The A to Z of Everything by Debbie Johnson

A to ZIf my mother did this my sister and me, then I would conjure up her spirit to tell her what a fool she is. My sister and I would both find this process a complete waste of time, and one that would probably end with one or the other in jail. (Makes note not to buy this book for my mother)

I would however do this for my daughters if I felt they needed to reconnect and be there for each other after my death. Not that I would ever let things become so bad that I wasn’t speaking to my children on a regular basis.

Blood is thicker than water, however blood doesn’t mean you automatically have to be friends. In fact the reality is that many take a step back from family members because they are related but don’t like them.

Andrea has planned everything in fine detail. She wants Rose and Poppy to reunite and become the friends they once were. She wants them to support each other and get over the problems that keep them apart.

Poppy and Rose used to be as thick as thieves until something ripped them apart. Now they are like strangers, and Poppy doesn’t even know her nephew.

Rose is just as guilty as Poppy, as far as I am concerned. It takes two to tango and yet Rose places all the blame on Poppy. Of course it is more of a betrayal if it is your sister, but come on now blaming one person is ludicrous.

The idea itself is quite an interesting one. You don’t know what you’ve lost until it is gone forever. It is all about taking people for granted and letting relationships get to the point of no return. Both women have to learn to put the past behind them and to move forward with a clean slate. It is an emotional and honest read, possibly because it is a realistic scenario.

Buy The A to Z of Everything at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Follow @Debbiemjohnson@HarperImpulse or @HarperCollinsUk

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The Choir on Hope Street by Annie Lyons

choirThis is a story of support and friendship, and how the smallest of lights can become a beacon of hope in the darkest of times. The members of the group are as different as can be, and yet they all have at least one thing in common.

The Choir brings them all together, and although the main reason is to save the hall, they really enjoy being a group. It’s like a home away from home.

Two women strike up the unlikeliest of friendships, even if it is more of a tenuous one at first. Both of them are struggling to cope with problems in their private lives, whilst trying hard to maintain their composure and the outside façade.

Natalie finds her supposedly perfect life in sudden disarray when her husband suddenly decides to change the parameters of their relationship. Caroline is struggling to connect with her mother, with whom she has always had a strained relationship. Dementia is a cruel companion, an illness that takes no prisoners and leaves no family member unaffected.

Lyons knows exactly how to portray the reality of relationships, which is especially evident in the ‘thought bubbles’ of the characters. You can say one thing, but think an entirely different one. The relationship between the two women is like a tug-of-war of emotional support. They are both frightened to admit that they need someone in their corner.

As always it is a story readers can relate to. Nearly everyone tries to remain strong in difficult situations. Admitting that you need a friend or support can be tantamount to a sign of weakness for some. The truth is everyone needs help now and again. Maybe everyone needs a song too.

Buy The Choir on Hope Street at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Follow @1AnnieLyons or @HQStories visit annielyons.com or connect with Annie on Facebbook

Read Life or Something Like it or Not Quite Perfect by Annie Lyons.

The Santiago Sisters by Victoria Fox

santiagoThe bond between sisters is supposed to be strong, so the bond between twin sisters should be unbreakable, right? The truth is that the sisterly bond can also cause the kind of powerful emotions that can make or break a relationship.

Calida and Tess are close and yet at the same time they are worlds apart. Tess is like a wild caged bird trying to break free from the restraints of her environment and her upbringing.

Calida is the exact opposite, she is happy in her environment barring the fact her mother acts as if she doesn’t exist, but at least her father thinks she can walk on water. She feels second best to the absolutely stunning Tess, whereas she is merely just pretty.

The supposed inequality between the two of them leads to a parting of ways and years of built-up resentment.

The sisters make their separate ways into the world of the rich and famous. One of them behind the scenes and the other in the spotlight. Jealousy, anger and spite drives the two of them, which keeps them from building lasting and meaningful relationships. Whether they know it or not they miss each other and their special bond.

Fox writes with the same panache, glitz and glam of Jackie Collins. She also likes to mix up family and Hollywood dramas with more than a pinch of sensual spice. Her characters are not exactly coy.

If you’re looking for a read that caters for readers that like their books heavy on the drama, with a hefty portion of the horizontal tango and interwoven with strong emotions, then this is the type of book I would recommend.

Buy The Santiago Sisters at Amazon UK or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper by Phaedra Patrick

charmsThe style of the story is reminiscent of The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy and the subsequent Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce.

Arthur is grieving for his wife. His story is about processing the grief and coming to terms with the woman she was with him and the woman she was before he come into her life.

Isn’t that true for all of us or at least the majority of us? There is always an element of ourselves and our lives we keep hidden from our spouses and/or life partners. The life, friends, adventures and experiences before you settle down, and sometimes even after you’ve settled down. Secret lives and the unknown facets of the person you love.

This is exactly what happens to Arthur. He finds an expensive charm bracelet in a small box hidden in a shoe in his wife’s cupboard. A trinket he has never seen before and knows nothing about.

The charms end up leading him on a lifetime of adventures. He discovers so many new things about Miriam, things he couldn’t have imagined her ever doing. Ex-lovers, trips to exotic places and even living in India for a while. It makes him doubt the life they had together and the love they had for each other.

In the end this is a story of how Arthur emerges from the darkness and the depths of his grief. How he reconnects with life and in a way with the Miriam he used to know and most importantly the Miriam he knows now.

It’s a lovely tale of sorrow, loneliness and despair, which is replaced by curiosity, happiness and a zest for life.

