19 December 2015

Book Review: Christmas Wishes and Mistletoe Kisses by Jenny Hale

""Single mother Abbey Fuller loves her family more than anything, and doesn’t regret for a moment having had to put her dreams of being an interior designer on hold. But with her son, Max, growing up, when a friend recommends her for a small design job she jumps at the chance. How hard can it be? 

Nick Sinclair needs his house decorated in time for his family’s festive visit – and money is no object. What he doesn’t need is to be distracted from his multi-million dollar business – even if it is Christmas. 

When Abbey pulls up to the huge Sinclair mansion, she has a feeling she might be out of her depth. And when she meets the gorgeous, brooding Nicholas Sinclair, she knows that she’s in real trouble… 

With the snow falling all around, can Abbey take the chance to make her dreams of being a designer come true? And can she help Nick to finally enjoy the magic of Christmas?"

Rating: 5/5

Available to buy now.

Jenny Hale's books are some of my favourites to read at Christmas, so when I received a Netgalley copy of her brand new festive read Christmas Wishes and Mistletoe Kisses, I was super excited to get stuck into it because I just knew it would be brilliant! Luckily, Jenny hasn't let me down, and I might go so far as to say this is my favourite of all of her books to date! I loved everything about it - the setting, the story, the characters - I really didn't want it to end!

Abbey is a single mum to her young son, but wouldn't change anything for the world. She is a nurse whilst her son is at school, and relies on the help of her mother and elderly grandfather to look after him while she is out earning money. When she gets offered her dream job as a decorator for local millionaire Nick Sinclair she jumps at the chance, knowing she'll never again have an opportunity to earn this much money in such a short time. She can't believe the size and grandeur of the house, or the fact she's given an unlimited budget, and soon sets about creating a Christmas wonderland for Nick, who is reluctant about it at best. Will she be able to melt his frozen heart and help him enjoy his Christmas at last?

Oh, there really is nothing to dislike about this story and I fell in love with it so easily! Abbey was a wonderful character - a caring, kind person, a devoted mother to her young son who is just the most adorable boy ever, and a bit down on herself too, unsure that anyone would take decorating advice from her. Luckily, Nick is around to take a chance on her, and so their tale begins! I loved how we are introduced to Nick as a bit of a grumpy mystery, with no idea why he is so unhappy about the festive season, or why he lives such a solitary life, despite his many millions in the bank. Abbey is the total opposite, loving to surround herself with family and enjoy the season together, although they don't have much by the way of money. Goes to show, having money doesn't always make you happy!

I'm not very clued up on interior decorating, preferring to stick to what I know, yet Jenny Hale describes everything so vibrantly, you can picture even the most minute detail in your mind! Each room really came to life in my head as I was reading, and it sounded absolutely magical, I could've quite happily moved in and been happy there for Christmas! Every detail is beautifully described, from the enormous, tall Christmas trees to the small details in the bedrooms, it sounded wonderful and was a joy to read. I enjoyed reading Abbey's mind processes to get to her final designs, and enjoyed seeing Nick come out of himself as the festive spirit overtakes him.

I loved both of these characters, and really became invested in their story. They are both very different people, living very different lives but gel in a number of ways that show each other a better side to life - Abbey learns the good that money can do, and Nick learns the importance of family, and opening up to someone, however distant they are from you. I was hopeful that there would be more between the pair than just a friendship, that's the old romantic in me, I can't help it! The two of them certainly had enough chemistry, and I certainly enjoyed reading their blossoming friendship throughout the book. Jenny Hale's writing was spot on for me, controlling the pace of the book, describing everything so wonderfully you feel part of the story. I loved the closeness Abbey, her son, mother and grandfather shared, it was so touching, and really was a joy to read. My favourite Christmas novel so far - I loved it!

13 December 2015

eBook Review: Wish Upon A Christmas Cake by Darcie Boleyn

"Katie Warham has just one wish this year…to have the best Christmas ever!

If only she could lock herself away in a cloud of flour and sugar at her cosy little tearoom, Crumbtious Cakes, instead of spending the festive season trapped with her judgemental mother, crazy Aunt Gina and loved-up celebrity brother Carl…

But Katie never expected her ex-boyfriend, widower Sam – and his two adorable children – to turn up on her doorstep. She didn’t think that any man could tempt her under the mistletoe this year, but Sam might just prove the exception! And as the snow begins to fall and Katie puts the final touches to her famous Christmas cake, she begins to wonder, could her Christmas wish actually come true?"

Rating: 4/5

Available to buy now.

Another festive read that has landed on my Kindle this year is the debut novel from author Darcie Boleyn. I feel it always bodes well when an author debuts with a Christmas novel because I do love a great Christmas story, and if they can make me fall in love with their festive story, then I'm definitely going to want to read more from them. I really like the cover for this eBook, I love that publishers are getting wise to the fact that eBook covers have to be just as attractive as traditional paperback covers, and this one certainly works for me. I enjoyed this story very much, its a wonderfully romantic tale that you will want to cosy up with this Christmas!

Katie is determined to have her best Christmas ever, and will do anything to make it so. She loves running her own tea room, Crumbtious Cakes, with her best friend, but knows she needs some downtime over the festive season, and drives off to spend it with her parents. Whilst the relationship between her and her mother isn't the best, Katie is going to put all her feelings aside to make this festive season the best she can. However, she doesn't count on her ex-boyfriend Sam making a reappearance at the venue, with two children in tow. Will Katie be able to put her feelings aside, and let this Christmas be her best one yet?

I really was able to get into this story from the very beginning, and became quickly invested in Katie's story. There's a bit of a mystery with her, why she and Sam split up many years ago, and I was curious to find out what happened between them. As it's revealed, you can understand why Katie is as she is in the book, and why it has so profoundly affected her. This was a serious side to the story, and I felt Boleyn handled it really well, tackling the issue sensitively, allowing the emotion to come through. Katie was very likeable and I really did care about her story.

My favourite character though was Sam. He's a father now, and clearly is close to Katie's family, and as the story goes on, we find out more about why he is choosing to spend time with another family instead of his own. I loved his story, it was so well written, and the scenes featuring him and Katie were so beautifully written, you could really feel the chemistry between the pair. I loved the realistic obstacles they come up against - the children being the main one, and it all felt very believable as I was reading.  Nothing seemed forced between the pair, their friendship from years ago was still very evident, and it the pace of it all was just perfect. The characters of Sam's children were just as well written too, sometimes children can be horribly written in novels but they were written brilliantly here, and the conversation between them and the adults felt so real, it was a joy to read.

I thought this was a very enjoyable Christmas read, and I became very involved in Katie and Sam's story. The fact it was set at Christmas made it perfect for me, and I enjoyed all of the festive touches that Boleyn described, from the walks in the snow, to the Christmas trees and cakes that were dotted throughout the novel. Boleyn's writing was really enjoyable to read, she really puts across the more serious side of the story with sensitivity and gentleness, showing a more vunerable side to these characters. This was a very enjoyable read, one that I can definitely recommend, and I'll be looking out for more from Darcie Boleyn.

5 December 2015

Book Review: Never Kiss A Man in a Christmas Jumper by Debbie Johnson

"You’ve seen Mark Darcy in the reindeer jumper his mother gave him, now meet Marco Cavelli in this season’s Christmas knit!

For single mum Maggie, Christmas has always been a family occasion – her daughter Ellen filling the house with her bubbly warmth and mistletoe, her dad Paddy having one too many festive tipples, and the traditional family Christmas tree looking like a drunken elf vomited a rainbow all over it.

But this year, with both Ellen and Paddy away for the holidays, Maggie’s facing a truly blue Christmas – alone with nothing but a bottle of Baileys and an M&S turkey dinner.

Until walking the snowy streets of Oxford, Marco Cavelli quite literally crashes into her life – and, complete with broken leg, becomes her unexpected houseguest. All dreamy brown eyes and 6’5” of gorgeousness, the man is hotter and more delicious than a freshly baked mince pie.

Though Maggie always thought it’s a truth universally acknowledged that you never kiss a man in a Christmas jumper?"

Rating: 5/5

I was super excited to receive a review copy of Debbie Johnson's fabulous new Christmas novel, simply because I absolutely adored the title and the cover of the book! I couldn't wait to find out more about the man in a Christmas jumper, and see just how festive the book was going to be overall. I read Debbie's debut book last Christmas, and whilst I enjoyed it, I was hoping for more festive feeling in this one. I had no idea when I began that it was a sort-of sequel to that book, so that was a nice surprise. I loved the book and couldn't put it down once I had begun, it was simply brilliant!

