19 December 2015
Nick Sinclair needs his house decorated in time for his family’s festive visit – and money is no object. What he doesn’t need is to be distracted from his multi-million dollar business – even if it is Christmas.
When Abbey pulls up to the huge Sinclair mansion, she has a feeling she might be out of her depth. And when she meets the gorgeous, brooding Nicholas Sinclair, she knows that she’s in real trouble…
With the snow falling all around, can Abbey take the chance to make her dreams of being a designer come true? And can she help Nick to finally enjoy the magic of Christmas?"
Available to buy now.
Jenny Hale's books are some of my favourites to read at Christmas, so when I received a Netgalley copy of her brand new festive read Christmas Wishes and Mistletoe Kisses, I was super excited to get stuck into it because I just knew it would be brilliant! Luckily, Jenny hasn't let me down, and I might go so far as to say this is my favourite of all of her books to date! I loved everything about it - the setting, the story, the characters - I really didn't want it to end!
Abbey is a single mum to her young son, but wouldn't change anything for the world. She is a nurse whilst her son is at school, and relies on the help of her mother and elderly grandfather to look after him while she is out earning money. When she gets offered her dream job as a decorator for local millionaire Nick Sinclair she jumps at the chance, knowing she'll never again have an opportunity to earn this much money in such a short time. She can't believe the size and grandeur of the house, or the fact she's given an unlimited budget, and soon sets about creating a Christmas wonderland for Nick, who is reluctant about it at best. Will she be able to melt his frozen heart and help him enjoy his Christmas at last?
Oh, there really is nothing to dislike about this story and I fell in love with it so easily! Abbey was a wonderful character - a caring, kind person, a devoted mother to her young son who is just the most adorable boy ever, and a bit down on herself too, unsure that anyone would take decorating advice from her. Luckily, Nick is around to take a chance on her, and so their tale begins! I loved how we are introduced to Nick as a bit of a grumpy mystery, with no idea why he is so unhappy about the festive season, or why he lives such a solitary life, despite his many millions in the bank. Abbey is the total opposite, loving to surround herself with family and enjoy the season together, although they don't have much by the way of money. Goes to show, having money doesn't always make you happy!
I'm not very clued up on interior decorating, preferring to stick to what I know, yet Jenny Hale describes everything so vibrantly, you can picture even the most minute detail in your mind! Each room really came to life in my head as I was reading, and it sounded absolutely magical, I could've quite happily moved in and been happy there for Christmas! Every detail is beautifully described, from the enormous, tall Christmas trees to the small details in the bedrooms, it sounded wonderful and was a joy to read. I enjoyed reading Abbey's mind processes to get to her final designs, and enjoyed seeing Nick come out of himself as the festive spirit overtakes him.
I loved both of these characters, and really became invested in their story. They are both very different people, living very different lives but gel in a number of ways that show each other a better side to life - Abbey learns the good that money can do, and Nick learns the importance of family, and opening up to someone, however distant they are from you. I was hopeful that there would be more between the pair than just a friendship, that's the old romantic in me, I can't help it! The two of them certainly had enough chemistry, and I certainly enjoyed reading their blossoming friendship throughout the book. Jenny Hale's writing was spot on for me, controlling the pace of the book, describing everything so wonderfully you feel part of the story. I loved the closeness Abbey, her son, mother and grandfather shared, it was so touching, and really was a joy to read. My favourite Christmas novel so far - I loved it!
13 December 2015
If only she could lock herself away in a cloud of flour and sugar at her cosy little tearoom, Crumbtious Cakes, instead of spending the festive season trapped with her judgemental mother, crazy Aunt Gina and loved-up celebrity brother Carl…
But Katie never expected her ex-boyfriend, widower Sam – and his two adorable children – to turn up on her doorstep. She didn’t think that any man could tempt her under the mistletoe this year, but Sam might just prove the exception! And as the snow begins to fall and Katie puts the final touches to her famous Christmas cake, she begins to wonder, could her Christmas wish actually come true?"
Available to buy now.
