29 April 2015

Book Review: Don't Tell The Brides-to-Be by Anna Bell

"With a baby on the way and her business starting to boom, has Penny finally found her happily ever after? 

Things are looking up for Penny Robinson. She's kicked her gambling addiction and even started her own business: Princess on a Shoestring, an all-inclusive service for brides-to-be looking to pinch pennies on their big day. Between family fights and wardrobe calamities, wedding planning is no piece of cake, but Penny's got it all under control. That is, until a rival planner decides to take her down—one hard-won bride at a time. Now Penny must fight to save her reputation and her livelihood before it's too late. But when a romantic weekend away has some unexpected consequences, Penny's expectations for her career are brought back down to earth with a bump."

Rating: 4.5/5

You can buy Don't Tell the Brides-to-Be as a paperback or an eBook now.

I read my first book by Anna Bell last year, when I read the second book in her 'Don't Tell...' series called Don't Tell the Boss. I really enjoyed that book, and was pleased to receive the third book in the series to review called Don't Tell the Brides-to-Be, complete with a really pretty blue cover that drew me in straight away. I was looking forward to catching up with these characters again, seeing the next step in Penny's life, and the story certainly didn't disappoint, I really enjoyed it!

Penny's new business Princess on a Shoestring, her wedding planning on the cheap venture, is going well and she's booking more weddings than she ever expected. Her husband is thrilled for her, and the pair finally feel like their marriage is on track. When Penny meets a rival wedding planner at a wedding fayre, and finds her to be less than nice, she realises she has to toughen up and keep her brides to herself, never mind the competition. But just as she sets her plans in motion, Penny making a discovery that threatens to ruin everything she has built up so far, and Penny has no idea how she is going to cope...

As I said before, I have read the previous book, but not the first one in the series, so you can certainly read this as a stand-alone, although it does of course work better if you read its predecessors first. There is plenty explained throughout the book though, so you shouldn't feel too lost when you are reading, and are able to catch up with what has happened before. I loved Penny once again, she's a brilliant lead character, always optimistic, determined to make her new business work, and her marriage too, and she never fails to make me laugh. Even when things look like they are going badly wrong, she's still determined to plough on and make the best of a bad situation, even if that means keeping a few things to herself.

The development of this story was really well done, and I liked the twists and turns it took as the book went on. I don't want to discuss too much about the plot, because I enjoyed reading about it as it unfolded, Suffice to say, however, Penny doesn't perhaps deal with the revelations in the best way, although you can understand her worry and nervousness especially as she has a fledgling business to take care of. There was a sweet sub-plot about her husband Mark's grandmothers illness, and this was a more serious storyline, it was well written and very emotional, it made me tear up occasionally as I read it and was a good addition to the story, we certainly saw a different side to Penny and Mark throughout this storyline.

Yes, the plotline was simple, and perhaps the obvious place for the series to go after the previous two books, but that didn't stop  me enjoying it at all - in fact, quite the opposite, I loved it! It was nice to see Penny working hard and making a success of her business, and the rivalry going on with the posh wedding planner was really quite funny too, I liked how Penny was determined not to let her win! The mentions of all the different wedding ideas going on were brilliant too, everything from a woodland wedding to an adult soft play idea, it's all in there! I hope this isn't the last book in the series, and we see more about Mark and Penny going on from the things in this book and how things work out for them! Anna Bell's writing is brilliant, so easy to read and the plot was so enjoyable, I couldn't put it down. A brilliant, light-hearted read that I loved.

28 April 2015

News: Carole Matthews' Cake Shop in the Garden launch!

To celebrate the launch of Carole Matthews' brand new novel The Cake Shop in the Garden, her publishers Little, Brown decided to do something a little bit different, and actually built a real Cake Shop in the Garden! It was created in Russell Square in London, and I have to say it looked amazing! Apparently, it took over 450 hours to build, and featured 15 different types of cakes, and visitors were encouraged to tuck in to the various things on display.

Enjoy the images from the event which I have posted below, they look great. I've also just finished reading The Cake Shop in the Garden too, and it's a beautiful book, I'll be reviewing it shortly.

