28 February 2013

Book Review: The Baby Diaries by Sam Binnie

""I'd be sick right now, but I never like to reinforce a cliché."

A few weeks after Kiki and Thom return from honeymoon, Kiki finds there's a noticeable absence. An extremely serious noticeable absence of something, it turns out, Kiki now realises she was pretty glad about. One pregnancy test later, Kiki's breaking the "good news" (Thom: Wow. We're so… Edwardian.) and rewriting all the plans she'd made before.

With an ever-expanding waistline, her nightmare childhood "friend" Annie pregnant too, all the problem authors at Polka Dot Books she could (not) wish for and an army of NW London's Smug Mothers to deal with, these nine months might not be the nine months of blooming relaxation she'd been promised…"

Rating: 4/5

You can buy The Baby Diaries as a paperback or an eBook now.

I enjoyed Sam Binnie's debut novel last year called The Wedding Diaries, and was excited when I realised it was part of a series by the author - I love a series as you can really get into the characters and the story, and if it's done well, it can be really fun to read. I love any sort of books about babies, pregnancy and parenting so it sounded like this one was going to be just up my street. I also have to say I adore the cover - it's a gorgeous bright yellow and looks so fun and fresh, I always love when publishers go for a bright, funky cover rather than the usual sort of covers we might expect.

This book joins on from the previous one in the series, but I don't think it's completely necessary to have read that first, as plenty of the story is recapped in this, well the stuff that you need to know anyway. Kiki and Thom have now been married for a few months, and have recently got back from their honeymoon and Kiki is looking forward to getting back to her job in a small publishing office. However, a spanner is thrown into the work when Kiki realises she's pregnant, and rather sooner than she'd planned as well. With the next 9 months looming, Kiki feels nervous and starts to research all things pregnancy courtesy of her mother, her sister and the interesting antenatal she and Thom find themselves a part of. Will Kiki's pregnancy be a completely easy time or is she destined for the most stressful time of her life?

The diary format narrative for this book worked so well for me, and allowed the pace of the book to be kept up as well because it meant Kiki could move easily through the nine months of her pregnancy and detail enough to keep the reader interested but without getting too bogged down with the details and description. The entries are all dated, and are often very funny, they made me laugh, nod along because as a mum I could sympathise with what Kiki was going through, and I liked that conversations were included as a sort of script within the entry, I really enjoyed the reading experience of this novel. The characters were all well written, had good relationships and Binnie wasn't afraid to tackle the harder side of these, especially when Kiki's pregnancy hormones took over, often with quite amusing results!

As well as the more humourous side of pregnancy, Binnie tackles a few more serious issues within the book as well, from the problems with going on maternity leave and worrying about losing your job, to the issues that Kiki experiences with her own mother in the book (don't want to spoil it so shan't say anymore). I found these were really well written, and makes you warm to Kiki more as a real person because of what she's going through. I also really liked her husband Thom, he's a very warm and likeable character, the perfect husband in so many ways and it was nice to read a male character in a chick lit book that I wasn't meant to hate from the beginning, in fact it was more Thom that kept Kiki's feet on the ground! The pregnancy was dealt with well and realistically, a lot of women will be nodding along and sympathising, but I think it'll be a fun read if you've not had children too, there's plenty in here for everyone.

I felt that towards the end of the book, once Kiki and Thom were now parents, the pace of the book did drop a little bit and it lost some of its humour, but it didn't spoil the overall read for me, I just personally enjoyed the first two-thirds with pregnant Kiki more. However, I found the book overall to be a fantastic read, and I was totally engrossed in Kiki's tales, from the nicer parts of pregnancy to the not-so-nice bits! Binnie's funny writing, which often does have you giggling away as you're reading, makes for a great read and keeps you wanting to turn the pages. The only danger is that because there aren't chapters, there is never a good place to stop at night as you want to keep going, telling yourself 'only one more diary entry then I'll put it down!'. I loved this book, and can't wait for the final installment of Kiki and Thom's story coming next year. Brilliant!

Book News: The Foster Husband by Pippa Wright

One book I am very much looking forward to this year is Pippa Wright's third book. The Foster Husband is due out on 9th May 2013, and sounds like it's very different from Pippa's first two books, which both me laugh out loud at the character's calamities, and I hope this one is just as funny and warm-hearted!

You can pre-order The Foster Husband as a paperback now.

"Kate left her seaside home town of Lyme Regis for the bright lights of London when she was eighteen, and never looked back. Why would she? She had it all: the glamorous media career, the gorgeous husband. Until her marriage failed and she found herself with nowhere else to go. Now she’s unemployed, separated, and holed up in her dead granny’s bungalow while she works out what to do with the rest of her life. Worse, she’s forced to share her new home with Ben, the clueless and domestically challenged fiancĂ© of her bossy sister Prue. Ben is a man in need of simple instruction. And Kate is a woman in need of a project. Her own marriage may be beyond saving, but perhaps she can stop her sister’s husband-to-be from making all of the mistakes that doomed her own relationship. Kate decides that she will secretly train Ben, her foster husband, as a selfless pre-wedding gift to her sister. But Kate may be about to learn a few lessons of her own about what makes a good marriage."

26 February 2013

Romantic Novelists Associations Awards - Winners Announced!

The Romantic Novelists' Association Awards were held tonight, and the fabulous and deserving winners have been announced! Hugest congratulations to all of the award winners, they are all fully deserving winners!!

Jenny Colgan won the Romantic Comedy Novel award for her brilliant book, 'Welcome to Rosie Hopkins' Sweet Shop of Dreams'.

Rowan Coleman won the Epic Novel award for her superb read 'Dearest Rose'.

Katie Fforde won the Contemporary Romantic Novel award for 'Recipe for Love'.

Sarah Mallory won the RNA Romance Award for 'Beneath the Major's Scars'

Sophie Kinsella was the recipient of the Outstanding Achievement Award!

