18 June 2017

Book Review: The Kicking the Bucket List by Cathy Hopkins

"Three sisters. Their mother’s dying wish. One last chance to be a family…Meet the daughters of Iris Parker. Dee; sensitive and big-hearted; Rose uptight and controlled and Fleur the reckless free spirit.

At the reading of their mother’s will, the three estranged women are aghast to discover that their inheritance comes with very tricky strings attached. If they are to inherit her wealth, they must spend a series of weekends together over the course of a year and carry out their mother’s ‘bucket list’. 

But one year doesn’t seem like nearly enough time for them to move past the decades-old layers of squabbles and misunderstandings. Can they grow up for once and see that Iris’s bucket list was about so much more than money…"

Rating: 4/5

This book is author Cathy Hopkins' first book for adult, after having written successfully in the teen genre before. I have to admit I wasn't too taken with the cover for this one, it didn't exactly draw me into the book, but I really liked the idea of it, so was determined to ignore my cover judgments and read on regardless! Luckily, the story inside didn't disappoint, and I found it to be a very good read, and while it may perhaps be a bit raw if you have recently lost your own mother, it was an ultimately uplifting family-centric read.

The book is the story of 3 sisters - Dee, Rose and Fleur. They don't really speak any more, and have lost touch, all settling into their own lives. However, their mother Iris has left a stipulation in her will that the sisters have to spend a set amount of time together in order to gain their inheritance, which some of the women need more than others. They're all initially very doubtful that they can make it work, but know that for their mother's sake, they have to make a go of it and at least try. But is it just too big an ask for sisters who seem destined to never be close?

The family dynamic throughout this book was very interesting to read. I am quite close to my brother so I couldn't contemplate being like Rose, Dee and Fleur are with each other throughout this book. The fact they don't have a clue about the big things going on in each others lives is quite sad, and I would never want to be like that personally. However, I was pleased that they were willing to give their family another chance, even if it was only for the reasons of inheritance, and was hopeful of a nice family reunion. Each of the women were very different. There's free spirit Dee, an artist who loves her home in Cornwall but is scared of losing it; Rose, the serious sister who works all hours God sends and finally Fleur, the property magnate who lives a free and single life, and loves it.

The book was quite an emotional read, with each of them struggling to come to terms with the death of their beloved mother, and it made me very grateful that I am yet to have to deal with a loss like that. It didn't seem to matter how successful or well off they are in their private lives, the loss hit them so hard, and it was heart-breaking in times to read their grief and sorrow. Another poignant part of the book involves one of the sisters hiding a painful secret from the other two, I wished she would confide in them, it was very hard to read as she felt she wasn't in a place to ask for help from the people she should always be able to ask for it from.

For me, there were parts of the narrative that went on a little bit too much, and I felt this bogged the book down in the middle part for a while. I found it heavy-going, and some of it could have been lifted without losing the general gist of what was happening. I did find myself putting it down a few times and going back to it, but finally it did pick up the pace again, and kept going towards a very eye-opening finale. The narrative switches up between the three sisters, although the main narrator is Dee, and I enjoyed the way it switched up and kept it fresh. For me, this was an enjoyable book. It was an emotional read, but one I definitely enjoyed reading. There were funny bits that made me laugh out loud, some that made me cry, and poignant storylines that were believable yet very sad. A book that highlights the importance of family, of love and of treasuring what we have whilst we have it. A wonderful book.

17 June 2017

Book Review: The Forever House by Veronica Henry

"Hunter's Moon is the ultimate 'forever' house. Nestled by a river in the Peasebrook valley, it has been the Willoughbys' home for over fifty years, and now estate agent Belinda Baxter is determined to find the perfect family to live there. But the sale of the house unlocks decades of family secrets - and brings Belinda face to face with her own troubled past. . ."

Rating: 5/5

I adore Veronica Henry's books, so when I was sent a review of her brand new book The Forever House, I was so excited to get stuck in and read it. It certainly disappoint, and it's my probably my favourite of Veronica's books so date, there was just something so brilliantly readable about it, with characters you can truly love, that left me not wanting to put it down each night, I couldn't stop reading! Here is why I think The Forever House is a must read for the summer.

What I loved about this book from the beginning was the warmth about the whole thing. Everything, from Belinda's tale in the present day, trying to sell Hunter's Moon and be respectful to its current owners, to the flashbacks to the hey-day of the house, and the family who occupied it - it was wonderfully written, with love, family and warmth flowing through the heart of the whole thing. I became quickly engrossed in the lives of these people, eager to find out what would happen to some elements of the story, although I truly didn't want to leave this book behind.

The book has two narratives. There's the present day one of Belinda, an estate agent who has a reputation in town for being a great seller, yet respectful to the owners, determined to find the right person for the right home. She loves Hunter's Moon herself, and knows it needs someone special to buy it, even more so when she finds out the plight of the current owners. Belinda clearly had a troubled past herself, which isn't revealed for much of the book, but you can always sense an aura of sadness around her, like something is missing in her life. I found her very likeable, I was willing for her to ensure Hunter's Moon went to someone who deserved it, because the house sounded wonderful, and Veronica Henry's descriptions of it make it sound like my dream home, just perfect in every way.

As well as this modern day story, we also flash back to the lives of the occupants of the house quite a few years back. The family living there, the Willoughby's, are quite decandent, with mother Margot being a famous author, and her children living off this money and her reputation. But all isn't as it seems under the roof of Hunter's Moon, and the cracks in the family are seriously beginning to show. Sally and Alexander's story, the couple who are selling the house in the up-to-date story, are young children in this, and its fascinating to read the start of their relationship, and how they came to be at Hunter's Moon together. The storyline takes some twists and turns, and as it hurtles to its conclusion, I just couldn't put it down, I found it very compulsive as I loved the Willoughby's so much!

The book is a joy to read, and left me with such a warm feeling inside as I turned the last page. I loved the whole atmosphere of this book, about how important a home can be to people, that it is the place you always return to when you need to. Belinda's whole ethos about selling a home to the right people rings true for me too, you just know when its right, and she was determined to find the right people for a very special home. Veronica's writing is stunning in this one, you can immerse yourself in the lives of the house, the characters... it's just perfect escapist reading. I loved it, and it's definitely one of Veronica's best books for me, without a doubt.

11 June 2017

Book Review: Spring at Blueberry Bay by Holly Martin

"Welcome to beautiful Hope Island where the sea sparkles, the daffodils are blooming and a blossoming romance is just around the corner… 

Bella has always had a sunny outlook and caring nature, despite recently falling on hard times. When she finds a handsome homeless man on her doorstep, her kind heart tells her she must help him. So, she invites Isaac into her cottage and into her life in ways she could never have imagined… 

But Isaac is not what he seems. He’s keeping a huge secret from Bella, yet he never expected to fall for this open, generous and charming woman. 

Bella can’t ignore the chemistry between her and Isaac, but she’s had her trust badly broken in her past. Will she run when she learns the truth about Isaac, or will he be the one man who can help Bella believe in love again? "

Rating: 5/5

I was so excited to get a review copy of the first of Holly Martin's new 'Hope Island' series, called Spring at Blueberry Bay. I love Holly's stories because they are always full of romance, characters to love and stories that leave you with a huge smile on your face. That was certainly the case with this story, it could certainly be one of my favourite books yet, no mean feat, believe me. Bella lives on Hope Island, and after a recent scandal at work, she's desperately hunting a new job, knowing a bad reputation may be following her around. When she finds the perfect job, the interview is slightly different to what she expected, especially as she knows the manager Isaac, and he hasn't been exactly honest with her. Can Bella forgive his deception, or has Isaac made too big a mistake to fix?

I loved the setting of Hope Island right from the beginning. I felt like I was really getting into the place in my mind as I was reading, imagining the village centre, the houses, the beautiful bay - it sounded idyllic, and Holly's settings are always somewhere that I love reading about. Bella's houses sounded delightful, and I can see why she wasn't so keen to leave there, despite her own financial hardship. The descriptions were beautifully written, it was a joy to read because of this. I don't want to say too much about Bella and her job opportunity and what happens with Isaac, as I loved that being revealed as I read the story, but the story was thoroughly enjoyable.

The characters in the book are perfect, and every single one of them was vital for the book, from the main ones like Bella and Isaac, to the more minor villagers, and Bella's family. I looked forward to reading about all of them as they popped up, and it's nice knowing there's more of them to come in the next book set here. Bella was a brilliant character, and I could understand her reluctance to befriend Isaac after his deception, even though his heart was in the right place. I was willing for her to open up her heart though and let him in, they seemed like they would be a perfect couple. Isaac seemed like the perfect man too; handsome, has strict morals, a kind heart, rather wealthy and open to love.

