24 December 2016

Book Review: The Christmas Promise by Sue Moorcroft

"For Ava Bliss, it’s going to be a Christmas to remember …

On a snowy December evening, Sam Jermyn steps into the life of bespoke hat maker Ava. Sparks fly, and not necessarily the good ones.

Times are tough for Ava – she’s struggling to make ends meet, her ex-boyfriend is a bully, and worst of all, it’s nearly Christmas.

So when Sam commissions Ava to make a hat for someone special, she makes a promise that will change her life. She just doesn’t know it yet…"

Rating: 4/5

This is the first book I have read from author Sue Moorcroft, and I loved the fact it was a Christmas story! The cover for this book is beautiful, really festive, and made me excited to dive in and start reading This story is about Ava Bliss, who works as a milliner, or hatmaker to you and me. Her business has been a bit slow, so when her friends boss Sam comes into her life and commissions a special hat for Christmas, the pair strike up a friendship. When Sam asks her to do him a favour in the run-up to Christmas, Ava agrees, but doesn't quite realise what she's letting herself in for...

I have to admit, the art of hat making is something I know nothing about (unsurprisingly), so it was fascinating to read more about this particular skill throughout the book. I loved Ava's passion for her work, you could tell she was really proud of her skills of making beautiful hats, and Moorcroft does go into some detail about the work which was great to read. I liked the process too of Ava making the special hat for a present - it was fun to read how it all comes about, especially for the very deserving character who would be receiving the gift.

I will be honest and say that I did find the book a bit slow going at first, and I did get a little bit confused about the many characters thrown at me in the first few chapters. I lost track a bit, and it took me a little while to get into it and really get the characters down. Once I had done though, it was fun reading, and the characters all pop up regularly throughout the book, as they move through Ava's life. Her friendships are obviously very dear to her, as she doesn't appear to have much of a relationship with her parents who live in France. So when Sam comes on the scene, Ava is happy to make a new friend, but nothing more.

Sam was a fantastic character to read about - a perfect gentleman towards Ava, and the special relationship he has with his mother was so beautiful to read. There were scenes in here that moved me to tears, because the emotion of it all became so much, Moorcroft writes these parts so realistically. It's a harsh reality that illness can strike anyone at any time, but the way this was tackled throughout the book was beautifully done. There is another very important issue woven throughout this book involving Ava and her awful ex-boyfriend. He is holding something over her, and threatening to ruin her life with it, and I hated him for that. It's the lowest of the low, and while it was a horrible storyline to read, it highlights a very important and current issue.

I really enjoyed the festive feeling in this book, especially as Ava and Sam prepare to spend Christmas together to help honour their promise to someone special. Although it is a festive read, it isn't a hugely light and fluffy read. There's some serious stuff going on in this book, but I was completely absorbed by it, hoping for a good outcome for Ava and Sam, they both deserved it. I loved the different friendships within the book, although I did find one of Ava's friends a bit odd (Izz), and the importance of surrounding yourself by people who love you, especially at Christmas. This was a really well written and enjoyable book, and I am pleased that I persevered after the slow and confusing start! A lovely novel I can definitely recommend.

23 December 2016

Book Review: A Christmas Kiss by Vicky Pattison

"Amber Raey is working all the hours God sends as assistant to one of the country's top fashion designers, and her boss is a complete nightmare. Amber's dream is to launch her own fashion line one day so, for the time being, she just has to grin and bear it. And then opportunity comes knocking and Amber's suddenly on the fast track to the top.

The parties, the glamour, a whirlwind romance - Amber loves every second of her new life. But there's more to this world than its glossy exterior suggests, and when a face from Amber's past reappears, she finds herself in real trouble. With Christmas fast approaching, Amber is drifting further and further away from her family and friends. Can she get her life back on track before it's too late for a merry Christmas?"

Rating: 3/5

I will be honest and say I am not a fan of celebrity books. I read a few of Katie Price's novels many years ago, but they weren't really my cup of tea. I also tend not to watch reality TV, so didn't really know much about who Vicky Pattison was before I read this (sorry). I obviously have since googled her and found out more, and decided to go into this with open eyes, hopefully being as unjudgmental as I could be. However, while elements of this story were enjoyable, it falls into the category of books which annoys me most - those which have a Christmassy cover and title, and pretty much have no relevance to the season at all apart from near the end. Nothing annoys me more. Oh, and a very cringeworthy cameo. Just why?!

Amber is working in fashion and really loves her job, even in the designer she currently works for is a bit of a dragon, with a reputation to match. So when she is offered the chance of a lifetime thanks to a chance meeting at London Fashion Week, Amber decides to take a chance on it and have a go! Soon, her career is looking up, and with a famous man showing interest, Amber thinks her life can't get any better. But as her relationship progresses, Amber finds herself being pulled away from her friends and family, and isn't quite sure how to get back to them. Will she be able to celebrate a merry Christmas after all?

The story sounded like it could be a good one, and it was for the most part. I don't know a lot about fashion or designers, and while this book is based in that world, I don't feel that I learnt a lot about it when reading this book. I couldn't really feel Amber's passion for her work - there just wasn't enough description of the clothes she loves, her own designs - it all just fell a little bit flat for me. However, Amber herself was likeable enough, even if she did need to grow a bit of a backbone when it came to certain men in the book.

