Friday, 29 January 2016

Mistletoe Mansion by Samantha Tonge

Out now
Published by Carina
Purchase from Amazon here

The blurb:

Kimmy Jones has three loves: cupcakes, gossip magazines and dreaming of getting fit just by owning celeb workouts.

When Kimmy’s Sensible Boyfriend told her he didn’t approve of her longing for the high life or her dream of starting a cupcake company Kimmy thought she could compromise – after all, she did return those five-inch Paris Hilton heels! But asking her to trade in cake-making for a job sorting potatoes is a step too far.

So, newly single - and newly homeless – Kimmy needs a dusting of Christmas luck. And, masquerading as a professional house sitter, her new temporary home is the stunning Mistletoe Mansion. Soon she’s best buds with glamorous next door golf WAG Melissa, and orders are pouring in for her fabulous Merry Berry cupcakes! The only thorn in her side is handsome handyman Luke, a distraction she definitely doesn’t need. And talking of distractions, something very odd is going on at night…

Kimmy is finally living the life she’s always wanted. But will her glimpse into the glittering lifestyle of the rich and famous be as glamorous as she’s always imagined…?

My review:

Whilst Mistletoe Mansion sounds like a Christmassy title, don't be put off as it can easily be read and enjoyed at any time of the year. If you're looking for a book with a fun leading lady, flirtation, laughter and something a bit different, then this could be the book for you.

Our leading lady is Kimmy. She loves reading all the celebrity gossip in trashy magazines, and dreams of hanging out with the rich and famous, and running her own cupcake business, rather than the not so exciting life and flat she shares with her boyfriend.

When the relationship hits the skids Kimmy has no choice but to move out, and along with her best friend manage to wangle their way into becoming house sitters in a rather swish house, with a famous neighbour. The house comes with a handy man in the form of Luke, who is rather good looking, but a bit of a pain in the backside for Kimmy. But he isn't the only character to grace the house.....there seems to be another presence that goes bump in the night......

Kimmy becomes friends and a sort of confidante to Melissa, the famous wife next door, and before long Kimmy's life appears to be making lots of changes.....will they lead to the life she yearns for? I can't possibly say!

I really enjoyed Mistletoe Mansion. I had seen mixed reviews about it but am glad I ignored them and decided to make up my own mind. The story made me smile and I enjoyed the characters. I warmed to Kimmy quickly and liked that she has some balls about her rather than a quiet, heartbroken female. With encouragement she grabs life by the scruff of the neck and is a trier. She is also a great friend. Luke, of course is great eye candy and I liked seeing his character develop.

I made reference to things that go bump in the night, and the ghostly goings on made me slightly nervous at first. I wasn't sure where it was going, and I wasn't sure if it would spoil a good story and nice characters. Luckily I was wrong and actually enjoyed this element of the book.

Mistletoe Mansion is a good read, and a nice escape from the real world. It has friendship, romance, ambition and good fun in it and I will definitely be looking out to read more of Samantha's work.

Thanks to Carina who kindly provided a copy of the book in return for an honest review.

Tuesday, 26 January 2016

The Widow by Fiona Barton

Out now
Published by: Random House, Transworld
Purchase from Amazon here

The blurb:

'The ultimate psychological thriller' Lisa Gardner

We've all seen him: the man - the monster - staring from the front page of every newspaper, accused of a terrible crime.

But what about her: the woman who grips his arm on the courtroom stairs – the wife who stands by him?

Jean Taylor’s life was blissfully ordinary. Nice house, nice husband. Glen was all she’d ever wanted: her Prince Charming.

Until he became that man accused, that monster on the front page. Jean was married to a man everyone thought capable of unimaginable evil.

But now Glen is dead and she’s alone for the first time, free to tell her story on her own terms.

Jean Taylor is going to tell us what she knows.

Du Maurier's REBECCA meets WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT KEVIN and GONE GIRL in this intimate tale of a terrible crime.

