Tuesday, 1 December 2015

Never Kiss a Man in a Christmas Jumper by Debbie Johnson

"You’ve seen Mark Darcy in the reindeer jumper his mother gave him, now meet Marco Cavelli in this season’s Christmas knit!
For single mum Maggie, Christmas has always been a family occasion – her daughter Ellen filling the house with her bubbly warmth and mistletoe, her dad Paddy having one too many festive tipples, and the traditional family Christmas tree looking like a drunken elf vomited a rainbow all over it.
But this year, with both Ellen and Paddy away for the holidays, Maggie’s facing a truly blue Christmas – alone with nothing but a bottle of Baileys and an M&S turkey dinner.
Until walking the snowy streets of Oxford, Marco Cavelli quite literally crashes into her life – and, complete with broken leg, becomes her unexpected houseguest. All dreamy brown eyes and 6’5” of gorgeousness, the man is hotter and more delicious than a freshly baked mince pie.
Though Maggie always thought it’s a truth universally acknowledged that you never kiss a man in a Christmas jumper?"

Having adored Debbie Johnson's Cold Feet last Christmas (review here), I was delighted to be offered the chance to read Debbie's latest offering.  Debbie Johnson is back with a vengeance so I was far from disappointed.  I had not realised that we were going to get to meet some old friends as well as new ones and this made my day!  In Never Kiss a Man in a Christmas Jumper, we get a visit from Rob and Leah, and Rob's twin brother Marco.  
Christmas really did come early, as Marco is just as delightful as Rob was in Cold Feet.  Absolutely delighted I was.  Having left Cold Feet wondering if any man could ever come close to Rob, I have discovered that his twin brother Marco can.  Debbie, please tell me that Rob and Marco have a mysterious and long lost triplet who is desperate to meet a girl called Kirsty....
Never Kiss a Man in a Christmas Jumper is a story of fate, love and learning to let your barriers down and let people get close to you.  I was instantly addicted and fell back into the utter adoration that Debbie creates so effortlessly.  My heart longed for Marco to crash through Maggie's barriers (in a similar way to the way he came crashing into her life) and drag her into his hospital bed.
Debbie has the most incredible way with words; she creates the sort of chemistry on a page that most of us can only dream of.  The story itself is genuinely really different - it is simple yet effective; it would make a cracking Christmas movie!
My only complaint is that it was over far too soon and as usual, Debbie leaves me longing for more!  Who needs Bridget Jones and Mark Darcy this Christmas when you can have Marco and Maggie.  

Never Kiss a Man in a Christmas Jumper is out NOW and I highly recommend you get yourself a copy in time for Christmas and a copy for every book lover you know:

Sunday, 29 November 2015

Little Beach Street Bakery and Summer at the Little Beach Street Bakery by Jenny Colgan

Little Beach Street Bakery

"Polly Waterford is recovering from a toxic relationship. Unable to afford their flat, she has to move miles away from everyone, to a sleepy little seaside resort in Cornwall, where she lives alone above an abandoned shop.
And so Polly takes out her frustrations on her favourite hobby: making bread. But what was previously a weekend diversion suddenly becomes far more important as she pours her emotions into kneading and pounding the dough, and each loaf becomes better and better. With nuts and seeds, olives and chorizo, with local honey (courtesy of local bee keeper, Huckle), and with reserves of determination and creativity Polly never knew she had, she bakes and bakes and bakes . . . And people start to hear about it. 
Sometimes, bread really is life . . . And Polly is about to reclaim hers."

Summer at the Little Beach Street Bakery

"Summer has arrived in the Cornish town of Mount Polbearne and Polly Waterford couldn't be happier. Because Polly is in love: she's in love with the beautiful seaside town she calls home, she's in love with running the bakery on Beach Street, and she's in love with her boyfriend, Huckle. 
And yet there's something unsettling about the gentle summer breeze that's floating through town. Selina, recently widowed, hopes that moving to Mount Polbearne will ease her grief, but Polly has a secret that could destroy her friend's fragile recovery. Responsibilities that Huckle thought he'd left behind are back and Polly finds it hard to cope with his increasingly long periods of absence. 
Polly sifts flour, kneads dough and bakes bread, but nothing can calm the storm she knows is coming: is Polly about to lose everything she loves?"

