30 April 2014

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

"The dark secret Kayden has kept hidden for years is finally out. Worse, he's facing charges for battery. The only way to clear his name is for Callie to speak up - something he'll never ask her to do. Instead, he'll do whatever he must to protect her, even if it means letting go of the only girl he's ever loved.

Callie knows Kayden is going back to his dark place and desperately wants to save him. But that means admitting her own painful secrets aloud. The thought of breaking her silence terrifies her - but not as much as the thought of losing Kayden forever. Can she convince him they can make a fresh start together - or is she already too late?"

Rating: 4/5

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

I am a huge fan of Jessica Sorensen, and the books that she has written within the genre of New Adult novels. In fact, Jessica's were probably the first book I read of this genre at all, so it's thanks to her that I have started to broaden my reading to another genre other than chick lit. This book is the second in her Callie and Kayden series. The first book, The Coincidence of Callie and Kayden was an amazingly powerful novel that really touched me, of love between two damaged young people, against the odds. That book left us with a pretty shocking cliff-hanger so I was excited to finally read this and find out exactly what happened next.

Kayden's secret is finally out, but he's worried it's now destroyed everything he had finally created with Callie. He is looking like he is going to face charges for battery, and the only way he can clear his name is for Callie to speak out and reveal her own secret, something he doesn't want to force her to do. He's determined to protect Callie, but she equally wants to help Kayden out of his own personal hell. Neither of them wants to give in, but Callie is unsure whether she can finally admit what happened to her, and why Kayden truly lost it that night. Will either of them be able to face up to their painful pasts and look towards a brighter future?

What I love about these books is the characters of Callie and Kayden. Both are in their late teens, and are just so believable and realistic. Yes, they have both been through a lot of traumatic events in their relatively short lives, but the way Sorensen writes them, you can see how much it has affected them, in terms of self-esteem, socially, and personally with their relationships with their own families. You can see why they are drawn to each other, and although this book very much starts with the pair apart, and wanting to start getting closer and building up trust again, you can feel the love the pair have for each other, and can understand why they are reluctant to hurt each other in terms of revealing past secrets to protect Kayden's name.

This book does deal with some quite gritty issues, and there are parts of it which are quite tough to read. We are told a lot more about Kayden's past in this book, and some of it is horrid to read, you really feel for him and what he went through as a young child. It actually made me quite angry to think that there are children who really have to go through this, because it's just so disgustingly wrong. Callie, too, has to face some of her own demons with the help of her friends, and I enjoyed reading about her with people aside from Kayden, I felt that we saw a bit of a lighter side to her which was nice.

The pace of this book was just right, with lots going on but at a believable rate. I found myself racing through the chapters just to get to the end and find out what was going to happen for Callie and Kayden, to see if they would get their happy-ever-after that they deserved. This is a brilliant second outing for these characters, and I'm thrilled to see that there is also going to be a third book too, I'm curious to find out where that is going to go. I love the characters of Callie and Kayden - yes they're a bit broken and damaged as people, but that's what is so likeable about them, you want them to finally be happy. Sorensen's writing is brilliant to read, really evoking the emotion of the characters, their pain and sorrow, as well as their hope and passion for each other too. I loved this book, and can't wait for the third in the series.

Book News: Love Me For Me by Jenny Hale

I thoroughly enjoyed author Jenny Hale's debut novel, which was released last winter and was called Coming Home For Christmas. Luckily, Jenny is back next month with a brand new novel, called Love Me For Me. It's out on May 23rd, and sounds like a wonderful story, I can't wait to get stuck in.

"Sometimes you find perfect where you least expect it…

Libby Potter has just lost the perfect job, the perfect apartment and the perfect boyfriend. Moving back to the same home town that she couldn’t wait to escape when she was younger was definitely not on her to-do list. Especially as it means running into the man whose heart she broke when she left.

Pete Bennett can still walk into a room and make Libby’s world stop with just the sound of his voice – even ten years on. Only now, she is the last person in the world that he wants to see.

As everyone else welcomes Libby home with open arms, she realizes she’s missed that special closeness that comes from lifelong friendship. And, as Libby tries to make amends with Pete, she begins to wonder whether she made the right choice in leaving all those years ago.

When an amazing career opportunity gives her the chance to leave again, Libby will have to decide what her version of perfect is… and where she really belongs.

28 April 2014

Book Review: The Perfect Match by Katie Fforde

"Three years ago Bella Castle left her home town nursing a broken heart over Dominic Thane, the man she fell in love with but couldn't have.

Now she's made a new life for herself in the country, working as an estate agent.

Bella loves her job and she loves her boyfriend Nevil. But recently he's been preoccupied, and she's starting to question if his future hopes and dreams are a perfect match for hers.

And when Dominic turns up unexpectedly in search of his dream house, she begins to wonder if home is really where the heart is. But she's over him, isn't she?"

Rating: 4/5

You can buy The Perfect Match as a hardback or an eBook now.

I haven't read one of Katie Fforde's books for a few years now. I don't know why, as I have enjoyed the ones that I have read in the past. Therefore, I was really pleased to receive a review copy of her new book The Perfect Match, complete with a lovely new cover look for Katie too. I'll be honest and say that I had read mixed reviews of this book, but I went into it with an open mind, as I always try to do when I review books. Katie's books are always a nice, pleasant read, with no cursing, which does make a nice change I have to say! Luckily for me, Katie didn't disappoint with this book, and I was left with a happy smile on my face as I closed the cover for the last time.

