31 October 2013

eBook News: Christmas At the Beach Cafe by Lucy Diamond

Another author who is bringing out a festive novella is Lucy Diamond! Her offering, Christmas At the Beach Café is a follow up to her novel from a few years ago, The Beach Cafe. I really like the design of the cover which matches her other books well, and it'll be nice to catch up with Evie again. It's out on 7th November.

You can pre-order Christmas at the Beach Café as an eBook now.

"After a hectic summer running her beach café in Cornwall, Evie Flynn is looking forward to her first Christmas with new boyfriend Ed – she’s determined that it’s going to be the most perfectly romantic one ever. Cosy nights in front of the fire, spicy mulled wine, mince pies . . . what’s not to love? But the peace is shattered when Ed’s ex suddenly gets in touch again, and then some unexpected guests arrive: Ed’s surly brother Jake and Evie’s heartbroken best friend Amber. Add in the stress of trying to finish her very own recipe book, snow blizzards and family dramas and Evie’s Christmas starts to look as if it’ll be a total turkey. Will any of her festive wishes come true . . . or is this Christmas just a recipe for disaster? An absolute Christmas cracker from Lucy Diamond, bestselling author of The Beach Café and Me And Mr Jones. This novella is the perfect present for anyone who loves women’s fiction, heartwarming stories and the festive season!"

29 October 2013

Book Review: Christmas Carol by Michele Gorman

"One winter wedding, two happy couples, three ex-boyfriends... And a very uncomfortable weekend. Carol hates Christmas. Being recently dumped, she’s not crazy about weddings either. So her sister Marley’s nuptials, over the Christmas weekend, are making her positively Scrooge-like. When she arrives for the weekend at the stately home in rural Scotland to find her three ex-boyfriends in attendance, Carol has no choice but to face her ghosts to discover what really happened in those relationships, learning a lot about herself in the process. As the snow falls outside and the fire crackles in the hearth, might one of the wedding guests become the harbinger of Christmases to come?"

Rating: 4.5/5

You can buy Christmas Carol as a paperback or an eBook now!

Michele Gorman's latest book, published by fab new publishers Notting Hill Press, is a short festive novella. Entitled, Christmas Carol, it's a modern retake on Charles Dickens' classic tale 'A Christmas Carol', a story that I love to read every year, and watch the film as well. Michele was kind enough to send me a copy for reviewing, and while this has not influenced my review in any way, I am thrilled to say I loved the book and thought it was a perfect Christmassy short story to enjoy in the run up to Christmas which will be here before we know it!

Carol really doesn't like Christmas. She finds it stressful enough, so when her sister reveals that she's getting married at Christmas, she isn't exactly over the moon. She has to make her way to snowy Scotland to an isolated stately home for the nuptials, but there is something that her sister hasn't divulged to her - her three ex-boyfriends, one of whom very recently dumped her, are in attendance at the wedding. Carol tries in vain to get them uninvited but her sister isn't having any of it. Carol realises she's going to have to grit her teeth and bear it, and find out perhaps why these relationships didn't quite work out. As the wedding fast approaches, Carol tries to lose herself in the festivities, and make the most of the time she has there with her nearest and not-quite-so dearest...

I'll be honest and say that at first I didn't twig that this was a modern retelling of the classic story, even though the title should have left me thinking about this really! It wasn't until I was reading about her three ex-boyfriends that I realised these were the three ghosts of Christmas past from the other story, and once I was into it, I found that it worked really well! We had a female Scrooge in this book - Carol really doesn't like Christmas, she's a workaholic, addicted to her phone and is generally a bit of a sourpuss about all things fun. Despite all this though, I really liked her and felt that Gorman made her sympathetic enough that we cared about what had happened to her romantically, and how she felt quite awkward with all her exes around her.

The way these three men were written into the story was good too. Gorman makes use of Carol telling us their past relationships through flashbacks and I enjoyed reading about them, and why they all ended, although Carol  freely admits she doesn't understand why men keep leaving her! They are all very different men, and you can see Carol genuinely had feelings for all of them, but is just a bit unlucky in love. I was hoping for Carol to find a happy ending in the book, but Gorman certainly makes you work for it, not leaving it obvious at all. Although the story is short, I felt Gorman covered everything well enough and didn't leave anything unexplained, but I could have quite happily read this as a full length novel, I enjoyed it so much.

I really loved the festive touches in the book, the mentions of the snow, the wedding festivities, all sounded perfect, and the setting of a remote stately home in cold Scotland was just the icing on the cake really. There's quite a bit of humour in there from Carol, she's funny and Gorman writes her quite dry-wit well, I especially loved her despairing over the lack of signal she got for her Blackberry whilst at the wedding! Carol doesn't particularly some of her other family members, and this leads to some quite funny moments too, although a tad cringing at times! Altogether though, it's a really enjoyable novella, and is a great retelling of a classic story. There's characters that you'll love and hate in there, a wonderful setting, and a whole lot of good feeling too. Sure, Carol isn't perfect, but that's what I loved about her, and hoped someone else would too! Christmas Carol is a great short story to curl up with and enjoy for this coming festive season.

