Friday, 2 December 2016

Review: The Reading Group by Della Parker

The Reading Group by Della Parker

Published: 1st December 2016
Published by: Quercus

The Blurb

'Brims with laughs, love, family and friendship. You will love this heartwarming read!' Trisha Ashley.
Meet the Reading Group: six women in the seaside village of Little Sanderton come together every month to share their love of reading. No topic is off-limits: books, family, love and loss . . . and don't forget the glass of red!

December #1

Grace knows that the holiday season is going to be different this year. No turkey, no tinsel, no gorgeously wrapped gifts under the tree . . . how on earth is she going to break it to her little boys that Christmas is effectively cancelled? And can she bear to tell anyone her embarrassing secret? Enter the Reading Group: Grace's life might have turned upside down but there's no problem they can't solve.

January #2

Anne-Marie has always considered herself a bit of a matchmaker - never mind that she's only got one real success under her belt. And this year she's determined to up her game: Little Sanderton's singles could certainly benefit from her expertise!
But while Anne Marie thinks she knows what's best for everyone else, her own life couldn't be less of a fairytale romance. Between looking after her cranky father and running her own business, she doesn't have time for a relationship. Her friends in the Reading Group know better though: after all, love can be found in the most unexpected of places . . .

February #3

Kate has tried to be a good wife to her husband Anton. Ever since he got demoted at work - answering to a woman no less - Anton simply hasn't been the same. Kate wants to help, but as the months pass and Anton pulls away from her both emotionally and physically, Kate can't help but feel a bit abandoned.
Then Kate means Bob: the handsome, blue-eyed carpenter that Anton has hired to refurbish their kitchen. Kate instantly feels a powerful physical connection between them . . . but dare she risk her marriage for a man she barely knows?

My Thoughts

I was really excited to be asked to be part of the blog tour for Della Parker's new series of books, The Reading Group. I've been lucky enough over the last few years to run a reading group at work as well as belong to two outside of work. I adore reading and being able to spend an evening talking about books is fantastic although from my experience the first 20 minutes or so are dedicated to the book and the rest of the time is spent talking about anything and everything you can think of.

The Reading Group series is set in the small seaside village of Little Sanderton and looks at the lives of five women - Grace, Kate, Serena, JoJo & Anne-Marie. All five women are very different in terms of ages, backgrounds and relationship statuses but they are all linked by the friendship that they have discovered through the reading group. Each book is a short story focusing on a different group member and Della Parker cleverly links that month's reading group book to the woman whose story she is telling.

December as well as setting the scene for the series also gives us a little insight into Grace's life in the run up to Christmas with her and her family about to evicted from their home.Grace turns to her friends when she realises that sometimes you can't do things on your own. This was a lovely introduction to the reading group members but for me a little too short although it would be the perfect read with cup of tea and mince pie to get you in the Christmas spirit. December's book choice was The Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. Despite it being short it gave me the taste for the series and I was keen to read January to see what was in store for the next character.

January sees the turn of Anne-Marie, the youngest member of the group and this month's book is Emma by Jane Austen. Anne-Marie doesn't want for much in life, she has her own business despite her young age plus a penthouse apartment courtesy of her father but Anne-Marie feels as though something is missing. That something seems to be wanting to make other people happy and she feels that the best way to do that is through a spot of matchmaking which does lead to some rather amusing situations. I loved Anne-Marie as a character she's so warm and funny and everything she does is with the aim of helping others even if it does go a little bit awry sometimes. I'm really looking forward to seeing how her story develops in the other stories.

In February's offering we meet Kate who whilst married to Anton is starting to have some uncertainties about her marriage which are put even further into doubt when handsome Bob the builder turns up to fit her new kitchen. Is Kate just enjoying a little fantasy or is it something she is going to act on? I really enjoyed the will she won't she element of this story especially as February's book club pick is Lady Chatterley's Lover which fitted Kate's story perfectly. I'm intrigued to see where Kate is relationship wise as the series develops.

