Sunday, 2 December 2018

Christmas at the Beach Hut by Veronica Henry

Everyone adores Christmas . . .
Especially Lizzy Kingham. But this year, she is feeling unloved and underappreciated by her family. The present-buying, decorating and food shopping have all been left to her. So she wonders ... what would happen if she ran away and left them to it?
Lizzy heads to her favourite place: a beach hut on the golden sands of Everdene. There she meets an unlikely collection of new friends, all running away from something. But the spirit of Christmas gets under Lizzy's skin: soon the fairy lights are twinkling and the scent of mulled wine mingles with the sea air.
Back at Pepperpot Cottage, her family are desperate to find her. For Christmas isn't Christmas without Lizzy. Can they track her down in time and convince her she means the world to them, every day of the year?

Call me shallow but I fell in love with the cover of Christmas at the Beach Hut from the moment I spotted it on social media. I was desperate to get my hands on this book and yet it took me a couple of weeks to lay my hands on it as it seems to have sold out everywhere which isn’t surprising with it reaching the Sunday Times bestseller list. The cover has glitter on the tree and lights to really make it sparkle so I immediately began to feel all Christmas fairy like and was hoping the book wouldn’t let me down and would actually have a full festive storyline rather than a mere mention of the word!
The storyline alternates between our three main characters Harley, Jack and Lizzy who have all for their own personal reasons decided to escape Christmas and hide away at the Beach Huts along the coast. I think every reader will sympathise with each of the characters and their reasons for wanting to escape and it reminds us that even with the run up to Christmas when we are all in high spirits that this time of year brings its own pressures and people still have things they are trying to deal with.
I loved all three of our characters but Lizzy did call out to me more with her feeling undervalued and kind of losing her way in life because of a number of issues and I actually found myself routing for her to take the time out for herself to not only make her loved ones appreciate her more but for her to take the time to put herself before others which does not come naturally to her. I found her loving and caring nature really helped Harley and Jack at their time of need.
Harley was a true credit to his mum and he is a lad who has had to grow up quickly due to their family situation. Jack’s situation is truly heartbreaking especially as his whole story is revealed and I was hoping that Lizzy could ease some of the heartache he was feeling and to help his son to still be able to have his little magical Christmas.
There were a lot of issues that were touched upon in this book from mental abuse to the way we handle grief and the effects on those going through the menopause and each of these were handled with dignity and care bringing awareness without sugarcoating the effects. Although these topics are at the core of the plot it didn’t make this book any less uplifting.
There is a perfect amount of festivity with the timescale of the book being set only days before Christmas when the preparations begin right the way over Christmas upto the new year. I would actually go as far as saying this is my favourite Christmas read of 2018 so far.
Veronica Henry is a marvellous storyteller and has such an easy effortless feel to her writing style, her words just whisk me away that is why I find her novels pure escapism. I thoroughly enjoyed Christmas at the Beach Hut and have now brought another two copies as presents to share my love for this book. Please don’t worry if you have never read any of the Beach Hut books this is a standalone book but it will just have you desperate to read the others afterwards!

Kindle                      Paperback

Friday, 30 November 2018

Orion Books and Baubles 2019 showcase event

Last night I was lucky enough to attend the Books and Baubles event hosted by the team over at Orion.

The venue was the swanky Covent Garden Hotel and the room was decked with festive delights, delicious cakes, plenty of fizz but best of all so many wonderful books.

It was one of my favourite events that I have attended in all my years of blogging as there was time to meet and talk in depth with each of the authors who were all so friendly and were happy to discuss their new books as well as talking about their writing journey and the new projects they are working on.

I was thrilled to be able to finally meet the wonderful publishers who I have been reviewing for over these past 7 years.

The tables held so many incredibly tempting reads.

It was great to see Queenie with the variety of colours which I have seen popping up on my twitter feed and having spoken to the publishers whilst I was there about it I was surprised to hear that it is a relatively witty read which I didn't expect judging by the cover ( I know I really shouldn't judge a book by its cover!)

