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Book Review: Life’s What You Make It by Sian O’Gorman

True belonging only happens when we present our authentic, imperfect selves to the world, our sense of belonging can never be greater than our level of self-acceptance.

Brene Brown

Written by an Irish author, Life’s What You Make It is the story of Liv O’Neill’s return to Sandycove, Ireland, after ten years in London. Coming straight from a corporate job, Liv initially struggles to find her place in the Sandycove community. As she slowly finds her footing, she realizes that her community has changed in many ways and seems more like home. Pulled between wanting to stay home and returning to London, this book takes you on a journey that encompasses friendship, community, family, and love.

It is inspiring to read a book that is based on a small town and its people. I enjoy reading books that include themes of community and belonging. They leave you with a smile on your face. This book for sure did the same. Liv’s character, her story, and her struggles are all so relatable. Youngsters all over the globe leave their homes and families behind to pursue better opportunities. This book is a subtle reminder that while we move away from our families, a part of us always stays back.

It is a good read, and you won’t be disappointed. Even though it is based in a small town, there is enough drama to keep the reader engaged. As time passes, one realizes that priorities change, and so do our dreams and goals. It is a book for someone who is away from home or is homesick. It’s like chicken soup for the soul.

It is a heartwarming read, and I give it 4/5 stars. Thanks to Netgalley and Boldwood books for the copy in exchange of an honest review.

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A Dive into the World of Beauty Pageants: Review of “The Accidental Beauty Queen”

“Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.”– George Bernard Shaw

This book showed up as a recommendation on my Libby app, and its funky colorful cover called to me. It is a well-designed book cover. Written by Teri Wilson, this book bears a strong resemblance to the Sandra Bullock movie “Miss Congeniality” and refers to it multiple times.

Charlotte and Ginny are twins who switch places in the beauty pageant when Ginny suffers a mishap. Charlotte is a librarian who has no relation whatsoever with makeup, glitter, and glam. She discovers herself through this journey, undergoing a transformation that is much beyond makeup, extensions, and nails. She is remarkably relatable as a character. She prefers jammies over designer clothes, books over cosmetics, and Shakespeare over Victoria Secret.

Ginny, on the other hand, is a social media influencer with thousands of followers on Instagram. She has participated in several beauty pageants and derives a close relationship with her mom through it. However, she is not shallow. Humans are similar to onions. We have several layers, and understanding ourselves involves exposure to different and difficult situations.

Charlotte embarks on this journey for her sister but continues on it to discover herself. She ends up falling for one of the judges, and the situation quickly spirals out of control. The book has its hilarious moments, and even though the plot is easy to guess, it offers a fun read.

It has its dose of family drama, and feminism with women standing for other women. However, the author undermines the efforts that a contestant takes to participate in these beauty pageants. The author makes winning the preliminaries seem effortless, and Charlotte seems to sail right through them. The plot has so much more potential, and I wish the author would have elaborated on Charlotte’s struggles rather than make it seem a brain-numbing read.

I read somewhere that Wilson’s books would resonate with fans of Meg Cabot and Sophie Kinsella. I strongly disagree. It had the potential; however, it failed to do that. It is a one-time read; however, I don’t see myself returning to it soon.

I would give it a 3.5/5 stars. If you would like to purchase the book, here is the link https://amzn.to/2KS12vR

Blog Tour : Macario’s Scepter by M.J. McGriff

Today I’m excited to participate in the Creative Blog Tour for Macario’s Scepter by M.J. McGriff hosted by MTMC Tours! An unlikely Chosen One, her pirate captain ex-lover, and a nun. A prophecy that unleashes a fire-breathing sea serpent pouring its wrath on the isles and a magical scepter with the power to destroy—or save—the world. This YA Fantasy (first in a series!) released on April 13th, 2020.

Title: Macario’s Scepter
Author: M.J. McGriff
Series: Magian #1
Publishing Date: April 13, 2020
Genres: YA Fantasy
Purchase a copy: Amazon | B&N | Indiebound | Book Depository | Blackwell’s
Add on Goodreads!

An unlikely Chosen One, her pirate captain ex-lover, and a treasure-hunting nun. A prophecy that unleashes a fire-breathing sea serpent pouring its wrath on the isles. A magical scepter with the power to destroy—or save—the world.

