Review of Notting Hill Carnival by Candice Carty-Williams

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Cover – The Notting Hill Carnival


Genre: Romance – Quick Reads – Retellings

📖 This book is pretty much a modern-day remake of Romeo and Juliet. The story primarily follows a girl named Sapphire who once was the leader of a gang called the Red Roses. She’s turned her life around, got a job and is trying to go straight as it were. Unfortunately, the leader of the Gold Teeth Gang has other plans and Sapphire soon finds herself being pulled back into that old world. On her way to the Notting Hill Carnival, Sapphire finds herself forming a friendship with a boy named Apollo but they both soon have their loyalties tested when they find out they each belong to rival gangs.

✍️ This book is part of the “quick reads” collection which I like to intersperse between larger novels. The idea of this collection is exactly as it says on the tin (or should that be cover), a shorter than a normal book by world-leading authors (less than 100 pages). One of the things I quite like about these books is that they force the authors to cut out a lot of the waffle that sometimes goes on in books. This keeps the stories quite fast-paced with a lot happening in less time. This book carries a lot of action and a lot of background despite its short number of pages, and I enjoyed that. The romance aspect perhaps could have developed more (as I’m sure it would have in a longer book) but I’m sure the reader got the gist and was willing the couple to triumph.

🗣 I often think it’s useful to see an extract of a book to get an idea of the writing style. Here is a brief extract so that you can see a sample of the writing yourself:

‘Do I know you from somewhere?’ he said back, smiling.
Sapphire stifled a laugh. This was the oldest trick in the book, though she hadn’t heard it for a long time. All work and no play in the last few months had made Sapphire feel like nobody would ever be attracted to her.
‘I don’t think so’, she smiled. He was kind of cute. Not as big as the guys she usually went for, but she did like his eyes.

🗺 This book takes place in London (probably obvious by the title) but I enjoyed the author’s descriptions of the areas. You really got a feel for the turf was between the gangs and the busy carnival bringing it all to a head.

💔 Any Negatives: Possibly could have done with a little more romance but to be honest the amount of story packed into such a short book it would have been difficult to achieve this.

💭 Overall View: A brilliant little story and a great tribute to a classic. The story felt sassy and strong-willed. The main character was well portrayed, and you did find yourself willing her to triumph. Overall, very enjoyable.

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Happy Valentine’s Day!

I already wrote quite a soppy post a few days ago on what it means to feel loved. But one of the things my OH and I love to do most is to laugh together (despite having quite different senses of humour). So, I’ve gathered together a few funnies. Enjoy.

If Mum’s made candy hearts…

If Mom’s made candy hearts

Advice on dating a twin…

Dating

Choosing the right gift is always difficult…

It’s important to take turns…

Taking turns

Doing things together can be fun…

Password – funny

And if you’re single, don’t worry about it…

Cucumber anyone? – Funny

Whatever you do, I hope you have fun.

With Love from KL Caley

Review of Before the Crown by Fiona Harding

Before the Crown by Flora Harding

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Before the Crown – Image by KL Caley

My rating: 4 Stars
Genre: Historical Fiction, Romance

📖 This is the story of Elizabeth and Philip before Elizabeth took her role as head of the royal family. It follows her story from a young girl, first meeting Philip to becoming a young woman, set to marry him. Obviously, creative license has been used but we do see Philip in a very different light, as a poor prince, evicted from his home country, brought up in England by a relative, estranged parents, and even more estranged sisters due to the war. We also get to see Elizabeth through her early years, quiet and thoughtful, slightly envious of her sister’s confidence, and most importantly very intrigued by Philip.

✍️ I am a huge fan of The Crown and was slightly nervous upon reading this book that it wouldn’t live up to that, but I have to say I was pleasantly surprised and thoroughly enjoyed it. It feels well researched, for example, it gave quite a lot of knowledge of Philip’s family and his relations around the world which was really interesting. It also recounted a lot of his naval experience through the war. As mentioned above they are told with creative flair but I imagine the facts and dates behind the events must be somewhat accurate to have been included.