My review:

It's only January but I already know that The Widow is set to be one of my favourite reads of 2016. It gripped me and didn't let me go right until the end. A story of a terrible man and a terrible crime, but just how much does his wife really know and trust him....and just how much should she trust him?

I think it's going to be quite hard to write a review that does the book justice, whilst not giving away any of the plot.  But I shall try......

Our leading lady is Jean, wife of a man who has been accused of an awful crime, yet for some reason Jean sticks by him, never speaking badly of him, and appears to be totally devoted to him. Having recently died Jean finally has the opportunity to tell her story. Much of the book is written from Jean's perspective as we delve into her and Glen's world. Just what was it like to live with a man who has been accused of such awful things? I find it a bit incomprehensible, thinking more that women of today were more likely to speak up or walk away. I was imagining Jean as a woman in her late fifties or older, and had to remind myself that she was much younger.

Throughout the book I was constantly trying to piece it all together. What really happened? Was Glen guilty of the allegations against him or not? How well did Jean really know her husband? I also found I was constantly questioning myself. How would I act? What would I do? Am I as sure of myself as I like to think I am? Whilst it felt like quite a slow start, as the story developed it became a roller coaster ride that had me holding my breath at times.

Joining Jean as a narrator are Kate and Bob. Kate is a local journalist who has been covering the case and finds a way in to Jean's world to try and uncover the truth. Bob is the detective leading the case for the police. Both characters have very important roles in helping us readers get a more rounded idea of what happened and I really enjoyed reading their parts in the book. The book flits between the past and the present which builds up the context of events brilliantly as well as allowing us to meet some of the other characters. I particularly liked Kate. Yes, she was a journo who could at times be quite aggressive in her approach, but I truly believed that all she wanted was to get to the truth, and that she genuinely cared.

I seem to be in the midst of a binge reading psychological thrillers since the start of the year and The Widow is certainly fits the bill. The book really got under my skin and had me turning pages at a rate of knots, unable to tear myself away. It is a dark and sinister story that touches on some disturbing themes. But whilst dark there was nothing gratuitous about the book. Sadly these events can and do happen. Some of the events they also served to really make me think about how much of our lives we share, and some of our habits.

I was lucky enough to attend a book event at Dulwich books last week featuring Fiona Barton. It was fascinating to hear her speak about how she came up with the concept for the book, and how she felt writing it. It has made me think about the book and its storyline all over again. For example, I found it hard to imagine how a wife could stick by her husband no matter what. But as Fiona pointed out, Harold Shipman's wife did exactly that.

The other exciting news from the event is that Fiona is working on book two which will feature Kate. I cannot wait to read it. The Widow was a wonderful story, a rollercoaster ride of emotion, dark, gritty and unputdownable! I absolutely loved it!!!

Thank you to Random House, Transworld who kindly provided a copy in return for an honest review.

Saturday, 16 January 2016

Blog Tour: Holding out for a Hero by Victoria Van Tiem

The Blurb:

The problem with first love is that it never truly dies . . .

Libby London fell in love with the eighties, came of age in the nineties, and now the twenty-first century is bewildering her. Her New-York-City style is more, erm, vintage tragedy than retro babe and her penchant for All Things Eighties might just be what's holding her back in matters of life and       love . . .

At least that's what her well-meaning friends think. They've staged a #80s Intervention in an effort to bring Libby bang up to date. What with her dreaded birthday party, friends' madcap ambush, and being forced to relocate her vintage shop, Libby's nearing breaking point!

Will she ever be able to move on when the one she loves keeps her in the past?

My Review is up on the blog and can be seen here


A bitter-sweet romantic dramedy set to an 80s soundtrack.

