30 March 2015

Book News: The Love Shack by Jane Costello

Jane Costello is back, hurrah! I look forward to her books every year, they always make me smile and laugh, and are a highlight of my reading year. Her new book, The Love Shack, is out on April 23rd, and sounds like a great read, I can't wait to read this!

You can pre-order The Love Shack as a paperback or an eBook now.

"Life's great when you're 29 years old with a gorgeous girlfriend and fulfilling job. Until you have to move back in with your mum . . . 

Dan and Gemma have found their dream first home, but the asking price is the stuff of nightmares. The only way they'll ever save enough for the deposit is by moving in, rent-free, with Dan's mum.

It's a desperate solution, but it's only for six months. And Gemma's determined to make it work, no matter how bad things get. 

But between Dan's mum's kitchen karaoke, her constant innuendos, irrepressible argumentative streak and - worst of all - her ham and pineapple curries, life back at home would test the patience of two saints. Which Dan and Gemma most definitely are not. 

Then, as they're trying to convince themselves it will all be worth it, Gemma's past comes back to haunt her. And suddenly the foundations of their entire relationship are shaken to their core…"

29 March 2015

Book Review: His Other Life by Beth Thomas

"He was hiding a terrible secret . . .

Grace’s new husband Adam seems like the perfect package. Good looking, great job, completely charming – almost too good to be true . . .

So when Adam suddenly disappears from Grace’s life, she is left bewildered and heartbroken. And with a lot of unanswered questions.

As she tries desperately to find him, Grace opens a Pandora’s Box of secrets and lies – and starts to learn that Adam wasnt so perfect after all.

What shameful secrets was her husband hiding? Is Grace in danger? And can she survive the truth? However terrible it may be . . ."

Rating: 4/5

You can buy His Other Life as a paperback or an eBook now.

I received this eBook to review through Netgalley. I hadn't actually read anything by Beth Thomas before, but had read a few other blogger reviews that told me this would be a book I would enjoy. It's a bit of a thriller type story, nothing I would usually go for but I have to admit - I was hooked. I wanted to find out what Adam's secret was, and why Grace had been such a doormat for so long, and Beth Thomas certainly kept my attention captivated throughout the book.

Grace and her husband Adam seem to have a pretty happy life together. They have a nice home, good jobs and a solid marriage. However, when Adam leaves home one night after telling Grace he was going to fetch them a takeaway, she's completely stunned. Adam seems to have vanished without a trace - and Grace hasn't got a clue why. Grace tries to find out where he could have gone, but she knows nothing of her husband's personal life so doesn't really know where to begin. As she starts to come to terms with her husband's disappearance, she starts to discover things that shock her, and that Adam wasn't the man he had led her to believe. Will Grace be able to survive once she learns the terrible truth...?

Obviously, I can't give too much about the plot of this book away because part of the fun of reading it is discovering things along with Grace. I have to first of all say that I found Grace to be a bit of a strange character. She seems to accept the fact that she knows absolutely nothing of her husband's life, his friends, his family, and simply plods along in her marriage. For me, I found this a bit strange - why would you accept not knowing anything about the person you love most of all in the world, and let them start to separate you from your own family too. It would send warning bells to any normal person, yet Grace didn't seem to question it. We don't of course see much of Adam, but he was a character I didn't like at all, he just seemed creepy and as the story went on, I liked him less and less.

The supporting cast in this book were very good. Grace's best friend Ginger provides a little comic relief to the book - she's always there for Grace and was a very supportive friend, there when she needed her the most. Her brother also plays a big part in the book, policeman Matt is the opposite of everything that Adam is and I loved him, he was a sort of knight in shining armour character that the book needed. Grace's parents also pop up, and they certainly help Grace along the way, although we are very much following Grace throughout the book.