Overall I really enjoyed my time spent in Little Sanderton. Della's writing is warm and witty and has certainly left me looking forward to the next instalment when it comes out in January. I loved being introduced to a new character in each story and learning about them and I'm really looking forward to seeing where the other books take them on their journey. Della Parker does a brilliant job of exploring the themes of friendship and relationships and with the books all being short stories they are perfect for reading when you have a little bit of time and just wanted to be transported somewhere else for a little while. March is already on pre-order and I can't wait to learn more about JoJo and her absent husband.

About The Author

Della Parker lives in a Dorset village with her two large hounds.

Before becoming a writer she worked as a Customer Services Manager for a water company. Solving customer complaints is not a million miles away from solving plot problems, so Della thinks her former life was quite a good background for a writer. And of course there were the wonderful characters she met.

When Della is not writing she enjoys running marathons and going to the gym for long workouts. Unfortunately, she doesn’t have the time to pursue these worthwhile hobbies as often as she’d like to – as she much prefers writing!

Wednesday, 3 August 2016

Review: The Sunflower Cottage Breakfast Club by Lynsey James

The Sunflower Cottage Breakfast Club by Lynsey James

#2 Luna Bay
4 ****

The Blurb

The perfect summer romance for a sunny afternoon and a picnic in the park

Emily Reed is having a bad day. Devastated at losing her hard-earned promotion to the ditz who’s sleeping with the boss, her mother drops a devastating bombshell—the dad she’s known and loved for twenty-five years isn’t her biological father.

Now Emily needs answers and a month in Luna Bay should give her the time she needs to find her father, and land the difficult client at the Sunflower Cottage B&B which should put her back in the running for her coveted promotion.

Setting up the Sunflower Cottage breakfast club should be a great way to meet the locals and maybe even find out who her father is! The only problem is that brooding and insanely gorgeous, Noah, is determined to make Emily’s stay perfectly uncomfortable.

Finding out the truth was never going to be simple, but she never thought her heart would get in the way....

My Thoughts

Wow how great it was to be back in Luna Bay!

Firstly you don't need to have read the first book in the series, The Broken Hearts Book Club to enjoy The Sunflower Cottage Breakfast Club but it's an amazing read and a fabulous introduction to the wonderful Luna Bay, so make sure you add it to your reading pile.

Sunflower Cottage is the story of Emily Reed, a smart, power dressing, business woman from Glasgow who heads to Luna Bay to secure Sunflower Cottage as new property for the hotel company she works for. It's not just a business trip for Emily though as she has discovered that the person she thought was her father is actually not and that she is the result of an affair her mother had with a man living in Luna Bay. More than a little bewildered Emily heads off hoping to meet her biological father but things don't quite go to plan.

One of the first people Emily meets on arriving in Luna Bay is the very attractive but very moody and very annoying Noah. Despite the initial conflict between the two it's not long before sparks are flying. Can Emily find all the answers she is looking for in one short month before she has to head back to Glasgow?

This is such great little read and I whizzed through the pages so happy to be back in Luna Bay. I loved seeing Jake and Lucy again and it was wonderful to see that their relationship is still going strong. I need to holiday in a place like Sunflower Cottage, it sounds the cutest little B & B ever. Once again Lynsey James has written a fab book about community and everyone coming together.
The relationship between Emily & Noah sizzles and the rest of the Luna Bay residents we meet are wonderful.

A perfect holiday read and I do hope Lynsey James is busy working on book number 3!

About The Author

Lynsey James was born in Fife in 1991 and has been telling people how to spell her name ever since. She's an incurable bookworm who loves nothing more than getting lost in a good story with memorable characters. She started writing when she was really young and credits her lovely Grandad- and possibly a bump on the head from a Mr Frosty machine- with her love of telling stories. She used to write her own episodes of Friends and act them out in front of her family (in fact she's sure she put Ross and Rachel together first!)

