Thursday, 31 December 2015

A look back at 2015

I started this Blog a year ago and cannot believe how well it has taken off! I do no paid promotion, just sharing my reviews and seem to get a lot of hits, so I am happy!

I looked at my stats - and the blog has been viewed over 12,700 from all over the world! These figures fascinate me - who is reading it, where do they live, what do they do?

I took the Goodreads Reading Challenge at the beginning of the year - and targeted myself with 100 books to be read in 2015. Seemed an enormous number! Well I hit that halfway through! And have read 183 books - which is astounding (maybe I DO need to get out more?) I have also read several pre-publication books for Choc Lit, and some authors' drafts, so I think I can safely say I have read over 200 books this year.

I've been very lucky with the books as well. There have only been a few that I didn't like - the vast majority I have enjoyed very much - or even loved!

A bonus that was unexpected is the friendships that I am forming with writers from all over the world - I communicate regularly with authors in the US, Australia and, of course, the UK. In fact, as I mentioned a year ago, it was authors who suggested that I start a blog - so it's all their fault! 

I'm not going to pick A Book of The Year or An Author of the Year. It's far too difficult to even attempt that. Here are my Top Ten Books of 2015 - and they are my personal choices. 

In no particular order:

The Day of The Wave by Becky Wicks
We Are All Made of Stars by Rowan Coleman
A Miracle at Macy's by Lynn Marie Hulsman
Next of Kin by Sue Welfare
Moving by Jenny Eclair
Summer Secrets by Jane Green
The Day We Disappeared by Lucy Robinson
Afternoon Tea at The Sunflower Cafe by Milly Johnson
While I was Waiting by Georgia Hill
The Curvy Girls' Club by Michele Gorman

Reviews of all these books can be found in the blog.

As many of you know I wasn't well this year and needed fairly drastic surgery. All is well now, no further treatment and I should like to take this opportunity to thank you all for your support. The bonus was that I got a lot of reading done because I was incapable of doing anything else!

I never imagined that in a year I would have all the badges from NetGalley, be Auto-approved by 4 publishers on NetGalley, be part of the Choc Lit Tasting Panel, HarperImpulse Supporters and the street teams of Milly Johnson and Sue Moorcroft! 

I should like to thank the following writers/reviewers/publishers/agents for all their help and encouragement this year: in no particular order: Sue Moorcroft, Milly Johnson, Liz at Choc Lit, Kim Nash at Bookouture, John Jackson, Phillipa Ashley, Trisha Ashley, Jules Wake, Simon & Schuster UK, Sue Welfare, Rowan Coleman - and Georgia Hill for quoting me on the back of the paperback of While We Were Waiting!

And an apology to those authors who have kindly sent me copies of their books, which I haven't got to yet....I will, I promise!

I hope you all have a very Happy & Healthy 2016!


Monday, 28 December 2015

Review of Wish Upon a Christmas Cake by Darcie Boleyn - Five *


Blurb:

The most wonderful time of the year?
Katie Warham has just one wish this year…to have the best Christmas ever!
If only she could lock herself away in a cloud of flour and sugar at her cosy little tearoom, Crumbtious Cakes, instead of spending the festive season trapped with her judgemental mother, crazy Aunt Gina and loved-up celebrity brother Carl…
But Katie never expected her ex-boyfriend, widower Sam – and his two adorable children – to turn up on her doorstep. She didn’t think that any man could tempt her under the mistletoe this year, but Sam might just prove the exception! And as the snow begins to fall and Katie puts the final touches to her famous Christmas cake, she begins to wonder, could her Christmas wish actually come true?





Review:

I really enjoyed this book, even though I read it just after Christmas! I liked the fact that is was a love revisited, after changes in circumstances for Katie and Sam.

The romance was very well written. Katie has a flourishing business - does she really want to rekindle a love with Sam. Sam now has 2 children - does he really want his children to learn to love Katie, only for her to disappear? And can she cope with the ups and downs of Children (cue projectile vomiting)?

