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

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

the guernsey literary and potato peel pie society

Synopsis from Amazon:

It’s 1946 and author Juliet Ashton can’t think what to write next. Out of the blue, she receives a letter from Dawsey Adams of Guernsey – by chance, he’s acquired a book that once belonged to her – and, spurred on by their mutual love of reading, they begin a correspondence. When Dawsey reveals that he is a member of the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, her curiosity is piqued and it’s not long before she begins to hear from other members. As letters fly back and forth with stories of life in Guernsey under the German Occupation, Juliet soon realizes that the society is every bit as extraordinary as its name.

What an extraordinary book. The narrative is all letters. It is through a letter that Juliet, an author struggling to find something to write about after WW2 discovers about The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society. She receives a letter from Dawsey about a book of hers he has, and from there their correspondence blossoms. Soon there are several members of the Society writing to her and she learns how the group came about and how they have helped each other through the Nazi Occupation of the Island. She is drawn to the place and eventually ends up living there; where she finds her writing mojo, forms lasting bonds and finds peace and love.

I loved this book. Even though it is written in letters it is very easy to read. I liked that it was all written in letters, it gave a more personal feel as people were free to express their feelings to their friends. I found the story to be extraordinary – what a genius idea for keeping sane during a war. I just love the idea that books can bring people together and can form lasting bonds between people.

I loved all the characters. It was a joy to watch Juliet find happiness, she was a lovely person to read about. And the Literary Society were a group of great people. Dawsey is a strong, solid, reliable man, and I fell in love with him. It is interesting that even though we never meet Elizabeth we hear all these wonderful stories bout her and her heroics, how she brought everyone together and helped them out in times of need, and I found myself wanting to get to know her. And when we discovered what happened to her I could have cried.

I was attached to this book and the characters. It wasn’t a quick read, but lovely. Well worth reading. I felt emotions along with the characters and didn’t want the book to end. One of the best books I’ve read recently. This is a must read.

10/10

The Undomestic Goddess by Sophie Kinsella

the undomestic goddess

Synopsis from Amazon:

The story of a girl who needs to slow down. To find herself. To fall in love. And to discover what an iron is for…Samantha is a high-powered lawyer in London. She works all hours, has no home life, and cares only about getting a partnership. She thrives on the pressure and adrenalin. Until one day…she makes a mistake. A mistake so huge, it’ll wreck her career. She walks right out of the office, gets on the first train she sees, and finds herself in the middle of nowhere. Asking for directions at a big, beautiful house, she is mistaken for the interviewee housekeeper and finds herself being offered the job. They have no idea they’ve hired a Cambridge-educated lawyer with an IQ of 158 – Samantha has no idea how to work the oven. Disaster ensues. It’s chaos as Samantha battles with the washing machine…the ironing board…and attempts to cook a cordon bleu dinner. But gradually, she falls in love with her new life in a wholly unexpected way. Will her employers ever discover the truth? Will Samantha’s old life ever catch up with her? And if it does…will she want it back?

Samantha is one of the best lawyers in England – then she discovers a memo on her desk that needed urgent attention a few weeks before. This is a £50 million mistake. When she realises what has happened, she flees. She jumps onto the first train and ends up in the countryside. When she stops at a house for help she is mistaken as a housekeeper. Not knowing what she is doing she accepts the job. Except she doesn’t even know how to use a toaster, how is she going to cope? And will London ever find her?

This was a fun book. This is easy chick-lit reading. I found it amusing and a quick read. It wasn’t particularly believable, but I was hooked anyway. Kinsella is great at this genre. She writes wonderful characters, amusing characters and ones you can easily fall in love with. I liked Nathaniel’s mother, a solid lady, happy to look out for her son and Samantha, and happy to help in every way.

I think you will only enjoy this if you like Kinsella’s work and if you like chick-lit. However, I loved it! It only took me a couple of days to finish it. Yes it was predictable and unrealistic, but thoroughly enjoyable.

