31 August 2015

eBook Review: The SW19 Club by Nicola May

"What would you do if you were told you could never have children?

Faced with this news, Gracie Davies is at an all-time low. But with the support of some new Wimbledon friends, an unorthodox therapist, her hippy-chick sister Naomi and Czech call-girl Maya, she sets up The SW19 Club and begins her rocky journey to inner peace and happiness. Add in a passionate fling with handsome landscaper Ed, a fairytale encounter with a Hollywood filmstar and the persistence of her adulterous ex, life is anything but predictable…"

Rating: 4/5

Nicola May is back this summer with her brand new book, The SW19 Club, and I was really excited when she asked me to review it for my blog. The idea of the book is tinged with a bit of sadness - Nicola herself recently went through something which has meant she is unable to have her own children, and it inspired her to write the story of Gracie, the character going through the exact same thing as Nicola is. You really feel the rawness and the fact Nicola has experienced this in  her writing, it is incredibly emotional and hard to read at times, but an ultimately uplifting story.

Gracie is devastated when she finally becomes pregnant with twins, and tragically loses them, and ultimately her ability to have any future children either. She is completely broken, and doesn't know where to turn, to the point where it is starting to affect her relationship and job. Eventually, Gracie realises she has to get on her with her life, and ends up making some new friends in Wimbledon when she's at the park. Her sister is a big help in getting her life back on track too, and soon Gracie is feeling like life could perhaps be on the up. As Gracie gets her own new club, The SW19 Club, up and running, she starts to realise she can have fun in the life she has been given after all...

The initial part of this book is very sad, and at times heart-breaking to read. Gracie's emotion comes through the page so easily, and I found myself getting tearful at several points. You can tell Nicola May has drawn on her own experiences with this book, and this comes across so well in the book. There will be people who have gone through what Nicola and Gracie have gone through, and will be able to relate to their story, but for those who haven't, it is a very tough insight into their world. Being able to have children is something you take for granted, so I can't imagine how hard it would to have that opportunity taken away from you for good, it is a truly awful thing for someone to have to experience.

That said, while the tone of the book starts off sad, it does pick up as it progresses, and I loved seeing Gracie break out of her misery and try to move on with her life. Her sister Naomi is brilliant at helping her get her life back together, and her nephew is so sweet too, you can see why Gracie loves spending time with him. The relationship between the two women is extremely close, and I felt glad that Gracie had someone so close to her when she really needed them. Gracie's partner Lewis, well, I struggled to fathom him out really. Yes, he lost babies too but he seems to think Gracie should be over it a lot quicker than she is, and struggles to understand why she wants to cling on to her baby weight, and the cots set up in the nursery. He felt a little cold to me, and I wanted to give him a good shake. Soon, things deteriorate for the pair and I was hopeful that would be the end of him! There's also another of Gracie's new friends, Czech call girl Maya whose story is shocking, gripping and twinged with a bit of sadness, and provided a little relief from Gracie's tale, but I loved it just the same!

The SW19 club, which is of course the title of the book, but doesn't actually appear a huge amount in the book. Gracie sets it up in Wimbledon park with her new found friend, and runs it as a support group for women who have gone through miscarriage. It's a great idea - the topic of miscarriage doesn't seem to be spoken about enough, and I can imagine it would be nice having people to talk to who have been through the same as you if you ever needed somewhere to turn. Again, Nicola really gets the tone of this part of the book right, some of the stories are really sad, but are necessary to understand where Gracie is coming from, and what she's had to get through to be where she is today.

This is definitely one of my favourite books by Nicola May - not the funny, laugh-out-loud books of the past I have read from her, but instead something touching, powerful and emotional - a story that so many women (and men) will be able to relate to, but with a glimmer of hope too. Gracie's hitting rock bottom was hard to read, I just wanted to scoop her up and hug her and cry with her, but it was inspiring the way she was able to be strong and get herself back on track in the end, both personally and professionally. The cast of the book are brilliant, all likeable people that you care about as you're reading. This story will make you cry, smile and laugh along with it, and I know it's a story that will stay with me. A beautiful read, just be aware some readers may find this perhaps a bit too close for home. Wonderful.

29 August 2015

eBook Review: Summer Flings and Dancing Dreams by Sue Watson

"Dance like nobody’s watching. Love like you’ll never get hurt…
Laura Watkin’s heart isn’t broken, she’s just forgotten how to use it.

After years on her own, the highlight of single mum Laura’s week is watching Strictly Come Dancing with a glass of Pinot Grigio and a large helping of imagination.

With her daughter Sophie going travelling, Laura knows the time is right to do something for herself for a change. One disastrous Zumba class later and Laura ends up at the feet (literally) of gorgeous dance instructor Tony Hernandez.

A natural dancer and inspiring teacher, Tony rekindles in Laura a passion she inherited from her ballroom dancer father – and with it comes a dream… to make him proud.

But when Tony enters them to perform at the National Dance Festival, can Laura’s new-found confidence survive the test? And with a once-in-a-lifetime chance to learn Flamenco in Spain, could Laura truly learn to dance like nobody’s watching… and love like she’ll never get hurt?

A laugh-out-loud, uplifting comedy about finding the courage to be yourself, the importance of dreams, and learning to grab life by the glitter balls."

Rating: 5/5

Available to buy now.

One of my new favourite authors is definitely Sue Watson! I have read her last 3 books, and completely devoured each of them, they have just been brilliant. Her writing is warm, funny, and her stories are about normal people you can imagine yourself knowing, and always leave me with a big smile on my face when I've finished them! Her brand new book Summer Flings and Dancing Dreams was no different, I absolutely loved it, and here's why I think it's a must-read!

This story is based around one woman, Laura, who works in a supermarket. Her parents were dancers, but after a tragedy in her childhood, Laura hasn't followed in their footsteps. Instead, she has ended up a single mum to a grown up daughter, works hard with her friends but certainly doesn't have job satisfaction. When she joins a dance class and reignites her passion for dancing, her new friend Tony is determined to get the Lola out of Laura, and get her performing again.

Now that we are entering that countdown to Christmas, and the X Factor/Strictly Come Dancing is upon us already, this is the perfect book to pick up! The main character Laura loves watching Strictly, her narrative about the music and dresses is a joy to read, you can tell her love of dancing and passion about it just from the way she talks about. I warmed to Laura straight away, she was a very normal woman, someone who has no confidence, is lonely and just wants to try and step out of her day to day life and try something new, and thank goodness she did! The story really is about Laura's journey to becoming a dancer, but it was so much more than that too. It was Laura's first person narrative that worked so well for me though - her thoughts, feelings and fears were written so perfectly, you end up feeling them along with her and I was just completely absorbed by her story!

Some of my favourite bits were with Laura's 'deaf' mother in her nursing home - I use the term deaf loosely of course! The pair are clearly not as close as they could be, owing to whatever happened to Laura and her mother years before, but it takes a long time for that to be revealed. When it is, however, I loved the honesty of both women and these were some of my favourite parts of the book. Laura's new best friend Tony, the dance instructor, is just absolutely brilliant - he's funny, unafraid to take the mick out of himself, and is the perfect person to bring Laura out of herself!  He's certainly larger than life, and I loved how he encouraged Laura every step of the way to dance again, and become what she truly can be. Her little holiday to Spain to learn authentic Flamenco was brilliant, one of my favourite parts of the book and I admired Laura for taking the plunge and going away!

Sue Watson's writing is just superb, and allows you to totally immerse yourself in the world of her characters, from the first page to the last. The story of Laura was very inspirational, made me smile and left me wanting to do something new with my life like Laura was. Dreams aren't just for young people, and Laura proves that when she takes a chance, and tries something new - as well as helping her confront the past that still haunts her. Everything about this book made me smile, from the dancing to the characters to the music - I could picture it all vividly in my mind as I was reading along. As you can tell, I loved this book, and now can't wait for the next one from Sue Watson, hope we aren't left waiting too long!!

