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.

Tuesday, 28 July 2015

Summer at Tiffany's by Karen Swan

"A wedding to plan. A wedding to stop. What could go wrong?

Cassie loves Henry. Henry loves Cassie. With a Tiffany ring on her finger, all that Cassie has left to do is plan the wedding. It should be so simple but when Henry pushes for a date, Cassie pulls back.

Henry's wild, young cousin, Gem, has no such hesitations and is racing to the aisle at a sprint, determined to marry in the Cornish church where her parents were wed. But the family is set against it, and Cassie resolves to stop the wedding from going ahead.

When Henry lands an expedition sailing the Pacific for the summer, Cassie decamps to Cornwall, hoping to find the peace of mind she needs to move forwards. But in the dunes and coves of the northern Cornish coast, she soon discovers the past isn't finished with her yet . . ."

It was delightful to revisit Cassie and Henry and the old gang. Whilst I would love to have re-read Christmas at Tiffany's before embarking on this new journey (to refresh my memory and re-immerse myself in their world), I couldn't bear to wait and found myself driving in as soon as the book dropped through my letterbox. 

There came a point where I thought I knew the ending but the journey that takes you there is as winding as the roads down to Cornwall and I found myself doubting myself constantly as there are so many forks in the road making you feel like you could end up literally anywhere. However, the story is delightful and engrossed me fully; I absorbed the book in one weekend and it left me with a massive smile on my face. 

Christmas at Tiffany's is a hard act to follow and I'm not guaranteeing this sequel will live up to its predecessor but it's a lovely opportunity to revisit those much loved characters and see what they are doing now! 

I don't think there is a particular need to have read the first book, however it might help you understand the turmoil Cassie experiences - I don't deny it can be frustrating and it might be even more so if you don't fully appreciate her history. 

Karen's writing, as always, conjures up vivid images in your mind so that you get to really live the book rather than just sit and read some words on a page.  As always, I eagerly await Karen Swan's next masterpiece.

Thank you to Pan Macmillan for the ARC of Summer at Tiffany's in exchange for an honest review.

Sunday, 26 July 2015

Too Charming by Kathryn Freeman

"Does a girl ever really learn from her mistakes?

Detective Sergeant Megan Taylor thinks so. She once lost her heart to a man who was too charming and she isn’t about to make the same mistake again – especially not with sexy defence lawyer, Scott Armstrong. Aside from being far too sure of himself for his own good, Scott’s major flaw is he defends the very people she works so hard to imprison.

But when Scott wants something he goes for it. And he wants Megan. One day she’ll see him not as a lawyer, but as a man ... and that’s when she’ll fall for him.

Yet just as Scott seems to be making inroads, a case presents itself that’s far too close to home, throwing his life into chaos.

As Megan helps him pick up the pieces, can he persuade her he isn’t the careless charmer she thinks he is? Isn’t a man innocent until proven guilty?"

I am a bit behind the times, as this was released in 2013, but what an incredible debut from Kathryn Freeman!

The characters are likeable (and in Scott's case, absolutely to die for loveable) and the chemistry is the most explosive I've seen in a while. I loved that Scott wasn't a "what you see is what you get" man and I also loved discovering the other side to him, even if it was a frustrating journey that made me want to smack Megan several times over.

I adored his relationship with Megan's little girl and the moments with Megan's parents also brought a smile to my face. All in all, I adored it - it (well let's not kid ourselves, Scott) had my heart and soul hooked and I never wanted to put it down.

The only slight disappointment was the end - when it came, it was too quick and is the sort of ending that screams out for an epilogue and in the absence of that, I would love to revisit these characters in the future to see where they ended up.

The writing is outstanding; I feel like I lived every emotion with Megan and Scott and often found myself holding my breath as the chemistry and tension was so strong. I cannot wait to discover more of Kathryn Freeman.

I understand that Kathryn is just about to release her third book with Choc Lit (out August 13th) and it is bound to be another scorcher.

Thank you to NetGalley and ChocLit for the e-copy of Too Charming in exchange for my honest review.

Friday, 24 July 2015

The Secret Life and Curious Death of Miss Jean Milne by Andrew Nicoll

"A woman murdered. A crime unsolved. A mystery that has lasted a century. 

