Month in review: August, 2017

Month in reviewSo it’s here – September – the time of year in my neck of the woods where the weather turns (or not, the last couple of years we’ve had indian summers), the nights draw in, and the sweaters come out of hiding.  I quite like it to be honest.  It makes the world a little snugglier (if that’s a word) and I’m sure I get more reading done as I’m not taking time off to enjoy the sun (well, when there is sun!).

Saying that, I didn’t do too bad in August with some great reads.  In fact, there wasn’t one duff book amongst them.  Here’s what I read, and how I felt about it…

The Ballroom by Anna Hope

1911: Inside an asylum at the edge of the Yorkshire moors, where men and women are kept apart

by high walls and barred windows,

there is a ballroom vast and beautiful.

For one bright evening every week

they come together

and dance.

When John and Ella meet

It is a dance that will change

two lives forever.

After recently writing about how I don’t read either historical fiction or romance novels and asking for suggestions, The Ballroom turned up in my mailbox as part of a reading round robin I am taking part in (organised by Sarah at Sarah Withers Blog).

Set in 1911 and focusing on the relationship between John and Ella, two residents of an asylum who only meet on scheduled Friday dances, this book couldn’t have been further from my regular reads. Yet, I really enjoyed it, showing me just how important it is I step outside my comfort zone once in a while.

The Accidental Life of Greg Miller by Aimee Alexander


Lucy Arigho’s first encounter with Greg Millar is far from promising, but she soon realises he possesses a charm that is impossible to resist. Just eight whirlwind weeks after their first meeting, level-headed career girl Lucy is seriously considering his pleas to marry him and asking herself if she could really be stepmother material.

But before Lucy can make a final decision about becoming part of Greg’s world, events plunge her right into it. On holiday in the South of France, things start to unravel. Her future stepchildren won’t accept her, the interfering nanny resents her, and they’re stuck in a heat wave that won’t let up. And then there’s Greg. His behaviour becomes increasingly bizarre and Lucy begins to wonder whether his larger-than-life personality hides something darker—and whether she knows him at all.

I am not completely sure what I expected from The Accidental Life of Greg Miller, having added it to my TBR many months ago and not really remembering much of the reviews I’d read that had me doing that.  Reading the description, I knew this was outside of my regular reading, and possibly comfort zone, and that it was a relationship book but references to a personality that hides something darker made me think maybe there was a thriller in here as well.

Long story short(ish), there wasn’t, though it wasn’t a boring read in any way.  At it’s heart this is a love story, not my usual read at all.  That said, I still found myself enjoying it because I really liked the characters and quickly fell into their story.  I thought they were well rounded with plenty of quirks to make them real and Lucy’s reactions to Greg’s behaviour as the book progresses felt genuine.

The way they met was right out of a rom-com and it’s hard not to be as charmed as Lucy by Greg’s love of life and spontaneity.  Given Lucy’s past you want her to find happiness and you believe she has in Greg. It’s also hard not to feel as thrown as she is when confronted with what are huge changes in Greg’s behaviour, changes which put her and his children’s lives at risk.

Whilst I don’t like spoilers, I am going to give things away next so please skip to the last paragraph if you don’t want to find out more.

I blame the type of books I normally read for making me think that Greg’s behaviour, when it changed, would come from a bad place.  That’s what Lucy thought too.  She was convinced it was drugs.  I wasn’t so sure but I did think he was hiding something.  He wasn’t though.  He actually wasn’t aware of what he was doing because he was in the middle of a manic episode and suffering from bi-polar disorder. The reason I decided to share this is because, for me, it was one of the things that made the book stand out.

I work in the mental health sector and mental ill health is often called the hidden disease because you can’t see it, just witness the behaviours.  As a result, a lot of people don’t understand what is happening to them, friends or family members who are ill.  They will see other causes (like drugs) when there are none or think people can “snap out of it”, which they can’t.  To be suffering from a mental illness is scary for the person who is ill but also those around them.