I also noticed Louis and Louise by Julie Cohen who is an author I have admired for so long and it has come highly recommended by fellow author Hannah Beckerman and Publicist Rebecca Gray so I had to grab a copy of this one to bring home.

You will see Christmas at the Beach Hut by Veronica Henry peeking over the back too, those of you who follow me on Twitter would have read about my desperate search for this book in the real world! I am so pleased I had found a copy eventually in Waterstones and managed to finish it before attending this event as I got to speak to Veronica Henry about it whilst she was there! The review for Christmas at the Beach Hut will be up on the blog over the weekend so keep your eyes peeled.

You may have spotted the stunning cover of If Only I Could Tell You by Hannah Beckerman, I don't think there was a person left in that room whose ear I hadn't chewed off telling them how much they needed this book! I was so thrilled to be able to meet Hannah again and be able to thank her in person for delivering such a masterpiece and to tell her about my thoughts throughout the book!
If you missed my early review for this one click HERE to take a look.

I could have taken a copy of each and every book that was there as they all looked so tantalisingly good but I opted for 

Louis & Louise by Julie Cohen ( 24th January release )
Thanks to Hannah and Rebecca's recommendation.

Louis and Louise are the same person born in two different lives. They are separated only by the sex announced by the doctor and a final 'e'.
They have the same best friends, the same red hair, the same dream of being a writer, the same excellent whistle. They both suffer one catastrophic night, with life-changing consequences.
Thirteen years later, they are both coming home.

Swallowtail Summer by Erica James ( 7th March )
I am a huge Erica James fan and I absolutely love the fresh look to the cover design.

Linston End has been the summer home to three families for several decades. The memories of their time there are ingrained in their hearts: picnics on the river, gin and tonics in the pavilion at dusk, hours spent seeking out the local swallowtail butterflies. Everyone together. But recently widowed Alastair is about to shock his circle of friends with the decisions he has made - and the changes it will mean for them all... Can these friends learn to live life to its fullest?

Are We Nearly There Yet by Lucy Vine (7th February) 
Both Lucy Vine and Poppy Stimpson spoke with such enthusiasm about this book and scarily the main character sounds so relatable to me at the moment so I had to have this one!

Alice is turning thirty and is stuck in a rut. Her friends are all coupling up and settling down, while she's still working as a temp, trying (and failing) not to shag her terrible ex, getting thrown out of clubs, and accidentally sexting her boss...
She decides to throw caution to the wind and jets off on a round-the-world adventure to #FindTheFun and find herself. Of course, she's no more likely to find the answer to true happiness on the beach in Thailand than she is at the electric beach in Tooting, but at least in Thailand there's paddleboard yoga.
Can Alice find happiness on her travels? Or is she more likely to lose herself all over again...?

Somewhere Close to Happy by Lia Louise ( 13th June)
I thoroughly enjoyed talking to debut novelist Lia and her book sounds like my typical go to storyline, fun and uplifting.

Lizzie James is happy.
She has a steady office job (with a steady stream of snacks), has had the same best friend since school, and she sees her family every Thursday night for take-away and trashy TV. Lizzie likes her uncomplicated life.
Then a letter arrives one day from her first love, Roman. A letter dated the day he disappeared, 12 years before. As Lizzie uncovers the secrets of the letter, she discovers what really happened the year her life fell apart - and all avenues lead back to Roman.
Lizzie James thought she was happy, or somewhere close to happy, anyway. Now she's not so sure.

Queenie by Candice Carty Williams ( 11th April ) 
After numerous publishers, authors and bloggers talking to me about this one last night and telling me how witty this one is I needed to try this one.

