Review: Out of the Darkness by Katy Hogan

out of the darkness

 

 

Out of the Darkness is genuinely one of the best books I’ve read in years and will absolutely be in my top 10 books of this year!

It is an incredibly moving, and very beautiful novel about three women who are each dealing with a loss; it’s a really honest look at the ways people grieve and how it affects everyone around them, but it’s also about the way people heal after loss and the novel is ultimately a very uplifting read that brings real solace with it.

Jessica is heartbroken over the death of her mum, they were best friends and life just doesn’t feel worth anything to her anymore. She sleepwalks through the things she has to do but nothing is enjoyable to her, she just can’t see a way through life without her mum. Then one evening she meets Finn and the two of them just really connect. Finn is the first person to make Jess feel like there might be something to be happy about again and she hopes he will be in touch again after they go their separate ways the following morning.

Hannah attends the same bereavement group as Jess but she is completely closed down about her loss. She is grief-stricken and it’s affecting every aspect of her life, she is consumed with guilt but just can’t bring herself to share what has happened.

Alex has just moved to Brighton, and is now living in the house next to where the bereavement group is held. Soon after moving in strange things begin happening in her home and she starts to think the place is haunted.

One day, after the bereavement group, Jess faints outside and Alex and Hannah rush to help her and make sure she is okay. From this point the three women become friends and offer a much-needed support to each other. Their lives begin to become intwined and the psychic medium they later go and see together plays a huge part in the bond they form.

This novel is an exploration of how people deal with grief. Jess and Hannah both grieve differently for their losses loved ones but ultimately they relate to each other because they have both experienced loss. The three women have such different expectations when they begin to explore mediums and experts in the paranormal. Hannah wants to know her loved one is okay, Alex wants to know if her house is haunted and what she can do to be rid of the ghosts, and Jessica doesn’t really believe in any of it. Yet they all ultimately find comfort from what they learn. I found it fascinating how the idea of ghosts and the spirits that come through for psychic mediums were explored as one and the same thing in this novel. I think most of us think of ghosts as being a spooky or malevolent entity, and yet when we think of the possibly of an afterlife for lost loved ones, it is seen as a comforting concept. Katy Hogan has brought the two together as one thing, considering the idea that perhaps ghosts can be lost loved ones trying to contact or help those left behind. It gave me a lot to ponder over.

This is also a novel that really celebrates how wonderful and strong female friendship can be. Jess and Hannah meet at a bereavement group at the lowest points of their lives, and they meet Alex right after one of these meetings. They begin to let each other in to their respective lives and they form such a close bond very quickly, and the bond is never broken. To see women support each other was really lovely. There was never a moment of jealousy or cattiness between these women, it’s quite a rare thing in a novel. It was refreshing to see how their relationship to each other is bonded by how they support and look out for each other.

I deliberately took my time with this book and I read it slowly over quite a few days as I wanted to savour it and take it all in, I’m so glad I did as it gave me chance to really absorb what I was reading each day. This novel has so much depth to it and works on so many levels, it is such brilliant writing. The friendship between Jess, Alex and Hannah is a wonderful story in itself and gives the novel a grounding in reality that then makes the exploration of mediums and the afterlife much more intense and real. I think the biggest theme in this book though is the exploration of fate and destiny. From the very start of this book it felt like these women were destined to meet, like they were being brought together for a reason. I had no idea why but it just felt that way. Even Jess meeting Finn and him making her feel like she might be able to be happy again just seemed like either fate or like something was pushing them towards each other. This again gave me so much to think about because fate can be considered as just a series of coincidences that when we look back and see how things came together it seems like it was engineered that way, or it can be seen as our lost loved ones finding ways to point us in the direction we need to go in to find happiness again.

This novel can also be read on a very metaphorical and at times allegorical way, I loved the part of the book where Alex goes out on a boat called Guiding Light. It seemed like she was almost out of her own body and seeing the world from a different angle, and at the same time like she was receiving a message about the direction of her own life. I don’t want to post any spoilers for this novel so I’m being careful in what I write but I highly recommend taking your time with this novel so you can fully appreciate how much meaning and depth there is in it.

Out of the Darkness broke my heart in the first few chapters; I could feel Jess’s devastation at the loss of her mum. I wanted to reach through the pages of the book and tell her that in time she would feel better, that she would be able to deal with it once the rawness of her initial grief began to pass. I understood her feelings about visiting The Beacon to see a paranormal expert for the first time with Alex. I’m very like Jessica in that I’ve never really believed in an afterlife but then I still have moments where I can smell my mum’s perfume all of a sudden and it’s like she’s right there in the room, and just for that moment I stop and wonder. Perhaps it’s just a memory popping up but you can’t help but feel comforted when it happens, just like how Jess does.

Katy Hogan explores grief in such a beautiful and gentle way. She has written a book that will more than likely make you cry but it will ultimately leave you feeling healed. I wish I could put into words exactly how this book made me feel when I got to the end but I can’t seem to express it, it’s just the most amazing and brilliant novel and it made me feel better. I read this as an ebook but now so badly wish I had a paper copy so I could just hold it for a little while and then put it down where I can see it. I think I need a physical reminder in my home of all that this book stands for. It doesn’t shy away from death, it doesn’t take an easy road. At times the story turns in a way you don’t expect and it leaves you quite breathless. But ultimately this book makes death feel a lot less scary, and it makes the weight of grief feel that little bit easier to bear.

Out of the Darkness is absolutely going to be my book of the year. It’s both broken my heart and healed it; it was moving and beautiful and perfect. I’d rate it a hundred out of ten if I could, but as I can’t it’s a huge ten out of ten and it’s getting a very rare place on my favourites book shelf.

Out of the Darkness: A Tale of Love, Loss and Life After Death is out now and available from Amazon.

For more information about Katy and Out of the Darkness, check out her website here: http://www.outofthedarknessnovel.com


**This post is a re-blog of a review I originally posted on 4th November 2015**

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My Top 10 Books of 2015!

top books copy

I’ve read 167 books this year, which isn’t quite as many as I normally read but it’s not bad considering I had major surgery in the summer and didn’t read anything at all for quite a few weeks. It was still very hard to get it down to a top ten though as I have read so many great books this year. I only started blogging at the start of September and I’ve compiled my top ten from books I’ve read over the whole year so some of these books don’t have reviews.

The first nine books in my list are in no particular order as they were all fab, and are all books that are still swirling around in my mind. There was one book that I read this year that simply had to be number one, so I have made a top pick this time around!

Here goes…

(The books that I’ve reviewed have clickable links underneath the images)

My Top 10 books of 2015

Suicide Notes from Beautiful Girls by Lynn Weingarten

 

Suicide Notes for Beautiful Girls by Lynn Weingarten

I read this book before I started my blog so I haven’t reviewed it but I’ve picked it for my top ten because I read it earlier this year and I can still remember the plot vividly and still think about the characters. Of all the thrillers I’ve read this year, this one was the best because it was so twisty that I just couldn’t work out who to trust or how it might end.


 

Isabelle Day Refuses to Die of a Broken Heart by Jane St. Anthony

Isabelle Day Refuses to Die of a Broken Heart by Jane St. Anthony

I requested this book on Net Galley soon after signing up as the title just jumped out at me. This is a YA/MG novel but, like all the best books written for young people, it explores things in a way that while seemingly simple, have a huge impact on the reader. This is a brilliant novel exploring loss and grief but is also an uplifting read.


 

Things We Have in Common by Tasha Kavanagh

Things We Have in Common by Tasha Kavanagh

This is another novel that I read before I started my blog so I haven’t reviewed it but even though it’s months after I read it, I still keep thinking about it and even though I know how it ends it’s definitely a book that I’d like to re-read at some point. This novel has one of the best endings, it’s so unsettling, but it works brilliantly.


 

The Last Act of Love by Cathy Rentzenbrink

The Last Act of Love by Cathy Rentzenbrink

This is one of the most beautiful and heart-breaking books I have read in a really long time. Cathy’s love for her brother shines off the page and I could feel her devastation at what happened to him. It’s a very moving read.


 

The Secret by the Lake by Louise Douglas

The Secret by the Lake by Louise Douglas

I read this novel quite recently and it’s made my top ten because I still feel unsettled by it. The story and the characters really got under my skin and I’m still thinking about the book even now. It had a similar effect on me as Du Maurier’s Rebecca; it unnerved me and yet I want to read it again and again (even though I’m generally someone who doesn’t like to be unnerved to the degree these books make me feel!).


 

The Theseus Paradox by David Videcette

The Theseus Paradox by David Videcette

I only finished this book a week or two before Christmas but it made my list because when I compared it to other contenders for my top ten, it just kept jumping out at me. It’s so different to anything I’ve read in a really long time. It made me think, it was thrilling from the first page to the last, and I really hope it becomes the first in a series!


 

Asking For It by Louise O'Neill

Asking For It by Louise O’Neill

This book is a prime example of why I never compile my top books of the year list until the very last day of the year. I only read this book over the last couple of days (and at the time of compiling this post I haven’t even finished writing my review of it!) but it had such an impact that it simply had to be in my list. This is a book I’ll be thinking about for a long time to come. It raises such important issues around rape, consent and the social media age we live in. It’s a book I urge everyone to read. It’s a disturbing read but a must-read all the same.


 

normal by graeme cameron

Normal by Graeme Cameron

This was one of those books that I just couldn’t put down. I have never read a book before where I was in the mind of a serial killer and yet he seemed like an okay sort of man. He appears normal except for when he’s killing people, and that messes with your head in such a clever way that this book will stay with you for such a long time after you’ve read it.


 

 

The Jazz Files by Fiona Veitch Smith

The Jazz Files by Fiona Veitch Smith

I was offered the chance to review this book for a blog tour and I am so glad that I said yes. I devoured this novel and absolutely adored it. It’s a mystery novel set in 1920s London and I loved everything about it. The author really captures the period so well and she has such feisty, believable characters that it was impossible to put down. It was one of only two books to be added to my favourites this year and I already can’t wait for the next in the series. I highly recommend reading this.


 

and my top book of 2015 is…

 

 

*drum roll*

 

 

Out of the Darkness by Katy Hogan

Out of the Darkness by Katy Hogan

This book is incredible! It’s a very moving exploration of grief that will make you cry but by the end you feel such a sense of solace. Hogan looks at the different ways people grieve and the ways people try to move on; this novel is one that can be read on so many different levels. It’s a book that I know I will re-read many times in the future; I got so much comfort from it and it’s one I simply had to own in print so I could have it on my favourites book shelf where I could see it. I honestly can’t recommend this novel highly enough!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Review: Every Time A Bell Rings by Carmel Harrington

every time a bell rings

It’s A Wonderful Life is one of my favourite Christmas films, it’s a must-watch every festive period so when I heard about Carmel Harrington’s new book Every Time A Bell Rings, and that it was based on the themes of It’s A Wonderful Life, I couldn’t resist!

Belle Bailey had a difficult childhood but when she gets placed with foster carer Tess things begin to change for the better. Belle’s happiness increases further when her wish for a best friend comes true as Tess’s next foster child is Jim Looney. Belle and Jim become firm friends but then the day comes when Jim goes back to live with his mum and they lose touch. Eventually they find each other again and fall in love. Life seems set to be perfect for Jim and Belle but they have their struggles and hard times leading to Belle wishing she had never been born. The novel then mirrors It’s a Wonderful Life as Belle gets to see how the world would be if she had never existed.

The opening chapter of this book was so romantic and perfect, that I just knew this book was going to be gorgeous. I have to admit that I was expecting this book to be more of a re-telling of It’s A Wonderful Life but Carmel has actually taken elements of the film and made a new story, and I love the novel all the more for that.  We get to see how life was for Belle growing up, we see the struggles she’s had and the devastating things that have happened to her. We get to really understand why she is the way she is.

The novel works so well because when Belle reaches the point of thinking life would be better for everyone if she had never existed we can totally understand how she came to be in such despair, and have real empathy for her. This then makes the novel much more powerful and have a greater impact to see how life would have been without Belle’s existence. I felt so involved in Belle’s story and wanted her to see what a wonderful woman she was, so as she discovered how life was without her it felt absolutely believable because as a reader we already knew how much difference she had made to people.

I adored the idea that some people are just meant to be together and that they will find each other, regardless of where they ended up. This happens to Jim and Belle in different ways throughout the novel and it’s just so heart-warming. I never used to believe in fate until I met my husband, sometimes things are just meant to be and so they will be.

This is such a gorgeous Christmas novel. It’s romantic and festive but it’s also a wonderful reminder to be grateful for what we have and not to dwell on the things that other people have done to hurt us, or on the things we can’t change in our past. I found such comfort and solace in this book, as well as enjoying the story – it just works on so many levels and is one of those utterly perfect reads! This novel is going to be one I read at Christmas for many years to come, it’s so gorgeous!

I must also add how much I love the cover of this novel. I adore how it features a bridge, which is such an important part of this novel (and It’s A Wonderful Life) and how it has a vintage, yet modern feel to it. It’s beautiful!

I rated this novel 5 out of 5 and highly recommend it. I loved it so much that even though I bought an ecopy to read on my Kindle I’m now going to buy a print copy to so I can put it on my bookcase. I’m sure it’ll be a book I buy for others too.

Every Time a Bell Rings is published by Harper Impulse and is out now and available on Amazon.

 

Christmas novel recommendations!

merry christmas

Today I’m posting a round-up of Christmas books that I’ve read and reviewed this festive period in case you’re looking for a last minute Christmas read or Christmas book gift!

merry mistletoe

I’ve read some wonderful and magical Christmas books this year so it’s near impossible to pick my favourites. I do have a real soft spot for Emma Davies’ Merry Mistletoe as it was different to any Christmas book I’ve read in a long time, not just this year, and I loved all the comforting imagery around feathers and robins. This is a short novel and I highly recommend it, especially to anyone looking for a comforting read this Christmas.

The Boy Under the Mistletoe by Katey Lovell

I also adored Katey Lovell’s latest Meet Cute short story The Boy Under the Mistletoe. It’s a delicious five-minute read that will warm your heart and will instantly having you feeling more festive!

One Wish in Manhattan

One Wish in Manhattan by Mandy Baggot became an instant favourite of mine and I know it’s a novel that I will come back to for many Christmases to come. It’s a gorgeous novel set entirely in the build up to Christmas, it has elements of A Christmas Carol running through it and won’t fail to make anyone feel festive.

the mince pie mix up

The Mince Pie Mix-Up by Jennifer Joyce was brilliant! It’s perfect for anyone who loves films like Freaky Friday – I love body-swap books where characters become someone else and literally have to walk in their shoes for a period of time and setting this over the festive period just made it even better. It’s a fab read!

The Winter Wedding

Abby Clements’ latest novel The Winter Wedding is more of a winter themed book than a Christmas one and yet it made me feel so festive. I think it’s the build up to a winter wedding – snow combined with romance is such a magical mix!

Holly Martin released two Christmas novels this year, both set in White Cliff Bay (Christmas at Lilac Cottage and Snowflakes on Silver Cove) but featuring different characters (although if you read both you may spot some familiar characters popping up). I adored both of these novels – Holly just writes with a perfect mix of humour, romance, and festivity!

winter's fairytale (1)

Winter’s Fairytale by Maxine Morrey is such a perfect Christmas romance. The whole novel is set in the couple of weeks before Christmas so it’s as festive as can be!

What Happens at Christmas_FINAL

T. A. Williams Christmas novel What Happens at Christmas is a lovely Christmas novel. It’s set in a beautiful village, with Chocolate box cottages and friendly locals. I loved it.

how to stuff up christmas

I adored How To Stuff Up Christmas by Rosie Blake. It’s a perfect mix of being hilariously funny and incredibly heart-warming!

Christmas wishes and mistletoe kisses

I read Christmas Wishes and Mistletoe Kisses by Jenny Hale as part of Bookouture Christmas and am so glad I got the chance to read this novel. It’s a really sweet story about what is really important at Christmas and how spending time with other people can really help us be better versions of ourselves.

The Christmas Joy Ride by Melody Carlson

I just read The Christmas Joy Ride by Melody Carlson this week and I loved it. It’s all how opening yourself up to new experiences can lead to unexpected and wonderful things happening.

Snowed in for her Wedding

Snowed in the for her Wedding by Emma Bennet is a short novella, but it’s a lovely story. I loved how a whole community pulled together at Christmas to help their local girl Gwen have her Christmas Eve wedding despite the heavy snow.

christmas at cranberry cottage

Christmas at Cranberry Cottage by Talli Roland is a lovely novella. I most enjoyed the nostalgia in this story, as the main character tries to save her Gran’s cottage and reminisces about growing up there and all the Christmases spent in that lovely home.


 

**Amendment 23 December 2015**

every time a bell rings

Last night I finished reading Every Time A Bell Rings by Carmel Harrington and it simply has to be added to this list, it’s such a gorgeous and utterly perfect Christmas read! It’s inspired by It’s A Wonderful Life and is just magical, go read it! It’s up there with my all-time favourite Christmas reads!


 

I hope this helps you find the perfect Christmas read for over the next week or so. You really can’t go wrong with any of the above books, they’re all wonderful.

Wishing you all a very happy and book-filled Christmas!

 

Review: The Christmas Joy Ride by Melody Carlson

The Christmas Joy Ride by Melody Carlson

 

Joy is in her late 80s and has decided to make one last trip in her beloved RV before moving across country to be nearer her two sons. Miranda is Joy’s neighbour and good friend, and she is very down on her luck at the moment – her husband has left her and her home is facing imminent foreclosure so she has nothing to hang around for and decides that she will accompany Joy on her trip. This is a trip with a difference though – Joy runs a Christmas website and has recently had a competition running for people to win the chance to have Joy spread some Christmas joy in their lives.

I love that Joy had this plan to spread Christmas cheer to the six competition winners but that she also had plans for Miranda. Joy made sure that Miranda would accompany her on this trip and that it would change her friend’s life for the better.

Miranda and Joy set off on Route 66 and stop off at various points along the way to decorate homes and businesses. Joy begins to find the driving extremely tiring and so Miranda steps up to take her turn. Miranda soon finds her confidence growing at driving the RV and with life in general.

I found this novella a little slow to get going but once as I found out more about Joy and Miranda I found myself engrossed. I love how Joy was so wily and that she subtly made sure that Miranda would go on this trip with her. It’s always wonderful to read about older people who are still feisty and who still have ambitions and dreams for the future. The idea of an octogenarian planning to drive Route 66 in an RV is just fabulous, I want to be just like this when I’m old!

I was willing Miranda on as she began to realise that she could move on from the hurt in her past. It was lovely to see her come out of herself as she took on more of the Christmas decorating and organising at each stop. I was very much hoping that Joy might give the RV to Miranda so that she wouldn’t have to return to her old town, I became so invested in wanting Miranda to have a happy ending.

Melody Carlson’s novels always have an element of faith in them but she has such a delicate touch that this novella will feel fulfilling for readers of faith but it is done in such a way that readers who are not religious themselves will not feel it is being forced upon them. I tend not to read Christian fiction and yet have always enjoyed Carlson’s novels, as she strikes just the right balance.

The Christmas Joy Ride is a wonderful and heart-warming novella. It won’t fail to spread Christmas joy to everyone who reads it this festive period.

I rate this novella 4 out of 5.

The Christmas Joy Ride is out now and available from Amazon.

I received a copy of this novella from Revell via Amazon in exchange for an honest review.

 

Review: Snowed in for her Wedding by Emma Bennet 

Snowed in for her Wedding

I have never read anything by Emma Bennet before but when I was offered the chance to read and review Snowed in for Wedding, I couldn’t refuse. I love a Christmas story and when Christmas is combined with a wedding I tend to find them irresistible!