🗣 I often think it’s useful to see an extract of a book to get an idea of the writing style. Here is a brief extract so that you can see a sample of the writing yourself:

As February blows itself into March, it feels to Philip as if he is leading a strange kind of double life… actually, a triple life, when he comes to think about it. There are those innocent evenings at the palace, drinking orangeade and larking around in the corridors, and then there are the evenings he spends in London with David Milford Haven and other friends, drinking in smoky clubs, all of them struggling to adjust to the dull grind of peace-time life.
Then there is another world again, at HMS Arthur in Corsham, where he is training petty officers and sleeps in a chilly and sparsely furnished munitions hut with a tin roof. He spends his evenings in the Methuen Arms, drinking mild and bitter and playing darts or skittles and discussing the possibility of cricket in the summer. It is a long way from Buckingham Palace.

👓 Viewpoint: This book is told both from Philip and Elizabeth’s viewpoint, often recounting the same event but from one or the others perspective. This was quite effective, and I enjoyed the author’s interpretation of how they might have felt about events in the royal household.

👫 Character(s): Philip’s character particularly in this book was really interestingly portrayed; humorous, smart, funny, quick-witted and even quicker to anger. Elizabeth was portrayed as stalwart and resilient, everything we would expect and need from our queen but there was a gentle side to her, particularly the times when Philip was in her orbit.

💔 Any Negatives: I would have loved to see a little timeline of events for this story (similar to what Barbara Erskine and others include in their historical book). Obviously, that’s not a requirement to the story, which as you can see from my review, I thought was fantastic, but I found myself wanting to break away from the book to google some of the events mentioned.

💭 Overall View: An interesting book, it feels like a step into Elizabeth and Philip’s lives and thoughts. The story is sweet with a charming naivety about it but also shows strength of character (when required). I felt like I learnt about the couple and particularly the events they went through which I always feel is a good sign of historical fiction. I really enjoyed it and would certainly recommend it to others.

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At the time of reviewing the kindle edition of this book it is on sale for £0.99 at Amazon (affiliate link):
https://amzn.to/3nbRkbm
📣 Disclaimer: This book review contains an affiliate link. This means I earn a small commission if you use the links on my book reviews to make a purchase. You will not be charged extra, but you will help support my reading habit and keep me supplied with books to review. Thank you. 😘

My Days with You

Day 1

9am: Your eyelids fluttered awake. I was watching. You giggled pushing me away from you and rubbing your sleepy eyes. And sitting up to have a stretch. I pulled you back into the duvet, kissing you, playing with your hair, caressing your subtle soft skin. At first you joined in playfully but soon things got hotter, heavier, and I found myself sliding off your pyjama shorts and taking things further. It was ecstasy.

10am: I set you up on the little bistro table on the patio with a hot cuppa then set to making you breakfast. I watched through the patio doors as your hands twirled the cup handle. You soaked in the garden, the birds, the sounds of the world moving busily outside, whilst we stayed here in our sheltered cocoon. You glance towards me and catch me watching, give me a smile and return for another sip of your cup. I take my attention back to the breakfast but at each opportunity, my gaze wanders back to you.

1pm: We set off in the car to the marina. You turn the radio up and we sing loudly to all the cheesy tracks that play. I wish the car was a soft-top so we could put the roof down and I could see the wind flow through your hair and watch as you raise your arms in the air dancing in your seat. Actually, I don’t, that would be a complete waste of a wish. Especially in my circumstances. 

3pm: The marina is too busy. People are everywhere, you love it, stopping to idly chat to passersby or stroking the occasional dog out on a stroll with its owner. It’s too much for me, I hang back and give the odd nod if someone looks over enquiringly. Sensing my hesitation, you suggest a picnic. I head back to the car for the rug in the back whilst you gather us some food. We climb the grass to the cliffside and find a secluded area on top where we can survey the bay and the little boats moving in and out. I pick a daisy from the long grass and place it in your hair. The freckles across your nose and cheeks seem to glow brighter in the sun as you smile and laugh and chatter. I nod and eat my sandwich, all I really want to do is kiss you, kiss you and never stop.

