Friday, 30 December 2011

Review of One Minute to Midnight by Amy Silver

** What it’s about **

Nicole Blake's New Year Resolutions, 1990:

1 Start keeping a journal;
2. Lose half a stone;
3. Kiss Julian Symonds

If there are two things Nicole can guarantee about New Years Eve it's that there are always fireworks and Julian Symonds is always there.

Since she was thirteen, no New Year has been complete without Jules. Through school, university and beyond, as friends come and go, Nic and Jules are at the centre of every party.

Until one year everything changes...

Now, as another New Year approaches, Nicole has ghosts to lay and bridges to build - with her husband Dom, with her best friend Alex, and with Aidan, the man who broke her heart.

Life is about to change again for Nicole, and once the fireworks are over and the dust has settled, this time she is determined it will be for the better.

** What I thought **

After all this year’s Christmas-themed books, One Minute to Midnight, was just thing I needed to get me thinking about the New Year.  This book is set between Boxing Day 2011 and New Year’s Day 2012 interlinked by chapters focusing on previous New Year’s Eves, starting with 1990.  Amy Silver delivers well with the fabulously unique way of telling each characters backstory.

This isn’t just any old chick lit; it covers an estranged father-daughter relationship, the fear of being stuck in a safe relationship and not knowing which the right direction to go in is, death and the closest of friendship bonds imaginable.  Alongside this there is a vast array of wonderful characters who you’ll adore.

When you turn the last page, you’ll be satisfied, yet left wanting more.  This book will make you think about the choices you’ve made and those you’ll make in the New Year, and it might make you realise that the good guy can’t always win…..!

Review of Dark Parties by Sara Grant

Thanks to Nina Douglas at Indigo for providing a review copy in return for an honest review!

** What it’s about **

Neva keeps a list of The Missing - the people like her grandmother who were part of her life but who have now vanished. The people that everyone else pretends never existed.

In a nation isolated beneath the dome of the Protectosphere - which is supposed to protect, but also imprisons - Neva and her friends dream of freedom.

But life is becoming complicated for Neva. She's falling for her best friend's boyfriend - and she's learning more than she ever wanted to know about what might be happening to The Missing...

(Taken from Goodreads)

** What I thought **

This dystopian is Sara Grant’s debut novel, and it’s pretty impressive!  I was first attracted to the striking cover artwork – the gorgeous red dress stands out from the grey and slightly foggy/snowy background which illustrates the whole premise of the book wonderfully; people are unique, we don’t all need to blend in and merge into one mass product.

I’m not usually a massive dystopian fan, as mostly I find them too unrealistic.  It’s not that I don’t like unrealistic books, but I like the fantasy to be something I’d like to escape to myself – hence the dislike of zombies etc. (I have no desire to be eaten alive!).  This book however is scarily possible; it creates a world controlled by the government, where history is re-written and leaves people wondering what is real and what isn’t!  Things happen that given the choice, you certainly wouldn’t want to be a part of, the question is “How far would you go to be free?”

I found this to be one of the most unpredictable books I’ve read this year.  There are so many twists and turns which keep on going until the very end.  Even if you guess some of the twists, I doubt you’ll guess them all!

Although a fairly satisfying ending, the book is very much left open for the possibility of a return.  I’m very much hoping for a sequel – I want to know more!!!

Review of My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece by Annabel Pitcher

** What it's about **

Ten-year-old Jamie hasn't cried since it happened.

He knows he should have - Jasmine cried, Mum cried, Dad still cries.  Roger didn't, but then he is just a cat and didn't know Rose that well, really.

Everyone kept saying it would get better with time, but that's just one of those lies that grown-ups tell in awkward situations.  Five years on, it's worse than ever: Dad drinks, Mum's gone and Jamie's left with questions that he must answer for himself.

This is his story, an unflinchingly real yet heart-warming account of a young boy's struggle to make sense of the loss that tore his family apart.