Book News: The Antenatal Group by Amy Bratley

Amy Bratley has written two really great books in her writing career so far, and therefore I am very much looking forward to her new book The Antenatal Group which is coming on April 11th 2013! I love the bright, fun cover, and I love books based around pregnancy and babies, so this one sounds right up my street!

You can pre-order The Antenatal Group as a paperback now.

"New babies. New problems. New friends.

Seven months pregnant, Mel is dumped by her partner and left stranded outside her first antenatal class.

And so the expectant mother believes that she is about to face parenthood alone. Instead, Mel finds herself introduced to the world of pain relief and labour positions with a group of women who quickly become valuable friends in the terrifying new world of motherhood . . .

Katy, a rich and successful professional woman with the dream husband, has her birth designed to perfection but soon realises that nature doesn’t always follow plans.

Lexi, loud and confident, is doing pregnancy alone, and coping well. Until the only man she has ever loved makes a reappearance at the most unexpected moment.

Rebecca, the youngest of the group, is an independent and strong-minded woman who is determined to hold onto her dreams.

Erin already seems to be an expert on babies, but her over-protective attitude towards her bump is hiding a tragic story from the past.

Each of these women has a different kind of complicated life, but as mums-to-be the five discover together that preparing for the birth of a baby is one time when every woman needs four new friends."

25 February 2013

Book Review: With All My Love by Patricia Scanlan

"On a crystal clear Mediterranean day, Briony McAllister sits playing with her four-year-old daughter, Katie, while she waits for her mother, Valerie, to join them. Valerie has recently moved to a picturesque town in southern Spain to finally leave behind her turbulent past and find a peace that has always eluded her. Briony has no idea that in a few moments' time her relationship with her mother will change irrevocably. As Katie plays, Briony pulls from her bag an old photo album, found in a box in her mother's new home. As she begins to study the faded photos, a letter falls to the ground. It is addressed to her. My Darling Briony, it begins. As Briony reads the words with mounting shock, realisation dawns. Her mother lied to her about what happened with her beloved grandmother Tessa all those years ago - and denied Briony that most precious of relationships, the type of relationship Valerie now enjoys with Katie. The lives of three generations of women are set to change forever as the past is revisited and the truth unfolds through the undelivered letters Tessa wrote to Briony over the years. Secrets, lies, betrayals and sacrifices - the complex bonds between mothers, daughters and granddaughters are intricately explored as Patricia Scanlan takes us into the hearts and homes of a family at war."

Rating: 5/5

You can pre-order With All My Love as a hardback or an eBook now!

'With All My Love' is a poignant, heart-breaking yet touching look at different kinds of love, and how they shape the people who we are, and the people we are destined to be. The tale is told through flashbacks into the life of Valerie Harris when she was a young girl, falling in love with her new boyfriend Jeff. Valerie suffers with a poor relationship with her controlling father, and this influences her as she grows older, her need for independence is quite desperate, and as such she's a fairly lonely girl. I really did like Valerie, even though I didn't necessarily agree with the things she did, particularly towards her 'in-laws'.

I enjoyed the way it came full circle too, with Valerie being taught a harsh lesson the way she had acted all those years ago as well. Brioney and Valerie's adult relationship as mother and daughter isn't always plain sailing, but Scanlan manages to keep the relationship realistic and believable, whilst ultimately conveying the hurt and betrayal both women are feeling. Valerie's despair and Briony's anger are beautifully written, you can almost feel these emotions along with these characters. Some of the scenes are so painfully raw, you cannot help but shed a tear, I certainly did, and credit goes to Scanlan for really conveying the emotions these scenes warranted. It is good too to see Briony as an adult, and we are shown how Valerie's behaviour early on in her life has impacted her own adulthood, this added a new dimension to the book, and it was fun to flick back and forth between past and present.

As well as focussing on the Harris women, Scanlan also focusses in on Tessa and Lorcan, Jeff's parents. Tessa was quite a dislikeable women, judgmental and unkind at times, and I struggled to warm to her at all. Yet through her writing, Scanlan ensures you certainly feel empathy towards her plight, and what happens to her is terrible and as her story is revealed, I did slightly change my opinion of her and wished she would just come clean to Valerie, and even to Lorcan about her feelings. Scanlan is good at keeping these characters on the brink, holding their secrets back without spilling them, almost to the point of the readers frustration!

Scanlan really has a knack for writing about the truth behind relationships, and 'With All My Love' is a superb novel, highlighting not only the importance of family in our lives, and how to appreciate those around us, but also how quickly split decisions can impact your future, and those around you too. With a cast of very different female characters, 'With All My Love' certainly has characters and relationships within that most women will be able to relate to, and for that Scanlan ensures a broad readership. This is a book to be enjoyed by the generations, and with its glorious descriptions of Ireland, complicated women and a story to fall in love with, 'With All My Love' is sure to be another must-read from one of Ireland's greatest authors.

22 February 2013

Book Review: The Heart Whisperer by Ella Griffin

"Claire Dillon still lives in the shadow of the past. On her thirty-third birthday, she gives herself a present. One year to change her future.

Claire Dillon's mother had everything to live for. A husband, two children, a successful medical practice. Then, at thirty-three, she died in a tragic accident. And it was Claire's fault.

Now Claire is the same age. A floundering actress with a broken heart, a collection of draft snakes, and a talent for self-sabotage. She is frittering her life away with the help of her oldest friend, the gorgeous ex-rock star, Ray Devine.

On her 33rd birthday she gives herself one last year to be more like her mother. But you should be careful what you wish for . . .

Her estranged brother Nick is back from America and keeping his distance from his clingy sister and his pathetic father while he reinvents himself as a daytime TV relationship guru. But Dublin is full of memories and Nick is already dreaming of escape. While his wife Kelly, has dreams of her own. Ones she isn't telling him about.

What will happen when another accident throws the dysfunctional Dillons together? And the secrets they have kept from themselves and one another finally begin to emerge?"