Buy The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper at Amazon UK or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

A Dictionary of Mutual Understanding by Jackie Copleton

dictionayI absolutely loved this book. It has been long-listed for the Bailey’s Women’s Prize for Fiction, and I have to say it not only deserves to be listed, but also to win. I admit the last few pages made me cry. Tends to be my reaction to things or works of art of great beauty. Music, art and yes, even great and beautiful fiction.

Some authors write well and others are just natural storytellers, the combination of the two can make for a spectacular read. Copleton does both really well. In fact if I didn’t know any better I would swear Amaterasu was not a fictional person at all, and wrote this story herself, that’s how realistic it is.

The title doesn’t really do the story any justice, however I do believe it emulates the subtlety of the tale. Within the subtle weaving of emotional turmoil is the fragile spider-web of family dynamics. Those elements are off-set and enhanced by the intricate details of the bombing of Nagasaki.

I also really enjoyed the passages at the beginning of each chapter. The information about Japanese traditions, phrases and etiquette gave an extra level of understanding to the story.

The main focus is on the relationship between Amaterasu and her daughter Yuko. The way Amaterasu interferes to change and determine Yuko’s path in life, how she deals with her guilt, and how her past casts a long shadow over her entire life.

Simultaneously Amaterasu has to deal with the possibility that her grandchild may not have been killed at all. When the alleged grandson turns up at her door after many decades, everything she has resigned herself to for so many years is torn apart by doubt. Her resistance to the possible truth is fascinating. as if the burden of guilt is bigger than the joy at being wrong all those years.

Irrespective of the actual ending or the truth, I think Hideo’s true identity becomes irrelevant at some point. He is merely another victim of an unnecessary tragedy and atrocity. Does it really matter whether he is Hideo or not?

As for Amaterasu, I understand the meddling and the manipulation. She is a mother and only wants what is best for her child. Unlike Yuko she has the full picture and all the information, perhaps if she had been honest Yuko may have made different choices in regards to Sato.

This story is captivating and emotionally moving. It is literary fiction at its finest. Copleton manages to capture the horror and the aftermath of Nagasaki in a way that makes the reader feel as if they are right there. The family dynamics and relationships fit snugly around the pikadon. Family and man-made atrocity go hand in hand to create a truly wonderful read.

Buy A Dictionary of Mutual Understanding at Amazon UK or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Sleepless in Manhattan by Sarah Morgan

sleeplessThis is the first part of Sarah Morgan’s new trilogy From Manhattan with Love featuring the friends Paige, Skylar and Frankie. If you have read the Puffin Island books you may recognise some of the characters or places mentioned in Sleepless in Manhattan.

This story is about Jake and Paige, and their love-hate-squabble relationship. Jake has been trying to avoid his attraction to Paige for years. Her brother is his best friend, so technically she is off-limits. The fact that Jake is a known lothario doesn’t help matters much. He is a different woman every type of guy, so not exactly someone you would want as a son-law or boyfriend.

At first Paige sees Jake as more of an annoyance, a friend with good intentions, but with a terrible way of delivering advice. It isn’t until they are unintentionally thrown together in an awkward situation that Paige understands just how much she is attracted to him.

The focal point is the friendships between the girls and their love lives or lack of. You can already see where the next potential book in the trilogy will be headed. The story is also about Paige and the way she and her family deal with her past medical issues. They are reluctant to let her out of the cocoon they have built around her, which makes it difficult for Paige to live her life as an adult.

Sarah Morgan knows how to create the perfect trifecta of love, sexual tension and desire. The combination readers look for in a romantic read. Her characters are always well developed and make the reader want to return to them to find out how they are doing. Her name is always on the tip of my tongue when I am asked for recommendations in this particular genre.

Buy Sleepless in Manhattan at Amazon UK or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

You can connect with Sarah online at her website: www.sarahmorgan.com on Facebook at www.facebook.com/AuthorSarahMorgan or on Twitter @SarahMorgan_

Read Moonlight over Manhattan (From Manhattan with Love #6),  Holiday in the Hamptons (From ManHattan with Love #5), New York Actually (From Manhattan with Love #4)Miracle on 5th Avenue (From Manhattan With Love #3)Sunset in Central Park (From Manhattan with Love #2)Christmas Ever AfterFirst Time in ForeverMaybe This Christmas, Sleighbells in the SnowSuddenly Last Summer or The Notting Hill Diaries, all by Sarah Morgan.

Follow @SarahMorgan_@HQStories and @HarperCollinsUK

A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler

spoolThe title couldn’t be more apt, the story certainly unravels like a spool of thread. Isn’t that the way life is and why it often appears as if just a moment has passed when in reality is actually days, months and years.

For me this story was about the inevitability of old age. Almost a rite of passage.

The reader meets Abby and Red in the here and now and also gets to follow their story from the past to the present. The story of how they met and built their life, home and family together. Central to the story is the house they live in and their children.

Abby and Red have gotten to an age where they need some assistance and care. Their children wander between falling over themselves to help and trying to avoid the obvious issues.

This causes a lot of friction between certain members of the family. Old jealousy and rivalry surfaces and creates even bigger cracks within the family.

Isn’t there a Denny in nearly every family? The sibling who lives disconnected from everyone else by choice, and yet still manages to blame the entire family for his lack of connection. I found his character quite intriguing, especially when he started to try and call out the cuckoo in the nest. His jealousy and sudden interest in asserting his authority and place in the family causes a lot of turmoil in the family.

Reading this is like standing outside, peering in through the kitchen window and watching a family from the outside. It isn’t written with any dramatic soap opera like surprises or deep dark secrets. It’s just like any old family with petty arguments, responsibilities and complicated relationships.

Buy A Spool of Blue Thread at Amazon UK or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.