26 June 2016

Book Review: Summer Nights at the Moonlight Hotel by Jane Costello

"'LEARN TO SALSA DANCE,' the card in the shop window read. 'Experience the red-hot vibes of Latin America right here in the Lake District. Beginners and singles welcome.' 

Lauren Scott lives in 'The most romantic place in Britain', but her love life is about as successful as her mountain climbing skills. The man she's obsessed over for two years has proposed to someone else - and her only solution is to save up for six months to go travelling, so she never has to set eyes on him again. 

But when her friends sign her up for a dance class - in the same historic hotel where her beloved dad worked and her most precious childhood memories were formed - Lauren makes a horrifying discovery. It's been sold to a faceless budget chain, which has depressing plans in store. Worse, the entrepreneur behind it all turns out to be among a group of guys her friend Cate roped in to join the very same salsa class they've signed up for.... "

Rating: 5/5

You can buy the book now.

Jane Costello is one of those authors who I always look out for - I've read every book she has written to date, and enjoyed pretty much all of them. I have to confess I wasn't exactly taken by her 2015 release, so had high hopes for the release of her brand new book Summer Nights at the Moonlight Hotel. When I first saw the cover, I thought it was stunning and loved it, I couldn't wait to get stuck in! Luckily, for me this was back to Jane's best and I just could not put this one down!

Lauren likes her quiet life as a primary school teacher, working in a beautiful place and has good friends around her too. When said friends decide to drag Lauren along to a salsa class for beginners, she's very apprehensive and isn't sure she'll be able to do it! The dance class is in a very special place for Lauren- where her dad worked and is a place she has very treasured memories of. So when she learns that the Moonlight Hotel is being sold and renovated, she is distraught, sure they will ruin everything that makes the Moonlight Hotel special to everyone in the town. But when she discovers the man behind the renovations is now a beginner at her dance class, Lauren decides to take matters into her own hands...

As you can see there's quite a bit going on in this book but I really enjoyed everything about it. The best bit about Jane's books for me are the fact that they always make me laugh, and this one certainly didn't disappoint me on that front! I was giggling away from the beginning, and it didn't stop until I reached the final page. Poor old Lauren certainly managed to get herself into some funny situations, believable ones but certainly funny, and I loved that she just got up and gone on with it, despite her trials and tribulations! Consequently, I loved Lauren more, and thought she was a brilliant lead character for the book, because you truly cared about what happened to her.

The man she has been loving from afar, Edwin, on the other hand - well, I really don't know what she saw in him to be honest with you! As their relationship pans out, and Lauren starts to change her dreams simply because of this one man, I wanted to shake her and scream at her that she was making a huge mistake - I was very invested in this book! The other men in the book, those at the dance class, especially lovely Joe, provided some proper male characters to lust after, and I was hopeful that Lauren would take off her rose-tinted specs and see Edwin for what he was, and go for one of these handsome men instead!

As well as the lighter side of the book, there was a very serious storyline running throughout this book, and although it was quite a tricky subject matter, I feel Jane Costello has done it complete justice in this book, and brought to life a very serious modern issue that is sadly one we read about too much. It involves one of Lauren's best friends, and is hard to read at times, but is a stark warning to everyone out there reading this of what can happen when a relationship ends. There's another bit of drama with Lauren's other friend too but I found it harder to find sympathy for her I'm afraid, the situation was all her own doing. I also liked that Lauren was torn with her feelings towards it too, a real friendship where she was not scared to tell her friend she was wrong.

This book was wonderful from start to finish, and for me it may well be Jane Costello's best book to date. There's quite a back catalogue to have trumped there, but I think this one may just have pipped a few of the others to the post! I loved the story-telling, how all the threads came together, from the dance class to the hotel, Lauren's dreams and sad love life too. I was fully invested in these characters and loved them all, especially Lauren. As I said, this was Jane Costello back to her best, and I  loved every page of this book. Already I'm excited for her next book and am hoping it'll be just as good as this one! The perfect summer read.

5 June 2016

Blog Tour: The Lonely Hearts Travel Club: Destination India by Katy Colins

Today it is my stop for Katy Colins' blog tour for her brand new book The Lonely Hearts Travel Club: Destination India! It is the second book in the series, and I can't wait to get stuck into reading it! Katy was kind enough to write an article about 'How To Write a Book', and it makes for intersting reading! I will be reviewing the book on here as soon as I've read it, so keep an eye out for that, but until then - enjoy Katy's article, and the other stops on the blog tour!