Rating: 4/5

You can buy The Heart Whisperer as a hardback or an eBook now.

I really enjoyed Ella Griffin's debut novel Postcards from the Heart last year, and I was very pleased to receive a review copy of her brand new book The Heart Whisperer. I happen to really love the cover of the new book, it's very colourful and fresh and would certainly make me pick it up in a shop. I was really intrigued by the title as well - I was wondering what a heart whisperer was and how it would play into the story as well. It was quite a big, thick book and I was worried that perhaps it would read slowly, but there was something happening all the way throughout the book, and I enjoyed all of the characters' individual stories.

Claire Dillon is determined to live her life to the full, especially now she's at the age her own mother was when she tragically died. Claire feels like she has to live the life her mother didn't get a chance to, but her career as an actress isn't really going anywhere, she still lives with her best friend Ray and doesn't have many romantic prospects. Ray is perpetually single, but when a shocking revelation hits him, will he be able to deal with it and grow up once and for all? Claire's brother Nick is finally back from America with his wife Kelly, and he soon finds fame on TV as a relationship expert. But when their marriage starts to suffer cracks of its own, will Kelly and Nick be able to put it all back together again? Will the Dillon family fall apart, and will the secrets they've all been hiding be the families downfall?

Claire is the main character of the book, around which the whole book is based around her story. In fact, a lot of her past is a bit of a mystery to us -  we aren't told for quite a while what actually makes Claire put her mother on a pedestal, and also how she died. I was surprised when it was revealed because it wasn't what I expected, and as the revelations were more forthcoming as the book progressed, it explained a lot more about the actions of Nick, and their father as well which I found really interesting to read about. Claire was, for me anyway, a bit weak - she seemed to go along with everyone else's choices rather than making her own and I did find myself getting a bit frustrated with her at times, especially for how she treated her best friend Ray, who was one of my favourite characters.  In fact, other than Ray, I thought they were all quite dislikeable as people!

Nick was just a male character I really did not warm to at all - even as things were going on and I felt we were perhaps supposed to get on Nick's side more, I just couldn't like him, or his wife Kelly, even though their tale was at times quite emotional, especially when we see the story from Kelly's perspective. However, neither of them really redeemed themselves, and I found it hard to like either of them or their story in parts, especially Nick. The dynamic between Claire and Nick was fun to read, because they were more like strangers than brother and sister, and when their dad suddenly needs their help after years spent virtually ignoring each other, Griffin does a great job in writing the awkwardness in these scenes, and making the reader almost cringe away at how terrible they are at communicating as a family! I'm certainly glad I'm not part of the Dillon family. In fact, my favourite character of all was probably the loveable Dog, so well written that you just want to take him home all for yourself!

I was a bit unsure where the plot for this book was going at first, because there didn't seem to be a lot going on other than Claire's job, Nick's move back to the UK and what was going on with Ray, but it seemed to me that this book was less about the big actions, rather the way it affected the characters and how they evolved as the book went on, especially as long-ignored secrets start to become revealed. You could feel that each of these people really went through some tough times in the book, and while it isn't always an easy read, you're always drawn in because you want to see what Claire and co are going to do with the next drama in their lives. I found it to be a very complex and emotional read, and although I didn't necessarily like the characters within it, I did want to keep reading the book, and I was drawn into Griffin's story-telling, she has a way of writing that really brings the characters to life, and she effortlessly weaves their tales together. Her writing is very descriptive, but it manages not to become too bogged down in that which was great. I really enjoyed The Heart Whisperer,  and it's a book I would certainly recommend.

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21 February 2013

Book News: Happy Families by Janey Fraser

One March release I am really looking forward to is Janey Fraser's third novel Happy Families! Both of her previous books were so enjoyable, and realistic books about family life, so I can't wait to see what this book has to offer! I also love the cover, it's very colourful and fun. The book is out on 28th March.

You can pre-order Happy Families as a paperback or an eBook.

"Bobbie's at the end of her tether. Her children don't listen to a word she says and her husband is never home. Even worse, her mother is bringing a new boyfriend to visit: the notorious Dr Know, who dishes out hardline parental advice to the nation. Could Parenting Classes save Bobbie's bacon?

Andy's family is so perfect that his wife has been asked to run a parenting class at the local school. But Pamela has been leading a secret life and suddenly he's left to look after their two teenage daughters. Surprisingly, they aren't quite as perfect as he thought.

Vanessa hasn't seen her daughter for years. But one night, her six-year-old granddaughter is deposited on her doorstep. This time she's determined to get it right.

Can they learn the secret of raising a perfect family?"

20 February 2013

Book Review: A Day At The Office by Matt Dunn

"Julie kissed Mark at the office Christmas party. She doesn't seem to remember, but he's not been able to forget. What better day to jog her memory than Valentine's Day?

Calum's found the girl of his dreams on the internet. Trouble is, he's not been completely honest about himself. Tonight he's meeting her for the first time. But will it also be the last?

Nathan's organised his usual Anti-Valentine's party for the office singletons. Sophie's going - again. Though this year, if she gets her way, they might just be leaving together.

One office. Five lives. On the most romantic day of the year."

Rating: 4.5/5

You can buy A Day At The Office as an eBook now!

I'm a big fan of Matt Dunn's writing, so I was excited when he let me know that he had a brand new eBook coming out last week called A Day At The Office. Matt's writing never fails to make me laugh, so I was hoping for the same thing from this eBook, and now that I'm at home feeling rather poorly, I needed something to cheer me up, and so I got my Kindle out and started reading Matt's book last night. I had finished it by midday the following day because I was really invested in the story, and wanting to find out what was going to happen with the cast of characters! It's a fabulous book, and here's why you must read it!