The stories that Holly Martin writes are always so positive, have lovely happy endings that warm your heart, and love stories that make you swoon. Although you can predict how it's going to end, it simply doesn't matter because they are so wonderful to read, and you simply want the best for these characters. I also love when Holly writes a series because you know you'll be seeing these characters again and finding out what they are up to next and if things have stayed as happy as you hoped! This was brilliant to read from beginning to end, I couldn't put it down each evening, it was that good! I hope Holly Martin continues to write stories for many years to come as I simply wouldn't want to be without them!

2 June 2017

Book Review: The Choir on Hope Street by Annie Lyons

"The best things in life happen when you least expect them

Nat’s husband has just said the five words no one wants to hear – ‘I don’t love you anymore’.

Picture-perfect Caroline has to welcome her estranged mother into her house after she was forced out of an exclusive nursing home.

Living on the same street these two women couldn’t be more different. Until the local community centre is threatened, galvanising Caroline and the people of Hope Street into action. But when the only way to save the centre is to form a community choir – no one, least of all Nat, expects the results…

This spring, hope is coming!"

Rating: 4.5/5

Another exciting eBook I was keen to read this year was the latest book from author Annie Lyons, called The Choir on Hope Street. It isn't Annie's first novel, but it is the first one I have read by this author. I had heard good things on Twitter about this book, and as someone who used to sing in choirs a lot when I was younger, I was looking forward to reading this one because it sounded just like my cup of tea. I have to confess to not being completely sold on the front cover, but I ploughed into it regardless.

The story tells the tale of two women, in very different places in their lives but thrown together for one cause. Nat has been left by her husband, who has suddenly decided he doesn't love her anymore. She's devastated, and doesn't know how she's going to get through, sure that he will realise he's made a mistake. Then there's another mum at the school, Caroline, who from the outside seems to have the perfect life. But when her mother's nursing home says Caroline has to take her mother in as they can't cope anymore, her perfect life is thrown into disarray, and Caroline is forced to face up to some serious home truths. Together, however, the women are determined to save the local community centre, and set about raising some serious funds, starting with the new Hope Street Choir. Will the woman overcome their personal obstacles to save the centre for the good of everyone?

I really enjoyed this book, and found the writing and the pace of the book to be very enjoyable throughout. I love how the story followed two very different women, united by one special cause. Too many local centres are being shut down these days due to lack of funding, and the way the ladies decide they have to save it and work together is very admirable, although a very big task! The creation of the Hope Street Choir sounds such fun, something I would love to do myself, and attracted all sorts of local people, some of which were fun to read about.

My favourite of the two women was Nat. the woman who has been left broken-hearted by her husband, and now has to raise her son as single parent, a daunting prospect for anyone. I admired how strong she was, how determined she was for her son to keep his relationship with his father, despite their personal upheaval. It was hard to read her upset, but I admired how determined she was to save the community centre, and keep her mind focused. I did struggle to warm to Caroline, found her quite stand-offish and didn't like her attitude towards her sick elderly mother. As the story goes on, things are revealed which explain why Caroline is how she is, but for me it just sat uneasily. However, I think her story will probably resonate with a few readers. Outwardly, she seemed to have it all - head of the PTA, handsome husband, beautiful home, but inside, she was falling apart, especially regarding her mother. Annie Lyons' writing about Caroline's mothers suffering, and the effect it has on the family was so well written, and was an emotional read.

The best part of the book, though, was the choir and their determination to win a competition which would secure funding to help save the community centre. I loved the competitive nature between the choirs, there was one in particular that did make me laugh out loud! I actually wish there was more of this throughout the book, but I did understand that the personal stories of Nat and Caroline were the main focus and obviously explained a lot about these characters. Annie Lyon's writing was excellent, she created a warm-hearted story with believable characters, and I found myself rooting for the choir to win and save the centre! I'll definitely be looking out for more from Annie Lyons, this was a great book, and one I can certainly recommend.

1 June 2017

Book Review: Evie's Year of Taking Chances by Christie Barlow

"It’s Evie’s birthday and the start of a year she’ll never forget. An emotional story of love, friendship and grabbing life by the horns.

Evie’s job has always been her safe haven. As a librarian in the little town of Becton she loses herself in books - after all it’s far easier to read about other people’s problems than set about solving her own.

Then, one birthday, everything is turned upside down. A mysterious parcel containing a beautiful book with a poignant inscription arrives for Evie. It’s the beginning of a new chapter for Evie and she’s inspired to try and find her real mother.

Evie’s search leads her to meet handsome author Noah Jones. Charming and intelligent, Noah seems the perfect catch but what Evie doesn’t realise is that he is hiding something – a key to Evie’s past.

As Evie gets closer to Noah and discovering her mother, she must take a giant leap of faith. Can she embrace the new and make this her year of taking chances? And if she does, will she get her heart broken?"

Rating: 5/5

I read my first book by Christie Barlow a few months ago, that being her festive release Lizzie's Christmas Escape. I absolutely loved it, Christie's writing style was perfect and I knew I would from then on be reading more of her books.m Luckily, her next book wasn't far behind, and this spring saw the release of her new book Evie's Year of Taking Chances. For what it's worth, I have to say how amazing Christie's covers are - in the age of eBooks, covers are again becoming hugely important in whether or not people choose to buy, particularly with an eBook, so these covers are an excellent choice.

This book is obviously about Evie. She's a librarian (dream job!), and happily lives alone round the corner from her adoptive mother. However, it's soon her birthday, a time which always makes her think of her biological mum. Evie eventually comes to the decision that she needs to try and make contact, even if that might mean rejection again. Meanwhile, Evie meets her all-time favourite author, Noah Jones, and the pair strike up a friendship. Evie is sure an author wouldn't be interested in her, but is her heart open enough to allow Noah in? If Evie manages to find her real mother, will it be a happy ending, or was taking a chance always destined to end in sorrow?

Firstly, I loved that Evie is a librarian - in fact, I love it when authors make it obvious that their characters love books, and that was certainly the case with Evie, and her best friend too. The library where they work sounds lovely, and I can see why she loves going to work there. The inclusion of a famous author as another character adds another book-loving level to the book, and I thoroughly enjoyed this aspect of the book. Secondly, the hunt for Evie's biological was a great addition to the story, and I felt all the nerves along with Evie as she awaited letters, contact with her mum, I can't imagine how she must have felt, and she remained so positive despite her relatively bleak start in life. I can't say I would always be as optimistic as Evie was if I grew up as she did.

Although the main character was of course very important to the book, I felt the other characters were just as good, and enjoyable to read about too. There's Evie's best friend Carla, who also works at the library, Aiden, a new recruit to the library, Evie's mum and of course Noah. Together, they are a really believable cast of people that you truly believe you could be friends with or hang out with, they're just normal and I thoroughly enjoyed reading about them.

This was a brilliant book, and I enjoyed the whole thing from start to finish. Christie Barlow's writing was so easy to read, I found myself about to pick up the book at any time and dive straight back in, keen to get back into Evie's story and find out whether her chance taking would pay off.  I found myself zooming through the book far too quickly, and felt sad once it had finished, simply because I had enjoyed the read so much. I already cannot wait to read more Christie Barlow, and have a few of her earlier stories on my Kindle to enjoy at some point. Barlow is certainly a talent that Bookouture will want to hang on to, with her lovely stories, and wonderful characters, she's an author I'll be reading for many years to come.

31 May 2017

Book Review: Destination Chile by Katy Colins

"Welcome to Paradise...

Georgia has just been offered the opportunity of a lifetime! She'll be starring in a TV adventure travel show that will put her and Ben's business well and truly on the map.

But Georgia's not quite sure their relationship is ready to be put under the microscope - because even though they survived their first argument the discovery of a sparkling engagement ring in Ben's suitcase has put Georgia's head in a spin! Are they really ready for marriage? And more importantly, after all the heartbreak, is she?

This journey is sure to be an adventure like no other. Against the backdrop of rugged and wild Chile, Ben and Georgia must decide if their love is worth fight for... "

Rating: 4/5

The final part of Katy Colins' Lonely Hearts Travel Club series was released later last year, and was entitled Destination: Chile. It features the same characters we have seen in the previous two books, Georgia and her boyfriend Ben, but this time we see them going to Chile on a new adventure. I love travel based books, particularly ones of destinations I haven't yet explored myself, and as I haven't read anything based in Chile before, I eagerly got stuck into this one, excited to explore a new country through the medium of books!

