7 October 2015

Book Review: A Proper Family Adventure by Chrissie Manby

"The Benson family are used to eighty-six-year-old Granddad Bill repeating his catchphrase, 'I've won the blooming lottery!' but they are gobsmacked when he finally wins the actual lottery. It's not a jackpot of millions, but even after giving each of his great-grandchildren a nice nest-egg each, there's enough left over for Bill to take everyone on a short Mediterranean cruise.

Chelsea Benson is taking her boyfriend Adam along for the trip, but they've hit another rough patch. Will they make it through the cruise without splitting up?

Also on the ship is Jane Thynne, who should have been on that cruise as a honeymooner. Instead, mourning the death of her fiance, she is there with her best friend. Will taking the cruise without Greg help Jane begin to heal from her devastating loss?

Meanwhile, Jack Benson and Adam's daughter Lily go head to head once again in the ship's passenger talent contest and Granddad Bill causes havoc in the on-board casino.

It's full steam ahead for a proper family adventure . . ."

Rating: 5/5

Available to buy now.

I only got into Chrissie Manby's new 'Proper Family...' series with the book that was released last year, A Proper Family Christmas. That was a funny but touching tale of a family coming together against the odds, and I immediately grew to love everything about the Benson family. I was super excited to be sent a review of this summer's book, A Proper Family Adventure. Once again, it stars the Benson family, this time going on a cruise holiday together after a holiday win. Of course, things aren't plain sailing with the family, and there's more than a few bumps along the way for them. Throw in a grieving fellow passenger, her best friend and lots of other abnormalities and we are due for a great time with them...

Due to the fact I had read the previous book, I felt like I knew enough of the characters to quickly slip back into family life with the Benson's, and not spend too much time worrying about who was who, and what  was going on. That being said, enough is told to the reader about the previous two books that if this is the first you have read in the series, you can easily start here and enjoy everything about it, knowing just enough to understand the foibles of the family. I certainly do want to get around to reading the first book in the series, A Proper Family Holiday, but for now this one had to suffice, and it certainly did for me.

While the matriarch of the family Ronnie steps back slightly in this book, it takes a look at the new relationship of the youngest Benson sister Chelsea, and her new boyfriend Adam who has accompanied her on the family cruise with his young daughter Lily. I felt it was very brave of Adam to come along on a family holiday so early in their relationship, and it certainly causes some awkward moments for the couple. However, I loved that their struggle of a new relationship, as well as Adam's issues of still grieving for his deceased wife and dealing with a child made it all feel very realistic and believable, and I was so badly rooting for them to make it through despite their difficulties.

I was a bit sad when it was revealed that the newest family member Annabelle and her brood weren't going to be on the cruise, but Chrissie certainly made it work in the book. There was a whole spin off story involving her, Granddad Bill and the younger girls of the family, and it worked perfectly. In fact, there was one particular scene towards the end of the book that genuinely had me sobbing - I felt so emotional reading it, I couldn't quite cope with what I was reading and it really hit me hard - that's the talent of Chrissie's writing, that she can draw you into this family, make you care for them and become emotionally invested yourself, I loved everything about the Benson's by the end of this book!

As well as the Benson's, a couple of new characters made an appearance in this book, even though they do of course link to the Benson's in some way, a way I found very touching and believable too. Jane, recently single after the death of her beloved boyfriend, has been persuaded by her best friend Kirsty to go on the cruise her boyfriend had booked for her before he died. Jane isn't sure, and struggles with the idea of travelling to all the places they had intended to go together, now alone, and I felt incredibly sorry for her as the book went on. However, I also felt sorry for Kirsty who had to go exploring alone, and I was wishing Jane would just be able to let go and enjoy herself a little bit before it was too late! The way everything comes together at the end is just perfect, and I was sad to leave the family behind once more.

Luckily for me, the Benson's are back this Christmas with another story, A Wedding at Christmas - I cannot wait to read this and find out what is happening next with them all! This was an utterly charming story from start to finish, filled with laughs, tears and lots of family fun that you just won't want to put down. I haven't been on a cruise myself, but this book made it seem like such fun, for everyone from the youngest children to the adults who could enjoy all the entertainment the ship has to offer! As well as the ship, we are treated to lots of glorious destinations, fun and frolicks and I loved it! Roll on November for the next book, but if you can't wait until then, just read this again! I can highly recommend it!!