A hundred years ago, the true story of the brutal murder of Miss Jean Milne in a small seaside town captured the imagination of the whole country. A wealthy spinster who lived alone in a crumbling mansion, Miss Milne appeared to be the very model of respectability. But, behind the facade, Miss Milne was living a secret life. 

For a century, her murder has gone unsolved. Why was this quiet spinster tied up in her own home, tortured and brutally murdered? Who could have committed such a heinous crime in this quiet little town? 

Now, using newly-released evidence from police files, eye witness testimony hidden for a century and long forgotten newspaper reports from the scene, Andrew Nicoll has brought the case back from the dead to reveal the secrets of the little town where Jean Milne was murdered - the little town where he has spent his life. And the evidence has revealed that the quiet spinster found tied and tortured to death was not all that she seemed. 

Set in the heart of one of the wealthiest communities in the world, at the very height of the British Empire, it's a shocking tale of class division, money, sex, lies, betrayal and murder. 

And, at last, after a hundred years, the curious death of Miss Jean Milne may finally have found a solution."

I loved the sound of this story and jumped at the chance to take part in the blog tour! When I first started reading, I was momentarily panicked into thinking I had made a big mistake and that I was going to hate it but I was wrong.  It took me a few pages to settle into the rhythm and the style of writing but once I was settled, I was hooked.

The Secret Life and Curious Death of Miss Jean Milne really is a mystery - the fact that this book is based on true events makes it all the more captivating.  

Andrew Nicoll has done an exceptional job of turning facts into fiction; the style, pace, characters and narrative are all absolutely perfect and the book remains enthralling until the last.  Nicoll has created a sense of the time and place of Miss Jean Milne so well - he appears to have stayed true to the right facts at the same time as highlighting the gaps that really should have been filled and investigated at the time.

I did not guess the twists and turns that Nicoll was going to take us on during this journey but when it happens, it is so immersing, it certainly could be real.  I felt that this book was completely as it should be - there didn't feel like there were any gaps and everything felt like it was perfectly wrapped up for the reader.

If you google it, there is plenty of information available on the real life mysterious murder and even the case files are available following a Freedom of Information request.  It is a shame that we cannot categorically know the truth of what happened to Miss Jean Milne but Nicoll gives you a version of events that certainly could be true...

The Secret Life and Curious Death of Miss Jean Milne is out NOW.  

Thank you to Black and White Publishing for the copy in exchange for an honest review.

Wednesday, 22 July 2015

The Little Flower Shop by the Sea by Ali McNamara

The blossom is out in the little Cornish harbour town of St Felix
But Poppy Carmichael's spirits aren't lifted by the pretty West Country spring. Inheriting her grandmother's flower shop has forced her to return to Cornwall, a place that holds too many memories. 
Poppy is determined to do her best for the sake of her adored grandmother, but she struggles with the responsibility of the more-shabby-than-chic shop. And with the added complication of Jake, the gruff but gorgeous local flower grower, Poppy is very tempted to run away... 
The pretty little town has a few surprises in store for Poppy. With new friends to help her and romance blooming, it's time for Poppy to open her heart to St Felix and to the special magic of a little flower shop by the sea!
Let Ali McNamara, author of the much-loved From Notting Hill with Love...Actually, bring some sparkling sunshine into your life

This is a book you should judge by its cover; the cover is utterly gorgeous and what follows is the most perfect holiday read for summer 2015.  Cornwall is the place to be this year, whether that be for television programmes (dare I mention the Poldark word...), holiday destinations (people are flocking in the hope of seeing Poldark!) or book settings, and Ali McNamara is bang on trend as The Little Flower Shop by the Sea is set in a fictional harbour town in Cornwall, called St Felix.

It has been a while since I was really captivated by a book and felt not only that I didn't want to, but also that I couldn't, put it down.  The Little Flower Shop by the Sea has that magical and magnetic draw to it - I really couldn't put it down! It made me smile, laugh and cry on more than one occasion.

There is a real array of wonderful, and not so wonderful, characters.  My favourite has to be Miley; the descriptions and sentiments that come with Miley are wonderful - she is one special little lady.  I found myself grinning at the page when she was around.

The ease with which I could picture every scene as though I was there is a credit to Ali McNamara's wonderful writing style.  I feel like I have just returned from a holiday in a little harbour town in Cornwall, where I met the most wonderful people and saw the most wonderful things.