Snowed in for her Wedding is a sequel to Green hills of home but Emma gives a recap at start, which makes this novella work as a standalone.

Gwen is due to marry John on Christmas Eve in the village of Tonnadulais, where they both live, but the morning of the wedding heavy snow begins to fall and soon they are in danger of being snowed in. Guests start phoning to say they won’t be able to make it, and even worse, John is driving back to Wales from London the morning of the wedding and Gwen can’t get hold of him on the phone so has no idea if he will make it in time.

I have to be honest and say that I found the beginning of this novella a little slow but once the snow started falling I very soon became completely engrossed and lost track of everything as I was willing this wedding to take place.  As obstacles keep being thrown in front of this couple on the day of their wedding, I became more and more invested in wanting this wedding to take place.

There were little bumps in the road between the bride and groom. John was quite secretive and often absent in the run up to the wedding, which causes Gwen to begin to worry that he’s having cold feet. Once the snow starts falling and the power goes off, and Gwen can no longer contact John by phone, her anxieties grow. She wants to believe that he won’t let her down but it’s not easy.

I loved how the people of Tonnadulais began to rally round to help local girl Gwen get her wedding despite all the obstacles being thrown in her way. It was heart-warming the way the whole community, even people who weren’t invited to the wedding, went out of their way to do their bit to make this wedding happen.

There’s something extra-magical about a wedding at Christmas and this story stole my heart. It has romance, and snow, and it’s entirely set in the days before Christmas, which is wonderful. This is a lovely, romantic novella that will definitely warm your heart over this festive period.

I rate this novella 4 out of 5.

I received a copy of this novella from the author in exchange for an honest review.

Review: The Boy Under the Mistletoe by Katey Lovell

The Boy Under the Mistletoe by Katey Lovell

It’s no secret that I adore this Meet Cute series, so I was very excited to discover that there was to be a Christmas story in the series! I had hoped to read and review it before now but with being ill I just haven’t been able to. It was the perfect story to get me back into reading though!

This latest Meet Cute is a gorgeous Christmas short story all about Chelsea, who is home from University for Christmas but she’s exhausted and fed up after working long hours in her family’s flower shop; the last thing she feels like doing is putting on a Christmas jumper and going to her Gran’s annual Christmas party with the rest of her family.

We briefly meet Chelsea’s Gran and because of Katey’s wonderful, succinct writing I felt like I knew her even though she was just in the story fleetingly. The way she tries to feed Chelsea up shows how caring she is. I loved the descriptions of the antique baubles on her Gran’s Christmas tree too. The scene brought back lovely memories of my own Nan, and of the beautiful and fragile tree ornaments she had.

The description of Chelsea looking like a Refresher bar with the combination of her auburn hair and her face blushing red with embarrassment made me properly laugh out loud. As someone who is similarly auburn-haired, I have been there many times. I’ve not heard this description before but it’s definitely one I’ll remember and laugh about next time I show myself up!

I loved how Chelsea’s meet cute moment happened and how it was like a fairy tale but with added feistiness! It was just perfect how Chelsea had wanted to watch a certain popular Christmas film and instead got her own moment that was just like one that could have quite easily occurred in said film. Yet again, Katey has somehow managed to get so much detail into the story about Chelsea and Simeon to leave me feeling completely satisfied that these characters will be happy together. I swear there is something magical to Katey’s writing in the way she manages to convey so much in such short stories!

This Christmas story has everything you could possibly want to warm your heart this festive period. It’s a perfect read to curl up with when you just need a few minutes away from it all. Grab a hot chocolate (or Baileys), a mince pie and escape into this gorgeous romantic story!

I highly recommend this book and rate it 5 out of 5.

The Boy Under the Mistletoe is out now and available from Amazon.

I received a copy of this story from the author in exchange for an honest review.

Here are my reviews of The Boy in the Bookshop and The Boy at the Beach, two of the other short stories in this fab series.

Review: The Theseus Paradox by David Videcette

 

The Theseus Paradox

Synopsis

We accepted it was terrorism.
What if we were wrong?
What if London’s 7/7 bombings were the greatest criminal deception of our time?

July 2005: in the midst of Operation Theseus, the largest terrorist investigation that the UK has ever known, Detective Inspector Jake Flannagan begins to ask difficult questions that lead to the mysterious disappearance of his girlfriend and his sudden suspension from the Metropolitan Police.

Who masterminded London’s summer of terror?
Why can’t Flannagan make headway in the sprawling investigation?
Are the bombings the perfect ploy to mask a different plot entirely?
Is Jake’s absent Security Service girlfriend really who she claims to be?

While hunting for the answers to the most complex terrorist case in British history, one man will uncover the greatest criminal deception of our time.

Terror, extremism and fear of the unknown,
Sometimes the answer is much closer to home.

David says, ‘I can’t tell you the truth, but I can tell you a story…’

My Review

I read a review of The Theseus Paradox and was immediately intrigued by the book so when I was offered a copy by the author, I couldn’t refuse.

This novel is a work of fiction based on the 7/7 bombings in London in 2005. It’s a very intriguing novel and held my attention from start to finish. I haven’t read many works of fiction that are so closely based on real life events, and at times it’s difficult to get your head around the fact that this is fiction because the real life events of 7/7 are still so fixed in memory, and Videcette’s writing is so good that it makes the fictional elements feel entirely believable.

DI Jake Flanagan is a brilliant character, like many fictional detectives he has his flaws and vices – in Jake’s case it’s alcohol and women, but he is a very likeable character and I was willing him to hold it together to find out what and who was behind the bombings. Jake bends, and sometimes breaks, the rules but everything he does is for the greater good. He desperately needs to solve this crime.

The short chapters, each headed with a time, date and location stamp, kept the novel moving at a very high pace and the book never lost intensity for a second. There wasn’t any filler in this novel, everything was relevant to solving the crime and I found that very impressive.

The way the book ended came as a complete surprise to me – I thought I had some of it worked out but I was completely wrong!  The things that Flanagan finds out do make absolute sense though and it was a very plausible ending. After I finished reading this book I found that I couldn’t stop thinking about it for a while afterwards, my mind was mulling it all over and I can see how all the pieces fit together to get the ending.  This novel is still swirling around in my head even now, a couple of weeks after finishing it. It was such a great read!

I really hope that there will be more books featuring Jake Flanagan. I enjoyed this novel immensely and will definitely be looking out for more by David Videcette. I rate this 5 out of 5 and highly recommend it.

I received this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.

The Theseus Paradox is out now and available from Amazon.

 

About the Author

David Videcette

Former Scotland Yard investigator, David Videcette, has searched hundreds of properties, placed bugs on countless vehicles, chased numerous dangerous criminals and interviewed thousands of witnesses.

He was a lead investigator in the London terrorist bombings and is a former Scotland Yard detective with twenty years policing experience, including counter-terrorist operations and organised crime.

He currently consults on security operations for high-net-worth individuals and is an expert media commentator on crime, terrorism, extremism and the London 7/7 bombings.

David also now puts his police knowledge to good use in his crime novels.

Review: The Mince Pie Mix-Up by Jennifer Joyce

the mince pie mix up

The Mince Pie Mix-Up is a gorgeous festive novel. Calvin works hard at the office and thinks his wife has it easy with her part-time job in the local cafe and looking after their two children. Judy thinks her husband could help her out a bit more instead of coming home from the office and going out to football or down to the pub with his mates. They each think the other has a much easier life and one night, just two weeks before Christmas, they both wish to swap places and in the morning they find that their wish has been granted. This novel is in the vein of Freaky Friday and 13 Going on 30 and is a wonderfully funny novel.

I can never resist a body swap film or book, and this novel is up there with the best of them – I loved it. I think just about everyone at one point or another in their life has wished they could swap places with someone else; it’s human nature. I don’t think we ever think through all the consequences of such a thing happening though, which is what makes this novel so entertaining.

During the time they’ve swapped bodies some very funny situations occur and it makes for a very entertaining read. I found myself giggling quite a few times while reading this book. It was very amusing when Judy or Calvin would forget they were in the other’s body and would speak as if they were themselves. I loved how Calvin decided to ignore his boss’s swearing and replace all the swear words in his head with Christmas words, it was very funny at times and had me thinking I may well do the same!

I loved how it was obvious all the way through this novel that Calvin and Judy still love each other very much, they’ve just got set in their ways and have begun to take each other for granted. This wasn’t about a marriage that was in trouble, they’re just a couple that needed a reminder of all that the other does for them. It was a wake up call to what they’re missing out on or not making time for.

Ultimately, this novel is all about how everyone could do to put themselves in someone else’s shoes from time to time to try and understand life from another’s perspective. This works so well as a Christmas novel because this is the season where we’re urged to be kind to each other and to be more giving.

The Mince Pie Mix-Up is set in the two weeks leading up to Christmas and so is very festive. It’s a funny and very heart-warming novel, and I highly recommend it. I rate it 4.5 out of 5.

I received this book from Carina UK via Net Galley in exchange for an honest review.

The Mince Pie Mix-Up is out now and available from Amazon.

My November Wrap-Up Post!

Monthly Wrap-Up

I can’t believe I’m writing my November wrap-up post already, I don’t know where this month has gone! I’m loving blogging more and more as the weeks go by and it’s become such a massive part of my life now, I can’t imagine not being a blogger. It’s absolutely second nature to me now to make notes as I’m reading and to write a review as soon as I’ve finished a book. I’m slowly getting to grips with WordPress too.

This month I added a new section to my blog… a shelf were I can add all my favourite books. Please check that out here. I’ve posted a list on there for now but plan to gradually add mini reviews of all my favourite books that I’ve read previously. This month I added two books to this shelf – the only new additions this year. It takes a lot to be added to my favourites, only the most special of books make it there. I’ve revealed the two books at the end of this post!

My blog has now had over 6000 page views and over 2500 visitors. It amazes me every time I check my stats to find that people are reading my posts, it really has made such a difference in my life to have found blogging and the support from everyone just increases it tenfold!

Thanks to all of you who have read a post on my blog, or liked or commented or shared. Thanks to all of you who have followed my blog, or on social media.


 

In November I read 20 books and managed to review all of them. If I didn’t keep a record of the books I read I wouldn’t have believed I’d read that many, I think blogging has got me reading even more than I was before! Please click on the links below the images to read my reviews.

Time to Die by Caroline Mitchell

Out of the Darkness by Katy Hogan

How to Stuff Up Christmas by Rosie Blake

The Boy in the Bookshop by Katey Lovell

The Boy at the Beach by Katey Lovell

What Rosie Found Next by Helen J. Rolfe

Wendy Darling by Colleen Hoover

What Happens at Christmas by T. A. Williams

Lost Girls by Angela Marsons

The Single Feather by R. F. Hunt

Sky Lantern by Matt Mikalatos

The Winter Wedding by Abby Clements

Hello, Goodbye and Everything in Between by Jennifer E. Smith

Christmas at Cranberry Cottage by Talli Roland

The Jazz Files by Fiona Veitch Smith

Follow Me by Angela Clarke

The Secret by the Lake by Louise Douglas

The Widow by Fiona Barton

Winter’s Fairytale by Maxine Morrey

Search for the Truth by Kathryn Freeman


 

This month I have received books for review from authors I’d not read before but I now want to go back and read all of their previous books. I love this part of blogging, it’s got me reading more widely and as a result I’ve found so many books that I might otherwise have missed.

The best thing about this month though is that for the first time this year I’ve added two new books to my favourite books collection.

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The Jazz Files by Fiona Veitch Smith is just such a delightful mystery novel, with a brilliant protagonist in Poppy and I already can’t wait to read the next book! I’m planning on buying copies of this book for friends who I’m sure will also enjoy it.

 

out of the darkness

Out of the Darkness by Katy Hogan is one of those books that arrived in my life in the most serendipitous of ways and I just fell in love with it. It’s a novel that made me sob my heart out, it made me think about things in my own life, but by the end I felt better. I felt like the novel helped me make sense of things and it made me feel comforted. I was so lucky that Katy very kindly sent me a signed copy to keep and I will treasure it. It literally takes centre stage on my favourites bookcase and it’s a book I know I will read again and again. I’ve already bought couple of copies to give to friends who I know will get as much out of it as I did, and I’m sure I’ll be buying more copies in the future. I just want everyone to read this book!

Blog tour | Review: Search for the Truth by Kathryn Freeman

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Today is my stop on the blog tour for Search for the Truth by Kathryn Freeman. Please keep reading to the end of the post as I have a giveaway to share with you all.

My Review

Tessa is an investigative journalist who has infiltrated the big pharmaceutical company, Helix. Helix developed drug that was given to Tessa’s mum as part of her cancer treatment but Tessa believes that the drug caused her mother’s heart attack and that this company is ultimately responsible for her mum’s death.

Jim Knight is head of Helix and after a disastrous affair with a work colleague he is determined to focus on the company. However, he finds himself increasingly attracted to the new member of staff Tessa! The attraction is mutual but Tessa is determined to focus on discovering the truth about the company.

This is the first novel I’ve read by Kathryn Freeman and it was a really enjoyable read. It was refreshingly different to other books in this genre in that it was a romance but with a really serious issue at it’s centre.

I was hooked from the very start of this novel wanting to know whether Tessa would discover answers at Helix before they discovered that she was working undercover, or if she did discover more about the drug whether it would turn out to be part of a big cover up. This novel was a bit close to home for me at times but it meant that I was willing Tessa on all the more to find out the truth so that she and her family could have closure.

The dynamic between Tessa and Jim was great too. They were obviously very attracted to each other but at the same time Tessa was not been honest about who she really is, and Jim was trying to reform Helix to really do good for cancer patients. The romance seemed doomed to fail at times because of all the secrets and potential for conflict. I was hoping all the way through the book that Jim would turn out to be a genuine guy, it made the romance storyline all the more unpredictable, and therefore better, that we just don’t know for a while what he knows.

I really enjoyed this novel, it had a great mix of things going on and it was a real page turner for me. I’ll be looking out for more of Kathryn Freeman’s novels in the future!

I received a copy of this book via Brook Cottage Books as part of the blog tour in exchange for an honest review.

Search for the Truth is out now.

Buy Links

Amazon UK

Amazon US


 

Synopsis

Sometimes the truth hurts … 

When journalist Tess Johnson takes a job at Helix pharmaceuticals, she has a very specific motive. Tess has reason to believe the company are knowingly producing a potentially harmful drug and, if her suspicions are confirmed, she will stop at nothing to make sure the truth comes out.

Jim Knight is the president of research and development at Helix and is a force to be reckoned with. After a disastrous office affair he’s determined that nothing else will distract him from his vision for the company. Failure is simply not an option.

As Tess and Jim start working together, both have their reasons for wanting to ignore the sexual chemistry that fires between them. But chemistry, like most things in the world of science, isn’t always easy to control.

Genre: Contemporary romance

Release Date: 13th August 2015

Publisher: Choc Lit


 

 

About the Author

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A former pharmacist, I’m now a medical writer who also writes romance. Some days a racing heart is a medical condition, others it’s the reaction to a hunky hero.

With two teenage boys and a husband who asks every Valentine’s Day whether he has to buy a card (yes, he does), any romance is all in my head. Then again, his unstinting support of my career change proves love isn’t always about hearts and flowers – and heroes come in many disguises.

AUTHOR LINKS

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/kathrynfreeman

Twitter: https://twitter.com/KathrynFreeman1

Goodreads:  https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7373990.Kathryn_Freeman

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/profile/edit?locale=en_US&trk=profile-preview

Website: http://kathrynfreeman.co.uk

 


 

Giveaway

Please click the link below for your chance to win a paperback copy of Too Charming by Kathryn Freeman. This is an international giveaway.

http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/4be03017117/?

Search for Truth Tour Banner

Review: Winter’s Fairytale by Maxine Morrey

 

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This is such a lovely, heart-warming Christmas novel. It is set entirely over the festive period, which I loved! It begins a few weeks before Christmas and ends at new year.

The novel starts off with some heavy snow in London which prevents Izzy from getting home. Her ex-fiance’s best man bumps into her and invites her back to his apartment nearby while she figures out how she can get home. It’s all a bit awkward as the last time she saw Rob she had punched him in the face and accidentally broken his nose when he had had to tell her that her fiancé wasn’t going to be turning up to their wedding.

Izzy is a great character; she’s a really down to earth girl with a feisty side. She couldn’t see how attractive she was to men, and I adored the fact that she was a bit clumsy at times. She was the kind of person that we’d all love to have as our best friend.

I adored how the will they, won’t they scenario played out with Rob. The flirtation was so romantic, and all the misunderstandings that kept stopping them from getting together were believable. The whole novel was about them and I was lost in the romance from the very start. I was willing Rob and Izzy on to get together all through the book as it seemed evident that these two were just meant to be.

This novel won’t fail to give you that warm, fuzzy feeling. It’s just a gorgeous Christmas novel that will give you butterflies and will warm your heart.

I rate this book 4 out of 5.

Winter’s Fairytale is out now and available from Amazon.

I received a copy of this book from Carina UK via Net Galley in exchange for an honest review.

Blog Tour | Review: The Secret by the Lake by Louise Douglas

the secret by the lake

Today is my stop on the blog tour for The Secret by the Lake by Louise Douglas and I’m excited to be able to share my review with you.

Review

The Secret by the Lake is a richly-drawn, gothic novel. It is one of those books that hooks you in on the first page and doesn’t let you go even when you’ve finished reading! I started reading this late one evening and when I turned the last page it was the early hours of the morning; I lost all concept of time or where I was, I was completely and utterly engrossed!

Amy had a difficult childhood when her mother walked out on her and her dad. As soon as she was old enough she found work as a nanny looking after Julia and Alain Laurent’s daughter Viviane. Amy was very happy with the family, spending a lot of time in France. Then one day a phone call brings news that she must return home and leave the Laurents for good. Whilst back in England Amy gets word that Alain has died and Julia is now back living in England with Viviane and they are struggling to cope.

I try and avoid hearing too much about books before I read them these days as I prefer the element of surprise as much as possible. So when I started this novel I had no idea how spooky it was going to be, it was really unsettling to read at times. I tend to stay away from ghostly stories as I’m easily scared but it says so much about how great the writing is in this book that even when it was really frightening me, I still could not stop reading. It was so compelling and it genuinely was near impossible to put down. I actually finished reading this the early hours of Monday morning as I just kept thinking one more chapter and beforeI knew it, it was 3.30am and I’d finished the book!

I possibly should have guessed from the striking and very atmospheric cover that this would be a haunting novel. I particularly love how the woman on the front cover is holding the umbrella which causes her to form the shape of a key, and a lot of the mystery in this novel comes from a locked room. The cover perfectly captures the essence of this book.

The wallpaper in the locked room is yellow, and Caroline was locked in there because people said she was crazy and out of control. It seems to be referencing Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s The Yellow Wallpaper, and possibly touching on the idea of the madwoman in the attic too, which straight away ramps up the claustrophobia surrounding this room and causes you to wonder what happened there, and what happened to Caroline. The descriptions of how grotesque the wallpaper looked as it was coming away from the wall genuinely repulsed me and made me shiver! The novel also had a feel of Du Maurier’s Rebecca about it too, the creepy atmosphere, the secret of what had happened before Amy arrived.

I love how the lake that features so strongly in this novel, was almost a character in its own right. That body of water held so many secrets and have so many stories to tell, but the dense fog that often covered it was suppressing the lake, the village, the secrets and some of the people who lived around it.

I loved Amy, I thought she was a great character who developed a real sense of tenacity as the book progressed. She just wanted to help and assist where she could, she was determined to find out what had happened to Caroline and to find a way to make Julia feel better. I liked that although Amy fell for Daniel quickly, she still kept things on her terms and she didn’t become a simpering, meek character because she’d found a man. Daniel seemed to give Amy strength, he gave her space to escape to but it never took away from who she was.