4 October 2015

Book Review: The Things We Do For Love by Alice Peterson

"Love may hurt, but not loving hurts even more . . .

January Wild loves her daughter, her dog and her childhood home by the sea.

Single parenting is tough, but January has no regrets. She has a job she loves, a happy home and the support of her beloved grandfather. The arrival of a new boss, however, threatens to shake up January's safe world.

Ward Metcalfe loves great sales results and a well-run office.

Everyone at her office agrees: Ward is a soulless, corporate slave driver. Even Spud, the company mascot, dislikes him.

A secret stands between them.

Yet over time January sees there is more to Ward than meets the eye. Rumours circulate. What exactly is he hiding? and is January prepared to risk everything to find out?"

Rating: 5/5

Available to buy now.

Alice Peterson has very quickly become of those authors who I just have to read - it doesn't matter what books I have in front of her new book, I just want to read hers because I know it's going to be a great read. The cover for her latest book, The Things We Do for Love, is nice enough, but didn't blow me away for some reason. However, the blurb certainly piqued my interest, and I was excited to start reading the book. I was only a few pages in, but immediately I was hooked, and didn't want to stop reading. I loved every page of this, and it's one of my top reads of the year without a doubt.

January is a single mother to her young daughter, but wouldn't have it any other way. She loves her daughter to bits, works hard to provide for the pair of them, and everything has been going well so far. However, when her beloved boss decides to retire, and Ward Metcalfe turns up in his place, January is a bit unsure about things now. The pair don't exactly click, with Ward just wanting sales figures to increase, and ignoring the experience of his sales teams, things seem at an all-time low at January's workplace. The longer January works with Ward, however, she sees something else in him, something the others cannot. And when he uncovers her secret, Ward is prepared to give January more of a chance. Can the pair work things out between them at work before it's too late?

There is a whole part of this book which was completely and utterly special to me, yet I can't reveal it here without spoiling the story as it's something that comes across far better if you read it as part of the whole story. However, I can say that Alice Peterson has handled such a storyline with compassion, fact and elegance - I immersed myself in January and Isla's world, and their struggle together, and admired them for everything they have been through, January in particular for dealing with everything pretty much on her own after Isla's father Dan left once he found out January was pregnant. It certainly shapes these characters, and I couldn't help but love January and Isla, they are such a strong unit and their relationship was a pleasure to read. The story between the pair is very emotional, with the flashbacks to Isla's early years being particularly heart-rending, and awe-inspiring at January's strength.

I really enjoyed how Peterson has written the work life of January in this story, it runs alongside her personal life but plays an equally important role in her life. The story really begins when Ward, January's new boss, arrives on the scene. He is written as a bit of an ogre, someone who doesn't care much for his employee's feelings, rather the facts and figures are the be all and end all for him. I didn't have much patience for him as a character, and struggled to warm to him, but as the book went on, I became more curious about him and felt more willing to give him a chance, much like January did. I enjoyed how Peterson manipulated my emotions as a reader, making me heavily dislike him and slowly warming him up, making it so that I didn't feel bad for mellowing towards him because there was more to him that meets the eye.

Another touching element of this book for me was the close relationship that January has with her elderly grandfather. January and her brother Lucas were raised by their grandparents after the death of their parents when they were little, and consequently, January comes to rely heavily on them as she grows up. In the modern part of the story, only her grandfather is living, but I loved the closeness the pair shared, when Isla and January visited him in his seaside home, it's the sort of relationship I hope my son has with his grandparents when he is grown up. Alice Peterson has that ability to really tap into emotions and relationships in her stories, they are what ultimately makes her books so readable and relatable.