I loved that the book was set in Kent, near where I live. Just wish we could see some of the snow Darcie mentioned!

I only have one niggle with the book. And it's a purely personal niggle, so I haven't dropped a star. I get very frustrated with authors describing shirts and tops as, "crisp, white shirt", "crisp white blouse" or "plain white blouse". It is the 21st century! Not being agist, but when did anyone last wear a white blouse, crisp or otherwise? 1960? Most women wear a huge variety of tops, glamorous or comfortable (or, if you're lucky, both!) And most shirts tend to be softer now. 

Anyway - enough of my whingeing - the book was wonderful and I encourage you to read it!!



Wednesday, 23 December 2015

Review of A Miracle at Macy's by Lynn Marie Hulsman - Five *


Blurb:

One lost dog. Two lonely hearts. A Manhattan Christmas full of magic.
Shy homebody Charlotte is planning her usual quiet Christmas celebration: Turkey for two for her and her beloved pet dog Hudson. Only, this year, little Hudson decides to take matters into his own paws and give his favourite human a holiday adventure she’ll never forget.
When Hudson runs away the week before Christmas, Charlotte is devastated. She’d rescued him from the trash years before and gave him a place in her home – and her heart. But with the help of uptight Englishman Henry, Charlotte ends up on a magical treasure hunt around Manhattan to find her furry, four-legged bestie.
Spotted in Central Park as one of Santa's Little Helpers, or last seen in the arms of a supermodel in Times Square, Hudson leads Charlotte and Henry on a very merry dance around the Big Apple, where love, (or should that be Christmas?!) actually is all around.




Review:

Wow!! What a wonderful book! It's got everything - a cute dog, New York at Christmas, a handsome, withdrawn englishman and an introverted heroine.

I adored the description of Manhattan and I have to say that the city was really one of the major characters. I visited NYC in early December 2013 so it was all very familiar and I really felt as if I was there again!

Hudson was an amazing little dog and I loved the way Lynn Marie featured him in all the tourist places.

Watching Charlotte move out of her comfort zone in an attempt to find her lost dog and the way her relationship developed with Henry was lovely to see. Her aunt drove me mad, but I think she was supposed to!

There is only one word that sums up this fabulous book: Believe!!!



Tuesday, 22 December 2015

Review of My Kind of Wonderful by Jill Shalvis - Four *


Blurb:

Bailey Moore has an agenda: skiing in the Rockies, exploring castles in Europe, ballroom dancing in Argentina. Now that she has a second lease on life, she's determined not to miss a thing. What she doesn't realize is that item #1 comes with a six-foot-one ski god hot enough to melt a polar ice cap. She doesn't want to miss out on him either, but Hudson Kincaid isn't the type of guy to love and let go. And as gorgeous as Cedar Ridge is, she's not planning to stick around.

As head of ski patrol at his family's resort, Hud thinks he's seen it all. But never has he run into someone like Bailey. She might look delicate, but her attitude is all firecracker. And her infectious joy touches something deep within him that he's been missing far too long. Now he'll just have to convince Bailey to take a chance on her biggest adventure yet . . . something rare and all kinds of wonderful.
 





Review:

Loved this book! It is my first Jill Shalvis book but certainly won't be my last. It's the second in a series, but can be read as a stand alone - that's how I read it!

Set in a ski resort, it is the story of Bailey and Hudson - two very different people with baggage - but the baggage has a very similar effect on both of them!

I really admired Bailey and her feistiness - Hud was a perfect foil for her. The way the "Will they? Won't they?" theme kept going throughout the book was really well done.

So pleased I was given an ARC in exchange for an honest review. Roll on Jacob's story!



Saturday, 19 December 2015

Review of What Happens at Christmas by T A Williams - Five *


Blurb:

The perfect holiday read, a feel-good festive romance with hot chocolate, tinsel and mistletoe by the bucket-load!

