Book Of The Month: The One Plus One by Jojo Moyes

Books, LIFESTYLE

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* Post contains spoilers, you have been warned*

After reading the blurb for this book I still didn’t really know what to expect but after loving After You and Still Me by Jojo Moyes I was ready to give it a go. I shall start by saying that The One Plus One is very different from the other two novels I had read. Although the others did have realistic storylines and tugged at the heart strings, The One Plus One can only be described as a blow to the gut. In parts it made me feel the nerves and the anger from the characters and others made me look like I was catching flies as I read (I believe the real saying here is ‘jaw dropping’) and from a book that I was at first uncertain about as I closed the pages I found it a great read. 

I really didn’t know where this story was going to go when I started reading it. Following the conversations of two cleaners losing a job it felt almost too realistic and as I read for escapism and entertainment I wasn’t sure this was going to provide a happy ending. I am very glad that I continued to read because I did indeed enjoy each of the characters developments throughout the story. The story follows Jess, her young daughter Tanzie, her non-biological teenage son Nicky and lastly Ed, the rich, slightly rude but helpful acquaintance. After some extreme car trouble with Jess’ car, Ed offers to drive the family to Scotland. Their time in the car together becomes the story and this is very reflective on real life situations. Long journeys always tend to promote conversations that wouldn’t usually be had or provoke irritations within the confined space. The story conveys this perfectly and makes it even more tense as the characters are strangers to each other.

Jojo Moyes The One Plus One  book of the month

I am not usually a fan of books that switch between the characters voices but The One Plus One did this well. The story flowed, didn’t change scenes completely and I found it easy to follow, something that I don’t find in many of this type. I also enjoyed the characters voices themselves. Even though two of the characters are younger and you can tell this isn’t disruptive and they would seem ‘grown up’ for their age, especially Nicky towards the end of the book.

A couple of storyline twists in the book left me open mouthed in shock for a minute or two and I thoroughly enjoyed this about it. Finding out where Jess’ partner was and the accident with Tanzie and the dog towards the end were a definite surprise, not pleasant but interesting. And even better that it ended positively.

As the story is mainly centred around Jess the reader gets to know her character a little more. I do prefer to read books which have a female lead who is strong, independent and aspirational and although Jess is these things it is portrayed in a way completely different compared to female characters in other narratives. Instead of the high flying careers, designer labels and jet set life that I usually find in women’s literature, this is down to earth, arguably more realistic for the masses and aspirational in other ways. Ways like; working hard pays off, be a good person and be true to yourself. There are so many underlying meanings in the book, probably even a few that I didn’t catch, that the reader is bound to come away with something and I’ll definitely be keeping this one on the bookshelf to read again in the future.

Have you read The One Plus One or any other books by Jojo Moyes?

Millie Vanilla’s Cupcake Cafe by Georgia Hill

Books, LIFESTYLE, Uncategorized

*Spoiler alerts*

Cakes? Check. Love interest? Check. Pet dog? Check. Seaside town? Check.

Yep this book has ’em and it was the perfect read to completely relax and fall into the story. Millie Vanilla’s Cupcake Cafe follows Millie running her beach side cafe and follows the high and lows that this can bring. With a new larger coffee shop moving into town Millie has to find a way of keeping her smaller, yet more personal cafe afloat. I love a story that includes someone running a business so I immediately wanted to keep reading. The way it is wrote also makes the storyline easy to follow without too much chopping and changing and too many characters. Reading for me is all about finding a relaxing moment and getting absorbed and I can’t tend to do that if there is too much to follow.

Another part to the book that I enjoy are the multiple diy projects. Whether it’s for the cafe having a revamp or the hotel having a complete renovation right through to the homemade bread and local artwork there is something going on throughtout the story to feel inspired by and feeling the urge to start a project. All of the characters get involved in some kind of craft from sewing bunting to painting artwork and the novel has a good community spirit vibe. It all adds to the homemade skill effect of the story and it leaves the reader full of inspiration as well as entertained.