Click on the pictures to see a bigger version!

26 April 2015

Book Review: The Two of Us by Andy Jones

"Falling in love is the easy part. What matters most is what happens next...

Fisher and Ivy have been an item for a whole nineteen days. And they just know they are meant to be together. The fact that they know little else about each other is a minor detail. Over the course of twelve months, in which their lives will change forever, Fisher and Ivy discover that falling in love is one thing, but staying there is an entirely different story.

The Two of Us is a charming, honest and heart-breaking novel about life, love, and the importance of taking neither one for granted."

Rating: 4/5

You can buy The Two of Us as a paperback or an eBook now.

I was sent a new debut novel to read recently, and it was by a male author called Andy Jones. I don't read many books by male authors, mainly because they don't tend to write very much in the genres that I read, so I was excited to read this hyped debut novel. I wasn't massively keen on the cover, I found it quite bland and uninspiring, but luckily the book didn't follow suit. I really enjoyed the love story between Fisher and Ivy, but was curious to find out if they would end up with their happy ever after.

 It's hard to review this novel without giving too much away, but that's what I am going to do. Therefore I won't talk much about the plot because it's one of those books that you want to find out about as you read along. I very much enjoyed finding out about how Ivy and Fisher handled the obstacles that were thrown at them during the first few days and weeks of their fledgling relationship, and exactly how they came to tackle them.

I found Ivy a bit of a strange character, and struggled to warm to her. She's older than Fisher and it is clear that that is a bit of an issue for her, although it doesn't seem to be so much for Fisher. She was quite strange with Fisher considering their relationship. She seemed quite stand-offish, quite hard to warm to and I was left wondering what Fisher saw in her at times. Fisher, however, seemed like a lovely man. He was clearly head over heels in love with Ivy, even though he seemed reluctant to tell her that throughout the book, and I think he handled all the things that were thrown at him really well. The book is told entirely through his eyes, we get to experience everything with him, and perhaps that's why he was my favourite over Ivy, but I still really warmed to him and liked him as a person.

One of the touching side plots of this book involved Fisher and his friend El, who was suffering from Huntington's disease. Andy Jones isn't afraid to get very realistic with this storyline, showing how the disease has robbed a healthy man of his ability to do pretty much anything on his own, how he has to drink from a plastic beaker like a toddler, and how he ultimately wants to die and escape his prison of a life. This was a very shocking part of the book, very moving and emotional, yet ultimately I enjoyed reading it, even though it was very clear that Fisher deeply struggled with the shocking decline of his dear friend.

While the start of the book seems to be quite light-hearted, and a fun looking at diving into a relationship head first without perhaps thinking of the consequences, it takes a far more serious turn towards the last part of the book. I was shocked with the twists and turns of the tale, left quite upset and moved by what I was reading, and it was definitely interesting reading this storyline from a male perspective as well. This was a well written, enjoyable book that really moved me from the beginning. There's a lot of emotion in this book - humour, grief, happiness, love and much more, and I feel Andy Jones does a lot of justice to his storylines through his writing and handles delicate issues gently and with respect. I look forward to reading more from this author, a very strong book that I thoroughly enjoyed.

25 April 2015

Book Review: First Time in Forever by Sarah Morgan

"Happily-Ever-After isn’t on Emily Donovan’s agenda…

Emily’s been too swept up in a challenging year of firsts, from becoming a stand-in mum to her niece Lizzy to moving to remote but beautiful Puffin Island, to think about love.

But that’s before charismatic local yacht club owner Ryan Cooper kisses her…

Ryan knows Emily has a complicated past that she’s struggling to face. So he makes it his mission to help her unwind and enjoy the chemistry they share.

Can the welcoming community of Puffin Island work their magic on Emily and get her to take her biggest leap of trust yet —putting her heart in someone else’s hands?"

Rating: 5/5

You can buy First Time in Forever as an eBook or a paperback now!