For the perfect Christmas…
When career-girl Holly Brice learns that her estranged father has died, she decides to take a trip down memory lane and find out about the man she never knew.
Arriving in the sleepy little Dartmoor village, she’s shocked to discover that she’s inherited the cosy little cottage she remembers so fondly, a whole load of money – and her father’s adorable dog, too!
Head to snow-covered Devon!
And as the first snowflakes begin to fall and Holly bumps into her gorgeous neighbour, Jack Nelson, life gets even more complicated! Men have always been off the cards for high-flying Holly, but there’s something about mysterious writer Jack that has her re-thinking her three-date rule…





Review:

A village full of lovely people, a wonderful dog, an open minded heroine and 2 hunky men - the book is a complete Christmas gift!

I loved Holly and her 3 date limit and I particularly enjoyed the way she learned about her late father. How all the pieces came together gradually. I admired her for not being judgemental, which would have been the obvious result. I also enjoyed the way the similarities between Holly and George kept appearing throughout the book.

Julia was a real character with a brilliant sense of humour! Some of the stuff she came out with had me laughing out loud!

Jack and Justin were such nice men and I'm glad it came good for all of them in the end!

Great book - one of the best Christmas reads this year!
 



Friday, 18 December 2015

Review of Winter Wishes by Ruth Saberton - Five *


Blurb:

Is it really better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all? 

Tara Tremaine is a woman with a mission – to pick up the pieces of a life she turned her back on and win back her estranged husband, Danny. Nothing will stand in Tara’s way, least of all the dangerous secret that drove them apart or Danny’s growing feelings for another woman… 

Since arriving in Polwenna Bay hardworking vicar Jules Mathieson has put duty above her own heart. Jules adores her new life by the sea and secretly loves troubled war veteran, Danny Tremaine. When Tara returns Jules knows stepping away from him is the right thing to do, no matter how much it hurts. 

Danny Tremaine’s world has been shattered. With life-changing injuries, a broken marriage and his glittering military career abruptly over, he returns to the family home to a rebuild his broken body and heart. Danny knows his friendship with Jules could blossom into more but allowing this to happen will come at a very high price - one that could cost him everything. 

With Christmas fast approaching Jules, Danny and Tara are not the only people in the village with secrets and long cherished dreams. Maybe with a little seasonal magic, some winter wishes really will come true?





Review:

This is the 3rd book in the Polwenna Bay series and it concentrates on Jules, the vicar and Danny Tremaine, the damaged war hero. However, it is perfectly possible to read it as a stand alone, without reading the preceding books.

This book is written so sensitively and I really felt for Jules and Danny. It's all about secrets and trust and it just doesn't seem possible that they can ever achieve their happy ever after.

As they follow a tortuous path, the other members of the family and the residents of Polwenna Bay form a backdrop which can be very funny at times. We also meet Danny's estranged wife, Tara and the new doctor as well. It's always nice when new characters arrive and I enjoyed seeing them fit in with others and each other. There was one very funny line about Nurofen that made me laugh out loud!

Think this one is my favourite. I hope Issy is next but what I would really like would be a retrospective book looking back at Alice's life and loves.

I received an ARC in exchange for an honest review.



Wednesday, 16 December 2015

Review for Warm Winter Kisses by Jill Steeples - Four *


Blurb:

A fun feel-good winter romance that you’ll love curling up by the fire with


“Lovely, witty read which I couldn’t put down. Funny, uplifting, and magical book about never giving up on true love.” Beth Boyd 

When Beth Brown is dumped by her long-time boyfriend, she needs a brand-new start. She ends up stuck in the middle of nowhere, working as a PA for superstar chef Rocco di Castri. She has to deal with his legendary temper and annoying supermodel girlfriend, Pandora. 