Millie Vanilla’s Cupcake Cafe holds plenty of love stories within its pages too. There are the two pooch loving pensioners that have a dislike to love relationship which is sweet (excuse the pun) as anything. Then the younger, university age characters who aren’t sure what they want and of course, Millie herself. It starts in the cafe with a classic meeting between Millie and a tall, dark, handsome stranger. Of course, it was never going to be a smooth boy meets girl scenario and not before long there is a an incident to rock the boat. Jed, being the handsome business type that he is, actually works for Millie’s rival – new in town/mass produced/cheaper – coffee shop.

There is also another romance between Millie’s best friend and her old school crush. Both actors the characters rekindle their old romance and Millie is the one that is picking up the pieces and trying to support her best friend throughout. It brings a lovely friendship storyline the book and a little drama. This storyline and the one of Millie’s new mermaid-esque cafe assistant are what I can imagine would shake a little seaside town. It add complexity to the characters and, I would argue, a little more adult behaviour than what it could have been without them.

I haven’t yet read a book in the ‘chick-lit’ genre where love didn’t prevail and thankfully it does here too. It makes it a light read (even though realistically its probably one of the thicker books in the genre I have read/seen) and good to grab a tea and slice of cake with.

What are your favourite books recently?

The list that changed my life by Olivia Beirne

The List That Changed My Life by Olivia Beirne

Books, LIFESTYLE

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Having not heard of Olivia Beirne before this book I did not know what to expect. Even after reading the first few pages I was still unsure of how the writing was going to continue. The title is catchy and intriguing and the blurb definitely caught my attention. You begin to wonder what the life changing event is that means the character Georgia must fulfil her sisters ‘before 30’ bucket list. 

The whole book is written like nothing I have read in a long while. It is a novel of its time with references to modern culture such as the X factor, Don’t tell the Bride and Strictly Come Dancing among others. I enjoyed these references because I can relate to them being of my generation and think I would read it again in the future because I’ll ‘get’ them. I do wonder if maybe I wouldn’t have enjoyed it as much if I didn’t understand the references or they tune out a future market.

The theme of the book, as well as connecting sisters through life, has a constant draw to the diary of our main character. This theme also comes across in the writing style itself. I haven’t read a book in a while that reflected diary entries and I enjoyed it. The writing is friendly and colloquial and a breath of fresh air in a market where many books have a similar style or storyline. I just also want to make a reference about the use of exclamation marks. Now I am a fan of an exclamation mark but I know many reputably despise them. Each to their own but knowing this I was very surprised to see how many were used throughout. Of course it brings back the idea that it is Georgia herself writing the diary entries and writing for yourself you can say it how you want and I guess that this is why it felt different to many. 

Referring to the story itself I love how the two sisters have opposing ways of looking at life. Georgia, our narrator, lives the London money struggle, dirty flat life along with trying to keep up with friends whilst being there for her sister Amy. Amy is a PE teaching, fitness fanatic who always looks on the bright side and ways to overcome situations rather than mull in them. A recurring theme in her character is ‘mind over matter’ until she is diagnosed with MS and sees a change in her lifestyle and ability to maintain independence. This is where the story takes a switch and it is Georgia who tries to be the one that attempts to cheer her sister up and gives her some of her own wise words. I enjoyed the turns throughout and the positivity bug constantly jumps between them both, showing that there is a little bit of each in everyone.

The List that changed my life by Olivia Beirne book

I love the premise of the story and the idea of a ‘before 30 bucket list’, I even wrote my own at the beginning of the year (skydives not included) and at this current time have too many still waiting to be achieved. I enjoyed seeing the idea of a 10k run evolve into a charity event and even further into a proposal, apologies, happy tears and friends coming together and it does *almost* make me want to bake a Victoria sponge cake. Hey, I said almost.

It is an inspiring read and can be relatable for many either from a big life changing perspective or even finding that you are Georgia, happy getting by with a steady job, flat and colleagues or Amy, full of life and energy and pushing to achieve. The sisters want the best for each other and that’s relatable for families on any level.

It isn’t of its genre without a relationship blooming and The List That Changed My Life delivers on this too. Jack is at first mistaken for someone else from a dating app who then Georgia has to work a little too close to, SPOILER her boss’ brother. Whilst it is all going smooth as a reader I am completely aware that this can not last through the entire book.  I can’t remember a time when I actually held my breath during reading but I did when the ‘perfect romance’ twist came. I don’t want to completely spoil it so won’t say what it is but I can say that I was genuinely surprised. Of course it all has to work out in the end (and it does, thankfully).  