Samara is a ship wrecked at sea. She can’t seem to get anything right, especially her love life. Her former pirate captain, the famous Baz Blackwater, broke her heart and stranded her on an island of religious hypocrites. Samara wants nothing more than to escape to the freedom of the sea, so when her ex-lover shows up offering a chance at a magical treasure—and secret revenge—she jumps at the chance.

Seraphina prays every day for her wayward twin sister to stop chasing the pirate life and find the peace she’s discovered in her own quiet life at the convent. But Samara has nothing but contempt for her sister’s beliefs and religious rituals. Yet when Seraphina uncovers an ancient prophecy revealing the horrifying curse of the treasure Samara and Baz seek, she must leave her convent—risking the wrath of her Order—and search for the truth about Macario’s scepter. In a world of friendship and betrayal, monsters and magic, seedy pubs and adventure on the high seas, will Samara’s magical powers, Baz’s cunning plans, and Seraphina’s unshakable faith be enough to slay a cursed sea serpent destroying everything they love?

Book 2 of the series, The Secret Library will be released in the Spring 2021! While you wait, you can read a free short story that takes place in the world of the Magian series by signing up to MJ McGriff’s email list.

Excerpt

Samara
The glittering Isle sun.
The gentle turquoise waves.
The sweet and salty air.
It vanished in an instant.
Samara and the Pursuer pierced the wall of fog separating the Misty Isle from the rest of the world. Smothered by a blanket of gray, the air felt thick enough to reach out and touch it.
“Keep your wits about you, men!”
Baz’s voice penetrated the mist from the upper deck, cutting through the silence that befell everyone onboard. Mari steered the ship with a steady hand. But even Mari kept shooting nervous glances into the vast ocean of gray clouds.
Seraphina’s voice echoed in Samara’s head.
That scepter has been buried on that cursed island for a reason. Macario will strike anyone down before He allows it to be stolen again.

INTL Tour-wide Giveaway!

Enter the Rafflecopter below to win a hardcover of Macario’s Scepter via Book Depository! This is open internationally & it ends on August 4th, 2021 at 11:59pm EST.

Link to Rafflecopter: http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/2aeeb25b86/?

Blog Tour : Life’s What You Make It by Sian O’Gorman

The most important thing in the world is family and love.

John Wooden

Synopsis

After 10 years in London, working in a stressful City firm, Liv O’Neill returns home to Sandycove, a picturesque seaside village, just outside Dublin to care for her mother after a fall.

Whilst Liv reconnects with friends and family, she is amazed by Sandycove’s thriving community spirit with its artisan shops, delis and cafes – it’s not quite the place she left behind.

As village life begins to creep under her skin, Liv is forced to confront the things that drove her away.

Can Liv balance her past, present and future and find her own happy place?

And will a handsome young doctor help her make a decision about the life she really wants?

Suddenly her old life in London begins to seem extremely unappealing and Liv is forced to use her family’s past in order to forge a brand new future.

Why Should You Read This?

A 4 star read, Life’s What You Make It smells of one’s homeland. It’s picturesque and serene. Sandycove calls to every soul that has worked or studied for years away from home and misses family and friends. It is a gentle reminder that while our mind may crave adventures, one’s heart craves for love and family.

This is the first book I have read by Sian O’Gorman and I loved her writing style. This is an easy and a breezy read with relatable characters. A definite recommendation!

Do read the below excerpt and let me know your thoughts.

Excerpt

Chapter One
I really should buy my ex-boyfriend and his ex-girlfriend a drink or a posh box of chocolates to say thank you for getting back together, even if it was just for one night. And I should say an even bigger thank you to her for telling me about it. Because if Jeremy and Cassandra hadn’t met up at one of his friend’s weddings, there is the very real possibility that he and I might have carried on and then everything that did happen wouldn’t have happened and my life would have remained exactly as it was.
I was an Irish girl transplanted to London for a decade, swapping the seaside and village of Sandycove – with its little shops and the beach, the people, the way the clouds skidded in for a storm, the rainbows that blossomed afterwards – for the bright lights, the traffic and the incessant noise of London. My visits home had become sporadic to the point of paltry. There was never enough time for a long trip and so my visits were only ever two nights long. Even last Christmas I’d flown in on Christmas Eve and was gone the 27th. I’d barely seen Mum or my best friend Bronagh and when Mum drove me to the airport and hugged me goodbye, I had the feeling that we were losing each other, as though we were becoming strangers.
London had become a slog, working twelve-hour days for my toxic boss, Maribelle, who drank vodka from her water bottle and didn’t believe in bank holidays. Or weekends. Or going home for the evening. Or eating. Or, frankly, anything that made life worth living. If it wasn’t for my flatmate, Roberto, my London life would have been utterly miserable. Looking back now, I think the reason why I kept going out with Jeremy for six months, even though we were entirely unsuited, was because at least it was something. And if I’ve learned anything about life over the last year, it’s that you should do something, but never the least of it.
‘Olivia O’Neill,’ Roberto would say on a loop. ‘Liv, you need to raise your game.’ He wasn’t a fan of Jeremy, whom I’d been seeing for six months. ‘Leave Jeremy and dump Maribelle and make your own life.’
But how do you do that when you have forgotten what your own life is? How on earth do you find it again when you are the grand old age of thirty-two? I couldn’t start again. But then the universe works in mysterious ways. If you don’t get off your arse and make changes, then it gets fed up and starts making them for you. But anyway, I’m getting ahead of myself… let’s zip back to before it all began… before I discovered what really made me happy, took charge of my life and found my crown.


