrocks and Colin Broadbent. When they were little, the boys had played British Bulldog, Piggy, and Finger, Thumb, or Icky in the playground, later on meeting up to go to the pictures or the local temperance bar, later still sneaking into pubs, each of them doing their best to look old enough to be served at the bar, goading each other on and reveling in the shared thrill of transgression. It was a transgression they knew was only minor and might even make their fathers proud, reminding them of a similar rite of passage in their own youth.

But then everything had changed.

Albert had been given a blunt message about what his friends thought of people like him, what the world at large thought about people like him – of the real him, the him he’d been careful to keep well hidden. As a result, he’d gradually begun backing away from everyone and had first retreated into his work, later into caring for his mam. Little by little, he’d been overwhelmed by a new shyness, a shyness that was bolstered by fear, like a current he’d been powerless to swim against – until he was drowning in it.

But it doesn’t do to dwell.

ABOUT ‘THE SECRET LIFE OF ALBERT ENTWHISTLE’: Albert Entwistle is a private man with a quiet, simple life. He lives alone with his cat Gracie. And he’s a postman. At least he was a postman until, three months before his sixty-fifth birthday, he receives a letter from the Royal Mail thanking him for decades of service and stating he is being forced into retirement.

At once, Albert’s sole connection with his world unravels. Every day as a mail carrier, he would make his way through the streets of his small English town, delivering letters and parcels and returning greetings with a quick wave and a “how do?” Without the work that fills his days, what will be the point? He has no friends, family, or hobbies—just a past he never speaks of, and a lost love that fills him with regret.

And so, rather than continue his lonely existence, Albert forms a brave plan to start truly living. It’s finally time to be honest about who he is. To seek the happiness he’s always denied himself. And to find the courage to look for George, the man that, many years ago, he loved and lost—but has never forgotten. As he does, something extraordinary happens. Albert finds unlikely allies, new friends, and proves it’s never too late to live, to hope, and to love.

MY THOUGHTS: Love and loss. I bet there are a lot of Albert (and Alberta) Entwhistles out there, people who have hidden their love, their desires, their dreams in order to conform to society.

Albert is the loveliest character. It’s a wonderful journey, watching him come to terms with himself, come out of his shell, and work out what he really wants from life. Of course, he has some help along the way. Marjorie, his boss, has a terminally ill grandson, a diabolical digestive system, and is not coping well with menopause, a fact she is not at all reticent about sharing, much to Albert’s embarrassment. Nicole, a young black single mum with aspirations and an uncertain love life. Edith, elderly and alone, who used to be a great beauty with many suitors, but is now desperate for company.

Albert’s coming out is a wonderfully warm story that had me with earplugs in, listening at every opportunity. It’s a story of personal growth, of a man filled with fear and shame who slowly becomes honest with himself, optimistic and looking forward to his future. It’s an emotional story. I cried for Albert the teenager, and for his friend George. I was saddened by the unhappy, reclusive man Albert became. I wept tears of joy and relief as Albert found himself, his new self, a man who made friends and helped others. There were places I laughed out loud, and snorted coffee through my nose.

There’s really nothing surprising in this story, but that’s not a criticism. It’s a lovely heartwarming experience and one that I am glad to have had. Two things further enriched my listening pleasure: narrator Simon Vance was superb. He singly narrated a large cast of characters and not once was I confused about who was speaking. The second was author Matt Cain talking about his research and some excerpts of his interviews with gay men who lived through the eras that Albert’s story is set in.

Highly recommended.


#TheSecretLifeofAlbertEntwhistle #NetGalley

I: @mattcainwriter @recordedbooks

T: @MattCainWriter @rbmediaco

#audiobook #contemporaryfiction #comingofage #historicalfiction #lgbt #romance

THE AUTHOR: Matt Cain is a writer, broadcaster, and a leading commentator on LGBT+ issues. Born in Bury and brought up in Bolton, Matt now lives in London with his partner, Harry, and their cat, Nelly.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to RB Media via Netgalley for providing an audio ARC of The Secret Life of Albert Entwhistle for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.