As Amber became involved in a relationship with a former pop star, things obviously start to change for her life, and she's swept up with everything, to the detriment of those around her which is a shame, but I couldn't deny that I saw it coming. In fact, most of the story is quite predictable, not in a bad way but in that there was nothing to surprise me in here. I lie. There was one thing that shocked me, and actually left a bit of a sour taste in my mouth. For some inexplicable reason the author has chosen to put a cameo in this book towards the end. Who is it, I hear you ask? Well, it's herself. Yes, Vicky Pattison has chosen to include herself in the book. I actually couldn't quite believe what I was reading. I'm not sure who told her that was a good idea because it really wasn't!

I was also a bit annoyed by the fact that the majority of the book isn't at all festive, that part is simply crammed in to the end to give a nod to the title and the cover! I was really hoping for a happy ending, that Amber would open her eyes and dedicate more time to her career, friends and family than she did her hopeless boyfriend, because she did seem talented and seemed to be throwing a great career opportunity. The book was an easy way to pass a few hours, with a few laughs and an easy story to read but there were a few things that let it down for me. A good story, and as long as you don't go into expecting anything festive, you'll probably enjoy it!

Book Review: Christmas at the Little Beach Street Bakery by Jenny Colgan

"It's Christmas in the Cornish coastal village of Mount Polbearne - a time for family, friends and feasting.

Polly Waterford loves running the Little Beach Street Bakery. She's at her happiest when she's creating delicious treats and the festive season always inspires her to bake and knead something extra special for the village residents. In fact, the only thing she loves more than her bakery is curling up with her gorgeous boyfriend, Huckle. She's determined that this Christmas is going to be their best one yet, but life doesn't always work out as planned...

When Polly's best friend Kerensa turns up with a secret that threatens the life Polly and Huckle have built together, the future begins to look uncertain. And then a face from Polly's past reappears and things become even more complicated. Polly can usually find solace in baking but she has a feeling that's not going to be enough this time. Can she get things back on track so that everyone has a merry Christmas?"

Rating: 5/5

I adore Jenny Colgan's books, so when I discovered she was writing a third book in the 'Little Beach Street Bakery' series, I was really happy, even more so when it was a Christmas novel! Although Jenny has written a bit of an introduction to this book, explaining the characters and the story to date and therefore you can enjoy this as a standalone, it is best read as part of the series, you'll be missing out if you don't catch up with the other two books!

Polly is still happily baking away in her little bakery in Mount Polbearne. She also still lives with her American boyfriend Huck, and their puffin Neil. Polly loves that Christmas is coming, and is looking forward to baking up a storm for the locals who love to buy her goods. But Polly and Huck's perfect Christmas is under threat when Polly's best friend Kerensa confides a secret with her, one that is sure to put a rift between Huck and Polly. Burdened by the secret, Polly's Christmas spirit is feeling dampened... can she make sure she and Huck have a Merry Christmas after all?

As I said, I have read the previous books in the series, and know the ins and outs of these characters really well, so it was great to slip back into the world of Mount Polbearne, and Polly's bakery and her lighthouse again. I've always loved Polly, and I definitely did throughout this book too. She struggles with the burden of her best friend Kerensa's secret, as any of us would I think, and I felt sorry for her being put in that position, and worrying about how she can keep it secret from Huck too. The storyline of the secret takes place throughout the book, and I kept nervously picking up the story, eager to see if things would be revealed or not!

I don't want to say too much about the story of this book because it's one of those that wants to be discovered as you read the book. There was a really well written bit about Polly in this book coming to grips with someone shocking from her past making a reappearance, and I loved how well Colgan writes this part of the book. It is of course very emotional, but Colgan wasn't afraid to portray Polly really struggling it with it too, rather than making it the fairytale ending we sometimes assume a situation like this can have.

I think this is perhaps the last we will see of Polly, Huck and Neil in the Little Beach Street Bakery series after the ending of this book, but I would definitely welcome them coming back again! The final few scenes were wonderfully written and emotional to read, and really puts across the family feel and atmosphere that living on a small island like Mount Polbearne brings. As well as this, there's festive spirit throughout as Polly prepares for Christmas with Huck, Kerensa and the rest of her family. This was a wonderful read, perfect to snuggle up with a hot chocolate and sausage roll (I can't stand mince pies personally!), and join Polly and Huck for their Christmas!

Book Review: Truly Madly Guilty by Liane Moriarty

"Despite their differences, Erika and Clementine have been best friends since they were children. So when Erika needs help, Clementine should be the obvious person to turn to. Or so you'd think.

For Clementine, as a mother of a two desperately trying to practise for the audition of a lifetime, the last thing she needs is Erika asking for something, again.

But the barbecue should be the perfect way to forget their problems for a while. Especially when their hosts, Vid and Tiffany, are only too happy to distract them.

Which is how it all spirals out of control..."

Rating: 4/5

I've read a few books by Australian author Liane Moriarty so far, and thought each of them was utterly compelling, I didn't want to put them down, and they are certainly not stories I will forget in a hurry. I spotted Liane's latest book Truly Madly Guilty on Netgalley a while ago, and eagerly downloaded it to my Kindle, keen to get stuck in! The story didn't disappoint - there was intrigue, secrets, lies and more within the pages of this book and I just couldn't stop reading, hurtling towards the finish far too quickly for my liking.

Erika and Clementine are best friends, and have been for a long time, since they were children in fact. Clementine is determined to get a coveted job, rehearsing at every opportunity, unsure of her own skills, and family life always seeming to get in the way. So when her neighbours Vid and Tiffany ask them around for a barbeque, Clementine and her husband, together with her best friend Erika and other half accept, sure a night off will right all the wrongs. But when something awful happens, it splits up friendships, divides opinion and leaves very unsettled waters in its wake. But what happened that fateful night?

