Friday, 28 November 2014

One Hundred Christmas Proposals - Holly Martin

About the book...
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 the.PerfectProposal.com 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. 
***
I love this story and I’m so excited about you guys reading it too.  I never thought I would write a sequel for any of my novels, but catching up with Harry and Suzie, two of my favourite characters, in London at Christmas was a story that was begging to be told.  What I love about this story is instead of Harry proposing to Suzie, we get to see some of the amazing proposals they organise for their clients and we learn a little about their clients lives too.  One of my favourite proposals in this story is the sightseeing flight over London with the proposal written in flowers on a boat on the Thames.

Now you can win a sightseeing flight over 
London too and experience 
some incredible views of our capital.
This experience gives you a unique perspective on the sights of London. 
After a short pre-flight briefing, you'll board a Piper Seneca twin-engine plane 
for a fantastic half hour sightseeing trip. 

After taking off in Essex you'll follow the Thames west into the heart of the city, getting a unique view of the capital. You'll see the O2 arena, Tower Bridge, HMS Belfast, the towers at Canary Wharf, The London Eye, The Shard and the Houses of Parliament. Then turn north to fly over Trafalgar Square and Buckingham Palace, before heading back east to land in Essex. You'll get an amazing perspective on the geography of the city and the beauty of its landmarks, so whether you're a tourist or a Londoner, you'll see the capital in a whole new way. And if flying isn’t your thing, this would make the perfect Christmas present for someone in your family.
All you have to do to be in with a chance of winning is copy one of the pre-prepared tweets below, tweet it and you’ll automatically be entered into the draw to win this prize bundle.  The more you tweet, the more times you’ll be entered.

The competition will run until midnight (UK time) on Sunday 14th December so plenty of time for tweeting.  Every time you tweet, you’ll be entered into the draw.
Good Luck

Tweets
One Hundred Christmas Proposals by @hollymartin00 is out now, a gorgeous, sparkly story to curl up with this winter
http://amzn.to/1vwnL4e

**
Join Harry & Suzie as they celebrate Christmas in a snowkissed London,100 Christmas Proposals is 59p
@hollymartin00 http://amzn.to/1vwnL4e

**
Celebrate Christmas in a sparkly,snowkissed London, a beautiful love story to curl up with this winter
@hollymartin00 http://amzn.to/1vwnL4e

**
Christmas lights,overcooked turkey,plenty of cake,glistening snow. 100 Christmas Proposals is only 59p
@hollymartin00 http://amzn.to/1vwnL4e

**
What will Harry give Suzie this Christmas? 100 Christmas Proposals is only 59p, a sparkly,snowy sequel
@hollymartin00 http://amzn.to/1vwnL4e

**
Harry & Suzie are back celebrating their first Christmas in a snowy London,100 Christmas Proposals.59p
@hollymartin00 http://amzn.to/1vwnL4e

**
Fairy lights, candles, snow, flowers and beautiful music, how to create the perfect Christmas proposal
@hollymartin00 http://amzn.to/1vwnL4e

**
100 Christmas Proposals is only 59p,a gorgeously romantic snowkissed story to curl up with this winter
@hollymartin00 http://amzn.to/1vwnL4e


Monday, 24 November 2014

The Chateau - Karen Aldous

About the book...
Can young hearts ease a restless spirit?

On the shores of stunning Lake Geneva, Gina Remy is celebrating her brother’s wedding – when the figure of a woman appears hovering above the water, beckoning to her. Ghostly visitations do not happen to Gina - a self-confessed control freak with her own successful property business, she prides herself on being level-headed. But as she is tormented by dreams and visions, her perfect life begins to unravel, and she knows she needs to help this ghost find peace if she’s to get any of her own!

Enter Ollie Martin, an Anglo-Swiss property developer who’s sexy as hell and knows it. His arrogance annoys Gina, but he’s the only one who will take her seriously… and the closer they come to understanding the quest the ghost has set for them, the closer they get to one another…


About the author...
Karen Aldous enjoys village life on the edge of the north-downs in Kent with easy access to the buzz of London. Not only does she love the passive pleasures of reading and writing, she also craves the more active pursuits with her family and friends such as walking, cycling and skiing especially when they involve food and wine!

Karen gets much of her inspiration from her travels and if she had to choose, France, Greece, Switzerland and Italy would be her favourite. However, wherever she goes, she discovers a new character emerges in 'Karen's World'. She likes to write about strong independent women who can direct their own lives - but struggle to control them! And, of course there's always a gorgeous hunk or two!


My thoughts...
I was given an ecopy of this book by Karen's publisher Carina UK in exchange for an honest review which I'm more than happy to give.  I had previously read Karen's debut novel The Vineyard and loved everything about it from the cover, to the characters, plot and location - it truly was an indulgent read that merged reality with escapism in equal measures.  I loved it that much I couldn't wait to read Karen's next offering.