There is a magical element to the book, but it is carried out in the most perfect way.  Every turn that Ali McNamara chooses to take her audience down is perfect and when you turn the last page, you will be left utterly satisfied.  The only thing you will most definitely want is more and I feel there is definitely scope for Ali to come back and visit St Felix and Poppy in the future and I, for one, hope she does!

To a degree, this book reminded me of The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh which is also based on the Victorian meaning of flowers.  I think there is something really special about books which cover this topic.

I haven't read an Ali McNamara book since Breakfast at Darcy's which I loved and her latest offering lived up to my expectations and then outshone them.  The Little Flower Shop by the Sea is a lovely tale of sunshine, old and new friends, love, friendship, magical places and new beginnings.

The Little Flower Shop by the Sea is out on 30 July 2015.  

Thank you to NetGalley and Little Brown Book Group for the advanced digital copy in exchange for an honest review.

Thursday, 16 July 2015

Letters to my Husband by Stephanie Butland

"Dear Mike, I can’t believe that it’s true. You wouldn’t do this to me. You promised.

Elizabeth knows that her husband is kind and good and that he loves her unconditionally. She knows she hasn’t been herself lately but that, even so, they are happy. 

But Elizabeth’s world is turned upside down when Mike dies in a tragic drowning accident. Suddenly everything Elizabeth knows about her husband is thrown into doubt. Why would he sacrifice his own life, knowing he’d never see his wife again? And what exactly was he doing at the lake that night?

Elizabeth knows that writing to Mike won’t bring him back, but she needs to talk to him now more than ever . . .

How much can you ever know about the people you love?"

I found Letters to my Husband quite emotionally draining in the first instance.  A lot of the first section is a little repetitive in that there does not feel like there is any light at the end of the tunnel.  Then, once the 'secret' was revealed, I felt a little disappointed that was the turn the book was going to take, although I am not really sure what else I had expected.

I continued to read because the writing itself is good and I was intrigued enough to know what was ultimately going to happen, but I just couldn't adore such a book filled with such unrelenting sadness.  However, at the same time as being sad, it is not the tear jerker that I was expecting.  Unfortunately, I just didn't feel even a glimmer of hope or inspiration.  

I want to stress that this doesn't mean I wouldn't consider reading a Stephanie Butland book in the future, however I found that Letters to my Husband did not have that uplifting element that would have made all the difference to me.

Letters to my Husband is out NOW.  Thank you to Transworld Publishers for the copy in exchange for an honest review.

Sunday, 12 July 2015

You, Me and Other People by Fionnuala Kearney

"The stunning debut novel from Fionnuala Kearney - already a Top Ten Irish Times bestseller


But what happens when you open the door and they won’t stop tumbling out?

For Adam and Beth the first secret wasn’t the last, it was just the beginning.

You think you can imagine the worst thing that could happen to your family, but there are some secrets that change everything.

And then the question is, how can you piece together a future when your past is being rewritten?

For fans of Liane Moriarty, Jojo Moyes and David Nicholls."

This book follows Beth, Adam and Meg and the tangled web that is their family and be prepared because it is messy.  Once the first secret is out, there is no controlling the rest which will eventually tumble out.

I have to admit that I do not really know how I feel about this book.  I didn't not enjoy it but I just didn't adore it in the way I thought I would and I didn't come away from it wishing there were more pages to fill my life.

I did love the moments of Adam and Noah together, and Noah as a character was very special.  I wish we had the opportunity to see more of him.

Due to work circumstances, about half way through the book I took a week long break and when I returned to it, it just never felt the same.  I did want to return to it, but it hadn't left that burning impression on me that left my longing to return to the page the moment I had put it down.  Following on from that 'break', I enjoyed reading but the storyline could have swung one of two ways and I found myself not really fully invested in caring which direction it was going to take.  I wanted to really know what I wanted from the characters and the storyline, and whilst I cared enough to continue reading, I wasn't invested enough to pine for one outcome over the other.

I liked the alternating chapters resulting in the reader gaining both Beth and Adam's perspective of the situation and Kearney portrays the characters' emotions exceptionally well; I think she really gets them spot on.

Kearney is clearly an accomplished writer and I would not hesitate to read one of her books in the future.  You, Me and Other People is Kearney's debut book and I am sure there will be plenty more to come.  

You, Me and Other People is OUT NOW.  