The book is based around 5 people all working at the same IT software company. Sophie rather fancies the IT support manager Nathan, but he seems to be pretty anti-Valentines himself, having organised the company's "Anti-Valentines party" for the past few years. Sophie doesn't know how to get through to Nathan that she likes him though. Her boss Julia kissed Mark who also works at the company, but neither of them have really spoken since the drunken fumble in the back of a taxi, even though they rather like each other afar. Will this Valentine's day mean the two finally get together? Lastly, there's Calum, a single guy who thinks he's found the woman of his dreams on the internet. Trouble is, he's worried that he won't match up to Emma's idea of him, and is stressing about their first date. Will any of the 5 end up with their own happily ever after on Valentine's Day?

As per the title of the book, you can tell that this book takes place over just one day in the office, which I found made it really interesting reading, and it certainly slowed the pace of the book down, although that wasn't a detrimental thing for the book at all. Dunn begins by introducing us to all of those characters mentioned above, and setting up their individual stories, before bringing them all together as they arrive at their workplace. It barely needed any other characters except for the main 5, because it was so well written, and you end up completely involved in their stories, and following the cringe-worthy things they get up in the mad pursuit to find a Valentine on the most romantic day of the year!

Of course, things don't go swimmingly for the group, and at several points in the book, I found myself getting so frustrated with them for not being honest with each other and just telling the person they liked how they really felt. However, it added to the atmosphere of the book, and there were quite a few moments when I was laughing out loud, Dunn writes the comedy in the book so well that you can't help but laugh, it is genuinely funny! I have to say I was a little disappointed by the ending of one of the stories, it didn't end how I wanted or expected it to and that's why I had to knock this down 1/2 a mark with my rating, I have to say it was a shame for me that it ended the way it did!

Other than that small quibble, which really was a personal thing rather than anything else, I thought this was a fantastic eBook and one I really enjoyed reading! Matt Dunn's writing was great - he brought the characters to life so well, and made you care about how the day was going to end for Sophie, Nathan, Julie, Mark and Calum. They were all likeable characters, and they had me laughing along with them as the book progressed.  You could really believe in them as real people going through these real love problems, and I loved that people will be able to relate to what happens to these people in the book, and the humour throughout makes it all the more pleasurable to read. If you haven't come across Matt Dunn's writing yet, I'd definitely suggest you start with this one - a brilliant read!

Blog Tour: Grace Grows by Shelle Sumners

Today, I have the pleasure of hosting author Shelle Sumners on her blog tour for her brand new book Grace Grows. I can't wait to get around to reading this book, I have heard such good things about, but in the meantime, here's a great piece written by Shelle for my blog tour stop, all about working with her husband Lee on the songs in the book.

Enjoy the piece, and thank you to Shelle for taking the time to write this piece!

You can pre-order Grace Grows as a paperback or buy it as an eBook now.

"Hello Chloe, it’s a pleasure to be here!

Grace Grows is a musical novel, about two people who are, in many ways, opposites. Grace Barnum is a very practical, very cautious, very articulate woman who falls in love--against her stubborn, (supposedly) better judgment--with Tyler Wilkie, an elemental, spontaneous, openhearted musician; a man who speaks his love best, and most eloquently, through song.

I started writing the story after having a dream about Grace and Ty, and it occurred to me that it might be interesting to have real song lyrics in the story. The problem with this idea was that I am not a songwriter.

The solution was that my husband Lee Morgan is, and he writes some of the most compelling songs I’ve ever heard. I asked him if he’d consider working with me on this project, and he easily and instantly said yes (I knew he would; he’s generally very agreeable).

Then I became a bit worried. If Lee was going to trust me with his songs, I was going to have to write a story that deserved them. The stakes went sky-high.

I wrote this love story from Grace’s perspective, using all my heart and all my imagination. Lee wrote songs for Ty that devastated and sparked me. Imagine you are the tenderhearted but careful woman who is trying not to love the man who writes these words for you:

I dream of love
and pray for time
Close my eyes and get me
a little peace of mind
In another time and place
in a sun so warm
I see it in her face and
She’s just the world to me
just a girl who knows
I could be good I could be bad
I could be what she’s never had
And I can be wrong but you can be sure
I could be anything for

Even better than reading the words, listen to the song “Her” here:

See what I mean? Devastating. What could Grace do?

We ended up with eight gorgeous lyric-poem songs in the book and a fully produced soundtrack album.

Lee and I are eager for readers to meet Grace Barnum and Tyler Wilkie, our in-love dream people, who come to vivid life in the pages and songs of Grace Grows."

Shelle Sumners has held many jobs, among them waitress, actress, administrative assistant, copy editor, educational writer, bookseller, and wedding chapel receptionist. Her debut novel Grace Grows has a companion soundtrack of phenomenal original songs that appear in the story, written and performed by her husband, singer-songwriter and Broadway actor Lee Morgan. Shelle lives and writes in Bucks County, Pennsylvania.

19 February 2013

Book News: Not Without You by Harriet Evans

I really enjoy reading Harriet Evans' novels, and her new book Not Without You looks like one I am going to want to read as well! I really love the simplistic cover, it's understated but really beautiful, and makes me intrigued to find out more about the book. It's due out on 28th March 2013.

"Sophie knows she should count herself lucky. She grew up in modest surroundings but suddenly finds herself catapulted into the A-list after the surprise hit of a budget movie. But surrounded by botoxed assistants, lecherous old directors and a star-struck mother, Sophie just wishes she could be a proper actress, in proper, serious films. And at the tender age of thirty, she already worries she’s past her ‘prime’.

As Sophie’s career begins to decline – slowly and painfully at first, and then all at once – her fate seems to be entwined with that of her favourite actress, Eve Noel. The epitome of 50s Hollywood glamour, Eve suddenly disappeared from the spotlight. No-one knows why. As Sophie receives threatening letters, it seems that the dark secrets in Eve’s past are beginning to haunt Sophie, too . . . With a new film about Shakespeare burying Sophie deep in the English countryside, suddenly Eve herself is close at hand."

You can pre-order Not Without You as a paperback or an eBook now.

