20 December 2013

Christmas Reads from Harper Impulse

Harper Impulse have rapidly become one of the go-to publishers for amazing eBooks this year, and I have read quite a few already that I have thoroughly enjoyed! Luckily for us readers, they have quite a lot of eBooks coming out that are festive themed as well, and with the Christmas holidays quickly approaching, I thought I would do a quick round-up in case there's anything you want to load your Kindle up with for those Christmas evenings! Click on the covers for more information.

19 December 2013

Book Review: Driving Home for Christmas by Emma Hannigan

"Christmas at Huntersbrook House is a family tradition and this year it's even more important as, with mounting debts and insufficient income from the livery yard, it looks like the Craig family might have to sell their beloved family home.

Pippa, Joey and Lainey are the three grown up Craig children who, caught up with their own lives in Dublin, are, as yet, unaware of the problems facing Huntersbrook.

Joey is starting to wonder if his controlling, fitness-mad girlfriend really is the one for him. Lainey, the family worrier, is doing her best to ignore her ex's recent engagement while also trying to look out for her sister Pippa whose frivolous lifestyle is about to catch up with her.

As the Christmas season approaches, the Craig family need to do some soul-searching and what better place than around the fire at Huntersbrook House.

One thing's for sure, this is a Christmas none of them will forget. But will it be their last at Huntersbrook or will they manage to save the family home?"

Rating: 5/5

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

I'll  be honest and say I haven't yet read anything by Irish author Emma Hannigan, although I have heard great things about her books from other book reviewers so far. When her new publishers Headline Review sent me a review copy of her new book Driving Home for Christmas, I was really excited to start it and finally find out about this new author. I have to mention the lovely cover as well, it's very festive looking and quite under-stated but very beautiful to look at. Now I have read the book, I'm so pleased I have finally read something by Emma Hannigan, and look forward to reading more!

The Craig children have always loved having Christmas at their family home, Huntersbrook. But they are completely unaware of the troubles that their parents are having with the house... so much so that this might be the final family Christmas at the house. There's the only son, Joey, the man who loves being home with family at Christmas more than anyone else, although he's not sure his current relationship with his fitness mad girlfriend is going the right way. Self-obsessed Pippa is worrying about the status of her finances this Christmas, and isn't sure if she can dig her way out of the hole she's gotten into. Finally, there's motorbike loving Lainey, feeling abandoned by her beloved grandmother and distanced from her mother, as well as still getting over her break-up. Will the Craig family be able to spend more than one more Christmas at their treasured family home?

I love a book that I can get lost in from the beginning, and this was one such book. There were quite a few characters to get my head around, and I did have to concentrate quite hard to work out who was who and get it straight in my head, but I had, it was an easy read. The story moves between all of the characters, with the 3 Craig children being the main ones that we follow, although we do see their parents, and some letters between the housekeeper and the estranged grandmother Maggie too. The stand out character for me was Pippa. I really disliked her at first, her attitude pretty much stank but as the book progressed, I warmed to her far more, and she is the character who changed the most in the book. Lainey blended into the background for me too much, she was a little bit forgettable although nice enough, but I couldn't find myself remembering her storylines over Pippa.

The setting of beautiful Huntersbrook house was perfect. It sounds like an idyllic country pad, especially when it's fully decorated for Christmas, and seems the perfect place for a big family Christmas. When I read about their financial troubles, I was hoping for a happy ending, and I found myself feeling very invested in the story overall because I genuinely cared for them. Family is a hugely important theme in the book, and I really liked how the Craig family come together in times of need and are very close. There are some sentimental moments, as well as some more light-hearted and funny moments, as well as a bit of a shock revelation towards the end that I hadn't seen coming. By the end, I felt that I really knew the Craig family, and was hopeful that they would all have a happy ending with Christmas fast approaching. Everything about this book was a joy to read, the writing was wonderful and really allowed me to get lost in the story, and I have to say I adored this festive treat of a novel. I can't wait to read more from Emma Hanngian, and I highly recommend you read this book this Christmas!

16 December 2013

Book Review: Christmas at Carrington's by Alexandra Brown

"Carrington’s Department store is thrown into a spin when the staff learn that a hot new reality TV show is to be filmed in-store, featuring the formidable retail guru, Kelly Cooper. Georgie Hart, in charge of Luxury Handbags, is reluctant, but quickly realises that the show could give Carrington’s a new lease of life. With Christmas around the corner, she’s also hoping that the season will deliver her the perfect Christmas present, in the form of Tom, the store’s dishy boss.

When the film crew arrive, things start to go wrong. One of Tom’s old flames, Zara, is working on the show and then, to top things off, Tom and Zara are sent off to Paris and New York for a spot of extra filming. When Georgie settles down in front of the box to watch the first show, worse it to come – Georgie is shown in a far from flattering light and she is horrified to learn what Tom has been up to.

Georgie fears this is turning out to be the worst Christmas ever, but Santa might have a got a little surprise in store for her stocking this year – but she’ll just have to wait until Christmas to find out!"

Rating: 4/5

You can buy Christmas at Carrington's as a paperback or an eBook now.

Alexandra Brown's second is a follow-up to her first, Cupcakes at Carrington's, which was released earlier this year. I was really pleased that this is going to be a series because I really enjoyed the first book, and there is something nice about a series, knowing that when you pick up the book it'll contain familiar characters, people that you know and you don't have to spend too long getting to know new characters. This book picks up shortly after the first one, with Georgie still working at her beloved Carrington's department store, with Christmas fast approaching. It's a fun second outing from Alexandra Brown, and while I didn't think it was better than the first book, it was still a lovely festive read.

Georgie still loves her job at Carrington's department store where she has worked alongside her friends for years. It's even better now that she's dating the boss, Tom, although of course she didn't know that when she first met him. Christmas is fast approaching at the store, and Georgie is shocked when Carrington's signs up to be a part of a new reality show, hosted by TV personality Kelly Cooper. Georgie isn't prepared for what lies ahead, and is surprised to find herself as a big star of the show, especially when she isn't shown in the best light. Georgie is also surprised to find a new side to Tom when the reality show starts as well, and she starts questioning whether he is indeed the man he led her to believe he is. Will Georgie be able to make everything right in time for Christmas, or is she in for her worst festive season ever?

The addition of the reality show element was different, and certainly made for some interesting reading. I will be honest and say that parts of it did get annoying for me. I found that Georgie was a little bit naive about the show, and the effect it has on her character was that she becomes a little bit obsessed with her image and looking good, which is totally unlike any Georgie we have met before, and I didn't really like the change. It also stops the natural aspect of the department store that I loved before too which was a shame. I dislike designer name-dropping in books (just a personal thing!) and there was a lot of that in here. I can't say that the characters of Kelly and her awful daughter were worthy additions to the book either, I really couldn't stand either and found myself flicking through their scenes just to get away from them! It was a fun idea for the book, but I just wasn't overly keen on it, some bits just seemed a bit too silly for me.

However, I did love the preparations for Christmas at the store, and I really did hope that Tom and Georgie would have a happy ending together, despite the strange goings-on within the book. I really loved the story involving Sam, the owner of the cupcake store within the shop in this book, it was very emotional and tough to read in parts but it was very well handled by Brown, and it added a more sombre tone to an otherwise quite fluffy read. I thought Georgie's character handled things incredibly well too, I wasn't expecting to find this storyline in this book, but it worked well and I have to compliment Brown's writing for how she handled it. The friendship between the two women is so wonderfully written, and so real that it was a joy to read, and I hope for more of this in the further books in the series.

As in the previous book, I loved the descriptions of the department store. There are quite a few changes to it thanks to the reality show, but the heart of it remains the same, with its talented and lovely staff, and it sounds like a great place to go and shop, especially at Christmastime. This, together with the character of Georgie, are what reading this book is all about, it's one to get lost in. Perhaps the only thing lacking in this book was a real romance storyline. Georgie spends nearly the entire book away from Tom, the man she loves, and nothing very much seems to happen involving the pair up until right at the end, when it felt a bit rushed. I would have loved to see Tom back in there a bit earlier for a more romantic feel to the book. The book stealer though was definitely Sam and Georgie - a wonderfully written friendship and storyline. For those who loved Cupcakes at Carrington's, you'll certainly want to pick up a copy of the second book in the series, but do be prepared for something completely different! A fun festive read that has you laughing and crying along.

