30 August 2013

Book Review: Killer Queens by Rebecca Chance

"Every little girl grows up dreaming of marrying a prince - but what if the fairy tale turns into a right royal nightmare? Scheming kings, killer queens, evil princes, far-from innocent princesses, secret weddings, runaway brides, illicit affairs, death plots and lashings of steamy sex - it's just another day in the lives of the world's most powerful families. Find out what REALLY goes on behind closed palace doors…"

Rating: 5/5

You can buy Killer Queens as a paperback or an eBook now.

I am a huge Rebecca Chance fan - no one writes a sexy bonkbuster like she does, and I get really excited when she has a new book out! I've read each one of Rebecca's books she has released so far and they've all been brilliant books with fantastic characters, shocking storylines and some more than steamy scenes in there as well! Her latest book Killer Queens seems to tie in quite nicely with the flurry of interest in the Royal family, in particular Kate and William, and it's interesting to try and work out who the characters in the book are based on (I certainly had my own ideas about them!). For me, this book was one of my reads of the summer, and here's why you should read it!

Chloe is engaged to Prince Hugo, and is a bit daunted by the massive life change that she knows is ahead of her. The press are already following her, and watching closely everything from her fashion to her shopping habits, and while Hugo dose his best to reassure her, Chloe is still feeling a bit unsure about the whole scenario. American Olympic athlete Lori is engaged to be married to the King of Herzoslovakia, Joachim. Lori has been swept away by the lavish attention King Joaquim and his mother have laid upon her, but what are their intentions once Lori becomes Queen? Finally, Princess Belinda faked her own death years ago to escape her loveless marriage to Prince Oliver. However, now her son Hugo is about to be married, Belinda is determined to be there, although she knows her son thinks she is dead, and it'll have to be quite incognito. Will Belinda make it to the wedding, and will the Queens be able to live their fairytale happy-ever-after?

As I mentioned before, you can't help but base these characters on the real members of the Royal family. You can't really help but liken Chloe to being Kate Middleton, with Prince Hugo being like a Prince William too. For me, those were the stand outs and I really enjoyed their story most out of all of those in the book. Chloe was so likeable (not to mention having an awesome name!!), a normal girl swept into a brand new world just because she fell in love. Her relationship with Prince Hugo was really touching, and I enjoyed reading about the pair. They get up to a fair few things in the book, also involved with Hugo's sister Princess Sophie and their cousin Toby (who for me was totally a Prince Harry!), some rather shocking scenes come to light here, I was flabbergasted lol! The highlight of their story was the hilarious Lauren, Chloe's best friend turned PA to the soon-to-be Princess, and her normal attitude to everything despite the airs and graces of everyone around her was so refreshing!

The other two storylines were good, and I really liked reading about poor old Lori. She's in love with King Joaquim but you can't help but think there is more to this Royal marriage than meets the eye. I didn't like Joaquim from the beginning, he seemed a bit of a sleazeball to  me and I couldn't help but wish Lori wouldn't walk down the aisle with him! I loved reading about the fictional Herzoslovakia, the gorgeous jewels that Lori wears and is gifted, and the other goings on that happen around that story. Then there was the story with the mysterious Princess Belinda. We aren't told for a while why she faked her own death to escape her marriage, leaving her two young children behind, but we see a lot of her idyllic but lonely life living with her new man on a secluded island. I liked her, but hers was the story I liked the least, although you have to wonder in this day and age if someone so high profile can ever truly disappear. You can understand as a mum though why she'd want to be at Hugo's wedding and I did want it all to work out for her.

I really enjoyed that there were three separate storylines going on in the book, and I wondered if at any point they would all be drawn together somehow. I loved that although it was completely shocking and seemingly perhaps a tad unrealistic, you couldn't help but wonder if such things ever do go on behind closed doors in the Royal family, and how much is actually hidden from us general public folk! While the book does touch on life in the Royal family, and how it affects those outside of it, especially Chloe and Lori, this wasn't the be all and end all of the book, there was a bit of everything thrown in there to keep you hooked! The sex scenes were actually quite shocking to me, perhaps the naughtiest Chance has gotten so far but they seem to work for the book! Be prepared for a few blushes when you're reading! For me, this was a superb novels, and probably my favourite of Chance's novels to date (very, very close to Bad Angels!), such a perfect bonkbuster read. If you haven't discovered Rebecca Chance yet, well, where have you been? Start with this one, you won't go wrong! I LOVED it!

29 August 2013

Book Review: Playing Grace by Hazel Osmond

"Grace Surtees has everything carefully under control – her work life, her home life and her love life – especially her love life.

But then her boss hires Tate Saunders, a brash American, to spice up the gallery tours his company provides. Messy and fond of breaking rules, Tate explodes into her tidy existence like a paintball, and Grace hates everything about him…

…doesn’t she?

Because, for Grace, the alternative would be simply too terrifying to contemplate: to love Tate rather than hate him would mean leaping out of her comfort zone, and Grace’s devotion to order hides some long-kept secrets… secrets she’s sure someone like Tate Saunders could never accept or understand."

Rating: 2.5/5

You can buy Playing Grace as a paperback or an eBook now.

I have read both of Hazel Osmond's previous novels, and really enjoyed them. It's always fun to read a new author, especially when you enjoy their books and can therefore look forward to their next releases. When a review copy of Hazel's new book Playing Grace arrived, I was really looking forward to it. I was a little cautious because it's based around art tours, and galleries, something I know nothing about at all, but I hoped that the book would introduce me to these things in a nice way, and have me interested. I have to say that while I enjoyed the final third of the book, the rest of it was a struggle for me, and I didn't click with this book as much as I had with Hazel's previous books unfortunately.

Grace has a pretty rigid life, but that is exactly how she likes it. She likes things in order - her job, her art gallery tours, and her flat. But soon, things are about to head into disarray and Grace isn't sure she can cope. Her boss Alistair hires a new tour guide, an American called Tate who Grace immediately clashes with. The pair butt heads over everything, and Grace is sure that she hates Tate. When there is more drama at home, Grace begins to wonder if her perfectly ordered world is about to come crashing down around her. Will she be able to juggle her job, her home life and keep herself sane in the process? And just what is Grace going to about the awful Tate and those pesky feelings of hers?

I'll be honest and say that I did nearly give up on this book. I found the start of it to be incredibly slow and nothing was there to pull me in and make me want to read on. I didn't like Grace very much, she seemed quite odd to me and there was nothing majorly likeable about her if I am honest. I ploughed on regardless, simply because I hoped that it would get better and turn into something I would enjoy reading. However, around 200 pages in, I was still struggling and nothing had really happened. In fact, that goes for the whole book to be honest. I just felt like it wasn't going anywhere, I was constantly waiting for something exciting to happen, and despite a couple of things that occur, there was nothing there to keep me riveted. I did have to push myself to pick it up at times, and that's never a good sign with me.

As I mentioned, I didn't particularly like Grace as the main character and I think that made me struggle with connecting with the book. On the other hand, I did love a couple of the other supporting characters who I thought were fantastic. I really liked Gilbert, one of the other tour guides who lives with his troubled sister Violet. Their story was quite sweet, and I was just waiting for Gilbert to let his hair down somewhat. Their boss Alistair was great too, and I liked the story around him. It was a surprise when his secrets were revealed, I certainly didn't guess it at all and I liked that this part of it was unpredictable. Tate was a bit of a strange one, he was likeable enough, fun and bubbly but I was just unsure of his intentions all the way through, I just couldn't make up my mind about him and where he fitted in with Grace.