I have read a couple of Louise Douglas’ previous novels but I’m now definitely going to buy the ones I haven’t read, I feel sure I’ve just found a new favourite author!

This is a beautifully haunting novel that will have you hooked from the first page to the last! I rate this novel 5 out of 5 and highly recommend it.

I received this book from Transworld/Black Swan via Net Galley in exchange for an honest review.

The Secret by the Lake is out now and available to buy from Amazon.


 

Blurb

A FAMILY TRAGEDY
Amy’s always felt like something’s been missing in her life. When a tragedy forces the family she works for as a nanny to retreat to a small lakeside cottage, she realises she cannot leave them now.

A SISTER’S SECRET
But Amy finds something unsettling about the cottage by the lake. This is where the children’s mother spent her childhood – and the place where her sister disappeared mysteriously at just seventeen.

A WEB OF LIES
Soon Amy becomes tangled in the missing sister’s story as dark truths begin rising to the surface. But can Amy unlock the secrets of the past before they repeat themselves?


 

About the Author

Louise-Douglas-Author-Image

Louise was born in Sheffield, but has lived in Somerset since she was 18. She has three grown up sons and lives with her husband Kevin. The Secret By The Lake is Louise’s sixth novel and she currently writes around her full time job.

In her spare time, Louise loves walking with her two dogs in the Mendip Hills, meeting up with her friends and she’s also an avid reader.

 


 

Author Links:

Website: www.louisedouglas.co.uk

Facebook: www.facebook.com/Louise-Douglas-Author

Twitter: www.twitter.com/LouiseDouglas3

 

Review: Follow Me by Angela Clarke

Follow Me by Angela Clarke

Freddie is fed up with her life, she is trying hard to make it as a journalist but has spent three years writing for free and is desperate to find a way to get paid for her work. One day while working a shift at a coffee shop she spots an old friend, Nas, in amongst a group of people. Freddie finds a way to follow Nas and ends up in the middle of an horrific murder scene. Nas covers for Freddie but she ultimately gets found out, though when the murder appears to be linked to twitter Freddie ends up being hired by the police as a social media consultant.

The killer tweets as Apollyon. He tweets coded messages and initially only follows one person despite his follower count growing at an incredible rate. The murders were gruesome and made me feel really quite sick. Freddie’s shock at each of the crime scenes, and the terror she felt each time apollyon tweeted was tangible, there were times when I felt like I was right there with her and I could hardly breathe either.

I expected this book to be terrifying, I was actually a little scared to even start reading it if I’m being completely honest. I’ve been on social media for years, I’ve shared details of my life on there so the idea of a serial killer finding their next target on twitter sounds so scary. This novel was actually more creepy than terrifying but it really does get under your skin as the tension ramps up. It was very unsettling and unnerving and it does get more scary as it goes along. It’s cleverly written because you initially think this would never happen to you because you’re careful with what you tweet and then you begin to see how Apollyon is finding his victims and it’s insidious how the fear gets to you.

None of the characters in this novel were particularly likeable but I don’t think characters have to be likeable for a book to be great; it works really well in this novel because it causes you to become suspicious of everyone. I have to admit that I did develop a soft spot for Freddie over the course of the novel; it felt like she was so brash because it was her way of protecting herself and pushing people away but as a result she was often misunderstood, which then led to her being more brash. It was a self-fulfilling prophecy.

I did guess who the murderer was before it was revealed but only a little while before, and even then I was doubting myself as there are so many red herrings and twists and turns that it’s impossible to be sure about who the killer is. I think I’d suspected just about ever person in this book by the end! I had to keep reminding myself to breath whilst reading the last few chapters, it was incredibly tense!

This is the such a good, contemporary psychological thriller and I highly recommend it. I rate this book 4 out of 5.

Follow Me is due to be published on 3rd December but can be pre-ordered now from Amazon.

I received this book from Avon via Net Galley in exchange for an honest review.

Blog tour | Review: The Jazz Files by Fiona Veitch Smith

9781782641759

Today, I’m thrilled that it’s my stop on the blog tour for the fabulous The Jazz files by Fiona Veitch Smith.

My Review

The Jazz Files is a wonderful novel. From the moment I first saw the cover I was very keen to read the book, it’s such an eye-catching and memorable cover. The novel then opens with a poem by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, which meant it immediately appealed to me as she is one of my favourite writers. I was sure that I was going to be in for a real treat with this book and I was absolutely right.

Poppy Denby arrives in London to look after her ailing Aunt Dot, who was a part of the suffragette movement. Dot quickly encourages Poppy to go out and find herself a career. Poppy finds herself a job as an editorial assistant at The Daily Globe but is soon working as an investigative journalist after a reporter falls to his death in the newsroom.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I loved how spirited Poppy was, and her Aunt Dot was such a character. I really enjoyed the flashbacks to 1913 and all the references to the suffragette movement as it’s such a fascinating period in history. Smith acknowledges in the notes for this book that she played with the timeline of real events ever so slightly but it doesn’t affect your reading of the novel at all; there is so much truth and believability in this novel, it is impossible not to enjoy it. I love how the struggles that women had gone through, and were still going through, run through this book, and yet it remains such a celebration of what women were beginning to achieve. The female characters are at the forefront of this story; they all have such tenacity to achieve their goals that you just so want them to succeed and you can’t fail to admire them.

I loved Poppy’s friendship with the slightly eccentric Delilah; the things they got up to in the name of investigating the mystery were such fun and I was so engrossed in the story that I felt like I was along on the ride with them.

I very much enjoyed Poppy’s flirtations with Daniel too. I adored the way that she was falling for him and how she was so forward-thinking in many ways but then all of a sudden she would tell him off for being too bold. It was delightful to read and I can’t wait to see what might happen next for these two!

I was intrigued by Elizabeth and I very much enjoyed how the mystery around her and her family was revealed. I noticed what was perhaps another reference to Charlotte Perkins Gilman later in the novel when Elizabeth thinks the mould on the walls in her room is changing and moving, it reminded me of the woman losing her mind in The Yellow Wallpaper. It meant the reader was never absolutely sure about Elizabeth and what she had to tell, which heightens the sense of mystery.

I am thrilled that this is the first in a new series of books and I absolutely cannot wait to read more of Poppy’s adventures; I’ll be first in line to pre-order the next book as soon as it’s available. I can’t recommend this novel highly enough; I’m actually going to be putting it on my favourites shelf and there aren’t very many books that make it on to there. Even though this was a mystery novel and I now know the outcome, I will still re-read this because I loved the characters and the story so much. I’m also about to buy a couple of copies to give as gifts to friends who I know will enjoy this novel as much as I did.

I rate this novel 5 out 0f 5 and give it pride of place on my all-time favourites shelf!

This book was sent to me by Lion Hudson in exchange for an honest review.

The Jazz Files is out now and available on Amazon.

 

Blurb

‘The Jazz Files’
Book 1 in Poppy Denby Investigates series (Lion Fiction) By Fiona Veitch Smith

Release date: 17 September 2015 RRP: £7.99
Publisher: Lion Fiction
ISBN: 978-1-78264-175-9

Set in 1920, The Jazz Files introduces aspiring journalist Poppy Denby from Morpeth, who ar- rives in London to look after her ailing Aunt Dot, an infamous suffragette. Dot encourages Poppy to apply for a job at The Daily Globe, but on her first day a senior reporter is killed and Poppy is tasked with finishing his story. It involves the mysterious death of a suffragette seven years earli- er, about which some powerful people would prefer that nothing be said…

Through her friend Delilah Marconi, Poppy is introduced to the giddy world of London in the Roar- ing Twenties, with its flappers, jazz clubs, and romance. Will she make it as an investigative jour- nalist, in this fast-paced new city? And will she be able to unearth the truth before more people die?

“It stands for Jazz Files,” said Rollo. “It’s what we call any story that has a whiff of high society scandal but can’t yet be proven… you never know when a skeleton in the closet might prove use- ful.”

About the Author

 

Fiona Veitch Smith

Fiona Veitch Smith was inspired to write The Jazz Files by the centenary anniversary of the death of Morpeth’s Emily Wilding Davison, who died after being struck by the king’s horse in a suffragist protest in 1912. “I initially intended Poppy to be a suffragette reporter sleuth but decided instead to have her as a 1920s flapper inheriting the freedoms won for her by her aunt and other brave women of the time. The Jazz Files has feminist undertones and is an exploration of the challenges faced by a woman in the male-dominated workplace, but it is first and foremost – I hope – just a cracking good mystery,” said the author.


 

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Jazz Files 1: Author Fiona Veitch Smith will be hosting a launch of her new book The Jazz Files on 25 September. Here she is in Waterstones, Newcastle, with her vintage 1922 Remington type- writer just like the one her heroine reporter sleuth Poppy Denby uses in the book.

 

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Jazz Files 2: Fiona Veitch Smith dressed like her character Poppy Denby, a reporter sleuth in a new mystery series set in the 1920s.


 

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Review: Christmas at Cranberry Cottage by Talli Roland

 

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I’m a huge Talli Roland fan, I’ve read all of her novels and novellas and loved them so when I spotted she had another Christmas novella out I couldn’t resist buying it immediately! I have to say that this is more of a short story than a novella – I read it in under ten minutes but it is still a lovely, festive read.

Jess is a high-flying photographer who is currently working in New York but is looking forward to getting back to her childhood home in the UK to spend Christmas with her Gran. A phone call from her Gran with news that Cranberry Cottage is going to be demolished as part of a new high-speed rail line causes to Jess drop everything to return home to try and save it.

I loved this story but I can’t help but wish it had been longer – I think it could have made a perfect novella or even full-length novel. There are glimpses of characters that I wanted to know more about. There is a love interest that held such potential and I enjoyed what there was of the chemistry between Tom and Jess but I would have loved to hear more about the past and to see how their story might have developed further. I adored Jess’ relationship with her Gran, I just wish we could have heard more about the two of them and this gorgeous cottage.

The cover of this short story is so festive and the combined with the description of the decorations inside the cottage just made me want to go there! The descriptions of the kitsch decorations that were years old and often falling apart reminded me so much of my Nan’s home and all of her wonderful Christmas ornaments.

This short story is absolutely worth buying and I’d recommend it to anyone who wants a very quick, Christmassy read. I so badly want to rate it higher because I did enjoy it but I was left wanting so to know so much more. I rate this 3.5 out of 5.

Christmas at Cranberry Cottage is out now and is available as an ebook from Amazon.

Review: Hello, Goodbye and Everything in Between by Jennifer E. Smith

Hello, Goodbye and Everything in Between by Jennifer E. Smith

Hello, Goodbye and Everything in Between is the story of Clare and Aidan who have been dating throughout high school but they’re both about to leave for Universities at opposite ends of the country; Clare has decided that they should break up because long distance relationships don’t work. Aidan has just one night left to convince her that they should stay together.

I really enjoyed this novel. I liked that it was a little different from other contemporary young adult books in that it starts at the end and we get to hear the story though reminiscing; it added a different dimension to the characters. Clare has made a list of all the places in the local town where meaningful things have happened in their relationship and over the course of this last evening together they will visit them all one last time. As Clare and Aidan stop at each place on Clare’s list we get to see how they feel being there now and we get to hear about why each place means so much to them. I loved how sometimes they remember things a little differently, and how they discovered new things like when they’d each first noticed each other.

Clare and Aidan have made so much of this last night together that the underlying tension is very apparent. Inevitably, the stress of making this last evening perfect begins to take its toll and arguments happen and a secret gets revealed. It’s the way these things go in real life and as much as I was willing these two on to have a brilliant night full of happy memories, it was much more believable that the worries and upset about their future apart from each other would creep in.

I really felt for them because they weren’t breaking up because they’d fallen out of love, they’d both made the very adult decision to apply to colleges that were the best fit for what they wanted to do in the future and rather than choosing based on them being able to live near each other. I really appreciated this in the novel too, as so often in books things all work out neatly because the characters end up living near by.

I was really torn about how I wanted this novel to end. I was half-hoping they’d decide to stay together and make a go of it. In this day and age with texting and FaceTime etc they maybe could have at least tried but I understand Clare’s point of view that if they tried and failed they might end up not even being friends, whereas if they end on a good note now they could remain friends. I was also half-hoping that Clare would stand her ground and that they would make a clean break as she did have a good point and she so badly wanted Aidan to still be in her life, at least as a friend, rather than him ending up as no one to her.

I really wasn’t sure how this novel was going to end but Smith ended it perfectly, I’m not going to give any spoilers at all but the end was just right.

The title of this book is perfect, it really does sum up what the book is about and it’s very memorable too! I really enjoyed Hello, Goodbye and Everything in Between, it’s a heart-felt novel with characters that are easy to connect with; the story pulls you straight in and holds you there right to the end!

I rate this book 4 out of 5.

Hello, Goodbye and Everything in Between is out now and available from Amazon.

I received this book from Headline via Net Galley in exchange for an honest review.

Review: The Winter Wedding by Abby Clements

The Winter Wedding

 

I’m a huge fan of Abby Clements and always look forward to a new novel from her. I especially loved her Christmas novel, Meet Me Under the Mistletoe, so when I was offered a chance to read this novel, I jumped at the chance.

Hazel feels lost when her sister moves out of the flat they share. She struggles with the idea of a new flat mate and she’s not getting the chances she deserves at work. Her life seems to be standing still while those around her are moving on at great pace. Lila asks Hazel to help plan her wedding and a sideline job is born for Hazel as guests at Lila’s wedding ask her to help plan their big day. She enjoys helping these couples out but her heart is really in the miniature sets she’s been creating in secret.

Hazel’s love life is at something of a standstill too ever since she made a pass at her best friend Sam the previous Christmas. With terrible timing she begins to realise she has fluttery feelings for her work colleague Josh just at the time he asks her to plan his wedding to Sarah.

I loved Hazel and was willing her on to find happiness throughout this novel. She was such a likeable character who I warmed to straight away, she is such a well-rounded character that she felt like someone I actually knew. I loved seeing her friendship with Amber grow.

I enjoyed how the novel kept taking me in different directions with regards to not only who Hazel might end up with but also if she’d end up with someone at all. I so wanted her to find her Mr Right and didn’t want her to either settle for steady or to be responsible for breaking up someone else’s relationship. I felt all warm and fuzzy when the right man saw Hazel’s miniature set designs and encouraged her to follow her dreams.

I loved the descriptions of the miniature sets that Hazel created, I could picture them so vividly. I wish these sets really existed, I’d love to see them and be able to buy them as gifts. How lovely it would be to have a miniature set of your wedding day!

This book is a warm and cosy read, perfect for curling up with on a cold winter night. It’s not a festive read but it still has a sense of the festive because it is mainly set in the winter and in the run up to a Christmas wedding.

I rate this book 4.5 out of 5.

I received this book from Simon and Schuster in exchange for an honest review.

The Winter Wedding is out now and available from Amazon.

The Winter Wedding my pic

The gorgeous copy that I was lucky enough to receive for review.

Review: Sky Lantern by Matt Mikalatos

sky lantern matt mikalatos

 

Sky Lantern is the story of a man who finds a sky lantern at the end of his driveway, and on picking it up to put it in the bin notices a message written on it. The message is from someone called Steph and she has written it to her father about how much she misses him. Matt can’t help but think and reflect about how his own young daughters would feel if he were no longer with them, and it leads to him writing an open letter to Steph on his blog in the hope that one day she, or even his own daughters, might find the letter and be comforted.

Matt’s open letter is very moving. He deliberately made it quite non-specific so that it would apply universally but he talks about how proud a father is of his daughter and how much he loved her. He gives life advice about finding those who love you and filling your life with them. He explains that he knows you miss your father and that you can’t replace him but that you have to keep moving forward. I was crying by this point in the book, my mum died a few years ago and it made me think of her because it’s the sort of letter that I know she would have written if she had had more time. Matt’s letter reminded me a little of Mary Schmich’s commencement speech (that was later turned into a song by Baz Luhrmann called Wear Sunscreen). It’s a life-affirming letter that everyone will be able to take something from even if not all of it relates to them.

Matt’s letter ended up around the world, he received many letters from people who weren’t Steph but who appreciated the letter all the same and found comfort in it. He received many letters from women who believed they were the Steph who sent the lantern but even while Matt wasn’t sure they were the right Steph, he still wrote back and showed real kindness and compassion.

Throughout this book, Matt learns lessons himself about not taking his loved ones for granted. He is obviously a lovely dad to his children, but as is the case with all of us, life gets busy and sometimes we brush off a loved one wanting a few minutes of our time. Matt’s book is a reminder to always tell the people we love that we love them.

If I was to be at all critical it would be to say that at times this book does feel a little drawn out; I’m not sure that there was enough to make a full-length book out of this experience. Having said that, it is a very moving and life-affirming read and I’m sure it will offer great comfort to people who have been bereaved. I cried over a chapter where Matt wrote about loss and how we make sense of it and how our lives can never be the same. It’s the silly thing of still picking up the phone to call a loved one who has been gone for a while but in that moment our brains forget for an instant until the phone is in our hand. I did this so many times after my mum died so it resonated greatly for me.

It is wonderful that a new friendship came from Matt finding the sky lantern, and that he helped not just one woman find solace but hundreds or even thousands of people who were comforted by reading his letter. This beautiful book really is a lesson to us all that showing a little more kindness to others can go a really long way.

I rated this book 4 out of 5.

I received this book from Howard Books via Net Galley in exchange for an honest review.

Sky Lantern is out today and available from Amazon.

Review: The Single Feather by R.F. Hunt

the single feather ruth hunt

The Single Feather is a novel that takes an unflinching look at what it is like to be disabled in modern Britain and it doesn’t shy away from confronting the big issues.

Rachel is paralysed from the waist down; she has recently escaped a terrible situation and has moved into an adapted home in a small town. She is trying to come to terms with the new reality of her life and eventually joins a local art class in an attempt to meet some new people and to make friends.

This book was a difficult read for me at times, but it’s an important read at the same time. Hunt doesn’t shy away from showing the very real prejudices that disabled people still experience. The way that Rachel was treated by the guards was extreme but it made a very important point about the lack of care given to disabled people at times and the lack of dignity that is so often a common experience. Likewise, with the words that some of the people in the art group used. Anne always referred to Rachel as handicapped, and Rachel felt uncomfortable explaining that disabled is a more socially acceptable word. Hunt cleverly distinguishes between the genuine malice in the way Rachel was treated in the past, and how often some people just don’t realise that the terms they are using are offensive. It doesn’t make it alright but there is a big difference between ignorance and intolerance and I’m glad this was shown in this novel.

This is a novel that starts off quite slowly but Hunt gradually builds it up and it really comes into it’s own as you get a bit further into it. Once the back story of the characters starts to come through, you begin to understand their struggles and their motivations. The way they had behaved earlier in the novel began to make sense and it became possible to have real sympathy and understanding for them. Hunt never shies away from the realities of disability or mental health, and in this novel she really demonstrates that old adage about how everyone is fighting their own battle, you just might not know it. Hunt really does give you something to think about.

I wish the reveal about what really caused Rachel’s disability had come earlier in the novel as when it eventually is revealed it allows us to understand so much more about who she is, and perhaps would’ve have given the earlier parts of the novel a bit more depth. Having said that, I do completely understand how difficult it is to explain, for many reasons, what your disability is and what caused it so it does make sense that Rachel felt such reticence to be open.

I really enjoyed Kate and Rachel’s budding friendship, and as this became a closer friendship and we got to know more about them both it really added to the novel. I think Kate became my favourite character, she was well-adjusted and had the strength to speak out when necessary.