7pm: I shower and stand in the doorway, watching you put your mascara on, the concentration on your face makes me smile. Then goes the earrings 1, 2. You turn and find me staring, then give me a little twirl. “Wow”, you push me away jokingly but there is no other word to describe you. You are quite literally breathtaking to me. A car horn beeps outside, the taxi announcing its arrival. It sends you into a flurry of action grabbing shows, handbags, coats and scarves.

10pm: Dinner was incredible. Everything just perfect. Even the moment I dropped the napkin, reached down to get it and surprised you with a small box. The jewel inside sparkling. Not as big as I would have liked but everything I wanted to say. My shyness swept over me as the restaurant grew silent but you saved the day like you always do, bursting in with a resounding “yes”. Cheering erupted around us, champagne followed and pats on the back from strangers. Your happiness once again extending to find a home in others. My favourite, the elderly couple two tables down, who shared their story, 55 years together, no regrets. Their one piece of advice – make every moment count. A further taxi arriving to take us home. I wonder if I should have arranged more, dancing or a club but I just want to spend the rest of the evening alone with you. Just you.

Day 2

2200 hours: My gear is shifted, from car to truck to plane to helicopter. I hated saying goodbye. It’s the worst part. I don’t fear what I go into, I don’t fear the weapons, I don’t fear the bad guys. I fear the pain I see in your eyes when I leave. That someday, you might not wait for me to return. This morning as you stood at the door with nothing on your feet. You reached your arms around me and kissed me. Then whispered gently “See you soon.”


Originally written in response to Writer’s Quote Wednesday Writing Challenge (#WQWWC) now hosted by Marsha Ingrao at Always Right. I know, it’s Friday but I was a bit behind. I absolutely loved this quote, it appeared to pop out at me. So beautiful and it led me to this story of romantic devotion, time being the most crucial element. We don’t always realise when we are short on time and if we did, would we do things differently, view things differently, savour those simple uncomplicated moments. I would hope so, but perhaps I am more soppy and sentimental than I would claim to be – haha.

Much Love
KL

Review of Marrying a Stranger by Anna Jacobs – 4 Stars

Marrying a StrangerMarrying a Stranger by Anna Jacobs

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

So, the plot of this book is what drew me in, it is really intriguing. Megan was orphaned as a child and went to live with her aunt, uncle and cousin. Despite adoring her new family as an adult she decides to return to the area of her childhood. During her journeys, she accidentally ends up rescuing Ben from being pick-pocketed. In return, they end up spending a few days together and the attraction between them grows. When Ben unveils he has to move away to Australia she is heartbroken, but then he surprises her by asking her to marry him so that she can go with him. Megan agrees but the rocky road of marriage is long and complicated. What will her family think? What are Ben’s family like? How will she feel being provided for when she has always worked and paid her own way? All these questions and more provide Megan with plenty of turmoil, throw in Ben’s overbearing ex that is desperate to win him back and you just don’t quite know which way the story will go? Can the newlyweds really make their marriage work?

The writing style is a little old fashioned and the story a little slow at times. But, in saying this, there is nothing wrong with a bit of good wholesome romance now and again. The settings were quite quirky in this novel, however the author never let Megan stay anywhere for the reader to become too familiar with the setting (I’m not sure if this was deliberate or not to show Megan’s discomfort at being constantly moved) but it did mean that the reader has to read quite a lot of descriptions from quite a few places. The first hotel and then the house towards the end of the novel were both brilliant locations, particularly the house.

I think Megan is an interesting character, it feels a bit like she’s going through a mid-life crisis. She feels she has a boring job and is yearning for something more. The solution = marry a stranger and move to the other side of the world. Yet somehow as a reader, you do root for her. Ben is a lot more complicated character. He’s very distant and I think as a reader it takes a while to warm to him (and to understand why Megan is so enamoured) – think of a boring Mr Grey. Although the good thing about that is it means he develops later in the novel and you do end up liking him, I just felt as a reader it takes a little longer for you to start to like him. Apart from that, the other characters are pretty good especially Ben’s ex as soon as she appears you mistrust her, dislike her and are ready for her to get her comeuppance – haha!

