28 November 2015

Book Review: The Santangelos by Jackie Collins

"A vicious hit, a vengeful enemy, a drug addled Colombian club owner and a sex crazed Italian family; the ever powerful Lucky Santangelo has to deal with them all.

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."

Rating: 5/5

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

Blog Tour: Never Kiss A Man In A Christmas Jumper by Debbie Johnson

Today I am thrilled to be a part of the blog tour for Debbie Johnson's brilliant new book with publishers Harper Impulse, called Never Kiss a Man in a Christmas Jumper! I was lucky enough to get a Netgalley copy a few weeks ago and have read it already, and it was just brilliant - the perfect Christmas read! My review will be coming in December, but until then, Debbie was kind enough to write a post about her favourite Christmas songs. Thanks to Debbie and her publishers for asking me to be part of the blog tour, enjoy reading!

"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

Book Review: Letting You Go by Anouska Knight

"What if a tragedy occurred and you only had yourself to blame? How do you move on from the past?

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?"

Rating: 4/5

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!

21 November 2015

Book Review: Mile High by Rebecca Chance

"First class is about to get dangerous . . . Pure Air's new LuxeLiner is flying from London to LA - its inaugural journey - with a first-class cabin packed with A List celebrities. As the feuding crew compete to impress their famous passengers, the handsome pilot tries to win the attention of a pretty young stewardess. But one VIP singer is battling something seriously sinister: watching her every step is a very determined stalker, someone who will go to any lengths to get the star to satisfy their desires. At thirty thousand feet there is nowhere to run, and nowhere to hide . . ."

Rating: 4.5/5

Available to buy now.

This is the first of Rebecca Chance's novels with her new publishers Pan Macmillan, and I was really pleased to see the new direction her covers were going in, after many books featuring a shoe with her last publishers! This cover screamed 'Jackie Collins' to me, odd since I have only recently read my first of Jackie's books, but it goes to show how important branding is for authors. I eagerly dived into this book once I received a review copy, and goodness me, Rebecca doesn't disappoint! Everything I expect from one of her novels is in this book, and here's why it's a must-read for me!

World famous pop star Catalina is about to help launch Pure Air's new LuxeLiner by going aboard its maiden voyage to New York in order to help advertise the service, along with some other well known faces. What she doesn't know, however, is that her stalker is also aboard the plane, leaving her nowhere to run or hide a mile up in the air. As Catalina struggles to get anyone to believe that her stalker is on the flight with her, the stalker is getting ready for the big crescendo to months of harassment, and to finally make Catalina theirs. Will the stalker quite literally get away with murder, or can Catalina escape their psychotic hands?

The book is very glamorous from the beginning, and I loved the idea of a book being set aboard one flight on a brand new aeroplane. It added a bit of drama to the book because you know the characters can't just runaway, and that's it all going to end somehow, and I couldn't wait to see what the big finale was going to be for this book! I had fun throughout the book trying to work out who Rebecca had based some of her more outrageous characters on, and had a good guess at a few of them! I love the way she writes her characters - larger than life, funny, yet you just have to laugh at them because they are so brilliant and yet ridiculous at the same time!

The main character of this particular story is Catalina, a famous pop star who is getting over a recent break-up and wants to shy away from the limelight to get over her heartbreak. Her PA isn't having any of it, and tells her to fulfill her obligation to PureAir and get on the LuxeLiner, little knowing what she is leading her boss into. While we meet Catalina when she is in a bit of a state, we find out a lot more about her as a person through the flashbacks which occur throughout the book, and detail her relationship, the way the stalker progresses in following Catalina, and how she deals with it. I really liked reading about her, and she seemed really genuine and nice despite the fame, which makes a change it seems! Also on the plane are a TV chef, who is simply hilarious, an actress who doesn't really like the fame side of her job, and the CEO of PureAir, determined that nothing will ruin this maiden flight.

The tension is ramped up as we see snippets from the stalker, watching Catalina from afar on the plane, and you're just waiting nervously for them to make their move, unsure what they are going to do and the destruction that it undoubtedly unfold as things happen! I have to confess that I didn't at all guess who the stalker was, and I was shocked as the big reveal happened and it all kicked off! It was a great crescendo to what had been built up as a brilliant story, and I really liked how it all happened so fast, it really added to the drama in the book! Chance fools us well throughout the book with her red herrings, and as I said, I didn't guess it which I loved - so often I read books which are predictable (although still very enjoyable!) so it was great to read something where I really couldn't guess what was happening!

I feel this was a different read from Rebecca's previous novels in a way, but still just as brilliant as the rest of her books I have read - and I've read all 8 so like to think I know what I am talking about! There's the usual sex scenes in her books, which are as usual well written, lots of shocking moments, a few in particular that made me blush and almost have to double check what I had just read, but that just adds to the enjoyment of Rebecca's books for me! If you've read Rebecca's previous books, you'll definitely love this one, I certainly did and am now eagerly awaiting her next one, I've already got high expectations for it! Mile High was a brilliant book, and I can definitely recommend it, although probably not for the faint-hearted!

