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review 2018-07-16 18:54
A light, feel-good read, for those who enjoy choral books full of larger-than-life characters.
The Not So Perfect Plan to Save Friendship House - Michelle Gorman

I write this review as a member of Rosie’s Book Review Team and thank Rosie Amber (check here if you would like to have your book reviewed) and the author for providing me an ARC copy of this novel, which I freely chose to review.

Sometimes it seems as if all the books and movies on offer are centred on young protagonists, and I’m not only talking about Young Adult books. However, recently there has been a move towards including older protagonists and subjects. I enjoyed the two Dutch books about Hendrik Groen, a man in his eighties living in a nursing home, and have watched a few movies, usually choral, about older protagonists (like The Exotic Marigold Hotel). The setting of this novel, in a residential home, and the promise of a comedy made it sound like the perfect choice for me.

The first-person narrator of the story is Phoebe, a chef who had a very successful career in a bistro before disaster struck. She loves her job at the residential home (The Jane Austen Home for Ladies, and, as we discover, the name is meaningful in several ways), but has always felt frustrated because her parents (and her mother, in particular) do not seem to value her job and are dismissive of her career. To make matters worse, her mother (a larger-than-life character) dies suddenly at the beginning of the book, but her internalised voice keeps gnawing on her confidence.  Her best friend, June, is the manager of the home, and she fancies Nick, who is the official physiotherapist but also takes on any odd jobs going on (art therapy, gardening, handyman…). I know some readers don’t like first-person narratives, although Phoebe is unassuming, witty and an excellent friend. (On the minus side, her lack of self-confidence can make her sound paranoid and bitchy, and she keeps mulling over things, unable to decide what to do, trying hard to feel comfortable in her own skin and accept the credit for her achievements). We learn some surprising things about her family life together and by the end of the book, although I don’t have much in common with her character, I felt connected to her and appreciated her role as a narrator. Her friendship with June is convincing and their relationship is one of the strongest points of the book.

I also loved the residents of the home, and in many ways (not only due to my age, I hope), I felt closer to them than to the protagonist. We get to know some of them more than others (Maggie is fabulous and I loved Dot, Laney, Sophie, and yes, even Terence). They all feel real, with their foibles and their endearing traits, and make the book memorable. We follow the intrigues that have to do with the home and the changes that take place there (from a women’s only place to a mixed one) and learn about its inhabitants, their secrets, and their past lives. We are both observers and participants in much of the action, and we feel invested in their fates. We learn the importance of accepting people for who they are and moving beyond appearances and prejudices.

There are several romances with happy, or at least hopeful, endings (for the young and the older generations), broken hearts and disappointments, secrets and lies, and there is also the connection (pointed out through references to the book club and their discussions) to Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. I would not call the novel a variation on Pride and Prejudice but if we think of Austen’s text as we read it we can discover nuances that might be easily missed otherwise.

Although there are many amusing lines in the novel (and some pretty touching ones as well. As we know, humour can be an excellent defence mechanism against hurt), I thought I’d share a few (remember that I got an ARC copy, so there might be some changes to the final version of the novel):

We’ve never let something as trifling as the spectre of death stand in the way of a good snipe.

My mother didn’t get ulcers, she gave them.

He’s a perv-whisperer.

She wouldn’t like my ponytail, though. I did try taking it down, but having it up in a hair tie the entire weekend meant my hair had a ridge along the back that gave it a very White Cliffs of Dover effect.

I’m surprised he doesn’t need an oxygen tank with all the social climbing he’s been doing.

The writing flows well and fits in perfectly with the voice of the narrator, who can spend inordinate amounts of time thinking about her beau but is also attuned to the feelings of the residents and her friend. There are plenty of amusing events taking place throughout the novel that keep the action moving, but the characters are much stronger than the plot and by the end of the book (that I enjoyed) they have all become good friends (or most of them have).

The author defines her books as light reads, as beach novels, and says her readers describe them as “feel-good.” All that is true, although behind all the funny goings-on the book illustrates the importance of keeping expectations and prejudices under control, and it reminds parents that they should encourage their children to find fulfilment in their own terms rather than expect them to make their parent’s dreams come true.  If you are looking for a light read, full of memorable characters, plenty of humour, and a big deal of heart, I’d recommend this novel. And, if it existed in real life, I wouldn’t mind working at the home (and in time even living there) either.