I started to read the Little Beach Street Bakery and it instantly became apparent that there was a first book.  I wanted desperately to read it first, for fear of missing out on anything really, and I am so glad that I did.  The Little Beach Street Bakery allows you to fall in love over and over again and it is one of my favourites of 2015!  Although not necessary, I would really recommend reading the books in order rather than delving straight into the most recent.

Jenny Colgan transports you instantly to every location of these books; the imagery is fantastic.  I loved the very first puffin scene more than anything and they just get cuter and cuter.  

I have to admit, I think I preferred Little Beach Street Bakery as it was so special.  However, it was lovely to catch up with Polly and the others in the follow up.  The trouble with reading one straight after the other is the second book does have quite a lot of 'repeats' as Jenny makes sure you haven't missed out on anything if you haven't read the first book or gives you a gentle reminder if its been a while since you read the first.  I found this slowed the pace down slightly, detracting from the enjoyment to a degree as it interrupts you immersing yourself in the story.

Having read both Little Beach Street Bakery and Summer at the Little Beach Street Bakery, I feel like I have lived a whole lifetime with Polly but it simply isn't enough.  I miss her, I miss Neil, I miss Polbearne....Jenny, can we have a return visit anytime soon?

A magical book, packed full of sadness and hope and reasons to live your dream... These books would make lovely relaxing holiday reads!

Both Little Beach Street Bakery and Summer at the Little Beach Street Bakery are out now.  You can grab yourself copies here:



Friday, 2 October 2015

Love You Better by Natalie K Martin

"After a soul-destroying breakup with her ex, Smith, Effie Abbott has met the man of her dreams. She’s had the whirlwind romance and the fairy-tale wedding to the charming and suave Oliver Barton-Cole, and life seems firmly back on track.

Things were never simple between Smith and Effie, so when he forces his way back into her life, Effie knows he’s a complication she doesn’t want or need. After all, she has Oliver, a man who loves her better than Smith ever did.

But when cracks in her marriage begin to emerge and Oliver shows flashes of a darker side, Effie has to question just how well she really knows her husband, and whether Smith is back to derail her seemingly perfect marriage or save her from it."

Love You Better is a light read, despite its serious undertones, which I read in one sitting.  It was an enjoyable book, although I have to admit that I enjoyed the latter part more than the beginning which I found slightly repetitive and laboured in places, as various points are covered and then reinforced for the reader on more than one occasion and to be honest they were drilled home more than I would have liked.

The book tackles domestic violence and I thought it was well covered.  It also deals with a difficult mother-daughter relationship, growing up in unconventional places and without a father and the mistakes that people make as they grow up even when they are truly in love.  True love is never easy but how well can you ever really know someone?

I particularly loved the relationship between Effie and Smith from the moment Smith stepped onto the page and this really made the book what it was for me.    I also really enjoyed the bonding which Effie and her mother finally get to do.

Love You Better might not be the most unpredictable book ever; for me, the ending was inevitable, but it was an ending which I enjoyed revelling in when it arrived.  A promising romantic tale from Natalie K Martin.

Thank you to Leanne at Midas PR and Lake Union Publishing for the review copy in exchange for an honest review.

Love You Better was released on 1 October and is available to buy now:


Wednesday, 30 September 2015

The Lake by Sheena Lambert

"A gripping murder mystery, with a compelling family drama at its heart.

September 1975.

A body is discovered in the receding waters of a manmade lake, and for Peggy Casey, 23-year-old landlady of The Angler’s Rest, nothing will ever be the same.

Detective Sergeant Frank Ryan is dispatched from Dublin, and his arrival casts an uneasy spotlight on the damaged history of the valley, and on the difficult relationships that bind Peggy and her three older siblings.

Over the course of the weekend, Detective Ryan’s investigation will not only uncover the terrible truth behind the dead woman’s fate, but will also expose the Casey family’s deepest secrets.

Secrets never meant to be revealed."

