2 April 2017

Book Review: My Sweet Revenge by Jane Fallon

"I want to make my husband fall back in love with me. Let me explain. This isn't an exercise in 1950s wifeydom. I haven't been reading articles in old women's magazines. 'Twenty ways to keep your man'. That couldn't be further from the truth. I want him to fall back in love with me so that when I tell him to get the hell out of my life he'll care. He won't just think, 'Oh good'. I want it to hurt. 

Paula has had Robert's back since they got together as drama students. She gave up her dreams so he could make it. Now he's one of the nation's most popular actors. And Paula's just discovered he's having an affair. She's going to remind Robert just what he's sacrificing. And then she's going to break his heart like he broke hers. It will be her greatest acting role ever. Revenge is sweet. Isn't it?"

Rating: 5/5

I love Jane Fallon's books and was thrilled to be sent a review copy of her brand new book My Sweet Revenge. The story is a bit of a twist on the 'wronged wife' story we see so much in this genre, and I loved that Jane Fallon took it and made something different out of it. Paula is devastated when she finds out her husband of many years is cheating on her with someone much younger and prettier than her, and is determined to get revenge. She's going to remind him just what he's losing, and make him want her back before breaking his heart once and for all. Will she be able to get the revenge she wants and break Robert's heart?

I have to say I loved Paula from the beginning, and was on her side the whole way through the book. She was truly broken by finding out the man she loves is cheating on her, after sacrificing her own career many years ago to raise their daughter, and now wants to make him pay. She has very low self-esteem but I admired how she got herself up and changed the way she did everything, so she could become the best version of herself before hurting her husband in the way he hurt her.

What I enjoyed about this book was partway through, the narrative changes from Paula to the woman that Robert is supposedly having an affair with. This throws the whole thing on its head, shows us the real truth, and made me have such contempt for Robert and his bit of the side. I was just willing it to all go wrong for them because they just didn't deserve to be happy at all. I did enjoy seeing the whole story from a different perspective though, it was so fun to read, and kept my interest piqued throughout the whole book.

The book does keep you guessing for a big portion of it, as to whether or not Robert is really cheating on poor Paula, and Fallon's writing gets right into Paula's head, showing her uncertainty, her hesitance over what she is doing because she just wants an answer. I had to admire her for not wanting to confront her husband either, I don't know she kept it in! This was a real page-turner from the first page right up until the last, and it's quite possibly my favourite of Jane's books so far, and that's no mean feat! It takes a typical story about a cheating, no-good husband, and turns it into a fabulous revenge tale, one you hope will work out for the best! A brilliant must-read.

24 March 2017

Book Review: On the Other Side by Carrie Hope Fletcher

"Your soul is too heavy to pass through this door, 
Leave the weight of the world in the world from before.

Evie Snow is eighty-two when she quietly passes away in her sleep, surrounded by her children and grandchildren. It's the way most people wish to leave the world but when Evie reaches the door of her own private heaven, she finds that she's become her twenty-seven-year-old self and the door won't open.

Evie's soul must be light enough to pass through so she needs to get rid of whatever is making her soul heavy. For Evie, this means unburdening herself of the three secrets that have weighed her down for over fifty years, so she must find a way to reveal them before it's too late. As Evie begins the journey of a lifetime, she learns more about life and love than she ever thought possible, and somehow, some way, she may also find her way back to the only man she ever truly loved . . ."

Rating: 2.5/5

I had been really excited to read Carrie Hope Fletcher's debut fiction novel On the Other Side for a while, so was pleased to recently be accepted to read it on Netgalley. Carrie is a star of musicals, sister of Tom Fletcher and sister-in-law of one of my favourite authors Giovanna Fletcher, so I went into this one with quite high hopes, especially after reading some other reviews of the book. However, by the end I have to say I was a little disappointed and felt perhaps this book was more suited to YA/New Adult genres rather than women's fiction, as I felt it was just wasn't for me.

Evie is 82 when she dies quietly in her sleep, but suddenly wakes up to find herself much younger again, in her old home but unable to pass through the door into heaven. She soon learns that her soul is too heavy to allow her to pass through the door, so has to complete a few tasks that have weighed her down throughout her life in order to leave her affairs in perfect order, allowing her to pass through. We see Evie's life as she goes back through her past, keen to right some wrongs, and leave those she has left behind settled. Will Evie be able to unburden herself and pass through to her own version of heaven?

The idea of this book sounded really good, a quite serious look at an issue I really don't read much of in women's fiction, but for me the problems came in the execution of the story. It soon started to become more of a fairy tale, with things happening that didn't sit right for me, and I just found myself struggling to enjoy it. By the end, the whole business with the tree (I don't want to spoil it but for me, this just tipped it into slightly ridiculous territory) was too much and I was pleased that it had reached a conclusion. It was a shame but the magical, fairy-tale elements just didnt' work for me, such a shame.

I did enjoy the characters and the family at the heart of the book, although the names were a little bit bizarre. Evie was the leading lady throughout, and I enjoyed her life story, through both its ups and downs. Her family are the other main people - her husband, children, lovers and more frequent the story and it was fascinating to see them both with Evie, and learning how to cope without her around. However, I did feel at times they all felt quite immature, not completely fleshed out as characters, and I can't say I connected fully with any of them. Fletcher is good at writing the emotions these characters are feeling, from love to grief, heart-break and hope, there's a lot going on in here.

However, I felt due to the nature of the story, and the magical, almost fantasy elements within, I do feel this would have been far more suited to a younger audience, the teen or New Adult market would perhaps have been the target age range for this book. There were a few parts where I felt it dragged on a bit too much, and it could have lost a fair bit of narrative without affecting the flow or gist of the story. It's a shame when a book you've been looking forward to doesn't live up to your expectations, and I'm a bit sad that this was the case for me and this book. Carrie has a new book called All That She Can See due out this summer, which I will be trying, so fingers crossed I'll feel a little more positive towards that.

23 March 2017

Book Review: The Little Bookshop of Lonely Hearts by Annie Darling

"Once upon a time in a crumbling London bookshop, Posy Morland spent her life lost in the pages of her favourite romantic novels.

So when Bookend’s eccentric owner, Lavinia, dies and leaves the shop to Posy, she must put down her books and join the real world. Because Posy hasn’t just inherited an ailing business, but also the unwelcome attentions of Lavinia’s grandson, Sebastian, AKA The Rudest Man In London™.

Posy has a cunning plan and six months to transform Bookends into the bookshop of her dreams – if only Sebastian would leave her alone to get on with it. As Posy and her friends fight to save their beloved bookshop, Posy’s drawn into a battle of wills with Sebastian, about whom she’s started to have some rather feverish fantasies…

Like her favourite romantic heroines, will she get her happy ever after too?"

Rating: 4/5

You can buy the book now!

This was one book I thoroughly enjoyed reading last year, and I am trying to catch up with some book reviews I somehow haven't gotten around to! I love books set in bookshops, my favourite kind of shop, so jumped at the chance of reading this one by debut author Annie Darling. The book is the story of Posy, who inherits a book shop from longtime friend Lavinia. However, Lavinia's grandson Sebastian is less than happy at not being gifted the shop in his grandmother's will, and is sure that Posy is going to fail in revamping the secluded bookshop. Which one will come out on top... Posy or Sebastian?!

While I have to say that the story was a little bit predictable, and it all went as I had expected, it was the relationship and banter between the two main characters that I most enjoyed reading. Posy and Sebastian were wildly different people - the only thing that they had in common was the love they both have for Lavinia. Posy is passionate about making the shop a success, sure that a new, fresh look is what it needs to get it off its feet and works hard to try and ensure it will work out. I also admired her for her positive outlook considering her upbringing - pretty much raising her younger brother after the death of her parents, and having to do whatever she has to make ends meet. She's certainly a woman made of strong stuff, and I think Sebastian was surprised at her strength.

He was a hilarious character in many ways, but I also disliked how he tried to railroad Posy into doing what he wanted, sure that his way was the best way and that was it. Posy writes a historical romance in her spare time, and I loved how she kept weaving Sebastian into it without really realising it, so funny, and these excerpts certainly made me laugh! I also loved Posy's passion for books and reading - it comes across so well. and as a fellow bookworm, I loved it and thought Darling captures the essence of a book lover perfectly.

