Posted in Book Review, Novella, Serial

5*#Review-Bella Osborne -Wildflower Park Part1- Build Me Up Buttercup – @AvonBooksUK @osborne_bella

Life’s not always a walk in the park…

When Anna is dumped by her fiancé, she moves into her own place on the edge of the gorgeous Wildflower Park and pledges to stay off men and focus on her career, but a handsome new colleague seems to thwart her attempts at every turn. And when she receives an accidental text from a mystery man, could it be the new start she needs? Or someone she really shouldn’t be falling for?

Anna’s neighbour Sophie is a stressed-out mum-of-two with a third on the way. Her husband is a constant frustration, and their children are a regular source of newly-invented swear words and unidentifiable sticky surfaces.

Luckily, Anna and Sophie have each other – and Wildflower Park proves to be a sanctuary as they map out a path to find the happiness they both deserve…

Amazon UK

My Thoughts…

It’s always fun to start the New Year with a new series and Wildflower Park promises to be the perfect Winter to Spring read.

Anna’s engagement is over, and she decides life without men is the way forward. Moving into a new flat with its own private park is a step in the right direction. There she plans and schemes with her best friend Sophie, mother of two and pregnant with a third, whose life is not what she imagined.

A difficult male colleague who threatens her career provides the conflict and humour in the first part of this serial. There’s also a mystery texter who makes her wonder if she’s really sworn off men and her ex refusing to stay out of her life. The wildflower park is a source of solace as Anna faces her past and tries to forge a future she can live with.

Ambition, angst, conflict, humour and romance all appear in this short story, in a series which promises to be addictive.

I received a copy of this book from Avon Books UK via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

 

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Posted in Book Review

The Girl In The Corner – Amanda Prowse – 5*#Review – @MrsAmandaProwse @AmazonPub

Rae-Valentine and Howard were childhood sweethearts. They’ve shared twenty-five peaceful years since they were brought together by Dolly, Howard’s larger-than-life sister. But now, on the night of their wedding anniversary, Howard reveals a shocking betrayal that leaves Rae reeling.

Heartbroken, she takes Dolly on her would-be anniversary trip to Antigua and the two women drink and dance and talk like they haven’t in years. But in the break from real life, Rae realises her choices have always been made for her, and suddenly she’s questioning not only her fragile marriage but also her one-sided friendships. Is she really the pushover everyone else sees?

When Howard comes looking for reconciliation, Rae has a choice to make: keep the peace, as she always has, or put herself first for once and find out who she really is.

Amazon UK

My Thoughts…

Rae-Valentine finds her life’s work; her marriage and the family business she troubleshoots is not what she believes, at her Silver Wedding Anniversary party. Feeling worthless and rudderless she refuses to go on her expensive anniversary holiday until her husband suggests she goes without him, but with her best friend Dolly, his sister.

The trip allows Rae to examine her life choices, but were they her decisions or just her only option? Experiences on the holiday, people she meets and deep heart-to-hearts with her best friend reveal some uncomfortable home truths. The ultimate question, is it too late to change things and live her own life?

Rae-Valentine and all the book’s characters are authentic and relatable, as are the situations they find themselves in. This is a story of realisation and self-belief that resonates with the reader and makes an everyday situation, a readable, page-turning story.

I received a copy of this book from Lake Union Publishing/Amazon Publishing via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

Posted in Book Review, Festive Read

5*Review – Sue Moorcroft – A Christmas Gift @SueMoorcroft@AvonBooksUK

Georgine loves Christmas. The festive season always brings the little village of Middledip to life. But since her ex-boyfriend walked out, leaving her with crippling debts, Georgine’s struggled to make ends meet.

To keep her mind off her worries, she throws herself into organising the Christmas show at the local school. And when handsome Joe Blackthorn becomes her assistant, Georgine’s grateful for the help. But there’s something about Joe she can’t quite put her finger on. Could there be more to him than meets the eye?

Georgine’s past is going to catch up with her in ways she never expected. But can the help of friends new and old make this a Christmas to remember after all?

Amazon UK

My Thoughts…

The run-up to Christmas is the starting point for this book and things are not good for Georgine, in debt, she faces a bleak time, and compensates by giving her all to her vocational job at a performing arts school.