9/10

31 Dream Street by Lisa Jewell

cover-dreamstreetSynopsis from Amazon:

Leah and Toby have lived across the street from one another for years without meeting … and Leah has been itching to peek behind the front door of Toby’s eccentric house, always packed to the rafters with weird and wonderful tenants. When fate finally lets her in, Leah finds that Toby needs her as much as she is surprised to realize she might need him. Sometimes life needs a helping hand and with a sprinkle of romance and their own special magic, Toby and Leah’s dreams show the glimmer of a chance of coming true. 31 Dream Street is a wonderfully warm and insightful novel that will capture the imagination and soothe the soul.

One ordinary day Leah is going about her business when she notices the old man from across the street lying face down on the ground. She goes to investigate and discovers he has died. She runs to the eccentric house for help and meets Toby, the owner. This is their first meeting and a friendship is quickly born. Time spent together brings Toby out of his shell, helps him make some decisions about the house and enables him to befriend his tenants. It also has Leah re-examining her life. This death has been the beginning of many changes….

I found this to be a thoroughly enjoyable book. I have read Jewell’s Thirty-something and Ralph’s Party, and enjoyed both, so I had high hopes for this novel, and I think I enjoyed it even more than the other two. This is pure chick-lit, but a wonderful read. It is over 400 pages long, but I read most of it in a day. It is engaging, humorous and a great read.

I loved Leah and Toby, but they are not the only characters whose stories are told in this book. Toby’s tenants are introduced as well and woven into the story. They have their own chapters so we can get to know them as well. This adds to the story, making it more enjoyable as you want to know what is going to happen to the house mates, as well as wanting to know about their past.

Jewell looks at the illness Cystic Fibrosis. She examines the disease through a conversation and looks at how it can affect people’s lives, as well as fears of those first encountering the illness. She also describes how this can negatively affect relationships. I think this was very well written and dealt with.

The only thing I did not like about the book was the swearing. I found there to be too much of it and it spoiled the book.

Overall, a great chick-lit book, highly recommended.

8/10

The Five People You Meet in Heaven by by Mitch Albom

the five people you meet in heaven

Synopsis from Amazon:

From the author of the phenomenal number one bestseller TUESDAYS WITH MORRIE, comes this enchanting, beautifully written novel that explores a mystery only heaven can unfold. Eddie is a grizzled war veteran who feels trapped in the toil of his father before him, fixing rides at a seaside amusement park. Then he dies in a tragic accident, trying to save a little girl from a falling cart. He awakens in the afterlife, where he learns that heaven is not a lush Garden of Eden, but a place where your earthly life is explained to you by five people who were in it. These people may have been loved ones or distant strangers. Yet each of them changed your path forever. As the story builds to its stunning conclusion, Eddie desperately seeks redemption in the still-unknown last act of his life. Was it a heroic success or a devastating failure? The answer is as magical and inspirational as a glimpse of heaven itself.

Eddie dies on his birthday attempting to save a girl when part of a pier ride malfunctions. When he gets to heaven he meets five different people who explain life and parts of Eddie’s life which lead him to rethink hi anger and bitterness. This is a journey that will release him for heaven.

I read this book in a day – it is really good. It is not a long book, only 208 pages, but is a wonderful read. Albom draws you in and it really feels like you are going through these memories with Eddie. You feel pain, hurt and happiness as you read.

Because Eddie died on his birthday there are several chapters that are birthday memories. Ranging from the age of five up to his sixties. I really liked these. They showed tenderness and a glimpse into how Eddie’s life was changing.

There are many issues discussed in this book – such as the war and how that affected life and parent issues, particularly violence from his father. Albom deals with these wonderfully and shows that with help things can be forgiven.

I liked all the characters. It was lovely how some of the people Eddie met in heaven he had only briefly met in life, or not met at all, but how they played a part in his life. I particularly liked Tala, a little girl. She had died young in the war but she was sweet and forgiving, and loving. I felt for Eddie too. He lost his wife young and the war had left him maimed, leaving him sad and stuck in a rut. I loved being there as he sorted out his life in heaven.

