2 September 2014

Book Review: The Tea Chest by Josephine Moon

"Kate Fullerton, talented tea designer and now co-owner of The Tea Chest, could never have imagined that she'd be flying from Brisbane to London, risking her young family's future, to save the business she loves from the woman who wants to shut it down.

Meanwhile, Leila Morton has just lost her job; and if Elizabeth Clancy had known today was the day she would appear on the nightly news, she might at least have put on some clothes. Both need to start again.

When the three women's paths unexpectedly cross, they throw themselves into realising Kate's magical vision for London's branch of The Tea Chest. But every time success is within their grasp, increasing tensions damage their trust in each other.

With the very real possibility that The Tea Chest will fail, Kate, Leila and Elizabeth must decide what's important to each of them. Are they willing to walk away or can they learn to believe in themselves?

An enchanting, witty novel about the unexpected situations life throws at us, and how love and friendship help us through. Written with heart and infused with the seductive scents of bergamot, Indian spices, lemon, rose and caramel, it's a world you won't want to leave."

Rating: 4/5

You can buy The Tea Chest as a paperback or an eBook now.

I hadn't heard too much about this book before I started reading it, and sometimes I like going into something with my eyes open but having no opinion about it one way or the other. I hadn't heard of author Josephine Moon either, and it turns out she's an Australian author, and this is her first book. I loved the cover for this book, it's really sweet and suits it perfectly, and although I'm not a fan of tea (in fact, I  hate it!) I decided this book sounded good and gave it a try!

Kate is happily plodding along in her life as wife, mother and works in a tea shop too. She loves her work, she loves making bespoke tea blends for people, and is pretty good at it, attracting return custom for the shop. When the opportunity arises to start up a new branch of the tea shop in England, Kate makes the touch decision to leave her family behind and head over there to start the shop. She recruits new PA Leila, and new worker Elizabeth, and sets to work making the shop as much of a success as she can. There's lot up against them but the three women are determined to fight against the odds and keep the Tea Shop going... but will it work?

I'll be honest and say that when I started the book, I struggled to get into it. It was quite slow, and I felt it got bogged down too much in the detail of the shop and what Kate does, rather than getting the reader into the story and hooked on what was going on. I decided to persevere with it, sure that it would pick up and I'm really pleased that I did because it did get much better. There was an awful lot in the book about tea, as you can probably guess from the title of it, and while I found this interesting, it wasn't my favourite part of the book. I don't like tea, and although it was interesting, I found at times it got a bit too detailed for me and my interest did wane slightly at parts. However, it was the story of the set-up of the shop that really hooked me, and I loved that part of the book.

Kate was an interesting character. As a mum, I couldn't fathom leaving my child on the other side of the world for a job, and carrying on as normal without them. Therefore, I did find it hard to understand her actions, and when she was missing her boys and her husband, I found it hard to sympathise with her because in my mind she chose that, and therefore she had to live with the consequences of her actions. Leila was another strange one, in love with someone at work but keeping it a secret, she moves on and accepts a job with Kate, but seems a flighty and fancy free to me. Elizabeth was the most normal of the bunch I think, she left Australia after a betrayal but her husband so her sister brings her back home and here she meets Kate and also begins work. The characters work well together in the book, bouncing off each other and their stories are all interesting, and they certainly made it worth reading on.

The book does jump around a bit with flashbacks, and I did find it hard to keep up with at first because they aren't always massively clear to the reader which was a bit of a shame. But I soon got into the pattern of the book and began to settle into it. I still feel it needed to broken down in a clearer way, because the use of flashbacks was good for the story but the way it was set out wasn't defined enough for me and led to the confusion. The challenge of building the shop up was the best bit about the book, the work that goes into it, the struggles the women face, and also some of the terrifying realities they have to face, which I have to say are so well written, I felt like I was in the middle of it. This was a very good novel, well written if a little bogged down in the details at times. It's a slow-burner, but once you're into it, it's a great read. Enjoyable and recommended.

Book News: Christmas With Billy and Me by Giovanna Fletcher

Eeek! One of the most exciting Christmas reads this year has got to the sequel to Giovanna Fletcher's fab debut novel Billy and Me, which is to be called Christmas With Billy and Me! It'll be fantastic to catch up with Billy and Sophie again, especially in a festive tale, and I am super excited for this one. It's only a short story, but nevertheless, I'm sure it'll more than worth it. It's out on 6th November.

You can pre-order Christmas With Billy and Me as an eBook or a paperback now!