9 December 2013

Book Review: How To Fall In Love by Cecelia Ahern

"She has just two weeks. Two weeks to teach him how to fall in love – with his own life.

Adam Basil and Christine Rose are thrown together late one night, when Christine is crossing the Halfpenny Bridge in Dublin. Adam is there, poised, threatening to jump. Adam is desperate – but Christine makes a crazy deal with him. His 35th birthday is looming and she bets him she can show him that life is worth living before then. 

Despite her determination, Christine knows what a dangerous promise she’s made. Against the ticking of the clock, the two of them embark on wild escapades, grand romantic gestures and some unlikely late-night outings. Slowly, Christine thinks Adam is starting to fall back in love with his life. 

But has she done enough to change his mind for good? And is that all that’s starting to happen?"

Rating: 4/5

You can buy How To Fall In Love as a paperback or an eBook now.

I always like to be honest in my reviews, so I have to start by saying I do tend to find Cecelia Ahern's books a bit hit and miss. Some of those that I have read I loved, others have been a bit 'meh' and I haven't liked others at all - in fact, her most famous book 'PS. I Love You' is one that I really didn't like, but a previous festive offering called 'The Gift' is one of my favourite books. I think the problem for me is that I don't like books that have something magical in them, I don't really have time for it and Ahern tends to put a lot of that into her book. However, I really liked the sound of her latest book 'How To Fall In Love' and decided I wanted to give it a go, and I am pleased that I did, I really enjoyed this one!

Christine Rose seems to stumble upon people who need help more than ever, and none more so that when she meets young Adam Basil on a bridge in the middle of the night. He's threatening to jump and Christine is determined to talk him down. She does, but has to promise Adam that she can make him love life again before his next birthday... in just 2 weeks. Adam, though, is really down on life, and sure that he won't feel happy again. Christine is determined that she will succeed, but is fearful of what might happen if she doesn't succeed. She knows failure is not an option, but Adam is quite sure she won't be able to succeed. Christine tries her hardest, but is she going to be able to Adam fall in love with life again before his time runs out?

In order to really enjoy this book, you have to really allow yourself to get totally lost in the story and really love both Adam and Christine. If you don't, then you're going to struggle to support Christine in what she is doing, but I honestly doubt people will have a problem in liking either of these characters. Christine is very kind and warm-hearted, almost to a fault but she just loves to help people. In fact, she's quite good at it, and despite a horrific experience only a short while ago, she is determined to help Adam, even though she knows she is really up against it with him. Adam, too, is incredibly likeable and you wonder what it is that has made him hate his life so much he feels he can throw it all away. As things become clear in the book, we can see that there is immense pressure on him, and you do feel very sorry for him, and hope that Christine can work her magic and make him see the good in his future.

While there isn't anything overtly magical in this book as there is in many of Ahern's previous ones, the things that happen have to be more than mere coincidence. Christine seems to run into those in need of help rather frequently, and her job lends her to helping others too. Christine is also a big fan of 'help yourself' book, often turning to a self-help book to help her with Adam too. This is linked in to the story, through Ahern naming all of her chapters 'How To...' which I thought was an amusing touch. It's quite an emotional novel, there's a lot in there to pull at your heart-strings, and you do feel very emotionally invested in the story, even as you turn the last page. I was willing a happy ending as I don't think I could have handled anything but, simply because I had grown to love these characters through Ahern's writing.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book, and was pleased that I could enjoy one of Cecelia's books again! I thought the story and the characters were brilliantly written, and you really did care about them and what was going to happen to all of them. I found Ahern's writing very easy to read, the narrative was enjoyable and I found it was easy to put the book down and pick it up again and get completely involved once more. For me, this is definitely one of Ahern's better books, and I would definitely recommend it those who both love her books, and those who have perhaps been a bit put off in the past like me by her love of the magical. How To Fall In Love is a beautiful love story, and one that will fill your heart with hope.

6 December 2013

eBook Review: Doubting Abbey by Samantha Tonge

"Swapping downstairs for upstairs… How hard can it be!? 

Look up the phrase ordinary girl and you’ll see a picture of me, Gemma Goodwin – I only look half-decent after applying the entire contents of my make-up bag, and my dating track-record includes a man who treated me to dinner…at a kebab shop. No joke! 

The only extraordinary thing about me is that I look EXACTLY like my BFF, Abbey Croxley. Oh, and that for reasons I can’t explain, I’ve agreed to swap identities and pretend be her to star in the TV show about her aristocratic family’s country estate, Million Dollar Mansion. 

So now it’s not just my tan I’m faking – it’s Kate Middleton style demure hemlines and lady-like manners too. And amongst the hundreds of fusty etiquette rules I’m trying to cram into my head, there are two I really must remember; 1) No-one can ever find out that I’m just Gemma, who’d be more at home in the servants quarters. And 2) There can be absolutely no flirting with Abbey’s dishy but buttoned-up cousin, Lord Edward. 

Aaargh, this is going to be harder than I thought…"

Rating: 4/5

You can buy Doubting Abbey as an eBook now.

I was asked by author Samantha Tonge to review her new book with publishers Carina, called Doubting Abbey. According to the internet, it is perfect for fans of Downton Abbey, a show I have no interest in whatsoever so I was a bit nervous when I started it that it really wouldn't be my cup of tea at all. However, I decided I had to give it a chance and I'm really pleased that I did because I thoroughly enjoyed it, it was quite different from other things I have read lately and had me laughing away at points. I also loved the cover, although I do have to note the similarities between it's title format and that of Lindsey Kelk's 'I Heart...' series... perhaps designed to draw readers of that popular book series in?!

Gemma Goodwin works as a waitress, likes her short skirts, tight clothes and layering on the make-up. So when she is asked by her flatmate, the aristocrat Abbey Croxley to pretend to be her for a few weeks at her crumbling family home Applebridge Hall, for the popular TV show Million Dollar Mansion, Gemma is sure she can't pull it off. With a crash course in manners, etiquette and dressing like Abbey, Gemma is thrown in at the deep end with Abbey's cousin Lord Edward and the rest of the family. Gemma is sure she will found out and kicked out of the home, but as time goes on, Gemma finds herself adapting to the role of Abbey quite well. But will she be able to save the Croxley family home before it's too late, and win the TV show's huge prize?!

As I said before, I'm not really a fan of Downton Abby and have never seen an episode, so I was wondering how much I would enjoy this. Luckily, I needn't have worried and that's mainly due to the brilliant lead character Gemma, otherwise known as Abbey in the book. She's a pretty normal girl, happy with her life until she's thrown into a world that is completely alien to her. This of course leads to lots of hilarious calamities that Gemma finds herself in, mainly because she had good intentions but they don't always come off for her, and it really does make you smile and cringe at the same time! Gemma really does try so hard to be Abbey though, and you really love her for it, although my favourite part of Gemma was when she was being herself, observing what was going on around her, very funny!

Another of my favourite characters in the book was the brilliant Lord Edward. He's a stuffy aristocrat, but Gemma is sure there is more to him than meets the eye. Included at the start of chapters in the book is his blog, his first outing online like this actually and it really brings a smile to your face! You do see a different side to him here, and I liked the inclusion of it, it certainly gives the book something different. The descriptions of the house and the other members of it too were excellent, everything from the lavish grounds to the bedrooms, from the cook to the TV crew who descended on the house were well written and brought to life on the pages so well. I did fall in love with Applebridge Hall, it sounded perfect despite it's few flaws, and you really do want the poor old building to win the money and get a second chance at being fabulous again for the Croxley's!

The book was a really good read, and I really enjoyed the whole read. It was very amusing from start to finish, and the trials and tribulations of poor old Gemma definitely put a smile of your face and keep you turning the pages ready for more! The Croxley's suspicions about "Abbey", lovely Lord Edward, and a bit of competition makes for a page-turning read, and I found it so easy to read, and was able to pick it up and dive straight back into the story immediately because I was so involved in it, and was really hoping for a happy ending for the Croxley's and Applebridge Hall! Samantha Tonge's debut novel is a real fun read, and definitely one I can recommend. It's not a festive read despite the cover perhaps hinting at that, but it was still a great story, even for those of us who don't like Downton like me! A lovely, easy-to-read, enjoyable book.

4 December 2013

Giveaway! Win a Headline Christmas Book Hamper!