Maggie is a single mum, and has seemingly resigned herself to being alone for the near future, especially at Christmas. Her teenage daughter is ready to fly the nest this year, wanting to spend the festive season with her friends, and her father has booked a holiday away, something Maggie feels he deserves. So she keeps quiet, all set to be alone. But when she bumps into American Marco Cavelli on a bike and he ends up with a broken leg, Maggie feels a bit responsible, and ends up nursing him back to health in her small home. As the pair spend more time together, their friendship quickly hots up, but Maggie knows its going nowhere and is determined to keep her distance. After all, a man with such bad taste in Christmas jumpers can't be worth hanging on to, can he?

I didn't twig at first that the Marco in this book is the one we meet briefly in Debbie's first festive read, Cold Feet at Christmas. It wasn't until some other characters from that book start to put in an appearance that I realised how it was all linked, and I thought it was a really clever way of catching up with those characters, as well as bringing about a new story. Marco was the dreamiest character ever - thoughtful, handsome, funny - you can see why Maggie was somewhat taken by him! He seemed so lovely, and I loved that there wasn't really anything dislikeable him, he was just such a lovely guy, very family-orientated and kind-hearted.

Maggie was a great person to focus the story on. Her life has been a bit mundane up to now - she works making wedding dresses, and she's very skilled at her job. She's often invited to weddings to watch her bride's happy-ever-afters but never seems to find one of her own. In fact, some of the scenes at her wedding dress shop were so touching, Johnson perfectly describes the dresses and the skills involved, it was a lovely side story to the main one, and offered a more emotional side to the novel. She's a great mum to her teenager Ellen, but now she is growing up, Maggie is somewhat more alone than ever before. I liked how she befriended Marco so easily, the pair had a great chemistry, and I loved reading the scenes with the two of them together, they were so charming and always left me with a massive grin on my face.

The festive feeling in this book was lovely. It was set in the build-up to Christmas, and it felt festive all the way through. As it built towards the ending and Christmas day got nearer, so did the festive feeling, and I loved that part of the book. However, Johnson contrasts this happiness and joy with a more serious side to the book - Maggie is hiding her own sad secret which is holding her back in her love life, and there's a bit of a sad story involving one of her brides-to-be too, that left me with tears running down my face. But somehow it worked really well in the story, and all came together beautifully in a wonderful Christmas package! I loved every page of this book, and I can only hope we see more of Maggie and the Cavelli's in future books, they have fast become one of my favourite book families! This was a joy to read, and I'm excited for Debbie Johnson's next read!

2 December 2015

Book Review: One Wish in Manhattan by Mandy Baggot

"It’s the most wonderful time of the year… to fall in love.

The temperature is dropping, snow is on its way and Hayley Walker is heading for New York with one wish on her mind…to start over. 

With her nine year-old daughter Angel, Hayley is ready for an adventure. From hot chocolates and horse-drawn carriage rides in Central Park, to ice-skating at the Rockefeller Centre, and Christmas shopping on 5th Avenue – they soon fall in love with the city that never sleeps. 

But there’s more to New York than the bright twinkly lights and breathtaking skyscrapers. Angel has a Christmas wish of her own – to find her real dad. 

While Hayley tries to fufil her daughter’s wish, she crosses paths with Billionaire Oliver Drummond. Restless and bored with fast living, there’s something intriguing about him that has Hayley hooked. 

Determined to make her daughter’s dream come true, can Hayley dare to think her own dreams might turn into reality – could A New York Christmas turn into a New York Forever? "

Rating: 5/5

Available to buy now.

I was a bit disappointed earlier this year when I read Mandy Baggot's summer read, Truly, Madly, Greekly, because lots of other book bloggers were raving about it, and I just didn't enjoy it as much as I had hoped. However, when I found out that Mandy had a Christmas novel coming and it was set in New York at Christmas, I was eager to find out if I would enjoy this one more and.... I did! This was a beautifully written tale that I thoroughly enjoyed, and definitely recommend to you all this Christmas!

Hayley Walker is determined to make her daughter Angel's Christmas wish come true, no matter how impossible it might feel. All Angel wants is to find her father, but given that she is the product of a one night stand in New York nearly a decade ago, Hayley is unsure where to even begin looking for him. She decides to go to New York for the festive season to find him, staying with her brother Dom who works for multi-millionaire businessman Oliver in the technology business. Hayley unwittingly bumps into Oliver in a restaurant and the pair strike up an unlikely friendship, and sparks begin to fly. Is Hayley about to make more than just her daughter's wish come true this Christmas?

Now, I have been lucky enough to visit New York at Christmas, way back in 2005, so I love reading books that transport me back there, to one of the best holidays I have ever had. I have high hopes for how authors describe this beautiful city, and everything Christmassy about it, and luckily Mandy Baggot has done a brilliant job on this front for me. She described everything to perfection, from the streets and building, to the tall glittering tree at Rockefeller Centre. Her descriptions really bring it all to life, and the memories came flooding back for me, so this certainly added to my overall enjoyment of the book.

I did really like Hayley's story too. For some reason, I kept muddling up Hayley and Angel, assuming that Angel was the older of the two (I think it was because I envisioned Angel being more of an adult name in my eyes), but once I'd got it straight, I was fine! The pair had a lovely close relationship, and I thought Mandy did a great job of a writing a realistic child character, something some authors don't quite manage to do. I really did want Hayley to make Angel's wish come true, given that it was something so precious to Angel, and enjoyed the twists and turns the story took as Hayley desperately hunted across the city for any sign of him.

However, although I loved the tale involving Hayley and Angel, my favourite part of the story was Oliver and his life. Oliver has had a bit of a sad life, losing both his dad and his brother to a hereditary condition, which he is sure he also has, and is therefore also sure he's going to die young. I felt so sorry for Oliver, feeling like he was in an impossible situation, and not knowing how to deal with his emotions, and his still-raw grief from losing his brother and father. His relationship with his mother is also very strained, so you could see why he was quick to befriend Hayley, someone new who had no idea about his life or his family. I loved seeing him develop as a character as their friendship brought him out of himself more, and I really did love him as a character, he was just such a lovely person!

This was a perfect Christmas read in my eyes, it had everything I could wish for in a Christmas book - lots of Christmas feeling and spirit, romance, humour and just a brilliant story that you as a reader can get invested in. As I said, being set in the magical city of New York added to the magic for me, and if you haven't been, you certainly will feel like you have once you've read this book. I thought Mandy's writing was spot on in this book, and I really didn't want it to end, although of course it had to. It's the ideal read to curl up with in your living room with the beautiful Christmas lights dotted around, and will leave you with a lovely warm feeling inside. A beautiful book!

28 November 2015

Book Review: The Santangelos by Jackie Collins

"A vicious hit, a vengeful enemy, a drug addled Colombian club owner and a sex crazed Italian family; the ever powerful Lucky Santangelo has to deal with them all.

Meanwhile Max - her teenage daughter - is becoming the "It" girl in Europe's modeling world. And her Kennedyesque son, Bobby, is being set up for a murder he didn't commit. But Lucky can deal. Always strong and unpredictable, with her husband Lennie by her side, she lives up to the family motto - Never f*** with a Santangelo. 

Lucky rules; the Santangelos always come out on top."

Rating: 5/5

Despite the fact that I have been reviewing for almost 10 years now, and I've read countless books, running probably into the thousands by now, I have never read a book by the amazing author that is Jackie Collins. The literary world went into mourning just last month when Jackie sadly passed away, and this spurred me on to finally read a book by Jackie. The lovely Sara-Jade at Simon&Schuster sent me a review copy when this was released earlier this year, so I eagerly grabbed it and got stuck in... and boy was it a ride of a read!

Lucky Santangelo is very much the matriarch of her family, and God help you if you mess with a Santangelo because Lucky will be coming after you. Her daughter Max is fast becoming a popular model in Europe, and is unsure how to make genuine friends, will she relent and welcome back a bad influence ex-boyfriend back into her life? Her son, Bobby, is being framed for murder, and Lucky is determined to prove her son is innocent against the odds. Finally, when a family tragedy occurs, Lucky is out for one thing - revenge. Will she be able to seek out the person against whom she wants to take her ultimate revenge?

I have to confess when I started reading I wasn't prepared for the level of rudeness in this book lol. I'm not a prude by any means, but some of the things in this book did shock even me. I had no idea that it would be this graphic, but it didn't stop my enjoyment of the book, I just feel it's worth mentioning in case that really isn't your thing in a book! This book is a follow on of some of Jackie's previous books featuring Lucky and the Santangelos, but it doesn't matter if, like me, you haven't read those because Jackie gives us enough backstory to understand the family, and why Lucky is as overprotective as she is towards her family.

I loved Lucky, she is certainly an interesting character, and is very much larger-than-life throughout the book. For me, the best way to describe her is like a mother lion, with Bobby, Max and the other children her small cubs who she must protect at any cost. We really see her ruthless side in this, able to push back her emotions to get the ending she wants, and I did love that about her. Her husband is quite the opposite, seemingly happy to roll over and go along with whatever Lucky wants - I don't blame for doing so haha!

