Posted in Book Review, Romantic Comedy

5*#Review I Owe You One Sophie Kinsella- @KinsellaSophie

Fixie Farr can’t help herself. Straightening a crooked object, removing a barely-there stain, helping out a friend . . . she just has to put things right. It’s how she got her nickname, after all.

So when a handsome stranger in a coffee shop asks her to watch his laptop for a moment, Fixie not only agrees, she ends up saving it from certain disaster. To thank her, the computer’s owner, Sebastian, scribbles her an IOU – but of course, Fixie never intends to call in the favour.

That is, until her teenage crush, Ryan, comes back into her life and needs her help – and Fixie turns to Seb. But things don’t go according to plan, and now Fixie owes Seb: big time.

Soon the pair are caught up in a series of IOUs – from small favours to life-changing debts – and Fixie is torn between the past she’s used to and the future she deserves.

Does she have the courage to fix things for herself and fight for the life, and love, she really wants?

Amazon UK

I received a copy of this book from Random House UK- Transworld Publishing – Bantam Press via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

My Thoughts…

This is my first Sophie Kinsella novel and what a treat it is. I was smiling as soon as I met Fixie. The characters are vividly depicted, they jump off the page.

The story’s a curious mix of family drama and serendipitous romance. Fixie’s siblings are so irritating, but maybe all the fault doesn’t lie with them. Fixie’s obsessively helpful nature makes it easier for them to let her do everything.

The plot is easy to follow, not too many surprises here for the reader, but many for Fixie, as she embarks on a journey of self-realisation.

The romance is gentle and riddled with conflict, but there’s a satisfying ending. If you like to see ordinary people and situations made extraordinarily, this book will be a perfect read.

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Posted in Book Review

Prosecco and Promises A.L.Michael – Blog Tour: Extract and 5* Review

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Mia’s dad has always been her idol. Now, she faces losing him, and he is insisting that she leave England to visit her mother’s family on the Italian island of Ischia.

Arriving on the island, Mia is embraced by the warm, crazy relatives she hardly knows. Despite her doubts about the trip, it is in Italy that Mia discovers connections to a part of her life that’s been missing, and during the sun-soaked days and steamy nights Mia falls for handsome local Salvatore. But as the day of her departure draws nearer can she risk having her heart broken twice in one summer? 

Amazon (UK)

Kobo (UK)

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Apple Books (UK)

Prosecco and Promises Cover

Extract from Prosecco and Promises…

‘My father had booked the flight and had sprung for business class. I knew he’d probably have tried for first class, but Marjorie would have reined him in, talking about how pointless physical objects wouldn’t make up for my emotional loss. For once, she was right. Plus, it was amazing how I managed to feel guilty about absolutely everything. I felt guilty when I enjoyed the taste of the coffee in the terminal before my flight, the smooth, rich espresso going cold as I hovered around drinking it. Dad loved espresso. Loved.

I felt guilty about my comfortable seat on the plane whilst my father lay in his bed in pain. I felt guilty about the glass of prosecco and the movie I laughed at multiple times before remembering why I was travelling in the first place. I felt guilty at the sheer joy of knowing I had handed in my notice at the make-up counter, because I hadn’t known how long I’d be away for, and they couldn’t wait around – saying goodbye to that place had been a relief.

In the end, all that guilt and remembering to be unhappy was exhausting, and I fell into a dark, dreamless, uneasy sleep, waking up to that jolting feeling as my stomach stuck in my throat and the wheels of the plane extended.

‘Ladies and gentlemen, signore e signori, welcome to Naples.’

As I stepped off the plane into the warm sunshine, I took a deep breath. Not just to rid me of the chemical, ‘fake’ air circulating on that plane for hours, but to see if any memories lingered on the Italian breeze.

‘Every country smells different when you step off a plane, Mia,’ my father had said, a lifetime ago, ‘and soon, when you’ve been on enough journeys, you’ll get off a plane and you’ll smell home.’

Home smelled like wet summer grass and cool air. This smelled like dry air, like sand kicked up by salty seas, sucked into the atmosphere and whipped up in the wind. It smelled like the promise of juicy oranges and crystal waters. It smelled like coconut suntan cream and ice cubes on sticky fingers. But it didn’t smell like any memories at all. Just the warmth before summer began.

The last time I’d been to Ischia, it had been just after Mum died. My dad bought her ashes back to her home; he felt it was where she’d want to be. I’d met all these dark-haired people with clucking voices and sad looks. They’d stroked my hair and pinched my cheeks and paused their bursts of frantic Italian to call me a ‘poor little thing’. We spent a few weeks there, my dad hollow and echoing as he tried to show me the island, but was haunted by memories. He met my mother on Ischia. Stole her away back to England. Sometimes we’d walk past someone or some house, or he’d stop and pick up a shell on the beach, or stare past the pink sunset, like he wasn’t really there, but was back in the memory with her. It wasn’t the best time. And now he was sending me back, to the place I had been dragged to after my mother died, as my father drowned in his memories.