Music has a way of connecting us back to an event or time INSTANTLY. Just a few beats of ‘Melt with You’ by Modern English and I’m a teenager cruising Gratiot with the windows down. A few notes of George Michael’s ‘Careless Whisper’ and I’m in middle school slow dancing with Scotty, a cute boy with blonde curls. I can’t remember his last name, but play that song and I recall the moment perfectly.
Libby London, HOLDING OUT FOR A HERO’s heroine, came of age in the 90s, but was (and still is) obsessed with all things 80s, especially the music. After all, it was when her future looked so bright, she often wore shades-neon pink ones to be exact. Libby’s future now, however, is anything but shiny and bright. In fact, it’s a bit of a mess. Armed with Aqua Net, Converse trainers, and one black netted glove, Libby’s prepared for battle. And what better way to navigate the present then with a soundtrack from the past?

Every chapter in HOLDING OUT FOR A HERO is titled after an 80s hit that fits the scenes tone and theme.  Remember these?
Libby London’s playlist:

‘Pretty in Pink’ – Psychedelic Furs, 1981
‘Who’s That Girl’ – Madonna, 1987
‘West End Girls’ –The Pet Shop Boys, 1985
‘Are We Ourselves?’ –The Fixx, 1984
‘If You Leave’ – Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark, 1986
‘True’ – Spandau Ballet, 1983
‘Shout’ –Tears For Fears, 1984
‘Tainted Love’ – Soft Cell, 1981
‘Talking in Your Sleep’ – The Romantics, 1983
‘Burning Down the House’ –Talking Heads, 1983
‘Should I Stay or Should I Go?’ – The Clash, 1982
‘Devil Inside’ – INXS, 1987‘Weird Science’ – Oingo Boingo, 1985
‘St Elmo’s Fire’ – John Parr, 1985
‘Don’t You Forget About Me’ – Simple Minds, 1985

I hope you enjoy Libby’s musical soundtrack through life and love! I can’t wait to discuss her journey with you,
Victoria xo
Stop by for a chat!
Twitter: VVanTiem_author

Wednesday, 13 January 2016

Holding out for a Hero by Victoria Van Tiem

Published on 14 January
Published by PanMacmillan
Purchase from Amazon here

The blurb:

The problem with first love is that it never truly dies . . . Libby London fell in love with the eighties, came of age in the nineties, and now the twenty-first century is baffling her. Her New-York-City style is more, erm, vintage tragedy than retro babe and her penchant for All Things Eighties might just be what's holding her back in matters of life and love . . .

 At least that's what her well-meaning friends think. They've staged a #80sIntervention in an effort to bring Libby bang up to date. What with her dreaded birthday party, friends' madcap ambush, and being forced to relocate her vintage shop, Libby's nearing breaking point! Will she ever be able to move on when the one she loves keeps her in the past?

My review:

I was a teen of the 80's and love anything related to that era, so this book was right up my street. I loved Victoria Van Tiem's first book, and have been waiting excitedly for this to come out.

Whilst set in the present day the story frequently harks back to the 80's, particularly Pretty in Pink, which if you haven't seen it, you really must! Our lead character is Libby. She runs a vintage shop called, funny enough, Pretty in Pink, in New York, and is totally stuck in the 80's. With her birthday approaching her friends decide to stage an intervention to get Libby up to date, and out dating men. He reluctantly has to agree to go on fire dates set up by her friends who also attempt to transform her look. Running alongside this is  Libby's battle to save her store from closing.

The book is very funny. Libby and her friends are endearing, fun and sassy. I particularly enjoyed the dates. They really did make me laugh. The men she encountered sounded like a nightmare and made me quite glad I'm not into the whole dating game!

But there is also a more emotional side to the story which unravels as the book goes on. Libby was involved in an accident when she was a teenager, and has seen a therapist over the years. We get to see Libby in therapy during the book too. It is also obvious that Libby has had her heart broken, although we don't know what happened.....

I loved Libby. She was a girl after my own heart with her passion for all things 80's related. But she is also a really bubbly, loveable character. I enjoyed following her through her journey of dating disasters, her battle to save her vintage store, and her voyage of self discovery. Also look out for Jasper, Libby's co-worker. Such a likeable guy......

