Friday, 28 November 2014

The Little Christmas Kitchen by Jenny Oliver

"Christmas at the Davenports’ house was always about one thing: food!

But when sisters Ella and Maddy were split up, Ella to live in London with their Dad, and Maddy staying in Greece with their Mum, mince pies lost their magic.

Now, a cheating husband has thrown Ella a curved snowball…and for the first time in years, all she wants is her mum. So she heads back to Greece, where her family’s taverna holds all the promise of home. Meanwhile, waitress Maddy’s dreams of a white Christmas lead her back to London…and her Dad.

But a big fat festive life-swap isn’t as easy as it sounds! And as the sisters trade one kitchen for another, it suddenly seems that among the cinnamon, cranberries and icing sugar, their recipes for a perfect Christmas might be missing a crucial ingredient: each other."

The Little Christmas Kitchen reminded me a little of The Holiday as Ella and Maddy essentially swap homes for the Christmas season, and also of Mamma Mia with the Greek location and all the food.  Ella thinks just has discovered that her perfect husband is cheating on her and wants her mum, and Maddy is dreaming of "Making It" in London.  The book alternates between the two sisters in their different locations.

Ella and Maddy used to be close when they were little but something went wrong when their parents split up, and since then there has been this competing sibling rivalry where they each think the other has got something they haven't and that somehow they have been missing out.  I liked seeing this from a dual perspective of both sisters, and as the reader you get to see that actually if they just talked to each other then there really would not be anything to be jealous of.

To be honest, I found Ella coped with her marriage breakdown a little too well.  She didn't really seem to care, especially around the middle of the book when she is on the phone to him, and having got to know Ella, I think she would have cared more.  Even if she felt it was the right thing overall, in reality a person would be more upset about it and I don't think they would be able to joke with each other about him sleeping and living with another woman as they do at one point in the book.

This is not a book you should read when you are hungry as it is packed full of mouthwatering descriptions of all kinds of food.  It might not be the traditional Christmas food you enjoy, but the book certainly is festive (unlike some other books set over the Christmas period, but it could easily be enjoyed at other times of year). I particularly enjoyed Maddy's time in London as she finds herself in a new place, and helps others along the way.

The Little Christmas Kitchen is a story of families and friendship, neighbourliness, growing into yourself and learning to love yourself.  For me it was a slow burner, and it took me a while to get into it, but ultimately, it made me laugh out loud and it made my eyes well up with tears.  It would make a fabulous festive film with the backdrops of scenery from two incredible locations; Greece and London at Christmas time in the snow.  

I felt that the book ended too soon, in that it felt a bit rushed and I also wanted more.  I'd love to revisit this family again in the future and see how they are all getting on, and it was definitely the kind of story that could be revisited by the author in a future book or novella!

It is a shame this book is an e-book as the cover is beautiful!

** Thank you to NetGalley for the free e-copy of this title in return for my honest review **

Thursday, 27 November 2014

One Hundred Christmas Proposals by Holly Martin

"The eagerly anticipated follow-up to One Hundred Proposals.

If you thought Harry & Suzie’s life couldn't get anymore sweepingly romantic than Harry asking her to marry him at the end of One Hundred Proposals – think again!

It’s Christmas in a snow-kissed London, and have vowed to carry out one hundred proposals in December. No easy task at the best of times - made even more complicated by Harry & Suzie trying to plan their first Christmas and a visit from the dreaded in-laws. But one hundred deliciously Christmassy proposals later they find themselves asking if everything is still perfect in their own relationship….

Welcome back to the divinely warm world of One Hundred Proposals – with a sprinkling of pure, joyful, festive magic.

Have yourself a very merry Christmas indeed with Holly Martin’s Christmas novella."

This was a super quick novella of 100 pages that I devoured in almost an instant.  It is set in the lead up to Christmas ending on New Years Eve, and features all sorts of romantic proposals and follows Harry and Suz as they prepare for Christmas amongst all the proposal chaos.

I had not read One Hundred Proposals and found myself wishing I had before I embarked on this novella buy, although it isn't a necessity, I think you would feel more invested in the story as you would be dying to see what had happened to the main characters.  I found this novella was too short for me to really adore or fall in love with anyone but had I read the main book first, I am sure I would have fallen in love!  This certainly hasn't put me off though (and doesn't mean I doesn't enjoy it!); I shall be getting myself a copy of One Hundred Proposals and reading the books the wrong way round.

