22 December 2012

Merry Christmas everyone!

This will be the last post from me in 2012, so I want to wish everyone a very Merry Christmas, and a happy New Year! Thank you for all the support this year, it's been such a joy reading and reviewing the 115 (!!!) books I've read this year, and I hope you've all enjoyed the reviews and they've helped you choose come fabulous books. It'll all be continuing in 2013, so see you then!

Merry Christmas!!

21 December 2012

Book Review: From Essex to Chelsea with Love by Millie Conway

"If you're a fan of all things Essex or Chelsea, you won't want to miss this sensational read...

Chelsea events planner Talli Jones is in a fix. Her brother Persimmon and his fiancée Edwina want her to deliver the Wedding of the Year. Their dream venue, Highdrow Castle, has had a last-minute cancellation. But it's in eight weeks' time. With 500 guests. And doves... Personal trainer Zac Parker needs some fast cash. But he can't reveal why, even to his girlfriend, glamorous reality TV star Kiki. If he can get wealthy client Edwina into shape for her Big Day, he'll get a hefty bonus. All he needs is for that uptight wedding planner to stop getting in his way. As Zac and Talli battle to work miracles, the heat between them unexpectedly starts to rise. But when friends and family get involved and the fireworks begin, it's clear that it's a long, long way from Chelmsford to Chelsea..."

Rating: 4/5

My last 2012 book for this year had to be something that would give me a bit of a laugh, and be a fun note to end the year on. I've been lucky enough this year to read some amazing books, so I was hoping I'd make a good choice for my final read of the year. Millie Conway's debut novel certainly would appeal to those who love the reality shows like Made in Chelsea and The Only Way is Essex, but I watch neither of those shows and managed to really enjoy the book! As an 'Essex girl' myself, I always hate when people overuse the stereotype and make them the embodiment of what those girls in TOWIE are like, but Conway actually does a good job in this book of balancing out the stereotypes, and by the end I had a big smile on my face!

Tallulah, or Talli as she prefers to be called, is still a bit stuck career-wise, so when her mother manages to railroad her into planning her brother Persimmon's upcoming nuptials in just 8 weeks, Talli reluctantly accepts and sets about organising the wedding of the year. Not to mention the fact that Persimmon's fiance is Loving Essex's director Edwina, and is fanatical about her appearance and has a determination to be a perfect size for her wedding dress. She hires Essex personal trainer Zach, whose sister's star on her show to knock her into shape. Soon, Zac and Talli realise they have to work together, not against each other, to pull off Edwina's wedding, but is it going to be just the wedding they will end up working together on?

This is quite a tongue-in-cheek read, and you have to know not to take it too seriously when you're reading, because it really is quite fun and a laugh overall. The differences between the main characters, Talli from Chelsea and Zac from Essex are obvious from the word go, but Conway loves to really emphasise the point, especially through the thoughts of these characters when they're thinking about each other. The narrative is always told in the third person, but switches between following Talli, then Zac, so the reader gets a nice rounded picture of the story, and can see the crossed wires, which makes it all the more interesting and frustrating at the same time! I really liked Talli, she had her heart in the right place, although I did wish she's grow a back bone! Zac was just a bit of a typical Essex-guy, obsessed with his appearance, but has a softer side towards his sisters and Auntie Dot, who happened to be one of my favourite characters! The God-awful Kiki rounds off a fantastic cast of characters, and she's definitely one you'll love to hate!

The storyline is good enough to carry the book through, although I stopped caring about Edwina and her wedding quite soon after it was mentioned, I simply cared more about what was going on with Talli and Zac! I loved how the book travelled between Essex and Chelsea too, again highlighting the differences in these people, and how appearances can be deceptive, especially with some of the Essex girls, who have some of the most hilarious names I've read in a long time... Porsche and Shiraz to mention a couple! The wedding ideas were ridiculous, completely OTT but as you'd expect someone like Edwina would want, and the designer brands are name-dropped quite a bit throughout the book too, but it wasn't too out of place so I didn't mind it too much. There's a few sex scenes in there too, but they were well written, and complemented the story.

The story has a good pace, and I found it was a fun read that I enjoyed picking up every time I went to read it. There was a lot of humour in there that made me smile, but there were moments of sweetness in there too, Talli and her father's relationship was one of them, as was Zac and Dot. I was really rooting for Talli and Zac to finally get together, but it wasn't smooth sailing, and I was really curious to find out what the secret Zac is desperately hiding from everyone around him throughout the book was! I really enjoyed reading From Essex to Chelsea with Love and thought it was a fun read that you can lose yourself in for a few hours, and it'll certainly put a smile on your face, if only to say thank you to God that you don't have a life like these people! A fun and easy read.

You can buy From Essex to Chelsea with Love as a paperback or an eBook now!

20 December 2012

Chick Lit Chloe's 2012 Awards!

Chick Lit Chloe's 'Book of the Year' 2012
- Me Before You by Jojo Moyes

- The Island - Tracey Garvis Graves
- The Long Weekend - Veronica Henry
- Perfect Strangers - Tasmina Perry
- Dearest Rose - Rowan Coleman
- This Child of Mine - Sinead Moriarty

Author of the Year 2012: As voted for by website visitors
Carole Matthews!

Second Place - Sophie Kinsella
Third Place - Marian Keyes

- Jenny Colgan
- Milly Johnson
- Paige Toon
- Lindsey Kelk
- Jojo Moyes
- Dorothy Koomson
- Claire Allan

Christmas Book of the Year 2012
- With Love At Christmas by Carole Matthews

- Meet Me Under the Mistletoe by Abby Clements
- Married by Christmas by Scarlett Bailey
- Christmas at the Cupcake Café by Jenny Colgan
- A Winter Flame by Milly Johnson
- A Merry Little Christmas by Julia Williams

Female Character of the Year 2012
- Rose from 'Dearest Rose' by Rowan Coleman

- Lou Clark from 'Me Before You' by Jojo Moyes
- June from 'The Meryl Streep Movie Club' by Mia March
- Ella from 'All That Glitters' by Ilana Fox
- Juliet from 'With Love At Christmas' by Carole Matthews
- Victoria from 'The Darling Girls' by Emma Burstall
- Natalie from 'Yours Truly' by Kirsty Greenwood

Male Character of the Year 2012
- Jon Jordan from 'Bad Angels' by Rebecca Chance

- Jacques Glace from 'A Winter Flame' by Milly Johnson
- Will from 'Me Before You' by Jojo Moyes
- Dave from 'The Greatest Love Story of All Time' by Lucy Robinson
- Christian Grey from 'Fifty Shades of Grey' by E L James
- Miles from 'Married by Christmas' by Scarlett Bailey
- Olly from 'When I Fall In Love' by Miranda Dickinson

Book Cover of the Year 2012
- I Heart London by Lindsey Kelk & A Merry Little Christmas by Julia Williams

- Revelry by Lucy Lord
- This Is A Love Story by Jessica Thompson
- From Notting Hill to New York... Actually by Ali McNamara
- Meet Me Under the Mistletoe by Abby Clements
- The Rose Petal Beach by Dorothy Koomson
- Perfect Strangers by Tasmina Perry

Debut Novel and Author of the Year 2012
- The Island by Tracey Garvis Graves & Fifty Shades Trilogy by E. L. James

- You Had Me At Hello by Mhairi McFarlane
- Stop the Clock by Alison Mercer
- The Greatest Love Story of All Time - Lucy Robinson
- The Mill River Recluse by Darcie Chan
- Chelsea Wives by Anna Lou Weatherley
- The Perfect Location by Kate Forster
- The Vintage Teacup Club by Vanessa Greene

Tear Jerker of the Year 2012
- Me Before You by Jojo Moyes

- Dearest Rose by Rowan Coleman
- The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey
- Ten Years On by Alice Peterson
- Lifesaving for Beginners by Ciara Geraghty
- Secrets of the Tides by Hannah Richell
- With Love At Christmas by Carole Matthews

Self Published Novel of the Year 2012
- The Darling Girls by Emma Burstall

- The School Gates by Nicola May
- Bondi Blonde by Lucille Howe
- Yours Truly by Kirsty Greenwood

Women's Fiction Book of the Year 2012
- Secrets of the Tides by Hannah Richell

- Before I Met You by Lisa Jewell
- The Rose Petal Beach by Dorothy Koomson
- The War of the Wives by Tamar Cohen
- The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey
- French Lessons by Ellen Sussman
- Lone Wolf by Jodi Picoult

Book Review: You Had Me At Hello by Mhairi McFarlane

"What happens when the one that got away comes back? Find out in this sparkling debut from Mhairi McFarlane.