Have you read The List That Changed My Life by Olivia Beirne? What’s next on your reading list?

L x

A Country Escape by Katie Fforde

A Country Escape by Katie Fforde

Books, LIFESTYLE

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I do love a good book about living in the countryside and A Country Escape by Katie Fforde definitely delivered. Not just chickens and a country manor either more like a working farm including quite demanding cows.

The story takes you through the life of Fran finding out she is due to inherit the ageing farm from a long lost relative including the very expensive to keep cows. Moving from the big city life she had in London to take herself on this next adventure she soon finds it a little harder with more work than she imagined initially.

Fran has to find a way of keeping the farm in profit within a year or the inheritance is no longer valid. She also has to keep another male relative at bay who has come from the woodwork and simply wants to sell the land for a lump sum with no interest in the family and farm history. The catch here is Amy, owner of the farm, almost wants to give it to a male heir (even if he is a snake in the grass).

There of course has to be an eligible bachelor in the story somewhere and he comes in the form of Anthony. An attractive, farm owner himself that knows the business and although Fran did not want to take his help at first she finds herself falling for him, his helpful nature and tries to ignore the fact she believes he wants to take the inheriting land for himself. Fran sees him in different lights as they hand rear new born puppies overnight and he helps her to renovate the farm to get her cheese business up and running.

This was something I thoroughly enjoyed in A Country Escape. The cheese business that Fran wants to set up to support the farm and keep the renowned quality cows inspires the entrepreneurial spirit and makes me want to move to the country and set up shop. I also loved the aspect of starting from scratch renovating the farm and doing up the farm house and could have and aspect of this in every book I read.

Our main character has the support of many friends and makes a few more after taking the leap to move whilst proving herself and her drive to keep the farm thriving. Throughout there was a couple of times where I believed this circumstance may not come to fruition but I was happy with the outcome and I shall be saving this book to read again and sharing it with my mum. I will also be definitely looking out for more to read by Katie Fforde as I found her writing easy to follow and with a strong storyline throughout.

Have you read anything by Katie Fforde? Or have any other recommendations?

The Heavenly Italian Ice Cream Shop

Books, LIFESTYLE

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You know how some books just stay longer with you than others, this is one of them for me. Recalling this book came super easy and I know it was only the end of last year that I read it but the amount I read sometimes they mingle together, not this one.

The Heavenly Italian Ice Cream Shop. It mixes two of my favourite things. Italy and Italian ice cream. I have to say that the best we’ve probably had when we were away is from a shop in Venice.

Bringing it back, this book travels between the UK and Italy and follows the stories of two sisters. One, Imogen, a traveller, never someone to stay in one place for too long finds herself seemingly stuck. The other sister Anna, wife of an Italian man, starts a journey of moving to Sorrento to open an ice cream parlour.They two stories intertwine beautifully and I never found myself lost or wondering who was friends with each character. I recently put down a book because I couldn’t wrap my head around the characters and just wanted to read to unwind.

Imogen’s story takes her on a life changing path that questions her current job and her relationship. Always the ‘flight risk’ of the two sisters she has a reputation of leaving at a moments notice and not being the reliable one of the pair. Anna’s tale takes her character from the sturdy career running the ice cream parlour in Brighton to starting a new business in Italy. The saving grace here is that her husband Matteo comes from a family of successful ice cream store holders. The catch is that Anna wants to make these venture succeed through their own hardwork and without unwelcome pressure from Matteo’s family. The story takes you through the twists and turns of Anna having an overbearing mother-in-law and a sister-in-law needing a friend to turn to.

As well as the sisters storylines the book takes you through family members’ and friends’ adventures. The uncle that runs a guest house, Imogen’s boyfriend and his expanding surf shop and the romantic tale of Evie and a long lost Italian love.

One thing I did enjoy about this novel is that it doesn’t just speak of relationships in a guy meets girl kind of way but also of small businesses, travelling and finding out what you are passionate about in life. It touches more on the relationships between married couples and bonds between family and friends than it does in other classic ‘chick-lit’ and I appreciated this little breath of fresh air.

