Monday, 8 December 2014

BOOK REVIEW: Married by Midnight, a Christmas Story by Talli Roland

Christmas is coming...and so is the biggest day of Kate's life.
While choosing a vintage dress for her Christmas Eve wedding, Kate finds a cryptic note pinned to the inside of a 1930's gown. As doubts about her own ceremony loom, Kate is determined to track down the dress owner and determine what became of her and the marriage.
Will Kate find the answers she's seeking to propel her down the aisle, or will her discovery prompt her to call off the wedding for good?
I hardly ever read short stories but Talli Roland has opened my eyes to how enjoyable they can be. I read Married by Midnight in just over 40 minutes and it put me in a really good mood for the rest of the day.
Kate has had a bit of a whirlwind engagement an
d is due to get married on Christmas Eve. When trying on her vintage wedding dress she finds a mysterious note pinned in it and it leads her to search for the previous owner of the dress. In doing so she raises questions about her forthcoming marriage and it is not clear whether she will be walking down the aisle or not.
The story had an excellent pace and I loved the mystery element to it. The festive setting made it a perfect story for this time of year and I really liked the characters created by Talli Roland too. I do love getting involved in a full length book but I will definitely be reading more short stories from now on; they're great for this time of year when we're all so busy.

Many thanks to Talli Roland for sending me a copy of Married by Midnight, it's available now!

Thursday, 4 December 2014

BOOK REVIEW: The Christmas Surprise by Jenny Colgan

Rosie Hopkins, newly engaged, is looking forward to an exciting year in the little sweetshop she owns and runs. But when fate strikes Rosie and her boyfriend, Stephen, a terrible blow, threatening everything they hold dear; it's going to take all their strength and the support of their families and friends to hold them together... After all, don't they say it takes a village to raise a child?

Publisher: Sphere
Pages: 383 

I have read the other two Rosie Hopkins books by Jenny Colgan so I was chuffed when I realised that Jenny's latest festive read was all about Rosie too. Don't worry if you've not read the others (I would highly recommend them) as the first chapter summarises everything you need to know.
Rosie and Stephen are still living in the beautiful village of Lipton, Rosie running her Aunt Lillian's sweetshop and Stephen teaching at the local school. They are just beginning to plan their wedding when their world is turned upside down. Rosie and Stephen's future becomes very uncertain when they realise they need to move from Lillian's beautiful cottage. Stephen's mother, Lady Lipton is still as frosty and his sister is also back on the scene from New York and after her inheritance. Things seem bleak for the couple and Christmas is just round the corner, they are both thinking it will be their last in the village that has been their home and sanctuary.
Jenny Colgan writes such enjoyable books, I purposely read this to get myself in the festive spirit and it certainly did the trick. Rosie and Stephen are both fantastic characters, I was rooting for them to sort their problems out. The book is warm and very funny but Jenny Colgan does not shy away from the real issues so you get a bit of everything on this book.
I think that Christmas books are very difficult to get right, they do need to have a lot of sentiment whilst avoiding being twee. Jenny Colgan gets the balance just right and I would highly recommend The Christmas Surprise as part of your festive reading or perhaps to give as a gift.

Many thanks to Victoria at Sphere for sending me a copy of The Christmas Surprise to review. 

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

BLOG TOUR: The Bookshop Book by Jen Campbell

I was so excited when I was asked to take part in the blog tour for The Bookshop Book as what could be better than a book about books? If you are an avid reader, sniffer or stroker of books, blogger, independent bookshop champion then this book is for you! 