25 October 2013

Book Review: A Gift To Remember by Melissa Hill

"Darcy Archer works in a small bookstore in Manhattan. A daydream believer, she refuses to settle for anything less than being swept off her feet by the perfect man… literally. One day, when cycling to work, Darcy accidentally crashes into a sharply dressed gentleman walking his dog. He is knocked out cold, rushed to hospital and the poor pup gets left behind. Wracked with guilt, Darcy takes the dog and makes plans to reunite him with owner, Aiden. As she discovers the mysterious stranger's world of books, travel, adventure and all the wonderful things she's ever dreamt about, Darcy builds a picture of this man and wonders if he could be THE ONE… But does fantasy match reality? What happens when Prince Charming wakes up? Will Aiden be the happy ever after she's always imagined?"

Rating: 5/5

You can buy A Gift to Remember as a hardback or an eBook now.

Melissa Hill is one of my favourite chick lit writers of all time, I absolutely love her mysterious tales, and get so involved in them each time I pick one up. Her latest book is a wintery offering, not exactly a Christmas story but it is certainly a fantastic book to curl up with as winter approaches. I want to mention the cover as well because it is just stunning and is certainly perfect to me, characters coming to life out of the pages of a book... what more could you want? I eagerly got stuck into the book a few nights ago, and just could not put it down, it's one of my favourite reads by Melissa Hill to date, and here's why I think it's a must-read this winter.

Darcy is a serious book lover, and consequently loves her job working a small book store in New York City. She loves everything about it, from shelving the new books to chatting about her beloved stories with the customers who visit her shop. However, things come crashing down when on her way to work one day, she runs a man down on her bicycle as he comes across the crossing. His dog is left behind, and he's rushed to hospital, and Darcy is determined to help the stricken man, especially when she finds out he needs her help. Darcy is determined to assist Aiden in any way she can, and begins to construct a life for him in her mind... to her, he seems like the perfect man. As time goes on, will Darcy and Aiden realise they are a match made in heaven, or is it too good to be true?

I really loved this book from the beginning. I loved Darcy, I could see so much of myself in her - her love of books, getting lost in stories and characters, and also being a little bit of a loner too. She's very independent but seems to really love living in New York City. I love how Melissa Hill describes the city through her eyes, and brings to life the places, sights and even things like the hustle and bustle of the streets, the way she zips about riding her bicycle, it all sounds perfect to be honest! The bookshop too sounds wonderful, crammed with gorgeous books, luxurious bags for the customers and some fun young bookworms working in there... what more would you want?!

The slow progression of the story between Darcy and Aiden was perfect, and I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. He is a mystery both to the reader and Darcy at first, and it's fun to try and guess who he is, what he does and more about his back story. Darcy's way of finding out more is fun to read, and you feel like you're on a little bit of an adventure with her as she tries to piece together Aiden's life. I enjoyed the split narrative that comes in a short while after the book, hearing Aiden's story from his point of view, and this introduces us to yet another mystery - what exactly is Aiden up to in the run up to Christmas and why?!  I loved trying to guess, and I'm pleased to say Melissa fooled me this time, I certainly didn't expect the answer to this mystery and it was fun to read and find out!

While this isn't exactly a festive read, it is a perfect winter story because it's set in New York, one of the best places in the world to be at Christmas, and it's a sweet story about the kindness of strangers, and helping those who are in need. I loved reading everything about it, from the descriptions of New York, to Darcy's different relationships in the book, both with her neighbours, colleagues, Aiden and her aunt Katherine, who was a very interesting character. Hill writes so beautifully, you can get really lost in her stories, and this one is certainly no exception. It's a fantastic story, I loved not being able to guess the answer to Aiden's mysterious tale and the pace of the story was perfect too, it keeps you guessing and interested, but gives you plenty of detail and leaves you free to come to your own conclusions too. For me, this si one of Melissa Hill's best books to date, a story about a book lover is perfect for me, and the setting just added to that magic. I loved it, and can't recommend it enough!

23 October 2013

Book Review: The Moment by Claire Dyer

"Paddington station, nine a.m., rush hour. As the crowds ebb and flow, time suddenly stands still for two people: Fern and Elliott, ex-lovers who parted twenty-five years before and never expected to see each other again.

But here they are, face to face, and the connection is as powerful as it was the day they first met. Their lives have moved on - to marriage, children and divorce - yet neither has stopped regretting the day that drove them apart.

Fern gives Elliott her number and they tentatively arrange to meet again that evening when both will be travelling back through the station. And, as the day ticks on, and the memories resurface, both Fern and Elliott reflect on the past. As their emotions go round in circles, so does the Paddington clock, counting down the minutes to eight p.m. - and the moment the future is in their hands."

Rating: 2/5

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

I was sent this book for review a few months ago, and I finally got around to reading a couple of weeks ago. A quote on the front says that it's 'this year's 'One Day'' - I haven't read that book yet but have heard such good things about it that I was very hopeful about this one. To be compared to such a novel can only be a good thing, right? So, I entered the book with big hopes, but unfortunately, it didn't quite live up to them for me. I found it hard work to read, and found that I was only reading on to the end simply because I'd read so much already and I wanted to know how it ended!

Years ago, when they were teenagers and at university, Fern and Elliott had a relationship that they were both happy in, and both seemed sure that they'd found the one they wanted to be with. But when it ends suddenly, leaving Fern heartbroken and Elliott confused, the pair part ways, not destined to see each other again for 25 long years. When a chance meeting at a train station one morning brings them both together again, the pair are forced to make decisions which may change the paths of their lives forever. Fern needs to decide if she wants to meet Elliott again later that evening, and what that decision will mean to both of them. They start thinking about their past together, and what different one moment can make...