The intriguing this about this book for me was that I actually didn't really like any of the characters within it at all. But is this the point? Were they meant to be likeable, or realistic yet flawed individuals, all held together by this devastating secret, thinking things about each other that they would never dare voice aloud. There's Clementine, obsessed with her audition for a cello part in an orchestra, obsessed to the point of ignoring her family. For this, I deeply disliked her, and the way she treated those around her due to her own lack of self-belief. There was her friend Erika, a successful career woman who outwardly appears to have it all but is harbouring her own personal heartache. The there's the neighbours - there's something about Tiffany and Vid which doesn't sit right with Clementine and Erika.

But as to what happened on the night of the barbeque... well you have to wait for the majority of the book in order to find out what really happened. When it was revealed, I was a bit surprised, but then I had pieced things together a little bit and had had a guess that this may be what occurred. Still, it was nonetheless shocking when it happened, and I read those scenes with my heart in my mouth. Moriarty has a way of writing things so realistically, you feel as if you are there with them, experiencing it too. The actions of the characters remain with me, and I don't think I could say if that were me how I would have dealt with it.

In fact, this book isn't so much about what happened that night, but how it affects each of the characters, and what happens in their lives in the aftermath of that night. The book is told through flashbacks, and different narratives. It took a few chapters for me to get fully absorbed into the story and the way it was told, working out who was who and so forth, but once that was done, it was easy to follow. I enjoyed seeing how the characters put on a front to each other, for example Clementine and Erika, who outwardly showed love for each other, but behind closed doors it was a different story - this certainly wasn't a friendship that seemed destined to survive the ages. There's many secrets, lies, bitching, and heartache within this novel, but somehow you don't want to put it down, keen to see how it's all going to end.

For me, this wasn't my favourite of Liane Moriarty's books, but there was something really compelling about it, even once the big secret of what happened that night had been revealed. I loved Moriarty's writing as usual, it drew me into the lives of these characters, and how their lives were affected after what had happened, everyone of course reacting in different ways. Moriarty's books are so realistic, you can easily imagine this sort of thing sadly happening, and it certainly makes you think about how much you know about the friends you surround yourself with. You need to persevere with this book - there are longs portions of narrative that seemed to go on for a while, lots of narrative changes to keep track of and a dragged out suspenseful story. However, it is worth the wait, and I enjoyed the read very much. Bring on Liane Moriarty's next book!

22 December 2016

Book Review: A Year and A Day by Isabelle Broom

"Welcome to a city where wishes are everywhere.

For Megan, a winter escape to Prague with her friend Ollie is a chance to find some inspiration for her upcoming photography exhibition. But she's determined to keep their friendship from becoming anything more. Because if Megan lets Ollie find out about her past, she risks losing everything - and she won't let that happen again . . .

For Hope, the trip is a surprise treat from Charlie, her new partner. But she's struggling to enjoy the beauty of the city when she knows how angry her daughter is back home. And that it's all her fault . . .

For Sophie, the city has always been a magical place. This time she can't stop counting down the moments until her boyfriend Robin joins her. But in historic Prague you can never escape the past . . .

Three different women.

Three intertwining love stories.

One unforgettable, timeless city."

Rating: 5/5

I first read a book by Isabelle Broom earlier this year called My Map of You. I really loved that book and was super excited to find a new chick lit author I was going to really enjoy reading for years to come. So when I found she was bringing out a festive book, I was really excited and couldn't wait to get reading. It definitely didn't disappoint at all, and I was completely absorbed with the story, the characters and the settings, it was one of the most vivid and enjoyable books I have read this festive season, and I think it's one you must read this winter!

This book is set in a country I have never read about before, the Czech Republic and it's capital city, Prague. I know a few people who have been there and loved it, but I will be honest and say I really didn't know anything about it before I read about in this book. However, I wish I could now jump on a plane and get there right now, it sounded completely amazing and Broom's descriptions are so vivid and detailed, you can imagine every single thing she is writing about, from the architecture to the scenery and the people.

This story focuses on three different women who are initially strangers, and are in Prague for differing reasons. There's our main character Megan who has come to Prague with her best friend Ollie, to help him research the city for his class at school. Megan knows how Ollie really about her but is sure she can stop any romantic feelings on the holiday. There's Hope and her new boyfriend Charlie on their first getaway together, with Hope nursing a broken heart over her daughter who will no longer speak to her. And finally there is Sophie, who is headed to Prague and will be meeting her boyfriend Robin in a few days time. Each of them has their own story, and I love the way their tales become intertwined as the story goes on.

The book begins in a very intriguing way, with a woman ready to throw herself off a bridge in Prague, and then jumps to the start of the women's holidays. Broom changes the narrative frequently between the women, allowing us to find out their backstory, the reason for being in Prague, and to get to know them a bit before introducing them to each other and bringing them together. There's a lot of emotion throughout the book, lots of truths being faced and I loved every bit of it. It did move me to tears during a few scenes, Broom really taps into the heart of each of the stories, and isn't afraid to shy away from the nitty gritty of the sadness, and hope as well littered throughout.