The Santangelo children, Bobby and Max, who are the other focus of this book are very different. Bobby is quite happy to live a quieter life, whereas Max very much likes putting herself out there in the public eye. I really enjoyed reading their stories, with them both being in a tricky situation throughout the book, and I was excited to find out what would happen to both by the end. The final story in the book centres around an actress called Willow, who is determined to finally hit the bigtime in movies. She isn't afraid to do anything to get the job of her dreams, and some of Willow's scenes are quite graphic and shocking!

This novel was very long by my standards, at over 500 pages, but Jackie keeps the pace up at all times, and it never slipped for me. There's a lot of swearing throughout the book, a lot of sex and a lot of action - the story is just on fire throughout the whole book and I really didn't want to put it down! I was on tenterhooks as I read the last few scenes in the book, not knowing how it was all going to end, and I sped through as quickly as I could, desperate to see how Jackie would bring it all to an end! Once I'd finished, I felt sad that there would be no more books from Jackie, but luckily for me, I've now got her whole back catalogue to devour! How I've not read one of Jackie's books until now I will never know, but it will definitely NOT be my last! I loved The Santangelos - it had everything you want in a book, and more besides! A true blockbuster of a novel - Jackie may well have saved her best til last.

26 November 2015

Blog Tour: Never Kiss A Man In A Christmas Jumper by Debbie Johnson

Today I am thrilled to be a part of the blog tour for Debbie Johnson's brilliant new book with publishers Harper Impulse, called Never Kiss a Man in a Christmas Jumper! I was lucky enough to get a Netgalley copy a few weeks ago and have read it already, and it was just brilliant - the perfect Christmas read! My review will be coming in December, but until then, Debbie was kind enough to write a post about her favourite Christmas songs. Thanks to Debbie and her publishers for asking me to be part of the blog tour, enjoy reading!

"My latest book – Never Kiss A Man In A Christmas Jumper – is set entirely over the festive period. There are snow storms and pine trees and inflatable Santas and white weddings and carols and oodles of romance – and hopefully you won’t be able to guess that it was all written during a steaming hot summer!

I know it doesn’t feel like we had much of a summer, but there was an absolutely scorching period in June and early July that had everyone rooting out their sandals and reaching for the suncream. I was literally coming home from doing the school run, baking hot, opening all the windows, then trying to settle down to write about wintery streets, blizzards, and snowmen!

One of the best ways I found to get in the right mood was by listening to Christmas songs. I had a list of my favourites, and would let them play in the background while I worked. It was especially useful for one of the scenes, where my hero and heroine, Marco and Maggie, are attending a wedding party together – it’s a big, fat Christmas wedding, and the DJ is rocking some classic tunes to get everyone up on the dancefloor!

I’m sure we’ve always been to parties like that, and they’re always brilliant – never cool, rarely stylish, but always masses of fun! And that’s what Christmas songs are all about – I have a friend who is very intelligent, very poised, but whenever she’s at a ‘do’ in December, starts yelling ‘Play the Christmas songs!’ at the top of her usually well-controlled voice after a couple of drinks! If you’ve not staggered around a dancefloor drunk, clutching your friends’ hands as you do high kicks to I Wish It Could Be Christmas Every Day, you’ve not lived!

So, to get us all in the mood, here’s my list of absolute Christmas crackers:

1, Last Christmas by Wham!: Okay, I’m showing my age here, I realise – but I got my heart broken to this song at a school disco way back in the last century. It was devastating at the time, but – as is the way with these things – quite amusing now. Still, whenever I hear this song, it’s like I’m being whisked back in a time machine to when I was 15 again – it’s schmaltzy, it’s sentimental, and it’s perfect!

2, The Power of Love by Frankie Goes to Hollywood: There’s a bit of an 80s theme developing here, isn’t there? But I still love this song – in fact, I love it now more than ever. It’s completely epic, with the orchestral feel of the music and the vocals and the lyrics all combining to create something huge and spiritual – it’s a song you can totally get swept away in. Listen to it in the dark, or maybe by candle light, and be reminded of  all that’s great about love!

3, Fairytale of New York by The Pogues and Kirsty MacColl: Who doesn’t love this? Despite it’s dark lyrics and the abusive way Kirsty and Shane rasp away at each other, it’s just brilliant. You know you’re not getting a normal dose of Christmas joy when a song starts in a drunk tank, and the singers call each other faggots and maggots! Both bittersweet and simply bitter, it’s an absolute antidote to anything too soppy – and one of the best bouncing-up-and-down-during-the-chorus songs ever!

4,  Do They Know It’s Christmas by Band Aid: Is it just me, or do loads of the best Christmas songs definitely come from the 80s? I can’t escape the decade! But you can’t do a Christmas song list without this, can you? Not only was it the song that inspired a generation to do something for charity – even if it was just buy a single – it also featured some of the biggest and best stars of its time. All that aside, I think it stands up today – it still feels emotional and fresh, and, sadly, it’s message is still very relevant today.

5, Stay Another Day by East 17: Phew, at least I’ve made it to the 90s! I was never a huge E17 fan in general, but this is a great song. It sounds so orchestral, the singing is almost angelic, and the lyrics are so heartfelt. Plus it had that really funny video where they were all in special effect snow in hugely furry white parkas..."

22 November 2015

Book Review: Letting You Go by Anouska Knight

"What if a tragedy occurred and you only had yourself to blame? How do you move on from the past?

Alex Foster lives a quiet life, avoiding the home she hasn't visited in eight years. Then her sister Jaime calls. Their mother is sick, and Alex must return. Suddenly she’s plunged back into the past she’s been trying to escape.

Returning to her hometown, memories of the tragic accident that has haunted her and her family are impossible to ignore. Alex still blames herself for what happened to her brother and it’s soon clear that her father holds her responsible too. As Alex struggles to cope, can she ever escape the ghosts of the past?"

Rating: 4/5

Available to buy now.

I've read all of Anouska Knight's published books to date, so was really happy to receive a review copy of her latest book Letting You Go from her publishers. Anouska's stories are always very emotional, but with great characters you care about, and really become invested in their stories. This book sounded really interesting from the blurb and I got stuck in, eager to enjoy another of her stories. Luckily, it didn't disappoint!

Alex is quite happy living away from her home, not having to deal with her father and the emotion of the family tragedy that occurred many years ago, but has haunted her ever since. But when she gets a call from her sister Jaime telling her that their mother has been taken ill and she has to go home to help out, Alex is hesitant to return. When she gets there, the relationship with her father is as strained as it was before, and Alex's mum condition is pretty serious. As well as bumping into old friends, and trying to uncover her younger sister's secret, Alex has a hard time adjusting to life back at home. Will she ever be able to put what happened all those years ago behind her?

One thing that has stopped this book from being a 5 star read for me was the sheer number of characters in it, and the fact I did quite often get a bit confused between the residents of Alex's hometown. There were quite a few names constantly popping up throughout the book, and I did struggle to keep track in my head of who was who, and how they knew Alex. The main characters of course were not a problem, but some of the minor characters seemed to blend together in my head and I struggled to tell them apart in their scenes. This wasn't hugely problematic in the grand scheme of things, but I just found it a bit annoying as I was reading because I was constantly having to pause reading and work out again who this character was and the connection they had to Alex.

I don't want to give too much of the story away by telling you too much about the accident, but suffice to say I can understand why it has haunted Alex for the rest of her life, as it has the rest of her family also. The fact that their relationships have become so strained in the aftermath is really sad, and Knight puts across Alex's regret and her want to have a better relationship with her father so well, you really feel her emotion, and I was really hopeful that they would be able to heal things sometime down the track. Alex's father was a brilliantly written character, someone dealing with profound grief, as well as the sudden illness of his beloved wife. He is definitely a mn at breaking point, and clearly wasn't himself either, which was so sad, he was just never able to put across his feelings and as such as held them all inside for so long.

The more minor mystery involving Alex's little sister Jaime and her secret was well written too, although I did guess the secret a long time before it was revealed. However, I still enjoyed reading about these characters and how they came to discuss and accept her secret, despite Jaime's dread in revealing it. I also loved the character of Finn, who was a younger Alex's boyfriend and now back in her life. Their struggle over resuming a relationship was well written and felt really realistic, with feelings coming flooding back, but Alex reluctant to upset her father further by getting back with her ex-boyfriend. There's lots of different relationships going on within the book, each affecting characters in different ways, and this certainly made for interesting reading.