Bella Castle works as an estate agent with boyfriend Nevil, and she's pretty good at her job. She knows what sells a house, and which of her properties will suit which of her clients - and she's more than happy to make a few necessary alterations if it means finding someone their dream home too. But Bella's happiness is frozen when a face from her past makes himself seen in her town. Dominic Thane, the one that got away, is still under Bella's skin, and makes her begin to question her relationship with Nevil, and everything about her life too. Not to mention she's worried for her Godmother Alice, who seems to be entering the world of dating once again. Will Bella be able to make it work with Nevil, or is there another perfect match out there for her?

Amazingly, this is Katie Fforde's 20th novel, and what an amazing milestone that is to reach. This story is definitely a brilliant one to mark such a milestone as well. While the book is mainly about the character of Bella, I have to say that I thoroughly enjoyed the parts of the story featuring Alice, Bella's Godmother as well. It was fun to read about two different generations in the same book, going through very different experiences in their lives, but relying on each other for support as well. It ensures that this book has a broad appeal, both with Katie's younger reader, but her older ones too. The fact that Alice is free and single made for a nice change from the happily married older lady I tend to encounter in novels, and I loved that she was getting out there and meeting someone, determined to find some fun in her life once more! Alice was fantastic, and I really was hoping that she'd have a happy ending, she certainly deserved it for the hoops her love interests children were making her jump through!

Bella was a brilliant character, someone I really enjoyed reading about, although I did want to give her a bit of a shake to wake her up to what a pig her boyfriend Nevil is! No-one should have to put up with being spoken to how Bella was by Nevil, he was truly horrid to her and it was a shame she seemed to take it all to heart when he was so rude and nasty to her. I wanted her to get the courage to tell him to sod off, and go and find the lovely Dominic, who seemed the complete antithesis of evil Nevil! The history between Bella and Dom is a bit vague at first, and when it was revealed I was slightly disappointed - I was hoping for something a bit juicier than the truth that was revealed, but maybe that's just me!

The book was really easy to read, and I found myself looking forward to settling down with it in the evening once I had a few hours to sit and read. It was a great story to get lost in - not too many characters, and a relatively uncomplicated plot that I could follow with ease, but most importantly, characters and a story that I really cared about and was able to invest in. Fforde's writing was as brilliant as ever, evoking emotion in her readers where necessary, but at the same time painting a picture clearly in your mind of the story, the houses that Bella goes to visit and even the clients she meets along the way! I loved too that Bella wasn't your typical pushy estate agent - she seemed more intent on finding the perfect home for buyers, and the perfect tenants for sellers - a wonderful trait for her to have, even if Nevil doesn't necessarily agree!

For me, The Perfect Match was a lovely read. I really did enjoy reading both Bella and Alice's stories, and the two together worked really well, showing that love can happen at any age, and at the most unexpected of times as well. One thing I would mention is that perhaps I would have liked more scenes with Dominic and Bella, as strangely there weren't that many throughout the book, but still I did hope the couple could have the happy ending they deserved. Fforde weaves a wonderful story that makes you smile as you're reading - it's an old fashioned love story at it's best, uplifting and beautifully written right until the final page. Definitely one to devour.

Book News: Suddenly Last Summer by Sarah Morgan

One of my favourite Christmas reads last year was Sleigh Bells in the Snow by American author Sarah Morgan. I hadn't read any of Sarah's books before, but now I am eagerly awaiting her brand new book Suddenly Last Summer! It's due out June 24th, and I am already loving the summery cover. I'm also looking forward to meeting some of the characters that I met before in Sleigh Bells in the Snow, it'll be fun to read more about them.

You can pre-order Suddenly Last Summer as a paperback or an eBook now.

"Fiery French chef Élise Philippe is having a seriously bad day. Not only have the opening-day plans for her beloved café fallen apart, but Sean O'Neil is back in town and looking more delectable than ever.

Last summer, they shared an electrifying night in Paris ...and the memories have Élise really struggling to stick to her one-night-only rule! Her head knows that eventually Sean will be leaving, so all she can do is try to ignore her heart before she spontaneously combusts with lust.

Being back home in Vermont even temporarily is surgeon Sean O'Neil's worst nightmare. But discovering that Élise has settled there and still sets his blood racing is a very welcome distraction!

Thinking he can persuade her into a replay of last summer is tempting, but remembering how good they are together is going to make walking away more difficult than he could imagine...."

27 April 2014

Book News: The No Kids Club by Talli Roland

One book I am really looking forward to this summer is the new release from author Talli Roland. The No-Kids Club is due out on 3rd June, and sounds like a great read. I do love books to do with families, children and issues related to that, so this sounds right up my street, and I can't wait to read it.

You can pre-order The No-Kids Club as an eBook now!

"At almost forty, Clare Donoghue is living child-free and loving it.

Then her boyfriend says he wants kids, breaking off their promising relationship. And it’s not just boyfriends: one by one, her formerly carefree friends are swallowed up in a nonstop cycle of play dates and baby groups. So Clare declares enough is enough and decides it’s time for people who don’t have children to band together. And so the No-Kids Club is born.

As the group comes together—Anna, who’s seeking something to jumpstart a stale marriage, and Poppy, desperate for a family but unable to conceive—Clare’s hoping to make the most of the childless life with her new friends. But is living child-free all it’s cracked up to be?"