A careers adviser at school once told Lynsey writing wasn’t a “good option” and for a few years, she believed her. She tried a little bit of everything, including make-up artistry, teaching and doing admin for a chocolate fountain company. The free chocolate was brilliant. When Lynsey left my job a couple of years ago, she started writing full-time while she looked for another one. As soon as she started working on her story, Lynsey fell in love and decided to finally pursue her dream. She haven’t looked back since.

When Lynsey's not writing, eating cake or drinking tea, she's daydreaming about the day Dylan O’Brien FINALLY realises they're meant to be together. It’ll happen one day…

Sunday, 3 July 2016

Review: Where is Emma Butler's Life Plan? by Julia Wilmot

The Blurb

Emma Butler doesn’t know it but she is about to get bit more angelic help than she was banking on. Someone has messed up, or have they?

It appears that Emma is about to be ‘recalled’ to heaven but has completed none of the tasks she had set herself for this life time. They must be completed before she is recalled and time is running out. Arch Angel Gregory decides to take over. He will be her Guardian Angel to ensure it all gets done.

There’s a lot to do and a very short time to do it in. Gregory is determined that it will all be completed by hook or by crook. But where does that leave free will and what about Jack who has been chosen to be Emma’s love interest? How will this impact him? Jack and Emma have no idea what is going on, but it’s not going to be plain sailing.

My Thoughts

A sweet & funny read Where is Emma Butler's Life Plan? tells the story of Emma Butler just as her life begins to unravel. Emma has a good job, is happily single and she's content with how things are going in her life however it would appear that Emma's time on Earth is almost up and she's yet to complete any of her significant life tasks as laid out in her life plan. With the clock ticking to Emma's 'recall' date, Arch Angel Gregory decides that if you want a job done properly you should do it yourself so he takes over as Emma's guardian.

He's determined that Emma will achieve all of her life tasks by her 'recall' date just a few days away and he doesn't really care how much meddling he has to do to ensure her life plan is completed on time. Gregory's meddling is frowned upon by some of the other guardians especially as he is messing with free will when it comes to Emma falling in love. 

I loved the plot for this novel, it is unusual and a little bit quirky. A lighthearted, easy read that is laced with humour - a perfect beach read or given the weather at the moment, a great read for a rainy day.

About The Author

Julia Wilmot began her exploration of the spiritual life as a teenager at school. She was fortunate to meet a wonderful family who all practised Transcendental Meditation (TM) and her future was set. At the age of 15 Julia learnt TM and felt she had found her path in life. She was so sure that this path was the only one for her that she decided not to go to University and study law as she had previously planned but to devote herself to teaching TM and working within the charity that teaches the technique.

At 20, Julia was one of the founding members of a 300 people strong TM community in Skelmersdale, Lancashire and at 28 Julia became the Centre Chairman of the largest teaching centre for TM in Europe, which was based in Central London. Teaching Transcendental Meditation to people from all walks of life.

Julia began this novel in 1995 but it remained in a drawer for many years. She came across it again in the early 2000s and fitting in with becoming a mother in 2002 it took until 2015 to finish it.

Julia currently focusses her attention on her writing, blogging and looking after her family. Forty years on and she still practises TM, as do her husband and son and they live in the Chilterns in Buckinghamshire, UK.


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Thursday, 9 June 2016

Review: When He Fell by Kate Hewitt

When He Fell by Kate Hewitt

Publication Date: 1st June 2015
Stars: 4 ****

The Blurb

The powerfully gripping new book from USA Today bestselling author Kate Hewitt.

Josh and Ben are nine years old and best friends, until a single, careless act in the school playground destroys the lives of both families – and wrenches their small Manhattan school apart.

As both mothers Maddie and Joanna try to find out what really happened between the boys, they discover the truth is far more complicated and painful than either of them could have ever realised... with lasting repercussions for both families.

And when tragedy strikes again in the most unexpected of ways, the lives of these two women will be changed once more, and this time forever.

When He Fell explores the issues of parental responsibility and guilt, and whether there are some acts that human nature just cannot forgive...


My Thoughts

This is story of two mothers and two sons, two boys who are unlikely friends and a tragic playground accident that changes the lives of all of those involved forever.