I really enjoyed this read - the story was well developed, the pace was good and I really enjoyed reading about these characters. The setting was beautiful as well, you could see why Eilidh Falls was somewhere people flocked to, it sounds so picturesque and Knight really brings it to life with her words. Yes, it is a story about grief, and how that changes and affects us, but also of how we can work through it and not allow it to hold us back, especially when it comes to our loved ones. This was quite a long book with perhaps a tad too many characters for me to be comfortable with, but I did really enjoy the read. I'm now looking forward to Anouska's next book, she's definitely become one of my must-read authors!

21 November 2015

Book Review: Mile High by Rebecca Chance

"First class is about to get dangerous . . . Pure Air's new LuxeLiner is flying from London to LA - its inaugural journey - with a first-class cabin packed with A List celebrities. As the feuding crew compete to impress their famous passengers, the handsome pilot tries to win the attention of a pretty young stewardess. But one VIP singer is battling something seriously sinister: watching her every step is a very determined stalker, someone who will go to any lengths to get the star to satisfy their desires. At thirty thousand feet there is nowhere to run, and nowhere to hide . . ."

Rating: 4.5/5

Available to buy now.

This is the first of Rebecca Chance's novels with her new publishers Pan Macmillan, and I was really pleased to see the new direction her covers were going in, after many books featuring a shoe with her last publishers! This cover screamed 'Jackie Collins' to me, odd since I have only recently read my first of Jackie's books, but it goes to show how important branding is for authors. I eagerly dived into this book once I received a review copy, and goodness me, Rebecca doesn't disappoint! Everything I expect from one of her novels is in this book, and here's why it's a must-read for me!

World famous pop star Catalina is about to help launch Pure Air's new LuxeLiner by going aboard its maiden voyage to New York in order to help advertise the service, along with some other well known faces. What she doesn't know, however, is that her stalker is also aboard the plane, leaving her nowhere to run or hide a mile up in the air. As Catalina struggles to get anyone to believe that her stalker is on the flight with her, the stalker is getting ready for the big crescendo to months of harassment, and to finally make Catalina theirs. Will the stalker quite literally get away with murder, or can Catalina escape their psychotic hands?

The book is very glamorous from the beginning, and I loved the idea of a book being set aboard one flight on a brand new aeroplane. It added a bit of drama to the book because you know the characters can't just runaway, and that's it all going to end somehow, and I couldn't wait to see what the big finale was going to be for this book! I had fun throughout the book trying to work out who Rebecca had based some of her more outrageous characters on, and had a good guess at a few of them! I love the way she writes her characters - larger than life, funny, yet you just have to laugh at them because they are so brilliant and yet ridiculous at the same time!

The main character of this particular story is Catalina, a famous pop star who is getting over a recent break-up and wants to shy away from the limelight to get over her heartbreak. Her PA isn't having any of it, and tells her to fulfill her obligation to PureAir and get on the LuxeLiner, little knowing what she is leading her boss into. While we meet Catalina when she is in a bit of a state, we find out a lot more about her as a person through the flashbacks which occur throughout the book, and detail her relationship, the way the stalker progresses in following Catalina, and how she deals with it. I really liked reading about her, and she seemed really genuine and nice despite the fame, which makes a change it seems! Also on the plane are a TV chef, who is simply hilarious, an actress who doesn't really like the fame side of her job, and the CEO of PureAir, determined that nothing will ruin this maiden flight.

The tension is ramped up as we see snippets from the stalker, watching Catalina from afar on the plane, and you're just waiting nervously for them to make their move, unsure what they are going to do and the destruction that it undoubtedly unfold as things happen! I have to confess that I didn't at all guess who the stalker was, and I was shocked as the big reveal happened and it all kicked off! It was a great crescendo to what had been built up as a brilliant story, and I really liked how it all happened so fast, it really added to the drama in the book! Chance fools us well throughout the book with her red herrings, and as I said, I didn't guess it which I loved - so often I read books which are predictable (although still very enjoyable!) so it was great to read something where I really couldn't guess what was happening!

I feel this was a different read from Rebecca's previous novels in a way, but still just as brilliant as the rest of her books I have read - and I've read all 8 so like to think I know what I am talking about! There's the usual sex scenes in her books, which are as usual well written, lots of shocking moments, a few in particular that made me blush and almost have to double check what I had just read, but that just adds to the enjoyment of Rebecca's books for me! If you've read Rebecca's previous books, you'll definitely love this one, I certainly did and am now eagerly awaiting her next one, I've already got high expectations for it! Mile High was a brilliant book, and I can definitely recommend it, although probably not for the faint-hearted!

14 November 2015

Book Review: The Oyster Catcher by Jo Thomas

"Dooleybridge, County Galway. Population: 482 (or thereabouts). The last place Fiona Clutterbuck expects to end up, alone, on her wedding night.

But after the words 'I do' have barely left her mouth, that's exactly where she is - with only her sequined shoes and a crashed camper van for company.

One thing is certain: Fi can't go back. So when the opportunity arises to work for Sean Thornton, the local oyster farmer, she jumps at the chance. Now Fi must navigate suspicious locals, jealous rivals and a wild, unpredictable boss if she's to find a new life, and love, on the Irish coast. And nothing - not even a chronic fear of water - is going to hold her back.

Join Fi on her romantic, unpredictable adventure as she learns the rules of the ocean - and picks up a few pearls of Irish wisdom along the way..."

Rating: 4.5/5

Available to buy now.

Much earlier this year, I was sent a review copy of this book. Jo Thomas was a new author to me, despite the fact she has sold very well in the eBook market this year. I liked the sound of the book, and when I had a bit of a gap in my reading schedule a few weeks ago, I decided that I had to give this one a go. I wanted to see what people were raving about, and now I have finished it, I can see why people have enjoyed Jo's books so much. I certainly will be looking out for more from her after reading this book.

Fiona Clutterbuck has ended up in a small Irish town called Dooleybridge, with only her wedding dress and wedding shoes for company. She won't tell anyone why she has fled England and clearly her own wedding, and sets about getting a job and somewhere to stay as soon as she can. Sean Thornton hates to see someone in distress, so when he overhears that Fi needs a job, he offers her one working on his oyster farm. Fi readily accepts, but is worried that her fear of water is going to hinder her, but Sean isn't about to let that happen. As she gets to grips with her new job, new work partner and new home, Fi is determined to keep her past back in England, but will she be able to keep the truth from her new friends?

I really enjoyed Jo Thomas' style of writing throughout this book. It was written in the first person from Fiona's perspective, allowing the story to slowly develop through her eyes. Also, due to this we are made to wait a long time to find out exactly what happened to make her run out on her own wedding, and why she has ended up in Dooleybridge. It certainly leant an air of mystery to the story, and when it was finally revealed, I was surprised because it wasn't what I had guessed along the way! Fiona was a fun character, I really liked the way she threw herself into her new job, and her positive attitude despite her upheaval.

Whilst I really liked Fiona, my favourite character in the book was the other main character, Fiona's new boss Sean. He runs an oyster farm, knows pretty much all there is to know about oyster farming, and is a bit of a recluse as well. Fiona is determined to make him open up, and I really enjoyed the scenes where he let go a little bit and we saw some of his personality shine through. Thomas has written him really well because even in his more grumpy moments, I really enjoyed reading his story and piecing him together as a person and what made him tick. The pairing of Fiona and Sean was wonderful, two lost souls coming together in strange circumstances, but it worked so well.

Thomas writes very well of the village of Dooleybridge. I haven't been to Ireland myself, but Thomas writes it in such a way you can close your eyes and imagine you are standing there in your wellies, watching Sean farm the precious oysters, in the drizzle and the cold. Her descriptions are wonderful, really bringing the settings and characters to life. Even the more minor characters made up of the Dooleybridge residents, were well crafted and quite unforgettable! As the story went on, the pressure of Fiona to reveal all ramps up, and I enjoyed reading to find out how it was all going to end for her, and what choices she would have to make.

Although I am not a fan of oysters - well, I say that but I've never tried them, but given that I hate seafood, I'm willing to bet I won't like them - but this book was a very enjoyable read. Some of the descriptions of the oysters and farming process ran on a bit for me, but it certainly did paint a vivid picture in my mind, and I certainly know a lot more about this topic than I did before I read this book! It was a thoroughly enjoyable book from beginning to end, and Thomas' writing really was a joy to read. I can't wait to read more from Jo Thomas now, what a gem to find on my bookshelf :)

9 November 2015

Blog Tour: How to Stuff Up Christmas by Rosie Blake

Today I am super thrilled to be part of Rosie Blake's blog tour for her brand new festive book How To Stuff Up Christmas. I have this gorgeous book sat on my shelf, and I can't wait to read it, it sounds brilliant! Rosie was kind enough to write this article showcasing her Top 5 writing tips for any of you budding authors out there, so please enjoy, and make sure you grab a copy of How To Stuff Up Christmas!

Available to buy now.

