31 May 2013

Book Review: The Lying Game by Tess Stimson

"There are some things we are never meant to know . . . Harriet Lockwood has never really bonded with her daughter, Florence, the way she has with her three sons. Then one day, she discovers why. The girl she’s raised for the last fifteen years is not her biological child. Zoey Sands is a single mother with a chaotic lifestyle. The one constant in her life is her daughter, Nell. Nothing can ever come between them – can it? When Harriet turns up on Zoey’s doorstep demanding to see her biological daughter, the two families are plunged into a storm of bitter rivalries… and unexpected alliances." 

Rating: 4/5

You can buy The Lying Game as a paperback or an eBook now.

I love novels that I can really get involved in, and have a story that is a little bit shocking as well. Tess Stimson is one of those authors who always delivers on those things for me, and I have really enjoyed all of the books I have read so far by her. Her publishers Pan have gone for a brand new cover look for her new book, The Lying Game, and while I don't really know how it exactly ties in to the story, I think it's a nice looking and striking book cover, it's certainly bright and colourful. The story itself sounded like every parent's worst nightmare, but I was intrigued to read more and find out which family's side I would come out supporting and why - I do love a good gritty novel!

Although Harriet loves being a mother, she's the first to admit that she hasn't really got a good bond with her eldest daughter Florence. Being her only daughter, Harriet wonders if it's something she's done that has stopped her bonding, or if it's her being too caring over her daughter's diabetes. Either way, she knows something is amiss. So when she finds out her baby was switched at birth for another woman's daughter, things start to fall into place for Harriet, and she realises why she has struggled to bond with Florence. Zoe Sands' daughter Nell, is the other baby who was switched at birth. The two are close, and are a small, tight family unit. But when Harriet suddenly appears on their doorstep one day, the lives of two families are thrown into utter disarray, and both women know that their lives will never be the same again. But has Harriet done the right thing by everyone in tracking down the daughter she never knew?

Thankfully, stories like this are not very common, especially in this day and age, but you do still read about the odd one, and yes, it is every parent's worst nightmare. You trust hospitals, you trust nurses and midwives and you know that the baby you take home from the hospital is yours. So Stimson has certainly chosen to write about a controversial issue here, and part of me was actually unsure I wanted to read it because I didn't know how it would make me feel as I read it. The two families, set in two very different parts of the world, couldn't be more different, and I think this not only highlights their lifestyle differences, but really emphasises the differences between Nell and Florence as well, and again makes for very interesting reading once you're involved in the book.

I have to confess that I didn't really warm to Harriet from the beginning. I found the way she was awkward with her daughter to be a bit awkward to read, and her blatant showing of it to Florence was to me awful. That said, you can understand why Harriet struggles, the lack of a bond between them is plain to read. One the other hand, you have Nell and Zoe, a very close mother and daughter who can share anything as it's always been just the two of them against the world. Stimson makes the families so incredibly different, and how they handle the news of their birth swaps is too very different. Harriet's happily married to husband Rob, Zoe is engaged to Richard but isn't sure he is 'the one' she's meant to be with. Either way, both women know the discovery and subsequent activities will impact on their relationships, but neither can forsee what happens. At times, I found Harriet's actions to be terrible, I found her selfish and entirely unrepentant, then suddenly I would dislike Zoe and hate what she did next, despite what else she was going through. I loved how Stimson made me unsure of who I was supporting, and keeps the story twisting and turning all the way to the final pages.

Stimson takes a while to set the stage of the story, and I enjoyed this because I felt like I really got to know the families and could feel something for them as their shocking news came to light. Harriet and her family live a very well-to-do life in Vermont in America, whereas Zoe and Nell live pretty much on the breadline in a flat in London. Their reactions to the news were hard to read, denial, acceptance, grief and excitement, I dread to think how it must feel to get that news. This must have been an interesting story to research for Stimson, and this comes across in her writing and how she deals with the issues and the characters after. In fact, the finding out about the baby swap is just the tip of the iceberg of this story, with lots more revelations appearing as you read on, but I don't want to spoil them because you simply have to read it to find out the shocking things that happen!

This is a fantastic book by Tess Stimson that you can really get taken into as you're reading, and it certainly made me glad that I will never be in that position with Harry, he's a carbon copy of his dad so no doubts for me! But the book highlights how easily these things can happen, and how catastrophic the consequences can be for those involved when things are revealed many years later. I found myself swinging between supporting Harriet, then Zoe, and it kept changing right up until the end when I just couldn't choose whose side I was on. You can see both women's side and whilst neither of them make particularly good decision, they do what they do for mainly the right reasons, and you can feel their pain and anguish in what they have been told. It's an emotional read, but one that will stay with you long after you turn the final page.

30 May 2013

Book News: Playing Grace by Hazel Osmond

I have read both of Hazel Osmond's previous releases, and am so excited to read her brand new book Playing Grace which is due out on 15th August. Hazel's books are always a great read, and it sounds like this one is going to be just as enjoyable, and I have to say I like the cover too, the colours work really well together. I'm looking forward to this one!

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

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

But then her boss hires Tate Saunders, a brash American, to spice up the gallery tours his company provides. Messy and fond of breaking rules, Tate explodes into her tidy existence like a paintball, and Grace hates everything about him...
...doesn't she?
Because, for Grace, the alternative would be simply too terrifying to contemplate: to love Tate rather than hate him would mean leaping out of her comfort zone, and Grace's devotion to order hides some long-kept secrets... secrets she's sure someone like Tate Saunders could never accept or understand."

29 May 2013

Book Review: The Bow Wow Club by Nicola May

"Ruby IS BACK and never expected to be starting over...but after a shocking bereavement, she begins to question whether or not she will ever be happy again.

A chance encounter with handsome author Michael Bell throws her fragile heart into turmoil. Plus, a dark family secret and completely unexpected love interest add to her confusion.

Encouraged to face her demons, she volunteers at The Bow Wow Club - (Boyfriends of Widows, Wives of Widowers).

In this charming sequel to Working it Out you will laugh and cry along with a myriad of eccentric characters as Ruby searches for her inner peace. But will she let love win? Or allow her past to continue to haunt her."

Rating: 3/5

You can buy The Bow Wow Club as a paperback or an eBook now.

I've been a big fan of all of Nicola May's previous novels, and have read them all on my Kindle so far. For a self-published author, she has made a real success of her work and has a loyal fanbase, and rightly so, some of her stories are excellent, if a little crude in parts for me. I was pleased that Nicola offered me the opportunity to read and review her latest novel The Bow Wow Club, which is a sequel to her previous book Working It Out. I enjoyed that book a lot, so I was looking forward to getting back with the character of Ruby and finding out what had happened with her. As it happened, Nicola has thrown this character a bit of a curveball and she's a different Ruby to the one we met before. And by the way, I just have to say how glad I am it isn't a novel all about dogs, which is what I had feared from the title lol!

Ruby thought she had it all, but when she is suddenly robbed of her happiness through a shocking and tragic bereavement, she begins to question everything about her life and what makes her happy. When she bumps into handsome stranger Michael Bell by chance, she wonders if she can open her heart again and perhaps begin to move on with someone who makes her happy. Ruby begins to volunteer at the local Bow-Wow club, and hopes that hearing stories of those like her can help her move on and get through her grief. But with every move she makes, she feels guilty, like she shouldn't be allowed to get on with her life. Will Ruby be able to find happiness in her future again?