28 August 2015

Blog Tour eBook Review: P.S. Olive You by Lizzie Allen

"Sun, sea . . . and a summer of endless possibilities .

From the glossy streets of Chelsea to a tiny Greek hideaway, Faith Cotton is about to have a summer that she will never forget!

Young bored housewife, Faith Cotton, escapes her stifling Chelsea life when her husband suggests they decamp to a tiny island in the Greek Cyclades for the summer. He works for the foreign office and has the inside scoop on ‘the Greek situation’. Europe is pouring money into Greece and, far from going down the plughole, Andrew believes that the island of Iraklia will soon see a tourist boom.

As Andrew flies back and forth between Greece and Brussels, he leaves Faith in charge of finding them a permanent holiday home on the island. But things don’t go to plan – over the course of a summer, Faith’s doomed marriage begins to unravel, and far from finding a house she set out for, she finally discovers the person she really is. . ."

Rating: 2.5/5

Available to buy now.

Another blog tour I am part of this week is that of debut author Lizzie Allen, whose first book with publishers Avon is out now, and is called P.S. Olive You. I really liked the cover, being set on a beautiful Greek island sounded fabulous, so I eagerly began reading it on my Kindle. Although I enjoyed the beginning of the story, I soon found myself getting bogged down in the politics within the story, especially focussed on the Greek economy. By the end, I had pretty much tuned all of that out, and struggled to fathom how or why Faith had gotten so wrapped up in it. What had started so well tailed off for me, which was such a shame.

The main character is Faith, married to husband Andrew, although their marriage is far from happy at the moment. The pair have struggled to have children together, Faith isn't exactly keen on buying a holiday home on the island of Iraklia, and she isn't sure she actually wants to be married to Andrew at all. When she starts befriending a few of the locals, it opens Faith's eyes to a world she hasn't seen before, and that she doesn't have to be the Stepford wife she has to be at home in London. But is Faith's Greek love affair all set to end in tears?

If this book had stuck to the story of Faith and her relationship with Andrew, and her subsequent friendships with the Iraklia residents, I feel I would have enjoyed it more. However, it kept getting entangled with the other part of this story, which was the survival of the Greek island Iraklia despite the terrible economic times in Greece. I know this is something that is really happening at the moment, I watch the news and understand how awful it is for the people of Greece at the moment. However, when I read a book, I like to escape the real world and read something a bit light-hearted, and this is what this book cover had lead me to believe I would be getting.

Although, as I said, I watch the news, I found this was hard going to read. Allen tries to get too heavy in parts with the political message of this story, especially in the last part of the book where there are protests and all sorts going on - I honestly lost the plot and totally lost what it was all in aid of, and found myself skipping through these parts. It definitely took a big turn for the remainder of the book and it just wasn't as enjoyable for me which was a shame. Faith as a character was fun to read about, I liked her trying to break out of her Stepford wife mould and find out who she really was. Her relationship with her husband was definitely strange, and I was surprised she put up with his domineering ways as long as she did!

Allen's descriptions of the Greek island of Iraklia were nice to read, I could really picture it in my mind - especially when Faith and her new friends were all together, having fun. The political side of the book of course was sad because it is so deeply rooted in reality, and I felt sorry for the Greek people who were suffering as a result of the poor economy, but the book is keen to show that the corruption runs deep, and how the Greek people are sometimes complicit in the downturn. My problem with this book was that it didn't seem to know what it was - from the cover, it was a fun holiday romance read, but inside this was confused and muddled with the political agenda, not something I had expected at all. A good read, but perhaps not for me.

27 August 2015

Book Review: A Good Catch by Fern Britton

"Even happy families have their secrets…

Greer Clovelly seems to have it all, beautiful, chic and slender, she’s used to getting her own way. Greer has been in love with Jesse Behenna since her first day at school and she’s determined that one day, they’ll be married. After all, a marriage between them would join together two dynasties of Cornish fishing families to make one prosperous one.

For her friend, Loveday Carter – plump, freckled and unpretentious – living in the shadow of her friend has become a way of life. She loves Jesse too, but knows that what Greer wants, she usually gets.

Jesse, caught in the middle, faces an agonising choice. Should he follow his heart or bow to his father’s wishes? And what about his best friend Mickey, who worships the ground that Loveday walks on?

Jesse’s decision will touch them all in ways that they could never foresee, and as the dark clouds start to gather the four friends find themselves weathering a storm – one that has the power to sink them all…"

Rating: 5/5

Available to buy now.

I'm not a big fan of celebrities turning to writing books, making out it is easy and using a ghostwriter. However, I do have time for those who buck the trend and write their own material, and the fact this is Fern Britton's sixth fictional novel (not including her eBook short stories!), shows she certainly has a loyal readership out there, and I can see why. I have read some of Fern's previous books but for me, this has to be her best yet. I completely lost myself in the story, of Greer and Jesse's marriage, and I know it is going to be a book I am going to want to re-read. It was brilliant, and here's why you should read it.

What I liked about this book was the simplicity of the story. It really just follows four characters all the way through the book, their family members making sporadic appearances, but this all comes down to four people - Greer, her husband Jesse, her best friend Loveday and their best friend Mickey. What I liked about Britton's writing of this book was how the story tells the tale of the romances, from the beginning right up until the present day, where the book begins with a prologue that leaves you wondering what has happened.

We see how Greer's future is mapped out for her by her well-to-do parents, determined to marry her off to Jesse Behenna, son of the local Cornish fishing family in order to keep both of the businesses afloat. Green has burnt a candle for Jesse for years, but he isn't sure those feelings can be reciprocated - he is rather sweet for the louder, brasher, curvier Loveday, but can't bring himself to admit it, and go against the family wishes. This sets the book up for the story of the marriage of Greer and Jesse, and whether or not they can make it work between them.

The characters of this book were wonderfully written, believable as people, and I truly lost myself in the story of their lives, from when they are young teenagers leaving school, to when they are fully grown adults making much tougher decisions about their lives. Greer was probably the least likeable of the bunch, a bit stuck-up, sure of herself and quite mean to her best friend if I'm honest. Loveday, on the other hand, was the life and soul of their friendship, happy to squeeze her rather ample curves into the tightest of tops and skirts, brimming with confidence - you can see why both Mickey and Jesse were taken with her! But she was written as such a genuine, kind-hearted person, the complete antithesis of Greer - I often wondered why Loveday wanted to be friends with such a person.

The men, too, were just as important to this book. I felt quite sorry for Jesse, being pushed into a marriage he didn't really want for the sake of the business. He was a hard worker, keen to provide for his family, and his friendship with Mickey was lovely to read, a proper best friendship, there for each other through everything. As well as these great characters, it was the setting of the book that made it so readable for me. It's set in the fishing village of Trevay in Cornwall, and Britton makes it sound so utterly picturesque, it makes me want to jump in the car and go down there now! Britton perfectly describes everything about the village, from the run-down pub to the fish market, to the boats bobbing up and down on the shore. You can see why it was so easy for me to lose myself in this book, picturing myself strolling along with Greer, when I was lying in the darkness in my bedroom!

As I have already said, but want to say again, this is definitely Fern's best book to date. I fell in love with everything about it, and certainly didn't want their tale to end. There are some heart-breaking moments in the book, handled delicately by Fern, and they certainly gave new dimensions to the characters, facing adult situations they've never had to before. It was the passage of time in this book that I loved, seeing four characters I loved truly grow up in front of my eyes, Britton capturing every important moment of their lives with her words. It's a story of love, regrets, loss and hope, all wrapped up in the beautiful package that is Trevay, leaving you bereft once their tale had finished. A superb summer read, I can't recommend it enough!

26 August 2015

Book Review: The Sun in Her Eyes by Paige Toon

"'Before your mother died, she asked me to tell you something …'

When Amber Church was three, her mother was killed in a car accident. A stranger was at the scene and now, nearly thirty years later, she's desperate to talk to Amber.

