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.

13 October 2015

Book Review: A Parcel for Anna Browne by Miranda Dickinson

"The gift of a lifetime?

Anna Browne is an ordinary woman living an ordinary life. Her day job as a receptionist in bustling London isn't exactly her dream, yet she has everything she wants. But someone thinks Anna Browne deserves more...

When a parcel addressed to Anna Browne arrives, she has no idea who has sent it. Inside she finds a beautiful gift - one that is designed to be seen. And so begins a series of incredible deliveries, each one bringing Anna further out of the shadows and encouraging her to become the woman she was destined to be. As Anna grows in confidence, others begin to notice her - and her life starts to change.

But who is sending the mysterious gifts, and why?"

Rating: 4/5

Available to buy now.

A new Miranda Dickinson novel is something I always really look forward to, and that was certainly the case for her brand new book A Parcel for Anna Browne. There was a lot of buzz about this book on Twitter, and I was definitely keen to find out more and read it for myself! The premise of the book was an intriguing one - a receptionist at a newspaper Anna Browne starts to receive mysterious parcels from a stranger. They are lovely gifts - everything from scarves to brooches, but Anna has no clue who sent them to her or why. Her colleagues are just as intrigued, especially being that they are journalists! Anna decides she has to find out who is sending her the parcels and why... with a little help from her friends.

As you can see, the plot sounds fantastic, and it certainly left me wondering how I would feel if I started to receive mysterious parcels in the post! I think, truth be told, that I would feel a little bit freaked out about it, and a little bit suspicious of why I was receiving such nice things, but Anna seemed surprisingly complacent about her gifts, despite the initial suspicions of her friends at the newspaper. Anna was a bit of an intriguing character from the beginning really, and I have to confess that I did struggle to warm to her and make a connection with her at all. I felt she was always holding something back, and I kept waiting for her to reveal her true self, but that never came!

The parcel idea for a book is a great, and it had me guessing all the way through as to who was responsible. Of course, the other characters come up with lots of theories as to who is sending the presents, as does Anna herself, but when the big reveal was finally made right towards the end of the book I was shocked - and if I am completely honest (which I always try to be in my reviews!), a little disappointed. I was hoping for something a bit extra special, and it just left me a bit flat which was a shame after such a big build up throughout the whole book. It was a surprise which is great, because I always like to be surprised, and so often these days I see the twists in the tales I read coming a mile off, but I certainly didn't guess this one.

At over 500 pages, this book was a really long for me, and I did perhaps struggle with the length of it a little bit - I did feel some parts dragged quite a bit, and some of the narrative could have been cut down in parts simply because I personally found the pace was dragging. I prefer reading a book that is between 300-400 pages, so for me this was a tad too long, which was a shame. However, Dickinson does pack a lot into these 500+ pages, and there's always something to keep you guessing and on your toes. I just found it a little bit slow for my liking, but that's just a personal preference and I am sure there are lots of you out there who enjoy reading a longer story.

I loved the setting of a newspaper office, which is where the bulk of the action takes place, given that is where Anna works. There are lots of colleagues who make frequent appearances throughout the book, and as Anna begins to change due to the gifts that she receives, so does her work based relationships which was interesting to read - it was nice to see Anna growing in confidence and having more self-belief which was she was really lacking at the beginning of the book. There are quite a few other characters in the book and it took me a while to remember who they all were and how they were connected to Anna, but once I had got it straight, I found reading the book really easy, and enjoyed all the different aspects of Anna's life.

For me, this was an enjoyable read, but it wasn't my favourite of Miranda's books. It was a little bit long for my taste, and the ending just didn't work for me sadly, but I did really enjoy the build up to it, and the mystery over who could be sending Anna these mysterious parcels, and of course why they were sending them! Anna's personal life alongside this gives the book lots for you to enjoy, and I especially enjoyed how the narrative perspective occasionally changed from Anna to other characters in the book, so we got to see how others viewed Anna and her situation, certainly an interesting twist on the situation. A very good read, one to curl up on these cold autumnal evenings.