For an explanation of my rating system please refer to my profile page or the about page on

This review is also published on Twitter, Amazon, Instagram and

The Library by Bella Osborne

EXCERPT: The post lady came in and handed over a pile of letters and something Christine had to sign for. Christine let out a gasp worthy of anyone winning a TV prize jackpot but her face told a different story. Maggie went to see what had caused it but Betty was quicker off the mark.

‘Something wrong?’ asked Betty, her face laden with glee.

‘They’re closing us down,’ said Christine, followed by a dramatic sob as she clutched the podium for support.

Betty was quick with the tissues, which gave Maggie a chance to swivel around the offending letter and have a quick read for herself. She wasn’t surprised to see that Christine had made a mansion out of a Lego brick. ‘It’s inviting you to a meeting about the future of the library, Christine.’ It wasn’t exactly an eviction notice. Maggie had seen plenty of those in her time.

Christine looked affronted. ‘That’s what it means.’ She stabbed the letter with a neat fingernail. ‘It came by recorded delivery. They call you to a meeting and that’s when they tell you they’re closing you down. . .’

ABOUT ‘THE LIBRARY’: Two different generations. Two unusual people. Thrown together to save their local library.
Tom is a teenager and blends into the background of life. After a row with his dad, and facing an unhappy future at the dog food factory, he escapes to the library. Tom unwittingly ends up with a bagful of romance novels and comes under the suspicion of Maggie.

Maggie is a pensioner and has been happily alone for ten years, at least that’s what she tells herself. When Tom comes to her rescue a friendship develops that could change her life. As Maggie helps Tom to stand up for himself, Tom helps Maggie realise the mistakes of her past don’t have to define her future.

They each set out to prove that the library isn’t just about books – it’s the heart of their community.

Together they discover some things are worth fighting for.

MY THOUGHTS: I needed this! If you want a book that is going to make you smile and your heart swell, this is it!

The characters are realistic, relatable and mostly lovely, except Kemp who is an out and out bully. Thomas Harris, just like the author, is seriously lacking in self-esteem, and feels like he is invisible – ‘Not actually invisible – that would make me interesting and I’m not. I’m the person others find easy to forget. The one who is lost in the crowd.’ – except to Kemp, who always manages to see him and make his life even more miserable than it already is.

Maggie is in her 70s, and lives alone on a smallholding with just her animals for company. The highlight of her life is the weekly book club at the library. She is an extraordinary character with hidden depths and a tragic secret.

Maggie and Tom meet at the library after Tom’s dad smashes his x-box which seems like a tragedy at the time but which is probably the best thing that ever happened to him, because he starts reading again, something he hasn’t done since his mum died.

A friendship that will change both their lives begins when Tom comes to Maggie’s aid when she is getting mugged.

The Library isn’t so much about the efforts to save the local library as a touching story of an unlikely friendship. It’s a heartwarming and uplifting read that left me with a smile on my face and needing to read more from this author.


#TheLibrary #NetGalley

I: @bellaosborneauthor @avonbooksuk

T: @osborne_bella @AvonBooksUK @aria_fiction

#comingofage #contemporaryfiction #familydrama #sliceoflife #smalltownfiction

THE AUTHOR: Bella’s stories are about friendship, love and coping with what life throws at you. She likes to find the humor in the darker moments of life and weaves these into her stories. Bella believes that writing your own story really is the best fun ever, closely followed by talking, eating chocolate, drinking fizz, and planning holidays. She lives in the Midlands, UK with her lovely husband and wonderful daughter, who thankfully, both accept her as she is (with mad morning hair and a penchant for skipping). (Amazon)

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Aria & Aries via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of The Library by Bella Osborne for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.

For an explanation of my rating system please refer to my profile page or the about page on

This review is also published on Twitter, Amazon, Instagram and

Ocean State by Stewart O’Nan

EXCERPT: When I was in eighth grade my sister helped kill another girl. She was in love, my mother said, like it was an excuse. She didn’t know what she was doing. I had never been in love then, not really, so I didn’t know what my mother meant, but I do now.

