Saturday 2 December 2023

Countdown to Christmas by Jo Thomas

Chloe can't wait for Christmas . . . to be over! Her son Ruben is staying with his dad and Chloe is planning to ignore the holidays altogether. Her only festive touch is her son's advent calendar, to help count down the days till he's home again.

But a surprise call changes everything. Chloe might be the unexpected owner of some land in Canada! Surely, it's a scam. Or could it be just the escape she needs right now? Ruben's latest note in the advent calendar tells her to 'say yes!'

In a flash, Chloe's new countdown to Christmas involves a log cabin in the middle of a snowy forest, a community that's worried for its future, a gruff lumberjack who gives her butterflies and a 
 of pancakes with maple syrup . . .

I do love books written by Jo Thomas as she really does have such a beautiful creative writing style with the ability to really bring the characters to life and the settings feel so vivid and her new release Countdown to Christmas is no exception.

Chloe’s Son Ruben is spending his first Christmas with his dad she wants to erase Christmas this year altogether. When a surprising phone call offers not only an opportunity to get away from it all but also a possibility of changing her and Ruben’s life for the better she takes the plunge and travels to Canada.

If like me you get to December and are still lacking in Christmas spirit and you turn to books to ignite that spark then let me save you the time of hunting through all of this years offerings and tell you this is 100% the book you need to read that will kick off that warm festive feeling. This isn’t one of those books we see every year with Christmas in the title and yet the book only containing a brief sprinkling of festivity, oh no, this is Christmas in its biggest and yet most natural and purest form. Set in the most idyllic location with its snowy backdrop and a small welcoming community. We join Chloe as she helps save the Winter traditions that this village usually creates. 

There has clearly been a lot of research into the process of tapping the trees for the production on maple syrup I almost feel like I could do it myself after reading this book! Maple Syrup is flowing through this book and it is the heart of this community too. As I have come to expect from a Jo Thomas book, there are so many delicious treats that are baked and they all contain the golden sugary treat. I sat reading this yesterday morning salivating at the maple syrup pancakes and finding myself with an overbearing craving! How does she do this to me every time!

Community spirit is a large part of this book and this little village and its occupants all lured me in and made this feel like the most welcoming and supportive place to live, I wanted to pack up my case and uproot right away! 

This was one of the most exciting Christmas books I have read in years it made feel like a child again, all warm and fuzzy with the magic of Christmas all ignited again after skiing away with Chloe to cut down a Christmas Tree, singing Christmas carols at the fair and opening advent calendars with the exciting anticipation if what is inside. This was such an atmospheric read and I can honestly say I feel as if I have been there to experience it all myself it really was so well written.

Ok so the ending is a little fairytale like and far fetched but do you know what I wouldn’t have wanted it to end any other way. This book has put the biggest smile on my face and has made me a little excited for Christmas this year which I haven't felt in a few years.

Tuesday 28 November 2023

The Lighthouse Bookshop by Sharon Gosling


At the heart of a tiny community in a remote village just inland from the Aberdeenshire coast stands an unexpected lighthouse. Built two centuries ago by an eccentric landowner, it has become home to the only bookshop for miles around.
Rachel is an incomer to the village. She arrived five years ago and found a place she could call home. So when the owner of the Lighthouse Bookshop dies suddenly, she steps in to take care of the place, trying to help it survive the next stage of its life.
But when she discovers a secret in the lighthouse, long kept hidden, she realises there is more to the history of the place than she could ever imagine. Can she uncover the truth about the lighthouse’s first owner? And can she protect the secret history of the place?

The Lighthouse Bookshop is the first book I have read by Sharon Gosling but with a title like this it sounded like a book written for me. We meet a collection of characters who form a strong supportive network in the hub of the Lighthouse bookshop and each of them have their own little back story to weave into this storyline.