There was much more introspection as the novel neared its end and I found some of it very powerful. The part where Rachel finally understands what her mum meant by it being her own views that needed changing, was striking. The idea that sometimes, as a disabled person, it is easy to sometimes assume that the whole world is automatically going to be against you because of how some people have treated you in the past. Once Rachel opened up about the past and began to share with select members of the group they all had a new-found respect and a deeper connection with her. Kate’s words of wisdom stuck out the most for me though when she was trying to get Rachel to understand that just because people don’t always mention her wheelchair or her disability it doesn’t automatically mean they’re feeling awkward about it; sometimes people see the person first and the disability and the wheelchair fade away because they’re not important. These words had such resonance for me and I’m going to be taking Kate’s advice on board in my own life.

Ultimately, what really shines out of this novel is its representation of disability and mental health; how it shows a young woman doing her best to find a new normal and who is getting on with her life in spite of her disability, and there are very, very few books, if any, that show this. I rate this novel 4 out of 5 stars.

I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

The Single Feather is out now and available from Amazon.

Review: Lost Girls by Angela Marsons

Lost Girls by Angela Marsons

This is the first book I’ve read by Angela Marsons but it absolutely won’t be the last, I’ve already bought the first two books in this series and plan to read them soon!

Two young girls have been kidnapped, and it’s a very similar case to a previous one where one girl was found and the other never was. The perpetrators of the first kidnapping have never been caught, which immediately sets alarm bells ringing for D. I. Kim Stone, who is heading up this new investigation. Things quickly take an even more sinister turn when a text message states that only one set of parents will get their child back – the parents who offer the highest bid!

I found Kim Stone fascinating, she is such a great character. She is very tough and incredibly focused on her work, but she finds it near impossible to switch off and is not good at taking care of herself. There have obviously being a lot of issues in her past that have affected her greatly but Kim tries to shut herself off from her issues but it is apparent in the way she is that they have had an impact on her. Elements of Kim’s past come to the fore in this book because she has a link with someone affected by the kidnapping; I’m now keen to read the earlier books in this series to try and put together more about her. I enjoyed how she and Bryant worked together and how he knew her so well and could read her very well, their relationship really helped make Kim seem less hard and more likeable. I also really enjoyed the scenes that involved Kim and Mike, even though they don’t say a huge amount to each other and they were often at loggerheads, it was still interesting to see their connection.

This book has such a claustrophobic feel to it that heightens the tension for the characters and the reader. The police decide to contain the two sets of parents in one house along with the investigating officers. It felt stifling but it worked so well; at times it was so intense that I felt like I was holding my breath, especially once the text arrived with the demand for bids that set the parents against each other.

The chapters in this book are very short, and the focus goes back and forth between the police and the kidnappers and the two girls’ families, which kept the momentum going brilliantly. It’s one of those books where it gets to be very late at night and you can barely keep your eyes open because you’re so tired, and yet you keep thinking just one more chapter!

About halfway through this book I had my suspicions around who might be involved in this kidnapping but I never did work it out, I love it when a book keeps me in suspense all the way through as I usually can see a twist coming or I can spot whodunnit but not in this book. I can’t wait to read more by Angela Marsons and will be reading the first two books in the series as soon as I can!

I rate this book 4.5 out of 5.

Lost Girls is out now and available from Amazon.

I received this book from Bookouture via Net Galley in exchange for an honest review.

Blog Tour|Review & Excerpt: What Happens at Christmas by T. A. Williams

TAWilliams-Christmas-BTBanner copy

What Happens at Christmas_FINAL

Today I’m thrilled that it’s my stop on the What Happens at Christmas by T. A. Williams blog tour. I have my review of the book to share with you and also an excerpt from the book. There is also a giveaway as part of this tour to win a copy of one of T. A. Williams other books, What Happens in Cornwall!

Review header copy

What Happens at Christmas is a gorgeous, feel-good novel that has some real depth to it. Holly Brice has recently found out that her estranged father has died and that she has inherited his cottage in a quaint little village in Dartmoor. Holly makes a trip to the remote village to clear the cottage out to get it ready for selling and it ends up being a real trip down memory lane for her. Holly also discovers that not only has she inherited her father’s home but also his lovely one-year-old labrador, named Stirling.

Holly ends up on a real journey of discovery as she gets to know some of the locals in the village and also as she begins to clear her dad’s cottage out. She discovers that she may not have known the whole truth about her dad and starts to see him in a different light. I found some of the things Holly finds out about her dad incredibly moving. It was lovely to to see how Stirling was so in tune with Holly’s emotions and was always on hand to offer comfort.

Stirling was the star of this book for me, he was such an affectionate dog and so well-behaved that it’s impossible not to fall in love with him. He was a character in his own right and I really loved how an animal could be written into the story in such a big way.

Holly soon meets the desirable men in the village: Jack the handsome and lovely next-door neighbour, who is a bit mysterious; Justin, who is also a very attractive man but who has issues of his own to work though; and Howard who is lovely and just a little flirtatious in a harmless way.

I love that this book was set in the few days leading up to Christmas, it really did make me feel festive. Often with Christmas novels they are set in the months or year leading up to Christmas but there is something really lovely about a novel where the whole book is set in the immediate run up to Christmas.

This novel has everything you could possibly want in a Christmas story! It’s set at Christmas, it’s in a gorgeous location, it’s heart-breaking but more so it’s heart-warming, it has romance, it has crackly log fires, and it has snow!

I rate this book 8 out of 10 and recommend it to anyone who’s looking for a heart-warming Christmas novel.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

What Happens at Christmas is out now and available to buy from Amazon.

Release Date: October 22, 2015

Genres: Chick Lit

Publisher: Carina UK

Excerpt copy

She woke up at seven o’clock next morning with somebody trying to strangle her. A heavy weight was pinning her to the pillow, while a muscular arm pressed down upon her windpipe. She opened her eyes, but it was still pitch dark in the house. As the panic began to build, a long, warm tongue began to lick her cheek.

‘Oh, God, Stirling, stop that, will you. And your breath stinks. Get off this minute. Please, Stirling.’ With difficulty she managed to dislodge the dog from her throat and tip him over the edge of the bed onto the floor. He landed with a thud. Staying under the duvet, she shimmied across to the edge of the bed to check that he hadn’t hurt himself. She peered down into the dark. A large back nose appeared right in front of her and he would have licked her again if she hadn’t retreated. She lay there for another five minutes, conscious of the dog’s staring eyes, before accepting the inevitable. She pushed back the covers and climbed out of bed. Reaching for the matches, she lit the candle and looked down at the dog.

‘You’re a pain in the backside. You know that, don’t you?’ Delighted to hear her talking to him, he jumped to his feet and started wagging his tail. ‘God, it’s bloody cold.’ She pulled her jeans and jumper on over the top of her pyjamas and slipped on her warmest shoes; a gorgeous pair of Jimmy Choo ankle boots she had found in the Harvey Nicks sale last January, at less than half price. She took the candle and followed the now very excited dog downstairs into the kitchen. It was equally cold in there, so she put the candle down on the table and set about lighting the stove.

Once she had got a good fire going, she plucked up the courage to go to the loo. As she feared, the bathroom was freezing cold. She came back downstairs, went across to the window and looked out over the back garden. Dawn wouldn’t be for another hour, but it was not totally dark out there. The moon had disappeared, but there was still enough light from the stars for her to be able to distinguish shapes of bushes and trees in the garden. Closer to her, Greta the Porsche was sparkling with frost, the starlight reflecting in the host of ice crystals that covered all the horizontal surfaces. As Holly looked out, she ran her fingers across the inside of the glass. She wasn’t surprised to see them come away with a thin layer of ice on them. She went back over to the stove and packed another couple of logs into it.

‘I’d give my eye teeth for a cup of tea.’ She gazed wistfully at the electric kettle on the worktop, idly wondering to herself what eye teeth were. Stirling was standing beside his basket, unsure whether he should be gearing up for a walk or whether he would be told to go back to bed. Holly gave a little smile as she saw that he had somehow collected her father’s old jumper and brought it downstairs. A grey sleeve was hanging over the side of the basket. She stared at it for a few seconds before taking a deep breath and deciding she had better take the dog for a walk. He was delighted.


Blurb copy

For the perfect Christmas…

When career-girl Holly Brice learns that her estranged father has died, she decides to take a trip down memory lane and find out about the man she never knew. Arriving in the sleepy little Dartmoor village, she’s shocked to discover that she’s inherited the cosy little cottage she remembers so fondly, a whole load of money –and her father’s adorable dog, too!

Head to snow-covered Devon!

And as the first snowflakes begin to fall and Holly bumps into her gorgeous neighbour, Jack Nelson, life gets even more complicated! Men have always been off the cards for high-flying Holly, but there’s something about mysterious writer Jack that has her re-thinking her three-date rule…

A fabulous, feel-good festive read, perfect for fans of Debbie Johnson and Carole Matthews.


Author Bio copy

TAWilliams

Firstly, my name isn’t T A. It’s Trevor. I write under the androgynous name T A Williams because 65% of books are read by women. In my first book, “Dirty Minds” one of the (female) characters suggests the imbalance is due to the fact that men spend too much time getting drunk and watching football. I couldn’t possibly comment. Ask my wife…

I’ve written all sorts: thrillers, historical novels, short stories and now I’m enjoying myself hugely writing humour and romance. Romantic comedies are what we all need from time to time. Life isn’t always very fair. It isn’t always a lot of fun, but when it is, we need to embrace it. If my books can put a smile on your face and maybe give your heartstrings a tug, then I know I’ve done my job.

I‘ve lived all over Europe, but now I live in a little village in sleepy Devon, tucked away in south west England. I love the place. That’s why you’ll find leafy lanes and thatched cottages in most of my books. Oh, yes, and a black Labrador.

I’ve been writing since I was 14 and that is half a century ago. However, underneath this bald, wrinkly exterior, there beats the heart of a youngster. My wife is convinced I will never grow up. I hope she’s right.

Social Networking Links

Website: http://www.tawilliamsbooks.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TrevorWilliamsBooks

Twitter: https://twitter.com/TAWilliamsBooks

Goodreads: http://bit.ly/GRTAWilliams

Amazon Author: http://www.amazon.com/T-A-Williams/e/B00FDVNVMA/


GIVEAWAY BANNER! copy

what happens in cornwall

As part of this blog tour the organiser Bliss Book Promotions are giving you the chance to win One ebook copy of What Happens in Cornwall by T. A. Williams

Please click the link below to be taken to the competition entry page:

http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/c48fa52743/?

Good luck!

Review: Wendy Darling by Colleen Oakes

wendy darling

I can never resist books that are in any way connected to Peter Pan, I’m just fascinated by Neverland and what it represents. So when I was offered the chance to review Wendy Darling, I couldn’t say yes fast enough!

Wendy Darling is a re-telling of Peter Pan told from 16 year old Wendy’s perspective. John is Mr Darling’s favourite child and Wendy feels desperate to be noticed by her father, she tries so hard to see the star that John can see so easily but she struggles and the disappointment she feels from her father is palpable.

Wendy spends as much time as she can visiting the local bookshop. She loves to read, but even more than that she loves to visit the bookseller’s son Booth. The two are growing closer but their romance seems to be doomed from the start as society dictates that Booth is just not an appropriate suitor so they meet in secret.

One night Mr and Mrs Darling go out for the evening and something very strange happens at the house. It is really quite sinister and leaves the children feeling very shaken, until Peter Pan appears at the window and takes them all off on an adventure.

I have to be honest and say I found some of the things that happened in Neverland a little long-winded and slow, I was initially more captivated by Wendy’s romance with Booth and was longing to see more of that, I didn’t want to be taken away from that storyline. Having said that, where the book keeps you hooked is with this much more overtly sinister version of Neverland. It was always possible to see the darkness in JM Barrie’s original story but it’s much more extreme in Oakes’ re-telling. Oakes takes the nightmarish elements to fantastic extremes and danger is everywhere, especially for Wendy. It’s about how nothing is as it seems, and the idealism of a perfect world is never going to be as you’d thought.

Peter Pan has always felt a little creepy to me but in this version he is sociopathic. He appears very loving and kind one minute and the next his personality becomes very menacing, and actually often downright evil. I loved that Wendy was older in this re-telling as it gives a whole new dynamic to her and Peter’s relationship. There is an undeniable sexual chemistry from the beginning of the book, Wendy is drawn to him and cannot stop herself from staring at him and wanting to be closer to him. Peter ultimately uses this against her though and there are a couple of scenes later in the book that are very shocking and disturbing. The contrast between the rather innocent kissing with Booth and the way that Peter Pan treats Wendy really highlights the way that Neverland represents the desires of a teenage girl and her inability to fully comprehend how dangerous the world can be for someone still so naive and innocent.

Wendy Darling is ultimately the story of an awakening, it’s about Wendy discovering her power as a young woman and how she can fight back against the things that imprison her. It’s about her discovering her longing to be a mother; the way Wendy takes to nurturing the lost boys is beautiful, she seems to have found her place with them and they adoringly look up to her wanting her to be their mother. I did very much appreciate how empowered Wendy is in this re-telling; she’s been taken from a character who is almost always portrayed as weak just because she’s just a girl to a young woman who can stand her ground, and who will speak up when she feels she needs to. It was fascinating to see the character of Wendy in this way.

I do have a real bugbear with this book though and that is that even when a book is a part of a series I strongly feel that each book in the series should have some sort of ending. I know they have to lead into the next book so you will want to buy it but this novel just stops and ends with the title of the next book. I have to be honest and say that this really irritated me and I’m not sure that I would read the next one because I would always be wondering if I was ever going to get an ending. I love open endings, I enjoy being left with lots to think about but to just stop dead at the end of a scene and announce the next book is actually infuriating.

There are aspects of this novel that are fascinating and compelling, but there are times when it falls a little flat and the lack of an ending is something I can’t ignore so I rate this novel 7 out of 10. I still highly recommend it, especially to people who are fascinated by Peter Pan, it’s a brilliant look at his character and it takes him to really sinister levels that always seem to be underlying his character in the original story.

I received this book from SparkPress in exchange for an honest review.

Wendy Darling is out now and available from Amazon.

Blog Tour & Giveaway | Review: What Rosie Found Next by Helen J Rolfe

What Rosie Found Next

Today, I am thrilled to be kicking off the blog tour for Helen J Rolfe‘s new book What Rosie Found Next. Please keep reading to the end of my review as there is a fabulous giveaway for you to enter!

Review header copy

What Rosie Found Next is a gorgeous story about Rosie Stevens, a professional house sitter who hasn’t had the easiest life but is trying to move forward. She just wants to settle down and have some stability and security. Adam is Rosie’s long-term boyfriend but he’s very career-driven and, in the short term, this keeps preventing them from having the life that Rosie craves. Owen is the son of the home owners that Rosie is now house-sitting for. Owen is the opposite of Rosie, he leads a nomadic lifestyle with no home of his own and has no intentions of settling down with anyone ever.

I loved the dynamic between Owen and Rosie! From the very beginning, when he arrives unannounced at his parents’ home where Rosie is housesitting, and immediately starts antagonising her it was apparent that there was an underlying chemistry between these two characters. So from the start I was very much looking forward to seeing how things developed between them. As the novel went on, I really did like how these two characters became closer, they  got to be friends and started looking out for each other and forming a much deeper connection. It wasn’t a straightforward boy meets girl novel and I very much enjoyed that it was different.

The mystery element, regarding Owen’s family, that runs through much of this novel was really interesting. I couldn’t work out why Owen was so set on searching his parents’ house but it is apparent that whatever secret is being kept from him, it’s something that has been affecting him for a long time and has perhaps made him the way he is. It works well because Owen goes away to find out the truth about the past and in his time away from Rosie we get to see the development of his character through what he finds out.

I adored Magnolia Creek, what a gorgeous setting; the descriptions of the town are such that you can really picture the place and I’d love to actually go visit! I loved Bella’s cafe, and Bella herself. She is the lynch-pin of the town bringing everyone together and lifting their worries for a little while with tea and freshly-baked scones.

I really enjoyed this novel, it was different to what I had been expecting but I loved that parts of it surprised me. It has a real depth to it and I became so invested in these characters and was really willing them on to find happiness. It’s a really heart-warming read and I can’t wait to read more books by Helen J. Rolfe in the future!

I rate this novel 8 out of 10.

What Rosie Found Next is out now and available from AMAZON UK and AMAZON US

Thank you to Brook Cottage Books for sending me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Blurb copy

What Rosie Found Next

Genre: Romantic fiction / Women’s fiction

Release Date: 3rd November 2015

A shaky upbringing has left Rosie Stevens craving safety and security. She thinks she knows exactly what she needs to make her life complete – the stable job and perfect house-sit she’s just found in Magnolia Creek. The only thing she wants now is for her long-term boyfriend, Adam, to leave his overseas job and come home for good.

Owen Harrison is notoriously nomadic, and he roars into town on his Ducati for one reason and one reason only – to search his parents’ house while they’re away to find out what they’ve been hiding from him his entire life. When he meets Rosie, who refuses to quit the house-sit in his parents’ home, sparks fly.

Secrets are unearthed, promises are broken, friendships are put to the test and the real risk of bushfires under the hot Australian sun threatens to undo Rosie once and for all.

Will Rosie and Owen find what they want or what they really need?


Author Bio copy

ABOUT HELEN J ROLFE

helen j rolfe

Helen J Rolfe writes contemporary women’s fiction. She enjoys weaving stories about family, relationships, friendships, love, and characters who face challenges and fight to overcome them.

Born and raised in the UK, Helen spent fourteen years living in Australia before returning home. She now lives in Hertfordshire with her husband and children.

Facebook: http://facebook.com/helenjrolfe

Twitter:  https://twitter.com/hjrolfe

Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/helenjrolfe


GIVEAWAY BANNER! copy

As part of the book tour there is a chance to enter a giveaway for a chance to win £10 /$15 Amazon gift card. Please click on the link below to enter. Good luck!

http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/4be03017116/?

Review: The Boy at the Beach – Short Story (Meet Cute) by Katey Lovell

the boy at the beach

This is the second short story in Katey Lovell’s new Meet Cute series. I loved the first one because I can’t resist books or stories about bookshops (my review for that one is here). This second book was irresistible to me because it’s about two people who meet online. I met my husband on twitter many years ago so stories about couples who met online always interest me.

This story is a little different from the first one in that the majority of the story is about the two characters getting to know each other online, but it always feels absolutely believable that Lauren was beginning to fall for this boy through emails. I could feel the butterflies that Lauren had in the build up to her meeting Toby; she had already developed feelings for him and so badly wants to feel the same way when he’s standing in front of her, to find out if the chemistry they’ve felt through emails is there in real life. For me, this story had more depth to it than the first one because there is naturally more back story with them communicating online from the start.

The actual meet up is gorgeous. I reckon a few years from now these two could well be happily married and planning their whole lives together!

The amount of detail Katey packs into these short stories is incredible, she is such a talented writer. I’m not the biggest fan of short stories but these stories have me hooked, I found myself completely absorbed in this one. They are so succinctly written, it feels like it surely must have been longer than it was because it’s such a complete story – it has everything you could want in a meet cute!

I was very pleasantly surprised at just how different this story is to the first one, I did wonder if a series of very short stories all with the same theme of a meet cute might seem a little formulaic but I could not have been more wrong. Katey’s writing style is recognisable but beyond that this story is completely different. I can’t wait for the next one now!

This story cannot fail to make you feel smiley; it’s impossible for it not to give you a mood boost too so it’s perfect for a coffee break when you might want a little escape to a different place for ten minutes. I highly recommend this story, it’s fabulous! I rate it 10 out of 10.