The Chateau is Karen's second book, another beautiful cover, so inviting it is impossible to resist.  I was sure that The Chateau would live up to my expectations and I wasn't disappointed - it was even better!

The Chateau is a story that has melded contemporary women's fiction with a mystery.  Gina is in Switzerland for her brothers wedding and finds herself having two unwelcome encounters.  The first from the arrogant, loud mouthed Ollie - cousin to the bride and the second in the form of a ghostly vision seen on the shores of Lake Geneva.

Far from having a relaxing few days in Switzerland, enjoying time with her family and her brother's wedding, Gina finds herself emotionally drained.  She begins to have vivid, dreams, well more like nightmares and is convinced that they are as a result of the vision she saw at the lake. A women who she feels is trying to tell her something and begins to lead her on a mysterious journey.  Then there was Ollie, who is loud, brash and embarrassing - yet Gina can't help but be drawn to him.  She knows she shouldn't get too close and uses her long term relationship with Max as a shield to hide behind whilst observing him from afar.  But, without meaning to, she finds him walking with her, side by side whilst she pursues 'the vision from the lake', just at a time when she needs a reliable, trustworthy friend.

The Vineyard was a fast paced novel that I found difficult to put down.  Each and every character necessary to the plot and wove between several threads with the story based in England, Switzerland and latterly Italy.  Karen's descriptions are so very vivid, I could clearly see and imagine the numerous locations, from the bright, airy, modern villas to the cold,dank chateau on the lake and the hotels in Venice.  Added to this Karen has developed characters that evoked feelings both good and bad, about characters I ended up really caring about. Even Max who is seemingly allergic to commitment and quite quickly things between him and Gina come to a head.  Though, nothing could prepare Gina for the ultimate showdown that sees Max in all his true colours.  He doesn't tell Gina lies as such, he just doesn't tell the truth, burying himself in his charity work to avoid the inevitable confrontation.  

This book demonstrates the power of love, trust, commitment and faith.  It emphasis the necessity for strong relationships in our life both with family and friends and sometimes it's right to go with our gut feelings, casting aside doubt to take a chance, allowing inner courage and faith to guide the way. I truly loved everything about this book and cannot wait for my next 'Karen Aldous' read.

Saturday, 22 November 2014

Room in Your Heart - Wendy Clarke

About the book...
'She kept a special room in her heart. For a while, the door was locked and then, one day, she felt able to visit the room and realised that, instead of being a place to fear, it was full of happiness...'

Room in Your Heart is a collection of twelve romantic short stories of love and loss, previously published in The People's Friend Magazine. The stories allow the reader to peak into the hearts of twelve ordinary people who share one belief... in the power of love.  


Room in Your Heart is Wendy's first collection of short stories.




About the author...

Wendy Clarke started writing when the primary school she taught in closed down. After completing two on-line writing courses, she started writing short fiction for magazines. Since then, she has sold nearly a hundred short stories and her work regularly appears in national women's magazines such as The People's Friend, Take a Break Fiction Feast and Woman's Weekly. She has also written two serials and a number of magazine articles.

Wendy lives with her husband, cat and step-dog in Sussex and when not writing is usually dancing, singing or watching any programme that involves food! 


Room in Your Heart is Wendy's first collection of short stories.


My thoughts...
I was given an ecopy of this book by the author in exchange for an honest review which I'm more than happy to give.  Room in Your Heart is a beautiful collection of 12 short stories each one very different but each one tugged at my heart strings in differing ways.  I've always been a person to pick the fattest books on the shelf so I have to be very honest and say I usually avoid short stories because I'm usually left unfulfilled. Because of the length I've often felt that the characters have no depth, the story too thin, or way too short I finish it feeling I've been short changed.

Not so in this case! Life has been a tad hectic lately and perhaps that would explain why I was so receptive to this book, either that or Wendy is a literary genius.  Probably a mixture of the two I'd say.  It's no secret that my favourite sort of book is a book that has a message running beneath the surface.  That I can relate more to a book if the words mean something and I can take something away with me.  This collection of stories does just that.  

From the very first story I was hooked.  Time and space allowed Rachel and Mark to see what was important in their lives and reveal how strong their love really was.  This was the classic case of letting something go and if it's meant to be it'll come back to you.  Such a heart warming story to kick off the collection.

Love is a strange thing, there isn't a simple recipe for success and Wendy demonstrates this through each of the stories.  Coming at situations and scenarios from different angles.  Sometimes we don't always see what's under our nose and we are too close to people and situations to make informed decisions.  Sometimes we need the wisdom of an older person, sometimes we have to be given what we thought we wanted to realise that it's not really the right thing for us.  But one thing shines through each story, love isn't just a physical thing, it's all around us in the words and actions of all the people around us and when the timing, person and situation is right it will shine through like a beacon leaving no doubt whats so ever.