Rachel has found a not just a home but a place where she feels safe and where she belongs working at the bookshop after Cullen offers her a job and a home in his beloved lighthouse. But when dear Cullen passes way unexpectedly everything looks like it is set to change leaving Rachel to start all over again. When she unearths a hidden secret that has been concealed for many years she immerses herself along with newcomer Toby to try and peace together all the information they have to find out the true story behind her discovery. The story that is revealed is very touching and the author delivers this beautifully. I was intrigued by what they found but I also found I was more drawn to the other characters stories especially finding out about Rachels back story as well as seeing life change for Gilly.

The book had a gentle pace to it and yet there was always something going on and before long you feel as though you are being drawn into the social circle and you long for all of them to find their happy ever afters. This book is not one that will leave a lasting impression on me however I did enjoy it and it is perfect for those who love to unearth secrets and be wrapped up in community spirit, romance and new beginnings.

Sunday 19 November 2023

Fourth Wing by Rebecca Yarros


Welcome to the brutal and elite world of Basgiath War College, where everyone has an agenda, and every night could be your last . . .

Twenty-year-old Violet Sorrengail was supposed to enter the Scribe Quadrant, living a quiet life among books and history. Now, the commanding general - also known as her tough-as-talons mother - has ordered Violet to join the hundreds of candidates striving to become the elite of Navarre: 
dragon riders.

But when you're smaller than everyone else and your body is brittle, death is only a heartbeat away . . . because dragons don't bond to 'fragile' humans. They incinerate them.

With fewer dragons willing to bond than cadets, most would kill Violet to better their own chances of success. The rest would kill her just for being her mother's daughter - like Xaden Riorson, the most powerful and ruthless wingleader in the Riders Quadrant.

She'll need every edge her wits can give her just to see the next sunrise.

Yet, with every day that passes, the war outside grows more deadly, the kingdom's protective wards are failing, and the death toll continues to rise. Even worse, Violet begins to suspect leadership is hiding a terrible secret.

Alliances will be forged. Lives will be lost. Traitors will become allies . . . or even lovers. But sleep with one eye open because once you enter, there are only two ways out:
 graduate or die.

I think it is only fair to start this review off by saying that I am not really a big Fantasy Fan so I took a big chance on this one but I have to admit after seeing so many clips of people saying this is their book of the year I was intrigued.

This was one of those books that after hearing all the hype I started reading with extremely high expectations and as I started making my way through chapter after chapter feeling a little overwhelmed with the number of characters, I was already meeting I was feeling a little like I am not sure what all the hype is about here


Chapter 14 arrived and by the end of that chapter I finally felt like the book had started for me and I suddenly cosied down to lose myself in the storyline.

As I mentioned before I am not a big fantasy reader but I have enjoyed a few over the years and I could feel so many of the emotions, the thrill and excitement that I remember when I read those books returning as I read this because it was almost as if they were all rolled in to this book, the dark twisted danger of Hunger Games, the magic school of Harry Potter the intense overbearing romantic connection from Twilight and the excitement and intrigue of Eragon. What more could I need in a fantasy book than all of the things I loved from these books all rolled into one it was amazing!

Violet is a character who you warm to instantly, your heart goes out to her right from the beginning when you see her vulnerability through her sisters eyes and then when we learn how much Violet wanted to be a scribe but is railroaded into becoming a Rider by her powerful yet heartless mother. But as the storyline moves along we see her character begin to grow and her determination and courage build we are routing for this little dark horse all the way hoping she can prove to herself and those who doubt her that she is stronger than she looks and is not to be underestimated.

I don’t want to give anything away when it comes to the ending but what this author done so well was to take a chink out of my heart when something happens to one of our characters and whilst I am feeling low but starting to feel like things are starting to wrap up she then blindsides me with a completely unexpected revelation that I didn’t see coming at all and left me sitting gaping like a fish as I closed the book! SO often with adrenalin filled books like this towards the end the book starts to slow and feel a little anticlimactic well that is not how Rebecca Yarros roles! She is keeping you on your toes right until the very last page.