** What I thought **

This book is told with a raw energy and bluntness that can only come from being told from the perspective of a child.  Jamie doesn’t really remember Rose, and he misses his normal life more than he misses her.  He wants his mum back, he wants his dad to be sober and he wants his sister to eat more.

It follows a family as they go on a journey (we join them 5 years after a tragic event) and whilst it might not be the kind of journey that ends with a Hollywood-style happy ending, it is heart-warming at the same time as being heart-breaking!

I have to admit I wasn’t totally in love with this book.  It didn’t draw me in so that I couldn’t stop reading, infact I stopped after a few chapters to read another book and came back to it.  However, towards the end of the book, something happens which makes Jamie and his father finally understand each other (I don’t want to give too much away), and I thought this was exceptionally cleverly done. 

This book deals with racism, alcohol abuse, the break up of a family, bullying and grief but it also deals with survival and true friendship (of the forbidden kind).  At the end of the day, it left me with tears in my eyes.

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Review of Envy by Gregg Olsen

** What it’s about **

The night Katelyn died was the beginning of something that would change everything.  Everything.  Every.  Single.  Thing.

One minute Katelyn’s a depressed teen with a loser life.  The next, she’s lying on a stainless steel slab, eyes glassy, skin frosted over, and very, very dead.  Was it suicide? Murder? Who’s to blame? Twins Hayley and Taylor Ryan stumble upon the dark truth.  Inspired by a ripped-from-the-headlines, cyber-bullying crime, Envy is the gritty first volume in Empty Coffin, a new bone-chilling series that takes you to the edge – and pushes you right over.

With thirteen books and sales of over one million copies to his credit, New York Times and USA Today bestselling author GREGG OLSEN makes his young adult fiction debut in Empty Coffin and expertly explores the dark underbelly of society, masterfully bringing to light each scandalous true crime story.

** What I thought **

This is Gregg Olsen’s debut in the YA market, and what a fabulous start.  Envy is the first in the Empty Coffin Series; books set in Port Gamble (aka Empty Coffin).  These thrillers have a paranormal edge to them, which refreshingly doesn’t see a vampire, werewolf or angel in sight! 

Olsen has a fantastic writing style; he tells the story mainly in the present with a series of flashbacks interwoven in.  When described this may sound a little confusing but actually works wonderfully. 

The storyline certainly is disturbing, but whilst poignant, it is so relevant today and this realism makes it stand out from other YA series that are around at the moment.  There isn’t even a hint of predictability about this book, it twists and turns and keeps you guessing until the very end.  I certainly didn’t suspect the ‘killer’ at all!

The story is satisfyingly concluded in terms of Katelyn but there are things that are left unanswered in terms of twins, Hayley and Taylor.  The sneak peak at the next book in the series, Betrayal, indicates that we will indeed follow the story of the psychic twins.  I, for one, look forward to discovering more about their past, present and future!

Whilst this book and all the characters in it are fictional, Envy is based around the famous case of Megan Meier who committed suicide on October 17th 2006 following a disturbing case of cyber-bullying.  For more information about the nonfiction behind the fiction (and a host of other things), visit

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Review of The Magic of Christmas by Trisha Ashley

** What's it about **

In the pretty Lancashire village of Middlemoss, Lizzy is on the verge of leaving her cheating husband, Tom, when tragedy strikes. Luckily she has welcome distraction in the Christmas Pudding Circle, a group of friends swapping seasonal recipes – as well as a rivalry with local cookery writer Nick over who will win Best Mince Pie at the village show…

Meanwhile, the whole village is gearing up for the annual Boxing Day Mystery Play. But who will play Adam to Lizzy’s Eve? Could it be the handsome and charismatic soap actor Ritch, or could someone closer to home win her heart? Whatever happens, it promises to be a Christmas to remember!

Previously published as Sweet Nothings, Trisha has extensively reworked the original novel with fabulous new extra material.

