1 September 2014

Book Review: To Have and To Hold by Helen Chandler

"From the outside, Ella has the happy marriage, the cute kids and the comfortable home - inside, she craves something more. But giving in to temptation will stir up a whole heap of trouble . . .

Imogen's relationship with Pete was once fun and carefree but since they've become parents, everything is different. Then an accident provides the catalyst for a life-changing decision.

Fifteen-year-old Phoebe is miserable at home and at school. And now her dad, who was always her ally, seems completely distracted by something - or someone. Maybe it's time Phoebe took a stand, and took control of her own life.

As Ella, Imogen and Phoebe contemplate taking the biggest risk of their lives, marriages, families and friendships hang in the balance. Should they take the leap, or will they risk losing everything?"

Rating: 5/5

You can buy To Have and To Hold as a paperback or an eBook now.

I read Helen Chandler's debut novel Two For Joy and thought it was a great book, and that Helen was going to be a great new voice in the women's fiction market. I was pleased to be sent a review copy of Helen's new book, To Have and To Hold as I really loved the sound of the story. As you probably know if you read my blog a lot, I enjoy books where there is more than one story to follow, and that's exactly what this book delivers on. I have to say I love the cover design as well, it complements Helen's previous book, and is a very elegant and pretty cover too.

Three women, all at different points in their lives, dealing with their own battles, intertwining in ways they had never imagined. Ella has it all - the perfect husband, 2 beautiful children, a lovely home but there is part of her that just wants more, despite her husband's protestations. When she bumps into a face from her past, she is left questioning the decisions she made all those years ago. Ella's best friend Imogen hasn't had it easy since the birth of her daughter, what with her partner being a pretty lax father. But when a freak accident leaves Indigo injured, Imogen makes a decision that is sure to change their future forever. Finally, there's fifteen year old Phoebe, dealing with a lot of issues in her personal life, especially her troubled relationship with her mother. As things fall apart at home, Phoebe doesn't know who to turn to, leading to terrible results. Are each of the women destined to lose everything they hold dear?

This is very much a family orientated novel, dealing with the complexities of different family dynamics, and how they affect those in the families, and those around them as well. Although there are 3 separate stories as such, they're all linked in their own way which I really liked. The three women are all great characters, and each strong in their own way in what they are dealing with. The story I enjoyed reading about most was poor Phoebe. She's a really young girl, both in age and in mentality, and is really struggling at home and at school. Phoebe is overweight, she knows it but her mother enjoys reminding her about it at every opportunity, which I found really hard to read. I felt so incredibly sorry for her, her mother was just an awful character and her father just needed to grow a backbone. This was a very sad story, and while it was at times hard for me to read, it was very well written and I enjoyed reading the progression of it.

Ella I struggled to like. She's a stay at home mum to her two young children, but feels like she wants more. She seems unfulfilled, but doesn't seem like she knows what is wrong with her life. She's driven to doing something questionable and the fallout from that is what takes place in the book. I didn't feel sorry for Ella dealing with it all because honestly, she brought it on herself, and I struggled to like her for what she did. It isn't something I agree with but I felt she did make some amends with her actions towards the end of the book for me. Finally, there's Imogen, the character I could most relate to. She's effectively a single mum to her daughter Indigo, dealing with a bit of a dead-beat dad and you can see why she has had enough, although I wondered why she put up with as long as she did. She was so likeable and just deserved so much happiness, I was really rooting for her throughout the whole book. I also enjoyed reading the male characters in this book too which is unusual as sometimes the men are the ones you're meant to dislike in these books, but not in this case which I liked.

I really did enjoy this book, and found it hard to put it down whenever I was reading. I kept saying to myself 'just one more chapter' every evening, but ended up reading at least 2 or 3 more! I was hooked into the story, desperate to find out what was going to happen next, especially with poor old Phoebe, I really did feel so so sorry for her. The book is a stark reminder as well how as parents we have a duty to protect our children in lots of ways, and how our actions affect them. Ella, Imogen and Phoebe each have to move on and through the things that happen to them, relying on each other as it goes on, and it shows the importance of friends and family all the way through the story. Chandler has written a fantastic novel here, full of drama, love and family, and it's definitely cemented her as one of my new must-read authors, I really loved this book.

30 August 2014

eBook Review: A Place for Us (Part 1) by Harriet Evans

"The day Martha Winter decided to tear apart her family began like any other day. 

The house has soft, purple wisteria twining around the door. You step inside.

The hall is cool after the hot summer's day. The welcome is kind, and always warm.