How To Write a Book

Writing a book is one of those things that appears on many bucket lists. But it’s also something that doesn’t get crossed off…time restrictions, family pressures, work duties seem to eat up any spare hours you have making it appear impossible to actually find the time to let your creative juices flow.

The thing is, as with most things in life, if you want something bad enough then you will figure out a way.

It may take you six months or it may take you six years but writing a book can be done if you put the time and effort in. It’s not easy, there will be times when you wish you’d never had the idea that spurred you to open your laptop or put pen to paper in the first place, but then there will be breakthrough moments. Those eureka sparks when the words flow, the characters are behaving as they should and you re-read what you’ve written convincing yourself you’re the next J.K Rowling. Natch.

Here are my top tips that I’d give to anyone making this the year that they write the book they’ve been thinking about for longer than they can remember:

1.Stop thinking and start typing. You can plan, research, talk about or dream about your plot for years but unless you put these ideas into some order on a computer screen then they will never amount to anything.

2.Enjoy it! It could take months or it could take years for you to finish and edit your work so you need to make sure you actually enjoy writing and that you enjoy what you are writing about. This leads me onto point three…

3.Write what makes you happy, not to follow a trend. Okay, so crime and thrillers (especially anything with girl in the title) are the genres du jours but a few years ago it was wizards, then vampires and then sado-masochistic 50 shades, so who knows what the next big thing will be.

4.Buddy up. I have the most amazing team of authors, book bloggers and family members whose opinions I trust implicitly when it comes to my work. Writing can be such a solitary job, it is important you hang out (either online or IRL) with like-minded bookworms whenever you can to support one another.

5.Believe in what you create. Yes, you can feel proud as punch when you type ‘The End’, but if you come to submitting to editors or agents then you need to have the utmost belief and confidence in your book baby as no-one else will (well, maybe apart from your mum but she thinks everything you do is wonderful).

Come on now, don’t be shy, sit that bum in a chair, open up Word and let the magic flow. Being able to say that you’ve written a book is such an achievement and already puts you way ahead of the people who say they’ll do it one day. Make today the day you start.

Book Review: The Second Love of My Life by Victoria Walters

"In the Cornish town of Talting, everyone is famous for something.

Until recently Rose was known for many things: her infectious positivity; her unique artistic talent; and her devotion to childhood sweetheart Lucas.

But two years ago that changed in one unthinkable moment. Now, Rose is known for being the young woman who became a widow aged just twenty-four.

Though Rose knows that life must go on, the thought of carving out a new future for herself is one she can barely entertain. Until a newcomer, Robert, arrives in Talting for the summer...

Can Rose allow herself the chance to love again?"

Rating: 5/5

There had been a lot of talk about this novel, on Twitter and various brilliant book blogs that I follow, so I couldn't wait to read it and find out what the fuss was about myself! I love a debut novel, there's something exciting about the unknown and finding an author that you know you're going to want to read more books from, and this was certainly the case once I had finished The Second Love of My Life. It was a beautifully written, emotional story and I honestly could not put it down.

Rose Walker's life isn't exactly happy right now, and she isn't where she thought she would be. She lost her beloved husband Lucas in a tragic accident, leaving her a widow at the tender age of 24, just when she thought she had her whole life mapped out for her. Now, she's working in a bar, determined not to paint again, something she loved to do when Lucas was around. But when a handsome stranger arrives in Talting for the summer and catches her eye, Rose is sure that she can't move on from Lucas, and that any other relationship would insult his memory. But her friends, and Robert, are desperate for her to find some more happiness once again, will she allow her heart to open up to love once more?

I have read quite a few books about people losing someone dear to them very young, in particular a boyfriend or husband, but none of those stories touched me in the way that Victoria Walters' debut book has. There was something of a fairytale romance between Rose and Lucas, and I really enjoyed the snippets of their life together that we were given, you could sense the love between the pair, and the fact their future was snatched so cruelly from them was devastating to everyone around them. Rose, in particular, is stuck and can't move on, not wanting to ruin the memory of their love, and it's easy to understand why.

Rose's friends in the book were wonderful, I wish I had someone like Emma in their life, just to be there when you need a friend. I also liked the realism of the story - how upset Rose was that her friends were moving forward in their lives, in their relationship, and she was being left behind - no one's fault of course, but still galling to the young widow. In fact, the way Rose finally turns to her art once more to help her heal and move on was so beautifully done, Walters' captures the emotions of these moments so brilliantly, and the scenes were very emotional, you can really imagine Rose pouring her heart and soul into her work on the canvas in front of her. In fact, I wish I could own one of Rose's pictures myself, they sound simply beautiful.