ABOUT ‘OCEAN STATE’: In the first line of Ocean State, we learn that a high school student was murdered, and we find out who did it. The story that unfolds from there with incredible momentum is thus one of the build-up to and fall-out from the murder, told through the alternating perspectives of the four women at its heart. Angel, the murderer, Carol, her mother, and Birdy, the victim, all come alive on the page as they converge in a climax both tragic and inevitable. Watching over it all is the retrospective testimony of Angel’s younger sister Marie, who reflects on that doomed autumn of 2009 with all the wisdom of hindsight. Angel and Birdy love the same teenage boy, frantically and single mindedly, and are compelled by the intensity of their feelings to extremes neither could have anticipated.

MY THOUGHTS: Teenage love (or is it hormones?) and the eternal love triangle – one boy, two girls – so it’s not going to be pretty.

Ocean State dissects the passionate teenage relationships between three teenagers, focusing mainly on the two girls, Angel and Birdie, and their families. Myles hardly features at all, and I am unable to decide if he is immature and easily manipulated, flattered by the fact that he has two girls fighting over him, or if he is ultimately the manipulator. Marie, Angel’s younger sister, is the observer, the chronicler of events.

Ocean State is the story of a murder, but it wouldn’t be right to call it a mystery, because the killer’s identity is established in the very first sentence.There is only the how and why to be determined, only the impact on the guilty and their families and the victims family to be worked through. There’s no suspense, no twists and turns, just a story of obsession, jealousy, and a young woman who allows these emotions to override any modicum of common sense she may have had instilled by her mother and grandmother, causing her to act without giving any thought to the consequences.

It’s a great read. It’s compelling, complex and engaging. I flew through it in twenty four hours, but I am left with questions. Myles – he is a pivotal character and yet he is largely ignored. He didn’t need to do the things that he did, but was he the manipulator or the manipulated? And what happened to him after he served his time? We know what happened to Angel.

And yes, Angel; did she ever feel any remorse, any guilt? Does she ever look back at that time and wonder what her life would have been like, if…..? Does she still think about Myles, or he about her? Do their paths ever cross again?

And I have not been able to put Marie out of my mind. Her sad life as a child, one that doesn’t seem to be much better as an adult.

Nature? Or nuture? You can make up your own mind.


#OceanState #NetGalley

I: @stewart_onan1 @groveatlantic

T: @StewartOnan1 @stewartonan @GroveAtlantic

#comingofage #contemporaryfiction #crime #familydrama

THE AUTHOR: Stewart O’Nan is renowned for illuminating the unexpected grace of everyday life and the resilience of ordinary people with humor, intelligence, and compassion. (Amazon)

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Grove Atlantic via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of Ocean State by Stewart O’Nan for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.

For an explanation of my rating system please refer to my profile page or the about page on

This review is also published on Twitter, Amazon, Instagram and

Impossible to Forget by Imogen Clark

EXCERPT: August 2018

My dear friends,

If you are reading this, then I must be dead. (I’ve always wanted to say that – so very Agatha Christie! And please don’t cry, Leon. It’s only a bit of fun. X)

Seriously though, I want to thank you all for being there for me over the last couple of months. It’s been pretty tough, but having you lot in my corner has made it easier to cope. To be honest, I don’t know what I’d have done without you. I couldn’t have wished for a better bunch of mates.

But there’s just one last thing I need to ask you to do for me.

Obviously, my biggest concern is my beautiful girl, Romany. I will never understand a universe that lets a parent die before they have finished preparing their child to live. It’s all kinds of wrong. Yet we are where we are.

Without me, Romany will be left all alone. Even though she’s about to turn eighteen, she’s really still a child with so much to learn about the world, good and bad. She needs someone to be there for her, a guardian if you like, to guide her until she finds her feet. It won’t be forever, just until she finishes her A levels and gets a place at university, but I can’t bear to think of her struggling through school on her own. I had to do that, and I don’t want history repeating itself.