This is a feel good book that can't fail to lift your spirits, leaving you with a warm glow.  The depth of characters and descriptive skills from Wendy are second to none, very impressive indeed - how she managed to set a scene, introduce several characters and reach a conclusion in so few pages is beyond me, something I didn't think was possible.  I settled down with this book, thinking I'll read a couple of stories and then a couple the next day but I didn't stop - I read the whole collection in one sitting and was left with the thoughts 'I wonder what else this author has written?' 

I highly recommend making 'Room in Your Heart' for this collection of short stories.  The situations and people are varied, nostalgic, modern about people from all walks of life about people both young and old. I guarantee you'll smile, ooh and agh, laugh out loud and even be close to tears if you don't actually shed a tear.   There are characters to dislike, under-dogs to cheer on, children and teenagers just starting out in the world, adults beginning their  lives together and those that have been around the block a few times.  Each and everyone necessary to the stories and each one will evoke feelings, thoughts and opinions.

Thank you so much Wendy for opening my eyes to the beauty of short stories and for making me shed my pre-conceived ideas.  I truly enjoyed reading this book and look forward to the next offerings from Wendy Clarke.

Friday, 21 November 2014

Milked - Lisa Doyle

About the book...
By and large, Amanda Keane makes pretty good decisions. Okay, she might not have the best taste in men, but she’s got great friends, a good job, and an independent spirit. That is, until her 30th birthday ushers in a whirlwind romance with a sexy Irish musician who leaves her, not at the altar as she imagined, but accidentally pregnant. And when he disappears, she’s downsized out of a job, her apartment is robbed, and lapsed health insurance coverage leaves her with a C-section to pay for, Amanda is launched headfirst into the life of a broke single mom. But her friend and uber successful ob-gyn, Joy, clues her in to an unlikely temp position with one of Chicago’s celebrity elite that just may be the answer to all her woes. Or could it be just the beginning?

It’s with serious trepidation that Amanda embarks on her surprisingly lucrative new career: underground wet nurse to the offspring of Chi-town’s rich and famous. Amanda must quickly understand how to live at the whims and mercy of the one percent as she deals with the irony of nursing – and loving – someone else’s child, while still making ends meet for her own daughter. And then there’s Cute Daycare Dad (aka Dan), who’s obviously interested in her. But can she afford to tell him what she really does for a living? Is her new job (something she thought went out with the 19th century) a shameful thing? Just another way of selling her body? Or does it have something to teach her after all? 

A novel of motherhood, its many demands, and all the little triumphs along the way, MILKED is a warm and witty debut about making tough choices and traveling the roundabout road to happiness.
For buy links, please go to www.simonandfig.com

About the author...
Lisa Doyle is a communications manager and freelance writer based in the Chicago area. A native of Hinsdale, Illinois and a graduate of Miami University, she spent several years editing business-to-business publications for the personal care industry before moving to the nonprofit sector, and currently works in advocacy for homeless families at Bridge Communities in Glen Ellyn, Illinois. She has written for major beauty trade publications (Global Cosmetic Industry, Skin Inc, Salon Today, Modern Salon, Renew, Suburban Life) and is a contributor to WOMEN REINVENTED: TRUE STORIES OF EMPOWERMENT AND CHANGE (LaChance Publishing, 2010). 

Doyle is represented by Claire Anderson-Wheeler of Regal Literary, Inc., a full-service agency based in New York. 




For more about Lisa, please visit her website
On twitter she’s @bylisadoyle. 
On Facebook she’s at https://www.facebook.com/bylisadoyle


Tuesday, 18 November 2014

The Christmas Spirit - Susan Buchanan


About the book...
Christmas is coming, but not everyone is looking forward to it. 
Rebecca has just been dumped and the prospect of spending the holiday period with her parents is less than appealing.
Eighty- two year old Stanley lost his beloved wife, Edie, to cancer. How will he cope with his first Christmas without her? 
Jacob’s university degree hasn’t helped him get a job, and it looks like he’ll still be signing on come New Year.
Workaholic Meredith would rather spend December 25th at home alone with a ready meal and a DVD box set. Can anything make her embrace the spirit of the season?
The enigmatic Natalie Hope takes over the reins at the Sugar and Spice bakery and café in an attempt to spread some festive cheer and restore Christmas spirit, but will she succeed?
Books
The Christmas Spirit - http://amzn.to/1gcpTrc (UK) & http://amzn.to/KUArMU (US)
Sign of the Times - http://amzn.to/GKqZGd (UK) http://amzn.to/IYN0Fc (US)
The Dating Game - http://amzn.to/RuSl7Y (UK) http://amzn.to/WZQtZK (US)


About the author...
Susan Buchanan has written three novels in the chicklit and contemporary fiction genres: Sign of the Times, The Dating Game and The Christmas Spirit. She lives in Central Scotland with her partner, Tony, and their baby daughter. She is currently working on her fourth and fifth novels, What If and another Christmas themed book, both due to be released in 2015.