Living in London and not-so-happily married to Ned, Amber is greeted one morning by two pieces of news: she's to be made redundant from her City job and her beloved father, across the world in Australia where she grew up, has been felled by a stroke. She takes the first plane out to be by his side, leaving Ned uncertain as to when she will return. Reunited with her old friends, Amber is forced to confront her feelings for Ethan Lockwood, the gorgeous, green-eyed man she fell for as a young girl.

And then Amber receives a letter that changes everything …"

Rating: 4/5

Available to buy now.

Paige Toon's books are always something to get excited about for me - she's on of the few authors I love to read a book by and will read it whatever it is about really! I was excited to receive a review copy of her latest book The Sun in Her Eyes, and of course couldn't wait to get stuck in. I loved the cover, and was hoping it would be as good as Paige's previous novels that I have devoured in just a few short evenings, While this wasn't perhaps my favourite of Paige's books, it was still a very good read, and is now sat looking beautiful with the rest of my Paige Toon collection on my bookshelf, ready to be re-read when I find some time!

The story was an interesting one for me, mainly because I was at odds with what the main character was doing throughout. Amber has to return to her native Australia because her father has a stroke and it has left him quite poorly. It comes at a time when things aren't exactly harmonious in her marriage to Ned, and she thinks some time apart might heal the wounds in their relationship. However, she doesn't bank on bumping into her first childhood love, Ethan, and having some feelings ignited once more. As well as caring for her father and his wife, Amber has to make decisions about her future, but is also being haunted by her past...

The blurb of the book focuses heavily on Amber receiving a letter that is sure to change her life forever, but for me, this felt like a very small sub-plot of the book, and not at all the main story. It's a shame because I felt a lot more could have been made out of this rather than Amber's convoluted love life, and I certainly would have liked to see more of Amber's reaction to what transpires from the letter. We are, however, instead treated to a story about Amber's indecision over which man she truly wants to be with, and it left a bit of a sour taste at times - she was playing about, being unfaithful and she knew it, yet carried on. Affairs seems to be a recurring them in Paige Toon's books as of late, it would be nice perhaps to have something a bit different between her characters.

That being said, I did enjoy reading the story because Paige's writing, as always, is top notch. I really enjoyed the descriptions of Australia, from the vineyards that Amber visits with Ethan, to her fathers home and the pubs and bars she frequents. I felt the story around Amber's fathers stroke was extremely well written. It was emotional, and the way Toon writes about the struggle he has to literally get back on his feet, and the emotional trauma the family go through at this awful time was very raw but handled delicately and with sensitivity - it certainly gave me some insight into the devastating effects of a stroke, and it certainly showed Amber in her best light - a caring, loving daughter wanting to look after her ailing father.

Overall, this was a well written and enjoyable story from Paige Toon, but for me it wasn't her best. I like reading Amber's story, even if I didn't necessarily agree with her actions. I felt incredibly sorry for her husband Ned who was stranded back in England, wondering about the fate of his marriage. Amber wasn't exactly likeable, and I wish more had been said about her past and that the letter had been written about earlier in the book but it didn't stop my overall enjoyment of the book. Toon's writing is fabulous, the pace is good and the story doesn't wane at all, I certainly enjoyed picking it up every evening to read a few more chapters. Fans of Paige Toon won't want to miss this, but if you haven't yet read Paige Toon, I would start with her earlier books. A good summer read.

25 August 2015

Blog Tour Book Review: The Waiting Game by Jessica Thompson

"'The moon was speckled like a bird's egg. It hung reliably in the blackness above Will Turnbull and Nessa Grier who sat side by side on a bench as the leaves fell around them, landing softly on the thick, wet grass. Their knees were just touching, hearts pounding hard.'

Nessa Bruce waits for her husband to come through the double doors. She'd waited for him to return home from Afghanistan for what felt like forever, and now the moment was finally here. But Jake isn't... Jake Bruce hasn't come home, and it looks like he never will.

Nessa's life - and that of her daughter Poppy - is turned upside down in an instant. What has happened to the elusive man at the centre of their world? They hold onto the hope that he is still out there somewhere, alive... but as time passes by, Nessa is forced to look at her life, at the decisions she has made and the secrets she has kept. For maybe somewhere within it all lies the answer to the question she's desperate to answer - where is the man she loves?"

Rating: 5/5

Available to buy now.

Jessica Thompson's new book The Waiting Game is one that I have been really excited to read for quite a while now. I have read and loved each of her books to date, so I was thrilled to be sent a copy of her latest book for review. I firstly want to comment on the cover - what a stunning cover it is! The title is in foil as well, so stands out even more - the whole thing is just stunning and that alone would make me want to dive in and start reading!

The book mainly follows one character, Nessa, as she comes to terms with her husband Jake disappearing after returning from a tour of duty in Afghanistan. Nessa grieves for her husband, struggling to cope with life after he has gone, especially with her teenage daughter Poppy being hard to handle. However, the story in this is delicately handled by Thompson, and it is a joy to read, keeping you totally absorbed in Nessa and Jake's tale, and wondering how it is all going to come to an end.

The narrative for this story jumps around in time, and you have to pay attention to the dates at the start of each chapter to work out where we are now. I really enjoyed this - it gives us an insight into the early relationship of Nessa and Jake, as well as the blossoming friendship between Nessa and her best friend Will. I liked getting to know a different time in Nessa's life, before the tragedy hits her and she's altered by her grief. The pace was good as well, and it kept me wanting to read more and find out what was going to happen next. The book does progress well, giving you everything you would want from this book and more, and I just couldn't help being drawn into Nessa's world, and feeling her anger, grief and confusion along with her.

One character that I struggled to warm to was teenager Poppy. The language coming out of the mouth of a young girl, especially directed at her mother, was appalling and I felt a bit uncomfortable reading it. I know teenagers swear, but I was brought up never to use bad language at your elders, and this just didn't sit well with me at all, and I wanted to give her a stern talking to! The relationship between Nessa and Poppy was very fraught, neither really knowing how to deal with their feelings or to treat each other, and Thompson makes this believable as you read it, certainly not an easy mother/daughter relationship but one that is damaged by their joint loss. I did, however, like the flawed characters, each coping with an awful situation, making questionable decisions and acting in ways we perhaps wouldn't, struggling just to keep afloat in a new world for them - one without Jake.

I really don't want to comment too much on Jake's story, because the beauty of it is reading it unfold slowly in the context of the story. I really felt sorry for Jake, a soldier struggling to come to terms with a tragic event, and we certainly see Jake as a hero - a good father, husband, son and someone who gives his all for his country. This is a beautiful story to read, with lots of complex relationships going on, and dealing with a sensitive and topical issue so wonderfully too. Thompson's writing brings to life the story, the characters and in particular, the emotion of the book - I felt like I was feeling all of Nessa's emotions along with her, particularly towards the end of the book. I can't say I was entirely happy at the end of the book, it felt a bit sudden to me but overall, I enjoyed every page and am already eagerly anticipating Jessica's next book! Brilliant - a must read.

Blog Tour: The Waiting Game by Jessica Thompson

Today I am thrilled to be on the blog tour for Jessica Thompson's amazing new book The Waiting Game. I read this book last week when on holiday, and what a stunning read it was. It hooked me in from the start, and I just couldn't put it down - I was obsessed with the story of Jake and Nessa.

I am delighted to be hosting an exclusive piece today, written by Jessica specifically for the blog tour. This is a letter that the character of Jake has written to his wife, Nessa, and makes for a beautiful read whether or not you've read the book. I can't recommend the book highly enough, and my review will be coming later this afternoon.

Thanks so much to Jessica and her publishers for inviting me to be on the blog tour!

"A letter from Jake to Nessa

Dear Nessa,

I want you to know that I didn't want to leave you and Poppy, alone to struggle in life.

I know you’re still angry with me. So many calls unanswered, and letters that I can only hope you've received and read, but have decided not to reply because you just need some time to get your head around this.