I have to admit I caught on to what was going to happen fairly early on, so it was not a total mystery to me but it was an extremely sweet romantic festive fairy tale.  The only downside for me was I felt that it ended too soon, and I would have loved to have seen it end with a blog post of the "final proposal".

Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher Carina for the copy in return for my honest review.  

One Hundred Christmas Proposals has received some outstanding reviews online and I can easily add my recommendation to those!

Carina have kindly agreed to offer two ebooks (the original One Hundred Proposals and the new novella One Hundred Christmas Proposals) to one lucky winner.  To enter, follow the rafflecopter instructions below...

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Cold Feet at Christmas by Debbie Johnson

"Running out on your wedding shouldn’t be this much fun!

A remote Scottish castle on a snowy Christmas Eve. A handsome husband-to-be. A dress to die for. It should have been the happiest day of Leah Harvey’s life – but the fairytale wedding turns sour when she finds her fiancĂ© halfway up the bridesmaid’s skirt just hours before the ceremony!

Fleeing the scene in a blizzard, Leah ends up stranded at the nearest cottage, where she collapses into the arms of its inhabitant – a man so handsome she thinks she must have died and gone to heaven!

And when Rob Cavelli suddenly finds himself with an armful of soaking wet, freezing cold, and absolutely gorgeous bride on the run, he’s more than happy to welcome her into his snowbound cottage this Christmas…"

There might be snow everywhere you look in Cold Feet at Christmas but boy this book couldn't get any hotter.  It left me sat wondering whether any man could ever come close to Rob Cavelli (also am I the only person that spent the whole book thinking I was reading about Roberto Cavalli, the Italian fashion designer?!)!

Cold Feet at Christmas is the perfect Christmas parcel - it's addictive, steamy, slightly festive (although I could see myself reading it at any time of the year as it really only starts off at Christmas time and it doesn't go full throttle for the Christmas theme!) and full of vibrant characters. The sexual tension between Leah and Rob was instant, and it was the aftermath of this that the book really concentrates on as Christmas dissolves into New Year, which is unique in itself.

I liked seeing both Rob and Leah's perspective on the same matters as it really drew you deeper into their story.  There are twists and turns along the way, including some hilarious laugh out loud moments. This might not be the most unpredictable of books, but it certainly kept my interest throughout.

Thank you so much to Debbie Johnson for the copy in return for an honest review.  Cold Feet at Christmas is an absolute bargain at 99p (ebook on Amazon) and it is, at the time of writing this, Number 1 in Amazon's Best Sellers for Holiday Fiction.  I do not hesitate to recommend that you go and grab yourself a copy!  A fabulous story but not for the faint hearted!!

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Shopaholic to the Stars by Sophie Kinsella

"Becky Brandon (nee Bloomwood) is in Hollywood! It's as if all her life has been leading to this moment. She's hanging out with the stars … or at least she will be, when she finally gets to meet movie superstar Sage Seymour, whom husband Luke is now managing.

There's so much to see and do! And getting Minnie through the hurdles for her A-list Hollywood pre-school will require some…er…help.

Becky sets her heart on a new career - she's going to be a celebrity stylist. Red carpet, here she comes! But Becky soon finds it's tough in Tinseltown. Luckily her best friend Suze comes over to keep her company, and together they embark on the Hollywood insider trail. But somehow...things aren't quite working out as they’d hoped.

Then Becky's big chance comes, and it's an opportunity that money can't buy. But will it cost her too much?"

I read the first Sophie Kinsella Confessions of a Shopaholic book, and in my head I would class myself as a fan of the Sophie Kinsella Shopaholic series but in all honesty I haven't read the rest of the series so have not kept fully up to date with Becky Bloomwood (now Brandon!) and since I last visited Becky she has married and has a daughter, Minnie!  To be honest, I was shocked to discover this was the seventh book in the series!

I enjoyed the book, and the story of Becky as she attempts to dazzle on the red carpet and mingle with the stars but I can understand why "die hard fans" might think that Becky has lost her way.  She was annoying and a pain in the **** for most of the book, and didn't really redeem herself until the very end of the book and this is just before the reader discovers that this particular story line has been split into two books so there is a major loose end which may leave readers somewhat frustrated (especially given this book is pretty long in itself).  

On the other hand, her husband and daughter are cute; Minnie really is the star of this show! This may not be the Becky you all know and love, as she is pretty selfish and self-centered in this book but perhaps she will return to good form in the next installment where all our questions will hopefully be answered!

All in all, I enjoyed it but I didn't adore it with all my heart and soul.

Friday, 14 November 2014

The Reckoning by Emma Jones

"As Lauren wakes after her 21st party she's not sure if she's hungover or dreaming but then she remembers.