Another festive read that has landed on my Kindle this year is the debut novel from author Darcie Boleyn. I feel it always bodes well when an author debuts with a Christmas novel because I do love a great Christmas story, and if they can make me fall in love with their festive story, then I'm definitely going to want to read more from them. I really like the cover for this eBook, I love that publishers are getting wise to the fact that eBook covers have to be just as attractive as traditional paperback covers, and this one certainly works for me. I enjoyed this story very much, its a wonderfully romantic tale that you will want to cosy up with this Christmas!
Katie is determined to have her best Christmas ever, and will do anything to make it so. She loves running her own tea room, Crumbtious Cakes, with her best friend, but knows she needs some downtime over the festive season, and drives off to spend it with her parents. Whilst the relationship between her and her mother isn't the best, Katie is going to put all her feelings aside to make this festive season the best she can. However, she doesn't count on her ex-boyfriend Sam making a reappearance at the venue, with two children in tow. Will Katie be able to put her feelings aside, and let this Christmas be her best one yet?
I really was able to get into this story from the very beginning, and became quickly invested in Katie's story. There's a bit of a mystery with her, why she and Sam split up many years ago, and I was curious to find out what happened between them. As it's revealed, you can understand why Katie is as she is in the book, and why it has so profoundly affected her. This was a serious side to the story, and I felt Boleyn handled it really well, tackling the issue sensitively, allowing the emotion to come through. Katie was very likeable and I really did care about her story.
My favourite character though was Sam. He's a father now, and clearly is close to Katie's family, and as the story goes on, we find out more about why he is choosing to spend time with another family instead of his own. I loved his story, it was so well written, and the scenes featuring him and Katie were so beautifully written, you could really feel the chemistry between the pair. I loved the realistic obstacles they come up against - the children being the main one, and it all felt very believable as I was reading. Nothing seemed forced between the pair, their friendship from years ago was still very evident, and it the pace of it all was just perfect. The characters of Sam's children were just as well written too, sometimes children can be horribly written in novels but they were written brilliantly here, and the conversation between them and the adults felt so real, it was a joy to read.
I thought this was a very enjoyable Christmas read, and I became very involved in Katie and Sam's story. The fact it was set at Christmas made it perfect for me, and I enjoyed all of the festive touches that Boleyn described, from the walks in the snow, to the Christmas trees and cakes that were dotted throughout the novel. Boleyn's writing was really enjoyable to read, she really puts across the more serious side of the story with sensitivity and gentleness, showing a more vunerable side to these characters. This was a very enjoyable read, one that I can definitely recommend, and I'll be looking out for more from Darcie Boleyn.
5 December 2015
For single mum Maggie, Christmas has always been a family occasion – her daughter Ellen filling the house with her bubbly warmth and mistletoe, her dad Paddy having one too many festive tipples, and the traditional family Christmas tree looking like a drunken elf vomited a rainbow all over it.
But this year, with both Ellen and Paddy away for the holidays, Maggie’s facing a truly blue Christmas – alone with nothing but a bottle of Baileys and an M&S turkey dinner.
Until walking the snowy streets of Oxford, Marco Cavelli quite literally crashes into her life – and, complete with broken leg, becomes her unexpected houseguest. All dreamy brown eyes and 6’5” of gorgeousness, the man is hotter and more delicious than a freshly baked mince pie.
Though Maggie always thought it’s a truth universally acknowledged that you never kiss a man in a Christmas jumper?"
I was super excited to receive a review copy of Debbie Johnson's fabulous new Christmas novel, simply because I absolutely adored the title and the cover of the book! I couldn't wait to find out more about the man in a Christmas jumper, and see just how festive the book was going to be overall. I read Debbie's debut book last Christmas, and whilst I enjoyed it, I was hoping for more festive feeling in this one. I had no idea when I began that it was a sort-of sequel to that book, so that was a nice surprise. I loved the book and couldn't put it down once I had begun, it was simply brilliant!
Maggie is a single mum, and has seemingly resigned herself to being alone for the near future, especially at Christmas. Her teenage daughter is ready to fly the nest this year, wanting to spend the festive season with her friends, and her father has booked a holiday away, something Maggie feels he deserves. So she keeps quiet, all set to be alone. But when she bumps into American Marco Cavelli on a bike and he ends up with a broken leg, Maggie feels a bit responsible, and ends up nursing him back to health in her small home. As the pair spend more time together, their friendship quickly hots up, but Maggie knows its going nowhere and is determined to keep her distance. After all, a man with such bad taste in Christmas jumpers can't be worth hanging on to, can he?