Georgia and Ben are coming up against a few hurdles in their relationship, and the running of their travel agency. However, Georgia is sure the pair can make things work, and sets them up on their next holiday, but one with a twist. They're competing against a few other couples as part of a TV show, which is taking part in Chile. When Georgia discovers a beautiful ring stuffed in the back of Ben's drawer, she's sure he is going to pop the question on holiday. But as the holiday progresses, and Georgia is finding it harder than she thought, are the pair truly heading for marital bliss, or more woe?

This book felt quite different to Katy's previous books, perhaps because of the added television show element, or the lack of happiness between the main couple, but I found it very compulsive reading! I was desperate to find out what was going to happen, and whether Ben and Georgia would win the competition, and even stay together against the odds! As always, I thoroughly enjoyed Katy's writing, she brought the couple to life so well on the page, they were very believable together, and the odd tiff felt real because we all have the odd drama in her relationships.

I enjoyed the competition element of the book very much, and certainly had me laughing out loud in several places, and cringing in a few as well! The banter between all of the contestants was so much fun to read, as well as the challenges they all take part in. I certainly wouldn't have been as brave as Georgia was, and would have put my foot down to a few and said no! The challenges certainly lightened the atmosphere of the book, in between Georgia wondering when Ben was going to propose, and the small tiffs that the pair had, and I honestly really did laugh out loud a lot.

Luckily, although this seems to be the last in the 'Lonely Hearts Travel Club' series, it seems our heroine Georgia is back again in Katy's brand new book, Chasing the Sun which is out now, and sat on my Kindle waiting to be read! I really love getting stuck into a book where I feel like I know the characters, and this is definitely how I feel when I pick up Katy's books, I can't wait to find out what Georgia is going to get up to next.  Katy's books are perfect for people like me, armchair tourists, because she really brings her destinations to life with her writing, and you can perfectly imagine the settings. Chile, in this book, sounds wonderful, and I can see why Georgia was so keen to get there, it sounds wonderful. A brilliant book to sit and enjoy this summer, Katy Colins is quickly becoming a must-read author for me!

30 May 2017

Book Review: Paper Hearts and Summer Kisses by Carole Matthews

"Christie Chapman is a single working mother who spends her days commuting to her secretarial job in London and looking after her teenage son, Finn. It can be tough just getting through the day but Christie has always found comfort in her love of crafting and any spare time she has is spent in her parents' summerhouse working on her beautiful creations. From intricately designed birthday cards to personalised gifts, Christie's flair for the handmade knows no bounds and it's not long before opportunity comes knocking. All of a sudden Christie sees a different future for her and Finn - one full of hope and possibility, and if the handsome Max Alexander is to be believed, one full of love too. It's all there for the taking.

And then, all of sudden, Christie's world is turned upside down.

Christie knows that something has to give, but what will she choose? Will she give up her dreams and the chance of real love? What price will she pay for doing the right thing? Can Christie find her happy ending in . . . Paper Hearts and Summer Kisses."

Rating: 5/5

It's not very often that I read a book and wish that I were able to rate it higher than my top rating, but that was certainly the case with Carole Matthew's latest book. Paper Hearts and Summer Kisses is quite possibly my favourite book by Carole so far, no mean feat considering how much I have loved some of her other books, but for me, this was on a whole other level. I loved every page of it, it was compulsive from start to finish, and I have highly recommend it as one of those must-read summer books - simply brilliant, and here's why.

Paper Hearts and Summer Kisses is the story of single mum Chrisie, who lives with her son Finn near to her parents, who often help her out with childcare when the need arises. Christie commutes every day into London to do a job she doesn't necessarily love, but does because it pays well. In her spare time, she loves to craft, and be with her son. So when the opportunity arises to work with a brand new crafting brand, to create some new lines, Christie grabs the chance with both hands. As she makes friends with her new American boss Max, Christie's world is completely turned upside-down, and she finds herself struggling. Will she be able to balance her work life with her home life, or does caring for the person who means the most means she has to give up her dreams?

I don't want to spoil a lot about this story, because a lot of the joy in the book for me was not knowing what was coming, and therefore the storyline certainly hit me harder as it unfolds. I found a lot of similarities in myself and Christie, we're both single mums to boys, both hard workers, both have hobbies that allow us to be at home in our spare time, and are both very family orientated. This is why I think Christie's dilemma hit me so hard, it felt so real, and I felt like I was being put through the emotional wringer as I was reading. Christie's relationship with her son Finn was beautiful to read too, a very close relationship and one that a mother dreams of having with her own son.

Now, I'm not a very crafty person myself, but Christie certainly is in the book. She loves to create things, use lots of embellishments in her work, and many of these are described throughout the book as Christie comes to terms with her new job, inventing exciting new products. I didn't have a clue what half of it meant, to tell you the truth, but I enjoyed imagining in my head my own version of the things that Christie was making! I also enjoyed reading about the friendship between Christie and her new boss, Max, who lives in the USA. I was hopeful perhaps she might open up her heart to him, but it seemed duty was win out with this tough, single mum.

Carole Matthews writing was stunning throughout this book. she tapped perfectly into the psyche of Christie, her duty, her sense of obligation but also the lack of self-belief, and how hard her parents, especially her mother, encourage and believe in her, in whatever she does. To this end, the relationships in this book were so perfectly written, it filled my heart with warmth and joy, it was so nice to read of a family not at war with one another! Carole delves into the serious issues with the book so well, you feel every emotion along with these characters, but I always felt a glittering beacon of hope woven throughout, I was so hopeful everything would end and leave me with a big smile on my face. I don't want to say anymore as I don't want to spoil anything, except to say I cannot recommend this book enough, it is a true gem of a read, and you truly won't want to put it down. Uplifting, emotional, heart-wrenching and joyful all in one, one of my reads of the year, without a doubt.

19 May 2017

Blog Tour: The Forever House by Veronica Henry

Today, I am thrilled to welcome one of my favourite authors of all time to the blog - it's Veronica Henry! I think I have read everything Veronica has ever written, and have enjoyed every single one them... that's how good she is! I have also read her brand new novel The Forever House which was a joy to read from start to finish, quite possibly Veronica's best novel yet.

For her blog tour stop with me, Veronica has written a piece about 'Books in Fiction' - one of the main character of The Forever House is an author herself, so this is an interesting look at that! Enjoy, and make sure you pick up your own copy of The Forever House!

Buy 'The Forever House' on Kindle and in paperback now.

Just like the heroine of The Forever House, Belinda Baxter, my father was in the services, so every two years we packed up our belongings and moved house. I think that expains why I have become so obsessed with houses, because until I was about 15 we didn’t have a home of our own. Whenever I went back to somebody’s house for tea, I felt a sense of envy that they had somewhere they belonged. Four familiar walls they could put pictures on – in an Army quarter you aren’t supposed to bang a nail into the wall –or decorate just as they wished. 

If moving every two years taught me anything, it was how to make friends easily, and not to become upset when you had to leave them behind. But my survival strategy was reading. Wherever I was in the world, bookshops and libraries were a safe place, and amongst the shelves were hundreds of potential friends who could remain my constant companion. I could take Laura Ingalls or the Moomins with me wherever we went. I became a bookworm, and every time the removal van arrived to take our belongings to the next ‘patch’, in would go my books.

I would spend every Saturday rearranging them, sometimes into alphabetical order by author, sometimes by size, sometimes by colour. I read and re-read my favourites –even today I will pick up my childhood favourites if I need reassurance. Because even the most turbulent childhood stories usually have a happy ending and order will be restored: The Little Princess will get her daddy back, Heidi’s friend Clara will learn to walk. 

And I always loved the houses within those stories. I could see them so clearly in my mind’s eye. I could even smell them: the sharp clean smell of the wooden walls cut by Pa in The Little House in the Big Woods; the musty smell of Professor Diggory’s mansion in The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe.

And as I grew older I was still drawn to fiction featuring houses: Manderley in Rebecca, Thornfield Hall in Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights, Brideshead, Cold Comfort Farm. To me, they were characters in their own right, drawing the characters in under their rooves.  

And that’s probably why houses feature so strongly in my own books. My first, Honeycote, takes place in and around Honeycote House, belonging to the high-spirited and party-loving Liddiard family. An Eligible Bachelor features Eversleigh Manor and Guy, the lord of the manor, who is looking for someone to share his legacy with.