There's nothing gruesome in this book, nothing scary so it isn't one for fans of the hard-hitting grittier thrillers, this is still very much women's fiction, but for me it was perfect. I don't like anything remotely scary, I have a vivid imagination and I can't relax if I read something scary, so this is a thrilling as I get lol. I really enjoyed the mystery element to this book, trying to piece together what Adam was up to before Grace did, and while I did see a few things coming, there were a few that had me stumped, and I enjoyed the surprise of the story unravelling as it got to the end of the book. The story was really well written, making me feel both frustrated yet sorry for Grace, and I hated Adam even though I barely knew him! There's a few red herrings along the way, I wasn't sure what to believe at times, and I thoroughly enjoyed the read, from start to finish! I really liked this book, and will be picking up more from Beth Thomas.

Book News: The Doris Day Vintage Film Club by Fiona Harper

One book I am very much looking forward to reading soon is the new book from author Fiona Harper, called The Doris Day Vintage Film Club. It's out on 23rd April so not long to wait! I love the cover - it's simplistic and classic, and seems to suit the title of the book. I'm looking forward to starting this one!

You can pre-order The Doris Day Vintage Film Club as an eBook or a paperback now.

"Claire Bixby grew up watching Doris Day films at her grandmother’s house and yearned to live in a world like the one on the screen – sunny, colourful and where happy endings with chiselled leading men were guaranteed. But recently Claire’s opportunities for a little ‘pillow talk’ have been thin on the ground.

Until she meets mysterious Dominic. Nic is full of secrets but their connection is instant. Could he help Claire finding the Hollywood ending she’s been searching for? Perhaps, perhaps, perhaps…"

28 March 2015

eBook Review: Playing with Fire by Kat Black

"The steamy story of Annabel Frost and Aidan Flynn continues … Can you handle the heat?

Before Aidan Flynn had swept into her life with the destructive force of a wildfire, Annabel Frost had thought she'd had all she needed from her life. A successful career, financial independence, emotional restraint. Things that were safe, secure, steady. Everything her childhood hadn't been.

Aidan represented none of that. Reckless and risky he'd been the red hot flame that melted the icy layers of her long-frozen heart. Having run from him once, Annabel should have learnt to leave trouble well enough alone.

But now Aidan is back, turning up the heat. And regardless of the danger of getting herself badly burned, Annabel can't seem to resist the temptation to play with this particular fire.
 "

Rating: 4/5

You can buy Playing with Fire as an eBook now.

I read the first book in this series from Kat Black a long while ago now, so when I found out there was a sequel, I certainly wanted to read it but couldn't remember every detail from the first book Melting Ms Frost. Nonetheless, it didn't seem to matter once I started reading as the important details from the first book are repeated in this so we know where we are with the characters, and why they are as they are in this book. It didn't take me long to get back into Aidan and Annabel's love story, and it was nice to read their relationship develop further and see how Annabel has changed towards the idea of having a relationship with Aidan after being distinctly frosty about it previously!

Annabel is still recovering from the vicious assault on her, but doesn't want to have to rely on Aidan to look after her. She's got her mother living at home with her, both afraid of how to move on with their lives and recover. Aidan, on the other hand, is keen to look after Annabel, show her he is ready to commit to her and be there for her, even if she isn't ready for that. Now that Aidan seems to be more of a permanent fixture in her life, is Annabel ready to finally let him in fully, and how will the pair manage to balance a relationship and their very hectic work lives as well? Will Aidan be able to melt the fire of Annabel once and for all, and tell her to let her guard down and let him in?

As I said, you don't have to have read the first book to enjoy this one, but it certainly helps to have the back story of these two. The pace of the book works really well, slow enough to really develop these characters and their burgeoning relationship at a believable pace, but not so slow that I ended up bored! Annabel is still a very independent woman, determined not to rely on anyone except herself in life, but Aidan wants to show her the error of her ways. She seemed to blow very hot and cold towards Aidan, which was quite frustrating at times and I really did feel sorry for Aidan being played about slightly, never quite knowing where he stands with her.