24 April 2014

Blog Tour: Author Interview: Fern Britton

Today I am really delighted to welcome the lovely Fern Britton to my blog for an author interview as part of the blog tour for her brand new book, A Seaside Affair! The book sounds wonderful, and I am going to start it tonight - I can't wait! Fern was kind enough to answer some of my questions, so my thanks go to her for taking the time to answer them!

You can buy Fern's new book A Seaside Affair as a hardback or an eBook now!

Q1. Please tell me about your new book 'A Seaside Affair'.

A SEASIDE AFFAIR is my new novel, out on the 24th April, and it’s all about the theatre. The Pavilions theatre in Trevay specifically, which is the fictional Cornish village I write about, based on the real village of Padstow. Left to rack and ruin, not supported by the local people or the local council, it’s on the brink of closure, until a giant coffee chain step in and prepare to buy it. Of course, the community quickly rallies round and a host of villagers decide it’s worth saving! Actors and celebrities descend on the town, and there are affairs, flings, misunderstandings – lots of fun. I was partly inspired by my tour last year with Strictly Come Dancing. I used to be a stage manager myself in the 70s, and when I was on tour I spent a lot of time with the stage management crew, sharing stories about all the scandals that went on, and thinking, yes, I want to write about the theatre next!

Q2. You've had a new cover look for the paperback publication of your past few novels - how much say have you had in your covers so far, and how happy are you with them? 

I do have a say! The hardback cover and the paperback cover can be different, which is decided by the marketing department and depends on all sorts of things, like what time of year the book is coming out. We’re all attracted to book covers the same way we are to the labels on a bottle of wine – we might not know what the wine tastes like but if we like the label we’ll buy it! It’s the same with books, so the jackets are a means to catch my readers’ attention. I want them to be attractive, with a suggestion of what’s in the story, and a picture that looks like it could be a scene from my fictional town of Trevay, and on the whole I’m very happy with them.

Q3. Being a celebrity, did you ever consider writing under a pseudonym, or did you always intend to publish under your own name? 

That’s very kind of you – I’m not sure I’m quite a celebrity! If I was clever enough and successful enough, I’d call myself Robert Galbraith like JK Rowling and see how I do! But without my name, the books may not get as much attention as they do now, so I stick with my name and hope that what’s inside lives up to it.

Q4. You've had a very successful television career - have you always wanted to try your hand at writing, and what finally pushed you into writing your first novel 'New Beginnings'?

The truth is I had written my autobiography, which did amazingly well to my great surprise, and then I thought I’d finished with writing. But HarperCollins came to me and asked if I would consider writing a novel, and assured me they’d be on hand to help me with any problems. New Beginnings was a huge learning curve for me, but I so enjoyed it, and when I couldn’t wait to start my second novel Hidden Treasures. Here I am still writing – and if you keep reading, I’ll carry on!

Q5. Where do you find the ideas for your stories?

Something just pops into my head – I try not to think too hard about it. You could say I just wait for the writing angel on my shoulder to give me inspiration! My new novel, A SEASIDE AFFIAR, is inspired by my recent tour with Strictly Come Dancing. So it’s set back in the theatre world, which was lovely for me to write as I trained to be a theatre manager – and the plot revolves around a local theatre that needs saving!

Q6. Is there a book you wish you could have written, and why?

GONE WITH THE WIND by Margaret Mitchell. If you’ve only seen the film, you only know about 30% of the story – it’s such a brilliant, soap opera-esque book to get lost in.

Q7. How long does it typically take you to write a novel, and do you have to be strict with yourself to make sure it's on schedule?!

It normally takes me about 6 months, and if anything, it doesn’t get easier, but instead it’s actually harder as I want to write something better each time. I argue with myself a lot as I’m writing, worried that I’m not doing very well and the book’s not good enough. The best piece of advice I ever received was: once you’ve started writing, don’t stop! You could write the first sentence or the first chapter for ever and ever – don’t! I try to write chapter a day if I can. The next day, I’ll go back and revise if necessary. But don’t ever stop!

Q8. Are you working on your next novel yet?

There are three more coming in fact, and I’m working on the first of them now. It’s all about fishing families in Cornwall – the fleet, the relationships between the families – I’ve only just started, but I’m very excited about it! I hope you like it too.

21 April 2014

Book Review: Little Beach Street Bakery by Jenny Colgan

"Polly Waterford is recovering from a toxic relationship. Unable to afford their townhouse, she has to move miles away from everyone, to the sleepy little seaside resort of Polbearne, where she lives alone above an abandoned shop.

And so Polly takes out her frustrations on her favourite hobby: making bread. But what was previously a weekend diversion suddenly becomes far more important as she pours her emotions into kneading and pounding the dough, and each loaf becomes better and better. With nuts and seeds, olives and chorizo, with local honey (courtesy of local bee keeper, Huckle), and with reserves of determination and creativity Polly never knew she had, she bakes and bakes and bakes . . . And people start to hear about it.

Sometimes, bread really is life . . . And Polly is about to reclaim hers."

Rating: 5/5

You can buy Little Beach Street Bakery as a paperback or an eBook now.

I have become a huge fan of Jenny Colgan over the past few years. I've read a lot of her books now, and I have loved every single one so far. I always look forward to her new books, so when I was sent a review copy of her latest book Little Beach Street Bakery, I was really excited because I had high hopes for the book! I have to compliment the publishers on the cover, it's gorgeous and looks like a perfect spring read, and seems to suit the novel perfectly. As usual, it's full of Colgan's wit and warmth, and is possibly one of my favourites of Jenny's books to date!