I found that the final third of the book did pick up pace a little bit and I found myself enjoying the story a lot more. Things about Grace become a lot more clear as it goes on, but since Osmond waits right until the end for the big 'tell-all' moment, I found myself losing interest in her story, her obsession with a few paintings and the reasons behind her odd behaviour throughout the story. When it was revealed, it was too late for the characters to do anything with the revelations so it seemed a wasted opportunity to me. Art isn't a big interest to me, but Osmond did a good job of describing the galleries, the paintings and the atmosphere, but it didn't hold my attention as I had hoped, I guess you can't help it when you just aren't interested in a topic.

It's a shame for me that this book didn't live up to my expectations, because it seems other reviewers have enjoyed it. However, for me it was too slow paced, with too little going on and I found that I got bored with it in parts. I didn't like the main character, the narrative did tend to go on a little too much for me in places, and while I liked the final part of the book, it seemed too little, too late for me. I hope Hazel Osmond's next book will be back to her best like her first two novels that I loved.

28 August 2013

Book News: The Proposal by Tasmina Perry

Despite only having released a new book this summer, called Deep Blue Sea, Tasmina Perry is back again this winter with a brand new novel! The Proposal has a stunning cover (click it to see a bigger version), I cannot wait to see what it looks like as a "real" book because it just looks so beautiful! It's due out on 7th November and I'm so excited to read this one.

You can pre-order The Proposal as an eBook and as a hardcover now.

"Just say yes to this unforgettable read and take a spellbinding, romantic journey from the dazzling days of the debutantes in 1950s London to glamorous modern Manhattan.

When Amy Carrell's wealthy boyfriend ends their relationship just before Christmas, she's left to nurse her broken heart alone. With nothing to lose, she replies to an advertisement requesting a companion for a mysterious 'Manhattan adventure'. 

Whisked off to New York with eccentric British aristocrat Georgia Hamilton, Amy experiences a glamorous side of the city that she's never seen before. Along the way, Georgia initiates her protegee in the arts of old-school elegance. 

But as Georgia shares her life lessons, Amy discovers a painful secret in her mentor's past. A secret that shattered her future. A story of love and betrayal that only Amy has the power to put right."

26 August 2013

Book Review: The House We Grew Up In by Lisa Jewell

"Meet the Bird Family

All four children have an idyllic childhood: a picture-book cottage in a country village, a warm, cosy kitchen filled with love and laughter, sun-drenched afternoons in a rambling garden.

But one Easter weekend a tragedy strikes the Bird family that is so devastating that, almost imperceptibly, it begins to tear them apart.

The years pass and the children become adults and begin to develop their own quite separate lives. Soon it's almost as though they've never been a family at all.

Almost. But not quite.

Because something has happened that will call them home, back to the house they grew up in - and to what really happened that Easter weekend all those years ago."

Rating: 5/5

I have really enjoyed Lisa Jewell's previous few novels, they have been very different stories, and it's been nice to read something a little bit different. I was therefore excited to receive a review copy of her new book The House We Grew Up In. I have to confess I was really intrigued by the title, I wanted straight away to find out all about the house and the Bird family too. The cover is really pretty, nothing striking but it just works for the book in my opinion.  I certainly hadn't expected the story that was inside, and I really loved the book from beginning to end, a real thought-provoker that I look forward to reading again.

From the outside, the Bird family looked like they had it all. Happy mum, happy dad and four children living a perfect childhood altogether in their family home with its rambling gardens. Lorelei has always loved Easter in particular, and everything that comes with it, but one year, that idyllic reality is cruelly shattered forever when a tragedy befalls the Bird family. It breaks up their family piece by piece, and soon most of the Bird family live away from each other, without contact and that's how they like it. Only Lorelei remains in the Bird home, but soon all the Bird children are to return home, but it's not quite the home they left behind all those years ago...

The blurb of this book really doesn't give away a lot about the story or the characters, and I think that is part of the charm when you're reading - you really don't know what is going to happen and why it's happening so I'm going to continue that air of mystery in my review. The Bird family are all interesting people, and you can see why their childhood shapes them to be the adults that they turn out to be, especially the eldest daughter Meg who seems most affected by what her mother does. Lorelei is someone I did struggle to warm to, she seems quite an eccentric person and as things about her are revealed, I was less and less sure about her, and how she could rationalise to herself what she was doing, not only to herself but her family as well. Her relationships with everyone are affected by what she does, although of course it isn't her fault, but it is sad to see a family fall apart over such things.

The book takes place of a time period of around 30 years, flicking between the present day and what the Bird children are currently up to, and this is interspersed with visits to their past, to their childhood and the tragic event that took place one Easter. This event is quite shocking, but Jewell deals with it in such a raw and realistic way, you almost feel the grief along with these characters. It is Lorelei's reaction that sets her apart from the rest, and really sets the tone for the rest of the novel where she is concerned. I did cringe slightly as I read the scenes in the past, where Lorelei was perhaps embarrassing as a mother, and you can understand why her children found it difficult to want to be with her, I really found myself sympathising with Meg who hasn't had an easy life, yet I found Beth and Rory to be less sympathetic, and I really wanted to give them a good talking to!

The vivid descriptions of the Bird house, both in the present day and the past, are fantastically written by Jewell, and you can very easily view it in your minds as the children play in the garden, Lorelei cooks Easter dinner for them or in the later days when Meg returns to her home. It's sad to think what happened to the home, but Jewell writes its decay so well, you feel sad when you read about the state it has gotten into. Jewell covers a very real and serious issue within this book, and it certainly isn't a happy go lucky read. However, it is an emotional read that is very realistic in its portrayal of a family falling apart, and Lorelei's condition as well, and while at times I found it to be quite hard to read, I was utterly glued to it and couldn't stop reading, it was riveting. Jewell has written a superb book here that I heartily recommend, I loved it, and I think it's one of those books that will stay with you long after turning the final page. Brilliant.

Book News: I Heart Christmas by Lindsey Kelk

I am thrilled that Lindsey Kelk has brought back the fantastic characters from her fab 'I Heart...' series already, and it's not too long to wait thank goodness! Her new book I Heart Christmas is due out on November 21st, and I am loving the gorgeous cover already (click it to see it bigger), and the story sounds fab too, I can't wait to catch up with Angela again.

You can pre-order I Heart Christmas as a paperback or an eBook now.

"Angela’s planning her very own fairytale of New York…

• Enormous Christmas tree
• Eggnog
• Eccentric British traditions
• Gorgeous man

But Santa’s throwing her a few curveballs – new job (as if it’s not mental enough already), new baby-craze from her best friend Jenny, and Alex determined they should grow up and settle down. Once friends start turning up uninvited on her doorstep (and leading her astray), can Angela really have a merry little Christmas? So much for happy holidays – something’s got to give…"

22 August 2013

eBook News: Secrets and Rain by Cally Taylor

We haven't had a new book from Cally Taylor in quite a while now, but you'll be pleased to hear she has released a brand new short story collection! It's called Secrets and Rain and it's stuffed full with 12 great short stories to enjoy. I do enjoy the occasional short story, they're easy to get into, and sometimes it's nice to read something which doesn't take days to finish!