7 October 2015

Book Review: A Proper Family Adventure by Chrissie Manby

"The Benson family are used to eighty-six-year-old Granddad Bill repeating his catchphrase, 'I've won the blooming lottery!' but they are gobsmacked when he finally wins the actual lottery. It's not a jackpot of millions, but even after giving each of his great-grandchildren a nice nest-egg each, there's enough left over for Bill to take everyone on a short Mediterranean cruise.

Chelsea Benson is taking her boyfriend Adam along for the trip, but they've hit another rough patch. Will they make it through the cruise without splitting up?

Also on the ship is Jane Thynne, who should have been on that cruise as a honeymooner. Instead, mourning the death of her fiance, she is there with her best friend. Will taking the cruise without Greg help Jane begin to heal from her devastating loss?

Meanwhile, Jack Benson and Adam's daughter Lily go head to head once again in the ship's passenger talent contest and Granddad Bill causes havoc in the on-board casino.

It's full steam ahead for a proper family adventure . . ."

Rating: 5/5

Available to buy now.

I only got into Chrissie Manby's new 'Proper Family...' series with the book that was released last year, A Proper Family Christmas. That was a funny but touching tale of a family coming together against the odds, and I immediately grew to love everything about the Benson family. I was super excited to be sent a review of this summer's book, A Proper Family Adventure. Once again, it stars the Benson family, this time going on a cruise holiday together after a holiday win. Of course, things aren't plain sailing with the family, and there's more than a few bumps along the way for them. Throw in a grieving fellow passenger, her best friend and lots of other abnormalities and we are due for a great time with them...

Due to the fact I had read the previous book, I felt like I knew enough of the characters to quickly slip back into family life with the Benson's, and not spend too much time worrying about who was who, and what  was going on. That being said, enough is told to the reader about the previous two books that if this is the first you have read in the series, you can easily start here and enjoy everything about it, knowing just enough to understand the foibles of the family. I certainly do want to get around to reading the first book in the series, A Proper Family Holiday, but for now this one had to suffice, and it certainly did for me.

While the matriarch of the family Ronnie steps back slightly in this book, it takes a look at the new relationship of the youngest Benson sister Chelsea, and her new boyfriend Adam who has accompanied her on the family cruise with his young daughter Lily. I felt it was very brave of Adam to come along on a family holiday so early in their relationship, and it certainly causes some awkward moments for the couple. However, I loved that their struggle of a new relationship, as well as Adam's issues of still grieving for his deceased wife and dealing with a child made it all feel very realistic and believable, and I was so badly rooting for them to make it through despite their difficulties.

I was a bit sad when it was revealed that the newest family member Annabelle and her brood weren't going to be on the cruise, but Chrissie certainly made it work in the book. There was a whole spin off story involving her, Granddad Bill and the younger girls of the family, and it worked perfectly. In fact, there was one particular scene towards the end of the book that genuinely had me sobbing - I felt so emotional reading it, I couldn't quite cope with what I was reading and it really hit me hard - that's the talent of Chrissie's writing, that she can draw you into this family, make you care for them and become emotionally invested yourself, I loved everything about the Benson's by the end of this book!

As well as the Benson's, a couple of new characters made an appearance in this book, even though they do of course link to the Benson's in some way, a way I found very touching and believable too. Jane, recently single after the death of her beloved boyfriend, has been persuaded by her best friend Kirsty to go on the cruise her boyfriend had booked for her before he died. Jane isn't sure, and struggles with the idea of travelling to all the places they had intended to go together, now alone, and I felt incredibly sorry for her as the book went on. However, I also felt sorry for Kirsty who had to go exploring alone, and I was wishing Jane would just be able to let go and enjoy herself a little bit before it was too late! The way everything comes together at the end is just perfect, and I was sad to leave the family behind once more.

Luckily for me, the Benson's are back this Christmas with another story, A Wedding at Christmas - I cannot wait to read this and find out what is happening next with them all! This was an utterly charming story from start to finish, filled with laughs, tears and lots of family fun that you just won't want to put down. I haven't been on a cruise myself, but this book made it seem like such fun, for everyone from the youngest children to the adults who could enjoy all the entertainment the ship has to offer! As well as the ship, we are treated to lots of glorious destinations, fun and frolicks and I loved it! Roll on November for the next book, but if you can't wait until then, just read this again! I can highly recommend it!!