Polly Waterford's life feels like it's falling apart around her. The company she has with her ex-boyfriend has gone bankrupt, and her relationship has pretty much ended as well. Unable to afford her expensive house anymore, Polly decides to take things into her own hands, and moves to the quiet and tiny village of Polbearne, where she rents a tiny flat in an abandoned shop. Polly slowly starts to get used to her new life, and as she does, she starts up her love of baking bread again. However, without meaning to, she seems to have upset her landlady, owner of the local bakery. The residents of Polbearne seem to love Polly's bread, and it's making her some steady friends, including fisherman Tarnie and local beekeeper Huckle. As bread starts to take hold of Polly's life, she wonders if this could mean her life is finally getting back on track.

For me, what made this novel so readable was the character of Polly. She's the leading lady of the novel, the one we follow for the duration, and I have to say that I loved her. I felt so sorry for her at the beginning, struggling to cope with the end of both her business and her relationship, and the fact she really doesn't know where to turn. I was pleased when she moved far away from her ex-boyfriend to Polbearne, and there started my love affair with Polbearne too! Colgan writes everything about the sleepy seaside town so beautifully, it's vivid in your mind as you read, and it really comes to life. Everything from the dilapidated flat where Polly finds herself living, to Huckle's home and the sea front itself sounded so picturesque, you can see why Polly was drawn to the village so much.

I loved the inclusion of Polly baking bread throughout the book - Colgan writes about so many different breads, lots that I hadn't heard of and some that I of course had - they all sounded so delicious, I could almost smell them as I turned the pages of the book! You can see why Tarnie, the other fisherman and residents of Polbearne love her bread so much, and I was willing for her to make a success out of her vocation somehow, even though her landlady Gillian seemingly doesn't want her to! I really disliked Gillian, but Colgan slowly reveals to use her story, and I began to feel incredibly sorry for her, and could understand why she is how she is. This is a very emotional read, what with Polly contending with many issues in her own life, and other stories going on. There is a shocking story twist along the way that I hadn't seen coming whatsoever, and it really knocked me for six. It was so well handled, but really tough to read, and was a massive change in the story so far.

I have to confess that I really didn't want to put this book down once I started reading it. It was completely compulsive, and I felt like I was lost in the world of Polbearne with Polly, Huckle and Tarnie. Huckle and Tarnie were fantastic male characters, more positive males in the book for Polly to be with and she really comes alive when she is around them both. This book has everything; happiness, sorrow, hope and love, all woven together in a magical tale that you won't want to end. I cannot review this book without mentioning the brilliant Neil, a puffin that Polly adopts in Polbearne - he surely is a star in his own right, and the bond that he and Polly have was truly adorable! It was a truly delightful read, everything from Polly losing herself in her bread baking, to the different relationships she forms in Polbearne make the book well worth reading, Little Beach Street Bakery is a poignant and heart-warming story that I must definitely recommend P.S. Look out for the gorgeous recipes in the back!!

17 April 2014

Book News: An Open Marriage by Tess Stimson

Tess Stimson is back this summer with another novel called An Open Marriage. I have loved all of Tess' previous books, always with a controversial story that draws you in and leaves you wanting to read right until the end! An Open Marriage is due out on 3rd July.

You can pre-order An Open Marriage as a paperback now.

"When you abandon the rules, can you ever go back? Mia Allen has never quite adjusted to living in England. She misses her friends in the States and feels restrained by small-town family life near Oxford. Her husband Kit, on the other hand, loves the sense of community here and his job as a school teacher in a private school. Like Mia, Kit's boss Charlie is also looking for more excitement in her life. Her marriage to emotionally-distant Rob has left her frustrated and yearning for more. So when she and Rob are invited to dinner with Mia and Kit, she jumps at the chance to make new friends. One evening, the increasing attraction between all of them moves up a notch, and it's not long before the seductive highs of these new friendships lead to desperate lows. Can any of their relationships survive this unconventional arrangement?"

16 April 2014

Book News: To Have and To Hold by Helen Chandler

I really loved Helen Chandler's debut novel Two For Joy last year, so I was really excited to read about her new book To Have and To Hold which is due out on 19th June. I love that the cover fits in with Helen's previous book, and it sounds like a wonderful story as well. I'm really looking forward to this one.

You can pre-order To Have and To Hold as a paperback or an eBook now.

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

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

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

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

15 April 2014

Blog Tour: If I Could Turn Back Time by Nicola Doherty

Today, I am thrilled to be part of Nicola Doherty's blog tour for her brand new book If I Could Turn Back Time, thanks to Bookbridgr! Nicola was kind enough to write me a piece about if she could turn back time, and it makes for a great read!

Thanks to Frances, Bookbridgr and Nicola for letting me be a part of the blog tour.

You can buy If I Could Turn Back Time as a paperback or an eBook.

If I Could Turn Back Time …

1. I would not wear a short black dress from Oasis to a summery wedding in Cornwall where everyone else was wearing pastel flowery numbers. I thought it was very slinky but it looked awful and probably ruined all the photos I was in.

2. I would not buy, or wear, a mid-calf bottle-green corduroy skirt, which I wore for lots of my last year in college. I thought at the time that it was very Prada but I looked like Miss Geist from Clueless.

3. I would not get my eyebrows dyed by a very nervous (male) beautician off Oxford Street. He turned them black, I tried to trim them back to their original yellow and I ended up with tiger-striped eyebrows. Just as I was starting a new job. I had to get my photo taken for my work pass and so my stripy eyebrows followed me around for the whole 5 years I worked there.

