28 August 2015

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

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

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

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

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

Rating: 2.5/5

Available to buy now.

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

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

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

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

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

27 August 2015

Book Review: A Good Catch by Fern Britton

"Even happy families have their secrets…

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

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

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

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

Rating: 5/5

Available to buy now.

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

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

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

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

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

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

26 August 2015

Book Review: The Sun in Her Eyes by Paige Toon

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

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

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

And then Amber receives a letter that changes everything …"

Rating: 4/5

Available to buy now.

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

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

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

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

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

25 August 2015

Blog Tour Book Review: The Waiting Game by Jessica Thompson

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

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

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

Rating: 5/5

Available to buy now.

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

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

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

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

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

Blog Tour: The Waiting Game by Jessica Thompson

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

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

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

"A letter from Jake to Nessa

Dear Nessa,

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

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

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

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

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

What about when Poppy came along? 

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

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

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

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

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

I think of you all the time.

Love, 

Jake "

18 August 2015

Book Review: Ally Hughes has Sex Sometimes by Jules Moulin

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

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

Rating: 4/5

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

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

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

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

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

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

15 August 2015

Christmas in August: Christmas Releases

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

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

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