Maddie is a single mother who lives with her son Ben. Ben was the result of a one night stand and without any family to support her Maddie has struggled to raise her son on her own. Things haven't been easy for them especially as Ben is a bit of a live wire with boundless energy that constantly gets him into trouble at school.

Joanna is mother to Josh, a quiet boy who struggles to make friends. At one point he went for months without saying a word. Joanna is married to Lewis and due to Ben and Josh's friendship Lewis become close to Maddie. The two spend time with boys on playdates and Lewis has become one of Maddie's most trusted friends.

One day whilst at school Ben falls in the playground and ends up in a coma, this incident leads to many unanswered questions and Josh who was with Ben at the time isn't answering them.

What happens next left me as the reader greatly divided, as the story unravels you begin to learn more about the accident and you learn more about both Maddie and Joanna. Initially I found myself siding with one mother and then with the other and by the end of the book Kate Hewitt had taken me on a real rollercoaster ride of emotions.

It's difficult to say too much more about When He Fell as it would be so easy to give away what happens. What I can say is that it is a great read with well written characters, a plot that will seriously play with your emotions and a moral dilemma that will have you questioning everything. Kate Hewitt has written a very emotive book and handles the storyline with sensitivity. A must read for me.

I read When He Fell for Kate's blog tour hosted by Neverland Blog Tours. Be sure to check out the rest of Kate's tour

About The Author

Kate Hewitt is the author of over 40 novels of women’s fiction and romance. She loves telling an emotional story in a variety of genres, and has been nominated for the Romance Writers of America RITA Award twice. An American ex-pat, she lives in the Cotswolds of England with her husband, five children, and an overly affectionate Golden Retriever. You can follow her adventures in village life on her blog.



Enter the giveaway for a paperback copy of Kate's book This Fragile Life

Thursday, 14 April 2016

Review: One Moment At Sunrise by Karen Aldous

One Moment at Sunrise by Kate Aldous

Publication date: 18th April 2016
Stars: **** 4 Stars

The Blurb

Escape to the south of France with the irresistibly compelling new story from Karen Aldous – the only book you’ll need this summer!

Nothing will ever be the same again…

Evie Grant has spent two years hidden away in a quiet French village, longing to escape her beautiful villa with its blue-shuttered windows. Maybe this summer, the father of her child will keep his broken promises and return to whisk her away to another life. One way or another, Evie’s determined to stop feeling like his dirty little secret…

Yet when a mysterious stranger almost knocks Evie off her bicycle early one morning, her world begins to change in ways she never expected. Embarking on a painful journey of self-discovery, Evie begins to face her darkest fears and shatter her fragile dreams. But can she ever truly break free from her gilded cage and learn to love again?

My Thoughts

I fell in love with Karen's storytelling when I read The Chateau so I'm really pleased to be part of Karen's blog tour for her latest novel One Moment At Sunrise. 

Evie Grant is a young mother living in the South of France with her 2 year old daughter, Charlotte. She has a beautiful home, a beautiful daughter and really she should be happy but it becomes obvious early on that things aren’t quite right in Evie’s relationship. Unfortunately Evie’s partner, rockstar Seb Wilde is not around very much and Evie is left to live a very closeted life with no real company other than her little girl and her next door neighbour. No one knows who Charlotte’s father is other than Evie’s family and she’s ended up isolated from them because they don’t approve.When Evie’s partner visits he much prefers to stay within the villa’s boundaries and Evie is starting to feel like his guilty little secret.

Life takes an unexpected twist for Evie when she is involved in a near fatal miss with a horse when she inadvertently stumbles onto the set of a film whilst riding her bike home. She is rescued by Ben, the producer of the film and there is an immediate spark between the two but Evie knows it can go nowhere because of Seb and Ben realises that Evie is in a relationship so does his best to just be Evie’s friend. Evie and Ben become friends after the accident and Ben asks Evie to take on some research work for him when he realises that she’s trained as a journalist. Meeting Ben and beginning to do the research awakens something in Evie and she begins to doubt her relationship with Seb, she wants to be out working, making friends, reconnecting with her family and just enjoying life instead of living it pretty much behind closed doors. Evie is also unsettled but the appearance of a mystery man who seems to be following her. Just who is he? And what does he want?