‘Think of the great duos of history. We're just like them.’
‘You mean like Kylie and Jason? Torvill and Dean? Sonny and Cher?’
‘I think you’ve missed the point, Rachel.’

Rachel and Ben. Ben and Rachel. It was them against the world. Until it all fell apart. It’s been a decade since they last spoke, but when Rachel bumps into Ben one rainy day, the years melt away.

They’d been partners in crime and the best of friends. But life has moved on: Ben is married. Rachel is not. Yet in that split second, Rachel feels the old friendship return. And along with it, the broken heart she’s never been able to mend.

Hilarious, heartbreaking and everything in between, you’ll be hooked from their first ‘hello’."

Rating: 5/5

Mhairi McFarlane's debut novel You Had Me At Hello first caught my eye when I saw the gorgeous cover for it online a few months ago. It looked fun and fresh, and from things I had read about it, it sounded like it would be a bit of comedy read too. As much as I like Christmas novels at this time of year, I was actually really excited to pick up something a bit different, and so I think Mhairi's book came at just the right time for me. I was picking it up at every opportunity I had... even sneaking a read on my lunch break at school as it was a great book to escape into, and I rather loved Rachel and Ben quite a lot! It's a stonkingly brilliant debut, and judging by the many glowing reviews on Amazon, it seems I'm not the only one who thinks so!

Rachel and Ben were the best of friends at University, and were pretty joined at the hip. They went everywhere together, did everything together and despite what everyone around thought, they didn't think they were attracted to each other. Fast forward ten years, and the friends haven't spoken after one particularly fraught night at a party. When Rachel bumps into Ben again, all those feelings come flooding back, but she's shocked to find out how Ben has moved on, with a wife and successful career in tow. Rachel realises she rather likes Ben as more than her friend, but how will she be able to mend her broken heart, and make sure Ben won't be leaving her life again any time soon?

I think what drew me in so much about this book was the honest relationship and friendship that Rachel and Ben had together. It was so readable, and I loved both of them straight away, they were flawed but at the same time perfect for each other. Rachel was so funny, like a girl next door, and the perfect heroine in all ways. She works as a journalist in the local law courts, but doesn't seem to have that killer instinct required to really demolish people as she perhaps should. Rachel's line throughout the book are genuinely funny, her quick observations had me giggling along, and she was in so many ways the best character in the book, I really did love her. Ben on the other hand was a quite swoon-worthy male lead, and you could feel the tension between these two characters, McFarlane writes their relationship perfectly and I was just willing them to get their acts together quite often in the book!

I really enjoyed the way that the story is told in two time periods. There's the present day story, with Rachel and Ben reuniting with each other and their struggles to find a place for each other in their otherwise stable lives, and explaining it to those around them too, and then there is the Rachel and Ben of their University days, which gives the reader a good insight into how their friendship came about and why they feel as they do for each other. McFarlane really sets up a good backstory for the pair, and makes you want to read on and find out if they ever did hook up and how/why/where/when! There are a few other storylines in the book, involving Rachel's friends and while these were enjoyable, the main focus for me was totally on Rachel and Ben, and what was going to ultimately happen for them.

This is the ultimate in feel good romance stories, and I loved every page of it. McFarlane's comic writing is a joy to read from beginning to end, and I was so reluctant to finish it because that meant I'd have to leave Rachel and Ben behind for good. It was a hilarious read, that manages to tug at the heart-strings at the same time, and I really can't praise it highly enough. For a debut novel, it's fantastic and it makes me so excited to read more from McFarlane as soon as possible, because she's certainly a bright shining star in the chick lit world, and I can't wait for more. This is one read from 2012 that will be making its way onto my keeper's shelf, and it was certainly worth the wait. A truly fabulous book!

You can buy You Had Me At Hello as a paperback or an eBook.

17 December 2012

Book Review: Christmas Magic by Cathy Kelly

"A festive collection of short stories by No. 1 bestseller, Cathy Kelly. The perfect stocking filler!

Lose yourself in a warm and wonderful collection of short stories from bestselling Irish storyteller Cathy Kelly.

From Dolores and Genevieve, two spinster sisters who must finally break free from their mother’s powerful personality, to Alice, who is facing having to open her home and her heart to the one visitor that she doesn’t want this Christmas; from a captivating family story triggered by a letter to Lily’s disastrous arrival at her best friend’s wedding, these are stories to make you laugh, cry and nod in recognition.

Relax and unwind this holiday season and indulge yourself in these warm and uplifting tales. Remember that Christmas comes but once a year, so curl up by a roaring fire and let the magic reel you in . . ."

Rating: 3/5

I tend not to read many short stories, it isn't because I don't like them exactly, it's because I find them too short and end up getting a little frustrated because I want to find out more, and inevitably we only get a few pages to read about the characters! I was however intrigued to read Cathy Kelly's new short story anthology entitled Christmas Magic which was originally released back in 2011, but has been released in paperback for this Christmas. I love the cover, although I don't think it's especially festive, which is must like the book if I can say that! Don't pick this up expecting a book packed with festive stories or you'll end up quite disappointed much like I was!

Please don't get me wrong, I did enjoy parts of this book, and there were quite a few short stories which I felt would make good full length novels and wished there was more about in the book. The stories range in length from the very short, to the slightly longer Letters from Chicago which was possibly my favourite story in the book. However, even this was too short for me and I just found it hard to get involved in them because I just wanted more from it. Kelly created the stories and characters very well, and I found it easy to flit between the stories, not getting confused at all because they were all so different.

As I mentioned though, there were not many festive stories in the book which was very disappointing for me. From the title of the book, you'd expect there to be a fair few, but there was only a couple that actually centred around Christmas. I wonder then if the title was a ploy to get people to buy the book for the festive season, because it really would have benefitted from having a more generic title that was more befitting for the content of the book. There were a couple of stories in there that I didn't like at all, and I found myself skipping those because they were only short stories, and I didn't really want to waste time on stories that didn't immediately hook me in, something I feel should happen quite quickly for a short story.

Overall, this was a nice enough short story anthology, but it just wasn't anything amazing and I don't think there was anything particularly memorable about it. I wish there had been more festive themed tales about it, because I really did enjoy these stories. There were a few that I would have loved to be a bit longer because I felt that there was enough in them to expand on them, but there were others that I didn't enjoy at all, so I am sure that means there is something in there for everyone. Christmas Magic unfortunately won't make it onto my Christmas keepers shelf, but that's because there isn't enough of the festive feeling in there for me, and I wasn't a huge fan of all of the stories. Cathy Kelly fans I am sure will enjoy this read.

You can buy Christmas Magic as a paperback or an eBook now.

