Tuesday, 28 October 2014

An Irish Promise by Isabella Connor

"A promise is a promise…
Art historian, Rachel Ford has returned to the Irish village of Kilbrook intent on keeping her promise to take revenge on the school bullies who ruined her childhood and destroyed her family.
Australian actor, Finn MacKenzie sets hearts fluttering when he turns up in sleepy Kilbrook to help his aunt with a school production. He seems to have a charmed life, yet his confident fa├žade hides heartbreak and tragedy. Although Finn isn’t looking for love, when he meets the mysterious Rachel, there’s a definite spark between them.
Rachel is torn between her desire for revenge and this new love affair. She doesn’t want to deceive Finn, but can she trust him to keep her real identity a secret? And will he understand why she must keep her promise, no matter the cost?"
An Irish Promise is, not surprisingly, set in Ireland, however, I have to admit it did not feel overly Irish.  As a girl with Irish family myself, from a dialogue point of view, I felt it could have just as easily have been set in England, although there are some lovely desriptions of Ireland in it and I particularly liked the reference to the Claddagh (symbolising love, loyalty and friendship).  I was therefore not surprised to learn that this did not come from an Irish author; Isabella Connor is the pen name for Liv Thomas (who was born and raised in the South of England) and Valerie Olteanu (who grew up in Scotland).  However, this does not detract from the book being a wonderful masterpiece.
This is Isabella Connor's second 'Emerald Isle' book, but the first that I have read.  Having just finished An Irish Promise I can't wait to get my hands on the first book, Beneath an Irish Sky.
An Irish Promise is a story packed full of warmth and love, set against a backdrop of bullying and the quest for revenge.  The book made me smile until my jaw ached but it also made me cry (in public, very embarassing!!).  The book reveals both sides of the coin; the feelings of the bully and the victim (both then and years later) and the authors do a good job of portraying this.  Of course, as with all ChocLit books, romance can't help but creep in!
About 150 pages in, a revelation was revealed that changed everything and I can honestly say made me gasp!  Later in the book, another (similar) revelation was revealed that I also did not see coming and even made me turn back to the early parts of the book to see whether I should have known!  This book was full of twists and turns, and the suspense at the end left me with the book inches from my face and I could not stop my eyes from darting down the page to try and work out whether Ella and Finn get their happy every after.
An Irish Promise is quite a long book at just under 400 pages, but every part is perfectly woven together to create a fabulous book that I do not hesitate to recommend.  Despite its length, I flew through the book and having finished it, I now wonder whether I should have savoured it for a bit longer.  The author makes you love the characters who you should and detest the characters who do not deserve your adoration.
You can read some more about An Irish Promise and the authors comments on it on ChocLit's blog.

Sunday, 26 October 2014

Each and Every One by Rachael English

"Your family are always there for you...aren't they?

For Tara, Vee, Niall and Damian, the children of the Shine family, their parents have seen them through thick and thin. In fact, Gus and Joan's lifetime of hard work has given their children the luxuries they never had when they were growing up - a comfortable home in a leafy Dublin neighbourhood, gap years that never seem to end and an open chequebook for life's little emergencies. Unfortunately, although the children have grown up, they have got a little too comfortable with the well-feathered nest: now it's time to learn a few home truths.

When a twist of fate means the bank of Mum and Dad can no longer bail out the younger generation, suddenly the whole family must find out who they really are - but sometimes the truth isn't easy to face. Uncovering the secrets they all hide will show them a different side to the city they call home and mean finding allies in the most unlikely places.

Warm, wise and witty, Each and Every One is a novel about the lessons we learn in life - and the ones we never do."

Each & Every One is a fabulously unique idea and extremely well delivered by Rachael English.  There is a huge amount of storyline packed into this book, and each and every one of the characters goes on a life-changing journey in modern day recession-hit Ireland. 

Each & Every One is full of both warmth and sadness, and there are some great interactions between siblings and parents.  I also particularly enjoyed Tara's relationship with Ben (and Carmel & Jenelle), which added a further dimension to the story. 