The bookshop itself was a wonderful setting for the book, and I loved reading about it. You can see why Posy was so determined in her ambition to do Lavinia proud and make the shop a success, as well as proving Sebastian wrong of course! The book was a fun read from start to finish, a very heart-warming and uplifting read with characters to care about and that I enjoyed following throughout the book. The chemistry between them is really great, and I thoroughly loved their story. Luckily, there's another Lonely Hearts Bookshop book due out next month called True Love at the Lonely Hearts Bookshop, this time starring the bookshop manager Verity and I'm really looking forward to reading it. Recommended!

22 March 2017

Book Review: If Ever I Fall by S. D. Robertson

"Is holding on harder than letting go?

Dan’s life has fallen apart at the seams. He’s lost his house, his job is on the line, and now he’s going to lose his family too. All he’s ever wanted is to keep them together, but is everything beyond repair?

Maria is drowning in grief. She spends her days writing letters that will never be answered. Nights are spent trying to hold terrible memories at bay, to escape the pain that threatens to engulf her.

Jack wakes up confused and alone. He doesn’t know who he is, how he got there, or why he finds himself on a deserted clifftop, but will piecing together the past leave him a broken man?

In the face of real tragedy, can these three people find a way to reconcile their past with a new future? And is love enough to carry them through?"

Rating: 3.5/5

This is the second novel I have read by author SD Robertson. His first, Time to Say Goodbye, was a heart-wrenching, emotive read, so I was curious to find out if this one would follow the same track. I was right, and after reading the blurb I was sure it was going to be a hard-going read, and I was right. This time, the book follows the failing marriage of Dan and Maria, following a complete tragedy in their family. They've tried to work it out, but the grief is just too much, they simply can't cope with their loss. Away from this, Jack has woken up after apparently falling from a ladder, but has no idea who or where he is. He relies on a local man to look after him, but is desperate to piece his life back together and find out who he is.

The story was a very intriguing one from the beginning, with me wondering straight away who Jack was and what had happened to him. This was a slow-burning part of the story, but I did guess around halfway in exactly who he was and why he had ended up there. The other characters, Maria and Dan were in such a sad situation, my heart completely broke for them. It isn't clear for a while exactly what tragedy has befallen the couple but as things become clear, the story takes on a whole new perspective. You can understand why they are broken by what has happened, and its just a painfully awful situation.

Robertson really taps into the emotion of these situations really well. I can't imagine how hard it must have been to write about such a scenario, it isn't something I would want to think about, and it certainly made for hard reading. Reading Maria's letters, one she knew would never be answered, are heart-breaking, I couldn't help but feel so terribly sorry for her. Dan, too, struggles with comforting his grieving wife, and it was hard to read how hard he was trying, and the fact he was just getting nowhere. Add into that their young daughter and her own grief, well, it wasn't easy reading.

Jack's mystery was a bit intriguing, although I did find myself getting a bit perplexed towards the end as to how it all comes together. It felt like it all suddenly hurtled to this big conclusion, and I felt it all sort of felt a bit strange for me. The narrative of the book switches between the three main characters, so we get a good feel for all three of them, which I felt exposed their stories well enough, and gave us differing perspectives on things that were happening.

For me, this was a good read, and although it was a hard topic to read about, it was a very well written and handled book. It can't have been easy to read, yet Robertson has managed to put himself in the shoes of these grieving parents, and shows us the hard side of a tragedy like that. Jack's mystery kept me hooked, I was so keen for him to somehow escape and find out what had truly happened to him and who he was! Due to the nature of the themes in this, it won't be for everyone, but it was a good read, and I did enjoy it, even if it left me feeling a bit emotionally fragile. I will be looking for more from SD Robertson.

21 March 2017

Book Review: The House of New Beginnings by Lucy Diamond

"Number 11, Dukes Square, looks just like the other houses on the Brighton seafront: a Regency terrace with elegant sash windows, a winding staircase, and post piled up in the hall for its tenants. It might be part of the city's history, but it's also a place of brand new beginnings.

Georgie has followed her childhood sweetheart to Brighton but is determined to carve out a career for herself in journalism. Throwing herself into the city's delights is fun and exciting, but before she knows it, she's sliding into all kinds of trouble . . .

Charlotte's in the city for a new start, hoping to keep her head down and somehow get over the heartbreaking loss she's suffered in the past. But Margot, the stylish old lady on the top floor, has other ideas. Like it or not, Charlotte must confront the outside world, and the possibilities it still holds.

A terrible revelation sent Rosa running from London to start again as a sous chef. The work is gruelling and thankless but it's a distraction at least . . . until she comes up against the stroppy teenager next door who challenges her on her lifestyle choices. What if Rosa's passion for food could lead her to more interesting places?

As the three tenants find each other, it's as if a whole new chapter of their lives has begun."

Rating: 5/5

I absolutely love Lucy Diamond's books so was super thrilled to be sent a review copy of her brand new book The House of New Beginnings. It was a massive book, but I just couldn't wait to get stuck in. I have to confess I was absorbed by this story from the very start - it draws you in and I just couldn't put it down, so eager to find out what was going to happen with Charlotte, Georgie and Rosa in the end. Lucy's writing was, as always, brilliant and for me, it was one of the best stories I think I had read from her so far!

The story literally takes place in one house in Brighton, lived in by different people going through different times in their life. There's Georgie, who has moved down to Brighton because of her boyfriend, but it isn't all sunshine and roses for the pair, so she decides she has to find herself a job to occupy her time. Charlotte has moved to Brighton to escape a devastating past, but it seems the world is determined to make her show her face once more and start living life. Finally, there's Rosa, who again is running from a secret, to try and live out her dream of working as a chef. The three strangers soon become friends as they get to know each other, but what surprises does the house have in store?

I love a book that revolves around multiple people, rather than just one character. I feel it adds something to the book, gives us lots to follow, and always keeps things interesting. This was definitely the case in this book, and I loved each of the women that I was reading about. They were all very different, with very differing pasts but bought together by the fact they don't seem to really have anyone else around them to be friends with. I think these days, people can live much more solitary lives, choosing to stay in rather than go out, and this was certainly the case with a few of these characters.

My favourite of the three women was possibly Charlotte - she was the one I felt I could relate to most of all, and I enjoyed seeing her flourish as the book progressed, how she opened her mind to new friendships and experiences. Her story was completely heart-breaking, very sad, and you could feel all the emotions along the way, the honesty within the words Lucy Diamond writes was very raw, and you could completely sympathise and feel for Charlotte. The way the three women gradually become a part of each others lives was good to read as well, it felt very natural and I enjoyed the fact they opened up to each other as well, unburdening themselves by sharing their secrets at long last.

The house itself was the perfect setting as well - it sounded charming, and the perfect hideaway for the women. There's many issues covered in the book, covering a vast range of emotions; grief, sorrow, fear, deception and more, and these women really have hit the lowest points in all of their lives in different ways, showcasing these range of emotions. Diamond's story-telling is brilliant throughout, handling the more delicate issues with ease and making even the hardest parts completely readable.

For me, this was a superb read from start to finish. It's believable, with characters you can relate to and empathize with, and a setting that I loved to read about. There were some surprise characters along the way, including a wonderful elderly resident called Margot, poorly resident Jo and her angsty teenage daughter Bea (which is another very heart-warming storyline), and others that pop in and out - they are as vital to the book as the main ones, and its a skill that Diamond can so easily weave them together perfectly to create one of my favourite reads of the year. It's a heart-warming, emotional and yet ultimately uplifting read that I can highly recommend, you won't be disappointed!

20 March 2017

Book Review: The Singalong Society for Singletons by Katey Lovell

"A charming, feel good novel about the healing powers of friendship…and Frozen!

Monique and Issy are teachers, housemates and lovers of musicals! Their Friday night routine consists of snacks, wine and the Frozen DVD. So when Monique’s boyfriend moves to America for a year and her sister Hope moves in because of her own relationship woes, Friday nights get a new name… ‘The Singalong Society for Singletons’!