11 December 2012

eBook News: Staying Away At Christmas by Katie Fforde

Katie Fforde is back with her first ever digital short story Staying Away at Christmas, just a few months before her new full length novel A French Affair is released in February 2013. The story is only 84p at the moment, and it's nice to have the odd short story to read when you get a few minutes spare, I know I don't always have time to sit and get involved in a long novel, and this sounds like a fun read! It's available only as an eBook.

You can get Staying Away at Christmas for just 84p as an eBook right now.

"Add an extra sparkle to your Christmas with this exclusive, straight to digital short story from the Sunday Times Top Ten Bestseller. 

Miranda and her daughters have rented a cosy cottage for Christmas. The only trouble is, Anthony and his children are booked into the same place.  In a moment of Christmas spirit, Miranda suggests they all spend yuletide together.  Will the mistletoe help ease the tension and bring some cheer?  Will romance blossom under the stars? Or will it be a Christmas they'd all rather forget? 

Sunday Times bestselling author Katie Fforde is known for her wonderfully romantic stories, delectable heroes, and heroines we can all relate to. In Staying Away at Christmas her warmth and wit shine through in this enchanting short story.  Turn on the Christmas lights, curl up on the sofa and immerse yourself in the deliciously readable world of Katie Fforde.  

It also gives readers the first chance to read the opening chapter of her wonderful new novel, A French Affair, out in February."

10 December 2012

Chick Lit Chloe's Awards 2012: Author of the Year - Final Round!

Welcome to the final round of my 2012 awards and the Author of the Year - Reader's Choice Award! The top ten author from round 1 went head to head with each other, and after a huge amount of votes (thank you!), the final three came out on top by a bit of a margain! The top three choices were (in no particular order) Marian Keyes, Sophie Kinsella and Carole Matthews. 

To decide the winner, all you have to do is vote on the below form for one of them, pop your email address in the bottom box so I can make sure there's no duplicate entries, and that's it! Voting will close on Wednesday 19th December at midday, and the winner will be revealed when my awards go live on Thursday 20th December!  Thanks so much for all your votes so far, now let's get a winner! Good luck to the three nominated authors!


8 December 2012

Book Review: With Love At Christmas by Carole Matthews

"Can the imperfect family really have the perfect Christmas?

Juliet Joyce adores Christmas. She loves the presents, the tree, the turkey, the tinsel, everything. Already the festive spirit is upon her, which is just as well as this Christmas things are starting to get out of hand.

Her son Tom is out of work and bringing home a slew of unsuitable partners; pregnant daughter Chloe and her little boy have moved back in; Juliet's father, Frank, is getting over a heartbreak of his own and Rita, her eccentric mother, is behaving more erratically each day. And has the chaos got too much for Juliet's husband Rick?

With the big day fast approaching, Juliet hopes that she can stop everything spiralling out of control, because the only thing she wants is her family all around her and her home to be filled WITH LOVE AT CHRISTMAS."

Rating: 5/5

I have really been looking forward to reading Carole Matthews' latest festive offering for a while now, especially because I have seen quite a bit of praise about it online, and I was curious to see if it would live up to my expectations too. I found her last Christmas book 'Wrapped Up In You' to be a bit of a disappointing read for me, not quite as festive as I had hoped, so I was very hopeful this one would be more my cup of tea. Thank goodness I took a chance on it, because its now one of my favourite Christmas reads this year, and I think it's one that will be making its way onto my 'keepers' shelf because it was such a brilliant read and I can't recommend it highly enough... and here's why.

Juliet Joyce is a lady who loves Christmas, despite her own family not being quite as keen on the festivities as she is. There's her dad who is going through a terrible heart-break thanks to his partner Samuel, her son Tom who is out of work and seemingly not looking for a job, but who is more than happy to look for a girlfriend or three; daughter Chloe who is a mum of one and expecting another baby and are now back at home with Juliet again, and of course her husband Rick, who is feeling the pressure financially for the family. Will Juliet be able to pull off the magical Christmas she so wants to provide for her family, or will the problems amongst the Joyce's prove too much for Juliet once and for all?

There was something really festive about this book, right from the beginning and I really loved that. Juliet is a huge fan of Christmas, and Matthews uses this to really go to town on the descriptions of everything from the plentiful amounts of food that Juliet buys, to the decorations and lights that adorn the house, and it really cheered me up to read it! Matthews really brings alive the Christmas spirit in this novel, but also goes to highlight the not-so-good things about this time of year too, such as those who are alone or living in worse circumstances than ourselves who we would perhaps otherwise overlook, and the financial burden it can place on people too. I felt the balance was right in this novel, and the story worked well to cover all aspects of Christmas, but managing to keep on the happy side throughout.

The Joyce family were fun to read about, and there was certainly a lot going on this book to keep me hooked! I have to confess to really hating Juliet's children Chloe and Tom, what a horrible couple of children with seemingly no redeeming qualities whatsoever, and I'd never dream of speaking to my parents like they do, or treating their house in the same way either! However, the storyline with Juliet's parents was very touching, and I felt Juliet's fathers story was very sad, and I did cry a few times when I was reading this. Matthews managed to really convey the emotion of the situations so well, it seemed very realistic as I was reading and I couldn't help but feel involved in the tale. Juliet herself was the main character of the story, and I really did love her, I think any busy, working mum at Christmas can relate to her!

I found it a very fun novel to read, and it spread the Christmas cheer for me every time I picked it up for read a few more pages. It manages to put across the emotion of the season, and mixes that with a lot of humour that had me chortling along as I was reading, Matthews has a great way with the comic lines from Juliet! I was consumed by this story, once I was involved I felt I had to know how things were going to end up for the Joyces, and if they would have a great Christmas after everything they'd been through. It is a story that a lot of people will enjoy reading, and probably relate to as well, especially Juliet's Christmas obsession in a lot of cases too I expect! It is a fab festive read that manages to be funny yet sensitive and emotional at the same time, and it's a book I shan't forget for a long time. As I previously said, it's one of my favourite festive reads this year, and it'll give you a warm feeling inside as you're reading. A brilliant book!

You can buy With Love At Christmas as a paperback or an eBook now!

5 December 2012

Book News: Vanity by Lucy Lord

I do love a gorgeous book cover, and Lucy Lord's second book Vanity is certainly a contender for one of the gorgeous 2013 covers I've seen so far, and I've seen a fair few already! It's a follow up to her 2012 novel Revelry and I'm curious to see what Poppy and Bella are going to be up to this time. It's out as a Kindle version on January 3rd 2013, although readers are going to have to wait until July 18th for the paperback (don't ask me why!).

"Glamorous Poppy seems to have it all, and after a long tough year she is damn well going to enjoy it. But as Poppy’s career in New York goes from strength to strength, her husband, Damian’s takes a nosedive and she begins to wonder if love really can survive anything.

In London, Poppy’s best friend Bella is basking in that new-couple glow with her boyfriend Andy. But, not everything is as perfect as it seems, and Bella can’t help but be a little jealous of her best friend’s Big Apple adventures. Meanwhile, their arch-nemesis, shallow but beautiful Ben, is in Hollywood to make his name on the silver screen, and annoyingly, is doing rather well at it!.

From St Tropez to New York, LA to the impossibly chic Paris; join Bella and Poppy and their friends as they face the reality of friendships pushed to the limits, and embark on a road trip that they’ll never forget…"

You can pre-order Vanity as a paperback or an eBook now.

4 December 2012

eBook News: The Pollyanna Plan by Talli Roland

Talli Roland's new novel The Pollyanna Plan is out now, and it sounds like a great read! I just read Talli's novella Mistletoe in Manhattan and loved it, so I'm looking for reading this as soon as I can... it's all ready to go on my kindle! I have to quickly say I love the cover as well, and it's a shame I don't get a full colour version on my Kindle... this is my least favourite thing about eBooks I'm afraid!

