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Thursday, 17 September 2020

Christmas at Carly's Cupcakes by Jessica Redland




It's December on Castle Street; the fairy lights are twinkling, snow has settled and the festive season is in full swing.

For Carly, the owner of Carly's Cupcakes, it's the busiest time of year getting everyone's Christmas treats ready on time. However with her clumsy sister, Bethany, as a co-worker, it's proving a difficult task. They say you shouldn't mix work with family. Maybe they have a point...

As Christmas approaches, Carly is also eagerly awaiting the return of her best friend to Whitborough Bay. Liam has no idea he's been the object of her affection since their schooldays. After years of pining after him, can Carly pluck up the courage to finally tell him how she really feels by 25th December?


The last two books I have picked to read I really struggled to get into, one of which was a favourite author of mine and I was unsure if I was losing my reading mojo or if it was just a case of the wrong book at the wrong time. I decided to browse through Amazon to see if I could find a light read and that was when I saw the wonderful festive cover of Christmas at Carly’s Cupcakes and me being a sucker for a cupcake shop novel, I instantly downloaded it to my kindle.

How far would you go to support your family?

Carly wants to be there to support her sister Bethany when due to terrible circumstance she is unable to return to her job but Bethany is anything but a natural when it comes to cake decorating! With a whole host of mistakes, it starts to become detrimental to Carly’s business but how can she let her sister go?

With the stress of this situation Carly is desperate for the return of her best friend Liam who is serving in Afghanistan but having this distance between them has made Carly question is her feelings for Liam is purely friendship.

 

Thank you, thank you, thank you to Jessica Redland this is the first book in a long time that I have sat down to read and ended up finishing the whole thing in one greedy sitting. From the opening chapter I was pulled straight into the storyline and took an instant like to our main character Carly who is such a selfless and hardworking woman who puts others needs before her own. Her and her sister Bethany are completely different characters but I also loved Bethany and my heart went out to her as she was so lost and felt like she failed at everything that she turned her hands to which I am sure is something many of us would have experienced at one point or another in our lives.

As I mentioned before I am a complete sucker for books that are set around running businesses especially Bakery or Café these call out to me from the bookshelves and I am never able to resit but on some occasions the storylines don’t really go into any detail about the business but this was not the case with this storyline this one had me dribbling and I could visualise all the intricate details of the personalised cakes that Carly created.

I loved the friendship that had built over many years between Liam and Carly and I could see why Carly was worried about admitting her feelings for him incase it would put their friendship at risk. Although I thought the love story was predictable this didn’t affect my enjoyment of the storyline I enjoyed watching everything coming together.

There is a sprinkling of festivity but this book could easily be read anytime of the year. I thoroughly enjoyed this novel and found the characters incredibly engaging, the storyline pacey and heart warming. I have found a new author in Jessica Redland and I am already looking forward to reading Starry Skies over the Chocolate Pot Café next.



 


My next read by Jessica will be 


Wednesday, 9 September 2020

Hopeful Hearts at Glendale Hall by Victoria Walters

 


Heather Douglas appears to have it all. But living on a farm in the Scottish Highlands with her partner, Rory Fraser, all while bringing up their adorable toddler, Harry, isn’t easy. As a former librarian, Heather is worried that she’ll never fully fit into life on Fraser Farm. And after the death of her beloved mum eight years ago, Heather feels lost, as well as guilty for holding back accepting Rory’s marriage proposal because she can’t imagine her wedding without her mother.

So when ex-boyfriend, Stewart, appears in the village of Glendale, it’s a shock to the system. The man who broke her heart years ago now has big plans for the neighbouring farm and wants Heather to be part of the development. Knowing that she’s living a very different life to the one they had planned at university leaves Heather wondering if she has made the right choices since she and Stewart broke up. Especially when things start to go very wrong on the farm ...

This Christmas, Heather will need to face her fears and let go of the past or risk losing everything. She will need love, faith, and a whole lot of hope!