It’s a chance to get together, sing along to their favourite tracks from the best-loved West End shows, and forget the worries of work, relationships and love (or lack of it). But when Issy shares the details of their little group further afield, they get some unexpected new members who might just change their opinions on singledom for good…"

Rating: 4/5

Another book I have had sat on my Kindle for a few months now is the debut novel from author Katey Lovell. I loved the cover for this book as soon as I saw it, and the book sounded right up my street too. The main characters of this story are Monique and Issy, a couple of teachers who like to let their hair down when the school week has finished. Together with their sister and another friend, the group sets up a Friday night movie club, and you can probably guess what it's called! With a couple of new male additions, the group gathers steam, and enjoy lots of movies every week, with a lot of singing along the way. Will Monique decide she wants to wait around for her boyfriend's return, or is singledom becoming an attractive prospect?

The idea of this book is great, and sounds just like something I would be up for! I'm not one for going out, but I do love a good movie night in, and I don't mind some singing being thrown in too! The movies mentioned throughout this book are ones we would all have heard of, although there were a few in there that I haven't personally seen. Of course, there were the obvious ones like 'Frozen', 'Mamma Mia' and 'Chicago', but there were some of the old classics in there too... 'Singing in the Rain', and 'Grease' make an appearance, and it made me want to watch some of these again for myself.

I loved the addition of some male characters into the book too, and the fact they enjoyed the musicals as much as the girls was great. Clearly there was some chemistry there between Ray, Liam and a couple of the girls, and I enjoyed watching it play out, hoping that they might have a happy ending despite the fact I knew Mon was waiting around for her boyfriend to return from America from a year long job transfer! I was surprised she waited behind for him, especially given the things she saw on his social media, but there we go, each to their own!

This book was a really fun read from start to finish, and I thoroughly enjoyed Katey Lovell's writing. As well as the fun elements of the movies and the singing, there were some more serious things going on as well, such as Mon and Issy's jobs as teachers, something I enjoyed reading about especially as I work in the sector myself. There was also their friend Connie's trip abroad, Issy's personal secrets she really doesn't want to reveal, and Hope's relationship dramas thrown in. I loved the friendships between the women, they were genuine and caring, and I loved how supportive they were of each other. It was a joyful read from beginning to end, and I loved it. I will definitely be looking for more from Katey Lovell. I can definitely recommend this for a light-hearted, fun read to leave you with a smile on your face!

19 March 2017

Book Review: Secrets of a Happy Marriage by Cathy Kelly

"Bess is hoping to show everyone just how happy her recent marriage is, but behind all the party-planning the cracks are beginning to show. Why is joining a family so difficult?

Jojo, Bess's stepdaughter, has a point to make. Bess is not her mother, and she won't replace the one she's been missing every day for the last two years. And will she ever get the chance to become a mum herself?

Cousin Cari is a fierce career-woman who isn't unnerved by anything - apart from facing the man who left her at the altar, and he's on the guestlist. Her job has been a safe place to hide ever since - but is it time to let love into her life again?

Thanks to laughter, tears and one surprise appearance, the Brannigans might just discover the secrets of a happy marriage . . . But will they find out before it's too late?"

Rating: 5/5

I was recently sent a copy of Cathy Kelly's brand new book Secrets of a Happy Marriage for review, and very much looked forward to reading it. Cathy's stories always make for wonderful reading, and the past few books I have read by her have been great, and so I had high expectations for this one. This book centres around one family - the Brannigan's, and the various people within that family. There's Bess and her new husband Edward, her step-daughter Jojo who is struggling with her own issues as well as the death of her beloved mother, her cousin Cari who is getting over her own heart-break, and a few more besides. With a big birthday celebration approaching, can Bess sort out the Brannigan's issues, or is it going to end in disaster?

I found this book very easy to get into from the beginning, despite the large amount of characters going on throughout the book. The Brannigan extended family is quite large, and they all make appearances throughout the book, and tell us about their various stories. The main ones throughout the book are Bess, Cari and Jojo, although the others pop up during the story. I liked Bess a lot, and felt quite sorry for her. Her only crime was to marry the man she loves, Edward, after years of being alone, and doesn't feel at all welcomed into the family by her new step-children and others. She was a strong woman outwardly, but you could tell she was crumbling inside. It was horrible to read but of course this is a common theme.

However, I could also understand Jojo's point of view, because she is still not over the shocking death of her wonderful mother, and doesn't want anyone replacing her in her father's affections. She's also struggling in her own marriage to Hugh, not telling anyone about their difficulties, so is shouldering the burden of it all by herself. It's quite a sad situation in many aspects because these women could get so much from each other if only they'd allow themselves to. Finally, there's Cari, another strong Brannigan woman who has had her heart broken by a man. Left at the altar, Cari is sure she will not ever make the mistake of falling in love again, but of course there are surprises around every corner.

I loved that Cari was a book editor, passionate about books and finding exciting new authors, and the book really showcases the job of a book editor, which is eye-opening if you don't know much about the process. Cari was very nuturing, excellent at her job, and certainly doesn't deserve how she is treated throughout the book by her colleagues, and I was really hopeful she would come out of it better off by the end. The relationship the family has with each other was lovely to read. Cari and Jojo were very supportive of each other, even if they do have their little tiffs and you can see how much Jojo adores her father, and her brother. Poor Edward was trying to juggle everyone and keep them happy, so I did have a lot of sympathy for him too.

Cathy Kelly's writing throughout the book was really good, I found myself being drawn into the world of the Brannigan's and their many dilemmas, and I always wanted to keep reading, to find out if the rifts would ever be healed. The book doesn't preach about how to have a good marriage, but highlights the importance of talking to each other, being honest and truly caring about the person and their wellbeing. Things like that can go a long way, as the characters in this book often discover. I thought all of the characters were excellently written, the drama is there throughout, and a surprise entrance near the end of the book is heart-warming and so well done. I really loved this book, and I think it's one of the best I have read by Cathy Kelly in recent years. A thoroughly enjoyable read, and one I can definitely recommend.

11 March 2017

Book Review: Secrets and Fries at the Starlight Diner by Helen Cox

"What brings Bonnie Brooks to The Starlight Diner? And why is she on the run?

As the front-woman in a band, Bonnie is used to being in the spotlight, but now she must hide in the shadows.

Bonnie only has one person who she can turn to: her friend Esther Knight, who waitresses at the Fifties-themed diner. There, retro songs play on the jukebox as fries and sundaes are served to satisfied customers. But where has Esther gone?

Alone in New York City, Bonnie breaks down in front of arrogant news reporter, and diner regular, Jimmy Boyle. Jimmy offers to help her. Can she trust him?

When the kindly owner of the Starlight Diner offers Bonnie work, and she meets charming security officer Nick Moloney, she dares to hope that her luck has changed. Is there a blossoming romance on the cards? And can Bonnie rebuild her life with the help of her Starlight Diner friends?"

Rating: 4/5

This is the second book in Helen Cox's 'Starlight Diner' series, and one I have been keen to read for a while after loving the first book! This one picks up where the previous book left off, introducing us to a new character to headline this story, but does keep the familiar faces from the first book too. However, this would work well as a stand alone novel too as the main storylines are completely different, so while I'd recommend you'd read Milkshakes and Heartbreaks at the Starlight Diner first, this can be enjoyed without doing so.

Bonnie is on the run, and not exactly happy about it. She has run away from Atlantic City, and has no-one to talk to except her old friend Esther, someone she hasn't spoken to for a while. Of course Esther can't turn her friend anyway, and ends up offering to help Bonnie. Bonnie ends up working at the Diner, meeting all of Esther's friends and family, and also local journalist Jimmy, who isn't exactly Esther's favourite person. So when Bonnie gets some really bad news, she has to use her new friends around her to help her before her life is changed forever...

I don't want to give too much about this book away because for me a lot of the fun was reading it, and finding out what happened as I was reading it. Needless to say, it was quite an exciting book, and the story within isn't exactly what the cover advertises the book as! I expected something a bit light and fluffy, romantic perhaps, but that definitely isn't the main crux of this book at all. Bonnie and her "adventures" were certainly eye-opening, and I enjoyed reading what happened to her as the book progressed. It was also nice catching up with all the characters I had read about in Helen's first book too.

The setting, as usual, is perfect. The Starlight Diner sounds so brilliant, I wish I could go there myself because it sounds like a little corner of Heaven over in New York. The book has some good twists and turns along the way, it certainly kept me turning the pages late into the night, and I was desperate to get to the end and find out what was going to happen, there was certainly a good amount of tension in those last few scenes! Bonnie herself was a very likeable character, caught up in a horrible situation, and because I cared about her, I wanted everything to work out, but you just never know!