That’s where you come in. I charge you, my dearest and most trusted friends, with the vitality important task of steering her through the challenging months ahead.

I know it wouldn’t be fair to suggest that just one of you shoulders this massive responsibility, so I’ve decided to ask you all to play to your individual strengths.

ABOUT ‘IMPOSSIBLE TO FORGET’: Just turned eighteen, Romany is on the cusp of taking her first steps into adulthood when tragedy strikes, and she finds herself suddenly alone without her mother, Angie, the only parent she has ever known. In her final letter, Angie has charged her four closest friends with guiding Romany through her last year of school—but is there an ulterior motive to her unusual dying wish?

Each of the four guardians possesses an outlook on life that Angie wants to give her daughter as a legacy. Three of them have known each other since university: the eternally nomadic and exotically named Tiger; the shy and practical Leon with his untapped musical genius; and Maggie, a brilliant lawyer who doesn’t know her own abilities. But the fourth guardian is a mystery to the others: they’ve never even heard of former model Hope before…

As the guardians reflect on their friendship with Angie, it becomes apparent that this unusual arrangement is as much about them as it is about Romany. Navigating their grief individually and as a group, what will all five of them learn about themselves, their pasts—and the woman who’s brought them all together?

MY THOUGHTS: Impossible to Forget is a nice read about a mainly nice group of people, but it’s nothing special and, honestly, I was expecting so much more.

I never became fully invested to the point where the characters felt real to me, that it mattered what happened to them. I picked up other books in preference to this, and yet I didn’t dislike it, it just failed to move me.

One of the problems I think, was that there was far too much backstory, chapter upon chapter of it; in fact, it makes up the majority of the book. A lot of it was unnecessarily repetitive and could have been done without. For all the background given, the characters still fell flat.

The premise is interesting, but I believe that this could have been a far more emotionally fulfilling experience than what I had. Unfortunately, this is not impossible to forget.


#ImpossibletoForget #NetGalley

I: @imogenclarkauthor @amazonpublishing

T: @imogenclark @AmazonPub

#comingofage #contemporaryfiction #domesticdrama #sliceoflife

THE AUTHOR: Imogen initially qualified as a lawyer but after leaving her legal career behind to care for her four children, she returned to her first love – books. She went back to University, studying English Literature part-time whilst the children were at school. It was a short step from there to writing novels.

Imogen’s great love is travel and she is always planning her next adventure. She lives in Yorkshire with her husband and children.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Lake Union Publishing via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of Impossible to Forget by Imogen Clark. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.

For an explanation of my rating system please refer to my profile page or the about page on

This review is also published on Twitter, Amazon, Instagram and

Boy Underground by Catherine Ryan-Hyde

EXCERPT: We bounced along on that rutted dirt road, saying exactly nothing. It was cool, just after dawn, and the day was clear but no colour at all. Like steel. I had my back up against the tailgate, facing the mountains, watching them grow closer as we bumped along. They had always been there, as long as I had been alive, but only as a background for my world. They never seemed entirely real. More like a movie set, or one of those theater plays with a painted backdrop to make it seem as if the stage has the depth of a real outdoors scene.

My stomach jangled with fear at going up there on foot. They looked big and powerful and unforgiving, and that made me feel small.

I thought about what my father had said. How it was rough country up there, and how I didn’t get that yet. How I hadn’t had much in the way of hardship. It gave me a chill.

Then I remembered the words that came right after.

My father saying, ‘It’ll make a man out of him.’

My mother countering with, ‘Unless he dies first.’

It brought a shiver that I think the others might have seen if they hadn’t been watching the view.

Still, I knew that whatever awaited me, there was no backing down now. And I wasn’t sorry about that. I was scared. But I was still ready.

ABOUT ‘BOY UNDERGROUND’: 1941. Steven Katz is the son of prosperous landowners in rural California. Although his parents don’t approve, he’s found true friends in Nick, Suki, and Ollie, sons of field workers. The group is inseparable. But Steven is in turmoil. He’s beginning to acknowledge that his feelings for Nick amount to more than friendship.