Queenie Jenkins can't cut a break. Well, apart from one from her long term boyfriend, Tom. That's definitely just a break though. Definitely not a break up. Stuck between a boss who doesn't seem to see her, a family who don't seem to listen (if it's not Jesus or water rates, they're not interested), and trying to fit in two worlds that don't really understand her, it's no wonder she's struggling.

I just want to say a BIG thank you to Poppy Stimpson, Sam Eades, Rebecca Gray, Alainna Georgiou and the team for such an enjoyable evening.

 I am sure you will all agree that 2019 is set to be an amazing year for Book releases, which ones are you all looking forward too?

Thursday, 29 November 2018

The Survivors by Kate Furnivall

Germany, 1945. Klara Janowska and her daughter Alicja have walked for weeks to get to Graufeld Displaced Persons camp. In the cramped, dirty, dangerous conditions they, along with 3,200 others, are the lucky ones. They have survived and will do anything to find a way back home.
But when Klara recognises a man in the camp from her past, a deadly game of cat and mouse begins.

He knows exactly what she did during the war to save her daughter.

She knows his real identity.

What will be the price of silence? And will either make it out of the camp alive?

I have previously read Kate Furnivall's The Liberation and found myself hanging on her every word so I was desperate to read her new release The Survivors. 

Klara Janowska and her beautiful young daughter Alicja are stuck in a post war displaced persons camp in Germany, they are doing what each and every person in there is attempting to do…. Survive. When Klara sets us on a new arrival in camp she is desperate to get her and her daughter away from Graufield Camp to protect her daughter from this threat from their past.

This was an extremely well written and researched storyline that captured my attention right from the eventful first chapter. The storyline is told from both Klara and her daughter Alicja points of view which worked really well and I admired both of the characters. Alicja was such a brave and determined little girl who quickly has to grow up and has seen and faced things that no child of her age should have experienced. Klara is a feisty, intelligent and desperate mother who will do what ever it takes to protect her child. I also loved Davide, he was a respectful gentleman with his own problems but his feelings for Klara were clear and honest I was desperate for a happy ending for him and Klara but his health was a constant worry to me.

There was a lot of ducking and diving to avoid capture and I did find around a third of the way through I just wanted something to progress. I loved that I was completely taken by surprise at one point in the book I couldn’t believe I had had no suspicions about some people’s real motives!

Kate Furnivall has such a vivid writing style which sets the scene and the tone of the book perfectly. This was an honest, raw and desperate storyline with a mother’s love, determination and survival at the heart. I thoroughly enjoyed this book.

Paperback                Kindle

Tuesday, 27 November 2018

A Winter Beneath the Stars by Jo Thomas

Halley has been running from her problems for years.
On a courier trip to Tallfors, deep in Swedish Lapland, everything is going to plan. Halley has her bag, with two precious wedding rings inside for delivery... until she doesn't.
The only way to save the wedding is to team up with mysterious reindeer herder Bjorn, the one person who can lead her across the snowy tundra to be reunited with her bag.
On a journey of a lifetime beneath the stars, with only the reindeer and a bad-tempered stranger for company beside the fire, Halley realises that she will need to confront her past heartaches in order to let the warmth of love in once more...
Jo Thomas won me over with her debut novel The Oyster Catcher four years ago and I have loved each of her novels that she has released since then. The author has such a unique descriptive writing style that manages to create such vivid settings that transport me to places I could only ever dream of visiting. What I was looking forward to most when I saw the cover and title of her new release A Winter Beneath the Stars was seeing the author step away from the warmth of her summer settings and submerge us in the chilliest of climates setting the idyllic scene in a true winter wonderland.
Our main character in A Winter Beneath the Stars is Halley who is on her way to deliver a special package to the couple due to be wed in Tallfors in North Sweden but luck is against her when she arrives to find she has the wrong case! Desperate to relocate her bag containing the special package as well as her travel journal she embarks on the trip of a life time that will put her to the test when she helps the gorgeous but ill-tempered Bjorn to move his reindeers down from the hills.
This was such an adventurous storyline that made me feel so envious of the journey Halley was undertaking and the experiences she faced in the wild. Discovering the traditions and the way of life of the Sami families was a real pleasure and interest to me.
Halley was an instantly likeable character but it didn’t take long to figure out that she had a heartbreaking secret that she keeps buried from anyone not that she lets anyone close enough to risk exposing her secret. I did know from the very early start what the secret she was hiding was but I have spoken to someone else who read the book who didn’t realise what it was until it was exposed so I won’t say anymore incase I give away and spoilers!
Although there was no decorations, celebrations or appearances from the big man in red I still thought this was a beautiful read perfect for this time of year as the setting was representative of a Christmas card scene and the inclusion of the reindeer and the snow with added helping of the Northern Lights which I have always dreamed of seeing all comes together to make a winter novel perfect.
I did find the storyline very predictable but this didn’t stop my enjoyment as there was so much more to discover in the storyline that held my interest the whole way through. There was some tender moments which were portrayed well and a dashing of romance that warmed the heart. This will definitely be making its way into a number of Christmas present packages from me this year.

