I have such a huge pile of books to review and it feels a little overwhelming … but I feel like I’m making headway. They’ve built up because I was overseas for a month and even though I wasn’t home, the books kept coming. Not that I’m complaining – I’m so lucky to be sent books by generous publishers and writers, even if I can’t possibly review them all.

This month I’m reviewing six books that caught my attention. Let me know in the comments if you’ve read any of them.

Three generations of women come together for a heartfelt story in Love and Other Battles by Tess Woods: Jess, the free-spirited hippie, her reserved daughter Jamie, and Jamie’s vulnerable teenage daughter, CJ. I always admire writers who weave together different time periods and voices with seemingly no effort, and Tess is no exception here. She’s created strong and memorable characters (especially Jess and CJ), and thrown a raft of conflicts at them like pacifism v war, drugs for leisure v medicine, and whether to stay in a toxic relationship. For every choice the women make, there is a battle of a different kind, and Tess gives each one balanced consideration, resulting in a read that’s emotionally satisfying, as much as it is an engrossing page turner.

There is a twist as the past collides with the present, and I picked that one early on, but that didn’t diminish the quality of the storytelling and the respect with which the issues, contemporary and historical, were treated. Highly recommended!

My advance copy was courtesy of the publisher, Harper Collins.

When the Moon is a Smile by Teena Raffa-Mulligan makes me smile. I wish, when my parents separated, that a book like this was around to smooth the edges of my little heart. It’s comforting, reassuring and heart-warming in the way it softens the distance of time via a smiling moon. The illustrations match the story in tone and warmth, with the waxing and waning smiles on the father and daughter reflected in the sky.

Congratulations to the author (who for interest of disclosure is my mother-in-law) and the illustrator on a book that is sure to help many a family broach a difficult subject with a loving touch.

My copy was a gift from the author.

I love a good domestic thriller and The Accusation by Wendy James is very good. The media loves the young girl who’s accused a middle-aged woman of kidnapping, and with all the evidence pointing to the accused, it seems watertight. Of course, it’s not, but the getting to that point is a chair-gripping, tissue-shredding journey that pits one word against another, with the ever-so-helpful media stirring things up. If you like suspense, and you’re fascinated by the way a story can be spun by different forms of media, this is worth a look.

My copy was courtesy of the publisher.


Allegra in Three Parts by Suzanne Daniel made me cry, I’m not going to hide it. Grab your tissues, because this story of a young girl (Allegra, aged 11 and three-quarters) who has to be one person for one grandmother, another for the other, and a third for her dad, really tugs at the heartstrings. Allegra’s being brought up by her Hungarian Jewish grandmother Matilde, and her other grandmother, Joy, who fights for women’s safety and rights, lives next door. Joy’s son Rick lives above the garage of Matilde’s house. Matilde and Joy don’t speak, Joy and Rick barely speak, and Matilde and Rick don’t speak. Allegra’s in the middle and it hurts her heart more than she realises.

I was captivated by Allegra’s voice – it’s innocent and empathic and searching all at once – and related so much to her yearning for harmony between the three people she loved most in the world. I loved the beautifully drawn relationships between every character, especially Allegra’s with Matilde and with Rick, and her friendship with Patricia was an added bonus to a great cast. Like I said, this book made me cry … and it also made me miss my Oma, who I spent many happy times with as a child and young woman. Don’t miss it and grab tissues.

My copy was courtesy of the publisher.

You’ll need the tissues anyway for Messy, Wonderful Us by Catherine Isaac. It’s a poignant story of secrets, love and relationships, that threads back much further than Allie, the protagonist, realises. When Allie discovers a letter to her mother from a former beau, she’s determined to get to the bottom of that long-lost love affair, even if that means taking leave from work and flying to Italy on a whim. Her best friend, Ed, who’s just separated from his wife, joins her – with the blessing of his wife, who hopes Allie can talk some sense into him. But as they drive around Italy, looking for the mystery man, their own relationship comes to the forefront of their hearts … and that’s messy.

Messy, Wonderful Us tugged at my heartstrings … a lot! It’s the kind of book that is warm and fuzzy and bittersweet and wrenching all at once. If you like a read that warms the heart and then makes it cry, this is for you. And if you liked One Day, even more so.

My copy was courtesy of the publisher.

This last book needed no tissues. No, it needed a stiff drink! Those People by Louise Candlish – a story of bad neighbours moving into a nice street – is the story of my nightmares. And it wasn’t just because of the new neighbour, although he was undeniably a nasty piece of work, and definitely not someone I’d like living on my street, with his loud music at all hours. The thing is, the rest of the neighbours aren’t particularly likeable either! The story is told from multiple neighbours’ viewpoints, but not from the one they are collectively set against. What emerges is a narrative that’s not one-sided, but it’s not balanced either. It engrossed me the whole way, but made me squirm with discomfort because NO ONE wants neighbours like those in this book. And I don’t just mean the new ones in the street either. If you like domestic suspense, give this one a go. 

My copy was courtesy of the publisher.

So, that’s a sample of some of the many books I’ve read over the last two months … I was travelling in May so I read a lot more, including Fingersmith, Tipping the Velvet and Affinity (all by Sarah Waters and all terrific). I’ve become a fan of her writing since reading The Little Stranger earlier this year. I also read and enjoyed The Blue by Nancy Bilyeau. It was interesting that while travelling in the UK, I tended towards historical fiction (and I’m currently reading Alison Weir’s The Six Wives of Henry VIII, a non-fiction portrait of six very different women).

What have you been reading?




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