This was a superbly written novel, and quite possibly the best one that Alice Peterson has written to date - no mean feat considering how much I have enjoyed several of her earlier books! Again, Peterson isn't afraid to tackle some harder, more emotional issues in her book, but it was handled so beautifully in this book. It was a very moving and emotional story that unfolded at a perfect pace, allowing the different story arcs to develop and the characters to emerge and become so that you feel like you know them, and want to be involved in their story. January, Ward, Isla and co are characters that will stay with me a long time after reading this book, and I do not hesitate to recommend this beautiful read.

3 October 2015

Book Review: Some Kind of Wonderful by Sarah Morgan

"Her whole life, Puffin Islander Brittany Forrest has dreamed of adventure. And at the age of eighteen, she thought she’d found it in bad boy Zachary Flynn. But after just ten tempestuous, smouldering days, their whirlwind marriage went up in smoke, and Brittany resolved to put him out of her mind forever.

Zach knows he let Brittany down, but being back on Puffin Island and seeing Brittany again stirs up long-buried emotions. This daredevil pilot has never felt worthy of her, yet he can’t stay away—even when he knows the chemistry between them will only complicate his life.

As long, hot summer days on the beach dissolve into sultry, starry nights, Brittany and Zach find that the sparks between them are more powerful than ever. Could it be that the second time around, their dreams of a happy-ever-after will finally come true?"

Rating: 5/5

Available to buy now.

This is the second book in Sarah Morgan's brilliant new 'Puffin Island' series, and boy, is it a corker! I loved the first story in the series, First Time in Forever, and was so excited to be reading the second story, this time based around the character of Brittany, someone who appeared somewhat briefly in the previous book. The cover is beautifully summery, with it's gorgeous colours and images of Puffin Island, I couldn't wait to dive in and get started on this one, and of course, Sarah didn't let me down! Despite the fact it is a sequel, you can definitely enjoy this as a standalone novel, so don't be put off!

Brittany loves adventure, and that's exactly what her job as an archaelogist gives her - she travels the world on digs, and loves everything about it. However, when she badly breaks her wrist, she's forced to return home to Puffin Island for the first time in a long while, and happens to bump into her ex husband Zachary while she's there. Brittany doesn't plan on feelings coming rushing back to her, and soon the pair are butting heads, trying to put off the chemistry that is so clearly there between them. As the summer plods on, the pair try their best not to act on their feelings, but is something wonderful about to start between them both?!

As I said, we didn't meet the character of Brittany too much in the first book, but enough to know a bit about her job, and her close friendships with the other two girls in the series - Emily, who starred in the first book First Time in Forever, and Skylar, who is the main character in the final book Christmas Ever After which is coming very soon, yippee! I really liked Brittany from the beginning - she's very headstrong, works hard and enjoys success in her career as well as travelling around the world. She's also determined to remain single after a whirlwind marriage in her teenage years to Zachary which has haunted her somewhat.

As the pair collide again on her re-arrival onto Puffin Island, the feelings that they never really got over come rushing back. Zachary is painted of something of a bad boy, breaking Brittany's heart when he ran out on their marriage all those years ago, and pretty much cutting himself off from everything else at the same time, thanks to his troubled childhood. Despite the way he's portrayed, I really liked Zachary from the beginning - I could sense that there was a kind heart underneath the cold exterior. I did want Brittany to give him another chance, time to explain what had happened before and for the pair to rekindle things, but so many times in the book it seemed so unlikely, they fought like cat and dog!

What I loved about this book is the slow pace of it, with Morgan describing both sides of the story well enough for us a reader to be able to get involved and invested in their tale. I liked how Morgan slowly reveals Zachary's background, giving us some explanation towards his reluctance to open up to anyone, and you can't help but feel sorry for what he went through. Brittany, equally, had a bit of a tumultuous upbringing, so they seem to be kindred spirits of sorts. Another thing I fell in love with thanks to the amazing writing of Sarah Morgan was Puffin Island itself - it sounds so magical, full of wonder and exciting places to discover, that you can't help but want to visit there yourself! You can see why Brittany, Zachary and co are happy to call the island home, it sounds just perfect! I loved everything about this book, it left me with a big smile on my face, and I just fell in love with the whole thing. I cannot wait for the final book in the series - it's certainly got big expectations to live up to now! Read this now, you won't be disappointed!