I will say the premise of the book had me intrigued. I wanted to know what had happened between Fern and Elliott to split them up all those years ago, I wanted to know if it was going to end well or badly, and how it would end up too. However, that was pretty much all that kept me reading really. I found that the story was really slow, so slow that I found myself getting quite bored with it and not wanting to continue in parts. The narrative was both Elliott and Fern, and consequently I found parts of the story were repeated from each person's point of view, and it seemed like I was reading the same thing twice over, there was nothing new happening. The action takes place only over one day as well, so it didn't allow for things to happen too quickly, and for me it was just too slow.

The other problem I had with the book was that I didn't really care for Fern and Elliott, or their relationship either. I didn't especially care if Fern made the decision to see Elliott at the end of the day, what Elliott decided to do at the station, and if they got back together or never saw one another again. Even once I had found out what happened between them, it didn't make me care any more for their story, and I was only determined to finish it because I'd come so far and I didn't want to waste that much of the book. Much of Fern's part of the book takes place at a pottery class, and to be honest, this was totally dull, and I really didn't connect with either Fern or what she was doing... it was so slow I honestly just lost interest.

For me, I really didn't enjoy reading The Moment, and I can't say I would recommend reading it. I found the pace far too slow for me, it had characters I didn't care about and therefore I just struggled to connect to the story in any way. Dyer's writing did bring to life the emotions of the characters, but by that point, I had lost interest in it and it wasn't enough to fix the rest of it for me. The ending was interesting, perhaps the only ending Dyer could have chosen when reading it, but again that wasn't for me - I like things ended and in a neat package and this didn't deliver on that front, I hate uncertainty. It's a shame that I just did not enjoy The Moment, I'm sure there are people out there who will like it, but it just was not for me.

22 October 2013

eBook News: Christmas at the Crescent by Veronica Henry

I was over the moon when I saw on Twitter that Veronica Henry was releasing an eBook festive short story, and now I've seen the cover and read the synopsis, I cannot wait to read it! How gorgeous is that cover?!? The eBook is due out on 7th November so not long to wait, it sounds just brilliant.

You can pre-order Christmas at the Crescent as an eBook now.

"Behind the gorgeous Georgian sweep of Pelham Crescent, Bath, everyone's getting ready for Christmas...

At Number 14, Josie Ballard is up to her ears in brandy, raisins and cherries as she battles to make forty Christmas puddings to sell at Bath Christmas Market. Ever since Giles walked out the day their baby was born, Josie has had to work twice as hard to make ends meet. Sacrificing a career as a chef, her famous steamed puddings keep her and her gorgeous baby boy Titus afloat. Almost. So when, in the middle of Stir Up Sunday, a new neighbour in the Crescent complains about the noise that Titus is making, Josie gives him a basinful...

Giles, meanwhile, is finding life in the fast-lane with his uber-glamorous new girlfriend Rebecca rather draining. With one party blurring into another, he's now wondering if he hasn't made a terrible mistake in abandoning Josie and his child. Isn't it time he grew up, his mother asks, and Giles is starting to agree. So when he discovers Josie has a handsome new neighbour, Giles decides it's time to step up to his parental duties...

Christmas just got complicated."

21 October 2013

Blog Tour Stop: There's More to Life Than Cupcakes by Poppy Dolan

Today I am thrilled to welcome the Blog Tour to my blog for Poppy Dolan's new novel There's More To Life Than Cupcakes! The book has been released through new publishers, Novelicious Books, and looks like a cracking read. Poppy was kind enough to write a piece for me to feature on my blog, so here we go!

Novelicious Books are running a fab competition too...

"At midnight on the evening of Thursday 24th October (the tour's conclusion), we will be randomly selecting one person who has left a comment on any of the blog posts on the Poppy Dolan blog tour. That commenter will win a kit of baking and cake decorating supplies from BBC The Apprentice finalist Luisa Zissman’s The Baker Shop. Chock full of gorgeous edible shapes, sprinkles and even some sparkly edible glitter, each kit contains £50 worth of goodies."

So go on, get entering! What are you waiting for?!

There's More To Life Than Cupcakes is available to buy as an eBook now.

My writing rituals by Poppy Dolan

I don’t always write in the most organised, methodical ways (I often get my best ideas on the bus and so send myself baffling emails, typed between stops) but I do have some writing rituals that put me in the right mood for a long writing sesh. I usually can’t focus until I have these things in place:

1. Diet Coke. And tonnes of it. I know whatever’s in it that makes it sweet but still 0 calories probably isn’t super organic, but it gives me a good writerly boost just when I need it.

2. No chipped nail varnish. If my varnish is a bit chipped or peeling, I just can’t sit down and type until I’ve sorted it Call it work avoidance or OCD, but if I don’t fix it I’ll find myself staring at it for the next three hours instead of staring at my WIP. Having lovely nails also makes me feel all Barbara Cartland and she wrote a library’s worth all on her own.

3. A nice big jumper. I sometimes write in the shed (the shed called Terence, for full disclosure) and it gets a bit breezy in there. There are also spiders, so a rolled up newspaper is handy. Eugh.