"Join Billy and Sophie for the next chapter of their story by bestselling author Giovanna Fletcher.

Christmas has come to Rosefont Hill and it's destined to be a particularly special festive season for Sophie May.

When a smitten stranger emails Sophie to ask her if he can propose to the woman he loves in her little teashop, the romantic in her finds it impossible to refuse. Even though Christmas is her busiest time of year she has her own sweetheart, Hollywood actor Billy Buskin, to lend a helping hand. How could she say no to making someone's dream come true?

As Sophie and Billy work together to plan the perfect fairytale proposal for this couple, excitement in Rosefont Hill is mounting. Who is this mysterious man? And who is the lucky lady he's about to get down on one knee for?"

1 September 2014

Book Review: To Have and To Hold by Helen Chandler

"From the outside, Ella has the happy marriage, the cute kids and the comfortable home - inside, she craves something more. But giving in to temptation will stir up a whole heap of trouble . . .

Imogen's relationship with Pete was once fun and carefree but since they've become parents, everything is different. Then an accident provides the catalyst for a life-changing decision.

Fifteen-year-old Phoebe is miserable at home and at school. And now her dad, who was always her ally, seems completely distracted by something - or someone. Maybe it's time Phoebe took a stand, and took control of her own life.

As Ella, Imogen and Phoebe contemplate taking the biggest risk of their lives, marriages, families and friendships hang in the balance. Should they take the leap, or will they risk losing everything?"

Rating: 5/5

You can buy To Have and To Hold as a paperback or an eBook now.

I read Helen Chandler's debut novel Two For Joy and thought it was a great book, and that Helen was going to be a great new voice in the women's fiction market. I was pleased to be sent a review copy of Helen's new book, To Have and To Hold as I really loved the sound of the story. As you probably know if you read my blog a lot, I enjoy books where there is more than one story to follow, and that's exactly what this book delivers on. I have to say I love the cover design as well, it complements Helen's previous book, and is a very elegant and pretty cover too.

Three women, all at different points in their lives, dealing with their own battles, intertwining in ways they had never imagined. Ella has it all - the perfect husband, 2 beautiful children, a lovely home but there is part of her that just wants more, despite her husband's protestations. When she bumps into a face from her past, she is left questioning the decisions she made all those years ago. Ella's best friend Imogen hasn't had it easy since the birth of her daughter, what with her partner being a pretty lax father. But when a freak accident leaves Indigo injured, Imogen makes a decision that is sure to change their future forever. Finally, there's fifteen year old Phoebe, dealing with a lot of issues in her personal life, especially her troubled relationship with her mother. As things fall apart at home, Phoebe doesn't know who to turn to, leading to terrible results. Are each of the women destined to lose everything they hold dear?

This is very much a family orientated novel, dealing with the complexities of different family dynamics, and how they affect those in the families, and those around them as well. Although there are 3 separate stories as such, they're all linked in their own way which I really liked. The three women are all great characters, and each strong in their own way in what they are dealing with. The story I enjoyed reading about most was poor Phoebe. She's a really young girl, both in age and in mentality, and is really struggling at home and at school. Phoebe is overweight, she knows it but her mother enjoys reminding her about it at every opportunity, which I found really hard to read. I felt so incredibly sorry for her, her mother was just an awful character and her father just needed to grow a backbone. This was a very sad story, and while it was at times hard for me to read, it was very well written and I enjoyed reading the progression of it.

Ella I struggled to like. She's a stay at home mum to her two young children, but feels like she wants more. She seems unfulfilled, but doesn't seem like she knows what is wrong with her life. She's driven to doing something questionable and the fallout from that is what takes place in the book. I didn't feel sorry for Ella dealing with it all because honestly, she brought it on herself, and I struggled to like her for what she did. It isn't something I agree with but I felt she did make some amends with her actions towards the end of the book for me. Finally, there's Imogen, the character I could most relate to. She's effectively a single mum to her daughter Indigo, dealing with a bit of a dead-beat dad and you can see why she has had enough, although I wondered why she put up with as long as she did. She was so likeable and just deserved so much happiness, I was really rooting for her throughout the whole book. I also enjoyed reading the male characters in this book too which is unusual as sometimes the men are the ones you're meant to dislike in these books, but not in this case which I liked.