Rosie Blake's Top 5 Writing Tips

I am a complete sucker for writing tips. I am fascinated to hear how other writers tackle the process, love inspirational nuggets and new techniques to try out. Here are some of my favourites I used when writing HOW TO STUFF UP CHRISTMAS.

1) CHARACTER - it is all about character. Think of your favourite reads and you'll be thinking of a favourite character. Jack Reacher, Richard Campbell-Black, Harry Potter, Bridget Jones - they made their books magical (OK in Harry's case really, really, actually magical). Start with a character. What is their story? What do they want? Go from there...

2) WRITE QUICKLY - don't agonise over the first draft. I do word races. Hour long stints preferably against other writers but, if all else fails, against the clock. Choose a time slot and stick to it. Don't allow yourself to re-read or worry it is rubbish. You can fix it later. Then after the hour is up it is very important you celebrate, reward yourself e.g. With cake.

3) MAKE FRIENDS - other writers are so lovely it is ridiculous. Chat to them. Recommend books. Gossip about Downton Abbey (e.g. "hi other writer, how properly gross was that burst ulcer scene?) Join Twitter or a Facebook group for writers and enjoy being part of one fantastic, inspiring community.

4) MINOR CHARACTERS - make these guys count. Jonny Geller tweeted something that really stuck with me. He said think of your minor characters as being the stars of a book of their own. They have just chosen to appear in your book. They have their own story, their own life, their own problems etc. This really helped me remember to make them as believable and as layered as my main characters.

5) CELEBRATE - finished a first draft? That is AWESOME. Make sure you celebrate. Entered a short story competition and been placed? FABULOUS. Celebrate. An agent wants to read the full manuscript? Of course they do! Celebrate! Enjoy the process of writing, celebrate the successes and remember you are living your dream.

Now go get 'em!

8 November 2015

Book Review: The Great Village Show by Alexandra Brown

"Tindledale is in a titter. The Village Show competition is coming around again and after last year’s spectacular failure, the villagers are determined to win. Meg, teacher at the local school, is keen to help and to impose some much-needed order.

After a terse encounter with a newcomer to the village, Meg discovers that it is celebrity chef and culinary bad boy, Dan Wright. Meg thinks he is arrogant and rude but rumour has it that Dan is opening a new restaurant in the village which could really put Tindledale on the map!

As things come together, villagers old and new all start to come out of the woodwork, including new arrival Jessie, who seems to have it all. But first impressions can be deceptive and Meg discovers that when it comes to Tindledale – and Dan – nothing is ever quite as it seems…"

Rating: 4/5

Available to buy now.

This book is the second in Alexandra Brown's 'Tindledale' series. I thoroughly enjoyed the first book, which was a festive offering called The Great Christmas Knit Off', so my expectations for this summery offering were very high! Luckily, Alexandra didn't let me down and this was a very enjoyable read as well, and it was nice to catch up with the characters that I loved from the first Tindledale novel.

This time, we are following Meg, a primary school teacher who lives in Tindledale, and very much loves her village. Her son has moved away to University, and Meg decides to dedicate her time to saving the local school, which the council are threatening to close due to its low intake numbers. So when Tindledale is offered the chance to take part in The Village Show competition, Meg decides they must enter and put Tindledale back on the map. When celebrity chef Dan Wright makes an appearance, Meg is wary of him and is sure he is there to ruin their cosy village. As the competition approaches, Meg is forced to let Dan help them in the competition, but is there more to him than meets the eye?!

If you have Alexandra's first Tindledale book, you'll certainly want to read the next installment and catch up with residents once again. However, this would work equally as well as a stand alone read - there's a few mentions of what happened in the previous book, but since it isn't a follow on story as such, knowing the previous story isn't a necessity. I enjoyed meeting Meg and following her throughout the book. She's kind-hearted, and very keen on keeping the village spirit up, ensuring that all the residents are part of the competition, and also saving her beloved school. Not only are her memories tied up there, but she knows how important it is for the local community to keep the school and not have the children shipped out on a bus every day!

Meg is very much at the centre of the competition, helping to organise the various ideas and stalls, and as she has to forge some kind of working relationship with celeb chef Dan, it throws up some unforeseen emotions for her! I enjoyed the slow development of the pair's friendship, especially as I couldn't stand Dan throughout most of the book, I definitely agreed with Meg's low opinion of him! But as the story goes on, more is revealed about him and of course everything becomes clear.

There is another story, far more serious, running alongside the main one, involving new Tindledale resident Jessie and her young triplets. There was a very serious side to this story, and Alexandra handles it really well, making you feel a lot of emotion about Jessie's tale, and hoping that she would find the happy ending she and her children deserved. It did make me quite emotional, but it was an important storyline to highlight, and worked well in the book, a bit of seriousness alongside the light-hearted story. I also enjoyed reading how Jessie slowly became part of the Tindledale community, showing how welcoming the residents, in particular Meg were. The competition was also a very fun part of the book, reading all of the residents preparing for it in every way possible, and how seriously some of them were taking it, it certainly put a smile on my face!

This was a really enjoyable book, and it was nice to be back in Tindledale, albeit in the middle of summer this time! The idea of entering a village show competition was a new one to me, and I really enjoyed reading about the preparations, the show itself and the villagers throwing themselves wholeheartedly into it all, especially Meg who was certainly a driving force for the whole thing! Throw in a bit of mystery to do with the new local celebrity Dan, a new resident hiding a secret and a village show and you've got a great recipe for a brilliant story. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and am looking forward to the next Tindledale story!

6 November 2015

Blog Tour: A Girl's Best Friend by Lindsey Kelk

Today, I am thrilled to be hosting Lindsey Kelk for the blog tour for her brand new book A Girl's Best Friend! The book is out now, and is the latest installment in Tess' adventures! I can't wait to read it, it sounds brilliant!

Lindsey was kind enough to write me a piece on 'The Things Only A Best Friend Can Say' - how many of them do you agree with?! Thanks so much to Lindsey for the piece, and to her publishers for asking me to be part of the blog tour.

You can buy A Girl's Best Friend now!

Things Only a Best Friend Can Say

It is the privilege and curse of being a best friend that sometimes, certain things have to be said. On the upside, you get to tell your friend when they’re being completely insane. On the downside, you have to tell your friend when they’re being completely insane. In A Girl’s Best Friend, Tess and Amy enjoy a painfully honest friendship, which sounds great on paper but remember, with great power comes great responsibility. Here are some of the other things you’re responsible for…

1. Yes, you do look fat in that.
Sometimes it needs to be said. Also, if she’s asking you whether or not she does (or he does, I guess?) then she probably already knows. Be kind but be honest. No one wants to look shitty in the Instagrams.

2. I think it’s a bad idea.
No one wants to hear this but every so often, everyone needs to. Whether it’s drunk dialing the ex, tweeting something snide about that knobber in accounting or quitting their job to retrain as a doggy optometrist, once in a while the voice of reason needs to step in and you my friend, are that voice. Whether you like it or not.

3. Maybe you’ve had enough.
I meeeeean, if they have, they definitely don’t want to know that they have but they’ll thank you for this in the morning. Or possibly the day after. Sidenote, you’re also on hair holding duty but it’s ok because you know they’ll return the favour sooner or later.

4. Actually, I think you’re being out of order.
This is a tough one. Your bestie is angry about something but as piggy in the middle, you can see both sides of the story and in spite of your undying allegiance to your BFF, you know for an refutable fact that they’re in the wrong on this one. So you can either keep quiet and let them carry on with their unrighteous anger or you can gently point out that they might not have all the info and save them from making a decision they might regret. This will not be easy and you’re unlikely to be popular for a while but you know what, you’re doing it for their own good. You’re basically Batman. Go you.

5. He’s just not that into you.
Bleurgh. We’ve all been here. Maybe he hasn’t called because he lost your number! And if he really likes you, it won’t matter who texts first, right? And who cares about the rules these days anyway. The best thing to do in this situation is get her a drink, point her in the direction of some other fine looking specimens and remind her how much better she is than that douche canoe in the first place. Maybe you don’t come straight out and say it but maybe you let her know how much better she can do because if he wanted to call, he’d call. And he hasn’t. Because he’s an asshat. New balls, please.

1 November 2015

Book Review: The Heavenly Italian Ice Cream Shop by Abby Clements

"Anna and her husband Matteo are ready to embark a delicious Italian adventure. After a year and a half running their ice cream shop on Brighton beach and raising their baby Isabella, Matteo is starting to miss Italy. A shared passion for ices means it's easy to settle on a new business idea - they'll open a shop in Sorrento's cobbled square, a short walk from the sparkling blue sea. For a while, life is sweet; but then Matteo's overbearing family get involved …

Anna's younger sister Imogen feels like things are finally coming together - she's living with boyfriend Finn in a beach house in Brighton, and her photography is taking off. Then her career stalls, and the lure of Capri - and a man from her past - prove difficult to resist."