As well as moving through her grief for Lucas, Rose also feels guilty at her appearance of new feelings for handsome stranger Robert. I really liked Robert, he seemed like such a nice guy wanting a bit of a summer escape, and he seemed so kind, and gentle with Rose. He was hiding a secret, something I did guess before the big reveal but nonetheless was very moving when it came out in the book. I so wanted Rose to allow herself to love again - I completely understood her reluctance but was hopeful for a happy ending.

This is an incredibly emotional book - not always an easy read, but one that is well worth picking up because it will leave feeling glad that you're read every single page. Yes, of course there are elements of sadness, and I really felt so badly for Rose, she had been through so much at such a young age, and was scared to go on with Lucas. But through her art, and the help of her dear friends, she begins to see that she is worthy of loving again, and Robert was the perfect character for her to do that with. Walters' writing was simply brilliant, allowing the reader to experience all of Rose's emotions along with her, sweeping you away in the story, desperately praying for Rose to find happiness again. I enjoyed absolutely everything about this book, and cannot wait to see what Victoria Walters is going to treat us to next. Simply amazing.

2 June 2016

Book Review: Always with Love by Giovanna Fletcher

"Sophie's got used to being the girlfriend of Billy Buskin, the biggest movie star in the world. Sort of. 

But when she and Billy take a trip to visit his family in Los Angeles, she quickly discovers she's totally unprepared for the chaos of Hollywood, the paparazzi and Billy's controlling mother. 

And when Billy extends his stay in LA, leaving Sophie to fly home to Rosefont Hill alone, it seems there's more than just miles between them. 

Now Sophie must decide if they can overcome their differences for good. Because not every love story lasts the distance . . ."

Rating: 5/5

I have been so excited for Giovanna Fletcher's latest book, because it marks the return of her character Billy and Sophie from her debut novel Billy and Me, which I really loved! It was nice that a few years later we could catch up with these characters and see if they had been able to make their romance work against the odds, so I eagerly got stuck in to the copy I gratefully received from Netgalley! It was a wonderful catch up, and here's why I think Always with Love is a summer must-read!

Now, you don't have to have read Billy and Me to enjoy this one, but of course it really helps to have the back story on how the two got together, and what happened at the beginning of their relationship. Some of the important points are recapped in this, but I would personally recommend you go and read the first book before you begin this one! Billy and Sophie are still together, and Sophie thinks she is coping well with her boyfriend's fame, especially when the two jet over to LA to meet the Buskin family. But when a new job opportunity comes up for Billy that he can't refuse, Sophie knows she's going to have to jet back home alone, and learn to live without Billy for a while. They've never had to cope long-distance for an extended period of time, and Sophie is nervous about how their relationship is going to work. Will they be able to make it through, and stay always in love?

What I really liked about this book was the realism of it. It wasn't a fairytale - Sophie didn't suddenly court fame, and enjoy everything that comes with that. In fact, she's likes being anonymous, running her cake shop in her home village, and living a quiet life with Billy, and she thought that was what he wanted too. When it seems he's going to start living in the public eye again thanks to a new job, the pair have their struggles, and begin to wonder if they can make it work. I liked that they found it hard, that they struggled with the separation and the anxiety of Sophie in worrying about leaving Billy back in LA was believable, most of us would be exactly the same, and I feel Giovanna has hit the emotional nail on the head in this book.

Giovanna's story-telling is wonderful, and I really enjoyed the pace of the book and how it all unfolded. The scenes in LA were fun to read, it sounded glorious and Billy's home in LA sounded just wonderful, you can see why he loves being there, and why Sophie fell in love with the house! It was great to meet the Buskin family as well, and see a different side to Billy with his family. The slight awkwardness of Sophie as she meets them all for the first time simply endeared me to her, she behaved exactly as any one of us reading the book would do! I also loved the contrast of Billy and Sophie's life in LA to that back home in England, where the pair work in her shop, and live a pretty "normal" life.

Some of my favourite scenes in the book actually involved Sophie's mum finding a second chance at happiness, and all that that entailed. Some of these scenes actually left me with a tear in my eye, and showed that we can find happiness at any age, and that the door doesn't always close when one relationship ends, for whatever reason. Giovanna wrote these scenes perfectly, capturing the emotion, and the love behind them all, and they left me with a huge smile on my face, as did the rest of the book really! The book was a joy from start to finish, and I absolutely loved catching up with these characters, to see if their love has stood the test of the obstacles in front of them, and hardships still to come. A true love story, and a wonderful read. I can't wait for Giovanna's next book now!

30 May 2016

Book Review: The Postcard by Fern Britton

"Secrets. Sisters. The summer that changed everything . . .