I'm not sure if there is a third book to come in the 'Starlight Diner' but I really hope so because the two I have had the pleasure of reading so far have been really enjoyable, and totally unexpected reads for me! I think Helen Cox has a real talent for a gritty story, one that draws you in, with a cast of loveable characters and a great setting to boot. Her writing is brilliant, capturing the emotions, the scene, the tension so well, so much so that I found it hard to put the book down once I had begun reading it again. Definitely recommended, I loved it!

4 March 2017

Book Review: Me, You and Tiramisu by Charlotte Butterfield

"It all started with a table for two…

Life for self-confessed bookworm Jayne Brady couldn’t be better – she has a twin sister she adores, a cosy little flat above a deli and now she’s found love with her childhood crush, gorgeous chef Will.

But when Will becomes a Youtube sensation, thanks to his delicious cookery demos (both the food and his smile!), their life of contentment come crashing down around them. Can Jayne have her Tiramisu and eat it?"

Rating: 5/5

I love finding debut authors, there's something uncovering a new voice in women's fiction that is very exciting, and that certainly applies to this new author with publishers Harper Impulse. This book is Charlotte Butterfield's debut novel, and I enjoyed it right from the beginning until the end. The book is a bit of a twist on the usual girl finds boy and pursues him story. This time, the girl, Jayne, finds her man, Will, right at the beginning of the book and it all seems perfect. However, when Will becomes a YouTube star, the pair struggle with his new found fame, Jayne in particular, as it seems the press would prefer him not to have a girlfriend. Will their relationship make it?

I liked the way this book started, and it made me feel very happy for Jayne right from the off. She bumps into a childhood friend in the first scene, and the pair hit it off again straight away, no games, and decide they want to be together. They seemed perfect for each other in every way, and it seemed like the perfect relationship in lots of ways. They were both similar people, a bit shy and preferred quiet nights in with Jayne's twin sister Rachel, and everything seemed perfect for them. But a spanner is thrown in the works quite quickly, and the rest of the book shows the strain Will's fame puts on their relationship.

I liked how supportive Jayne was of Will for as long as she possibly could be. She was the epitome of a perfect girlfriend, happy to pretty much stay in the background, and allow him to flourish, seeing how happy it made him. However, it of course started to eat away at her when vicious online comments started slating her, something all too common these days. People are willing to say such horrible things behind a computer screen, and it was heart-breaking to see Jayne crumble and her self-confidence diminish. However, it was very reflective of today's culture, and a sad realisation of how mean people can be to each other.

Butterfield's writing was really good, and had me hooked into the story. She created some very realistic characters, from Jayne, Will and Rachel, to their awful mother Crystal, one of the worst mothers I have ever read in women's fiction, and even Will's agent. They were all believable characters, and I enjoyed reading about what they were all up to, and it built up a great picture of Jayne and Will's lives together, before and after the chaos of fame. I loved that Jayne really was a normal woman - loved reading, was passionate about her job, and supportive of her family, even those who didn't deserve her support.

I really enjoyed this book from start to finish, and I think Charlotte Butterfield is an exciting new voice in the world of women's fiction. I loved how this book was a very different look at relationships, and the characters were brilliantly written too, with a realistic look at the price of fame, albeit sudden and unexpected. I will definitely be looking to read more from Charlotte Butterfield, and I would definitely recommend you pick this one up for a fun read!

3 March 2017

Blog Tour: Author Article by Charlotte Butterfield

Today I am thrilled to be part of the blog tour for debut author Charlotte Butterfield's book Me, You and Tiramisu. I recently read the book and will pop the review for it later on today, it was a really enjoyable read! Please enjoy this author article from Charlotte about her journey to be a published author, it might inspire a few of you out there!

My journey to getting published

My Dad had a fax machine that printed things on a shiny roll of paper, and every page invariably had streaks of ink running down the centre of it. Nonetheless I made him photocopy my stories that I would then take to school to sell. I was about seven or eight and had already made up my mind that I was going to be an author. I dallied with the idea of being a marine biologist when I was a teenager as it sounded big and clever, but as soon as I found out it involved permanently wrinkled fingers and large sea creatures, I went back to Plan A of being a writer.

After finishing my English degree, I did a masters in Women’s Studies, and then got a writing job on my local magazine in Bristol that paid the princely sum of 75 pounds a week. I was rich! Fifteen years of being a journalist followed, until one day when I set myself the challenge of writing a short story. Which somehow turned into a longer story. Which then became a novel.

I’d read with terror about writers receiving enough rejection letters to paper a bathroom with, but who wants a hefty kick to their self-esteem every time they need the loo? So I decided to self publish. I was delighted when my friends and family gave me great feedback for my book, but then I figured, that’s what family and friends are for, so my head didn’t swell too much. On a bit of a whim I entered the Montegrappa First Fiction award at the Emirates Lit Fest in Dubai, where I live, and couldn’t believe it when I came second. The agent who was judging the competition signed me as a client and within three weeks I got my two-book deal with Harper Impulse!

It’s been an incredible year, from tentatively trying to see if I could write fiction to working with a living, breathing publisher, and actually seeing my name on the cover of a novel. I’ve yet to give up the day job of being a journalist completely, but I can say hand on heart, when I’m writing my books I’m dancing through the day.

28 February 2017

Book Review: One Christmas in Paris by Mandy Baggot

"Ava and her best friend Debs arrive in Paris just as the snow starts to fall. The Eiffel Tower glitters gold and the scent of spiced wine is all around, but all Ava can think about is Leo, her no-good, cheating ex. 

Debs is on a mission to make Ava smile again, and as they tour the Christmas markets, watch lamplight glittering on the river Seine, and eat their body weight in pain-au-chocolat, Ava remembers there’s more to life than men ... Until they cross paths with handsome, mysterious photographer Julien with his French accent and hazelnut eyes that seem to see right inside her. 

Ava can’t ignore the intense chemistry between them, but her fingers have been burned before and she can’t forget it, especially when her ex, Leo, starts texting again. Can Ava really trust Julien – and what exactly is his secret? 

Will Ava go home with a broken heart, or will she find true love amongst the cobbled streets of Paris?"

Rating: 4/5

This isn't my first of Mandy Baggot's books, and I have to say I love her festive novels. I loved the cover for this one straight away, it really caught my eye and I liked the sound of the story as well. I enjoy Mandy's books, and this was no exception. I love Paris as a city, but I don't think I have ever read a Christmas book set there before, so this was a first! It's the story of best friends Ava and Debs, who travel to Paris for Debs' job, and Ava trying to get over her cheating ex-boyfriend Leo. The two start to enjoy the sights and tastes of Paris at Christmas, and when they bump into French photographer Julien, they strike a friendship and the foursome (together with Julien's best friend) meet up for meals, with Ava and Julien quickly hitting it off.

I liked all of the characters in this book from the beginning. Ava and Debs were great best friends, with Ava being the quieter of the two, trying get over a broken heart. Debs was quite loud, brash and just trying to get her friend to move on from someone she doesn't think deserves to have tears shed over him! The pair get up to some fun, travelling around to see the sights of Paris, not expecting to meet some handsome French men while they are there!

Julien is hiding a bit of secret himself. I don't want to spoil it by telling you has happened to him, but it was quite a sobering part of the book, and I felt Mandy Baggot did well in tackling an issue like this. She goes into Julien's grief well, putting across his despair without becoming bogged down in it. His passion is photography, something he is talented at, but since his personal tragedy he hasn't taken any pictures. When he meets Ava, he suddenly wants to photograph her, reigniting a flame in him that has been dead for a while. This was touching as it opens something up in the pair of them, and allows the story to progress perfectly.

As I mentioned, I loved the setting of Paris. It worked perfectly for the book, and complemented the story, rather than it being entirely focused on its setting. The main sights are of course mentioned, and it was fun seeing them through Ava's eyes. I enjoyed the progression of the friendship of Ava and Julien as well, and how they seemed to bring out the best in each other. Their friends, too, were encouraging and I felt the chemistry between them all was perfectly written, I cared about them, and wanted good things to happen for them. There were a few touching scenes between Julien, his father and step-mother too that I must mention, I thought these were well written and really added to the story.

