27 November 2016

Book Review: My Husband's Wife by Amanda Prowse

"Once a week, Rosie Tipcott counts her blessings. 

She goes to sit on her favourite bench on the north Devon cliffs, and thanks her lucky stars for her wonderful husband, her mischievous young daughters, and her neat little house by the sea. She vows to dedicate every waking hour to making her family happy. 

But then her husband unexpectedly leaves her for another woman and takes the children. Now she must ask the question: what is left in her life? Can Rosie find the strength to rebuild herself? More importantly, does she even want to?"

Rating: 4/5

You can buy the book now!

I've recently become a fan of Amanda Prowse, but I have to confess that I feel I have to get emotionally ready whenever I know I'm going to be reading one of her novels! I managed to get a copy of one of her recent novels, My Husband's Wife, on my Kindle for review, and so began, wondering what emotional rollercoaster I'd be taken on this time! I was right - it certainly was a hard and emotional read, Amanda managed to tap into the heart of each and every situation she writes about, and this book is no exception.

Rosie thinks her life is pretty perfect. She's happily married to her husband, and the pair have two wonderful children. It's everything she has always wanted, and Rosie feels blessed. However, she finds herself knocked for six when her husband suddenly announces their marriage is over, and that he fallen for another woman, living in their town. Rosie doesn't know how to cope with the shock news, but then things manage to go from bad to worse for her. Does Rosie have the courage to pull herself out from the darkest of times?

This is a heart-breaking story, because as the book goes on, we realise what a safety blanket Rosie's family is for her, and how it is going to break her to have all that ripped out from under her so unexpectedly. I hated Rosie's husband Phil for what he did to her, it was cruel and I just couldn't fathom why he had to do that, and devastate not just Rosie but their daughters too. His actions later on in the book are unforgivable too, and I loved that Prowse's writing evoked such strong emotion in me as I was reading!

Rosie was a wonderful characters, someone who loved her life, and I am sure a lot of women reading this will be able to relate to her. She was content with her lot, never wanting more than she had, and being a good wife and mother meant everything to her, especially after her tough start in life. I hated reading about how everything fell apart for her so quickly, and how the bad things just seemed to get heaped on top of each other, pushing Rosie to a breaking point. It seemed cruel one woman could have such a run of bad luck, but it meant I was really pushing for Rosie to pull her out from under the dark cloud and make something of herself again.

This book was hard to read at times, probably too real for some readers who may have experienced something similar, but Prowse's writing is second to none here, it is beautifully written and handles a sensitive topic perfectly. It conveys the emotion, the heartbreak, the despair of the situation, but ultimately left me with a positive happy feeling, and I felt so proud of Rosie for not giving up, which she could have done so easily. As a mum, I couldn't imagine going through what Rosie did, and I think I would have given up long before she felt she had to. Another triumph for Amanda Prowse, I can't wait to read more from this hugely talented author.

26 November 2016

Kindle Festive Bargains!

Kindle festive bargains! I'm putting my Christmas tree up today, and what's better than sitting down on a chilly winter evening with the tree lights, and a festive read?! To help a little bit, this post will share the Christmas reads at amazing prices, so get in quick! Amanda Prowse- Christmas for One - 99p http://amzn.to/2gJlJNs Alexandra Brown- Christmas at Carrington's - 99p http://amzn.to/2gJtlQb Caroline Roberts- The Cosy Christmas Tea Shop - 99p http://amzn.to/2g2ytha Sue Moorcroft- The Christmas Promise - 99p http://amzn.to/2gJsPlf Jane Linfoot - Christmas at the Little Wedding Shop - 99p http://amzn.to/2gJvifd Emma Hannigan - Driving Home for Christmas - 99p http://amzn.to/2gJnbQ7 Debbie Johnson - Christmas at the Comfort Food Cafe - 99p http://amzn.to/2g2IwTk Minna Howard - A Winter Affair - 99p http://amzn.to/2gJtZwV Karen Swan - Christmas in the Snow - £1.19 http://amzn.to/2g2CZMH Matt Dunn - A Christmas Day at the Office - 99p http://amzn.to/2g2GNxo Darcie Boleyn - A Very Merry Manhattan Christmas - 98p http://amzn.to/2gJuqH

24 November 2016

Blog Tour Giveaway! Win a Yankee Candle with Alex Brown's 'Not Just For Christmas'!