Here, Greg’s mental illness was a huge part of the story, the main part really as without it and Lucy / his family’s reaction there would be no drama at all, but I thought it was handled really well.  It showed the impact mental illness has on everyone, including Greg’s children, who don’t really understand and who have to grow up a lot more quickly than they might otherwise (even though the adults try to protect them).  For Lucy, there are stages to her acceptance and you see how she struggles to decide if she can handle their future when there is a risk of relapse.  Nothing here felt sensationalised and it wasn’t glossed over.  It takes a talented writer to do that well and I tip my hat to Aimee Alexander for doing just that.

Spoiler’s are over – feel free to read on…

Which leaves me just to say what I felt about this book.  And I have to say I liked it a lot.  Not may usual read but a very good one I can definitely recommend.




Source: Purchased
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
Publication Date: 26th April, 2016
Pages: 390
Format: ebook
Genre: Romance, General Fiction

Find on Amazon UK / Amazon US

November 9 by Colleen Hoover

imageI’m not much of a one for romance I must admit and so when November 9 was selected for Kimba at the Caffeinated Book Reviewer’s online book club (you can join here on facebook) I did have a bit of an “oh oh” moment.  Still, reading books you wouldn’t normally is all part of being in a book club so off I went and bought a copy.

November 9 is the story of two teenagers, Fallon and Ben, who meet on the day Fallon is about to move from LA to New York to start her life again after living in limbo for two years since being injured in a house fire.

They spend the day together and then, as Ben takes Fallon to the airport, agree to meet at the same time / in the same place the following year and every year after that for five years – or until they are 23 because that is the age Fallon has decided you are old enough to know your own mind.

It’s a familiar idea, and I was reminded of movies like An Affair to Remember where misunderstandings and miscommunications lead to lots of heartache before everything turns out well in the end (it has to right, this is a romance?).  Saying that, though, it didn’t feel old or stale because  Colleen Hoover has a really nice writing style.  The novel and the story felt fresh and modern and I found that I really liked Ben and Fallon.

I did find them a little to old for their ages – I am not sure I would have been quite as wise as Ben when I was 18 – at least on the surface.  Then their actions showed just how young and naïve they really were.  It meant there were layers to the plot I didn’t expect and I found myself turning the pages quicker and quicker as the book went on.  I had to know how it ended.  And, whilst I may have let slip, there is a happy ending (spoilers – sorry!) there is a great twist before you get there that I didn’t see coming.

Will I rush out and buy another romance novel as a result of this? probably not but I may well pick up another book by Colleen Hoover when I come across it because I liked November 9 a lot.




Keeper of the Light by Diane Chamberlain

Title: Keeper of the Light
Author: Diane Chamberlain
Genre: General Fiction, Romance
Source: Purchased
Rating: Liked it a Lot (4 out of 5)


When Annie O’Neill is rushed into the emergency room suffering a gun shot wound to the chest, there is little Olivia can do to save her, although she tries, potentially putting her career on the line. Olivia has no idea who Annie is. Once she finds out, the first thing she has to do is tell Annie’s devoted husband Alec and their children. Then, she has to go home and tell her own husband, Paul. Alec, it seems, wasn’t the only one devoted to Annie. This is the first twist of many in this book, twists that tear people apart – and put them back together.

Whilst categorised as a romance most places I’ve looked – and I can understand why because there is a love story at the heart of this – it didn’t feel like that primarily to me. This was much more about human emotions and how the need for love can make people desperate, and just a little crazy. It was about honesty as well. Everyone in this book could have done with a little more. It would have made all their lives a lot easier, though maybe not in all cases a lot happier.

Diane Chamberlain does a great job of interweaving the stories of the central characters, Olivia, Alec and Paul, and bringing them, along with all their insecurities, to life. I loved how Olivia developed and became her own person after initially seeming a bit weak willed because of how she was with Paul. At the same time, I could have done with Alec being a little less understanding at times – but that is a minor complaint.

The novel is set in the outer banks in North Carolina and I visited there many years ago. I remember it as being beautiful and this book brought it back with it’s descriptions of the scenery, the sand dunes, and the light house – a focal point for all the characters in the book and a catalyst for many of the things that happen to them.

The lighthouse is also the home of the most important person in the story (in a way) because she is the one that can tell them all the truth and set them free. The question is whether she will and what will happen if she does…waiting on the answer kept me gripped and quickly ordering the second book in the trilogy from the library so I can see what happens next. Highly recommended!