Life in the Cornish village of Pendruggan isn’t always picture perfect. Penny Leighton has never told anyone why she’s estranged from her mother and sister. For years she’s kept her family secrets locked away in her heart, but they’ve been quietly eating away at her. When an unwelcome visitor blows in, Penny is brought face to face with the past. And a postcard, tucked away in a long-hidden case, holds the truth that could change everything.

Young Ella has come back to the place where she spent a happy childhood with her grandmother. Now she’s here to search for everything missing in her life. Taken under Penny’s broken wing for the summer, the safe haven of Pendruggan feels like the place for a fresh start. Soon, however, Ella starts to wonder if perhaps her real legacy doesn’t lie in the past at all."

Rating: 5/5

I have been lucky enough to read several of Fern Britton's books before, and thoroughly enjoyed each of them! Her stories are centred around real, believable people in situations you could believe that you might find yourself in, and I soon become absorbed in the world of her characters! Her latest book, The Postcard, was no different, and once I dived in to the book, I didn't want to finish it, and I actually managed to complete it in just a few hours!

The book is set in the Cornish town of Pendruggan, and is based around the character of Penny Leighton, wife of the vicar Simon. We have actually met Penny a few times before, most notably in Fern's earlier book A Seaside Affair, and it was nice to catch up with her and the other characers of Pendruggan and Trevay once more. Penny is now a mum to her darling daughter Jenna, but is struggling more than she lets on. When her estranged sister suddenly makes contact and finds herself in Penny's life once more, Penny is struggling to cope and slides into a downward spiral, unsure of how to get herself back out. Is Penny going to be able to admit she needs help before it's too late?

I love books that catch up with characters that we have met before, and I was really pleased to see Penny and Helen again - we have previously followed Helen in Fern's book Hidden Treasures. This book is obviously set after these two, and you don't need to have read those two to really enjoy this one, although of course you'll just be a bit more informed about Penny and Helen's pasts if you have read them! This book deals with some quite serious themes, including depression, grief and jealousy, and it was the first theme that really struck me with this book.

Fern Britton writes the story of Penny and her despair so well, I just wanted to run into her beautiful home and give her a big hug and tell her everything was going to be okay. It's always different when you are on the outside looking in, seeing someone having an outwardly perfect life, but of course things can be very different behind closed doors. I'm sure a lot of mothers out there have gone through what poor Penny goes through in this book, and it was heart-breaking seeing her self-doubt and anxiety creep in, affecting her abilities in all parts of her life, and it goes to show how it can affect anyone at any time. Of course, her best friend Helen was there to help pick up the pieces, we all need good friends around us sometimes!

The story was beautifully written, and I was instantly taken into the world of Pendruggan, the small village in Cornwall, again somewhere I've never been but feel like I have as I have had the pleasure of reading so many books there! I loved Fern's descriptions of the beautiful houses, and her narrative was so easy to read, following the many stories within the book with ease. I really liked the addition of Penny's new neighbours, Kit and Adam, and their friend Ella. This added a new element to the book, and I liked how they were all tied together by the end of the book, showing how villagers in a small place come together in times of need and welcome new people into the fold with ease!

I don't believe I have ever hated a character in a book as much as I hated Suzie, but gosh that woman seemed so evil! There was part of me that wanted to skip through the book to the end to see if she would be caught out and made to own up to what she'd done, as there were times when I felt everyone but me was being sucked in by her, and I have to give credit to Fern's writing for conveying such an emotion in me about this character that I was filled with real hatred, and desperation for her true colours to come out! This was a wonderful story from start to finish - not always an easy read due to the themes, but I loved the family-centred nature of the book, showing us how families come in all shapes and sizes, and how people are affected differently by their circumstances. A brilliant book, yet another great story from Fern Britton and I'm already looking forward to her next book!

25 May 2016

Blog Tour: Last Dance in Havana by Rosanna Ley

Today I am thrilled to be the blog tour stop for Rosanna Ley's new book Last Dance in Havana! I am so excited to read this book, it just sounds wonderful and Cuba is somewhere I am very desperate to go on my travels in a few years time! Rosanna was kind enough to write me this post about her own star moments in Cuba (so jealous!) for the blog tour, so please read and enjoy!

Have you read any of Rosanna's books? Leave me a note in the comments to tell me which you'd recommend!

Star Moments in Cuba
Walking the Malecon at sunset. The Malecon is Havana’s long sweeping promenade where lovers meet, poets speak and musicians play. Classic American cars cruise by and baroque villas are evidence of Cuba’s past glamour. 