And The Forever House is firmly based on my own fantasy dream home, Hunter’s Moon. Not too big, not too small, it’s nestled in the Peasebrook valley and has belonged to the Willoughby family for generations. I wanted to reflect the heartbreak and dilemmas people have when it comes to selling a much-loved home, and the ramifications that has on everyone who has lived in it. But I also wanted to show the lengths people will go to in order to get the house of their dreams!

It’s up to Belinda to keep everyone happy.

17 May 2017

Book Review: The Last Night by Cesca Major

"In a quiet coastal village, Irina spends her days restoring furniture, passing the time in peace and hiding away from the world. A family secret, long held and never discussed, casts a dark shadow and Irina chooses to withdraw into her work. When an antique bureau is sent to her workshop, the owner anonymous, Irina senses a history to the object that makes her uneasy. As Irina begins to investigate the origins of the piece, she unearths the secrets it holds within.

Decades earlier, another young woman kept secrets. Her name was Abigail. over the course of one summer, she fell in love, and dreamed of the future. But Abigail could not know that a catastrophe loomed, and this event would change the course of many lives for ever..."

Rating: 5/5

I am a huge fan of Cesca Major's books, historical fiction with wonderful stories that you can just fall in love with. Her debut novel The Silent Hours was an absolute triumph, I loved every page and so was very excited to find out her second novel was imminent. I was lucky enough to be sent a review copy of The Last Night, and I couldn't wait to read it and eagerly got stuck in.

This is a book with 2 stories running alongside each other, but in very different times. In the modern day, Irina is a furniture restorer, and lovingly brings back old pieces from the brink of being ruined. She's also hiding a secret of her own, something that hangs over her at all times. When she's sent a piece of furniture to be restored, it too seems it has secrets within its depths, and Irina isn't sure she wants to reveal all of them. Years ago, in the 1950's, lived Abigail, a young woman living in Devon with her sister and her husband. Abigail is settling into a new life there after leaving her home of Bristol after the death of her parents, but is struggling to feel like she is at home in her sister's house. Her brother-in-law Larry isn't exactly welcoming either, and Abigail feels uneasy. But as Abigail meets more people, and opens up her heart to love, she has no idea what is just around the corner...

This book was utterly brilliant from the beginning. I love how we are introduced to the two stories, then we alternate between the time periods and the stories, and I was left wondering how it would all end up being tied together, and as the book progressed, it became clear and I couldn't wait to see what was happening and how it'd end. Slowly, everything came together and it was so cleverly done, I really didn't see the way it was done coming at all. There was an element of something strange going on with Irina and the bureau, something I wouldn't usually like in a book but it worked for this particular story, and added a certain something to the atmosphere, and definitely built up the tension.

I loved both characters in the book, and the imagery Cesca Major uses throughout to bring these stories to life was perfect. The setting of Devon for Abigail's story was perfect, and I loved the descriptions of the town, it was very vivid in my mind as I was reading. Abigail's turmoil at being uprooted from her home to somewhere unfamiliar will ring true with many readers, and her story became more compulsive as it unfolded. I was on tenterhooks waiting to see what would happen with her, and couldn't stop reading to find out more.

The book is based on a real historical event, and I had no idea that it had taken place. As the book hurtled towards this catastrophic event, I could feel the impending doom of something going to happen but couldn't work out what. When it did happen, it was shocking to read, Major writes so realistically and brilliantly, you truly feel like you are there. It was horrific, truly frightening but I just couldn't stop reading. I cannot recommend this read highly enough, whether or not you like historical fiction, because this is a brilliant novel. The book is packed with mystery, intrigue, tension and emotion, I really like felt like I had been on an emotional rollercoaster when I turned the final page. Simply brilliant, and I can't wait for more from Cesca Major.

14 May 2017

Book Review: Then. Now. Always by Isabelle Broom

"Hannah can't believe it when she's offered a trip to sunny Spain with her best friend and dreamy boss . . . what's the catch?

Twenty-eight year old Hannah is ready for an adventure. She and her colleagues are in Spain for a month to film a documentary, and it's a dream come true. Not least because Hannah will get to spend long summer days with Theo, her boss (and crush). If only Tom (Hannah's best friend and cameramen) and Claudette (the presenter) would stop getting in the way...

Then things become even more complicated when Nancy, Hannah's half-sister arrives. What on earth is she doing here?

For once in her life, can't Hannah just have one perfect summer, free of any drama?"

Rating: 4/5

I have been lucky enough to read several of Isabelle Broom's novels in the past few years, and whenever I receive them to review, they shoot to the top of my 'to be read' list because I enjoy them so much! I love the fact that her novels are always travel based, set in a far away clime for the reader to escape to when they are reading, and a fantastic cast of characters to boot. As usual, the cover for her new book was stunning, and I couldn't wait to read this one too.

This time, the book is set in Spain, in a small called Mojacar. It isn't somewhere I have heard of personally but when I finished the book, I googled the town and it looks truly stunning, I can see why Broom chose to set the book here! This time, we follow a small group of characters who are on a work trip, making a documentary about the people and beliefs of Mojacar. It's Hannah's first work trip, and she is so excited to finally be alongside the boss she's coveted from afar for a long time, called Theo. Also along are Hannah's best mate Tom, and Claudette, the presenter. But when Hannah's half sister shows up unexpectedly, she's worried the rest of the trip will be a disaster, and doesn't know how to communicate with her. Will Hannah be able to salvage her holiday/work trip before it's ruined?

I have to say the setting of the book is perfect for the story. I chose to not google it for a reason while I was reading - I wanted to use Broom's descriptions to set the scene in my head for me. I am so pleased I did because I found they were so well-written, so evocative and description that it was easy to imagine the small town, the beach, the fountains in my head for myself, and they sounded wonderful. The descriptions of Hannah's job, her research for the documentary, the slightly technical details within the book set the scenes up nicely, and I enjoyed reading it all pull together.

The characters in the book were good too, but I didn't connect with Hannah in the same way that I have done with Broom's previous leading ladies. I don't know why that is, but it didn't spoil the enjoyment of the book for me in any way. I didn't especially like Hannah's crush, I found it a little bit childish, but that was just me, I just didn't particularly like that story arc. I far preferred reading about the genuine friendship between Hannah and Tom, they were great to read about and such real friends. Claudette was quite amusing too in her own way, but the way Hannah's half-sister is introduced and the clear animosity between the pair was surprising, and I was keen to read on and find out why there was such hatred there.

This was a fun read, set in a stunning place that I would most certainly like to visit now I have read about it, it sounds very idyllic. The characters were fun, with lots going on between them to keep you interested from surprising relationships, past histories being thrown up and a little family animosity to boot. Isabelle Broom's writing was, as always, a joy to read and beautifully described the small Spanish town. This was a very enjoyable summer read, perfect to escape into, and to devour in a few sittings! Looking forward to more from this talented author.

10 May 2017

Book Review: A Song for Tomorrow by Alice Peterson

"Tom fell in love with Alice the moment he saw her. He realises that being with her will not be easy, but she is a force of nature, a burst of sunlight in his otherwise ordinary world. 

Some people might look at Alice and think she has everything, but Alice knows she is not like other women. Her life is complicated, unpredictable, difficult. Alice does not like pity. All she wants to do, has ever wanted to do, is sing.

Alice has been told not to follow her dreams. But when fate has already dealt a tough hand, it’s time to stop listening to everyone else and only follow their hearts."

Rating: 5/5

I love Alice Peterson's stories, and when I was sent a review copy of her brand new book A Song for Tomorrow, I was over the moon and couldn't wait to get reading. As the publicity for this book began, I found out it was based upon a true story, a real woman called Alice Martineau suffering with Cystic Fibrosis, and this certainly adds an element of realism when you are reading it. It's based on the real Alice, but this particular story, including Alice's family and friends, are fictional, but again you can't help but draw parallels with a real family going through these things.

Alice knows that her Cystic Fibrosis is going to kill her before she reaches old age, unless she is lucky enough to receive a lung transplant, among other things that she needs. However, before she dies, Alice is determined to prove everyone wrong and fulfill her ambition of becoming a singer. She won't let her bad lungs hold her back, and is sure that she can do it. When she meets Tom, completely by chance, the pair strike up a quick friendship which soon develops into something more, although he knows he could lose her at any time. Will Alice be able to make the songs she so desperately wants to before its too late, for both her and Tom?

As you can probably tell, this is a very emotive book right from the beginning, and doesn't let up throughout. It also doesn't shy away from detailing the horrible realities of suffering with Cystic Fibrosis, and some of the scenes in the book did shock me a bit I have to confess. I did know a little about CF before I read this, but the book certainly opened my eyes to elements of the illness that I wasn't aware of before. It's very clear how much research Alice Peterson has done in order to write this book properly, and I have to commend her for that because it reads incredibly well. and it was very eye-opening for me.

