Sunday, 24 November 2013

Christmas Without Holly - Nicola Yeager

About the book...
Christmas is a time for pampering yourself.

At least that's what Holly Nightingale thinks.


A hard-working nurse, she has given herself an early Christmas gift - three days at Willows, a posh health farm in Surrey.


She's looking forward to day after day of skin treatments, dips in the hot tub, and relaxing sessions with the handsome masseurs.


But, not everything is perfect.


About the author...
Nicola Yeager was born in Lincoln to Dutch parents and is married with two children.  She currently lives in London and Amsterdam.  Christmas Without Holly is her first novella.

My thoughts...
A lovely little pre Christmas novella.  Holly a nurse has been secretly saving and books herself into a spa for three days of pampering in anticipation of Christmas with her new finance at his parents.

Holly meets Rebecca a very spoilt rich wife who she goes to great lengths to avoid.  Rebecca likens Holly to herself and Holly doesn't like what she sees.

Time away from her everyday life gives Holly the opportunity to really see what path she has chosen - does she like the direction her life is heading?  

An insightful novella which had me silently shouting my opinion's out.  Well worth a read if you have a couple of hours to spare. I wouldn't really categorise it as a Christmas story though.


Meet Me Under the Mistletoe - Abby Clements

About the book...
Childhood friends Laurie and Rachel used to be inseparable. Now thirty-five, they have all but fallen out of touch; glamorous single girl Laurie is based in London and dedicated to her career in fashion; Rachel seemingly living the family idyll in Yorkshire. But when Rachel's mother-in-law needs urgent treatment in London, and disasters at work and in her love life mean Laurie needs to flee, a house swap falls into place. Soon gentle Rachel is braving the city's mean streets while trying to keep her marriage and family together; while Laurie attempts to befriend the wary village locals - and forget the man who seems intent on breaking her heart. Will their relationships survive this test? And will they make it home for Christmas?  

About the author... 
Abby Clements worked in book publishing before writing this, her first novel.  Her Christmas baking skills are upper-intermediate.  Her countryside-survival skills are basic to none.  She lives with her boyfriend in North London.

My thoughts...
The gorgeous cover drew me to this book and it didn't disappoint.  I like the fact the book concentrated on two main characters and how their lives were entwined. I could relate to both women who, like many of us barely keep in touch because life has taken over.  Both are happy in their lives - or are they? Laurie is single and a work-a-holic, living and breathing work in the city until she drops a clanger and she is made to take a complete break from work.  Rachael is the opposite married, living in the country, putting her family, friends and community first. Circumstances make them swap houses for a few weeks and at first both kick against their new environments. 

This book was a real treat.  The sort which makes you want to curl up on the sofa with hot chocolate and a biscuit (home-made of course) and jump straight into the pages. Abby described the characters and locations in such detail it was very easy to visualise both people and places. I could have easily moved into Rachael's cottage or Laurie's flat. It was lovely to watch the self awareness of both of the women and to see their friendship grow once again.

Although at times the plot was a little predictable  (I was rooting for it to go the way I thought) it had enough twists and surprises to keep me hooked. It really got me in the mood for Christmas, virtually tasting and smelling all the delicious treats  prepared in both Yorkshire and London in preparation for Christmas.  

This book highlighted that sometimes we need to take a step back from our lives and factor in some me time. Point taken I'll just read another book :-)  

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and look forward to reading more from Abby Clements in the future.


Tuesday, 19 November 2013

A Groom for Christmas - Cara Marsi

About the book... 
When a young woman hires her hometown’s former bad boy to be her pretend fiancé for the holidays, she finds she can’t wrap up her feelings as easily as a Christmas gift.
New York jewelry designer Graceann Palmer has two days to find a fiancé to bring home to Pennsylvania for the holidays so her matchmaking mama will quit fixing her up with jerks. The Falcon, a motorcycle-riding, leather-clad former high school crush, helped her out once before. Maybe he'll do it again.
Jake Falco, man of many mysteries, is back in town on a mission—one the people of Spirit Lake most likely won't appreciate. When Graceann presents him with her crazy scheme, it gives him something he's always wanted—a chance to get to know Graceann. It also gives him the perfect opportunity to add fuel to his project of revenge.
But as Jake and Graceann grow closer, their engagement-of-convenience begins to feel like the real deal—until Jake’s secrets are revealed.
Can a relationship that began with lies and secrets bloom like a rare Christmas rose into happily-ever-after?