Today I have a fabulous competition for you - to win a Yankee 'All is Bright' Candle just in time for Christmas to celebrate the release of Alex Brown's new eBook Not Just for Christmas thanks to her publishers Harper Collins. All you have to do to win is to fill in the form below. UK residents only, it closes on December 1st at midnight. I will email you once the competition has closed to get your postal details, and the publishers will fulfill the delivery of your prize. Good luck, and Merry Christmas!

16 November 2016

Blog Tour: Book Review: The Christmas Guest by Daisy Bell

"When Teddy runs away from home a week before Christmas, he's far too excited to worry about what lies ahead. But all too soon Teddy realises just how cold and scary the world really is, and what was supposed to be the perfect adventure now seems like a terrible mistake. 

Then Teddy is discovered on a snowy doorstep by the Woods family. With their kind hearts and cosy cottage, Claire, Ben and their daughter Emily are the family Teddy is desperate to have. But Emily is ill, her parents are stressed and, with Christmas around the corner, raising and training a well-meaning but unruly puppy is hardly a priority.

Teddy knows he and little Emily have a once-in-a-lifetime bond, and that he can be the best friend she needs in this dark time. If only he can prove to Ben and Claire how much happier he could make them all, Teddy might just find the family of his dreams this Christmas."

Rating: 5/5

You can buy the book now!

I was thrilled to be sent a review copy of Daisy Bell's Christmas book called The Christmas Guest. I didn't really know anything about this book but began eagerly, sure I would love the story inside. What I didn't expect, however, was for the story to be narrated by a young puppy called Teddy in the run up to Christmas! Nevertheless, I plodded on and I am so pleased that I did because this was an utterly charming story and I loved every single page!

Although Teddy initially has a home with two people, Veronica and Richard, he accidentally runs away from home and finds himself in the middle of the countryside, with no idea how to get back home. When he smells a delicious scent, he decides he has to follow his nose, and it leads him to the home of Emily, Claire and Ben, the Woods family. They are going through their own troubles but find that the puppy is certainly helping Emily, and in a roundabout way, all of them. Teddy is hoping that maybe he has finally found his forever home... as long as his old owners don't manage to find him...

As I said, although I knew this was based around a dog at Christmastime, I genuinely had no idea that it was narrated in the first person from Teddy's perspective. I will confess that I found this a little odd at first but was surprised by how quickly I got into it. I loved the innocence of how he spoke about everything, from Christmas, the snow and even fairy lights. I also loved how he picked up on human emotions so well, much like many dogs do, seemingly knowing when we are happy or sad and need a pick-me-up, you can see why Emily and her parents were so taken with Teddy!

Although this was narrated by a puppy, it still managed to cram in a good storyline by way of Emily and her illness. She's really been through a tough time, and through conversations that her parents Claire and Ben have, and the way Emily speaks to Teddy as if he's human (come on, we've all done it with our pets!), we soon build up a picture of a close family who have been dealt a bad hand lately. I was really hopeful that the Woods family would choose to keep Teddy and he would make them all happy, which is what they deserved!

The festive feeling was certainly here throughout this book, and I found Bell's writing was so easy to read, I found myself ploughing through the book rather speedily. I loved everything about the Christmas celebrated in this book, from their tree and decorations, to the gingerbread we see Emily and Claire make, to the unwrapping of Christmas presents early on Christmas morning. It's exactly what I expect from a festive book, and I truly loved it! This might not be your usual read but I promise you, if you take a chance on this sweet, festive and heart-warming story you really will not be disappointed! I loved it, and hope you will too!

15 November 2016

Blog Tour: Book Review: It's A Wonderful Life by Julia Williams

"Christmas with the family. Cosy, relaxing…and a total nightmare? 

Driving home for Christmas, Beth has everything she wants. The kids and the house, the career and the husband. So why is it that when the New Year comes, she can’t stop thinking about her old college boyfriend?