4. A mozzarella and basil pannino. When I’m not in the shed writing (sorry Terence), I head to my local coffee shop. It’s warmer, it doesn’t have spiders and it does a mean mozzarella and basil pannino. A friend of mine once told me that pannini is actually the plural and now I can’t get that out of my head, so I say pannino and sound like a right twerp. (Sorry, coffee shop people)

5. Notebook. Beautiful stationery cannot be underestimated  - it inspires great things in ordinary people. And although it might be more efficient and whizzy to type my thoughts straight into my laptop, nothing quite beats scrawling down ideas old school, with a pen on paper. Lots of my notes are short and sweet: ‘TV advert?!!!’ ‘TOO much cake maybe?’ ‘Is she a right nob though?’ but they help keep the important stuff front and centre.

6. Spider. Nope, not the squishing kind, the Solitaire kind. If I manage an hour of writing, I treat myself to a few games. Which of course turns into eight games. Then the guilt kicks back in and I make myself write for the next hour. So, really it’s very healthy and productive.

Thanks so much, Poppy!

Book Review: Coming Home for Christmas by Jenny Hale

"Allie Richfield loves Christmas, so when she lands a job as House Manager for the amazing Ashford Estate—which includes organizing the Marley family festivities—she is in her element. With a budget bigger than her life savings and a team of staff, how hard can it be?

As one-by-one she meets the Marleys, she’s about to find out…

Allie’s new boss, Robert, might be gorgeous, but he’s also colder than the snow outside and refuses to come home for Christmas. Robert’s playboy brother, Kip, flirts with her relentlessly; and his sister, Sloane, arrives home with baggage—both the divorce-kind and the Louis Vuitton kind. Their ninety-two year old grandmother, Pippa, spends her day grumbling at everybody from her mobility scooter.

With Robert intending to sell Ashford, it’s the Marley’s last chance to create some happy memories in their family home—and Allie is determined to make it happen… even if it takes a little Christmas magic! With the festive spirit in full swing, she might even discover a little happiness of her own…"

Rating: 5/5

You can buy Coming Home for Christmas as an eBook or a paperback now.

I received a copy of this book after I spotted it's gorgeous cover on Twitter when I was having a browse one evening. The publishers, Bookoture, offered me the chance to review, and given that I love anything festive, of course I jumped at the chance and said yes please! I started the book last week, and I have to say that although it's my first festive read of 2013, I think it's definitely going to remain one of my favourites, I got so lost in the story and it's made its way straight to my keepers shelf!

Allie loves Christmas, loves her family, and loves living in Virginia. When her sister manages to find her a new job as house manager at the Ashford estate, working for the Marley family, she decides it's worth a try until Christmas and soon moves in. Her boss is Robert, a single man who seems estranged from all his family due to his wanting to sell the estate as soon as possible. His grandmother Pippa, who grew up in the house, doesn't want to go to a home, and isn't speaking to her grandson. Robert's sister Sloane is dealing with her own marital woes, and her two young children, and the youngest sibling Kip is does nothing but flirt with Allie, leaving her feeling somewhat awkward in her new abode. Allie is determined to make the Marley's last Christmas at Ashford a good one, but once she realises what she is up against, is it one Christmas wish too far?

Right from the off, I loved this book. I'll be honest and say I was surprised it was set in America, for some reason I just assumed it was an English author and a novel set in England, but once I realised it, it didn't bother me at all. In fact, everything about this book was just brilliant. I loved the setting, the characters and the story was just lovely, I didn't even mind that I was pretty sure I knew how it was going to end. Allie was very likeable, determined to make it a nice Christmas for the Marley family, she had her heart in the right place, and you could see she genuinely liked the people she worked for. It wasn't her dream job, she really wants to be a teacher, but she works really hard and does her best by the rest of the family.

It was the Marley family who were also so brilliant to read about. Often, you read about rich families in books and they are dislikeable people, but this was not the case in Hale's book. I especially warmed to Sloane, a woman struggling to get over her recent divorce but wanting to protect her two young children. Kip was a bit of a playboy for me, but he had a fun side and tried to get Allie to come out of herself a bit more. Even Robert, who is distant and at times quite rude to Allie is likeable and you can see something is making him how he is. Grandmother Pippa is just wonderful, and you love each of them as you're reading, and you can see why Allie likes them all so much and is reluctant to let their last Christmas in their home be a bad one. The slow-building love story just brings everyone together perfectly, and while I was hoping for one resolution, I wasn't entirely it was going to get there, but by the time you end, it's certainly one worthy of a Hollywood movie, it's perfect.

The story is a sweet one, showing us that the most important thing in life is our family, and looking after them. Other things; spouses, money, come and go but family will always remain and this book cleverly shows us that. I loved the gentle pace of the story, and despite the fact it rarely moves out of the Ashford home, it didn't matter because I was so lost in the story and the idea of this glorious big house all decorated for Christmas, with big trees, lots of snow on the grounds outside and a roaring fireplace. It is so idyllic as you're reading, it's easy to become so absorbed in it, and I just could not put it down, even when my eyes were begging me to get some sleep! It's a wonderful Christmas story with a lot of warmth and heart, with a cast of characters you'll love and plenty of that festive feeling. I absolutely loved it and look forward to reading it again, just brilliant.

eBook News: Last Christmas by Talli Roland

I noticed on Twitter the other day that author Talli Roland was back this Christmas with a brand new novella, Last Christmas! It's coming within the next week or so, and already I am in love with the cover, it's so Christmassy and gorgeous! I loved Talli's festive eBook last year, Mistletoe in Manhattan so I can't wait to read this!