I really did enjoy this book, and found it hard to put it down whenever I was reading. I kept saying to myself 'just one more chapter' every evening, but ended up reading at least 2 or 3 more! I was hooked into the story, desperate to find out what was going to happen next, especially with poor old Phoebe, I really did feel so so sorry for her. The book is a stark reminder as well how as parents we have a duty to protect our children in lots of ways, and how our actions affect them. Ella, Imogen and Phoebe each have to move on and through the things that happen to them, relying on each other as it goes on, and it shows the importance of friends and family all the way through the story. Chandler has written a fantastic novel here, full of drama, love and family, and it's definitely cemented her as one of my new must-read authors, I really loved this book.

30 August 2014

eBook Review: A Place for Us (Part 1) by Harriet Evans

"The day Martha Winter decided to tear apart her family began like any other day. 

The house has soft, purple wisteria twining around the door. You step inside.

The hall is cool after the hot summer's day. The welcome is kind, and always warm.

Yet something makes you suspect life here can't be as perfect as it seems.

After all, the brightest smile can hide the darkest secret.

But wouldn't you pay any price to have a glorious place like this?

Welcome to Winterfold.

Martha Winter's family is finally coming home"

Rating: 5/5

You can buy A Place for Us as an eBook now.

I have to be honest and say that I'm generally not a fan of book serialisation. If I'm going to read a book, I want it to be the whole thing, not just part of it that leaves me in the middle of something I want to keep reading. However, when I was sent the first part of Harriet Evans' new book A Place for Us, I was intrigued enough to pick it up and start reading the first few pages, especially after I saw a few bloggers raving about it on Twitter. I hadn't expected to get stuck right into the story, almost forgetting that this was only the first part of four! However, I thoroughly enjoyed it and can't wait for the next parts now!

Martha Winter loves her family dearly, her son and daughters, and her husband too. She lives at their beautiful family home, Winterfold, and is due to hold her annual party, finally bringing all the Winter's back together again. However, this time Martha has a secret that she is sure will blow her entire family apart. Despite that, she's sure that telling them is the right thing to do. But will all the Winter's want to come back home, and face Martha and her secret once and for all?

Harriet Evans writing in this book is brilliant, and really draws you in. The book slowly introduces us to each of the members of the Winter family, beginning with Martha. I really liked her from the beginning, she's definitely the matriarchal head of the family and loves them all dearly. You aren't given much of a hint as to what Martha's secret is throughout the book, so I was guessing in my own head, wondering what on earth it could be that could blow a whole family apart. The other members of the family are widespread, and all a bit odd in their own way. There's their son David, a doctor, on his second marriage to a much younger woman that is not perhaps as happy as it seems. Their daughter Florence, an Art professor living in Florence, and living in a bit of a dreamworld regarding a certain colleague. There's the younger generation, Martha's husband, and lots of stories to keep up with but I didn't have a problem keeping up with who was who and where they were!

This is a great introduction to the story in my opinion. It really piqued my interest in terms of what the big Winter family secret is, and exactly who I think will bother turning up to Martha's party. They are certainly a strange family, and there were a few characters that I felt unsure about, but that just added to the mystery for me. I loved the sound of Winterfold as well, it sounds like a beautiful home set in a beautiful village. Harriet Evans has done everything to make part 1 of A Place for Us a capitvating introduction to her latest story, and I for one can't wait to read more of it. I'm so intrigued to read what is going to take place at the Winter family party, and exactly who is going to come back, and perhaps clash too! If you're a fan of Harriet's books, you'll want to read this one but if you'd prefer to wait for the complete book, it's out on 15th January 2015. But for now... roll on part 2!

29 August 2014

Blog Tour: A Piece of Cake by Trisha Ashley

Today I am delighted to be part of Trisha Ashley's blog tour for her new short story eBook A Piece of Cake! I have been chosen to host an extract from the new story which you can read by clicking on the link at the bottom of the page. I've already read the story, and it's definitely a fun read that you'll want to pop onto your Kindle!

You can pre-order A Piece of Cake as an eBook now.

You can read the extract from A Piece of Cake by clicking here! This will open up a new window with the extract in a Word format, so it's nice and easy to read!

27 August 2014

eBook News: Dead Romantic by Ruth Saberton

Ruth Saberton's last book Escape for the Summer was such a brilliant read, it's made me really excited to read more of her books! Luckily for me, there's not too long a wait as her brand new story Dead Romantic is coming out on October 2nd through Notting Hill Press! It sounds quite an unusual story, but I'm looking forward to reading it!

You can pre-order Dead Romantic as an eBook now.

"What do you do if you come face to face with a ghost? 