This book was brilliant. It kept me smiling, laughing, but also emotionally connected to the characters. I flew through it wanting to know what would happen next. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

Thanks to PanMacmillan who kindly provided a copy in return for an honest review.

Thursday, 7 January 2016

The A-Z of You and Me by James Hannah

Out Now
Published by Random House Transworld
Purchase from Amazon here

The blurb:

'A wry and tender love story' Catherine O'Flynn, author of Costa prize-winning WHAT WAS LOST

I’m lying here in a bed, my head full of regret, with only a little bird flitting through a tree to comfort me.

Friends want to visit, but I refuse them. So my carer Sheila has given me a task to keep me occupied.

An A-Z list. Think of a part of my body for each letter. Tell a little tale about it.

When I reach H for Heart, what will I say?

How we loved to string crocheted hearts in trees? How our hearts steadily unravelled?

So I begin with A. Adam’s apple.

Will you be there to catch me when I fall?

My review:

The A-Z of You and Me is the story of Ivo. Ivo is a young man of just 40 who is seriously ill and in a hospice. One of his nurses, Sheila, suggests a game to him to try and take his mind off his condition, and to lift his mood. She suggest creating a list of body parts starting with the letter A, and working through the alphabet. The remainder of the book is cleverly told one letter and body part at a time. With each letter we learn a bit more about Ivo, his relationships, friendships, his illness, and who Ivo is.

The subject of the book is quite deep and emotional, but the author has written it in a way that isn't all doom and gloom. It is very easy to get absorbed in the book, and Ivo's story develops at a steady rate which kept me wanting to know more about what has happened to him. Ivo doesn't want his friends to visit, and is quite a downbeat character and I wanted to know more about why. Was it just he didn't want anyone to see him suffering and feel sorry for him, or was there any other reason? This gets answered as the plot unfolds.

I loved the nurse, Sheila. She is written with such warmth and compassion for Ivo. She reminds me of the nurses I have encountered when needing any treatment over the years. A lovely, caring lady who really wants the best for her patients. She really bought a smile to my face.

I wasn't sure what to make of Ivo at first and didn't know if I would take to him. I know he is seriously ill, and that its terrible given his age, and I imagine I would also feel pretty despondent in his position. It did take me a while to click with him, but I am glad I persevered because as his story developed I felt I began to see more of him and what had moulded his attitude. I actually really liked him by the end.

Whilst this is a serious subject matter there are lighter moments and some laughter. Don't be put off by the plot, it is very well and sensitively written and makes for a very easy flowing and enjoyable read. I am very pleased that I have had the opportunity to read the authors debut novel and I will be looking out for future work.

Thank you to Transworld who kindly provided a copy of the book in return for an honest review.

Monday, 4 January 2016

Secrets at Maple Syrup Farm by Rebecca Raisin

Out Now
Published by Carina
Purchase from Amazon here

The blurb:

Maple sugar kisses...

Lucy would do anything for her mom…but she never expected to end up promising to leave her. After her mom got sick, Lucy dropped everything to take care of her, working all hours in a greasy diner just to make ends meet and spending every spare moments she had by her mom’s hospital bedside.

Now, Lucy is faced with a whole year of living by her own rules, starting by taking the first bus out of town to anywhere...

Except she didn’t expect to find her next big adventure just around the corner! Especially when on her first day in town she bumps into grumpy, but oh-so-delicious Clay amidst the maple trees. Surrounded by the magic of Ashford, Lucy has the chance to change her life forever and finally discover a life she wants to live!

Fall in love with Ashford, Connecticut in this dazzling and beautiful romance from bestselling author Rebecca Raisin.

A sweet and heart-warming novel for fans of Kristan Higgins, Tracy Brogan and Susan Wiggs.

My review:

I am a massive fan of Rebecca Raisin, and always break out in a huge grin when I download one of her books onto my kindle, knowing that I am in for a fantastic read. Secrets at Maple Syrup Farm certainly delivered. I loved it!