About the Author...
When I was a corporate drone and cubicle dweller living in a fabric-covered cage, the creative energy of writing romance allowed my mind to escape the reality of my everyday world, at least for a while. No longer a corporate drone, I now have more time to indulge my love of romance, with independent heroines and the strong men who love them. I read and write romance to satisfy my craving for good love stories with happy endings.
Reading opened a whole new wonderful world to me as a child. I read anything and everything I could get my hands on, even cereal boxes. When I got older I haunted the main library in my hometown. I can still feel the rush of excitement every time I walked through the large doors and inhaled the scent of thousands of books.
There is a classic episode from the old TV show Twilight Zone that fills me with horror to this day. A bookworm survives a nuclear attack while he's in a library, only to have his glasses break. He's surrounded by all those books and can't see to read them. This is the stuff of my nightmares.
As a preteen and teen I loved the young adult romance novels of Elizabeth Howard and the Judy Bolton mysteries by Margaret Sutton.
For as long as I can remember I've made up love stories in my head. The Thirties and Forties romantic comedies that played on late-night TV when I was growing up helped shape my love of romance.
I always dreamed of being a published author. I've worked in the corporate world all my adult life, but the dream of seeing my name on a book wouldn't die.

I decided to pursue my dream. I joined Romance Writers of America and absorbed all I could about the craft of writing. I met many published authors who helped and encouraged me. I entered contests, went to workshops and conferences, and studied all aspects of the publishing business. After ten long years of hard work, rejections and disappointments, I sold my first book, A Catered Affair, to Avalon Books. Writing is the hardest work I've ever done, but the most rewarding. I’ve recently revised and re-titled A Catered Affair. It’s now A Catered Romance and is available exclusively as an ebook. 

One of the most exciting recognitions I’ve had as a writer was when I was named an up and coming author in the 2003 Affaire de Coeur magazine's readers' poll.

I write contemporary romance, romantic suspense, and paranormal romance. Read about all my books on this site. In addition to my books, I have had success writing short stories for women’s magazines. See my list of short stories on this site also.
I live on the East Coast with my husband and a fat, black diva of a cat named Killer

My thoughts...
I have to be honest the first chapter of this book had me wondering if I'd like this book at all.  Jake, someone Graceann knew from her school days just happens to walk into the diner where she and a friend are musing over the fact that she needs a Fiance within the next two days. She's going home for Christmas and wants to try to put an end to her mothers matchmaking.  His instant agreement to her proposal all seemed a little too convenient for me.  It wasn't like they were friends at school.  He was the 'bad lad' and she was the 'rich kid, from the big house'. However, as the story unfolded the characters grew on me and I began to really enjoy the book.  But, nothing is ever quite what it seems. Jake had his reasons for wanting to return to his home town which he didn't share with Graceann and which, just as they were growing close threatened to pull them apart. 
Cara's ability to describe the characters in such detail made me feel she was describing people I knew in real life.  She had me rooting for all the right people in all the right places - a lovely, curl up on the sofa feel good book.

Sunday, 17 November 2013

Christmas at the Gingerbread Cafe - Rebecca Raisin

About the book... 
Christmas is the season the Gingerbread Café was made for…but owner Lily couldn’t be feeling less merry if she tried. She’s spent another year dreaming of being whisked away on a sleigh-ride for two, but she’s facing festive season alone – again. And, just to give her another reason to feel anything other than candy-cane perky, a new shop across the road has opened… Not only is it selling baked goods, but the owner, with his seriously charming smile, has every girl in town swooning. 

But Lily isn't about to let her business crumble - The Gingerbread Cafe is the heart of the community, and she's going to fight for it! This could be the Christmas that maybe, just maybe, all her dreams - even the someone-to-decorate-the -Christmas-tree-with ones - really do come true!

