#TuesdayBookBlog #BookReview ‘The Cactus’ by Sarah Haywood @SarahxHaywood

The Cactus is another book I discovered thanks to my favourite reviewer, Linda Hill, who reviewed it on Linda’s Book Bag in January.

I love reading humorous, feel good novels and romance, to balance the intensity of the thrillers and dramatic novels I usually read, so after reading Linda’s review, I was sure I’d love The Cactus. The unique and quirky main character, Susan Green, reminded me of Eleanor in Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, one of my favourite novels of 2018, which I reviewed here.

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People aren’t sure what to make of Susan Green – family and colleagues find her prickly and hard to understand, but Susan makes perfect sense to herself.

Age 45, she thinks her life is perfect, as long as she avoids her feckless brother, Edward – a safe distance away in Birmingham. She has a London flat which is ideal for one; a job that suits her passion for logic; and a personal arrangement providing cultural and other, more intimate, benefits.

Yet suddenly faced with the loss of her mother and, implausibly, with the possibility of becoming a mother herself, Susan’s greatest fear is being realised: she is losing control. And things can only get worse … at least in Susan’s eyes.

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My Review

The Cactus is a wonderful and uplifting novel with an unlikely, quirky and lovable heroine, Susan Green, who is coping with her mother’s death, litigation regarding the will, as well as serious personal issues (I don’t want to include spoilers). In spite of her world imploding, she’ll find her silver lining in the most unlikely places and situations.

It’s a novel about family secrets and domestic strife, and how honesty and goodness can overcome the most negative situations. I read it in an afternoon – evening (finished in the early hours), because I just couldn’t put it down. Fortunately, it was another blissfully lazy, winter Sunday, ideal for cosy reading by the fireplace.

Susan, who tells her story in the first person, is a fascinating woman, who captivates the reader with her honesty and humour, from page one. The rest of the secondary characters who interact with Susan are also believable and engaging, and the plot is clever. It’s set mostly in London and Birmingham, so it has a very English feel to it.

I highly recommend it to readers who enjoy well written, feel good novels with unique characters. It will make you laugh, cringe and cry, right up to the heart-warming ending. A delight to read!

And it’s a real gift at its present, very low price, of well under the cost of a coffee for the kindle version, which I read, and a few more pounds/dollars/euros for the paperback, which I’m getting for my bookshelf, because I know I’ll be rereading it.

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#TuesdayBookBlog #BookReview ‘The Two Hearts of Eliza Bloom’ by Beth Miller @drbethmiller @Bookouture‏

I found The Two Hearts of Eliza Bloom, quite by chance, browsing new releases on Amazon. I was especially looking for humorous and uplifting titles. Having read too many thrillers recently, I needed a break, and I found a heartbreakingly beautiful novel, which stole my heart.

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Eliza Bloom has a list of rules: long, blue skirt on Thursdays, dinner with mother on Fridays, and never give your heart away to the wrong person. Nothing is out of place in her ordered life…

Then she met someone who she was never supposed to speak to. And he introduced her to a whole world of new lists:
New foods to try – oysters and sushi
Great movies to watch – Bambi and Some Like It Hot
Things I love about Eliza Bloom

Eliza left everything she knew behind for him, but sometimes love just isn’t enough. Especially when he opens a hidden shoebox and starts asking a lot of questions about her past life. As the walls Eliza carefully constructed threaten to come crashing down, will she find a way to keep hold of everyone she loves, and maybe, just maybe, bring the two sides of her heart together at last?

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My Review

The Two Hearts of Eliza Bloom is a wonderful novel about love, marriage, complex family dynamics, intercultural marriages, friendship, and last but not least, parents coping with adolescent children!

The writing style is wonderful. Eliza’s first person point of view, draws the reader in as we follow Eliza,’s life from her strict, childhood and upbringing, her arranged marriage, romance and elopement with an ‘unsuitable’ Londoner, pregnancy, and married life up to her 40th birthday, when she’s coping with her own teenage daughter’s rebellious nature.

The novel has two parallel timelines, 2000-2001 and 2016. This dual timeframe works well as a narrative device, creating suspense by gradually unfolding the plot, which is basically the story of Eliza’s marriage to Alex and the numerous challenges they face, told piece by piece, until we finally get the whole, heartbreaking picture.