I highly recommend this book. I loved it. I can think of no complaints.

10/10

The Reader by Bernhard Schlink

the-reader-jpg

Synopsis from Amazon:

For 15-year-old Michael Berg, a chance meeting with an older woman leads to far more than he ever imagined. The woman in question is Hanna, and before long they embark on a passionate, clandestine love affair which leaves Michael both euphoric and confused. For Hanna is not all she seems. Years later, as a law student observing a trial in Germany, Michael is shocked to realize that the person in the dock is Hanna. The woman he had loved is a criminal. Much about her behaviour during the trial does not make sense. But then suddenly, and terribly, it does – Hanna is not only obliged to answer for a horrible crime, she is also desperately concealing an even deeper secret.

This is a brave book. It follows Michael, who after a long period of illness goes to thank the women who helped him when he was sick in the street. This second encounter leads to a love affair that will haunt Michael for the rest of his life. Suddenly Hanna disappears and Michael thinks that is the end – until he sees her in court answering to crimes committed under Hitler’s reign. Yet as the trail proceeds Michael discovers something about Hanna that she is hiding, and which leads her to punishment.

This books looks at Germany, the aftermath of the war, the Holocaust and the guilt of a generation. It also looks at love and sex, and books. I thought this book was a good read. It isn’t a long book and it didn’t take me long to read. I did find the philosophy in the second part hard to grasp, and found it difficult to concentrate whilst reading those bits, but they are really my only complaints.

I liked Michael – he was a simple 15 year old who hadn’t been in a proper relationship, then a man trying to work out how to condemn those who had been involved with the Holocaust, and ultimately he proved himself a good friend. I felt sorry for Hanna and the secret she felt she needed to keep however she had a mean streak that I didn’t like.

As already said, this is a brave book. I think it addresses these sensitive issues well – I don’t think people will be offended when reading this book. I would recommend this as a good book.

8/10

Speaking of Love by Angela Young

speaking of love

Synopsis from Beautiful Books:

When human beings don’t talk about love, things go wrong.

If a mother had told her daughter that she loved her, they might not have spent years apart. If a man had found the courage to tell a woman that he loved her she might never have married another man. And if a father had told his daughter that he loved her when her mother died, she might not have suffered the breakdown that caused the rift with her own daughter.

But if you are born into a family that never talks about love, how do you learn to say the words?

SPEAKING of LOVE is a novel about what happens when people who love each other don’t say so. It deals passionately and honestly with human breakdown. And it tells of our need for stories and how stories can help make sense of the random nature of life.

This is Young’s first novel, and in my opinion it is a success. The book follows three people: Iris, Vivie and Matthew. Iris is Vivie’s mother and suffers from mental health issues and suffers a devastating break down. Vivie is only young when this happens and it emotionally scars to the point she feels like her life is collapsing around her. Matthew is a few years older than Vivie and they grew up as next door neighbours. Matthew is in love with Vivie but cannot tells her how he feels. In fact, none of them can voice their feelings; leading to heartbreak and separation. But in a special twist of fate, a storytelling event where Iris is speaking brings all of them together…will feelings be voiced and hurts mended?

This was a beautiful book. It took a little while to get going, and to be honest I did think about stopping reading it; however I am so glad I pushed on. As the story unfolds it is gripping and real. I would not class this as chick-lit or romance fiction because the main theme alongside love is mental health. Most of the consequences in the book arise from Iris’ illness and Young honestly explores the repercussion of being so ill and having a breakdown.

One aspect I really enjoyed was the fact Iris was a story teller. Not just that but some of her stories are published in the book, and they were lovely to read.

The book flits between Iris, Vivie and Matthew; and it flows easily between the three. Alongside that, they all slip into memories gracefully and this explains how they were feeling, recalls events that changed their lives and gives an insight into Iris’ illness.

This is not a fast read, however it is a wonderful book and I recommend it for everyone.

8/10

Published by: Beautiful Books

RRP: £7.99