Overall I really enjoyed this book. Very light, easy summer reading. This is the first Anna Jacobs book I have read and I have already ordered another from this author! For those that enjoy this type of novel, I would recommend Diary of a Whitby Girl by Jessica Stirling. It is historical fiction but a really enjoyable slower paced romance.

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A Trysting Place -#writephoto

Every year they met here.

Three long days together, no job, no kids, and no mortgage to worry about.

All the worries are forgotten at the doorstep.

Just the two of them wrapped in each other’s arms, soaking up the positive energy that draped over them in this magical place.

They actually spoke to each other. For hours and hours, they talked, sipping wine and laughing together.tryst-photo-by-sue-vincent

Most importantly they listened to each other.

To all the little things, the sorrows and triumphs.

They reminisced all their cherished memories.

At the end of the three days, they stood in silence looking out at the rising sun.

Soon they would depart, back to their lives and their problems.

As they stood under the canopy she gave him a secretive smile, he lowered his head and kissed her lightly on the lips, before leaning in further and sweeping his large comforting arms around her.

A year seemed a lifetime in this moment.

As they lifted their bags and locked the door, the smile returned to both of their faces, they would soon be back and the wait would be worth it.

Their secret to a lasting marriage – time.


My response to Sue’s wonderful photo prompt. Maybe it’s all the valentine’s romance couples were sharing over the last week but I felt my story needed a happy ending. I think as everyday life often gets in the way it’s easy for a couple to forget what is magical and special about each other. This is my little tribute to the couple’s that manage to carve out a little time for themselves even if it is once a year, a precious meal, a stolen moment, it’s often hard to capture but it’s worth it.

If you want to give the prompt a go too, head over to Sue’s Page Thursday Photo Prompt – Tryst #writephoto and join in the prompt.KL ❤

Review of Can You Keep a Secret by Sophie Kinsella – 4 Stars

Can You Keep a Secret?Can You Keep a Secret? by Sophie Kinsella

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

As the summary describes, Emma is a nervous flyer, when she gets on a very turbulent flight, she anxiously spills all her secrets to the passenger next to her. With relief she gets off the plane and tries to forget it ever happened, only to find out that the man she divulged her deepest darkest secrets to… is the boss of the company she works for. However, far from being put off by Emma’s outbursts he seems to take delight in being in her company and if he can make a little statement that Emma knows is directed at one of her little black lies, even more joyful for him. Can Emma recover from the embarrassment and compose herself to work alongside him? Only time will tell.
This book follows Sophie Kinsella’s quirky playful writing style and what the story lacks in storyline, it does make up for in sarcasm, and that strange delight in watching it go wrong for our heroine. In classic rom-com Bridget-jones-style-humour, you really do wonder if she can get any more embarrassed. Yet that is also the book’s main attraction, our heroine gets up, dusts herself off (or I should say powers through the blushing statement) and just waits until the next embarrassment takes hold.
I wasn’t overly fond of Emma as a character, she does tend to strike you as a bit of a bimbo rather than someone who just happens to be that unlucky. Still, that makes it easier when stuff doesn’t quite go her way. By the end of the book though you are willing her to get her happily ever after.
My overall opinion is this isn’t as good as the shopaholic series, those storylines are better and the characters in it are a little more fun. However this really isn’t a bad book, I did enjoy it, a very light, fun and easy read.
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Review of Rules for a Perfect Life by Niamh Greene – 3.5 Stars

Rules for a Perfect LifeRules for a Perfect Life by Niamh Greene

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

My review for this is really a 3.5 Stars.
Maggie has a taste for the nicer things in life, she has a nice man, a nice job and a love of nice handbags. On a whim, she decides nice isn’t good enough for her and ditches her fella. Soon after she finds herself out of a job due to the housing market crash and finds herself in need of a new home too. With few other options when her friend offers her the chance to move out to the country to house sit for her, Maggie accepts. She soon finds out country life is not all it’s cracked up to be!