4. Speaking of jobs: I would man up in my first job and not spend so much time crying in the loo because I couldn’t figure out the petty cash.

5. I would date with a handsome guy called Joe who I met at a party in Boston when I was twenty and working there for the summer. He was interested and I don’t know why I brushed him off. Not that I’m not very happy with my husband, but I would have had a boyfriend for the summer and, crucially, he could drive (which I couldn’t at the time).

6. I would not date an awful guy who kept calling me ‘Nicole’ and kept the change when he went to the bar with my tenner.

7. I would go with my friends to Vegas for New Year’s Eve and see The Killers in concert, which I didn’t do in 2005 because I was too broke.

There are also some more serious things – arguments with friends that I could have avoided, hassles at work that I should have seen coming. But aside from that? I can’t think of too much that I would really change. It’s not that everything I’ve done has worked out perfectly – far from it. But the things that go wrong end up making the best stories. They also lead you to where you are today. If I hadn’t dated awful men in my twenties, I might not be married to my husband now. If I had ‘got on the property’ ladder when I wanted to, and bought a flat right after the crash, then I might have stayed in my full-time job and not had time to start writing. Having said that, if I did find myself catapulted back six months in time like Zoe, I’d certainly make the best of it …

Thanks so much, Nicola!

14 April 2014

Book Review: Ghostwritten by Isabel Wolff

"A childhood mistake. A lifetime of regrets.

Jenni is a ‘ghost’: she writes the lives of other people. It’s a job that suits her well: still haunted by a childhood tragedy, she finds it easier to take refuge in the memories of others rather than dwell on her own.

Jenni has an exciting new commission, and is delighted to start working on the memoirs of a Dutchwoman, Klara. As a child in the Second World War, Klara was interned in a camp on Java during the Japanese occupation – she has an extraordinary story of survival to tell.

But as Jenni and Klara begin to get to know each other, Jenni begins to do much more than shed light on a neglected part of history. She is being forced to examine her own devastating memories, too. But with Klara’s help, perhaps this is finally the moment where she will be able to lay the ghosts of her own past to rest?"

Rating: 5/5

You can buy Ghostwritten as a paperback or an eBook now.

Every so often, a book comes along that really moves and touches you, that you know you won't forget for a long time once you have turned the final page. These books tend to cover very emotional issues, something you can relate to or just a story that is so moving, you don't want to stop reading and being absorbed by it. Ghostwritten by Isabel Wolff is the latest book to be inducted into my hall of fame, books I know I will definitely want to read again at some point because it was so beautiful, so poignant that it made for perfect reading. It's a must-read from me, and here's why.

Jenni's a ghostwriter and she loves her job. She writes books from all genres, and when she stumbles across a new project that intrigues her, she knows it means she might have to face some of her own demons too. Jenni had something happen in her childhood that has shaped the adult she has become, but she knows now might be the time to face up to it once and for all. She gets to know Klara, the woman whose life story she is ghostwriting for now, and her tales of life on the island of Java during the Japanese occupation in the Second World War are shocking and unbelievable. Jenni is surprised by what she hears, and sets about writing Klara's story, and starts to lay the ghosts of both women's pasts to rest once and for all.

I'll be honest and say that I didn't know anything of the Japanese occupation of Java during the Second World War, so I was definitely interested to learn more about the topic. The book has 2 story threads running through it. There's the story in the present day of Jenni meeting Klara, and hearing her story, as well as Jenni's personal life problems too. There's something in Jenni's past we have hinted to us throughout the book, and as it is slowly revealed, it's quite shocking but very well handled. I felt Wolff writes Jenni perfectly - she's a sympathetic character, you certainly feel sorry for what she has been through, but I also wanted her to face up to her demons and be able to move past it.

The introduction of Klara's story breaks up the narrative somewhat, and this was definitely my favourite part of the book. Klara is a Dutch woman, who wants to tell the story of her childhood that she has never been able to speak of before. Jenni coaxes the horrifying tales out of her, and they are so brilliantly written, you really do feel like you're on Java with Klara and her family. The things the people there went through were horrific, Wolff doesn't shy away from the graphic details of what the people had to suffer at the hands of Japanese, it doesn't always make for easy reading, but it's certainly compulsive - I didn't want to put the book down when Klara was narrating. It's horrifying and upsetting to think of what the people had to suffer, and Wolff writes it so well, from the emotion to the descriptions of what went on and the places where they were forced to live.

The book reminded me slightly of Jodi Picoult's wonderfully emotive tale The Storyteller, due to the flashback narrative and recounting of a very different time period in history. Wolff's writing was a joy to read, her descriptions of events so evocative of the time, you feel immersed in the story, as if you're standing next to Klara as she is describing the horrors and heartache around her. The way Wolff links her tale with Jenni's own personal sadness is very clever, bringing the two tales together and allowing both women to exorcise their own demons in different ways. Both women were likeable, strong and independent, despite the things they have gone through, and by the end, I was sad to leave them behind. I cannot recommend this book highly enough, I loved every page, and Klara's devastating yet hopeful story will not fail to touch your heart. Simply brilliant.

Blog Tour: A Place to Call Home by Carole Matthews

Welcome to my blog tour stop for Carole Matthews' A Place To Call Home blog tour! Carole's latest book looks like a brilliant read, I've thoroughly enjoyed many of her previous books so I can't wait to get stuck into this one. Carole's article for me is about the place that she calls home, and is a fab read, I hope you enjoy it!