I really loved Aidan's character, however. He was a strong man, determined to get the woman he wanted and wasn't going to give up easily. He's a very successful business, having overcome a serious illness to be successful in a different field, and you can't help but admire him for that. There are quite a few sex scenes in the book between the pair, and Aidan certainly comes across very well in these, a man who knows what he wants and isn't afraid to ask for it! These scenes are really well written, not too gratuitous, but very sexy in their own way, Kat Black certainly knows how to write these scenes. As well as these, there are some beautiful scenes set in Ireland, and the writing was good and it was vivid - it certainly came alive in my mind as I was reading - the beautiful home Aidan owns, the beach, the local village - it all sounded picturesque! There's also a few chapters set in Monaco - this was a nice escape for the story and sounded so glamorous - everything from Annabel's clothing to the casinos were described brilliantly!

This was a really enjoyable eBook from start to finish, and it was definitely nice to catch up with Annabel and Aidan once more to see where they are at now. I loved the growth of these characters from beginning to end, and finished the book with a big smile on my face. Kat Black's writing is really easy to read, creating a wonderful world with her words, and she definitely brought the characters (and their actions!) to life on the page. I really enjoyed this second outing from Kat Black, and certainly look forward to more novels from her - I do hope this won't be the last we see of Annabel and Aidan! A great, steamy read!

23 March 2015

Book Review: A Vintage Wedding by Katie Fforde

"In a small Cotswold country town, Beth, Lindy and Rachel are looking for new beginnings.

So they set up in business, organising stylish and perfectly affordable vintage weddings.

Soon they are busy arranging other people's Big Days.

What none of them know is that their own romances lie waiting, just around the corner ..."

Rating: 5/5

You can buy A Vintage Wedding as a hardback or an eBook now!

I'm a big fan of Katie Fforde's novels, and the past few that I have read I have really enjoyed. They've been really good stories, with fab characters and an easy-going story that has kept me wanting to read on until the end. I received a copy of Katie's latest book A Vintage Wedding through NetGalley, and recently got around to reading it. I had heard good things from other bloggers, so I was really excited to finally start this one.

This book is based around a small town in the Cotswolds, and 3 inhabitants of that town. There's single mum to two young boys Lindy, a talented seamstress, but who is bogged down in the care of her own children, and her family commitments as well. There's newly single Rachel, someone who likes everything to be perfect and in its place, but is very unsure about letting anybody new into her life, let alone a new man. Finally, there's Beth, who is planning her own sister's wedding away from the controlling hands of her mother - she's unsure she can pull it off until the three new friends pull together and start their own wedding business... Vintage Weddings! But little do they know, it's more than a few wedding waiting around the corner for them...

I have read a few less positive reviews for this book, saying that the women were able to pull off their newfound skills far too easily, that everything seemed to happen too perfectly for them, and yes, while that could be true, it is a story and every story is allowed a little bit of sensationalism to make it that bit more enjoyable to read. Beth, in particular, seems to gain a cake decorating skill literally overnight which was a tad unrealistic, but again needed to happen for the pace of the novel. I liked the wedding business, the way it came together quickly and each of the women used their skills to bring something new to the business, whether it was dressmaking or perfecting the venue.

Each of the women had a different story in the book. The one I could relate to most of all was Lindy. She's a young single mum to her boys, and struggles to make ends meet, with the boys father being pretty absent from their lives. I really liked her, you could see she worked hard to be a good mum, and let her own talents fall to the wayside while she was busy being a mum. Rachel was a bit of a hard one to like at first, obsessed with her perfect house in shades of white (one called wevet, can't say I have ever heard of that haha!), and it seemed a bit off how she was desperate for no-one to come into her showhome. As the book went on and she comes out of her shell a bit more, I did warm to her but she wasn't as likeable as the others.

Beth on the other hand I couldn't work out. She's never been particularly lucky in love, her mother is a bit controlling and not all that positive towards Beth, but I struggled to understand some of Beth's decisions in the book. She put a band before her own sister's wedding, something I found a tad unforgivable personally, and I couldn't understand why the other Vintage Weddings employees let her carry on regardless of the strike for everyone else! As well as the three main women, we meet the residents of the village; Lindy's family, her boys uncle Angus, Raff and his mum, and finally singer Finn. There's a mix of characters in there, and I loved what they all added to the book - there was a real village feeling to the book and I very much enjoyed picking up the book of an evening.