You can buy Secrets and Rain as an eBook now.

"Twelve magical stories from the award-winning author of HEAVEN CAN WAIT and HOME FOR CHRISTMAS. Grab a drink, put up your feet and lose yourself in these heart-warming tales of love, loss and hope. Peep inside the ‘Little Box of Wishes’, discover how ‘Two Red Balloons’ heal a rift between a mother and daughter and fall in love with Alfred, the ‘Rent-a-Cat’. 

If you’re a fan of bestselling magazines Take a Break Fiction Feast, Women’s Own and My Weekly you’ll love this collection of Cally's previously published stories. Also included – and available online for the first time - three prizewinning stories: ‘Wish You Were Here’, ‘My Daughter the Deep Sea Diver’ and ‘Under the Waves’."

21 August 2013

Blog Tour: Author Interview with Mary Simses

Today I am pleased to be a part of Mary Simses' blog tour to celebrate the release of her new book The Irresistible Blueberry Bakeshop and Café which is out now. Mary was kind enough to do a Q&A with me, and here are the answers for her questions! My thanks go to Helena at Headline for her help with this, and to Mary for answering the questions!

You can buy The Irresistible Blueberry Bakeshop and Café as a paperback or an eBook now.

 1. Could you tell us a little bit about the inspiration behind the novel, how did you get the idea about the letter from Ellen’s grandmother?

The idea came from something I heard on the radio one morning. A woman told a story about how, just before her grandmother died, she said, “Erase my hard drive.” I began to wonder what that grandmother had on her computer that she wanted to keep secret. It led me to think about a much broader range of questions, such as what someone in their later years might want to change about the life they had lived and what regrets they might have about decisions they’d made. All of that led to the idea of an elderly woman reviewing her life and feeling the need to set certain things right before she died. I used a letter as the object that would get the story going, as I wanted something old-fashioned and tangible, but the computer-hard-drive story is what initially led me to write the book.

2. Ellen is surprised about her grandmother’s past in the novel, do you think we’re often very different people in different parts of our lives, is this something that you’ve experienced or have you ever been surprised by how differently people close to you are seen by other people?

I do think that people are often different in different parts of their lives. Age is obviously a huge factor, as in the case of Ellen’s grandmother, Ruth, who was really only a girl (in her late teens) when she was in love with Chet. I remember how I acted in my late teens and I mentally cringe when I think about some of the things I did. I’m guessing I’m not alone there. Fortunately, maturity sets in and most people grow up. But what do we grow into? That’s the question.

Ruth has secrets and things she wishes she had done differently in her life, and I think she’s probably not alone there. I feel as though it’s human nature to reflect more on our past as we get older, and, perhaps, to want to correct our mistakes as well.

I also think it’s true that we’re not always viewed the same way by everyone. And sometimes people have a certain “mind set” about a person and then they find out an additional detail that changes their whole perspective. I feel that occasionally happens with me, when someone who I’ve gotten to know a bit finds out I’m an attorney. I believe, in their mind, it suddenly makes me more serious or studious or something like that, when, in reality, I’m still the same person.

3. The baked goods in the book sound delicious! Can you tell us about some of the American treats that we might not have heard of in the UK? (The cider doughnuts are a stand out for me!)

I wish I could box up some apple cider doughnuts and send them to you! They’re amazing. In fact, there’s an interesting story about those doughnuts. We buy them at a “green market” not far from where we live in South Florida. A green market is a weekly outdoor gathering of vendors who have booths and sell fresh fruits and vegetables, breads, cheeses, coffees, teas, plants and flowers, and other items. One of the owners of the apple cider doughnut business told me the recipe came from his business partner’s great grandmother, who lived in Connecticut. So there is a New England connection to the recipe, which I just love, being a Connecticut native myself and having set Blueberry Café in New England.

Because I haven’t spent enough time in the UK (sadly!) to become familiar with what treats we have that you don’t, I enlisted the aid of a good friend who moved back to England after she and her family were here in the U.S. for several years. We recently emailed back and forth (ironically, they have spent most of the summer travelling throughout the U.S.!) and here are some of her favourites (mine, as well!):

Pumpkin pie – This is a seasonal dessert typically made at Thanksgiving, which we celebrate in November, and often made again at Christmas. Ingredients include pumpkin, of course, and spices such as nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves, and/or ginger.

Blondies – These are dessert bars that look like “blonde” brownies. They are based on brown sugar, rather than cocoa, and often have nuts in them.

Red velvet cake – Typically made as a layer cake, the color is dark red or red-brown. Enough cocoa is added to a “yellow” batter to turn the batter darker but not too dark, and the taste is more of a “light” chocolate cake. Food coloring provides the red tint and the frosting is usually made with cream cheese.

Pancakes with real maple syrup – According to my source, pancakes (thin, flat, round cakes that are made with batter but that are much thicker than crepes) are not common in the UK. In the U.S., they’re very popular and we often put fruit, such as blueberries, bananas, or apples, in the batter, but chocolate chips are great, too. Most people use “pancake syrup,” but that’s really just corn syrup. The best thing for pancakes is real maple syrup.

Cinnamon buns – My source also tells me that cinnamon buns are available in the UK but that she prefers the U.S. variety, which are very moist and are topped with a glaze or icing.

Cornbread – This is a quick bread (no yeast—baking powder is used instead) made with corn meal. Cornbread is a cornerstone of Southern American cuisine and cornbread stuffing is often used in Thanksgiving turkeys.

Giant pretzels – These are made from strands of dough that are baked into a knotted shape. Like bread, they are slightly crusty on the outside and chewy on the inside. My source tells me she has found these in England but knows of only one place

4. Small town life in Maine sounds idyllic, is it really exactly as you describe, do tell us about some of your favourite places?

I’ve visited a number of areas in Maine over the years but I’ve never spent summers there as some people do or lived there, so I can only speak as a tourist. Yes, Maine is full of idyllic places – lighthouses poised on cliffs, small harbour towns, quiet bays where sailboats gather, quaint inns and hotels, beautiful beaches, magnificent lakes and mountains. Much of Maine is also very rugged and wild, however – more so than any of the other New England states – and that makes it such an interesting place. I happen to love taking pictures (I’ve been a shutterbug ever since I was a child) and with so much amazing scenery it was easy for me to fall in love with Maine.

As far as favorite spots, that’s really tough to say because I’ve loved all of the places I’ve visited, which include Kennebunkport, Camden, Rockport, Castine, Blue Hill, Portland, Deer Isle, Scarborough, Newcastle, Damariscotta, Bar Harbor, Augusta, and many stops in between. I love the smaller towns the best but there are many great places to see. My husband and I are squeezing in a little five-day trip to Maine in a couple of weeks and I can’t wait to go! I’ve got the cameras ready.

Although there are many places one could write about in Maine, when I started to write what became Blueberry Café, I chose to create the fictional town of Beacon. Or maybe the town created itself. All I know is that, over time, I began to see it more and more clearly, building it piece by piece. When you create your own town, you can make it exactly the way you want to. And that was great.