I didn't twig at first that the Marco in this book is the one we meet briefly in Debbie's first festive read, Cold Feet at Christmas. It wasn't until some other characters from that book start to put in an appearance that I realised how it was all linked, and I thought it was a really clever way of catching up with those characters, as well as bringing about a new story. Marco was the dreamiest character ever - thoughtful, handsome, funny - you can see why Maggie was somewhat taken by him! He seemed so lovely, and I loved that there wasn't really anything dislikeable him, he was just such a lovely guy, very family-orientated and kind-hearted.
Maggie was a great person to focus the story on. Her life has been a bit mundane up to now - she works making wedding dresses, and she's very skilled at her job. She's often invited to weddings to watch her bride's happy-ever-afters but never seems to find one of her own. In fact, some of the scenes at her wedding dress shop were so touching, Johnson perfectly describes the dresses and the skills involved, it was a lovely side story to the main one, and offered a more emotional side to the novel. She's a great mum to her teenager Ellen, but now she is growing up, Maggie is somewhat more alone than ever before. I liked how she befriended Marco so easily, the pair had a great chemistry, and I loved reading the scenes with the two of them together, they were so charming and always left me with a massive grin on my face.
The festive feeling in this book was lovely. It was set in the build-up to Christmas, and it felt festive all the way through. As it built towards the ending and Christmas day got nearer, so did the festive feeling, and I loved that part of the book. However, Johnson contrasts this happiness and joy with a more serious side to the book - Maggie is hiding her own sad secret which is holding her back in her love life, and there's a bit of a sad story involving one of her brides-to-be too, that left me with tears running down my face. But somehow it worked really well in the story, and all came together beautifully in a wonderful Christmas package! I loved every page of this book, and I can only hope we see more of Maggie and the Cavelli's in future books, they have fast become one of my favourite book families! This was a joy to read, and I'm excited for Debbie Johnson's next read!
2 December 2015
The temperature is dropping, snow is on its way and Hayley Walker is heading for New York with one wish on her mind…to start over.
With her nine year-old daughter Angel, Hayley is ready for an adventure. From hot chocolates and horse-drawn carriage rides in Central Park, to ice-skating at the Rockefeller Centre, and Christmas shopping on 5th Avenue – they soon fall in love with the city that never sleeps.
But there’s more to New York than the bright twinkly lights and breathtaking skyscrapers. Angel has a Christmas wish of her own – to find her real dad.
While Hayley tries to fufil her daughter’s wish, she crosses paths with Billionaire Oliver Drummond. Restless and bored with fast living, there’s something intriguing about him that has Hayley hooked.
Determined to make her daughter’s dream come true, can Hayley dare to think her own dreams might turn into reality – could A New York Christmas turn into a New York Forever? "
Available to buy now.
I was a bit disappointed earlier this year when I read Mandy Baggot's summer read, Truly, Madly, Greekly, because lots of other book bloggers were raving about it, and I just didn't enjoy it as much as I had hoped. However, when I found out that Mandy had a Christmas novel coming and it was set in New York at Christmas, I was eager to find out if I would enjoy this one more and.... I did! This was a beautifully written tale that I thoroughly enjoyed, and definitely recommend to you all this Christmas!
Hayley Walker is determined to make her daughter Angel's Christmas wish come true, no matter how impossible it might feel. All Angel wants is to find her father, but given that she is the product of a one night stand in New York nearly a decade ago, Hayley is unsure where to even begin looking for him. She decides to go to New York for the festive season to find him, staying with her brother Dom who works for multi-millionaire businessman Oliver in the technology business. Hayley unwittingly bumps into Oliver in a restaurant and the pair strike up an unlikely friendship, and sparks begin to fly. Is Hayley about to make more than just her daughter's wish come true this Christmas?
Now, I have been lucky enough to visit New York at Christmas, way back in 2005, so I love reading books that transport me back there, to one of the best holidays I have ever had. I have high hopes for how authors describe this beautiful city, and everything Christmassy about it, and luckily Mandy Baggot has done a brilliant job on this front for me. She described everything to perfection, from the streets and building, to the tall glittering tree at Rockefeller Centre. Her descriptions really bring it all to life, and the memories came flooding back for me, so this certainly added to my overall enjoyment of the book.