Every bookshop has a story...
The Bookshop Book explores bookshops in barns, disused factories, converted churches and underground car parks. Bookshops on boats, on buses, and in old run-down train stations. Fold-out bookshops, undercover bookshops. this-is-the-best-place-I've-ever-been-to-bookshops.
Meet Sarah and her Book Barge sailing across the sea to France; meet Sebastien, in Mongolia, who sells books to herders of the Altai Mountains; meet the bookshop in Canada that's invented the world's first antiquarian book vending machine.
And that's just the beginning.
From the oldest bookshop in the world, to the smallest you could imagine, The Bookshop Book examines the history of books, talks to authors about their favourite places, and looks at over two hundred weirdly wonderful bookshops across six continents (sadly we've yet to build a bookshop down in the South Pole).

This book is simply lovely. I have already bought several copies to give as gifts as I think it is the perfect present for book lovers.
Jen Campbell explores over two hundred bookshops all over the world and I now have a very large list of all those I want to visit. The descriptions are brilliant, I could picture these wonderful places in my head and I loved reading about the people who own and run them. The Bookshop Book really does emphasise the power of books and reading. People have been worried about the rise in e-readers but I think this book demonstrates why we will always have physical books too. There is something so powerful about being in a shop full of books, new or old, the possibility of new adventures and new characters to meet.
Jen Campbell has included interviews with bookshop owners and also several authors and it is interesting to see their different perspectives on what makes a good bookshop and also to hear their book recommendations.
The Bookshop Book is a fantastic read and it made me want to go and visit a physical bookshop rather than relying on the convenience of on-line book shopping. I highly recommend this book and as I said earlier it would be a lovely gift for anyone who likes reading or simply as a treat for yourself.

Many thanks to Emily for inviting me to review this book as part of the blog tour. 

Thursday, 27 November 2014

Book Review: The Last Days of Rabbit Hayes by Anna McPartlin

Here is the truth that can't be escaped: for Mia 'Rabbit' Hayes, life is coming to an end...
Rabbit Hayes loves her life, ordinary as it is, and the extraordinary people in it.
She loves her spirited daughter Juliet; her colourful, unruly family; the only man in her big heart, Johnny Faye.
But it turns our the world has other plans for Rabbit, and she's okay with that. Because she has plans for the world too, and only a handful of days to make them happen.
Here is a truth that won't be forgotten: this is a story about laughing through life's surprises and finding the joy in every moment. 
Publisher: Transworld
Pages: 362 
Publication Date: 1 January, 2015

I thought that The Last Days of Rabbit Hayes was an incredible read. Anna McPartlin knows how to tell a good story. Rabbit Haye's story was humbling and extremely powerful, the book left me in tears at the end and I just wanted to tell everyone about it.
Rabbit Hayes is dying, she only has days left and has just moved to a hospice. Having already beat breast cancer, Rabbit has had a long battle, it has now spread to her bones and she must prepare to say goodbye.
The book alternates between different character's perspectives which works beautifully as we get to hear Rabbit's inner thoughts then see Rabbit through the eyes of those who love her the most. It is heart-wrenching to see their reactions to her illness, their anger at seeing her suffering is very raw and I felt that this was a very believable and honest account of the devastation that cancer causes.
The story flits between the present day and the past where Rabbit remembers Johnny Faye. He was her only true love; he was in a band with her brother Davey but he too was taken too young. Although Rabbit has got on with her life and gone on to have her daughter Juliet, you get a real sense that she has never let Johnny go. Her memories of their time together gives her real comfort during her last days.
I completely fell in love with the Haye's family, their only concern is for Rabbit and to do the right by Juliet who she will have to leave behind. It was interesting to see how each member of the family dealt with it differently; at times they didn't agree about Rabbit's care or what should happen to Juliet but when it came down to it they pulled together as a family unit. So much humour cane from the Haye's family, especially Rabbit's mum Molly. Although this book made me cry, it also made me laugh out loud on many an occasion.
Anna McPartlin's writing style was very confident and fluid; the dialogue was particularly good and felt very natural. The Last Days of Rabbit Hayes makes you think about the importance of each day and appreciating the little things, I highly recommend this emotional read, just make sure you have some tissues ready.

Many thanks to Alice at Transworld for sending me a copy of this wonderful book to review.