18 February 2013

Win the chance to be a published author with Jenny Colgan!

Thanks to Jenny Colgan, National Express and Little, Brown publishers, you have the chance to become a published author inside one of Jenny's eBooks! They have teamed together to launch a short story competition, find out more below! You have to enter before 28th April though, so get your thinking caps on!

"We carry millions of passengers every year to UK destinations and we also help people go on holiday abroad, with a third of our network serving airports. So we thought it would be interesting to turn the tables and ask people to take us on a journey with our short story competition.

To help celebrate the launch of Jenny Colgan's latest release, The Loveliest Chocolate Shop in Paris, we've teamed up with Little Brown Publishing to offer all you aspiring authors the opportunity of a lifetime.

We're offering you the chance to become a published author. To enter, we would like you to write a short story no more than 2,000 words long with the premise of 'take us on a journey'. You can use your own creativity to elaborate your journey into a literary masterpiece.

The winning short story will be published in the back of Jenny Colgan's, The Good, The Bad and The Dumped, e-Book edition published in August 2013." (From www.nationalexpress.co.uk)

Find out more about the competition and how to enter by clicking here!

14 February 2013

Book Review: Three Little Words by Jessica Thompson

"They are just words but they mean so much.

As a dark evening draws in, the lives of three women are changed forever.

The worlds they have been living in, the people they thought they knew - in an instant it all changes.

But when everything seems to shatter around them, could three little words be enough to help put the pieces back together again? "

Rating: 5/5

You can buy Three Little Words as an eBook now, or pre-order the paperback.

I think that when I first saw this book, and received a copy, I assumed that the three little words the books title hints at would be the obvious... 'I Love You'. I was therefore wondering how the synopsis related to that, and just how Thompson would be able to write a book just based around those three words, and make me want to keep reading! I really liked the cover of this one, it is very similar to that of Thompson's first novel This Is A Love Story, and since I had really enjoyed that book, I was hoping for more of the same here... and luckily for me and you, she certainly didn't disappoint with this book!

I feel that although this is only Thompson's second novel, the writing in this book is far more mature than in her previous novel, and it takes a very different turn as well. Thompson was quite brave in the storylines she chose in this book, it wasn't at all what I was expecting and that's why I don't really want to discuss too much the characters and the plot line, because what made this book so brilliant for me was discovering the story as I read, and having it unfold before my eyes. I loved the unexpected surprises lurking within the book, and it really was a complete gem of a read, I was totally hooked by it.

The cast of characters is fantastic, there is something about them all that captivates you and makes you want to read more of their story. There is a real range of characters here too, from the young naive boy to the confused housewife, a talented young dancer and finally the woman in love with the man of her dreams. All of them have their own tales to tell, and are all trying to get by knowing the secrets that they do. All of them are damaged people, and you feel emotionally involved in all of their stories. In fact, this is one book where I can honestly say I didn't really dislike anybody, they were all so well written and believable that I cared about each of them and so hoped for a happy ending for them all.

The book chops and changes between which story it follows at any given time, and I found this was a great way to keep the pace moving, and allow for time to move and the other tales to develop as well. I felt that the pace of the book overall was fantastic, and enough time passed within the book to make the developments realistic, and to bring things to a believable conclusion for all of the characters. Thompson really evokes the emotion in her reader when she writes, getting into the heart of her characters, and putting their feelings down onto the page so well you feel them too. It was a really interesting story, totally unexpected and that's what I loved about it - I just didn't know what would happen when I turned the page.

Although I loved Thompson's first book, and thought it was really a stand-out debut, this novel eclipses that simply because I think it is so beautifully done. The subjects inside the book aren't easy ones to write about, or to evoke empathy towards certain characters about, but Thompson manages this with ease, and her writing is a joy to read. I was honestly picking this book up at every opportunity because I wanted to know what the next twist in the tale was going to be, and to hurtle myself towards the end to find out how it would end for the characters. I cannot tell you how wonderful I thought this novel was, and it is certainly one that will make its way onto my 'Keepers' shelf to be enjoyed again. A fantastic, emotional and heart-wrenching read that will draw you in long after the final page has been turned. Simply brilliant.

13 February 2013

Book News: Wonder Women by Rosie Fiore

I really enjoyed Rosie Fiore's last book Babies in Waiting, so I am very much looking forward to her 2013 release, Wonder Women. It's due out as an eBook on 14th March, and a paperback on 20th June, and sounds like another brilliant read.

You can pre-order Wonder Women as a paperback or an eBook now.

"Jo has always dreamed of starting her own business, but the arrival of her two gorgeous toddlers has put her ambition on the backburner. Then she hits on a brilliant idea – a kids’ clothing shop with a twist – and is thrilled when it really takes off. When husband Lee offers to quit his job to look after the family while her business grows, it seems a godsend – but will their marriage stand the test of reversing their roles?

Jo soon recruits Holly and Mel to help her in the shop. Designer Holly’s high-flying career has come crashing down and she’s moved back home – but is she ready to manage a major family crisis? Meanwhile, Mel worries her teenage daughter Serena is going off the rails. Is finding out more worth risking her daughter’s trust? 

At the crossroads of their lives, friendship could be the only the thing keeping these wonder women strong."

12 February 2013

eBook News: A Day At The Office by Matt Dunn

Matt Dunn is back, hurrah! It's been far too long since we've had a new novel from Matt Dunn, but fear not because he is back this week with a brand new eBook story, A Day At The Office. I've loved all of Matt's books so far, especially the 'Ex-Boyfriend' series, such funny novels! I am so excited to read it, and am lucky enough to have a copy on my Kindle all ready to go!

You can buy the eBook here!

"Julie kissed Mark at the office Christmas party. She doesn't seem to remember, but he's not been able to forget. What better day to jog her memory than Valentine's Day?

Calum's found the girl of his dreams on the internet. Trouble is, he's not been completely honest about himself. Tonight he's meeting her for the first time. But will it also be the last?