What struck me most about this book though was Broom's descriptive writing about Prague. Everything, from the beautiful architecture, the churches, the cafe's, the food (strudel and goulash - yum!), the local people is beautifully written and brings the place to life in your mind. I loved that the characters visit lots of different parts of Prague, not just the well-known spots, you can tell the author really knows what she is talking about here when she is writing! The snowy paths, bitter weather - it's a perfect winter read. This was a joy to read throughout, it is emotional and a few scenes will certainly move you (possibly to tears like it did with me!), and Broom's narrative works so well, allowing us to follow all 3 stories seamlessly. I adored this book, and really cannot wait for Isabelle Broom's next book - go and read this NOW!

Book Review: Return to the Little French Guesthouse by Helen Pollard

"Blue skies, new love, and a glass of Bordeaux . . . what could possibly go wrong? 

When Emmy Jamieson leaves her life behind and moves to La Cour des Roses, a gorgeous guesthouse amidst vineyards in France, everything is resting on her success as the new guesthouse manager. 

Looming in the calendar is the biggest booking ever, when the entire eccentric, demanding Thomson family will descend for a golden wedding anniversary. With airbeds on the floor and caravans in the garden, La Cour des Roses will be bursting at the seams.

Emmy knows she’s up to the challenge, especially with the support of the gorgeous Alain, the half-French, half-English, caramel-eyed accountant. But she hadn’t counted on a naked, sleepwalking travel blogger, or the return of owner Rupert’s venomous ex-wife Gloria. 

Gloria has a few things to say about Emmy’s new role, Rupert’s finances, and the unsuspecting Alain, which send everybody reeling. Just when Emmy can see a future for herself of endless sunshine, true love and laughter, are her dreams about to be ripped at the seams? "

Rating: 4/5

One book I thoroughly enjoyed reading earlier this year was Helen Pollard's book The Little French Guesthouse. So when I saw on Twitter that Helen was bringing out a sequel to that book due to the popularity of the first book, I was thrilled, and very much looked forward to reading it. I hoped that it would be a welcome return to characters that I had thoroughly enjoyed reading about previously, and luckily Helen Pollard didn't let me down. Emmy is still living in the guesthouse, La Cour des Roses, but this time is helping out Rupert with the management. She's seeing her French boyfriend Alain, and everything seems to be going really well. But when Rupert's ex-wife Gloria suddenly reappears, an important booking is forgotten, and some hidden truths are found out, Emmy has to wonder if her future does lie in the French guesthouse after all.

If you haven't read the first novel, my suggestion would be to read that before you dive into this one, simply because it really is a follow-on and things will make much more sense if you reading it one after the other. It would be okay as a standalone book, but would work better if you read them in the right order. Emmy ended up at the guesthouse when she found her ex-boyfriend in bed with Rupert's wife Gloria, and this book carries on a short while after the end of the first book, ready to find out what life in rural France is going to be like.

Of course, it isn't plain sailing for Emmy, because that would make for a bit of a boring read wouldn't it! The sparks begin to fly when the awful ex-wife Gloria reappears on the scene, and causes a bit of strife for everyone, especially poor old Rupert, who was seemingly getting on okay without her around. I disliked her immensely, and her actions in this book did nothing whatsoever to turn my feelings around! I loved that there was a character you could vehemently dislike though, she made it interesting to read, and I almost didn't want to read on and find out what havoc she was going to cause!

Emmy and Rupert's relationship was fun to read, as it was before. The pair have a real banter between them, and as things start to go wrong at the guesthouse, we see the strength of their friendship and how well they work together. The disaster of not realising a huge booking is due wasn't either of their faults, but they work so hard to try and pull everything together for the visiting family. I loved reading about the build-up to this, and how they finally managed to pull everything off, which concluded with some very moving scenes indeed! Alain and Emmy's relationship is also explored more in this book, and I did hope that the pair would end together, they seemed so well suited!

There was also a very touching storyline inside this book, involving an old friend of Rupert's that Emmy befriends and has to help out. This was very moving, and well written by Pollard, showing us that we all need to be around for each other, especially in a time of need, and that not everyone has a special someone looking out for them when they most need it. It was a fantastic addition to the book, and added a little bit more of a serious element overall. For me, this was a fantastic second visit to La Cour Des Roses in France, and it was great to meet up with Emmy and Rupert again to see how the business was faring! Helen Pollard has seemlessly slipped back into her narrative of these characters and the beautiful setting - just what you need on these chilly winter evenings! I'd definitely recommend this, and the first book in the La Cour Des Roses series!

Book Review: All I Want for Christmas by Jenny Hale

"Christmas comes once a year . . . But true love comes once in a lifetime. 

Snowflakes are falling, there’s carol singing on every corner, and Leah Evans is preparing for a family Christmas at her grandmother’s majestic plantation house in Virginia. It won’t be the same now that her beloved Nan is gone, but when Leah discovers she has inherited the mansion, she knows she can give her daughter Sadie the childhood of her dreams. 

But there’s a catch. Leah must split the house with a man called David Forester. Leah hasn’t heard that name in a long time. Not since they were kids, when Davey was always there to catch her. 

Now David is all grown up. He’s gorgeous, successful, and certain of one thing: Leah should sell him her half of the house. 

They can’t agree, but as they share memories over wine by the log fire, Leah notices a fluttering in her stomach. And by the look in his eyes, he’s starting to feel it too. 