If you haven't read Working It Out, you don't have to worry because enough things are referenced in this book that you'll be able to keep up fine, although obviously it does help if you've read and know the back story a little bit! Plus if you've read it, there's always that great things of catching up with characters you've read before. I always liked Ruby, even if she was a bit promiscuous for my liking, and sadly that isn't something that changed at all in this book. Actually, it felt worse in this book because of the storyline, and I actually cringed as I read a few scenes in this book, it just felt wrong and I didn't feel comfortable at all. Don't get me wrong - I'm not a prude, I've read and enjoyed the Fifty Shades books, and while this of course doesn't reach those levels, it was the setting and everything about those scenes in this book which just didn't wash with me I'm afraid.

Sadly, neither did the main male character in the book. I felt the scenes with him and his writing of his own book were just awful, they felt so wooden and out of touch, I actually skipped quite a lot of them, and didn't feel I missed much. Michael was a terrible character, I couldn't work out if he were a good guy or a bad guy, and consequently, I had no feelings about what would happen at the end for him and Ruby, I couldn't care either way. Now to the good. May's writing is really good throughout, except the pieces with Michael, but I can forgive that for the delicate way she deals with Ruby's grief and some of those scenes were very emotional and not easy to read. Hopefully it isn't a scene many readers will be able to relate to but May writes it so well, you almost feel Ruby's emotions along with her.

Being a Nicola May book though, it isn't all doom and gloom luckily, and there's a lot of humour in there to keep you smiling along as you're reading. Ruby can be very funny, as can her friends and family (we didn't get to see enough of her lovely brother in this book for my liking!), but there were a few scenes with her friends too that didn't sit quite right with me, despite the humour that tried to come along with it. Fi, her best friend, is a bit too raucous and rude for my liking, but some of her bits were funny, while others made me cringe but I expect a lot of people will like her. Ruby, though, for me, is the best bit of the book and I am glad May chose to bring her back in this book and tell more of her story in this book.

Overall, The Bow Wow Club was a good read, and I enjoyed most parts of it. However, as I mentioned there were a few areas which just weren't to my taste, and I couldn't overcome these as I often try to when I read a book. Ruby was a great character, and Simon was a fantastic addition to the cast, but sadly I cannot say the same for the awful Michael. May has certainly got a talent for writing very readable and enjoyable novels, and it's still a surprise to me she hasn't been snapped up by a big publishing house as she gets good reviews on Amazon consistently. Yes, parts of it weren't for me, and at times I found the writing didn't flow to my liking, but overall, I'd recommend this book to people who like a light-hearted read about a more serious topic, or if you've enjoyed Working It Out then you'll definitely want to grab a copy of this.

28 May 2013

Book News: You and I by Emily Gillmor Murphy

I always love discovering new authors, and one such author is young Irish writer Emily Gillmor Murphy. I was sent her debut novel, You & I, to review, and whilst I wasn't really blown away by the cover, I loved the sound of the story, and I'm happy to report it's really good so far! It's out on 6th June.

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

"Each September, thousands of students walk through the doors of University College and Trinity College, Dublin. This year, Olive and Tom will be among them.

Eighteen-year-old Olive is fresh from the country, and her eyes are opened wide by the big-city goings on of her new friends. When she starts to be pursued by Tom, the scruffy maverick who's seduced half the girls she's met, she's adamant he's not for her. But when a tragedy befalls her family, it's Tom who proves her best friend - until that is, she discovers his real motivations.

Tom has never thought further than the next party, the next girl, the next drink. But now, with his own broken family about to cast him off and his social habits spinning out of control, he seems to have destroyed his relationship with Olive. What started out as a stupid dare metamorphoses into something much more serious.

Set against the backdrop of youth on the brink of adulthood, and capturing the contrasts of the haves versus the have-nots, the worldly versus the innocent, Emily Gillmor Murphy's YOU AND I is an assured debut that will transport readers straight to the rollercoaster experience of growing up and falling in love."

27 May 2013

Book Review: The Perfume Collector by Kathleen Tessaro

"One letter will turn newly-married Grace Munroe's life upside down:

'Our firm is handling the estate of the deceased Mrs Eva D'Orsey and it is our duty to inform you that you are named as the chief beneficiary in her will. We request your presence at our offices at your earliest convenience, so that we may go through the details of your inheritance.'

There is only one problem. Grace has never heard of Eva D'Orsey. So begins a journey which leads Grace through the streets of Paris and into the seductive world of perfumers and their muses. An abandoned perfume shop on the Left Bank will lead her to unravel the heartbreaking story of her mysterious benefactor, an extraordinary woman who bewitched high society in 1920s New York and Paris."

Rating: 5/5

You can buy The Perfume Collector as a paperback or an eBook now.

I haven't read a Kathleen Tessaro novel for a few years now, so was really pleased to receive a review copy of her new book, The Perfume Collector. This is Kathleen's first book in the UK for a few years, and I have to say I was really intrigued by both the gorgeous and striking cover, and the story line. To be honest, I do not usually go for historical type fiction books, as I prefer things set in the modern day but there was something about this book which was really drawing me in and I just wanted to read it and find out more. After reading just a few chapters, I was hooked and totally drawn into the world of Eva and Grace. Tessaro's book was an utter joy to read, and here's why I think you should read it.

This book is set in two different periods. Firstly, there is the 1950's with Grace. She has been left a large estate by a Ms Eva D'Orsey, but Grace has no knowledge at all of knowing Eva. The estate is in France, so Grace leaves her home and her husband behind and flies across the water to see exactly what she has been left, and to try and work out who Eva is. In between this story, we find out more about the mysterious Eva D'Orsey, growing up in New York in the 1920's. Eva works as a chambermaid in a rather posh hotel, and has her eyes opened to the world in a number of ways when she is working there. But what exactly is Eva hiding behind that happy facade, and what is her link to the young British girl Grace?

We first find out the life of young Grace, a woman growing up in a loveless marriage, and struggling to find a purpose in her life. She doesn't want to just be a society wife, and dreams of having a job that will fulfill her but knows that her husband and friends look down on this idea. I really found Grace to  be an intriguing character - she has no parents left, no real close friends and not a good relationship with her husband too. She's very much a loner, and I liked how she jumped at the chance to fly away from her life to France to find out more about the estate she has been left in Eva's will. Tessaro writes 1950's Britain and France so well, everything from Grace's outfits to the customs and way of life at that time are so well written, you can easily immerse yourself in it, and I found it very refreshing to read about a time gone by, and a much simpler way of life without Twitter or Facebook being referenced every 5 minutes!

Eva D'Orsey on the other hand was quite an interesting one to read about. We meet her as a young and very naive teenager when she starts work at a posh hotel in New York, and see how she is transformed as her eyes are opened to the real world and the people who frequent the hotel. We learn of Eva's talents, and how she can be manipulated thanks to these, but also how she can manipulate others too as she becomes more self-aware. I have to say I found her story quite sad in a way, she's very lonely and latches onto those she feels she can benefit from, rather than anyone she seems to love. Eva and Grace are quite alike in these aspects, and I loved how Tessaro switched from one story to the next quite easily. It wasn't at all hard to keep up with their stories, and as soon as one began I was completely immersed in that until again it switched over to the other tale - both were as good as the other, and I was enjoying every single page.