I'll be honest and say that I thought none of Sarah Morgan's books would live up to how much I loved her 'O'Neill Brothers' trilogy, set on a beautiful snowy resort in Vermont. I loved the characters, the setting and everything about all 3 stories. However, I was so excited to receive a review copy of the first book in Sarah's brand new 'Puffin Island' trilogy. I was sure it wouldn't live up to my expectations, but how wrong I was! I absolutely loved the story from start to finish, and now cannot wait for the second book to be released in July!

Emily's life has all been thrown in awry recently, and she's struggling to cope under the pressure and expectation placed on her. She's become a stand-in mum to her young niece Lizzy after the death of her famous sister, and whisks her away to a remote island in order for Lizzy to stay under the radar of the paprazzi, who are keen to snap some pictures of the young girl. Emily isn't sure she's the right person for the job, but local boy Ryan Cooper is there to help when she needs it, whether or not she's ready to let him in. Will Emily be able to adjust to life on Puffin Island with Lizzy, and can she overcome her own fears while she's there too, as well as letting Ryan in to her life?

As I said before, this is the first book in a trilogy from Sarah Morgan, and we briefly meet the other two ladies who will take the main role for the next two books, although this one focuses on the story of Emily, one of the three friends. I really liked Emily from the beginning, and could totally understand her reluctance to take on a niece she barely knew, and run away from everything else around her in order to protect the child. It's a shock for anyone, but to have to hide her young niece is another pressure Emily doesn't need, and we can really feel her stress as the opening chapters unfold. I really enjoyed reading the journey that Emily went on throughout the book, slowly accepting her new role as caregiver to Lizzy, and it was so sweet to read their relationship blossoming too, Sarah Morgan writes the character of Lizzy so perfectly, not many authors get young child characters right in their books but this one was spot on for me.

Ryan is definitely the male hero of the book, always ready to step and save the day wherever Lizzy and Emily are concerned. He's asked by their mutual friend to keep an eye on the newcomers to the island, and he certainly takes his responsibility very seriously. Ryan was everything that the book needs from a male lead - handsome, caring and a bit of a mystery too, we're left hanging about his past for quite a while, wondering what happened to him to make him return to Puffin Island and run his yacht club. The chemistry between he and Emily was clear straight away, and I liked the twists and turns the book took regarding the possibility of the pair beginning a relationship. As ever with Morgan's books, the characters are believable, with realistic flaws and problems, and this just makes her books all the more fun for me to read.

As well as the main story, what I loved about this book was how easily Sarah Morgan created a little community within her book, and makes you want to become a resident of Puffin Island yourself! It's a close-knit community, and I cared about all the characters from Ryan's grandmothers, to the young mum who runs the failing ice-cream shop, it sounds like a wonderful place to live. Sarah Morgan's writing really brings the whole place to life as you read, and draws you ever more into the story, so you really don't want to put the book down once you start reading! The story was absolutely fantastic from start to finish, and I loved the fact that I will hopefully be catching up more with Ryan, Emily and Lizzy in the next two books to see how life is going for them all, I do love a good book series! With this book, Sarah Morgan has further cemented herself as one of my favourite authors, and I'm so excited for the next book, 'Some Kind of Wonderful' which is out this summer!

19 April 2015

Book Review: Kate and Alf by Carrie Stone

"Kate loves Alf. And Alf loves Kate… Doesn’t he?

Kate can’t wait for her long-term boyfriend Alf to propose. So he might be a bit of a control freak who’s obsessed with his career … and he also seems to have conveniently forgotten their two-year plan to get married, buy a bigger house and have children. But Kate’s sure that ring will be on her finger soon.

When her thirty-second birthday ends in humiliating, proposal-less disaster, even Kate is left wondering if Alf really is The One. Then Alf’s friend, Marcus, needs a place to stay. With his dark eyes, easygoing manner and kind concern for Kate, Marcus is everything Alf is not - and it's not long before Kate begins to wonder if there’s more to life than diamonds."

Rating: 2/5

You can buy Kate and Alf as a paperback or an eBook now.

Another Harper Impulse title which caught my eye recently was the debut novel from author Carrie Stone. I have to admit I was sucked in by the gorgeous cover - it's really eye-catching and beautiful, so I was sure it was one that I wanted to dive into straight away. Being a debut book, I went in with no expectations, but I wasn't exactly sure where the book was going even by the time I had read 1/4 of it. It just seemed quite slow paced for me, and I have to admit that I didn't warm to the characters much either, it just fell a bit flat for me and was a bit of a disappointing read.