But later on, after I was well into writing the book, I began to worry that Beacon might not be enough like a real Maine town. I was concerned about how I had laid out the downtown, how I’d described the inn, and some of the other physical details. So my husband and I took a trip to Mid-Coast Maine and just drove around for several days, “looking for Beacon.” The scary thing is that I couldn’t find it – the Beacon I had created didn’t exist.

I returned home feeling terrible, worrying that Beacon wasn’t “authentic” enough, until a good friend and fellow author reminded me that I was writing fiction and that I had permission to make my own town to fit my own purposes. I realized she was right – and I was relieved because I liked Beacon and I really didn’t want to change it. After that, I never looked back, and I’m glad I didn’t. Many people who have read the novel, including those who know Maine well, have told me how much they love Beacon – just the way it is.

5. There are two gorgeous men is Ellen’s life, her preppy fiancé Hayden and the rugged Roy, which is your type!?

I think they each have their allure, which is what Ellen finds out! My husband is closer to Hayden, however (attorney, suit and tie, cufflinks), so I guess I’d have to say Hayden is a bit more my type. Still, I do love Roy . . . .

After reading the manuscript, my husband asked me if there was anyone in the story modelled after him. I said, “No,” because there really isn’t. But I guess Hayden’s analytical ability (he’s very competent) and his outward appearance (he’s always well put together) might have been taken just a wee bit from my husband. (Honey, are you reading this? . . . )

6. Are you working on anything new at the moment you can tell us about? 

Yes, I’m working on another novel, although it’s been on the back burner a little since Blueberry Café came out. The main character is a woman who goes to visit her parents in the house where she grew up, on the Connecticut coast. While there, she ends up dealing with some “unfinished business” in her past life. I think my themes, at least for the time being, are small New England coastal towns and unfinished business, as I keep coming back to those ideas.

Thank you so much, Mary!

19 August 2013

Book Review: The Coincidence of Callie and Kayden by Jessica Sorensen

"There are those who don’t get luck handed to them on a shiny platter, who end up in the wrong place at the wrong time, who don’t get saved.

Luck was not on Callie’s side the day of her twelfth birthday when everything was stolen from her. After it’s all over, she locks up her feelings and vows never to tell anyone what happened. Six years later her painful past consumes her life and most days it’s a struggle just to breathe.

For as long as Kayden can remember, suffering in silence was the only way to survive life. As long as he did what he was told, everything was okay. One night, after making a terrible mistake, it seems like his life might be over. Luck was on his side, though, when Callie coincidentally is in the right place at the right time and saves him.

Now he can’t stop thinking about the girl he saw at school, but never really knew. When he ends up at the same college as Callie, he does everything he can to try to get to know her. But Callie is reserved and closed off. The more he tries to be part of her life, the more he realizes Callie might need to be saved."

Rating: 5/5

You can buy The Coincidence of Callie and Kayden as an eBook or a paperback now.

I first read Jessica Sorensen's work earlier this year when I read her book The Secret of Ella and Micha, a book I really enjoyed despite not really expecting too. Since then, Sorensen has had several more titles released as eBooks, but I have preferred to wait for the paperback release. The first of these books is the first in her Callie and Kayden series, The Coincidence of Callie and Kayden. I really liked the sound of this book, it sounded interesting and I enjoy a good old-fashioned love story, this one sounded just the ticket.

Callie has struggled with her time at high school. The other kids in her class were horrible to her, making assumptions because of how she chose to look and act, not knowing the painful secrets that Callie hides, locked away so it can't hurt her anymore. Now at college, she and new best friend Seth try to work through their issues together, trying to be different and try something that frightens them everyday. Kayden, who grew up just round the corner from Callie, also manages to secure a place at Callie's college. He, too, harbours some secrets he can't bear to divulge to anyone, and when Callie catches his eye, he wonders if she can be the one to break down his playboy facade and see the man beneath. Will Callie and Kayden be able to save each other?

First of all, I have to say there were parts of this book which were really sad, and it certainly does affect you emotionally as you're reading it. I found myself thinking a lot about what Callie went through long after I had put the book down in the evenings, and also thinking about Kayden too. They were a very troubled pair of teenagers, both with home lives they struggled with, but with no one to talk to about their pain. I felt incredibly sorry for them as I was reading, it makes you realise how much people can hide from others, and how we can judge people without knowing the full facts about their lives. I loved how Callie and Kayden come to rely on each other, drawing on their own experiences to help each other through the bad times, and it was very touching in parts.

The issues suffered by the pair in the book are certainly not easy to read about. While I found Callie's hard to read and imagine what she went through, there was something about Kayden's which really touched me, living in such fear of a person who is supposed to love you most in the world was horrific, and Sorensen writes it so realistically, I almost wanted to stop reading in parts. It wasn't easy, but it certainly made it clear why Callie and Kayden are the troubled individuals they are. The inclusion of a few of their troubled friends too makes up a nice group to read about, and you certainly care about all of them in their own way. I liked seeing Callie build her trust with Kayden more as the story went on, and it made me smile to see them relax more and talk to each other about things, showing how just finding a friend can help so much.

The ending of the book had me shocked, I really hadn't expected it at all and it makes you extremely keen to read the next book in the series, The Redemption of Callie and Kayden which is out now as an eBook and due out in February 2014 in paperback format. Luckily, in the paperback version of this book there's the first chapter of the next book, so there's something to get you through that shocking ending for now! I really enjoyed this book, and it touched me so much more than I had ever expected when I started reading. It's a tale of growing, trusting and loving between two young people more damaged than most people could ever imagine. Both Callie and Kayden are so likeable, you want things to work out nicely for both of them, and I'm so hoping for a happy ever after. This is a fantastic book, and I really look forward to reading more of Sorensen's books after this fantastic and emotional story.

16 August 2013

Book News: Take A Look At Me Now by Miranda Dickinson

Miranda Dickinson is back with her new book later this year, and a new cover look to go with it! Take A Look At Me Now is out on October 24th, and I am really loving the cover already, such a new look for Miranda, but I think it is great, I really love the colours. The story sounds brilliant too, and I can't wait to read this one!

You can pre-order Take A Look At Me Now as a paperback or an eBook now.

"How far would you go to make a new start?

When Nell’s on-off boyfriend Aidan calls her into his office, losing her job is the last thing she expects.

Heartbroken and unemployed to boot, she makes a radical decision to blow her redundancy cheque and escape to the untested waters of San Francisco.

But is the glamour of the city too good to be true? And can Nell leave her past behind?"

15 August 2013

Book Review: Faking It by Cora Carmack

"Every girl likes a bad boy...

And Max's current boyfriend is as bad as they come. She knows her family would freak if they saw his tattoos and piercings.

So when her parents turn up unannounced Max grabs the most wholesome guy she can to play her boyfriend.

But Cade Winston is so perfect that Max needs him to keep playing the part. And the more they have to fake their relationship, the harder it gets to just pretend."

Rating: 4/5

You can buy Faking It as a paperback or an eBook now.

I really enjoyed debut author Cora Carmack's novel Losing It last year when it was first released. It's part of the 'New Adult' range of books that seem to be making a bigger appearance on our bookshelves at the moment, and I enjoyed it as a simple romance story that left me with a smile on my face. Her follow up to that book, Faking It, was released just last month, and features one of the characters from her previous novel, Cade. I was intrigued to see how much it would link with the previous book, and whether I'd like Cade as much as I did in Losing It, but I didn't need to worry as I really loved this book!