Will it be Leah or David who must give up their dreams? Or, with a little bit of Christmas magic, will they finally understand Nan’s advice to them both about living life without regrets … and take a chance on true love? "

Rating: 5/5

I absolutely adore Jenny Hale's novels, in particular her festive novels. She always captures everything that is Christmas for me, and I always love her characters too. So when I was offered the chance to review her latest Christmas book, All I Want for Christmas, I jumped at the chance. This book is the story of Leah and David, who end up jointly inheriting Leah's deceased grandmother's mansion. However, it seems that the pair have different ideas about the future of the house, and neither one of them is going to budge about what they want to do. Leah asks David if she and her daughter can share one more Christmas in the house of Leah's dreams and memories, but is there more to the pair's friendship than meets the eye?

I loved that this was set in a big, beautiful mansion, in the middle of Virginia at Christmastime. This is precisely the sort of thing I love to read about, and this definitely delivered on that for me! The house is beautifully written and described by Hale throughout the book, and I could see why Leah was desperate to move back in and raise her young daughter there. I loved reading about the memories she held of her and her grandmother there in years gone by, how she wanted to make a success of it on her own, and how passionate she was about the house remaining in her family.

However, David, or Davey as Leah remembers him, has other plans. He wants to buy her out and have the house to himself. Of course this is throwing a huge spanner in the works of Leah's plans and I have to admit I initially didn't like him for this, he seemed to be ruining everything for no reason. As the book progresses, it explains why David was entitled to the inheritance, and I was hopeful that he would be able to come to a compromise with Leah as I wanted her to have the house so much!

One of my favourite characters throughout the whole book was Leah's daughter Sadie. She is a perfectly written character, such a joy to read and I felt was a shining light for Leah, keeping her going through the tough times, and bringing to life everything that Christmas was about. I love how easily she befriended David too, keen to see the good man underneath his exterior, and it was so sweet to see how this in turn helped open Leah's eyes to the true David too. Christmas is ever present throughout the book too, with the decorating of the house, plenty of snow and a Christmas morning celebrated which is always lovely to read!

For me, this was a joy to read from start to finish, and I genuinely didn't want to stop reading once I had started. I was keen to see if and how Leah and David would sort out their differences, and how they would decide to divide up the house between them, if at all! The setting was beautiful, I loved all characters, even the supporting ones such as Leah's friends who pay a visit, and there's some sweet surprises in there too warm your heart. A perfect book to cuddle up with at Christmas!

21 December 2016

Book Review: The Trouble with Henry and Zoe by Andy Jones

"Henry and Zoe have more in common than they realise. For a start, they both have pasts they'd rather leave behind.

After jilting his childhood sweetheart on the eve of their wedding in the small town where they both grew up, Henry runs away to London, planning to reinvent himself and start afresh.

Zoe has her own healing to do and so she plans to leave London, travel the world, and figure out just what it is she wants out of life. She doesn't know where she's going, but she is determined to go there alone.

If Henry and Zoe had met one year ago, perhaps things could have worked out differently. But that's not the way it works; they meet seven months after their worlds have been turned upside down. And four months before Zoe is due to climb on a plane..."

Rating: 3.5/5

This was an intriguing book from the beginning. I have to confess. I have read Andy Jones' debut novel which I thoroughly enjoyed, and was pleased when I was sent his second book to review from his publishers. The storyline sounded interesting, and once I began reading, I enjoyed what I read. Whilst the story was enjoyable and I liked what I read, I was left wholly unsatisfied as the book plodded on to its conclusion, and finished feeling a bit deflated if I'm honest, which was a shame as the rest of the story seemed so promising.

The first thing I have to say about Henry and Zoe is that I just didn't feel like there was a lot of chemistry between them if I'm honest. I really disliked Henry from the beginning thanks to his actions, and it took quite a large bit of the book for him to redeem himself, and even then, I wasn't sure it was for the right reasons. Zoe on the other hand, I did feel sorry for. Her circumstances were entirely out of her control and although some of the things she said felt wrong and a bit out of place, her situation was sad and I did sympathise with her.

The writing style is good, and the narrative flits between Henry and Zoe, giving us both character's opinions on the situation, as well as a chance to see their lives through their eyes, and of course each other's too. The book moves at a good pace, moving on quickly from the events at the beginning of the book, but not shying away from dealing with the fallout, especially from what Henry did, and the lasting effect it had on his family also. Jones was easily able to tap into both character's perspectives, both male and female, and I felt he tackled the emotional issues of the book really well, and didn't shy away from the more emotional scenes in the book either.

As I mentioned, my main problem was with the ending, and what happened there, which is a shame as I became quite invested in the novel throughout the book, and was hoping for a definitive ending. However, I just felt it didn't deliver and for me, the ending fell flat. I don't know about you, but I liked my books to come to a complete ending, where I feel I can leave the characters behind in their world, with their story all finished. I didn't get that feeling here, I felt Henry and Zoe had more to do, and were being left behind by the ending of the book.

Overall, this was an enjoyable story and I enjoyed Andy Jones' writing, the pace of the book and the characters. The whole thing felt very realistic, with people not necessarily behaving how they perhaps should do, and going through their own troubles, and dealing with them in different ways. Maybe it was just me who was unsatisfied by the end, but other than that, I really enjoyed the read. I'll definitely be looking forward to reading more from Andy Jones.

Book Review: Not Just for Christmas by Alex Brown

"Kitty, who runs the Spotted Pig Tea-rooms in the picturesque village of Tindledale, thinks she's come to terms with her husband Ed’s death on active duty. When she learns that Ed’s army dog, a black Labrador named Monty, is being retired and needs rehoming, it awakens her heartache once more.

