19 May 2017

Blog Tour: The Forever House by Veronica Henry

Today, I am thrilled to welcome one of my favourite authors of all time to the blog - it's Veronica Henry! I think I have read everything Veronica has ever written, and have enjoyed every single one them... that's how good she is! I have also read her brand new novel The Forever House which was a joy to read from start to finish, quite possibly Veronica's best novel yet.

For her blog tour stop with me, Veronica has written a piece about 'Books in Fiction' - one of the main character of The Forever House is an author herself, so this is an interesting look at that! Enjoy, and make sure you pick up your own copy of The Forever House!

Buy 'The Forever House' on Kindle and in paperback now.

Just like the heroine of The Forever House, Belinda Baxter, my father was in the services, so every two years we packed up our belongings and moved house. I think that expains why I have become so obsessed with houses, because until I was about 15 we didn’t have a home of our own. Whenever I went back to somebody’s house for tea, I felt a sense of envy that they had somewhere they belonged. Four familiar walls they could put pictures on – in an Army quarter you aren’t supposed to bang a nail into the wall –or decorate just as they wished. 

If moving every two years taught me anything, it was how to make friends easily, and not to become upset when you had to leave them behind. But my survival strategy was reading. Wherever I was in the world, bookshops and libraries were a safe place, and amongst the shelves were hundreds of potential friends who could remain my constant companion. I could take Laura Ingalls or the Moomins with me wherever we went. I became a bookworm, and every time the removal van arrived to take our belongings to the next ‘patch’, in would go my books.

I would spend every Saturday rearranging them, sometimes into alphabetical order by author, sometimes by size, sometimes by colour. I read and re-read my favourites –even today I will pick up my childhood favourites if I need reassurance. Because even the most turbulent childhood stories usually have a happy ending and order will be restored: The Little Princess will get her daddy back, Heidi’s friend Clara will learn to walk. 

And I always loved the houses within those stories. I could see them so clearly in my mind’s eye. I could even smell them: the sharp clean smell of the wooden walls cut by Pa in The Little House in the Big Woods; the musty smell of Professor Diggory’s mansion in The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe.

And as I grew older I was still drawn to fiction featuring houses: Manderley in Rebecca, Thornfield Hall in Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights, Brideshead, Cold Comfort Farm. To me, they were characters in their own right, drawing the characters in under their rooves.  

And that’s probably why houses feature so strongly in my own books. My first, Honeycote, takes place in and around Honeycote House, belonging to the high-spirited and party-loving Liddiard family. An Eligible Bachelor features Eversleigh Manor and Guy, the lord of the manor, who is looking for someone to share his legacy with.

And The Forever House is firmly based on my own fantasy dream home, Hunter’s Moon. Not too big, not too small, it’s nestled in the Peasebrook valley and has belonged to the Willoughby family for generations. I wanted to reflect the heartbreak and dilemmas people have when it comes to selling a much-loved home, and the ramifications that has on everyone who has lived in it. But I also wanted to show the lengths people will go to in order to get the house of their dreams!

It’s up to Belinda to keep everyone happy.

17 May 2017

Book Review: The Last Night by Cesca Major

"In a quiet coastal village, Irina spends her days restoring furniture, passing the time in peace and hiding away from the world. A family secret, long held and never discussed, casts a dark shadow and Irina chooses to withdraw into her work. When an antique bureau is sent to her workshop, the owner anonymous, Irina senses a history to the object that makes her uneasy. As Irina begins to investigate the origins of the piece, she unearths the secrets it holds within.

Decades earlier, another young woman kept secrets. Her name was Abigail. over the course of one summer, she fell in love, and dreamed of the future. But Abigail could not know that a catastrophe loomed, and this event would change the course of many lives for ever..."

Rating: 5/5

I am a huge fan of Cesca Major's books, historical fiction with wonderful stories that you can just fall in love with. Her debut novel The Silent Hours was an absolute triumph, I loved every page and so was very excited to find out her second novel was imminent. I was lucky enough to be sent a review copy of The Last Night, and I couldn't wait to read it and eagerly got stuck in.