Rating: 4.5/5

Available to buy now.

Abby Clements' books are always a joy to read, so when I was sent a review of her beautiful new novel The Heavenly Italian Ice Cream Shop by her publishers, I was over the moon. The cover is just stunning, so evocative of an Italian summer that I was excited to dive in and catch up with these characters once more. They had all first featured in one of Abby's older books Vivien's Heavenly Ice Cream Shop making this technically a sequelbut this is just an enjoyable as a stand alone book too, with enough information being given to us about the past story to understand this one.

Anna and Matteo are making a real success of Vivien's ice cream shop, with a steady flow of customers coming all year long. Now they're parents, running the ice cream shop means juggling their business with their parental duties to daughter Isabella, and to make matters worse, Matteo is starting to miss his native Italy. The pair decide to give living in Sorrento a try, and move out there with their daughter to start their own ice cream shop. But as Matteo's Italian family keep getting involved, Anna struggles to cope with living abroad away from her parents and sister Imogen, and wonders if their Italian dream is going to work after all...

As I mentioned, this is a sequel but it doesn't matter if you haven't read the other book. I soon fell back into step with Anna, Matteo and Imogen, remembering what had happened before but Clements gives us enough information to refresh our minds for those who haven't read or may have forgotten the last book! It was lovely to see the shop was still a success, and that Vivien's memory was being upheld with the shop too. Anna and Matteo make great business partners as well as a couple, and reading their realistic relationship was great, it seemed believable and had its up and downs.

The whole move to Sorrento was a bit of a surprise - I didn't expect that Anna would want to go all the way to Italy, away from her family, especially her sister Imogen who she is close to. Clements writes these guilty feelings so well, I understood exactly what Anna was feeling, as well as her family who was being left behind so I found these parts of the book quite emotional. Matteo's joy at being home, though, was plain to see and it was nice that she was willing to make that sacrifice to help her husband find happiness. They had a genuine relationship, and I really enjoyed reading it all.

I wasn't so thrilled about the story involving Imogen, Anna's sister. I felt some of her actions were quite selfish, and she was quite unfair to the man she supposedly loves. As the story went on, you understand why she behaves as she does, but even so I struggled to feel sorry for her as she goes on with what she wants. That said, it certainly added a bit of drama into the book, and showed what a calm relationship Anna and Matteo had in contrast!

Clements' writing is brilliant throughout the book, and vividly brings to life Sorrento in my mind. It isn't somewhere that I have visited in Italy, so her descriptions really allowed me to imagine their ice cream shop, the little square where it is situated and everything else about Sorrento. She also puts across emotions so well, everything from happiness to guilt and apprehensiveness is written perfectly, and I was very much consumed by the story. She's definitely one of my favourite authors, and Clements new book A Winter Wedding is out soon - I can't wait to read that, knowing it's going to be such a treat, especially being a festive book! This, though, is a beautiful book and definitely one to curl up with on these chilly autumn nights to fill you with sunshine and warmth.

31 October 2015

Book Review: A Time for Living by Ruth Saberton

"Feisty horsewoman, Morwenna Tremaine, has always known what she wants from life and success as a three day event rider is all she’s ever dreamed of. Mo has neither the time nor the inclination for love. Even if she did it wouldn’t be with a man who stands for everything she despises… 

Beneath a tough and determined exterior, businessman Ashley Carstairs harbours a dark secret that threatens to destroy everything he holds dear. Although aware that he is heading for trouble, he finds himself increasingly drawn to the one woman he knows he should stay away from – for both their sakes. 

As the autumn nights draw in and the trickling sands of time gather speed, emotions run higher than the tides and Mo finds herself unable to step away. What is Ashley hiding? Is there more to him that meets the eye? And will his secret destroy everything she now holds dear?"

Rating: 5/5

Available to buy now.

There's nothing quite like getting into a new book series, and feeling the excitement when the next instalment of that series is out! I was really excited to read the second in author Ruth Saberton's Polwenna Bay series, A Time for Living. The first book, Runaway Summer, had left us on a bit of a cliffhanger, so I couldn't wait to find out how things were going to pan out in this book. This time around, we're focussing on Morwenna Tremaine, Jake's sister from the first book, and I was curious to find out more about the horse-loving, Ashley Carstair's hating Tremaine woman!

Mo loves her job of running a stables, and loves nothing more than going for a ride with her beloved horses. When this was threatened by local millionaire and developer Ashley Carstairs, Morwenna fought to protect her precious Polwenna Bay and her horses. Now that Ashley is back on the scene, she is determined to suppress the feelings she has inside, determined that she won't fall in love, and especially not with Ashley. But Ashley is hiding a dark secret of his own, one that puts everything he loves at risk, especially his new home and lifestyle. Mo is determined to find out what Ashley's secret is, and what really makes him tick, as well as protecting her beloved Polwenna Bay...

The Tremaine family were easy to love in the first book, and that is certainly still the case in this book. Of course, all the Tremaine's appear in each of the books, but the focus shifts for each book - the third book in the series Winter Wishes (out this December) will focus on Jake and Mo's brother Danny, a character I have loved lots through both of these stories so I can't wait for his installment of the series! Mo, though, was a bit of a strange one for me. She is very passionate about what she loves, in particular her horses and her family, and has no patience for anyone who goes against those things. She seems quite abrasive but you get the sense she is hiding a softer side of herself, protecting herself the only way she knows how - to stop people getting too close to her.

Her relationship of sorts with Ashley was definitely my favourite of the book. There is most certainly an element of 'will they, won't they' between the two of them, and I was in the corner of wanting them to be a couple, I had a sense they would be a great couple if they could put their differences aside! As Ashley's secret is revealed, it changes your perspective of him entirely, and I just wished he would confide in Mo about what he was going through. It is quite a sensitive topic, but Saberton handles it really well, giving us enough detail to fully understand his perspective, and the tough decisions he has to make.

Once again, Saberton's writing is on point, and she describes Polwenna Bay perfectly, bringing the small Cornish fishing village to life in my mind once more. I liked spending more time at Mo's stables with her, it feels like a very calm place to be, and you could see why Mo feels most at home there. As well as writing about Mo and Ashley, Saberton puts across the closeness of the Tremaine family in this book perfectly again, and I loved this about this family. The Tremaine siblings are always there for each other, looking out for each other in their time of need, and their grandmother holds them altogether like glue. I love family-centric novels, and this is probably why I enjoyed Ruth's writing so much.

This was a fantastic second installment in this series, and it was fun to read much more about Mo and Ashley, and their love/hate relationship! With a perfect setting and a story that will definitely have you glued to it from beginning to end, Saberton's recipe for success continues to weave its magic throughout this novel. I now can't wait to read the third installment, coming 15th December called Winter Wishes, to catch up with Jake, Summer, Mo, Ashley and the rest of the Tremaine's for the festive season. You want a good read? Well, don't look much further than Ruth Saberton's books!

30 October 2015

Book Review: The Last Kiss Goodbye by Tasmina Perry

"Everyone remembers their first kiss. But what about the last?

1961. Journalist Rosamund Bailey is ready to change the world. When she meets explorer and man about town Dominic Blake, she realises she has found the love of her life. Just as happiness is in their grasp, the worst happens, and their future is snatched away.

2014. Deep in the vaults of a museum, archivist Abby Gordon stumbles upon a breathtaking find. A faded photograph of a man saying goodbye to the woman he loves. Looking for a way to escape her own heartache, Abby becomes obsessed with the story, little realising that behind the image frozen in time lies a secret altogether more extraordinary."

Rating: 5/5

Available to buy now.

I was thrilled when I requested a copy of Tasmina Perry's latest novel The Last Kiss Goodbye on Netgalley and was accepted - it feels like it's been a long while since her 2013 christmas novel The Proposal. I really love books where there is a split narrative, especially when it's set over two time periods, so I couldn't wait to read this one and unearth more about Rosamund and Dominic's story, as well as Abby discovering it in the modern day. As usual, the cover is gorgeous - evocative of the mood of the book, but something that completely grabbed me and made me want to dive in.

I'm quite used to a bit of a bonkbuster when I read Tasmina's novels, so this one was a bit of an escape from her past novels for me. Her last book, The Proposal, also moved away from this so it was quite nice to see this carried through to this book as well. The books certainly haven't lost their blockbuster appeal though, and Perry's writing is just as stunning as it always is, drawing me deep into the world of the story, and making me not want to leave it, even in the wee hours of the morning! I loved the historical aspects of this book, and Dominic and Rosamund were just the perfect characters to follow for this.