Amber runs the pet parlour, but her love of dogs extends to rescuing abandoned pooches and now her tiny cottage is overflowing with homeless hounds. The only answer is to open a proper rescue centre but where will the money come from?

Kitty knows she could never take on Monty – it would be too painful, but with more than one dog needing a home this Christmas, is a miracle too much to hope for? "

Rating: 5/5

You can buy the book now!

I absolutely adore Alex Brown's 'Tindledale' series, so when I found out that Alex was bringing out a new Christmas short story set in that very fictional village, I jumped at the chance of reviewing it, keen to be back with some familar faces once more! Although it is a short story, it didn't feel it - I felt like I was really getting into it, and didn't want it to end! I really hope that we will be going back to Tindledale again after this outing, this was just a perfect festive read!

Those who have read Alex's previous Tindledale books will recognise a few of the characters in this book, but don't worry too much if you haven't read any of the earlier books because this works well as a stand-alone festive treat anyway! If you've read the earlier books, you'll certainly remember Kitty who owns the tea shop in the village. She's a character I have wanted to know more about for a while, so it was great to hear more about her story too. She's a widow and single mother after her husband was killed at war, a real hero. She's since raised their daughter alone, and seems happy to everyone looking in. But when a face from their past makes a surprise reappearance, Kitty is forced to face some demons she had long ago buried.

The subject of this book isn't an easy one for some to read -  a soldier dying, leaving behind a wife and child, and them having to live with an uncertain future without him. It was very emotional in parts, I certainly cried quite a few times reading this, but for me it was very much worth the read. Yes, it is emotional and hard-hitting but ultimately uplifting and beautifully written. The story sees the return of Kitty's husband dog, who served alongside him in the war. She struggles to deal with his reappearance, this link to her husband who is also traumatised by what he has seen. The struggle that follows is heart-wrenching but also wonderful, as Kitty tries her hardest to help Monty intergrate into her family again.

Mack, one of Kitty's old friends and colleague to her husband, also shows up in her life again, and it just seems a lot for Kitty to deal with all at once. I felt the emotion of this rage all the way through, and loved how powerfully Alex Brown has written this particular storyline. As well as this story, there is also another resident who runs an animal shelter, and is on hand to help an unsure Kitty out with her new pet. As well as this, however, Amber is determined to find a bigger, better facility for all the animals she has adopted, and is determined to raise funds herself for the project.

It was great to see flashes of familiar characters we have met in the previous books, to see what they are up to now, and that Tindledale is as close knit a community as it ever was! I love how the village pulls together in a time of need or celebration, I wish I lived somewhere like it! While this was a short story, I didn't find it lacking in any way, and certainly did not want it to end. It was very emotional, it made me cry and tugged at my heartstrings but had enough festivities within to keep me smiling and wanting to reach the end for a (hopefully) happy ending. It's an emotional plot. but one that is delicately tackled by the author, and her vivid descriptions of Tindledale and its residents are simply wonderful. I hope to revisit the village again soon, and this is definitely a must-read on your Christmas list!

Book Review: Mistletoe on 34th Street by Lisa Dickenson

"Olivia has never experienced a snow-covered, 'traditional' Christmas before. Having grown up in a family that chose winter sun over decking the halls, she's not sure what all the fuss is about. So when she and her co-workers are stranded in New York after a work trip, Olivia is perfectly happy spending the holiday season in The Big Apple.

John, Olivia's friend, on the other hand is so upset and is desperate to get home in time for his big family get-together. Nevertheless, determined to make the best out of the situation he sets out to show Olivia how enchanting Christmas in New York can be. And when she adds handsome New Yorker Elijah into the mix, could the magic of the season finally be working its charm on Olivia? As December 25th draws closer, Olivia suddenly finds herself with a decision to make: who does she really want to kiss under the mistletoe this Christmas?"

Rating: 5/5

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This is the second festive read I have read by Lisa Dickenson so far, and my goodness was this a brilliant book! Having been lucky enough to spend Christmas in New York in 2005 (well, the middle of December for a week, so close enough!), so I absolutely love reading books set there at this time of year, they always bring back such amazing memories and I love being able to picture the things mentioned in my mind! Lisa Dickenson's books always manage to make me laugh, and that was no exception with this book too!

Olivia finally is given some responsibility at work, leading her team on a special work trip to New York City to try and help her boss' business grow while she is holed up at home with a broken leg. Olivia is sure she can make a success of it, and is thrilled that her long time friend John has made it over to NYC too. But when the group find themselves stranded thanks to a freak snowstorm in England which has grounded all flights, Olivia decides to make the most of it and explore the magical city at Christmastime.

I loved everything about this book. I loved the characters, the setting, the friendships, the sights - everything was brilliantly written and it was truly a joy to read from start to finish. I loved seeing Olivia step up to the plate and manage what was a mammoth mission all by herself, coercing her team into working their hardest for her, and then managing everything once their plans to get home before Christmas went out of the window too. She seemed a bit like superwoman to me, juggling everything and pretty much making everything work one way or another! I loved her, and would love to see Olivia in another story!

John, Olivia's friend was another great character, and I loved the genuine friendship that the pair had. He seemed so keen to show his friend around the city, and then to get home to his family for their traditional Christmas, but made the best of it when it appeared that wasn't possible. In fact, I loved the ensemble cast of Olivia's colleagues, who we get to see more of as they are all stranded in New York together. There was a character there for everyone; an office romance, a young girl keen to get home to spend Christmas with her boyfriend, and the typical colleague who didn't really want to associate with anyone! It made for fun reading, and I loved finding out how they all dealt with the issues.