The Boy at the Beach is available now on Amazon. The third story in this series, The Boy at the Bakery is available for pre-order on Amazon and is due to be published on 12th November.

Here are my reviews of The Boy in the Bookshop and The Boy Under the Mistletoe, two of the other short stories in this fab series.

Review: The Boy in the Bookshop – A Short Story (Meet Cute) by Katey Lovell

The Boy in the Bookshop

The Boy in the Bookshop is the first in a new series of short stories. I don’t normally buy single short stories but I just couldn’t resist giving this one a try; I’m utterly powerless to resist a book or short story set in a book shop and I’m so glad I picked this up, it’s gorgeous!

This is a very short read and is absolutely perfect for a coffee break. Katey has packed so much into this story, it’s wonderful. The Beautiful Books bookshop sounds amazing and I really want to go there. Jade works in the book shop, and the cute boy is a customer; it’s very succinctly written with all the detail you need to fall in love with the characters and the story itself. You’re left with such a warm, fuzzy feeling by the end of the story!

This is such a fabulous meet cute, I love Katey’s writing style and I can’t wait to read more by her. In fact, I’ve just been to Amazon and bought the second one in the series, and pre-ordered the third! I’m hooked on these Meet Cute books!

I rate this 10 out of 10.

The Boy in the Bookshop is out now and available from Amazon.

Here are my reviews of The Boy at the Beach and The Boy Under the Mistletoe, two of the other short stories in this fab series.

Review: How To Stuff Up Christmas by Rosie Blake

how to stuff up christmas

How To Stuff Up Christmas is a brilliant novel that is both hilariously funny and incredibly heart-warming, I enjoyed reading it so much!

Eve recently split up with her fiancé after she accidentally spotted a rather incriminating photo on his phone. After spending a couple of months feeling heartbroken, Eve realises that she can’t face spending Christmas with her family this year as there will be too many reminders of how happy she was the previous Christmas when she and Liam got engaged. Eve considers lots of options for her break but in the end she rents a narrowboat for a month so that her dog, Marmite can go with her. She also signs up for pottery classes to keep her occupied while she’s away.

Greg is a man of mystery for quite a lot of the novel. He is obviously a lovely man, he’s a vet with a heart of gold who not only wants to do the best for the animals he cares for but he shows real kindness to their owners too. Greg has something in his private life that he doesn’t want to talk about and it’s weighing heavily on him.

Greg and Eve meet when he comes to her rescue, there is obviously a mutual attraction between them but they’re both wary of getting involved. They become friends and Greg helps Eve learn to cook. At some points in the novel the story is told from Eve’s point of view and then in the next chapter there is the same scene told from Greg’s perspective. It was great to see how they were both really feeling, and it really showed how they were putting their guards up to protect themselves from getting hurt. It made me want to climb into the novel and tell them to give each other a chance, I was willing them to get together!

I loved Eve’s friendship with Daisy. The way they were together at work finding ways to run rings around their boss, the way Daisy supports Eve through her break up with Liam. It’s the kind of friendship we’d all love to have; the kind of friend who’ll forgive you for giving them food poisoning! I spent the novel hoping that Daisy didn’t know anything that could hurt Eve, it was worrying because sometimes even your best friends can let you down.

The closer it got to Christmas the more I was willing Eve’s broken heart to heal faster. Her family have always made a big deal of Christmas, like most families they have their traditions and they stick to them every year. Eve’s family really don’t want her to go away for Christmas and her mum especially doesn’t want to face the fact that she really isn’t planning on being there. It made me sad to think that Eve, who had always had such wonderful, big happy Christmases could feel they were completely ruined by Liam. It made me hate Liam even more for what he’d done!

There are some brilliant characters in this novel. I especially loved Eve’s colourblind dad and all his wacky outfits, and I nearly spat my drink out laughing when we met Minnie at the art course and she describes to Raj what she’s making in the pottery class! I just wasn’t expecting her to say what she did, it’s hysterical! I have to mention the crazy geese too, they were funny (and also a little bit terrifying!).

I also loved the recipes at the start of some of the chapters; the recipes always relate to food that is mentioned in the chapter. I thought it was brilliant how in amongst recipes for chocolate biscuit cake and gingerbread were recipes for making a Pot Noodle and beans on toast – this made me laugh so much. It just said so much about Eve’s ability to cook!

This is such an enjoyable novel and I highly recommend you buy it! It’s heart-warming, it’s hilarious, it’s just a perfect book to curl up with on these cold autumn/winter nights!

I rate this book 8 out of 10, it’s such an enjoyable read. This is the first novel I’ve read by Rosie Blake but I’ve already bought her previous book, How To Get A (Love) Life and hope to read it very soon.

Thank you to Corvus for very kindly sending me How To Stuff Up Christmas.

How To Stuff Up Christmas is out today and available on Amazon.

ENDED! Review & Giveaway of Out of the Darkness by Katy Hogan

out of the darkness

EDIT: The Giveaway associated with this posted has ended!

Out of the Darkness is genuinely one of the best books I’ve read in years and will absolutely be in my top 10 books of this year!

it is an incredibly moving, and very beautiful novel about three women who are each dealing with a loss; it’s a really honest look at the ways people grieve and how it affects everyone around them, but it’s also about the way people heal after loss and the novel is ultimately a very uplifting read that brings real solace with it.

Jessica is heartbroken over the death of her mum, they were best friends and life just doesn’t feel worth anything to her anymore. She sleepwalks through the things she has to do but nothing is enjoyable to her, she just can’t see a way through life without her mum. Then one evening she meets Finn and the two of them just really connect. Finn is the first person to make Jess feel like there might be something to be happy about again and she hopes he will be in touch again after they go their separate ways the following morning.

Hannah attends the same bereavement group as Jess but she is completely closed down about her loss. She is grief-stricken and it’s affecting every aspect of her life, she is consumed with guilt but just can’t bring herself to share what has happened.

Alex has just moved to Brighton, and is now living in the house next to where the bereavement group is held. Soon after moving in strange things begin happening in her home and she starts to think the place is haunted.

One day, after the bereavement group, Jess faints outside and Alex and Hannah rush to help her and make sure she is okay. From this point the three women become friends and offer a much-needed support to each other. Their lives begin to become intwined and the psychic medium they later go and see together plays a huge part in the bond they form.

This novel is an exploration of how people deal with grief. Jess and Hannah both grieve differently for their losses loved ones but ultimately they relate to each other because they have both experienced loss. The three women have such different expectations when they begin to explore mediums and experts in the paranormal. Hannah wants to know her loved one is okay, Alex wants to know if her house is haunted and what she can do to be rid of the ghosts, and Jessica doesn’t really believe in any of it. Yet they all ultimately find comfort from what they learn. I found it fascinating how the idea of ghosts and the spirits that come through for psychic mediums were explored as one and the same thing in this novel. I think most of us think of ghosts as being a spooky or malevolent entity, and yet when we think of the possibly of an afterlife for lost loved ones, it is seen as a comforting concept. Katy Hogan has brought the two together as one thing, considering the idea that perhaps ghosts can be lost loved ones trying to contact or help those left behind. It gave me a lot to ponder over.

This is also a novel that really celebrates how wonderful and strong female friendship can be. Jess and Hannah meet at a bereavement group at the lowest points of their lives, and they meet Alex right after one of these meetings. They begin to let each other in to their respective lives and they form such a close bond very quickly, and the bond is never broken. To see women support each other was really lovely. There was never a moment of jealousy or cattiness between these women, it’s quite a rare thing in a novel. It was refreshing to see how their relationship to each other is bonded by how they support and look out for each other.

I deliberately took my time with this book and I read it slowly over quite a few days as I wanted to savour it and take it all in, I’m so glad I did as it gave me chance to really absorb what I was reading each day. This novel has so much depth to it and works on so many levels, it is such brilliant writing. The friendship between Jess, Alex and Hannah is a wonderful story in itself and gives the novel a grounding in reality that then makes the exploration of mediums and the afterlife much more intense and real. I think the biggest theme in this book though is the exploration of fate and destiny. From the very start of this book it felt like these women were destined to meet, like they were being brought together for a reason. I had no idea why but it just felt that way. Even Jess meeting Finn and him making her feel like she might be able to be happy again just seemed like either fate or like something was pushing them towards each other. This again gave me so much to think about because fate can be considered as just a series of coincidences that when we look back and see how things came together it seems like it was engineered that way, or it can be seen as our lost loved ones finding ways to point us in the direction we need to go in to find happiness again.

This novel can also be read on a very metaphorical and at times allegorical way, I loved the part of the book where Alex goes out on a boat called Guiding Light. It seemed like she was almost out of her own body and seeing the world from a different angle, and at the same time like she was receiving a message about the direction of her own life. I don’t want to post any spoilers for this novel so I’m being careful in what I write but I highly recommend taking your time with this novel so you can fully appreciate how much meaning and depth there is in it.

Out of the Darkness broke my heart in the first few chapters; I could feel Jess’s devastation at the loss of her mum. I wanted to reach through the pages of the book and tell her that in time she would feel better, that she would be able to deal with it once the rawness of her initial grief began to pass. I understood her feelings about visiting The Beacon to see a paranormal expert for the first time with Alex. I’m very like Jessica in that I’ve never really believed in an afterlife but then I still have moments where I can smell my mum’s perfume all of a sudden and it’s like she’s right there in the room, and just for that moment I stop and wonder. Perhaps it’s just a memory popping up but you can’t help but feel comforted when it happens, just like how Jess does.

Katy Hogan explores grief in such a beautiful and gentle way. She has written a book that will more than likely make you cry but it will ultimately leave you feeling healed. I wish I could put into words exactly how this book made me feel when I got to the end but I can’t seem to express it, it’s just the most amazing and brilliant novel and it made me feel better. I read this as an ebook but now so badly wish I had a paper copy so I could just hold it for a little while and then put it down where I can see it. I think I need a physical reminder in my home of all that this book stands for. It doesn’t shy away from death, it doesn’t take an easy road. At times the story turns in a way you don’t expect and it leaves you quite breathless. But ultimately this book makes death feel a lot less scary, and it makes the weight of grief feel that little bit easier to bear.

Out of the Darkness is absolutely going to be my book of the year. It’s both broken my heart and healed it; it was moving and beautiful and perfect. I’d rate it a hundred out of ten if I could, but as I can’t it’s a huge ten out of ten and it’s getting a very rare place on my favourites book shelf.

Out of the Darkness: A Tale of Love, Loss and Life After Death is out now and available from Amazon.

For more information about Katy and Out of the Darkness, check out her website here: http://www.outofthedarknessnovel.com


PLEASE NOTE: The giveaway below has now ended. You can find out who the winner was here.


GIVEAWAY BANNER! copy

KATY HOGAN PRIZE GIVEAWAY

Katy Hogan has very kindly offered me this fabulous prize package so that I can run a giveaway. The giveaway is UK only this time. The prize is for one paperback copy of Out of the Darkness, a gorgeous Yankee Candle and a box of chocolates from Hotel Chocolat. 

To enter, please click HERE to be taken to the Rafflecopter page

Review: Time to Die by Caroline Mitchell

time to die

Time to Die is a real thriller of a book and the supernatural aspects of it will have you on the edge of your seat throughout! This is the second book in the series about psychic detective Jennifer Knight, but it’s the first one I’ve read and it works perfectly well as a standalone. Jennifer is working as part of Operation Moonlight, a group of officers who deal with cases that have a paranormal angle to them. They are currently working on infiltrating a particularly disrtubing cult known as The Reborners.

Whilst in the midst of that case Jennifer is called out to a suspected suicide but it soon becomes apparent that all is not quite as it seemed. Operation Moonlight begin to wonder if there could be a connection to The Reborners. The officers’ abilities are tested to the limit when they realise they have a serial killer on their hands, he is known as The Raven; he has psychic abilities of his own and can seemingly use his tarot cards to predict the deaths of everyone he reads the cards for. The more we learn about The Raven the more creepy and sinister the novel gets.

There is definitely a nod to Hitchcock throughout this novel, there are elements of Psycho and The Birds. The scene in the woods with the ravens and Jennifer is the stuff of nightmares, but even the way ravens seem to be following Jennifer or waiting for her when she comes home is incredibly creepy; it really is sinister.

I liked Jennifer, she was an interesting character and I’d like to know more about her. I found the way she and The Raven had little quirks in common made the novel fascinating, like they almost mirrored each other at times, with her on the good side and he on the evil. The Raven was always scratching at his skin and Jennifer has OCD when it comes to keeping her hands clean, they both had visions that at times seemed to be connected. I also liked that Jennifer’s past was delved into a little bit and also that we begin to see her form a relationship, it was great to see a well-rounded detective; it wasn’t just about her psychic abilities and her desire to solve the case.

The reason I haven’t read Caroline’s first novel yet, and why I put off reading this one is because I’m a total wimp, and the thought of anything supernatural or paranormal just absolutely terrifies me. I’m so glad that I was encouraged to pick this book up though because while it was the stuff of nightmares for me, I found I couldn’t put it down. It’s such a well-written novel that even though there were times I was quite literally on the edge of my seat, holding my breath with fear, I just had to keep reading. It is so good!

I rate this book 8 out of 10. This was the first book I’ve read by Caroline Mitchell but I’m definitely going to go back and read the first book in this series, and I absolutely can’t wait for the next book!

I received this book from Bookouture via Net Galley in exchange for an honest review.

Time to Die is out now and available from Amazon.


I’ve read and reviewed this as part of #BookoutureThriller week, which is running on twitter from 31 October to 6 November. See the pic below for more details and please feel free to join in.

BookoutureThriller

Review: The Little Bookshop on the Seine by Rebecca Raisin

Today is my stop on Rebecca Raisin’s The Little Bookshop on the Seine book blog tour!

Little Bookshop on the Seine

 

My review:

I knew I was going to love The Little Bookshop on the Seine as soon as I read the blurb, it just sounded magical and exactly my type of book. I’ve always adored books about books and bookshops.

Sarah runs a little bookshop in Ashford, a small town where she has always lived, and where she knows everyone and everyone knows her. She gets offered the chance to do a six-month book shop swap with her dear friend Sophie, who runs the Once Upon a Time book shop in Paris and decides to go for it.

Sarah is a total romantic, she is whimsical and a daydreamer. She adores her books and she absolutely believes in happily ever afters. She’s always wanted to go to Paris and immediately dreams about exploring the city hand-in-hand with her man, Ridge, but it doesn’t quite go as she imagines it would. She finds she has to hit the ground running when she arrives in Paris. Once Upon a Time is a very busy shop with staff that seem to come and go at will, and who offer no support to Sarah. She quickly becomes exhausted and stressed and begins to question whether she has made the right decision in coming to Paris.

Then she meets Oceane, who also works at Once Upon a Time part-time, and she takes Sarah under her wing. She helps her shop for new clothes to update her look, she encourages her to take time away from the shop and helps her to explore the real Paris and not just the tourist side of the city. Oceane introduces Sarah to Anouk, who runs an antique jewellery shop, and I loved meeting her. She is just so quirky; the idea that she picks pieces out for customers and will only sell them what she feels is right for them! Just wonderful!

I assumed this novel was going to be focused on the romance between Sarah and Ridge but actually that isn’t really the main focus at all. Their relationship doesn’t quite go as Sarah hoped while she is in Paris and the romance of the book is actually very much more between Sarah and Paris itself. She falls head over heels in love with the city as it begins to cast its magical spell on her. Sarah goes from being quite naive and gauche to slowly, with Oceane’s help, beginning to find her sense of style and to dress with a more chic Parisian look. She gradually becomes more comfortable with the language and it’s wonderful to see her confidence grow. Sarah really does find herself in Paris, she becomes bolder and stronger and it’s wonderful to see. I loved that she never stops being herself though: she doesn’t change into a different person entirely, you still see all her nervous tics but she becomes the best version of herself. It was great how the focus wasn’t what I expected, it added another dimension to the novel.

I adore the way Sarah feels about her books; her ‘book babies’ as she refers to them. The sound of a spine cracking, the way old books smell, the ‘lemony-scent’ of new books. I swear I could hear and see and smell everything that Sarah was experiencing in the book shop, the descriptions were that vivid. The sheer love of books just radiates off the page in this novel. Sarah’s face actually flushes with love at one point, like someone in the beginning of a new love affair, when she explores Once Upon a Time! I think all of us bookworms have been there on discovering a fantastic new book shop! I want to go visit Once Upon a Time, I want to sit and read in all the little rooms, I want to buy books there. This novel is a love letter to Paris, and even more so a love letter to books; it is absolutely a must-read book for book lovers.

I rated this book 10 out of 10, I absolutely loved it!


 

Little Bookshop on the Seine

Synopsis of The Little Bookshop on the Seine

La Vie En Rose

Bookshop owner Sarah Smith has been offered the opportunity to exchange bookshops with her new Parisian friend for 6 months! And saying yes is a no-brainer – after all, what kind of a romantic would turn down a trip to Paris…for Christmas?

Even if it does mean leaving the irresistible Ridge Warner behind, Sarah’s sure she’s in for the holiday of a lifetime – complete with all the books she can read!

Imagining days wandering around Shakespeare & Co, munching on croissants, sipping café au laits and watching the snow fall on the Champs-Élysées Sarah boards the plane.

But will her dream of a Parisian Happily-Ever-After come true? Or will Sarah realise that the dream of a Christmas fairytale in the city of love isn’t quite as rosy in reality…

A deliciously feel-good Christmas romance perfect for fans of Debbie Johnson and Julia Williams

he Little Paris Collection:

The Little Bookshop on the Seine

The Little Antique Shop under the Eiffel Tower

The Little Perfume Shop off the Champs-Élysées

Also by Rebecca Raisin

The Gingerbread Café trilogy:
Christmas at the Gingerbread Café
Chocolate Dreams at the Gingerbread Café
Christmas Wedding at the Gingerbread Café

The Bookshop on the Corner
Secrets at the Maple Syrup Farm

Amazon  UK http://amzn.to/1LfJJzO

Amazon US http://amzn.to/1KR2Wck

iBooks https://itunes.apple.com/au/book/little-bookshop-on-seine-little/id1022785186?mt=11

Nook http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-little-bookshop-on-the-seine-rebecca-raisin/1121263193?ean=9781474030786

Kobo https://store.kobobooks.com/en-us/ebook/the-little-bookshop-on-the-seine-the-little-paris-collection-book-1-1

Sainsbury’s

https://www.sainsburysentertainment.co.uk/ebooks/The-Little-Bookshop-On-The-Seine-The-Little-Paris-Collection-Book-1-/Rebecca-Raisin/9781474030786


 

 

About the Author

Rebecca-Raisin author pic

 

Rebecca Raisin is a bibliophile. This love of books morphed into the desire to write them. She’s been widely published in various short-story anthologies, and in fiction magazines, and is now focusing on writing romance. The only downfall about writing about gorgeous men who have brains as well as brawn is falling in love with them – just as well they’re fictional. Rebecca aims to write characters you can see yourself being friends with. People with big hearts who care about relationships, and, most importantly, believe in true, once-in-a-lifetime love.

 

Follow her on twitter @jaxandwillsmum

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/RebeccaRaisinAuthor

Website rebeccaraisin.com

My October Wrap-Up Post!

Thank You FreePiK

For my monthly wrap up this month I want start by taking the time to say a huge thank you to all of you who have ever read a post on my blog, or liked, or commented; to all of you who have share a post that I’ve written on social media; to all of you who have clicked to follow my blog. I have been blogging now since the end of August this year and never expected that anyone would read it. I started my blog because I needed a project, something fun to focus on, and a book blog seemed the perfect thing for a bookaholic like me.