Paperback                Kindle

Monday, 26 November 2018

Cover Reveal!

Today I am so happy to be taking part in the cover reveal for 

The Helpline by Katherine Collette.

Germaine Johnson may not be all that good with people but she’s great with numbers. Unfortunately, as she discovers after 'the incident' at Wallace Insurance (and the subsequent disputed allegations), there are very few openings these days for senior mathematicians. Then her cousin gets her a job at the council. On the Senior Citizens Helpline.

It’s not the resumé entry Germaine wanted - but it turns out Mayor Verity Bainbridge has something more interesting in mind for her. A secret project involving the troublemakers at the community centre and their feud with the golf club next door. Which is run by the strangely attractive Don Thomas.

Don and the mayor want the seniors closed down. Germaine wants what Don and the mayor want. But when she’s forced to get to know the ‘troublemakers’- things get more complicated.

So without further to do here is the big reveal...…….

Let me know in the comments below what you think of the title, I suddenly have an hankering for a jammie dodger and a cuppa tea!

The Helpline is due for release on the 13th June 2019 
You can pre-order your copy below

Tuesday, 20 November 2018

Darling Blue by Tracy Rees

In their townhouse in Richmond, Blue and her family are as happy and as close as can be - well, on the surface at least.
But with the arrival of a young, destitute woman hoping to escape her abusive husband, they must finally confront the rifts that keep them apart. When they welcome Delphine into their home - and their hearts - they think it's for her benefit only. But what they don't realise is that she will bring them together in ways they never thought possible.