Connect with the author:
Twitter - @susan_buchanan

I was invited to be part of the blog tour by JB Johnston at Brook Cottage Books and was given an ecopy in exchange for an honest review which I'm more than happy to do.  I've been book blogging for exactly a year and Susan was one of the first people I followed and chatted with so I was particularly pleased to be part of the tour for her latest novel The Christmas Spirit.

We're introduced to Natalie, the main character as she is heading north to a small town just outside Glasgow where she will doing her 'annual job', which always lasts from the 1st to the 24th of December each year.  Her job of cheering up and giving special christmas happiness to just four people of her choice. The previous ten months of the year having been spent in preparation and deciding which people are the most worthy and deserving of her special help.

Natalie finds herself work as temporary manager in the Sugar and Spice bakery whilst the owner is in hospital and it is from here that she works her magic.  The bakery really is the hub of the community and it's walls are privvy to all the local upsets, gossip, news and scandal.  Stanley, Jacob, Meredith and Rebecca are the chosen four that Natalie has decided to help this year and a more different bunch of people you couldn't wish to meet.  But, one thing Susan has done exceptionally well is developed characters that illicit an instant reaction, be that good or bad.

We have Stanley a widower that pulled at my heart strings, I so desperately wanted to cuddle him and make him smile, his sadness oozed from the pages and I could vividly see him shuffling around with no sense of purpose, wishing his life over, whilst dining out on memories that only seem to drag him further into despair.

Then Meredith, a go, getting, hard nosed CEO of her own telecommunications business.  Quite frankly I could have cheerfully slapped her!  Her superiority and lack of thought for others was cringe worthy, she made me embarrassed to be a woman.  She really was the wicked witch of the north!

Jacob, a twenty two year old, out of work (though not for want of trying) university graduate.  He had my un-decided vote.  I really felt for him, finishing uni, applying for jobs left, right and centre with no luck yet at the same time he was a bit snippy because his wealthy parents were delivering 'tougth love' making him stand on his own two feet and weren't' bailing him out financially.

Finally, Rebecca who was a weepy mess! A very trusting, yet gullible young lady who had been dumped and couldn't seem to pull herself together.  My sympathy didn't last long though - get a grip woman was on the tip of my tongue almost instantly.

The odds for enjoying this book weren't looking good! Two characters I definitely didn't like, one I was on the fence with and only one I instantly adored and the main character Natalie was confusing. She seemed too wholesome to be true.  Was she real or imagined? A spirit or just in touch with the spirits? Fast forward a mere few pages of Natalie starting her job as temporary manager of the Sugar and Spice bakery and my opinions and first impressions of all of them were challenged and changed.  Natalie seriously got under my skin, I loved her calm, mellow manner, with a demeanour that had everyone literally eating out of her hand.  I now desperately wanted a happy ending for everyone

Once the book got going it was clear to see that Natalie was adorable, a character with enough sparkle and wit for everyone.  She smooched all the customers of the bakery seemingly without effort, they chatted, lingered and spent more money than they intended to. Shared confidences without being asked. Friends were made and strengthened both old and new.  Opinions changed quickly for me as the characters, slowly emerged from their moulds.  Natalie was the facilitator, the listening ear, the port in a storm with each of them altering their outlook, demeanour and character as a result of communication, friendship, support and awareness.  It's sometimes easier to relate to a stranger than someone very close to you - this theory was borne out by the residents of Winstanton.

This book is a lovely christmas read, that is positive and upbeat, that demonstrates how a friendly ear, welcoming home, good food, friendship and time can mellow and change peoples outlooks to life.  As Natalie mixes the ingredients for the christmas cakes, little do the residents of Winstanton know that she's melting a little bit of her magic in with them, bringing happiness and christmas cheer not just to the chosen 'four' but all the 15000 residents of the town.  

I thoroughly enjoyed this story - at half the length of a regular novel it left me smiling and hopeful, wishing for just a bit more.  A contemplative, perfect read for a Sunday afternoon that will raise your 'spirits' and leave you with a warm contented glow. Now pass the cake please. 

Saturday, 15 November 2014

Home for the Holidays - Ellen Faith

About the book...
When Lexi and Ryan make the decision to venture home for the Christmas holidays, neither of them can wait to catch up with their families. What the pair don’t anticipate is the series of life changing events their families have been going through while they’ve been continuing with their American adventure, including a newly nudist father.

As they try to weather the storm, they discover that being back in the UK is creating more questions than answers for them as a couple and their American dream is beginning to fade. Fast.