This is a book with 2 stories running alongside each other, but in very different times. In the modern day, Irina is a furniture restorer, and lovingly brings back old pieces from the brink of being ruined. She's also hiding a secret of her own, something that hangs over her at all times. When she's sent a piece of furniture to be restored, it too seems it has secrets within its depths, and Irina isn't sure she wants to reveal all of them. Years ago, in the 1950's, lived Abigail, a young woman living in Devon with her sister and her husband. Abigail is settling into a new life there after leaving her home of Bristol after the death of her parents, but is struggling to feel like she is at home in her sister's house. Her brother-in-law Larry isn't exactly welcoming either, and Abigail feels uneasy. But as Abigail meets more people, and opens up her heart to love, she has no idea what is just around the corner...

This book was utterly brilliant from the beginning. I love how we are introduced to the two stories, then we alternate between the time periods and the stories, and I was left wondering how it would all end up being tied together, and as the book progressed, it became clear and I couldn't wait to see what was happening and how it'd end. Slowly, everything came together and it was so cleverly done, I really didn't see the way it was done coming at all. There was an element of something strange going on with Irina and the bureau, something I wouldn't usually like in a book but it worked for this particular story, and added a certain something to the atmosphere, and definitely built up the tension.

I loved both characters in the book, and the imagery Cesca Major uses throughout to bring these stories to life was perfect. The setting of Devon for Abigail's story was perfect, and I loved the descriptions of the town, it was very vivid in my mind as I was reading. Abigail's turmoil at being uprooted from her home to somewhere unfamiliar will ring true with many readers, and her story became more compulsive as it unfolded. I was on tenterhooks waiting to see what would happen with her, and couldn't stop reading to find out more.

The book is based on a real historical event, and I had no idea that it had taken place. As the book hurtled towards this catastrophic event, I could feel the impending doom of something going to happen but couldn't work out what. When it did happen, it was shocking to read, Major writes so realistically and brilliantly, you truly feel like you are there. It was horrific, truly frightening but I just couldn't stop reading. I cannot recommend this read highly enough, whether or not you like historical fiction, because this is a brilliant novel. The book is packed with mystery, intrigue, tension and emotion, I really like felt like I had been on an emotional rollercoaster when I turned the final page. Simply brilliant, and I can't wait for more from Cesca Major.

14 May 2017

Book Review: Then. Now. Always by Isabelle Broom

"Hannah can't believe it when she's offered a trip to sunny Spain with her best friend and dreamy boss . . . what's the catch?

Twenty-eight year old Hannah is ready for an adventure. She and her colleagues are in Spain for a month to film a documentary, and it's a dream come true. Not least because Hannah will get to spend long summer days with Theo, her boss (and crush). If only Tom (Hannah's best friend and cameramen) and Claudette (the presenter) would stop getting in the way...

Then things become even more complicated when Nancy, Hannah's half-sister arrives. What on earth is she doing here?

For once in her life, can't Hannah just have one perfect summer, free of any drama?"

Rating: 4/5

I have been lucky enough to read several of Isabelle Broom's novels in the past few years, and whenever I receive them to review, they shoot to the top of my 'to be read' list because I enjoy them so much! I love the fact that her novels are always travel based, set in a far away clime for the reader to escape to when they are reading, and a fantastic cast of characters to boot. As usual, the cover for her new book was stunning, and I couldn't wait to read this one too.

This time, the book is set in Spain, in a small called Mojacar. It isn't somewhere I have heard of personally but when I finished the book, I googled the town and it looks truly stunning, I can see why Broom chose to set the book here! This time, we follow a small group of characters who are on a work trip, making a documentary about the people and beliefs of Mojacar. It's Hannah's first work trip, and she is so excited to finally be alongside the boss she's coveted from afar for a long time, called Theo. Also along are Hannah's best mate Tom, and Claudette, the presenter. But when Hannah's half sister shows up unexpectedly, she's worried the rest of the trip will be a disaster, and doesn't know how to communicate with her. Will Hannah be able to salvage her holiday/work trip before it's ruined?

I have to say the setting of the book is perfect for the story. I chose to not google it for a reason while I was reading - I wanted to use Broom's descriptions to set the scene in my head for me. I am so pleased I did because I found they were so well-written, so evocative and description that it was easy to imagine the small town, the beach, the fountains in my head for myself, and they sounded wonderful. The descriptions of Hannah's job, her research for the documentary, the slightly technical details within the book set the scenes up nicely, and I enjoyed reading it all pull together.