Friday, 21 November 2014

BLOG TOUR: Everything I Never Told You by Celeste NG

I am very excited to take part in the blog tour for Celeste Ng's book Everything I Never Told You. This is the author's debut and she is clearly off to a good start as it is brilliantly written and executed. Here's the blurb: 
Lydia is the favourite child of Marilyn and James Lee; a girl who inherited her mother's bright blue eyes and her father's jet-black hair. Her parents are determined that Lydia will fulfill the dreams they were unable to pursue - in Marilyn's case that her daughter become a doctor rather than a homemaker, in James's case that Lydia be popular at school, a girl with a busy social life and the centre of every party. But Lydia is under pressures that have nothing to do with growing up in 1970s small town Ohio. Her father is an American born of first-generation Chinese immigrants, and his ethnicity, and hers, make them conspicuous in any setting.When Lydia's body is found in the local lake, James is consumed by guilt and sets out on a reckless path that may destroy his marriage. Marilyn, devastated and vengeful, is determined to make someone accountable, no matter what the cost. Lydia's older brother, Nathan, is convinced that local bad boy Jack is somehow involved. But it's the youngest in the family - Hannah - who observes far more than anyone realises and who may be the only one who knows what really happened.
When I read the above blurb I made the presumption that the book was a thriller/mystery which in many ways it is but it is a lot deeper than that, the questions asked by the author are far more interesting than a 'whodunnit'.
We know from the beginning of the book that Lydia is dead, her body is found in the lake by the Lee's house. The reader has no idea what happened though and the rest of the book looks into the events that led up to Lydia's death. Lydia's parents James and Marilyn both have very definite ideas of what they want for Lydia's future and they are purely selfish, borne out of their own frustrations. Marilyn wanted to be doctor but she met James and became pregnant, she tried again after her first two children but again found herself to be expecting. Due to this she never finishes medical school so she puts her career aspirations on to Lydia, going as far as buying her a stethoscope for her thirteenth birthday. James on the other hand has done well in his career, he has tenure as a college professor but he is deeply unhappy as he has never gained the popularity that he has yearned for. The colour of his skin made him an outcast at his school and he has never got over this. He wants Lydia to be the popular girl, surrounded by friends, being picked for teams and having a full social life. Lydia is so young to have these pressures from her parents plus she has the normal pressures of being a teenage girl, a fact that seems to have escaped both parent. 
I hugely disliked Marilyn and James and I think this is probably the author's intention but my main issue with them wasn't necessarily their treatment of Lydia but more their complete lack of regard for their other two children. They seem indifferent to Nath and Hannah most of the time even though both are clearly lovely children and high achievers also. Nath has just got into Harvard and is clearly relieved to be leaving the family home, Hannah is the quietest yet she knows the most but they don't think to ask her. Hannah knows what happened to Lydia and this made me feel incredibly sad too as it seemed such a big burden for her to be carrying around. 
Celeste Ng writes confidently and the book had an excellent pace. I think that all of the questions she raised in the book are credible, she looks at race, inequality of the sexes, ambition and parental responsibility, all of which effectively lead to Lydia's death. This book really made me think about the role of the parent, you always want the best for your child and for them to do well in life but there is a fine line between that and pushing them into being somebody they're not. Lydia wants to please both Marilyn and James which ultimately is impossible, she does not have their support to just be Lydia.
I would highly recommend Everything I Never Told You, it is well written and thought provoking. Lydia's character was particularly poignant and one that will stay with me for a long time. 
Thank you to the lovely Emily at Little Brown for inviting me to take part in the blog tour. Everything I Never Told You is available now. 

Monday, 17 November 2014

BOOK REVIEW: The Supernatural Enhancements by Edgar Cantero

Everybody loves a ghost story...
The heir to Axton House and his companion are delighted to find themselves living in one.
With it comes nightmares, a secret society and a curse.
A ghost may soon be the least of their worries.
Part ghost story, part cerebral mystery, this is a dazzling and wholly original supernatural adventure. 