I made it my aim to post something book-related every day and I think I’ve just about managed to keep to that. Mostly I write reviews but I also have my own bookish memories series, I join in with a couple of weekly memes, and I always do a weekly and monthly wrap up post as well. Since the end of August my blog has had almost 1200 visitors, over 2800 views and it has over 600 followers from various places. Last week I earned my Net Galley badge for Top Reviewer, which was a lovely surprise and a real confidence boost.

Through book blogging I have achieved something for me again, I have found something that I can do for myself and I don’t have the words to explain how big a deal that is for me right now (but trust me, it’s a huge deal!). To find that people are reading and sharing my blog posts has given me such a much-needed lift and I am so incredibly grateful.

Thank you so much!


Anyway, on with the books!

I read eighteen books in October and have reviewed seventeen of them (Please click the titles to read the reviews). The list is in the order I read them.

OCTOBER BOOKS 1 OF 3

Dying to be Slim by Abby Beverley

Six Poets: From Hardy to Larkin by Alan Bennett

The Lies We Tell by Meg Carter

Pretending to Dance by Diane Chamberlain

24 Hours by Claire Seeber

The Broken Hearts Book Club by Lynsey James

OCTOBER BOOKS 2 OF 3

The Good Neighbor by Amy Sue Nathan

13 Minutes by Sarah Pinborough

The Girl with no Past by Kathryn Croft

One Wish in Manhattan by Mandy Baggot

Christmas Wishes and Mistletoe Kisses by Jenny Hale

Get Yourself Organized for Christmas by Kathi Lipp

OCTOBER BOOKS 3 of 3

Snowflakes on Silver Cove by Holly Martin

The Record Store of the Mind by Josh Rosenthal

What We Left Behind by Robin Talley

Merry Mistletoe by Emma Davies

Written in the Scars by Mel Sherratt

The Little Bookshop on on the Seine by Rebecca Raisin (my review will be on my blog tomorrow as it’s my stop on the blog tour!)


This month’s reading has reminded my of two of the best things about being a reader and a book blogger:

(1) Discovering authors you’ve not read before and enjoying their book so much you feel compelled to buy all of their previous work right away! This month this happened to me FIVE times!! I read Mandy Baggot, Claire Seeber, Lynsey James and Emma Davies for the first time and have now bought just about all of their previous books. I also read my second Holly Martin book, which just confirmed what a fabulous writer she is and now all of her books are on my Kindle waiting to be read soon too!

(2) When an author you are a massive fan of releases a new book! Mel Sherratt’s new book, which was just released on Friday, is the fourth in her Estate series and I loved it (review here). I have read all of her previous books and they’re all completely brilliant! I bought and read Taunting the Dead back when it was self-published, and have been a huge a fan from that point on!


Which books did you read in October? Have you found any new-to-you authors? Please share with me in the comments below (and feel free to leave a link back to your own blog).

Review: Merry Mistletoe by Emma Davies

merry-mistletoe

I loved this novella, it was just the kind of gentle and heart-warming book that I want to be reading at this time of year.

Freya Sherborne runs her family mistletoe business from her childhood home, but this year is her first Christmas running it alone after the death of her beloved father. The debts are mounting up and Freya knows she’s going to have to sell up very soon.

The novella is set out as a countdown to Christmas, starting 29 days before. I loved how it was set so close to Christmas and had the build-up, it meant it really was a proper festive read and that is my favourite kind of Christmas book!

I was intrigued by Amos Fry all through this novella, he’s a great character though. He was like a cross between Mary Poppins and Father Christmas and I loved how he seemed to be magically nudging things in the right direction for Freya to find happiness again.

I loved the symbolism of the white feathers that kept appearing throughout the novella, especially the one that appeared near the robin. This novella had a lot of symbols running through it, even the mistletoe itself and it was added an extra layer to the Christmas novel that I really appreciated. Christmas is forever changed when you lose a loved one but the symbols that are around can really offer comfort. I love how Freya and her father had bought a new tree ornament every year, and that Freya decided to continue with that after losing him. The tree ornament that she was helped to find for this year was so perfect, I wanted it to be from a real shop so that I could buy one!

This is the first book I’ve read by Emma Davies but it won’t be the last, it was wonderful. I’ve already bought Letting in Light and have it waiting for me on my TBR!

I rate this novella 9 out of 10.

I received this book from Lawsome Books via Net Galley in exchange for an honest review.

Merry Mistletoe is out now and available from Amazon.

Review & Extract: Written in the Scars by Mel Sherratt

It’s publication day for Written in the Scars by Mel Sherratt! I was very lucky to be sent an advance copy of this book so I’ve already read it and I absolutely loved it. I have my review to share with you today, and also an extract from the book.

written in the scars

My review

Written in the Scars is the fourth book in The Estate series, and although it can absolutely be read as a standalone I highly recommend reading the whole series purely because it’s brilliant and you don’t want to be missing out!

Donna Harvey is a hard-working mum to two grown up children, Sam and Keera, and still spends most of her time running around after them. She also frequently checks in on her elderly mother, Mary who has dementia and is living in a care home. Her life is hard and she feels very down-trodden so when she meets Owen and he lets her know he’s interested in her she is flattered and can’t wait for life to be more exciting and fun.

Lewis Prophett has been out of the army for two years but is still suffering with anger issues and flashbacks due to undiagnosed PTSD. As a result of his unpredictable behaviour he’s had to move out of the home he shared with his wife, Amy and their son, Daniel and is now back living with his mother. I commend Mel for how she portrayed this character, she absolutely got the presentation of PTSD right and really gives readers an insight into this terrible condition. I have personal experience of PTSD and it’s not often that it gets portrayed as well as it has been in this book.

Megan is a hard-working young woman who juggles her caring and her cleaning jobs along with caring for her mum, who is suffering from Osteoarthritis. She’s a lovely girl, and very pretty; she’s always pleasant and chatty with the people she looks after. Megan is hiding her own scars though. She has hidden herself away from the life she could be living as her scar has led to a real loss of confidence and she finds it hard to make friends.

Thank goodness that Josie Mellor still works on the Mitchell Estate, I was so pleased to see her in this novel. Josie has featured in all of the Estate books so far, and I love how her recurring appearances help tie the books together. It’s like catching up with an old friend, I actually do now feel like i know her! I love how she really cares about the people on the estate, she’s always fair and gives people a chance where she can but she doesn’t suffer fools and can be tough when it’s absolutely necessary.

I think this is my favourite of the Estate books, even though I’ve loved them all. The title is brilliant and absolutely sums up the theme of the book; the scars that all of these characters have tell the story of what they have been through, or are going through still. It’s great that scars were represented in so many different ways throughout this novel and after finishing reading it I was pondering on how actually every single character in this book, even the more minor ones have been damaged in their lives yet not all these characters openly seemed damaged. It shocked me to realise this and it really does give you something to think about.

The Estate series as a whole is so good, it’s gritty but with real heart and compassion. I hope there will be many more books to come!

I’m rating Written in the Scars 10 out of 10, it’s brilliant!

Written in the Scars is published today and available from Amazon.


First scene of Written in the Scars

With a minute to spare before her shift was due to start, Donna Adams rushed into Shop&Save. She ran into the staff room at the back of the building and slipped her green overall over the top of her summer dress. Already she could feel sweat forming, although the glorious hot spell they were enjoying was supposed to break later.

‘Made it by the skin of my teeth,’ she sighed, joining her work colleague and supervisor, Sarah Hartnoll, behind the counter. ‘Bloody hell, it’s as hot in here as it is outside.’ She glanced at the clock. ‘Sorry, I would have been here earlier but I’ve had trouble with Mum not wanting me to leave. She was holding onto my arm for dear life, convinced that someone is trying to kill her again.’

Donna’s mum, Mary, had been living in a self-contained flat for a few years since Donna’s dad had died. More recently, she’d been diagnosed with dementia. After wandering off in the night, setting off the alarm to the front door, and being brought home by the police on three separate occasions, Donna had made the heart-breaking decision to move her into sheltered accommodation, where there would be someone to keep an eye on her all the time.

Sarah shook her head in sympathy. ‘Never a dull moment in your life, is there?’

‘Never.’ Donna logged into the till and then looked up at the television monitor that was split into quarter views of the area in front of them. There were a few customers but thankfully no one was after their attention, and if she wasn’t mistaken, Darren, their youngest member of staff, was stacking shelves in the far right corner.

The shop had four aisles, all covered by cameras, but it was well known amongst a certain group of people for being easy to steal from. Many a time she and Sarah had left someone to it rather than risk either a tongue-lashing or a hand raised to them. They had both learned the hard way over the years not to interfere with some customers.

‘I still feel guilty every time I go and see Mum,’ Donna added. ‘But even if I had the time, I just don’t have the energy to give her what she needs.’

‘You should get Keera to do more.’

Donna stared at Sarah, before smiling at the elderly man who was walking towards them. ‘Chance would be a fine thing with my lot,’ she replied, helping him to fill his shopping bag before handing it back.

Donna had two children. A son, Sam, who was twenty-two and nineteen-year-old Keera, who had recently returned from a short time working in Ibiza.

Sarah held up a hand. ‘I’d much prefer to hear all about the hen party on Saturday. Did you enjoy yourself or did you feel like the oldest swinger in town?’

Donna rang the money through the till. ‘You might be laughing on the other side of your face when I tell you what happened.’ She paused for dramatic effect once the customer had gone on his way. ‘I met someone.’

‘No!’

‘Yes! His name is Owen, his eyes are so sexy – and his body is mmm-mmm.’

Donna smiled even more as she thought back to Saturday night. The hen party Sarah was referring to had been for a woman that Donna used to go to school with. About a month ago, Susan Parker had popped into Shop&Save by chance as she’d been driving through the estate. They’d been really good friends at school but had lost touch when Susan had moved out of the area. Once they’d recognised each other, they had got chatting and Donna had found herself invited to the night out. She’d declined at first as she wasn’t sure she would know anyone else who was going, but Susan had mentioned a few names of women she knew, and said it would be great to catch up again.

In the week before the hen do, Donna had still had doubts about whether to go or not, but Keera persuaded her that she might have a bit of fun. And how glad she was of that now.

‘How I got his attention is beyond me,’ she continued. ‘There must have been lots of women his age that he could—’

‘Wait!’ Sarah held up a hand. ‘How old is he?’

‘Thirty-five.’ Donna dropped her eyes momentarily. ‘He’s too young.’

‘No, he isn’t.’

‘I’m forty-two.’

‘Don’t say it like it’s a disease!’ Sarah scoffed. ‘Besides, aren’t we supposed to be as young as we feel? And at least you look after yourself. Half the women on this estate walk around in their pyjamas and slippers.’

‘I suppose.’ Donna sighed loudly. ‘I’m not seeing him again, though.’

‘Oh! He didn’t want a second date?’

‘Technically that wasn’t a first, but yes, he did ask if he could take me out tomorrow night.’

‘And you said no?’ Sarah’s tone was one of incredulity.

Donna shook her head. ‘You know I don’t have time – what with looking in on Mum and getting to work and then there’s Sam, who couldn’t look after a flea without—’

‘The world won’t fall apart if Donna Adams doesn’t come to its rescue.’ Sarah folded her arms. ‘You should let that family of yours fend for themselves once in a while.’

‘Leave everyone to their own devices?’ Donna shuddered at the thought. ‘It would be carnage!’

A young woman with the brightest of red hair came towards the till, and while Sarah served her, Donna stood staring into space. If truth be told, she hadn’t thought of much else apart from Owen since Saturday evening. She could still recall the taste of him on her lips as he’d dipped his head to give her a long, lingering, goodnight kiss. A delicious shiver pulsed through her body.

‘Earth to Donna, hello!’ Sarah waved a hand in front of her face.

Donna giggled. ‘Honestly, though. It’s been such a long time since anyone’s been interested in me, I just keep thinking that maybe it was too good to be true.’

‘Will you listen to yourself? You haven’t had a good seeing to in months – just get in there and bang him one if you get the chance.’ Sarah picked up two mugs from beneath the counter. ‘I’ll make us a brew. And then I want to hear everything.’ She glared at Donna. ‘And I mean everything.’

Donna kept one eye on two teenage boys who had just walked in whilst Sarah went off to the staff room to make the tea. Sarah was just a few months older than her. Her hair fell to her shoulders, and she showed off pretty blue eyes below a blonde fringe. She wasn’t particularly overweight for her height of five foot four but she did have a tendency to wear tight clothes that emphasised, rather than complimented, her shape.

Donna wished she had curves like Sarah’s, but she was thin to the point of being scrawny. Most of the time she put it down to all the stress that came with her life, but a lot of it was to do with her erratic eating patterns and the fact that she was always on the go. Add that to the long-limbed build of a marathon runner and sadly she was never going to be as voluptuous as Sarah, no matter how much she would like to be. And, being a woman in her early forties, things had begun to sag that were beyond Donna’s control.

Still, she could dream. Owen had made her night a lot more fun than she had thought possible.

Moments later, Sarah passed a mug of tea to her.

‘I wish I’d been invited too,’ she said, wistfully. ‘You seem like you had a great time.’

Donna glanced up at the CCTV monitor again. The teens had been and gone with a couple of chocolate bars and a can of pop. There were only two customers in the shop at the moment, and they were in the middle of an argument. She turned to Sarah.

‘It was one of those perfect nights where you don’t expect anything to happen and then—’ She was interrupted by the ring of her phone, rolling her eyes when she saw who it was. ‘What’s up, Sam? Oh – but you have his phone?’ Donna looked confused as she spoke to the person on the other end. ‘Yes, I’m his mother, his next-of-kin.’ She gasped. ‘What do you mean— is he okay? He what? Oh, no. I’m on my way.’

‘What’s wrong?’ Sarah was already at Donna’s side. She touched her lightly on the arm.

Donna took a few deep breaths, trying to keep her panic at bay. ‘Sam’s had an accident involving a chainsaw.’ Her eyes glistened with tears. ‘He’s been rushed to A&E.’


The Estate by Mel Sherratt

If you want to catch up on the previous three books in The Estate series, they’re currently on offer in an Amazon Kindle boxset for £4.99. 

Review: What We Left Behind by Robin Talley

robin talley what we left behind

This novel begins so beautifully. I adore how Toni met Gretchen at the dance and how they just knew they were going to be together. I loved how it was purely about two people discovering a mutual attraction without the novel being too specific about what gender or sexual orientation they were. It was gorgeous and I couldn’t wait to read more!

However, from the point when Toni and Gretchen leave for University it felt like this novel became less of a journey of discovery for these two characters and became more of a platform to educate the reader on issues surrounding gender identity. Toni prefers to be referred to in a gender neutral way, so no he or she. The problem is that when a novel is written like this it is incredibly jarring to read; to have a person’s name repeated two or three times in a single sentence, and then repeatedly through entire paragraphs means it just doesn’t flow at all well and I found it brought me out of the story too much. I absolutely understand that Talley was putting the reader right into Toni’s place and getting us to see the world through this character’s eyes, it’s about making us see and understand how hard it is to be gender neutral and I commend the attempt, but it prevented me from getting into the book so it was problematic.

Toni very quickly becomes one dimensional. All the thoughts and conversations Toni has throughout the book just felt like like I was being lectured to, it was all very dry and there was very little emotion, which made it hard to see Toni as any more than a platform for awareness of gender identity issues. This really did feel like less of a novel and more of a statement being made. I don’t think we really learnt anything about Toni other than the gender identity struggles, and then the struggles seemed to be explained over and over again without any progression. I know the issues in this book are incredibly important but a novel still needs to maintain a level of entertainment and to evoke feelings in the reader, and the characters still need to be fleshed out otherwise it stops the reader making any kind of connection with the book. For me, it doesn’t matter what a character in a book is experiencing, it doesn’t have to be something I have any experience of but the character has to be three dimensional otherwise it just becomes words on a page; to get really engrossed in a novel the characters have to become real to a reader.

I did find more to connect with in Gretchen due to her character being a little more rounded. We see more of Gretchen relating to her new friends about a range of things, which gives her an added dimension that Toni’s character never really has. The beginning of the book when Toni and Gretchen first meet, and the point when they finally figure out their relationship are about the only times in the novel when there was a lot of emotion and feelings and therefore more depth to Toni’s character, which made Toni, just for that brief time, seem real. I really wish we’d seen much more of this emotional side of Toni throughout the rest of the novel, it would have made the character feel like a person rather than a mouthpiece through which a point could be made.

I can appreciate what the author was trying to do in this novel but for me it just doesn’t achieve what it seems it meant to achieve.

I received a copy of this book from Mira Ink via Net Galley in exchange for an honest review.

What We Left Behind is out now and available on Amazon.

Review: The Record Store of the Mind by Josh Rosenthal

record store of the mind

I’m a child of the 80s so I grew up listening to my mum’s records but by the time I was old enough to buy music of my own vinyl was rapidly disappearing to be replaced by cassette tapes, and actually not long after that CDs began to appear in the shops. I still have such nostalgia for my mum’s records though. So when my husband started talking about getting a new sound system, it was a no brainer that we’d look for a turntable. Now we’re slowly building up quite a collection of records, and everywhere we go we keep an eye out for record stores. I love reading about record stores too so when I spotted The Record Store of the Mind on Net Galley recently, I simply had to request it!

In the introduction, Rosenthal immediately evokes the feeling of being in a record store and the feeling you get when you inspire someone else to look through the crates of records. It’s a joy to read about how he took his children around record stores and flea markets looking for a gem.

It’s also a wonderful thing to read about how many record stores are still going strong in America. There is a revival happening in the UK and it’s a great thing to see; new independent record stores are beginning to appear on the high streets once more and even the chain retailers are putting in vinyl sections once again. It makes your heart sing and one can only hope that vinyl sales continue to grow!

Rosenthal then takes the reader, chapter by chapter, through his journey in music. He shares stories of musicians he’s met and worked with, and records he’s bought and loved. He brings to our attention a mix of well-known musicians and some you many not know so much about. I’ll be honest and admit that I hadn’t heard of many of the musicians in this book but I very much enjoyed discovering them and will be seeking out some of their music next time I’m in a record store. The sheer joy and passion that Rosenthal has for music and for the musicians he has known just radiates from the page, which makes this book such an engaging read.

In amongst the chapters devoted to musicians themselves there are chapters that have a wider subject matters such as one about gigs, one devoted to the period between 1989-1997. These chapters were perhaps a little more of interest as I felt my own knowledge and reference points  helped my understanding and enjoyment. Nevertheless, the book as a whole is a joy to read and has definitely widened my interest in music even further.

This book is a reflection of thirty years of work in the music industry. This year Rosenthal celebrated the tenth anniversary of his own label Tompkins Square. His book is partly a memoir and partly a critical look over the music industry. It’s also part love letter to his own treasured collection of records, as throughout the book he often refers back to his own private collection. It was heartbreaking to read of how he lost part of his record collection and music memorabilia in hurricane Sandy.

I loved the Of Musical Interest chapter, and the Listen Up list and the Tompkins Square Discography at the end of this book, I’m definitely going to be looking out for some of the records referred to in this book. I’m always interested to try new music and find new singers and bands to listen to. This is a book that can be used as a wonderful reference after you’ve read it, I know it’s one that I will come back to again and again.

This is a book for anyone who loves, or has ever loved, listening to music on vinyl. I rated it 8 out of 10 and highly recommend it.

I received this book from Tompkins Square Books via Net Galley in exchange for an honest review.

The Record Store of the Mind is out today and available from Amazon!