There's only 2 weddings in the book that Vintage Weddings organises, and it's fun to read about what goes on behind the scenes for the three women, and what they have to do to pull off the wedding of someone's dreams as well as juggle their own love lives too! I love reading about weddings, so this was a perfect novel for me, and I did enjoy it from beginning to end. It was a lovely story, easy to read and as usual, Katie Fforde's writing is excellent and brings the book to life as you read. It's a nice escapist story that was a joy to read, and despite a couple of very minor niggles, I enjoyed all of it! Great characters, weddings, a gorgeous setting - what more could you want?! I loved it.

21 March 2015

Book Review: Ivy Lane by Cathy Bramley

"Tilly Parker needs a fresh start, fresh air and a fresh attitude if she is ever to leave the past behind and move on with her life. As she seeks out peace and quiet in a new town, taking on a plot at Ivy Lane allotments seems like the perfect solution.

But the friendly Ivy Lane community has other ideas and gradually draw Tilly in to their cosy, comforting world of planting seedlings, organizing bake sales and planning seasonal parties.

As the seasons pass, will Tilly learn to stop hiding amongst the sweetpeas and let people back into her life – and her heart?"

Rating: 5/5

You can buy Ivy Lane as a paperback or an eBook now.

One book I have really been looking forward to reading this year is the debut novel from author Cathy Bramley. I didn't read it in four parts like many other bloggers did, instead I chose to wait for the whole thing to devour it all together. I'm so pleased that I did, because it was a brilliant novel from start to finish, and I didn't want to put it down. It was one of those cosy books, where you feel like you're in the middle of the story with the characters, I genuinely cared about them and was sad to finish it.

Tilly isn't exactly a keen gardener, but when the opportunity comes to have her own allotment, she decides it might be just what she needs to start afresh. Tilly starts to make friends at the Ivy Lane allotments pretty quickly, and soon starts to settle in, growing her own vegetables and preparing her patch for more throughout the year. Tilly's left a painful past behind, and she's determined that she isn't going to divulge to her newfound friends, instead letting them judge for who she is now, not what has happened to her. But as things start to change for Tilly, she realises she might need to let people in more than she had though, especially when it's do with matters of the heart...

I want to say straight away how much I loved Tilly, she was the perfect heroine for the book and I loved reading about her story. What happened in Tilly's past remains secret for much of the book, but I had a pretty good idea from the hints that came about in the earlier parts of the book. Tilly, though, is trying to move on and a new hobby seems to be just what she needs. I loved how Tilly made friends with the other gardeners, regardless of who they were, and just tried her hardest when it came to her allotment, even though she wasn't always very good at growing anything! She was such a kind-hearted woman, and when her past is revealed, my heart broke for her, it was a really sad part of the book.

As well as Tilly though, it was the collection of characters within this book which made it so readable. Tilly's new best friend Gemma is hilarious, a beautician turned allotment aficionado, and is certainly larger than life in the book, trying to cheer up Tilly whenever she has the chance; there's hunky young gardener Charlie, who seems more than a little sweet on Tilly for her liking, and many more fellow gardeners too. There's a particularly poignant and touching scene involving Alf, another allotment owner, that had me in tears, it was so beautifully written.  I loved reading everything about the allotments, from the people to the plants they grew, to the gatherings they all held together. It was such a brilliant little community, I really wanted to be part of it!

The book takes place over the period of a year, and is divided up into four seasons, working its way from Spring to Winter. It wasn't just plants growing throughout the year, it was the character of Tilly too, becoming stronger as the year went on and she became more settled in her new home. Cathy Bramley's writing was fantastic, writing the development of this character and intertwining it with the lives and goings-on at the Ivy Lane allotment. Throw in a surprise TV show, community service people and a good few fundraisers along the way, and there's a lot packed into this story to enjoy. I loved it from the first page until the last, and was so sad to finish this book, I didn't want to leave these characters behind. This book is a triumph for Cathy Bramley, and I can't wait to read her next.