That’s fine, I understand, please take the time you need. But know that this isn’t because I don’t love you both more than anything in the world. It’s not because I don’t want to be around you, or because I'm running away from anything in my life…

Dad’s unwell and it’s horrendous. There’s no getting away from how painful it all is. Arguably, it’s a bad time for me to be starting a career in the army where I will be away a lot. But what good will it do for me to be back in south London in a job I hate, just about managing to spend time with him, and hoping that it will get better? 

It won’t get better, and there’s never a good time for so many things in life. The dad I know – well, the dad I knew – he would have encouraged me to pursue the career I wanted. He would have been proud of me.

What about when Poppy came along? 

That was a shock and it sure as hell wasn't the right time. We were just kids, still in our teens. I remember you standing there in our kitchen, with tears in your eyes, asking me how we’d cope.

Nessa, honestly, I didn't know how we’d cope either. I took you in my arms, and told you it would be fine. Truthfully I wasn't sure if we could keep our heads above water, but we did didn't we? You and me. I'm so proud of that, of us.

And we will get through this too, Ness. My wages are higher, all right it’s not much but at least I can finally provide for you guys to some extent now. I have leave, I will come back regularly, and this won’t be forever – maybe another five years or so?  

Please, just let me have this experience... Let me follow my dreams and throw myself wholeheartedly into this incredible job, (the only thing I've ever been good at!) knowing that I have your love and support behind me…

My love is with you, every day, even though I can’t be by your side.

I think of you all the time.


Jake "

18 August 2015

Book Review: Ally Hughes has Sex Sometimes by Jules Moulin

"When a buttoned-up professor and her unbuttoned daughter fall for the same irresistible man, a delightful, subversive comedy begins. . . . Life isnt easy for single mother Ally Hughes. Teaching at Brown, her class load is huge and her boss is a menace. At home, she contends with a critical mother, a falling-down house, and a daughter who never misses a beat. Between taking care of the people she loves, teaching full time, and making ends meet, Ally doesn't have time for a man. She doesn't date. Shes not into flings. 

But then she meets Jake, an eager student, young in years but old in soul, who challenges his favorite professor to open up her life, and her heart, to love. It doesn't work. In fact, his urging backfires. Ten years later, Ally's still single. Jake reappears and surprises her in a brand-new role: He's dating Ally's now-grown daughter. In this hilarious, heartrending tale, Ally is finally forced to concede (not only to herself) that an independent, "liberated" woman can still make room in her life for love."

Rating: 4/5

I was intrigued to read this book, as I had spotted it on Netgalley, and was then asked to be part of the blog tour. I decided it would be fun to read something different and see what this was like and I'm pleased that I did. It's written by an American author who used to write for some very successful award winning TV shows, so I certainly had some high hopes for this.

The story is really one of two parts. It follows the one character, Ally Hughes, and takes place over two different periods of her life. The book is told in alternating chapters, one in the present day, and the other about 9 years before when she is a young single mother struggling in her job at university to juggle her work commitments as a professor. Either way, I really liked Ally and found her easy to warm to, and I enjoyed reading her story.

Although the book has a title that is going to grab your attention, the sex part of the book wasn't the main focus for me. Yes, the book does detail some of Ally's sexual encounters, but for me it was the story around her and her relationships that I found more intriguing! That said, the naughtier scenes were well written and portrayed the feeling and physicality very well, they certainly didn't seem out of place in the story, and did serve their purpose for the story well.

I enjoyed reading about Ally because I wanted her to come out of herself, see that she could succeed in her career but allow herself to have a love life and not feel guilty about it as well. This is where I liked reading about her dalliance with one of her former students Jake Bean. The pair really clicked, despite the age gap, and I Enjoyed reading Jake trying to encourage Ally to take a risk and have some fun! The book then cuts back to the present day, where Jake reappears in Ally's life, now called Noah, a famous film star who is still burning a candle for Ally. I was hoping that she would still have feelings for him too and they could have a happy ending, but that seemed a long way off with the appearance of his girlfriend - Ally's daughter Lizzie!

This was another part of the book that I enjoyed reading. The mother/daughter relationship in this book was different to many others I have read - the pair seemed to be very open with each other. Ally is devoted to her daughter, devastated when she wants to have surgery on her nose, and determined to make the best life she can for her clever daughter. It was very touching, especially when Ally showed the lengths she would go to to protect Lizzie, and I felt Moulin really captured the heart of these two women, and their relationship was beautifully written.

Overall this was an enjoyable read, albeit not perhaps the kind of story that I was expecting! It's really a story that encourages you to think that everyone deserves love - we should all make time in our lives for love, much like Jake was encouraging Ally to. Yes, there are a few naughty scenes in the book, but they made Ally and Jakes relationship more real, and certainly livened Ally up a lot! I enjoyed the way the story was split between Ally's past and present, and the parts where we followed Lizzie were certainly eye opening too. Jake was the perfect, strong male lead for the book and I loved reading about him! An enjoyable, thought-provoking read about second

15 August 2015

Christmas in August: Christmas Releases

Here are some more highlights of festive stories we can look forward to this year! These books haven't got covers, and some don't have blurbs yet so I'll be posting news posts with these as soon as they are available. All release dates are subject to change.

Christmas Releases Schedule (all release dates subject to change!)

Amanda Prowse - The Christmas Café - 31st August 2015
Holly Martin - Christmas at Lilac Cottage - 25th September 2015
Sarah Morgan - Christmas Ever After - 1st October 2015
Mandy Baggot - One Wish in Manhattan - 2nd October 2015
Giovanna Fletcher - Dream a Little Christmas Dream - 8th October 2015
Judy Astley - A Merry Mistletoe Wedding - 8th October 2015
Lynn Marie Hulsman - A Miracle at Macy's - 8th October 2015
Catherine Ferguson - Mistletoe and Mayhem - 15th October 2015
Jenny Oliver - Four Weddings and a White Christmas - 15th October 2015
Carole Matthews - The Chocolate Lover's Christmas - 22nd October 2015
Trisha Ashley - A Christmas Cracker - 22nd October 2015
Abby Clements - The Winter Wedding - 5th November 2015
Cressida McLaughlin - A Christmas Tail - 5th November 2015
Karen Swan - Christmas on Primrose Hill - 5th November 2015
Patricia Scanlan - A Gift for You - 5th November 2015
Rosie Blake - How to Stuff Up Christmas - 5th November 2015
Samantha Tonge - My Big Fat Christmas Wedding - 10th November 2015
Alexandra Brown - Not Just for Christmas - 12th November 2015
Chrissie Manby - A Wedding at Christmas - 19th November 2015
Claire Sandy - Snowed in for Christmas - 19th November 2015
Melissa Hill - A Diamond from Tiffany's - 3rd December 2015

14 August 2015

Christmas in August: Christmas on Primrose Hill by Karen Swan

Welcome back to Christmas in August!

We're coming to the end of my festive fiction filled week, but I think it's been brilliant, and has certainly filled up my Christmas reading quota - so many amazing books to look forward to! Another of those is the new festive story from Karen Swan called Christmas on Primrose Hill. As usual, it has a totally beautiful cover, and since I enjoyed Karen's last summer read so much, I can't wait to read this one. It's out 5th November.

Available to pre-order now.

"On Primrose Hill . . .

Twinkling lights brighten London's Primrose Hill as Christmas nears - but for Nettie Watson, it's not parties and presents that she wants.

Promises are made

For Nettie, Christmas only serves as a stark reminder of the life she used to have . . . One day she made a promise to never leave home, and so far she's stayed true to her word.

Promises are broken

Under the glaring spotlight of the world's media, Nettie is unexpectedly caught up in a 21st century storm . . . Her exploits have made her a global name and attracted the attention of one of the world's most eligible men - famous front man, Jamie Westlake. But now she has his attention, does she want to keep it?"

13 August 2015

Blog Tour: Book Review: The Art of Baking Blind by Sarah Vaughan

"There are many reasons to bake: to feed; to create; to impress; to nourish; to define ourselves; and, sometimes, it has to be said, to perfect. But often we bake to fill a hunger that would be better filled by a simple gesture from a dear one. We bake to love and be loved.

