27 September 2016

Book Review: Letters from Lighthouse Cottage by Ali McNamara

"The sun is shining in the quiet little seaside town of Sandybridge

Sandybridge is the perfect English seaside town: home to gift shops, tea rooms and a fabulous fish and chip shop. And it's home to Grace - although right now, she's not too happy about it.

Grace grew up in Sandybridge, helping her parents sort junk from vintage treasures, but she always longed to escape to a bigger world. And she made it, travelling the world for her job, falling in love and starting a family. So why is she back in the tiny seaside town she'd long left behind, hanging out with Charlie, the boy who became her best friend when they were teenagers?

It turns out that travelling the world may not have been exactly what Grace needed to do. Perhaps everything she wanted has always been at home - after all, they do say that's where the heart is..."

Rating: 4/5

It's been a few years since I have read a title from Ali McNamara but there was something that drew me towards wanting to read her latest book Letters from Lighthouse Cottage. Perhaps it was the gorgeous summery cover, perhaps it was the fact that I know how much I have enjoyed her previous novels, but I dived into this one eager for a fantastic new story. Luckily it didn't disappoint, and I thoroughly enjoyed it from beginning to end.

The story is about a character called Grace, who inherits a typewriter when doing a house clearance with her parents. It isn't her ideal job, but there is sometimes the odd treasure that Grace finds along the way, and the typewriter certainly seems to be one of those special items, especially when it starts giving Grace mysterious advice about her life, friendship with Charlie, her childhood friend and more. Many years later, Grace finds herself back in her hometown, reconnecting with old friends and family, not having achieved all the dreams she set out to. But is home where Grace really and truly belongs?

What I didn't realise when I began reading this book is there is a bit of a magical element to it, in a way. I'm not usually a fan of things that aren't believable, I prefer my novels to be something set in real life, that could really happen. However, I decided to bear with it and I am pleased that I did because the overall story was so enjoyable, and I found myself getting swept away with Grace's story, the magical element just became a odd little extra for me. It wasn't my favourite part of the book, but it was an interesting inclusion for me.

I really liked the character of Grace, even if it took me a little while to warm to her. She seemed like a bit of a whinger in parts, never happy with her lot despite the fact she had parents who loved and cared for her, a lovely best friend in Charlie, who was there no matter how many times she abandoned him for other boys, and a good life. However, as the book progresses and we find out more about the twists and turns Grace's life takes, she mellows as a character and I grew to like her more and more. By the end, I felt we saw the true Grace and liked reading her path through adulthood to arrive at being a nicer person overall.

The setting of the story mainly takes place in Sandybridge, a small sleepy seaside town with its own lighthouse, fish and chip shop, and lots of gift shops... and Grace's parents antique shop of course. I really enjoyed Ali McNamara's descriptions of the town, it sounded so quintessentially English, and a proper little seaside town, you could see why some people chose to stay there, and I couldn't fathom Grace's reluctance to go back there! I was glad though that she did, if only for the support of her family after things began to go wrong for her as an adult, as they often do in real life.

As I previously mentioned, the typewriter part of the story and what happens surrounding that was a bit of a by-product of the story for me. I enjoyed the inclusion of this, but I could have happily enjoyed the story without it. For me, it was the story, the coming-of-age of Grace and her friends, the friendships, and the feel of home about this book which I truly loved. It was a lovely book to curl up with and escape to, the setting of Sandybridge was lovely to read about, and there was a great cast of characters, my favourite being Grace's best friend Charlie... everyone needs a Charlie of their own, and I just wished that Grace had treated him a little bit better! But a good book is one that moves you and causes you to feel something towards it and its characters, and this certainly did that for me. This was a really enjoyable read, I was pleased to be back reading Ali McNamara's books and this is definitely a recommended read from me!

26 September 2016

Book Review: The Secret Wife by Gill Paul

"Russian grand duchess and an English journalist. Linked by one of the world’s greatest mysteries . . .

Love. Guilt. Heartbreak.


Russia is on the brink of collapse, and the Romanov family faces a terrifyingly uncertain future. Grand Duchess Tatiana has fallen in love with cavalry officer Dmitri, but events take a catastrophic turn, placing their romance – and their lives – in danger . . .