"For Lucy, the best Christmas present is forgetting the past.

Eager to banish the ghost of Christmas past –  when her boyfriend dumped her on the streets of Paris – Lucy is determined to make this the best Christmas ever. She rallies friends and family for an epic celebration that just happens to fall on the same day as her ex’s festive wedding. Furious at how she’s been treated, Lucy can’t help relishing the party v wedding smackdown.

But when the wedding is threatened and only Lucy can help, can she find the spirit inside to save the day, or will this Christmas be even more disastrous than the last?"

18 October 2013

eBook Review: The Park Bench Test by Sarah Lefebve

"How do you know when you’ve found Mr Right?

Aspiring journalist Becky Harper loves her boyfriend Alex, but she doesn’t think he’s Mr Right.

Her best friend Emma doesn’t believe in Mr Right – she’s just looking for a man who will stick around longer than her dad did.

Katie has found her Mr Right and is planning her September wedding with her two best friends.

Debut author Sarah Lefebve asked her own friends and family how they knew they had found the elusive Mr Right and then turned their honest – and often surprising – answers into this charming, emotional and downright funny romance about three friends and their search for Mr Right – if he even exists that is…"

Rating: 5/5

You can buy The Park Bench Test as an eBook.

When I got this book from the lovely people at Harper Impulse via Netgalley, I was very intrigued about it. I hadn't read much about it so didn't really know what the title was all about and was curious to find out! I really love that although they are eBooks, Harper Impulse put a lot into the design of their eBook covers - for an eBook, people are undoubtedly going to be attracted by a gorgeous cover on their computer screen when they're looking to buy a book, so they certainly have the edge here. I love the cover for Sarah Lefebve's debut novel, it's eye catching and I really love the cover scheme, it works really well.

Becky is a little shaken when her best friend Katie gets engaged to her Mr Right, and it makes her start to question her own relationship with her boyfriend Alex, and whether he really is her Mr Right. When Alex finally gets around to proposing, Becky surprisingly declines and decides she has to try and find the man she is sure will be Mr Right. As well as that, Becky's trying out a new job as a journalist and she realises she can put this new job together with finding her own Mr Right. Becky starts afresh, determined to make her new career work for her and is sure she can find love again too... nothing like a bit of optimism hey?!

I really liked the eBook from the beginning. I liked Becky straight away, she was a bit chaotic and a bit crazy but I liked her determination to make things work out for the best. I did feel sorry for her boyfriend Alex when she seemingly ended their relationship out of the blue, but Becky was sure she could find someone she would be sure was Mr Right. Her friendship with Katie and other best friend Emma were nice to read, the girls were really close and I particularly enjoyed the anecdotes of them shopping for Katie's wedding dress, they made me smile!

The way Lefebve brings up the storyline of Becky searching for Mr Right and tying into her new job was clever. It allowed for a different way of story-telling, with fun little interview inserts along the away as Becky tries to find out from her nearest and dearest what made them sure they'd found Mr (or Mrs) Right. Some of the stories were funny, others touching and very sweet, and I really enjoyed reading them. I was hopeful that poor Becky would find her own Mr Right by the end, she certainly deserved it after working so hard! I really like the inclusion of new male character James, he seemed so perfect in a number of ways but also seem real, and I liked that about him.

I really enjoyed Lefebve's writing, and the twists and turns as you're reading made it all the more enjoyable. The ending itself was perfect, I hadn't anticipated some of the things that had happened so it made for a wonderful ending in my opinion, exactly as it should be. Becky is funny, her extra job to earn some more money on the side, working at a paint your own ceramics chop, leant itself to a lot of funny anecdotes, and ultimately there's a fantastic love story inside to. This is a very strong debut novel. Lefebve has a great writing voice, allowing her readers to care about the characters and the story, and I whizzed through it in just a few evenings. I look forward to more from Sarah Lefebve, and Harper Impulse need to keep bringing out these brilliant eBooks, they haven't gone wrong for me yet! I highly recommend The Park Bench Test, give it a go!

15 October 2013

Book Review: The Reunion by Amy Silver

"They thought they'd be friends forever.

Jen, Andrew, Lilah, Natalie and Dan were inseparable at university, but in the seventeen years since they left they have hardly seen each other. Until Jen invites them all to stay at her house in the French Alps. The house where they once spent a golden summer before tragedy tore them apart.

When a snowstorm descends, they find themselves trapped and forced to confront their unresolved issues, frustrated passions and broken friendships. And as relationships shift and marriages flounder, the truth about what really happened years before is slowly revealed. And Jen realises that perhaps some wounds can never be healed..."

Rating: 5/5

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

I've been a big fan of Amy Silver's previous books, in particular her festive releases All I Want For Christmas and One Minute to Midnight so I was really pleased to see that Amy was finally back this year. However, when I saw the cover and read the synopsis, I could see straight away that this was going to be a different book, a more serious story with a new cover look to go with it, so I was interested to see how this book would fare with me. It was quite a big book at over 400 pages, but despite a slightly slow start, I soon found myself absorbed in The Reunion, and I definitely think it's a must-read this year.