The perfumery part of the book was so intriguing, and unlike anything else I have read on the subject  before. We meet two important characters in the book who are very knowledgeable about perfume, and through them I found out so much about scent, and how scents can be created to be like anything you wish for them to be. Tessaro writes this in such a captivating way you can see why Eva becomes immersed in this world too, and it was fascinating to see how Grace uses an old abandoned perfumery in Paris to try and piece together some of Eva's past she craves to know about, and how that links in to the rest of the book. The way Tessaro writes Paris, too, is amazing; she is so evocative in her language and imagery that you can really believe you are walking the Parisian streets with Grace, and earlier on in the book the sumptuous New York hotel just comes alive on the pages with Tessaro's descriptive writing, and viewing it through the quite childish and in-awe eyes of Eva.

This book is a superbly crafted piece of literature, and I can honestly say it is one of the best books I have read so far this year. What's even better is that it is totally different to the normal sort of books I have read, and has perhaps opened my eye to another genre of books I would otherwise perhaps overlook. It has an intriguing story that drew me in right from the first page, and I loved both Eva and Grace as characters, they were fantastic to read about and although the mystery element in the book became fairly obvious to me after a while, I was simply enchanted by the book and couldn't wait to find out how these characters were going to puzzle things out and what was going to happen next for them. It jumps through the years, the places, the people with ease, and you not only care about the journeys that Eva and Grace go on, but you are swept into this beguiling world of perfume and its creation too. A beautifully written and absorbing read that I cannot recommend highly enough. Simply brilliant.

25 May 2013

Book Review: Vivien's Heavenly Ice Cream Shop by Abby Clements

"When Imogen and Anna unexpectedly inherit their grandmother Vivien's ice cream parlour, it turns both their lives upside-down. The Brighton shop is a seafront institution, but while it's big on charm it's critically low on customers. If the sisters don't turn things around quickly, their grandmother's legacy will disappear forever.

With summer looming, Imogen and Anna devise a plan to return Vivien's to its former glory. Rather than sell up, they will train up, and make the parlour the newest destination on the South Coast foodie map.

While Imogen watches the shop, her sister flies to Italy to attend a gourmet ice cream-making course. But as she works shoulder-to-shoulder with some of the best chefs in the industry, Anna finds that romance can bloom in the most unexpected of places..."

Rating: 5/5

You can buy Vivien's Heavenly Ice Cream Shop as a paperback or an eBook now.

I absolutely loved Abby Clements' debut novel Meet Me Under the Mistletoe which was released last year, and was a beautifully written festive treat which made me very excited to read more from her. Luckily for me, I didn't have to wait a whole year until she released a new book, as this brilliant book was released just a few days ago, just in time for the summer I hope we are going to be having soon! I loved the cover straight away, it's a gorgeous summerly looking one with pale pinks and teals, it really is beautiful and somehow perfectly fits the book. Anyway, here is why you must read Vivien's Heavenly Ice Cream Shop.

Clements bases the book around two sisters, Anna and Imogen, who couldn't be more different as people. Anna is happily settled with her boyfriend and his son, moving into a new flat is a huge step for her, and she's just got a good promotion at work too. Imogen has been living in Thailand for a few years, working on her photography and she loves travelling, and living by the sea. However, when their beloved grandmother Vivien dies and leaves the women her ice-cream shop, they decide maybe it's time to do what Vivien wanted and restore the ice-cream shop to its former glory once more. They soon find out though that running an ice-cream shop isn't as easy as they thought it would be and that it just might change their lives for the better as well!

I really liked both of the lead characters in this book so much, and I think that really enhanced my enjoyment of the book overall. While they are both very different, the girls both hold family very important to their hearts, and I liked how close they were to their grandmother, especially Anna who lived quite nearby. Vivien only appears briefly at the start of the book, but is important throughout, and I liked how frequently she was spoken about and referenced in the book. I really liked Anna, she's hard-working, she is a lovely person and is just someone who does the best for everyone around her. Her sister Imogen is very different - she enjoys being a free spirit even though her family want her home, and is reluctant to want to stay in England because of her travel bug. Even so, I liked how passionate she was about her photography and although she made some bad mistakes, her heart was in the right place.

Clements chose to set part of the book in Italy too, where Anna goes on an ice-cream making course and meets some new friends. I loved how realistically she writes these scenes, you can really imagine beautiful Italy around her, and the way she describes the ice-cream making process and the mouth-watering flavours she discovers sound just amazing! I really liked the character of Matteo she meets in Italy as well, he was great to read about, and their friendship was very sweet. In fact, the whole usage of ice-cream throughout the book was brilliant, and it certainly makes you think differently about it, especially when you're only used to eating the basic flavours we all know and love! I've never made my own ice-cream but this book makes it seem do-able and it'd be interesting to have a go!

This book was a joy from start to finish, and I have to say I'm a bit gutted that I read it as quickly as I did because it meant it was over too quickly! I loved everything about it, from the brilliant characters to the storyline that really draws you in. Yes, the idea of someone inheriting a shop has been done countless times in fiction, but there was something different about this one, it was more about the journey these women went on and how the shop helps them do that and changes them as people. The ice-creams sound so delicious, the shop sounds perfect, and I wish there were more places like that to visit as it sounds perfect! With a few bubbling romances going on, lots of delicious ice-cream and characters to really care about, Vivien's Heavenly Ice-Cream Shop is a book you'll definitely want to devour this summer. I really loved it, and I know you will too!

23 May 2013

Book News: My Husband Next Door by Catherine Alliott

Catherine Alliott's new book My Husband Next Door is due out on1st August, and it sounds like a really interesting story. I like the idea of a couple living quite separately yet staying married, I'm looking forward to reading it. I love the colour scheme on the cover too, it's very pretty!

You can pre-order My Husband Next Door as a paperback or an eBook now.

"When Ella married the handsome, celebrated artist Sebastian Montclair at just nineteen she was madly in love. Now, those blissful years of marriage have turned into the very definition of an unconventional set-up. Separated in every way but distance, Sebastian resides in an outhouse across the lawn from Ella's ramshackle farmhouse.

With an ex-husband living under her nose and a home crowded by hostile teenaged children, gender-confused chickens - not to mention her hyper critical mother whose own marriage slips spectacularly off the rails - Ella finds comfort in the company of the very charming gardener, Ludo.

Then out of the blue Sebastian decides to move on, catching Ella horribly unawares. How much longer can she hide from what really destroyed her marriage . . . and the secret she continues to keep?"

22 May 2013

Book Review: The Desperate Wife's Survival Plan by Alison Sherlock

"From riches to rags...

Charley Summers doesn't have a care in the world. She lives in the lap of luxury, supported by her rich husband and surrounded by a loyal group of friends.

Until the business goes bust and her world collapses. Before long the bailiffs have taken everything, and as if things weren't bad enough, she catches her husband with another woman. Suddenly, Charley needs a job, any job, so she can start repaying some of the money her husband squandered.

But with nowhere to live and no recognisable skills, how on earth is she to do that?