When the bombing of Pearl Harbor draws the US into World War II, Suki and his family are forced to leave their home for the internment camp at Manzanar. Ollie enlists in the army and ships out. And Nick must flee. Betrayed by his own father and accused of a crime he didn’t commit, he turns to Steven for help. Hiding Nick in a root cellar on his family’s farm, Steven acts as Nick’s protector and lifeline to the outside world.

As the war escalates, bonds deepen and the fear of being different falls away. But after Nick unexpectedly disappears one day, Steven’s life focus is to find him. On the way, Steven finds a place he belongs and a lesson about love that will last him his lifetime.

MY THOUGHTS: Steven may think that he is ready to face whatever is ahead, but he is wrong. No one could possibly predict or be ready for the events that take place. Life changes fast.

Like Dicken’s ‘A Tale of Two Cities’, it is about to become both the best of times, and the worst. Before they return home, the lives of all four boys will have changed irrevocably, taking them in directions they never could, nor should, have imagined.

Steven Katz is one of four fourteen year old boys at the centre of this story, which is told entirely through his eyes. He is a boy who feels at odds with the world and those around him. He just doesn’t fit in until he meets Suki, Nick and Ollie, and a friendship is formed that will last their entire respective lives.

Catherine Ryan-Hyde is an automatic read for me and I looked forward to Boy Underground, expecting ‘an emotional and uplifting’ read as promised. But it never happened. I felt strangely detached from the story and never quite became fully invested. In fact, I found myself skimming in places and, once or twice, debated not finishing. I’m glad I did finish, but the fact that it took me four days to read this speaks for itself.

I loved the friendship between the four boys, the sense of solidarity and their need to protect one another. But at certain points that should have produced a strong emotional response in me, I felt little or nothing. Maybe it’s me . . .

I felt the thread involving Nick’s father accusing his son of a crime that he himself had committed to be a weak link in the story. It never rang true and seemed to drag on interminably.
I became bored and frustrated by the improbability of it.

The family dynamics of this era were interesting. Other than the Yamamoto’s, none of the boys had close family relationships. Steven’s family is very insular and remote from one another. They don’t talk. Their characters are rigid and dogmatic. There is no obvious affection between family members, and ‘what people think’ and their own social standing is extremely important to them.

There is a wonderful, wise character by the name of Gordon Cho who rapidly became my favourite and a surrogate father/sounding board for Steven.

I would have liked this more, I think, had we been able to see into the other boy’s lives. I would have loved to know more about the Yamamoto’s lives in the internment camp; how Ollie felt as he set off for war; and Nick’s experiences as he struck out on his own.

‘The older I get, the less I know. I mean that in a good way. It seems that most of the trouble in this world stems from the things that we’re sure we know. Now that I’m old enough and experienced enough to know that I know nothing, the world is a constant, pleasant surprise. And the things that I allow life to bring me are consistently better than anything I might have sought – or even imagined – for myself.’ And while I am sure that the world is not entirely ‘a constant, pleasant surprise,’ this is a sentiment that I can definitely relate to.

Boy Underground was a good read, but not a great one, although I seem to be an outlier on that point. As I said, maybe it’s me . . .


#BoyUnderground #NetGalley

I: @catherineryanhyde @amazonpublishing

T: @cryanhyde @AmazonPub

#comingofage #historicalfiction #sliceoflife #WWII

THE AUTHOR: I am the author of more than 30 published and forthcoming books. I’m an avid hiker, traveler, equestrian, and amateur photographer.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Lake Union Publishing via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of Boy Underground by Catherine Ryan-Hyde for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinion.

For an explanation of my rating system please refer to my profile page or the about page on

This review is also published on Twitter, Amazon, Instagram and

Snow Country by Sebastian Faulks

EXCERPT: When Anton arrived the following day, he found that Delphine had set up a work table for him at the window overlooking the park.