In 1966, Kathleen Eaden, cookery writer and wife of a supermarket magnate, published The Art of Baking, her guide to nurturing a family by creating the most exquisite pastries, biscuits and cakes.

Now, five amateur bakers are competing to become the New Mrs Eaden. There's Jenny, facing an empty nest now her family has flown; Claire, who has sacrificed her dreams for her daughter; Mike, trying to parent his two kids after his wife's death; Vicki, who has dropped everything to be at home with her baby boy; and Karen, perfect Karen, who knows what it's like to have nothing and is determined her façade shouldn't slip.

As unlikely alliances are forged and secrets rise to the surface, making the choicest choux bun seems the least of the contestants' problems. For they will learn - as Mrs Eaden did before them - that while perfection is possible in the kitchen, it's very much harder in life."

Rating: 5/5

Available to buy now.

I love discovering new authors, so when I was invited to be part of the blog tour for author Sarah Vaughan's debut novel The Art of Baking Blind, I jumped at the chance! I love books set around cooking, so knew that I would absolutely love reading this one! The cover is really cute too, quite striking and I eagerly began reading it. I managed to finish the book in a couple of evenings, no mean feat considering it's the summer holidays and I'm busy all day and tired at night - yet I had to keep reading this book and found out how it was all going to end.

The book is based around 5 different cooks, all part of a baking competition to find the new Mrs Eaden - a baker from the 1960's who released well-loved cook books. The 5 contestants are each different and going through varying stages of their life, but this just fires their desire to win the overall competition! I loved the way the 5 contestants are weaved into the story, each changing as the competition hots up, as well as dealing with the trials and tribulations in their personal lives. My favourite of the cooks was Vicki, a teacher who has become a stay at home mum to her young toddler son Alfie, and is struggling making the transition. I loved how Vaughan writes her story - her guilt at not fully enjoying being at home with her child, her want to get back to work, juggling her child, husband, home as well as the baking competition. I could just relate to her story a lot, and she was featured heavily in the book.

As well as Vicki, there were 4 other cooks - Jenni, Mike, Claire and Karen. I also found that I loved reading about Jenny's story - her 3 daughters have grown up and flown the nest, and her marriage isn't the happy bubble it used to be, and she's struggling to cope with the transition. She turns to baking to keep herself busy, and you can see she has a real talent for it, as well as a confidence in her baking. I warmed to her a lot, willing her to seek her own happiness, especially when her husband wasn't so kind to her, and I know a lot of women will feel such anger on her behalf! The only male contestant wasn't actually featured much in the book at all, which was a shame and a bit of a missed opportunity I feel - he was almost just there as the token male but I would have loved to read more about his story - we find out less about him that we do any of the others, yet his story was deeply touching too.

Claire's story was also familiar - she had her daughter as a teenager, and has raised her alone (with the help of her parents), her daughter's father being somewhat absent. Claire wants to win to better their life, the prize money will help them hugely, and Claire definitely needs the confidence boost that the competition will bring her, Karen I couldn't warm to at all, she's clearly a very troubled woman, struggling with her teenage son and her own personal demons. The friendships that begin between the characters  are well written, you can believe that these people would get on, and start to support each other outside of their baking times, and I cared about each of their stories, wondering who would come out as the overall winner of the competition.

What I really found that I enjoyed a lot about this novel was the realism within it. Yes, each of the characters are believable, but I almost found myself feeling their emotions alongside them as I was reading, completely being absorbed into their stories, and I definitely lost myself in their worlds more than once! As well as the competition set in the present day, there are regular flashbacks to Kathleen Eaden's life, as she is writng her famous cook book, which details her struggle to become a mother. Some of this is heart-breaking to read, obviously they weren't gifted with the medical advances we have today, so you can really feel Kathleen's despair as things go wrong for her time and again. Tying all these threads together is of course the baking, and there's all sorts in to make you hungry - cakes, breads, pastries - yum yum! Sarah Vaughan doesn't feature recipes, but instead focuses on the contestants techniques, their own spin on dishes, and her language brings to life in your mind the golden loaves of bread, gingerbread houses, pies and cakes too!

I really enjoyed this book from beginning to end, and I liked how the book moved around between the characters, allowing each of them to be built up as the book progressed, and focusing not just on them at the competition, but their personal lives as well. The way this was written with Kathleen Eaden's own story throughout too just added another dimension to the book, and I really didn't want to put it down once I had started reading. Sarah Vaughan's writing is brilliant, making the characters easy to follow, their stories compulsive, and the delicious food descriptions were just the icing on the cake! A super novel that I highly recommend.

Blog Tour: Author Article by Sarah Vaughan

Today is the publication date of Sarah Vaughan's new novel The Art of Baking Blind and I am part of the blog tour for that very book, so welcome to my stop! I am hosting this brilliant article written by Sarah, complete with a delicious sounding recipe, and in a few hours will be reviewing the book as well! My thanks go to Sarah for taking the time to write this, and to her publishers Hodder for inviting me onto the blog tour! Please enjoy!

Available to buy now.

By Sarah Vaughan

"I recently found one of my very earliest picture books, given to me for my second birthday. Battered, torn and sellotaped together, it tells the story of when Thomas Bakes a Cake.

A smiling cartoon child gathers ingredients, cracks eggs which slither “with a plop” into the bowl and mixes them together with a “wibbly, wobbly whisk”. “Father” lights the gas ring and puts the cake in the oven but Thomas makes the cake – and tastes the mixture - by himself. On the last page, he proudly presents “Mother” and “Father” with a feast of cake and orange juice. “They all agree that the orange juice is delicious but the cake is simply scrumptious.”

Perhaps it’s no coincidence, then, that my debut novel The Art of Baking Blind is all about the reasons we bake.  Because baking – and baking for and with my mum and sister – formed a crucial part of my early years. Rifling through the Ladybird Cooking with Mother, I can remember making cherry tops – small sponge cakes topped with half a glace cherry; chocolate crunchies (cornflakes with cocoa, margarine and golden syrup) and even egg and tomato mushrooms (a hard-boiled egg with the top cut off, topped with half a tomato and put on a piece of iceberg; yes really.) And crucially, it was baking with my family – impressing and delighting them – that was all-important.
I stopped baking in my twenties – too busy with a career and with trying, and failing, to be skinny – and if I baked, I did so ironically: a Black Forest Gateau, with morello cherries stepped in kirsch and lightly folded whipped cream; or a retro cheesecake, topped with glistening, tinned peaches.

But when I had my own children, I became obsessed with feeding them well and wrapping them in a warm fug of domesticity. I was hopeless at glitter and glue but baking let us be creative together – and meant we all had something tangible, and usually delicious, to eat at the end of it. My kids loved immersing themselves in the sensuousness of baking: the slurp of the batter plopping into a tin, the sight of a cake rising in the oven, the smell of melting butter and sugar, the taste of raw mixture, scraped from an empty bowl, licked from a spoon with a huge grin. Baking was decadent and messy and fun and we couldn’t get enough of it.

I found that, as well as plundering the cookbooks of Nigella, Jamie and Mary, we returned to the recipes I used as a child. Not the egg and tomato mushrooms or the cheese and pineapple hedgehogs, or even as something as simple as chocolate crunchies, but the Devil’s Food Cake my mum always made for our birthday cakes.

This moist chocolate sponge, with its dense fudge topping, could be turned into a cottage or a hedgehog – baked in a one-litre Pyrex bowl, smothered in fudge icing, and given chocolate buttons for spikes and gleaming glace cherry eyes. “I haven’t made that in years,” my mum said, when I asked for the recipe. A few summers on, she and her grandchildren now turn it into cupcakes, and it’s become a cake my ten-year-old can now make on her own.

The idea that each of us has a recipe that means something to us was something I wanted to explore in The Art of Baking Blind. Because baking seems to have become such a phenomenon not just because we crave sugar, or hanker after comfort in a recession, but because it allows us to be nostalgic: letting us recall the past as well as creating new memories.