One Moment at Sunrise take a slightly darker turn than Karen’s previous books because it deals with some tougher issues. Evie as a character could be quite frustrating at times but I put that down to her being young & having lived this secret life hidden away from the world. Seb has looked after in that he has provided this beautiful house, he gives her money for shopping and she doesn’t need to work, she has no computer at home so she doesn;t really know what is going on in the outside world.She is quite naive & believes everything that Seb tells her but all that begins to change when she meets Ben and her sister also comes back into her life. She begins to realise that there is a world out there that she wants to be a part of and perhaps she doesn’t need Seb in her life She’s also fighting this burning attraction to Ben and Karen creates a wonderful chemistry between the couple.

I always enjoy Karen’s settings, The Chateau immediately made me long for a holiday to Lake Geneva & One Moment at Sunrise has left me craving the sunshine of the South of France. The book had a great plot and Evie as a character really grew on me, I particularly liked her relationship with Charlotte & how Karen portrayed her as a mother.

I really enjoyed One Moment at Sunrise and would highly recommend it to those who want to be immersed in a story of love, relationships and sacrifice. It’s a story of one woman’s fight to regain control of her life and Karen’s writing really leaves you wanting more. Long after I’d finished the book I was left thinking of Evie and what would happen to her next. Can’t wait for the next Karen Aldous book.

About The Author

Karen Aldous enjoys village life on the edge of the north-downs in Kent with easy access to the buzz of London. Not only does she love the passive pleasures of reading and writing, she also craves the more active pursuits with her family and friends such as walking, cycling and skiing especially when they involve food and wine!

Karen gets much of her inspiration from her travels and if she had to choose, France, Greece, Switzerland, Italy and the USA would be her favourites. However, wherever she goes, she discovers a new character emerges in 'Karen's World'. She likes to write about strong independent women who can direct their own lives - but struggle to control them! And, of course there's always a gorgeous hunk or two!


Saturday, 2 April 2016

Review: The Night that Changed Everything by Laura Tait & Jimmy Rice

The Night that Changed Everything by Laura Tait & Jimmy Rice

Publication Date: 24th March 2016
Stars: **** 4 stars

The Blurb

Rebecca is the only girl she knows who didn't cry at the end of Titanic. Ben is the only man he knows who did. Rebecca’s untidy but Ben doesn’t mind picking up her pieces. Ben is laid back by Rebecca keeps him on his toes. They're a perfect match.

Nothing can come between them. Or so they think.

When a throwaway comment reveals a secret from the past, their love story is rewritten.

Can they recover from the night that changed everything? And how do you forgive when you can’t forget?

The Night That Changed Everything is a funny, feel-good and bittersweet story, told in alternate chapters by Laura Tait and Jimmy Rice.

My Thoughts

I was so pleased to be invited to join the blog tour for The Night that Changed Everything as I'd already seen the book mentioned & loved the sound of it. I've previously read books that have been written by writing duos but this is the first time I've read a book where the two main characters are written by different people. I wasn't sure how it was going to work but the chapters flowed seamlessly with both Laura Tait's & Jimmy Rice's words working well together to create two unique voices for Rebecca & Ben.

This book is a very difficult one to review as I can't say too much without giving away what happens so I am going to do my best to keep it short & sweet. Rebecca & Ben meet on a night out at their mutual friend's bar, there is an immediate connection between them and they seem like the perfect couple until someone makes a comment 11 months into their relationship that totally changes everything & both of their lives begin to unravel.

That one comment on that one night really does change the course of both of their lives & not only impacts on their relationship but also on other relationships in their lives. Is there a way that they can put that night behind them & find their way back to each other.