*This novel can be read as a follow on from The Story of Us or as a standalone*





About the author...
Ellen lives in the wonderful county of Yorkshire, England where she spends most of her time baking, eating, baking, and eating. Occasionally she does leave the house to go to the cinema or do some food shopping though.
After spending years with an overactive imagination, she decided to put all the magic in her head to some good use and put finger to laptop where The Story of Us was born and became her debut novel.
She loves to travel, her favourite destinations so far have all been in America, hence the love of all things, and all people, American. The food rocks pretty hard too, she ate until her jeans begged her to stop whilst she was there. True fact.
Aside from day dreaming and eating, Ellen is a sucker for a lolcat, penguins and monkeys - she has never claimed to be normal.
Connect with Ellen:  TWITTER / FACEBOOK / FACEBOOK PAGE
My thoughts...
I was given an ecopy of this book by the author as part of a blog tour organised by Tay at Chicks That Read.
This is Ellen Faith's second novel and for those that read The Story of Us, the second time we've met Lexi and Ryan.  I'm never convinced when someone says it's possible to read a second book as a stand alone, I'm always worrying that I won't get and connect with the characters.  I hadn't read The Story of Us, Home for the Holidays was the first of Ellen's books and I can categorically say - I didn't feel I missed out by not reading them in order - nor did she waste pages and pages of text re-telling the first story, Ellen told us just enough.
Lexi and Ryan are home from the US for the Christmas holidays to visit their friends and families and makes some decisions as to where to live after they get married, stay in San Francisco or come back to the UK to live and it's all happening.  Rosie, Lexi's best friend is about to give birth, has zero patience and an acidic tongue but you can't help but be drawn into their friendship, there is no real malice and Ellen has created a character that is naturally hilarious without even trying. Lexi meets Ryan's dad and new girlfriend for the first time and not without trepidation either.  It's fair to say that there are some conversation stopping, hilarious moments and a few tales to tell and when they visit Lexi's parents her mum takes the pair down memory lane when she gets the old family albums out. 
Prepare to be spoilt with this book, it is such a feel good book, just what the doctor should prescribe if you're feeling a bit down.  We have a couple, clearly in love with each other, so very in sync with each others feelings, demonstrating with words and actions how much they care for each other. It's christmastime and who wouldn't love that - all the decorations, tree, presents, food, friends, family and laughter anyone could need in one little book - just perfect and then to top it off we have a fly on the wall position for their wedding planning, a birth and christening.  All of this making the decision of where to settle even harder for Lexi and Ryan.
Ellen has such an up-tempo style of writing, add that to the time of year and an afternoon whizzed by whist reading Home for The Holidays. This is a book that will wrap itself around you like a comfy blanket. It made me smile and laugh out loud on occasions but, there are sensitive, reflective moments that are woven into the story in such a way that they enhance the story keeping the warm glow going.  Ellen has given us everything that is important in life, extended family and friends each coming together at special times, providing love, kindness, support and loyalty. 
A perfect bit of christmas cheer, thank you Ellen.

Friday, 14 November 2014

Three Little Birds - Carol Wyer

Blog Tour: Three Little Birds - Carol E Wyer + Giveaway! CarolBanner
Fantastically fun author Carol E Wyer is flying high at the moment,  as her latest 
release Three Little Birds soars into the ether to land at various different blogs over the coming weeks. There will be reviews, guest posts and giveaways along the way, 
and this life-affirming read is sure to set your heart a-flutter!
About the book...
TLB cover'If your friend challenged you, would you dare? Charlie Blundell cannot get over the tragic death of her only daughter. She drifts between her job at the Art cafe and her hospital radio show, the only things which give her life purpose. Her best friend, the madcap Mercedes, cajoles Charlie into writing a 'carpe diem' list, but then swaps Charlie's list with her own. Now, each must complete the other's challenges, and the outcomes will astound both of them. The challenges begin as a series of relatively harmless, fun activities. Soon, though, the stakes increase when Charlie has to complete her challenges to save the hospital radio station. As the tasks become more demanding, a handsome stranger takes an interest in her, but he is not what he seems. One challenge causes a secret buried deep within her to surface, which may prove to be her undoing. Three Little Birds is a story of love, friendship and discovery, laced with hilarity and topped by a wickedly funny parrot called Bert.'  

CarolTour
Click Here To Buy This Book - UK  
Click Here To Buy This Book - US  



My thoughts... 
I was given an ecopy of this book as part of the blog tour organised by Charlotte at CandleLit Author Services in exchange for an honest review which I'm more than happy to give.

Charlie has just been going through the motions for the past five years since she tragically lost her 13 year old daughter, as a result of which her marriage fell apart and shortly after her mother died of cancer. Wow - now wonder she is existing but no longer living.

A drunken New Year's Eve sees Charlie and her best friend Mercedes writing bucket lists although come New Year's Day, Charlie is sporting the hangover from hell and can't remember a thing.  Mercedes convinces Charlie that it would be better if they swapped lists and each did the others challenges, with themselves as spectators.  Sounds harmless enough but.....

This book was just wonderful, characters that you can connect with and a story that you will immediately want to end happily ever after,  Charlie's kind, considerate character came across from almost the first page.  She's a loving, kind hearted, generous woman that is stuck and can't seem to find a way forward. Her best friend is disabled and uses her disability to her advantage by telling Charlie she'll have to 'do' her challenges because she won't physically be able to and of course Charlie agrees!