Her husband Daniel is tasked with bringing a struggling school up to scratch, but when family life catches up to him, can he be a good father and a good teacher at the same time?

Beth’s sister Lou has just been dumped…again. Single and childless, she can’t help but be jealous of her sibling’s success. But is the grass really always greener?

It’s a Wonderful Life is a heart-warming novel about the lives that could have been, and what happens when you start to question the choices you made… "

Rating: 4/5

You can buy the book now.

I am a huge fan of Julia Williams, so was thrilled to be asked to be part of her blog tour for her brand new festive novel It's A Wonderful Life. Amazingly this is Julia's tenth novel, and I'm pretty sure I've read them all so that's testament to how good this author's stories are, that I keep going back for more! This one is based around one family - Beth, her husband and children, her parents, sister, and to a lesser extent her brother. Beth loves that the family all come together at Christmas, but is sure one year she'd like a change from the usual predictable Christmas day. But when an old flame shows up will she be tempted, given how stressed the rest of her family and her marriage appears to be?

This book flits around quickly between the characters, chopping and changing every few pages to change story. However, I didn't have any trouble keeping up, but I did wish in parts that certain narratives were longer. Also, I wasn't too sure why Beth and Lou's stories were in the first person, but when we switched to Daniel, Beth's husbands story it became third person. It did make the reading interesting, but I would have liked to have known Daniel more from his perspective as I found his story intriguing to read, and found him to be very likeable.

Beth herself, on the other hand, I struggled to warm to. She seemingly had it all - a wonderful family, lovely hard-working husband, two teenagers and a successful career. However, she couldn't seem to help being tempted when a blast from her past reappears, and no matter how much she tried to talk herself out of her situations, I just couldn't sympathize with her and wanted her to do the right thing and stay well away from him! It's not often I don't warm to a main character, but I liked that Julia wrote her this way because it definitely got my feelings going for the book.

One of my bugbears is books that have festive covers, promising a festive story inside then it doesn't really deliver on that. This, sadly, is one of those books. Yes, it opens with a Christmas scene, and Beth is writing a children's christmas story throughout, but really there isn't much festive feeling going on. I like a book to be set fully at Christmas, with lots of Christmassy description and so that's why I have marked it down from being a 4.5 star read - this takes place throughout an entire year so to market as a Christmas book isn't quite right for me.

However, it is still a very well written and enjoyable book! I liked the fact it focuses on one family, how the decisions each of them makes impacts on those around them, particular the adults on the teenagers which was interesting and something we don't necessarily get to see a lot in women's fiction. The love for each other throughout the family was clearly there though and I liked how they stuck by each other, even when things seemed to be falling apart. There's lots of issues being tackled throughout the book, ensuring there is always something going on to grab your attention, and by the end I felt like I had been on a real emotional journey with Beth and co! A really enjoyable read, even if it is lacking in festive feeling! Definitely recommended.

13 November 2016

Book Review: Wildflower Bay by Rachael Lucas

"This little island has some big secrets...

Isla's got her dream job as head stylist at the most exclusive salon in Edinburgh. The fact that she's been so single-minded in her career that she's forgotten to have a life has completely passed her by - until disaster strikes.

Out of options, she heads to the remote island of Auchenmor to help out her aunt who is in desperate need of an extra pair of scissors at her salon.

A native to the island, Finn is thirty-five and reality has just hit him hard. His best friends are about to have a baby and everything is changing. When into his life walks Isla . . ."

Rating: 4/5

You can buy the book now.

I have really enjoyed the few Rachael Lucas books I have read to date, so I was very pleased to be sent a review copy of her latest novel Wildflower Bay. This is set on a small Scottish island called Auchenmor, where Isla finds herself after her aunt falls in and needs help at her hairdressing salon. Isla is forced to leave behind the glamorous lights of Edinburgh, swapping posh hair-dos for something far less exciting. However, she doesn't plan on bumping into handsome islander Finn. But Isla is counting down the days until she leaves Auchenmor... is there going to be something that makes her want to stay?