The setting of New York was of course perfect, and I loved reading about it from Olivia's point of view, excitedly visiting the sights, feeling the thrill of seeing everything for the first time all dressed for Christmas, from Rockefeller to the Empire State Building. Even if you haven't been, everyone has seen these things on TV or online so we can all imagine how amazing it is. Although there was a bit of unhappiness along the way, and Olivia needing to open her eyes and see people's true colours (I wish she had been a bit more with it and realised what was really going on!), it was a brilliant read and I loved it from beginning to end. I laughed a LOT reading this book, Dickenson's writing flows so well and is genuinely funny, and she brings the whole things to life with ease. A truly brilliant, magical festive read, I can't recommend it enough!

20 December 2016

Book Review: A Winter Affair by Minna Howard

"With a recent divorce and empty nest Eloise Brandon is facing Christmas alone until a harried phone call from her godfather changes everything. 

Accepting his challenge, Eloise finds herself en-route to Verbier and to her godfathers chalet in the beautiful Swiss Alps to help cater for some seriously rich, high rolling guests. 

What ensues makes it a Christmas to remember. A heady alpine mixture of old friends, ex-husbands, mega-rich, super demanding guests, a dishevelled proprietor and Bert the dog."

Rating: 4/5

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I stumbled across this eBook whilst browsing Netgalley one day, and thought it looked like a great Christmas type read, full of snow, romance and a lovely setting to boot. I hadn't read anything by Minna Howard before, so went into this without any preconceptions. I did enjoy the story, there was lots going on, and although I found it lacked pace in parts, I found the story charming, and will definitely be looking out for more from Minna Howard.

Eloise isn't exactly thrilled at spending the festive season on her own, now her marriage has ended and her teenage twins are off exploring the world together, keen to get their own experiences. So, when she is offered the opportunity to work as a chef to help out an old family friend for the Christmas period, in Verbier no less, she jumps at the chance. She isn't sure that her old friend realises she isn't exactly a qualified chef, but sets her mind to making the best food that she can for her discerning customers. With the glorious Swiss Alps, skiing, old friends and cooking up a storm, what could possibly go wrong for Eloise?

Although I haven't been lucky enough to visit Verbier, or anywhere in the Alps to be honest, I feel like I know a little bit about it as I have read quite a few books set there in my time. It sounds glorious, and I could see why Eloise would be pleased to go back there, even if there are some memories there that might evoke a few emotions within her. Howard writes Verbier beautifully - it sounds idyllic, with its snow covered cabins, pistes, shops and people everywhere, looking forward to embracing everything that the resort has to offer. I enjoyed being there whilst I was reading, and felt Howard did an excellent job of bringing the place to life.

Eloise was a great leading lady, I felt quite a few people reading this might be able to relate to her and her situation - suddenly on her own at a time in her life she thought things would probably slow down and she could enjoy her marriage once more. I did feel sorry for her, contemplating spending Christmas alone, with her children, but was pleased she was offered a better opportunity. The other characters in the book were great too, I especially liked the owner of the chalet Jacaranda, called Lawrence - he seemed quite uptight and a bit abrupt but I hoped that Eloise would be able to calm him down and coax a friendship of sorts out of him. Lawrence's son was also a great addition to the book, and I enjoyed the relationship he had with Eloise.

My only niggle about this book was that I felt it dragged in parts for me. It became a little too bogged down in description, and I wanted the action to move on a bit, to find something to get my interest going again as I felt parts of it lingered too long where not enough was going on. There was a bit of a drama involving some of the guests, but I couldn't bring myself to care that much about them - they seemed quite rich, snobby and frankly, quite rude to Eloise so I couldn't muster up much sympathy. All of a sudden though, things picked up and hurtled towards a finish - I'd have preferred it to be a little quicker throughout the book and perhaps slow down a little more towards the end!

Overall, though, this was a very enjoyable festive read, and it's great if you want to read something that'll help you escape, even if just for a short while. Sit back, relax and transport yourself away to the snowy slopes of Verbier, and read about Eloise working her socks off this Christmas! Enjoyable, and recommended.

11 December 2016

Book Review: Christmas Under a Cranberry Sky by Holly Martin

"This year spend a wonderful Christmas on Juniper Island, where love can melt even the iciest of hearts… 

Piper Chesterfield lives a glamorous life travelling the world and reviewing the finest hotels. She calls nowhere home, she works alone and that’s how she likes it. For long ago Piper decided that to protect her heart she should lock it away. 

So when Piper’s next assignment brings her to the newly opened Stardust Lake Hotel for the festive season, the last person she expects to face is Gabe Whitaker, the man who broke her heart so completely she could never love again. 

But Piper isn’t the only one who has been frozen in time by heartbreak. Gabe hasn’t forgotten the golden-eyed girl who disappeared from his world without a trace. 

Now fate has reunited them on Juniper island, can the magic of Christmas heal old wounds? And can this enchanting town be the one place Piper can finally call home? "

Rating: 5/5

Another exciting book I have been lucky enough to review this year is the start of Holly Martin's new mini festive series, and this, Christmas Under a Cranberry Sky is the first such book. Firstly, I have to compliment the book cover designers, because this a truly beautiful cover and really made me want to read the book straight away! Holly's writing is always very enjoyable, and this book was no different, I loved everything about it and am eagerly looking forward to reading the second book!