The characters in the book were good too, but I didn't connect with Hannah in the same way that I have done with Broom's previous leading ladies. I don't know why that is, but it didn't spoil the enjoyment of the book for me in any way. I didn't especially like Hannah's crush, I found it a little bit childish, but that was just me, I just didn't particularly like that story arc. I far preferred reading about the genuine friendship between Hannah and Tom, they were great to read about and such real friends. Claudette was quite amusing too in her own way, but the way Hannah's half-sister is introduced and the clear animosity between the pair was surprising, and I was keen to read on and find out why there was such hatred there.

This was a fun read, set in a stunning place that I would most certainly like to visit now I have read about it, it sounds very idyllic. The characters were fun, with lots going on between them to keep you interested from surprising relationships, past histories being thrown up and a little family animosity to boot. Isabelle Broom's writing was, as always, a joy to read and beautifully described the small Spanish town. This was a very enjoyable summer read, perfect to escape into, and to devour in a few sittings! Looking forward to more from this talented author.

10 May 2017

Book Review: A Song for Tomorrow by Alice Peterson

"Tom fell in love with Alice the moment he saw her. He realises that being with her will not be easy, but she is a force of nature, a burst of sunlight in his otherwise ordinary world. 

Some people might look at Alice and think she has everything, but Alice knows she is not like other women. Her life is complicated, unpredictable, difficult. Alice does not like pity. All she wants to do, has ever wanted to do, is sing.

Alice has been told not to follow her dreams. But when fate has already dealt a tough hand, it’s time to stop listening to everyone else and only follow their hearts."

Rating: 5/5

I love Alice Peterson's stories, and when I was sent a review copy of her brand new book A Song for Tomorrow, I was over the moon and couldn't wait to get reading. As the publicity for this book began, I found out it was based upon a true story, a real woman called Alice Martineau suffering with Cystic Fibrosis, and this certainly adds an element of realism when you are reading it. It's based on the real Alice, but this particular story, including Alice's family and friends, are fictional, but again you can't help but draw parallels with a real family going through these things.

Alice knows that her Cystic Fibrosis is going to kill her before she reaches old age, unless she is lucky enough to receive a lung transplant, among other things that she needs. However, before she dies, Alice is determined to prove everyone wrong and fulfill her ambition of becoming a singer. She won't let her bad lungs hold her back, and is sure that she can do it. When she meets Tom, completely by chance, the pair strike up a quick friendship which soon develops into something more, although he knows he could lose her at any time. Will Alice be able to make the songs she so desperately wants to before its too late, for both her and Tom?

As you can probably tell, this is a very emotive book right from the beginning, and doesn't let up throughout. It also doesn't shy away from detailing the horrible realities of suffering with Cystic Fibrosis, and some of the scenes in the book did shock me a bit I have to confess. I did know a little about CF before I read this, but the book certainly opened my eyes to elements of the illness that I wasn't aware of before. It's very clear how much research Alice Peterson has done in order to write this book properly, and I have to commend her for that because it reads incredibly well. and it was very eye-opening for me.

Alice is a great character to lead the book, and I loved her straight away. She is very realistic about her illness, how it affects her and the prognosis it has on her life. It's horrible to confront your own mortality, especially at such a young age like Alice does, and I don't know how she had the strength. In fact, it was her parents that made me the most upset - how do you contemplate losing your child before you die, watching them get weaker and weaker, losing them and there is absolutely nothing you can do about it? The scenes with Alice's parents, particularly her mother, were truly heart-breaking and often had me in tears.

Alice's talent at songwriting was amazing, and seeing her lyrics on the pages of this book was so touching, and made me want to go and download some of the real Alice's songs and hear just how good she was for myself, to understand why she was so determined to make a success of her music against the odds. As well as this part of the story, there was her relationship with Tom which was emotional reading as well. Tom has a lot of harsh realities to face, something his family and friends worry about (as anyone would of course), but the way he was determined to show that his love for Alice could come above all of the worry, fear, grief and loss was very emotional and inspirational.