The necklace. 
The flashback. 
The bond. 

The consequences are great & details unknown. After a visit to the vampire council things settle down until vivid worrying dreams start to disrupt Lauren's sleep & life. 

The national news is filled with big cat killings but Lauren knows the truth & is being dragged into dark souls & black magic. Someone dangerous is getting into her head & her involvement with the council tests her relationships. 

How will Lauren cope? Is there a happy ending? Will blood be shed?"

The Reckoning by Emma Jones is out now.  If you would like to purchase The Reckoning, you can do so in Kindle edition at Amazon.

The lovely Emma Jones would love to hear from you, and there a couple of ways to contact her if you would like to:

- On twitter
-  Emma's blog
-  On Facebook
-  On Goodreads

Monday, 10 November 2014

Mr Miracle by Debbie Macomber

"Harry Mills is a guardian angel on a mission: help Addie Folsom to get her life back on track - and help her find love.

Creating a happy ending for Addie and her neighbour Erich doesn’t seem like much of a challenge. But soon after arriving in the town of Tacoma, Harry realises he might need some guidance. Addie and Erich can't stand each other; growing up he was popular and outgoing, while she was rebellious and headstrong. Addie would now rather avoid Erich entirely, especially at Christmas.

Harry is going to need all the help he can get, and a bit of divine inspiration, to help Addie and Erich find their Christmas miracle."

Mr Miracle is a fairly short, light read, which I could easily have read in one sitting.  It has tinges of A Christmas Carol and It's A Wonderful Life, and the book has that magical feeling of Christmas.

I liked the characters, although I didn't feel as emotionally involved as I would have in a slightly longer book.  It definitely has the feel of a book that could have a sequel in the making.

Mr Miracle is a story of second chances and not being afraid of admitting that you're wrong, a reminder that people can change and also a reminder that life is short.  It is a sweet short story that leave you feeling warm and fuzzy this Christmas.

Mr Miracle is released on 20 November.  Thank you to the publisher, Random House, for the advanced copy in exchange for an honest review.  They have also very kindly offered five copies of Mr Miracle for a competition for readers of Book - Love - Bug.  To be in with a chance of winning, follow the rafflecopter instructions below.

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Sunday, 9 November 2014

Christmas at the Cove by Victoria Connelly

I am starting to gear up for Christmas reading, and one book that caught my eye is Christmas at the Cove, a novella by Victoria Connelly.  I think the cover is beautiful and, for some reason, I'm always drawn to books that are set in Cornwall or Devon - they always seem to make such fabulous love stories.

"When Millie Venning escapes to her aunt's cottage on the windswept Devon coast for Christmas, she isn't looking for romance. So, when she finds a handsome stranger already at the cottage, she's baffled. Has her aunt double-booked the cottage by mistake or is she up to her match-making tricks once again? "

The plot reminds me a little of Sue Moorcroft's The Wedding Proposal.  Lets hope it is just as good!!

Victoria has provided an exclusive extract from Christmas at the Cove:

"Cove Cottage wasn't the sort of place one found without either a map or a set of foolproof directions. Leaving the main road and taking a little lane which ran through a dark wood, only the most observant would notice a gap in the trees and the pothole-ridden track which declined steeply towards the sea. Lined with thick gorse which blazed the richest yellow whatever time of year it was, the track twisted and turned as it descended, with steep cliffs rising to the right and acres of thick bracken to the left. It was a wild, windswept place which blew away the cobwebs and entered the soul of all who visited.
Slowing down as she reached the wood, Millie looked out for the gap in the trees, turning slowly into it. The track was wet and muddy and she could see more snowflakes in the headlights. At least she was nearly there, she thought.
Turning the last corner, she caught her first glimpse of Cove Cottage which was strange because she shouldn't have been able to see it at all.
'The lights are on,' she said aloud, turning the car to park it on the grass beside an old outbuilding used to store wood for the stove in the living room. Perhaps Aunt Louise had asked the cleaner to leave the lights on for her.
She switched the car engine off and, for a moment, sat in the dark. If the light hadn't been on in the cottage, it would have been pitch black. Luckily, she'd remembered to bring a torch with her and she fumbled for it now in the depths of her handbag.
As soon as the car door was open, she heard the roar of the wind and relished the freshness of the air that whipped around her. The snow had stopped and Millie craned her neck back and smiled as she took in the immensity of the night sky above her sewn with a thousand stars. That was one of the things she missed when living in the city. As beautiful as Bath was, the street pollution didn't allow one to admire the glorious star-spangled heavens. But the intense cold soon got the better of her and, grabbing her suitcase, she followed the thin beam of the torch towards the front door.
Fishing in her pocket for the key which she'd collected from her aunt earlier that day, Millie slotted it into the lock only it didn't turn. She tried again. And again. She was quite sure she'd got the right key because it was on the funny little keyring with the picture of an Exmoor pony on it.
Then something occurred to Millie. There must be a key in the lock on the inside. Was the cleaner still there waiting to greet her? Millie supposed it was possible and so knocked on the door.
But it wasn't Mrs Jemison who opened the door a moment later. It was a tall, dark-haired man.
'Can I help you?' he asked, stooping in the doorframe.
Millie stood staring at him in wide-eyed horror, her long fair hair blowing around her face. 'Who on earth are you?' she cried."

