The Truths and Triumphs of Grace Atherton by Anstey Harris

indexThe Truths and Triumphs of Grace Atherton by Anstey Harris

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Blurb:

GRACE ATHERTON HAS FALLEN OUT OF LOVE … AND INTO LIFE

Between the simple melody of running her violin shop and the full-blown orchestra of her romantic interludes in Paris with David, her devoted partner of eight years, Grace Atherton has always set her life to music.

Her world revolves entirely around David, for Grace’s own secrets have kept everyone else at bay. Until, suddenly and shockingly, one act tips Grace’s life upside down, and the music seems to stop.

It takes a vivacious old man and a straight-talking teenager to kickstart a new chapter for Grace. In the process, she learns that she is not as alone in the world as she had once thought, that no mistake is insurmountable, and that the quiet moments in life can be something to shout about …

I received an e-ARC of this book via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Within the opening pages of this book I wasn’t sure it was going to be for me. There was a lot of focus on violas, violins, cellos, classical perfomances, classy Parisian apartments and it all felt incredibley far removed from something I would enjoy.

However, after the incident in the Metro happens and the relevation that Grace and David were having a long term affair, my interest was piqued.

The story is full of passion, music, love and friendship and though some parts of the story are predictable (if a man has been stringing you along for the best part of a decade whilst he stays with his wife, your story probably won’t end happily…), Anstey Harris’ writing is beautiful and the story is weaved in a way that made me want to gulp it all down in one go. I loved Grace and so desperately wanted her to find a happy ending.

A lot of the themes of the book are sad, but the tone of the writing is so empowering that I felt a wonderful sense of wellbeing and peace once I’d finished reading.

Without a doubt the unlikely friendship between elderly customer Mr Williams, teenage shop assistant Nadia and Grace was the highlight of the book. It was a joy to read about their enthusiasm for music and their support of Grace.

I also really liked that once David’s true colours were revealed, Grace was fully focused on moving on. I would have found it too frustrating to read about that weasel of a man winning back her affections!

This book is a fantastic, warm read, perfect for a rainy afternoon to lighten your soul and your mood. Oh, and if you give it a chance all of the information about how violins and cellos are built is actually really fascinating.

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What if it’s Us by Becky Albertalli and Adam Silvera

What If It’s Us by Becky Albertalli

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I received an e-ARC of this book via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review

Essentially this book is best described as a modern day gay Sleepless in Seattle and it was an absolute joy to read from beginning to end. Throw in tons of references to Hamilton, Dear Evan Hanson and fantasy novels and I was in heaven.

If you know me you know how partial I am to a love story set in New York and I was heavily invested in Arthur and Ben’s relationship from the beginning of their meet cute right to the end of the book. Arthur was like an adorable puppy dog and I honestly LOVE him, whereas Ben was a little more guarded and standoffish. I like both of them but at times I was annoyed at Ben for hurting my poor baby Arthur. I really enjoyed the fact that they had to work at their relationship but they were prepared to do so.

In addition to Ben and Arthur, their friends were also wonderful to read. Dylan is my second favourite character (after Arthur), I loved his friendship with Ben, his slightly crazy approach to his own relationships and his general outlook on the world.

I’m so sad I’ve finished reading this book, I really wasn’t ready to leave their little gang. I foresee a lot of rereads in my future.

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Always Forever Maybe by Anica Mrose Rissi

Always Forever Maybe by Anica Mrose Rissi

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Thank you to the publisher for sending me an ARC in exhange for an honest review.

I would find it very hard to say I enjoyed reading this book given the subject matter, however, I can say that it is a very powerful, engaging and important book.

Always Forever Maybe tracks the relationship between Betts and Aiden, from the first head over heels, love at first sight moment, to the intense puppy dog love stage and beyond into more toxic territory.

Anica Mrose Rissi charts the rise and fall of this abusive relationship so realistically it is very difficult to read in places. Although Aiden does become more psychically abusive towards Betts as the book goes on, much of the story focuses on his emotional abuse- alienating his girlfriend from her friends, trying to change her behaviour and making her apologise for insignificant things so that she keeps the peace and avoids his dramatic mood changes.