Despite having been the bestest of friends at University, Jen and her friends haven't seen each other for years, and many of them seem happy to keep it that way. Jen decides that it has to change and invites the group back to her home in the French Alps, determined to sort through their issues once and for all. However, a snowstorm appears out of the blue and the friends find themselves stuck at the house, despite more than one of them wanting to leave. It forces the friends to talk about things that some of them would rather forget, and to try and work through them once and for all. Jen realises maybe she made a mistake in forcing them all together to try and be friends, and that maybe some of the relationships are broken beyond repair.

As I mentioned, I did find the start a little slow. It took a little while to get going, and I found my attention drifting a bit, but having loved Amy's previous books, I was determined to stick with it and I am really pleased that I did. I liked the way things are a bit of a mystery until a fair way into the book, although I had a guess at what had happened and I was right. The book starts in the present day, with Jen awaiting the arrival of her friends, but quickly chops and changes as the book progresses. We have three different time periods in the book; present day, what happened in the past and things that happen after the friends have been reunited. It wasn't confusing, as it's quite clear what is happening when, and I enjoyed the interludes of the emails and letters between the friends before and after the incident too.

The friends are all very different, and I warmed to them all in different ways. Jen was a bit of a strange one for me. I didn't dislike her as such, but I didn't hugely like her either. She had her heart in the right place and wanted the best for her friends, but she did seem a bit weak overall. I really liked Natalie and her husband Andrew, both haunted by the past but trying to be good parents to their girls, and it's Natalie who really isn't interested in the reunion. There's full of life Lilah, who seems happy enough on the outside, hot-shot screenwriter and director Dan, and then there's Conor. All very different characters in differing circumstances, and it's fascinating to read the differences between them from when they were young and carefree to the present day and the effect that their joint past had had on them all.

This was quite a gritty novel, and it progressed to the final quarter of the book, it took a hugely surprising turn yet again, and Silver totally threw me in an unexpected direction. It certainly does pull at your heartstrings and I was surprised with the emotional turns it took. I loved how Silver realistically explored friendships, how fragile they are and how easily they can break, and that they can't magically be healed overnight - some things just can't be forgotten. It shows the story from all the different perspectives, how what happened affected each of these people, and the struggles they had to get their lives back on track. It wasn't an easy read but with a great setting of a beautiful French home, interesting characters to read about and a story you won't want to put down,  Amy Silver has written it all into this book and I really loved it. It's totally different from her previous novels, but I liked her more serious, gritty turn. A fabulous read for these chilly autumnal nights.

14 October 2013

Christmas Releases 2013

The time of year for festive reads is finally upon us, and I've had a lot of tweets and messages asking me which Christmas books are available this year! So, to make life a bit easier for everyone, I've decided to put them all into a post here for you to browse and salivate over (aren't the covers just amazing?!), and of course you can click the book cover to be taken to its Amazon.co.uk page to where you can read the synopsis and buy it if you fancy it!

 So... which Christmas book are you looking forward to most of all?! I don't think I can choose!

11 October 2013

eBook Review: Woman Walks Into A Bar by Rowan Coleman

"A night out with the girls changes Sam’s life forever…

28-year-old single mother Sam spends her days working in the local supermarket and her Friday nights out with her friends letting her hair down at the White Horse. Life hasn’t been easy for Sam and her daughter, Beth (who always looks on the bright side) but she’s always hoped that one day she’ll break free from her past and meet The One.

But after a series of terrible dates with men she’s met through an internet dating site, that have all been as awful as her daughter's terrible jokes, she’s starting to lose heart - until her friends tell her they’ve set her up on a blind date. Sam’s horrified but finally she agrees to go. After all you never know when you might meet the man of your dreams; just maybe Sam’s happy ending is just about to begin….

But will Sam have to face up to her past before she can find a new future?"

Rating: 4/5

You can buy Woman Walks into a Bar as an eBook now.

When I heard about Rowan Coleman's new eBook 'Woman Walks Into A Bar', it wasn't just because Rowan is one of my favourite authors. It's because she has done an amazing thing with this book. Rowan is donating 100% of the royalties from her sales to the charity Refuge which helps women who are victims of domestic violence. Rowan's also run some amazing competitions to win prizes when you've bought her eBook, through both Facebook and Twitter. I of course couldn't resist reading it, and quickly clicked through to buy a copy of my own.

The book is the story of 28 year old single mother Sam. She's been unlucky in love ever since she left the father of her daughter, and has actually been quite happy that way. Her friends have tried to set her up on several blind dates, but to no avail. The men certainly haven't been ones that Sam can see herself settling down with, and she's sure she is destined to be single forever. But her friends promise her one final blind date that she will be pleased with... will Sam follow through with it and find her happy ending after all?

This is a very short book and I found that I whizzed through it quickly when I sat down with it on my iPhone Kindle app one evening (poor little Kindle has gone to heaven!). It begins quite quickly, introducing us to a shy and unsure-of-herself Sam, and I have to say I could relate to her straight away! She is sure that she is meant to be single forever, instead loving the company of her daughter and her friends, and her job too. Sam has an easy friendship with her two best friends, who also work with her at the supermarket, and they were fun to read about.