About the author... 
Rebecca Raisin is a true bibliophile.  This love of books morphed into the desire to write them.  She's been widely published in short anthologies, and in fiction magazines. And now she is concentrating on romance. 
Rebecca aims to write characters you can see yourself being friends with.  People with big hearts who care about relationships and believe in true love. 

My thoughts... 
I was asked by the author if I would be interested in reviewing Christmas at the Gingerbread Cafe.  Yes please!! I love a Christmas book, particularly as this weekend  I've done my first lot of Christmas shopping. I read half of the book before I went and half when I came back. It really was a welcome slice of Christmas - that just hit the spot. As with all good short stories the author gave you just enough - leaving me satisfied but wanting a little bit more. Her descriptions were so vivid I felt I knew the characters, particularly CeeCee and I could almost taste the cake and Gingerbread coffee - mmmm.  I can't wait for more from Rebecca and recommend this short story for anyone wanting to get in the mood for Christmas - heartwarming and yummy.

Buy on kindle from Amazon
Facebook for Rebecca Raisin

Sunday, 10 November 2013

Either Side of Midnight - Tori de Clare

About the book...
WHAT IF THE BEST DAY OF YOUR LIFE TURNED INTO YOUR WORST NIGHTMARE?  When nineteen year old Naomi Stone is snatched from her husband at knifepoint on the night of their wedding and taken to a deserted cemetery, she knows her life is finished.  Drugged and dis-orientated, she loses consciousness as she lies in an open grave with a gun to her head.  But the following day,she mysteriously awakes to find herself unharmed and secured to a bed. She's in a beautiful bedroom in a secluded cottage in open countryside. Only one person knows she's there - the man in the balaclava who's holding her, feeding her, revealing nothing. Naomi senses the unfolding of a plan. She should be on honeymoon in the Caribbean.  Instead, she's trapped with an emotionless psycho with no hope of escape.... And his voice is chillingly familiar.  Who is he?  What does he want? What's happened to her husband? Where is she? Will anyone find her before it's too late?

About the author...
Tori de Clare, born 1970, grew up in Greater Manchester. Having taught piano for 25 years in between being a full-time stay-at-home mum of four, she began writing almost five years ago. Having worked with children and young people for so long, it seemed natural to write for that audience. Her debut novel, Either Side of Midnight, was intended for young adults, but has been widely accepted by an adult readership also. She intended it to be the kind of novel that could be enjoyed by almost anyone. She now lives in East Yorkshire and continues to teach music and write books and finds time for little else beyond family. Daughter of two pianists, it was hardly a surprise that music became Tori's career.

Tori de Clare: 'Both my parents were good at two things: music and writing. Those two things run strongly in our family. My dad died when I was 18. In his spare time, he never had a book out of his hands and aspired to having a book of his own published. Having never had the chance to realise his dream, this book is dedicated to him and to my mum who taught me to play the piano.'

Tori's next book (already written) will be the start of a YA paranormal suspense series due to be released in the near future.

My thoughts...
Having read a few good reviews about this book I decided to download it to my kindle and give it a go! Am I glad I did? The book starts just in the evening after the wedding of Naomi and Nathan and moves quickly forward in a way that was totally unexpected - so much so within the first couple of chapters my heart was pounding and I was thinking 'oh no what have I started'. But, if I start a book I have to finish it.  For a time I did think this was going to be just too much for me.

Tori then managed to seamlessly switch both time and genre. We went back twelve months and was introduced to the main characters and a love affair began.  Tori really is a brilliant author she switched back and forth between times until the past caught up with the present - leaving me alternating between heart pounding and fear and laughing and even crying.

This book has everything. It's not just a psychological thriller/mystery but a very insightful book. Things are hardly ever what they seem. Sibling rivalry, doting dad and what seems to be an over protective mother - but is she, or is she she a typical intuitive mother?  Just when I thought I had the plot all sewn up, I reached 60 % on my kindle and it was all blown apart - what a twist.  Tori had me guessing right up until almost the last page. I was repeatedly dragged out of my comfort zone back into the heart pounding - breath holding - silent pleading - fingers crossing world that Naomi had been dragged into.