‘Olivia?’
It was Friday, the last day of May, and I was at Liverpool Street Station. Mum normally called at this time, knowing my route to work and that, by 7.32 a.m., I was always on the escalator, rising up from the underground, before the thirteen-minute trot to my office.
‘Hi, Mum, how are you? Everything okay?’
‘I am…’ She hesitated.
‘Mum…?’
‘I am…’ She stopped again. ‘I am fine… absolutely fine. It’s just we’ve been in A & E all evening… we got home back at midnight…’
‘A & E?’ I was so worried that I didn’t ask who the ‘we’ was.
‘It happened the other night in Pilates,’ she said. ‘I reached down to pick up the ball and I felt my knee go.’
My speed walk through the station stopped mid-concourse, making a man in pinstripes swerve and swear at me under his breath. It didn’t make sense. My mother was fitter than me, this walk from tube to desk was the only exercise I did. She was fifty-seven and power walked her way up and down the seafront every evening, as well as the twice-weekly Pilates classes. ‘But you are brilliant at Pilates,’ I said. ‘Didn’t your teacher say you have the body of a twenty-five-year-old?’ I’d moved myself to the side of the newsagents’ kiosk, where I would buy my Irish Times to keep when I was feeling homesick – which was increasingly more frequent these days.
Mum gave a laugh. ‘She said my hips were the hips of a younger woman,’ she explained. ‘I don’t think she said twenty-five-year-old. My hip flexors have stopped flexing and I’m on crutches. It’s not the worst in the world and within a few weeks, with enough rest, I should be back on my feet. The only thing is the shop…’
Mum ran her own boutique in Sandycove, the eponymously named Nell’s. She’d opened it when I was just a toddler and had weathered two recessions and a handful of downturns, but was just as successful as ever. And even when a rival boutique, Nouveau You, opened ten years ago, Nell’s was definitely the more popular.
‘Jessica can’t manage the shop on her own,’ Mum continued. ‘I’ll have to try and find someone for the four weeks. I’ll call the agency later.’
‘Oh, Mum.’ I couldn’t imagine Mum on crutches – this was the woman who had only ever been a blur when I was growing up, coming home from the shop to make dinner for her second shift and all the business admin she had to do. I used to imagine she slept standing up, like a horse. I tried to think how I could help, stuck here hundreds of miles away in London. ‘What about your Saturday girl?’

‘Cara? She’s got her Leaving Cert in a week’s time. I can’t ask her. So… it’s just a bit of a hassle, that’s all.’
I really wished I was there to look after her. Maybe I could fly in this weekend? Just for Saturday night.
‘Please don’t worry,’ said Mum. ‘It’s only four weeks on crutches, and I’ve been ordered to rest, leg up… read a few books. Watch daytime television, said the doctor.’ Mum gave another laugh. ‘He said I could take up crochet or knitting. Told me it was very popular these days. So I told him that I was only fifty-seven and the day I start knitting is the day I stop dyeing my hair.’
‘But you’ll go mad,’ I said. ‘Four weeks of daytime television. Who will look after you?’
‘I can hobble around,’ she said. ‘Enough to make cups of tea, and I can get things delivered and, anyway, I have Henry.’ She paused for emphasis. ‘He was with me in the hospital and has volunteered to help.’
Mum had never had a boyfriend that I’d known of. She’d always said she was too busy with me and the shop. ‘And Henry is…?’
‘Henry is my very good friend,’ she said. ‘We’ve become very close. He’s really looking forward to meeting you.’ She paused again for dramatic effect. ‘We’ve been seeing each other since Christmas and… well, it’s going very well indeed.’