Kitty Fisher escapes to her great-grandfather’s remote cabin in America, after a devastating revelation makes her flee London. There, on the shores of Lake Akanabee, she discovers the spectacular jewelled pendant that will lead her to a long-buried family secret . . .

Haunting, moving and beautifully written, The Secret Wife effortlessly crosses centuries, as past merges with present in an unforgettable story of love, loss and resilience."

Rating: 5/5

I am very lucky that thanks to my blog, I get to read lots of amazing books. One of my reads of 2016 so far is certainly going to be Gill Paul's new novel The Secret Wife, set both in the present day and in Russia during the First World War. This is one of my favourite periods of history, I studied it for GCSE, A-Level and my first year of University too.  I was fascinated to read, at the end of this novel, that the historical part of this story is based mainly in fact and just a few things have been embellished for the sake of the story, which makes it even more exciting to read, and I simply couldn't stop reading once I had started, desperate to find out what was to come.

The Romanov family are certainly very famous in history, and there is of course the historical mystery of whether or not one of the Romanov duchesses, Anastasia, managed to escape the brutal slaying of the family in Russia during the war. However, this story follows Anastasia's older sister Tatiana, who is working as a nurse at the Palace, tending to injured soldiers. Here, she meets Dmitri, an Army officer who has been wounded and is in for medical attention. The pair strike up an unlikely friendship which soon evolved into much more. However, the war creates many problems for the pair, especially when Tatiana is forced into a makeshift prison along with her family. Dmitri is determined to help free his love, and her family, but his actions come at a terrible price.

This historical part of the novel was utterly compulsive to read, and I loved Gill Paul's writing. You can tell that she has done copious research into this topic, because everything read so beautifully, you weren't left wondering anything at all. Everything, from the palace, to the clothes, the gems, the setting, it was all so descriptively written that I enjoyed every single word of it, it set the scene perfectly. As well as these more technical details, the passion and emotion between these two characters comes across beautifully in Paul's writing. Many of the couple's interactions are actually through letters, and again I thoroughly enjoyed reading these exchanges. Their desperation, fear and love for one another really comes across and I was really praying for a happy ending for the pair.

The book alternates this story with another set in the modern day. We meet a character called Kitty, who has a link to someone in our historical story, which I loved straight away. Kitty has had her own personal trauma, and so has fled to a cabin in the woods on the shore of Lake Akanabee. There, she unearths a beautiful necklace, and finds out a lot more about the great grandfather who left her the cabin. The secrets are slowly unlocked throughout this book, and the fact that Kitty was discovering them along with the reader makes it all the more exciting because you simply don't know what is going to be revealed next.

There were a few jaw dropping moments that had me really stunned, a few moments where I did guess a couple of twists but it did not detract in any way from my enjoyment of this wonderful story. I loved how the two stories were woven together beautifully, drawing all of those threads together by the end and leaving me feeling like I had been on a real emotional rollercoaster. I honestly wished that it didn't have to end, because I could read about this set of characters forever, and the ups and downs they each went through at the different points in their lives. Gill Paul's writing was simply brilliant, and I cannot fault this book in any way. It is definitely one of my favourite reads of the year, and I cannot wait to read more from her, this was just pure brilliance. Make sure you read it and allow yourself to be swept away with the captivating tale of The Secret Wife!

Blog Tour: Christmas at the Comfort Food Cafe by Debbie Johnson

Today I am really thrilled to be part of the blog tour for the eBook release of Debbie Johnson's brand new festive treat, Christmas at the Comfort Food Cafe! This book is the sequel to her previous book Summer at the Comfort Food Cafe, a title I loved, so I am really looking forward to getting stuck into this one when I begin my Christmas reads for 2016.

My post today is all about my favourite comfort foods at Christmas... and there's quite a few choices (unfortunately for my waistline!). So leave a comment and let me know what your favourite comfort foods are below!

1. Hot Chocolate
Nothing beats a yummy hot chocolate on a cold winter evening, with the Christmas tree lit up beautifully in the corner of your living room! My son and I love to put a bit of squirty cream with chocolate dusted over the top as a treat too, yum yum!