Alice is a great character to lead the book, and I loved her straight away. She is very realistic about her illness, how it affects her and the prognosis it has on her life. It's horrible to confront your own mortality, especially at such a young age like Alice does, and I don't know how she had the strength. In fact, it was her parents that made me the most upset - how do you contemplate losing your child before you die, watching them get weaker and weaker, losing them and there is absolutely nothing you can do about it? The scenes with Alice's parents, particularly her mother, were truly heart-breaking and often had me in tears.

Alice's talent at songwriting was amazing, and seeing her lyrics on the pages of this book was so touching, and made me want to go and download some of the real Alice's songs and hear just how good she was for myself, to understand why she was so determined to make a success of her music against the odds. As well as this part of the story, there was her relationship with Tom which was emotional reading as well. Tom has a lot of harsh realities to face, something his family and friends worry about (as anyone would of course), but the way he was determined to show that his love for Alice could come above all of the worry, fear, grief and loss was very emotional and inspirational.

For me, this novel was a triumph, and certainly the best book of Alice's I have read so far, which is no mean feat believe me! Alice's writing about everything from the strength and grace of the leading lady Alice through her struggles, to the details of CF and the effects that has on not only the patient but the family and friends were so well handled, it was very emotional to read and I did shed lots of tears throughout this book. For me, though, the over-riding sadness came from reading Alice's parents side of it, the small things Alice witnesses between them, the crushing grief that clearly lives inside them was just awful to read, and as a parent, it is your worst nightmare. However, I cannot help but recommend this stunning, emotive read. Wonderfully written, a joy to read and a story that has touched me and will stay with me forever.

8 May 2017

Blog Tour: The First Time Mums' Club by Lucie Wheeler

I am thrilled to be hosting the opening day of Lucie Wheeler's blog tour for her debut novel The First Time Mums' Club. I have the book sat on my kindle ready to be read, but in the meantime, I have a very interesting article by Lucie herself on 'The Many Colours of Inspiration' so please enjoy, and let me know in the comments if you have or are going to be reading The First Time Mums' Club!

The many colours of Inspiration
I am a very visual person. I like to look at beautiful things and scenery is something that draws so much emotion from deep within. I love looking at colour, too. It is amazing what a vision of vibrant colour can do for your imagination and your mood. I think, when I eventually get the chance to redecorate my writing space, I want to have vibrant splashes of colour around. Not blocks of colour, splashes. I like the unevenness and messiness of a splodge of colour – maybe it’s the big kid inside of me. I am not one for straight angles and equal lines – although saying this, I do like -. I like things to be even, but not necessarily straight.

You know, it isn’t until you start to write these things down that you realise how strange you sound. But stay with me, it gets more ‘normal’.

As well as being a visual person, I also respond highly to audio stimuli. I find music incredibly inspiring. Sometimes I like to listen to the melodic notes of classical music to relax my chaotic brain, to allow the inspiration to materialise in my mind. But equally, I find quite heavy music inspiring too. By heavy, I mean in reflection of the vocals and the words. I listen to a wide range of music, I don’t really have a genre that I won’t listen to. Growing up, I went through a stage in my teens where I was heavily influenced by bands such as Green Day (who I still LOVE to listen to- much to the dismay of my family) Nirvana, Offspring and Linkin Park. Some of my friends couldn’t understand why I liked to listen to that style of music. “It’s just shouting – that’s not singing,” they would say to me. And I would think; but listen to the words, listen to what they’re saying. Because you can hear the passion, and the heartbreak and the life lessons pouring from their hearts as they shout the words. The emotion those types of songs draw from me is immense.

And then we come to people. Who inspires me?

There is one woman who was the inspiration that started my writing journey off. One woman who is my idol, who I admire and who I would desperately love to grab a coffee with (or a glass of wine!). And that woman is JK Rowling. Reading Harry Potter gave me the spark that deveoped into my writing passion. The way I felt when I read Harry Potter was incredible. Not necessarily because of the story (although I love it), but because of the awe I had that she could write a story, with just words, of which totally transported me to another land. There have been other writers since who have equally wowed me with their ability to write, but she was my first real writing idol and I credit her for giving me the drive to want to be just like her. I don’t just admire her talent, but her love, kindness and drive to make the world a better place. She is beautiful inside and out and I really hope one day I get to meet her – although I worry that I would be that woman who totally has a fan girl moment and merely makes noises instead of forming words to say.

But, actually, I think the person who inspires me the most - and she inspires me every single day -  is my daughter. She is an incredible little lady and as I watch her grow, I can feel my heart grow with love. Everything I do, I do it for her. Every day I wake up and I work hard, just to make her proud. She is the one thing in my life that I will work every hour, of every day, of every year, to make happy and believe that she can achieve great things. Without her, I wouldn’t have that drive to succeed. She makes me the person I am and I hope that one day, she looks back and is inspired by me as much as I am by her.

Thank you so much, Lucie!

Check out the other stops on the blog tour this week too :)

2 May 2017

Book Review: My Everything by Katie Marsh

"On the day Hannah is finally going to tell her husband she's leaving him, he has a stroke . . . and life changes in an instant.

Tom's only 32. Now he can't walk or cut up his own food, let alone use his phone or take her in his arms. And Hannah's trapped. She knows she has to care for her husband, the very same man she was ready to walk away from.

But with the time and fresh perspective he's been given, Tom re-evaluates his life, and becomes determined to save his marriage. Can he once again become the man his wife fell in love with, or has he left it too late?"

Rating: 5/5

Sometimes, I enjoy taking a look at my bookshelves, and look for an older book, one that has somehow passed me by but one that I know I really want to read. Katie Marsh's book My Everything was one such book. I remember wanting to read it, but as usual, I haven't got time for everything so it got left on the shelf. Recently, I decided I had to read this one, and I am so pleased that I did because I found it was a compulsive read and I really didn't want to put it down. I now can't wait to read more of Katie's more recent novels!

Hannah has finally decided it's time to tell her husband that their marriage is over, and she's leaving. But when she awakes in the middle of the night and finds him on the floor, having suffered a stroke, she knows those plans have to go out of the window and she has to step up. Tom is really struggling with his new reality, barely able to walk and talk, and totally dependent on his wife and nurses to help him. However, it's made him realise how much he loves Hannah, and that he has to save their marriage, against the odds. Will Hannah be open to a reconciliation, or has too much passed to save something that has long been lost?

This story drew me in right from the beginning. We know Hannah's intentions, why she is wanting to leave her marriage, and how it all gets thrown away once she realises the horror that has happened to her husband. She of course can't leave him - who could? But now she is stuck caring for a husband she doesn't truly love anymore, unsure if she can carry on doing this for a long period of time like she knows she will have to do. I felt sorry for her, in an impossible situation, but at the same time, I wanted her to do the right thing and stand by her husband, to see if there was anything that could be saved. The way she let her dream of teaching abroad float away to stay with her husband was very admirable, and was a touching story, showing how far some will go to uphold their vows.

Tom was living every person's nightmare, especially someone at the peak of their life, a fit young man who has had every independent thing about him ripped away cruelly. I think anyone else would feel exactly as Tom does, helpless and trapped, but I liked how it made him decide he had to do something about the state of his marriage, to change what he feels could have been broken. Again, I hugely sympathised with Tom, his scenes were awful to read because he was in a horrible situation, and I hated his reality, it really was a nightmare.

What I loved about Marsh's writing was the way she gets right into the heads of her characters. She carefully balances Hannah's guilt, her reluctance, her duty to her husband and the dreams she is letting go, and places them perfectly into this story. This is held together by the flashbacks to Tom and Hannah's relationship building up, with an item that links to a chapter about that particular thing, showing their love growing in the days before things turned sour between the pair. It gave me hope that they could find that side of their love again, and I really enjoyed the balance of this book, and Marsh's detail in Hannah and Tom's romance.

This was a brilliantly written novel, and I thoroughly enjoyed every page of it. As the story hurtled towards its conclusion, I felt optismistic, hopeful that these two characters I had come to love and care about would be able to work it out, and that Tom's recovery would carry on in the right direction. Plenty of detail is given about what Tom goes through, how hard he has to work to aid his recovery, but also the toll it takes on not only him, but those around him too. This is a topic I haven't encountered before but found this book eye-opening and completely intriguing to read. A love story, a story of hope, grief, loss and acceptance. It's all in here, and I cannot wait to read more from Katie Marsh, this was simply brilliant.