"Is finding true love as easy as an attitude change?

Thirty-something Emma Beckett has always looked down on 'the glass is half full' optimists, believing it's better to be realistic than delusional. But when she loses her high-powered job and fiancé in the same week, even Emma has difficulty keeping calm and carrying on.  

With her world spinning out of control and bolstered by a challenge from her best friend, Emma makes a radical decision. From here on in, she'll behave like Pollyanna: attempting to always see the upside, no matter how dire the situation.

Can adopting a positive attitude give Emma the courage to build a new life, or is finding the good in everything a very bad idea?"

You can buy The Pollyanna Plan as an eBook now.

3 December 2012

eBook Review: Mistletoe in Manhattan by Talli Roland

"As Little Missington's first Christmas baby in fifty years and the daughter of Christmas When You Like It party-planners, Holly West has been surrounded by the holiday spirit since birth. Trouble is, she's not exactly filled with festive cheer. In fact, Holly can't wait to ditch the tinsel and Santa suits for champagne and celebs, and become a party-planner to the stars.

When British TV star Dean Layton hires her parents' company to throw his holiday bash in Manhattan, Holly jumps at the chance to help, confident she can handle a little Christmas in exchange for access to Dean's exclusive world.

But New York and Dean's over-the-top demands are more than Holly bargained for. Can Holly deck the halls and make it a party to be proud of, or will this Christmas be one she'll never forget . . . even if she wants to?"

Rating: 5/5

For some odd reason, I don't think I've ever read anything by Talli Roland, but I really couldn't resist diving straight into this new eBook short story from her, mainly because it's set at Christmas, and of course that time is coming rather quickly! The cover for it is gorgeous and looks very professional, and matches the rest of Roland's covers too. As I said, this is a novella (short novel) but it felt a good enough length for me to get into and get involved in the characters without being over too soon and leaving the reader hanging! I sat and read it in one sitting in an evening, and thoroughly enjoyed it.

The main character is party planner Holly, who works for her parent's business in Little Missington but has far bigger dreams. When the opportunity comes for Holly to take her party planning over to New York City, and at Christmas no less, she jumps at the chance. While planning Brit star Dean Layton's lavish party, she meets bartender Alex. I loved Alex. He's so nice and I wish there were more men around like him, he's the perfect hero for the novel! He and Holly seemed really well suited too, and I loved the developing friendship between the pair. These two were the main characters, and both were very likeable, and made the book fun to read. The setting of New York was perfect too, I've been there at Christmas myself and it brought back some great memories for me, and I could imagine all of the things clearly in my mind.

I really enjoyed this novella, it was a quick read but I enjoyed every page and didn't want it to end. I wasn't sure how things were going to work out for Holly, and I liked the unpredictability of it too. The idea of party planning was good too, and the book showed how much work actually has to go into it, as perhaps some people (like me!) think it's perhaps easier than it actually is! There were great characters in here, both likeable and very dislikeable, and with a gorgeously festive setting, this is the ideal novella to sit down with on your Kindle on these really cold nights to make you feel all Christmassy! I loved it, and can't wait for Talli's new full length novel The Pollyanna Plan!

You can buy Mistletoe in Manhattan as an eBook now!

1 December 2012

December 2012 Releases

It's December already, oh my goodness me! I really don't know where this year has gone, it's flown by and boy have we seen some amazing book releases this past year. Luckily, there are still 6 more to keep us entertained for the duration of December, although I don't know how much reading I'll get done between the shopping, wrapping, cooking and cleaning that has to be done this month! Which releases are you looking forward to most of all?

30 November 2012

Book Review: Bad Angels by Rebecca Chance

"Step into Limehouse Wharf, the new, uber-luxury apartment building in Canary Wharf where celebrities who have had 'work' done can hole up until they have healed and which is about to see its most glamorous and scandalous Christmas yet. Staying there over the festive period is Melody Down, an actress whose career is in tatters after too much plastic surgery and who has fled LA to get her body and her boyfriend back. But is a 'well-meaning' friend about to sabotage all of Melody's Christmas wishes? Meanwhile, Aniela Fatyga, the nurse in residence, finds herself falling for the unlikely Jon Jordan, an assassin for hire who is also convalescing there. Will her feelings be reciprocated or will their sizzling relationship remain purely physical? And who is he on the run from? And then there's oligarch Grigor Khalofsky, the owner of Kensington football team, whose legendary Christmas party is about to get a whole lot more exciting when murder, blackmail and scandalous revelations decide to pay a visit along with Santa."

Rating: 4.5/5

I love Rebecca Chance's books, and luckily for me and everyone else who enjoys her books, we've been treated to not one, but 2 new books from her this year! Earlier this year saw the release of Killer Heels and now Rebecca is back with a more festive-themed offering called Bad Angels. I loved the cover as soon as I saw it, featuring a gorgeous Kandee shoe as always, but with a bit of festive sparkle about it too. I was curious to see if this one would live up to her previous bonkbusters, but it certainly did that and a bit more on top of that too, this one was quite an eye-opening read in lots of ways! It's a bit of a fun read at Christmas-time and certainly breaks away from the other festive reads I've had the pleasure of reading so far this year in terms of naughty-but-niceness!

Melody is an actress whose last movie bombed after her ridiculous plastic surgery. Thanks to that, she's also lost her beloved boyfriend too, and now she's determined to get back both her career and the love of her life. This has meant trying to get the old Melody back, and she's now held up in Limehouse Wharf recuperating from yet more surgery. Joining her is Jon Jordan, an assassin who is trying to change himself for the better. He's in hiding and determined not to be found, but can a man with a price on his head ever hide for good? Looking after them is nurse Aniela, someone who is very good at her job. But Aniela doesn't count on falling for one of her clients, something that's never happened before. The last resident left at Christmas is Russian oligarch Grigor who happens to love and embrace Christmas more than any of the other residents. What festive treats are in store for the Limehouse Wharf residents courtesy of not only Grigor, but other people hiding in the background too?

I have to say this book is a huge breakaway from any of Chance's other books I have read to date. While there is the usual cast of larger than life characters, and naughty scenes thrown in for good measure, this book had overtones of a thriller about it due to the scenes with the character of Jon and things that happen as the book develops. I found myself getting really involved in the book, and it was a very exciting read in parts that I really enjoyed. It wasn't at all what I expected from the cover and the blurb, but it definitely made it more interesting to read, and I think Chance certainly did the scenes justice. It seemed believable as I was reading it, and I think Jon was my favourite character in the entire book, there was something so likeable about him, he was a bit of an enigma and I just wanted to know what made him tick!

Chance also gives plenty of page time to the other mini stories going on throughout the book as well. Melody, the actress, had a good enough story about her career and the consequence that too much plastic surgery had on her life in all ways, and while I liked this story, it didn't quite seem as good as the one involving Jon and Aniela, I wasn't quite as drawn in to it, I did find her a little whiny at times! She seemed a bit too easily led for my liking as well. Finally, there's Russian gazillionaire Grigor, and the building's doorman Andy, who provide a bit of light entertainment for the reader. I enjoyed these two as they made me smile, and certainly added new dimensions to the book... Andy in ways I had never expected! The cast though are all well written, and make for good reading.

I really loved Chance's lavish descriptions of Limehouse Wharf and the luxury that the guests are treated to when they are there. Grigor's apartment in particular sounded quite grotesque and OTT, but it seemed to suit his character! Even though the book is basically set in one place, it doesn't feel too stagnant at any points, and the flashbacks to the characters lives before they set foot in Limehouse keep it fresh, and I enjoyed getting to know the characters slowly in this way, this worked especially well for Jon. As you'd expect in Chance's books, there is quite a fwe sex scenes in the book, and they are quite explicit, so if that isn't your kind of thing, then this book isn't for you! They're scattered throughout the book, and there's a few scenes that I found quite surprising, and didn't expect, although I wasn't too bothered by them, I feel some readers may be so do exercise a bit of caution when reading.