I will definitely be reading The Heavenly Italian Ice Cream Shop again in the future but unfortunately for me I don’t actually think I will be in Italy.

The Lost Art of Keeping Secrets by Eva Rice

The Lost Art of Keeping Secrets by Eva Rice

Books, LIFESTYLE

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You can see from the pictures that this is a well read book. I have owned it for a few years now and read it multiple times, it is definitely one of my favourites.

The story follows Penelope growing up and finding her feet in the era post war with a new friend, Charlotte, at her side. It covers the glamour of the time with cocktail parties, the constant need for a new outfit and how everyone knows it is all about looking the part and being seen. I absolutely love this aspect of it and this can span over multiple decades finding links in any time. Far from the glamour, Penelope, although living in a grand house with a rich history, has a Mama who is scared to move forward into a modern world and her brother, Inigo who is desperate to lead the way. Penelope is a huge fan of singer and celebrity Johnnie Ray attending concerts and listening to vinyls on repeat and attends school where she learns literature but actually wants to be attending gatherings and climbing the social ladder.

The Lost Art of Keeping Secrets certainly doesn’t fail in terms of bringing the glitz and the glamour and it puts the reader right in the centre of parties in upper class London. It tells of beautiful but damaged actresses, American film producers and famous musicians. Rice gives an edge of realism but in such a dreamy way that I’ve floated around with an air that I’m part of 1950’s high society for days after reading.

The Lost Art of Keeping Secrets by Eva Rice

Milton Magna Hall is the home of our main character, her widowed and beautiful Mama and her Elvis loving brother. And a guinea pig. The family are rich enough to have a cook but not enough to repair the damaged, rundown large abode and save it from the leaks, cracks and torn upholstery. The description of the house gives a great insight to what living in a family estate, with no money for the upkeep, can actually mean.

The characters in the story that do have money are Rocky Dakota, American extraordinaire. He’s plays the part for both comfort and fear for other characters in the book and it comes across as if he will sort everything out. Then there is Marina, vulnerable actress but with a definite taste for drama who blames Penelope for stealing her man. Charlotte’s Aunt Clare is a woman of the world without a hint of self doubt and an all knowing of the things that are. Something about this book that I absolutely love are the characters themselves. Gracious and beautiful in places to rash and charmingly abrasive in others.

The story includes tales of love and loss right from the start. The chance meeting with Charlotte leads to her cousin Harry who is, by and large, not your typical tall dark and handsome character. More like the charismatic best friend with a mysterious aura but immediately the reader knows he’s hanging around in the story. Penelope’s Mama and Aunt Clare share someone in common and Harry has his past and future to decide between.

After reading, The Lost Art of Keeping Secrets has me wanting to take to a chaise longue with a martini and slice of cake on a side table, and spend all night at glamorous parties until breakfast at dawn. In equal amounts.

I can do that right?

L x

Chocolate Labrador Dog Friendly Bookstore

The Dog Friendly Bookshop

Books, TRAVEL, UK Places

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There is no doubt that I love going into a bookshop. Always have, always will. I’ve enjoyed reading since I can remember and wrote stories and started this blog because I liked to write. In a way it’s therapeutic, in another I like sharing stories and information. In a bookshop you can find every genre you could want from that classic non-fiction, a sports player’s autobiography or even a mini book of quotes to keep you going through those motivation dry spells.

It was in The Cotswolds when I realised Waterstones was a dog friendly shop. I was on my own walking Mia around town and thought I’d nip in to see if they had a certain book I had been looking for. I checked the sign on the door and found that they did in fact allow dogs. This is great news to me as I wouldn’t, couldn’t leave her tied up outside of a shop. It’s sheer luck I’ve never needed the loo whilst out and about because I don’t know what I’d do.

Now Mia is a medium sized dog, being a Labrador and all, and she has a thick saggy tail and she’s not the most graceful of dogs 99% of the time. That tail of hers gets about and those tables in Waterstones can be a little awkward to walk around with a chocolate chunk sometimes but for the most part of we keep her close she’s as good as gold.

Jojo Moyes After You and Coffee
After You by Jojo Moyes

I managed to successfully (and without too many dog related issues) purchase a book, After You by Jojo Moyes to be exact, find a dog friendly pub and sit reading with a cuppa. It was a lovely way to spend an afternoon. I also finished the book and you can read my thoughts here.