Charley needs a survival plan fast!"

Rating: 5/5

You can buy The Desperate Wife's Survival Plan as a paperback or an eBook now!

When Charley suddenly finds her life ripped apart around her, she doesn't know how to cope. Her husband, her hosue, her lifestyle - all of it gone in an instant. Charley has to move into a dismal flat on the worst side of town, and hates living alone. All of her old possessions have gone, and she realises that she needs a job to get by, something she's never needed before. But Charley knows she doesn't have any skills that she can use in a good job, and ends up with a cleaning job that she really doesn't like. But as she starts to make a bit of a success in her new life, and other opportunities begin to open up for her, Charley starts to think that maybe life isn't as bad she first feared it would be. Will Charley survive against the odds and make herself happy once more?!

I love a book where you can just get involved in the story straight away, and I found this was the case with this book, I loved it right from the first page! I loved Charley right from the beginning, even though she was a tad spoilt at first and really just bought everything she ever wanted without a second thought. Her marriage wasn't the best either, but I got the feeling she was just there because of their lifestyle, not for any great love! Anyway, the main story kicked off fairly quickly, and it was quite horrible to read in a way, it's your worst nightmare, suddenly finding out you have absolutely nothing left in the world and it's news to you too. Charley reacted quite predictably, but I did feel immensely sorry for her, she was taken by complete surprise and I felt that Sherlock really wrote these scenes well and realistically.

The developing story of Charley's life unravelling was really easy to read, and I didn't want to put it down each evening, I was so keen to find out what was going to happen next for her. I really did feel sorry for her, her new life did sound pretty awful, especially as she was getting used to living alone too, something I know isn't easy and the guilt of other things that had happened were weighing her down too. One of the more positive aspects of the book was the friendships she had with the other women, and I enjoyed reading about these other stories just as much as Charley's which was great! There's vain Samantha who only cares about herself and the next man she can get her claws into, single mum Juliet who finds herself with a brand new "friend" and then happily married Caroline, whose life isn't quite as perfect as she might make out. These women were realistic and believable, and their stories were ones you could really put your heart into as you read, and I cared so much about them having a nice ending.

In fact, these positive relationships are what really drive the book, showing good things can come out of bad, and a positive attitude can change so much. Charley begins feeling down in the dumps, well, as you would after losing everything, but manages to find something to be positive about. I loved the storyline involving Charley's obsession with ice-cream, it was mouth-watering in parts and it's certainly made me think about ice-cream in a different way, yum! While there's a fair bit of sadness at the start of the book, it by all means doesn't carry on and I loved the optimism written throughout, you just know something good has got to happen to these nice people. Sherlock has written them all brilliantly, making the reader care about them and want to read their stories, and I can honestly say I really did love this book. It's well written, has a story you can lose yourself in and it certainly makes you grateful that you aren't in Charley's position. A superbly written and enjoyable read, I can't wait for Sherlock's next book.

21 May 2013

Book Cover: About a Girl by Lindsey Kelk

Woo hoo! Here is the absolutely GORGEOUS cover for Lindsey Kelk's brand new book About A Girl which is due out in July! I was lucky enough to get a very early copy and have read it already, and you're all in for such a treat, it's absolutely brilliant! I am loving the cover too, so bright and summery looking! It's out on July 4th.

You can pre-order About A Girl now as a paperback or an eBook!

"I’d lost my job. I’d lost the love of my life. My mum wasn’t talking to me. My best friend was epically pissed off. And my flatmate probably had a hit out on me by now. I never meant for things to get so out of hand…

Tess Brookes has always been a Girl with a Plan. But when her carefully constructed Plan goes belly up, she’s forced to reconsider.

After accidently answering her flatmate Vanessa’s phone, she decides that since being Tess isn’t going so well, why shouldn’t she try out being Vanessa? With nothing left to lose, she accepts Vanessa’s photography assignment to Hawaii – she used to be an amateur snapper, how hard can it be? Right?

But Tess is soon in big trouble – she isn’t a photographer, she isn’t Vanessa, and the gorgeous journalist on the shoot with her, who is making it very clear he’d like to get into her pants, is an egotistical monster.

Far from home and in someone else’s shoes, Tess must decide whether to fight on through, or ‘fess up and run…"

17 May 2013

Book Review: Wish You Were Here by Victoria Connelly

"Sun, sea and secrets…

A week on the sunny Greek island of Kethos is just what Alice Archer needs, even if she has to put up with her difficult sister. Stella’s tantrums and diva-like demands are a fair price to pay for crystal-clear waters, blue skies and white clifftop villas.

When Alice meets Milo, a handsome gardener at the Villa Argenti, for the first time she suddenly feels beautiful, alluring and confident. But is it just holiday magic or will the irresistible pull between Alice and Milo survive against all odds?"

Rating: 4/5

You can buy Wish You Were Here as a paperback or an eBook now.

Alice Archer has always faded into the background, and she's been pretty happy with it that way. She works hard, makes sure that she makes time for her dad and her not-so-nice sister Stella, and is generally a nice person to everyone she meets. So when her sister offers her a free holiday to the Greek island of Kethos for a week, Alice decides Stella's diva attitude can be put up with for a short week and jets off to the sunshine. There, she meets gardener Milo, who she befriends and falls in love with Kethos too. But all of a sudden, Alice realises men are finally starting to pay her attention - what is it that Alice has done to herself that has made her irresistible, and will she be able to make her feelings for Milo into anything that can work out for the pair of them?

This book has one of the most gorgeous and summery covers I have ever seen! It is just as beautiful in real life as it is on the computer screen, and it makes me want to be on a sunny balcony looking over an ocean just as blue as the one on here! The story is set on the Greek island of Kethos. Now, I've never been to Greece myself before but this book has certainly persuaded me that it might be a lovely place to go, it sounds very idyllic, and I'm just like Alice, in that I love to go exploring and soak up the culture, rather than just sit on the beach and get burnt! Connelly does write the island so vividly, you can picture everything in your mind as Alice is walking around and seeing the sights, especially the beautiful gardens at the Villa Argenti, they just sound stunning!

I really liked Alice, she was a great character, and as things got rather strange for her after talking to the Aphrodite statue, you can't help but like her even more for it, especially when things get a bit out of control! Now, I'll quickly mention that there's a bit of a magical element to this book and you have to kind of suspend your sensibilities for a minute when you're reading. Normally, that isn't my kind of thing but I really enjoyed it in this book and had no problem just taking it at face value and letting the story go on. Anyway, Alice is a bit cynical too and I think that helped for me. I also found her relationship with her father very touching to read, and this was one of my favourite parts of the story.

However, I have to confess I'm really not so keen on Alice's awful sister Stella. Normally in a book with a bad character, there is usually something a little bit redeeming about them somewhere along the line, but there really wasn't for Stella, and she was just so dislikeable. She was selfish, mean and just not a nice person in any way so while she made Alice look like an even better person, it's a shame there wasn't just one nice thing about her at all. Now to Milo. Well, he was a perfect leading man, handsome, hard-working, family oriented and just completely loveable - you can see why Alice was rather taken by him, and I enjoyed reading all about his gardening and how passionate he is about his family. I really enjoyed his parts of the story, even when Alice was not around, and he was certainly a favourite character of mine in the book.