My thanks go to Carole for taking the time to write this for my blog tour stop!

You can buy A Place To Call Home as a paperback or an eBook now.

The Place That I Call Home

I can pin point exactly when my desire for a tidy, minimalist home started and I can lay the blame squarely at the blue and yellow feet of IKEA. It doesn’t help that I now live approximately three minutes from my closest store - which is waaaay too handy.

When my partner, Lovely Kev, and I first moved to the Costa del Keynes we painted the house white from top to toe. All our furniture was cream or white, every appliance and accessory was stainless steel. They had all been bought from IKEA and were called PLOP, TWERP, FLANGE or similar. Our home was affectionately known as The Morgue.

I don’t like ornaments. Not really. Though I have tried. We’ve travelled the world and, once upon a time, I used to bring back souvenirs. Coloured batik wall hangings or ethnic prints. Invariably, I’d get them home to the Costa del Keynes and wonder what on earth I was going to do with them. What looks good hanging on a wall in deepest, darkest Peru, rarely translates to the Home Counties.

Now I buy nothing. Virtually, every ornament we posses - and there are very few of them - have been bought for us by someone else. The hand-carved goose called Kevin bought for us by my mother-in-law last Christmas is slowly but surely inching its way towards the charity box.

In our current home, Matthews’ Towers, it’s no different. It is still a shrine to all things Swedish and flat-packed. We also have the same wooden flooring throughout, the same colour of paint in every room - Dulux Almond White. I try to tell myself that it cuts down on those tricky colour scheme decisions.

I love going to other people’s homes who manage to blend patterns and colours, mixing and matching them so perfectly, yet it’s a skill I’ve never quite acquired. You really can’t go wrong when everything is pretty much cream or white. I also love bright colours - again in other people’s homes. When we moved into this house every room was a garish, migraine-inducing shade. Our bedroom was lime green, hand-painted with daisies the size of dinner plates in pink, orange and yellow. Even the previous owner admitted it had been an experiment too far. The spare room was lilac with sheep stencilled as a border. It took the decorator five coats of white paint to obliterate them.

Despite, my need for extreme tidiness, I like my home to be a welcoming place and I love to have friends over. Because we have a large conservatory, mine is generally the party house for our closest mates. I don’t actually care if my visitors are untidy or if they spill things. I just want them to be here.

What makes a home is not the colour you paint it or the stuff you fill it with but the fun and love inside. And you can’t buy that from IKEA.

Footnote: Carole Matthews is not sponsored by IKEA but, quite frankly, she really should be.

Thanks so much, Carole!

10 April 2014

Blog Tour: Giveaway! Win 1 of 3 copies of 'The Best Thing That Never Happened To Me' by Laura Tait and Jimmy Rice

As part of the blog tour for Laura Tait and Jimmy Rice's new book The Best Thing That Never Happened To Me, I am thrilled to offer 3 proof copies to my blog readers for a giveaway! These are uncorrected proof copies, so pretty special and rare books that you'll want to hang on to! Just enter using the Rafflecopter form below, good luck!

UK entrants only.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

8 April 2014

Book News: The Beach Hut Next Door by Veronica Henry

I was so excited to see that Veronica Henry has written a sequel to her fantastic 2012 release The Beach Hut, entitled The Beach Hut Next Door. I loved the first book, so I can't wait to read this one, and get back to the beach huts once more! It's due out on 3rd July, so I've got a while to wait, but I know it'll be worth it!

You can pre-order The Beach Hut Next Door as a paperback or an eBook now.

"The sun is out and the beach huts at Everdene Sands are filling up once again.

Jemima is artist in residence for the summer, capturing the antics of the holidaymakers on canvas. But it's not long before she becomes embroiled in their tangled lives.

Vince and Murphy are best mates, and misspent their youths in the waves and bars of Everdene. Now they are making plans for the Lobster Shack, eager to make their fortune. But Vince's life has been touched by tragedy, and he's finding it hard to move on.

Sidonie Lewis has returned to Everdene hoping to bury the past. The memory of her wedding day there is a painful one. Now she is ready to marry again, but she needs to make one final reconciliation first - and it's the hardest one of all.

Tom and Rachel divided everything straight down the middle when they divorced - everything except their beach hut. But sharing it is proving more difficult than they thought.

It's going to be a summer to remember . ."

7 April 2014

Book Review: Skeletons by Jane Fallon

"Jen has discovered a secret.

It's not hers to share, but is it hers to keep?

If she tells her husband Jason, he might get over the shock but will he forgive her for telling the truth? She might drive a wedge through their marriage.

If she tells someone else in Jason's family - the family she's come to love more than her own - she'd not only tear them apart but could also find herself on the outside: she's never really been one of them, after all.

But if she keeps this dirty little secret to herself, how long can she pretend nothing is wrong? How long can she live a lie?

Jen knows the truth - but is she ready for the consequences?"

Rating: 4/5

You can buy Skeletons as a paperback or an eBook now!

I have read all of Jane Fallon's previous 4 novels, and have thoroughly enjoyed them. They're well written, enjoyable stories and it's been a while since we've had a new book from Jane When I read that her new book Skeletons was to be published in March of this year, I was thrilled to see she has been writing again. I was lucky enough to receive a proof copy of the book to review, and was part of Jane's blog tour too, with Jane revealing her 'Desert Island Reads' on my blog tour stop. But... back to Skeletons... what a good novel it is, and here's why you should read it.