I really enjoyed this book, and found myself whizzing through it quickly once I was into the story. I liked the characters, and found that the addition of an exciting character like Jon really upped the level of the book, and made it stand out for me amongst all the other festive books I've read this year. I liked how the Christmas mentions were scattered throughout the book, from mentions of trees and wreaths, to the huge Christmas parties that Grigor throws... there's certainly a good splash of festive spirit in there! It was a thrilling read, with a plot that surprised me and had me glued to the pages, simply to find out what was going to happen next to this crazy cast of characters! I'd definitely recommend this for Chance's fans, and for new ones too, it's certainly an eye-opening read, and I loved it!

You can buy Bad Angels as a paperback or an eBook now!

eBook News: One Christmas Morning by Tilly Bagshawe

Tilly Bagshawe is back with a Christmas short story eBook on 6th December called One Christmas Morning, and I can't wait! I love her stories so I'm sure this one will be just as good. I also love the festive looking cover too, very pretty... it's a shame it's only on Kindle so we don't get that in our hands. Will you be getting this one?

You can pre-order it now as an eBook to be delivered on publication date.

"Christmas is not the time to get your heart broken…

Dumped by the love of her life and in need of some time to recover, screenwriter Laura Tiverton retreats to the idyllic village of Fittlescombe where she used to spend time as a girl. Maybe lending her expertise to the annual nativity play will be just what she needs.

Village heart-throb and the nativity’s leading man, Gabe Baxter, has always been jealous of Laura. And now she’s back – beautiful, bossy, and driving him insane.

When the hotly-anticipated Christmas Ball comes around Laura can’t quite believe her luck when she gets a date with the sexy playwright Daniel Smart. Perhaps it’s going to be a merry Christmas after all. But when the night doesn’t go to plan, and the day of the nativity dawns, Laura can’t imagine showing her face in the village again.

On the night before Christmas, who will be able to persuade her that the show must go on?"

29 November 2012

Book News: Three Little Words by Jessica Thompson

Jessica Thompson's debut novel This Is A Love Story was a book that I thoroughly enjoyed and I thought it was a really strong debut, and one that I got emotionally attached to. Now, I'm really looking to her next book Three Little Words which is out on 31st January 2013. The red cover is really pretty, in the same style as her previous book, and I'm curious to find out what the 'three little words' are all about!

"They are just words but they mean so much.

As a dark evening draws in, the lives of three women are changed forever.

The worlds they have been living in, the people they thought they knew - in an instant it all changes.

But when everything seems to shatter around them, could three little words be enough to help put the pieces back together again? "

You can pre-order Three Little Words as a paperback or an eBook now.

27 November 2012

Book News: The Lies You Told Me by Jessica Ruston

After loving her previous two books, I've become a real fan of Jessica Ruston's novels. Her new one, The Lies You Told Me is due out on January 13th 2013, and I really like the cover, it's eye-catching and certainly makes me want to read it. It sounds like an intriguing read, and luckily for me there isn't too long to wait for it's release. Will you be looking out for this one?

"A daughter searches for the truth behind her mother's disappearance in this riveting novel, perfect for fans of Rosamund Lupton's SISTER and SJ Watson's BEFORE I GO TO SLEEP

'I do not know what you have been told about your mother. But I know it cannot be the truth...'  Klara Mortimer never really knew her mother, Sadie, a former model, who left when she was just six years old. All she has is a handful of stories, passed down from the father who raised her. Klara tells herself she has long ago come to terms with her mother's disappearance from her life, but then she receives a note and key from someone who calls themselves 'N.R.'. These lead her to a garage, full of the remnants of her mother's past, and to the diary she kept all those years ago. Within its pages, Klara discovers a woman who doesn't quite match the portrait her father has painstakingly painted for her, and a story that leads her to question everything she thought she knew..."

You can pre-order The Lies You Told Me as a paperback or an eBook now!

26 November 2012

Book Review: The Mill River Recluse by Darcie Chan

"Disfigured by the blow of an abusive husband, the widow Mary McAllister has spent almost sixty years secluded in a white marble mansion overlooking the town of Mill River, Vermont. Her links to the outside world are few: the mail, an elderly priest, and a bedroom window with a view of the town below.

Most longtime residents of Mill River consider the marble house and its occupant peculiar, and few of them have ever seen Mary. But three newcomers - a police officer and his daughter and a new schoolteacher - are curious about the reclusive old woman. Only the town priest truly knows the Mill River recluse, and the secret she keeps . . . a secret that, once revealed, will change the town, and the lives of its residents, forever."

Rating: 4.5/5

I have to admit that I have been curious about this book for a while now. It's a self-published novel that has managed to be a huge success, and has also featured on the New York Times and USA Today Bestseller Lists, something previously unheard of for a self-published novel. It was an eBook only release for a long while but in the UK, publishers Little, Brown picked it up for publication over here, and it was released last week. I have to say it was the cover that initially swung my mind into reading it, as I'd read a few reviews that said it was a bit too sickly and sweet and obvious, but to be honest, I don't mind that at all in books, it's kind of nice to escape to a world where nice things happen!

Mary McAllister has spent much of her life hidden away in her beautiful big house in Mill River. She was abused by her husband, and after a devastating blow left her facially disfigured, she became too frightened to ever leave the house, instead relying on her local priest Father O'Brien to be her lifeline to the outside world. Few people have ever met Mary, and only one knows the secret that Mary has been keeping from the residents of Mill River for a long time. As Mary's health detoriates, she wants to make sure that the town she loves is well looked after but doesn't know how to go about it from the self-imposed prison that is her marital home. What is the secret that Marry is keeping which will change Mill River in ways that they never could have dreamed possible?

As I said, a lot of reviewers have said that this book is a little too saccharin for them, but I have to admit that I really loved it. There was something ultimately quite cosy about the book, and I was soon drawn into the world of Mill River, and its residents. Yes, I could guess how it would all end and I guessed correctly, but it didn't seem to matter. It was a harmless and enjoyable book, and leaves you full of good feeling by the end, and that you know there are good people left in the world. I really enjoyed the way that Chan tells the story through two different narratives, one of Mary and the Mill River residents in the present day, and alternates that with Mary's own story as she's growing up, and how she came to be the recluse that she is.

I found the characters of this book to be interesting. The main ones in the book are Mary and Father O'Brien, but the residents of Mill River are a very important part of this book too. We meet Kyle, the new town policeman and his daughter, the new schoolteacher in town Claudia, "crazy" Daisy who loves brewing homemade potions in her caravan, Lyle the other policeman about town amongst others. I enjoyed reading their stories as much as I did Mary's. Kyle in particular was someone I really liked, the perfect man in many ways and the fact he's a widower makes him a little more likeable in a way! Yes, things happen that aren't so good for these people, but it just adds to tension a little bit, although as I say it was a tad predictable as it went along.

Mary's past story was perhaps the most interesting bit of this book for me, I really looked forward to finding out the things that happened to make Mary the recluse she is today. Chan attempts to go into some detail about Mary's 'Social Anxiety Disorder', and we do a good feeling about how Mary feels when she attempts to leave the house. Reading about her doomed marriage to Patrick, and her love for her horses in quite emotional, and I kept reading dreading what was going to happen next. I felt incredibly sorry for Mary and was desperate for her to overcome her fears, and it's a heart-wrenching journey that this character goes on. The setting for the book of Mill River is perfect, a sleepy quiet town with a small amount of residents, and Chan describes it so well through her writing, it comes to life in your mind as you're reading. The story keeps up a good pace, and I didn't find it slacking at all, although I thought a little twist towards the end was a little unnecessary and didn't seem to fit in and I wouldn't have missed it if it wasn't there!