You can grab yourself an ebook copy of Christmas at the Cove in time for Christmas here

I Will Marry George Clooney (By Christmas) by Tracy Bloom

"There comes a time in every woman’s life when the only answer is to marry George Clooney.

For Michelle, that time is now.

Slogging her guts out in a chicken factory, whilst single-handedly bringing up a teenager who hates her, is far from the life that 36-year-old Michelle had planned.

But marrying the most eligible man on the planet by Christmas could change all that, couldn’t it?

Sometimes your only option is to dream the impossible - because you never know where it might take you…"

I first discovered Tracy Bloom when her debut romantic comedy novel No-One Ever Has Sex on a Tuesday landed in my post box.  I tried to find my review of this book to link to here, but somehow I have totally lost it and cannot find it anywhere.  I remember enjoying No-One Ever Has Sex on a Tuesday as a lighthearted romantic novel, although I remember thinking that the title did not overwhelmingly feature in the plot.

However, with Tracy's latest Christmas masterpiece, the theme of marrying George Clooney is unmissable and leads Michelle on a hilarious journey. The story takes place mostly in the build up to Christmas, and so it isn't the most Christmassy book ever but it is the perfect book when you want a Christmas book but at the same time a release from everything that is overwhelmingly Christmas.  Yes, the plot may be a little crazy (in a good way) but at the heart of the book is a good life lesson; Reach for the moon, even if you miss you'll land among the stars.

I felt sorry for Michelle whenever her mother was around.  This was a typical case of second child where the first could do no wrong and the second will simply never live up to expectations.  The moment at the pub quiz where her mother questions everything in favour of any glimpse of an alternative answer made me cringe for Michelle.  Yet Michelle herself has a daughter, and she too has a battle on her hands in a different kind of struggle.  I loved the different relationships that Bloom creates in this book, with Daz, and Jane and Rob!

I got some wonderfully strange looks whilst reading this on the train (yet think of the advertising!).  I powered through this book, reading it in a day in three sittings (morning commute, evening commute and bedtime); it is so light and easy to read.  Definitely my favourite Tracy Bloom so far!

You can follow the lovely Tracy Bloom on twitter @TracyBBloom

Finally, as Christmas is approaching (the Oxford Street lights have been switched on and the John Lewis Christmas Ad is on the tv....although I still await the Coca Cola ad which truly signifies Christmas), I am very happy to tell you that here at Book - Love - Bug, you have the chance to win 1 of 5 copies of I Will Marry George Clooney (By Christmas).  Thank you to the publisher for offering these competition copies.  To be in with a chance of winning, follow the instructions in the Rafflecopter below.....

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The Girls from Corona del Mar by Rufi Thorpe

"Mia and Lorrie Ann are lifelong friends: hard-hearted Mia and untouchably beautiful, kind Lorrie Ann. 

While Mia struggles with a mother who drinks, a pregnancy at fifteen, and younger brothers she loves but can't quite be good to, Lorrie Ann is luminous, surrounded by her close-knit family, immune to the mistakes that mar her best friend's life. 

Until a sudden loss catapults Lorrie Ann into tragedy: things fall apart, and then fall apart further – and there is nothing Mia can do to help. And as good, kind, brave Lorrie Ann stops being so good, Mia begins to question just who this woman is and what that question means about them both.

A staggeringly arresting, honest novel of love, motherhood, loyalty, and the myth of the perfect friendship that moves us to ask ourselves just how well we know those we love, what we owe our children, and who we are without our friends."

The Girls from Corona del Mar is a story of lifelong friendship, and the challenges and changes that friendship endures as girls grow up into women, life becomes more and more real and those friends are separated by a literal and psychological distance.