25 April 2017

Book Review: To Rome, With Love by TA Williams

"A summer of second chances…

Just a week before her big day, Sarah returns home to find a note from her husband-to-be – the wedding’s off! So when her boss decides to send her on an epic cycling trip, from Venice to Rome, it seems like the perfect distraction…

Although she never expected the distraction to come in the form of her oh-so-handsome, but slightly serious, cycling companion, Miles. And with still 600 miles of beautiful scenery, mouthwatering food and delicious wine yet to cover, anything could happen!"

Rating: 4/5

I am a big TA Williams, and find his books a joy to read, often taking me to far away places with great characters and a very enjoyable story to boot. His latest book with HQ is called To Rome, With Love, following his usual theme to send the characters off on some exotic holiday that I can join in with from the comfort of my sofa or bed! The cover for this one is really fun, and I was very much looking forward to this one, and luckily, it didn't disappoint!

The story focuses on one woman, Sarah,  who is pretty heart-broken after her husband-to-be tells her he can't go through with their wedding, just a week before the big day. Sarah chooses to not tell anyone at work, and when she is offered the opportunity to go on a cycling trip abroad for work, she jumps at the chance. Just her, her bicycle and Italy... what more could you ask for? Oh.. and the tourist group going along with her of course! It's a trek from Venice to Rome, and much more in between, and Sarah is hoping to fix that broken heart of hers again...

I loved the character of Sarah, and found her to be someone I could warm to straight away. I felt very sorry for her as her ex-fiancé sounded a bit of a pig, and treated her so badly. She was really brave after what he did, and I understood her need to get away from it all and escape to much sunnier climes. She is a cycling enthusiast, and that really comes across. TA Williams uses his own personal knowledge of this subject to fill the reader in with lots of detail, not so much that you get bogged down, but its easy to imagine whats going on with the bikes as you read along.

There are quite a few other characters in this book too, and I thoroughly enjoyed reading about the whole group. Williams creates these characters perfectly, allowing you to care about them, and want their friendships to develop. There are rookie cyclists, ones who have done many treks like this before, and others along for the fun of it, and I admired them all - I couldn't do it! One colleague in particular who stood out to me was Miles, Sarah's boss. He's clearly hiding something, but I was desperate for he and Sarah to get it together, they seemed like a perfect match!

Finally, the setting of Italy is perfect for this book. I thoroughly enjoyed reading about all of the cycle routes they went on, the lovely hotels they stayed in and the experiences that they had together, from the gorgeous Italian food to the sights and scenes. This was a thoroughly enjoyable read from start to finish, I loved the relationships between the cycling group; the laughs and jokes, the tears and frustration, and sheer determination from everyone to keep going, there was always something going on in this story to keep me wanting more! Williams' writing was excellent, kept me interested and I loved both the cycling element and the location of this. I'll definitely be reading more from this author, and if you haven't yet discovered him, try starting with this fab summer read!

24 April 2017

Book Review: The Things I Should Have Told You by Carmel Harrington

"Every family has a story…

But for the Guinness family a happy ending looks out of reach. Olly and Mae's marriage is crumbling, their teenage daughter Evie is on a mission to self-destruct and their beloved Pops is dying of cancer. Their once strong family unit is slowly falling apart.

But Pops has one final gift to offer his beloved family – a ray of hope to cling to. As his life's journey draws to a close, he sends his family on an adventure across Europe in a camper van, guided by his letters, his wisdom and his love.

Because Pops knows that all his family need is time to be together, to find their love for each other and to find their way back home…"

Rating: 5/5 

I read my first Carmel Harrington book last year when I read her festive book Every Time A Bell Rings. I enjoyed that read very much, and when I was sent a copy of Carmel's new read for review, I was definitely looking forward to reading this one too. This is the story of one family, and their trip around Europe, a last-chance to save their family once and for all. The marriage of Olly and Mae is at rock bottom, and following the death of Olly's father, they know it's make or break time. Olly's dad has organised a camper van across Europe, not Mae's idea of a relaxing holiday. They are all determined to try and make the holiday work, and live their grandfather's legacy as best they can... but maybe there are some surprises around the corner...

I loved the idea of this book! When I read the synopsis, I just knew I was going to love the story, and luckily, it lived up to every expectation I had and more! The Guinness family were perfect to read about, and I thoroughly enjoyed following their trip all the way until the final page, I simply didn't want this one to end. Olly and Mae are a couple in crisis, but right from the off I was hoping these two would work it out. Bad circumstances have sent them on a slippery slope, and I was so hopeful Mae could push her anger towards Olly away, and that Olly could start to feel proud of himself again, and not useless in their home. The book also features the pair's children, Jamie and Evie, and these are perfectly written, wonderful characters that I loved to read about.

Evie is a teenager, suffering with a recent hospitalisation which is causing big rifts between her parents, and also anxiety over why events happened. Jamie is much younger, and a joy to read. I loved his optimism, his zest for life and many of his actions throughout the book. Carmel writes families so well, the ups, the downs, the anger, the worry - everything is written so realistically, every drama believable, every tear heartfelt and true. I became completely obsessed with this book and reading about this family, it was just a perfect read.

As well as the brilliantly written family aspect, there is also the road trip around Europe. I have to confess I agree with Mae here, it sounds like my holiday from hell but as the trip gets underway, and Carmel writes about the advantages of such travel, it piqued my interest and I loved reading about the experiences. Many countries are also covered here, from Germany, to Austria, France and more, and I loved reading about each of them, and the things that the family got up, especially the more authentic, less touristy experiences! Vienna sounded like a dream, and no visit to France is complete without a bit of Disney magic of course! The way Olly's late father orchestrates everything from beyond the grave is simply perfect, and adds the emotional element throughout.

The book was brilliant from start to finish, and most definitely a contender for my best read of 2017 already. I know this story and these characters will stay with me for a long time, I simply adored this book, Carmel's writing and the story as a whole. Carmel is a brilliant talent, a writer who can tap into the heart of her characters, create a family any one of us could know or be part of, and send them off on an adventure of a lifetime. Emotional at times (it definitely made me cry!), funny, poignant and heart-warming, this book is a must-read and I cannot recommend it highly enough!

23 April 2017

Blog Tour Book Review: Under a Sardinian Sky by Sara Alexander

"Sometimes a family’s deepest silences hide the most powerful secrets.

For Mina, a London-based travel writer, the enigmatic silence surrounding her aunt Carmela has become a personal obsession.

Carmela disappeared from her Italian hometown long ago and is mentioned only in fragments and whispers. Mina has resisted prying, respectful of her family’s Sardinian reserve. But now, with her mother battling cancer, it’s time to learn the truth.

In 1952, Simius is a busy Sardinian town surrounded by fertile farms and orchards. Carmela Chirigoni, a farmer’s daughter and talented seamstress, is engaged to Franco, son of the area’s wealthiest family. Everyone agrees it’s a good match. But Carmela’s growing doubts about Franco’s possessiveness are magnified when she meets Captain Joe Kavanagh.

Joe, an American officer stationed at a local army base, is charismatic, intelligent, and married. Hired as his interpreter, Carmela resolves to ignore her feelings, knowing that any future together must bring upheaval and heartache to both families.

As Mina follows the threads of Carmela’s life to uncover her fate, she will discover a past still deeply alive in the present, revealing a story of hope, sacrifice, and extraordinary love."

Rating: 3.5/5

I have to be honest and say that I was initially drawn to reading this book because of its beautiful cover. I know you shouldn't judge a book by its cover but I can't help myself, and often find myself doing this. This is author Sara Alexander's debut novel, and is a book set on the Italian island of Sardinia. I don't personally know much about the location, so was looking forward to finding out much more about this lovely place with a new, exciting cast of characters. I went into this without expectation, and here is my honest review.

This book is the story of a Sardinian native called Carmela, and her family, the Chirigoni's. The book is set in 1952 so is a historical read, and I enjoyed this element of the book very much. Carmela is a traditional young woman, working hard for her family, and living with them all too. She's a talented seamstress, and also is a great cook when working with her sister Piera. She's engaged to a local man Franco, and knows the wedding is something that the whole family is looking forward to. However, when she meets American Captain Kavanagh one day, Carmela's eyes are opened to a world she never even dreamt of exploring, and wonders if she is settling in marrying Franco.