Lucy is the main character in this book and I adored her. It is just her and her Mum. Her Mum is seriously ill, and Lucy works all the hours God sends to make ends meet, and the rest of her time revolves around caring for her Mum. It is very clear just how much they mean to eachother. But Lucy's Mum worries that she is holding Lucy back in life. She has a talent for art, and her Mum wants her to travel and pursue her talent. She eventually persuades Lucy to travel for a year and explore.

For anyone who has read Rebecca's Gingerbread Cafe series you will be excited to hear that Lucy ends up in Ashford and becomes a regular at the cafe where we see more of the wonderful Cee Cee and Lil. Don't fear if you haven't read the series, I am sure when you meet you will love the characters as much as I did. Then you can go back and read the series later on.

Lucy needs to find a job to earn money, and get some savings to help her with more adventures. Whilst travelling into Ashford she spots a farm and asks Cee Cee about it. The farm is run by Clay who appears to be a recluse and a tough cookie. Lucy decides she is going to go to the farm and offer her help.  

Lucy meets Clay who is indeed a closed book, but persuades him to give her a trial at the maple farm. Being a hard worker has never stopped Lucy, but she may have met her match in Clay and the farm. I don't want to say too much more about what happens as I don't want to ruin it for you if you go on to read the book. But it is brilliant, and I hope you will love Lucy and Clay as much as I do!

Rebecca has a fabulous writing style which I get instantly captivated by every time I pick one of her books up. They have a real feel good factor, and are packed full of loveable characters who raise a smile often. Ashford is a small town where everyone knows one another and looks out for eachother. My Mum was raised in a village and Ashford reminds me of there, which has many many happy memories and makes it even easier to connect with. There is a real sense of community in Rebecca's books and they make me feel a part of the community too, the descriptions of people and places make them come alive and offer great escapism from the real world.

I loved Secrets at Maple Syrup Farm and would this ra copy into everyone's hands insisting they read it too as I hope they will be as captivated as I was.

Thank you to Carina who kindly provided a copy in return for an honest review.

Saturday, 2 January 2016

This Is Where It Ends by Marieke Nijkamp

Publication date: 5th Jan 2016
Published by: Sourcebook Fire
Purchase from Amazon here

The blurb:

10:00 a.m.
The principal of Opportunity, Alabama's high school finishes her speech, welcoming the entire student body to a new semester and encouraging them to excel and achieve.

10:02 a.m.
The students get up to leave the auditorium for their next class.

The auditorium doors won't open.

Someone starts shooting.

This explosive, emotional, page-turning debut about a high school held hostage is told from the perspective of four teens—each with their own reason to fear the boy with the gun.

My review:

Wow! This book is truly a page turner! I was intrigued by the synopsis and was looking forward to a fast paced edgy read. From the moment I picked it up I was riveted and unable to put it down.

The subject matter of a gunman entering a school is gritty and also quite hard reading because unfortunately it happens all too often in real life. However the author managed to write the book in a style that wasn't gratuitous violence, and actually told a story through the eyes of four kids who attend the school, but also have a connection to the shooter.

The whole book is set over a 54 minute period and is broken down almost minute by minute. Each time period takes us through what is going on for each of the central characters and I very soon came to like and respect them very much. This in turn had me rooting for them and keeping my fingers crossed for a happy ending for each of them (I won't spoil it and tell you what happens to them). Although the the action takes place or just 54 minutes the story has depth and takes us back to earlier times that show the build up to the day, and really helped me to empathise with each characters story. I felt a connection and understanding for each of them and their personal battles.

Did I feel empathy for the shooter? Yes, I think I did. Through exploring the characters we also explore aspects of his past, and unlike the way I expected to view him as a monster I felt sorry for him.

This book is fast paced, full of action, emotion and great storytelling. It will have you glued to it from start to finish ands have you rooting for a happily ever after ending. I loved it and would love to read more by this author.

Thank you to Sourcebooks Fire who kindly provided a copy in return for an honest review.