The Lake is gripping in an understated sort of way; I knew there is a mystery that needed unraveling and I knew what that mystery was but that was where the clues ended.  The interactions between the characters kept me interested but it was not until the shocking outcome was revealed that I realised I had travelled from A to B without even knowing how I had gotten there.  

This is not the sort of murder mystery where you are constantly watching for clues that the author might choose to drip feed you.  Instead, you get totally caught up in the lives and dramas of the Casey family and the mystery body and the murder investigation takes second place to the lives of the people of Crumm.  

Lambert portrays rural Ireland well and I felt like I had been in the pub with Peggy and her three older siblings and taken a walk down to the lake with Detective Ryan myself.

The Lake is only a short book but it is special.  In the same way that Ireland grasps the hearts of those with Irish blood in their veins - you step off the plane and instantly feel like you're home and feel like you have never been away regardless of how long you are been gone - The Lake has that comforting feeling of familiarity.  I didn't feel like I had to get to know the characters but felt immediately at home in their presence.  

It takes some special writing to pull off a novel set over the course of a long weekend and set almost entirely in the pub but Sheena Lambert manages it with complete and utter ease.  I look forward to reading more of Sheena Lambert in the future!

Thank you again to Margaret Madden of Bleach House Library for the chance to discover Sheena Lambert and a special thank you to Sheena Lambert for doubling the prize by sending me a copy of two of your books and then adding an extra sparkle of magic by signing them both!

The Lake is out now and you can purchase it here (prices correct at time of writing:


Saturday, 26 September 2015

Letting You Go by Anouska Knight

"What if a tragedy occurred and you only had yourself to blame? How do you move on from the past?

Alex Foster lives a quiet life, avoiding the home she hasn’t visited in eight years. Then her sister Jaime calls. Their mother is sick, and Alex must return. Suddenly she’s plunged back into the past she’s been trying to escape.

Returning to her hometown, memories of the tragic accident that has haunted her and her family are impossible to ignore. Alex still blames herself for what happened to her brother and it’s soon clear that her father holds her responsible too. As Alex struggles to cope, can she ever escape the ghosts of the past?"

I absolutely adored this book.  It reminded me somewhat of The Little Flower Shop by the Sea by Ali McNamara as both books have a young woman returning  to a place from her past which not only is tinged by tragedy but has also haunted them ever since they left.

When Alex hears the news of her mother's ill health, she realises that she has no option but to face her past.  Now, whilst Alex's past is not a walk in the park, there is a part of it which is absolutely dreamy...From the moment Finn stepped onto the page, I found myself with a massive grin on my face.

Yet, at the same time, this book is packed full of sadness.  I loved the variety of characters which we met along the way (especially the little ones!) and it had me blubbing away like a baby on more than one occasion.  

It rapidly became clear that the Foster family have bundles of secrets, straining to get out.  Now, whilst they appear obvious to the reader (and so this is not the sort of book that will keep you totally in the dark until the very end) not everything might be as it first seems and even if it is, it is a fabulous journey to be taken on, even if you do end up where you assumed you would.

The epilogue was my absolute favourite epilogue ever; what an absolutely perfect ending to an absolutely fabulous book.

Thank you to Eve Wersocki at Midas PR for the review copy of Letting You Go; an absolute stunner.  Letting You Go is out now and, along with Lorraine Kelly, I highly recommend you get yourself a copy, which you can buy from Amazon here:


Thursday, 17 September 2015

Little Girl Gone by Alexandra Burt

"**Get ready for the next ‘must-have’ on your reading list. GONE GIRL meets THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN in this stunning, unsettling psychological thriller.**

A baby goes missing. But does her mother want her back?

When Estelle’s baby daughter is taken from her cot, she doesn’t report her missing. Days later, Estelle is found in a wrecked car, with a wound to her head and no memory.

Estelle knows she holds the key to what happened that night – but what she doesn’t know is whether she was responsible…"

Publishers are starting to bat around the comparisons to Gone Girl and The Girl on the Train like there is no tomorrow, and it is a dangerous game to play.  However, on this occasion, it works as this book is absolutely up there with the best.  