This was a charming festive read from Mandy Baggot and I'll definitely be looking to read more from her. It had a nice festive vibe, good characters who had their own stories, and came together to create a new one, and the pace, although not hugely fast and frantic, plodded along nicely, allowing things to develop fully. I wouldn't necessarily say it falls into the romcom category as the laughs weren't there, but it is emotional, full of thought and I enjoyed reading the whole story. Recommended.

26 February 2017

Book Review: Rome is Where the Heart is by Tilly Tennant

"Can a holiday romance ever have a happy ending? Escape with Kate to the sun-drenched city of Rome where a love affair is just about to begin …

When Kate’s husband Matt dumps her on Friday 13th she decides enough is enough – it’s time for her to have some fun and so she hops on a plane to Rome. A week of grappa and gelato in pavement cafes under azure blue skies will be just what the doctor ordered.

What she doesn’t count on is meeting and falling for sexy policeman Alessandro. But the course of true love doesn’t run smoothly – Alessandro has five meddling sisters, a fearsome mama and a beautiful ex Orazia. They’re all certain that Kate is not the girl for him.

Can Kate and Alessandro’s love last the distance? Or will she return home with the one souvenir she doesn’t want – a broken heart …"

Rating: 4/5

I haven't read anything by author Tilly Tennant before, but when I saw this book on Netgalley, I knew I wouldn't be able to resist reading this one, thanks to its gorgeous bright colourful cover, and a fantastic sounding blurb. Lots of books I have read before have looked at holiday romances, but this one goes that step further into territory I haven't encountered yet! I also recently found out there is going to be a sequel to this book, called A Wedding in Italy, due out a month after this one, in April.

Kate is running away from the failure of her marriage when she books a last-minute holiday to Rome on her own. Her sister's think she is crazy, going away on her own, but Kate is determined to prove to everyone, not least herself, that she can do this. She goes exploring the city, meeting a new American friend along the way, and the pair decide to spend more time together while they are in Rome. Then she meets Roman policeman Alessandro, who she immediately falls for. He is handsome, and determined to apparently sweep Kate off of her feet. But his large Italian family is sure that the English woman can't be the one for him, but maybe the pair have different ideas....

I liked Kate from the beginning. She has had her heartbroken by her husband, been left in a rubbish situation, and is determined not to wallow too much. I admire her for wanting to go on holiday by herself, I think I would quite enjoy it in a few years time, but it's quite a daunting prospect. However, she gets her things together, and heads off to Rome, somewhere she has always wanted to go. Of course things don't go completely smoothly, but I think Kate handled herself really well, even if she was open to meeting new people far too easily in my opinion, these men she befriends could have been anyone!

Alessandro is a lovely male character in the book, you can see why she falls for him so easily, especially when he tries to woo her by showing her around the sites of Rome. I haven't been lucky enough to visit Rome myself, but everyone knows the famous landmarks that Kate visits with her new friends. Tilly Tennant writes them beautifully, bringing them to life on the page, and I loved sitting in my chilly bedroom reading about a sunny, warm Rome, with the characters enjoying ice cold drinks and gelato! It was perfect escapist reading.

The book does take more of a serious tone towards the end of the book when Kate inevitably has to return home, in a more serious storyline involving one of her sisters. I though Tennant handled the really emotive storyline really well, and did well at showing Kate's emotions being torn between wanting to be there for her family, and missing her new love back in Italy. This was a really enjoyable read from beginning to end. I did feel perhaps Kate fell for Alessandro too hard, too fast and it seemed a tad unrealistic at times, since she seemed okay at diving in very quickly with him, but I suppose we could all do with taking a chance at love sometimes. I'm excited to read the sequel to find out what is in store for Kate and Alessandro next! An enjoyable read.

25 February 2017

Book Review: The Dress by Jane L. Rosen

"Legend has it that every season there is one dress. The dress that can make your career, ignite a spark with that special someone, or utterly transform your life. For Felicia, who has been in love with her boss for 20 years; for Natalie who has sworn off men since her ex dumped her – for them and for others, life is about to change.

And all because of their brush with the dress of the season, the perfect little black number that everyone wants to get their hands on…"

Rating: 4/5

I have to confess I didn't know much about this book or author before I began to read it, although I was completely taken by the cover, it's just gorgeous! The Dress in question is a black Max Hammer dress - nothing hugely fancy or special, but seems to have some sort of powers over the women who wear it, by whatever method they get hold of it. There are 9 different women whose lives are affected by them wearing the dress, in lots of different ways.

The idea of a magical dress isn't normally something I would find in the sort of books I read, but I decided to give it a try, and I am so pleased that I did. It wasn't that it was a fairytale dress or had super magic or anything, it just influences the women who wear it to make good decisions, and therefore have good things happen to them. This was a lovely part of the story, and it made me smile each time you could see the dress working its magic on the wearer. Lots of things happen to this dress, from its humble beginnings as a pattern, to the dress that catches the eye of the world - I don't want to spoil the story by telling you anymore as finding out what happens to the dress is part of the magic of reading the book.

There is a lot of different characters in this book - men, women, in relationships or not, from all walks of life and all in very different jobs. It wasn't hard to keep track with who was who though, Rosen's writing allows you to follow the book with ease, and I had no confusion with them at all. Again, I don't want to sit here and run through all of the characters - there's just too many of them, but I enjoyed their stories unravelling as the book goes on. Needless to say, they were all wonderful stories, and I enjoyed reading them all, and the way Rosen changes the narrative constantly keeps it interesting and fresh. There are characters to love, characters to hate, ones to empathise with... there's probably someone in there we could all relate to at one time or another!

This was a wonderfully written story by Jane L Rosen, and was full of hope, love and joy. I adored how the dress simply changed so many people's lives, and the way it comes in and out of their lives in different ways was fun, I was always guessing how it would find a way to get to its new owner! It's unlike anything I have read before, and was fun to read from start to finish. A couple of the stories stood out to me more than others, but they were all enjoyable to read. It's a very uplifting book and left me with a big smile on my face, and shows us that dreams can come true if we try hard enough. Recommended.

Book Review: New York, Actually by Sarah Morgan

"Meet Molly

New York’s most famous agony aunt, she considers herself an expert at relationships…as long as they’re other people’s. The only love of her life is her Dalmatian, Valentine.

Meet Daniel

A cynical divorce lawyer, he’s hardwired to think relationships are a bad idea. If you don’t get involved, no-one can get hurt. But then he finds himself borrowing a dog to meet the gorgeous woman he sees running in Central Park every morning…

Molly and Daniel think they know everything there is to know about relationships…until they meet each other that is…"

Rating: 5/5

Sarah Morgan is probably my favourite author at the moment. I adore her writing, her stories and everything about them. This book, which is the fourth in her 'From Manhattan With Love' series, came out earlier this month, and I could not wait to start reading it, and find out more about the story! It doesn't focus on the same characters as the earlier books, but references them, and one does pop up, but it is pretty much a stand-alone book, so it can be enjoyed on its own without having read any of the others.

Molly is a famous agony aunt, although she hides behind her pseudonym after a horrible experience back home in the UK that she has run away from . She's now happily living in New York with her dog Valentine, and the pair are happy with just the two of them. But when she meets Daniel in Central Park while walking their dogs, the pair strike up a new friendship. Molly is reluctant to let anyone in her life, but Daniel is determined to break down her barriers, and allow him to be a part of her life. But nothing in New York is ever plain-sailing...

The characters in this book were great, and simply perfect. I loved Molly from the beginning. She was obviously a damaged person, struggling with a past problem that she isn't willing to divulge to anybody except a couple of really close friends. So when she feels herself start to let some barriers down in front of her new friend Daniel, she gets worried and starts trying to rebuild them, without much success it has to be said! I wanted her to finally trust someone worth trying, and I felt that hopefully Daniel would be that person for her.

Daniel was a fantastic male character, and perfect in pretty much every way, as they always are in Sarah's books! He is a very successful divorce lawyer, owns a gorgeous apartment, and is a good brother to his twin sisters. However, he too had a troubled childhood, and those demons keep coming back to haunt him, hence his success in his career - he wants to save anyone from the hurt he and his family went through. I liked how he almost wanted to rescue Molly from herself, to make her open up, and the way he dealt with her was lovely, he was just such a nice person!

The setting of New York is always going to be a winner for me. I have wonderful memories of this city after 2 amazing holidays there myself, and reading books set there always brings it flooding back to me! You can tell Morgan knows the city inside out as she writes, as you can imagine it vividly in your mind, from the tall skyscrapers, to the view from Daniel's apartment and then to Central Park itself, that haven in the middle of a bustling city. Morgan's descriptions showcase her love for the city, and is the perfect setting for this love story.