Something I really enjoyed about this book was how Rachael Lucas manages to bring the island of Auchenmor, which has been lovingly nicknamed Wildflower Bay by a local lady, to life through her writing - I could imagine everything clearly from Isla in her small little flat, to the salon, the views, the ferry and the beautiful island scenery. It sounded beautiful and remote, and although I could understand why Isla was keen to return home, part of me wanted her to fall in love with the island and its slow pace of life and move there, it did sound idyllic!

There aren't that many characters in this book, but sometimes that works perfectly in a novel, and this was definitely the case here. The book follows Isla, who I liked very much. I felt, though, that she was trying to prove herself for the wrong reasons - it wasn't about making herself a better person, it was about impressing everyone she went to school with, to show them that she had been a success despite what they thought many years ago. I enjoyed the part of the story where Isla went to a school reunion, somewhat reluctantly, but it certainly opened her eyes and I liked how the focus and her priorities changed from there.

Finn was a wonderful character. He had a bit of a muddled past, and I admired him for the family dramas he has endured, and there were some very touching scenes in there involving members of his family, particularly towards the end of the book. I'm not going to lie - it had me in tears, and Lucas' writing for this part was just brilliant, portraying the raw emotion of these scenes so beautifully and treating them delicately. You could see why Finn caught Isla's eye, even if he was only one of a few eligible bachelors on the island! The other characters include the young women who work with Isla at her aunt's salon, and Isla's father, albeit not very much.

For me, the draw of this book is in Lucas' descriptive writing. I loved imagining everything on the island throughout the book, I could close my eyes and imagine I was travelling around with Isla, it just sounds wonderful and certainly somewhere that would be just my cup of tea! I also loved the friendly atmosphere the island had, with everyone looking out for each other, it did sound quite perfect. But woven in among this was a lovely story of personal growth, someone realising that success isn't measured by what others think of you, and of course, a little possible romance thrown in there too. I thoroughly enjoyed this story, and am very much looking forward to more from Rachael Lucas!

6 November 2016

Book Review: I Found You by Lisa Jewell

"'How long have you been sitting out here?'

'I got here yesterday.'

'Where did you come from?'

'I have no idea.'

East Yorkshire: Single mum Alice Lake finds a man on the beach outside her house. He has no name, no jacket, no idea what he is doing there. Against her better judgement she invites him in to her home.

Surrey: Twenty-one-year-old Lily Monrose has only been married for three weeks. When her new husband fails to come home from work one night she is left stranded in a new country where she knows no one. Then the police tell her that her husband never existed.

Two women, twenty years of secrets and a man who can't remember lie at the heart of Lisa Jewell's brilliant new novel."

Rating: 4/5

I am a big Lisa Jewell fan, so when I was sent a copy of her latest book to release, I couldn't wait to read it. It seemed different to the other novels I've read by Lisa before, but change can definitely be a good thing! This one centres around a man who doesn't know anything about who he is, where's he come from and no idea what to do next. Alice takes him into her home, determined to help him find out about who he is. The other end of the country finds newly married Lily Monrose, whose husband has inexplicably vanished. She's new to the country, but is sure her new husband wouldn't abandon her for no good reason. But when she finds out the her husband's identity is a lie, Lily begins to question everything about their life.

What I loved about this book was the mystery, and how that kept me completely hooked and wanting to keep reading long past my bedtime! I was determined to find out who the mystery man that Alice found on the beach is, and why he has ended up there not knowing who he is. Equally, I wanted to know why Lily's husband had vanished, and was sure there was going to be a link between the two. As you read this story, there is also a throwback story that takes place 20 years ago that somehow links in with the one of the present day. There's lots going on but I found it easy to keep track of the many threads and characters.

Lisa Jewell's writing was really enjoyable to read, and moves the book along at a good pace. It doesn't slack at all, but doesn't move too quickly that you can't keep up with what is happening. I enjoyed how she mixed up the stories too, flitting between Lily and Alice's stories all the time, leading us to form our own conclusions of what is going on and why. The air of mystery about it was so intriguing too, and as it hurtles to its dramatic conclusion and reveal, I was completely absorbed by it and couldn't put it down until I had turned the final page.