** What I thought of it **

I'm sorry to say that I struggled with this book.  The cover is so festive and named 'The Magic of Christmas' I really thought this was going to be the ultimate festive read.  Most of the book isn't set a Christmas time, but reference is made to the Christmas Pudding Club.  It gets vaguely Christmassy towards the end, but for me it just wasn't all that festive.

I didn't love it, and I have to say that I struggled to concentrate (something that I don't usually have a problem with when it comes to reading for fun!).  I found it a bit too much like hard work, and having finished it, I just don't feel any love for the characters.  Throughout reading, I felt disconnected - I didn't love anyone, I wasn't rooting for anyone and I didn't really seem to care what happened. 

I also found parts of the storyline frustrating, as I felt the main character would have reacted far more than she actually did.  There are also quite a lot of characters to get your head around, and if you don't feel that connection, sometimes it is a little difficult to remember who is who.  There's a fair amount of background information too - I wasn't engrossed enough to feel this was necessary and often found my eyes flicking over it to get to the more interesting bits!

On the plus side, it isn't just your standard chick-lit.  This book does deal with domestic violence, unhappy marriages, death and empty-nest syndrome.  I certainly wouldn't say Trisha Ashley is a bad writer, I'd be interested in checking out her other books, which are highly praised, this one just wasn't for me - Sorry Trisha!

(I hadn't read Sweet Nothings so can't comment on how reworked it is - I suggest you take a look at Amazon where people have read both and can comment on this matter!)

Friday, 16 December 2011

Review of The Ice Age by Kirsten Reed

** What it’s about **

She’s a strong teenage girl: smart, funny and hopeful.  She thinks she knows herself, knows what she wants and knows how to get it.

He’s an older man – old enough, in fact, to be her father.  But he’s not.

As the pair drive aimlessly across America, they form an unlikely relationship – one they both know can’t last forever.

Told in her unique and seductive voice, this is the story of their encounter.

** What I thought **

Having read the synopsis for this book, I had really high hopes for it.  It sounded refreshingly unique.  However, I’m sorry to say I was disappointed.  I’ve found it hard to describe my feelings about this book.  It’s a very personal book, told from the point of view of a 17/18 year old teenage girl – we never discover her name.  There aren’t any chapters, it just meanders through the journey of this young girl and Gunther (an older man) as they work their way across America.  As they do this, their relationship changes.

It isn’t that I hated it, it was ok but I never felt that strong connection pulling me in forcing me to keep turning the pages.  I struggled with, what I perceived as, a lack of a beginning, middle and end.  There isn’t much (if any) background information on these two characters – why are they on this road trip?? How did they come to the point in their lives where they could live like this? There isn’t a “Hollywood” style ending either, it just sort of drifts into the end like it drifted through the middle.

The voice of the narrator is unique and fresh, and Reed does write well.  The book has received a lot of praise from some however it just wasn't for me; I just couldn’t grasp the point of it! 

Review of Home for Christmas by Cally Taylor

** What’s it about **

Beth Prince has always loved fairytales and now, aged twenty-four, she feels like she's finally on the verge of her own happily ever after. She lives by the seaside, works in the Picturebox - a charming but rundown independent cinema - and has a boyfriend who's so debonair and charming she can't believe her luck!

There's just one problem - none of her boyfriends have ever told her they love her and it doesn't look like Aiden's going to say it any time soon. Desperate to hear 'I love you' for the first time Beth takes matters into her own hands - and instantly wishes she hadn't.

Just when it seems like her luck can't get any worse, bad news arrives in the devilishly handsome shape of Matt Jones. Matt is the regional director of a multiplex cinema and he's determined to get his hands on the Picturebox by Christmas. Can Beth keep her job, her man and her home or is her romantic-comedy life about to turn into a disaster movie?

** What I thought **

This book has alternating chapters which tell Beth and Matts’ story.  I really enjoyed being able to read different perspectives, sometimes of the same event.  Beth is both ambitious and looking for her happy-ever-after.  Matt is trying not to be a dick.  Can they help each other on their quests?

