My Lemon Grove Summer by Jo Thomas

My Lemon Grove Summer by Jo Thomas is already out in ebook but is being published in paperback and audio on 11th July 2019. I received a free copy via the publisher/NetGalley to review.

When life hands you lemons … is it ever too late for a second chance?

Zelda’s impulsive nature has got her precisely nowhere up until now. A fresh start in a beautiful hilltop town in Sicily looking for new residents, together with her best friend Lennie, could be just what she needs. And who better to settle down with than the person who knows her best?

But the sun-filled skies and sparkling seas can’t hide the shadow hanging over Citta d’Ora, which means not everyone is pleased to see their arrival. The dreams Zelda and her fellow new residents had of setting up a new life might be slipping away. But a friendship with restauranteur Luca could be about to unlock the possibilities that lie in the local lemon groves. And there’s a wedding on the horizon that might be just what the town needs to turn it around…

Could a summer in Sicily help Zelda learn to trust her instinct and follow her heart?

For me, My Lemon Grove Summer was one of those books that are perfect for a summer day. You go into the garden with a book and a drink and suddenly it’s two hours later and you’ve read much more than the “few pages” your planned to. I read the whole book in big chunks over two days and it was a very fun two days.

I really loved the setting, particularly the lemon groves. I would have loved to go there and especially to try the limoncello. I’ve been on a little bit of a lemon kick the last few days which may or may not have been inspired by this book. But I’ve still never tried limoncello.

There are several secrets in this book which is brilliant. I saw some of them coming and some I didn’t. There were also some unusual and unexpected characters. Sophia was someone I loved but I also thought a couple of the characters could have been developed more as they clearly had more of a story to tell. But that just leaves room for a sequel which would be very welcome!

This book was the right amount of twisty and fun and just plain enjoyable. I’ve got a couple of unread Jo Thomas books on my TBR but if My Lemon Grove Summer is anything to go by they won’t be remaining unread for too much longer.

Do You Dream of Terra-Two? by Temi Oh

I love scifi but rarely read anything in the genre that isn’t a Star Trek novelisation. I’m trying to change that so I was thrilled to get the chance to read and review Do You Dream of Terra-Two? by Temi Oh

The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet meets The 100 in this unforgettable debut by a brilliant new voice.

A century ago, scientists theorised that a habitable planet existed in a nearby solar system. Today, ten astronauts will leave a dying Earth to find it. Four are decorated veterans of the 20th century’s space-race. And six are teenagers, graduates of the exclusive Dalton Academy, who’ve been in training for this mission for most of their lives.

It will take the team twenty-three years to reach Terra-Two. Twenty-three years spent in close quarters. Twenty-three years with no one to rely on but each other. Twenty-three years with no rescue possible, should something go wrong. And something always goes wrong.

I enjoyed Do You Dream of Terra Two? but it was a very different book to what I expected. There were many moments throughout the book when what I thought would happen next wasn’t. It’s not what I’d call a rollercoaster of a book, but it’s definitely one where there’s no point in even trying to guess where it’s going.

Almost a week after finishing reading it I still can’t decide if I liked the way it ended and whether or not I want there to be a sequel (because a part of me really does want to read more of these characters and this universe and another part thinks that might ruin the magic of a brilliant book). I’m worried saying that makes it seem like I didn’t like the book as a whole. I did, I really loved it.

The setting/timeline of this book is a really clever idea. It’s set in London 2012. It’s the London we know – famous landmarks are mentioned and the Olympics are about to happen as it starts. The characters eat Galaxy chocolate and watch University Challenge. But it’s also not the London or the 2012 we know because space travel (and therefore technology) is much more of a thing so it;s all a bit different and just brilliant.

I am really keen to see what Temi Oh writes next.

Happiness for Beginners by Carole Matthews

If I’m honest I am quite behind in reading/reviewing my NetGalley books. I received a free copy of Happiness for Beginners by Carole Mattthews to review. I received it in time to review it around the time the hardback was published a few months ago. The paperback was published a couple of weeks ago and I’m only just reviewing it now (but we’ll pretend that was deliberate!)

Here is the synopsis:

Molly Baker is living her best life.

Thirty-eight years old, she lives on the twenty-five-acre Hope Farm in Buckinghamshire, surrounded by (mostly) four-legged friends and rolling hills. There’s Anthony the anti-social sheep, Tina Turner the alpaca with attitude, and the definitely-not-miniature pig, Teacup.

Molly runs the farm as an alternative school for kids who haven’t thrived in mainstream education. It’s full on, but she wouldn’t have it any other way. So when the well-groomed Shelby Dacre turns up at Hope Farm asking to enrol his son Lucas, Molly isn’t fazed.

But Lucas is distant and soon Molly realises he might be more of a handful than she anticipated. And then there’s the added problem that his dad is distractingly handsome. Molly has her beloved farm to think of – could letting Lucas and Shelby in be a terrible mistake, or the start of something wonderful?