I loved the character of Alice, she was very likeable and kind, after all not many people would take in a strange man they found on the beach who has no idea who he is! We sense that there's been trouble in her own past too, but this isn't gone into hugely until quite a way through the book. She seemed lovely though, and the complete opposite to lonely Lily, who doesn't quite know what to do now her husband has vanished. I, of course, felt sorry for her, but didn't feel too connected to her story like I did with Alice, she just felt a bit aloof and unattached for me, it felt quite strange how unemotional the young woman was. Other characters do pop up but the brunt of the story is spent with these two women, and of course the mystery man who Alice finds.

This was a novel that is full of mystery and intrigue, and I thoroughly enjoyed reading something totally different. Lisa is one of those writes who can draw a reader into the world she creates with her words, and she certainly accomplishes that with this book. There's a particular scene that really drew me in with the drama, the suspense and the action - it was brilliantly written and I literally couldn't stop turning the pages to find out what on earth was going to happen next. As things came together towards the end, I was able to figure it out for myself what had happened, but there were still a few curveballs thrown in and I really enjoyed all of it. This is one of Lisa Jewell's best books of late, and I definitely recommend it!

2 November 2016

Book Review: Last Dance in Havana by Rosanna Ley

"Cuba, 1958. Elisa is only sixteen years old when she meets Duardo and she knows he's the love of her life from the moment they first dance the rumba together in downtown Havana. But Duardo is a rebel, determined to fight in Castro's army, and Elisa is forced to leave behind her homeland and rebuild her life in distant England. But how can she stop longing for the warmth of Havana, when the music of the rumba still calls to her?

England, 2012. Grace has a troubled relationship with her father, whom she blames for her beloved mother's untimely death. And this year more than ever she could do with a shoulder to cry on - Grace's career is in flux, she isn't sure she wants the baby her husband is so desperate to have and, worst of all, she's begun to develop feelings for their best friend Theo. Theo is a Cuban born magician but even he can't make Grace's problems disappear. Is the passion Grace feels for Theo enough to risk her family's happiness?"

Rating 5/5

You can buy the book now.

I adore books set in far flung places that I may never get the chance to visit, and for me, Cuba is one of those places. I have read a couple of books set here previously, but when I was offered the chance to review Rosanna Ley's latest book Last Dance in Havana I definitely jumped at the chance. I adored the cover, which just screamed Cuba to me, and the story sounded wonderful too. Somehow I hadn't read anything by Rosanna before, so I went into this hoping it wold be brilliant, and I was right!

The book has 2 parts. There's the modern story, which is the tale of Grace. She has a troubled relationship with her dad but she does have a fairly lose relationship with her step-mother. As her marriage starts to crumble, Grace wonders where she can turn, and it ends up being to family friend Theo. The other half of the story is set in 1958, in Cuba with Elisa and Duardo. The pair are young, but are sure they are in love, and are enjoying the start of a beautiful relationship. But when tragedy befalls them, Elisa flees to Britain, leaving her home and heritage behind. She can't leave behind her love for her homeland, but how is she going to be able to carry on?

This was a captivating story on so many levels. I was completely transfixed by Elisa's story, what happened to her and Duardo that forced the pair apart, and how she coped alone when she arrived in England. Her childhood in Cuba wasn't perfect, but she loved it, and the close relationship she had forged with Duardo. The pair dancing, it all sounded wonderful. We also get to meet Elisa as an adult, see how her broken relationship and subsequent move to England has affected her, and how her loyalty is stopping her from fulfilling her own dreams.

The other half of the story follows Grace. I really found myself struggling to like this character - in fact, I quite vehemently disliked her throughout the whole book. Yes, she had an awful childhood, with the death of her own mother, but the way she deals with her other problems later in her life leads a lot to be desired. However, I want to complement Rosanna's writing here because it was that that made me hate this character! I didn't like Grace's actions at all, and it made me very uncomfortable how she behaved. However, I liked the drama of it and the fact that I didn't know how it was going to end up.