For me, this novel was a triumph, and certainly the best book of Alice's I have read so far, which is no mean feat believe me! Alice's writing about everything from the strength and grace of the leading lady Alice through her struggles, to the details of CF and the effects that has on not only the patient but the family and friends were so well handled, it was very emotional to read and I did shed lots of tears throughout this book. For me, though, the over-riding sadness came from reading Alice's parents side of it, the small things Alice witnesses between them, the crushing grief that clearly lives inside them was just awful to read, and as a parent, it is your worst nightmare. However, I cannot help but recommend this stunning, emotive read. Wonderfully written, a joy to read and a story that has touched me and will stay with me forever.

8 May 2017

Blog Tour: The First Time Mums' Club by Lucie Wheeler

I am thrilled to be hosting the opening day of Lucie Wheeler's blog tour for her debut novel The First Time Mums' Club. I have the book sat on my kindle ready to be read, but in the meantime, I have a very interesting article by Lucie herself on 'The Many Colours of Inspiration' so please enjoy, and let me know in the comments if you have or are going to be reading The First Time Mums' Club!

The many colours of Inspiration
I am a very visual person. I like to look at beautiful things and scenery is something that draws so much emotion from deep within. I love looking at colour, too. It is amazing what a vision of vibrant colour can do for your imagination and your mood. I think, when I eventually get the chance to redecorate my writing space, I want to have vibrant splashes of colour around. Not blocks of colour, splashes. I like the unevenness and messiness of a splodge of colour – maybe it’s the big kid inside of me. I am not one for straight angles and equal lines – although saying this, I do like -. I like things to be even, but not necessarily straight.

You know, it isn’t until you start to write these things down that you realise how strange you sound. But stay with me, it gets more ‘normal’.

As well as being a visual person, I also respond highly to audio stimuli. I find music incredibly inspiring. Sometimes I like to listen to the melodic notes of classical music to relax my chaotic brain, to allow the inspiration to materialise in my mind. But equally, I find quite heavy music inspiring too. By heavy, I mean in reflection of the vocals and the words. I listen to a wide range of music, I don’t really have a genre that I won’t listen to. Growing up, I went through a stage in my teens where I was heavily influenced by bands such as Green Day (who I still LOVE to listen to- much to the dismay of my family) Nirvana, Offspring and Linkin Park. Some of my friends couldn’t understand why I liked to listen to that style of music. “It’s just shouting – that’s not singing,” they would say to me. And I would think; but listen to the words, listen to what they’re saying. Because you can hear the passion, and the heartbreak and the life lessons pouring from their hearts as they shout the words. The emotion those types of songs draw from me is immense.

And then we come to people. Who inspires me?

There is one woman who was the inspiration that started my writing journey off. One woman who is my idol, who I admire and who I would desperately love to grab a coffee with (or a glass of wine!). And that woman is JK Rowling. Reading Harry Potter gave me the spark that deveoped into my writing passion. The way I felt when I read Harry Potter was incredible. Not necessarily because of the story (although I love it), but because of the awe I had that she could write a story, with just words, of which totally transported me to another land. There have been other writers since who have equally wowed me with their ability to write, but she was my first real writing idol and I credit her for giving me the drive to want to be just like her. I don’t just admire her talent, but her love, kindness and drive to make the world a better place. She is beautiful inside and out and I really hope one day I get to meet her – although I worry that I would be that woman who totally has a fan girl moment and merely makes noises instead of forming words to say.

But, actually, I think the person who inspires me the most - and she inspires me every single day -  is my daughter. She is an incredible little lady and as I watch her grow, I can feel my heart grow with love. Everything I do, I do it for her. Every day I wake up and I work hard, just to make her proud. She is the one thing in my life that I will work every hour, of every day, of every year, to make happy and believe that she can achieve great things. Without her, I wouldn’t have that drive to succeed. She makes me the person I am and I hope that one day, she looks back and is inspired by me as much as I am by her.

Thank you so much, Lucie!

Check out the other stops on the blog tour this week too :)

2 May 2017

Book Review: My Everything by Katie Marsh

"On the day Hannah is finally going to tell her husband she's leaving him, he has a stroke . . . and life changes in an instant.

Tom's only 32. Now he can't walk or cut up his own food, let alone use his phone or take her in his arms. And Hannah's trapped. She knows she has to care for her husband, the very same man she was ready to walk away from.

But with the time and fresh perspective he's been given, Tom re-evaluates his life, and becomes determined to save his marriage. Can he once again become the man his wife fell in love with, or has he left it too late?"