The intense fast-paced nature of this relationship is so common in abusive relationships. It’s a way of gaining complete control over a person and making them feel as if they need the relationship and can’t leave. Even with the support of her friends, Betts still found herself trapped, feeling as if Aiden was the only thing that mattered.

I loved Betts and Jo’s friendship, and the unwavering support Jo showed for Betts even when she was being a bad friend to her. Jo also provided some much needed comic relief in this book and was probably my favourite character for this reason.

Although it was difficult to read, I’m glad a book like this is out there. This type of toxic behaviour in relationships can be so easy to explain away when you think you are in love. Hopefully, this book will help some people realise that they shouldn’t be subjecting themselves to such treatment.

Whilst it’s incredibly well written, I only recommend this book to you if you feel you can handle the topic. If you are at all senstive to the subject of domestic abuse I would advise reader discretion.

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I have lost my way by Gayle Forman

I Have Lost My Way by Gayle Forman

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I’ve never read any Gayle Forman before so I was really interested to see what I though of “I lost my way” when I won a copy via Twitter.

From the first page I was completley drawn into the story and I binge-read it in one sitting. I couldn’t help it!

The book follows three people who have “lost their way”. Freya, an up-and-coming recording artist who had lost her voice; Harun, a gay muslim who is about to leave his secret boyfriend behind and enter into an arranged marriage with a woman; and Nathaniel whose home life has completely fallen apart leaving him all alone.

All three stories converge at the beginning of the book, whcih follows them over the course of a single day. During this day they help each other find themselves and discover what life can be like if you’re true to yourself.

I think part of the reason this book was so easy to read is Gayle Forman’s writing style. She has a really clear, simple way of putting accross a lot of complex emotion. The three main characters all jump off the page at you and their voices are all so individual. I love POV books for this reason; I enjoy hearing the inner workings of each characters minds and in this book it really helped me to see why each character so desperately needed the support of their new friends. Vitally for a POV book, each of the story arcs were captivating and well developed so there was no feeling of being desperate for a different story line to continue. They were all as strong as each other and beautifully interwoven.

Each of the three protagonist’s stories were incredibly sad, however, when I finished reading the book I felt really positive and happy. The way they all came together to protect and save their new friends after only a day of knowing each other was so beautiful and I loved the dynamic between them.

There is potential for a sequal to be written and I would welcome one with open arms because I am not ready to leave these characters yet. Having said that, this book did beautifully conclude this chapter of their lives so it could just as easily be left as a standalone novel.

*This book does deal with difficult themes such as suicide and homophobia so please be aware of this before you decide to read*

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Bookshop Girl by Chloe Coles

Bookshop Girl by Chloe Coles

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I received an e-ARC of this manuscript via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Books set in bookshops always get put straight to the top of my to-be-read list, so when I heard about “Bookshop Girl” I couldn’t wait to read it.

When the regional manager of Bennett’s bookshop comes for a meeting the staff are devastated to learn that their branch of the store will be closed. Sold to them as a fait accompli, they resign themselves to the idea- all except Paige Turner (don’t worry, the obvious jokes are addressed and it isn’t as cheesy as it seems!) and her best friend Holly who decide to become activists to prevent their only haven in their hometown from being closed.

I’ve never worked in a bookshop myself, but I have experienced the soul crushing sadness of seeing yet another beloved bookshop disappear from the high street until the only place left to buy books is an hour away or online.

I loved the friendship between Chloe and Holly and how silly they were together whilst also being supportive of each other. Their antics whilst attending their still life course were hilarious, and exactly how two sixteen year old girls would behave in such an awkward setting.

There was some romance in this book, but it really took a back seat to the main plot which I think was really positive. The girls had their crushes but the bookshop and their friendship was far more important. Paige and Holly’s efforts to save the bookshop are so earnest and determined and their love for books is infectious. By the time I finished reading I was desperate to visit my nearest bookshop!