I thought The Mill River Recluse was a really charming read, and I enjoyed reading it from start to finish. There was something about it that really drew me into reading it, and I was carried away with the story of Mary and her life as a recluse, and wishing only good things for her. It isn't the best written book in the world, don't get me wrong, but it is very enjoyable. There are enough characters to make it interesting, but not too many that you can't keep track. There's a few interesting sub-stories in here to keep up the pace which were good, but it's really Mary's story that is the heart and soul of the book. I really loved it, yes it's sweet and predictable but for me that was part of its charm. A lovely debut novel, and I look forward to Chan's next book which will also be set in Mill River. One to curl up with this winter.

You can buy The Mill House Recluse as a paperback or an eBook now.

24 November 2012

Healing For Kerry

Sometimes horrible things happen to wonderful people. One such person is the beautiful Kerry, aka Multiple Mummy. Kerry is a fantastically successful blogger, blogging all things parenting and raising her 3 children with husband Nick. Kerry is now seriously ill in hospital. In July, she suffered a ruptured aneursym which caused her to have a brain haemorrhage. She's had several infections which have caused her several setbacks, but is still fighting through it all for the sake of her husband and 3 beautiful children.

While Kerry is a blogger that I don't personally know, I do know her husband Nick. He was one of my teachers at school, and a really lovely guy, and I hate thinking about what he's going through, and their 3 young children too, and I also went to school with Kerry's brother. To happen to someone you know in a round-about way is awful, and every day I log on to find out if there have been any updates, whether through Kerry's blog or Facebook.

So today, the blogging and twitter communities are coming together to say a prayer for Kerry, to hope that she makes a speedy recovery and to wish her well in her fight. If you're on twitter, use the hashtag #Healing4Kerry to spread the word, and to spread the prayer for Kerry. Even if you aren't religious, just spread the message of hope. Or, as Multiple Daddy Nick says, just eat chocolate and think of Kerry!

If you haven't read Multiple Mummy's blog yet, you can visit it here, or just to see exactly who Kerry is, watch this incredibly emotional video to find out more, put together by Multiple Daddy. Kerry, and Nick and the children, we are all thinking of you and praying hard today.

23 November 2012

Book News: Anyone For Secrets? by Fiona Cassidy

Irish author Fiona Cassidy is back with her brand new book Anyone for Secrets? next week on 28th November, and I'm really looking forward to reading it as it's the last in the 'Anyone' trilogy! The previous two books were fantastic, and I can't wait to see how it all ends for these characters.

"Ruby Reilly has just discovered the missing link in her life in the form of her birth mother. Everyone is delighted, except of course her adoptive mother Isobel. So Ruby decides to distract Isobel and herself (and drive everyone else to distraction?) by engaging in another manhunt ... this time for her birth father...

Frankie McCarthy's relationship with her stepdaughter has blossomed in the last few years but sours spectacularly as soon as a man comes into the picture. Can Frankie save the wilful Angelica from the clutches of the manipulative Jerome or will the teenager stick to her dangerous path just to spite her?

Jodi McDermott has arrived in Swiftstown because that's where the bus dropped her off after she ran away. The former PR goddess has been reduced to living in a small flat where the feng shui is definitely not working. Then fate points to a way out of this trap... if she has the nerve.

Appearances can be deceptive and you just never know what happens behind closed doors... Anyone for Secrets?"

You can pre-order Anyone for Secrets? as a paperback now.

22 November 2012

eBook Short Story Review: The Christmas Bake-Off by Abby Clements

"A fun and festive short story from Abby Clements. 

With Christmas just around the corner, the residents of Skipley village are gearing up for the annual bake off, and tensions are high. 

Winning means a lot to everyone involved - talented cake-shop owner Katie dreams of baking stardom, Rachel wants to prove she's more than a stay-at-home mum, and John hopes his culinary skills will impress the woman he loves. 

But when the judges discover that some cakes have been tampered with, the villagers' loyalties are called into question - whose ambition would stretch to sabotage, and why?"

Rating: 5/5

This is only going be a brief review because, well, it's only a short story/novella so there' no need to go into it in too much detail! If you've read Abby Clement's debut novel Meet Me Under the Mistletoe, then you'll certainly recognise a few characters in this book! We meet Rachel, daughter Milly and mother-in-law Bea once more, this time at Shipley's 'Christmas Bake Off'. Rachel is looking to show off her baking prowess, cake shop owner Katie wants to show the celebrity judge what she's made of, and local man John is attempting his first ever festive themed cake. It was nice to mix both the old and new characters, and I loved catching up with Rachel, Bea and Milly again, even if for a short period.

For me, this story was way too short! Clements straight away dives in with the main crux of the story, which is that someone has sabotaged a few of the Christmas cake entries, and the residents of Shipley are left wondering who could do such a thing?! I loved reading about the various cakes on offer, and it certainly gets you in a festive mood. I'm quite looking forward to trying Bea's Cinnamon stars thanks to the included recipe at the end of the eBook too. I loved the little notions of romance, and the love of Christmas throughout the book, I thoroughly enjoyed it. It's a fun, but too short, short story, and will certainly want to make you read 'Meet Me Under the Mistletoe' if you haven't already. A great free eBook, get yours now.

You can buy The Christmas Bake Off as an eBook right now, for free!

Book News: Cupcakes at Carrington's by Alexandra Brown

I do love a good book series, so when I found out Alexandra Brown's debut novel Cupcakes at Carrington's is the first of a 3 part series, I started to look forward to it even more! It's due on 17th January 2013, and I think the cover is really pretty too, and looks fun (click it to see a bigger version). I can't wait to read it, especially to read about the lovely cupcakes!

"Georgie Hart loves her job – running the luxury handbag concession at Carrington's Department store in the pretty seaside town of Mulberry Bay, and treating herself (once too often!) to a red velvet cupcake with buttercream icing in Carrington's café.

But Georgie is thrown into disarray when Carrington's is plunged into a recession-busting makeover, cueing the arrival of femme fatale Maxine, who wields the axe in her immaculately-manicured hands.

It spells a recipe for disaster for Georgie and soon she is fighting not only for her job, but also for the attentions of her gorgeous boss, James. And when hot newcomer Tom arrives, who may or may not be the best thing since sliced bread, Georgie must decide where her loyalties really lie…"

You can pre-order Cupcakes at Carrington's as a paperback or an eBook now.

21 November 2012

Book Review: The Perfect Present by Karen Swan

"Haunted by a past she can’t escape, Laura Cunningham desires nothing more than to keep her world small and precise - her quiet relationship and growing jewellery business are all she needs to get by. Until the December day when Rob Blake walks into her studio and commissions a necklace that will tell his enigmatic wife Cat’s life in charms. As Laura interviews Cat’s family, friends and former lovers, she steps out of her world and into theirs – a charmed world where weekends are spent in Verbier and the air is lavender-scented, where friends are wild, extravagant and jealous, and a big love has to compete with grand passions. Hearts are opened, secrets revealed and as the necklace begins to fill up with trinkets, Cat’s intoxicating life envelops Laura’s own. By the time she has to identify the final charm, Laura’s metamorphosis is almost complete. But the last story left to tell has the power to change all of their lives forever, and Laura is forced to choose between who she really is and who it is she wants to be."