I fell in love with Tracy Rees’s writing after discovering her novel Florence Grace so I had high hopes for her latest release Darling Blue.
On Blue Camberwell’s 21st Birthday her father makes an embarrassing announcement, whichever gentleman can woo his daughter Blue in the form of a letter will earn her hand in marriage.
Delphine is in such a desperate position trying to flee from her husband, but her original plan fails when an accident results in all her belongings being washed away down river. With no where to go and unsure of what her next step would be she meets Blue who is very persistent and offers for her to come and stay with her family until she is ready to be on her way.
Will Delphine be able to escape the clutches of her brutal husband and will Blue find the love of her life even if she doesn’t agree with her father’s arrangement?
I was instantly taken by the characters I this book. I found them all so charming and as the book progressed it soon felt like I was amongst friends. The book is set back in the 1920’s and is told from Blue, Delphine and Blue’s step mother Midges points of view. They each have their own issues that weave together to create this wonderful storyline. Blue does seem to be the main focus and I loved how strong minded and passionate she is not only about finding the right man for her but also in her passion for writing. Although Blue is from a privileged family she doesn’t take this for granted she still has hopes and dreams that she wants to go out and achieve for herself and I couldn’t help but admire her for this.
As much as I loved Blue I personally found I was more interested in Delphine’s story. She was such a brave woman who took a real risk by running away and as we begin to uncover wat poor Delphine has been through over the years I was desperate for her to find a safe haven and a new life for herself to bring the joy and love she deserved.
Midge was the only character who I didn’t quite take to. My feelings towards her throughout the book change at times my heart went out to her but at another point I was completely shocked my her actions. It was her situation that I didn’t like in this book and I almost wish that she wasn’t a part of this book. I can see that it was a delicate topic that could raise more awareness for such a tender issue but I found that for such a major situation it was very easily accepted and almost swept under the carpet which I find incredibly hard to believe that anyone would react in the way her husband and daughter in-laws did. This was only a small part of the book so I didn’t find this had any effect on my enjoyment of the book.
I loved the authors descriptive writing style which really sets the scene for us and the inclusion of the letters from those trying to win Blue’s heart was a great addition, I really miss that thrill of receiving a hand written letter! I was pleased that I was kept guessing the whole way through as to who would end up winning Blue’s heart, I do enjoy an unpredictable romance.
Tracy Rees has created another atmospheric read with such vivid characters whilst tackling a number of delicate issues and wrapping it up with a sweet romance. The support and friendship between the Camberwell’s and Delphine was so uplifting it was almost as though she was an extension of their family.
I enjoyed this book and I look forward to the next release by Tracy Rees.
Kindle                       Paperback

Saturday, 17 November 2018

The Rise and Fall of Becky Sharp

Becky Sharp has big dreams and no connections. Determined to swap the gutters of Soho for the glamorous, exclusive world behind the velvet rope, Becky will do anything to achieve fame, riches and status.
Whether it’s seducing society’s most eligible bachelors, or befriending silly debutantes and rich old ladies, Becky Sharp is destined for great things. Because it might be tough at the top but it’s worse at the bottom.
From London to Paris and beyond, Becky Sharp is going places – so get the hell out of her way…

I had heard a lot about The Rise and Fall of Becky Sharp by Sarra Manning but have to admit I was a little hesitant about picking it up as many reviews I had read had all mentioned that this was a retelling of Vanity Fair which ( ok smack my wrists ) I have never read, so I didn’t think I would be worth me reading. As a surprise my sister actually brought me a copy for my birthday present so I settled down to see if I would be able to follow the storyline.

Becky Sharp has lived her life with nothing but after her appearance on Big Brother she is determined to make use of this platform to get her name out there and rise to fame and fortune no matter how ruthless she has to be.

For any of your who, like me , were feeling a little put off about this book having not read Vanity Fair let me put your mind at ease and say it is absolutely fine to read as a standalone book, had I not read the reviews mentioning that I wouldn’t have been any of the wiser and would have still been thoroughly entertained by this storyline.

The first thing to mention is our leading lady Becky Sharp who is one determined and had no morals when it comes to getting what she wants! She isn’t the kind of character you love or would want to be friends with but she is so interesting to watch her mid at work concocting her devious plans for her next step.

The storyline is fast paced and we meet a large variety of characters for Becky to stamp her heels all over on her way to the top. Becky wasn’t the only character who was ruthless though another that stood out was Gorgeous George who I was desperately hoping Becky would take down a peg or two as he was so arrogant and egotistical. There were other characters I did find generally sweet such as Dobbin and Amelia.  There is a slight witty feel to the storyline but that is mainly because people are so blind to her ways and she has no boundaries.

I liked that the book was unpredictable even though we soon become aware that there isn’t a line that Becky isn’t afraid to cross and that she always has a plan B we never quite know if she will end up on top or if everything is about to fall down around her once again. This was refreshing modern storyline with scandal a plenty and a main character in Becky Spark who will be impossible to forget. I am pleased I have discovered author Sarra Manning and I look forward to reading more books by her after enjoying her writing style in this book.

Paperback                 Kindle