The challenges/goals start off simply and get progressively harder as they go on, in fact the survival of the hospital radio where Charlie works hangs in the balance and success of her finishing the challenges.  Sheer, grit and determination spur Charlie on.

Friendship, trust and support are at the heart of this book and none more so than that shared between Charlie and Mercedes.  Comfort zones are breached, and almost every emotion explored.  There's fear and trepidation, unwanted attention along with a huge dollop of love, friendship, support, laughter and at times hilarity.   If I just say crawling around on all fours pretending to be a pig and we also meet a parrot called Bert you might understand where the hilarity comes from.

As ever the best kind of books are those that get you thinking and this one does just that.  It's so easy to put off till tomorrow when in fact we should be out living our lives NOW and this book will have you reaching for a pen and writing your bucket list.  I've often thought one day.... but what if one day doesn't come?

Charlie and Mercedes are inspirational, true friends who push and support each other at the right time, knowing when to speak up and when to hold their tongue.  Their lives enriched by having each other.  An uplifting read that demonstrates nothing is impossible and tiny steps can achieve huge goals.

Carol, thank you for a book that has made me think - I am going to write that list and I am going to get my friends to write theirs too - perhaps like Charlie & Mercedes we'll start off gently - a nice meal, a day out and then who knows..... the world's our oyster as you've just reminded me.

About the author...
photo-42
I have always written stories. My early stories were for children and sported silly titles like Humphrey and the Dustbin Cats, Hurrah for Hugo! and Noir and Blanc – Two Naughty Cats. They taught French language to younger children and were accompanied by a tape of French songs, mercifully not sung by me. I began writing for adults after my son left home. I converted his old bedroom into an office and set about writing humorous novels largely aimed at women of a certain age. The rest is history. Following much media success with Mini Skirts and Laughter Lines, I signed the Amanda Wilson novels with Thornberry Publishing. In 2012, I was lucky enough to be offered a three book deal with Safkhet Publishing. They have published How Not to Murder Your Grumpy and Just Add Spice, and released Grumpy Old Menopause, the sister book to How Not to Murder Your Grumpy, in December 2013. I now write full-time. When I am not working on a novel, I’ll be writing articles for magazines such asWoman’s Weekly, or blog posts for The Huffington Post and Indies Unlimited. My books aim to encourage as many people as possible to age disgracefully and enjoy life.  After all, life is short and ‘he who laughs…lasts!’

Find Carol: Facebook | Twitter | Blog | Website | YouTube | Huff Post 

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

The Reluctant Elf - Michele Gorman

About the book...
Meet Britain’s Worst Innkeeper

Single mother and extremely undomestic goddess, Lottie, has five days to become the ultimate B&B hostess to save her beloved Aunt Kate’s livelihood.

When Aunt Kate ends up in the hospital, Lottie and her seven-year-old daughter are called to rural Wales to stand in at the B&B. Without the faintest idea how to run a hotel (she can barely run her own life), Lottie must impress the picky hotel reviewer and his dysfunctional family who are coming to stay over Christmas. Without the rating only he can bestow, Aunt Kate will lose her livelihood.

But will Danny, the local taxi driver who she hires to help her, really be Santa’s little helper, or the Grinch who stole Christmas?


Buy THE RELUCTANT ELF from Amazon.

About the author...
Michele Gorman is the USA TODAY bestselling author of several romantic comedies including the Single in the City series and The Curvy Girls Club. Born and raised in the US, Michele has lived in London for 16 years. She is very fond of naps, ice cream and Richard Curtis films but objects to spiders and the word “portion”.

Michele is represented by the Hardman & Swainson Literary Agency (www.hardmanswainson.com) and published by Penguin and Avon/HarperCollins.

Twitter: @MicheleGormanUK
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/MicheleGormanBooks
Blog: www.michelegormanwriter.blogspot.com
Website: www.michelegorman.co.uk


My thoughts...
I was given an ecopy of this book by the PR team at Notting Hill Press in exchange for an honest review which I'm more than happy to give.  I loved the cover and title of the book and I am a total sucker for a christmas tale.

Lottie receives news that her aunt has been involved in a car accident and is in hospital.  She and her daughter Mabel were travelling to Wales to spend Christmas with her anyway so pack everything up and head off to Wales a few days early.

Lottie finds herself in a bit of a pickle, her aunt Kate has been put in an induced coma and it's clear she won't be out of hospital for christmas when the B & B she runs is expecting a very important guest - a reviewer, who Kate was hoping would give the B & B a much coveted star rating to help improve her business.

It's been years since Lottie had visited her aunt in Wales because her aunt always came to London to stay with her so she wasn't really prepared for the mammoth task she found herself lumbered with, add to that the chef and cleaner going awol for christmas and the chaos is just about to begin.

This really is a festive read with a difference, Lottie makes the taxi driver who took her to and from the hospital an offer he couldn't refuse and the hilarity began.  Lottie has never run a B & B before and is shocked at the state of her aunt's home, particularly has she has a booking for a reviewer over christmas.  Her aunt has always been there for her so she is determined to put on a 'good front' for the reviewer so sets about the task of performing a few miracles.