Rating: 4/5

As you all know by now, I do love a Christmas novel, and last year I thoroughly enjoyed Karen Swan's first festive offering Christmas at Tiffany's. Swan decided again this year to release another festive novel, this time entitled The Perfect Present. I loved the cover straight away, with the red and the snow, it looks really beautiful and romantic looking. It's quite a long book at just over 500 pages, and despite a bit of a slow start, it was, by the end, a beautifully written tale of love, loss and friendship, and how we don't always know everything about those that we love, and to just live each day as it comes. Here's why I think I should be reading 'The Perfect Present' this Christmas.

Laura Cunningham hasn't had an easy life, but she loves her job as a jewellery maker, working in her own isolated studio, while she lives with boyfriend Jack, and works with best friend and manager Fee. Laura only works to commissions, so when she's approached by Rob Blake who demands she makes an intricate charm necklacke for his wife, she's a bit taken aback. Reluctantly, Laura accepts and for the next few weeks, her life is changed as she embraces Rob's expensive lifestyle, flitting abroad to Verbier and skiing with Cat's nearest and dearest, to wild, expensive parties and auctions. But as the necklace slowly fills up with charms that Laura is creating, Cat's lifestyle is rubbing off more and more on Laura's own life. Can Cat's necklace make Laura face up to what it is she's running away from, and will the necklace leave all of their lives changed forever?

As I mentioned before, I did the start of the book was a little bit slow, and it took my perseverance to keep going with it, and know that something better was ahead, and I'm pleased that I did. Laura was an interesting character, someone I didn't fully warm to throughout the book and found a little bit fickle, and I had the feeling there was something being held back about her that would explain a lot of things. I was right, as things are revealed as the book progresses which does explain a lot of Laura's behaviour, but I still didn't like some of her actions in the book, and she is certainly a flawed character. I felt very sorry for her boyfriend Jack, he was the perfect boyfriend in so many ways, but wasn't getting the love and respect back he deserved, probably something which didn't help my response to Laura at all!

I really loved the focus on a charm necklace (although of course quite similar to Melissa Hill's latest book The Charm Bracelet), and how each charm was created after Laura interviewing each of Cat's friends and family to find the "real her". Of course, this mean secrets are revealed, and Laura struggles to cope with what she's finding out, and the fact she's being swept away by the lavish lifestyle suddenly thrust upon her. The people in Cat's life, including Cat herself actually, weren't very nice people, all a bit obsessed with their own lives, money and designer labels (which were frequently name dropped throughout the book!). The only one I really liked was Kitty, the busy housewife who seemed to be the only genuine person in the whole book! However, having a cast of dislikeable people makes for interesting reading as things develop, and I really wasn't sure how it was all going to end for Laura, Rob, Cat and co. The festive feeling was there throughout the book, although not laid on too thick (sadly!) , just the odd mention, and of course the winteriness of Verbier and skiing transports you to that winter frame of mind!

This is a very involved story with quite a few characters that you really have to sit down and concentrate to read to keep on top of all the things going on, but it's a very enjoyable novel that sweeps you away in the glamorous lifestyles of the characters within, and get drawn into Laura's puzzling past that still affects her present. It was fun to read about the friendships in the book, how they've changed as people get older and circumstances change, and how things aren't always as they seem between the friends. It's an emotional read, but one that doesn't get too carried away with the "tugging on your heartstrings" storyline, it's enough to make you feel for Laura, and understand why she is the way she is, but also teaches us how we certainly don't know everything about people that we think we do. I enjoyed it, and look forward to more from Karen Swan.

You can buy The Perfect Present as a paperback or an eBook now.

Book News: The Secret Supper Club by Dana Bate

Dana Bate's debut novel is due out on 6th December through Canvas publishers, and it sounds like a great read based around a 'secret supper club'. I've read a couple of books this year based around this theme so I'm looking forward to seeing what Bate can do with the idea. I have to say I'm loving the bright and funky cover though!


If twenty-six-year-old Hannah Sugarman had her way, she’d be whipping up carrot cakes and running her culinary empire. Instead, she spends her hours cooking up papers on the financial crisis. It doesn’t help that no one in her life takes her passion seriously – not even her boyfriend.


When her relationship implodes, Hannah decides to jump-start her life by hosting a secret supper club out of her landlord’s flat. Her underground operation presents some problems. Running an unlicensed restaurant out of someone’s home is not, technically speaking, legal.


As the success of Hannah’s supper club grows, so do the number of secrets she is forced to keep. Can Hannah keep her pop-up restaurant underground? When mysterious guests turn up for dinner, can she handle the heat? Or will she have to step out of the kitchen?

A charming romantic comedy, The Secret Supper Club is a story about finding yourself, fulfilling your dreams, and falling in love along the way."

You can order The Secret Supper Club as a paperback or an eBook now.

20 November 2012

Chick Lit Chloe's Awards 2012: Author of the Year Reader Vote - Round 2 voting opens!

Thank you all for your nominations in Round 1. I've collated the results, and now the top ten are listed here! In Round 2, we're going to whittle it down to the top 3 authors.... simply vote for your TOP 3 choices out of the available ones here, and the top 3 voted for will go through to the final round where it'll be a vote for the winner. This round closes on Monday 3rd December at midday, so get voting now! Please only vote once so it's a fair result. If you vote for more than 3, your vote will be removed, please ensure you stick to the rules! (Listed in alphabetical order, not by order of votes in Round 1!)

19 November 2012

Book Review: Christmas at the Cupcake Café by Jenny Colgan

"Issy Randall, proud owner of The Cupcake Cafe, is in love and couldn't be happier. Her new business is thriving and she is surrounded by close friends, even if her cupcake colleagues Pearl and Caroline don't seem quite as upbeat about the upcoming season of snow and merriment. But when her boyfriend Austin is scouted for a possible move to New York, Issy is forced to face up to the prospect of a long-distance romance. And when the Christmas rush at the cafe - with its increased demand for her delectable creations - begins to take its toll, Issy has to decide what she holds most dear.

This December, Issy will have to rely on all her reserves of courage, good nature and cinnamon, to make sure everyone has a merry Christmas, one way or another . . "

Rating: 5/5

I absolutely loved Jenny Colgan's 2011 release Meet Me at the Cupcake Café, it was my first ever Jenny Colgan book, and it was a delight to read from start to finish. I think it prompted a whole new fanbase for Jenny as well, and the gorgeous covers certainly help matters, they're so pretty! I really loved the characters that we met in that book, so when I heard that Jenny was bringing them back for a festive offering, I was really pleased, it seemed like a cupcake café would be the perfect setting for a Christmassy book! The cover is so pretty, with it's light blue and red, and the intricate patterns around the edge, and as soon as it arrived, I got stuck in and devoured it as quickly as I could...  much like I would one of Issy's cupcakes!

Issy Randall's 'Cupcake Café' is going from strength to strength, and she loves working there. She's still close friends with her colleagues Pearl, and her best friend Helena is still enjoying being a new mother, although Issy feels her friend's obsession with her new baby daughter is driving a wedge between their friendship. Then there's Issy's relationship with boyfriend Austin, which seems to be going well too. But when Austin is offered a job opportunity that could make he and his brother Darny more well off and successful than he ever could have thought, Issy is worried that it will spell the end of their relationship. Will Issy have the courage to stand up for what she really believes in, and what will come of her beloved Cupcake Café?

The really good thing about this book is that you don't have to have read the first book to really enjoy this one, and this is something that Colgan acknowledges in her short introduction to the book. She very briefly recaps what happened in the last book, and this was enough to refresh my memory sufficiently for me to quickly slip back into these characters and enjoy the book! Issy is the same as before; likeable, friendly and kind, and the perfect person to run the cafe. She bakes amazing sounding cakes, and as with the last book, Colgan has included recipes for the cakes that Issy bakes, and there are certainly a few that I want to try out myself! Issy is a great leading lady for the book, and I really enjoyed following her story, from her café over to New York and back again.