2. Sausage rolls
There is, however, a bit of a stipulation with this one... they have to be homemade! I remember baking them with my mum and my brother when I was young, and now I love to do the same with my son. Now he's older, he does more jobs that he used to, and I love his pride when he takes them out of the oven, all golden brown and smelling utterly delicious. This is actually making me want to go and start baking right now!

3. A tin of Quality Street
For my house growing up, we always had 1 tin of Quality Street at Christmas, and I loved it! It was always a special treat when we were little being allowed to dip into the tin and pick our favourites (always the Strawberry Creme!), with the lesser liked ones left unloved in the tin long after Christmas had passed (I'm looking at you, coconut and toffee penny!). I have stepped over to the dark side and tried both Celebrations and Roses, but for me it isn't Christmas without that iconic purple tin!

4. Tree Chocolates
Oh yes. You know the ones I'm talking about! Every year, I buy 2 packets - one of the caramel bells (has to be Cadbury's I'm afraid, I'm a bit of a chocolate snob!), and one of the milk chocolate square parcels, and hang them on the tree when my son has gone to bed. I love it when he finds one and asks if he can treat himself, there's usually a sneaky one to be found when we're putting the tree down too for an extra surprise!

5. Christmas Dinner
No Christmas comfort food list would be complete without the inclusion of Christmas dinner! It's a dinner I really enjoy, but I wouldn't say it is my absolute favourite meal. However, I love the tradition of it, and always look forward to sitting with family and enjoying it. There's always lots of choice, since everyone likes different things but that's part of the fun! Seeing the table beautifully decorated with gorgeous food on just before everyone tucks in is one of my favourite parts of Christmas Day, hands down!

And yes... I've noticed the traditional mince pies and Christmas pudding aren't on here and that's simply because... I don't like them! Never have, never will, and you won't change my mind! Believe me... many people have tried over the years but I won't be having it! Let me know your Christmas comfort food faves below :)

5 September 2016

Book Review: Destination India by Katy Colins

"Starting the Lonely hearts Travel Club was supposed to be the second chance that gave Georgia Green back her life. She thought it would be just like travelling, but the reality is far from rosy as she realises that starting a new business is definitely not a beach!

So when Georgia finds herself on an impromptu work trip to India she knows something’s got to give! Where has the girl gone who fought so hard to rebuild her life?

The land of Bollywood, gorgeous beaches and the Taj Mahal might just hold the key to Georgia finding her stride again… Only she is about to find out that when in India the country calls the shots – not you. But Georgia’s not going down that easy!"


After thoroughly enjoying Katy Colins' debut novel Destination: Thailand much earlier this year, I very much looked forward to reading the second book in the series, entitled Destination: India. I really loved the characters and was looking forward to the second outing to see what was happening with them. Also, I was curious to read a book set in India, somewhere I would love to travel to but a holiday like that is years off at the moment, so I have to settle for reading about it in books!

Georgia has enjoyed setting up her own travel business, The Lonely Hearts Travel Club with her friend Ben who she met on her travels, but things haven't quite gone to plan. Georgia feels like she's working all the time, to the point where she is ignoring her family and friends due to work stress. When she finds out one of her tours is getting bad press online, she decides the best way to rectify the situation is to go on the tour to India herself... but not tell any of the other clients who she is. Will Georgia be able to pull it off and sort out the tour, or will it all finally come crashing down around her shoulders?

As I mentioned, this is the second out for Georgia and co, so while this could be enjoyed as a standalone story, it works better if you read it after the first book as that sets the scene for Georgia's life, what has happened to this point and how she came to set up her business. I liked the fact that when we joined her, things aren't all rosy and working perfectly - it felt realistic that she was becoming bogged down in the running of the business, and how stressed she was seemed to reflect many people's mindsets when they work for themselves. I did want to give Georgia a bit of a shake and tell her to ease up on the workload and put other things first, but I calmed down and read on, sure that Katy Colins would pull everything together perfectly for me.

The setting of India in the book was glorious, and Katy really brings it to life on the page with her words. You can fully imagine the wonderful scenery, the city, the hustle-bustle of the people, the sights, the smells - everything is written so vividly, and when you couple it with the images you've probably seen on the television and the internet, you can certainly imagine everything that Georgia is seeing and experiencing in your mind as you read along. I have to confess not all of it sounded ideal of course, and I would definitely miss the creature comforts of home but experiencing a totally different culture like that sounds wonderful and I enjoyed how Georgia immersed herself fully into everything she tried.