I highly, highly recommend you give this book a go, you won't be disappointed and a sequel is soon to follow.

Christmas at Carrington's - Alexandra Brown

About the book...
Georgie Hart loves Christmas time at Carrington's department store.  Running the luxury handbag department, Georgie adores helping customers in the hunt for the perfect gift for the perfect someone. And this year is no exception - now she has the hunky Tom, Mr Carrington himself, to spend the special day with.
But when Tom springs a surprise, Georgie's plans are thrown into chaos, Carrington's is getting a fresh lease of life in a hot new reality TV show, featuring formidable retail guru, Kelly Cooper.
As the first show airs, Georgie is shown in a far from flattering light.  Worse is to come when Kelly's vile daughter appears to get her claws into Tom.  Georgie fears this will be the worst Christmas ever, but Santa still has a little surprise for her stocking this year - she'll just have to wait until Christmas to find out....


About the author...
Alexandra Brown is the author of the Carrington series, set in a department store in the pretty seaside town of Mulberry-on-sea, it follows the life, loves and laughs of sales assistant Georgie Hart.

When she isn't writing, Alexandra lives to Tweet too much whilst watching trashy TV. She lives near Brighton, on the South Coast of England, with her husband, daughter and a very shiny black Labrador puppy.

My Thoughts...
Wow - I was really looking forward to this book - The things I'd heard about the book and the beautiful artwork on the cover were what drew me in. I fully intended buying a copy but won one in a competition run by the author Alexandra Brown and along with it came my first xmas card of the year! :-) 

I wasn't disappointed at all.  It's was a really lovely book that has me rooting for Georgie the main character from the very first chapter. Alexander has a magnificent way of describing the characters and the settings that made me feel I knew them all personally.  I hadn't read any of her previous 'Carrington' books but didn't feel any description of the store or characters was lacking.  If you didn't know any different it sits well as a stand alone book.

Carrington's sounds like a lovely old department store where customer service and loyalty are put before commercialisation and profit for profits sake.  It's described in such a way that I feel I 'know' it. As a reader I can fully understand why it's so special to Georgie. Who when she finds out there is going to be a fly on the wall series to improve business isn't altogether happy.  The first episode was filmed without her knowing and doesn't paint a glowing picture.

As the story unfolds I feel Alexandra could  easily have been describing friends of mine. Georgie came across a bit 'Bridget Jones' like. A really lovely, sensitive, happy girl who didn't always get it quite right but her heart was in the right place. It was easy for the TV company to take advantage of her because she believed everything was being done for the future good of the store. Sam comes across as a real friend, loyal and sensitive to the needs of her friends always there for them putting their needs before her own anytime day or night. Eddie is always there for Georgie. He's always on hand to pick up the pieces and put a positive slant on turn a bad situation with his humour.  

The book as the right mix of 'feel good', romance, drama and humour.  Allowing you to love and hate all the right people in all the right places. I read this in almost one sitting, starting late afternoon yesterday and finishing it this morning.   I highly recommend this book and will be leaving 5 stars on good reads and amazon to prove it.  Can't wait for the follow up in June 2014 - can't you bring it forward Alex?  In the meantime I'll have to make do with reading backwards through the previous books.

Hollywood Holidays, Home for the holidays #1 - D D Scott

About the book...
Socialite Harper Cantwell wants more out of life than being Briar Creek, Tennessee’s philanthropic queen. Her husband Grant is a financial stud, but he’s also an emotional dud. Tired of being nothing more than his glorified event planner, she leaves him. Hoping to find herself in the creative excitement and sizzle of the holidays in Hollywood, she meets Jake Benton. One of Tinsel Town’s ultimate players, Jake doesn’t waste any time letting her know he’s interested—very interested. In spite of Jake’s hot advances, it’s Grant she can’t forget. But sacrificing herself for any man is no longer part of her party plan.