Rating: 5/5

Sometimes, I enjoy taking a look at my bookshelves, and look for an older book, one that has somehow passed me by but one that I know I really want to read. Katie Marsh's book My Everything was one such book. I remember wanting to read it, but as usual, I haven't got time for everything so it got left on the shelf. Recently, I decided I had to read this one, and I am so pleased that I did because I found it was a compulsive read and I really didn't want to put it down. I now can't wait to read more of Katie's more recent novels!

Hannah has finally decided it's time to tell her husband that their marriage is over, and she's leaving. But when she awakes in the middle of the night and finds him on the floor, having suffered a stroke, she knows those plans have to go out of the window and she has to step up. Tom is really struggling with his new reality, barely able to walk and talk, and totally dependent on his wife and nurses to help him. However, it's made him realise how much he loves Hannah, and that he has to save their marriage, against the odds. Will Hannah be open to a reconciliation, or has too much passed to save something that has long been lost?

This story drew me in right from the beginning. We know Hannah's intentions, why she is wanting to leave her marriage, and how it all gets thrown away once she realises the horror that has happened to her husband. She of course can't leave him - who could? But now she is stuck caring for a husband she doesn't truly love anymore, unsure if she can carry on doing this for a long period of time like she knows she will have to do. I felt sorry for her, in an impossible situation, but at the same time, I wanted her to do the right thing and stand by her husband, to see if there was anything that could be saved. The way she let her dream of teaching abroad float away to stay with her husband was very admirable, and was a touching story, showing how far some will go to uphold their vows.

Tom was living every person's nightmare, especially someone at the peak of their life, a fit young man who has had every independent thing about him ripped away cruelly. I think anyone else would feel exactly as Tom does, helpless and trapped, but I liked how it made him decide he had to do something about the state of his marriage, to change what he feels could have been broken. Again, I hugely sympathised with Tom, his scenes were awful to read because he was in a horrible situation, and I hated his reality, it really was a nightmare.

What I loved about Marsh's writing was the way she gets right into the heads of her characters. She carefully balances Hannah's guilt, her reluctance, her duty to her husband and the dreams she is letting go, and places them perfectly into this story. This is held together by the flashbacks to Tom and Hannah's relationship building up, with an item that links to a chapter about that particular thing, showing their love growing in the days before things turned sour between the pair. It gave me hope that they could find that side of their love again, and I really enjoyed the balance of this book, and Marsh's detail in Hannah and Tom's romance.

This was a brilliantly written novel, and I thoroughly enjoyed every page of it. As the story hurtled towards its conclusion, I felt optismistic, hopeful that these two characters I had come to love and care about would be able to work it out, and that Tom's recovery would carry on in the right direction. Plenty of detail is given about what Tom goes through, how hard he has to work to aid his recovery, but also the toll it takes on not only him, but those around him too. This is a topic I haven't encountered before but found this book eye-opening and completely intriguing to read. A love story, a story of hope, grief, loss and acceptance. It's all in here, and I cannot wait to read more from Katie Marsh, this was simply brilliant.

25 April 2017

Book Review: To Rome, With Love by TA Williams

"A summer of second chances…

Just a week before her big day, Sarah returns home to find a note from her husband-to-be – the wedding’s off! So when her boss decides to send her on an epic cycling trip, from Venice to Rome, it seems like the perfect distraction…

Although she never expected the distraction to come in the form of her oh-so-handsome, but slightly serious, cycling companion, Miles. And with still 600 miles of beautiful scenery, mouthwatering food and delicious wine yet to cover, anything could happen!"

Rating: 4/5

I am a big TA Williams, and find his books a joy to read, often taking me to far away places with great characters and a very enjoyable story to boot. His latest book with HQ is called To Rome, With Love, following his usual theme to send the characters off on some exotic holiday that I can join in with from the comfort of my sofa or bed! The cover for this one is really fun, and I was very much looking forward to this one, and luckily, it didn't disappoint!

The story focuses on one woman, Sarah,  who is pretty heart-broken after her husband-to-be tells her he can't go through with their wedding, just a week before the big day. Sarah chooses to not tell anyone at work, and when she is offered the opportunity to go on a cycling trip abroad for work, she jumps at the chance. Just her, her bicycle and Italy... what more could you ask for? Oh.. and the tourist group going along with her of course! It's a trek from Venice to Rome, and much more in between, and Sarah is hoping to fix that broken heart of hers again...