The whole story is told by Mia in a first person omniscient way so that sometimes she is recalling a history which she took part in and sometimes she is recalling Lorrie Ann's history, regardless of whether she was there or not. Thorpe does a fabulous job of weaving the two women's lives together into one solid narrative that does not ever seem to break the thread despite jumping back and forth and side to side.

I found some parts of the book quite difficult to read, and especially the difficulties experienced during childbirth.  

It was not quite what I had expected, it is far more serious featuring alcohol, drugs, abortion, childbirth and motherhood.  This book is not a fairytale; it is heartbreaking and real.  A book for grown ups.

Courting Trouble by Kathy Lette

"Tilly has the day from hell when she's sacked from her barristers' chambers in the morning, then finds her husband in bed with her former best friend in the afternoon. She escapes to her mother, Roxy - a sassy solicitor whose outrageous take on men, work and family life is the despair of her more conventional daughter. Roxy comes up with a radical plan for their future - they'll set up an all-female law firm which will only champion women who have been cheated, put upon, attacked, ripped off or ruined by the men in their lives.

In court, Tilly finds herself up against Jack Cassidy, the smooth-talking, politically incorrect, legal love god who broke her heart at law school. Jack is fluent in three languages – English, sarcasm and flirtation… but if he's so loathsome, then why is she committing Acute Lust in the 3rd degree?

When a case lands on the doorstep that threatens to change all their lives, Tilly finds herself dangerously close to taking the law into her own hands… Will Jack's cunning ways and expertise in emotional break and enter derail her quest for justice? Or will the women take on the boys… and win?"

I am sorry to say that I couldn't finish this book.  When I first read the synopsis, I thought I would absolutely adore it; I am a lawyer and I love chick lit so this seemed like my perfect book, and even knowing what I know now I still think this every time I re-read the synopsis.  I am left wondering what went wrong?

I just could not engage with the main character, Tilly, or any of the other characters.  In fact, I found the personality of Tilly absolutely enfuriating and the way the book is written just didn't work for me.  It felt like every line was trying too hard to be funny or sarcastic, or both, and I found it really hard work to read.  I certainly don't know any barrister like her and I didn't find the mother-daughter relationship funny either.  I very very rarely give up reading a book, in fact I think the only other book I have ever had to stop reading was The Slap, but I just could not bear to continue reading which makes me sad.

I took to Amazon to read the reviews, twitter and the book blogger world to see if I was missing something, and to see whether perhaps it was worth continuing.  There was a mixture of reviews so I read a few more pages, but then gave up after 50 or so pages.  

I cannot comment on the rape aspect of the storyline, and whether it works with the humour side of the book, as quite honestly, I gave up just as it got to that point.  The few paragraphs I did read didn't fill me with hope that this would change my feelings on the book.

All in all, sorry to say this is only the second book I have ever had to stop reading, so this review comes with the caveat that I have not read the entire book!

Saturday, 1 November 2014

Postcards from the Past by Marcia Willett

"Can you ever escape your family ties?

Siblings Billa and Ed share their beautiful, grand old childhood home in rural Cornwall. Their lives are uncomplicated. With family and friends nearby and their free and easy living arrangements, life seems as content as can be.

But when postcards start arriving from a sinister figure they thought belonged well and truly in their pasts, old memories are stirred. Why is he contacting them now? And what has he been hiding all these years?"

I didn't really like this book when I first started reading it, and have to admit that I considered giving up in those early stages.  I just didn't feel a connection with the characters and didn't warm to them; I found them difficult to picture. However, then the intrigue of the postcards kicked in and I wanted to know who Tris was and what he wanted.  

This book is more of a slow burner, but packed full of everyday life in the Cornwall community and I soon became able to picture the characters and the landscapes.  Whilst the book jumps about a lot, Marcia Willett has fitted each of those pieces together extremely well as I didn't find it disjointed at all.  

I thought the tension was built up well but it was a real shame that one of the reason's Tris returns was revealed so early on.  Dom guesses at why Tris might have come back, and as I read this I thought "well it can't possibly be that then" but actually he is not far out.  I would have liked a little more suspense in that respect.

All in all, it turned out to be a good read but not something I fell head over heels in love with. I did love little Jakey, the descriptions of when he visits the dogs and his relationship with Harry.  I also loved Sir Alec and my heart went out to him as it was clear he very much missed his wife.  His relationship with Tilly and her 'family' made me smile.  

Finally, the ending seemed to deal with all the characters but for me it was not quite as complete as I would have liked it to have been - I felt that I was left with some loose ends that I would love to have seen tied up!