I really enjoyed this book, and although I had a pretty good feeling how it was all going to end for these characters, I didn't mind when the ending came and it was what I had predicted it was going to be because the story it took to get there was so enjoyable to read. I find Connelly's writing really easy to read, and dip in and out of, and I think the fact I read this book in just one Saturday when Harry was away says a lot, I thoroughly enjoyed every page. It's got a beautiful setting that Connelly brings to life on the page, and I enjoyed that while the main story of course followed Alice and her escapades, every now and then there was a chapter dedicated to Milo and his life, which were really enjoyable to read for me. Connelly will certainly make you crave sunshine and a lovely holiday after reading this book, and I'm sure you'll wish you were there with Alice and Milo! A great book that I will definitely recommend for your summer reading pile.

16 May 2013

Book News: Save the Date by Allie Spencer

I really loved Allie Spencer's last book Summer Nights so I was thrilled to see she's back with another summery novel next month! Save the Date! is due out on 20th June, and what a pretty cover it's got too! The book sounds wonderful, and I'm very much looking forward to reading it.

You can pre-order Save the Date! as a paperback or an eBook now!

"Family weddings can be hell.

...and, marooned in Italy for her cousin's nuptials, Ailsa can be forgiven for thinking that this one is worse than most. With the bride and groom at loggerheads and the guests in uproar, it is a million miles away from the rest and relaxation she'd been hoping for.

And then suddenly, in the middle of the mayhem, she comes face-to-face with Nick, the man she walked out on just a few months earlier.

How can Ailsa help get the wedding back on track when she and Nick can't stop arguing? But if they do, she might remember why she fell in love with him in the first place - and then there really would be trouble..."

15 May 2013

Blog Tour Book Review: Billy and Me by Giovanna Fletcher

"Sophie May has a secret.

One that she's successfully kept for years. It's meant that she's had to give up her dreams of going to university and travelling the world to stay in her little village, living with her mum and working in the local teashop.

But then she meets the gorgeous Billy - an actor with ambitions to make it to the top. And when they fall in love, Sophie is whisked away from the comfort of her life into Billy's glamorous - but ruthless - world.

Their relationship throws Sophie right into the spotlight after years of shying away from attention. Can she handle the constant scrutiny that comes with being with Billy? And most of all, is she ready for her secret heartbreak to be discovered and shared with the nation?

Charming, heartwarming and utterly romantic, Billy and Me will completely capture your heart.."

Rating: 5/5

You can buy Billy and Me as a paperback or an eBook now.

There are only a few debut novels in a year that I ever really look forward, and one of those for 2013 definitely had to be Giovanna Fletcher's debut novel Billy and Me. Giovanna is the wife of McFly singer Tom Fletcher, but is a journalist and now published author in her own right. I hadn't read anything from Giovanna previously, but I had a feeling that I was really going to enjoy this one. After reading the blurb, it sounded like it was perhaps going to draw on Giovanna's own experiences of being married to a famous man herself, and I was so excited to read more about the story of Sophie May and Billy Buskin.

Sophie May always thought she was a normal girl. She's content working in her best friend Molly's teashop, staying around to look after her mum and save up ready to take over the tea shop if the opportunity ever arises. But when a handsome stranger starts coming into the teashop and flirting with Sophie, she wonders if she could have finally found someone worth taking a chance on. Then she discovers that man is none other than Hollywood actor Billy, and the pair quickly fall in love. Sophie is thrust into the media spotlight, her worst nightmare after years of keeping her head down and living a very quiet life. Will Sophie be able to handle the pressure of a high-profile relationship with Billy, and can their love survive the limits their relationship is pushed to?

I do love a good old fashioned romance story, and as you can see, this one seems to fit the bill perfectly. I loved Sophie from the start, and there is simply nothing to dislike about her. You can tell she's affected by something that happened in her past, something that she is keeping secret from everyone bar those who are very close to her, and I was intrigued to find out what it was. Sophie is a very quiet woman, very kind-hearted and treasures her close friendship with Molly, who was another of my favourite characters. The relationship between the pair is wonderful to read, and I loved how the age gap between them wasn't ever an issue, and you could feel the love between them, Fletcher has written this relationship perfectly.

Billy, too, was a perfect character in so many ways. Yes, he's a famous actor but from the way he is generally and the way he is with Sophie, you would never guess it. He and Sophie really did seem like a perfect match, and I was really invested in their story and wanted them to make it and get the happy-ever-after that Sophie deserved. The book doesn't shy away from the harsh realities of having a relationship in the spotlight, especially poor Sophie who hates the media attention. The emotions of Sophie feel very real as you're reading, and I felt so sorry for her, certain things that happened were her worst nightmare (and mine!) and you can understand why she struggled so much. As the book hurtles towards its conclusion, I was hoping above hope that Billy and Sophie would make it through and be happy, but Fletcher left it so that you aren't sure what's going to happen!

Fletcher's writing is so warm and inviting, I was looking forward to picking the book up at the end of a hard day at work, and immersing myself in Sophie and Billy's story once more. I was both rooting for them and eager to see what secret Sophie is hiding, even from Billy. It was a very emotional book, from the highs to Sophie's real lows, and are swept into the story so easily. I never wanted to put the book down, I wanted to keep reading until the final page but at the same time, I didn't want the story to end because it was such a joy to read. Heart-warming, heart-breaking and full of love, Billy and Me is a dazzling debut that will leave you with a warm feeling inside, and eager to read more from the lovely Giovanna Fletcher. Her writing was so easy to read, sweeping me up into Sophie's world, and taking me on a journey of love and life with her. I really felt like Fletcher had drawn on her own experiences for this book, and it definitely comes across that way when you're reading it. I loved every page, and shall be adding this one to my special 'Keeper's' shelf. A beautiful story.

Blog Tour: Billy and Me by Giovanna Fletcher

I am thrilled to be welcoming the Billy and Me blog tour to my site today, thanks to Penguin books, Pixiwoo.com and Giovanna Fletcher! Giovanna's debut novel is an utterly gorgeous read, and I'll be reviewing it shortly on the site. As well as the review, I'm giving away 5 copies of the book to my site visitors, just fill in the form on the post to enter!

By the way... the cupcake above was designed just for me by Giovanna! Blog tour participants were asked to let Giovanna know which emotion we felt when looking at the Billy and Me book cover... I chose 'romance' and here is Giovanna's interpretation in cake form! :)

Enter the Billy and Me giveaway now!

Check out the previous blog tour stops so far:

14 May 2013

Book News: By My Side by Alice Peterson

I have really enjoyed Alice Peterson's previous novels, so I am very much looking forward to her new book By My Side. It's been out as an eBook for a while, but publishers Quercus have revealed a gorgeous new cover for the paperback (left). I think it's beautiful and the story sounds great, I can't wait to read it. It's out in paperback on 18th July 2013.

You can buy By My Side now as an eBook or pre-order it as a paperback.

"One step can change everything.

Cass Brooks loves her job, her boyfriend Sean, her life. Until, leaving home one morning, distracted and hungover, she steps into the path of a truck.

When she wakes up, she can't walk. And suddenly all her hopes and dreams, the plans she'd made with Sean, the future she thought she'd have, seem out of her reach.