23 September 2015

Blog Tour: A Question of Betrayal by Zoe Miller

Today I am delighted to be the stop on Zoe Miller's blog tour for her brand new book A Question of Betrayal. I have a copy of the book sat on my shelf waiting to be devoured, and I just know it's going to be a great read yet again! Zoe was kind enough to write this article for me about the book, and it certainly makes me intrigued to read the story now and find out more! Thanks to Zoe and her publishers for inviting me to be on the blog tour, I hope you enjoy the piece!

Do We Really Know Our Parents?

The old black and white photograph sits on a shelf in my writing room. It shows a young couple sitting in a field, with a rug spread beneath them and a big oak tree framing the background. They have their arms around each other and seem contained in a magical world of their own, oblivious to everything else including the photographer. It is a photograph that was taken of my parents when they were dating. It took me a long time to fully appreciate all the wonderful nuances it conveys as it blended into the furniture in my parent’s home for years, and I took it entirely for granted.

By the very egotistical nature of childhood, when we see ourselves as the centre of the universe, our parents are viewed as the solely the people who are responsible for looking after us, whose job is to nourish and protect us, clothe and feed us. That perspective can change slightly during the teenage years, as they sometimes become the people we rail against for imposing boundaries and curtailing our freedom.  It’s only as we reach adulthood that we begin to realise our parents are complete individuals in their own right, and that they had lives before we came along to disrupt it all!

In A Question of Betrayal, Carrie Cassidy’s father paints a memorable picture of the special dynamic between Carrie and her parents; as a child, when her dad was helping with her maths homework and she was wrestling with Venn diagrams, he took a page of her copy book and drew a large circle, explaining that it represented Carrie’s mother and him, where no part of them existed without the other. Then he drew a smaller circle inside the big circle, explaining that this was Carrie, who was a part of them and always with them.  The three musketeers, her dad often called them. The three amigos, her mother used to say. Years later, when Carrie is told that her mother had an affair with a young musician some time before she was born, it comes as a total shock to her. Even though the dates and places fit, it is impossible for Carrie to imagine her mother as a young woman with feelings and needs, and so consumed with passion that she betrayed her father. But the surprising news finally ejects Carrie out of the rut she was stuck in following her parents’ death, in order to seek out the truth.

The wheel of life comes full circle. I think it’s only when we have children of our own, and we are in the roles of parents and care givers, that we appreciate our parents as fully rounded people in their own right, with rich histories behind them of which we know little or nothing. There is a small framed photograph in my sitting room of my husband and me, which was taken when we were dating; we thought we owned the world right then, the bright young things who partied long and hard and expected to live forever, driven by dreams and passions and the sometimes foolhardy headiness of youth. Maybe it’s a good thing my children’s eyes skim unseeingly over it most of the time – and that to them it’s just an old photo of responsible Mum and Dad!

Zoë Miller writes contemporary fiction laced with intrigue and drama. She is published by Hachette Books Ireland and her latest book, A Question of Betrayal, is now out in paperback. When Zoë’s not escaping into her writing world, she juggles her time between her family and the day job. Find out more at www.zoemillerauthor.com, Facebook/zoemillerauthor, or follow Zoë on Twitter @zoemillerauthor.

A Question of Betrayal: Ever since the deaths of her adored parents, Carrie Cassidy has avoided risk and commitment, fearful of bringing something precious into her life only to lose it again. So now she finds herself working in yet another uninteresting job, and the love of her life, who wanted more than she could give, has left her. Will she ever move on?
Then, a mysterious woman visits Carrie and reveals a secret that forces her to delve into her mother's past. As Carrie learns more about the woman she thought she knew, she finds herself looking at her own life and wondering if she's living it the way her mother would have wanted her to. Meanwhile there is someone watching Carrie who would rather the past stay buried . . .
A Question of Betrayal is available in all good bookshops or online here

22 September 2015

Blog Tour Book Review: High Tide by Veronica Henry

"Pennfleet might be a small town, but there's never a dull moment in its narrow winding streets ...

Kate has only planned a flying visit to clear out the family home after the death of her mother. When she finds an anonymous letter, she is drawn back into her own past.