The setting of Cuba for some of the book was wonderful, and you can tell Rosanna Ley has really done her research when it comes to Havana and all things Cuban. I loved her vivid descriptions of everything from the beautiful old buildings, to the people and the general feel of everything, in particular towards the end of the book. There is a lot of emotion in this book, a lot of what could have been, and of following your own destiny rather than the one you think has been set out for you. This was a very well written and enjoyable book from the beginning. I loved the love stories within, the many different relationships explored, and the way the Cuban politics, history and passion is described is brilliant to read. I am very much looking forward to reading more Rosanna Ley because this was just a wonder to read. Highly recommended!

1 November 2016

Blog Tour Book Review: The Most Wonderful Time of the Year by Joanna Bolouri

"Thirty-eight year old Emily has a satisfying job, fab friends, an amazing car and, most importantly, a wonderful flat, exactly 411 miles away from the judgemental, batshit crazy, interfering family she reluctantly sees twice a year. In fact, the only minor stress in her life is her twenty-something neighbour Evan and his penchant for flirting, loud music and even louder sex . . . but he's nothing she can't handle.

Emily also has a boyfriend called Robert and it's going really well. So well, in fact, that this year Emily is hoping to take him home for Christmas to meet her family. Finally she won't be subject to five days of nosy questions from her parents and pity looks from her younger married siblings.

But when Robert breaks up with her a week before Christmas, Emily is gutted. How on earth is she going to face her family now? Enlisting the help of party boy Evan (in exchange for one month's rent and the use of her convertible) Emily is determined to take Robert home for Christmas come hell or high water, even if it isn't the real Robert . . "

Rating: 5/5

You can buy the book now!

I absolutely love festive books, so jumped at the chance to be involved in the blog tour for Joanna Bolouri's new Christmas themed book The Most Wonderful Time of the Year! I love the cover, it's such a lovely festive looking book you just want to devour, and devour I did! The story is the story of 38 year old teacher Emily who is fed up of going home alone at Christmas. Therefore, when she's finally settled in her relationship with boyfriend Robert, she decides to ask him to spend Christmas in Scotland with her family, and he (reluctantly) agrees, much to her mother's delight. However, when relations turn sour between the lovers, Emily realises she can't turn around and say she'll be arriving alone and single once more, so decides to ask her new friend Evan to play the part of Robert. With her family none the wiser, Emily is sure she can pull this off, even if just for a few days...

One of the things I really enjoyed about this book was the humour. It was genuinely funny, I loved Emily and her antics, and she was a heroine I could truly love and get behind. I couldn't quite believe she had the gall to go through with it, and I was sure her family would see through it all in a matter of minutes but much to my delight they didn't! Emily and Evan's fledgling friendship is really put to the test, having to pretend to be a couple after now knowing each other for very long at all, but it does lead to some very amusing moments, and I really did laugh out loud quite a bit throughout this! I especially loved the car journey the pair take up to Scotland, absolutely hilarious!

Emily's family, although marketed as the family from hell, were actually quite sweet, and I loved that they were all so close with each other, especially at this sort of time of year. Emily clearly wanted to impress them too which was really sweet, it goes to show you're never too old to make your parents proud of you, and you always want to keep them happy! I did feel sorry for Emily constantly having the mickey ripped out of her because of her perpetual single status, but that's what families are for isn't it - a bit of friendly ribbing every now and then?!

The book is actually set in the run up to Christmas for the main part, but I was thrilled that we actually get to spend the actual Christmas day with Emily, Evan and co, it sounded like a fantastic Christmas day to me! There was lots of funny goings-on between the family members, they certainly weren't too shy around each other, but I really liked the warm feeling I got when I read about them all, it sounded so perfect in so many ways! I really enjoyed getting to see Evan and Emily getting to know each other too, and I was hopeful that the pair might spark off despite the age gap, but Joanna Bolouri certainly keeps us guessing as to how it's all going to end up!

For me, this is a perfect Christmas read, and I just can't recommend it highly enough! There is so much festive feeling crammed into the pages here, I loved everything, especially the descriptions of Emily's family home and the small Scottish town where she lived, covered in snow - it sounded like my idea of Christmas heaven if I'm honest! With a really loveable cast, especially the main 2 characters, a really funny story that will have you cringing and laughing equally, you can't go far wrong than to read this in the run-up to my favourite time of year. A truly brilliant festive read, I cannot wait to read more from Joanna Bolouri!