14 November 2015

Book Review: The Oyster Catcher by Jo Thomas

"Dooleybridge, County Galway. Population: 482 (or thereabouts). The last place Fiona Clutterbuck expects to end up, alone, on her wedding night.

But after the words 'I do' have barely left her mouth, that's exactly where she is - with only her sequined shoes and a crashed camper van for company.

One thing is certain: Fi can't go back. So when the opportunity arises to work for Sean Thornton, the local oyster farmer, she jumps at the chance. Now Fi must navigate suspicious locals, jealous rivals and a wild, unpredictable boss if she's to find a new life, and love, on the Irish coast. And nothing - not even a chronic fear of water - is going to hold her back.

Join Fi on her romantic, unpredictable adventure as she learns the rules of the ocean - and picks up a few pearls of Irish wisdom along the way..."

Rating: 4.5/5

Available to buy now.

Much earlier this year, I was sent a review copy of this book. Jo Thomas was a new author to me, despite the fact she has sold very well in the eBook market this year. I liked the sound of the book, and when I had a bit of a gap in my reading schedule a few weeks ago, I decided that I had to give this one a go. I wanted to see what people were raving about, and now I have finished it, I can see why people have enjoyed Jo's books so much. I certainly will be looking out for more from her after reading this book.

Fiona Clutterbuck has ended up in a small Irish town called Dooleybridge, with only her wedding dress and wedding shoes for company. She won't tell anyone why she has fled England and clearly her own wedding, and sets about getting a job and somewhere to stay as soon as she can. Sean Thornton hates to see someone in distress, so when he overhears that Fi needs a job, he offers her one working on his oyster farm. Fi readily accepts, but is worried that her fear of water is going to hinder her, but Sean isn't about to let that happen. As she gets to grips with her new job, new work partner and new home, Fi is determined to keep her past back in England, but will she be able to keep the truth from her new friends?

I really enjoyed Jo Thomas' style of writing throughout this book. It was written in the first person from Fiona's perspective, allowing the story to slowly develop through her eyes. Also, due to this we are made to wait a long time to find out exactly what happened to make her run out on her own wedding, and why she has ended up in Dooleybridge. It certainly leant an air of mystery to the story, and when it was finally revealed, I was surprised because it wasn't what I had guessed along the way! Fiona was a fun character, I really liked the way she threw herself into her new job, and her positive attitude despite her upheaval.

Whilst I really liked Fiona, my favourite character in the book was the other main character, Fiona's new boss Sean. He runs an oyster farm, knows pretty much all there is to know about oyster farming, and is a bit of a recluse as well. Fiona is determined to make him open up, and I really enjoyed the scenes where he let go a little bit and we saw some of his personality shine through. Thomas has written him really well because even in his more grumpy moments, I really enjoyed reading his story and piecing him together as a person and what made him tick. The pairing of Fiona and Sean was wonderful, two lost souls coming together in strange circumstances, but it worked so well.

Thomas writes very well of the village of Dooleybridge. I haven't been to Ireland myself, but Thomas writes it in such a way you can close your eyes and imagine you are standing there in your wellies, watching Sean farm the precious oysters, in the drizzle and the cold. Her descriptions are wonderful, really bringing the settings and characters to life. Even the more minor characters made up of the Dooleybridge residents, were well crafted and quite unforgettable! As the story went on, the pressure of Fiona to reveal all ramps up, and I enjoyed reading to find out how it was all going to end for her, and what choices she would have to make.

Although I am not a fan of oysters - well, I say that but I've never tried them, but given that I hate seafood, I'm willing to bet I won't like them - but this book was a very enjoyable read. Some of the descriptions of the oysters and farming process ran on a bit for me, but it certainly did paint a vivid picture in my mind, and I certainly know a lot more about this topic than I did before I read this book! It was a thoroughly enjoyable book from beginning to end, and Thomas' writing really was a joy to read. I can't wait to read more from Jo Thomas now, what a gem to find on my bookshelf :)

9 November 2015

Blog Tour: How to Stuff Up Christmas by Rosie Blake

Today I am super thrilled to be part of Rosie Blake's blog tour for her brand new festive book How To Stuff Up Christmas. I have this gorgeous book sat on my shelf, and I can't wait to read it, it sounds brilliant! Rosie was kind enough to write this article showcasing her Top 5 writing tips for any of you budding authors out there, so please enjoy, and make sure you grab a copy of How To Stuff Up Christmas!

Available to buy now.

Rosie Blake's Top 5 Writing Tips

I am a complete sucker for writing tips. I am fascinated to hear how other writers tackle the process, love inspirational nuggets and new techniques to try out. Here are some of my favourites I used when writing HOW TO STUFF UP CHRISTMAS.

1) CHARACTER - it is all about character. Think of your favourite reads and you'll be thinking of a favourite character. Jack Reacher, Richard Campbell-Black, Harry Potter, Bridget Jones - they made their books magical (OK in Harry's case really, really, actually magical). Start with a character. What is their story? What do they want? Go from there...