Single dad Sam is juggling his deli and two lively teenagers, so romance is the last thing on his mind. Then Cupid fires an unexpected arrow - but what will his children think?

Nathan Fisher is happy with his lot, running picnic cruises up and down the river, but kissing the widow of the richest man in Pennfleet has disastrous consequences.

Vanessa knows what she has done is unseemly for a widow, but it's the most fun she's had for years. Must she always be on her best behaviour?"

Rating: 5/5

Available to buy now.

I was super excited to receive a beautiful proof copy of Veronica Henry's new book High Tide. I love the gorgeous cover, it's so evocative of what I think a town like Pennfleet would look like, and again, despite never having been to Cornwall, I have read so many books set there I feel like I have been! This book isn't a sequel as such, but it is set in the town from Veronica's 2012 book The Long Weekend. I recognised Luca, the chef from the last book, cropping up in this one, but it doesn't matter at all if you haven't read the other book, this one is perfect on its own!

Kate is back home in Penfleet, but only for a short while, thanks to the death of her mother Joy. Kate is devastated to have to return from New York, where she lives now to sort out her childhood home. But when she is sorting her mother's things, she finds a letter that just might open up a whole new can of worms for Kate. Sam, new to the area and owner of a cafe, is getting to grips with being a single dad to his teenage children, and is wondering when it might be the time to move on from his beloved wife. Finally, there's Nathan and Vanessa who meet on the day of Vanessa's husbands funeral, when Vanessa has to escape from the mourning. Nathan accompanies her to the local pub, but it's more than just the sparks of new friendship between the pair...

As you can see, there are plenty of stories going on in this book to keep you interested, and I loved how they were all woven together within the setting of Pennfleet. Right from the beginning of the book, I was drawn into the Cornish way of life, close and neighbourly to each other, there when they all really needed it, even to those like Kate who long ago left them behind. I particularly loved Kate's story, how she felt when she finally came home, and the way the community brought her back into their fold once more. I felt so sorry for her loss, the way Veronica Henry writes her grief is very heart-wrenching, I did tear up several times, really feeling her pain. It was emotional, and although it was tough to read in parts, I did enjoy the read.

The other stories are equally touching in their own ways. Nathan works hard to earn a living to keep a roof of the head of himself and his grandfather.I really liked the friendship he struck up with Vanessa, and hoped the pair would be able to work things out and be friends. The other tale involving Sam and his teenage children was equally touching, with the whole family coming together to move through their grief. I really enjoyed reading Henry's take on family life in all of its different forms. She writes the relationships between the characters so wonderfully and vividly, you really feel their emotions together with them - their grief, their excitement, their sadness and happiness, and of course hope for the future.

This was definitely a highlight of my summer reading so far, and I loved every page of this story. The town on Pennfleet sounded wonderful, everything from the cafe to Joy's house sounded and you could see why each of the characters wanted to be able to call Pennfleet home, those old and new to the town. Henry's writing is second to none, a joy to read from beginning to end and I honestly didn't want the story to end. If you are a fan of Veronica Henry, you will definitely want to read this, and if you haven't yet discovered her, you won't go far wrong from starting with this brilliant novel. I loved it.

Blog Tour: High Tide by Veronica Henry

Welcome to my stop on Veronica Henry's blog tour for her brand new book High Tide! I finished reading it last night, and it was an amazing read, just as I expect from Veronica now! I have put the amazing blog tour graphic at the top of this post - it's stunning, totally different to anything I've seen - you can click it to see a bigger view to see all that detail closer up!

Here's is Veronica's post for my tour stop - thank you to Veronica for writing the piece, and to her publishers for asking me to be on the blog tour! My review of High Tide is coming up later today!

"2: Sam’s café and deli

Who hasn’t dreamed of running away and opening a deli or café by the sea?  Widower Sam has plucked up the courage to do just that, giving up a stressful but prestigious job as an A and E consultant.  His new life could not be more different from his old.  Sam has always been a foodie, but wandering round farmers’ markets and buying artisan cheese is one thing; keeping customers happy and fed is quite another!  But he rises to the challenge and is soon part of Pennfleet life – his delicious cappuccinos and tantalising cakes soon seduce the inhabitants.  In this story, I wanted to explore the change from city to seaside life, and the difficulties of starting again somewhere new in midlife, as well as steering two teenagers through a big upheaval.  It is a story of how he finds love again too, with a bit of a twist.  I hope you love Sam as much as I do, and take him to your heart.

