16 January 2017

Book Review: From Rome With Love by Jules Wake

"If you can’t stand the heat…

Rome is the city of love and seduction, right? Not if you find yourself staying in a beautiful apartment with your childhood-friend-turned-arch-enemy, Will Ryan…no matter how hot he is!

Romance is the last thing on Lisa’s mind. She’s got more important things to focus on, like hunting down her estranged father. Except when her search falls at the first hurdle, Will doesn’t just help her get back on track, he also shares the romantic sights – and exquisite tastes – of the Eternal City, and Lisa starts to wonder if it’s not just Rome seducing her.

Only, as Lisa and Will dig into the past, neither of them is prepared for the long-buried secrets they reveal. Secrets that will turn both their world’s upside down …"

Rating: 5/5

I was thrilled to be asked to kick off Jules Wake's blog tour for her brand new book From Rome With Love. I've read most of Jules' books before and loved them, so was excited to get stuck into reading this one. I love the cover, it looks summery and certainly entices you into wanting to read it. When I began reading, I realised several of these characters have popped up before in Jules' other books, and it was lovely to catch up with Siena, Laurie, Cam and co again!

This time, however, we follow the story of Lisa, who is determined to go to Rome to locate her father to return a family heirloom after the death of her mother. However, all Lisa knows about him is that he didn't bother asking her to live with him once her mother died, and all she has is an old photo with an address that is decades old. Instead, she hops on a plane with her Italian friend Giovanni, and another local Will, who owns the pub and is opening his own restaurant. The pair have a bit of a past so Lisa isn't thrilled he's hijacked her holiday. But will she be able to find her father in Rome, and can Lisa and Will admit there's more than a little attraction between them?

I really enjoyed this story from the beginning. I liked Lisa straight away. She's grown up with grandmother who isn't the easiest woman to get along with, and I certainly felt Lisa's frustration and love towards her grandmother through the entire book - despite the many arguments the pair had you could really feel the love that they had for each other. Lisa's relationship with Will however was a bit more complicated but I really enjoyed that story unfolding and seeing the friendship between them blossom while they were in Rome together.

Jules Wake has clearly done her research when it comes to Rome because she describes is so beautifully throughout the book. I haven't been lucky enough to visit Rome myself but I loved reading about it, from the famous tourist hotspots such as the Spanish Steps, the Colosseum and the Trevi fountain, to the small Italian cafe's that Lisa and Will frequent, and the other places they travel to research Italian food and drink for Will's restaurant. I found Wake's descriptions to be really vivid, and I loved seeing these things through Lisa's eyes because she was so excited about everything to do with Rome, her enthusiasm was catching!

As well as the holiday to Rome, there was the more serious storyline of Lisa trying to track down her father. There were a few twists and turns along the way, it couldn't all be plain sailing for Lisa of course, and there was a bit of a shocking conclusion to that too which had me really surprised! It set up Lisa's return to the UK and the return of a few characters too which was nice to see. Overall, this was a really enjoyable read from Jules Wake, and there's not a lot I can fault about this book at all! I loved the characters, the setting, there was some humour and a storyline that kept you wanting to read on until the last page! Highly recommended!

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!