2) WRITE QUICKLY - don't agonise over the first draft. I do word races. Hour long stints preferably against other writers but, if all else fails, against the clock. Choose a time slot and stick to it. Don't allow yourself to re-read or worry it is rubbish. You can fix it later. Then after the hour is up it is very important you celebrate, reward yourself e.g. With cake.

3) MAKE FRIENDS - other writers are so lovely it is ridiculous. Chat to them. Recommend books. Gossip about Downton Abbey (e.g. "hi other writer, how properly gross was that burst ulcer scene?) Join Twitter or a Facebook group for writers and enjoy being part of one fantastic, inspiring community.

4) MINOR CHARACTERS - make these guys count. Jonny Geller tweeted something that really stuck with me. He said think of your minor characters as being the stars of a book of their own. They have just chosen to appear in your book. They have their own story, their own life, their own problems etc. This really helped me remember to make them as believable and as layered as my main characters.

5) CELEBRATE - finished a first draft? That is AWESOME. Make sure you celebrate. Entered a short story competition and been placed? FABULOUS. Celebrate. An agent wants to read the full manuscript? Of course they do! Celebrate! Enjoy the process of writing, celebrate the successes and remember you are living your dream.

Now go get 'em!

8 November 2015

Book Review: The Great Village Show by Alexandra Brown

"Tindledale is in a titter. The Village Show competition is coming around again and after last year’s spectacular failure, the villagers are determined to win. Meg, teacher at the local school, is keen to help and to impose some much-needed order.

After a terse encounter with a newcomer to the village, Meg discovers that it is celebrity chef and culinary bad boy, Dan Wright. Meg thinks he is arrogant and rude but rumour has it that Dan is opening a new restaurant in the village which could really put Tindledale on the map!

As things come together, villagers old and new all start to come out of the woodwork, including new arrival Jessie, who seems to have it all. But first impressions can be deceptive and Meg discovers that when it comes to Tindledale – and Dan – nothing is ever quite as it seems…"

Rating: 4/5

Available to buy now.

This book is the second in Alexandra Brown's 'Tindledale' series. I thoroughly enjoyed the first book, which was a festive offering called The Great Christmas Knit Off', so my expectations for this summery offering were very high! Luckily, Alexandra didn't let me down and this was a very enjoyable read as well, and it was nice to catch up with the characters that I loved from the first Tindledale novel.

This time, we are following Meg, a primary school teacher who lives in Tindledale, and very much loves her village. Her son has moved away to University, and Meg decides to dedicate her time to saving the local school, which the council are threatening to close due to its low intake numbers. So when Tindledale is offered the chance to take part in The Village Show competition, Meg decides they must enter and put Tindledale back on the map. When celebrity chef Dan Wright makes an appearance, Meg is wary of him and is sure he is there to ruin their cosy village. As the competition approaches, Meg is forced to let Dan help them in the competition, but is there more to him than meets the eye?!

If you have Alexandra's first Tindledale book, you'll certainly want to read the next installment and catch up with residents once again. However, this would work equally as well as a stand alone read - there's a few mentions of what happened in the previous book, but since it isn't a follow on story as such, knowing the previous story isn't a necessity. I enjoyed meeting Meg and following her throughout the book. She's kind-hearted, and very keen on keeping the village spirit up, ensuring that all the residents are part of the competition, and also saving her beloved school. Not only are her memories tied up there, but she knows how important it is for the local community to keep the school and not have the children shipped out on a bus every day!

Meg is very much at the centre of the competition, helping to organise the various ideas and stalls, and as she has to forge some kind of working relationship with celeb chef Dan, it throws up some unforeseen emotions for her! I enjoyed the slow development of the pair's friendship, especially as I couldn't stand Dan throughout most of the book, I definitely agreed with Meg's low opinion of him! But as the story goes on, more is revealed about him and of course everything becomes clear.

There is another story, far more serious, running alongside the main one, involving new Tindledale resident Jessie and her young triplets. There was a very serious side to this story, and Alexandra handles it really well, making you feel a lot of emotion about Jessie's tale, and hoping that she would find the happy ending she and her children deserved. It did make me quite emotional, but it was an important storyline to highlight, and worked well in the book, a bit of seriousness alongside the light-hearted story. I also enjoyed reading how Jessie slowly became part of the Tindledale community, showing how welcoming the residents, in particular Meg were. The competition was also a very fun part of the book, reading all of the residents preparing for it in every way possible, and how seriously some of them were taking it, it certainly put a smile on my face!

This was a really enjoyable book, and it was nice to be back in Tindledale, albeit in the middle of summer this time! The idea of entering a village show competition was a new one to me, and I really enjoyed reading about the preparations, the show itself and the villagers throwing themselves wholeheartedly into it all, especially Meg who was certainly a driving force for the whole thing! Throw in a bit of mystery to do with the new local celebrity Dan, a new resident hiding a secret and a village show and you've got a great recipe for a brilliant story. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and am looking forward to the next Tindledale story!