Now I would drown in mine.’

My Thoughts…

Mia is giving up on love, she lost her mother when she was just a child and can hardly remember her. Now, she is losing her precious father, who has always been there for her. Determined to be strong and stay with him to the end, he makes her promise to visit her mother’s home and meet her maternal family whilst he lives out his remaining days without her.

Anger is Mia’s dominant emotion, she’s furious with her father, her young step mum and most of all herself. Italy proves to be just what she needs but there is a great deal of angst, poignant discovery and forgiveness to be lived through before Mia appreciates this.

I love Mia she is such a beautiful mess, full of fear, guilt, self-reproach and the need to belong. She’s afraid to love, believing she will only experience the pain of losing again, Mia doesn’t feel she’s worth loving and so pushes everyone away. Her maternal family are loud and loving and they slowly get under her skin. Mia learns about her mother and finally feels that she has roots.  As her new family relive their memories of her mother, Mia begins to heal, and when her father dies, she finds that life does go on, even though she is devastated.

Meeting Salvatore is unexpected and it’s not love at first sight, he is rude and she is angry but when they find a common goal, they each see something they like in the other and sparks of a different sort begin to glow. The love story is gentle and realistic and lovely to read. A thoughtful, memorable story which is perfectly paced and hard to put down.

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

 
A.L.Michael

A.L. Michael is hurtling towards the end of her twenties a little too quickly. She is the author of 10 novels. Her most recent collection of books, The Martini Club Series, started with Cocktails and Dreams, to be followed by Prosecco and Promises, and Martinis and Memories. She likes to write about difficult women. Well, they say to write what you know. Andi works as a Content Writer, as well as a therapeutic facilitator. She has a bunch of degrees in stuff to do with writing and wrote her MSc dissertation on the power of creative writing in eating disorder recovery. She truly believes stories can change your life.

Twitter: @AlMichael_

Facebook: A.L. Michael

Website: A. L. Michael

Posted in Book Review

The French Adventure – Lucy Coleman 5* Review

 

Suddenly unemployed and single, Anna escapes to her parents’ beautiful house in France for a much-needed recharge – and to work out what she wants to do next with her life now her carefully mapped out plan has gone out the window.

Anna gives herself 6 months to recuperate, all the while helping renovate her parents’ adjoining gites into picturesque B&Bs. But working alongside the ruggedly handsome Sam on the renovation project, she didn’t expect for life to take an unexpected, if not unwelcome, twist…

Amazon UK 

Amazon

My Thoughts…

The setting for this story makes it special from the beginning. Anna is at a crossroads in her life, she has a plan and thought it was working out but soon discovers it isn’t. Arriving at her parents’ French B&B gives her chance to heal from her toxic relationship and plan her next move. Anna’s journey is more than a hop over the channel, it brings her into contact with Sam, her polar opposite, he doesn’t plan and doesn’t see the need to finish everything he starts,  yet they manage to work together renovating two smaller properties on their parent’s estate. There are lots of renovating tips as the story progresses, which increase the story’s visual impact, very useful also if you want to do any house renovation. 🙂

Sam has a tragic secret, which blights his life,  his attitude frustrates Anna, but she can’t help but like him, maybe because of their differences. There’s a mystery to solve and some lovely characters to meet, and there’s Karl, Anna’s ex-boyfriend who won’t leave her alone, but is this more about saving face than a broken heart? Anna’s journey of self-discovery is at a realistic, gentle pace but the setting combined with the possibility of romance and the mystery Anna and Sam have to solve makes this an easy to read, page-turner, with a believable outcome.

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

Here’s an extract from The French Adventure…

‘Karl sidles up to me. Nestling his body up against my back, he wraps his arms around my waist to give me a hug. I continue to unwrap a few cheeses and lay them out on a platter, laughing as he buries his head in my hair. We always come back to my place after a night out. He lives like a bachelor, and his fridge is never stocked.

‘You’re very quiet tonight, Anna. Anything I should be worried about?’

I tried to join in with the spirit of the film, but with my head filled with so many conflicting emotions, it was hard to concentrate. I’m on the brink of challenging him about our situation and telling him how unhappy I am with the way things are. Tonight, all I could think about was how I would begin that conversation. But there’s an underlying problem. Assuming that Karl immediately wants to do the right thing and make me happy, rather than risk losing me, what if I don’t suddenly feel my life is complete, after all?

What if things don’t fall nicely into place? It’s like I have this disconnect. I want to love him; I want this to be right. However, I can’t engage until he’s proven beyond any doubt whatsoever that he loves me. Only then will I truly know how I feel and hopefully be able to say that back to him.

‘I’m… tired. That’s all.’

‘Hey,’ he turns me round so he can stare into my eyes. I have a cheese knife in one hand and a piece of kitchen towel in the other. ‘I don’t like to think of my girl overdoing it. If you need to take some time off the boss is saying yes.’