Joe is someone from her past who she doesn’t immediately recognise and this gives the story its romance and mystery and source of conflict. Although this story ends happily it is realistic and focuses on life’s rollercoaster ride, family, friends and relationships.

Believable characters, contemporary social situations and a sprinkle of Christmas magic, make this a great festive read.

I received a copy of this book from Avon Books UK via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

Posted in Book Review

Fingerprinted Hearts – 3*Review – Amy Spitzfaden

Sisters Fawn and Penny Anderson each have their own reason for loving More Please Bakery. It’s the place that helped Fawn heal after earth-shattering betrayal and an escape from Penny’s stalling relationship. But Fawn can’t forget her bittersweet history with the bakery’s handsome owner, Penny has a growing interest in the delivery boy, and the shop’s bank account is getting low.

When Penny lands them a celebrity client, reality TV star Delaney Roosevelt, Fawn dives in headfirst trying to come up with the perfect design. However, pleasing the starlet isn’t easy and soon heartbreak and scandal descend on the shop.

As the sisters face their romantic and professional demons they are forced to decide what is worth holding onto, and what they need to let go.

Amazon UK

My Thoughts…

If you’re wanting a break from the wall-to-wall Christmas fiction, but still want romance and something sweet, ‘Fingerprinted Hearts’ is worth a read. Set in a bakery in Boston USA, it follows the lives of two sisters, Fawn and Penny, as they negotiate love, heartbreak and their careers.

It took me a while to get into this story, which throws you straight into Fawn’s emotional angst, but the sisters’ relationship is believable, and the plot has the necessary twists to hold the reader’s interest.

  An easy to read, cosy romance with authentic characters and a popular bakery setting. 

I received a copy of this book from the author in return for an honest review.

 

Posted in Book Review, Festive Read

5* Review: Karen Swan – The Christmas Lights – @KarenSwan1 @panmacmillan

December 2018, and free-spirited influencers Bo Loxley and her partner Zac are living a life of wanderlust, travelling the globe and sharing their adventures with their millions of fans.

Booked to spend Christmas in the Norwegian fjords, they set up home in a remote farm owned by enigmatic mountain guide Anders and his fierce grandmother Signy. Surrounded by snowy peaks and frozen falls, everything should be perfect. But the camera can lie and with every new post, the ‘perfect’ life Zac and Bo are portraying is diverging from the truth.

Something Bo can’t explain is wrong at the very heart of their lives and Anders is the only person who’ll listen.

June 1936, and fourteen-year-old Signy is sent with her sister and village friends to the summer pastures to work as milkmaids, protecting the herd that will sustain the farm through the long, winter months. But miles from home and away from the safety of their families, threat begins to lurk in friendly faces . . .

The mountains keep secrets – Signy knows this better than anyone – and as Bo’s life begins to spiral she is forced, like the old woman before her, to question who is friend and who is foe.

Amazon UK 

Waterstones

My Thoughts…

An atmospheric story, that is deeper than it first appears, following Bo and Zac, two Instagram social influencers to the beautiful but forbidding Norwegian fjords in wintertime. There they meet Anders their mysterious guide and his fiercely independent grandmother, Signy.

The story is told from Bo’s point of view as she faces up to her demons, and questions whether she really is living the dream with Zac, or just running away. Signy’s story told in flashbacks to 1936 is simple, but devastating, and helps understand her fighting spirit and her willingness to face physical hardship to achieve the solitude she needs.

The contrast between the virtual world Bo lives in and the grounded world Signy inhabits is the lynchpin of this story, which explores relationships, the power of social media and the many secrets the story’s characters’ are keeping.

There is an underlying menace in both timelines, reinforced by the danger ever present in the mountainous region. There is poignant romance brought to life by believable characters and situations.

Out of tragedy comes hope and an understanding of love and the true meaning of sacrifice.

An unusual festive story with many layers to engage the reader and a hopeful ending.

I received a copy of this book from Pan Macmillan – Pan via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

Posted in Book Review, Festive Read

5* #Review -Sarah Morgan- The Christmas Sisters #FestiveRead @HQStories @SarahMorgan_

It’s not what’s under the Christmas tree, but who’s around it that matters most.