Review and INT Giveaway: Snowflakes on Silver Cove by Holly Martin

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Today, as part of BookoutureChristmas, I have a review of Holly Martin‘s second Christmas book of the season Snowflakes on Silver Cove.  Keep reading to the end of this post as I have another giveaway running today, this time you have the chance to win an ecopy of Snowflakes on Silver Cove!

snowflakes at silver cove

Snowflakes on Silver Cove is the second novel in Holly’s White Cliff Bay series. I read and reviewed the first book in this series, Christmas at Lilac Cottage a while ago and completely fell in love with the setting and the characters so the chance to go back there was irresistible! Snowflakes on Silver Cove is set in the same town and along the same time frame as the first book but it focuses on different characters (although you may spot some characters you recognise popping up along the way!).

Libby is a romance writer who never lives anywhere for longer then six months, George is her unlucky-in-love neighbour and they are the best of friends. So, when Libby suffers from a major case of writer’s block and needs romance in her life in order to be able to get into her characters’ heads, and George needs to build the confidence to ask their gorgeous new neighbour, Giselle, out on a date they decide they will date each other… but only for research purposes!

What follows is a series of dates that are Christmassy and full of romance but which then lead to misunderstandings galore between these two people who can’t quite admit what they’re beginning to feel for each other.

The way George and Libby’s relationship builds is brilliant, I loved every minute of it. At times I wanted to somehow climb into the book so I could yell at them both for missing what was staring them in the face, I so badly wanted them to get together. Libby and George are made for each other! It may take a good while for George and Libby to admit how they truly feel, but throughout the novel the love and care and adoration they each feel for the other just radiates off the page; it’s so beautiful to read and leaves you with such a warm, fuzzy feeling!

I loved that Libby and George had such a strong connection and how they could eventually laugh at everything that befell them every time they almost got together. I firmly believe that being able to laugh with your partner at everything life throws at you is the key to a long and happy relationship so I have high hopes for George and Libby!

Alongside this storyline, there is another budding romance between Libby’s other best friend Amy, and Seb. Poor Seb lost his wife five years earlier and since then he has honoured a promise he made to his mother-in-law, just after his wife died, that he will never fall in love ever again. Seb is ready to move on now though and is struggling to fight his intense attraction to feisty barmaid, Amy. The attraction is mutual but Amy wants a relationship that they can tell people about so they have to somehow win over Seb’s mother-in-law!

Amy is one of my favourite characters in this book, the things that happened to her were some of the funniest situations I’ve read in a novel in a really long time. I thought the purple hair dye storyline was funny but then came the costume she had to wear to raise money for a testicular cancer charity. Every single thing that happened to her while she was in that costume was utterly hilarious! I know I’m being a bit vague here but I really don’t want to spoil it for readers. Trust me though, it’s hysterical! I’m currently recovering from major surgery and almost did myself an injury from laughing so hard!

This is a very funny and highly entertaining novel that will have you laughing out loud from the very first page! It’s also full of Christmas romance and just so gorgeous – you will not be able to put this book down! I rated it 9 out of 10 and highly recommend it.

I received this book from Bookouture via Net Galley in exchange for an honest review.

Snowflakes on Silver Cove is due to be published on 30th October and can be pre-ordered from Amazon now!


Blurb copy

Come and spend a picture perfect romantic Christmas at White Cliff Bay

Libby Joseph is famous for her romantic Christmas stories. Every December, readers devour her books of falling in love against the magical backdrop of the Christmas season. If only Libby believed in the magic herself…

Struggling to finish her current novel, Libby turns to her best friend and neighbour George Donaldson to cheer her up. But George also needs a bit of support himself. Nervous about getting back into the dating saddle after splitting from his wife, he and Libby strike a deal. She will teach George how to win over the ladies, and Libby will in turn be inspired to inject her novel with a good dose of romance.

As Libby and George explore the beautiful White Cliff Bay on a series of romantic Christmas-themed dates, Libby finds herself having more fun than she’s had in ages and…discovers feelings that she never knew she had for George.

But is it too late? Will George win someone else’s heart or can Libby act like the heroine in one of her stories and reach for her own love under the mistletoe this Christmas?
Snuggle up with a piece of Christmas cake and mulled wine, and spend the festive season at White Cliff Bay.

Snowflakes on Silver Cove is out on 30th October and can be pre-ordered from Amazon now!


Author Bio copy

Holly_Martin_author

Holly Martin

Holly emerged onto the Chick Lit scene by winning the Belinda Jones Travel Club short story competition – and has not looked back since.

Her adult fiction debut, The Guestbook, hit number 5 in the Amazon chart and she has now written three books with Bookouture: Fairytale Beginnings, Christmas at Lilac Cottage and Snowflakes at Silver Cove.

www.hollymartinwriter.wordpress.com


The Giveaway below is now over, please check this post to find out the winner:

Bookouture Christmas Winner Announcement!


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Bookouture have very kindly allowed me to run an international giveaway for one lucky winner to win an e-copy of this fabulous book. Please enter here and good luck! I am running giveaways for the four other books that I’ve featured on my blog over Bookouture Christmas week so please check those out as there is still time to enter!

Please click on this link to Rafflecopter to go enter my giveaway for Snowflakes on Silver Cove!

Over the course of Bookouture Christmas week I’ll be posting reviews, Q&As, guest posts, extracts and giveaways all to do with these fabulous books! Click here to find handy links to all my previous Bookouture Christmas posts and giveaways!

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Review & INT Giveaway: Christmas Wishes and Mistletoe Kisses by Jenny Hale

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On my blog today, as part of Bookouture Christmas, I have a review of Jenny Hale‘s wonderful Christmas Wishes and Mistletoe Kisses. Keep reading to the end of this post as I have a giveaway of an ecopy of this book up for grabs!

Christmas wishes and mistletoe kisses

Christmas Wishes and Mistletoe Kisses is a wonderful Cinderella story about Abbey and Nick.

Abbey is a single mum to six year old Max; she works as a nurse to Caroline but dreams of having her own interior design business. After she re-decorates Caroline’s home she is offered the chance to re-decorate and furnish Caroline’s Grandson’s mansion.

Nick is Caroline’s Grandson. He lives alone in his mansion and has done ever since he and his wife divorced. He puts all his time and energy into running the family business that his father left to him.

Abbey and Nick get to know more about each other as Abbey is re-designs the interior of his house and she begins to get under his skin. He feels a need to look out for her and make sure that she is ok. After Nick meets Max he begins to form a bond with the boy despite saying that he never wants children of his own.

This novel has all the elements you could possibly want in a Christmas novel: It has romance, it has snow, it has a storyline that will tug at your heartstrings. I loved seeing how Abbey and Nick’s relationship developed, it was lovely how it wasn’t all one-sided. Nick lavished gifts on Abbey but actually what she gives him is so much more important. She teaches him about the value of making time to be with loved ones and about following his dreams. It’s a wonderful reminder of what Christmas is really about.

One of my favourite moments in the novel was when Nick took Abbey and Max to meet the real Santa, it just made me melt and reminded me of those wonderful visits that I was taken on as a child to see Santa. It gave me goosebumps when Santa’s feet appeared down the chimney and reminded of the magical set up at the place where my mum used to take me.

This is the first book I’ve read by Jenny Hale but I’m absolutely certain that it won’t be the last, I’m now very much looking forward to reading her other novels.

I rated this book 9 out of 10 and recommend it to everyone who loves a cute, romantic and magical novel to read at Christmas.

I received this book from Bookouture via Net Galley in exchange for an honest review.

Christmas Wishes and Mistletoe Kisses is out now and available from Amazon.


Blurb copy

An uplifting, beautiful story about never letting go of your dreams, the special magic of a family Christmas… and the rush of falling in love under the mistletoe.

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?


Author Bio copy

Jenny-Hale-Contemporary-Romance-author

Jenny Hale

When she graduated college, one of Jenny’s friends said “Look out for this one; she’s going to be an author one day”. Despite being an avid reader and a natural storyteller, it wasn’t until that very moment that the idea of writing novels occurred to her.

Sometimes our friends can see the things that we can’t. Whilst she didn’t start straight away, that comment sowed a seed and several years, two children and hundreds of thousands of words later, Jenny finished her first novel – Coming Home for Christmas – which became an instant bestseller.

www.itsjennyhale.com


XMAS BC GIVEAWAY copy

Bookouture have very kindly allowed me to run an international giveaway for one lucky winner to win an e-copy of this fabulous book. Please enter here and good luck! I will be running more giveaways throughout Bookouture Christmas week so please stop by each day for your chance to win!

Please click on this link to Rafflecopter to go enter my giveaway!

Over the course of Bookouture Christmas week I’ll be posting reviews, Q&As, guest posts, extracts and giveaways all to do with these fabulous books!

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Review & Int Giveaway: One Wish in Manhattan by Mandy Baggot

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Today I have a review of Mandy Baggot‘s fabulous One Wish in Manhattan as part of Bookouture Christmas! Don’t forget to read the whole post as there is a chance for you to win an e-copy of this book!

One Wish in Manhattan

I knew I was going to love this book from the very first page, it just drew me straight in and never let me go. It was completely and utterly wonderful!

Hayley and her daughter Angel go to New York, supposedly on holiday but Hayley really intends to try and find Angel’s father. They stay with Hayley’s brother Dean. On their first night in New York Hayley meets a very attractive stranger and life becomes a lot more fun, and a lot more complicated.

I loved Hayley and Angel’s relationship, the bond between them and the way they were with each other felt so realistic and lovely. They seemed like real people to me from the very beginning and I was quite sad when I finished the book and had to leave them behind. I miss them already!

I couldn’t help but see parallels between this book and one of my favourite classic Christmas books – A Christmas Carol. Oliver is a hard-nosed business man, he’s self-centred and doesn’t like form to form relationships with women. In his work environment he doesn’t know the name of many of his colleagues and it becomes apparent that a lot of his staff are quite wary around him. Clara, his assistant, is a great character, she’s strong-willed and says what she thinks to Oliver. She’s the Jacob Marley character, except she does make her feelings clear and isn’t fearful of her boss. Having said that, Clara’s home life could be considered a teeny bit like the Jacob’s.

Oliver’s father and brother have recently died and he believes that he is about to die of the same heart defect that kills them. Each time he has a collapse and the closer he gets to Hayley the more he begins to thaw. She is like the ghost of Christmas present, showing him what he could have if he just lets her into his life. HIs father and brother are ghosts of Christmas past, and his belief that he will die soon and alone is his potential future because it is in danger of becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy if he doesn’t slow down a bit at work. Hayley and Angel show Oliver that life can be completely different if he just relaxes the tight reins a little bit. The way Oliver’s character develops throughout the novel is rather Scrooge-like!

This book is not a re-telling of A Christmas Carol but the parallels between the two books made my enjoyment factor even higher, and now this brand new book has won me over and will take its place beside an old favourite in Christmases to come, and what can be better than that for a book lover? All of this combined with One Wish in Manhattan being about Christmas in New York, which is one of those experiences that always seems magical and beautiful, make this book sheer perfection!

Christmas is a part of this novel from beginning to end and I adored that. I loved how, from the minute they arrived in New York Hayley and Angel kept stopping and saying how whatever they were doing was another reason why Christmas is better there. It kept the Christmas spirit all the way through!

I rated this book 10 out of 10 and highly recommend that this book makes your Christmas reads list this year!

One Wish in Manhattan is out now and available from Amazon.


Blurb copy

Christmas: 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 … to start over.

With her daughter Angel, Hayley is ready for adventure. But there’s more to New York than twinkly lights and breathtaking skyscrapers. Angel has her own Christmas wish – to find her real dad.

While Hayley tries to fulfil 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.

Can Hayley dare to think her own dreams might come true – could A New York Christmas turn into a New York Forever?

Travel to the Big Apple this Christmas and join Hayley and Oliver as they realise life isn’t just about filling the minutes … it’s about making every moment count.


Author Bio copy

Mandy-Baggot-author

Mandy Baggot 

Mandy Baggot is an award-winning author of romantic women’s fiction and a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association. A contributor to writing blogs and short story anthologies, she is also a regular speaker at literary festivals, events and women’s networking groups.

Mandy loves mashed potato, white wine, country music, Corfu and handbags. She has appeared on ITV1’s Who Dares Sings and auditioned for The X-Factor and lives in Wiltshire, UK with her husband, two children and cats Kravitz and Springsteen.

www.mandybaggot.com


XMAS BC GIVEAWAY copy

Bookouture have very kindly allowed me to run an international giveaway for one lucky winner to win an e-copy of this fabulous book. Please enter here and good luck! I will be running more giveaways throughout Bookouture Christmas week so please stop by each day for your chance to win!

Please click on this link to Rafflecopter to enter for your chance to win!

Over the course of Bookouture Christmas week I’ll be posting reviews, Q&As, guest posts, extracts and giveaways all to do with these fabulous books!

BC BOOKS BANNER (MINE) copy

Review: Get Yourself Organized For Christmas by Kathi Lipp

Get Yourself Organized For Christmas

I couldn’t resist requesting this book when I spotted it on Net Galley recently because I’ve previously read Kathi Lipp’s book Clutter Free and her ideas really have helped me have a much more organised (and streamlined!) home.

This is a guide to getting organised for Christmas and it’s really useful. In short, easy to follow chapters Kathi explains how to be much more organised in the run up to Christmas. Each chapter is dedicated to a different element of Christmas planning and everything is broken down into easy to manage tasks. The idea being that the planning is started early so that there is no last minute rushing to cause stress as Christmas gets closer.

Get Yourself Organised for Christmas contains chapters on a variety of Christmas tasks. It may be that not all the tasks are relevant to how you spend the holidays but the book is set out in such a way that you can mark the chapters that will be helpful to you and then focus on those. My favourite chapter, and one I will frequently refer back to, was about making a Christmas binder that I can then amend each year but will basically contain all of my lists, recipes, gift ideas etc all in one place. It’s such a simple idea yet one I’d never come up with myself.

Kathi encourages working out what the most important aspects of Christmas are to you, and your family, and then to just focus on those. She also encourages sharing tasks so that one person isn’t stressed out doing everything, and if you’re someone (like me) who isn’t good at accepting offers of help when you’re stressed, Kathi has suggestions for how to deal with this which are practical and helpful.

It’s lovely that the book includes a reminder to plan all the things that you love to do in the build up to Christmas but often run out of time for – like driving around the local area to see all the Christmas lights or making time to go into the town centre to drink a hot chocolate while mooching around soaking up the Christmas atmosphere. I always want to do this but usually remember when it’s too late so it’s good to have a reminder that these kind of things should be scheduled in if they’re important to you and your loved ones.

Kathi’s emphasis on prioritising the people who are most important really struck a chord with me and has actually helped me finally make the decision not to send any Christmas cards this year.

Kathi offers suggestions throughout this book on how to make every aspect of planning Christmas easier and much less stressful. This book just really makes you feel like you’re in good hands, that you are capable of having the relaxing, fun Christmas you’ve always dreamt about.

I rate this book 7 out of 10 and recommend it to anyone who finds getting organised for Christmas difficult or stressful.

I received a copy of this book from Harvest House Publishers via Net Galley in exchange for an honest review.

Get Yourself Organized for Christmas is out now and available from Amazon.

Review: 13 Minutes by Sarah Pinborough

13 mins

Wow, what a stunning book! I finished this book a little while ago and just had to sit quietly for a while to catch my breath and gather my thoughts.

Tasha is pulled from the icy cold river; she has been dead for thirteen minutes. The medics manage to revive her but she is left with no memory of what happened, or how she ended up in the river. Her two best friends Hayley and Jenny rush to be by her side to support her, along with her childhood friend Becca.

This is a brilliantly constructed YA psychological thriller. Sarah Pinborough absolutely nails the tension, jealousy and rivalry that goes on between female friendships, and the added intensity within the cliques that teenage girls often form. The drama that unfolds between these girls is extreme but it stays rooted within the realm of possibliity: It is absolutely plausible that this could happen in reality and that’s what makes it so chilling to read. I found it near impossible to put this book down. The underlying hatred that lies underneath seemingly close relationships is tangible in this novel; it was such a tense read that at times I actually had to remind myself to breathe.

This is one of the best psychological thrillers I have read in a very long time. It builds and builds, constantly heightening the tension; there are twists and turns within the story that quite often seem small but some are building to something bigger and others are leading you in the wrong direction. You’re never quite sure who to trust, it’s a deeply unsettling read. Sarah Pinborough is a master of this type of book.

13 Minutes is an outstanding novel, one you absolutely shouldn’t miss! I can already say for sure that this will be in my top reads of this year, if not the very top. I cannot recommend it highly enough – go pre-order it now, you won’t regret it!

I rate this book 10 out of 10 – I’d give it 100 out of 10 if I could!

I received this book from Orion Publishing Group / Gollancz via Net Galley in exchange for an honest review.

13 minutes is due to be published on 18th February 2016 and is available for pre-order now on Amazon.

Review: The Girl With No Past by Kathryn Croft

the girl with no past

The Girl With No Past is the story of Leah, a thirty year old single woman who lives a very sparse and solitary existence; she has no friends, she doesn’t see much of her mum, she has no possessions apart from her books. She has no past. Leah has a job in a library and is making enough money to stay in her tiny, dingy flat but she is getting by not living. Then one day she receives a card on the fourteenth anniversary of the terrible thing that happened and her life begins to unravel.

The novel is told mainly in the present, with some chapters going back to the past. It’s a novel about how the feelings teenagers have can become so magnified that they believe they are justified in doing whatever want. It’s about how falling in love for the first time can make someone blind to the nastiness a person is demonstrating. It’s about how you can’t run from your past mistakes and how karma will always get you in the end.

I really enjoyed this book, I started it yesterday evening and ended up being very late to bed as I couldn’t stop reading. It’s quite a fast-paced book and every chapter moved the story on so that there was never a place that felt right to stop reading – it was brilliant!

I couldn’t make up my mind how I felt about Leah; sometimes I quite liked her and could see she was a nice girl who was just easily led. I felt sorry for teenage Leah and how besotted she was with Adam; she would have done anything to make him happy and that was her downfall. I could never quite relax into liking her in the present day though because I was constantly on edge wondering what she had done in her past. I did swing from having sympathy for her to then wanting to shout at her to wake up to what was going on; the only thing I really liked about her was her love of books! It’s quite refreshing sometimes to read novels where I don’t fully warm to the main character, it can make for a more interesting read and that was certainly the case here. I wanted to see if she ever redeemed herself, it kept me completely hooked!

I was very shocked when it was revealed what had happened all those years ago, I wasn’t expecting it to be what it was and it was horrible to read. It was cleverly written though because I absolutely believed that although I knew Leah was a nice girl, the build up had been there for her to follow her boyfriend into anything.

The ending of the book didn’t come as a complete shock to me, I’d began to suspect that this might have been what happened but it was still incredibly disturbing to read it. It made me go cold! Once I’d turned the final page I had to just sit quietly for a while to mull it all over, it left my head spinning and I love when a book leaves me feeling like that.

I highly recommend this book; it’s a fast-paced thriller that will keep you reading until the small hours of the morning! I rate it 9 out of 10.

The Girl With No Past is out today and is available from Amazon.

I received this novel from Bookouture via Net Galley in exchange for an honest review.

Review: The Good Neighbor by Amy Sue Nathan

The Good Neighbor

Izzy Lane has been having a rough time of it. She is a divorced mum of one, who has recently had to move back to her childhood home with her 5 year old son, Noah. She has had a hard time adjusting to all of the changes in her life but she her good friends Rachel and Jade, and her elderly neighbour Mrs Feldman are always looking out for her and gradually she’s began to find her feet and settle down. Until her ex shows up one day with his new girlfriend in tow and Izzy finds herself letting slip about her new boyfriend, Mac.