Yet something makes you suspect life here can't be as perfect as it seems.

After all, the brightest smile can hide the darkest secret.

But wouldn't you pay any price to have a glorious place like this?

Welcome to Winterfold.

Martha Winter's family is finally coming home"

Rating: 5/5

You can buy A Place for Us as an eBook now.

I have to be honest and say that I'm generally not a fan of book serialisation. If I'm going to read a book, I want it to be the whole thing, not just part of it that leaves me in the middle of something I want to keep reading. However, when I was sent the first part of Harriet Evans' new book A Place for Us, I was intrigued enough to pick it up and start reading the first few pages, especially after I saw a few bloggers raving about it on Twitter. I hadn't expected to get stuck right into the story, almost forgetting that this was only the first part of four! However, I thoroughly enjoyed it and can't wait for the next parts now!

Martha Winter loves her family dearly, her son and daughters, and her husband too. She lives at their beautiful family home, Winterfold, and is due to hold her annual party, finally bringing all the Winter's back together again. However, this time Martha has a secret that she is sure will blow her entire family apart. Despite that, she's sure that telling them is the right thing to do. But will all the Winter's want to come back home, and face Martha and her secret once and for all?

Harriet Evans writing in this book is brilliant, and really draws you in. The book slowly introduces us to each of the members of the Winter family, beginning with Martha. I really liked her from the beginning, she's definitely the matriarchal head of the family and loves them all dearly. You aren't given much of a hint as to what Martha's secret is throughout the book, so I was guessing in my own head, wondering what on earth it could be that could blow a whole family apart. The other members of the family are widespread, and all a bit odd in their own way. There's their son David, a doctor, on his second marriage to a much younger woman that is not perhaps as happy as it seems. Their daughter Florence, an Art professor living in Florence, and living in a bit of a dreamworld regarding a certain colleague. There's the younger generation, Martha's husband, and lots of stories to keep up with but I didn't have a problem keeping up with who was who and where they were!

This is a great introduction to the story in my opinion. It really piqued my interest in terms of what the big Winter family secret is, and exactly who I think will bother turning up to Martha's party. They are certainly a strange family, and there were a few characters that I felt unsure about, but that just added to the mystery for me. I loved the sound of Winterfold as well, it sounds like a beautiful home set in a beautiful village. Harriet Evans has done everything to make part 1 of A Place for Us a capitvating introduction to her latest story, and I for one can't wait to read more of it. I'm so intrigued to read what is going to take place at the Winter family party, and exactly who is going to come back, and perhaps clash too! If you're a fan of Harriet's books, you'll want to read this one but if you'd prefer to wait for the complete book, it's out on 15th January 2015. But for now... roll on part 2!

29 August 2014

Blog Tour: A Piece of Cake by Trisha Ashley

Today I am delighted to be part of Trisha Ashley's blog tour for her new short story eBook A Piece of Cake! I have been chosen to host an extract from the new story which you can read by clicking on the link at the bottom of the page. I've already read the story, and it's definitely a fun read that you'll want to pop onto your Kindle!

You can pre-order A Piece of Cake as an eBook now.

You can read the extract from A Piece of Cake by clicking here! This will open up a new window with the extract in a Word format, so it's nice and easy to read!

27 August 2014

eBook News: Dead Romantic by Ruth Saberton

Ruth Saberton's last book Escape for the Summer was such a brilliant read, it's made me really excited to read more of her books! Luckily for me, there's not too long a wait as her brand new story Dead Romantic is coming out on October 2nd through Notting Hill Press! It sounds quite an unusual story, but I'm looking forward to reading it!

You can pre-order Dead Romantic as an eBook now.

"What do you do if you come face to face with a ghost? 

Put it down to a bump on the head and work stress if you’re a respected academic like Cleo Carpenter. With Christmas approaching, professional rivalry afoot and a best friend determined to interfere in her love life the strain is clearly starting to get to her. 

Guilt-stricken and deceased, Alex Thorne is desperate to make amends with his brother, Rafe, a tortured musician trapped in a spiral of destruction. When an encounter with Cleo forges a link between them she becomes his only hope. So what if the only person who can see him is a sceptic? 

As Cleo starts to doubt her sanity, the safe world she takes for granted crumbles around her. Setting out to regain control and prove once and for all ghosts don’t exist, she embarks on a journey of self discovery and surprise, learning that love really does defy science, logic and maybe even death itself… "

22 August 2014

Book Review: What A Girl Wants by Lindsey Kelk

"Tess Brookes was the girl with a plan. Now she's the girl with a choice. 