Issy's friends are also quite important in the book too, although of course their stories are secondary to the main one of Issy and Austin. Pearl, a single mother, is dreading the financial burden that Christmas is undoutedbly going to put on her, but wants to give her son Louis the best things that she can. Caroline, a divorcée single mum whose job at the Cupcake Café is her first job ever, is trying to be strong despite her husband's infidelities, but her attitude keeps rubbing her colleagues and customers up the wrong way. Then there's Helena who is a new mum to baby Chadani Imelda (sorry but just reading that name makes me a bit cross, I couldn't stand reading it in the book!) and her obsession with her new daughter and her developments are pushing Issy away somewhat. All of these characters are so important to the book, and I liked how Colgan effortlessly weaves them into the book through the Cupcake Café.

I was surprised at New York being included in the book, as it didn't seem to fit at all, and given that I'd just read a book set in that city, I was a bit worried it would seem a bit repetitive and spoil my enjoyment. However, of course that wasn't the case, and while the scenes in NYC were few and far between, there to update us on Austin and to throw a spanner in the works for Issy, they were fun to read, especially as it was set at Christmas and Colgan writes the city so beautifully. I loved the 'will they, won't they' aspect of this storyline, and was worried about whether Issy and Austin would make it through, it's not clear cut as you're reading and I loved that! Colgan really weaves her Christmas magic through this book, from the lovely descriptions of the festive decorations that adorn the Cupcake Café, to the lovely cakes and cookies that Issy bakes throughout the book, plus the excitement of young Louis for Christmas that is just infectious! I loved every page of this book and didn't want it to end, I just hope this isn't the last we see of Issy and her wonderful Cupcake Café! This book is simply a must-read this Christmas.

You can buy Christmas at the Cupcake Café as a hardback or an eBook now.

National Book Awards 2012 Nominations

The nominations for the Specsavers National Book Awards 2012 have been announced! In the category of popular fiction, it's great to see three of the biggest names in Women's Fiction up for the award which is brilliant! You can visit the official website to find out the nominations in all of the categories, but my congratulations go out to Dorothy Koomson, E L James and Jojo Moyes for their nominations! It's also great to see Eowyn Ivey up for the 'Google Play International Author of the Year too!

Popular Fiction Book of the Year 2012 
The Rose Petal Beach by Dorothy Koomson

Me Before You by Jojo Moyes

Fifty Shades of Grey by E L James

The Thread by Victoria Hislop

Citadel by Kate Mosse

1356 by Patricia Cornwell

17 November 2012

Festival of Romance Award Winners

The 2012 Festival of Romance Awards were held last night, and there have been some great winners! I'm really thrilled to see Rowan Coleman win 'Best Romance Read' for 'Dearest Rose', and Nicola May win 'Best Author Published' for 'The School Gates'! My biggest congratulations go to all the winners! I'm only listing the book winners here, but there were plenty of other categories so take a look at their website to find out more of the winners.

Best Romance Novel
Dearest Rose by Rowan Coleman

Best Author Published
The School Gates by Nicola May

Best Historical Read
The Silent Touch of Shadows by Christina Courtenay

Innovation Award (Author)
Mandy Baggot

Publisher of the Year
Choc Lit

13 November 2012

Book Review: From Notting Hill to New York... Actually by Ali McNamara

"Scarlett O'Brien, utterly addicted to romantic films, has found her leading man. She's convinced Sean is Mr Right, but the day-to-day reality of a relationship isn't quite like the movies. With Sean constantly away on business, Scarlett and her new best friend Oscar decide to head to New York for the holiday of a lifetime.

From one famous landmark to the next, Scarlett and Oscar make many new friends during their adventure - including sailors in town for Fleet Week, a famous film star, and Jamie & Max, a TV reporter and cameraman. Scarlett finds herself strangely drawn to Jamie, they appear to have much in common: a love of films and Jamie's search for a parent he never knew. But Scarlett has to ask herself why she is reacting like this to another man when she's so in love with Sean . . ."

Rating: 5/5

Sequels to books I have loved always worry me... I worry that they aren't going to live up to my high expectations, and that my enjoyment of the first book will then be tainted! I was really excited that Ali McNamara was writing a sequel to her 2010 fantastic debut novel From Notting Hill With Love... Actually, a fun read about a movie obsessive living her dream in Notting Hill - I'd really enjoyed that novel and hoped that catching up with Scarlett and her friends again would be a good idea! Luckily, McNamara chose to set the sequel in my favourite city in the world, New York, and having been there myself, I was looking forward to seeing how realistically she would write about it, and how it would work in terms of Scarlett, her movie obsession and her relationships in the book!

Scarlett thinks she has finally found her Mr Right in boyfriend Sean, and the pair are still living together in Notting Hill. However, things seem to have gone off the boil a bit more, especially with Sean's jet-set lifestyle and Scarlett feeling a bit lonely now her dad has moved to New York for their popcorn business. When Scarlett decides she needs a break, she flies to see her dad with best friend Oscar, to the fabulous city of New York. While there, they bump into British TV presenter Jamie and his cameraman Max, and Scarlett hits it off with both of them. However, she starts to worry when she feels more of a connection with Jamie than she probably should, especially when Sean is only across the water waiting at home for her...

For me, it was easy to slip back into the lives of Scarlett and Sean, and it didn't feel like it had been nearly 2 years since I had last read about them both! McNamara recaps enough of their past to gently remind you of things as you're reading, and as such, those who haven't read the first book will still be able to enjoy this one just as much, albeit without knowing all of the ins and outs of Scarlett's escapades in Notting Hill! Although the book starts in Notting Hill, it does soon move over to New York, and I really enjoyed reading this part, especially as I could relate to it myself having been there twice before! I found McNamara's descriptions to be perfect, from the landmarks she describes, to the walkabouts that Scarlett goes on by herself... its clear to imagine exactly whats going on because of McNamara's use of detail, and her passion for it in her writing too which I cannot fault.

Couple this great side of the book with a likeable cast of characters and you're already on to a winning formula! I love Scarlett as a character - she's funny, she's realistic and believable, and all the time you're rooting for her to get her happy ending. She and Oscar are just hilarious together, especially exploring all the infamous New York sights... Oscar is just brilliant and makes reading the book even more of a joy! The use of two other British men in the book gives it another edge, and some of the storylines that come out of that are a tad far-fetched, but they are very fun to read about... McNamara must have had fun imagining the conversations Scarlett had with the very famous person in this book! As well as the more light-hearted side of the novel, there is a more serious storyline involving a TV station manager and a charity close to his heart... McNamara deals with this issue with compassion, and it felt well situated in amongst the more light stories and links in nicely with the other story threads.

I have to say that my favourite part was the last 30-40 pages where things suddenly come to a head, and I found myself whizzing through at lightning pace to find out how it was going to end, I loved how McNamara engineered this book's ending, and gives the reader a little extra excitement before we say goodbye to Scarlett and co once more! It's written in the first person from Scarlett's perspective, and this allows you to really get into her head and feel her confusion, excitement, nerves and more as the book progresses, and it allows the descriptions of New York to be really detailed too. I loved every page of this book, it really drew me in and I found myself guessing along with the book, and how things were going to go as it wasn't too obvious at various points! McNamara's writing is easy to read, and she's written a fun and readable novel that movie fans are going to love again as Scarlett goes exploring the setting of some of most brilliant movies of all time! A must-read from me, I loved it!

You can buy From Notting Hill to New York... Actually as a paperback or an eBook now.