Bookshop Girl is a really fun, light, easy to read contemporary. The main characters are strong female leads and the whole message of the book is really positive. I’m looking forward to reading more in the series and continuing to get to know Paige and Holly.
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From Twinkle, with Love by Sandhya Menon

From Twinkle, with Love by Sandhya Menon

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I received an e-ARC of this book via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Sometimes in life you just need to let yourself read a fluffy, happy, sunshiney contemporary book and last year my favourite contemporary read was “When Dimple met Rishi”. I loved it so much as soon as “From Twinkle, with Love” was announced I pre-ordered it straight away. I still couldn’t resist requesting it on Netgalley as well and I definitely did a happy dance when I got the notification that I was approved.

“From Twinkle, with Love” follows Twinkle Mehra, an aspiring filmmaker with a huge amount of ambition and talent and a massive crush on swim-superstar Neil Roy, but when she is approached by Neil’s twin brother Sahil to direct a film for the upcoming Summer festival, Twinkle starts to fall for the other Roy brother.

I loved how cute this book was. The characters all seemed genuinely high school age, they weren’t trying to be older than they are and the things they were concerned with were all refreshingly normal.

Twinkle’s family dynamic was also a strong factor to the book, helping to explain the attitude problem she has at times. Whilst her relationship with her parents was complicated, the constant unwavering love from Dadi was beautiful and she stole the scene whenever she appeared.

The romance between Twinkle and Sahil was heart meltingly adorable and I read most of the book desperate for Twinkle to come to her senses and drop her fixation with boring athlete Neil and fall head over heels for nerdy, film obssessed, devoted Sahil instead.

The cultural identity of this book is so strong, as it was for “Dimple”, and whilst it’s not Sandhya Menon’s job to teach us about Indian culture, I enjoy being able to read a book in which the culture is so integral to the story because you do end up learning a lot. More importantly, it’s so vital and wonderful that many young people will see themselves represented in this book where previously they haven’t been.

“From Twinkle, with Love” is a must read book for the summer if you love fun, flirty contemporary reads.

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The Curious Heart of Ailsa Rae by Stephanie Butland

The Curious Heart of Ailsa Rae: A perfect read for those who loved ELEANOR OLIPHANT IS COMPLETELY FINE by Stephanie Butland

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I received an e-ARC of this book via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review

I absolutely loved Stephanie Butland’s last novel, “Lost for Words” (it was set in a bookshop so no prizes for guessing why it appealed to me so much) and when I saw her book available on Netgalley I couldn’t click request fast enough.

The Curious Heart of Ailsa Rae follows Ailsa just a couple of months after the heart transplant she had been waiting for her whole life. We join Ailsa as she learns how to live, how to be an adult and how to navigate a life in which she suddenly has a future that involves more than hospital stays and dying.

I thought the premise to this book was really interesting. I’ve read a lot of books which focus on long term illness, but never a book which explores how somebody starts to rebuild their life once they have that operation they’ve been waiting for since birth. I don’t think I’d ever considered what it would be like for someone in that position, so used to waiting by the phone to hear of a possible organ and having people look after you as if you were a child, to suddenly be better and have to completely rebuild how they thought about themselves and develop some independence.

The book is written with the use of flashbacks to before the heart transplant and I enjoyed these glimpses into Ailsa’s previous life which helped to make me feel as if I knew both versions of Ailsa- with her old heart and with her new heart (which she names Apple).

I also really liked the use of Ailsa’s blog as a story telling device. It was in these sections that I felt Ailsa was being the most true to herself, and it added another layer to her personality.

The writing was completley addictive and I found myself swept into the story quickly. It was such a life affirming story and I really felt like I was with Ailsa as she experience new things and grabbed her new chance at life with both hands.

I absolutely loved the romantic storyline, but I also loved that having a boyfriend wasn’t Ailsa’s main priority and her career, hobbies, friends and family were much more her focus.

I would recommend this book to fans of Sophie Kinsella, Jojo Moyes and anybody who loves reading the equivalent of a hug in book form!

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