SO the big question, does this book deserve the almighty hype it is currently receiving?


All I say is give the book a chance to get going and don’t worry if you forget who is who because some we lose along the way and then the characters we really need to know and remember will be etched in your mind by the mid-point of this book. 

Roll on book 2!

Kindle                        Hardback

Sunday 12 November 2023

The Pumpkin Spice Cafe by Laurie Gilmore


When Jeanie’s aunt gifts her the beloved Pumpkin Spice Café in the small town of Dream Harbor, Jeanie jumps at the chance for a fresh start away from her very dull desk job.

Logan is a local farmer who avoids Dream Harbor’s gossip at all costs. But Jeanie’s arrival disrupts Logan’s routine and he wants nothing to do with the irritatingly upbeat new girl, except that he finds himself inexplicably drawn to her.

Will Jeanie’s happy-go-lucky attitude win over the grumpy-but-gorgeous Logan, or has this city girl found the one person in town who won’t fall for her charm, or her pumpkin spice lattes…

If you haven’t heard of The Pumpkin Spice Café then I am not sure where you have been hiding because this book has blown up everywhere and is shouted about being the must read Autumnal book of the year and so I had to go and buy a copy for myself to see what I have missed.

The start of this book was very promising for me because our main character Jeanie takes over the running of her aunt’s café, The Pumpkin Spice Café and these kind of books are my favourites so I already felt like I was onto a winner here. Add to this the setting with autumnal festivities being held with pumpkins here and apple bobbing there it was a great start.

Then we have our love interest in the form of a hulking sexy farmer called Logan who is loved and cared by every one of the towns residents. He has a gentle, loving nature hidden under the muscles and the chemistry between Logan and Jeanie is instant.

If you like your saucy spicey sex scenes then there are some chapters that are ready and waiting for you with the sexual tension and chemistry flowing through but towards the end of the book it felt like that was all it was really about and so I soon lost interest.

This is probably one of those books that is great for someone who is just getting back into reading and wanting something steamy, light and romantic but for me this book needed a bit more to the storyline to make this a memorable read for me.

Saturday 11 November 2023

Four Weddings and a Christmas by Phillipa Ashley


With her thriving business Cottage Angels, Freya Bolton prepares the Lake District’s holiday homes for Christmas visitors. It’s her job to think of everything, from cinnamon-scented candles to tasteful decorations and hampers of seasonal treats.

If only her love life were such a success… After being burned by past relationships, she’s now determined to steer clear of love for good.

So when she bumps into gorgeous – and single – ex-boyfriend Travis, a no-strings festive fling seems perfect.

But when her feelings for him begin to develop, is she on track for another romantic calamity? Or could this Christmas give her the gift of true love?

My second Christmas themed book of 2023 and an author I haven’t read in a while now, Four Weddings and A Christmas by Phillipa Ashley.

Freya has a successful business preparing holiday rentals but when she is preparing one of the properties, she gets an unexpected surprise when her ex Travis walks in. Travis has come back to his home town and is making the leap to launch his own business but could his return home stir up old feelings?

This is a storyline that had a lot to offer me because I love business start-ups, rekindled romances and community spirit flowing through the pages and that is what this book gave me and more with its sprinkling festivity. Both Freya and Travis were great characters who had their flaws which only made them more engaging characters and although the ending was a little predictable the constant obstacles along the way held my interest and made this a book that I sped through enjoying each and every moment.

For me a strong part of this storyline was the characters backgrounds and how their childhood has shaped them both as adults and had an effect on them throughout their lives.

I won’t be leaving so long to read another Phillipa Ashley book again because this really was a thoroughly enjoyable read.

Paperback            Kindle 

Thursday 2 November 2023

The Girls who Disappeared by Claire Douglas



Twenty years ago: One rainy night, Olivia Rutherford is driving three friends home when a figure in the road causes her to swerve and crash. Regaining consciousness, she finds herself alone in the car - her friends have vanished.