Thank goodness there is another book coming later this year in the series, Meet Me in the Hamptons, and I for one can't wait. Sarah Morgan's books are always the highlight of my reading calendar, and she has never disappointed me so far! I found myself racing through the pages of this book from the minute I picked it up, because I just loved it so much, and wanted to find out what was going to happen with Daniel and Molly, and whether or not he would manage to uncover her secret identity! A perfect book, you definitely cannot go wrong if you pick this up!

24 February 2017

Book Review: Christmas Under a Starlit Sky by Holly Martin

"Neve Whitaker loves managing the Stardust Lake hotel. She gets to work alongside her wonderful family and she’s spending Christmas on the most enchanting, snow-covered island in Scotland. So why is her heart so heavy this festive season? 

It might have something to do with the gorgeous actor Oakley Rey, the man she finished with before he left for California and the man she loves more than anything. With Oakley’s career in Hollywood soaring, Neve is convinced she’d only hold him back. She had to end it with him – at least that’s what she keeps telling herself. 

But now she has a secret she’s struggling to keep, and when Oakley arrives on Juniper Island determined to win her back, Neve is thrown off balance. Will Neve’s fear of having her heart broken again push Oakley away for good, or is it time for her to take a leap of faith?"

Rating: 5/5

This book is the second in Holly Martin's 'A Town Called Christmas' series, and follows on from the first book Christmas Under a Cranberry Sky. I adored that book, and was so excited to read the second one, and find out more about these characters, and what secrets were going to be divulged here! In this book, we focus on two characters called Neve and Oakley. Neve is the sister of the main character from the first book, Gabe, so it was fun to see those familiar characters back again, and also find out much more about Neve and Oakley's own love story.

I loved Neve from the beginning of the book, and found her to be so likeable, and I wanted everything to work out for her so badly! Yes, I felt she made some bad decisions regarding her and Oakley's relationship, but I think her heart was in the right place regarding the decisions she did make. She couldn't seem to believe that a big Hollywood star like Oakley would want to settle down with her on a small remote island where she works in her brother's hotel, and I think we could all understand that that seems too good to be true! But Neve was such a lovely person, and I wished she had a little bit more faith in love, and the fact that Oakley clearly adored her.

I really do love a great romance, and Holly Martin certainly delivers on this count within this book. Oakley is everything Neve could dream of in a man, and was certainly great to read about, he seemed pretty much perfect! A successful actor, handsome, kind, generous... there was barely anything bad about this man at all. For all the mistakes he does make, he does so because he's been lead to believe other things, and I felt sorry for him in that regard, he didn't have an easy time of it from Neve! But their love story is just wonderful, and made me feel so warm and happy inside, I loved everything about it.

As well as the fairytale romance between Neve and Oakley, there's another little side story involving a couple of the minor characters, Ivy and Adam. This was completely charming, and had me sucked in too, it seems like Juniper Island is the place to go if you want to find love! As in the first book, the setting is utterly perfect. I love Martin's descriptions of the whole island, from the animals, to the cabins and the snow - it all sounds utterly idyllic and you can see why everyone who ends up on the island wants to stay, it sounds like paradise, especially at Christmas time!

For me, this was one of my favourite reads of the festive season, and I really cannot wait for Holly Martin's next books. I hope this isn't the last we see in the Town Called Christmas series, because I would love catch up with Gabe, Piper, Neve, Oakley and more again at some future date, even if it isn't necessarily at Christmas. The writing in this is so warm, it draws you in and makes you want to keep reading to find out how this wonderful love story is going to end. Needless to say I was left with a huge smile on my face, and I had loved every page. A wonderful book, I can't recommend it enough!

Book Review: Killer Diamonds by Rebecca Chance

"After decades in the spotlight as an Oscar-winning film star and famous beauty, Vivienne Winter is one of the most recognizable women on the planet. When she decides to auction her multi-million dollar jewellery collection for charity, there is no shortage of people eager to buy a piece of her incredible history.

Young, ambitious Christine Smith is a jewellery expert working for a centuries old auction house, but in a world of aristocratic snobs, her working-class origins are holding her back. She's desperate to secure the sale of Vivienne Winter's gem collection: it's bound to be the biggest auction since Elizabeth Taylor's. However, meeting the Hollywood star is just the first hurdle Christine has to jump . . .

Vivienne's handsome, spoilt, sexy playboy grandson Angel is the heir to her fortune. The anger and resentment he feels towards his grandmother for selling what he counted on as his inheritance sets in motion a series of events with deadly consequences. Angel is totally unscrupulous, and no-one will come out unscathed. Family secrets cut sharper than diamonds ."

Rating: 3.5/5

I've come to know Rebecca Chance's novels as quite rude, but glamorous, over-the-top stories about people often living in a life of luxury and excess, and I love them! They're always outrageous, and that was most certainly the case with her latest book Killer Diamonds. The story sounded intriguing from the beginning - a world famous film star auctioning off her vast jewellery collection, and a grandson desperate to stop the sale to exact revenge so he can inherit his grandmother's millions. But with a jewellery expert on the case, and keen to make her mark in the auctioning world, Angel knows he's up against it if he is to get his grandmother Vivienne's jewels... what lengths will he go to to stop the sale?

First thing I have to note about this book is the fact that I really didn't like any of the characters at all. Not one of them. Angel was by far the worst character I think I have ever read in any book (which is saying something!), Vivienne was so self-centred, egocentric and awful, and Christine was just a wet fish, and needed to grow a bit of a backbone! There was only one character I remotely liked and he just wasn't in the book enough to redeem the character side for me! However, there was something fun about having characters I loved to hate - I really didn't care for what was going to happen to them, and I wished some bad things on some of them, I must be honest.

The progression of the story was very good, and as always Rebecca Chance writes incredibly well, writing this detailed world for her characters to live in, and you do become immersed in it to an extent. The world of Angel and Vivienne was very opulent, they had anything their hearts desired, and it certainly didn't make them nice people because of it. Angel in particular was a hideous human being, someone I wouldn't ever want to know myself, he was just vile and had no redeeming features at all. Some of the scenes about him were quite depraved, and I found them uncomfortable at times, it just wasn't my cup of tea.

The jewellery described in the book sounds absolutely beautiful, and I bet Chance had fun researching lots of glamorous pieces to base Vivienne's collection on, I could see why the jewellery expert Christine was so taken with them. Her job sounded really interesting, imagine being able to handle jewellery of that value, but I just couldn't warm to her as a person either, she was too weak to be surrounded by the people she was, she seemed a normal person caught in a toxic web, but I just couldn't feel much for her unfortunately. One other thing described really well in the book was the setting. Some of it takes part in London, other parts in Switzerland, and it was beautifully written, Switzerland sounds idyllic, and I can see why Vivienne was so taken with it.

Overall, this book was a fun read, but there were a few bits I just didn't enjoy, which isn't usually the case with Rebecca's books for me. I found some of the sex scenes were just too much for me, and Angel in particular is quite depraved in this sense, and these scenes just weren't for me at all. There is also some very very strong language within the book which I usually don't see in the books I read. Other than that, the story was interesting, and I was curious to see how it would all end for these people, in particular Angel and Vivienne. Full of money, excess, debauchery and more, this is certainly an eye-opener, and although for me it wasn't Rebecca's best book, it was still a good read.

23 February 2017

Blog Tour: Extract of 'If Ever I Fall' by S. D. Robertson

To celebrate the publication of SD Robertson's emotional new book If Ever I Fall, his publishers have organised a blog tour, and I have been lucky enough to host an extract of the book. I'm reading it at the moment, slightly puzzled by the story, but so eager to keep reading and find out what is going on! Enjoy the extract, and let me know if you read the book!

Thanks to SD Robertson and his publishers for asking me to host on the blog tour!

"Dan’s alarm sounded. He thumped it off and stared, blurry-eyed, at the red LED lines telling him it was 8 a.m.

It took him a moment to remember where he was. Not the spare room. No, the master bedroom in his fantastic new apartment. Otherwise known as the room he slept in at his crappy new flat in the suburbs. Him and his two ‘flatmates’: damp and depressing.