I did really like Hayley's story too. For some reason, I kept muddling up Hayley and Angel, assuming that Angel was the older of the two (I think it was because I envisioned Angel being more of an adult name in my eyes), but once I'd got it straight, I was fine! The pair had a lovely close relationship, and I thought Mandy did a great job of a writing a realistic child character, something some authors don't quite manage to do. I really did want Hayley to make Angel's wish come true, given that it was something so precious to Angel, and enjoyed the twists and turns the story took as Hayley desperately hunted across the city for any sign of him.
However, although I loved the tale involving Hayley and Angel, my favourite part of the story was Oliver and his life. Oliver has had a bit of a sad life, losing both his dad and his brother to a hereditary condition, which he is sure he also has, and is therefore also sure he's going to die young. I felt so sorry for Oliver, feeling like he was in an impossible situation, and not knowing how to deal with his emotions, and his still-raw grief from losing his brother and father. His relationship with his mother is also very strained, so you could see why he was quick to befriend Hayley, someone new who had no idea about his life or his family. I loved seeing him develop as a character as their friendship brought him out of himself more, and I really did love him as a character, he was just such a lovely person!
This was a perfect Christmas read in my eyes, it had everything I could wish for in a Christmas book - lots of Christmas feeling and spirit, romance, humour and just a brilliant story that you as a reader can get invested in. As I said, being set in the magical city of New York added to the magic for me, and if you haven't been, you certainly will feel like you have once you've read this book. I thought Mandy's writing was spot on in this book, and I really didn't want it to end, although of course it had to. It's the ideal read to curl up with in your living room with the beautiful Christmas lights dotted around, and will leave you with a lovely warm feeling inside. A beautiful book!
28 November 2015
Meanwhile Max - her teenage daughter - is becoming the "It" girl in Europe's modeling world. And her Kennedyesque son, Bobby, is being set up for a murder he didn't commit. But Lucky can deal. Always strong and unpredictable, with her husband Lennie by her side, she lives up to the family motto - Never f*** with a Santangelo.
Lucky rules; the Santangelos always come out on top."
Despite the fact that I have been reviewing for almost 10 years now, and I've read countless books, running probably into the thousands by now, I have never read a book by the amazing author that is Jackie Collins. The literary world went into mourning just last month when Jackie sadly passed away, and this spurred me on to finally read a book by Jackie. The lovely Sara-Jade at Simon&Schuster sent me a review copy when this was released earlier this year, so I eagerly grabbed it and got stuck in... and boy was it a ride of a read!
Lucky Santangelo is very much the matriarch of her family, and God help you if you mess with a Santangelo because Lucky will be coming after you. Her daughter Max is fast becoming a popular model in Europe, and is unsure how to make genuine friends, will she relent and welcome back a bad influence ex-boyfriend back into her life? Her son, Bobby, is being framed for murder, and Lucky is determined to prove her son is innocent against the odds. Finally, when a family tragedy occurs, Lucky is out for one thing - revenge. Will she be able to seek out the person against whom she wants to take her ultimate revenge?
I have to confess when I started reading I wasn't prepared for the level of rudeness in this book lol. I'm not a prude by any means, but some of the things in this book did shock even me. I had no idea that it would be this graphic, but it didn't stop my enjoyment of the book, I just feel it's worth mentioning in case that really isn't your thing in a book! This book is a follow on of some of Jackie's previous books featuring Lucky and the Santangelos, but it doesn't matter if, like me, you haven't read those because Jackie gives us enough backstory to understand the family, and why Lucky is as overprotective as she is towards her family.
I loved Lucky, she is certainly an interesting character, and is very much larger-than-life throughout the book. For me, the best way to describe her is like a mother lion, with Bobby, Max and the other children her small cubs who she must protect at any cost. We really see her ruthless side in this, able to push back her emotions to get the ending she wants, and I did love that about her. Her husband is quite the opposite, seemingly happy to roll over and go along with whatever Lucky wants - I don't blame for doing so haha!