As part of the blog tour for Emma Hannigan's brilliant new festive read Driving Home For Christmas, Headline have kindly offered me an amazing prize to giveaway to one lucky reader before Christmas, a Headline Book Hamper!

This amazing prize contains the following:
Emma Hannigan's Driving Home For Christmas
Tasmina Perry's The Proposal
David Beckham's brand new book
and Mary Berry's Christmas Collection!

What a prize! All you have to do to enter is use the giveaway form below, and I'll use Rafflecopter to pick the winner. The winner MUST get their postal details back to me asap, as we want to send the hamper out by December 16th to ensure you get it in time for Christmas, so please keep an eye on your emails after the closing date of Thursday 12th December as I'll be emailing the winner as soon as I can! Open to UK residents only. Closes on 12/12/13 at 23:59.

Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Blog Tour: Driving Home for Christmas by Emma Hannigan

Today I am thrilled to be a part of Emma Hannigan's blog tour for the release of her brand new festive themed novel Driving Home For Christmas! The book has been released by Headline, and I started it last night, it's already a brilliant read! Emma was kind enough to write me an article for the blog tour about her favourite Christmas songs, one of my favourite things about Christmas I have to say, let me know if you agree with Emma's choices in the comments! Look out for an amazing competition coming shortly too!

You can buy Driving Home For Christmas as a paperback or an eBook now!

Emma Hannigan's Christmas Song Favourites!

5. Fairytale of New York - Kirsty Mac Coll & The Pogues
I know many people feel this song is over played at Christmas but I love it. It’s a wonderful mix of traditional Irish music with a little touch of Christmas magic.

4. Stay Another Day - East 17
East 17 were probably the ultimate bad boys at one point when I was growing up. So it was pleasantly surprising when they came up with this rather tender and heartfelt song.

3. All I want for Christmas is you - Mariah Carey
This song makes me happy! It’s fun and frivolous and I love the message that people are what really matter at this time of year.

2. Last Christmas – Wham
I idolized Wham as a teen. I was in George’s camp rather than Andrew’s! But this song in particular tugs at my heartstrings every time I hear it. At sixteen I lost my best friend in a car crash. This was ‘our’ song. No matter how many times I hear it or how many years have gone by it always reminds me of her!

1. Driving Home for Christmas - Chris Rea (of course)
I adore the story this song creates. It was the inspiration for my book and I can’t imagine any one disliking the image it evokes!

Thanks so much, Emma!

Blog Tour: The Twelve Dates of Christmas by Lisa Dickenson

Today I am thrilled to be part of 2 brilliant blog tours, and here to kick off the first is the fabulous Lisa Dickenson! Her first novel, a festive offering called The Twelve Dates of Christmas has been serialised into 6 separate eBooks, all following the same character trying to find some romance at Christmas! Lisa was kind enough to answer some of my questions for her blog tour, lots of Christmas themed ones of course, so please enjoy!

You can buy Lisa's The Twelve Dates of Christmas series as eBooks here!

Interview with Lisa Dickenson

Q1. Please tell us about your series of eBooks 'The Twelve Dates of Christmas'.

Thank you for asking!  Twelve Dates is all about Claudia, and how her same-old-same-old life suddenly gets shaken like a snowglobe just weeks before Christmas.  Things get pretty confusing as she embarks on a number of dates, and she realises that both the last thing, and the first thing, she wants is romance.  It’s sparkly and festive, and hopefully will bundle readers into a warm of seasonal world of London at Christmastime.

Q2. What inspired you to release the books as 6 parts as opposed to one big story?

I’m afraid I can’t claim credit for that one – it was my Editor at Little, Brown, Manpreet, who came up with this idea.  She’d wanted to try serialising a women’s fiction novel, and Twelve Dates split quite neatly into six parts!  It works especially well at Christmas, when more and more of the novel can be revealed the closer you get to the big day, like an advent calendar.

Q3. Do you have any Christmas traditions in your house?

All of them!  I’m mega-annoying at Christmas because I always want everything to be very traditional and exactly the same every year!  But one thing is that I do like to kick the season off with a screening of Muppet Christmas Carol.

Q4. What's your favourite thing about Christmas?

I’m not sure I could pick one thing – which is super lame of me.  Can I pick the run up as a whole?  The Christmas adverts appearing, the red cups in Starbucks, the lights, the carols, the yuletide jumpers…  And also now one of my favourite things about Christmas is that my first ever novel was released.  

Q5. What are some of your favourite festive reads?

Ooo I love reading festive reads in the run-up to Christmas!  There’s nothing better than curling up in a coffee shop with a gingerbread latté and devouring thousands of evocative words about Christmas.  Chick Lit is my go-to genre for a festive fix – I love Winter Wonderland by Belinda Jones among many others – but a classic that I read every year is A Christmas Carol by Mr Dickens.

Q6. What do you do when you aren't writing?

Urm, mostly I procrastine, but that’s when I’m supposed to be writing!  When I’m supposed to be doing nothing of the sort, I’ll either be thinking up reasons not to go to the gym, wandering about the house looking for snacks, walking along by the beach, watching US TV shows or at my day job, at a scientific publishers.

Q7. If you were stuck on a desert island, what 3 things would you want with you?

A massive can of aerosol sun spray, a knife, and a superyacht.

Q8. If you could be as successful as any other chick lit writer, who would it be?

I’d love to be as successful as Jackie Collins (aiming high, much?!) because she writes whatever the heck she wants, several books at a time, lives in a mansion, is published around the world, and I think is actually a very strong role model as well – she’s built this huge empire writing about women who run major companies, who hold the power, who enjoy having a partner but their happiness isn’t reliant on them.

Q9. Are you working on something new for next year?

I am!  Or at least I’m supposed to be… I really must get my head down and get on with it so I can send some material to my lovely agent Hannah at The Marsh Agency soon.  It’ll be another chick lit novel, but this time set (mainly) in the US, where my leading lady wins a place at a film summer school.  She knows nothing about the movie industry, and is totally out of her depth.  I’ll be sure to throw lots of trials and tribulations at her, poor girl!

Thanks so much, Lisa

30 November 2013

eBook Review: Weight Till Christmas by Ruth Saberton

"Cinder Ellie shall go the to ball. At least she will if she can squeeze into her party dress...

Without a fairy godmother to wave a magic wand, Ellie Summers needs more than a pumpkin to impress her gorgeous boss. She works hard, not as a scullery maid but as a super sassy saleswoman, but he doesn't notice her. Their company's lavish Christmas party is the opportunity Ellie's been waiting for to make a big impression. And she doesn't intend it to be winning the mince pie eating competition.

With the help of fellow dieter Sam, a sleigh load of will power and a sprinkling of Christmas magic, Ellie knows finding her Prince Charming is just a mistletoe kiss away.

But is her prince really so charming? Or is Christmas romance closer than she thinks?"

Rating: 3.5/5

You can buy Weight Till Christmas as an eBook now!

This is another novella which has been released through the newly formed Notting Hill Press, and is by author Ruth Saberton, who has previously published with Orion and under a few other pseudonyms too. I knew it was only a short story heading into it, and I've really warmed to those lately, it's nice sometimes to settle down with something you know won't take you days to read, and being a festive read is even better! I really enjoyed Weight Till Christmas, and certainly think it's worth a read this Christmas.

Ellie Summers knows she needs to lose weight, but if she's honest, she can't be bothered. It's easier just to grab lunch on the go, and her job as a car saleswoman doesn't lend itself to being hugely active. Ellie also has a bit of a thing for her rather handsome boss, and is sure if she can lose a few pounds by Christmas, she can make him see her in a different light. Together with her best friend Sam, the two are determined to lose some weight before Christmas, so Ellie can woo her boss in her dream dress at the company Christmas party. Will Ellie have the willpower to see it through to the end and get her Mr Right under the mistletoe?!

I really liked the characters in this book. They are all quite real, and you can certainly imagine meeting them at a car dealership or elsewhere, they are believable people. Ellie in particular is funny, she knows she's a big girl, and I didn't like that she felt she had to lose weight in order to seem attractive to someone. It seems a popular theme in books these days that the main female character has to lose weight to get her dream guy, and it's a shame perception is still like this. Ellie was hilarious whether she was a big girl or not, and if a guy wants you to lose weight to be attracted to you, he isn't worth it really, and I wished Ellie could see that. Ellie had really low self-esteem, and in that respect you have to feel sorry for her, she genuinely does believe she isn't good enough for him as she is.