What on earth had he been thinking when he agreed to rent this place? That it was cheap and in a location that suited him. Not much else. If he’d been able to jump forward in time to this awful moment – waking up here, alone on Christmas morning – would he have still signed the rental agreement? 

Probably, if he was honest. That was actually one of the things that had appealed most about the flat: the fact it only tied him in for three months. He still hoped he wouldn’t need any longer than that.

Also, it wasn’t like he could afford much else while he was still paying the bills at his real house, where Ruby had probably already opened her stocking by now with Maria.

How was this fair: him going out to work five days a week, supporting the family, but having to live here? It wasn’t. He stared up at the ceiling, at the unsightly cracks meandering across the white paint. If he wanted a chance of getting back with Maria, what choice did he have?

She’d pushed him further and further away since Sam’s death and this was where he’d ended up. He feared she blamed him for what had happened to Sam. He blamed himself, so why not? That would at least explain why she’d grown so cold towards him. It was more than that, though. More even than the horrific, never-ending grief he’d felt since that horrendous day.

It was like something had broken within his wife’s mind. As if she could no longer function properly. She did her best to hide it, but he’d seen the way she would repeat things over and over again when she thought no-one was watching, as though it was some kind of weird ritual. On the few occasions when he’d interrupted her or tried to help in some way, her response had been one of ferocious denial, pushing him yet further away.

The first time he’d tried to talk to her about it, he’d ended up banished to the spare room, never to return. They’d explained this to Ruby by saying that his snoring had been keeping Maria awake, but Dan suspected that Ruby knew it was more significant than that.

He hadn’t dared say anything more for a long time afterwards, hoping it was part of his wife’s grieving process and that she would gradually improve. But of course she didn’t. Eventually, after skirting around the issue for far too long, he’d tried again to broach the matter. He’d suggested, as tactfully as he could, that she might want to seek help. He’d even been on the Internet and found her the name of a local counsellor.

Bad move. That had led to an even worse row than the last and, a couple of days later, to Maria’s suggestion of the trial separation.

Now here he was: hungover and alone in this godforsaken place.

The alarm sounded again – good old snooze function – snapping Dan out of his half-doze and alerting him to the fact it was now 8.10 a.m. He turned it off, properly this time, and levered himself upright.

‘Merry Christmas,’ he said to his reflection in the mirrored doors of the cheap wardrobe.

He walked through to the lounge and spent a few minutes tidying up his mess from the night before: bottles of beer, a shot glass. He didn’t know why he was bothering. It wasn’t like he was expecting guests any time soon. Force of habit, he supposed, still not used to being a bachelor. He didn’t want to get used to it. 

Hopefully it would be short-lived: a brief chapter in his life that one day he’d look back on and smile about.

In the kitchen, his gaze fell on the vodka bottle he’d been drinking from the night before. For a moment he thought about picking it up and having another go, but he stopped himself. His boozing had accelerated enough since moving in here. At least it was still mostly contained to acceptable hours. Necking vodka at this time of the day would be crossing a line. Next thing he’d have a bottle in the inside pocket of his jacket, swigging from it at the wheel of his car. No, he didn’t want to go down that route. Plus, the police were always on the lookout for drink-drivers over the festive period. No point in risking his licence.

Instead he found his pack of cigarettes, opened the window and, enjoying the feel of the cold winter air on his skin, lit one up."

Book Review: The Good Girlfriend's Guide to Getting Even by Anna Bell

"When Lexi's sport-mad boyfriend Will skips her friend's wedding to watch football - after pretending to have food poisoning - it might just be the final whistle for their relationship.

But fed up of just getting mad, Lexi decides to even the score. And, when a couple of lost tickets and an 'accidentally' broken television lead to them spending extra time together, she's delighted to realise that revenge might be the best thing that's happened to their relationship.

And if her clever acts of sabotage prove to be a popular subject for her blog, what harm can that do? It's not as if he'll ever find out . . ."

Rating: 4/5

I am a big fan of author Anna Bell, and again was thrilled to be asked to review her brand new book The Good Girlfriend's Guide to Getting Even. I was even more excited to see that Anna had mentioned me in the acknowledgements at the end - it's always lovely to see an author appreciate what us bloggers do! So, I got stuck into this, expecting as usual another brilliantly funny read! The blurb sounded really funny, like the sort of escapist read I could do with, and it didn't let me down!

Lexi was a really funny character, and made me laugh from the very beginning. I know some of the things she did were perhaps a little childish, and yes, she should have confronted her boyfriend Will but that wouldn't have made for a very good or funny book would it?! The fact Lexi did things I would never have even dreamt of meant it made me laugh, and I was sure at every turn she was going to get found out, and make things even worse for herself! I understood she was cross that her boyfriend seemingly lied to her about being poorly to miss a wedding for a football match, and the way she found herself in this revenge spiral was quite amusing, even though her friends weren't exactly supportive of her actions!

Will seemed to be the character that we, as readers, were meant to hate. He was completely sports mad, to the detriment of their relationships at times, and I did feel sorry for Lexi in this regard. He couldn't seem to see that his obsession was upsetting her either, so I think the pair would have benefitted from actually being honest with each other once in a while! However, I did feel sorry for him a little bit when Lexi started to exact her revenge, because he genuinely seemed clueless about how all these unfortunate things kept happening to him, and never seemed to suspect Lexi at all!

Anna Bell's writing in this book is really on point, and she keeps the pace up all the way through the story, allowing the characters to develop well, and Lexi's plan to go as she hopes, while all the time you are aware that at some point she's going to find out, and the longer it goes on, you know the eventual reveal is going to be even worse for her! As the book hurtles towards the end, I almost didn't want to read it because I just knew it was going to get pretty awful before it could attempt to get better! There are some scenes set in Barbados, and Anna writes these wonderfully, it was great to picture the country, the beaches, and the luxury hotel Will and Lexi find themselves in.

While I think some people might find this book a bit silly, and get annoyed with Lexi's revenge plot, I actually found the whole thing really enjoyable, and definitely laughed out loud quite a lot as I was reading! I stayed up late a few nights reading this, because I didn't want to put it down - I was desperate to find out what Lexi was going to come up with next, and if and when poor Will would find out what she had been up to! A laugh-out-loud, funny, escapist read that will surely leave you with a smile on your face... and perhaps a bit of a warning to sports mad men - don't ignore your girlfriend for your sports, and if you do so, it's at your own peril! A great read!

18 February 2017

Book Review: The Plumberry School of Comfort Food by Cathy Bramley

"Verity Bloom hasn't been interested in cooking anything more complicated than the perfect fish finger sandwich, ever since she lost her best friend and baking companion two years ago.

But an opportunity to help a friend lands her right back in the heart of the kitchen. The Plumberry School of Comfort Food is due to open in a few weeks' time and needs the kind of great ideas that only Verity could cook up. And with new friendships bubbling and a sprinkling of romance in the mix, Verity finally begins to feel like she's home.

But when tragedy strikes at the very heart of the cookery school, can Verity find the magic ingredient for Plumberry while still writing her own recipe for happiness?"

Rating: 5/5

 Cathy Bramley is one of my favourite authors, and I always look forward to her bringing out a new book! Somehow, this one slipped out of my line of sight for a while when picking a new book, and when I realised again a few weeks ago I hadn't read it, I eagerly scooped it off the shelf and dove in, ready for another wonderfully heart-warming read! I always love Cathy's characters, her settings and her writing, so I always know I'm in for a good read when I pick up one of her books!

I have to say I was completely absorbed by this novel from the very beginning. Verity is a wonderful leading lady for the book, and somehow you can easily like. She's a girl after my own, loving a good fish finger sandwich for tea! She is a pretty good cook but gave up after the sudden loss of her best friend a few years back. This isn't a huge plot point, but certainly defines a lot of things for most of the characters in the book, and while her best friend Mimi isn't actually ever in the book, she's very present, and I loved how the characters all keep her memory alive through their own actions. Verity's mum in particular was one I felt incredibly sorry for. No parent should have to bury their child, and she had to do this horrible reality. However, I admire how she got herself up and carried on with her life, I'm not sure I could be that brave.