I loved the character of Sarah, and found her to be someone I could warm to straight away. I felt very sorry for her as her ex-fiancé sounded a bit of a pig, and treated her so badly. She was really brave after what he did, and I understood her need to get away from it all and escape to much sunnier climes. She is a cycling enthusiast, and that really comes across. TA Williams uses his own personal knowledge of this subject to fill the reader in with lots of detail, not so much that you get bogged down, but its easy to imagine whats going on with the bikes as you read along.

There are quite a few other characters in this book too, and I thoroughly enjoyed reading about the whole group. Williams creates these characters perfectly, allowing you to care about them, and want their friendships to develop. There are rookie cyclists, ones who have done many treks like this before, and others along for the fun of it, and I admired them all - I couldn't do it! One colleague in particular who stood out to me was Miles, Sarah's boss. He's clearly hiding something, but I was desperate for he and Sarah to get it together, they seemed like a perfect match!

Finally, the setting of Italy is perfect for this book. I thoroughly enjoyed reading about all of the cycle routes they went on, the lovely hotels they stayed in and the experiences that they had together, from the gorgeous Italian food to the sights and scenes. This was a thoroughly enjoyable read from start to finish, I loved the relationships between the cycling group; the laughs and jokes, the tears and frustration, and sheer determination from everyone to keep going, there was always something going on in this story to keep me wanting more! Williams' writing was excellent, kept me interested and I loved both the cycling element and the location of this. I'll definitely be reading more from this author, and if you haven't yet discovered him, try starting with this fab summer read!

24 April 2017

Book Review: The Things I Should Have Told You by Carmel Harrington

"Every family has a story…

But for the Guinness family a happy ending looks out of reach. Olly and Mae's marriage is crumbling, their teenage daughter Evie is on a mission to self-destruct and their beloved Pops is dying of cancer. Their once strong family unit is slowly falling apart.

But Pops has one final gift to offer his beloved family – a ray of hope to cling to. As his life's journey draws to a close, he sends his family on an adventure across Europe in a camper van, guided by his letters, his wisdom and his love.

Because Pops knows that all his family need is time to be together, to find their love for each other and to find their way back home…"

Rating: 5/5 

I read my first Carmel Harrington book last year when I read her festive book Every Time A Bell Rings. I enjoyed that read very much, and when I was sent a copy of Carmel's new read for review, I was definitely looking forward to reading this one too. This is the story of one family, and their trip around Europe, a last-chance to save their family once and for all. The marriage of Olly and Mae is at rock bottom, and following the death of Olly's father, they know it's make or break time. Olly's dad has organised a camper van across Europe, not Mae's idea of a relaxing holiday. They are all determined to try and make the holiday work, and live their grandfather's legacy as best they can... but maybe there are some surprises around the corner...

I loved the idea of this book! When I read the synopsis, I just knew I was going to love the story, and luckily, it lived up to every expectation I had and more! The Guinness family were perfect to read about, and I thoroughly enjoyed following their trip all the way until the final page, I simply didn't want this one to end. Olly and Mae are a couple in crisis, but right from the off I was hoping these two would work it out. Bad circumstances have sent them on a slippery slope, and I was so hopeful Mae could push her anger towards Olly away, and that Olly could start to feel proud of himself again, and not useless in their home. The book also features the pair's children, Jamie and Evie, and these are perfectly written, wonderful characters that I loved to read about.

Evie is a teenager, suffering with a recent hospitalisation which is causing big rifts between her parents, and also anxiety over why events happened. Jamie is much younger, and a joy to read. I loved his optimism, his zest for life and many of his actions throughout the book. Carmel writes families so well, the ups, the downs, the anger, the worry - everything is written so realistically, every drama believable, every tear heartfelt and true. I became completely obsessed with this book and reading about this family, it was just a perfect read.

As well as the brilliantly written family aspect, there is also the road trip around Europe. I have to confess I agree with Mae here, it sounds like my holiday from hell but as the trip gets underway, and Carmel writes about the advantages of such travel, it piqued my interest and I loved reading about the experiences. Many countries are also covered here, from Germany, to Austria, France and more, and I loved reading about each of them, and the things that the family got up, especially the more authentic, less touristy experiences! Vienna sounded like a dream, and no visit to France is complete without a bit of Disney magic of course! The way Olly's late father orchestrates everything from beyond the grave is simply perfect, and adds the emotional element throughout.