Jen has been married into the Masterson family for a long time now, and she loves it - she loves the stability the family gives her, and how they include as if she's always been there. It's a vast difference from her own upbringing, and one she tries hard to forget. But when Jen discovers a secret about the Masterson's that threatens to ruin the family setup as she knows it, she doesn't know what to do. She can't tell her husband and destroy his family, but how long can she keep the secret to herself without it affecting her opinion of the family, outwardly too?

As you can see, this is a book about skeletons in the closet, and whether they should stay there to fester or be released upon the world to wreak their havoc. Jen's secret is related to her family, probably one of the worst kinds of secrets you can find out, and being about someone that she loves is even worse. Jen starts to treat this person differently, without even meaning to, and we all know how easily we can show displeasure towards someone without properly meaning to! I did feel sorry for Jen, she really had no one to turn to and was left all by herself with this secret eating her up from the inside.

The relationship portrayed between Jen and her family-through-marriage the Masterson's was great to read. She is genuinely close to her husband Jason's parents, and even his sisters, one of which is her best friend too. Jen's own relationship with her mother left a lot to be desired, and she seemed to seek solace in the Masterson's rather than fix the broken relationship with her own mother. It's an emotional book, showing us that the people we love the most can let us down and shatter our expectations, and I felt sorry for Jen as she struggled to do the right thing for everyone. I didn't like the last quarter of the book, with Jen getting very unfairly treated (I felt, anyway), and it totally changed my opinion of a lot of the other characters in the book. I didn't see a few of the twists and turns coming which was great, and by the end, I felt satisfied with the outcome, even if it wasn't what I had initially hoped the ending would be.

For me, this was a really enjoyable read. No, it's not an easy read, some sweet love story you can lose yourself in, but it is a gripping and though-provoking read. I honestly don't know what I would have done had I been in Jen's position - either way, I felt she was getting a rough deal, and I felt so awful for her because it would have meant losing the family she loved dearly either way. Fallon weaves a wonderful tale, her writing drawing all sorts of emotions out of you - pity, anger, frustration and many more besides. If you've enjoyed Jane's other books then you'll certainly want to pick up a copy of Skeletons, the family dynamic is really interesting, and the story leaves you wondering what will be happening next! Definitely recommended.

Book News: The Summer Without You by Karen Swan

Karen Swan is back, but this time with something different - a summer read! For the past few years, Swan has brought us a Christmas novel, but now we're finally seeing a beach read from her, and I can't wait to read it. I love the cover too, it's gorgeous and so summery! It's out on 22nd May.

You can pre-order The Summer Without You as a paperback or an eBook now.

"Rowena Tipton isn’t looking for a new life, just a new adventure, something to while away the months as her long-term boyfriend presses pause on their relationship before they become engaged. But when a chance encounter at a New York wedding leads to an audition for a coveted houseshare in The Hamptons – Manhattan’s elite beach scene – suddenly a new life is exactly what she’s got.

Stretching before her is a summer with three eclectic housemates, long days on white sand ocean beaches and parties on gilded tennis courts. But high rewards bring high stakes and Rowena soon finds herself caught in the crossfire of a vicious intimidation campaign. Alone for the first time in her adult life, she has no-one to turn to but a stranger who is everything she doesn’t want - but possibly everything she needs."

3 April 2014

Blog Tour: Jane Fallon's Desert Island Reads

Today I am absolutely thrilled to welcome the lovely Jane Fallon to my blog as part of her blog tour for her new novel Skeletons! I read the book last week, and thoroughly enjoyed it,  Jane has certainly created another must-read novel! Today, Jane is stopping by with her Desert Island Reads, and while I can't say I've read these particular books, I'm curious to now to see why Jane likes them so much!

Desert Island Books

In Cold Blood by Truman Capote
I have read this book so many times but it never fails to engage me. Even though Capote is basically recounting a true story he writes as if it’s fiction. His style is so intimate and relaxed. He takes what is essentially a rather grizzly tale of a multiple murder and makes it into a study of a whole small town, an intimate portrayal of the lives of both the victims and the killers.

Bonfire of the Vanities by Tom Wolfe
One of the best evocations of the greed and excesses of the 80s I have ever read. The scale of the story is so epic I always find new moments that I missed last time round. Politics, self obsession, classism, racism, suffocating all encompassing ambition – what more do you want? And New York as well, of course. I love reading books set in New York. It’s my second home and I miss it terribly when I’m not there. Of course, the New York of the 1980s was a very different place. I’m not so sure I would have wanted to live there.

Bleak House by Charles Dickens
Again for the reason that you can read it over and over and still find something new. If I could I would take all of Dickens (maybe in a very large compendium?) but, if that’s not allowed I would pick Bleak House for its breadth and scale. It’s also slightly impenetrable in places so I could pass the time trying to fathom out what was going on. I studied it for A Level and I swear even my teacher wasn’t quite sure what was happening with Jarndyce v Jarndyce all the time.

Puffball by Fay Weldon
In one way a bit of a waste of a desert island book because it’s so short but this has huge sentimental attachment for me. I first read it when I was a teenager and it had a really profound effect on the way I thought about writing. I couldn’t believe you could write in this contemporary colloquial way, as if you were just telling a story. I had never really been exposed to anything like that before. All my influences up till that point were the classics – some of them no doubt colloquial in style at the time, but not to a teenager in the late 20th century. I had a Saturday job in a bookshop at the time, and I went back and read all her previous novels one after the other.