I personally did not see the twist coming, which brings further turmoil to the Shine family.  Although I have to admit, my mum (who has also read the book) did guess it.

This book cannot be described as chick-lit but is true fiction, packed full of emotion, love and strength with a full cast of wonderful characters and a life lesson to deliver to each & every one of us.  People believe that money can buy you happiness, but can it?

Saturday, 25 October 2014

COMPETITION: Saving Grace by Jane Green

This week a copy of Saving Grace by Jane Green arrived in my post box.....and once I have read it, you will be able to find my review on this blog!

Jane Green is the bestselling author or over fifteen novels, and this is her latest beauty, about a shattered marriage and a devastating betrayal.  To celebrate, Macmillan are collating as many tips for a long and happy relationship as they can.  Whether you're married or not, tell them what you think keeps love alive, long term by visiting their website here.

In addition, Macmillan have also offered readers of Book-Love-Bug, some fabulous prizes.  There will be four winners in total and the available prizes consist of:
  • 3 hardback copies of Saving Grace by Jane Green; AND
  • 1 scented candle (the perfume of which was personally created by Jane Green herself). 

Entering is simple, just follow the instructions in the Rafflecopter below.... a Rafflecopter giveaway

Some Veil Did Fall by Kirsty Ferry

"What if you recalled memories from a life that wasn’t yours, from a life before....?
When Becky steps into Jonathon Nelson’s atmospheric photography studio in Whitby, she is simply a freelance journalist in search of a story. But as soon as she puts on the beautiful Victorian dress and poses for a photograph, she becomes somebody quite different …
From that moment on, Becky is overcome with visions and flashbacks from a life that isn’t her own – some disturbing and filled with fear.
As she and Jon begin to unravel the tragic mystery behind her strange experiences, the natural affinity they have for each other continues to grow and leads them to question … have they met somewhere before? Perhaps not just in this life but in another?"

I opened this book not fully knowing what to expect as the cover has a hot pink girly feel to it, but the description of the book seemed slightly more mysterious.  I felt an instant connection to Becky and the storyline; there was absolutely no warming up required. 

As the story evolved, it brought back fond memories of The Secret Kiss of Darkness by Christina Courtenay (which you can read my review of here).  If you enjoyed that book, you will also love this one. 

The story is told in three parts; the first in the present day, the second in 1865 and the third reverting back to the present day.  Kirsty Ferry does a fabulous job of the three distinct, yet interlinked parts.  I couldn't get enough of the story, and found myself racing through the book.

The only 'fault' with this book is towards the end, at the climax, when all is revealed to Becky.  She discovered the full story, but I felt that Jon should have discovered Adam's part of the story as it was an element Ella could not have known given the circumstances.  You might see what I mean when you get there, but I don't want to give too much away.  This was a very minor point, but just something that jumped out at me at the time.

An outstanding paranormal romance that will captivate you from the first page.

Saturday, 4 October 2014

I like my Kindle....but do I love my Kindle?

I like my Kindle.  

It's light and therefore great for travelling with, it's easy to read even in bright sunlight but it still doesn't have quite the same hold as a paperback.  There is something that feels irreplaceable about an actual book - the smell of the paper and the feel of turning an actual page.  

As I sat on a train recently next to a woman reading a kindle who every few minutes laughed out loud at whatever she was reading, it dawned on me that one of the key things you miss out on with an e-book is the cover.  I, being a nosy bookworm, wanted to know what she was reading that made her laugh so often.  The alternatives were ask her or go without knowing.  Had she been reading an actual book, I would have known what she was reading instantly, whether I had wanted to or not.  You can't help but notice things like this.  I realised that publishers are losing out on the most amazing free source of advertising - people reading in public!  Whilst you're told not to judge a book by its cover,  let's face it, we all do. When you think back to a book you loved, you can see the characters, feel their emotions but you can also recall the cover. You miss this with an e-book.

It is sad to think that, one day, the paperback will probably not exist.  I therefore find myself clinging to the present and try to read the physical book whenever I can.