‘That’s lovely,’ I said. ‘Tell him I’m looking forward to meeting him. Very much. Who is he, what does he do?’ I really would have to fly over to vet him… maybe Maribelle might be in a good mood today and I could leave early next Friday?
‘Henry took over the hardware shop from Mr Abrahamson. Henry’s retired from engineering and needed something to do. He’s like that, always busy. He’s been a bit of an inspiration, actually,’ she went on, ‘taking on a business when he’s never run one before. And he’s trying to grow Ireland’s largest onion.’ She laughed. ‘Not that he’s ever even grown a normal-sized one before, but he’s read a book from the library on what you need, gallons of horse manure apparently, and he wants to win a prize at the Dún Laoghaire show in September.’

If anyone deserved a bit of love Mum did and considering I would not win any awards for daughter of the year with my generally neglectful behaviour, I was happy she had someone. And surely anyone who grew outsized vegetables could only be a good person.
But I felt that longing for home, that wish to be there. Even if she had Henry and his onions, I wanted to be there too. I restarted my speed walk to the office. Being late for Maribelle was never a good start to the day.

‘So you’re sure you’re all right?’ I said, knowing that going over probably wouldn’t happen this weekend, not with the presentation I had to help Maribelle prepare for on Monday. I passed the only tree I saw on my morning commute, a large and beautiful cherry tree, it was in the middle of the square outside the station and blossomed luxuriantly in the spring and now, in late May, all the beautiful leaves which I’d seen grow from unfurled bud to acid green were in full, fresh leaf. Apart from my morning coffee, it was the only organic thing I saw all day. If that tree was still going in all that smog and fumes and indifference from the other commuters, I used to tell myself, then so could I.
‘I’m fine,’ Mum said. ‘Don’t worry… Brushing my teeth this morning took a little longer than normal, but it’s only a few weeks… I’m getting the hang of the crutches. I’ve been practising all morning. Anyway, how is Jeremy?’ She and Jeremy were yet to meet.
‘Jeremy is…’ How was Jeremy? Just the night before, Roberto had described him as a ‘wounded boy, shrouded in a Barbour jacket of privilege’. But I felt a little sorry for him, especially after meeting his family last New Year’s Eve and seeing how he was treated. I hadn’t actually seen him for a week as he’d been at a wedding the previous weekend and we’d both been busy with work. ‘Jeremy is fine,’ I said. ‘I think. Sends his love.’

Jeremy wasn’t the type to send his love, but Mum didn’t know that. ‘Well, isn’t that lovely,’ she said. ‘Say we’re all really looking forward to welcoming him to Ireland.’
I really couldn’t imagine Jeremy in his camel chinos striding around Sandycove’s main street and speaking in his rather loud, bossy, posh voice. He’d stand out like a sore thumb.
‘And you’ll have to bring that dote Roberto as well,’ said Mum. ‘He probably needs a bit of time off as well, the little pet.’
‘I don’t think we’ll get him over,’ I replied. ‘You know how he says he can’t breathe in Ireland and starts to feel light-headed as though he’s having a panic attack. He says he’s done with Ireland.’
Mum laughed, as she always did when I told her something Roberto had said. The two of them were as thick as thieves every time she came to London, walking arm in arm around Covent Garden together, Roberto showing her all his favourite shops and deciding what West End show we would go to. ‘He’s a ticket, that one. Anyway, there’s the doorbell. It’ll be Henry with some supplies. I’ll call you later.’
‘Okay…’ I had reached my building. If you dislocated your neck and looked skywards, straight up the
gleaming glass, my office was up there somewhere on the seventeenth floor. I had to go in, any later and it would put Maribelle in a bad mood and that wasn’t good for anyone.
In the lift, among the jostle of the other PAs, behind some of the other equity managers who, like Maribelle, were overpaid and overindulged, we ascended to our offices where we would spend the next twelve hours.
I thought of Mum at home in Sandycove. The end of May, the most beautiful month in Ireland, and I remembered the way the sun sprinkled itself on the sea, the harbour full of walkers and swimmers all day long, people in the sea as the sun retreated for the day, or the village itself with its small, bright, colourful shops and the hanging baskets and cherry trees, and Mum’s boutique right in the middle. I wished I was there, even just for a few hours, to hug Mum, and go for a walk with Bronagh. To just be home.
The doors opened on the seventeenth floor. It was 7.45 a.m. exactly and dreams of Sandycove would have to be put on hold as I had to get on with surviving Maribelle. I hung up my coat and sat down at my desk and switched on my computer. My screen saver was a selfie of me and Bronagh, taken last summer sitting on the harbour wall at the little beach in Sandycove. Every time I looked at that picture of the sun shining, the two of us laughing, arms around each other, seagulls flying above us, the pang for home got worse. I should change it, I thought. Replace it with something that doesn’t make me homesick, something that doesn’t make me think of all the things I am missing and missing out on. I clicked on my screen and up came the standard image of a scorched red-earth mountain, as far from Sandycove as you could get.