For a novella Michele didn't half pack everything into this book.  There were high's and lows and everything in-between.  There were scenes that were sad and touching, scenes that had me cringing and groaning out loud and others that were so hilarious I laughed until I cried.  There was christmas cheer and even a little romance.  This really did turn out to be a christmas with a difference for everyone.

The days before the reviewer arrived went by in a blur and before we knew it he arrived with his brother and family in tow - all's I can say is WOW!  There are so many things I'd like to say about their Christmas stay but don't want to spoil it, you need to read it for yourselves.  Suffice to say if you fuse Fawlty Towers with Can't Cook Won't Cook, DIY Disasters and scenes from a Charles Dickens novel you'll have some idea of what I mean.

I loved the main characters in this book.  Lottie was an absolute dream of a character, nothing seemed to faze her and she met every challenge thrown her way, turning every negative into a positive.  A glass is half full sort of person, she is just the sort of person you'd want fighting in your corner.  Mabel was just adorable, 7 years old going on 70, often coming out with sayings previously uttered by the adults around her - out of the mouths of babes!  As for Danny, he really did turn out to be the taxi driver with a difference.  He also had depth to his character and a story that'll bring a lump to your throat in one breathe and swooning in the other.

I highly recommend this novella to everyone, it's a book that will definitely raise a laugh and have you wishing for christmas but perhaps not a stay in a welsh B & B without fully googling it first!  Thank you Michele this was a ray of sunshine on the rainy afternoon that I read it.

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

The French for Christmas - Fiona Valpy

About the book...
A year to forget. The perfect escape. And a little Christmas magic.
Evie used to LOVE Christmas, but this year she can’t wait for the tinsel and presents to be a distant memory.
When her best friends offer the use of their cottage in the beautiful French countryside, Evie jumps at the chance. With her soon-to-be-ex-husband, celebrity chef Will Brooke, plastered over the news with his latest ‘love interest’, leaving the country seems like the perfect plan.
Armed with her French grandmother’s tattered notebook of recipes, Evie is determined to ignore Christmas altogether and bake herself back to happiness.
And when Evie meets her next-door neighbour – the très gorgeous doctor Didier she finds a very willing taste- tester. But is it possible that he could be interested in more than just her Tarte Tatin?

With snow falling, a special Réveillon dinner and a little Christmas magic in the air, could Didier even be the one to thaw Evie’s heart? Or will a visit from the ghost of Christmas past change everything?
About the author...
Fiona Valpy lives in France, having moved there from the UK in 2007. She left behind a career in Marketing and Public Relations to explore new avenues and now teaches yoga and writes.

Having renovated an old rambling farmhouse with her husband, she has developed new-found skills in cement- mixing and interior decorating, although her preferred pastime by far is wine-tasting.

Fiona's books have hit the Amazon top 100 charts in both the UK and the US. 




My thoughts...
I was given an ecopy of this book by the lovely Kim at Bookouture in exchange for an honest review which I am more than happy to give.  I'd previous read The French for Always and was really looking forward to settling down with this book.

The story revolves around Evie, a woman, who when we meet her has the barriers up as her life seems to be disintegrating around her.  The previous christmas she gave birth to a still born baby, her marriage fell apart as a result of the ensuing stress and hurt.  Her husband seems to be flaunting his new relationship under her nose and her sister is expecting a baby of her own.

Not surprisingly Evie jumps at the chance to get away from it all to a friends cottage in France for the christmas period. She used to work alongside her celebrity chef husband and decides to take her grandmothers old recipe book with her to try and recapture some of what she had lost.

With only two neighbouring houses, that of an older couple and that of a doctor it looked like Evie would get the solitude she was desperately seeking especially as there was no phone connected and her mobile signal was none existent.

I thoroughly enjoyed The French for Christmas, Fiona has great talent and her descriptive skills instantly transported me to France.  She gave us a person at rock bottom, the only way really was up!  A handsome neighbour who quite clearly has his own baggage and a delightful, mature, couple for stability.

At times I laughed at loud, particularly the vision of Evie running around the garden in her pi's chasing a pig - the comedy value of this scene was priceless.  The opposite side to the coin is hearing about Evie's losses her baby, husband, career and the fact she'd lost the will to go on brought many a tear to my eye.

The initial slower pace of this book did cause me a little concern - this however, turned out to be a clever ploy of Fiona's.  I found as Evie's character grew in strength and her demeanour lifted so did the pace of the book.  It was a 'kerching' moment when I finished the book and thought back, I realised that the very nature of the first chapters, really only suited the slower pace, they wouldn't have had the same impact if they had been rushed.

As the story progressed a hearty part of this book revolves around food, Evie slowly getting her cooking mojo back after a visit to the local market and a flick through her grandmother's recipes.  Again, the descriptions were such that I could visibly see, taste and smell all of the ingredients and food stuff both at the market and back in the little kitchen at the cottage.