4 October 2015

Book Review: The Things We Do For Love by Alice Peterson

"Love may hurt, but not loving hurts even more . . .

January Wild loves her daughter, her dog and her childhood home by the sea.

Single parenting is tough, but January has no regrets. She has a job she loves, a happy home and the support of her beloved grandfather. The arrival of a new boss, however, threatens to shake up January's safe world.

Ward Metcalfe loves great sales results and a well-run office.

Everyone at her office agrees: Ward is a soulless, corporate slave driver. Even Spud, the company mascot, dislikes him.

A secret stands between them.

Yet over time January sees there is more to Ward than meets the eye. Rumours circulate. What exactly is he hiding? and is January prepared to risk everything to find out?"

Rating: 5/5

Available to buy now.

Alice Peterson has very quickly become of those authors who I just have to read - it doesn't matter what books I have in front of her new book, I just want to read hers because I know it's going to be a great read. The cover for her latest book, The Things We Do for Love, is nice enough, but didn't blow me away for some reason. However, the blurb certainly piqued my interest, and I was excited to start reading the book. I was only a few pages in, but immediately I was hooked, and didn't want to stop reading. I loved every page of this, and it's one of my top reads of the year without a doubt.

January is a single mother to her young daughter, but wouldn't have it any other way. She loves her daughter to bits, works hard to provide for the pair of them, and everything has been going well so far. However, when her beloved boss decides to retire, and Ward Metcalfe turns up in his place, January is a bit unsure about things now. The pair don't exactly click, with Ward just wanting sales figures to increase, and ignoring the experience of his sales teams, things seem at an all-time low at January's workplace. The longer January works with Ward, however, she sees something else in him, something the others cannot. And when he uncovers her secret, Ward is prepared to give January more of a chance. Can the pair work things out between them at work before it's too late?

There is a whole part of this book which was completely and utterly special to me, yet I can't reveal it here without spoiling the story as it's something that comes across far better if you read it as part of the whole story. However, I can say that Alice Peterson has handled such a storyline with compassion, fact and elegance - I immersed myself in January and Isla's world, and their struggle together, and admired them for everything they have been through, January in particular for dealing with everything pretty much on her own after Isla's father Dan left once he found out January was pregnant. It certainly shapes these characters, and I couldn't help but love January and Isla, they are such a strong unit and their relationship was a pleasure to read. The story between the pair is very emotional, with the flashbacks to Isla's early years being particularly heart-rending, and awe-inspiring at January's strength.

I really enjoyed how Peterson has written the work life of January in this story, it runs alongside her personal life but plays an equally important role in her life. The story really begins when Ward, January's new boss, arrives on the scene. He is written as a bit of an ogre, someone who doesn't care much for his employee's feelings, rather the facts and figures are the be all and end all for him. I didn't have much patience for him as a character, and struggled to warm to him, but as the book went on, I became more curious about him and felt more willing to give him a chance, much like January did. I enjoyed how Peterson manipulated my emotions as a reader, making me heavily dislike him and slowly warming him up, making it so that I didn't feel bad for mellowing towards him because there was more to him that meets the eye.

Another touching element of this book for me was the close relationship that January has with her elderly grandfather. January and her brother Lucas were raised by their grandparents after the death of their parents when they were little, and consequently, January comes to rely heavily on them as she grows up. In the modern part of the story, only her grandfather is living, but I loved the closeness the pair shared, when Isla and January visited him in his seaside home, it's the sort of relationship I hope my son has with his grandparents when he is grown up. Alice Peterson has that ability to really tap into emotions and relationships in her stories, they are what ultimately makes her books so readable and relatable.