Ultra-conservative businessman Grant Cantwell III doesn’t completely understand why Harper left. He misses her terribly but is clueless how to get her back. He gets a real wake-up call when Harper’s best, gay friends tell him he’s an idiot for losing her. Under the tutelage of their company Chick Tricks Inc., Grant is soon on their fast track program, “How to Please a Woman.” But Grant needs more than just a few tricks. He must learn to open his heart instead of his wallet, before Madison gives up on him forever and runs into the open arms of Hollywood’s premier gigolo.

About the author...
D D Scott is an Amazon top 100 Bestselling Humour Author and a four-time Amazon Movers and Shakers List Author.  With 200,000 books sold around the globe, including 25 titles in five different genres and chart topping audio books too, she treats her readers to stories with loads of laughs and a bunch of heart. You can get all of the scoop on her and her books along with a whole bunch of other things on her website.

My thoughts...
I was given a copy of this book from Netgalley in exchange for an un-biased honest review. Having never read anything by this author before I didn't know quite what to expect.  I just love a xmasy read and having visited Hollywood thought it would hit the spot.  It did with bells on!

The book begins with Harper writing a 'Dear John' note and agonising over where to leave it for maximum impact.  Having led a lavish lifestyle she finds herself renting a room in a guest house in LA not wanting to buy until she knows for sure Tinseltown is the place for her.

We very quickly learn the reasons for Harpers departure from Tennessee and so I was a little baffled as to why she immediately finds herself attached to the local good time musician Jake, another person who seems to use Harpers good nature for his own gains.

I had no strong feelings about Harper at first other than she seemed a little week and needy.  Opinions I had to change as the book unfolded.  Her character unfolded and I felt wanted to both shake her and hug her at the same time.

I didn't like Jake from the very first meeting and sadly my opinion didn't change throughout the book.  

However, Grant, Harper's wealthy husband was the real hero of the book for me.  He was genuinely baffled as to why Harper had left.  It was clear that he worshipped Harper and always put great thought into his gifts for her - generosity with money was never an issue. He gave her everything she could ever want or need except the one thing she craved the most - his personal attention. He really was oblivious to Harpers needs.

In LA Haper through talk with her new friends and an unexpected job offer finds herself and gains insight into what she wants from life. Grant or Jake? - which one does she choose, or does she choose to go it alone? You'll have to read the book to find out. 

In Tennessee Grant through help from two unexpected sources gets insightful look into Harpers life married to him and the part he played in making her leave. From the very first meeting of Grant I rooted for him, wanting him to wise up quickly and see what impact his father had on the way he interacted with people in particular Harper.  

This was a fantastic book which I highly recommend, it was lovely watching the true characters unfold - and the biggest lesson learnt was the importance of communication. Every chapter I kept saying to myself this would make a great film - I could clearly visualise watching the scenes played out on the big screen.  Crossing fingers this happens.

Monday, 4 November 2013

Spirits of Christmas - Nicky Wells

About the book... 
At one time, up-and-coming rock singer Jude had it all; a great band, a platinum record, a loving girlfriend.  This Christmas however, he is well down the road to spontaneous self-destruction

Unwitting at first, Jude has progressively alienated his band and driven away the love of his life.  Tonight, the night before Christmas Eve, he has broken the final taboo during a disastrous gig. Yet Jude doesn't see how badly his life has derailed, not until a ghostly procession of legends pass through his bedroom with a series of vivid powerful wake-up calls.

About the author...
Nicky Wells is your ultimate rock author.  Her books offer glitzy, glamorous contemporary romance with a rock theme- imagine Bridget Jones ROCKS Notting `Hill! Born in Germany, Nicky moved to the United Kingdom in 1993 and currently lives in Lincoln. In a previous professional life, Nicky worked as a researcher and project manager for an international Human Resources research firm based in London and Washington D.C. Like her first leading lady, Sophie, Nicky loves listening to rock music, dancing and eating lobsters.  When she's not writing, she's a wife, mother, occasional knitter, and regular contributor to the Midweek Drive show on Lincoln's Siren 107.3 FM.  Rock on!