Sam was a great character, such a kind-hearted man and I hated his girlfriend with a passion! It seemed no matter what Sam did, he was in the wrong! He was great for Ellie and the friendship between the pair was so sweet. There aren't too many other characters in the book as these two are the main ones, but suffice to say Ellie's boss was a pig, and I couldn't stand him. The setting of a car dealership was different, and it was clear that Ellie had a passion for her job and was pretty good at it too. I'm not really a car buff (my little boy is though!) but even I enjoyed reading these scenes. The only thing I have to say in this book is that it just wasn't really festive enough, it didn't strike me as a particularly Christmassy read, I prefer my Christmas to be laid on nice and thick lol!

Overall, this was a funny short novella to read in an evening, and will certainly give you a few laughs along the way. It's a pity it's main focus is a girl losing weight to attract a guy because that isn't something I support, but the sweet romance within the book is worth reading, and I loved the ending as well. Ruth's writing is very easy to read, and she writes both the more emotional moments and the comedy ones just as well, and the narrative was very easy to get into. If you fancy something funny, then I would recommend Weight Till Christmas as a short read for you, and I look forward to reading more from Ruth Saberton.

25 November 2013

Book Review: Just For Christmas by Scarlett Bailey

"Her best friend's wedding...

When Alex Munro learns that the love of her life is getting married to another girl, all she wants is to be alone - and as far away from Edinburgh as possible.

Moving to a Cornish cottage, which comes complete with the world's scruffiest dog, Alex finds that her new neighbours are determined to involve her in their madcap Christmas festivities.

Then she meets her sexy neighbour Ruan - and somehow Alex doesn't want to be alone this Christmas after all. But having lost one fiancé, Ruan has no intention of letting anyone get close to him again..."

Rating: 5/5

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

Scarlett Bailey, a pseudonym for hugely successful chick lit author Rowan Coleman, has been around for a few years now released brilliant festive novels, and luckily for us, she's back this year with another one! Just For Christmas has a really stunning cover, the purples and blues work so well for the festive look, although I was surprised that the woman was a photograph when I got the cover, instead of a cartoon. Either way, when I was looking for a cosy Christmas read a few weeks ago, my hands flew straight to this novel on my shelves. I was really excited to start it, and of course Scarlett didn't let me down, it's my favourite Christmas novel of the year so far, and I don't say that lightly!

Alex Munro decides to flee her hometown of Edinburgh when she discovers that her best friend and the only man she has ever loved is getting married to another woman. She ends up in a small Cornish town called Poldero, at entirely the other end of the United Kingdom. She knows no-one, and that's the way she likes it. She doesn't count of the town spirit though, and the fact that everyone there is determined to make their new neighbour part of their Christmas festivities. She soon bumps into a new neighbour, the quiet and brooding Ruan. Alex finds herself joining in and feeling more of a part of the Poldero family than she expected, even though she misses her family and friends miles away. As Christmas fast approaches, Alex doesn't want to be on her own, but she's also realised that there is more to Ruan than meets the eye...

I have to say that there was something about this book that touched me. Weeks after finishing it, I still think about it a lot - the story, the setting, the characters. It was just utterly charming and I loved every single page of it. My favourite thing about it all was the lighthouse. Yes, this is Ruan's home and not a major plot part or anything, but it was just totally different and the way Bailey describes it makes it sound utterly perfect and it fits in with the story so very well. I loved Alex's job of Harbour Master, despite the fact everyone seems to think a man is the best fit for the job! Alex is skilled, and Bailey writes about the job well, it isn't bogged down in detail but gives you enough information to understand what she does and the importance of her job.

I really loved Alex as a main character. We know straight away she is running away from several things back home in Scotland, but these are revealed slowly to us. Early on (and in the blurb!), we learn that she mainly ran away because the man she loves is marrying someone else, but there is almost something else there about her father, something that takes a good duration of the book to be revealed. I was constantly wondering what on earth it could be, but Bailey had me stumped and I wasn't able to guess it! In fact, I liked that it wasn't predictable, and you really do feel sorry for all parties involved here, it's sad to read of how Alex and her father's relationship has broken down and I was really hoping that they would be able to repair it and make things okay between them again. Alex is very independent, very much a tomboy and I liked how she didn't feel she had to live up to anyone's expectations regarding her clothes, her general manner or anything, she was very much herself and that was fun to read.

The town of Poldero is so brilliantly written, you almost want to move in there yourself! Bailey describes everything beautifully, from the picturesque harbour to the old historical buildings, and even the local pub, and you can picture it so clearly in your mind as you are reading. The residents are absolutely brilliant, from Ruan's sister and local nanny Cordelia to barmaid Lucy (with an AMAZING backstory that I thought was so well thought out) to Buoy, Alex's reluctantly-adopted 11 year old dog, who seems to think he owns the cottage, not Alex! They all mean something to the story, and you fall in love with the place more as you read on. I'm not ashamed to say the book moved me to tears more than once, it's an emotional read, and I have to say I have never cried more over a dog in a book than I have over Buoy.

Scarlett Bailey is an utterly brilliant storyteller, and for me, Christmas wouldn't be complete from now on without one of her festive tales. This book though, is above and beyond anything else I have read this year so far, and for a long while actually. It's a book that can be enjoyed not only at Christmas, but throughout the year when you need something positive and life-affirming to turn to. There's a lot of characters, a lot going on but it's worth the time and effort to read, and it's so easy to lose yourself in the world of Alex and the residents of Poldero. Yes, there's a good bit of romance in there, with a few mishaps along the way, but it all builds to an utterly brilliant and emotional ending that will certainly leave you wanting more. I feel like I'm gushing but I really, truly adored this book. Put this one onto your Christmas lists now. It's simply brilliant.

Book News: The Winter Folly by Lulu Taylor

I have to say I did miss a Lulu Taylor novel this year, but I am pleased to say she is back shortly with a brand new novel, The Winter Folly! I am really in love with the cover, and the story sounds very different to previous stories Lulu has written before. It's out as an eBook on 4th December, but for those of us waiting for the paperback, we have to wait until the new year on 2nd January for that! I can't wait to read it, as I'm sure Lulu won't disappoint.

You can pre-order The Winter Folly as an eBook (4/12/13) or as a paperback (2/1/14) now.

"In this house there are many secrets… It is 1960 and young Alexandra Crewe is obedient enough to marry the man her father has selected for her, but both she and her husband Laurence quickly realise that their marriage is a disaster. When real love comes to her, plucking her out of her old life and into a wonderful new existence, she is powerless to resist. Her home is now a beautiful Dorset castle, but there has been a price to pay and she fears that her punishment will one day be due. When tragedy strikes, it seems that it has come, and there is only one way she can atone for her sins… In the present day, Delilah Young is the second wife of John Stirling and the new chatelaine of Fort Stirling. The house is a sad one and Delilah hopes to fill it with life and happiness. But when she attempts to heal the wounds in John’s life, it seems that the forces of the past might be too strong for her. Why does John have such a hatred for the old folly on the hill, and what happened to his mother when she vanished from his life? As she searches for the truth, Delilah realises that perhaps some secrets are better left buried . . ."

24 November 2013

eBook Review: The Trouble with Mojitos by Romy Sommer

"Let the fairytale come alive…

Turquoise blue waters. Sandy white beaches. Mojitos…

Film location scout Kenzie Cole has found herself in paradise. And working in the Caribbean for a week is just what she needs to escape the long line of exes in her closet.

Though the last thing she expects is to be picked up at the resort bar by a disgraced former Prince!

Luckily for Kenzie, exile is suiting the man formerly known as Prince Fredrik very well. And it’s not long before his rugged, pirate charm is proving hard to resist.

But Rik’s been spending his time in paradise exorcising demons of his own and he has danger written all over him. If Kenzie was sensible she’d run a mile instead of lose herself to her lust – although, they do say that sometimes you have to get lost before you can be found…."

You can buy The Trouble with Mojitos as an eBook now or pre-order as a paperback.