Cally Taylor is a fantastic writer – very witty, she had me giggling all the way through!  There are some real gems buried in this book!  Taylor does a fantastic job at creating 3D characters who you’ll either love or utterly detest (in particular Carl, god I really disliked him!!)

I also loved the independent cinema aspect of this book; Beth works at the Picturebox which is being sought by a massive chain who plan to rip it apart.  There was something so real and genuine about this, and the whole story that drew me in.

I found it very hard to put this book down.  I have to admit, I guessed the ending fairly early on but this didn’t stop me turning the last page wanting more!  Despite the Christmas cover and title – this book could be read anytime!

Thursday, 15 December 2011

12 Books of 2011 (plus bonus book) Christmas Competition

As a thank you to all my readers, I've got a fabulous 12 Books of 2011 Christmas Competition for you all.

There are 13 prizes up for grabs - These consist of the 13 books which left a lasting impression on me; 10 "normal" books, 2 "Christmas" books PLUS a bonus Christmas book! You can click on the books to see my review of them.  Most of them were chosen for their uniqueness, plus a few for their pure fairytale value (and gorgeous, gorgeous heroes!)


The prizes are:


Follow this blog using GFC AND leave me a comment on this post telling me what your favourite book(s) of 2011 were!

Winners will be picked at random; if you would like to win a particular book, please tell me which in your comment.  Wherever possible winners will receive their preference.  You can leave as many preferences as you like.  If you're happy to win any of them, just write lucky dip!  If the book of preference has already been allocated to a winner, you will receive a book chosen at random so do tell me if you've read any of them to avoid receiving it again!



Entries close at 11.59pm on 5th January 2012.
Prizes will be dispatched by the publisher - I will pass your details on to the publisher who will dispatch the prize in January
One entry per person (can specify as many preferences as you wish)
One prize per household
Once announced, winners have 7 days to provide dispatch address.  If not, I reserve the right to redraw winners for that prize.
Some prizes are only available to winners who can provide a UK address, some are open internationally.


Saturday, 10 December 2011

Review of The Night Before Christmas by Scarlett Bailey

** What’s it about **

All Lydia's ever wanted is a perfect Christmas...

So when her oldest friends invite her to spend the holidays with them, it seems like the answer to her dreams. She's been promised log fires, roasted chestnuts, her own weight in mince pies; all in a setting that looks like something out of a Christmas card.

However, her winter wonderland is about to be ruined by the ghosts of boyfriends past, present and potential future. She's snowed in with her current boyfriend, her old flame and a hunky stranger. Well, three (wise) men is traditional at this time of year...

** What I thought **

Firstly, the cover is absolutely gorgeous, and invites you in.  The title is also perfect; there are quite a few “Christmas” books around this year that are only partially based on Christmas, but this is totally and utterly Christmassy! This book starts with a prologue on 4th December.  The rest of the book is set from 21st – 31st December with a final chapter set on 24th December next year.  Being centred totally around the Christmas period, this book is the ultimate Christmas read. 

This is Scarlett Bailey’s debut novel, and it is truly magical.  Packed full of ups and downs for the characters, which made me smile, laugh and cry!  Once I’d got into it, I found it very difficult to put down and I’m pleased to say I got the ending I was looking for!  The main character, Lydia, experiences a lot of emotions that I think many women will relate to – I certainly did! There are lots of loveable characters and plenty of hunky men to choose from.

This is the perfect book to read in front of a roaring fire, wrapped up in the warm, with perhaps a few flurries of snow outside.  The perfect book to be devoured over Christmas and would be ideal to unwrap on Christmas Day.

Thursday, 8 December 2011

Review of Wrapped up in You by Carole Matthews

Thank you to Carole Matthews for the copy of Wrapped up in You.