I didn't find the book to be particularly easy reading. There is quite a lot of characters within Carmela's family to keep track of, and in parts, I found it hard to remember who was who, and how they were all related to each other. However, I just tried to plough on regardless, and was soon pretty sure I had an idea on it all, rightly or wrongly! Carmela herself was a great character, one who seemed quite ambitious for a young woman, but didn't seem to know how to break out of her family mold, and their expectations of her. This is particularly prevalent when she is offered opportunities as the book progresses, but doesn't know whether or not to take them due to her family commitments.

I enjoyed seeing how Carmela's world changed when she met the American officer. He was a really fun character to read about, quite straight-laced and trying to do the right thing by everyone, and I can see why Carmela was taken by him. It was a slow-burning friendship, and I very much enjoyed reading it all unfold. There were a few very upsetting scenes in the book, one in particular that I hadn't expected that moved me to tears because it seemed to come out of nowhere, and I have to praise Alexander's writing and how she handled these scenes, as they cannot have been easy to write due to their emotive nature.

For a debut, this is a strong, well written novel, very heavy on the narrative but the descriptions of Sardinia, the local customs and traditions, are brilliant and really bring the whole place to life in my mind. It is definitely somewhere I would like to visit having read this book, and Alexander definitely has succeeded in making Sardinia the centre of this book, an island around which everybody's actions revolve. I will be looking forward to reading more from Sara Alexander. Thanks go to HQ for the review copy of this book.

2 April 2017

Book Review: My Sweet Revenge by Jane Fallon

"I want to make my husband fall back in love with me. Let me explain. This isn't an exercise in 1950s wifeydom. I haven't been reading articles in old women's magazines. 'Twenty ways to keep your man'. That couldn't be further from the truth. I want him to fall back in love with me so that when I tell him to get the hell out of my life he'll care. He won't just think, 'Oh good'. I want it to hurt. 

Paula has had Robert's back since they got together as drama students. She gave up her dreams so he could make it. Now he's one of the nation's most popular actors. And Paula's just discovered he's having an affair. She's going to remind Robert just what he's sacrificing. And then she's going to break his heart like he broke hers. It will be her greatest acting role ever. Revenge is sweet. Isn't it?"

Rating: 5/5

I love Jane Fallon's books and was thrilled to be sent a review copy of her brand new book My Sweet Revenge. The story is a bit of a twist on the 'wronged wife' story we see so much in this genre, and I loved that Jane Fallon took it and made something different out of it. Paula is devastated when she finds out her husband of many years is cheating on her with someone much younger and prettier than her, and is determined to get revenge. She's going to remind him just what he's losing, and make him want her back before breaking his heart once and for all. Will she be able to get the revenge she wants and break Robert's heart?

I have to say I loved Paula from the beginning, and was on her side the whole way through the book. She was truly broken by finding out the man she loves is cheating on her, after sacrificing her own career many years ago to raise their daughter, and now wants to make him pay. She has very low self-esteem but I admired how she got herself up and changed the way she did everything, so she could become the best version of herself before hurting her husband in the way he hurt her.

What I enjoyed about this book was partway through, the narrative changes from Paula to the woman that Robert is supposedly having an affair with. This throws the whole thing on its head, shows us the real truth, and made me have such contempt for Robert and his bit of the side. I was just willing it to all go wrong for them because they just didn't deserve to be happy at all. I did enjoy seeing the whole story from a different perspective though, it was so fun to read, and kept my interest piqued throughout the whole book.

The book does keep you guessing for a big portion of it, as to whether or not Robert is really cheating on poor Paula, and Fallon's writing gets right into Paula's head, showing her uncertainty, her hesitance over what she is doing because she just wants an answer. I had to admire her for not wanting to confront her husband either, I don't know she kept it in! This was a real page-turner from the first page right up until the last, and it's quite possibly my favourite of Jane's books so far, and that's no mean feat! It takes a typical story about a cheating, no-good husband, and turns it into a fabulous revenge tale, one you hope will work out for the best! A brilliant must-read.

24 March 2017

Book Review: On the Other Side by Carrie Hope Fletcher

"Your soul is too heavy to pass through this door, 
Leave the weight of the world in the world from before.

Evie Snow is eighty-two when she quietly passes away in her sleep, surrounded by her children and grandchildren. It's the way most people wish to leave the world but when Evie reaches the door of her own private heaven, she finds that she's become her twenty-seven-year-old self and the door won't open.

Evie's soul must be light enough to pass through so she needs to get rid of whatever is making her soul heavy. For Evie, this means unburdening herself of the three secrets that have weighed her down for over fifty years, so she must find a way to reveal them before it's too late. As Evie begins the journey of a lifetime, she learns more about life and love than she ever thought possible, and somehow, some way, she may also find her way back to the only man she ever truly loved . . ."

Rating: 2.5/5

I had been really excited to read Carrie Hope Fletcher's debut fiction novel On the Other Side for a while, so was pleased to recently be accepted to read it on Netgalley. Carrie is a star of musicals, sister of Tom Fletcher and sister-in-law of one of my favourite authors Giovanna Fletcher, so I went into this one with quite high hopes, especially after reading some other reviews of the book. However, by the end I have to say I was a little disappointed and felt perhaps this book was more suited to YA/New Adult genres rather than women's fiction, as I felt it was just wasn't for me.

Evie is 82 when she dies quietly in her sleep, but suddenly wakes up to find herself much younger again, in her old home but unable to pass through the door into heaven. She soon learns that her soul is too heavy to allow her to pass through the door, so has to complete a few tasks that have weighed her down throughout her life in order to leave her affairs in perfect order, allowing her to pass through. We see Evie's life as she goes back through her past, keen to right some wrongs, and leave those she has left behind settled. Will Evie be able to unburden herself and pass through to her own version of heaven?

The idea of this book sounded really good, a quite serious look at an issue I really don't read much of in women's fiction, but for me the problems came in the execution of the story. It soon started to become more of a fairy tale, with things happening that didn't sit right for me, and I just found myself struggling to enjoy it. By the end, the whole business with the tree (I don't want to spoil it but for me, this just tipped it into slightly ridiculous territory) was too much and I was pleased that it had reached a conclusion. It was a shame but the magical, fairy-tale elements just didnt' work for me, such a shame.

I did enjoy the characters and the family at the heart of the book, although the names were a little bit bizarre. Evie was the leading lady throughout, and I enjoyed her life story, through both its ups and downs. Her family are the other main people - her husband, children, lovers and more frequent the story and it was fascinating to see them both with Evie, and learning how to cope without her around. However, I did feel at times they all felt quite immature, not completely fleshed out as characters, and I can't say I connected fully with any of them. Fletcher is good at writing the emotions these characters are feeling, from love to grief, heart-break and hope, there's a lot going on in here.

However, I felt due to the nature of the story, and the magical, almost fantasy elements within, I do feel this would have been far more suited to a younger audience, the teen or New Adult market would perhaps have been the target age range for this book. There were a few parts where I felt it dragged on a bit too much, and it could have lost a fair bit of narrative without affecting the flow or gist of the story. It's a shame when a book you've been looking forward to doesn't live up to your expectations, and I'm a bit sad that this was the case for me and this book. Carrie has a new book called All That She Can See due out this summer, which I will be trying, so fingers crossed I'll feel a little more positive towards that.

23 March 2017

Book Review: The Little Bookshop of Lonely Hearts by Annie Darling

"Once upon a time in a crumbling London bookshop, Posy Morland spent her life lost in the pages of her favourite romantic novels.

So when Bookend’s eccentric owner, Lavinia, dies and leaves the shop to Posy, she must put down her books and join the real world. Because Posy hasn’t just inherited an ailing business, but also the unwelcome attentions of Lavinia’s grandson, Sebastian, AKA The Rudest Man In London™.

Posy has a cunning plan and six months to transform Bookends into the bookshop of her dreams – if only Sebastian would leave her alone to get on with it. As Posy and her friends fight to save their beloved bookshop, Posy’s drawn into a battle of wills with Sebastian, about whom she’s started to have some rather feverish fantasies…

Like her favourite romantic heroines, will she get her happy ever after too?"

Rating: 4/5

You can buy the book now!

This was one book I thoroughly enjoyed reading last year, and I am trying to catch up with some book reviews I somehow haven't gotten around to! I love books set in bookshops, my favourite kind of shop, so jumped at the chance of reading this one by debut author Annie Darling. The book is the story of Posy, who inherits a book shop from longtime friend Lavinia. However, Lavinia's grandson Sebastian is less than happy at not being gifted the shop in his grandmother's will, and is sure that Posy is going to fail in revamping the secluded bookshop. Which one will come out on top... Posy or Sebastian?!