But Beth grows to like the lovely English countryside . . . and her gorgeous boss, Rocco. Then her ex-boyfriend Martin turns up and she assumes he wants to get back together. But he has news which will turn her world upside down. 

And when she finds out that Rocco’s going to become permanently unavailable, she flees the wintry countryside back to her old life in the city. 

Will Beth ever get things right with the man she really wants? Find out in this charming and funny chick-lit novel. 







Review:

This is a light, romantic read with a lovely man and great food! 

Thoroughly enjoyed it - not too much angst and plenty of laughs. 

Definitely worth a read :) Especially as it is FREE on Kindle at the moment!



Tuesday, 15 December 2015

Review of Frosted Sweets by A M Willard - Four *


Blurb:

Will it turn into sugar and spice? Or a friendship over some frosted treats? 

Morgan Lewis, the owner of The Polka Dot CafĂ© & Bakery, is about to wed the man she’s spent the last four years building a life with. What she doesn’t know is, that’s all about to change. Can her life move past a wedding disaster? Can her crazy friends help her pick up the pieces? And what's in store for this sweet baker? Along with a booming business, the Christmas holiday rush, and her friends, Morgan is really sent into a spin when Jayden Rivers moves to town. 

Jayden’s focus is on his career in production, but what he wasn’t expecting was to be knocked off his feet by a woman in the park. Sparks fly, but he’s not sure if she’s truly available or taken. With a severe sweet tooth and an addiction to Morgan Lewis’s treats, he can’t seem to stay away. 

A.M. Willard brings you a romantic comedy with a touch of contemporary romance and a dash of chick lit, which takes you on a journey of friendship. 

Frosted Sweets is the first installment of A Taste of Love Series in which we follow the lives of Morgan and Jayden, who are discovering life is anything but what it seems.








Review: 

Lovely book about love and friendship. About talking, running away, letting go and cupcakes! And a baker with a severe allergy to chocolate!

Loved this book and the characters. Look forward to the next in the series and reading more about Morgan and her friends and men!

Would have really liked to see some recipes...?

Saturday, 12 December 2015

Review of Jessica's Christmas Kiss by Alison May - Five *


Blurb:

Real Christmas miracles only ever happen in the movies – don’t they? 

When Jessica was fifteen, she shared the perfect kiss with a mystery boy at a Christmas party. It might have only lasted a moment, and the boy might have disappeared shortly afterwards but, to Jessica, it was just a little bit magic. 


Fourteen years later, and Jessica is faced with a less than magical Christmas after uncovering her husband’s secret affair. And, whilst she wouldn’t admit it, she sometimes finds herself thinking about that perfect Christmas kiss, back when her life still seemed full of hope and possibility. 


But she never would have guessed that the boy she kissed in the kitchen all those years ago might still think about her too …







Review:

This is such a lovely novella! I've enjoyed all the books in the series, but I think this one is my favourite.

Lucas and Jessica meet in the kitchen of a party on Christmas Eve when they are 16 and 15 and Jessica receives her first ever kiss. The description of the scene, the awkwardness and the kiss were wonderful - I think it will take everyone to their first kiss!

The rest of the book is taken up with them meeting years later and how they both cope with each other's baggage - by which time there is plenty!

A happy ending or course, but now without a couple of false starts in the meantime! Loved it - and Lucas!

Thank you to Choc Lit and NetGalley for the ARC.



Friday, 11 December 2015

Review of That's What Friends Are For by Marcie Steele - Four *


Blurb:


Best friends tell each other everything… right?


Sam and Louise have been best friends since they hung their coats side by side on the first day of primary school. Now in their thirties, they’re just as close, but life is a little bit more complicated… 

On the outside, thirty-something Sam seems to have it all; the gorgeous husband, the beautiful home and the flourishing business. But things are not quite as rosy as they seem. So when handsome stranger, Dan, walks into her life, Sam finds his attentions hard to resist. 