Izzy runs a very popular blog where she talks about life after divorce and what it’s like to date again, she enjoys sharing about her wonderful new man. The only problem is, she made him up! Before she gets a chance to admit to her real life friends that what they’ve read on her blog isn’t entirely truthful, one of them offers her a brilliant job opportunity to be the resident dating expert on a very successful website. Izzy can never find quite the right moment to confess, and it all continues to get more complicated as her friends want to meet him, and then she catches the eye of a real life man!

The wonderful Mrs Feldman from next door steps in and give sage advice to Izzy to just confess to her friends but Izzy just can’t bring herself to do it. But then a mysterious commenter starts posting on her blog asking awkward questions about Mac and it all begins to feel too much.

I loved how Izzy wasn’t a bitter ex wife, she was just trying to find ways to move on and to find her new normal in this life that she hadn’t planned for. She wanted the best for her son, and even though she didn’t want her ex husband in her life, she very much wanted him in her son’s life on a regular basis. I was glad Izzy was like this as it meant she remained likeable even when she invented a new boyfriend. Izzy’s made-up man came about more from loneliness during the times when Noah was in bed or with his dad, rather than from any malice.

I really liked Izzy all through this novel and I couldn’t help but feel for her. She got herself in a huge mess over what was originally just a little fib to make herself feel better. I didn’t blame her at all for telling the fib, she was feeling down on herself and she mentioned Mac before she’d really thought about any implications – it wasn’t a long thought out deception. The problem for Izzy is that it spread into her real life and she just couldn’t bring herself to admit it to her friends who were so happy that she was apparently dating again. I was wiling Izzy on to just tell them though because once she stopped being truthful with her real life friends the little fib became a big lie, and a big lie is hard for anyone to forgive. I started to worry for Izzy, knowing that she was putting everything she had at risk in order to keep her story going, and I hoped she would redeem herself in the end.

My favourite character was Mrs Feldman. She just exuded warmth with a bit of sass that I love to see in older people. Her own secret was heartbreaking, and the way her family treated her made me so sad at times but I love how Mrs Feldman adapted and made things better for herself in the end. I adored the relationship that she had with Izzy, it was a really lovely and special friendship where they each took care of the other in their own ways. I wish I had a Mrs Feldman in my life!

I’m going to miss the characters in this book, the crappy ex husband aside that is! Amy Sue Nathan has written a book with such well thought-out characters that they really did seem like real people to me and most of them were so warm and genuine and I felt like they were people I actually know. I’m going to miss them.

This book wasn’t quite what I was expecting it to be but I very much enjoyed it and I’d highly recommend it. I rate this book 9 out of 10.

I received this book from St. Martin’s Press via Net Galley in exchange for an honest review.

The Good Neighbor is out today and available now from Amazon.

Review: The Broken Hearts Book Club by Lynsey James

Broken Heart Book Club

I love books about book clubs so I couldn’t resist the chance to read The Broken Hearts Book Club!

Lucy grew up in the idyllic Luna Bay but something happened eight years ago which caused her to run away and she has never been back. She has managed to avoid all reasons to return but when her beloved Nana dies Lucy finally returns to her childhood home for the funeral. It is her intention to make this a quick visit but when her Nana’s Will is read and Lucy finds out she has been left her gorgeous Rose Cottage and her broken hearts book club, Lucy feels compelled to stick around for a while. After meeting the lovely, and very attractive new pub owner, Jake, Lucy suddenly finds even more reasons to stay in Luna Bay!

There is a mystery that runs through this book about why Lucy ran away all those years ago. Lucy refers to it many times but can never bring herself to tell anyone what she did. I’ll be honest there were a few times when I wanted to grab Lucy and just make her open up about it but it was true to her character that she was forever skirting around it – this is the girl who ran away for eight years rather than stay and face it after all. I felt sorry for her especially as some of the people in Luna Bay who were there eight years ago still made Lucy feel bad, even after so much time had passed.

Lucy is such a lovely character, her heart is in the right place and she just wants to make things right with those she’s done wrong by, and she wants to help make better the lives of the broken hearted in the book club. I love how she can’t always control her impulse to sing if she reads, or hears someone say a song lyric. I burst out laughing reading the very first page with the Joni Mitchell song incident! It’s the sort of thing that could happen to any of us and that’s what makes her so endearing.

I loved the setting of the book too; Luna Bay just felt like a real place and I’d really like to go there! I could picture the cottage, the pub, the cafe and the gorgeous sea front as I was reading.

I adored the book club! I love the idea of a book club for broken-hearted people especially the way it was for people who had suffered any kind of loss, all the members supported each other and no loss was made to feel less than any other. I enjoyed reading about the books they were reading too and hearing their thoughts on them. I’ve already read all of the book club reads apart from The Rosie Project and they’ve convinced me to give it a try!

The Broken Hearts Book Club is perfect for these colder, darker nights – it’s like a big warm comfort blanket in book form! It’s a feel-good read with a bit of depth to it. I rate this book 9 out of 10 and highly recommend it. This was the first book I’ve read by Lynsey James and I enjoyed it so much that I’ve already bought her debut novel Just the Way You Are and hope to read it very soon.

The Broken Hearts Book Club is published today and available on Amazon now!

I received this book from Carina UK via Net Galley in exchange for an honest review.

Review: 24 Hours by Claire Seeber

24 hours

24 Hours should really come with a warning about just how addictive it is! I started reading it this morning thinking I’d just read a couple of chapters while I drank my coffee and I ended up so engrossed that the next thing I knew I’d finished the book and it was lunch time! This is such a brilliant thriller; it’s impossible to stop once you start reading!

24 Hours is the story of Laurie Smith; she has been caught up in a fire in a hotel and believes her best friend is dead and that her daughter may well be in grave danger. She is now in a race against time to find her.

The novel is told in alternating chapters – one from the past that gradually leads up to the present day, and one from each of the 24 Hours that Laurie is frantically searching for her daughter, Polly. It’s so well written because you’d think that the chapters told over the 24 Hours would be the most intense but the chapters set leading up to this day become increasingly more unsettling and there reaches point where there is such tension in every chapter that you almost can’t breathe.

Each of the 24 Hours is brilliantly plotted, you can almost feel Laurie’s increasing tiredness and exhaustion as the hours draw on and the way she starts to question herself and what she thinks she knows because she is almost delirious with fatigue, it begins to feel like you’re in it with her and you’re as unsure as she is. It’s such good writing.

I rate this book 10 out of 10 and highly recommend it. I read a lot of psychological thrillers and this one just felt so refreshingly different to a lot of others that I’ve read of late. Go buy this, you won’t regret it!

24 Hours is published today and is available from Amazon.

I received this book from Bookouture via Net Galley in exchange for an honest review.

Review: Pretending to Dance by Diane Chamberlain

 

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Pretending to Dance is a moving novel about the damage that secrets can do. Molly is happily married to Aidan, they have a good life together but something is missing. Molly can’t have children so they are going through the process of adopting a baby, it’s something they both want but Aidan is throwing himself into the process and Molly is much more reserved and nervous. She doesn’t want to risk anyone to find out about the secrets she is keeping.

The novel then goes back to 1990 when Molly was 14. She was growing up in a tight knit family, with her extended family all living close by. Molly was a typical teenage girl, obsessed with New Kids on the Block and Jonny Depp. She was a very naive girl, having lived a sheltered life, but on meeting a new friend, Stacie, her eyes soon become open to new things, particularly boys, and her focus in life begins to change.

Molly had a very close bond with her dad, Graham, she idolised him and she helped him in his work as a pretend therapist. He was suffering from MS and Molly did everything she could to help him and to make his life happier, it’s a wonderful relationship to read about. Molly was unable to see, or perhaps didn’t want to face, the fact that her dad’s health was deteriorating. So when he died it seemed very sudden and seemed out of nowhere to her. She was utterly distraught and began to question everything she thought she knew about her family, which eventually led to her leaving them behind and starting a new life but the secrets she carries are still haunting her.

I absolutely loved this book, it is Diane Chamberlain at her best. The novel is part mystery, part coming of age, part family and domestic drama; it’s got a bit of everything and it’s brilliant, I found it near impossible to put it down.

The opening of this book hooks you in immediately when you hear Molly tell how she is not only a liar but a good liar. Straight away you want to know more about her. Is she a pathological liar? Can we trust anything she says? Or is she lying to protect someone? So many questions and you feel compelled to keep reading. Molly is actually very good at keeping secrets much more than she is a liar but there is a fine line between the two – when does a secret become a lie? This is a question I kept asking myself all through this novel because I never really saw Molly as a liar, just someone burdened with a difficult secret but because she never shared her secret, it becomes a lie of omission and she really struggled with that. The idea of whether a secret is a lie, or can become a lie runs through this book and really gives you pause for thought.

The storyline focuses a lot on Molly’s dad Graham’s MS and this was so well written. I found it very difficult to read for personal reasons but you know a story is done well when it really gets to you like that. There was clearly a lot of research done into the disease and nothing is shied away from. It was apparent to everyone, including the reader, that Graham was deteriorating but the family colluded in shielding it from Molly, which in the end leaves her feeling very left out and lost. I felt increasingly more sympathetic for everyone in this family, no one had an easy time of it. Molly’s father was trying to keep going as long as he could but was obviously suffering. Molly’s mother was still very much in love with her husband but knew she was going to have to let go very soon, and this meant she became very focused on him which left Molly feeling unloved. Molly was just a normal teenage girl who wanted everyone to be okay, she didn’t have enough life experience to know that loving someone isn’t enough to keep them alive when they’ve had enough of suffering. It made me so sad that Molly and her mother couldn’t find a way to communicate, there were so many missed chances when they could have talked and formed a better bond together. It’s so true to life though that sometimes a misunderstanding, and the keeping of secrets drives such a wedge between people that it seems like it will never be able to be mended.

I was fascinated by Graham’s job as a pretend therapist, I love how it was woven through the book along with Amalia’s interpretative dancing sessions with Molly; it all revolved around the idea of finding out who you are and if you’re not the person you want to be then pretend for a while and eventually you’ll become that person. I don’t know if pretend therapy is a real therapy or even based on a real therapy, but the idea of it seems quite wonderful. I’m going to take the idea of pretending to dance and remind myself of it on the bad days, it really is a great lesson for us all.

I rated this book 10 out of 10 and can’t recommend it highly enough. It’s a compelling read that has something for everyone, it’s a book not to be missed!

Thank you to St. Martins Press via Net Galley for sending me this book in exchange for an honest review.

This book is published today in paperback and is available on Amazon.

Review: The Lies We Tell by Meg Carter

the lies we tell

I can never resist a new psychological thriller so this caught my eye immediately! The premise of the book is very intriguing; two teenage girls, Jude and Kat, become best friends as teenagers and then one day, on a school trip, something happens and Kat never saw Jude again. Until, that is, twenty years later when Jude suddenly gets in touch, and her reappearance coincides with a series of increasingly strange and unsettling things that start happening to Kat and the people closest to her.

This was a very good debut novel; it had quite a few twists and turns, and moments that were very unsettling and made me feel on edge, which all good thrillers should do. I did work out quite early on who was involved with the mystery in the  present day but I was left gobsmacked by one of the twists, which totally made up for me working out the other elements.

The parts of the story set when Kat and Jude were teenagers was the most unsettling part of the book for me. There was just a real sense of something sinister lurking beneath their friendship; the tension hanging between them was radiating off the page and making me feel like I couldn’t breathe at times. There is often an unspoken rivalry between teenage friendships and Meg Carter got this perfect and heightened it further. The scenes set on the heath were really creepy, and it was written in such a great way that I couldn’t work out what had happened that day or how it had led up to the present day. It was so good!

I rate this book 8 out of 10.

The Lies We Tell is out now and available from Amazon.

I received this book from Canelo via Net Galley in exchange for an honest review.

Review: Six Poets: From Hardy to Larkin by Alan Bennett

six poets

Six Poets: From Hardy to Larkin is a wonderful anthology of poetry; it’s a book that I know I will go back to time and time again. I was already a fan of Philip Larkin but I knew only little of the other five poets so it was a chance to learn more. Alan Bennett’s voice comes through as you read this anthology, his wonderful personality and enthusiasm run right through the book. It was fascinating to learn in the introduction that Bennett used to feel that ‘literature was a club of which I would never be a proper member’ and that there are still poets that he has never managed to read, and how hearing about them even now reminds him ‘how baffled one can feel in the face of books’. Immediately this is reassuring to anyone who picks this book up that they are in good hands, that this isn’t an academic book, this is a book for everyone to enjoy without needing any prior knowledge or understanding of poetry.

Alan Bennett selected over seventy poems from six poets –  Thomas Hardy, A. E. Housman, John Betjeman, W. H. Auden, Louis MacNeice and Philip Larkin for this anthology. Each poet is introduced with a brief biography, which is followed by selected poems interspersed with candid commentary. The way the book is set out, with the poets being written about in chronological order, allows the reader to easily understand how one poet was influenced or inspired by his predecessor. Some of the poems Bennett has chosen from one poet link together with poems form another in the anthology, which again makes it easy to grasp common themes and how each poet put his own stamp on a sometimes similar idea.

Bennett strikes a great balance between serious biographical information and amusing anecdotes. We learn that Larkin ordered that all his papers be destroyed after his death; that Hardy wrote a poem in tribute to the wife he treated terribly when she was alive, and then proposed to his second wife by pointing out a plot in the cemetery next to his first wife’s grave and explaining that it would be hers! Auden couldn’t bear to edit his work so he would take the best of what he’d been working on and put it together with his favourite lines saved from his other unfinished works and make it work as a single poem!

Six Poets was an utter joy to read. I thought I would enjoy the part on Larkin the most seeing as he is one of my favourite poets already but Bennett introduced the other five poets in such a way that I very much enjoyed reading about them too and feel that I have a better understanding now. It’s actually made me want to seek out more poetry, and how wonderful that is when a book can make you enthusiastic to want to find out more on a subject that has previously felt a little intimidating!

I rate this book ten out of ten and I can’t recommend this book highly enough!

Six Poets: From Hardy to Larkin is out today on Amazon.

I received this book from Yale University Press via Net Galley in exchange for an honest review.

Review: Dying to be Slim by Abby Beverley

dying to be slim

I was intrigued by the premise of this novel and couldn’t resist the chance to read it. It’s about Clara who, having been a single mum to four children for many years, turned to food for comfort. Many years later she is married to a lovely man, Jakey, who is a wonderful baker and just wants to make Clara happy by giving her everything she wants, including all the cake she desires. Clara ends up weighing 34 stone and being housebound.

Jakey and Clara have a teenage daughter together, along with Clara’s four grown up children from her previous relationship and although she doesn’t get to see them as often as she’d like she is very proud of the successful lives they have led her to believe they are living. Then one day a strange turn of events gives Clara the opportunity to step outside her body and become Starla, the thin person who has been living inside of her all these years. This leads to her discovering that all is not as she has been told. There are many shocks and surprises in store for her!

I really enjoyed this novel, it was hard to put down once I start reading. I really liked Clara and how her weight issues were handled very sensitively; it felt like quite an insight into what it’s like to be morbidly obese. I enjoyed Starla’s exploits even more though! It was such fun finding out what every member of her family was really like, how their lives were really lived and seeing how Starla/Clara reacted to, and dealt with, it all.

The ending of the novel was a surprise to me, all the way through I’d been expecting something different to happen. The epilogue tied things up so well and was the perfect ending to the novel.

I recommend this book if you’re looking for a warm, fun and heartfelt read about what it’s like to escape your own body and to see the side of people’s lives that you would never normally get to see.

I rated this book 8 out of 10.

Thanks to Troubadour Publishing Ltd and Net Galley for allowing me to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Dying to be Slim is out now and is available on Amazon.

Review: Breaking Away by Anna Gavalda

 

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Breaking Away is a wonderful short novel about four siblings. Garance is travelling to a family wedding with her brother Simon and his wife Carine. Later in the journey, they sister Lola joins them. Once they arrive at the wedding the three siblings decide to go off to visit their brother Vincent in Tours leaving Carine behind.

This novel is ultimately a wonderful celebration of the love and friendship between siblings. Garance, Vincent, Simon and Lola have grown up together; they have shared memories and a lifelong connection. The day of the wedding they take time out to relive the youth they had together. Garance has such intense nostalgia during this day spent with her brothers and sister, she feels like she is borrowing time and wonders how many other days there will be like this. They’re all moving in different directions, which is natural for siblings to do but still such a wrench when they’ve always been so close.

Simon’s wife Carine at first seemed quite harsh on Garance and Lola but there doesn’t seem to be a specific reason for the irritation. As the novel goes on we learn more about Simon and Lola’s very close bond and it becomes apparent that Carine feels like an outsider to this strong family unit. She seems somewhat jealous of what the four share, even though she has two children with Simon and so has her own strong connections with him that will never be broken. It was lovely to hear Simon stick up for his wife later in the novel, and for him to explain to the others how much she means to him.

The part of the novel where Garance, Simon and Lola listen to a playlist that Vincent has made for them brought a lump to my throat. So many of people, including myself, must have made mix tapes for our younger siblings  It’s the shared history in all of those songs that you heard throughout your lives together, there is a bond that those outside will never quite understand or break though.

I very much enjoyed this novel, I loved how it was a meandering wander through Garance’s thoughts and feelings throughout the course of a day. And it was wonderful to see siblings so closely bonded and wanting to spend time together, I don’t think that happens enough in novels.

I rated this book 8 out of 10 and highly recommend it.

I was kindly given a copy of this book to read and review by Gallic Books via Net Galley in exchange for my honest review.

Breaking Away is out now and available from Amazon.

Review: Bright Stars by Sophie Duffy

bright stars

Bright Stars is about four people who became friends at university and their lives become intertwined one fateful evening in 1986. The story is narrated by Cameron Sparks in the form of his journal; it takes place in the present day, and during his time at university 25 years earlier.

Cameron Sparks is 46 years old and his life is spiralling out of control. He has been suspended from his job as a Ghost Tour guide in the underground vaults in Edinburgh. He is separated from his wife and is living back at home with his dad. Then one day a letter arrives out of the blue from Christie, a Canadian girl he knew during his university days.

This takes the story back to 1986 when Cameron was an awkward, cripplingly shy teenager trying to find his way at university. He finds a friend in Christie, and then by chance also becomes friends with wannabe rock star, Tommy, and he falls head over heels in unrequited love with Bex, a feminist activist. The unlikely foursome spend their time getting drunk, listening to or making music and attempting to be activists. Then one fateful night an accident happens and it changes everything.

None of the characters in this book are particularly likeable, they all have such flaws but it makes the novel so very readable. Tommo always seems to land on his feet, trouble finds him but he manages to shake it off over and over again. Bex is very focused on her causes, like being a sab, and then when she and Tommo get together her life becomes about him. Cameron is not a bad person, he’s just easily led because he so badly wants to feel like part of the crowd but it’s often hard to like him in the early part of the novel because he appears so feeble. Christie is probably the nicest of the group but is the one we seemed to get to know the least as Cameron wasn’t as fixated on her as he was on Tommo and Bex.

No one won on the fateful night when everything changed in the lives of these four but some of them lost more than others. This novel has such a depth to it, and has been going round and round in my head since I finished reading it. I’m finding it hard to review because there is so much I want to say but I don’t want to spoil it for anyone.

This novel is really about the fine line between good and bad. About how everyone has to take responsibility for the things they do and if they don’t it will catch up with them in some form or another. There are some people who take, or are given, more than their share of blame and heartache and still spend a large part of their lives trying to come to terms with that, and perhaps punishing others rather than the ones they know who should be punished. It is ultimately a novel about how the ghosts of the past are doomed to haunt us, about how redemption never comes in the way we expect it and how karma doesn’t run an exact course.

I rated this book 9 out of 10 and highly recommend this novel.

I received this book from Legend Press on NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Bright Stars is released on 1st October and is available for pre-order now from Amazon