The story of Kate and Alf was one that I thought was a love story, but it didn't quite seem to be that. Kate and Alf have been together a long time, and Kate is sure that Alf is going to propose to her sooner rather than later. But when he doesn't, and ends her birthday party with a gift that is very much not an engagement ring, it leaves Kate wondering about the future of their relationship. Combine that with Alf's sudden job move, and Alf's friend Marcus suddenly moving in, Kate realises that perhaps there's something else out there for her other than her relationship with Alf.

I confess that the book was good to start with. Kate's convinced that Alf will propose, you can feel the excitement as she prepares for that party and what her future holds, but it isn't long before it all starts unravelling. You can't help but feel disappointed for Kate when the proposal doesn't happen, and also feel anger towards Alf for being so naive and not seeing what Kate wants. Right from the off, I felt this couple weren't destined to be together, and you have to wonder why they stayed with each other so long. However, rather than tackling their issues head on and talking it over like adults, I felt both Kate and Alf behaved a bit childishly, skirting around the issues and letting their anger fester rather than talking it through. In fact, I have to wonder what she saw in Alf at all. He seemed to do nothing but put down her dreams, her hobbies and generally being unsupportive - what was there to love really? Not a lot.

The introduction of another male characer, Marcus, really didn't help matters as it seemed to make Kate's behaviour even worse. I didn't like how she flitted between Marcus and Alf, almost playing them off against each other to an extent, and this is where I started to lose interest in the book. Kate was quite a selfish character, and so was Alf too if I'm honest. The book moves on, with Alf having job woes, and Kate trying her hand at something she hasn't done for many years. These things did nothing to make me feel sorry for these two people, and I was starting not to care how it ended up for them. I kept waiting for something exciting or interesting to happen, but it just never came, It had a serious tone, but felt like it needed lightening up a lot.  Sadly, with characters I didn't really care for and a dull plotline, this book didn't work for me at all. I enjoy stories about normal people and their normal relationships but this one fell flat sadly.

10 April 2015

Blog Tour: The Vintage Guide to Love and Romance by Kirsty Greenwood

Today I am excited to be part of the blog tour for Kirsty Greenwood's fabulous new book The Vintage Guide to Love and Romance! I started the book last night and already I am hooked, it seems brilliant already! Kirsty's debut was a massive success and I'm sure this one will follow suit too. Kirsty was kind enough to write an article for my blog tour stop today about 'How to Write a First Draft', something I'm sure that will be very helpful to lots of budding authors out there!

I wish Kirsty lots of luck with the new book, and send my thanks to her for inviting me to be part of her blog tour!

How to Write a First Draft by Kirsty Greenwood

I think the main thing to know about writing a first draft is that there’s no one way to do it. Some people find it better to plan out a plot before they even type the first word, many writers like to do just one draft and have it be perfect the first time around. I’m still figuring out my ideal ‘first draft’ process, but here are the top three things I’ve learned so far.

1. Give it your all.

Put everything and anything you want into your first draft. If you have an idea you think you ‘might’ like to explore just stick it in. If you think of a joke but aren’t sure if it kills, just chuck it in there. If a character pops up and they are not what you expected, you pop them in there and go with the flow. What matters is that you get all of your ideas out. Many of those ideas, you’ll probably get rid of in the edits, but some may lead to the greatest scenes in the book.

2. Relax, Baby!

It’s all going to be okay. Be kind to yourself. Writing a first draft is tough and the likelihood is that it’s going to be a bit shit at first.  But it’s only one part of a much bigger process. You will almost certainly get feelings of dismay at how rubbish it seems. There will be a voice in your head that says ‘this is the wrong idea, the characters are not good enough, I have no business writing a book!’. Ignore that voice. It hasn’t got a clue what it’s talking about. That voice can do one. The important thing is to just keep swimming. You are writing a book. You’ve got this! You rock!