Thank you to NetGalley and HarperCollins for the digital copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Monday, 22 June 2015

The Ballroom Café by Ann O'Loughlin

Welcome to Book-Love-Bug and the next stop on 
The Ballroom Café Blog Tour....

"Sisters Ella and Roberta O'Callaghan live in separate wings of their crumbling Irish mansion. They haven't spoken for decades, torn apart by a dark family secret from their past, and only communicate through the terse and bitter notes they leave for each other in the hallway.

Debbie, an American woman, is searching for her birth mother. She has little time left but as she sets out to discover who she really is and what happened to her mother, she is met by silence and lies at the local convent.

With the bank threatening, Ella tries to save the family home by opening a café in the ballroom – much to Roberta's disgust. And when Debbie offers to help out in the café, the war between the sisters intensifies. But as Debbie finally begins to unravel the truth, she uncovers an adoption scandal that will rock both the community and the warring sisters.

Powerful and poignant, The Ballroom Café is a moving story of love lost and found."

You can follow every stop of the blog tour by visiting each of the following blogs:

I adored The Ballroom Café which is a very touching story and will no doubt touch the hearts of many people across the world (and not just those with Irish connections) as it features the uncovering of an Irish adoption scandal.  

It brings to mind Philomena and the scandal which has shocked people in recent years.  However, at the same time this book is not really comparable to to PhilomenaThe Ballroom Café is so much more than just a story about adoption; it is a thought-provoking story of community, of love and loss, of hope and of friendship.  I loved that the backdrop was based on true events, and you can read more about the Irish adoption scandal below.

I immediately felt like I belonged in this story which is set in County Wicklow, Ireland.  Whilst heavily tinged with tragedy, there is a really light and buoyancy  that radiates from this book.  The characters are fabulous, whether that be the main characters or the supporting cast.  I loved the relationship between the two sisters and the way they communicated only by short terse notes having not spoken for decades and I loved the way the various characters really touched each others lived. 

The story is both intriguing and captivating.  I was totally hooked and when the ending came, it was satisfying but there were some loose ends that left me craving more.  My one and only complaint would be that the ending felt a little bit rushed, as though the editing sword had fallen a little to harshly in places.  I wanted to bask in the ending and I wanted to know more.

I loved Ann O'Loughlin's style of writing, the words and chapters flowed perfectly which keeps you turning the pages and the characters are all excellently drawn to create the perfect story.  I was shocked to discover that The Ballroom Café is Ann's debut book, as it feels like something from an extremely accomplished author; Ann's years of journalism and writing clearly shine through.

The Ballroom Café is out now in kindle format and paperback.
Thank you to Black & White Publishing for the copy in exchange for an honest review.

"About the Irish Adoption Scandal

A scandal that has been simmering under the surface for many years in Ireland, novel portrays the never-ending pain of those taken from the arms of their mothers and the unbearable heartbreak of the young unmarried mothers who never saw their children again.

Up to 2,000 children were secretly adopted and sent to America from Mother and Baby homes run by religious orders in Ireland.The mothers left behind were unmarried, rejected by their families and almost outcasts in Catholic Ireland.

The ‘mail-order adoptions’ to the US continued well into the 1960s and 1970.While it was illegal to pay for adoption, the adoptive parents gave donations towards expenses – several hundred pounds, which equates to thousands in today’s terms.

Many children were simply spirited away, with little thought for their birth mothers left behind or indeed the homes the children were sent to, which were often dysfunctional,’ Ann O’Loughlin said.

She added: ‘In my research for this book I have listened to so many stories of heartbreak. Only now in Ireland are women beginning to tell their stories and realise the shame is not theirs, but at the feet of the Catholic Church.’ "

Monday, 8 June 2015

The Woman Who Stole My Life by Marian Keyes

"International bestselling author Marian Keyes is bringing you another masterfully told story full of wit and charm.

'Name: Stella Sweeney.

Height: average.

Recent life events: dramatic.'

One day, sitting in traffic, married Dublin mum Stella Sweeney attempts a good deed. The resulting car crash changes her life.

For she meets a man who wants her telephone number (for the insurance, it turns out). That's okay. She doesn't really like him much anyway (his Range Rover totally banjaxed her car).

But in this meeting is born the seed of something which will take Stella thousands of miles from her old life, turning an ordinary woman into a superstar, and, along the way, wrenching her whole family apart.