But then fate intervenes again. Cass meets Ticket, a loyal golden Labrador who refuses to leave her side. And on a flight to Colorado, she sits next to Charlie, who believes he can show her a life full of possibilities, if only she'll let him.

Cass wants her life back the way it was. Charlie knows this cannot be. Yet a future beckons all the same..."

13 May 2013

Giveaway! Win one of five copies of 'Billy and Me' by Giovanna Fletcher!

I am part of the exciting Billy and Me blog tour for Giovanna Fletcher's debut novel, and to celebrate that, I have 5 copies of the book to give away to my site readers! All you have to do is fill in the form below, and I will choose 5 entries at random (using random.org to do so) once the giveaway has closed. You'll be notified by email if you've won. Good luck!

Open to UK and Ireland residents only, giveaway closes on Sunday 19th May at midnight. Only one entry per household. You will be contacted on the email address you have entered for postal details if you are a winner.

Shortlist announced for Melissa Nathan Award 2013

The shortlist for the Melissa Nathan Award for Fiction about Life and Love 2013 has been revealed, and it's starring some lovely books! The awards (formerly called The Melissa Nathan Award for Comedy Romance) are held every year to celebrate the best in women's fiction, and previous winners include Marian Keyes, Lisa Jewell and Jenny Colgan, so this year's winner will be joining a pretty prestigious list.

The ceremony will be held in June where the winner will be announced. Judges for the competition are Sophie Kinsella, Jo Brand, Kathy Lette, Morwenna Banks and Andrew Saffron.
  • Charlotte Street by Danny Wallace    (Ebury Press)

  • You Had Me At Hello by Mhairi McFarlane   (HarperCollins)

  • Summer Daydreams by Carole Matthews  (Little Brown)

  • Where’d you Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple    (Orion)

  • Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell  (Orion)

  • The Wedding Dairies by Sam Binnie   (HarperCollins)
Find out more about The Melissa Nathan Award.

12 May 2013

News: Sunlounger website goes live!

This is one release for 2013 I am really, really excited for!! Sunlounger, which is a compilation of short stories by over 30 of our favourite chick lit authors, is due out this summer, and the website has finally gone live today, and it's amazing!

On it, you can find out all about the authors taking part and the stories they will be featuring in the book, some fabulous vintage makeovers starring authors such as Lucy Robinson, Michele Gorman and Anna-Lou Weatherly, or even see the destinations featured in the book - very handy!

Go and take a look at the Va-Va-Vacation.com website now, it's amazing!

The Sunlounger anthology is due out on July 1st.... hurry up!!

10 May 2013

Book Review: The Foster Husband by Pippa Wright

"Kate left her seaside home town of Lyme Regis for the bright lights of London when she was eighteen, and never looked back. She had it all: the glamorous career, the lovely house, the gorgeous husband. But now she’s back: unemployed, separated, and holed up in her dead granny’s bungalow. Worse still, she’s forced to share the bungalow with Ben, the clueless and domestically challenged fiancĂ© of her bossy sister Prue. Ben is a man in need of simple instruction. And Kate is a woman in need of a project. So she decides to secretly train Ben, her foster husband, as a selfless pre-wedding gift to her sister. But Kate may still have a few lessons of her own to learn…"

Rating: 4/5

You can buy The Foster Husband as a paperback or an eBook now.

I've read both of Pippa Wright's previous novels, and they have been funny, laugh-out-loud books that have been a pleasure to read. However, when I read the synopsis for The Foster Husband , I thought it sounded like it was going to be a bit more of a serious read, and I was right. I actually enjoyed reading something more serious in nature from Wright, and it shows that she certainly has more strings to her bow than just excellent comedy writing. I also have to comment on how gorgeous the book cover is - I love the colours and think it's a really striking cover look, a big well done to the designers from me, it's a gorgeous cover.

Kate was happy to leave her childhood hometown of Lyme Regis when she was a young girl, but now an adult with her own independent life, she suddenly finds herself back home, and trying to live outside of everyone else's whispers and gossip about her private life, and why she's returned home. She also finds herself with a new flatmate in the form of her sister Prue's fiancé Ben, who is pretty clueless about living with someone and general life etiquette! Kate decides it's time to sharpen Ben up, to train him to be the perfect husband for her sister... and all without him knowing it. But is Kate doing this to be distracted from the disaster that is her own love life? Also, what's the secret she's run away to Lyme Regis with - something that threatens Kate's future happiness for the rest of her life....

I have to say something because I feel it's really important about the book. While it's called The Foster Husband and the synopsis makes out that this is the main story within the book, I would have to disagree and say that the foster husband part of it with Ben is a mere subplot, only really begins when you're about halfway into the book and doesn't actually seem all that important once you reach the end of the book. In fact, I'm a bit puzzled as to why it's pushed so heavily in both the title and the blurb, but there you are. Maybe its a title that will draw readers in but it is perhaps a tad misleading, which were my thoughts once I had finished it and thought about it. That being said, I have to confess that I did really enjoy the book, and the way it was written. The book jumps about in time, from the present day with Kate in Lyme Regis, and then to her past, in her old glamorous job, meeting her husband to the eventual collapse of her marriage which then brings us back to the present day. This allows Wright to slowly and carefully construct Kate's past, and it's fun reading how things happen for her with Matthew, her eventual husband, and I enjoyed the pacing of these parts a lot.

I  really enjoyed reading about Kate, she was quite a puzzling character and she keeps things to herself, including what has happened in her marriage to make her flee back home and to a past she would rather forget. You know that things have happened in her past as well, when she was younger that affects her because of how she is with people, but again Wright holds these things back from us and we're left guessing  I really enjoyed this aspect of the book because I enjoyed trying to figure out Kate and what had happened, and I have to say I didn't guess the eventual outcome, and I thought it was brilliantly written and handled by Wright, and the way she allowed the characters to deal with it, and it all comes in a very emotionally raw scene with Kate.

Kate was very much a loner in the book, and the only other characters we meet in the book are her husband Matthew, in the flashbacks mainly, her sister Prue, her parents and childhood friend Eddy. While the book is sparse on main and supporting characters, it doesn't seem to matter because all I cared about was Kate and her story, and finding out exactly what had happened to make her how she was. Wright handles her characters really well, and I found her writing really brought me into the book, describing emotions, places and actions so clearly that you can really visualize things as they happen in the book. I thought the portrayals of all of Kate's relationships in the book were excellent, and certainly a highlight of the book for me. In fact, the whole story was a joy to read, and while I thought the foster husband plot was a good sub-plot and allowed for a bit of humour and a break from the other emotional parts, discovering what had happened with Kate was far more interesting and drew me right in, not wanting to stop reading until the end. Wright handles a more serious and emotional story with ease, and it was an excellent read that I will highly recommend.

8 May 2013

Book Review: The Guest List by Melissa Hill

"When funny, kind and gorgeous Shane proposes, Cara is over the moon, and can't wait to share the news of their engagement with all their friends and family.

Excitement, however, quickly turns to apprehension when it seems that everyone has a fixed idea of the perfect wedding and offers to 'help' with the planning. With tussles over the ceremony and the size of the guest list, sibling rivalry and insistent in-laws-to-be, Cara can see the vision she has of her big day being ripped to shreds.