Verity begins working for Gloria's new cookery school, aptly called The Plumberry School of Comfort Food. Yum. It sounds like such a good idea, and I was hoping the friends would be able to make a success of it, together with the professional chef Tom they hired to lead the classes. Everything about the school sounds charming, from the building and grounds, to the lovely people they have running it. It seemed like a recipe for success, and I was willing them to make it work! Tom was a great addition to the book, a chef who didn't really want to dumb down his cooking for the average cook, leading to some rather funny moments in a few classes! I also loved the 'will they, won't they' element of Verity and Tom's friendship too.

There was one mysterious storyline running throughout the book, and obviously I won't discuss it here because I don't want to spoil it for anyone, but I was totally surprised by the twist in this particular tale. I hadn't expected it at all, and thought it was a brave issue to tackle in this story, suddenly giving the book an emotionally charged edge. I admire Cathy Bramley for including a topic like this, and thought it was very well done, and fitted in perfectly for these characters and their story.

Overall, this was a wonderful read and I was really disappointed when it came to an end! I'd really gotten to know and love the characters, and enjoyed their whole journey throughout the book. I also loved all of the characters, they really all did add something to this story, and therefore it was a joy to read. Cathy Bramley's writing is wonderful, she really gets into the heart of her characters, explains their emotions well and sets the scene perfectly. Her settings are always spot on too, I love imagining the places where she sets her books! I now can't wait to read Cathy's next book, she remains one of my favourites!

15 February 2017

Book Review: A Fairy Tale for Christmas by Chrissie Manby

"What could be more magical at Christmas than a fairy tale come true?

It's the festive season and the members of the Newbay Theatre Society, more commonly known as the NEWTS, are preparing to put on a show. Being cast as Cinderella is the realization of a dream for newcomer Kirsty, not least because she hopes starring in a panto under the direction of her boyfriend Jon will bring them closer together.

But Kirsty soon learns that it's not all glitter and good cheer behind the scenes at the amateur theatre as bitter rivalries nurtured through decades, wardrobe mishaps and suspicious near-fatal accidents threaten to derail the production. And then there's Prince Charming himself. Will working together with Jon bring Kirsty her happy ever after... or reveal their love to be nothing but a 'showmance'?

With Christmas just around the corner, it's going to take more than a Fairy Godmother to get Kirsty and her cast-mates to the ball."

Rating: 5/5

The idea of this book really appealed to me, not least because it's a festive themed novel, and it's by one of my favourite authors Chrissie Manby! The cover, too, was perfect, something I would love to see on a Christmas card actually! This is a standalone novel, which is a breakaway from Chrissie's other 'Perfect family' series that she has published as of late, but it was nice to meet some other characters, and to dive into something completely different! The main character for this book is actually one who has popped up in a 'Proper Family' book, the one where the Bensons went on a cruise. Kirsty is the friend of someone else who went on that cruise, so while the Bensons weren't in this book, they were here in spirit!

I loved Kirsty right from the beginning. She's given up her dream job of being a cruise ship singer to move with her new boyfriend Jon to the village of Newbay, where he's got a job directing a local theatre group's pantomime of Cinderella. I did question at first how readily Kirsty gave up her job for a relatively new man in her life, but I guess we all make mistakes and dive into something without thinking every now and then! She reasoned it with herself by knowing she would get the lead in the play, but even so, I felt she was giving up a lot for someone I disliked immensely. Jon was a horrible character, always putting Kirsty down, whether it be on the sly or completely obviously, and I hate men like that.

On the other hand, the other main male character in the book is single dad Ben. His young daughter has won her own part in the panto, and of course Ben is dragged along for auditions. When disaster befalls the production, Ben winds up being thrust into the middle of the action despite not having trodden the boards for many years! This leads to much hilarity, but also some sweet scenes between Kirsty and Ben as they get to know each other, and she encourages him to want to perform once more. I did hope these two would end up together, especially because his daughter deserved someone like Kirsty in her life to act as a step mum!

Sometimes, when a book has a big cast it can be a problem to follow who's who, but this wasn't the case for this book at all. Each of the people in NEWTS were so unique, I had no problem with keeping track of them, and I think they all added something special to the story, and really rounded the whole thing off. Manby has a knack for writing her characters, and this novel was by no means an exception. The relationships between them all were realistic too, with jealousy, support, laughter, and much more going on, they were wonderfully written and rounded characters. The setting of Newbay was lovely too, and I can see why Kirsty was drawn to the charms of the village, it sounds wonderful.

This was a lovely festive novel, and was brimming with festive cheer throughout, as the panto season kicks off as Christmas fas approaches. You'll find yourself tearing through the pages of this book to get to the end and see who Cinderella herself ends up with, and if horrible Jon would finally get his comeuppance. This really was a joy to read right until the very last page, and I'll be sad if this is the last we see of Kirsty and co, because I really felt like I got to love them as I got so involved in their pantomime and story! I can't quite believe this is Chrissie Manby's 20th novel, and I'm eagerly hoping there will be something from her sooner than next Christmas!

14 February 2017

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Blog Tour: Book Review: Before the Rains by Dinah Jeffries

"1930, Rajputana, India. Since her husband's death, 28-year-old photojournalist Eliza's only companion has been her camera. When the British Government send her to an Indian princely state to photograph the royal family, she's determined to make a name for herself.

But when Eliza arrives at the palace she meets Jay, the Prince's handsome, brooding brother. While Eliza awakens Jay to the poverty of his people, he awakens her to the injustices of British rule. Soon Jay and Eliza find they have more in common than they think. But their families - and society - think otherwise. Eventually they will have to make a choice between doing what's expected, or following their hearts. . ."

Rating: 4.5/5

I read my first book by Dinah Jefferies last year, The Tea Planter's Wife, and was completely blown away by that story. Therefore, when I was offered the chance to be part of the blog tour for Dinah's  new book Before the Rains, I was very eager to do so. This book is the story of Eliza, and an Indian Prince called Jay. Eliza is employed as a photographer, there to photograph the Royal family as they go about their daily lives, but finds her life in India to be a little lonely. She befriends the Prince, and finds out there is more to him that meets the eye. He is determined to do good in his country, and seems happy to go against his family to fulfill his wishes. However, not everyone is happy about the friendship between the pair, and soon they are forced to face some harsh truths... that sometimes, love cannot conquer all...

I've only started reading historical fiction over the past few years, and there is something magical about reading a book and escaping to a time gone by, knowing that much of what you are reading about has actually happened, that people have really through these circumstances. In this book, we are in India in the 1930's, something I didn't know a lot about prior to reading this book. However, Jefferies has done so much research for this book, it's easy to picture the country, the people, the setting so easily, it really comes to life on the page, and is just an explosion of colour and imagery from the first few pages.

I liked the character of Eliza. She isn't exactly new to India, since she spent much of her childhood there with her parents, but this visit is the first time she has been back to the country alone as an adult. Eliza is very sympathetic to the Indian people, especially the poorer people, and is keen to help in whatever way she can. She seems to think the Indian customs and traditions are quite outdated, barbaric and not something she feels she wants to adhere to, but of course, she must, despite the fact they aren't her beliefs or traditions. I liked that she was a strong-minded female, determined not to kowtow to more powerful men around her, and I think is what attracted Jay to her in the first place.

The love story between these two was beautifully written, and is a slow burner. We sense right from their first meeting that there is a spark between the two of them, but both know that being together seems an impossibility, especially due to the fact Jay is a Royal, and must marry an Indian woman if he is to provide legitimate heirs for his family. Jay was different to his family, keen to help the poorest in his region thanks to his irrigation project idea, and seems keen to protect Eliza from some of the most questionable people around her, particularly his brother's aide, Chatur. I was hopeful that the pair would get their happy ending, but it seemed to unlikely, and I did feel sorry for Jay as he did seem torn between customs and traditions, and his heart.

The writing in this book is so evocative, it is crammed full of the colours, smells, sights and everything else perfectly Indian. The clothing, the flowers, the poverty-stricken villages, the castle, are all beautifully written by Jefferies, and the insights into the Indian customs are eye-opening. One in particular was horrific, a Sati, which is a widow-burning, since outliving your husband is thought to be a truly bad thing. This was barbaric, and I simply couldn't reason with it, it is unbelievable human beings can be treated in such a way. Overall, however, it was a glorious setting for a wonderful book, and definitely opened my eyes. The cast of characters was perfect, and I really did love Eliza and Jay, both together and as individuals. Jefferies' writing is perfect here, the words flow and set the scene with it, and I was completely transported away. A breathtaking read.