Put it down to a bump on the head and work stress if you’re a respected academic like Cleo Carpenter. With Christmas approaching, professional rivalry afoot and a best friend determined to interfere in her love life the strain is clearly starting to get to her. 

Guilt-stricken and deceased, Alex Thorne is desperate to make amends with his brother, Rafe, a tortured musician trapped in a spiral of destruction. When an encounter with Cleo forges a link between them she becomes his only hope. So what if the only person who can see him is a sceptic? 

As Cleo starts to doubt her sanity, the safe world she takes for granted crumbles around her. Setting out to regain control and prove once and for all ghosts don’t exist, she embarks on a journey of self discovery and surprise, learning that love really does defy science, logic and maybe even death itself… "

22 August 2014

Book Review: What A Girl Wants by Lindsey Kelk

"Tess Brookes was the girl with a plan. Now she's the girl with a choice. 

Should she stay in London and start her own advertising agency with her best friend and potential boyfriend Charlie? Or should she head to exciting Milan to pursue both a new career as a photographer and a new man, the enigmatic and elusive (and highly irritating) Nick? 

For the first time, Tess has to choose between the life she always dreamed of and a future she never imagined possible. With her heart and her head pulling her in different directions, Tess has to make a life-changing decision about What a Girl Wants."

Rating: 5/5

You can buy What A Girl Wants as an eBook or a paperback now.

One of the highlights of my summer is Lindsey Kelk bringing out a brand new book! This is the second in her new series featuring the fabulous lead character of Tess Brookes, following on from the brilliant first novel last summer called About A Girl. I adored Lindsey's I Heart series, so it's been great to have another series to get my teeth into. The last book left everything quite open so I was looking forward to getting back to it and see what Tess was going to get into next. I have to say how much I love the cover as well - it's really bold and bright, and certainly makes it exactly the sort of book you'll want to stick in your beach bag for a good old read in the sunshine this summer!

Tess knows she has to make a choice. However, it's definitely not going to be an easy one to make, knowing she will upset someone whichever path she chooses. She has to choose between her best friend, and now potential boyfriend too, called Charlie, with the pair of them aiming to set up their own business and possibly pursue a relationship, something Tess has thought she's wanted for years. But then there's the chance of a lifetime to go out and work as a photographer in Italy, and meet the man who she's also fallen for, journalist Nick. The job is a dream, everything Tess has always wanted, but her loyalty to Charlie is making her wonder if she is doing the right thing. Which choice will Tess make, and will it be the right one?!

I loved the fact that the book begins exactly where About A Girl left off, with Tess returning from her escapades in Hawaii. She's back in London and facing up to everything that has happened since, and the consequences of her actions while she's been out there too. Poor old Tess can't seem to do right for wrong, and manages to get herself in all sorts of issues, even when she's meaning things to go well. Right from the beginning, there's lots of hilarious, laugh-out-loud moments and I was really in love with the book from the beginning! The main crux of Tess' dilemma is whether she wants to be with Nick or Charlie - after About A Girl I was definitely #TeamCharlie, but I have to say I was changing my mind a bit to #TeamNick after this book! Neither man was ideal really, neither a real hero of the book, but both had their positives and negatives.

The majority of Tess' story is set in Milan, where she is doing some photography work for her pal Walter, who first appeared in About A Girl. I loved having familiar characters come back again, and it was nice to read yet another travel-based setting. Milan sounded amazing, with Kelk's descriptions making it sound beautiful, especially the palatial home in which Tess finds herself living, along with her crazy yet very enthusiastic best friend Amy. She made me tired just reading about her - how is anyone that perky all the time?! However, she is brilliantly funny, and tried to really cheer up poor indecisive Tess. The fashion parts of the book too are brilliantly written, with descriptions of clothing really coming alive on the pages - I'm not especially into fashion and clothes but even I enjoyed reading these parts. The story as a whole is really enjoyable, Tess has to be one of the unluckiest people ever though!

For me, this is a fantastic follow-up novel to a brilliant start in a series. I can't wait to keep reading and find out what other mishaps Tess can get herself into, and whether she's really going to end up with Nick or Charlie - or perhaps somebody different altogether! Kelk's writing as usual is a joy to read - light-hearted, witty, very funny and had me engrossed every time I picked the book up. Tess, Amy and co are a fantastic cast of characters you'll fall in love with - even if you haven't read the first book, this one is just as enjoyable and gives you enough information about the first story so you don't miss out, although of course I'd recommend you start with About A Girl. I loved every part of this book, it was great to read a story set in beautiful Milan and with some hilarious goings-on too. Brilliant fun.