** What it’s about **

A Christmas fling, or has Janie found the real thing?

Thirty-something hairdresser Janie Johnson's single status is a constant source of gossip for her friends and clients. So after too many nights in with her cat, a blind date disaster and news that her ex is getting married, Janie realises it's time to do something dramatic with her life.

It's time for an adventure!

Leaving winter behind, Janie takes the plunge and books an exotic trip to Africa. Her friends think she's mad and Janie thinks they may very well be right . . . but then she falls head over heels for her tour guide - and fully fledged Maasai Warrior - Dominic. But can Janie now face spending a snowy Christmas back home without him?

Packed with unforgettable characters, romance and laughter, Wrapped Up In You is your very own perfect Christmas Carole!

** What I thought **

This is a wonderfully unique book.  Don’t let the cover fool you – it isn’t your typical girl meets boy storyline.  Yes, girl (Janie Johnson) certainly does meet boy, but he isn’t just any boy – he’s a man, a Massai Warrior man (Dominic).  Carole Matthews has a wonderful style of writing, it’s descriptive enough for you to feel like you’re in the same room as the characters and flowing and paced well to keep you reading.  I really enjoyed the short chapters, something which has been lacking in my life for a while now!

I have to admit, I struggled with the storyline; it was too unrealistic for me.  But then I live in a bubble of safety so just couldn’t relate to the situation.  I just couldn’t see this happening in real life (and deep down was hoping Mike would feature more heavily in Janie’s life) but then who am I to stand in the way of true love?  You don’t always fall in love with the people who want you to.  There isn’t a set formula; it just doesn't work that way.  So I guess in that way, it is realistic, but I just struggled to relate.  That said, I did enjoy the book as a whole and it was an enjoyably easy read – I would certainly look out for future works of Carole Matthews.

My favourite part of the book has got to be Janie’s cat, Archibald the Aggressive.  He reminded me of my old cat, eager to take a chunk of flesh at any opportunity but incredibly loving when his tummy rumbles.  This develops into something wonderful when Archie meets Dominic.  Archie was constantly making me smile.

Sunday, 4 December 2011

Review of It Started With a Kiss by Miranda Dickinson

Thank you Miranda for the opportunity to read It Started With a Kiss.

Congratulations on the book entering the Sunday Times Bestsellers list at number 13 - very well deserved!!!


How far would you go to find the man of your dreams?

As the singer in a wedding band, Romily Parker has seen her fair share of happy endings, even though her own love life isn't quite as simple.

On the last Saturday before Christmas, (shortly after disastrously declaring her love for best friend Charlie), Romily has a brief encounter with a handsome stranger whose heart-stopping kiss changes everything.

Determined to find him again, Romily embarks on a yearlong quest, helped (and sometimes hindered) by enthusiastic Uncle Dudley, cake-making Auntie Mags and flamboyant Wren. Will she find the man of her dreams? Or could true love be closer than she thinks?

It Started With a Kiss ...but will it end with love?

Watch Miranda's Book Trailer (and listen out for the FABULOUS voice that is Miranda herself!)

** What I thought **

What a book! This truly is the ultimate tale of fate and destiny. A complete fairytale; a lot of girls will recognise this fantasy.

I was hooked from the very first sentence, and that addiction didn’t relent until I’d turned the very last page! Some books just grab you, reel you in and hold you in suspense and it isn’t until you’ve finished that you realise you’ve been holding your breath.  This is one of those.

The set list that Miranda Dickinson has accompanying this book is perfect – it fits with the storyline of the wedding band and it works perfectly to add that perfect touch to the perfect book.

I was torn between the real world Charlie who she knew and dreamland ‘Phantom Kisser’ and constantly changed my mind throughout the book.  I was truly concerned that I’d be sorely disappointed with the ending, but once again I should learn not to doubt the authors that provide me with such wonderfully heart-warming stories.  The ending is perfect.  It wasn’t predictable for me, the twists and turns are perfect and revealed just at the right moment!