Having never lived with a woman before, still less with one who fascinated him so much, he found it difficult to settle down to work. Panama seemed more than remote, it seemed unreal. Emerald and her devotions, Maxwell and his brandy bottle, the giant wheel that turned the lock gates lying flat in its braced iron bed . . . Perhaps he had in truth caught yellow fever and hallucinated all these things.

What was real was the smell of coffee from the kitchen next door, the sound of Delphine singing to herself as she tidied, her footsteps on the wooden floor. He went in, stood behind her and put his arms around her waist, then pressed himself against her.

ABOUT ‘SNOW COUNTRY’: 1914: Young Anton Heideck has arrived in Vienna, eager to make his name as a journalist. While working part-time as a private tutor, he encounters Delphine, a woman who mixes startling candour with deep reserve. Entranced by the light of first love, Anton feels himself blessed. Until his country declares war on hers.

1927: For Lena, life with a drunken mother in a small town has been impoverished and cold. She is convinced she can amount to nothing until a young lawyer, Rudolf Plischke, spirits her away to Vienna. But the capital proves unforgiving. Lena leaves her metropolitan dream behind to take a menial job at the snow-bound sanatorium, the Schloss Seeblick.

1933: Still struggling to come terms with the loss of so many friends on the Eastern Front, Anton, now an established writer, is commissioned by a magazine to visit the mysterious Schloss Seeblick. In this place of healing, on the banks of a silvery lake, where the depths of human suffering and the chances of redemption are explored, two people will see each other as if for the first time.

MY THOUGHTS: Snow Country is a book of dreams, yearning and hope balanced against the horrors of WWI and the approach of WWII, and the struggles, both political and personal, of the period in between. The scope of this novel is huge, almost too huge, and I sometimes felt swamped by it, rather than encompassed by it as I have with other works I have read by this author.

Lena is the common thread, the character who ties the other characters to the story. She is from a poor background, poor in both money and upbringing. She was also a poor student, leaving school with few academic skills, but natural abilities in other areas. All Lena really wants is to be loved, and a good part of this story is devoted to her journey towards finding that love. It is not a smooth, nor a predictable path.

My favourite characters were those of Delphine, a Frenchwoman with whom a young and inexperienced Anton falls in love; and Martha, a therapist at the psychiatric institute. My least favourite character was Rudolf, whose only great passion is politics, and who seems incapable of recognizing human emotions in others, or of responding to them.

This is a very slow moving read with a lot of dialogue. At times I found it hard to get to grips with the characters. Even after finishing it, I am still not sure if Lena’s, Rudolf’s and Anton’s stories were merely a vehicle for the political history of Austria between the wars, or vice versa. Looking back on this reading experience it was like stumbling down a long, unfamiliar path in the dead of night, with no light, and no idea of where you are going.

I did love the section devoted to the building of the Panama Canal. It was such a huge feat, built at the cost of so many lives, and I had never before considered the logistics of the task. Faulks made this very real for me.

There is some beautiful writing in Snow Country, but this is nowhere near the author’s best work, of which my personal favourite is Birdsong.


#SnowCountry #NetGalley

I: #sebastianfaulks @randomhouseuk @hutchheinemann

T: @ SebastianFaulks @RandomHouseUK @HutchHeinemann

#comingofage #historicalfiction #mystery #romance #sliceoflife

THE AUTHOR: Sebastian Faulks was born in 1953, and grew up in Newbury, the son of a judge and a repertory actress. He attended Wellington College and studied at Emmanuel College, Cambridge, although he didn’t enjoy attending either institution. Cambridge in the 70s was still quite male-dominated, and he says that you had to cycle about 5 miles to meet a girl. He was the first literary editor of “The Independent”, and then went on to become deputy editor of “The Sunday Independent”. Sebastian Faulks was awarded the CBE in 2002. He and his family live in London.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Random House UK, Cornerstone, via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of Snow Country by Sebastian Faulks for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.

For an explanation of my rating system please refer to my profile page or the about page on

This review is also published on Twitter, Amazon, Instagram and