Max likes to put on a front to her parents. She covers her many tattoos, tries hard to tone down her brightly dyed hair and bites her tongue, all to keep them happy and keep her life hidden from them somewhat. When she realises they are in town, she decides her boyfriend isn't the sort you'd want to meet your parents, and begs a good look, straight-laced stranger in a coffee cup to pretend to be her boyfriend for that half hour coffee. Cade, the man Max picks, decides to play along, not realising that he'd have to play the part for a lot longer than either of them anticipated. As they spend more time together, the pair realise that they are actually more than fond of each other, and the need to fake their relationship becomes easier and easier... but with Max still with her rocker boyfriend, can she make a decision and stick with it?

As I mentioned before, Cade first made an appearance in Losing It, as the man who was loving Bliss from afar, but sadly an unrequited love. He's decided he must move on, and you do feel sorry for him when you can see his heart-breaking at the start of the book, and just hope he's going to move on. As Max becomes more prominent in his life, he starts to come out of himself a lot more and show us his personality, and I really loved him as a lead male character. Carmack splits the narrative between Cade and Max, and I really enjoyed Cade's narrative, he has a good heart and you can't help but like him a lot! He sounds rather handsome, studies hard, volunteers to help young children - he's pretty much the perfect young man and Carmack makes him sound like a dream guy, lucky Max!

Although I wasn't sure about Max at first, I really warmed to her as the book went on and she reveals a lot more about herself. She's a troubled young woman, you can tell there is something in her family past which is holding her back and haunting her, but it's a while before all becomes clear to us. I liked that Carmack holds it back for a while and makes Max a bit of a mystery. I was eager for her to come out of her shell in front of her parents though, I hated that she had to hide her true self for them, and that she could be herself with Cade. I loved the way Carmack described Max's dress sense, hair and in particular her tattoos which do sound amazing, and they really make Max come to life in your head. I liked that Cade and Max are both emotionally damaged people, but find solace in each other, it's very sweet and makes you smile as you read them growing closer.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book, and enjoyed learning a lot more about Cade and being introduced to Max too. They are a really fun pair of characters to read about, and I liked seeing a few characters from Losing It as well, it was just enough to link the books but at the same time, you don't have to have read to enjoy this book, Cade talks about what happened in that book just enough for you to understand his past and what happened. There's the slow-burning love story going on here, but equally some steamy scenes too, they are fun to read and certainly add another element to the book! There is a third book in the series coming soon called Finding It featuring another character we met in Losing It, so I hope to catch up more with Cade and Max in that book!

8 August 2013

Book Review: In The Summertime by Judy Astley

"It's twenty years since Miranda, then sixteen, holidayed in Cornwall and her life changed forever. Now she's back again - with her mother Clare and the ashes of her stepfather Jack, whose wish was to be scattered on the sea overlooked by their one-time holiday home.

The picturesque cove seems just the same as ever, but the people are different - more smart incomers,fewer locals, more luxury yachts in the harbour. But Miranda and Clare both find some strangely familiar faces, and revisit the emotions they both thought had disappeared."

Rating: 4/5

You can buy In The Summertime as a hardback or an eBook now.

I'll be honest and say I was interested in reading this book because the cover is so beautiful and summery, and the story sounded like it'd be intriguing too! I had no idea when I began reading the book that it is a sequel to Judy's first ever novel which was published in 1994 (I was just 8!!) called Just For The Summer. I haven't read that book, but for those that have, it will be nice to revisit the characters, who have now all grown up themselves, and see a new part of their story. For me though, I knew nothing about these characters so went into this with no expectations. I was really pleased with it when I'd finished, it's a lovely summer read that I thoroughly enjoyed.

Miranda is just getting over the death of her step-mother, and finds herself setting off on a holiday to Chapel Creek in Cornwall with her newly widowed mother Clare, and her two teenage children as well. This is where Clare wants her husbands ashes scattered, and while Miranda is happy to do the trip, she's wondering how much has changed since she last holidayed in the village 20 long years ago. Miranda is sure she won't spot anyone that she remembered from before, but when familiar faces start popping up around the village, she and Clare start to wonder whether the people from their past can start to help focus their futures, whether in Cornwall or not. Will they be able to move on whilst they say goodbye?

First of all I want to say how beautifully Astley writes the sleepy sea-side town of Chapel Creek. It sounds picturesque, and Astley really made it come to life in my mind as I was reading, everything from the descriptions of the scenery to the holiday home that Miranda and her family stay in, to the lovely beach scenes as well, it's a joy to read because of that, and certainly tempts me into wanting to holiday in the UK rather than travelling abroad, there's so much to see in this country! Even little things such as the hugely over-priced local shop rang true, and it's a very realistic book, with a gorgeous setting and realistic characters too.

I really enjoyed the characters in here, especially Miranda who is the main character in the book. She's divorced and a single parent to their two teenage children Bo and Silva, and they are quite typical teenagers too. I think Astley has written them really well, and even though they're stroppy and bolshy, they're likeable and you can sense they have good hearts. Miranda's mother Clare is an interesting character too. Although she's desperately grieving for her husband, you can see part of her wants to open her life up to new opportunities too, and I liked her for that. She's a good mother and grandmother, and certainly there is nothing dislikeable her, unlike Miranda's younger sister who is so vain and selfish, I couldn't quite warm to her! I also enjoyed the inclusion of some of Miranda's childhood friends, in particular Jessica and her daughter Lola, their story was quite emotional and moving.

I really enjoyed this book, and the story inside. There aren't any shocking revelations or massive twists or turns, but it didn't need them. Instead, the story itself is what you focus on, and the moving on of these characters through their grief, and reuniting their past with their present once more. The cast of characters is great, from the young teenager up to Clare, but they all work together as a family perfectly, and are all realistic and believable, which I felt was important for this book. I found Astley's writing style very easy to read, and in particular her descriptions of Chapel Creek were fabulous to read, and again very realistic. This is a lovely, gently summer read with sunshine, surfing and a bit of love thrown in for good measure. I really enjoyed it, and certainly recommend it!

7 August 2013

Book Review: The Birthday Girls by Pauline Lawless

"They'd met on their first day at school four little girls who were all very different from each other but who somehow became close friends. Their friendship has now lasted thirty-five years. As their birthdays all fall in the same week they long ago made a pact to spend each big decade birthday together. So far they'd managed it. Now as their thirty-ninth birthday looms, Angel, a famous Hollywood actress, announces that this will be her last birthday. Terrified of aging, she absolutely refuses to turn 40. So Lexi, the mother hen of the group and an artist, invites them to Florida for a week-long celebration of this, their last birthday together. Brenda, mother to five grown-up children, flies in from Dublin, eagerly looking forward to her first foreign holiday ever. Mel, however, has to be prised away from New York where she is a successful partner in a law firm - Mel is a workaholic with no other friends or love in her life. The four come together for the celebration but soon things start to unravel and the week ends disastrously. Lexi is distraught. Can their friendship endure? Only time will tell."

Rating: 4.5/5

You can buy The Birthday Girls as a paperback or an eBook now.