3. Finish.

The most important thing of all when writing a first draft is to finish it. Even if it has massive gaps in it and characters that completely change personality or it veers off on a tangent you were not banking on. Finish it. Tell the story. And by which I mean, get down the bones of the plot as best you can. Everything will be much clearer when you type The End.  Trust me on this.  After you’ve finished it you can  A) Be really proud that you wrote a whole book – not many people can do that. And B) Re-write it and get it the way you always wanted it to be. You can take out all the bobbins parts, you can refine character motivations, you can polish those jokes until they sparkle. But you haven’t earned the right to do any of that until you finish that first draft.  Get it down in all its messy, beautiful glory. You’ll be so pleased you did. 

Good luck!

Thanks so much, Kirsty!

3 April 2015

Book Review: The Ever After of Ella and Micha by Jessica Sorensen

"The day Ella has waited for is just around the corner. It's the day she'll marry Micha, the love of her life, the light that guided her out of the darkness. It looks like it will be the perfect Christmas-until an unexpected package arrives with a harsh reminder of Ella's past. Suddenly Ella doesn't feel as confident about her future. Can she really have a "happily-ever-after" if she's never even seen one?

Micha will stand by Ella no matter what she's going through-though he worries that she might leave him standing at the altar again. When he's offered a once-in-a-lifetime chance to tour with his favorite bands for three months, Micha knows he can't leave Ella behind. But can he ask her to uproot her life to join him on the road?

Now Ella and Micha must find a way to balance their fears, their dreams, and their love . . . if they ever want to hear wedding bells."

Rating: 4/5

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

Jessica Sorensen is the first author who introduced me to the New Adult genre of books, and I am glad that she did. Since I began reading her books, I've had my eyes opened to something I probably wouldn't have touched before, and have really enjoyed reading. The first series of books I read was centred around the character of Ella and Micha, a young and troubled teenage couple. I thoroughly enjoyed the first two books in the series, so I was really keen to read the final book and see how it would all work out for the young lovers, despite all their own personal troubles.

The day that Ella and Micha have been waiting for for ages has finally arrived - their wedding day. However, Ella is having some pre-wedding jitters, and is left unsure of what she really wants to do. Ella's not had a great family upbringing, and isn't sure she can make herself a happy future when she's never really had the chance to experience one. Micha is more sure - he knows this is exactly what he wants to do, and is looking forward to spending the rest of his life with Ella as his wife. But when he is offered an opportunity he's been waiting for for a long time, he realises he has to make a tough choice, one he doesn't want to make. Will the pair be able to make it up the aisle for their wedding day, or is it one commitment too far?

As a big fan of this series so far, I had ideas in my head about where I wanted it all to go for Ella and Micha, so there was a bit of pressure of Sorensen to deliver the right ending for me! I hadn't expected the last book to revolve around the couple's wedding, so that was a nice surprise. As usual, I loved both of the characters, and understood their individual dilemmas throughout the book. I felt so incredibly sorry for Ella. She's still not over the loss of her mother many years ago to suicide, and it's not affecting her potential future with Micah too. You can completely understand her feelings, yet at the same time I was a bit frustrated with her indecisiveness - sometimes you just have to go with your gut and do what you want to do!

Micah has to be the most understanding man on the planet! He is so completely in love with his fiancée, he's willing to put up with her craziness and indeciveness, and marry her anyway. I love how he feels towards Ella - he is her protector, her best friend, her lover, her confidante... what girl wouldn't want such a boyfriend?! He really is her hero, and I love the love between the pair, you can really feel it as you are reading. The way Sorensen writes their relationship... it's a true love story and for me there really could only be one ending.

The book isn't fast paced, it's not overly exciting to read but it s a nice slow meander to the ending of the story of Ella and Micha, and certainly doesn't disappoint for those who have enjoyed the series so far. It reveals more about these characters than we had known before, especially regarding Ella mother and what happened that fateful day - it certainly helps the reader to understand why Ella is how she is. Sorensen brings these characters so vividly to life with her story, her words and I find her narrative very easy to read. I enjoyed reading it from start to finish, and was very pleased with the ending to the series, but am sad to leave Ella and Micha behind at last. A fitting ending.