I would love to hear your thoughts on the ebook v physicial book debate....please do comment below :)

The Sarah Midnight Trilogy - Dreams, Tide and Spirit by Daniela Sacerdoti

"You’d never think it could happen to you. You’d never think that one day you’ll stand in a graveyard, rain tapping on a sea of black umbrellas, watching your parents being lowered into the earth, never to come back. It’s happening to me. They said it was an accident. Only I know the truth. My parents were hunters, like their parents and grandparents before them, hundreds of years back, scores of ancestors behind me, fulfilling the same call. I must follow in their footsteps. I am the only one left to keep the promise. I can never give up the fight, this fight that has been handed down to me, thrust upon my unwilling shoulders. I’d rather be buried with my parents, my brave, fierce father and mother, who lived and died by the Midnight motto: Don’t Let Them Roam.’
Ever since her thirteenth birthday, seventeen-year-old Sarah Midnight’s dreams have been plagued by demons – but unlike most people’s nightmares, Sarah’s come true. Her dreams guide her parents’ hunt as Sarah remains in bed, terrified but safe, sheltered from the true horrors of the Midnight legacy. But all this is about to change. After the murder of her parents, she is cruelly thrust into a secret world of unimaginable danger as she is forced to take up their mission. Alone and unprepared for the fight that lies before her, Sarah must learn how to use the powers she’s inherited and decide whom to trust before it’s too late…"

"Sarah Midnight is no ordinary teenager. She is a demon hunter, caught up in one of the deadliest wars unknown to man. Orphaned at the age of sixteen, Sarah learned the family trade of hunting without her parents to guide her but under the watchful eye of her ‘cousin’, who was revealed to be Sean Hannay, no relative at all, but a dear friend of the real Harry Midnight.
Now, in the exciting sequel to Dreams, the fight continues. Sarah and Sean may have defeated the Scottish Valaya, but the rest of the war still rages on, and Sarah, Sean, Nicholas and their companions must unearth the identity and location of the Enemy – the leader of the demons – before the world plunges into the Time of Demons once more. Their quest leads them to Sarah’s family home, the Midnight mansion in Islay, and there they discover horrible truths about the demon ruler, his plans, and Sarah’s own personal history.
Along the way, Sarah must battle not only the demons but her hurt toward Sean and her feelings for the enigmatic Nicholas, who has plans of his own."

"This is the gripping conclusion to the Sarah Midnight trilogy. The identity and location of the Enemy - the King of Shadows- have been revealed and Sarah has fully embraced the Midnight legacy and her own powers. Sarah and her friends travel to the ancient forests of Poland to find the portal between their world and the Enemy's in order to destroy him. Two Secret Heirs join them on the journey, but are all members of Sarah's company really loyal to their cause? Nicholas, the son of the King of Shadows, holds the key, but is he still serving his father? As they enter the Shadow World and battle demons they didn't know existed, will Sarah and Sean finally come together? Or will Elodie's vision of the death of Sarah Midnight be realised? A final sacrifice may be necessary to free humanity from the King of Shadows. Follow Sarah and her friends into the Shadow world, and to the heart wrenching, exciting, surprising end of Sarah Midnight Trilogy."

I am a massive fan of Daniela Sacerdoti, having read her absolutely incredible debut novel Watch Over Me and also more recently Take Me Home - to see what I thought of them both, click on the links to see my previous reviews.  My review of Watch Over Me also appears on Daniela's website as one of her favourite reviews (I feel very honoured by this!!!)

In contrast to her other books that I have read, this trilogy is a Young Adult trilogy, and I have to admit, I didn't totally fall in love with the trilogy in the way I loved The Hunger Games or Host.  I liked Sarah Midnight, I liked Harry/Sean and I liked their chemistry but there was something missing for me.  I did not find myself entirely captivated, unable to tear myself away, although I should stress that I did enjoy the books as a whole and would not go as far as saying that I do not recommend them.  