Book Review: The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab

This post may contain affiliate links, and I may earn a small commission when you click on the links at no additional cost to you. As an Amazon Affiliate, I earn from qualifying purchases.

That time always ends a second before you’re ready.

V.E. Schwab

This is the first book I have read, written by Schwab. Even before I began reading, I read reviews of this book and found that people either hated or loved it. No in-betweens.

I could see why that was so. Reading The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue is like tasting a fine wine. You need to savor its flavor. And it tastes best as you lose yourself in the world of Addie, Henry, and Luc. It leaves a bittersweet aftertaste, and you can’t get rid of it.

It has been a long time since I have loved another book as much as I loved this one. Do you remember how reading a classic feels? – drawn-out stories, ample time invested in the plot and character development, and a story that needs the reader’s patience for one to understand its essence. That’s how this book made me feel.

Addie is a modern woman born in the wrong era. Born in the 1700s, Addie is a free soul. Forced by her parents to marry, Addie finds herself making a deal with Darkness for her freedom. A life of freedom, albeit a life that no one remembers. Fast forward to 2014, Addie meets Henry, and three hundred years later, there is finally Henry, who remembers her name.

This book is an emotional rollercoaster. After finishing this one, I just held it close, absorbing the ending. I have cried, I have laughed, and I have thoroughly enjoyed every piece of Addie’s story. I adored all of the characters in the book, especially Luc, Bea, and Sam. It is a great read with fabulous characters.

It is an absolute 5 out of 5 stars read. However, be warned that the story needs patience and may seem drawn-out. I absolutely loved it and would strongly recommend it.

Book Review: The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman

This post may contain affiliate links, and I may earn a small commission when you click on the links at no additional cost to you. As an Amazon Affiliate, I earn from qualifying purchases.

But that’s not really how things work around here. Life goes on, until it doesn’t.

Richard Osman

Richard Osman is an English television presenter, producer, comedian, writer. He is also the creator and co-presenter of the BBC One television quiz show Pointless. I had heard a lot about the book and had also come across a lot of good reviews. I like cozy mysteries especially, those that remind me of Miss Marple. On reading the book’s synopsis, I felt this would be a good fit for me.

Elizabeth, Joyce, Ibrahim, and Ron are four septuagenarians living in a peaceful retirement village. Every Thursday, they come together in the Jigsaw room to discuss old unsolved cases. One day, they have a live case on their hand when a local developer is bludgeoned to death. Not to be left behind, these four sneak their way into the investigation and our hearts.

The book has numerous strong and interesting characters. Considering that most of them are septuagenarians, there is a lot of historical richness for the reader to enjoy. As these back-stories unwind and pieces start to fall together, unfortunately, the plot-line gets convoluted. There are several leads related to the case and multiple things happening at the same time.

All four characters have strengths that contribute to moving the plot forward. Ron never believes a single word anyone ever tells him, while Elizabeth is meticulous, astute, and a great observer. Ibrahim is a true mastermind at numbers, and Joyce is always there but never noticed. The book also touches on the fears and the insecurities that septuagenarians experience. While life may be luxurious for them at the retirement village, their anxieties and insecurities are never too far away. Something for us to remember as people around us grow older.

It is through and through a cozy mystery, and I can see this becoming a series. I would read them for sure. Elizabeth is my favorite character. While I do have a soft corner for Joyce, Elizabeth’s fierceness, no-nonsense attitude, and grit won my heart. I say she is the “Queen of Aging however-the-hell one wants to age.”

This book wasn’t a solid five for me though. I give it 4/5 stars. While it is no Agatha Christie, this is a good read for lovers of cozy mysteries.