An absolute must-read from the queen of romance Carole Matthews, Molly’s story will make your heart sing.

Molly is the same age as me (almost, I will be 38 in about 6 months) and it felt unusual in a good way to read about a character my own age. So many of the women I read about seem to be either 20 somethings finding themselves or 50 somethings reinventing themselves often after their husband has done a runner. So top marks for that. I actually think Molly’s age is something that makes the plot better – she’s been around the block, she’s settled and happy but throughout the book begins to realise that her version of happy isn’t what everyone else’s is and look for more.

I’m not a particular fan of animals but the ones in Happiness for Beginners made me overlook that dislike. They really added to the story and I loved the personalities they each had and the fun they brought to proceedings.

Happiness for Beginners is full of moments that will make you smile, make you feel for the characters and make you laugh. It’s really realistic and just a lovely read that leaves you feeling good. It’s a while since I’ve read a Carole Matthews book. After reading Happiness for Beginners I’m wondering why that is, because like all of her books it was brilliant. I will definitely be making the time to read more of them!

Poppy’s Recipe for Life by Heidi Swain

I received a free copy of Poppy’s Recipe for Life by Heidi Swain for review via NetGalley. It was a well written, fun book full of Heidi Swain’s trademark charm. Here’s the synopsis

Things haven’t always been straightforward in Poppy’s life but her dreams are finally within her reach.

She’s moving into a cottage in beautiful Nightingale Square, close to the local community garden, where she can indulge her passion for making preserves and pickles. She may not have the best relationship with her family but she is surrounded by loving friends, and feels sure that even her grumpy new neighbour, Jacob, has more to him than his steely exterior belies.

But the unexpected arrival of Poppy’s troubled younger brother soon threatens her new-found happiness and as the garden team works together to win community space of the year, Poppy must decide where her priorities lie and what she is prepared to fight for …

Poppy’s Recipe for Life is the second of Heidi Swain’s books to be set in Nightingale Square. We revisited characters from the previous book and met some new ones – there was a nice balance between the two. There were also some new settings in the book – one or two of which I wonder if we’ll see again in a future book? I’d love it if that were the case!

Not long after starting this book I was sure I had spotted a really obvious twist and I knew what was going to happen. However I kept reading and it turns out I was completely wrong – part of what I thought was going to happen did but not everything I expected and what I had seen coming was handled differently and turned out completely the opposite to what I thought was obvious. I should have known that a Heidi Swain book wouldn’t contain the boring and predictable!

Although I liked all of the characters, I really liked the character of Ryan, Poppy’s younger brother. He’s late teens and I don’t think I’ve read many books with a character like that so well handled.

As is always the case with a Heidi Swain book, Poppy’s Recipe for Life was really enjoyable and I’d recommend it for anyone who wants some escapist fun reading.

Books the physio should read

The physio came to see my last week, it was the first time I’d seen her in person for about a year although we’ve checked in on the phone or via email a bit.

One of her questions was what she should read next. I’d recommended a couple of books to her before and she’d enjoyed them. She said she knew I would suggest something good.

My first thought was that I didn’t remember what I’d recommended before. Then she mentioned the titles when she was saying how much she liked them. They were Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman (although I’ve got a feeling I mentioned it and she was already reading it back then) and Three Things About Elsie by Joanna Cannon. She told me she enjoyed reading about Elsie so much she had recommended it to several other people since.

With no warning my recommendations were that she should read both of Iona Grey’s books. Because I loved Letters to the Lost and four or so years later I still always recommend it to people all the time. I also told her I hadn’t finished reading the new one The Glittering Hour but I was enjoying it a lot.

My other recommendation was Vox by Christina Dalcher. I read Vox in one day – started it on the train to Birmingham in the morning and finished it once I got home that evening, desperate to know what happened and at the same time not wanting it to end. It’s such a powerful read and I’ve thought about the premise a lot in the month since I read it.

Then just after she left I thought of another book and was like “why didn’t I recommend…” and a bit later I caught sight of a book on the shelf and thought “I really should have mentioned that…”

So having given it some considerable consideration (and because I don’t think it’s acceptable to email a healthcare professional just to discuss books) here is my current list of books I think people should read – as inspired by the physio

  1. Letters to the Lost and The Glittering Hour by Iona Grey
  2. Vox by Christina Dalcher
  3. Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng
  4. The Truths and Triumphs of Grace Atherton by Anstey Harris
  5. The Valley of Amazement by Amy Tan
  6. The Lido by Libby Page
  7. The Manhattan Project by Paul McNeive
  8. The Wayfarers Series by Becky Chambers
  9. Anything by Haruki Murakami (Kafka on the Shore and Killing Commendatore are my particular faves)
  10. The Red Ribbon by Lucy Adlington

And because it’s my list and I make the rules, I’m going to give an honourable mention to Say Hello by Carly Findlay as a book that I’m really keen to read. It’s only out in print/ebook in Australia but has just been released worldwide on audiobook so I plan to get that when I finish my current audiobook.