The book moves on in flashbacks, with Sam telling us of her terrible dates that she's had over the past few years, determined to get herself out there and see if she can meet a nice guy. Some of them are funny, some are shocking. It also goes back to Sam's relationship with the father of her child. The thing about Sam is she's had a bad experience in her past with men. The book covers the topic of domestic violence, in some graphic detail and isn't easy to read in parts. There's really only a few short scenes but that's enough to shock you and make you realise how some women (and some men) have to live day in, day out. It's a horrible reality to be faced with, but I feel Rowan handles it well in the book, delicately but makes certain you understand exactly what is you are reading about.

The book was short, the ending somewhat predictable but it didn't really matter. What did matter was highlighting the domestic violence relationship that Sam found herself in, and that she found the courage to get her and her daughter out of it before it was too late. For some women, it is too late, but Refuge is an amazing charity that helps the women who can escape their living hell. If buying this eBook for just 99p can help towards that, then I am pleased to do my bit. It's an eye-opening read, and made me grateful that I have never had to experience anything like that before. I liked Sam and her daughter, felt sorry for them and their past, and thought Coleman handled an emotive subject very well. I definitely giving Woman Walks Into A Bar a read, and helping donate money to a worthy charity at the same time.

9 October 2013

eBook News: The Twelve Dates of Christmas by Lisa Dickenson

Another christmas story from a debut author... but it's got a difference! Lisa Dickenson isn't releasing just one eBook but six! The Twelve Dates of Christmas is being released as a six-part digital series, each containing 2 dates, and you can see all the pretty covers to the left. The first part is due out on 11th November, with the subsequent stories being released each week until Christmas.

You can pre-order The Twelve Dates of Christmas: Dates 1&2  as an eBook now.

"The first part in this very funny six-part digital romantic comedy.

Claudia is a girl in a rut. At 30, her life is stale and the romance with long-term boyfriend, Seth, has disappeared. Determined to inject some festive spark back into their love life, Claudia and Seth go on their first date in a very long time to the Royal Opera House. But when the night ends in disaster, Claudia suddenly finds herself facing life - and Christmas - alone. 

Life alone is exciting, scary and full of soon-forgotten exercise regimes and ill-advised attempts at crafting sexy underwear. It's also filling up with dates, surprisingly. With best friends Penny and Nick at her side, a surplus of festive markets, mulled wine and Christmas tunes, Claudia attempts to face all this change with gusto. One thing's for certain: this year, Christmas is going to be very different... 

This is the story of Claudia and her twelve dates of Christmas. Hilarious, uplifting and romantic, it's a story about losing love, about finding love, and about discovering what's been there all along. Expect a whole heap of Christmas sparkle, butterflies-in-your-stomach romance and a lot of very funny moments in The Twelve Dates of Christmas."

8 October 2013

Book News: Here's Looking At You by Mhairi McFarlane

I read and loved Mhairi McFalane's debut novel, You Had Me At Hello, last year. It was a brilliant read, and I was thrilled to see Mhairi is back this year with another new book. Here's Looking At You is due out in 5th December, and I'm already loving the brightly coloured book cover. The story sounds fantastic and I can't wait to read it.

You can pre-order Here's Looking At You as a paperback or an eBook now.

"“Anna Alessi, professor of history, possessor of excellent hair and an occasionally filthy mouth, seeks nice man with good shoes.”

Despite the weirdos that keep turning up on her dates, Anna couldn’t be happier. As a 30-something with a job she loves, life has turned out better than she ever thought possible.

However, things weren’t always this way, and her years spent as the ‘Italian Galleon’ of an East London Comprehensive are ones she’d rather forget.

So when James Fraser – the architect of Anna’s final humiliation at school – walks back into her life, her world is turned upside down.

But James seems a changed man. Polite. Mature. Funny, even. People can change, right? So why does Anna feel like she’s a fool to trust him?"

7 October 2013

Book Review: The First Time I Said Goodbye by Claire Allan

"Would you hold on tighter if you knew you were saying goodbye forever?

In 1959, factory girl Stella Hegarty finds herself falling unexpectedly for the charms of a handsome US marine based in Derry.

Caught up in a whirlwind of romance which rivals the great love stories in the movies she so loves, Stella finds herself planning a new life in America with her beloved Ray.

But when tragedy steps in, both their lives are thrown into turmoil and they come to realise they may have said their first, and last goodbye.

In 2010, Annabel Jackson, reeling from the loss of her beloved father, agrees to accompany her mother Stella back to Ireland to meet her family for the first time. 

As the pair arrive in Derry - they both start to realise that some times you have to say goodbye to what you thought you always wanted in order to find what you have needed all along."

Rating: 4.5/5

You can buy The First Time I Said Goodbye as a paperback or an eBook now.

I am a big fan of Claire Allan's books - she doesn't seem to have much presence over here in the UK unfortunately but she is very popular in Ireland, where she is from. I love reviewing her books and spreading the word over here about how brilliant her books are, and how much I enjoy reading them. I was thrilled to receive a copy of her brand new book, The First Time I Said Goodbye. I have to say I was completely convinced by the cover at first, it seemed a bit 'old looking' to me, but now I've read the book, it does make sense a bit, although I do wonder if it could put younger readers off somewhat, especially those who judge a book by its cover and not the story inside!