Louise might seem like life and soul of the party, but her outgoing exterior hides her sadness about the heartbreak in her past. She just wants someone to love – but all Louise gets left with is a quick fumble with an ex at the end of the night. 

When a glamorous face from the past returns to shake things up, things get even more complicated for Sam and Louise. And just when they need each other the most, they’ve reason to wonder whether they ever really knew each other at all. 

An emotional and uplifting tale of love, secrets and the importance of having a best friend. 







Review:

The cover is a little misleading - yes, this is a chick lit book but it is a much deeper story than most.

Louise and Sam have been friends since childhood and are now in their mid-thirties. The story revolves around them, their family, friends and the market hall where they work.

The book is all about lies, secrets and trust. Secrets are told, lies uncovered and it's the reactions of the characters which hold you in. No one is left untouched and how they adjust to the revealed truths makes for a great read!


Wednesday, 2 December 2015

Review of As Weekends Go by Jan Brigden - Four *


Blurb:

What if your entire life changed in the space of a weekend? 
When Rebecca’s friend Abi convinces her to get away from it all at the fabulous Hawksley Manor hotel in York, it seems too good to be true. Pampering and relaxation is just what Rebecca needs to distract herself from the creeping suspicion that her husband, Greg, is hiding something from her. 

She never imagined that by the end of the weekend she would have dined with celebrities or danced the night away in exclusive clubs. Nor could she have predicted she would meet famous footballer, Alex Heath, or that he would be the one to show her that she deserved so much more … 

But no matter how amazing a weekend is, it’s always back to reality come Monday morning – isn’t it? 

Winner of Choc Lit & Whole Story Audiobooks Search for a Star 2014/15







Review:

I enjoyed this book - it was different from many of the usual scenarios and made me laugh in places as well.

Rebecca is married to Greg - an ambitious sales exec, who has really been ruling the roost for the past year or so - he is about to go away to a very important sales conference.. Abi is seeing Nick and he is off on a stag weekend in Spain. Abi's boss gives her a weekend at a luxury hotel in York and Abi and Rebecca go for a weekend of pampering.

While there, they meet a couple of professional footballers and Rebecca is very affected by Alex Heath. He is equally smitten -but she is married.

How all the problems are resolved, both for Rebecca and Abi made for great reading and the ending is wonderful!

I would have given it 5*, but Greg bothered me slightly. I just cannot see how Rebecca would have ever married him. For me, there is insufficient background to make it believable that he was once a nice person.

But overall, it was a great read and I wish Jan luck with this, her debut novel.



Friday, 27 November 2015

What Doesn't Kill You by Laura E James - Four *


Blurb:

What doesn't kill you makes you stronger – but how strong can one person be? 
Griff Hendry knows what it is to be strong. After a turbulent past, he’s dedicated himself to saving lives, working as a coastguard along the breath-taking shores of Dorset. It's Griff's belief that everyone is worth saving – which is why he can't forgive his father, Logan, for what he did. 


Griff's future is plunged into uncertainty when his wife, Evie, tells him she wants a separation. The revelation is a shock and leads Griff to question what Evie could possibly be hiding – and she isn't the only one holding back. Griff's troubled stepdaughter, Tess, also harbours a dark secret. 


As the truth is uncovered, Griff is forced to accept that perhaps he's never understood what real strength is. 

From Dark Choc Lit - compelling, emotional, hard-hitting novels. Not your typical romance story.







Review:

It's always a red letter day when a new Choc Lit novel appears and this is no exception.

It took me a little while to get into it - I wasn't sure what the main theme was going to be, but after a while, I was hooked! Laura's characters are very real - a long way from perfect and I identified in some way with all of them!

Evie and her daughter have come out of an abusive relationship and Evie has found happiness with Griff. But when the book starts, they are living apart and Griff has no idea why. 

The book is really like an inter-locking jigsaw puzzle - as you uncover each piece, the whole picture becomes clearer. But it's not until it is finished that you can actually see it clearly.