All Suzanne McBride wants for Christmas is her three daughters happy and at home. But when sisters Posy, Hannah and Beth return to their family home in the Scottish Highlands, old tensions and buried secrets start bubbling to the surface.

Suzanne is determined to create the perfect family Christmas, but the McBrides must all face the past and address some home truths before they can celebrate together . . .

Amazon UK

Waterstones

My Thoughts…

Such an atmospheric, festive story about a family born out of a tragedy, which defines their relationships and still haunts them years later. The sisters have all followed different paths as adults. Each feels the other has a perfect life but the reality is more complex.

This is a story about mothers, daughters and sisters, and the characters are beautifully written with believable flaws making them easy to empathise. Told from multi-points of view the backstory is cleverly woven into the plot, so that you understand the family dynamics and why Christmas is a source of stress for the McBrides.

This a lovely story, perfect as a festive read. Angst, fear, misunderstanding and romance all wrapped up in a poignant family drama that captures what it’s like to have sisters and how a caring family loves you, no matter what.

I received a copy of this book from Harper Collins UK – HQ via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

Posted in Book Review

The Hunting Party – 4* #Review – Lucy Foley @lucyfoleytweets @HarperCollinsUK

In a remote hunting lodge, deep in the Scottish wilderness, old friends gather for New Year.

The beautiful one
The golden couple
The volatile one
The new parents
The quiet one
The city boy
The outsider

The victim.

Not an accident – a murder among friends.

Amazon UK

My Thoughts…

Escaping to the wild and wonderful Scottish Highlands seems like the ideal venue for a New Year’s celebration, but what if everyone has a secret? Their university days are long gone, but the pecking order and rivalries are intensified. The cracks in the party atmosphere begin on the train journey north.

This story begins with the tragedy and uses a series of chronological multi-point of view chapters to illuminate the current situation. The characters are complex and realistic, and in most cases not likeable. Everyone has something to hide but how far will they go to keep it under wraps? The setting and inclement weather makes this an atmospheric read that compels you to turn the pages to see what happens next.

This is more of a murder mystery than a psychological thriller because the story is told through the eyes of several characters, both in the group of friends and the two people who work at the venue where they are staying, rather than an individual unreliable protagonist.

The plot is convoluted and sinister, there are multiple suspects and the identity of the victim remains hidden until the final chapters.

The remote party setting and the toxicity of the relationships has parallels with Sue Fortin’s The Birthday Girl, which I also enjoyed. Perfect holiday reading.

I received a copy of this book from Harper Collins – Harper Fiction via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

Posted in Book Review, Festive Read

What Happened To Us – Faith Hogan – Extract – 5* Review

Carrie Nolan is devastated when she is dumped by Kevin Mulvey after more than a decade without even a backwards glance! On reflection, she has sacrificed her own long-term happiness establishing their critically acclaimed Dublin restaurant and pandering to his excessive ego.

Meanwhile, Kevin can’t believe his luck. Valentina, their new waitress is a stunner, the kind of girl that turns heads when she walks in a room and surprise, surprise she has chosen him! He is living the dream!

Carrie seeks solace from a circle of mismatched friends who need her as much as she needs them. Jane, who struggles to run the pub on the opposite side of the street, Luke, who has stopped drifting while his father settles in a nearby nursing home and Teddy, a dog who asks for nothing more than the chance to stay by Carrie’s side.

With Christmas just around the corner, all is not quite as it seems and a catastrophic sequence of events leads to the unthinkable…

How far do you need to fall before you learn the true value of family and friends? And is it ever too late to start again…

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Extract

It was over a long time before Valentina walked into the restaurant. It was over between him and Carrie, probably for years. The truth was, he needed her and, as Valentina said, that’s no basis for a relationship.

God, she was hot. Valentina was the love of his life, simple as that.

‘It’s just sex, mate.’ His friend Jim said when he told him. Marriage and kids had made Jim philosophical about sex – these days he was more interested in football and property prices, or at least that’s how it sounded to Kevin.

‘It’s not just sex, it’s…’ Kevin couldn’t begin to explain to Jim. Jim above all people, with his safe marriage to Sandra and their two perfect children. ‘It’s the real thing. Valentina is the love of my life, the kind of woman every man wants on his arm.’