Following Ernest Hemingway’s worthy example by drinking a mojito in the best watering holes in Havana. Like la bodeguita del medio (literally the shop in the middle of the street) frequented by artists, musicians and writers whose signatures are on the walls. Hemingway also stayed at the Ambos Mundos Hotel. When we visited its roof-top bar, a band were playing ‘Que sera, sera...’ Ten out of ten for atmosphere. 

Visiting an old sugar plantation in Valle de los Ingenios to discover what life was like for the Africans who were brought here as slaves when Cuba’s sugar production was at its height. It was a moving and poignant experience. The valley has a peculiar atmosphere of its own – and it’s important to remember.

Trinidad – this UNESCO World Heritage site is a picture-perfect pastel paradise. 

Snorkelling off Cayo Levisa. White sand, turquoise water, a multitude of fish and coral. I don’t want to use the word ‘paradise’ again so quickly, but it is.

Horse-riding in Vinales through the rust-coloured fields and mogotes (limestone hills) where you can still see a cigar-chewing guajiro driving his oxen and plough through the tobacco fields. I had a toke from the biggest cigar I’ve ever seen and it tasted GOOD... 

A ride in a classic American Chevy. We did the tourist trip in Havana – but even more memorable was the taxi driver who stopped to pick up several friends on the way back to our hotel. When the engine stalled, he re-started it with a machete! 

Live music in every restaurant and bar, Cuban rhythms following us down every street. This is Cuba! You have to salsa...

Thanks so much, Rosanna!

You can buy Last Dance in Havana now!

22 May 2016

Blog Tour: Something Old, Something New by Darcie Boleyn

"When Annie Thomas agrees to give her ex away at his wedding to his boyfriend, she thinks she’ll be fine. With her three children at her side, she can handle anything. Then she finds out her gorgeous first ex-husband Evan Llewellyn is flying in from his glamorous life in New York to attend as well!

An unexpected pregnancy ended their relationship and as she stumbles through the ups and downs of life as a working single mum – helping everyone else find a happy ending along the way – Annie refuses to believe their old and incredibly hot spark can still exist.

It’s only when she and Evan are forced to face up to the past together that they’ll discover if they can have their own happily-ever-after too!"

Rating: 4/5

You can buy the book now.

I am really pleased to be part of the blog tour for Darcie Boleyn's new novel Something Old, Something New. I read her previous novel Wish Upon a Christmas Cake and thoroughly enjoyed it, so was thrilled to get a chance to read this one. I really liked the cover, it's bright and fresh and makes the book look like a fun read, which is certainly is!

Annie doesn't feel like life has gone the way she had always hoped - she was a teenager mother, and her first marriage to Evan didn't last, then her second marriage to Dex ended when he admitted he was gay and is now getting married to Trevor, and Annie is giving him away! Annie's exhausted as she's a teacher, bringing her up 3 children, and to make matters worse, her ex-husband Evan is back on the scene. As things suddenly start changing in Annie's life, and she is confronted with a shocking development from her daughter Janis, Annie starts wondering where she went wrong, and how she can find some happiness in her future...

The book is told in the first person from Annie's point of view, and we follow her throughout the novel. I found her to be a very likeable character, a single hard-working mum, and a bit perplexed as to how her life has got her to this point. She's lucky to have good relationships with her ex-husbands, but it doesn't stop the loneliness she feels at night, something I'm sure a lot of single parents can relate to. Annie is a lovely lady though, and her friendship with her best friend Cassie was lovely to read too, the women are there for each other through everything and certainly gave me a few laughs along the way!

The men in the book are lovely, and you can see why Annie was drawn to both of them at different times in her life! Evan sounds wonderful, and is a caring father despite the fact he works away, and both he and Annie are still fond of each other. I was hoping that the pair would be able to reignite their spark and get back together against the odds! Dex was lovely too, also a dedicated father, and I loved his wedding scenes in the book. Annie's children were also lovely, Janis, her eldest daughter was lovely, and her younger two were funny too, and Darcie has captured their personalities really well.

This a fun read from beginning to end and I thoroughly enjoyed the story. Darcie Boleyn's writing was very easy to read, and she really captured the emotion of the characters, the lighter moments and the more serious ones really well, and there's a lot to keep your attention hooked in the book. The story involving Janis was certainly interesting reading and I loved reading it from Annie's perspective and the array of emotions she goes through because of it. I would definitely recommend the book, the writing was great and I loved the characters, especially Annie who really deserved a happy ending! A wonderful read.

You can win 3 eBook copies of Darcie's book, just enter on the form below! Good luck!

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