I devoured Little Girl Gone as quickly as I could.  I started to read it on my commute to work, and suddenly going to work became really inconvenient as I couldn't pick the book up again until I commuted home again! 

Little Girl Gone is addictive from the very start and that addictiveness is maintained for the most part throughout, in a way that other books of this genre do not necessarily manage.  For example, I Let You Go by Clare Mackintosh (which I loved and highly recommend) was gripping at the start but then lets the reader take a step back for some time before the first twist hits you in the face.  However, Little Girl Gone never lets up on the grip that it has on you; I had absolutely no idea who I could trust or where this story was going to end up and must have changed my mind a hundred times as to what I thought was going to happen.  

There was a part towards the middle of the book where the addictiveness loosened its grasp on me as frustration started to creep in.  Frustration that I was so much further forward in the book but seemed to have made no progress whatsoever as to what happened on the night that Mia went missing.  Just when you think you can't take the tension and suspense anymore, things start to unravel but are those things true or are they figments of Estelle's imagination?

Little Girl Gone reminded me in a way of The Spider in the Corner of the Room by Nikki Owen, as it left me without an inkling as to whether what I was hearing from Estelle was the scary truth or pure fiction.

An incredibly well written book from Alexandra Burt and a debut - how does she do it!  The characters are perfect; a sleep-deprived mother left to cope by herself whilst a distant father tries to make enough money to keep the family afloat.  The judgmental strangers around her as her newborn baby cries in a way that babies do; without reason and without any known cure.  Is the mother as sane as any new mother can be or is she as crazy as everyone thinks?

You'll have to read the book to find out for yourself - #didshedoit?

Thank you to Avon Books for the copy of Little Girl Gone in exchange for an honest review.  Also, thank you Alexandra Burt for the response and clarifying your thinking on the last two pages of the book. 

Little Girl Gone is out on 24 September and you can pre-order your copy here now:


Friday, 28 August 2015

I Let You Go by Clare Mackintosh

"A tragic accident. It all happened so quickly. She couldn't have prevented it. Could she?

In a split second, Jenna Gray's world descends into a nightmare. Her only hope of moving on is to walk away from everything she knows to start afresh.

Desperate to escape, Jenna moves to a remote cottage on the Welsh coast, but she is haunted by her fears, her grief and her memories of a cruel November night that changed her life forever.

Slowly, Jenna begins to glimpse the potential for happiness in her future. But her past is about to catch up with her, and the consequences will be devastating..."

I was expecting big things from I Let You Go and whilst Part 1 was interesting, it meandered along for me but then, boy does it start to deliver.

I cannot tell you what aspects the book covers as I don't want to risk giving anything away which might spoil the fabulous journey that Mackintosh takes you on. However, I will say that those areas that are covered are done so with exceptional style. There are aspects which are brutally told but they ring true as opposed to great big alarm bells ringing to tell you this is entirely made up fiction. 

I recently read a book written by a criminal barrister and felt that was a highlight; someone who had written about what they know. The same can be said here as Mackintosh used to be a police officer and moved into CID herself. At the back of the book, there is a piece written about where the ingredients that created the cocktail, I Let You Go, were sourced from, which I really liked. There is only one point of the book, towards the very end, after everything comes to light, that I felt simply wasn't true to life and was there purely to allow there to be one last bit of drama. I can't say which bit as it will destroy the story for you. It didn't put me off, and certainly didn't take any enjoyment of the book away, but I do feel it was there more for gratification purposes more than anything else. 

The thing I liked most about the first part of this book was the descriptions of Penfach and the beaches that begin to change Jenna's life. Oh, and perhaps Patrick the vet and Beau!

As Part 1 of the book draws to a close, the first twist hits you in the face. It's definitely a 'Gone Girl' style twist that will probably make you gasp. What follows is a gripping piece of fiction that will keep you guessing. I had all sorts of ridiculous theories flying around my head and I had to keep reminding myself to slow down and concentrate on the words on the page in front of me. My eyes couldn't devour the words quick enough and my brain tried desperately to process the information and deal with the constant shocks thrown at it. Ultimately, everything begins to make sense as all the pieces that had been drip fed to you throughout clamber together as though someone has held a magnet to the page. 