It was a few months later in Chesterfield that I realised, on wanting to head into Waterstones, that this one was also dog friendly and that maybe, just maybe, they all are. Hubs was fully prepared to wait outside until I spotted the sign of confirmation and we headed in, he could have been waiting aaages for me to look round so it’s really helpful.

Bookstore cafe
Peppermint tea and a Halloween cookie in Bath

I now find a Waterstones everywhere I go. There was one in Rye when I visited recently, one in Bath which even had a cafe and one on multiple floors in Nottingham. I used to avoid them as I thought they were expensive however now I’d choose this over other high street bookshops. Even though it is a chain each branch is slightly different. I love their handwritten notes, the fact some have cafes (I’d live there), their dog friendly vibe and of course the ease of finding that book I want, or sometimes didn’t know I wanted.

Have you been happy to find out somewhere is dog friendly? Did it make you go more often?

Until next time,

L x

Mia wears the Julius-K9 Camo Harness in Size 1.

After You by Jojo Moyes

After You by Jojo Moyes

Books, LIFESTYLE

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Did you read my previous Jojo Moyes book review? Are you now confused as to why I’m reading them the wrong way round?! My husband, as a surprise, bought me Still Me not realising it was the last of three. I waited and waited and looked and looked for the second in the book series but couldn’t wait so started reading it anyway.

Seeing as I understood a lot of what was going on in the book as there are references in the third novel I didn’t have much catching up with characters to do. This was a good thing because I knew there was a happy ending but not so good in terms of knowing what was coming in the characters storylines.

Throughout After You even knowing the ending I was waiting for Louisa to find her way with her new boyfriend and surprise flatmate. Along any romantic storyline I almost hope they get together without a hitch, is it ever going to be that easy? Would I even read it if it was? Of course that isn’t the case as Louisa and Sam take well over their fair share in a troublesome beginning of coupledom.

SPOILER ALERT!

In Me Before You, if you haven’t yet read it, Louisa takes care of and falls in love with Will; a hard-truthing, sure and knowing man who changed her life and left it. After You follows the aftermath of someone dying and how she deals with this in the months following. Of course it is sad in parts but the little joys that come in between Louisa’s dark days give a little light. The way she holds on to Lily over taking a new job and the way she cares for Sam brought the novel to an even mood for me and gives a deeper understanding of life after death.

A new character you meet here is Lily (I know, I know) and she is a new teenage kind of handful that Louisa learns to care for. Lily’s story is a giant unsubtle and terrifying nod to teens (and older) growing up in the world today and Moyes portrays the hardship very well. The next character meaning came through Louisa’s mum becoming more independent through a literature class she attends. Along with her dad, the couple and their feminist/patriarchal views although a very important topic also manage to add a little humour into the novel.

I can’t say that I enjoyed After You quite as much as Still Me but I would definitely read them again, maybe even in order.

Have you read anything from Jojo Moyes?

Until next time,

L x

Reading more books in 2020

New Reading Goals for 2020

Books, LIFESTYLE

I know, I know we are nearly at the end of January (although it doesn’t feel it) and I’m still here making new goals and intentions for 2020. It’s ok though as I’ve been taking this month steady, going easy on myself and settling in to the new year and new routines.

My first new reading intention is to make time. I find time to scroll on my phone and I find time to stand around my house designing interiors I’ll never change and I find time to watch endless YouTube videos. In these times I could definitely be reading, opening my mind and doing something that completely relaxes me. I find reading and taking those moments good for my mental health so why wouldn’t I do more of it.

The second goal is to read one book a month. I’m doing well coming up to the end of January as I have finished a book (I did start it before Christmas but left it sat for too long) but I can’t wait until I have read a minimum amount of 12 over the year. I consider that for myself and my time this is workable.

The third, but not final, goal and intention is to broaden my genres. I have a strong tendency to stick to the books and genres I know. They are easy to purchase as most of the time you’ll know what you’ll get, happy go lucky themes and end up exactly how you wanted it too. I have ventured out of my comfort zone before but a while ago now and should do it again to get the best from more books.