Rating: 4.5/5

I first came across new author Romy Sommer when I read her debut eBook 'Waking Up In Vegas' which was published by a new division of HarperCollins called Harper Impulse. I really enjoyed Romy's fairytale come to life, and since then, I have read lots of other brilliant eBooks from Harper Impulse. I was excited when I discovered on Netgalley that Romy was back with another fairytale based romance. I didn't actually realise prior to reading it that it was actually a slight follow on from her previous book, with the same family being featured and a mention of the characters from Waking Up In Vegas making a small appearance too! It took me a while to work this out lol, although I'm really not sure why!

Kenzie Cole is sure she's got the perfect job. She gets to travel the world, finding perfect locations as a film scout for up and coming movies. She's now landed in the Caribbean for a week to scout some private islands for a new movie, but is finding herself coming up against obstacles in getting people to give her permission to go anywhere. One evening, she meets a man in a bar called Rik. The pair strike up an unlikely friendship, and when Kenzie accidentally finds out that he is the runaway Prince Frederik, she tries not to see him in a different light. The pair spend more time together, with Rik showing her the delights of the islands and much more. But Kenzie is determined not to fall for another rich playboy... although it might just be too late for that....

Like I said before, it did take me a while to make the connection between the characters in this book, and that of thosein Romy's first eBook. Now I've read both though, it's easy to make the connection! Rik, or Prince Frederik as he is better known, is first mentioned in Waking Up in Vegas when his brother Max is called back home because of a scandal involving Rik and a DNA test back home in Westerwald. I don't remember meeting Rik in the previous book as he's an absent character so it's nice to find out more about him here, away from Westerwald as well. We are also reunited with Phoenix too, the leading lady from Waking Up in Vegas, although it threw me as she's introduced by her real name, not the nickname Phoenix! You don't have to read the first book to read and love this one, but it's fun to put two and two together for this book and catch up with a new set of characters.

I loved the setting of Los Pajaros for this book. It sounds really idyllic, with lots of history, clear blue waters and lots of private islands to explore in its surroundings too. Kenzie obviously feels lucky to have her job, despite her family wishing she'd do something more serious, but who can blame her when she gets to travel the world for free?! I loved Romy's descriptions of the islands, she really paints a crystal clear picture in your mind, and I loved reading about the adventures that Kenzie and Rik get up to as well. There's a lot of sexual tension between the pair throughout the book and I liked this element of it, adding a 'will they, won't they' scenario hanging over them as they explored more of the islands together.

One of things that I really loved about the story was how unaffected Kenzie seemed by Rik's Royal connections. Even when he realises that she is aware of who he is really is, there is no nastiness between them, no him accusing her of only wanting him for the money or title. It's just pure attraction, and I really did hope that these two could have a happy ending. It is a romantic read, despite the few arguments that the pair have, and Romy Sommer certainly gives us a slow-burning romance here. Towards the end, there was a bit of a secret reveal with Kenzie, telling us something that happened in her past and made the book have a more serious turn, but this was handled so well, and I loved the way Romy wrote how Rik handled this too. It showed a deeper side to these characters, and was a good addition to the book.

The ending totally leaves this book open to having a third installment of the series, and what a little puzzle we are left with! I really enjoyed Romy Sommer's writing, it's a lovely romance and definitely has its fairytale elements too, but it was a wonderful read for me. It was light-hearted, very escapist and certainly makes you smile when you're reading about the sunny Caribbean all snuggled up under your winter duvet at home! Romy Sommer is a big talent for Harper Impulse, and I am really looking forward to the rest of the stories she has to offer, especially the third part of this series! Another fantastic fairytale romance, a must-read for me.

22 November 2013

Blog Tour: A Cinderella Christmas by Holly Kingston

Today I am pleased to be part of Holly Kingston's blog tour for her new festive themed novel, A Cinderella Christmas! Holly has been published through Novelicious books, and it's all set on my Kindle app just waiting to be read and I can't wait, I have heard such good things about it! Holly was kind enough to write me a great piece, in fact a song, based on her novel, I wish I could hear this being sung, it's fab! :) Enjoy, and let me know if you've read the book!

You can buy A Cinderella Christmas as an eBook now!

By Holly Kingston

In homage to Harry, the director of Cinderella, who’s a big fan of writing his own “interesting” lyrics. I’ve come up with the official A Cinderella Christmas song. Hopefully this will be number one in the music charts by Christmas day. I’m officially laying down the musical gauntlet. Beat this, Simon Cowell!

It probably helps to sing this after a few glasses of mulled wine, whilst swaying from side to side, next to a roaring fire, with your fingers in your ears.

To be sung, preferably out of tune, to the melody of Cliff Richard's - Mistletoe And Wine.
I have called my version, imaginatively – Panto And Wine. Hope you enjoy it!

PANTO AND WINE by Holly Kingston

Panto time, Charmaine's drinking wine,
And her singing is a crime,
With fake boobs aplenty, and filler galore,
She will look stunning forever and more.

Chorus time, Ryan's looking fine,
He's got cheekbones chiselled and divine,
With fake tan aplenty, and muscles galore
You'll buy his bio his posters and more.

Lucy time, heroine of mine,
Poor girl's working overtime,
With dogs that need walking, and more booze to buy.
She's in a cow suit that frightens the eye.

Lenin time, for Lucy he'll pine,
Cos she spoils him all the time,
With bad naughty chocolate, and costumes galore,
He'll be the main dawg of Panto for sure.

Ending time, Is Lucy fine?
Can she escape the chorus line?
She needs to be stronger, to save her career
And find a good fella to finish her year.

Thanks for singing!

PS This was nearly an audio blog. But no one needs to hear my tonal issues. I’d make Charmaine sound like Whitney Houston. MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!

A Cinderella Christmas, by Holly Kingston, is available to buy on Amazon now. To celebrate, Novelicious is hosting 12 Days of Christmas giveaways with prizes including a Kobo Glo eReader, a festive weekend for two in Edinburgh and luxury food hampers galore!

Thank you so much, Holly!

19 November 2013

Book Review: I Heart Christmas by Lindsey Kelk

"Angela’s planning her very own fairytale of New York…

• Enormous Christmas tree
• Eggnog
• Eccentric British traditions
• Gorgeous man

But Santa’s throwing her a few curveballs – new job (as if it’s not mental enough already), new baby-craze from her best friend Jenny, and Alex determined they should grow up and settle down. Once friends start turning up uninvited on her doorstep (and leading her astray), can Angela really have a merry little Christmas? So much for happy holidays – something’s got to give…"

Rating: 5/5

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

Who's pleased that the fantastic Angela is back at last?! I was over the moon when Lindsey Kelk announced that she was bringing back Angela and co for a festive installment of the 'I Heart...' series, especially because I thought her last, I Heart London was the last in the series. I was therefore thrilled to receive a very early proof copy of the book, and quickly got stuck in to it. In fact, it was the first festive read of 2013 for me, and certainly kicked it off in style. Once I started reading, I couldn't stop and really enjoyed every page, it was fantastic to be back with Angela in New York once more!

Angela's having Christmas in New York, and she is really pleased with that. She's finally gotten married to Alex, and the pair have happily settled into married life. Angela's loving her job at the magazine, and Alex's music career is going strength to strength, leaving Angela lots of time to plan their first Christmas together as newlyweds, and to make it one that's unforgettable. However, as is always the case with Angela, things don't quite go to plan. Angela soon finds herself with a new job, Alex deciding that the pair need to grow up and settle down like proper adults and her best friend from London suddenly arriving on her doorstep in a bit of a tizz. Angela feels like her perfect Christmas is slipping away from her and fast... can she save this Christmas and make it one to remember?!

This is the sixth book in Lindsey Kelk's 'I Heart...' series, and getting back into the swing of the story with these characters was like getting to know a friend again! I really love Angela, she's one of my favourite chick lit characters of all time, and this was definitely the case with this one. I loved Angela for wanting a perfect Christmas, she really loves the festive season, and doing Christmas in New York just sounds perfect, and I can't blame her for wanting it to be exactly right! She's a bit confused in this book, with a lot going on and poor old Angela ends up getting herself a bit frazzled, and rightly so to be honest! She's a hugely busy woman, thanks to her recent new job and the arrival of her British best friend Louisa and young daughter, not to mention Jenny seemingly going crazy too!