15 March 2015

Book Review: The Dandelion Years by Erica James

"Ashcombe was the most beautiful house Saskia had ever seen as a little girl. A rambling pink cottage on the edge of the Suffolk village of Melbury Green, its enchanting garden provided a fairy-tale playground of seclusion, a perfect sanctuary to hide from the tragedy which shattered her childhood.

Now an adult, Saskia is still living at Ashcombe and as a book restorer devotes her days tending to the broken, battered books that find their way to her, daydreaming about the people who had once turned their pages. When she discovers a notebook carefully concealed in an old Bible - and realising someone has gone to a great deal of trouble to hide a story of their own - Saskia finds herself drawn into a heart-rending tale of wartime love.."

Rating: 5/5

You can buy The Dandelion Years as a hardback or an eBook now.

It's been a few years since I have read one of Erica James' novels. I can't tell you exactly why that is, but I am really pleased that I decided to read The Dandelion Years - it's one of those unexpected gems that you know you won't forget in a hurry, and will be keen to revisit in the years to come. I was drawn to the colourful cover, the idea of a wartime love story and also the fact I had read a few other favourable reviews from other bloggers, so I decided I must try it. Luckily, it definitely didn't disappoint, and is already up there as one of my favourite reads of 2015.

Saskia lives with her father Ralph and her 2 grandfathers Oliver and Harvey at their home, Ashcombe. They have all lived together since Saskia was a young child, and a horrible accident befell her mother and both grandmothers. She's been raised by the three men, and is unkeen to leave the place she has called home for pretty much all of her life. Her job as a book restorer has leant itself to some interesting discoveries, but none more so than a notebook in an old Bible - a tale of wartime love during the Second World War, and Saskia is determined to find the notebook's rightful owners. If only it would so easy to mend Saskia's heart as it is to mend the old books that come into her hands...

I am a massive history buff, having studied it at GCSE, A Level and degree level has certainly made me want to read more historical fiction than I get time to do. I prefer things set during the first or second world wars, my main interest area, so when I heard about this book and it's wartime love story, I knew it would be one I just had to read. The book alternates between the story of Saskia in the present day, and the story of the young wartime lovers. The wartime story takes place at Bletchley Park, where Jacob, the male lead in the story, worked as a cryptanalyst, deciphering German messages, which was of course Top Secret work. There he meets and falls in love with Kitty, although their story is not destined to run smoothly. I was completely taken by their story, overcoming the constant prejudice Jacob faced, as well as the pressure of their jobs at Bletchley Park. There have been lots of books and films, such as Enigma, written about the codebreaking of  World War Two, and while this was of course an important part of Jacob as a person, the real story here was his romance with Kitty.

Back to the modern story of Saskia - I really did love this story. Saskia is hugely indebted to her father and grandfathers for raising her, and isn't at all keen to spread her wings and fly the nest, even though all 3 men acknowledge this is just what Saskia needs. She quickly becomes consumed with Jacob's story, and even when new romantic interests appear in her life, Saskia is too uncertain to take things further, afraid to upset the balance at home and leave her relatives without her. It was touching how respectful she was to them, how much they clearly loved each other and kept the house working, balancing the chores with working between them, a perhaps odd set-up but it worked for them. As the book progresses, and Jacob's story too, I was hoping Saskia would open her heart up to someone, to start a life for herself away from Ashcombe, but at the same time I could understand her loyalty to Ralph, Oliver and Harvey - the relationship between the four was so beautifully written.

Erica James' writing throughout this book was brilliant, and it was one of those novels where I just couldn't put it down once I had started. I was in love with both Saskia's story, and even more so with Jacob and Kitty's. Both took many twists and turns along the way, leaving me heartbroken in parts, happy in others, and a few scenes certainly made me cry, I'm not ashamed to admit. There may have been decades between Saskia and Jacob's stories, but the moral of love, family and happiness runs deeply throughout both of them. I loved every page of this book, from start to finish, and didn't want Jacob's story to ever end. Definitely my favourite of Erica James' books I have ever read, I can't recommend this one highly enough.