Rosamund is a journalist, determined to change the world and have her voice be heard in a very male dominated industry. When she meets Dominic Blake, a man who seemingly stands for everything Rosamund is against, there's a spark that neither of them can deny. They strike up a close friendship, going to social parties together and eventually cementing their relationship. But after Dominic goes to Peru on expedition and doesn't return, Rosamund has to carry on her life without her life. In 2014, Abby works in a gallery, looking through old photographs, and stumbles across a romantic photograph. She's determined to find out who the couple are in the picture, but doesn't realise the shocking story behind the romantic image...

As I have said, I really loved the split narrative of this book, and Perry handles it so well in the book, making the transitions seamless and so easy to follow. I thoroughly enjoyed the slow development of the friendship between Dominic and Rosamund, both keen to stand up for their views, both strong-willed people, yet unable to stop their romantic feelings once they have taken hold. Perry's descriptive writing of London in the 1960's was wonderful, so evocative of the time, everything from the fashion, to the buildings to the feel of the time was perfect. Their love story was highly romantic, even until the end when Dominic disappears, and you just know Rosamund will never get over it. This is where Abby and her investigative skills come in, researching about the picture of The Last Kiss Goodbye she unearths in the archives.

I loved the contrast of Dominic and Rosamund's blossoming relationship, and Abby's failing one, this worked so well for the story, although I did of course feel very sorry for Abby and how she has been treated. All of the characters are so well written, you feel like you're living their story alongside them, they are all believable as people and as such I really cared for them, and what happened to them. As the book neared its end, the secrets start to come out, and I was totally shocked by the revelations -I truly hadn't seen them coming and I loved that Perry was able to hide that from me until the point when it must be revealed. This was a superbly written and crafted novel, seamlessly weaving two tales into one, blending the past with the modern day, but showing us the thread of love is the one thing that can stand the test of time. Beautiful, a must-read.

Non Fiction review: Secret Garden Artist's Edition by Johanna Basford

"From the artist and the publisher that brought you the hugely successful Secret Garden and Enchanted Forest - this special artist's edition features 20 beautiful, pull out art prints for colouring in. Colouring fans of all ages will enjoy immersing themselves in a selection of the most popular artworks from the original book, now presented in a new, large-scale format for maximum colouring enjoyment. Each detailed illustration is printed on high-quality card and can be removed easily for framing or craft projects."

Available to buy now.

I know I don't usually review non fiction books on here, but this is something that has recently peaked my attention, and I couldn't resist the chance when the publishers sent me a review copy. I love colouring in - it's something I always loved as a child, so when the new craze for adult colouring books came out, I quickly jumped on board. I grabbed myself a copy of both of Johanna Basford's successful colouring books Secret Garden and Enchanted Forest and set to work, thoroughly enjoying both the colouring in, and creating a glorious image all of my own doing.

Due to the popularity of the books, Johanna's publishers have come up with the idea of an artist's edition of her first book, Secret Garden. This features a selection of the best loved pictures from the colouring book, printed on only one side of the paper, with a perforation down the side so that they can easily be removed and displayed around your home. I found the images were of a very high quality, certainly some of my favourite images from the original book although there were a couple missing that I would have loved to see in this book.

The quality of the paper here feels slightly better than in the original colouring book. I have used both colouring pencils (just from WH Smith, nothing fancy or expensive), and my Staedtler fine liners (my pen of choice for colouring in), and I have found both great on the paper. There is no bleeding, it doesn't show through to the back side of the paper, so it's certainly worth investing in something a bit bolder, especially if these images are going to be featured on your wall.

For those more serious about colouring in, and especially for those who want to display their colouring in, or simply removing it from the book for ease of colouring, this artist's edition of Johanna Basford's successful first book is definitely worth investing in. With great quality paper, a wonderful selection of images that are of a great size, this is definitely a colouring book that I am proud to own, and I'll be looking out for Johanna's other books as artist's editions too.

Thank you to the publishers for sending me a copy to review.

29 October 2015

Blog Tour Book Review: Christmas Ever After by Sarah Morgan

"Skylar Tempest has never understood Alec Hunter’s appeal. So what if he’s a world-renowned historian? He’s also cynical, aloof and determined to think the worst of her. So when a twist of fate finds her spending the lead-up to Christmas with Alec and his family, she’s not expecting the season to be either merry or bright.

Alec has learned the hard way not to trust beautiful women—and Skylar is the most beautiful woman he’s ever seen. But as he watches her throw herself into his family’s festive chaos, Alec realises there is far more to this blonde bombshell than meets the eye.

With Christmas around the corner, Alec and Skylar return to Puffin Island, a tentative bond forged between them. Neither intends to fall in love but as the nights become darker, and the fire between them grows hotter, could this be the chance for Alec and Skylar to find their own happy ending?"

Rating: 5/5

Available to buy now.

Once again, I have come to the end of another superb series by Sarah Morgan, and once again I have been left wanting more! After her brilliant Snow Crystal trilogy that was released mainly throughout 2014, we were treated to this new Puffin Island trilogy, comprising of First Time in Forever, Some Kind of Wonderful, and this, the final book Christmas Ever After. I was hopeful of this book being brilliant, but my god it surpassed even my high expectations - I loved everything about it and feel bereft that the series has ended and I have had to leave these fantastic characters behind!

Skylar is so excited to finally be hosting her own jewellery exhibition in London, showcasing some of her best work, especially with her boyfriend by her side. When a mutual friend, Alec, makes an appearance, Skylar isn't exactly happy to see him. However, when things in her personal life go dramatically wrong, Alec is the only one to step up and be there for Skylar. As the pair return to Puffin Island for the holiday season, will they be able to put their past differences aside and see their friendship for what it is, or what is could possibly be?

Each of the 3 books in this trilogy have focussed in on one of the women from the core friendship group, and this time it is finally the turn of Skylar. We have met her a few times over the past two books, and I always got a sense that her relationship with boyfriend Richard really troubled her best friends Brittany and Emily. It all comes to a head in this book, and I was pleased to see things finally get moving for Skylar. I disliked Richard from the moment I met him in this book, and I just couldn't understand what it was Skylar saw in him - he seemed a typical politician unfortunately!

I really loved the slowly developing relationship between Skylar and Alec. It's clear from the off that there is a bit of a spark between them, no matter how quick they are to deny it, but I loved how Morgan plays the two off for a while, making it clear that there is no romantic feeling whatsoever. I loved that Alec was a real gentleman, looking after Skylar when she needed someone the most, and not bailing out on his responsibilities when it got a bit too uncomfortable for him. The scenes at Alec's parents and their early festivities were my favourite in the book - it felt like a traditional British christmas, and I loved it!

Alec is definitely written as a hero of the book, and I liked how slowly Skylar came around to him, realising perhaps he wasn't as bad as she had originally thought of him. We also catch up with Brittany and Zach, who are now happily living together on Puffin Island, and Emily and Ryan too - I love how Morgan weaves all their stories together, it really did feel like I was reading about one big family, and I loved catching up with them again, happy to see that they were all still together and loving life on Puffin Island.

Although I had loved the previous two books, this was by far and away my favourite of the trilogy so far (I have probably said that about each of the books so far, sorry!). I just really liked Skylar - there was nothing dislikeable about her, and she was very real - glamourous when the occasion called for it but otherwise happy to don her wellies and waterproof coat for fun in the snow, you can see why Alec warmed to her so quickly! The sweet love story was all I needed in this book, and the setting of London, the Cotswolds and of course Puffin Island added to the perfection of the story. The festive feeling is there in abundance, just as I expect from Sarah Morgan, and it is definitely one of my favourite reads of the year so far! I cannot WAIT for whatever treat Sarah is going to bring us next, but for now I'm off to reread the Puffin Island trilogy once more - I'm not ready to leave Emily, Brittany and Skylar behind just yet! Perfection!

28 October 2015

Blog Tour: Extract from A Christmas Cracker by Trisha Ashley

I am delighted to be hosting an exclusive extract from Trisha Ashley's new book A Christmas Cracker thanks to her publishers over at Avon Books for Trisha's blog tour! I cannot wait to read the book - Trisha's festive offerings are always such a treat!

Available to buy now.

This extract is from near the beginning of the book, so enjoy!

"I was on tenterhooks, wondering how Pye was and hoping for good news, but Emma sounded troubled when we spoke again.

‘Jeremy wasn’t pleased to see me at all, and didn’t even invite me and Marco into the house. And I’m afraid Pye wasn’t there, Tabby – Jeremy said that he couldn’t cope with the constant yowling after you’d gone, so he’d found him a good home, but he wouldn’t tell me where, or who with.’

Cold dread seized my heart, for not only did I adore Pye, but he was the last living link to my mother, who had also loved him.

‘You don’t think he’s just saying that and he’s had him put to sleep?’