Should she stay in London and start her own advertising agency with her best friend and potential boyfriend Charlie? Or should she head to exciting Milan to pursue both a new career as a photographer and a new man, the enigmatic and elusive (and highly irritating) Nick? 

For the first time, Tess has to choose between the life she always dreamed of and a future she never imagined possible. With her heart and her head pulling her in different directions, Tess has to make a life-changing decision about What a Girl Wants."

Rating: 5/5

You can buy What A Girl Wants as an eBook or a paperback now.

One of the highlights of my summer is Lindsey Kelk bringing out a brand new book! This is the second in her new series featuring the fabulous lead character of Tess Brookes, following on from the brilliant first novel last summer called About A Girl. I adored Lindsey's I Heart series, so it's been great to have another series to get my teeth into. The last book left everything quite open so I was looking forward to getting back to it and see what Tess was going to get into next. I have to say how much I love the cover as well - it's really bold and bright, and certainly makes it exactly the sort of book you'll want to stick in your beach bag for a good old read in the sunshine this summer!

Tess knows she has to make a choice. However, it's definitely not going to be an easy one to make, knowing she will upset someone whichever path she chooses. She has to choose between her best friend, and now potential boyfriend too, called Charlie, with the pair of them aiming to set up their own business and possibly pursue a relationship, something Tess has thought she's wanted for years. But then there's the chance of a lifetime to go out and work as a photographer in Italy, and meet the man who she's also fallen for, journalist Nick. The job is a dream, everything Tess has always wanted, but her loyalty to Charlie is making her wonder if she is doing the right thing. Which choice will Tess make, and will it be the right one?!

I loved the fact that the book begins exactly where About A Girl left off, with Tess returning from her escapades in Hawaii. She's back in London and facing up to everything that has happened since, and the consequences of her actions while she's been out there too. Poor old Tess can't seem to do right for wrong, and manages to get herself in all sorts of issues, even when she's meaning things to go well. Right from the beginning, there's lots of hilarious, laugh-out-loud moments and I was really in love with the book from the beginning! The main crux of Tess' dilemma is whether she wants to be with Nick or Charlie - after About A Girl I was definitely #TeamCharlie, but I have to say I was changing my mind a bit to #TeamNick after this book! Neither man was ideal really, neither a real hero of the book, but both had their positives and negatives.

The majority of Tess' story is set in Milan, where she is doing some photography work for her pal Walter, who first appeared in About A Girl. I loved having familiar characters come back again, and it was nice to read yet another travel-based setting. Milan sounded amazing, with Kelk's descriptions making it sound beautiful, especially the palatial home in which Tess finds herself living, along with her crazy yet very enthusiastic best friend Amy. She made me tired just reading about her - how is anyone that perky all the time?! However, she is brilliantly funny, and tried to really cheer up poor indecisive Tess. The fashion parts of the book too are brilliantly written, with descriptions of clothing really coming alive on the pages - I'm not especially into fashion and clothes but even I enjoyed reading these parts. The story as a whole is really enjoyable, Tess has to be one of the unluckiest people ever though!

For me, this is a fantastic follow-up novel to a brilliant start in a series. I can't wait to keep reading and find out what other mishaps Tess can get herself into, and whether she's really going to end up with Nick or Charlie - or perhaps somebody different altogether! Kelk's writing as usual is a joy to read - light-hearted, witty, very funny and had me engrossed every time I picked the book up. Tess, Amy and co are a fantastic cast of characters you'll fall in love with - even if you haven't read the first book, this one is just as enjoyable and gives you enough information about the first story so you don't miss out, although of course I'd recommend you start with About A Girl. I loved every part of this book, it was great to read a story set in beautiful Milan and with some hilarious goings-on too. Brilliant fun.

20 August 2014

Book News: The Year I Met You by Cecelia Ahern

Popular chick lit author Cecelia Ahern is back this autumn with a brand new book, and what an absolutely stunning cover it has, so pretty! The Year I Met You is out on 9th October and sounds like it's going to be another brilliant read from Cecelia. I've been a bit hit and miss in the past with her books, but the last few I have read have been brilliant and I'm super excited to read this one too.

You can pre-order The Year I Met You as a hardback or an eBook now.

"Jasmine know two things: one, she loves her vulnerable sister unconditionally, and will fight to the death to protect her from anyone who upsets her. Two, she's only ever been good at one thing – her job helping business start-ups.