While I have to say that the story was a little bit predictable, and it all went as I had expected, it was the relationship and banter between the two main characters that I most enjoyed reading. Posy and Sebastian were wildly different people - the only thing that they had in common was the love they both have for Lavinia. Posy is passionate about making the shop a success, sure that a new, fresh look is what it needs to get it off its feet and works hard to try and ensure it will work out. I also admired her for her positive outlook considering her upbringing - pretty much raising her younger brother after the death of her parents, and having to do whatever she has to make ends meet. She's certainly a woman made of strong stuff, and I think Sebastian was surprised at her strength.

He was a hilarious character in many ways, but I also disliked how he tried to railroad Posy into doing what he wanted, sure that his way was the best way and that was it. Posy writes a historical romance in her spare time, and I loved how she kept weaving Sebastian into it without really realising it, so funny, and these excerpts certainly made me laugh! I also loved Posy's passion for books and reading - it comes across so well. and as a fellow bookworm, I loved it and thought Darling captures the essence of a book lover perfectly.

The bookshop itself was a wonderful setting for the book, and I loved reading about it. You can see why Posy was so determined in her ambition to do Lavinia proud and make the shop a success, as well as proving Sebastian wrong of course! The book was a fun read from start to finish, a very heart-warming and uplifting read with characters to care about and that I enjoyed following throughout the book. The chemistry between them is really great, and I thoroughly loved their story. Luckily, there's another Lonely Hearts Bookshop book due out next month called True Love at the Lonely Hearts Bookshop, this time starring the bookshop manager Verity and I'm really looking forward to reading it. Recommended!

22 March 2017

Book Review: If Ever I Fall by S. D. Robertson

"Is holding on harder than letting go?

Dan’s life has fallen apart at the seams. He’s lost his house, his job is on the line, and now he’s going to lose his family too. All he’s ever wanted is to keep them together, but is everything beyond repair?

Maria is drowning in grief. She spends her days writing letters that will never be answered. Nights are spent trying to hold terrible memories at bay, to escape the pain that threatens to engulf her.

Jack wakes up confused and alone. He doesn’t know who he is, how he got there, or why he finds himself on a deserted clifftop, but will piecing together the past leave him a broken man?

In the face of real tragedy, can these three people find a way to reconcile their past with a new future? And is love enough to carry them through?"

Rating: 3.5/5

This is the second novel I have read by author SD Robertson. His first, Time to Say Goodbye, was a heart-wrenching, emotive read, so I was curious to find out if this one would follow the same track. I was right, and after reading the blurb I was sure it was going to be a hard-going read, and I was right. This time, the book follows the failing marriage of Dan and Maria, following a complete tragedy in their family. They've tried to work it out, but the grief is just too much, they simply can't cope with their loss. Away from this, Jack has woken up after apparently falling from a ladder, but has no idea who or where he is. He relies on a local man to look after him, but is desperate to piece his life back together and find out who he is.

The story was a very intriguing one from the beginning, with me wondering straight away who Jack was and what had happened to him. This was a slow-burning part of the story, but I did guess around halfway in exactly who he was and why he had ended up there. The other characters, Maria and Dan were in such a sad situation, my heart completely broke for them. It isn't clear for a while exactly what tragedy has befallen the couple but as things become clear, the story takes on a whole new perspective. You can understand why they are broken by what has happened, and its just a painfully awful situation.

Robertson really taps into the emotion of these situations really well. I can't imagine how hard it must have been to write about such a scenario, it isn't something I would want to think about, and it certainly made for hard reading. Reading Maria's letters, one she knew would never be answered, are heart-breaking, I couldn't help but feel so terribly sorry for her. Dan, too, struggles with comforting his grieving wife, and it was hard to read how hard he was trying, and the fact he was just getting nowhere. Add into that their young daughter and her own grief, well, it wasn't easy reading.

Jack's mystery was a bit intriguing, although I did find myself getting a bit perplexed towards the end as to how it all comes together. It felt like it all suddenly hurtled to this big conclusion, and I felt it all sort of felt a bit strange for me. The narrative of the book switches between the three main characters, so we get a good feel for all three of them, which I felt exposed their stories well enough, and gave us differing perspectives on things that were happening.

For me, this was a good read, and although it was a hard topic to read about, it was a very well written and handled book. It can't have been easy to read, yet Robertson has managed to put himself in the shoes of these grieving parents, and shows us the hard side of a tragedy like that. Jack's mystery kept me hooked, I was so keen for him to somehow escape and find out what had truly happened to him and who he was! Due to the nature of the themes in this, it won't be for everyone, but it was a good read, and I did enjoy it, even if it left me feeling a bit emotionally fragile. I will be looking for more from SD Robertson.

21 March 2017

Book Review: The House of New Beginnings by Lucy Diamond

"Number 11, Dukes Square, looks just like the other houses on the Brighton seafront: a Regency terrace with elegant sash windows, a winding staircase, and post piled up in the hall for its tenants. It might be part of the city's history, but it's also a place of brand new beginnings.

Georgie has followed her childhood sweetheart to Brighton but is determined to carve out a career for herself in journalism. Throwing herself into the city's delights is fun and exciting, but before she knows it, she's sliding into all kinds of trouble . . .

Charlotte's in the city for a new start, hoping to keep her head down and somehow get over the heartbreaking loss she's suffered in the past. But Margot, the stylish old lady on the top floor, has other ideas. Like it or not, Charlotte must confront the outside world, and the possibilities it still holds.

A terrible revelation sent Rosa running from London to start again as a sous chef. The work is gruelling and thankless but it's a distraction at least . . . until she comes up against the stroppy teenager next door who challenges her on her lifestyle choices. What if Rosa's passion for food could lead her to more interesting places?

As the three tenants find each other, it's as if a whole new chapter of their lives has begun."

Rating: 5/5

I absolutely love Lucy Diamond's books so was super thrilled to be sent a review copy of her brand new book The House of New Beginnings. It was a massive book, but I just couldn't wait to get stuck in. I have to confess I was absorbed by this story from the very start - it draws you in and I just couldn't put it down, so eager to find out what was going to happen with Charlotte, Georgie and Rosa in the end. Lucy's writing was, as always, brilliant and for me, it was one of the best stories I think I had read from her so far!

The story literally takes place in one house in Brighton, lived in by different people going through different times in their life. There's Georgie, who has moved down to Brighton because of her boyfriend, but it isn't all sunshine and roses for the pair, so she decides she has to find herself a job to occupy her time. Charlotte has moved to Brighton to escape a devastating past, but it seems the world is determined to make her show her face once more and start living life. Finally, there's Rosa, who again is running from a secret, to try and live out her dream of working as a chef. The three strangers soon become friends as they get to know each other, but what surprises does the house have in store?

I love a book that revolves around multiple people, rather than just one character. I feel it adds something to the book, gives us lots to follow, and always keeps things interesting. This was definitely the case in this book, and I loved each of the women that I was reading about. They were all very different, with very differing pasts but bought together by the fact they don't seem to really have anyone else around them to be friends with. I think these days, people can live much more solitary lives, choosing to stay in rather than go out, and this was certainly the case with a few of these characters.

My favourite of the three women was possibly Charlotte - she was the one I felt I could relate to most of all, and I enjoyed seeing her flourish as the book progressed, how she opened her mind to new friendships and experiences. Her story was completely heart-breaking, very sad, and you could feel all the emotions along the way, the honesty within the words Lucy Diamond writes was very raw, and you could completely sympathise and feel for Charlotte. The way the three women gradually become a part of each others lives was good to read as well, it felt very natural and I enjoyed the fact they opened up to each other as well, unburdening themselves by sharing their secrets at long last.

The house itself was the perfect setting as well - it sounded charming, and the perfect hideaway for the women. There's many issues covered in the book, covering a vast range of emotions; grief, sorrow, fear, deception and more, and these women really have hit the lowest points in all of their lives in different ways, showcasing these range of emotions. Diamond's story-telling is brilliant throughout, handling the more delicate issues with ease and making even the hardest parts completely readable.

For me, this was a superb read from start to finish. It's believable, with characters you can relate to and empathize with, and a setting that I loved to read about. There were some surprise characters along the way, including a wonderful elderly resident called Margot, poorly resident Jo and her angsty teenage daughter Bea (which is another very heart-warming storyline), and others that pop in and out - they are as vital to the book as the main ones, and its a skill that Diamond can so easily weave them together perfectly to create one of my favourite reads of the year. It's a heart-warming, emotional and yet ultimately uplifting read that I can highly recommend, you won't be disappointed!