Nathan's organised his usual Anti-Valentine's party for the office singletons. Sophie's going - again. Though this year, if she gets her way, they might just be leaving together.

One office. Five lives. On the most romantic day of the year."

11 February 2013

Book Review: How We Met by Katy Regan

"There are some people you can’t imagine life without.

What, at the end of it all, is really important?

Liv and her friends can’t imagine a life different from now: freedom, lifelong friendships, and dreams that are still within their reach.

Then, Liv dies.

For those left behind – Mia, Fraser, Anna, Norm and Melody – everything stops. Their lives and dreams are frozen in time.

In the years that follow, they decide to meet on Liv’s birthday to raise a toast and celebrate her life, even though none of them are living their own – not really. Time marches inexorably on, and yet without Liv, the lynchpin of the group, they are all flailing. Mia and Fraser are quietly falling apart because of the secret they share and, as truths are unearthed and their friendships are tested to the limit, they have to ask themselves – is it time to get on with the business of actually living?"

Rating: 4/5

You can buy How We Met as a paperback or an eBook now.

I have read both of Katy Regan's first two novels, and really enjoyed them, therefore I was very pleased to get a review copy of her brilliant new title How We Met. I had heard that it was very different to both of her previous offerings, but that it was even more fantastic to read so when I started reading, I have to say that I had very high expectations. I confess that I am not a huge fan of the cover, it's a little bit boring for me and I don't like the colour scheme too much, but that's just a personal point, and I try not to let my opinion of book covers affect my judgment of whether or not I'll enjoy a book (although who doesn't judge a book by its cover just a tiny bit?!). Once I started reading though, I couldn't stop and here's why.

I found the book to be a lot sadder and more bittersweet than I was expecting. It's the story of a group of friends who are trying to get over or get through the grief of their friend Liv's sudden death. For a long time into the book, we don't actually know what happened to Liv and how she died, so when it was revealed, I was a bit surprised that that was the actual reason, I was perhaps expecting a little more of it?! Maybe that's just my fault but it felt like it had been built up and the reason in the end really wasn't what I was expecting at all. Liv is a character we really get to know through the flashbacks of her and mainly the way the other characters speak about her and remember her. There's her boyfriend, her best friend and the rest of their group, and they all paint different pictures of their friend.

The main two characters in the group were Mia and Fraser. Mia is a single mum to her baby, and is struggling balancing this new life alongside getting over the death of Liv at the same time. She feels guilty that her son is growing up in this way, and she did feel a little moany in parts, rather than just knuckling down and getting on with it like most people do, which stopped me fully warming to her in places. However, I felt Regan wrote her story really well, putting across Mia's confused feelings and insecurities as a mother perfectly, you could really feel her emotions along with her. Her character just seemed very lonely and lost, and it was quite sad to read her parts at times.

Fraser was Liv's boyfriend, and his story was actually quite interesting to read, because I just didn't know where it would end up, and how things would go for Fraser. I disliked some of his actions in the book, but you can feel how much he misses Liv, and as things go on, I found him to be more interesting and enjoyed the friendship he shared with Mia. The group as a whole were well brilliant - they were believable as friends, and I liked that Regan made their friendships flawed too so it was realistic, and felt like you were reading about a group of real people. The emotions in it felt very real, and you go from grief, to guilt to blame to loss and the importance of friendship, a real rollercoaster of a ride.

The pace of the book is quite slow but I felt it suited this book because it was so deeply about the feelings of the characters and how they dealt with their grief rather than whatever else was happening in the book. This was a really interesting book, and I found that I was really involved in the story and its character, and hoping for a happy ending for them all. It flitted about between the stories of all of the friends, but I didn't find it too hard to keep up, it kept the book moving and allowed the stories to fully develop. It was indeed very different to Regan's previous novels, but it was just as enjoyable, and its an emotional tale you can really enjoy. It has moments of humour, but is mainly quite a bittersweet novel, showing how you must take control of your life and live it to the full. I really enjoyed it, and would certainly recommend reading it.

Book News: It's Raining Men by Milly Johnson

I am one of Milly Johnson's biggest fans and I cannot wait for her new book It's Raining Men which is coming on 1st August 2013! I love the cover, it's really fresh and pretty, and I love the colour scheme too, Milly's cover designers always seem to get it right for her. Roll on August, this sounds brilliant and I know it'll be a great read!

"Best friends May, Lara and Clare are desperate for a holiday. They have been dreaming of a little cottage away from it all, long walks in the country and just a bit of time away from it all. But when they arrive in Ren Dullem, a small Yorkshire seaside town, it seems it is not the place they thought it was...May has never quite found her niche in life, or her Mr Right. Then in Dullem she falls hook line and sinker at first glance for one of the inhabitants - but he's already taken...Lara is living with James and his awful step-children who taunt her with tales of his younger, prettier ex whom they adored. The woman who Lara walks in to find James in bed with despite all his protestations that he wouldn't touch her again with a barge pole. Reeling from the hurt, she needs the sea air of Dullem to heal her. What she doesn't need is to be constantly in battle with the owner of the holiday cottage - a man who is every bit as bitter and resentful and untrusting of the other sex as she is. Clare's fiance Hugh wants her to go and live abroad with him for two years, but she's just been offered the promotion of a life-time. She needs some headspace to think about what she needs to do, but then she meets a very bad boy who is everything Hugh isn't - impulsive, wild and dangerous. Will this holiday be the break they all need? Or will it bring them all to breaking point...?"

7 February 2013

Book News: The House We Grew Up In by Lisa Jewell

Lisa Jewell is back this year with a brand new novel, and I can't wait. Her 2012 release Before I Met You was an outstanding read, and totally different from anything else I've read by Jewell, so I am hoping for something equally as brilliant with The House We Grew Up In! It's due out on 18th July 2013 and I think the cover is gorgeous :)

You can pre-order The House We Grew Up In as a paperback!