The characterisation is perfect, both their families and friends jumped out of the pages and came to life as real people. Leah, the teenage daughter is brilliantly and vividly portrayed, and the family dynamics which developed throughout the novel was believable, sometimes humorous and others touching.

Eliza and Alex’s relationship is challenging due to their very diverse cultural and family backgrounds. Eliza is more complex, because she is torn between two worlds, and sometimes, understandably, can’t seem to decide where she wants to be. Alex is patient, loving and considerate, but it’s not always enough, and he has his own limits and hang-ups to deal with, too. Leah, like every teenager, is a constant source of stress in their relationship until she, selfishly, albeit unwittingly, manages to push her parents and the whole family to the very limit.

I’m so glad I found this uplifting novel, which I read in one wonderful sitting (fortunately I was able to read it over a long, lazy Sunday).

I can’t imagine anyone not loving this novel. It’s realistic, inspiring, poignant and heartwarming.

And it’s a real gift at its present, very low price, of well under the cost of a coffee.

Go on, indulge!

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Carrot Ranch #FlashFiction ‘Bats’ #99Words #SundayBlogShare

This post was written in response to Charli Mills at Carrot Ranch’s weekly #99 word Flash Fiction Challenge. This week’s prompt is to include a bat in the story. Check out other entries or take part yourself!

Bats

‘Granny, what do bats eat?’

I sighed wishing my daughter was here to answer her son’s question. ‘I have no idea, Jimmy.’

‘We need to find out.’

‘Why is that, sweetie?’

‘We’re doing a class project about what animals eat and I got the bat.’

‘Let’s ask google.’

‘Who’s that?’

‘Someone who knows everything.’

‘Everything?’

I nodded and tapped the microphone. ‘Ask your question.’

‘What do bats eat?’ Jimmy asked.

A woman’s voice replied. ‘Most bats eat insects and are called insectivores…’

Mrs Google is a really clever lady, granny. Can we ask her when mummy is coming back?’

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This weekend I was lucky enough to have my grandchildren visit. While we were busy doing some arts and crafts, I told my grandson I had to write a story about a bat. He was horrified at first and begged me to choose another animal, so I told him it had to be a bat, because Charli, was the boss and said it had to be a bat. He insisted they were black and ugly, so I suggested drawing a ‘cute’ bat.

This what he finally came up with. And he was wearing his batman sweatshirt!

While he was colouring his cute and colourful bat, I started jotting down some ideas and I asked him to help me write the bat story.

‘Shall we include a cave in the story?’ I asked him and he shook his head violently. ‘I want to know what bats eat.’ he said and so we asked Google and found out a few things about bats. He was relieved that they ate mostly insects!

We had a great time chatting about bats and colouring. His little sister joined us in the fun and his mum, my daughter, popped in now and again to check on our progress and chat. It was a lovely way to spend the evening, so I’m puzzled as to why my story took such a sad turn.

I suppose I was thinking how lucky we all are to have each other and how important siblings, parents and grandparents are for children. Sometimes we forget to value what we have, until we no longer have it. I certainly hope he never has to miss anyone in his family.

When we’d both finished our tasks, he said he’d like to send Charli the picture, so Charli, here’s the prettiest bat you’ll ever see! Thanks so much for the prompt and for hosting the weekly challenge.

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#SOCS ‘Manu and Me’

This post was written in response to Linda G. Hill’s weekly Friday prompt for Stream of Consciousness Saturday. This week it’s “man.” Use it as a word by itself or find a word with “man” in it. Have fun!

Manu and Me

My husband is called Manuel, but I call him Manu. We met in 1978.

Over the last 39 years we’ve done many things, including working hard, having three children, buying a house and making a comfortable home for us and our children.

We’ve had good times and a few rainy days.

I’ve mostly forgotten the bad times. Perhaps they weren’t that bad anyway.

We’ve made lots of journeys together: Florence, Algarve, Vienna, Berlin, Bremen, Bratislava, Budapest, and all over Spain and the UK, our favourite places!

Manu loves driving while I take pictures or write.

We love taking selfies. We’ve taken hundreds since the first picture in a photo booth!

I’m glad Manuel and I stuck together, in spite of almost splitting up, more than once.

Here’s our latest photo taken this morning at the beach in Almeria.

Manu and I are still standing, still smiling, still travelling, and still healthy and optimistic enough to look at the camera and smile, and that’s a lot to wish for and enough to have.

My Manu and me.