‘Yeah, but not the kind we marry,’ Jim muttered into his pint and Kevin knew it was only because most people settled for what they thought they deserved. Well, the worst was over now. He – or rather they – had told Carrie. It wasn’t even as bad as he’d expected, actually, she’d taken it rather well. He’d been steeling himself for weeks if he was honest. It wasn’t cowardice, so much as picking his moment. In the end, Valentina picked it for them and he knew it was for the best. No more sneaking around – the stress of all that, while no doubt it had added a risky excitement to the sex – he knew, he’d probably have a heart attack if he kept it up for much longer. Kevin just didn’t have that additional layer to him that subterfuge required, although, he was flattered that Valentina assumed he might and that all this was standard for a man about town like himself.

‘Pure and simple, I said it to you years ago. You and Carrie, too young to settle into all that happy families.’ But of course, there was no family, just a partnership that never made it to a marriage. Sometimes, Kevin wondered why they hadn’t married – perhaps Carrie had been waiting for him to ask? Of course, she must have known, after all these years, Kevin would never get around to asking. If they were to marry, it would be down to Carrie to organise it – and, of course, she never had.

‘It wasn’t just that,’ Kevin said. He wanted to tell Jim that he’d pursued Valentina, had seduced her and set about staking his claim on the future that was assembling before him. Although the truth was, they’d fallen into their relationship one night when Valentina had teased him into opening a bottle of red after everyone had left and they’d made ravenous love against the stairs in the restaurant. Red wine always made Kevin tipsy; he just didn’t have the constitution for it. Even now, it was like a dream to Kevin. He was seducing this beautiful woman and he wasn’t entirely sure how he’d managed it, but he could no more halt than the world would stop spinning.

‘No, there was no family, but the restaurant that was your baby. It was hers too.’ Jim shook his head, considered his pint of beer. ‘I suppose you’ve thought about what will happen with that?’

‘With the restaurant?’ Kevin had thought about it, but not in any concrete way. First, he’d had to tell Carrie, now that bit was over, they could make plans, decide what to do for the best.

‘I can’t see her walking away from it, and to be fair, you’d be mad to let her.’

‘How do you mean?’ Kevin was a little affronted.

‘Mate, I’ve known you both a long time, remember, we go back to first-year catering college together. Without Carrie, you’d be like all those other guys. True, you have talent, but let’s face it, Carrie is the brains behind the operation.’

‘Hold on, Jim. It’s my food people come for.’

‘Yes, and they also go to the Shelbourne for food and to McDonald’s. They go to your restaurant for the experience and that’s everything from the food to the people-watching, to the comfy chairs and even just to have Carrie look after them.’

‘Valentina is very good with the customers.’ Kevin might have been insulted if anyone else had said those things, but with Jim, well, he was probably telling the truth.

‘She may well be, but she’s not Carrie.’

‘God, no, she’s definitely not Carrie.’ Kevin smiled, remembering the way Valentina affected him. She did things slowly, spoke slowly, ate slowly. God, but she took off her clothes slowly. Each and every item hitting the ground, and his pulse began to beat rapidly just thinking about it.

‘Stop it, you’re torturing yourself.’ Jim could read his thoughts almost as well as Carrie could. ‘Actually, when I think about it, a Colombian hottie, you’re bloody torturing me as well.’ They sat for a while, looking at the giant TV over the bar, neither of them really following the game, both lost in thoughts of their own. ‘You’ll have to sort something with Carrie, mate.’

‘I suppose.’

‘There’s no suppose about it. It’s a right mess. There’s the house, the business and then all the other stuff that’s going to get tangled up in the crossfire.’

‘What other stuff?’ Kevin didn’t want to hear this, probably it was to be expected, but why couldn’t Jim just be happy for him, well, ideally, if he could be a little jealous too – it wasn’t much to ask, was it?

‘Have you forgotten Melissa and Ben’s wedding?’

‘Oh, Christ.’ Kevin had completely forgotten Melissa and Ben’s wedding. It was all planned, and as best friends of the bride and groom, Kevin and Carrie were asked to be maid of honour and best man. ‘That’ll be a bloody nightmare.’

‘Ah well, fun and games,’ Jim said, draining his pint. He nodded to the barman. ‘Must be off, back to the old ball and chain,’ he looked at his watch, ‘getting late for you too, Romeo.’ He slapped Kevin hard on the back. He took up his newspaper and headed into the night winds; leaving Kevin for another half-hour before he was due at the restaurant for the evening rush.