There are several thought-provoking themes within the book and Laura handles these well. I'll not mention them all here, it would be too much of a giveaway. But suffice to say any one theme could be the basis for a book!

Really enjoyed it - thank you Netgalley and Choc Lit for the ARC in exchange for an honest review.




Thursday, 26 November 2015

Any budding writers out there? Fantastic workshop at Purbeck Literary Festival next year with Sue Moorcroft and Nikki Moore :)

Purbeck Workshop
Review of The Long Dance Home by Julie Mayerson Brown - Five *


Blurb:

As Cece approaches her 29th birthday, life takes an unexpected turn that throws the level-headed, disciplined, former ballerina into turmoil. After a chance encounter with an old rival who makes an unexpected request, Cece is forced to make a life-changing decision. 

With a broken heart and an unknown future, she returns to her hometown where she is lured back into the life she had escaped long ago, vowing never to return. 


Now, immersing herself in a production of The Nutcracker, she struggles to let go of the life she had dreamed of and the love she left behind.








Review:

I really enjoyed this book, it is warm, funny and very touching. Cece has a loving boyfriend and, at 29, sees them getting married and starting a family. Unfortunately Doug isn't on the same page and this causes a rift. Cece flees home and helps out with the production of The Nutcracker Suite that her old ballet school is putting on.

There isn't a bad character in the book - even the ones you think might a bit dodgy turn out to be real gems. Cece was a brilliant dancer herself until she stopped at 16. Seeing her blossom as she teaches Dawn is quite wonderful!

Brad enters as the temptation- a really good looking divorced man - and the father of Dawn. And Patti turns up for Christmas, Cece's best friend and one of the funniest characters I've come across in a long time. The scene at Cece's home at Christmas is hysterical!

But does Cece choose Doug and her old life or Brad and a new one in her hometown? You'll have to read it to find out!

Thank you for giving me a copy, Julie, I thoroughly enjoyed it

***** Throughout December 2015 100 % of author royalties 

will be donated to the "Steppers Dance Program" 

run by the Boys and Girls Club of Santa Monica, Ca.****



Monday, 23 November 2015

I've just won a copy of Kate Morton's The Lake House! Can't wait to get stuck in....watch this space ;)

Sorry I haven't blogged for a while - too busy reading!!






Friday, 13 November 2015

Review of The Art of Christmas by Jane Lovering - Five *


Blurb:

What if the memories of Christmas past were getting in the way of Christmas future? 
It’s been nearly two years since Harriet lost Jonno, but she’s finally decided that it’s time to celebrate Christmas again. 

Then she finds a stash of graphic novels belonging to her comic book-loving husband in the attic, and suddenly her world is turned upside down once more. 

With the help of eccentric comic book dealer Kell Foxton, she discovers that the comics collected by Jonno are not only extremely valuable, but also hold the key to his secret life – a life that throws Harriet’s entire marriage and every memory she has of her husband into question. 

As Harriet grows closer to Kell, she begins to feel like she could learn to love Christmas again – but first, she needs to know the truth. 







Review:

I was accepted to review an ARC by Choc Lit via NetGalley and I confess that I didn't even read the blurb before starting this Christmas novella from Jane. I've read all Jane's books and had been looking forward to this one!

This is an absolutely charming story of Harriet still trying to get over her husband's death and Kell, a graphic bookseller. Oh - and Frodo the dog! It has all the usual Jane Lovering ingredients - great humour, a lovely romance, some sadness and an unexpected twist to two. 

There is always at least one line that makes me howl with laughter and this novella was no exception: "a bus load of trainee removal men had come round to gain their BTEC in ‘shoving stuff up against the walls’."

Frodo was the funniest dog I've come across in a long time - wait til you read the bit about the phone call; I was crying with laughter!

A real Christmas treat! Thank you Jane!