The Sarah Midnight Trilogy is packed full of demons, friendship, betrayal and love.  Sarah (and others) find themselves in all sorts of horrific situations, and I think this was the source of the main downfall for me; I just found it too unrealistic and could not understand how people could continue to survive an onslaught of such awful encounters.  

Don't get me wrong, the writing is good and you will not find yourself bored. Daniela does well to link the three books without being repetitive, keeps the momentum going, and each book contains a distinct element to the storyline. For those YA's who enjoy this type of book, definitely worth a look.

Perhaps my feelings are purely because I can no longer call myself a young adult!  I continue to look forward to Daniela Sacerdoti's next Glen Avich magic book; Inary's Silence.

Sunday, 28 September 2014

Going Back by Rachael English

"It's never too late for a second chance.
 Ireland, 1988.  Elizabeth Kelly's parents think she belongs at home; her boyfriend is certain of it. But, unwilling to settle down just yet, she decides to spend the summer in Boston.
Quiet and dutiful at home, she surprises herself and everyone else by falling in love with Danny, a restless charmer with a troublesome family - and everything changes.
More than twenty years later with opportunities in Ireland scarce once again, a new generation looks to America, awakening memories of a golden summer for their parents. When a crisis occurs, Elizabeth returns to Boston where she is drawn back into the life she once lived. But will she be able to reconcile the dreams of her twenty-year-old self with the woman she has become?"

I was delighted to discover Rachael English, through the medium of twitter, and even more delighted when she offered to send me a copy of her debut novel, Going Back, and delighted once more when I saw that Rachael had inscribed the front of the book for me!  Thank you Rachael.

Going Back is divided into two parts; the first part is set in June 1988 when Elizabeth first steps foot in Boston, fresh off the plane from Ireland, and the second part begins in 2010, and follows Janey (Elizabeth's daughter) as she begins the same journey.  However, this book is not a comparison of the times Elizabeth experienced and the times her daughter, a generation on, experiences. 

Emigration is only the background to this book, and in Going Back we meet two people from two very different worlds who make a connection, and the question is whether that connection can stand the test of time.

I found the initial part of part one to be a little slow burning, and I often found myself wondering who this character was and what had been happening with them previously.  However, as the tangled webs continued to be weaved, I found myself more drawn in and the way the first part of the book ends left me craving more.  The second half of the book flew past and I enjoyed it, although would have liked to have gained a little more knowledge about Elizabeth in the twenty years in between the two parts. 

As a girl with Irish roots, the Irish dialogue often made me smile, and the quotes from Elizabeth's Irish parents were brilliant.

Going Back is an impressive debut novel; a story of love, regrets and second chances. 

I am looking forward to diving into Rachael's next book, Each and Every One.

Sunday, 21 September 2014

Quarter Past Two on a Wednesday Afternoon by Linda Newbery

Thank you to Shaz's Book Blog and to Transworld for the competition prize of a copy of Quarter Past Two on a Wednesday Afternoon.

"It was the day when everything stopped.

At quarter past two on a hot afternoon in August, Anna's beautiful, headstrong elder sister Rose disappears.

Twenty years later, Anna still doesn't know whether Rose is alive or dead. In her early thirties now, she sees her future unfolding - with sensible, serious Martin and a grown-up, steady job - and finds herself wondering if this is what she really wants.

Unable to take control of her life while the mystery of her sister's disappearance remains unsolved, Anna begins to search for the truth: what did happen to Rose that summer's day?"

This book was not at all what I had expected.  It focuses on Anna, twenty years after her sister's disappearance, as well as Anna and Rose's mother.  It shows the different ways that each member of Rose's family continues to struggle with the unexplained disappearance of Rose hanging over their lives, preventing them from living their lives to the full.

The story also jumps back to various points in the past and, like a jigsaw, allows you to see the bigger picture very slowly and piece by piece.  Linda Newbery does exceptionally well to weave each thread together in such a way that the reader understands what is happening but doesn't see the whole picture until the moment she wants you to.  