My thoughts...
Wow, what a surprise. A Christmas Carol with a modern twist.  Not wanting to give too much away this story closely mirrors the Dicken's classic with a 'rockstar' twist.There's nothing like tradition to get you in the mood for Christmas and this book didn't disappoint.

A rock star 'Scrooge' who thinks everyone is against him and every bad situation is caused by other people.

Sometimes in life it's difficult to be told we are at fault or see what impact our actions have on other people.  On Christmas Eve Jude is given no choice, he is sent on a journey with the ghosts of Christmas, past, present and future which is both uncomfortable and enlightening for him as he is shown exactly what impact his words and actions have on those around him.

Will he pay heed and redeem himself - you'll have to read it for yourself and find out.  I thoroughly enjoyed it and had time been permitting I would have read it in one sitting.  Nicky Wells is an author I haven't read before but one I will definitely be seeking out again. Highly recommend this christmas themed novella.

For more information on Nicky Wells and her other books Check out Nicky's Blog

Saturday, 2 November 2013

An Englishwoman in New York - Ann-Marie Casey

I won a copy of this book in a competition hosted by @weekendreads on twitter so it's seems only appropriate that it is my first official review.

I was so excited to win and loved the sound of the book.  When it arrived it didn't disappoint. The cover image is very simple but classy and the synopsis on the back made me want to get reading straight away.

My thoughts...
My first impressions weren't right.  I thought the book would be about instant friendships formed by Lucy and the women she met at the school gates - wrong.

Each of the four women have their own issues and opinions of each other.  Lucy is like a fish out of water when she arrives in New York and appears quite unapproachable at first. Julie is insightful and subtle, a good judge of character.  Telling a white lie to Lucy to save her embarrassment.  Christy meanwhile is at a crossroads in her life and questioning decisions made both past and present and is unsettled and a little jealous of Julie's growing friendship with Lucy.  Robyn meanwhile thinks the world owes her a favour and in particular the three women who seem to have everything she wants and thinks she's owed!

The book weaves in and out of each of the characters, highlighting the strengths and weaknesses of each of the women. My opinion of each of them altered throughout the book and I felt I knew the women. Like real life, given time, the right situation and good friends we all grow into the people we are. The book is a good example of strong friendships born from completely different characters who gel together to almost become one.

All in all a good read it's not all light and frothy but quite insightful into what makes people tick.

Available on kindle from Amazon
Available in paperback from Amazon

Reading for pleasure

Where to begin.  There's many things in life I'm hopeless at - I can't sew, I can't bake, I'm not crafty but, I can read, I'm good at that.  I have an interest in drama and family history but my great love is a big, fat, book - the thicker the better.

I began reading in earnest as a small child, whilst my friends all went to ballet and gym classes I read.  As a teenager, whilst my friends all went shopping and to the cinema I read. As an adult, whilst my friends bake and sew I read.

I'm a member of a local drama group and a member of WDG Reads a book group set up by a friend - it's frequented mainly by wine drinking, cake eating women who sometimes chat about the books we read :-)

The book group has widened my reading material from mainly chic lit.  It's good to get together with like minded people who suggest books they've read.  Sometimes they're good and I find a new author I haven't tried and occasionally they are terrible!!  One thing is consistent though if I start a book I have to finish it, no matter what.

My daughter bought me a kindle two years ago because she used to laugh at me trying to pack for a holiday - throwing the clothes out to make way for the books.  A typical two week holiday would need 14 books!!  I do love my kindle it goes everywhere with me but it can never replace the feeling of picking up a new book. Stroking the cover repeatedly and reading it with the book barely open so I don't crease the spine.  I can accept I'm a little weird.

A friend started reviewing books as a hobby and it got me thinking - I never have a book out of my hand why don't I do the same.  I personally choose a book to read based on the author, the jacket, the back cover or the synopsis on line.  I never read reviews, I prefer to form my own opinion but realise from research I've done how important reviews are to authors and publishers as well as other readers. So for that reason I'm going to give it a go.