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Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Review: The Road Trip

The Road Trip 
Author: Beth O'Leary

Publisher: 21st April 2021 by Hachette Australia and Quercus Books

Pages: 400  pages

How I Read It: ARC book

Genre: contemporary, women’s fiction, romance

My Rating: 4 crowns


Addie and her sister are about to embark on an epic road trip to a friend's wedding in the north of Scotland. The playlist is all planned and the snacks are packed.

But, not long after setting off, a car slams into the back of theirs. The driver is none other than Addie's ex, Dylan, who she's avoided since their traumatic break-up two years earlier.

Dylan and his best mate are heading to the wedding too, and they've totalled their car, so Addie has no choice but to offer them a ride. The car is soon jam-packed full of luggage and secrets, and with three hundred miles ahead of them, Dylan and Addie can't avoid confronting the very messy history of their relationship...

Will they make it to the wedding on time? And, more importantly... is this really the end of the road for Addie and Dylan?

My Thoughts

 “I don’t care about almost. I care about what really happened. Everyone’s got the potential to do the wrong thing - if we were measured that way, we’d all come up short. It’s about what you do.”

The Road Trip is Beth’s third book. Her first book, Flat Share was met with great acclaim and I thoroughly enjoyed The Switch her second tale (HERE). So I went in expecting loads of laughter and light, fun moments. Somewhat surprisingly, this was quite a different tale, not what I was expecting, but by the end a good story. 

This book definitely has more depth and substance to it, there are strong emotions adrift here and quite a lot of baggage to wade through. Split into two timelines, Beth weaved it together quite well to provide a slow unraveling of past events in explaining how the two main leads came to part ways initially.

‘I don’t even know what the real world is. The dread is tugging at me again, and in its way the fear of it is almost as bad as the dread itself.’

There are some great secondary characters here - love Addie’s sister Deb and big shout out to Rodney for the light relief. It was good to revisit how Addie and Dylan came together and I waited to see if the thing that drove them apart would hit the mark - it did for me. At times the journey was moving a little slow (much like the traffic they were stuck in!) but by the second half they were well and truly in the fast lane and it all gelled well together. 

Despite not being the book I had originally predicted, it ended up being solid and enjoyable and would appeal to many. I look forward to seeing where Beth will go on her next adventure. 

‘The countless times I almost changed my mind. But that’s the thing about almost: you can be ninety-nine per cent there, you can be an inch away from doing it, but if you stop yourself from stepping over that line, nobody will ever know how close you were.’

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. The quoted material may have changed in the final release.

Saturday, May 8, 2021

Review: The Night Train to Berlin

The Night Train to Berlin
Author: Melanie Hudson

Publisher: 22nd April 2021 by HarperCollins UK, One More Chapter

Pages: 400 pages

How I Read It: ARC book

Genre: historical fiction, romance, contemporary

My Rating: 3.5 crowns


Two lost souls brought together by the chaos of war.

A train journey into the past.

A love that echoes through time.

Paddington Station, present day

A young woman boards the sleeper train to Cornwall with only a beautiful emerald silk evening dress and an old, well-read diary full of sketches. Ellie Nightingale is a shy violinist who plays like her heart is broken. But when she meets fellow passenger Joe she feels like she has been given that rarest of gifts…a second chance.

Paddington Station, 1944

Beneath the shadow of the war which rages across Europe, Alex and Eliza meet by chance. She is a gutsy painter desperate to get to the frontline as a war artist and he is a wounded RAF pilot now commissioned as a war correspondent. With time slipping away they make only one promise: to meet in Berlin when this is all over. But this is a time when promises are hard to keep, and hope is all you can hold in your heart.

From a hidden Cornish cove to the blood-soaked beaches of Normandy in June 1944, this is an epic love story like no other.

My Thoughts

‘Ellie knew that life was not about the destination but the journey, and yet, tonight, the destination was all she could think of, and it was suddenly closing in on her far too fast.’

I was excited to read Melanie’s new book as I have so enjoyed her others. For this particular book, chapters alternate between Eliza in 1944 and Ellie in the present day. It investigates the parallels and synchronicity of the same train journey these two women take but separated by decades.

‘The roles we choose for ourselves, which are interchangeable, don’t always suit our true character, which is not interchangeable...’

The two chance encounters on these train journeys are quite varied. Eliza and Alex in war torn Britain (and the story ventures off to Europe as well) is full of special moments against a tragic background. Comparatively, Ellie and Joe’s story does not carry the same spark yet Melanie does her best to create a meaningful connection. This modern encounter may have lacked enough detail and depth  (difficult with two storylines) to fully engage the reader. 

‘I think it’s about choosing to live life with an open heart and an attitude of hope rather than one of dread and fear. It’s about just knowing, I suppose, that all will be well…’

Eliza and Alex’s story was the classic wartime love affair and the better of the two tales. So much so, that I often regretted being dragged away to the present day as sweet as Ellie’s story may have been. It appeared to be there as the thread to draw parallels with the wartime story. There are also some well researched details from the war pertaining to time spent on a nursing auxiliary hospital ship or the sketches Eliza drew from D-Day and onwards. 

‘It seems that there is no end to the unfathomable waste of human life our generation must witness.’

This brings me to the inclusion of the role of war artists and their desire in detailing, or wanting to detail, the awful reality that they saw and felt compelled to communicate to those back home. It raises the issue of whether or not seeing the imagery of such atrocities should be both documented and shared as it made it so much more real through confronting imagery. An interesting point to ponder. So whilst not my favourite book of Melanie’s, there are definite elements - the train travel, the frontline stories, the serendipity of encounters - that make it worth your while to read. 

‘Perhaps your being on the train was …’ ‘Fate?’ he asked. ‘I was going to say destiny, but yes, fate.’ ‘Next stop Berlin, then?’ he said, releasing her hand. ‘Absolutely. Next stop Berlin.’

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This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. The quoted material may have changed in the final release.