Here is a recipe inspired by autumn in Pennfleet - enjoy!!
Slightly tipsy sausages and mash
For Two
 Cut up an apple into eighths and fry in butter until softened.  Remove apple, then add a sliced onion and half a dozen sausages to the pan.  Brown gently, then pour in can of cider and let it all bubble for ten minutes, until the sausages are cooked through.  Remove sausages, keep warm, and add a dollop of French mustard and a spoonful of crème fraiche to the sauce.  Warm through until slightly thickened and reduced, then serve the sausages with the sauce on a bed of mash, with apple garnish on the side."

15 September 2015

eBook Review: Five Go Glamping by Liz Tipping

"Glamping Check list
Festival tickets
Double check best Instagram filter
Avoid thinking about work/Connor/five year plan!!

A four day break from her hectic life to relax in the countryside and hang out at a local festival (for free!) is just what Fiona Delaney needs. With her best friends, great tunes and a cool looking hat her Instagram shots are going to look A-Mazing!

Until suddenly glamping starts to feel a lot more like camping and Fiona’s in desperate search of a comfy chair, wi-fi and a chilled glass of wine. But when she finally makes it to the local pub she discovers this trip could be more than just a holiday, it might just change her life forever…"

Rating: 3.5/5

Available to buy now.

Another book from Carina I have been looking forward to reading is the debut novel from author Liz Tipping. She mentions in the acknowledgements of the book that it is influenced by Enid Blyton's books, something I loved reading when I was a young girl, so I hoped this would be exactly my cup of tea. As usual with Carina, the cover is gorgeous (publishers are seeming to realise the importance of a good eBook cover!), and I was very much looking forward to getting stuck in.

The story is based on the character of Fiona, or Fi as she is known to her friends. When she's offered the chance of a four day 'glamping' trip in a yurt, she jumps at the chance, keep to get away from her job, her boyfriend and much more. But when she arrives, she isn't sure she is the glamping sort. She starts missing the luxuries of home, and finds that she is far too bored. She takes a walk and ends up at a local pub, run by a bit of a strange fellow. However, Fiona decides to give him a chance and so begins another adventure...

This was a fun read with characters that were enjoyable to read about, and a bit of romance thrown in for good measure. I did enjoy it, but found it did drag in parts, and I wanted the action to get going a bit more, and for something more to happen. I liked Fi, she was on a bit of a downer and so needed a bit of cheering up, although I'm not sure glamping was the best choice for that! The festival is a bit ridiculous, not exactly anyone's cup of tea if I'm honest, and I felt sorry for Fi having to put up with that! Her friends make sporadic appearances, but I felt I didn't get to know them well enough to care about them much if I'm honest. There's also some strange festival goers that pop up occasionally, but I found it hard to tell the difference between them all and sort of glossed over them.

The best part of the book for me was the story between Fi and the landlord of the local pub. He comes across as a bit rude and abrasive, but I was glad that she gave him a chance and got to know him. I loved reading the scenes with Fi cooking in the pub, you could sense her passion for what she was doing, and I did hope she would give it some serious thought when she got home - that she might just need a career change after all! The chemistry between the pair was well written, and I enjoyed the 'will they, won't they' scenario, Tipping wrote this part of the book really well.

This was a good read, something a bit light and fun to read on these autumn evenings, but it didn't blow me away. Perhaps my expectations were a bit too high, but I just felt it lacked a bit in the middle and lost its way, and I thought the festival was just a bit out-there for me. As I said, I did enjoy the story as it got going, and there were some really funny moments that did make me giggle, but something just didn't quite click fully for me. I did enjoy it, and it was a good read but I wasn't left wanting more as I finished the eBook, which is how I like to feel when I reach the end of the book. I'll still  be looking out for Liz Tipping's next book though!