Do you have any reading goals for 2020?

Until next time,

L x

Still Me by Jojo Moyes

Still Me by Jojo Moyes

Books, LIFESTYLE

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Where are the first two books in the sequence I hear you ask? Well, friends and family I haven’t yet read them. My husband decided to treat me to a couple of books he saw online and Still Me by Jojo Moyes was one of them. He didn’t realise it was the third book of three and I eventually decided to read it anyway, I would pick the story up (hopefully) and if and when I could I would purchase and read Me Before You and After You, which come in that order.

Let us jump straight into this review as I clearly have a lot to say.

I LOVED IT.

Thanks for reading.

Jokes aside, I can honestly say that this has been my favourite read of the year. With only a month or so to go I feel I can say that with confidence. I managed to sit down and finish a chunk of it, like a giant chocolate brownie, all at once and I think thanks to this I was able to really fall in love with the characters. Louisa Clark – a woman we could all probably get along with who is seemingly so ‘real’ that it is easy to take a liking to her from the off. Relatable is a trait I appreciate in a character and I find I am more likely to continue reading a book if I can see elements of myself or friends in them. Mrs De Witt ended up being my favourite character in Still Me as she changed throughout the story and arguably became the most like-able, along with of course her faithful pup, Dean Martin. As mentioned in other book posts I am a sucker for a doggy sidekick in a novel and this one didn’t fail to deliver.

The story itself seemed to comprise two parts. One half to include Louisa as she started working in New York, finding her way around the city whilst having a long distance relationship back home in England and the other half finding who she was without a partner, job or place to stay. It was the second half of the story that really got me engrossed as it included many a funny one liner to which I laughed out loud (luckily at home) and cried, (multiple times). These along with the evolution of Mrs De Witt’s character and her relationship with Louisa made the second half of the book for me, simply un-put-down-able.

With a little backstory into my personal history there has always been a sewing machine roaring, dresses hung around the house waiting to be mended and always a pin to stand on when you least expected it. Quality clothes have always made their way around us so I was engrossed when Mrs De Witt and Louisa talked of their style, the fashions and their love of clothes throughout the book. I understand that this can’t be the same for every reader but made it that little more special for myself.

Unfortunately the love lives of the characters are not blessed until the end and thankfully it is as romantic as you hoped it would be with the New York setting, if not fantastically prolonged and tension building. Will Traynor, Louisa’s reason for getting herself out there in the first place, still crops up in moments of remembrance and it is a great way of coming back to how it first started, even if like me, you missed the first two books. I didn’t go in completely unawares though, I did watch the film based on the book Me Before You, (to which there were of course more tears). The love story between New Yorker new guy Josh starts as a fairytale and I was soon thinking how perfect it all seemed then reality set back in and led to me thinking, ‘that’s not how it usually works’ and lo and behold I was right, although it definitely took a turn and got me thinking.

Pulling up something a little random but this book is meaty. No I haven’t tasted it I mean more like you can really get your teeth into it. Really now I must think away from eating. It has a lot of content. That’s where I’m going with this. There are plenty of ‘scenes’ throughout the book, still flowing continuously and all linking but it really brings the story to life, rather than jumping and missing moments. Whether these are big inclusions, like Louisa’s time at home over Christmas and her meeting with ex-boyfriend Sam to smaller sections, perhaps the times spent at the library, they are all following a path rather than disjointed moments jumping from one romantic scene to the next. I understand this is probably a given and many books do have some form of secondary storyline happening but not one I have read for a long time and not as descriptive and as in-depth as Jojo Moyes does in Still Me. This absolutely goes with the novel itself and Louisa’s character development whereas it could just be a happy go lucky romance. This is probably a big reason into why I loved it. Not only does it tell of a love story but of a woman blazing her own trail and probably as well why it left me in tears in parts, nervous and laughing as I believe you could only do this when you’re really rooting for the characters and you’re taken in by the story.

I will certainly be reading Jojo Moyes other books after reading Still Me and already can’t wait to see whats on the shelves next time I’m out. Sorry not sorry if you didn’t like the book and came here for an unbiased review, cause well, I don’t have one. It will be the book I hand to my mum to read and she’ll love it too.

Until next time,

L x