So when she’s sacked and put on gardening leave, Jasmine realises that she has nothing else to fill her life. Insomnia keeps her staring out of her bedroom window, and she finds herself watching the antics of her neighbour, shock jock Matt, with more than a casual eye. Matt is also taking a forced leave of absence from work, after one of his controversial chat shows went too far…

Jasmine has every reason to dislike Matt, and the feeling appears to be mutual. But not everything is as it seems, and soon Jasmine and Matt are forced to think again…"

18 August 2014

Book Review: The Teashop on the Corner by Milly Johnson

"Life is full of second chances…if only you keep your heart open for them.

Spring Hill Square is a pretty sanctuary away from the bustle of everyday life. And at its centre is Leni Merryman's Teashop on the Corner, specialising in cake, bookish stationery and compassion. And for three people, all in need of a little TLC, it is somewhere to find a friend to lean on.

Carla Pride has just discovered that her late husband Martin was not who she thought he was. And now she must learn to put her marriage behind her and move forward.

Molly Jones's ex-husband Harvey has reappeared in her life after many years, wanting to put right the wrongs of the past before it is too late.

And Will Linton's business has gone bust and his wife has left him to pick up the pieces. Now he needs to gather the strength to start again.

Can all three find the comfort they are looking for in The Teashop on the Corner? And as their hearts are slowly mended by Leni, can they return the favour when she needs it most…?"

Rating: 5/5

You can buy The Teashop on the Corner as a paperback or an eBook now.

One of my favourite authors is Milly Johnson, and I so look forward to a new novel from her each year - I always know I am guaranteed a brilliant read! There's been many of Milly's books I have read to date that can easily be called my favourite book by her, but this new one, The Teashop on the Corner, is definitely my favourite one by Milly to date. It's got everything I wanted in one of Milly's books, and I just couldn't put it down from the moment I began! Here's why I think The Teashop on the Corner is an absolute must-read.

Carla is devastated when her husband Martin dies very suddenly, and she's left to contemplate the rest of her life on her own, not with her husband by her side. But when she discovers the secret that Martin has been keeping from her all these years, she realises she has to move on and find a new future for herself. Molly lives alone, next door to her sister, and when a blast from her past makes a shocking reappearance in her life, is Molly ready to forgive the wrongs Harvey did to her so many years ago and make peace? Will's business has sadly gone bust, and his wife has high-tailed it away back to her parents as well, leaving Will feeling pretty worthless. He too must start again from nothing, and prove to himself that he's worth more than his wife ever made him feel. These characters come into each other's lives at Leni Merryman's lovely Teashop on the Corner in Spring Hill Square, where the new friends share more just a cup of tea and a chat together!

I've often said that I love books where there are lots of character stories going on, and then bringing them altogether to create another story, and that is exactly what Milly has done with this book. We're introduced to each of these characters separately, each going through a bit of a tough time of their own, and then being brought together through Leni and her lovely teashop. For me, I have to say the teashop was the highlight of the book! It sounded like a book lover's haven, full of lovely bookish goods such as stationery, mugs, tea towels and all sorts of good, as well as the obligatory cake and tea of course! It sounded great, and you can see why each of the new friends kept returning for more! Leni was a bit of a mysterious character, hovering on the outside for most of the book but as her story was revealed bit by bit, I couldn't help but warm to her more and more.

The other three characters were fantastic, and each had their own stories to tell. I felt terribly sorry for poor Carla whose husband Martin was a bit of a dog, shall we say. Moving on can be hard, but with the help of her best friend, and some of her new found friends too, Carla tries to build a life for herself, away from the stigma of being Martin's wife, and I enjoyed seeing her come out of her shell. I liked her friendship with Will too, the poor man was utterly sucked in by his awful ex-wife and he was such a kind soul, I felt bad for him when he lost everything he had because of the recession. Finally, there was the bittersweet story of Molly and Harvey, a long-lost love mixed with heartbreak and sorrow, this was so beautifully written I'm not going to say anymore about what happens because you simply have to discover it for yourself and fall in love with them like I did.

For me, this novel is what Milly does best. It's got realistic characters, a wonderful setting, and just generally nice people that are there for each other in their time of need. When I sit down at night, I want to read something that is easy-going and is going to make me smile - this book certainly delivered on that, although I have to confess a few tears were shed as well. Milly's writing was brilliant, bringing not only the characters to life as well, but making you want to find your own Teashop on the Corner, she's made Leni's sound so very inviting! I absolutely loved everything about this book - it's Milly at her complete best, and I can't recommend it highly enough. It's definitely shot to the top of my Milly favourites list, and I know it's one I will enjoy reading again and again.