Publisher: Ebury
Pages: 368

The Supernatural Enhancements is one of the quirkiest books I have read and I very much enjoyed its originality.
A has just inherited Axton House in Virginia from a second cousin twice removed who he has never met. His cousin has just killed himself by jumping out of the window of the house, just like his father had done at his age.
A and his mute companion Niamh travel to Axton House to discover just what they're taking on. It becomes clear, very quickly that the house is haunted. A's cousin was involved in some kind of secret organisation and nobody wants to talk about what has occurred at the house over the years.
Edgar Cantero cleverly tells his story through a mixture of diary entries, transcribed tape recordings, coded messages and shaky home video footage. This quirky nature of the book is what makes it so good as you become part of the action. You have no choice but to start looking for clues and asking questions.
A and Niamh are both interesting characters but I liked Niamh in particular. As a mute character it is interesting that she has the most to say. She communicates by scribbling down messages. These messages demonstrate her close friendship to A and how protective she is of him; they make a very entertaining partnership.
If you are looking for a classic haunted house story then this is not for you. I didn't find this book particularly scary; more eerie and unsettling. Cantero does build up tension and you are expecting things to go bump in the night; there is not a ghost hiding in every dar corner though so when events do occur they have more of an effect.
The Supernatural Enhancements is a clever and interesting read. I enjoyed the way the book was put together as much as I enjoyed the story; I would recommend this book.

I reviewed this book via Netgalley.

Thursday, 13 November 2014

BLOG TOUR: The List by Joanna Bolouri

I am pleased to be part of the blog tour for The List by Joanna Bolouri, the lovely Emma has organised this tour in conjunction with Quercus, you can check out her blog here. This List is a really fun read, definitely worth checking out:

Phoebe Henderson may be single but she sure doesn't feel fabulous. It's been a year since she found her boyfriend Alex in bed with another woman, and multiple cases of wine and extensive relationship analysis with her best friend Lucy have done nothing to help. Faced with a new year but no new love, Phoebe concocts a  different kind of resolution.
The List: ten things she's always wanted to do in bed but has never had the chance (or the courage!) to try. A bucket list for between the sheets. One year of pleasure, no strings attached.
Simple right?
Factor in meddlesome colleagues, friends with benefits, getting frisky al fresco and maybe possibly, true love and Phoebe's got her work cut out for her. 

Publisher: Quercus
Pages: 400

The List by Joanna Bolouri is a lot of fun and a book that I would highly recommend. I felt as though I worked out quite early on what was going to happen but in some ways I enjoyed the book more because of this as I could just sit back and enjoy what was happening.
Phoebe Henderson has been single for over a year after walking in on her boyfriend Alex in bed with another woman. It is the new year and Phoebe has decided that she needs to do something drastic, so she enlists her friend Lucy to help her compile The List. The list is made up of ten sexual acts that she has always wanted to do. However, she can't do these things on her own (well not all of them) so she ropes in her best friend Oliver to help her complete her mission. Will the list change Phoebe's love life and will her friendship wit
h Oliver survive this year of unadulterated pleasure?
I liked Phoebe a lot; she 's a similar age to me and works in advertising sales for a newspaper, the exact job I did seven years ago. She was funny, likeable and a bit feisty at times, I think a lot of readers will identify with her. Oliver is a fantastic creation, I had a crush on him as soon as he appeared in the book and this just grew as the story developed.
Joanna Bolouri's writing style is witty and face paced; the book is quite long at 400 pages but I didn't get bored at any point.
If you are on the look-out for a fast paced fun read then I urge you to buy a copy of The List, you might even learn a thing or two!

Many thanks to Emma for organising a fabulous blog tour and to Quercus for sending me a review copy. Check out the top of my blog to see who's next on the blog tour!

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