I haven't read any of Irish author Pauline Lawless' books before, but I'm not sure why. I was sent one to review, but sadly couldn't find the time for it, so when I received a review copy of her new book The Birthday Girls, complete with lovely bright cover, I thought it sounded really good and that I'd give it a go. I'm really pleased I did because I really enjoyed the story, and thought Lawless was a really good writer, and the story carried itself well too. It certainly makes me want to dig out some of her older novels and give them a go too, because I'm quite sure I will enjoy those too.

Four friends have been close since primary school, when they all made a special bond over the fact they have their birthdays within the space of a week. Thirty-five years later, they are getting closer to their 40th birthdays, despite the fact one of the friends, Angel, now an actress living in America is determined she's never going to be 40! Lexi, the mother of the group, now living in Florida decides to invite all the friends to her house for their last big birthday together, really hoping her best friend in the group Brenda attends. Brenda's a mother to 5 older children, still living in Ireland and is desperate to make the trip stateside to see her friends once more. Can she convince her husband that she can go on the trip? Finally there's workaholic Mel, who can only find time in her busy schedule to come for a few days. Will the women be able to enjoy their last birthday celebrations together, or is it the beginning of the end of their friendship for good?

The book begins introducing us to the four main characters quite quickly, but I liked that because I felt like I got to know them all rather than having to wait to be introduced to them one by one. This way, you can get an immediate feel for the characters, and straight away, I have to say I didn't like Angel. She came across as very arrogant with an attitude of superiority over her friends. This continued throughout the book, and I had very little sympathy for her throughout the book. I think as her tale went on, you're supposed for perhaps wane in your dislike for her but it didn't quite work that way for me! Lexi, on the other hand, I loved. A very warm, motherly character who wanted the best for everyone, you can't help but love her as her friends do and I loved her story as well. Her tragic past certainly lends to you feeling sorry for her as well. Mel I felt I didn't really get to know that well, simply because I felt she had a lot less time dedicated to her than the others, until it got to the last quarter of the book.

Brenda was my favourite character by a long way, and is the one I think most people will be able to relate to in terms of circumstance. She got married and had children very young, and feels somewhat left behind her friends. However, she loves being a mum and has stayed with her husband despite being unhappy in her marriage for a while. She's hoping the trip away will be a fresh start for her marriage, but I was hoping it'd be a fresh start for her life! Brenda is very likeable, and you can't help but want a happy ending for her. The book travels about from Ireland, to Florida and New York so you're certainly not left stagnant when you're reading this. I really enjoyed reading about Lexi's gorgeous home in Florida, it seemed heavenly, and there's no wonder Brenda didn't want to go home to her usual life!

The book is so much more than these women all having a joint birthday holiday though. Lawless isn't afraid to tackle some quite hard-hitting issues in the book, showing us that each of the women is affected by their lives in different ways, and that life hasn't really been easy for any of them. They all have their own stories to be told, and it's cleverly woven into this one big story that you don't want to stop reading. With troubled marriages, various illnesses, sadness but equally a lot fun, laughs and sunshine, The Birthday Girls is a fantastic read that I can definitely recommend this summer. A cast of 4 women that you can like (I'm sure some people out will like Angel anyway!), glorious settings and a fantastic easy to read writing style all make this book a must read from me. I loved it.

6 August 2013

Blog Tour: The Life List by Lori Nelson Spielman

Today I am thrilled to be part of the blog tour for Lori Nelson Spielman's debut novel The Life List. As well as being part of the tour, I actually started reading the book last night and it's fantastic, I can't wait until I have a few hours to sit down and devour it. For her blog tour stop, Lori was kind enough to write me a piece entitled 'Lori's Life List'. It's a wonderful read, so I hope you enjoy!

Lori’s Life List

I’m often asked how I got the idea for The Life List. The answer is simple. The inspiration for the novel was found in an old cedar box.

A few years ago, I came across a shoebox-sized hope chest, a high school graduation gift. It was the first time I’d opened it in decades. Tucked alongside my grandmother’s rosary and my first bankbook was a yellowed piece of notebook paper. In flowery cursive, Lori’s List was penciled across the top. My abandoned life list.

Foolishly, I’d omitted the year when I scrawled March 13th in the upper right corner. Perhaps I didn’t intend to keep the list. Or maybe I didn’t realize then how quickly memories fade, how moments would turn into days, that turn into years, then decades. But based on the goals—what had and hadn’t been accomplished—I was somewhere between 12 and 14 years old when I wrote it.

The list included 29 items my youthful heart believed would make for a happy life. Most were traditional aspirations, like Have a happy marriage, Have children, Go to college, Learn to ski.  Others were embarrassingly shallow. I wanted to be a cheerleader. Fun, yes, but hardly a noble life goal! I had plenty of girlfriends, but as a gangly adolescent, it was boyfriends I wanted. (Thankfully, they arrived much later than that young girl had hoped!)

I was pleased that I’d accomplished most items on the list. But still, I hadn’t achieved everything. I didn’t live on a lake; I hadn’t designed my own home. I had a cat, but the horse and the dog had eluded me. And I spied the one thing I imagined would be that girl’s biggest disappointment: I didn’t have children and never would. I wondered then, whether our adolescent dreams were valid, even in adulthood?

As I stared down at the dog-eared paper, it occurred to me how different my life would be if I’d been true to that girl’s desires. And that’s when it struck me…I had a story to tell, a hope-filled tale of rediscovering what truly matters, of knowing when to let go of our dreams and when to hold on. A story took shape of a woman who’d lost her way, and her mother’s desperate attempt to chip away at her daughter’s tough
exterior, hoping to expose that starry eyed girl with big dreams.

So there you have it. Though I didn’t accomplish every item on Lori’s List, I still believe the list served me well. Instead of children, I’ve created a story. Though I know the two are incomparable, it feels good to think that The Life List might provoke discussion, or give pause to someone who has settled for less than she deserves, like Brett. And maybe, just maybe, the book will inspire some other young girl, in some other small town, to dream. And whether her goals are silly or sophisticated, it makes no difference. The important thing is, she dreams.


As part of the blog tour, all the participants have been asked to write 3 things we'd include on our own life list. It actually took me a while to come up with these, the second may seem odd to some, but as my 7 year old son put it 'It's not silly if it's your dreams and important to you' (what a wise head on such young shoulders!). Come back tomorrow when the blog tour rolls on to Chicklitclub :)

Shaz's Book Blog Life List:
1. Swim with dolphins
2. Take a trip to Australia and New Zealand
3. Stay in an Ice Hotel

Chick Lit Chloe's Life List:
1. Travel around America and Australia.
2. Watch WWE Wrestlemania live!
3. See my son grow up to be happy, married and have his own children :)

5 August 2013

Author Interview: Milly Johnson

Today I am delighted to welcome the lovely Milly Johnson to the blog for an author interview! Her new book It's Raining Men came out just last week, and it's such a wonderful read (read my review here). Milly was kind enough to answer some of my questions, so I hope you enjoy the interview!

You can buy It's Raining Men as a paperback or an eBook now.

Q1. Please tell me about your new book 'It's Raining Men'.