Niamh Greene has a very easy to read writing style, and I would suggest Marion Keyes fans will adore her. My only concern is the story felt a little drawn out (however that may just be this novel or my own preference). The story followed the typical rom-com structure and I enjoyed it as an easy light-hearted read.

While Maggie as a character did get a fair few drama’s thrown at her to deal with, I actually found her character a little frustrating. She came across as a bit spoilt and selfish and it took me a while to get behind her and start willing her to get the guy (haha). Although some of her sarcasm was top notch. The guy, however, came across as lovely, single devoted father, hard-worker, and all-round family man. You really do want him to get his happily ever after.

The tale was very similar to those by Marion Keyes, I would say Greene is not quite as good as Sophie Kinsella or Helen Fielding but similar in a lot of ways.

A good, enjoyable holiday read, I would certainly read more from this author but I do think it could have been even better.

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Stepping Stones – #writephoto

She walked hastily to the stones. It was her favourite time sneaking across to see him. All her friends told her no. She would get in so much trouble, but it was worth it for those few hours in his arms. They would run through the woods together, share sandwiches together. Last time it had been even more exciting, he had placed a daisy in her hair and leant in and kissed her. She couldn’t believe it and couldn’t wait to do it again.Even the rain couldn’t dampen her spirits.

She skipped happily towards the bay, but on arrival was devastated to see that the water was too high and the stone crossing was hidden beneath the waves. He waved to her from the other side but with little she could do, they both turned away. She stepped slowly and gloomily down the bay until she came across a stone shelter, glancing back she decided she wasn’t too far away, she could wait here until it was clear and then surprise him.

Nestled in she waited for hours listening to the water. Finally, her eyelids became heavy and she drifted off to sleep. She awoke with a start, then remembering where she was and her plan she looked out of her cave towards the stepping stones, they were clear. Clumsily she started to climb from the shelter. Her excitement mounted as she watched him emerge from the trees, had he waited for her too? Then from behind him stepped a girl. That was when she noticed, his hand was entwined in hers and the girl wore a daisy in her hair. To rub salt into the wound, he stopped and kissed the girl.

Walking back from the shelter to her home, her sanctuary, she wiped the dripping tears. She would never tell the others what happened by the stepping stones.

 

Stepping Stones by Sue Vincent
Stepping Stones Image by Sue Vincent

 

 


Originally Written in response to Daily Echo’s #WritePhoto challenge. Use the image to create a post on your own blog… poetry, prose, humour… by Wednesday 27th July and link back to Sue’s blog.

Review of The Execution by Sharon Cramer – 5 Stars

The Execution (The Wintergrave Chronicles #1)The Execution by Sharon Cramer

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a medieval thriller set in the fourteenth century which tells the stories of two young men; Ravan and D’ata. Unknown to the young men until they first meet, they are orphaned twins. Each man has lived a troubled life, entirely different from the other and recounts his tale of his joys and his sorrows. Time ticks as one of the young men is condemned as a killer and due to be hanged.
I loved the historical origins of this plot, an orphanage, a farm girl, a priest and a mercenary. Others have pointed out about historical inaccuracies but I think the story-telling was so prominent any inaccuracies didn’t detract from the story for me.
The characters Ravan and D’ata were both well written, if anything they could have been expanded upon as I definitely found myself wanting to know more about their world. Each had their own strengths, their own weaknesses and their own trials to overcome without the story becoming repetitive. Smaller characters were also interesting without detracting from the main characters story too much. There also wasn’t so many of them that it became confusing which is often the case with these dual storyline novels.
This is written very well, the descriptive writing lets you really immerse in the novel and its powerful storyline. The flashbacks by each young man were split and timed very well along you to understand both storylines but never long enough to forget the precious characters section.
I was pleased to find out this is actually a series and I’m interested to see how it continues. As mentioned, a lot of the smaller characters were quite intriguing themselves and I wonder if they develop more in the later books. All in all a really enjoyable novel and a great start to a new series.

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