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text 2018-07-13 16:16
Friday Reads - July 13, 2018
The Hens: The Third Day - Merry Farmer
The Swan: The Seventh Day: The 12 Days of Christmas Mail Order Brides, #7 - Piper Huguley
The Dancing Lady: The Ninth Day - Mimi Milan
All She Wants for Christmas: A Regency Christmas Novella - Amy Rose Bennett
Bespoke: A Tiny Christmas Tale: A Tiny Christmas Tale (Espoir Archives Book 1) - Amanda Dykes
On A Cold Christmas Eve - Bethany M. Sefchick
A Dangerous Nativity (The Dangerous Series) - Caroline Warfield
At Your Request (Apart From the Crowd): An Apart From the Crowd Novella - Jen Turano
A Perfect Holiday Fling (Moments in Maplesville) - Farrah Rochon
The Christmas Mail Order Bride - Kit Morgan

This Sunday starts the week long COYER Christmas in July read-a-thon and ends during the halfway mark of 24 in 48 read-a-thon. So this list is for the next 10-12 days of reading; I am still working through All the Devils Are Here and Just Mercy, but those are on the back-burner come Sunday.

 

Holiday Reading List:

1. The Hens: The Third Day (12 Days of Christmas Mail Order Brides #3) by Merry Farmer

2. The Swan: The Seventh Day (12 Days of Christmas Mail Order Brides #7) by Merry Farmer

3. The Dancing Lady: The Ninth Day (12 Days of Christmas Mail Order Brides #9) by Mimi Milan

4. All She Wants For Christmas (A Regency Christmas Novella) by Amy Rose Bennett

5. Twelfth Night by Marisa Dillon

6. Bespoke: A Tiny Christmas Tale (Espoir Archives #1) by Amanda Dykes

7. The Christmas Mail Order Bride by Kit Morgan

8. On a Cold Christmas Eve by Bethany Sefchick

9. A Dangerous Nativity (The Dangerous Series #1) by Caroline Warfield

10. At Your Request (Apart from the Crowd Novella) by Jen Turano

11. A Perfect Holiday Fling (Moments in Mapleville) by Farrah Rochon

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review 2018-07-08 11:08
Perfect Alignment - Silvia Violet

Silvia Violet is a master of steamy, erotic romance. With Thorne and Dash it comes with an age gap, a bit of domination, spankings and a riding crop. All wrapped up in a sappy romance with a perfect HEA making me a happy reader :)

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review 2018-06-27 16:30
The Perfect Match - Katie Fforde

Bella Castle thinks that her life has settled down. She has a job she loves at a local estate agency, she’s adores living with her Godmother, and she’s happy enough with her boyfriend Neville. And then one day Dominic turns up. And it just so happens that Dominic was the man she left her home town for, a man she had fallen in love with but who was unobtainable. Bella’s settled life, make become anything but settled…

 

When it comes to my favourite authors I tend to prolong reading their latest book for as long as possible. This may seem a little perplexing but I get so caught up in the worlds they create that I don’t want to wait ages for their next book. My random thinking is that if I wait for a long time to read one book, their next will be here sooner. And so that is what I did with The Perfect Match, knowing that Katie Fforde’s next book would soon be here.

 

Neville was quite slimy and annoying from the outset and made me wonder what Bella saw in him. Dominic was taciturn and grumpy but in a way that this disappeared as he spent more time with Bella, allowing the reader to grow to like him more. As for Bella, she was mixed character, content in her life and then trying to deal with the fallout her emotions feel when Dominic returns.  For me she took more of a back seat to Alice and wasn’t the lead character as such. There were times when I didn’t agree with her thought processes and when she appeared to be making more of fuss about things than were necessary. For example I didn’t see why she should have run away when she fell for Dominic rather than just getting on with things and when she didn’t stand up to Neville but thought of the things she should say. On the whole though she was a pleasant enough character and meant well. There were some obvious mistakes and assumptions made by the characters in the novel but these lent themselves well to the story, making it a pleasure to anticipate them and see how the characters dealt with them.

 

The other characters were great additions to the story. I loved Alice and her side story of meeting Michael, and the trials they faced as ‘older’ people stepping into the world of romance. In fact, their story made the book for me. It was lovely to follow the relationship between the two develop, to see how they got over the hurdles that could put a stop to their fledgling romance before it had really started. Even the way they met was lovely.  The Agnews, house hunting clients of Bella’s were quirky and Jane Langley lent a down to earth bent to the story, echoing the fears of some older people who are afraid of having to leave the place they love when they age.

 

I always find Katie Fforde’s novels lovely escapist reading, they provide a lovely world to be engulfed in for a few hours. They are what I like to call a hug in book form. The Perfect Match was a lovely way to get away from the world for a few hours. I’m looking forward to escaping into another of Katie Fforde’s books soon.

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review 2018-06-27 02:36
Death of a Perfect Wife by M. C. Beaton
Death of a Perfect Wife - M.C. Beaton,Shaun Grindell

Series: Hamish Macbeth #4

 

I have to say that I'm really getting tired of this Priscilla thing. I really hope Hamish is over her.

 

This one had some really weird judgemental stuff about Glaswegian prostitutes. It was awkward to read. It wasn't a big part of the story or anything but it was just weird. Maybe it has to do with the era in which it was written?

 

Overall this one wasn't anything special. I guessed the murderer although I didn't know I was right until the end and there was all the silly Priscilla stuff.

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