So she and Shane determine to make a stand and do things their way. But when they announce their plans for a beach wedding on a beautiful Caribbean island, there is uproar. Threats are made, family secrets are revealed, and things turn decidedly stormy.

Will Cara and Shane manage to overcome all obstacles? Or will their dream wedding turn into a nightmare?"

Rating: 4/5

You can buy The Guest List as a paperback or an eBook now.

I always eagerly look forward to a new Melissa Hill book, she is one of my all-time favourite authors and has never let me down with a book yet. I have to say when I first saw the cover for her new book The Guest List I was really impressed, it looks romantic and beautiful - her design team always do an amazing job for her covers, and this one was no exception. This one was based around an upcoming wedding, and I wondered what mystery Hill would throw into this one. This is what I've come to get used to when reading Melissa's book - she always puts something in there, a twist towards the end that you don't expect and I was hopeful there'd be something shocking in here too!

Shane and Cara have just got engaged, and they are both over the moon. They've been together a few years now, and Cara is excited to walk up the aisle with the love of her life. When they tell their parents, they are expecting a joyous reaction, and for everyone to be thrilled for them. However, no-one reacts to their plans of a beach wedding very positively; Shane's parents want a society wedding, and Cara's family want a big traditional white wedding in an Irish church, not to the mention the fact that Cara's pregnant younger sister Heidi is kicking up a stink about travelling in her delicate condition. The warring families soon put a wedge between the happy couple, and Cara and Shane are left wondering if a wedding is a good idea after all...

I have to say when I first read the synopsis for this book, I thought it sounded like a great idea and had potential for the story to be really interesting because weddings are of course a source of conflict for many people, and after reading it, I had to wonder how many people found their own stories to be similar to that of poor Shane and Cara! As the main two characters in the book, I thought they were a fantastic couple. They were likable, genuinely nice and in love people, and importantly, you as a reader will want them to have their dream wedding and happy ever after, and it makes you dislike their families even more for what they put Shane and Cara through in the build up. I especially liked Cara, she just loved Shane and was determined to marry him no matter what, and the fact she wasn't into big designer names or an expensive wedding was really great I felt, and I felt like I could relate to her in parts.

The fact that Shane and Cara were such nice people just made their families seem even worse if I'm honest! There's Cara's baby sister Heidi, newly pregnant and convinced she can barely breathe without posing risk to her unborn child. She is just an awful woman, but she is funny about it as well, you can't help but laugh at her ridiculous notions, although I thought she was horrid to Cara in parts. Shane's parents, in particular his mother, are even worse. They seem to be all about their own interests, never mind what the happy couple want, and Hill writes their upset so very well, some of the scenes are really awkward between the family members, it made me grateful that my own family would never be like that! You really do feel sorry for Shane and Cara, it just seems like everything is shattering around them, and you just want to bang all of their horrid families heads together and make them see what is most important about the whole thing.

Now, as I said, Melissa Hill's books usually have a twist in them that just doesn't become apparent until the end when you realise it's been slowly building, and I always love that element to her books. However, for the first time, I actually guessed the twist in this one. I don't know how, it wasn't obvious but for some reason I just picked it, and when it was revealed that I was right, I have to say I was a little disappointed, I did miss the surprise element of it that there usually is for me. That said though, it was well written and covered in the book, and I liked how the fall out of it was covered in the book. You're also left wondering if the wedding will indeed happen as you're reading, it isn't clear if there is going to be a happy ending or not for Cara and Shane, and I didn't want to put it down because I had to know how it would end!

I really enjoyed reading The Guest List very much, and liked how it slowly revealed its secrets, and the despair of poor old Cara and Shane who you can't help but really love the more you read on. With warring families, a beach wedding, and plenty of family shenanigans going on, there is lots happening in this book to make you want to keep reading, and by the time you reach the end, you'll be praying for a happy end to Cara's woes! A wedding is supposed to be one of the happiest times in a couple's life together, but Hill shows how quickly it can all go wrong. As usual, Hill's writing is a pleasure to read, and you can so easily lose yourself in the story, and the emotions which feel so real as you read along. The mystery and family secrets hidden inside are well worth reading for too, I wonder if anyone else will be able to guess it quite early on as I did?! A super read that's perfect for the upcoming summer months, or your holidays.

7 May 2013

Book News: The No-Kids Club by Talli Roland

Author Talli Roland is back this year with another new novel, and it sounds great! I have to say that I love Talli's covers as well, they are always so colourful and fun looking, I'll certainly be looking out for this one! The No-Kids Club is due out in the Autumn.

"Almost-forty Clare Donahue is living child-free and loving it – except for her shrinking social circle. One by one, the yummy-mummy pack has swallowed up formerly fun friends. When Clare loses her best mate to the non-stop circle of play dates and baby groups, she decides enough is enough: it’s time for women who don’t want children to form a social network of their own. The No-Kids Club is born. 

After recruiting Anna, whose husband hates babies, and Poppy, desperate for a family but unable to conceive, Clare’s determined to make the most of the childless life with her new friends. But when her surprise pregnancy threatens not only the growing club but also her carefully constructed world, Clare must come face to face with the idea that scares her most: a baby."

6 May 2013

Book Review: The Wish List by Jane Costello

"There are six months left of Emma Reiss's twenties...and she has some unfinished business. Emma and her friends are about to turn thirty, and for Emma it's a defining moment. Defined, that is, by her having achieved none of the things she'd imagined she would. Her career is all wrong, her love life is a desert and that penthouse apartment she pictured herself in simply never materialised. Moreover, she's never jumped out of a plane, hasn't met the man she's going to marry, has never slept under the stars, or snogged anyone famous - just some of the aspirations on a list she and her friends compiled fifteen years ago. As an endless round of birthday parties sees Emma hurtle towards her own thirtieth, she sets about addressing these issues. But, as she discovers with hilarious consequences, some of them are trickier to tick off than she'd thought…"

Rating: 5/5

You can buy The Wish List as a paperback or an eBook now.

For some reason, I haven't read the past few releases from Jane Costello, but I don't know why because I always really enjoy her writing and her humourous stories. So when a copy of her new book The Wish List landed on my doormat a few weeks ago, I decided I was definitely going to read it. It sounded like it was going to be a really funny read, and the idea of someone fulfilling a wish list before her big 30th birthday is actually quite a believable story, and perhaps something I'll have to think about when my big 30th birthday comes looming itself! The cover is quite whimsical and pretty, although I'm not sure I'm entirely sold on this trend for plain cream covers... I like a bit of colour on a cover myself!

Emma is soon to turn 30, and all she can think is about is what she hasn't accomplished in her life rather than what she has done. She's now single, her career isn't really going places and her living accommodation doesn't leave much to be desired. When she unearths a list she and a group of friends wrote when they were young teenagers about what they dreamed they'd do before they were 30, Emma is horrified to see that really she hasn't done any of the things on her list, and feels a bit disappointed herself. Emma decides she has to change this, and so sets about trying to accomplish most of the goals on her list. However, some of them aren't as easy as she thinks they might be, and Emma is left wondering if she'll fulfill her wish list after all...