It’s the story of 3 women who work far too hard, who badly need to stop and take time out to smell the roses because it’s only then they realise they actually aren’t as content with their lives as they thought they were.  Alas the booking they make for a luxurious spa is totally cocked up and they end up in the back of beyond and their only options are to stay or go home.  And as there are all sorts of messes waiting for them back home in London, staying is the lesser of the two evils.  The village – Ren Dullem – is an odd little place but very pretty and soon begins to work its magic on them.  Against their will they start to fall in love with it – and the people.  And end up with far more than they bargained for by the end of the story ie – a total life change.

Q2. The three women in this book; May, Lara and Clare, are all torn up by the end of their relationships, and you can't help but feel sorry for them. Which of the three women was your favourite, I have to say I had a soft spot for Clare!

That really is like asking me which is my favourite child.  I loved them all in different ways.  If I had to pick, I would have to say Lara.  She was a tough shell around a very soft heart and her love interest is one of  my favourites to date.  I wanted her to have someone who would love her and with whom she sparked.

Q3. Without giving anything away, your book has a touch of magic to it. What inspired you to include something a bit more out of the ordinary in the book?

Quite a few of my books have a touch of magic in them.  I knew I was pushing boundaries with this one, which was all part of the fun of the challenge though.  I wanted to take an unbelievable storyline and ‘ground it’.  I like a point of difference – this storyline is my POD.

Q4. Amazingly, this is your ninth novel - in 2011 and 2012, you published 2 books each year! How do you manage to write 2 books a year, and keep coming up with great storylines each time?

I had a mad energy spurt then but I’ve gone back to just one book a year.  I like doing a lot of other things like after-dinner speaking and writing articles and a lot of PR when a book comes out so I’m being sensible and am just doing one again.  I have plenty of storylines and have plans to do more than one book a year, some years – I just don’t want to be committed on paper to doing them every year.

Q5. What is your typical writing day like?

Kids off to school, dog walked and then I begin work at 8.30am.  I have to work in silence but I do bob onto Twitter quite often to see what is going on in the world.  I work until my sons get home from school at 2.30 and do what I call ‘light’ work until 5ish... stuff that doesn’t require all my concentration – like note-making or research.  I like to be around mentally as well as physically when the lads are home.

Q6. Your books are certainly one of those I look forward to most each year - which authors are ones you look forward to reading as soon as you can when they have a new book out?!

Mo Hayder, Lynda La Plante, Louise Douglas, Nicci French and Sophie Hannah.  I like the psychological thriller and crime writers mainly.  I champ at the bit to get their new offerings.

Q7. If it were indeed 'raining men', which famous men would be your ideal dates?!?

Like many women I have fallen in love with Hugh Jackman.  He seems a real family man as well as a total hunk.  I do like the decent type rather than the bad boys.  One of the heroes in my new book is based on Sebastien Chabal the very hairy French rugby player.  There is something very wild looking about him, but at the same time he’s a loving husband and father as well!
Q8. You're very active on Twitter and Facebook, and have some loyal readers that constantly leave good reviews and say lovely things about your books which is good! Do you enjoy the social media side of publicity for your books, and do you think there is a negative to the amount that online socialising and reading that happens these days (such as eBooks, blogs etc).

I love socialising on Twitter and Facebook – they are very useful tools for writers and I’ve been back in contact with many old friends who have found me easily on social media sites.  It equally makes it easy to be nasty though and everyone is an expert on the net and more likely to offer bad opinions as well as good.

Until it’s policed, there is nothing that can really be done about that.  Writers shouldn’t bite when anything bad is said about them but I must admit that I have when really unfair and personal comments have been made or spoilers on my books have been bandied on reviewing sites.  As authors, for reviewers to be fair is all we ask.  We know we can’t please everyone everytime.

Q9. What's the best thing about being a published author? 

I love that every day can bring great surprises.  I receive so many great invitations and chances to do things and go places that I wouldn’t have got with a ‘normal job’.

Q10. What are you working on at the moment?

I’ve got an short ebook coming out next year about a cruise called ‘Here Come The Boys’ and book 10 – as yet untitled.  It’s about a lady called Bronte who runs a small cafe to which a group of life’s misfits are drawn ( no one knows this yet) It will indulge a great passion of mine which I can’t tell you about yet but the research will be heaven.  Oh and a joke book which I have been planning to write for YEARS.  I’m having great fun doing that.

Thank you so much, Milly! 

3 August 2013

Blog Tour Stop: Catherine Alliott's 'My Husband Next Door' Tour

Today I am pleased to be a part of Catherine Alliott's 'Blog Tour' for her latest book My Husband Next Door, which was released on Thursday. Catherine has kindly written an exclusive piece for my site, all about her Top 10 Literary Heroines, it certainly makes for an interesting read! Don't forget to stop by the next stop on the tour tomorrow at ChickLitClub!

Top 10 Literary heroines

1)  Pride and Prejudice -  Jane Austen.  Elizabeth  Bennett is surely everyone's favourite heroine.  Feisty yet fun, opinionated yet willing to admit she's wrong.   More importantly she tames the very proud and prejudiced Mr Darcy, bringing him to his knees and making this thrillingly arrogant man propose not once, but twice.

2)  Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte.  Jane, the eponymous heroine was  my first encounter with the  underdog in literature.  Plain and overlooked, Jane is surely the  girl many a gawky teenager identifies with and the closing line  "Reader, I married him" is the ultimate answer to the more glamorous girls.

3) Love in a Cold Climate - Nancy Mitford.  Fanny, the narrator is not necessarily the heroine of this novel, but the girl I liked most.   Her outsider's view gives her the sharper perspective and although Linda or Polly are more dashing and had fascinating lives, did one actually want to be them?

4) Harriet - Jilly Cooper.  My favourite comfort read and the most lovable of heroines.  Badly treated by her cad of a boyfriend who leaves her not only deserted but pregnant, she finds love in the arms of her difficult, but handsome employer in his huge northern pile.  So much fun and utterly un-put-downable, particularly when skiving off work with a hangover.

5) Emma - Jane Austen.  Am I allowed two by Austen?  Tempting to put all six in.   Emma is a girl who badly needs a job, something sadly unavailable to a girl of her class in her day.  Instead she pours her considerable talents into organising the love lives of others - to disastrous effect.  Flawed, but oh so likeable.

6) How to be Good - Nick Hornby.   Katie Carr, unlike Emma, has far too much to do. This GP and mother of two is also juggling an idiot of a husband who's social conscience leads him to invite the homeless to stay and give away his children's toys.  She surely has every woman's sympathy and Hornby writes brilliantly as a woman.

7) Anna Karenina - Tolstoy.  A hugely tragic heroine who's terrible downfall is brought about purely by  love.  We cringe as she descends further and further down the path of self-destruction but sympathise hugely.  Who hasn't been Vronsky'd once in their life?

8) Frenchman's Creek - Daphne De Maurier.  Not a downtrodden underdog of a heroine this time, really rather a  characterful, head tossing one, who keeps the sexy Frenchman at bay until she actually can't resist him any longer.  Wonderful Cornish setting and utterly romantic.

9) The Wonder Spot - Melissa Bank.  Sophie Applebaum is an enchanting ingenue struggling to be a good Jewish girl but her heart isn't in it.  She falls in love constantly but can never quite decide who she likes best, if anyone at all.  Such a confused heroine and one I like enormously.

