Marshmallows for Breakfast by Dorothy Koomson

marshmallows for breakfast

Synopsis from Amazon:

When Kendra Tamale returns to England from Australia she rents a room from Kyle, a divorced father of two, and begins a new job. She’s looking forward to a fresh start and simple life. Kyle’s five-year-old twins, Summer and Jaxon, have other ideas and quickly adopt Kendra as their new mother – mainly because she lets them eat marshmallows for breakfast. Kendra eventually becomes a part of their lives, even though she’s hiding a painful secret that makes her keep everyone – especially children – at arm’s length. Then Kendra bumps into the man who shares her awful secret, and things fall apart: she can’t sleep, she can’t eat, she’s suspended from work, and the kids are taken away by their mother. The only way to fix things is to confess to the terrible mistake she made all those years ago. But that’s something she swore never to do …

This is a truly beautiful book which touched a whole range of emotions. This is chick-lit, but with hard issues that add amazing depth to this book. Kendra is good at running away. Something bad happened to her when she was twenty. It changed her. She became someone who didn’t really feel, she became jumpy and she locked away her feelings. When a chance to leave England arose, she leapt at the chance, and off to Australia she went. But she fell in love over there, with someone who she couldn’t have. So she returned to England when she could, and move into the studio in the Gadsborough’s back garden. She has the shock of her life when she wakes up on the first morning to see Summer and Jaxon, six year old twins standing in her flat. She soon grows attached to them, as she realises their life is falling apart because their parents are getting a divorce. For someone who wanted to keep away from children, she quickly becomes their “other mumma”, and can’t live without them. So when their mum kidnaps them she is distraught. alongside that, she has to face up to what happened to her when she was young, and the reason why she left Australia.

There is so much addressed in this book. Ashlyn, the twins mother is an alcoholic, there is attempted suicide, rape and divorce. Brave issues to tackle in a novel, but Koomson handled all of them well, and she brought believable and realistic conclusions to each issue. She dedicates sections and memories to each issue and storyline so they are thoroughly examined. This in effect means Koomson can look into these issues properly, but it also allows the characters to develop in their own right.

I loved the characters, and Koomson writes in such a way that I was completely in tune with them. When the twins were upset or scared my heart broke for them; when they went missing I felt Kendra’s pain and anguish – this is just a well written novel. I loved the twins. They were easily my favourite characters. They were so vulnerable and so easy to love. They were just gorgeous children.

I really enjoyed this book. It was a gripping book that I didn’t want to put down. Well worth reading even if chick-lit is not a genre you usually enjoy.

9/10

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For One More Day by Mitch Albom

for one more day

Synopsis from Amazon:

‘Every family is a ghost story …’ As a child, Charley Benetto was told by his father, ‘You can be a mama’s boy or a daddy’s boy, but you can’t be both.’ So he chooses his father, only to see him disappear when Charley is on the verge of adolescence. Decades later, Charley is a broken man. His life has been destroyed by alcohol and regret. He loses his job. He leaves his family. He hits rock bottom after discovering he won’t be invited to his only daughter’s wedding. And he decides to take his own life. Charley makes a midnight ride to his small hometown: his final journey. But as he staggers into his old house, he makes an astonishing discovery. His mother – who died eight years earlier – is there, and welcomes Charley home as if nothing had ever happened. What follows is the one seemingly ordinary day so many of us yearn for: a chance to make good with a lost parent, to explain the family secrets and to seek forgiveness.

This is the first Mitch Albom book I have read, and it has placed him in high stead. This book is very easy to read. It draws you in and pulls on your heart strings a bit. It is engaging and gripping. Yes, predictable but that does not spoil the story.

Albom touches on several issues in this book – divorce, alcoholism and death – all with a good degree of success. He talks about divorce in a time where it was not the done thing, and he examines how the children were pitied and the mother was shunned. He looks at how easy it is to fall into alcohol abuse, and what damage that can cause, and he looks at death – from the reasons behind attempted suicide to dealing with unresolved issues when someone you love dies. It is only a short book but all these issues are dealt with a satisfying and sensitive way.

The story does jump around in time as Charley remembers the past, deals with guilt from always trying to please his father and learns his mother’s life story.

This is a touching book. As I said, it is predictable but a lovely book all the same, as Charley gets answers to his questions and deals with his guilt, and ultimately, gets one more day with his dear Mum. This is well worth reading. It is hard to put down and hard to criticise.

9/10

The Secret Shopper’s Revenge by Kate Harrison

the-secret-shoppers-revenge

Synopsis:

New mum Emily wants revenge on the stick-thin assistants who laugh at her post-baby tummy and post-baby budget. But frumpiness has its advantages when you’re wielding a secret camera – and sending the damning footage straight to head office. Store manager Sandie has a lifelong love of the world of retail – the glitz, the glamour, the stockroom. Then she’s fitted up by an ambitious assistant and secret shopping is the only way to keep her one passion alive. Glamorous widow Grazia can’t leave behind the high life, despite her chronically low bank balance. The more she’s buying – and spying – the less time she has to mourn her husband or her fair-weather friends who’ve dumped her. They’re Charlie’s Shopping Angels, controlled by a mysterious figure who sends them assignments. But when they’re sent to stitch up a doomed shop owned by Will, the angels begin to feel divided loyalties . . .

What a great idea for a book! As someone who has worked in shops, I know all about secret shoppers, so to read a book following three of them was wonderful! The story follows Emily, with her gorgeous baby boy Freddie, who has been left by her husband Duncan, but who still tries to control and manipulate her; Sandie, who loved her job in retail until Marsha set out to destroy everything for her – including the loss of her job, her replacement job and flat; and Grazia, a widow with an artist husband who left no will but a mountain of debt. She faces the choice – how will she survive, sell the house or the paintings? All three embark on secret shopping, as Charlie’s Shopping Angels, where they meet the lovely Will…

Well I really enjoyed this book. All the angels were great, I liked all three of them and wanted the best for all of them. Of course, my favourite character was baby Freddie, he just seemed adorable, especially when he started walking and talking. I loved how friendships were formed and how plans were plotted to help each other. And I loved the ending. Predictible but fantastic 🙂 I even loathed some of the horrid characters, including Duncan and Marsha. I wanted karma to come and get them. For me, a sign of a good book is when I get involved with the characters and develop feelings for them – whether positive or negative, and that happened in this book.

I felt the idea of “Charlie and his Angels” – including how he chose to communicate with them – in disguise through a web-cam was a little cheesy, but that was my only complaint.

We see endless amounts of shopping, strength of character, friendships develop, secrets revealed, revenge taken and people falling into love. An all round great book – especially if you like shopping!

9/10