The Santangelo children, Bobby and Max, who are the other focus of this book are very different. Bobby is quite happy to live a quieter life, whereas Max very much likes putting herself out there in the public eye. I really enjoyed reading their stories, with them both being in a tricky situation throughout the book, and I was excited to find out what would happen to both by the end. The final story in the book centres around an actress called Willow, who is determined to finally hit the bigtime in movies. She isn't afraid to do anything to get the job of her dreams, and some of Willow's scenes are quite graphic and shocking!
This novel was very long by my standards, at over 500 pages, but Jackie keeps the pace up at all times, and it never slipped for me. There's a lot of swearing throughout the book, a lot of sex and a lot of action - the story is just on fire throughout the whole book and I really didn't want to put it down! I was on tenterhooks as I read the last few scenes in the book, not knowing how it was all going to end, and I sped through as quickly as I could, desperate to see how Jackie would bring it all to an end! Once I'd finished, I felt sad that there would be no more books from Jackie, but luckily for me, I've now got her whole back catalogue to devour! How I've not read one of Jackie's books until now I will never know, but it will definitely NOT be my last! I loved The Santangelos - it had everything you want in a book, and more besides! A true blockbuster of a novel - Jackie may well have saved her best til last.
26 November 2015
"My latest book – Never Kiss A Man In A Christmas Jumper – is set entirely over the festive period. There are snow storms and pine trees and inflatable Santas and white weddings and carols and oodles of romance – and hopefully you won’t be able to guess that it was all written during a steaming hot summer!
I know it doesn’t feel like we had much of a summer, but there was an absolutely scorching period in June and early July that had everyone rooting out their sandals and reaching for the suncream. I was literally coming home from doing the school run, baking hot, opening all the windows, then trying to settle down to write about wintery streets, blizzards, and snowmen!
One of the best ways I found to get in the right mood was by listening to Christmas songs. I had a list of my favourites, and would let them play in the background while I worked. It was especially useful for one of the scenes, where my hero and heroine, Marco and Maggie, are attending a wedding party together – it’s a big, fat Christmas wedding, and the DJ is rocking some classic tunes to get everyone up on the dancefloor!
I’m sure we’ve always been to parties like that, and they’re always brilliant – never cool, rarely stylish, but always masses of fun! And that’s what Christmas songs are all about – I have a friend who is very intelligent, very poised, but whenever she’s at a ‘do’ in December, starts yelling ‘Play the Christmas songs!’ at the top of her usually well-controlled voice after a couple of drinks! If you’ve not staggered around a dancefloor drunk, clutching your friends’ hands as you do high kicks to I Wish It Could Be Christmas Every Day, you’ve not lived!
So, to get us all in the mood, here’s my list of absolute Christmas crackers:
1, Last Christmas by Wham!: Okay, I’m showing my age here, I realise – but I got my heart broken to this song at a school disco way back in the last century. It was devastating at the time, but – as is the way with these things – quite amusing now. Still, whenever I hear this song, it’s like I’m being whisked back in a time machine to when I was 15 again – it’s schmaltzy, it’s sentimental, and it’s perfect!
2, The Power of Love by Frankie Goes to Hollywood: There’s a bit of an 80s theme developing here, isn’t there? But I still love this song – in fact, I love it now more than ever. It’s completely epic, with the orchestral feel of the music and the vocals and the lyrics all combining to create something huge and spiritual – it’s a song you can totally get swept away in. Listen to it in the dark, or maybe by candle light, and be reminded of all that’s great about love!
3, Fairytale of New York by The Pogues and Kirsty MacColl: Who doesn’t love this? Despite it’s dark lyrics and the abusive way Kirsty and Shane rasp away at each other, it’s just brilliant. You know you’re not getting a normal dose of Christmas joy when a song starts in a drunk tank, and the singers call each other faggots and maggots! Both bittersweet and simply bitter, it’s an absolute antidote to anything too soppy – and one of the best bouncing-up-and-down-during-the-chorus songs ever!