I really loved the pacing of this book. It starts well, before Christmas with the excitable build up, and Kelk puts this across so well, with Angela keen to decorate her huge Christmas tree in their tiny flat, and hiding presents all over the place. Things aren't always plain sailing in their marriage, and I feel that Lindsey Kelk has tackled important issues here that are very realistic and a lot of young couples have to face, and it was interesting to read the uncertainty between Alex and Angela for a change, and I could certainly argue for both points of view, although I was slightly more leaning on Alex's side if truth be told! The story with Jenny seemed a little bizarre to me, but then again, Jenny Lopez is a tad bizzare herself and she certainly adds some comedy moments to it, as well as a rather poignant scene involving Angela, one that shocked me and really struck a chord with me too.

Of course there are quite a few calamaties throughout the book, poor old Angela certainly knows how to find herself in the middle of them, and they really are funny! There's an absolutely hilarious scene involving Angela and an air vent, a mad dash around New York searching for a missing person and much, much more that had me chuckling away as I was reading. Without wanting to spoil too much as well,  there's a surprise return for a character from previous novels and it was brilliant having this person back too, it certainly added a bit more drama to the book! And of course another amazing part of the book is that it's set in New York at Christmas, one of my favourite places in the world, and Angela seemed to love it as much as me! Kelk brings to life all of those amazing sights and the festive feeling, and it was just brilliant from start to finish.

I cannot tell you how much I loved this book, and being back with Angela, Alex and the gang again, especially at Christmas time. I really hope this isn't the last that we see of these characters, although in a way it's the perfect ending to an utterly brilliant and classic chick lit series. Angela was as hilarious as ever, there were lots of laughs as well as some more serious and poignant moments for this well loved character, and I was really feeling the emotions along with her as I was reading. The festive feeling was apparent all the way through the book, despite Angela's hectic schedule, and I had everything crossed for the perfect Christmas for her despite everything! While this book would work okay as a stand-alone novel, it's best read as part of the brilliant series, and if you've read them all so far, you definitely WON'T want to miss out on this! A super festive treat that shouldn't be missed!!

17 November 2013

Book Review: The Proposal by Tasmina Perry

"Just say yes to this unforgettable read and take a spellbinding, romantic journey from the dazzling days of the debutantes in 1950s London to glamorous modern Manhattan.

When Amy Carrell's wealthy boyfriend ends their relationship just before Christmas, she's left to nurse her broken heart alone. With nothing to lose, she replies to an advertisement requesting a companion for a mysterious 'Manhattan adventure'. 

Whisked off to New York with eccentric British aristocrat Georgia Hamilton, Amy experiences a glamorous side of the city that she's never seen before. Along the way, Georgia initiates her protegee in the arts of old-school elegance. 

But as Georgia shares her life lessons, Amy discovers a painful secret in her mentor's past. A secret that shattered her future. A story of love and betrayal that only Amy has the power to put right."

Rating: 5/5

You can buy The Proposal as a hardback or an eBook now.

I am a big fan of Tasmina Perry's summer blockbuster novels - in fact, they are quite often one of the highlights of my summer reading, and together with her gorgeous book covers, they always tell me summer has well and truly arrived! However, Tasmina has decided to break from tradition and has brought us a winter-themed novel - not only that but it's a breakaway from her blockbuster traditions too, with more of a love story, split between modern day New York and 1950's debutante London. I was hoping it would be just as good as Tasmina's other novels I have loved before, and luckily she hasn't let me down!

Amy Carrell, a talented dancer from New York now living is London, is gutted when her rather wealthy boyfriend dumps her just before Christmas. She feels like she wasn't good enough for him, and now doesn't know what to do at Christmas now she's by herself. When she spots a small advert in a newspaper asking for a companion for a New York adventure, she decides it is worth the risk if she can get to see her beloved family for just a few days. Amy is taken over to New York by wealthy British aristocrat Georgia. Georgia is determined to see the sights of New York at last, and is fascinated with Amy's account of her city. Georgia decides she can show young Amy a thing or two as well, and the pair strike up an unlikely friendship. As the pair spend more time together, Amy uncovers something in Georgia's past that the older woman would rather keep a secret. Will Amy be able to write those wrongs, or is it too late?

What I loved about this book was the way it really focused on Georgia and Amy, and that's pretty much it. While other characters in the book come and go as it moves between past and present, our two leading ladies remain and I loved that, I felt very invested in their stories because of it. I really liked both of them as well, both incredibly different women with totally different outlooks on life, but each respectful of each other's worlds too. I did very sorry for Amy, stuck in a different country from her family at Christmastime and being dumped too, but she had a good heart and was determined to make the most of it. The adventure with Georgia just brought her out of herself and I really enjoyed reading about New York from both a native's (Amy's) and a tourist's (Georgia's) points of view.

I've lost count of how many novels I have read set in New York, and although I've been lucky enough to visit twice, it is still magical to read about it in books and picture the places that I've visited myself as well as mentally making a list of the places to visit when I next go! While the modern New York scenes were fantastic reading, it was the part's set in 1950's London that I really loved. Before I started this book, I didn't know much about the debutante scene, the balls, gowns and traditions that went with it so this was an eye-opener for me too. It was fun reading about a much younger Georgia too, and her struggled to fit in on a circuit where she felt she didn't belong. Her relationship with her mother was touching too, and some of the characters she meets along the way were very interesting, and certainly open up your eyes to the expectations of that time.

There's a bit of a mystery running throughout, in that we know something happened in Georgia's past that left her a bit broken, and she is feuding with her family but we don't find out until nearly the end what it is. I liked this small touch of her summer blockbusters in this lovely wintery novel, and I was shocked when I found out what it was - for me, it was totally unexpected. I loved how it was all handled though, and it brings together the 1950's part and the modern day perfectly, and for me the ending was just perfect. By the end, I loved both Georgia and Amy, and was sad to see them go, I could have read much more about these two women. For me, this book was utterly brilliant, and I loved every page. I needn't have worried about not enjoying it as much as Tasmina's summer novels because this was brilliant too, in a totally different way. It had it's festive part, with it being set in the run up to Christmas, and with Amy enjoying Christmas with her family at last (very emotional!), but more than that it's a story of lasting love that defies the years. A beautifully romantic story spanning the ages that you will love.

15 November 2013

Giveaway! The Proposal by Tasmina Perry

As well as the fabulous blog feature that Tasmina Perry wrote for me as part of her 'The Proposal' blog tour today, I also have one copy to give away to one lucky reader! It's a hardback of her fabulous new book, I loved it and it's one of my favourite stories of hers so far, there was something so charming about it.

If you want a chance to win your own copy of this book, all you have to do is complete the entry form at the bottom of this post, and that's it! There is a free entry every day, so make sure you check back to get even more chances to win!

The competition is open from 15th November 2013 until 23rd November 2013 at midnight when the winner will be chosen using Rafflecopter. UK entries only. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Blog Tour: The Proposal by Tasmina Perry

Today, I am delighted to welcome the lovely Tasmina Perry to my blog as part of the blog tour for her brand new novel The Proposal! The book is a break-away from Tasmina's traditional summer bonkbusters, but I absolutely loved it, it's a gorgeous love story and being set in New York makes it even better. Tasmina was kind enough to write me a piece for her blog tour about her favourite proposal scenes, I would agree with most of these! Have a read and let me know in the comments what your favourite proposal scenes are!

You can buy The Proposal as an eBook or a hardback now!

Favourite Proposal scenes

Proposals have always captured the imagination of authors, screenwriters and film directors because there are few more romantic things that can happen between two people than ask – or be asked  -to spend the rest of your life together.

Of course my new novel The Proposal contains a proposal. I loved writing it and even cried when I was finishing the last chapter. But I’ve always been a sucker for proposal scenes in books and movies. Here’s some of my favourites.

Pride and Prejudice
Jane Austen didn’t write gushing love stories or proposals but her novels were all the more powerful for the simmering emotions that lay between the repressed words. See Darcy’s proposal “You must allow me to tell you…”

High Fidelity
Nick Hornby’s record loving hero goes on a journey discovering more songs and ex-girlfriends before asking Laura to marry him. Not gushy, but funny, honest and true.

Four Weddings and a Funeral
‘Is it raining? I hadn’t noticed’ might have been a bit corny. But ‘do you agree not to marry me and consider doing it for the rest of your life’ was pure magic.

The Runaway Bride
Julia Roberts does the deed and tells Richard Gere why they should spend the rest of their lives together

Sex and the City (the movie)
In a dressing room - with shoes – where else. It was actually Big’s second proposal but it was definitely the best.