The only thing I didn't really like was the epilogue. It kind of worked but didn't quite fit with the brilliance of the rest of the novel. 

I have seen reviews complain that the only reason the twists and shocks are possible are because key information, known to the characters in advance (as opposed to something which just happens to them along the way), is held back from the reader and that the reader is therefore 'played'. I didn't feel that at all. Yes, it's true that the reader is not aware of certain information but that is what makes the book (surely?!). There are plenty of books around that work like this; threads run parallel to each other and it's not until they overlap that the reader can necessarily connect the two or more and put together the bigger picture. Without the 'withholding of information' there wouldn't be a book to speak of. And more to the point, the reader is fully aware that there is more to the story than meets the eye so I personally don't see the problem. 

I Let You Go is compared to Gone Girl and The Girl on the Train on the back cover and I can certainly see why. Fans of these two books would definitely enjoy this and for me it was certainly up there with the best. For me, more gripping than The Girl on the Train.

An absolutely outstanding debut novel. It's not often I struggle to move on and pick up another book to start but I Let You Go leaves me wondering what I could possibly read that could comes close to comparing.

Thank you to the publisher for a copy of I Let You Go in exchange for an honest review.

I Let You Go is available now and I highly recommend you grab yourself a copy as soon as possible. The paperback is currently cheaper than the Kindle version on Amazon...


Sunday, 23 August 2015

The SW19 Club by Nicola May

"What would you do if you were told you could never have children

Faced with this news, Gracie Davies is at an all-time low. But with the support of some new Wimbledon friends, an unorthodox therapist, her hippy-chick sister Naomi and Czech call-girl Maya, she sets up The SW19 Club and begins her rocky journey to inner peace and happiness. 

Add in a passionate fling with handsome landscaper Ed, a fairytale encounter with a Hollywood filmstar and the persistence of her adulterous ex, life is anything but predictable…"

I first discovered Nicola May back in the day when she was a self-published author.  At the time, I commented that her writing was publishing house quality and that I was amazed she had not been picked up by one of the big publishers.  Well, finally, someone has had some sense - well done to both Accent Press and Nicola!

The SW19 Club might look, from its cover, like a walk in the park but it really is a rollercoaster ride of emotions.  It is packed full of heartbreak but is also an exceptionally uplifting read.  Although the subject matter is heartbreaking, focusing on miscarriage and the struggles to have children, it certainly is not a dark book that will leave you wallowing in misery.  

Whilst the prologue leads you into the powerful sadness of the book, it is short and then you instantly jump six months forward.  The underlying theme remains and becomes slightly more prominent, in the guise of the SW19 Club later in the book, but Nicola May has a fabulous style of writing and there are plenty of characters and other parts to the story that ultimately makes it quite a light read; as Gracie battles with her reality, she also meets new friends and fancies along the way.  I don't think I would mind being swept off my feet by a Hollywood filmstar ;)

The SW19 Club is clearly a book that is written from the heart.  The short and punchy chapters will keep you turning the pages and I did not find it predictable at all and was left waiting until the final moments to discover who, if anyone, Gracie would choose for her future and when it comes, it is perfect and left me with tears streaming down my face.

Thank you to Nicola for sending me a copy of The SW19 Club.  Congratulations again for your Accent Press contract.  

The SW19 Club is out NOW and it is a bargain on Kindle, at the date of this blog post, for only £2.99.


Tuesday, 4 August 2015

Take Me With You by Catherine Ryan Hyde

"Seth and his little brother Henry haven’t had the most stable of upbringings. Their father has been in and out of jail; their mother took off years ago and hasn't been seen since. Life is constantly uncertain - but a twist of fate could be just what they need.

August stopped drinking the day his son died. While on a journey that’s very close to his heart, a breakdown leaves him stranded in a small town and at the mercy of the local mechanic - Seth and Henry’s father.

But then August is presented with an offer he doesn't expect: take the two boys with him for the summer, and pay no charge for the repairs. 