Jenny, the eldest competitor, remembers baking biscuits with her mother and baby sister: “Standing on a chair in the kitchen, the only room that was ever warm in that draughty rectory, Jenny dips a fat finger into the mixture, sucks at a curl of buttery dough…. If only life could have remained that simple…for a moment, she wants to regress.”

Vicki, denied such a nurturing childhood, recalls the beef bourguignon eaten at a friend’s house. “As she sautés and simmers, binds and rolls, she drinks up the odour of an idealized childhood an imagines recreating it.”

Claire watches her mother and daughter bake saffron bread and enjoys the connection, and continuity offered by this pastime. “Two generations united in the simple pleasure of mixing a handful of ingredients – flour, yeast, water, salt and sugar – and witnessing culinary magic take place.”
Baking becomes so much a part of my character’s personalities that certain bakes take on huge symbolic importance. When Vicki bakes a Battenberg it is fraught with anxiety because she made it as a teenager for her critical mother. For Karen, a Baked Alaska serves as a metaphor for herself: “Glossy and crisp on the outside; ever chilly at the centre. Utterly desirable; always surprising.” Only the sweetness and the initial warmth ruin the analogy.

As for Kathleen Eaden, whose story we glimpse in flashbacks, it is gingerbread – made by her at the start and end of the book – that resonates. We glimpse its significance when she makes a gingerbread house and it becomes explicit when she cuts out a gingerbread family. “Slowly and ever so tenderly, she presses the boy cutter into the dough again…Another baby. She has told no one yet…She dithers over whether to bake the baby or to roll it back into the dough: is she tempting fate if she creates it, or if she expunges it?”

The Art of Baking Blind evolved as I baked with my own kids, creating gingerbread men, chocolate-studded cookies, cheese straws, bread and brownies and, from a page so be-splattered it is unreadable, Devil’s Food Cake.

It doesn’t feature in The Art of Baking Blind, this bake that means more to me than any other and that I turn to again and again. And so here it is. I do hope you enjoy it:

Devil’s Food Cake:

6oz self-raising flour
1tsp baking powder
2oz cocoa
8 fluid oz water
4oz Stork margarine
10oz caster sugar
2 large eggs
8oz icing sugar
2 level tablespoons cocoa
2 oz butter
2oz granulated sugar
2 tablespoons of milk
Boiling water to spread icing
Two seven inch cake tins, greased and lined.
Oven: 170 C fan; 30 minutes.

To make the cake, cream the fat and sugar then beat in the eggs. In a separate bowl, sieve together the SR flour and baking powder. Put the cocoa in a jug, add the water and mix. Then, with a large metal spoon, fold a third of the flour mixture into the fat and sugar mixture; then a third of the cocoa/water mixture. Continue alternating the mixtures, making sure the flour is blended and as much air is retained as possible.

Divide the wet mixture between the two greased and lined cake tins and place in the centre of the oven for about 30 minutes. Once removed, wait a couple of minutes then turn to cool on a rack.
For the icing, mix the sieved cocoa and icing sugar. Heat the granulated sugar, fat and milk and bring to a rolling boil. Pour onto the icing sugar/cocoa and beat with a wooden spoon. Working quickly with a hot knife, spread half between the two sponges and half on top. Take care not to add too much hot water in doing so as the fudgy consistency will turn glossy. Enjoy."

Christmas in August: Book News: A Christmas Tail by Cressida McLaughlin

Welcome back to Christmas in August!

We've been spoilt this week with some amazing festive reads already, and here's another one to get excited about! It's the full novel from Cressida McLaughlin called A Christmas Tail. This is another book that has been serialised for Kindle, but this book is all 4 eBooks put together for the first time. I'm definitely looking forward to reading all of the stories (I've read and loved the first one), and I think the cover is cute too! It's out on 5th November.

Available to pre-order now.

"A Christmas Tail was first published as a four-part serial set in Primrose Terrace.

Catherine ‘Cat’ Palmer realizes that bringing an adorable puppy into work is a bad idea, especially when it gets her the sack. Deciding it’s the perfect opportunity to launch her dog-walking business, Cat enlists the help of flatmates Polly and Joe. After all Primrose Terrace, the street where they live, is full of home-alone hounds.

Getting to know the owners and their precious pooches isn’t all plain sailing, but soon Cat is making friends, particularly with sexy Mark and his Collie, Chips. But is he the right man for her?

With her talent for misadventure, Cat’s new life starts to show some cracks, and when one of the street’s loveable schnauzers gets ill, it looks like this Christmas could be turning into a dog’s dinner. But Cat has never given up on anything in her life – and this is one Christmas that’s definitely worth saving…"

12 August 2015

Christmas in August: Book News: How to Stuff Up Christmas by Rosie Blake

Welcome back to Christmas in August!

Another festive treat this year is the new novel from Rosie Blake called How to Stuff Up Christmas. What a bloomin' beautiful cover that is - makes me want to go and start baking gingerbread houses and festive figures! The book sounds brilliant, and I am really excited for this one. It's out on 5th November!

Available to pre-order now.

"When Eve's boyfriend cheats on her - just before Christmas - she decides the only thing for it is to escape. Eve seeks solace on the Isle of Wight where she is given the chance to mend her broken heart through the restorative power of cooking. However it turns out Eve is a walking kitchen disaster zone.

But an unexpected encounter under the mistletoe offers Eve the chance to remedy her lack of cooking skills, and move on from her no-good boyfriend. Will Eve have a Christmas to remember after all...?"

11 August 2015

Book Review: The New Woman by Charity Norman

"Luke Livingstone is a lucky man. He's a respected solicitor, a father and grandfather, a pillar of the community. He has a loving wife and an idyllic home in the Oxfordshire countryside. Yet Luke is struggling with an unbearable secret, and it's threatening to destroy him.

All his life, Luke has hidden the truth about himself and his identity. It's a truth so fundamental that it will shatter his family, rock his community and leave him outcast. But Luke has nowhere left to run, and to continue living, he must become the person - the woman - he knows himself to be, whatever the cost."

Rating: 5/5

Available to buy now.

I am thrilled to be part of Charity Norman's blog tour for her latest novel The New Woman. I really enjoyed the last book by Charity I read, so I was really looking forward to reading this. I didn't have much of a clue about the plot, but as I started reading, I was shocked and surprised, and completely absorbed by a refreshingly honest and brilliant story. It's very topical, especially with Caitlyn Jenner coming out as a transgender woman in recent months, and certainly opened my eyes to a world I hadn't ever really considered before.

I haven't had any experience of meeting transgender people before, or even understanding anything about the feelings of someone going through something like this in their life. Luke was the first character I've come across in a book to be facing these issues. It was even more poignant because he wasn't a young man, but rather similar to Caitlyn Jenner actually. He was married, had children and felt he had been in the wrong body his entire life. The story focuses on Luke's life as begins to transition into life as a woman, the impact it has on his family and his own life, and his own personal journey.

I loved the character of Luke. I applaud him for finally standing up for what he believes - that he should have been a woman, and he was so brave being able to finally come out and admit it, especially to his wife and children. Charity Norman really gets into Luke's head so well, telling us his deepest secrets, his feelings, whether they be about how he feels putting on his make-up or wearing a dress, or how he feels about the impact it's having on his beloved wife and children. You know that as he reveals his bombshell that it is going to explode his world apart as he knows it, and that is what makes this book so compulsive - you just have to find out how his family will react and deal with the shocking news about Luke.

It was the relationships that Luke has in the book that were the most compelling for me. In fact, the relationship with his wife was my favourite in the book - Norman writes it so brilliantly. You feel every emotion along with Luke and Eilish - I felt so sorry for Eilish because she honestly seemed to be stunned by the news, and felt her world was falling apart, and could understand all of her actions throughout the book. I loved Luke's devotion to his wife however - no matter whether he was a man or a woman, he loved her and that was unchangeable and extremely touching. I looked forward to Eilish's parts of the book very much - seeing her coping and changing her life was fascinating to read and it made me wonder how I would deal with such a life changing set of circumstances.