When Harry Met Sally
No actual ‘Will you marry me’ but one of the most heart-melting moments in film nonetheless.

Thanks so much, Tasmina!

12 November 2013

Blog Tour: Christmas at Carrington's by Alexandra Brown

Today, I am thrilled to welcome Alexandra Brown to my blog as part of the special blog tour for her brand new book, Christmas at Carrington's! I'm reading the book at the moment and it's a great read so far, and I'll be reviewing it later in the week, but until then, you can enjoy Alex's piece on her 'Christmas at Carrington's' playlist, and writing a festive novel in summer!

Christmas at Carrington’s Playlist

Check out Alexandra's Christmas at Carrington's playlist here!

Writing a Christmassy novel in the middle of summer is an interesting experience, especially as I was in Spain for part of the time, lounging by a poolside sipping a caipirinha while writing about snow rooms and steaming mugs of banoffee coffee. So, to really get my Christmas mood on, I listened to loads of festive tunes, watched all of the Christmas films and forced down a few tumblers of Baileys, and I don’t even like Baileys… MUCH.

Here is a list of some of the tunes I listened to, and I’d like to give Miss Sarajevo a special mention because it’s my go-to song for guaranteed tears – it gets me every time and I always listen to it before writing a very emotional scene. And sad things can happen at Christmas time too…. right? But of course there’s also plenty of love, laughter and festive happiness in Christmas at Carrington’s.    
Love Is In The Air – John Paul Young

Single Ladies - Beyoncé

My World is Empty Without You – Diana Ross & The Supremes

Last Christmas – Wham

Hey Sexy Lady - PSY Gangnam Style

Strangers In The Night – Frank Sinatra

It’s Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas – Michael Bublé

Miss Sarajevo – U2 and Pavarotti

Queen of Starting Over - Beverley Knight

All I Want For Christmas Is You – Mariah Carey

Let It Snow – Dean Martin

Do What You Want – Lady Gaga

Isn’t She Lovely – Stevie Wonder

Merry Christmas Everybody – Slade

Thanks so much, Alexandra!

11 November 2013

Book Review: Calling Mrs Christmas by Carole Matthews

"Cassie Smith has been out of work for a while but she has an idea. Drawing on her love of Christmas, she begins charging for small things: wrapping presents; writing cards; tree-decorating. She's soon in huge demand and Cassie's business, Calling Mrs Christmas, is born.

Carter Randall wants to make Christmas special for his children so he enlists Cassie's help, and his lavish requests start taking up all her time. Thank goodness she can rely on her partner Jim to handle the rest of her clients.

When Carter asks Cassie to join them on a trip to Lapland, she knows she shouldn't go. As much as tries, Cassie can't deny how drawn she is to Carter and everything he has to offer, but she still loves her warm-hearted Jim. Suddenly Cassie finds herself facing a heart-breaking choice that could change her entire life."

Rating: 4.5/5

You can buy Calling Mrs Christmas as a paperback or an eBook now.

Carole Matthews has been releasing a Christmas book for a couple of years now, and luckily for all of her fans, she has carried on that tradition this year! Calling Mrs Christmas, complete with gorgeously festive book cover, is the 2013 release. I've really enjoyed reading Carole's latest books, and I was quietly confident that this would be one that I would love too.

Cassie is out of work, and fed up of relying on her lovely boyfriend Jim to bring home the bacon for the pair of them - he's a prison warden but doesn't earn a lot, and the job seems to take a lot out of him personally too. Cassie thinks up her own business, helping people organise their own Christmas, from writing cards and wrapping presents to throwing Christmas parties. Soon, 'Calling Mrs Christmas' takes off and Cassie is inundated with people wanting to utilise her services, leading to her roping in Jim and her sister to help as well. When a rather rich client, Carter, comes along, she's offered the opportunity of a lifetime but it means possibly upsetting Jim and their relationship. Will Cassie go with what is best for business or with what her heart knows is the right decision...

This book was really fun and festive, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. It's jam packed with festive fun, from christmas parties and trees, to a wonderful winter escape to Lapland and more. Matthews really layers it on in the book, and I really did love it, it made me feel so festive and wanting to put up my own Christmas tree and write my cards too! My only problem with the book was Cassie! I found her to be quite self-centred, and her lack of appreciation towards her lovely boyfriend Jim, my favourite character in the whole book, made me a bit cross in parts and I wished that she would be a bit more grateful to all of those who were helping her. Her idea for her business was a good one though, and it makes you realise just how much people put into making Christmas for their loved ones.

While the story of Cassie and her new business, it oddly wasn't my favourite part of the book. This accolade more than deservedly belonged to Jim and his job at the local prison, where he is a prison warden at a young offenders institute. Here, we meet two of Jim's charges, Rozzer and Smudge who are due to be released soon. Both have a very sad back story, and I was totally emotionally invested in their story and wanting a nice ending for the pair of them. Smudge in particular had me in tears in several parts throughout the book, and I loved how Jim saw through their pasts and that their hearts were good and they needed just a helping hand. It was so touching, I loved Jim and the boys and I would have loved more of the story to be about them, - although it wasn't obviously festive, it has the message of having faith in someone, and helping others in their time of need, something we should all do not just at Christmas but all year round.

This was a superbly written book full of festive cheer, and I really loved it. I loved its journey to Lapland, an absolutely magical trip that I would love to take Harry on one day, and viewing it through a child's eyes was even better, it was just full of magic and Cassie seemed like Mother Christmas for making it all happen. Her struggle to make the right decisions ran all the way through the book, and her struggle to keep things together as her business took off was a realistic one, and I hoped that she would do the right thing in the end. Jim was by far and away my favourite thing about the book, and I urge you to read it to read Jim's story, a very emotional and touching addition to this brilliant festive read. Brilliant!

9 November 2013

eBook Review: Last Christmas by Talli Roland

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

Eager to banish the ghost of Christmas past - when her boyfriend dumped her on the streets of Paris - Lucy is determined to make this the best Christmas ever. She rallies friends and family for an epic celebration that just happens to fall on the same day as her ex's festive 

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

Rating: 4/5

You can buy Last Christmas as an eBook now!

Talli Roland is back this Christmas with another short festive novella, and I was really pleased to be offered the chance to review it. I read her 2012 offering Mistletoe in Manhattan last year and really enjoyed it - in fact, it was one of the first short stories/novellas I had ever read and I've read a few since then which I think is a good sign! As usual, Talli's eBook cover is gorgeous, certainly good enough to be on a paperback book too, and I love that such care is taken over her covers - although it's only an eBook and you don't get to look at the cover on your shelf, it is just so much nicer to look at and definitely tempts you into reading it even more!

The novella is centred around a character Lucy, who was dumped last Christmas by her ex-boyfriend just as she proposed to him. Since then, Lucy hasn't exactly been a barrel of laughs, and hasn't moved on from her horrid ex. When she finds out that he is now getting married on Christmas Day, she decides to throw her own Christmas party to show him that she's moved on and isn't bothered by his nuptials. However, when the groom's sister approaches her telling her that the wedding has been thrown into disarray and can Lucy help, she has to choose whether to save the wedding or get her sweet revenge and make it a Christmas never to forget.

I'll start by saying that this book was too short! I loved the characters straight away, especially poor old Lucy who you can't help but feel sorry for, and I wanted to know more about them and her journey to getting over her horrible ex-boyfriend! Roland does a great job of setting up the past history of these two characters, and creating the party and wedding ideas, but for me it was just over too quickly, I wanted more from it. This is often my problem with short stories, I just don't think they are enough for me, but I enjoyed everything that I read here. It was very well written, it had a good pace considering it was so short, and gave me a good few laughs along the way.

There's only a few characters in this book, Lucy, the main characters; Rob her ex, James the new man she stumbles across by chance, and Mimi, a young woman employed by Lucy. Mimi in particular is especially funny, totally engrossed in setting up the party and making it a huge bash, despite Lucy's hesitations! James is very sweet, a proper gentleman but Lucy is sure that there is a secret about his last relationship he's hiding. Finally, Lucy's ex Rob is a guy you have to hate, he dumped her out of the blue and then is getting married less than a year later. They are all good characters to read about, you just want Lucy to turn around and whack Rob for his cheek, and I'd love to read a full novel about Lucy and Mimi!