Annabel Jackson is thrown by the loss of her beloved father, and seems to be walking about in a bit of a fog. When her grieving mother asks her to accompany her on a trip back home to Ireland from their native America, Annabel agrees, sure her mother will need help while she's there and she also wants the chance to meet the Irish side of her family. When both Annabel and her mum Stella arrive in Ireland, Stella is swept back all those years to her childhood, reunited with her sister Delia and the memories that are held between the pair. Annabel quickly realises there may be more to her mother's trip to Ireland that meets the eye, and is determined to learn more about her mother's past that she wants to reveal....

This book was very clever, being split between a story in the present day with Annabel as our main character and her mother Stella taking the backseat a bit, and the story set in 1959 with Stella being the main character and us learning about her love story. My favourite parts of the book by far were those set in 1959, learning all about life in Derry at that time, and Stella's very romantic story of falling in love with a handsome American marine who was stationed there. This really was a wonderful love story to read as it unfolded, and I was desperate for Stella and Ray to make their relationship work against the odds, and have a happy ending together. The way Allan writes the period is fantastic, everything from the houses to the clothes and the social life of Stella were perfectly written, and you really feel as if you're in the middle of the story with them all.

I did also enjoy the modern day setting, and I felt this highlighted the difference between life then and now very well too. I liked Annabel but I felt she was quite harsh on her mother in parts of the book, although I had to keep reminding myself she was grieving for the loss of her father too. Some of the parts where she is describing her emotions at times were really hard to read, and certainly made me think about a few things, it was quite emotional. I really loved the relationship she developed with her cousin, the two were hilarious and he was just what Annabel needed to lighten her mood and to inject a bit of fun into her life at that moment. Stella's past was cleverly told through flashbacks, and Annabel learns about it all at the same time we do, so it feels like we are discovering all this along with her which was interesting.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book, and really found myself getting lost in the story of Stella and her beau, and I really enjoyed being in a different world for a while. It's a very touching and emotional story, but it was one that I didn't want to put down, I just wanted to keep reading each night. The different relationships in the book were so well written, and Claire Allan really knows how to get into the emotions of these characters, and put that across so vividly to her readers. The First Time I Said Goodbye was a fantastic read, one that keeps you hooked from the start, and I especially loved how the book changed between present day and 1959, you get the best of both worlds in this book. For me, this is possibly Claire Allan's finest story to date, and it's a shame we have to wait until 2015 for her next book! A super read for the autumn evenings.

3 October 2013

eBook Review: Keeping Her by Cora Carmack

"Garrick Taylor and Bliss Edwards managed to find their happily-ever-after despite a rather . . . ahem . . . complicated start. By comparison, meeting the parents should be an absolute breeze, right?

But from the moment the pair lands in London, new snags just keep cropping up: a disapproving mother-in-law-to-be, more than one (mostly) minor mishap, and the realization that perhaps they aren't quite as ready for their future as they thought.

As it turns out, the only thing harder than finding love is keeping it."

Rating: 4/5

You can buy Keeping Her as an eBook now.

I've read both of Cora Carmack's new adult novels so far and have really enjoyed them. Her first book, Losing It, was based on a young female character called Bliss, and her subsequent relationship with teacher Garrick. The ending of that book was great, but did leave some scope for the characters being revisited, which I had hoped would be the case. Carmack hasn't brought them back in a full length novel, but instead in this eBook novella, which promises to go back and revisit Bliss and Garrick and find out what they are up to next.

Bliss and Garrick have been happily loved up for a while now. They are working hard, and are now engaged to be married. Garrick realises he has to take Bliss back home to England introduce his fiancée to his family, although it isn't something he particularly wants to do, and Bliss isn't too happy about it either. They soon arrive in London, and things don't go to plan right from the beginning. Bliss is nervous, Garrick is worried and things seem a bit tetchy between the pair. Bliss begins to realise perhaps their relationship is not as perfect as they thought, and when a big surprise comes along, Bliss isn't at all sure she can handle it...

I really enjoyed revisiting the characters of Bliss and Garrick again, and seeing where they are at in their romance. It's nice to see that they are still happy together, and I thought it was a good idea to send them to London to meet Garrick's family and throw them into a new situation together too. I felt really sorry for Bliss, she's so nervous and her clumsiness comes out much to her annoyance, but you can't help but love her even more for it... she does seem to be meeting the in-laws from hell! I enjoyed the twist that Carmack throws in along the way too, it opens up the novella to a whole new angle, and the way she ends it once again leaves it open to revisit these characters in the future.

This was a fairly short story, and I read it pretty fast, but as I mentioned before, it is nice to read something with familiar characters, and those who have read Losing It will certainly enjoy the catch up with these characters again. I wouldn't advise reading this before its predecessor as this is definitely a follow up, and will spoil things for those haven't read the previous book. The eBook story felt very realistic, a couple of young and in love characters, unsure where they are going with their lives and relationships, and dealing with family issues along the way too. I really enjoyed this eBook, and I do hope Carmack brings back these characters for another catch up soon! If you loved Bliss and Garrick in Faking It, you will definitely want to get a copy of this.

1 October 2013

October 2013 Releases

Oooh Christmas reads! It's October and that means the start of Christmas books starting to hit our bookshops, hurrah! Some fabulous titles are released this month, including a couple of great eBook only short stories, which I've included here as I think a lot of you will be interested in reading them. Which reads are you looking forward to from this selection? Don't forget, click on the covers and you'll be taken to the Amazon page for that book! :)