10) Far From the Madding Crowd - Thomas Hardy.  Bathsheba is surely the girl we'd all like to be.  Showing all those men how to do it, running a farm and kicking the blokes into touch.   Yes OK she gets it wrong and falls for the wrong people, but she marries the right man in the end.

Thank you, Catherine!

My Husband Next Door by Catherine Alliott (1st August, Trade paperback £12.99/ebook £7.99, Michael Joseph)

2 August 2013

Book Review: The State We're In by Adele Parks

"What are the odds that the stranger sitting next to you on a plane is destined to change your life? Especially when they appear to be your opposite in every way.

She's a life-long optimist, looking for her soul mate in every man she meets; he's a resolute cynic - cruel experience has taught him never to put his faith in anyone.

People can surprise you. In the time it takes to fly from London to Chicago, each finds something in the other that they didn't even realise they needed.

Their pasts are such that they can never make one another happy and it's when they get off the plane, that their true journey begins.."

Rating: 4/5

You can buy The State We're In as a paperback or an eBook now.

I have to admit when I was younger, I really couldn't get in Adele Parks' books which was as shame as I always heard such good things about them. I decided to try them again a few years ago when I read her book Men I've Loved Before. Since then, I've made sure to read each of Adele's new books and she hasn't disappointed me, I've certainly enjoyed them a lot more. When I received a copy of this one, I was told on the proof copy to #keepthesecret, and it seems that most reviewers are sticking to this and not giving a lot away about the book at all, which is going to make reviewing it a bit of a tricky task....

The book is interesting. I can't say I particularly liked the lead female character at all. She constantly seems to act at least 10 years younger than she actually is, and I can't believe she rationalises the decisions she chooses to make in the book. I found myself getting cross with her at times, and I didn't like what she was doing and how she was going about it. The lead male character, however, was much nicer - I warmed to him much more, a product of his upbringing, and I enjoyed reading more about him as the book went on. There are more characters besides these two, the ones who meet on the plane as said in the blurb, and they work well within the story, but again aren't exactly likeable people whatsoever.

The story is quite interesting, and it took quite a while to actually get to the bit on the plane, and when it had happened, I was surprised that bit was over and that was it. I thought it would be more about that but in truth, that's just a small part of the novel. It's what happens before and after that plane journey that is really important in the book. I've also heard lots of people talking about the ending, and opinion seems to be very split. Readers seem to either love the end or hate it. To be honest, I was a bit ambivalent about it. As soon as it started coming to a close, I knew what was going to happen, and while I sort of hoped I was wrong, I wasn't and it ended how I assumed. It was certainly different to the rest of the book, and I don't know why Parks went for that particular ending, but there you go. It does stay with you, but I personally would have preferred something different.

Overall, I found the book to an enjoyable read. Once I began reading, I found it easy to keep picking up the book and getting back into the story, despite my dislike for several of the characters, simply because I had to find out what twist was going to happen next, and if our leading lady was actually going to go through with her plan. Parks' writing is very good, she flits between narratives of the characters, easily getting into those mindsets and moving the story along, and she certainly pulls the emotions of the book through as well, there are some bits which definitely tug at the heart strings. I hope this review was useful despite me not really being able to give anything away, but I hope it'll make you want to read The State We're In to discover what the secret is all about.  A novel well worth reading.

1 August 2013

Book Review: Swimming Pool Summer by Rebecca Farnworth

"Frankie hasn't had a proper relationship for years. But though she tells everyone this is how she wants it, secretly she's in love with her best friend Patrick.

Tor didn't think she could have a baby, but now she is pregnant by her younger lover. Could this mean the end of a romance that has started to mean more to her than she expected?

Leila seems to have it all - a happy marriage, a beautiful daughter and a successful career. But Leila is harbouring a secret that could destroy her marriage forever.

On an idyllic Greek island, the three women try to keep their secrets hidden. But emotions are running high, and when an unexpected guest arrives, events start to spin out of control."

Rating: 4/5

You can buy Swimming Pool Summer as a paperback or an eBook now.

Most people may know Rebecca Farnworth best for her work as Katie Price's ghostwriter, a job she does very well although I have to say those books really aren't my cup of tea anymore. Rebecca did release a couple of books under her own name a couple of years ago, but now she is back with a new summer read, and I was really excited to try it and see whether or not this would be something I could enjoy. The cover makes it look like the perfect summer read, and I was wishing I could be sat next to a glorious pool as I was reading! I'm pleased to say I really enjoyed the book, and it makes me look forward to more of Rebecca's books.

Three women, friends for years, have finally managed to get their acts together and are all heading off on a Greek holiday, families in tow. There's perpetually single Frankie, a teacher who seems a bit cold and hard-hearted but is hiding a painful secret that has changed her outlook on life forever. Married Leila looks like she has it all, a loving husband and a gorgeous young daughter. But Leila is hiding something that threatens to spoil everything she holds dear, and she doesn't know how much longer she can keep it to herself. Finally, there's Tor, who is dating a younger man called Ed, which does make her feel insecure at times and wondering if it's the right life path for her. When she unexpectedly finds herself pregnant, she's sure her younger man will run for the hills, but she doesn't want to lose him. The women are hoping a holiday in the sun will help solve all their problems, but will it all end happily for each of them?

Right from the start of this book, I really enjoyed it. I loved each of the characters, and that was because they were really believable normal women. The women are not perfect, they have all made mistakes and are struggling to live with the consequences of what happened, but I liked them for that. My favourite of the group had to be Frankie. She does seem hard and uncaring, but later in the book, the reasons for her behaviour are explained and it all starts to make sense, you certainly do feel sympathetic towards her when you realise what she has been through. I also liked Tor, she's pregnant which makes her happy but she's sure her much younger lover will not want the responsibility, again a believable storyline. I felt sorry for her, she was longing to tell someone her news but has to keep it all built up inside her, I really wanted her to have a happy ending.

The best thing about the book for me though was the surprise entrance of another female character, a young woman called Candy. The women all judge her based on her appearance, but as the book goes on, we can see there is a lot more to her than meets the eye. It certainly shows we can't judge people on how they look, but we do too easily make assumptions on people just as Frankie in particular does here. The holiday setting was gorgeous, and sounded like a little bit of heaven on earth. Everything from the luxurious villa they stay in to the local tavern they eat at sounds perfect, and the descriptions of it make it come alive in your head as you're reading, I have to say I was jealous of the women when I was reading this! Yes, there is fun and sun, but there are some serious undertones in the book too, and I enjoyed how Farnworth balanced all of these stories.

Her writing is very easy to read, and the book flits between the stories perfectly, and it was very easy to follow. The stories were very interesting to read, and while it wasn't obvious as I was reading that it was all going to end with a happy ending for each of them, you certainly hope for it for Tor, Frankie and Leila. It's a fun read for the summer that is a nice way to spend a few hours in the sun devouring, and it'll certainly make you want to go on your own Greek holiday once you've finished reading. I really enjoyed the book, and it makes me look forward to more of Rebecca's books. With believable characters, good stories and a gorgeous setting, everything makes you want to keep reading this once you've started. If you've read Katie Price's books and enjoyed those, I'm sure you'll enjoy this too, but equally if you haven't, this book is a good place to start.