For me, this is a great short story to curl up with on an evening, you'll certainly get it finished, and have enjoyed a good story. Although Lucy does hate Christmas, it did make me rather look forward to the festive season, and was a great way to pass the time of an evening. Talli Roland is a very talented writer, able to write a short story that whilst very short, doesn't lack any detail or story at all, I was just left wanting even more! If you think short stories aren't your thing, give this one a go, you won't regret it.

7 November 2013

Giveaway: Win one of two eBooks of Talli Roland's new novella 'Last Christmas'!

Today I'm bringing you a fabulous competition courtesy of the very lovely Talli Roland! Her latest eBook novella is called 'Last Christmas' and has just been released, and I was lucky enough to read it already... it's fabulous! It's a very sweet love story about moving on at Christmas, and I really enjoyed it. Talli has kindly offered me 2 eBooks copies to give away, and it's open internationally too, so get entering to win your own copy of this great story!

Open to all. One entry per person. Winners will be chosen via Rafflecopter. Competition runs until midnight on 14th November 2013. Winners will be contacted for their details. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

4 November 2013

Book Review: Take A Look At Me Now by Miranda Dickinson

"How far would you go to make a new start?

When Nell’s on-off boyfriend Aidan calls her into his office, losing her job is the last thing she expects.

Heartbroken and unemployed to boot, she makes a radical decision to blow her redundancy cheque and escape to the untested waters of San Francisco.

But is the glamour of the city too good to be true? And can Nell leave her past behind?"

Rating: 4/5

You can buy Take A Look At Me Now as a paperback or an eBook now.

I have read the past few releases by author Miranda Dickinson, and always look forward to her new stories. For this book, she's been given a new cover look, something which moves away from her other books in a way, but I feel Miranda has still written the book in her heart-warming and unique style. Since reading it, I have read that Miranda has said it's based partly on her own experiences of losing her job, and what happened afterwards, and now I've read it, it's definitely an uplifting story for anyone finding themselves in those awful circumstances. Here's why I think Take A Look At Me Now is a must-read.

Nell is horrified and shocked when she is made redundant out of the blue. She isn't expecting it, and leaves her office and her friends behind feeling totally shell-shocked. She makes her way back to her parents house, and there she makes a momentous decision... she decides to spend her not-so-large redundancy cheque and fly to San Francisco for a few months. She joins her cousin Lizzie and moves into her small apartment, with the now San-Fran native helping her explore her home for the next few months. While there, she meets native Max Rossi, an artist who she immediately feels an attraction to. Is it going to be just the city of San Francisco that Nell falls in love with, or is there something else that will be making Nell want to stay?

The book begins with Nell being made redundant, and given that is told to us in the blurb of the book, it isn't a spoiler! What happens for the rest of the book is all due to this moment in Nell's life though,  one defining moment that forces her to make a decision that previously she never would have considered. San Francisco isn't somewhere that I have been yet, although it is definitely somewhere I want to visit before I die (wow, that's cheerful!) and once you've read the book, you can see why Nell wanted to go so badly. What I really loved about the writing in this book is how you can tell that Dickinson has really done her research with this book - everything about the place comes to life in your mind due to her brilliant descriptive writing, everything from the buildings, to the famous sites such as the Golden Gate bridge are so brilliantly written. Miranda Dickinson went on a holiday to San Francisco, and all this really does come across in her writing, it is clear she's fallen in love with the city too.

The cast of characters in the book are fantastic. Nell is very likeable, and you can feel sorry for her situation straight away. The demise of her relationship with her ex-boss and ex-boyfriend Aiden also adds to Nell's woes, and in a way, you can't blame her for fleeing. I liked how Dickinson writes in Nell's cousin Lizzie, who is a great addition to the story. I loved her, she has a great attitude and work ethic, and seems like such a genuinely warm and kind person, her and Nell really are perfect female leads for the book, there is nothing dislikeable about them at all. I loved reading about them working together, exploring and just hanging out in Lizzie's small apartment. The inclusion of the residents around San Francisco and in Lizzie's neighbourhood were perfect, there were some real characters in there and made it fun to read, you never knew who you were going to meet next.

The book is a great journey of self-discovery, and shows what amazing things can happen out of something that seems so awful at first. Nell's passion for cooking and diners really comes through, especially in the scenes in the brilliant Annie's Diner... I wish I had somewhere like that to go on a regular basis, it sounds amazing! I loved the vivid descriptions of San Francisco from Nell's eyes, she's really in awe of the place and it comes across so well in her writing. Dickinson has a way of drawing you into a story, making you care about its characters and them all getting the happy ending that they deserve. I loved the surprises along the way too, it certainly kept me interested and I didn't want to stop reading, even when my eyes were begging me for sleep! I really enjoyed Take A Look At Me Now, it's another heart-warming and life-affirming story from a fantastic author. Read it!

1 November 2013

Book Review: The Forever of Ella and Micha by Jessica Sorensen

"Ella and Micha have been through tragedy, heartbreak, and love. When they are with each other, anything seems possible. But now they are thousands of miles apart . . .

Ella continues going to school and tries to deal with her past, desperate for Micha to be by her side, but she refuses to let her problems get in the way of his dreams.

Micha spends his days traveling the country with the band, but being away from Ella is harder than he thought. He wants her closer to him -- needs her with him. But he won't ask her to leave college, just to be with him.

The few moments they do spend together are fleeting, intense, and filled with passion. They know they want to be together, but is wanting something enough to get them to their forever?"

Rating: 4/5

You can buy The Forever of Ella and Micha as a paperback or an eBook now.

I first came across New Adult author Jessica Sorensen earlier this year when I read her book The Secret of Ella and Micha. It was one of the first novels I've read in the New Adult genre, and I'm pleased to say I really enjoyed it and it opened up my mind to wanting to read more. I found out shortly after finishing Jessica's last book that it was part of an Ella and Micha series, and so when her UK publishers sent me a copy of the second book in the series to review, I was pleased to carry on with these characters and find out what they would be up to next. As a note, there is also a third and fourth novel in the series, and I'm looking forward to those too!

Ella and Micha are very much in love, and feel that although they are only young, they have been through more than enough together to know that what they have is real, and is forever. However, now they've gone their separate ways to college, Ella is struggling to work their relationship out over the long distance, especially as Micha is so keen to make his band work out. He hates being away from Ella, and worries about her, knowing that her best friend Lila will be watching over her, but for him, it isn't enough. The distance starts to make things feel different, and Ella isn't sure what to do next. Can she go on loving Micha from afar, knowing its forever, or is it just not enough any more to make her want forever?

I really liked reading Ella and Micha's story in the first book. They are a pair of quite tragic teenagers, both having secrets in their pasts which haunt then and force them to be the people that they have become. When they got together, they almost found kindred spirits in each other, and this book explores their relationship further and how they rely upon each other to survive. Ella, I feel, is much more needy of Micha, whereas I feel Micha truly loves Ella. It's an interesting dynamic that the pair have and I feel that Sorensen captures it so well, the teen love and angst that the pair feel, and the conflicting emotions that come with living apart too. It's not easy and that's the way it is in the story for them - they have to settle for what they have rather than what they both want.

I don't want to talk too much about the story because part of the enjoyment of this book is reading the twists and turns along the way, and slotting them in with the pace of the story. I liked both Ella and Micha a lot - they're likeable in their own ways, and I found Ella's story in this book quite emotional and moving - there's a lot for her to deal with and some quite difficult issues are explored here, and I felt Soresen explored them well. Micha has his own issue to come up against, some that I really hadn't expected at all, but certainly make you question parental bonds and responsibilities - this book really was a rollercoaster of emotions and it really made me think as I was reading how I would react in their situations.

Yes, in some ways the book was predictable - for me, there just could not have been any other ending than the one I wanted to happen. But I liked reading the story as it meandered its way to the finish, and I did actually care about these characters too - I felt invested in their story. Not only that, but I really enjoyed reading about the pursuits of their friends Lila and Ethan too, who actually feature in the next book in the series, The Temptation of Lila and Ethan. Ella and Micha really weren't together a huge amount in the book, so we get to find out more about them as separate people - the two halves of the whole - and it's interesting to read about the different ways they cope without each other. This is truly the crux of the story, and Soresen's writing really brings it all to life as you're reading, I found the book very easy to read and to immerse myself in. If you read and loved the first book, you'll definitely want to read this one soon to find out what happens next in the lives of Ella and Micha, I really enjoyed this and look forward to more.