Is this all because of one ill-advised act of goodwill? Was meeting Mr Range Rover destiny or karma? Should she be grateful or hopping mad?

For the first time real, honest-to-goodness happiness is just within her reach. But is Stella Sweeney, Dublin housewife, ready to grasp it?"

The Woman Who Stole My Life is simply fabulous and utterly divine.  It is engaging, funny in places, always messy, delicious and real.  It feels so right to be back in the arms of Marian Keyes.  

Whilst the main narrative of the present day spans only a dozen or so days, the story covers a four and a half year period as we slowly come to learn how Stella ended up in NYC and then how she ended up back in Ireland in the state she is in.  I enjoyed the time when Stella was in the hospital most, watching that 'spark' develop into a raging fire.  I also enjoyed watching that fire burn and I have to say I enjoyed it burning in Ireland more than in NYC.

The Woman Who Stole My Life is not gripping in a psychological thriller type of way, but it does draw you in and it keeps you engaged.  It is plump; full of detail (none of which you want to skip right over) and Keyes' has the knack of making you feel like you are in the room with the characters.  

I have to admit it is not my absolute favourite Marian Keyes book; it does not have the warm Irish family loveliness that the Walsh family books have and I also have to admit that it is not totally recognisable as a Marian Keyes book from the style of writing; it didn't feel like reading Marian (in the way that reading Watermelon, for example, feels like being in a room with Marian Keyes telling you a story).  However, at the same time, it is not totally unrecognisable - I still loved it; it is absorbing and I love getting lost in the world of Marian Keyes.  I am not sure MK could ever disappoint, and she certainly doesn't here!

You can follow Marian on twitter here and I wholeheartedly recommend you do so; if you do nothing else this year, do this.  She is hilarious, the funniest thing on the planet!

Thursday, 4 June 2015

The Spider in the Corner of the Room by Nikki Owen

"What to believe 

Who to betray 

When to run…

Plastic surgeon Dr Maria Martinez has Asperger’s. Convicted of killing a priest, she is alone, in prison and has no memory of the murder.

DNA evidence places Maria at the scene of the crime, yet she claims she’s innocent. Then she starts to remember… 

A strange room. Strange people. Being watched.

As Maria gets closer to the truth she is drawn into a web of international intrigue and must fight not only to clear her name but to remain alive."

Nikki Owen weaves a complicated web in The Spider in the Corner of the Room which is a gripping psychological, conspiracy-theory thriller and the first in a trilogy.  

Nikki Owen is an exceptional writer.  She has managed to concoct a story where the reader does not have the slightest inkling of what is going on but at the same time it is not frustrating, but totally absorbing.  

The story is set mainly with Maria in intense therapy sessions but the story shifts around a lot and it is not always entirely obvious whether the shifts are to her memories, an alternative present or the future.  The Spider in the Corner of the Room is not the sort of book you can just skim through; it requires your full attention and concentration.  Even with that, there is so much going on that it was not until I sat down to write this review that I fully worked out how the shifts worked and what the present time consisted of.  It is hard to say anything more without giving away the storyline!

With each shift, I found myself thinking that I finally knew what and who to believe and then I would turn the page, the timeframe would shift again, and once more I would myself back to square one and was left wondering whether I was going mad.  

I have not read a book which has a character with Asperger's before and have no first hand experience of it so cannot say how true to form it is, but from reading other reviews of this book, it would appear that Maria is a well-researched and thought out character rather than being the stereotypical version of someone with Asperger's.

The book is powerful and it does make you think how scary and powerless you would feel if you found yourself accused of a murder you cannot remember committing and in a prison where you do not know who you can trust or what you can believe.

Around the middle of the book, I did find my interest waning slightly as the book  as a whole is a little drawn-out and slightly repetitive but that adds to the powerful message.  The build up is slow and the pace does not really accelerate until towards the end of the book when the answers you have been searching for begin to suddenly cascade into the reader's awareness.  As I was nearing the end of the book, I was worried that Nikki Owen was going to end the first in this trilogy without answering a single question that I had flying around my head, but suddenly, right at the last minute, everything begins to come together and the ending does wrap up this part of the series as well as leading the way perfectly for the next instalment.

The Spider in the Corner of the Room is out today, 4 June!

Thank you to Midas PR for the review copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.