"Meet the Bird family. 

All four children have an idyllic childhood: a picture book cottage in a country village, a warm, cosy kitchen filled with love and laughter, sun-drenched afternoons in a rambling garden.

But one Easter weekend a tragedy strikes the Bird family that is so devastating that almost imperceptibly, it begins to tear them apart.

The years pass and the children become adults and begin to develop their own quite separate lives. Soon it's almost as though they've never been a family at all.

Almost. But not quite.

Because something has happened that will call them home, back to the house they grew up in...

6 February 2013

Book News: Wedding Night by Sophie Kinsella

Sophie Kinsella is back, hurrah! Her brand new book, Wedding Night, is due out on April 25th and the cover is just gorgeous! I love that it's another stand alone novel, her last book I've Got Your Number was a great read and I am sure this one will be too. Roll on April!

You can pre-order Wedding Night right now!

"Lottie is tired of long-term boyfriends who don't want to commit to marriage. When her old boyfriend Ben reappears and reminds her of their pact to get married if they were both still single at thirty, she jumps at the chance. There will be no dates and no engagement-just a straight wedding march to the altar! Next comes the honeymoon on the Greek island where they first met. But not everyone is thrilled with Lottie and Ben's rushed marriage, and family and friends are determined to intervene. Will Lottie and Ben have a wedding night to remember . or one to forget?"

5 February 2013

Book Review: A Passionate Love Affair with a Total Stranger by Lucy Robinson

"Charley Lambert has worked hard at creating a perfect life. She has an aspirational flat, a job of international significance and a very good pair of legs, thanks to a rigorous health and fitness regime. Best of all, her boss has asked her out after seven years' hard flirting and a covert fumble in a mop cupboard.

Then she breaks her leg in three places, watches her boss propose to someone else and - horror - is forced to hand over her job to her nasty deputy. Charley, a certified workaholic, fears that she will go mad.

Dangerously bored, she starts helping people who are talentless at internet dating. Then William arrives in her inbox and rocks her world. Helpless, she watches herself fall in love with him and discovers she's not who she thought she was.

But can she turn her back on her old life - all for a total stranger?"

Rating: 5/5

I really enjoyed Lucy Robinson's debut novel last year, called The Greatest Love Story of All Time. I was pleased to see that Lucy was back this year with a second novel, with the same gorgeous cover design and another quite long title, this time A Passionate Love Affair With a Total Stranger. I have to admit that the title of it had me curious, wanting to find out much more about this love affair! Lucy's last book made me laugh a lot, but it also had a lovely love story at the heart of it, so I was hoping for much of the same from this book, and luckily for me it more than surpassed my expectations, I think I enjoyed it even more than I did her last novel!

Charley is a workaholic, and she isn't afraid to admit it. She's absolutely great at her job, and loves working all the hours she possibly can, always responding to her emails, blackberry messages and telephone calls from work, whatever the hour of day. Therefore when Charley breaks her leg in two places and is left bedridden for weeks, she starts to go stir-crazy in her flat and decides to start up her own online dating business... First Date Aid. But when Charley starts getting clients, and begins her email flirtations with them (strictly business you know!), she finds herself getting closer to one of her male contacts, William. Charley is determined to find out more about the man she's fallen for, but is he going to end up teaching her more about herself than she thought possible?

I have to say right from the beginning, I was drawn into this book and Charley's story, she is just so likeable as a main character that you can't help but love her and want to find out more about her story! The book is written in the first person from Charley's perspective as well, so we get her take on all the events in the book, and find the things out in the book as she does, which makes it more interesting because you don't know what's coming up next! Although Charley is obsessed with her work, which does get a tad annoying at times, it's good to see someone passionate about their work, and Robinson manages to weave in her friends' frustrations realistically too, I know if I were Charley's friend she'd annoy me at times too!

What worked so well int he book for me though was the other characters in the book which were just as good as Charley to be honest, and they made it even more brilliant. My favourite was definitely Charley's friend and flatmate Sam. He's just got engaged but decides to help Charley with her business while his own wannabe acting career is floundering a bit. He's brilliantly written, sounding totally hopeless but you know he's got a good heart beneath it all. Margot, Charley's colleague is a really evil character, and is certainly one you'll love to hate, Robinson wrote her so brilliantly! John, Charley's boss and 'man of her dreams' too, was one character I really disliked, I couldn't warm to him at all. All of the characters though were great, and helped create a brilliant story, even those who just appeared in email form in the book, Charlotte in particular!

The story itself was fantastic, and I really enjoyed seeing Charley change as a person as the book progressed. The parts involving her new company First Date Aid were really funny, and it was fun reading the emails that Charley was sending back and forth to William. The inclusion of Sam into the mix made it more interesting, and I was hoping that the two would make a real success of it, but things weren't all that clear through the book as Charley is still so determined to get back to her full time job once she's healed up. There's a lot of humour in the book, but there are some emotional parts too that really stop you in your reading tracks, and make you think, and I thought the balance for the book was just right. My favourite part of the whole book though was the twist that came around halfway through, I didn't see it coming at all and I felt it refreshed the book completely, and made me even more engrossed, wanting to see what was going to happen next!

This was a fantastic book and I really did enjoy every single page of it, not wanting to put it down because I wanted to see what Charley was going to do next! I loved Robinson's writing style, it's really easy to read and enjoy, yet it gets into the heart of these characters and makes you care about them. She paces the book just right, with enough going on to keep your interest and moving it along where it needs to so that the storylines can develop. Charley was a brilliant heroine for the book, and I loved her, I was just so badly hoping for a happy ending for her. The book made me laugh, it made me think, it made me tear up in parts - it's that brilliantly written that you can get that full range of emotion from it. I can't recommend it enough, and really look forward to what Lucy Robinson is bringing us next!

You can buy A Passionate Love Affair With a Total Stranger as an eBook or a paperback now!