Piper is a hotel reviewer, and when she is assigned to review a new hotel in Scotland over Christmas she jumps at the chance. The Stardust Lake Hotel seems completely magical, with its gorgeous log cabins, festive setting and abundance of snow and joy. But what Piper doesn't count on is that fact that the boss of this new hotel is her first love, Gabe, who broke her heart many years ago, and Piper has never been able to get past that. With the pair of Juniper Island together for the festive season, will they be able to put the past behind them or is Piper about to start her own Christmas miracle?

The one thing that angers me is when publishers advertise a book with a Christmassy cover and the contents don't deliver - luckily it wasn't the case at all for this book - this was by far the most Christmassy book I think I have ever had the pleasure of reading! Everything, from the setting to the characters and the descriptions within were perfect, and I thoroughly enjoyed every part of this story. The book dives straight in introducing us to Piper and her job, but takes a little while to reveal the secret of what happened in the past to Gabe and Piper to have her heart broken.

As the story progresses and the pair try to put things behind them, I was really hoping that they would have their happy ever after because they seemed like such a perfect couple. Gabe was a true gentleman, I could see why Piper fell for him all those years ago, and he seemed like the perfect boss to boot - what more could you want?! A young character called Wren was another highlight for me - she reminded me a lot of the children I work with, especially with that Christmas excitement that all young children inherently have - I adored the scenes with her in, and Holly Martin has written her brilliantly.

The Christmas feeling is truly here throughout this book, and I wish Juniper Island was a real place that I could go and visit for Christmas - it sounds just perfect. I loved everything, from the gorgeous cabins, to the reindeers they have on site, to the shops that are within the locals' homes. It was idyllic and Holly's descriptions brought them so much to life, I actually felt like I was there when I was reading, and just didn't want to stop. This book was utterly brilliant and I didn't want it to end, even though I knew there was a second installment coming, which follows Gabe's sister who we originally meet in this book, but I'm curious to read more of her story! A wonderful read for Christmas that I can't recommend highly enough!

10 December 2016

Book Review: A Christmas Day at the Office by Matt Dunn

"One office, five lives, on the most romantic day of the year.

One Christmas party. Two merging companies. Free-flowing champagne. What could possibly go wrong?

With her new billionaire boss in town, Sophie’s determined to swap the No-Jobs she meets on Tinder for her very own Steve Jobs. But will looking like a million dollars be enough to kick-start a Fifty Shades adventure?

A ring in his pocket and dressed to kill, Calum’s planning to get down on one knee. Though if Mia doesn’t say ‘yes’, he’s not sure he’ll ever get back up.

Julie’s got a surprise for Mark—though it’s something she’s not even sure she wants. Meanwhile, Mark’s got another choice to make: the love of his life, or the opportunity of a lifetime?

With his job on the line, and the ex who broke his heart back on the scene, Nathan’s day is becoming a nightmare. But he’s about to meet the woman of his dreams.

This year’s office Christmas party should be a night to remember—but for five of Seek Software’s employees, it might be one they’d sooner forget."

Rating: 4/5

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I am a huge Matt Dunn fan, so when I found out he had a new festive book coming, and one that was a sequel to a book I had hugely enjoyed ( A Day at the Office), I couldn't wait to review it! Luckily, it was the time of year where I felt I could enjoy a Christmassy read, and so dove in, ready for a brilliant read. I have to confess that I hadn't hugely remembered much from the previous book as it had been a while, but I soon found my involved in the story, reading on and finding out what was going to happen at the Christmas party!

 There's a merger going on between two companies, and it's making everyone feel a little unsettled, especially at Christmas. Calum is planning on proposing to his girlfriend Mia at the party, but desperately wants her to not reject him. Will he go through with his bold plans? Julie and Mark, colleagues who have been dating on the sly, are about to get a Christmas present they never expected - are they both ready for the next step? Nathan is single, and isn't sure how to feel when his ex reappears in his life - can he keep away from his past? And finally there's Sophie, who is determined to live it up and enjoy every second of the party, perhaps bagging herself a millionaire in the process!

This book was brilliant from start to finish, and I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. I loved that it took place in such a short space of time, it didn't feel at all slow or dragged out as I read it, instead it felt like I was with these people, going through the work day before the dreaded Christmas party. I loved having so many characters to follow as well, all with their own stories, wondering what their own Christmas was going to be like this year, and whether or not they would be happy with the changes at work after the takeover goes through.

My favourite characters were Julie and Mark, both in higher up positions at their company, and both are wanting to keep their relationship a bit quiet from the other staff to remain professional. But I loved the twists in their story, how they misinterpreted each others wishes despite us knowing both secretly want the same thing, they're just a bit scared to admit it! I love the funny relief of Sophie's story as well, sure that turning up pimped and preened in a tight dress will bag her a billionaire and a ready-made happy ever after! There was certainly a character or a story here to hook everyone in, and I enjoyed following them all.

The party itself takes place near the end of the book, and was a fun read too, with lots of different things happening and keeping you on your toes as a reader, never quite knowing what was going to happen next. Sophie's story gave me lots of laughs in this part, I was hoping Nathan would find happiness here and the book chugs along to a nice conclusion, leaving me feeling festive and with a big smile on my face. Matt Dunn balances the more serious stories easily with the funnier, more light-hearted ones, and cleverly links these characters and their tales together through the common link of their jobs. I sat and read this pretty much in one sitting, it was a great read, and I can't wait to read more from Matt Dunn, definitely one to recommend over the festive season!