The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Bronte
I’m a huge Bronte fan (apart from Wuthering Heights. Don’t get me started on Wuthering Heights) and this one has always stood out to me as my favourite. The story of a woman trying to make a life for herself after her marriage to a violent drunken husband must have been shocking at the time. It has been described as one of the first feminist novels and I always feel it doesn’t quite get the recognition it deserves.

Skeletons by Jane Fallon is published by Michael Joseph £7.99

You can buy Skeletons as a paperback or an eBook now.

Thanks so much, Jane!

2 April 2014

Book News: If I Could Turn Back Time by Nicola Doherty

One novel I am looking forward to this month is the new release from Nicola Doherty. With a gorgeously colourful cover and a story that sounds fantastic, this is certainly one to watch out for. It's due out as a paperback on April 10th, but is out as an eBook now if you can't wait until then!

You can buy If I Could Turn Back Time as an eBook now or pre-order the paperback.

"What if you found The One, then lost him again? 

Or not so much lost him as became the neurotic, needy girlfriend from hell. The girl who tried to make him choose between her and his job, and got seriously paranoid about his relationship with his female best friend... 

Zoë Kennedy knows she doesn't deserve another chance with David Fitzgerald. But if there's the tiniest possibility of making things right, she'll snatch it. Even if it means breaking the laws of physics to do so..."

1 April 2014

Book Review: A Hundred Pieces of Me by Lucy Dillon

"Letters from the only man she's ever loved.

A keepsake of the father she never knew.

Or just a beautiful glass vase that catches the light, even on a grey day.

If you had the chance to make a fresh start, what would you keep from your old life? What would you give away?

Gina Bellamy is starting again, after a difficult few years she'd rather forget. But the belongings she's treasured for so long just don't seem to fit who she is now.

So Gina makes a resolution. She'll keep just a hundred special items - the rest can go.

But that means coming to terms with her past and learning to embrace the future, whatever it might bring . . "

Rating: 5/5

You can buy A Hundred Pieces of Me as a paperback or an eBook now.

I am a huge fan of Lucy Dillon's books, and was over the moon to be sent a gorgeous review copy of her brand new novel A Hundred Pieces of Me.  Just from the sound of the blurb, you can see that this is going to be an emotional novel, but even I was surprised by how much this book touched me, and really made me think about my own life, which 100 things I would save that I feel would define me as a person. As I read this novel, I lost myself in Gina's story and could not put it down, it's a stunning read and one that will stay me for a long, long time.

Gina Bellamy feels like the rug has been pulled out from under her feet over the past few years, and she's fed up of feeling miserable. She's gotten over illness, seen her marriage crumble, and had to leave her beloved home that she spent years decorating. But now she's moved all those things into her new flat, she doesn't feel like many of the pieces belong with the new Gina Bellamy anymore. So, she sets about sorting out 100 things that she thinks she can keep, 100 things special and dear to her that she can't bear to lose. But when she's searching through these items, Gina is reminded of some of the tough times she's had to face, and an uncertain future ahead of her as well.

I don't really want to spoil this book by telling you what's happened to Gina in her past, because part of the journey of this book is the discovery of Gina's story, and how things have changed her as a person. Suffice to say, it's a very emotional read in parts, with Gina telling us through flashbacks exactly what she has been through, the effect it had on her relationship with her husband and her mother, and how it's even affecting her life in the present day, although she feels she can move ahead. The way Dillon is able to weave the sadness of Gina's situation with her hope, and her will to carry on living her life is amazing, and was a truly inspirational read.

I really enjoyed reading about Gina, and I felt she was a character I could totally get behind and support. There was nothing dislikeable about her at all, she was very strong and brave considering what she had been through, and the way she has picked herself up and has carried on with life is quite inspirational - I'm quite sure I would have fallen apart if that were me. The relationship she has with her best friend Naomi is so touching and beautiful - friends who are truly there for each other through thick and thin. The way the women are so open with each other, caring and kind is wonderful to read, a true friendship. Gina has a fantastic relationship with Naomi's husband and daughter too, another element of the story I loved.

As well as being about Gina's life, her moving on story and finding those 100 pieces of her, the book also delves into Gina's life at work, and tells the tale of her helping to renovate an old house, one she once dreamed of owning before life steered her on a totally different course. While houses and renovations aren't normally something that would interest me, it did in the case of this book, and I longed for the parts where Gina would pay yet another visit to the old home, and we could discover more of it's secrets. There, she meets homeowner Nick, who she suspects may not be as happy in his rather strange marriage as he makes out. Another part of the book that touched me hugely was her relationship with her new found pet Buzz, a sweet yet troubled dog who helps Gina in ways she didn't think possible. Very emotional and poignant.

This book was stunning from start to finish, and I felt sad to be leaving Gina and her world behind as I turned the final page on her story. It's a life-affirming story of how we may gather all these possessions, but what truly matters is love, family, and a few treasured things that we cannot live without. Gina is forced to take a fresh look at her life, and her matter of fact attitude about things is one I can admire - I would really struggle to cut my belongings down to just 100 things that meant something to me, I think I have a lot, lot more than that. Told through flashbacks and memories, it's a brilliantly written look at a woman's life who has a lot to bear in such a short time on this planet. This is a truly wonderful book that I can definitely recommend you read, it's thought-provoking and really makes you grateful for the life you have. Beautiful.