The book was brilliant from start to finish, and most definitely a contender for my best read of 2017 already. I know this story and these characters will stay with me for a long time, I simply adored this book, Carmel's writing and the story as a whole. Carmel is a brilliant talent, a writer who can tap into the heart of her characters, create a family any one of us could know or be part of, and send them off on an adventure of a lifetime. Emotional at times (it definitely made me cry!), funny, poignant and heart-warming, this book is a must-read and I cannot recommend it highly enough!

23 April 2017

Blog Tour Book Review: Under a Sardinian Sky by Sara Alexander

"Sometimes a family’s deepest silences hide the most powerful secrets.

For Mina, a London-based travel writer, the enigmatic silence surrounding her aunt Carmela has become a personal obsession.

Carmela disappeared from her Italian hometown long ago and is mentioned only in fragments and whispers. Mina has resisted prying, respectful of her family’s Sardinian reserve. But now, with her mother battling cancer, it’s time to learn the truth.

In 1952, Simius is a busy Sardinian town surrounded by fertile farms and orchards. Carmela Chirigoni, a farmer’s daughter and talented seamstress, is engaged to Franco, son of the area’s wealthiest family. Everyone agrees it’s a good match. But Carmela’s growing doubts about Franco’s possessiveness are magnified when she meets Captain Joe Kavanagh.

Joe, an American officer stationed at a local army base, is charismatic, intelligent, and married. Hired as his interpreter, Carmela resolves to ignore her feelings, knowing that any future together must bring upheaval and heartache to both families.

As Mina follows the threads of Carmela’s life to uncover her fate, she will discover a past still deeply alive in the present, revealing a story of hope, sacrifice, and extraordinary love."

Rating: 3.5/5

I have to be honest and say that I was initially drawn to reading this book because of its beautiful cover. I know you shouldn't judge a book by its cover but I can't help myself, and often find myself doing this. This is author Sara Alexander's debut novel, and is a book set on the Italian island of Sardinia. I don't personally know much about the location, so was looking forward to finding out much more about this lovely place with a new, exciting cast of characters. I went into this without expectation, and here is my honest review.

This book is the story of a Sardinian native called Carmela, and her family, the Chirigoni's. The book is set in 1952 so is a historical read, and I enjoyed this element of the book very much. Carmela is a traditional young woman, working hard for her family, and living with them all too. She's a talented seamstress, and also is a great cook when working with her sister Piera. She's engaged to a local man Franco, and knows the wedding is something that the whole family is looking forward to. However, when she meets American Captain Kavanagh one day, Carmela's eyes are opened to a world she never even dreamt of exploring, and wonders if she is settling in marrying Franco.

I didn't find the book to be particularly easy reading. There is quite a lot of characters within Carmela's family to keep track of, and in parts, I found it hard to remember who was who, and how they were all related to each other. However, I just tried to plough on regardless, and was soon pretty sure I had an idea on it all, rightly or wrongly! Carmela herself was a great character, one who seemed quite ambitious for a young woman, but didn't seem to know how to break out of her family mold, and their expectations of her. This is particularly prevalent when she is offered opportunities as the book progresses, but doesn't know whether or not to take them due to her family commitments.

I enjoyed seeing how Carmela's world changed when she met the American officer. He was a really fun character to read about, quite straight-laced and trying to do the right thing by everyone, and I can see why Carmela was taken by him. It was a slow-burning friendship, and I very much enjoyed reading it all unfold. There were a few very upsetting scenes in the book, one in particular that I hadn't expected that moved me to tears because it seemed to come out of nowhere, and I have to praise Alexander's writing and how she handled these scenes, as they cannot have been easy to write due to their emotive nature.

For a debut, this is a strong, well written novel, very heavy on the narrative but the descriptions of Sardinia, the local customs and traditions, are brilliant and really bring the whole place to life in my mind. It is definitely somewhere I would like to visit having read this book, and Alexander definitely has succeeded in making Sardinia the centre of this book, an island around which everybody's actions revolve. I will be looking forward to reading more from Sara Alexander. Thanks go to HQ for the review copy of this book.

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.