I loved the modern-ness of this book – Romily blogs in it and twitter features, a popular activity for many people nowadays and this adds depth and reality to the book.  Auntie Mags and Uncle Dudley are great characters to look out for, and all the mention of cakes made me hungry!

Despite Romily’s search lasting the entire book, it didn’t drag at all.  Dickinson held my attention from start to finish, made me well up a few times and left me feeling warm and fuzzy inside.  This is the ultimate romantic book for Christmas.  My only concern as I put this book back on its bookshelf is – Do things like this only happen in books and films? Can real life people experience such a fairytale whirlwind?!


There are bonus features for It Started With a Kiss (a unique touch for a book) which you can find here

You can find Miranda on twitter @wurdsmyth

Miranda also blogs, and even more impressively vlogs at Coffee and Roses.  In each episode Miranda shows what's been happening in the writing/editing process, answers questions about anything from viewers and gives exclusive insights into what she's working on at the moment.

Miranda's talents don't stop at writing.  She has the most incredible voice - you can listen to her music here.  Miranda has a debut novel coming out soon - About Time - I can't recommend anymore highly that you should take a look!

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Review and Giveaway of Last Christmas by Julia Williams

** What it’s about **

Discover the true spirit of Christmas

Catherine Tinsall is dreading Christmas. As the 'Happy Homemaker' she is an online sensation, but the reality couldn't be more different. With Catherine's marriage in tatters, her children running wild and her mother increasingly forgetful, seasonal cheer is running low.

Husband Noel also hides a secret: he's facing the axe at work. Until he chances upon the village of Hope Christmas, deep in the Shropshire countryside, which could be the second chance he's searching for. If he can save it from the developers!

In Hope Christmas itself, schoolteacher Marianne Moore is trying to heal her battered heart. But Christmas is a time for families, and memories of what she's lost haunt her at every turn.

Meanwhile, Gabriel North faces a lonely Christmas but hides his sadness for the sake of his son. Will his wife ever come home? Or does love lie elsewhere?

All four need a Christmas miracle. And it might just happen - courtesy of a mysterious guardian angel ! Forced to reassess their lives, will Catherine, Noel, Marianne and Gabriel discover what the meaning of Christmas really is?

An irresistible gift of a tale that will warm the hearts of Christmas-lovers and Scrooges alike!

** What I thought **

I must admit it took me a while to get into this book, but by the end I’d found it both heart-breaking and heart-warming.  This book is seamlessly put together; rather than each chapter focusing on different characters, Williams does this within the chapter.  Williams moves around the village of Hope Christmas, Shropshire and dips into London without breaking the flow or losing pace, or most importantly, the reader.

I have a habit of not reading the back of books before I start anymore; I love that it gives you a greater journey of discovery for some books.  This was one of those, I slowly got to discover the secret of Ralph Nicholas which I thought was very cleverly woven in (and would have been far more obvious if I’d read the synopsis).

I loved that the book was split into four parts, which were based around Wham’s Last Christmas!! Each part begins with a chapter containing flashbacks to Last Year with the rest of that parts chapters focusing on This Year.  This provided a slow release of each characters back story which I thought worked really well!


Thank you to Julia Williams for the copy of Last Christmas.

Finally, Julia and her publishers at Avon have kindly agreed to give away 
3 signed copies of Last Christmas away to readers of my blog.

** Competition Closed **

All you have to do to enter is follow this blog on GFC and leave me a comment answering the following question: "Are you hoping this Christmas will be just as good or better than your last Christmas?"  Please remember to leave an email address or twitter id so I can contact you if you win.


Entries must complete required steps to be valid
1 entry per person
1 prize per household
Competition ends at 5pm on 10th December
Winners will be contacted by me to arrange delivery of your prize.
Winners must provide a UK address for delivery of prize - UK ONLY.
I reserve the right to redraw winners if winners no response within 3 days.