The relationship with his son Simon and daughter Kate were a little different. I cannot imagine as a child what it must be like to hear that your father wants to start living life as a woman, and the differing reactions his children had were realistic and believable. It left me feeling very emotional as I read it, and couldn't get Simon's reaction in particular out of my mind. As well as the impact on his family, we also learn about the impact his gender dysphoria has on Luke, and the hatred he has to endure from some about his transition. It wasn't easy to read, people being nasty, perhaps because they don't understand or simply because they can't accept what Luke was doing. It's all in this book, and Luke's emotions, from fear to grief to acceptance are portrayed rawly here.

This book was truly an eye-opener, and really allowed me to see into a world I had no experience of previously. Gender dysphoria is a very real issue, and by approaching it in fiction, and as people such as Caitlyn Jenner have done, it hopefully releases some of the taboo surrounding the subjects and allows us to understand what they are going through. Norman's book is a brilliant read - emotional and raw, yet handled sensitively and with complete compassion for the topic. Hopefully, books like this can educate us, stop our ignorance of such things, and open up the lines of communication for people like Luke so that they don't have to live a lie and be who they truly are. A stunning book.

Christmas in August: Book News: A Merry Mistletoe Wedding by Judy Astley

Welcome back to Christmas in August! 

Up next is the new book from Judy Astley called A Merry Mistletoe Wedding. This is a follow-up to her wonderful 2014 festive novel 'It Must Have Been the Mistletoe' which I really enjoyed, so I'm looking forward to catching up with the story this year!  I am a bit in love with that cover too - how beautiful is that?! The kindle version is out on 8th October, with the paperback coming on 19th November.

Available to pre-order now.

"It is almost a year since Sean and Thea met and it's been a roller-coaster ride: they're getting married on Christmas Eve!

Neither Thea or Sean want a big fuss - a simple wedding, with Christmas carols and just a few sprigs of mistletoe for decoration is all they need. But before they know it, things begin to get complicated. Trying to manage a long-distance relationship in the build-up to their Christmas wedding is one thing, but as one challenge after another comes their way, the happy couple begin to wonder if they'll ever make it down the aisle . . ."

10 August 2015

Christmas in August: One Wish in Manhattan by Mandy Baggot

Welcome back to Christmas in August!

Another festive read I am looking forward is the new story from Mandy Baggot called One Wish in Manhattan! Once again, Bookouture have come up trumps with a stunning cover, and it makes me so excited to read this book! The story sounds wonderful, I love books set in New York at Christmas. It's out on 2nd October.

Available to pre-order now.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Christmas in August: The Twelve Dates of Christmas by Lisa Dickenson

Welcome to my new feature for this week - it's Christmas in August! For this week, I'll be posting a few news posts about the festive we can look forward to this year, and already the line-up is looking fantastic - I can't wait to read them all!

One of the first books that has caught my eye is the new book from Lisa Dickenson. This has previously released as an eBook series, but this is the complete story in one book (which is what I prefer to tell the truth!). The cover is just gorgeous, and I am so excited to read this one! The kindle version is out on 6th October and the paperback book follows on 22nd October.

Available to pre-order now.

"At thirty, Claudia's life is stale and the romance with long-term boyfriend, Seth, has disappeared. Determined to inject some festive spark back into their love life, Claudia and Seth go on their first date in a very long time. But when the night ends in disaster, Claudia suddenly finds herself facing life - and Christmas - alone.

Life alone is exciting, scary and full of soon-forgotten exercise regimes and ill-advised attempts at crafting sexy underwear. It's also filling up with dates, surprisingly. With best friends Penny and Nick at her side, a surplus of festive markets, mulled wine and Christmas tunes, Claudia attempts to face all this change with gusto. One thing's for certain: this year, Christmas is going to be very different . . .

This is the story of Claudia and her twelve dates of Christmas. Hilarious, uplifting and romantic, it's a story about losing love, finding love, and discovering what's been there all along. Expect Christmas sparkle, butterflies-in-your-stomach romance and a lot of very funny moments in The Twelve Dates of Christmas."

9 August 2015

Book Review: Dream a Little Dream by Giovanna Fletcher

"Sarah is doing just fine. Sure she's been single for the last five years, and has to spend an uncomfortable amount of time around her ex-boyfriend, his perfect new girlfriend and all their mutual friends. And yes, her job as a PA to one of the most disgusting men in London is mind-numbingly tedious and her career is a constant disappointment to her mother. But it's really okay. She's happy (ish).

But it's not surprising that when Sarah starts dreaming about a handsome stranger, she begins to look forward to falling asleep every night. Reality isn't nearly as exciting. That is until her dream-stranger makes an unexpected real-life appearance, leaving Sarah questioning everything she thought she wanted.

Because no one ever really finds the person of their dreams... do they?"

Rating: 4.5/5

Available to buy now.

Amazingly, this is already Giovanna's third novel - those 3 years have gone so quickly! I loved her first two, so was really pleased when I got a copy of her latest book Dream a Little Dream on Netgalley to review - I just knew I was going to enjoy it! The cover, too, is beautiful, drawing you in with its pretty colours, and the synopsis made me very curious too! I love Giovanna's writing, so I eagerly sat down one evening with my kindle and devoured half the book, and spent the next night finishing it off - what a wonderful story!

Giovanna's characters are what makes her books so brilliant, and that is definitely the case for this story. The main character of Sarah was one that I liked straight away. She works hard at her job as a PA despite the fact her boss is a bit of a pig, and doesn't seem to recognise her want for promotion, and how she is willing to work for it. She begins to have dreams about someone she used to barely know, years ago, and when he makes a shocking appearance in her real life, she can't cope, unable to differentiate between dream Brett and real Brett! Sarah's narrative is very readable, getting straight into her mind, and getting her true feelings on everything from Brett to her job to her dismal relationship with her mother.

Sarah was a really kind-hearted and loving person, and I couldn't help but feel that she was a bit of a walkover, especially when it comes to her boss! She really needed to grow a backbone and stand up for herself, but I understood it just wasn't in her nature, much like it isn't in mine! I enjoyed reading her growing in confidence throughout the book, standing up for herself, especially to her mother, and her boss. She has some great friends too, although I felt for how she was internally struggling with her ex boyfriend still being part of their gang, and having his new engagement rubbed in her face, albeit intentionally. In fact, this was a very interesting part of the book for me, how Ben and Sarah managed to stay friends, well acquaintances, after their split and continued to see each other socially, not something you see very often! Each of the group of friends were great characters to read about, none of them were there for no reason, they each had a purpose for the story, and I loved reading their stories, and how their lives were intertwined.

The dreams part of the book was very interesting! The chapters often started with one of Sarah's dreams, always a bit random and off the wall, but that's dreams for you. She gets up to quite a lot in these dreams, especially with Dream Brett, so I understood her total mortification when she comes across him in her real life too, even though he of course has no idea what she's been dreaming about! I always read that our dreams are our subconscious giving us a message in some way, and that certainly rings true for this book - it definitely made me think, and I'll be analysing my dreams from now on! I also liked that Giovanna writes Dream Brett to be very different from real Brett, ending up in a very confused Sarah in parts, it led to some very funny moments, and Sarah being rather confused! The relationship between the pair just felt very natural, growing slowly from strangers to friends, and closer as the book progresses.

This book was a joy to read from start to finish - it had everything I love in a book - romance, laughs, love and great characters that I can care about and want to read more about too. As well as the main part of the story which was Sarah's dreams and her growing friendship with Brett (real, not dream!), the book also covers some very sensitive topics and I was pleased by how well Giovanna handled these issues, with real care and compassion, she put across the right level of sensitivity and emotion which made it all the more wonderful to read for me.  More pleasing is the fact that these characters will be back later this year in Giovanna's new eBook short story Dream a Little Christmas Dream - yay! I'm so pleased that she is bringing them back and I thoroughly enjoyed reading about Sarah, Brett and co! As I said, this is Giovanna's third book and feel she is totally in her stride with her writing now, and gets stronger with each book - I can't wait for the next one! I can highly recommend Dream a Little Dream, a wonderful read.