4, Do They Know It’s Christmas by Band Aid: Is it just me, or do loads of the best Christmas songs definitely come from the 80s? I can’t escape the decade! But you can’t do a Christmas song list without this, can you? Not only was it the song that inspired a generation to do something for charity – even if it was just buy a single – it also featured some of the biggest and best stars of its time. All that aside, I think it stands up today – it still feels emotional and fresh, and, sadly, it’s message is still very relevant today.
5, Stay Another Day by East 17: Phew, at least I’ve made it to the 90s! I was never a huge E17 fan in general, but this is a great song. It sounds so orchestral, the singing is almost angelic, and the lyrics are so heartfelt. Plus it had that really funny video where they were all in special effect snow in hugely furry white parkas..."
22 November 2015
Alex Foster lives a quiet life, avoiding the home she hasn't visited in eight years. Then her sister Jaime calls. Their mother is sick, and Alex must return. Suddenly she’s plunged back into the past she’s been trying to escape.
Returning to her hometown, memories of the tragic accident that has haunted her and her family are impossible to ignore. Alex still blames herself for what happened to her brother and it’s soon clear that her father holds her responsible too. As Alex struggles to cope, can she ever escape the ghosts of the past?"
Available to buy now.
I've read all of Anouska Knight's published books to date, so was really happy to receive a review copy of her latest book Letting You Go from her publishers. Anouska's stories are always very emotional, but with great characters you care about, and really become invested in their stories. This book sounded really interesting from the blurb and I got stuck in, eager to enjoy another of her stories. Luckily, it didn't disappoint!
Alex is quite happy living away from her home, not having to deal with her father and the emotion of the family tragedy that occurred many years ago, but has haunted her ever since. But when she gets a call from her sister Jaime telling her that their mother has been taken ill and she has to go home to help out, Alex is hesitant to return. When she gets there, the relationship with her father is as strained as it was before, and Alex's mum condition is pretty serious. As well as bumping into old friends, and trying to uncover her younger sister's secret, Alex has a hard time adjusting to life back at home. Will she ever be able to put what happened all those years ago behind her?
One thing that has stopped this book from being a 5 star read for me was the sheer number of characters in it, and the fact I did quite often get a bit confused between the residents of Alex's hometown. There were quite a few names constantly popping up throughout the book, and I did struggle to keep track in my head of who was who, and how they knew Alex. The main characters of course were not a problem, but some of the minor characters seemed to blend together in my head and I struggled to tell them apart in their scenes. This wasn't hugely problematic in the grand scheme of things, but I just found it a bit annoying as I was reading because I was constantly having to pause reading and work out again who this character was and the connection they had to Alex.
I don't want to give too much of the story away by telling you too much about the accident, but suffice to say I can understand why it has haunted Alex for the rest of her life, as it has the rest of her family also. The fact that their relationships have become so strained in the aftermath is really sad, and Knight puts across Alex's regret and her want to have a better relationship with her father so well, you really feel her emotion, and I was really hopeful that they would be able to heal things sometime down the track. Alex's father was a brilliantly written character, someone dealing with profound grief, as well as the sudden illness of his beloved wife. He is definitely a mn at breaking point, and clearly wasn't himself either, which was so sad, he was just never able to put across his feelings and as such as held them all inside for so long.
The more minor mystery involving Alex's little sister Jaime and her secret was well written too, although I did guess the secret a long time before it was revealed. However, I still enjoyed reading about these characters and how they came to discuss and accept her secret, despite Jaime's dread in revealing it. I also loved the character of Finn, who was a younger Alex's boyfriend and now back in her life. Their struggle over resuming a relationship was well written and felt really realistic, with feelings coming flooding back, but Alex reluctant to upset her father further by getting back with her ex-boyfriend. There's lots of different relationships going on within the book, each affecting characters in different ways, and this certainly made for interesting reading.
I really enjoyed this read - the story was well developed, the pace was good and I really enjoyed reading about these characters. The setting was beautiful as well, you could see why Eilidh Falls was somewhere people flocked to, it sounds so picturesque and Knight really brings it to life with her words. Yes, it is a story about grief, and how that changes and affects us, but also of how we can work through it and not allow it to hold us back, especially when it comes to our loved ones. This was quite a long book with perhaps a tad too many characters for me to be comfortable with, but I did really enjoy the read. I'm now looking forward to Anouska's next book, she's definitely become one of my must-read authors!