‘No, I’m sure he hasn’t,’ she reassured me. ‘When I told him he shouldn’t have rehomed Pye without your permis­sion, he said you’d abandoned him by committing a crime, so it was your own fault, but I was to assure you the cat was perfectly all right.’

‘I hope so . . . and thank you for trying to find where he was,’ I said, but inwardly I was thinking of Pye – my awkward, demanding, adorable Pye – out there somewhere living with strangers . . . Was he happy and safe? A slow tear slid coldly down my face.

‘The other thing is, Tabby, that your belongings weren’t in the flat any more, but in boxes piled at the back of the garage. Jeremy said since obviously you and he didn’t have any kind of future together and your rent had run out, he was going to let the flat again. I can’t believe how mean and horrible he’s turned out to be!’

I didn’t feel that surprised after our final argument . . . and anyway, it paled into insignificance compared with his arbitrary rehoming of Pye.

‘He let me go and rummage through the boxes and I found most of the things you wanted. He says he’d be grateful if you’d have them removed at the first opportunity,’ she added.

‘He’ll have to wait then, because I can’t do anything till I get out – and even then I’ll have nowhere to live, no job and a criminal record.’

‘Jeremy’s such a pompous, self-satisfied prig, though I couldn’t say so when you were in love with him. And I should know, because I married one myself,’ she said wearily.

‘Is Des being just as difficult?’ I asked sympathetically.

‘He gets worse every time he gets back from a contract and wants every second of my time accounted for. And the least thing that isn’t quite the way he likes it, or the way his mother used to do it, and he flies right off the handle. Even when Marco was a toddler, he didn’t have tantrums like that!’

‘He isn’t violent, is he?’

‘No, it’s all verbal bullying. I’d be straight out of there if he tried anything else. And I know I should stand up to him more, but I don’t want Marco to hear us arguing all the time. I could do with your sharp tongue to cut him down to size occasionally.’

‘My sarcastic tongue frequently gets me into trouble,’ I said ruefully. ‘I don’t think one or two of my smart answers to stupid questions went down well in court.’

Emma was still following her own thoughts. ‘Sometimes he’s really sweet, just like he was when we were first going out. It’s since he started working away on longer contracts that he’s really changed.’ She sighed. ‘It seems to me we’re both in prison, in a way.’"

Thanks so much to Trisha and Avon for letting me host this extract!

18 October 2015

eBook Review: What Happens in Cornwall by T. A. Williams

"For a very British summer holiday…

When archaeologist Sam realises her relationship is as dead as the skeletons she’s exhuming, she knows it’s time to make a change. But with bills to pay her options are limited…until a discovery on Rock Island in Cornwall gives her a reason to escape…

Head to the Cornish coast!

In Cornwall, questions are thrown up at every turn: who is the glamorous owner of Rock Island that the paparazzi are so interested in? How has the irresistible, but impossibly arrogant, history professor James Courtney managed to get so far under Sam’s skin? And will it ever stop raining so Sam can lose the cagoule and sip a cool drink in the sun? One thing’s for sure: there’s never been a holiday quite like this one!"

Rating: 4/5

Available to buy now.

I've read and enjoyed a few novels by T.A. Williams before so when I was offered the opportunity to review his latest book What Happens in Cornwall, I was really pleased and looked forward to a very good read. In fact, his last book What Happens in Tuscany was a fabulous read, so I had high expectations for this one as well. This one was just as good a read as before, and certainly marks T.A. Williams as one of my new favourite eBook authors to read, and I have to say how much I love his book covers as well - this one is so summery!

This time the story is based around an archaeologist Sam, who flees to Cornwall for work when her relationship is clearly over, needing a fresh start. She finds a mysterious house on Rock Island, off the coast of Cornwall and meets someone she didn't expect to, someone who wants their identity kept a secret, something Sam thinks she can do. Together with her friend from University, Sam is determined to investigate the ruins on Rock Island, and protect the identity of her new friend, as well as juggling a very awkward friendship with another professor from University, James Courtney. Will Sam be able to keep all the secrets and further her career along the way?

There was quite a bit going on in this book as you can tell, but the main part of the book involves Sam and her discovery on Rock Island. She befriends the secretive stranger there, and I really enjoyed these parts of the book. The friendship between them was very sweet - genuine and kind, and Williams writes the mysterious character so well - even though we don't see her much, I very much liked her from the beginning. Sam was definitely my favourite character in the book, she's very passionate about her job which comes across really well, and is a good friend to those around her too. I liked her strange relationship with James, another professor at the university, and I was curious as to why the pair seemed to constantly rub each other up the wrong way!

The setting of Cornwall was well written, even if the weather was less than idyllic in parts of the story! You can see why Sam was taken with the place, especially Rock Island, and the dig that takes place in the book was really interesting to read. Williams really builds up the anticipation of what they are about to find, and injects a lot of enthusiasm into Sam's colleagues, so much so that I ended up excited with them, wondering what they would dig up! Alongside this story, we have a couple of funny Italian paparazzi who are on the tail of the mysterious Rock Island owner who end up in more than one scrap, it was certainly a little light relief in the book, one of them certainly thought himself a bit of a Romeo!

I really enjoyed this book, it was a different sort of story than the one I had read previously by T.A. Williams, but I certainly didn't enjoy it any less. I liked all the characters in this one, especially Sam and her best friend Becky, and I enjoyed the mysterious element of the stranger on Rock Island, and the chase of the paparazzi. T.A.'s writing is getting better with each book, his dialogue flows wonderfully in this book, and I really felt the story come alive as I was reading it. I've now his next book What Happens at Christmas lined up on my kindle, so I can't wait to start that! I would certainly recommend this one, a very fun read.

17 October 2015

Book Review: The Piano Man Project by Kat French

"Finding love isn’t always black and white…

You: kind, piano-playing sex god
Me: hopelessly romantic charity shop manager

Honeysuckle Jones has a problem, and her best friends Nell and Tash are on a mission to help her solve it. She needs a man – a caring, intelligent, funny man. But most importantly, a man who’s good with his hands…

Luckily Honey’s new neighbour – moody, antisocial ex-chef Hal – fails on almost every count. Even though the chemistry between them is electric, he’s obviously wrong for her in every way.

But when Honey discovers the devastating reason for his moods she decides to give him another chance. And discovers that the best songs aren’t always in tune…"

Rating: 5/5

Available to buy now.

I have to admit when I began this book, I was really unsure about it and was close to closing down the book on my kindle and trying something else. However, I decided to give it a little bit more of a chance, and I am so pleased that I did because I truly loved this book, and it makes me very excited to read more from Kat French now! The gorgeous book cover certainly stands out as well, and while I found the title to be a bit mis-leading and not what I had expected for where the story went, it was really good and a brilliant read from start to finish, and here's why I think it's one of my must-reads this year!

The main character of Honeysuckle was a great one, and I loved her from the beginning. She's quite different to the two friends she hangs out with, and is quite happily single at the moment, sure she is never going to find Mr Right. When a strange new neighbour moves in across the corridor from her, Honey's attention is piqued and she has to investigate and find out more about the strange man. She begins a peculiar friendship of sorts with Hal, and the more she's with him, the more she thinks he may be the one for her, even though there's a big obstacle in their way. As well as her personal life, Honey's professional life is being thrown into disarray as well and she's got far too many balls to juggle and something's got to give...

I really don't want to spoil this book and tell you what is special about Hal, because part of the joy of this book for me was finding out as it went what happened to him, and why he is how he is, especially with Honeysuckle. When it was revealed, I was really surprised and pleasantly so, to see an issue like this being covered in commercial women's fiction, it's certainly not something I have come across before. Despite the difference between them, the chemistry between the pair was fabulously written, you could tell despite the constant bickering and annoying each other, that there was something there between them and I couldn't wait for it all to get going, and hopefully bring the two of them together.

As well as this storyline, Honey has to go on a few dates thanks to her friends Tash and Nell who are determined to find her a boyfriend. That certainly lends itself to some funny moments, but my other favourite part of the book involved the charity shop where Honey worked alongside pensioners Lucille and Mimi, who volunteer there near their housing. When this is threatened, Honey has to step up to protect her friends, and the storyline that ensued was so funny (albeit around a very serious issue of course), it left me with a big smile on my face, loving the cross-generation relationships and the genuine affection that Honey, Lucille and Mimi all had for each other.

Kat French's writing was a joy to read, crafting wonderful characters that I truly cared about, and I loved reading about the escapades of Honey as the book went on, and seeing her becoming a stronger and more independent woman. Hal, too, was the perfect male character for the book, and I loved reading about Honey helping through his issues, despite his reluctance to let her into his world. It's a light-hearted, fun read that will leave you smiling, I certainly enjoyed all of it and didn't want to put it down every evening, I wanted to read just one more chapter each time I wanted to get to bed! A super story that you will certainly love. Highly recommended.