It is hard to give a truly honest opinion of this book without spoiling the ending for those of you who have not read the book yet, but all I will say is I found it hard to believe each family member's reaction to the answer they had all been waiting for for twenty years.  I understand the concept, and it is actually very clever, but I expected more fireworks and explosions and it left me with some unanswered questions.  

Sunday, 7 September 2014

The Wedding Proposal by Sue Moorcroft

"Can a runaway bride stop running?

Elle Jamieson is an unusually private person, in relationships as well as at work – and for good reason. But when she’s made redundant, with no ties to hold her, Elle heads off to a new life in sunny Malta.

Lucas Rose hates secrets – he prides himself on his ability to lay his cards on the table and he expects nothing less from others. He’s furious when his summer working as a divemaster is interrupted by the arrival of Elle, his ex, all thanks to his Uncle Simon’s misguided attempts at matchmaking.

Forced to live in close proximity, it’s hard to ignore what they had shared before Lucas’s wedding proposal ended everything they had. But then an unexpected phone call from England allows Lucas a rare glimpse of the true Elle. Can he deal with Elle’s hidden past when it finally comes to light?"

I am a huge Sue Moorcroft fan, and despite first encountering Starting Over by Sue Moorcroft over three years ago (my review can be found here), I still remember how much I enjoyed the book and most importantly, the love I felt for Ratty. So when ChocLit offered me the chance to review Sue's latest book, I didn't even need to read the synopsis before jumping at the chance.

There is never anything to fault with Sue Moorcroft's books.  They have exceptional characters (some that melt your heart (whether they be children or adults), some that you want to be friends with, some that you dislike immensely, some who you fear (the dreaded Fiona) and one who you fall in love with (or in this case two - Lucas and Carmelo)), great pace, a great storyline with twists and turns and some damn good romance, and The Wedding Proposal is no exception.  

This book wasn't what I had expected, as "the wedding proposal" in question is something from Elle and Lucas's past.  I loved the beginning of the book when Elle and Lucas clash after being thrown together for the first time in four years, and I enjoyed getting to know them both and seeing how they worked around each other after all this time.  There are also some exceptionally good secondary characters, who make the book complete.

This book made me want to go to Malta, enjoy the sunshine and fall in love.  It made me smile and it made me cry, both with sadness and happiness.  A story of second chances, and the ideal book to read in the last of the September sunshine....

Monday, 25 August 2014

Much Ado about Sweet Nothing by Alison May

"Would you risk everything for love? 

Independent, straight-talking Trix Allen wouldn’t. She’s been in love once before and ended up with nothing. Now safely single, Trix is as far away from the saccharine-sweet world of hearts and flowers as it’s possible to be. 

Ben Messina is the man who broke Trix’s heart. Now he’s successful the only thing rational Ben and free-spirited Trix see eye-to-eye on is the fact that falling in love isn’t part of the plan. But when Ben’s brother sets out to win the heart of Trix’s best friend, romance is very much in the air. Will Trix gamble everything on love and risk ending up with zero once again?"

I have to be honest, and admit that this is probably the first ChocLit book that I didn't adore.  I found it difficult to like any of the characters, and they didn't really grow on me either.  I liked Trix and I was ok with Claudio (he was hero material but just didn't pull it off), but I didn't like Ben and I found Henrietta really annoying (a bit of a wimp; she should have shouted and screamed!!!).  That said, I see a number of reviews on Amazon have said that they loved the characters...and don't get me wrong, the characters are very well depicted for what they are (for example, Henri is so well written for somebody who has OCD and self-esteem problems), but the trouble was I just couldn't engage with them.

I suppose the storyline is pretty much set as I believe it is fairly true to the plot of Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing, so I can't really complain about things being unbelievable.  I haven't read Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing, but I do not think this is where the problem lay for me.  I just couldn't connect, and I think I was totally lost from the moment I found myself reading about cleaning crumbs from behind the toaster!

And oh my god, the ending, that is the only sort of cliff hanger you can leave a reader on if you are planning a follow up book, which despite everything, I sort of hope there is....

Thank you to ChocLit for a copy of this e-book in return for an honest review.