As the unlikely trio set out on their road trip, the most unlikely, unforgettable friendship begins to take shape.

Take Me With You is a moving, thought-provoking story that fans of Jodi Picoult, Susan Lewis or Diane Chamberlain will love, or the perfect read for those looking for something special to curl up with."

Catherine Ryan Hyde is not an author I had come across before until this book dropped through my letterbox recently; thank you to Transworld/Black Swan for sending me the copy because without you I may never have stumbled across what turned out to be such a beautiful book.

In fact, the book was so beautiful that at the outset I found myself constantly wanting to cry and I knew early on that I would regret reading it in public on the train to work. Take Me With You is the sort of book that you need to set hours at a time aside to read because you will not want to put it down.

Quite simply, it is tender, endearing and the most touching, heartfelt book I have read in some time.

I liked the first part of the book the best when Seth and Henry are young and I wished we never had to leave this part of their lives. Then, just as you think it cannot get any more heartbreaking...it does. The final parts of the book bring everything together in a rewarding way and although I never wanted it to end, the ending is ultimately uplifting.

The places they visit and the sights they see are breathtaking but actually what outshines all of that is the relationships between August, Seth and Henry. Those relationships are just beautiful and my absolute favourite relationships were August and Henry (as a young boy) and the relationships with Woody!

Take Me With You is not just a story of August, Seth and Henry's literal journey across America but it is an emotional journey that will change each of their lives forever and it is a book that will stay with me long after I turned the last page.

Thank you to Transworld/Black Swan for sending me a copy of Take Me With You which is out NOW.

Friday, 31 July 2015

Death by Dangerous by Olly Jarvis

"Death by Dangerous is a compelling legal thriller set in Manchester and Bradford. 

John Anderson is one of the North West's most dedicated and successful prosecution barristers. His career is going from strength to strength and he is on the verge of becoming Queen's Counsel. But the life he once knew suddenly comes crashing down following a fatal road traffic accident...Recovering from his injuries, he has no memory of the collision. Was he responsible for the death of a child? Who was his female passenger? 

Facing charges of causing death by dangerous driving, the professional and personal life he once knew now lies in tatters. Depressed and taking refuge in alcohol, Anderson refuses, in the face of so many unanswered questions, to accept his guilt. He becomes convinced that the gangster he was prosecuting at the time of the crash is in some way involved. The mystery deepens as his search for the truth draws him into Manchester's sordid criminal underworld. 

Shunned by his former colleagues, Anderson finds help from an unlikely source, enabling him to confront his prejudices and re-evaluate his past life. He embarks on a journey of self-discovery and, ultimately, the path for his own redemption. Anderson knows that defeat means deliverance to a prison full of violent criminals he has prosecuted over the years. He now has to find the strength to fight the most important trial of his life."

Death by Dangerous is an incredible fictional debut from Olly Jarvis and moments after turning the last page I am already desperate for him to release his next book. 

This book is a fast-paced legal thriller. Olly Jarvis is a criminal barrister - he has written about what he knows and his experiences have culminated in an intoxicating adrenalin-fuelled rollercoaster ride.

There are "mystery chapters" interspersed with the main thread and I was completely in the dark until the final pages when all becomes clear and every piece of the jigsaw fits perfectly in to place.  The ultimate answer is drip-fed to you in an exciting series of twists and the odd rogue clue dropped in to lead you up the wrong path but eventually the full story unravels. When it does, there isn't a sense that anything has been missed or forgotten and the ending could easily lead into a second book or a series following John Anderson. 

Ultimately the story should make you stop and think; how appearances and relationships can be deceptive, how your life can change in the blink of an eye and how terrifyingly difficult it could be to come back from that change. 

Death by Dangerous is an addictive read - every time I was forced to stop, I found myself desperate to read just one more chapter (although it never was just one more).  The writing is superb (as you would expect from a barrister) and you won't be able to turn the pages fast enough.  I cannot wait to see what Olly Jarvis releases next!

Death by Dangerous is OUT NOW!

Thank you to Sarah Taylor at Troubador Publishing for a review copy of Death by Dangerous in exchange for my honest review.