As usual with Jane Costello's books, I was pleased to see that the humour was present right from the beginning, and after just a few pages, I was hooked and knew that I was really going to enjoy this right up until the last page. The main character of Emma is brilliant - she's a pretty normal girl who has got stuck in a rut, and her determination to change that is brilliant to read, simply because she ends up in so many funny situations! Her list isn't too over-the-top, including things like a one night stand, polo riding and kissing a celebrity, but the way she tries to do these things and how she goes about them is so funny, I found myself laughing out loud frequently!

Although there are a lot of laughs in the book, Costello manages to weave in some more serious storylines too, but these just compliment the funnier ones even more. It shows Costello's talent in writing that she can mesh these threads together, and make you want to keep reading to find out what is going to happen next. I actually found the book very emotional in parts, especially relating to her neighbour Matt and what he is going through in his personal life, and I am sure that this will touch a lot of people because it is something that happens more and more regularly these days. Emma's ex-boyfriend Rob is a character you will love to hate, he is just vile and you really have to wonder what on earth she saw in him in the first place - Costello can certainly write a good villain! Emma's job as a children's TV writer is brilliant too, it certainly isn't a job I've ever before in chick lit and it did give me a bit of a laugh when I was reading about it!

Costello also writes in a relationship with Emma's female friends, including single mum Cally, domestic abuse support worker Asha, and Emma's own sister Marianne. There were some interesting storylines with these characters too, and they certainly held a more serious side to the book, and made me think a lot about differing life situations. I really warmed to single mum Cally, who loves her young son to bits, but you can tell sometimes she is just itching to go out and let her hair down, but feels guilty for wanting to do so... what mum doesn't?! Asha's story was actually quite sad I felt, and although I found myself not sympathizing with her at all, it shows how people in these situations genuinely can't see the wood for the trees, and believe that things will have a happy ending. Emma's relationship with each of the women was important to her, and I really did enjoy the sub-plots with these characters, it adds to the depth of the book and gives you so much more to enjoy from the story.

The Wish List was a joy to read from start to finish, and has certainly put Costello back to the top of my must-read list again! The humour is brilliant, funny without being too rude and crude, although there are a few cringe-worthy moments in there too, you can't help but feel sorry for poor old Emma, she tries so hard! I think I liked Emma so much because she was a believable girl, occasionally making a mistake where she knows she should have acted differently, but don't we all do silly things now and again, especially on things like Facebook and Twitter where we probably should just shut up?! There's a great cast of characters, lots of funny situations mixed in with the more serious ones too, and this is what makes The Wish List such a great read. I enjoyed every single page, and was sad when I came to the end because I had loved reading it, and I can't wait for Jane Costello's next book!

3 May 2013

Book Review: The Antenatal Group by Amy Bratley

"Seven months pregnant, Mel is dumped by her partner and is suddenly facing parenthood alone. But at her antenatal class, she meets a group of women who quickly become invaluable friends in the terrifying new world of birth and babies . . . Katy – rich, successful and with the dream husband – has her delivery planned to perfection. But she soon realizes that nature doesn’t always follow suit. Lexi, loud and confident, is coping well on her own. Until the only man she has ever loved reappears at the most unexpected moment. Rebecca is the youngest of the group – not long out of her teens, in fact –but she’s determined to hold onto her dreams, even without her family’s support. Erin already seems to be an expert on babies, but her quiet nature hides a secret tragedy. When you’re contemplating pain relief, birth positions and sleepless nights you really need a good friend – or four."

Rating: 5/5

You can buy The Antenatal Group as a paperback or an eBook now.

I love books about babies and pregnancy and things like that, as a mum I love to relate to what I'm reading, and so when I found out that Amy Bratley's new book was about just that, I was really excited to read it. When the first cover was published, it was a gorgeous bright blue, but the published version is more cream based which is a shame, but I was undeterred and decided to get stuck in and read the whole thing. Now I've finished it, I can say this is Amy Bratley's best book to date, with a cast of likeable and relatable characters, and a story to give you hope and make you smile and nod along in recognition too!

There's nothing like an antenatal class to bring women together, and that's certainly the case for Mel, Katy, Lexi, Erin and Rebecca. When Mel finds herself suddenly single and heavily pregnant, she's devastated and scared of what the future holds, and decides to stick with the class for some moral support from the other women. There's Lexi, a woman who has gone into pregnancy knowingly solo and is happy and content with her lot, but when a surprise face from the past makes a reappearance, she's shocked to her core. Erin seems like she might know a thing or two about babies and pregnancy, but is very quiet and withdrawn at the class, and the women are sure she is hiding something. Katy loves her job, works very hard, and has the perfect marriage, and she's sure that her pregnancy, delivery and motherhood will follow suit with her perfect life. But when it doesn't go to plan, will Katy be able to cope? Finally, there's the young mum Rebecca, engaged to her musician fiance and looking forward to her future as a mum - but why is Rebecca not speaking to her family? Find out more about the women of the Antenatal Group...

As you can see, there's quite a few characters in the book, but really it focuses on these 5 women, and some of their respective partners too but that's it, so it's easy to follow and read. The book alternates between who it follows, coming together for the group and then splitting off to follow each one in turn so we get to know more about them. I liked Bratley's writing style - she's clearly writing from experience about much of the book, and you can see she understands the neurotic nature of a new mother - some scenes with the new mums are quite funny, always assuming the worst as I'm sure many mums reading this will agree to! Bratley manages to balance all of the stories very easily, and her third person story-telling works perfectly for the book, and it was a really relaxing read that I could pick up when I was tired of an evening and just enjoy reading.

All of the characters were great, and I liked that there were lots of different circumstances covered, so I am sure there is something in there for most people to relate to as they are reading. I liked how Bratley covered some quite interesting issues in the book as well, such as sperm donation, post-natal depression/ post-traumatic stress disorder, and single motherhood. You can really feel for these characters, each of them has something for you to care about or feel sympathetic for, and I liked that. I couldn't say I really had a favourite, they were all great but I was particularly taken with Lexi's and Katy's stories - they were especially well written and although I really disliked Katy at first, you soon see another side to her and I felt very sorry for her and what she was dealing with, Bratley wrote it incredibly well and realistically too. Rebecca's story was an interesting one too, and shows you the mistakes you can make in your youth, and how you can misjudge your parents in the heat of the moment, I actually found her story very emotional to read.

I read this book in just a couple of days - well, evenings - because I couldn't put it down and found myself really wanting to know what was going to happen with each of these women as they eventually gave birth and embarked on motherhood. Bratley leaves enough time in the book to deal with the first part of their motherhood too, so you really go through the whole experience with these women, and I found it a brilliant read. I am sure a lot of mum's reading this will find things in common with several of these characters, but it's an enjoyable read for anyone who likes extremely well-written and heartfelt chick lit. I find Bratley's writing style extremely easy to read, and it was such an enjoyable read. I loved the book, I loved the things it covered and I really loved its characters - what more can you ask for?!

2 May 2013

May 2013 Releases

Another month brings another great month of chick lit releases, and May is certainly no exception! There are several books here I've been looking forward to for a while, including Giovanna Fletcher's debut novel Billy and Me, Pippa Wright's new book The Foster Husband and Abby Clements' gorgeous looking new book Vivien's Heavenly Ice Cream Shop! Which books are you looking forward to most of all? Click on the covers for more info :)