The other characters on the tour were interesting, and I feel there were a good spread of people on it with Georgia, all determined to get over their own broken hearts. As well as this main storyline, there's a bit of a 'will they, won't they?' with Ben and Georgia going on, but since neither of them seemed capable of admitting how they felt, I wasn't very hopeful, especially when Georgia insisted on taking charge of everything and not relaxing one bit at all! However, I kept reading on in a vain hope that the two might see what was in front of them, and I enjoyed the development of this storyline very much.

Overall, this was a very successful second outing for Katy Colins and her characters for her 'Destination' series, and I really liked catching up with Georgia again to see what she was up to this time, and how things were going for her. Luckily, there is going to be a third book called Destination: Chile so I will certainly be reading that one when it's released. This is a really fun book, I loved the writing and Colins' style is really enjoyable, and the first person narrative works so well, allowing us to really experience India along with Georgia, as well as her emotional ups and downs as well. A really enjoyable book, definitely one if you aren't off on your travels this year and fancy a bit of escapism!

30 August 2016

Blog Tour: The Little Pieces of You and Me by Vanessa Greene

Today I am delighted to welcome Vanessa Greene for her blog tour for her brand new book The Little Pieces of You and Me. I absolutely love Vanessa's stories, so I can't wait to get around to reading this one! For her blog tour, Vanessa is giving each of the bloggers on her tour a piece about 'A Little Piece of...', and mine happens to be home! So please read the below by Vanessa, and enjoy!

"'A little piece of home’: what home is to Vanessa Greene and her characters in The Little Pieces of You and Me

Home. What a powerful pull that word has – the sense of safety and belonging. With time I’ve come to see home as something solid and very valuable, but it certainly wasn’t always like that. For most of my teens and twenties, I couldn’t get far enough away from it. I had a happy childhood in our family home in north London, but I didn’t want to stick around longer than I had to. I was glad to pack my bags and leave for university, and packed them again (and again) to travel around the world in my early twenties. When I did finally come back to settle in London, I moved around rental homes – Holloway, Blackheath, Highgate, Stockwell – and the bags became boxes. Always packing and unpacking.

With each move came new friendships and adventures, with each goodbye and close of the familiar door, a tinge of sadness. Then life changed, and what I wanted changed. As it does for Isla in my novel, home became something I longed for.

I hope I’ve just unpacked my final box. Now that I’m a mum, I want my son and daughter to feel as grounded as I did – to give them the stable start in life, to grow up with their aunts, uncles, cousins and grandparents close by. To give them something to fly away from one day. And – hopefully – to want to return to."

Thank you so much Vanessa!

You can buy The Little Pieces of You and Me now.

20 August 2016

Christmas Releases 2016

Yes, it's that time of year again! We have had so many beautiful covers being released, and I know so many of you are festive book fans that I had to make a page featuring these releases so that when it gets closer to the Christmas season, we can all get stuck in and get buying books! You can click on the covers to see them bigger and in their full glory!

Please note there is a difference for many books between the Kindle release date and the paperback release date. I have used the earlier date of the two for all of these books.

Lily Graham - A Cornish Christmas - 30th September 2016
Tilly Tennant - Christmas at the Little Village Bakery - 16th September 2016
Jane Linfoot - Christmas at the Little Wedding Shop - 30th September 2016 (01/12/16 paperback)
Debbie Johnson - Christmas at the Comfort Food Cafe - 23rd September 2016 (20/10/16 paperback)
Holly Martin - Christmas Under a Cranberry Sky - 22nd September 2016
Minna Howard - A Winter Affair - 1st September 2016