Evie's first encounter with Didier, the neighbouring doctor doesn't go the way she had planned and she finds herself unknowingly relying upon him.  Later, in turn she finds herself paying back his kindness through food.  Evie set out wanting to ignore christmas but finds herself putting the needs and requests of others before her own and ends up inviting them all to dinner on Christmas Day for a non christmas meal, a day she really had mentally cancelled this year.  Cue, some uninvited guests who threaten to undo all of the positives and the strength Evie had gained from her time of almost solitude and new friendships made.

This book demonstrates how time, friendship, love and trust are what is needed to help us through the bad times and that by giving and thinking of others helps to sufficiently distract us from our own problems.  Evie finds herself relying upon her neighbours on more than one occasion.   The flip side being as she gained strength from their support she was able to return the favour.

Several times throughout the book I found myself talking out loud, muttering and cursing.  It was at this point that I really knew Fiona had given me characters that I had connected with, that had strength and depth who I found I really cared about - her work here was done.

This book began with sadness and loss and ended with happiness and hope, an uplifting read that truly does demonstrate time is a great healer and that we should never underestimate the power of friendships both old and new.

The Poppy Factory - Liz Trenow

About the book...
Inspired by the upcoming anniversary of the First World War, historical fiction author Liz Trenow has penned a captivating story of two young women, bound together by the tragedy of two very different wars.

Interviews with soldiers who have recently served in Afghanistan, along with an NHS paramedic and extensive research into the origins of the incredibly inspirational Poppy Factory which to this day helps returning soldiers to find work helped Liz to create remarkable characters inspired by real events.

With the end of the First World War, Rose is looking forward to welcoming home her beloved husband Alfie from the battlefields. But his return is not what Rose had expected. Traumatised by what he has seen, the Alfie who comes home is a different man to the one Rose married. As he struggles to cope with life in peace time, Rose wrestles with temptation as the man she fell in love with seems lost forever.

Many years later, Jess returns from her final tour of Afghanistan. Haunted by nightmares from her time at the front, her longed-for homecoming is a disaster and she wonders if her life will ever be the same again. Can comfort come through her great-grandmother Rose’s diaries?

For Jess and Rose, the realities of war have terrible consequences. Can the Poppy Factory, set up to help injured soldiers, rescue them both from the heartache of war?

About the author...
Liz Trenow is a former journalist who spent fifteen years on regional and national newspapers, and on BBC radio and television news, before turning her hand to fiction. The Forgotten Seamstress is her second novel. She lives in East Anglia with her artist husband, and they have two grown up daughters.  Find out more at www.liztrenow.com.









My thoughts...
I was offered an ecopy of this book by Olivia Wilson at  Lightbrigade www.lightbrigadePR.co.uk in exchange for an honest review which I'm more than happy to give.  The timing for reading this novel was perfect.  I've just produced Oh What a Lovely War for our local am-dram group, was gifted a #towerpoppy and went to see the installation at the Tower of London - all to commemorate the centenary of WW1.

Where to begin?  Liz has clearly done her research well. The Poppy Factory was an all consuming read for me, it felt more like I was reading about real people than fictional characters the characters and story were so life like. The story centres around two very different women, one whose husband served in WW1 and one who served in Afghanistan herself.  Both affected by the effects of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.  It's all too easy to focus on the person who was in the frontline but in actual fact those family members left at home to worry and fret, then pick up the pieces when the soldiers return, suffer equal yet different way.

I loved the way Liz wove the two stories together, from the past and the present connecting the characters and their stories.  I particularly loved Rose's story told in diary form - this added to the realism for me and the fact that it was Jess reading Rose her great grandmothers diaries gave the novel an added edge for me.  The diaries showing Jess the other side of the coin, allowing an insight into what it is like for families, coping with the traumas their loved ones who've served in 'wars' have suffered.  I could very well have been reading real diary entries.   It is hard though, to belief that 100 years on we have different wars, yet the problems and suffering are really no different.  Wives, mothers and families disconnected for so long - not really having a true understanding of the trauma's and issues their loved ones have faced, yet still expected to pick up the pieces when they come home with understanding and compassion. 

The Poppy Factory was an emotional read and seemed very realistic, not over-glamourised in any way and very sensitively written.  At the end of the day war is war, time has only altered the level of communication, media and knowledge we all have and Liz has tackled an illness that is more readily accepted now than it was 100 years ago.  In this centenary year I feel through reading and media such as Liz's book I personally have learnt things about 'War' that I didn't know before and feel humbled when I think about the suffering our soldiers have gone and do go through for each and every one of us.

I highly recommend this book to everyone, you like me may well shed a tear but will turn the final page with a greater understanding of the significance of 'the Poppy'.  I always buy and wear a poppy but this year it will be with a greater understanding and empathy for those that have served us.