Book News: The Last Kiss Goodbye by Tasmina Perry

Hurrah! Tasmina Perry is finally back and is bringing us a brand new book this autumn, and I can't wait! The Last Kiss Goodbye is out on September 10th, and boy does it sound like a brilliant read. Tasmina's books are always ones that I can get lost in, and it sounds like this one certainly will not disappoint! Roll on September.

Available to pre-order now.

"From Paris to St Petersburg, this spellbinding tale of love, loss and long-buried secrets is guaranteed to break your heart...

Everyone remembers their first kiss. You never forget the last...

1961. Bright-eyed young journalist Rosamund Bailey is determined to change the world. When she meets dashing explorer and man about town Dominic Blake, she realises she has found the love of her life. Just as happiness is in their grasp, the worst happens, and their future is snatched from them.

2014. Deep in the vaults of a museum, archivist Abby Morgan stumbles upon a breathtaking find. A faded, old photograph of an explorer saying goodbye to the woman he loves. Looking for a way to escape her own heartache, Abby becomes obsessed with the story behind the image. And when she finally meets the woman in the photograph, she unravels a devastating tale of love and loss. And a shocking secret buried in time..."

8 August 2015

Book News: Love From Paris by Alexandra Potter

I read and enjoyed the first book in Alexandra Potter's new series The Love Detective last year, and now she is back with the second book in the series! Love From Paris is out on 24th September, and has a gorgeous pink cover, so pretty! I loved the first story, so am really looking forward to the second one!

Available to pre-order now.

"How far would you go for love?

When new boyfriend Jack stands her up at the airport, Ruby Miller dries her tears, jumps on the Eurostar and heads to Paris. She thinks she's going there to visit an old friend and have a total break from romance. But the City of Love has other ideas.

A locked apartment where time has stood still, a bundle of long-lost love letters and a flirtatious French lawyer sweep Ruby into a mystery that spans over seventy years. Who is the author of the letters? Why did the owner of the apartment close up the shutters and flee Paris before the war, never to return? And what secret was she hiding?

As the mystery deepens, Ruby turns love detective but it's not long before the ghosts of the past throw her own love affair into jeopardy.

From the bestselling author of Me and Mr Darcy, this magical romantic comedy is for every girl who has ever dreamed of the glittering lights of Paris and of a love that last a lifetime . . ."

6 August 2015

Book News: Letting You Go by Anouska Knight

Anouska Knight is back this summer with her third novel, Letting You Go, and it sounds like a fantastic read. I've read both of Anouska's previous novels and can tell you they are a great read, so I am really looking forward to reading this one. The book is out on September 10th.

Available to pre-order now.

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

Alex Foster lives a quiet life, avoiding the home she hasn’t visited in eight years. Then her sister Jaime calls. Their mother is sick, and Alex must return. Suddenly she’s plunged back into the past she’s been trying to escape.Returning to her hometown, memories of the tragic accident that has haunted her and her family are impossible to ignore. Alex still blames herself for what happened to her brother and it’s soon clear that her father holds her responsible too. As Alex struggles to cope, can she ever escape the ghosts of the past?"

5 August 2015

Book News: My Mother's Secret by Sheila O'Flanagan

Amazingly, this year sees the release of Sheila O'Flanagan's TWENTIETH novel - what an amazing feat! My Mother's Secret is out now, but I cannot wait to read it - the story sounds fantastic, and I adore Sheila's writing. I think the cover is very eye-catching too, I can't wait to read this.

Available to buy now.

"When Steffie helps her two siblings organize a surprise wedding anniversary party for their parents her only worry is whether they’ll be pleased. What she doesn’t know is this is the day that her whole world will be turned upside down.

Jenny wants to be able to celebrate her ruby anniversary with the man she loves, but for forty years she has kept a secret. A secret that she can’t bear to hide any longer. But is it ever the right time to hurt the people closest to you?

As the entire family gather to toast the happy couple, they’re expecting a day to remember. The trouble is, it’s not going to be for the reasons they imagined…"

4 August 2015

Book Review: Summer By the Sea by Jenny Hale

"They say there’s always one summer that changes you.

For Faith the one summer she can’t forget is when she fell in love as a teenager – only for her sister, Casey, to steal her man. Now, at the request of her beloved ninety-year-old Grandmother, Faith has agreed to a family holiday – at their childhood beach house, where it all began. 

Faith hasn’t seen her sister in years but is finally ready to forgive and forget, enjoy the sunshine and relive happy memories. What she’s not ready for is meeting Jake Buchanan – the owner of the beach house – or the long-forgotten feelings he ignites in her. 

Can Faith overcome the hurt of the past, rekindle the close bond she had with Casey and make this summer THE ONE to remember?"

Rating: 4/5

You can buy Summer by the Sea as an eBook now.

I am a huge Jenny Hale fan, and really look forward to both her summer and Christmas reads each year - it's such a treat to get 2 books a year from an author you love! When the cover for this book was released, I knew it was going to be a stunning read, and couldn't wait to dive in and find out about the story. As someone who grew up in a seaside town, I love stories set by the beach, and this one sounded like it was just my cup of tea.

Faith and her entire family have returned to the scene of their childhood holidays in Outer Banks, North Carolina, to the beach house where they used to stay. They are all gathered to celebrate their grandmother's 90th birthday, but it isn't all happiness for Faith. She fell out with her sister Casey many years ago after Casey stole her then-boyfriend, and Faith can't quite bring herself to move past it. When at Outer Banks, Faith makes friends with a local carpenter, Jake, who instantly warms himself to her whole family. Faith is determined to make new friends, and try to let go of the past... is Jake the man to help her do that?

 There's something about Jenny Hale's writing that draws me in, and it was no different for this book. I did find the book to be a little bit slow in the beginning, taking it's time to warm and get going, allowing me to slowly learn about the characters rather than diving in as I have done with her previous stories. Faith was a bit of a strange character for me - I felt sorry for her because of the hurt she went through at the hands of her sister all those years ago, but wanted her to move past it - not just for her, but for their mother and grandmother too. Her reluctance was understandable, but I just sort of wanted her to get on it with the forgiveness I felt was sort of inevitable! However, what I did love about her was her passion for her family, in particular her relationship with her grandmother. She's very doting, and clearly wants to look after her grandmother, and I loved the touching scenes between the pair.

The family dynamics in this book are what made it incredibly readable for me. Although the relationship between Faith and Casey is strained and awkward, you can still sense the sisterly love there, and as the book progresses and more of their story is revealed, I was pleased with the direction of it, and how the characters grew. They are clearly very close, and are wonderful with Casey's young daughter too, who was a joy to read about. I love family stories, so this one was already a winner for me in that respect.

Jake was a great character too, a bit of an enigma as we don't really know much about him until quite a way into the story when I felt I'd already made my mind up about him! Thanks to the twists and the turns of the book, my opinion of him was quite changeable - one minute, I liked him and the next I was a little less happy with him! But I liked that Jenny Hale was able to keep me on my toes regarding him, and reading the blossoming friendship between he and Faith was a joy to read - also his interactions with Faith's grandmothers were incredibly sweet - he seemed such a kind-hearted man, the kind of person everyone wants to know!

This book was a really wonderful summer read, thanks in part to the wonderfully vivid descriptions of Outer Banks and the North Carolina coast. This isn't somewhere I have been lucky enough to visit myself, but Hale describes so beautifully. It sounds picturesque, and you can see why Faith was so passionate about leaving the landscape unchanged, and loving her beach walks. The heart of the novel lies with the importance of family, as well as forgiveness and love. These themes tied together perfectly throughout the book, and it really was a joy to read. I loved that the story wasn't smooth-sailing, I was left wondering how it would all end up for Faith and her family, but I was more than satisfied by its conclusion. A wonderful summer read, with a big heart - I loved it.