Christie Barlow - Lizzie's Christmas Escape - 21st October 2016
Jenny Colgan - Christmas at the Little Beach Street Bakery - 20th October 2016
Caroline Roberts - The Cosy Christmas Tea Shop - 7th October 2016 (01/12/16 paperback)
Sue Moorcroft - The Christmas Promise - 6th October 2016 (01/12/16)
Sarah Morgan - Miracle on 5th Avenue - 20th October 2016
Alex Brown - Not Just For Christmas - 6th October 2016
Lisa Dickenson - Mistletoe on 34th Street - 3rd October 2016
Cathy Bramley - Comfort and Joy (short story) - 20th October 2016
Alice Ross - A Winter's Wish - 10th October 2016
Sue Watson - The Christmas Cake Café - 14th October 2016
Sophie Pembroke - Claude's Christmas Adventure - 20th October 2016
Joanna Bolouri - The Most Wonderful Time of the Year - 20th October 2016

Isabelle Broom - A Year and A Day - 17th November 2016
Phillipa Ashley - Christmas at the Cornish Cafe - 21st November 2016
Chrissie Manby - A Fairy Tale for Christmas - 3rd November 2016
Katie Fforde - Candlelight at Christmas - 24th November 2016
Julia Williams - It's A Wonderful Life - 3rd November 2016
Karen Swan - Christmas Under the Stars - 3rd November 2016
Heidi Swain - Mince Pies and Mistletoe at the Christmas Market - 17th November 2016
Daisy Bell - The Christmas Guest - 3rd November 2016

Matt Haig - The Girl Who Saved Christmas - 20th October 2016
Tom Fletcher - The Christmasaurus - 6th October 2016

29 July 2016

Book Review: You Had Me At Merlot by Lisa Dickenson

"Elle and Laurie are the last ones standing: they're single, they're not having babies any time soon and their weekends aren't filled with joyful meetings about mortgages. For Elle, this is fine. She likes her independent life, but Laurie wants love and she wants it now.

So when Laurie begs Elle to come with her on a singles holiday to a beautiful vineyard in Tuscany, Elle is reluctant. She has no intention of swapping her perfectly lovely life for someone else's idea of her Mr Perfect, but ten days under the Italian sun with her best friend and lashings of wine? How bad could that be?"

Rating: 5/5

You can buy the book now.

I read my first book by Lisa Dickenson last Christmas and really enjoyed it, so when I saw her summer offering You Had Me At Merlot on Netgalley, I decided I had to give it a go, and I'm so pleased I did because it's become one of my favourite summer reads this year! It's the story of two best friends, Laurie and Elle who go on holiday together, simply because Laurie begs her best friend to do so, and Elle doesn't really have anything better to do! They find themselves in a beautiful Tuscan vineyard, with Elle determined she won't be finding love on their singles holidays. But when she meets the vineyard owner's son, she might be have no choice but to change her mind...

One thing I do love is a book that can make me laugh, and I have to say right off that this book definitely did that for me! There were plenty of laugh out loud moments, and I found myself giggling away as I was reading which for me is always the sign of a great read, especially when it comes to summer books! It's actually the second book I have recently with a vineyard setting, but I haven't read a book set in Tuscany in a while, so that was nice! I have been lucky enough to go to Italy myself, but never Tuscany, and Lisa's descriptions of Tuscany and the vineyards were just beautiful, it really came alive in my mind and I could picture it all really clearly as I was reading.

I really enjoyed the ensemble cast too, they were all fun characters and I enjoyed what each of them brought to the story. Elle and Laurie are the main characters in the book, but others included the lovely old vineyard owners, their son Jamie, and a rich American businessman who was more than a bit smitten with Elle, despite her desperately trying to put him off at every opportunity! Jamie was a great character - young, handsome and a hard worker, you can see why Elle had to try to stop herself from falling for him, he certainly seemed like the complete package! The other people on the holiday were fun too, and I liked that there was a broad section of people there, ensuring match-making, fun and a lot of laughs amongst each other! The humour element was definitely one of my favourite parts of the book, from a disastrous Vespa ride, and the banter between the characters was just such fun to read.

This book was a joy from start to finish, and I have to admit I fell in love with Lisa Dickenson's writing style right from the very beginning. The pace was good, there was lots going on, characters I loved and a brilliant setting - what more could you ask for?! Throw in a bit of romance, a lot of humour and a really well written story, and you've got the recipe for the perfect summer read. This is definitely one I can recommend you pack in your suitcase or on your Kindle for your summer holidays this year, and I can't wait for Lisa's next offering which is sure to be a festive treat! Fabulous read - don't miss it!