4 February 2013

Book News: Wish You Were Here by Victoria Connelly

I really enjoyed my first of Victoria Connelly's novels last year when I read The Runaway Actress, so I am very much looking forward to her 2013 release, Wish You Were Here. I am loving that gorgeous cover, and it sounds like a fantastic story as well! It's out on 9th May 2013.

You can pre-order Wish You Were Here as a paperback now.

"Sun, sea and secrets…

A week on the sunny Greek island of Kethos is just what Alice Archer needs, even if she has to put up with her difficult sister. Stella’s tantrums and diva-like demands are a fair price to pay for crystal-clear waters, blue skies and white clifftop villas.

When Alice meets Milo, a handsome gardener at the Villa Argenti, for the first time she suddenly feels beautiful, alluring and confident. But is it just holiday magic or will the irresistible pull between Alice and Milo survive against all odds?"

1 February 2013

Book Review: Don't Want To Miss A Thing by Jill Mansell

"Dexter Yates loves his fun, care-free London life; he has money, looks and girlfriends galore. But everything changes overnight when his sister dies, leaving him in charge of her eight-month-old daughter Delphi. How is he ever going to cope? 

Comic-strip artist Molly Hayes lives in the beautiful Cotswold village of Briarwood. When it comes to relationships, she has a history of choosing all the wrong men. Leaving the city behind, Dex moves to Briarwood - a much better place to work on his parenting skills - and he and Molly become neighbours. There's an undeniable connection between them. But if Dexter's going to adapt, he first has a lot to learn about Molly, about other people's secrets...and about himself."

Rating: 5/5

You can buy Don't Want to Miss A Thing as a paperback or an eBook now!

I really look forward to Jill Mansell's books each year, they are always guaranteed to be a brilliant read, and I always enjoy her stories. This year, interestingly, the publishers and Jill allowed her fans to choose the cover for her new book, between a pink version and a yellow one. I was personally all about the yellow version but clearly the pink one won out, and I have to say I quite like it now it's out in hardback form. I think it's a soft subtle pink, and looks really pretty on my bookshelf. The book title Don't Want To Miss A Thing makes me think of the famous Aerosmith song (you'll probably be humming it now too lol), I can't say that's a bad thing, and the story inside fitted the title perfectly.

Dexter Yates is a real party boy - he works hard for his money, but also plays hard as well, coming with a different woman far too regularly for his own liking sometimes, but he's sure he isn't ready to settle down. However, when his sister suddenly dies just a few months after giving birth to her first baby, Dexter finds himself the sole carer of his niece Delphi, and without a clue of how to look after her either. He quickly moves to a more suitable, small cottage in the Cotswolds, and finds himself living next door Molly, a single woman who is getting over her own break up. When the pair realise there's a chemistry between them, Dexter's worried as he doesn't know how to deal with it, and they end up finding out things about themselves that they find surprising...

I was really invested in this story from really early on. I really warmed to the main character, a man named Dexter, even though his lifestyle at the beginning wasn't ideal. In fact, that goes to show how much of a change he makes in himself when he takes on his lovely niece Delphi, who really steals the show even though she barely speaks in the book, just babbles and sounds immensely cute! Dexter was a great man in all senses, he's handsome, he's good with his baby niece, he's determined and he really wants to change and make a change in himself for the better. He almost sounds too good to be true, and you can see why Molly likes him a lot! Molly herself is a lovely character, really friendly and open, the perfect next door neighbour actually, and because they're both so nice, you really want a happy ending for the both of them, and care about what happens to them in the story.

Mansell's writing, however, is what really made me love this book. She has a real way with words that allows the story to unfold at a natural pace, and keeps you wanting to read on right until the last page. There are a lot of serious moments in the book, and these are tackled perfectly, but also nicely balanced with humour and happiness. The subject matter, a young, free, single fun-loving man having to grow up quickly and effectively become a father is interesting and allows for laughs, but also emotional moments too, and I really enjoyed this storyline a lot. I loved how as well as the main story of Dexter, Delphi and Molly there were a couple of sub-plots going on too which were almost as good as the main one, and I was as eager to read these as I was Dexter's story.

I thoroughly enjoyed Don't Want to Miss A Thing and I think it's my favourite book of Jill Mansell's for a few years now, I read it in just a couple of evenings because I just didn't want to put it down, and I found the story really fun to read. A lovely setting, a fab set of characters that you want to read about and brilliant writing make this book a real must-read, and I assure you every woman who reads this will want to find her own Dexter asap, he's the perfect hero for the book! Yes, it was slightly predictable but I actually enjoyed this about it - I just cared about how it was going to get to its end, not what it's ultimate end might actually me. Mansell's storytelling is second to none, and baby Delphi was certainly a scene-stealer. I loved this book, and hope you will too, definitely one to read!

Book News: The Paradise Guest House by Ellen Sussman

When I first saw the cover for Ellen Sussman's new book The Paradise Guest House, I thought it was gorgeous and knew it was a book I just had to read! It's out on March 21st 2013, and after really enjoying Sussman's last offering French Lessons, I'm looking forward to reading this one.

You can pre-order The Paradise Guest House as a paperback or an eBook now.

"It starts as a trip to paradise. Sent on assignment to Bali, Jamie, an adventure guide, imagines spending weeks exploring the island's lush jungles and pristine white sand beaches. Yet three days after her arrival, she is caught in Bali's infamous nightclub bombings, which irreparably change her life and leave her with many unanswered questions. One year later, haunted by memories, Jamie returns to Bali seeking a sense of closure. Most of all, she hopes to find Gabe, the man who saved her from the attacks. She hasn't been able to forget his kindness - or the spark between them as he helped her heal. Checking into a cosy guest house for her stay, Jamie meets the kindly owner, who is coping with a painful past of his own, and a young boy who improbably becomes crucial to her search. Jamie has never shied away from a challenge, but a second chance with Gabe presents her with the biggest dilemma of all: whether she's ready to open her heart."