When he looks down at me with that look on his face, it’s a different Karl I see. There is a vulnerable streak there, a softness to him that never shows at work.

‘I’ll be fine. It’s only that… sometimes I’m not sure what the future holds.’

Damn it, Anna, why do you have to soften it? Ask him outright! Or are you scared you won’t get the answer you think you want?

‘The future is bright, I can promise you that. We’re going to be trailblazers, Anna. You’re going to love being driven around in a Porsche and taken to the best restaurants. And it’s not just my success we’re talking about here, Anna, we’re a team. Your parents are going to be very proud of their daughter’s achievements.’

I stare back at him, trying hard to hide my bitter disappointment.

‘I just want to be happy, Karl, and have a good work/life balance. Work is only a part of it.’

He looks at me and emits a slow sigh.

‘I see this as a start, and my aspirations go way beyond that. I don’t want a mediocre life, I want it all – for us. One day I’m going to run my own company and prove to my father I have what it takes.’

I met Karl’s parents once, and that was enough. I felt uncomfortable in their company as if I wasn’t good enough for their son. Which was bad enough, but the way his father treated him was appalling. He kept asking questions and challenging every single little thing. I knew Karl was embarrassed and we hardly spoke a word on the journey back home.

‘Money and material things don’t necessarily bring happiness, Karl.’ I catch his eye, even though I can see he doesn’t want to listen.’

Lucy lives in the Forest of Dean in the UK with her lovely husband and Bengal cat, Ziggy. Her novels have been short-listed in the UK’s Festival of Romance and the eFestival of Words Book Awards. Lucy won the 2013 UK Festival of Romance: Innovation in Romantic Fiction award.

Posted in Book Review

Children’s Fiction: Hortense and the Shadow – Natalia and Lauren O’Hara – 4* Review

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Hortense is a kind and brave girl, but she is sad–even angry–that her shadow follows her everywhere she goes. She hates her shadow and thinks her shadow must hate her too. But one cold, dark night, when bandits surprise her in the woods, Hortense discovers that her shadow is the very thing she needs most.

Amazon UK

Amazon

My Thoughts…

A beautifully illustrated picture storybook about a young girl who dislikes her shadow and what happens when it runs away from her.
The setting for this story is a fairytale, and there are dark elements, but good triumphs and Hortense learns valuable lessons of self-discovery, A good story for the age group.
I received a copy of this story from Penguin Random House UK Children’s Puffin via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

Posted in Book Review, Festive Read, New Books

The Holiday Swap – Zara Stoneley – 5* Review

The Hoiliday Swap

Blurb - Coastal

Two women, two very different lives – one perfect solution to a Christmas holiday fraught with potential pitfalls.

The Holiday Swap.

Florence Cortes has the perfect life – an apartment in the trendiest district of Barcelona, a job she loves and a boyfriend who’s whisking her away on a romantic break to Paris to no doubt propose.
Only, he’s planning something far different, and Flo soon realises her life isn’t so perfect after all.

Home loving Daisy Fischer is perfectly happy in her idyllic home in the Cheshire countryside, with an on-off boyfriend who might be slightly dull but is totally dependable. Until he issues an ultimatum, and Daisy suddenly realises that there might be a whole different world out there that she’s missing out on.

Have Flo and Daisy come up with the perfect solution to escape festive heartbreak?
Can a snowbound Christmas in Cheshire – with aristocratic, handsome Hugo as her neighbour, a house full of animals and a leaking roof – help Flo mend her broken heart, and remind her of what she really wants in life?

Can a sunny break in beautiful Barcelona – with the dishy but brooding Javier, a never ending supply of cava, and a sea view to die for – prove to Daisy that playing safe isn’t always the answer?

Love actually does seem to be all around this Christmas – and in the places Flo and Daisy least expect to find it, but where will they be for New Year?

Buy Links - Coastal

Amazon UK

Amazon

My Review - Coastal

The Holiday Swap

The classic romantic comedy ‘The Holiday’ springs to mind reading the blurb for this story. As it’s a firm favourite of mine and I enjoy Zara’s Tippermere stories, I couldn’t wait to read this. I loved it.
For fans of Tippermere there’s a tantalising glimpse of village life in snowy Cheshire, as Flo returns to her childhood home and meets sexy Hugo. A lovely collection of animal personalities guaranteed to make you smile complete this part of the story perfectly.
However, it’s the Barcelona setting that draws you in. The passion and glamour of the city echoes Daisy’s new found passion for life and new love.
There is a definite festive theme to this story but it’s more about, friendship, realising your true potential and living your own life. Something both Daisy and Flo find out as they explore their new environments with new friends and experiences.
The characters are authentic and vivid. The plot comprises plenty of humour and lots of romance. Written in scenes, it’s easy to visualise the girl’s adventures as if you’re experiencing them first hand.
The perfect holiday read.
I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

 

The Holiday Swap by Zara Stoneley
My rating: 5 of 5 stars


The Holiday Swap by Zara Stoneley

Zara Stoneley

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