This was a superbly written novel, and quite possibly the best one that Alice Peterson has written to date - no mean feat considering how much I have enjoyed several of her earlier books! Again, Peterson isn't afraid to tackle some harder, more emotional issues in her book, but it was handled so beautifully in this book. It was a very moving and emotional story that unfolded at a perfect pace, allowing the different story arcs to develop and the characters to emerge and become so that you feel like you know them, and want to be involved in their story. January, Ward, Isla and co are characters that will stay with me a long time after reading this book, and I do not hesitate to recommend this beautiful read.

3 October 2015

Book Review: Some Kind of Wonderful by Sarah Morgan

"Her whole life, Puffin Islander Brittany Forrest has dreamed of adventure. And at the age of eighteen, she thought she’d found it in bad boy Zachary Flynn. But after just ten tempestuous, smouldering days, their whirlwind marriage went up in smoke, and Brittany resolved to put him out of her mind forever.

Zach knows he let Brittany down, but being back on Puffin Island and seeing Brittany again stirs up long-buried emotions. This daredevil pilot has never felt worthy of her, yet he can’t stay away—even when he knows the chemistry between them will only complicate his life.

As long, hot summer days on the beach dissolve into sultry, starry nights, Brittany and Zach find that the sparks between them are more powerful than ever. Could it be that the second time around, their dreams of a happy-ever-after will finally come true?"

Rating: 5/5

Available to buy now.

This is the second book in Sarah Morgan's brilliant new 'Puffin Island' series, and boy, is it a corker! I loved the first story in the series, First Time in Forever, and was so excited to be reading the second story, this time based around the character of Brittany, someone who appeared somewhat briefly in the previous book. The cover is beautifully summery, with it's gorgeous colours and images of Puffin Island, I couldn't wait to dive in and get started on this one, and of course, Sarah didn't let me down! Despite the fact it is a sequel, you can definitely enjoy this as a standalone novel, so don't be put off!

Brittany loves adventure, and that's exactly what her job as an archaelogist gives her - she travels the world on digs, and loves everything about it. However, when she badly breaks her wrist, she's forced to return home to Puffin Island for the first time in a long while, and happens to bump into her ex husband Zachary while she's there. Brittany doesn't plan on feelings coming rushing back to her, and soon the pair are butting heads, trying to put off the chemistry that is so clearly there between them. As the summer plods on, the pair try their best not to act on their feelings, but is something wonderful about to start between them both?!

As I said, we didn't meet the character of Brittany too much in the first book, but enough to know a bit about her job, and her close friendships with the other two girls in the series - Emily, who starred in the first book First Time in Forever, and Skylar, who is the main character in the final book Christmas Ever After which is coming very soon, yippee! I really liked Brittany from the beginning - she's very headstrong, works hard and enjoys success in her career as well as travelling around the world. She's also determined to remain single after a whirlwind marriage in her teenage years to Zachary which has haunted her somewhat.

As the pair collide again on her re-arrival onto Puffin Island, the feelings that they never really got over come rushing back. Zachary is painted of something of a bad boy, breaking Brittany's heart when he ran out on their marriage all those years ago, and pretty much cutting himself off from everything else at the same time, thanks to his troubled childhood. Despite the way he's portrayed, I really liked Zachary from the beginning - I could sense that there was a kind heart underneath the cold exterior. I did want Brittany to give him another chance, time to explain what had happened before and for the pair to rekindle things, but so many times in the book it seemed so unlikely, they fought like cat and dog!

What I loved about this book is the slow pace of it, with Morgan describing both sides of the story well enough for us a reader to be able to get involved and invested in their tale. I liked how Morgan slowly reveals Zachary's background, giving us some explanation towards his reluctance to open up to anyone, and you can't help but feel sorry for what he went through. Brittany, equally, had a bit of a tumultuous upbringing, so they seem to be kindred spirits of sorts. Another thing I fell in love with thanks to the amazing writing of Sarah Morgan was Puffin Island itself - it sounds so magical, full of wonder and exciting places to discover, that you can't help but want to visit there yourself! You can see why Brittany, Zachary and co are happy to call the island home, it sounds just perfect! I loved everything about this book, it left me with a big smile on my face, and I just fell in love with the whole thing. I cannot wait for the final book in the series - it's certainly got big expectations to live up to now! Read this now, you won't be disappointed!