This book was an absolute pleasure to read, it was funny, it was warm, it was heartbreaking & it has some truly wonderful characters. Both Laura & Jimmy do a fantastic job of bringing Rebecca & Ben to life and leaving you willing for them to sort out their differences and for everything to be ok. It's a book about love and friendship, heartbreak and the unexpected, a book that I can highly recommend. Jimmy & Laura captured the male/female dynamics in a relationship perfectly for me & their first book has now been added to my TBR.

Thursday, 24 March 2016

The Ship Blog Tour: In Praise of Libraries by Antonia Honeywell

I'm so pleased to have Antonia Honeywell, author of dystopian novel, The Ship with me on the blog today. I have worked for my local library service for almost 12 years and couldn't imagine a better a job than being surrounded by books all day. With my job in mind Antonia has written about the impact libraries have had on her and ultimately her writing.

Over to you Antonia

I can’t talk about imagining and writing The Ship without talking about libraries. Libraries have shaped me as a reader and as a writer, and the many and various cuts that have been imposed on our library services make me want to weep. I was a reader before I was a writer, and my love of books started at a small library in the village where I grew up. We went there once a week. I had my own ticket, and I was allowed to take out six books at a time. My mum was allowed twelve (imagine that! Twelve! How old do I have to be before I can have twelve books?  Older than you are now…) She claimed this was fair, as she had to use her ticket to take out books for my little sister. But my little sister just used to eat them, which felt like a waste of good book space to me (she’s a university lecturer now, so eating books was clearly a better idea than I’d thought).

The wonderful thing about the library was that I could choose the books I wanted. I had a thing about Thomas the Tank Engine for a while. Mum hated those books, but she couldn’t stop me trotting home with six at a time until I’d read them all. I discovered My Naughty Little Sister, Pippi Longstocking and Clever Polly, strong girls and rebels long before Katniss Everdeen came on the scene. We had the Puffin Book Club in those days too, and I was allowed to choose one book each month from the leaflet. But those books cost money, so my parents had to approve. At the library I could choose anything. I was still taking out picture books long after I’d started Junior school.

At thirteen, I was wrenched away from the village and its lovely librarian who, as I got older, turned a blind eye when I snuck out with Mills and Boon and the irresistible novels of Virginia Andrews at the bottom of my school bag. It took me time to adjust to my new school, although I got there in the end, learning to smoke and introducing that passage of Lace to my English class. The school library there saved my life. So did the one in the school I moved to after that. There’s no limit to the amount of time you can hide in a library, and the school librarian never makes you leave at the same time as everyone else. The house my mum, sister and I ended up in was near another library. I used to do my homework there whilst my sister devoured Jeffy the Burglar’s Cat and the novels of Enid Blyton in the children’s corner.

It’s the sheer promiscuity of the library reading experience that helped shape me as a writer. Teachers and librarians ushered me towards the classics – I discovered the Brontë sisters and Jane Austen and Charles Dickens through the library. But no teacher would have ever ushered a thirteen year old to Norman Mailer, or Shirley Conran, or Jilly Cooper. I devoured pulp fiction for the sheer joy of its predictability. Library books still had date stamps in those days and I’d search out the book which had been left on the shelf for the longest time, take it home and read it (that’s how I discovered Georgette Heyer). The books were my friends, my escape – and, as it turned out, my future.

The ship, of course, has a library in it. It’s a digital library, containing so many books that no one will ever be able to read them all. But it’s sterile. It has none of the joyous chaos that informed my library reading. Nothing new will ever be added to it; no elderly edition of an out-of-print romance will ever be found on its shelves. And there’s nothing to hold, no pages to be turned, no book-dust to be disturbed. Like the Ship itself, it’s a carefully curated, sterile experience. Long live libraries – their vibrancy, their all-encompassing welcome and their fertile shelves.

And long live all who work in them, too. It’s been a privilege to bring my library soapbox to your blog, Sam. Thank you for having me. 

For those of you local to the west of London/Middlesex area then Antonia will be visiting Hillingdon Libraries to talk about The Ship and more on Wednesday 27th April. Full details can be found here