It was a mess. It was a right bloody mess, but he had no choice. He and Carrie were finished. He was in love with Valentina now and there was no going back. Not even for The Sea Pear.

My Thoughts…

A lovely heartwarming read with a festive edge, the characters are rich in detail and make you interested in their lives, whether you like them or not. Carrie is a strong female lead who you both empathise and admire because she doesn’t give up. Teddy the dog is such a courageous character and I would have loved this story for him alone.

There is a charming festive thread in this autumn- winter story that intensifies the importance of family, friends and caring for others.  An authentic, emotional story perfect to read at any time of year. I received a copy of this book via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

Faith was born in Ireland and currently lives there with her husband, four children and two fussy cats. She gained an Honors Degree in English Literature and Psychology from Dublin City University and a Postgraduate from University College, Galway. She was a winner in the 2014 Irish Writers Centre Novel Fair- an international competition for emerging writers. When she’s not writing, she’s an enthusiastic dog walker and reluctant jogger.

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Posted in Book Review

5* Review Kathleen McGurl- The Drowned Village –

A village destroyed
It’s the summer of 1935, and eleven-year-old Stella Walker is preparing to leave her home forever. Forced to evacuate to make way for a new reservoir, the village of Brackendale Green will soon be lost. But before the water has even reached them, a dreadful event threatens to tear Stella’s family apart.

An uncovered secret
Present day and a fierce summer has dried up the lake and revealed the remnants of the deserted village. Now an old woman, Stella begs her granddaughter Laura to make the journey she can’t. She’s sure the village still holds answers for her but, with only days until the floodwaters start to rise again, Laura is in a race against time to solve the mysteries of Stella’s almost forgotten past.

Amazon UK

My Thoughts…

Laura turns to her grandmother Stella when her boyfriend and best friend betray her. Life with Stella is quiet and safe, but her grandmother worries Laura is missing out. A TV news item brings Stella’s secret past to the present and Laura is easily persuaded to help her Grandmother solve past secrets and enjoy an escape to the beautiful English Lake District.

The destruction of villages through the creation of reservoirs must leave its community with latent resentment. Even though the villagers are usually financially compensated this doesn’t negate the sense of loss and destruction of a community. Stella village is resurrected after an exceptional drought and with it the chance to right a wrong and find the answers to some family secrets buried by the water.

The timeslip between the present day and the thirties is well written and adds depth to the story. The characters are complex and flawed but believable, and it’s easy to empathise with the choices most of them are forced to make. The gentle romance between Laura and Tom is lovely and the ending when family secrets are revealed poignant and satisfying.

I received a copy of this book from HQ Stories via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

Posted in Book Review

The Little Book Cafe – Emma’s Story – 4* Review

 

When Emma she discovers that Berecombe’s fabulous book café is running a literary course for beginners, she is excited to give it a try. She’s always wanted to study more, and it doesn’t hurt that Joel, the suave and charming new teacher is pretty easy on the eye…

The more she learns, the more she starts to question whether she really wants the life she has built up. Her boyfriend of forever, Ollie, is constantly training with the RNLI, so they hardly get to see each other, and she is pretty sure Joel has a soft spot for her…

Will Joel sweep her off her feet? Or can Ollie make the most important rescue of his life?

Amazon UK

My Thoughts…

Emma uses the Little Book Cafe to escape from her family and a less than exciting relationship with Ollie her long-term boyfriend. She loves her work as an estate agent but a new staff member wants to get ahead at any cost, and she forces Emma to question her life choices and makes the workplace yet another source of stress in Emma’s life. A classic literature evening class gives her a much-needed escape but also endangers everything she loves.

Again this story has a darker side, Joel her attractive tutor has a controlling nature and seems willing to abuse his position of trust. Emma is vulnerable, and the suspense builds as she debates whether to leave Ollie and stability behind. Emma is vibrant and impulsive; she is in a rut by risks losing something worthwhile if she acts hastily. Book club characters provide the help and support Emma needs, and the story has an exciting ending.

I received a copy of this book from Harper Impulse via NetGalley in return for an honest review.