Now: Journalist Jenna Halliday visits the close-knit community of Stafferbury to persuade Olivia to talk and solve the mystery of the girls' disappearance. But Olivia won't speak.

What happened?

Is Olivia hiding something?
Why are the people of Stafferbury so frightened?
How many secrets can one small town hide?

The Girls who Disappeared is my first book by author Claire Douglas and this book was gifted to me by my friend Laura and what a twisty gripping read this is.

Olivia and her three friends find themselves in a devastating car crash only for Olivia to regain consciousness to find herself trapped in the car but her friends have disappeared. The police never solved the case.

Years later and Jenna is sent to the eerie village to report on the case for a new podcast just as the police are re-looking into the case. With supernatural stories floating around will this case ever be solved?

This book is one of those that has such a brilliant opening that pulls you straight into the storyline already getting the brain cells working coming up with every possible scenario that could have happened to the girls so you are already quickly invested in the storyline, hunting for clues to solve what the police couldn’t.

The author has a very skilled writing style walking you through meeting all the characters involved hearing their thoughts on the situation and before long your suspicions begin to grow only to then be swayed onto pointing the finger at someone else. Claire Douglas really does know how to tease you into thinking you are close to solving everything only to then turn everything on its head!

I was a little worried part the way through that the storyline was going to start getting a little too supernatural heavy as this is really not something I enjoy in a book but rest assured my worries were unwarranted.

This book was quite unpredictable for me, I was tense the whole way through and gripped to the core waiting to see what was instore and the twist well and truly shocked me!

The only thing I would say was the ending ties everything up perfectly but it did feel a little rushed which after having such a big twist revealed made it seem a little anticlimactic and like the author had used up all her energy on the rest of the book and just wanted to get all the facts down quickly at the end.

Despite my thoughts on the ending, I still very much enjoyed this book and have already recommended to a work colleague who has picked this one up now too. Safe to say this is an author whose books I will certainly be looking out for from now on.

Paperback               Kindle 

Saturday 28 October 2023

The Ex Hex by Erin Sterling


Vivienne Jones handled the biggest break-up of her life the way that any witch would: vodka, bubble baths, and a curse on her ex.

That was nine years ago. Now Rhys Penhallow, descendant of the town's founders, breaker of hearts and still irritatingly gorgeous, is back. Rhys has returned to the quaint town of Graves Glen to recharge the ley lines and make an appearance at the annual fall festival. But when his every move results in calamity, Vivi realises that hexing her ex might not have been so harmless after all . . .

As the curse starts to affect the magic of the town, resulting in murderous wind-up toys, an outraged ghost, and a surprisingly talkative cat, Vivi and Rhys must put their personal feelings aside and work together to break the curse and save not just the town, but also Rhys's life.

With the spooky season upon us I thought it was the perfect time for me to read The Ex Hex by Erin Sterling.

When teenage Vivi is left heartbroken by a Rhys Penhallow her and her cousin do what any drunken teenage witches would do … curse him!

Roll forward 9 years when the town is gearing up for Halloween and Rhys is due to return for the first time to charge the Ley Lines but everything feels as if it is going against him and reuniting with Vivi soon reveals the truth as to why the magic is out of hand!

This book is different from my usual reading and yet I thoroughly enjoyed this witchy, magical read with a big dash of romance and sauciness too! It has such a youthful and exciting feel to the storyline that I found really fun and refreshing. This certainly isn’t a book that will scare or spook you in anyway it is purely a romance with a witchy setting which is perfect for this time of year.

Yes ok the romance side of things is predictable but the enjoyment came through the two reuniting and them both on their quest to put right the wrongs that they are responsible for whilst reigniting the flame between them at the same time.

There are some spicy sex scenes which won’t appeal to all readers but you can skim through these parts without missing out on any of the storyline and there was also some witty moments too which helped to make this a light-hearted read.

I look forward to reading the next book in this series now to see what our characters get up to next!

Kindle            Paperback