Hopeful Hearts at Glendale Hall is the latest release by Victoria Walters and sees us returning to Glendale on our third visit, reuniting us with some much loved and familiar faces. This time Heather is taking the lead role and as we peel back the layers that Heather has hidden behind, we begin to see the real Heather and she really did touch my heart.

Heathers first love Stewart unexpectedly arrives in Glendale which stirs up a whole heap of emotions for Heather. Stewart has plans for the neighbouring farm which could have a detrimental effect on Rory and Heathers farm so when Stewart offers for Heather to come onboard in the set up of the farm she contemplates taking the job to protect their farm but will there be too many emotions involved that could make Heathers world crumble?

Victoria Walters always excels in creating such strong believable and supportive friendships in her novels and this novel continues to show the strong bond between Heather, Beth and Emily. They each have their own strengths and weaknesses but they are always there with a listening ear and will always support each other in everything they face.

I sympathised so much with Heather and as we got to know more about her character unravelling the layers behind which her anxiety and vulnerabilities lie I felt like I warmed to her character. It became clear as the storyline flowed that events from her past had had an effect on her which has had an effect on her confidence and self-belief and that’s why with each little step she took and each little nugget of positivity she created with her Instagram posts she slowly started to believe in herself and was beginning to find out that she truly does belong on the farm and that although she may not be the most natural at day to day farm life others skills she has can still help in a big way.

Rory really is the perfect patient loveable and hardworking man and I have to say at times I did feel sorry for him and disappointed in Heather.

The storyline also looks at how grief can hold you back in certain aspects of your life but that sometimes it can just take one thing to change your mindset and look at something in a different way that will then help you to move forward and gently let go.

I enjoyed this visit to Glendale getting to know Heather, Rory and Harry a little more as well as catching up with the other characters to see how things are changing for them too. This book gets another thumbs up from me.



Kindle                             Paperback




 Head over to Love the Smell of a Book and Ginger Book Geek blogs today to read their thoughts on this novel.

Friday, 28 August 2020

Escape to the French Farmhouse by Jo Thomas

 



Del and her husband Ollie moved to a beautiful village in Provence for a fresh start after years of infertility struggles. But six weeks after they arrive, they’re packing the removal van once more. As Del watches the van leave for England, she suddenly realises exactly what will make her happier…a new life in France – without Ollie.

Now alone, all Del has is a crumbling farmhouse, a mortgage to pay and a few lavender plants. What on earth is she going to do? After discovering an old recipe book at the market run by the rather attractive Fabian, Del starts to bake. But can her new-found passion really help her let go of the past and lead to true happiness?


With Covid putting an end to all our holidays it is a treat to escape to glorious destinations through the pages of books and one trip I have thoroughly enjoyed is heading to Provence in France in Jo Thomas’s recent release Escape to the French Farmhouse.

Del and husband Ollie have recently made the move to France to start afresh but it is merely weeks before Ollie decides this life isn’t for him and wants to head back to England but Del calls time on their marriage and decides to try and make a new life for herself.

With a roof over her head but no money Del really needs to find a way to make money and she dreams of bringing the farmhouse back to life and see the grounds with a sea of lavender again.

Del was a brave woman who made a life changing decision which I admired her for and her dreams of a new start and the vision she had for her farmhouse got me all fired up and intrigued to see how she was going to achieve all she hoped for.

The supporting characters all played an essential part in this novel with Fabien offering support and a sprinkling of romance, Carine offered a friendship and encouragement at Del’s time of need. Stephanie was my favourite character though alongside Del, she was another determined woman who has not had an easy start to motherhood and needed a help in hand and guidance along with a chance to show that you can change your ways. It makes you think that at times we are too quick to judge people’s actions without knowing the whole reason behind their actions.

I love a new business venture in my novels be that cake baking, waffle making you name it I am hooked so I was pulled in as Del began her little business selling baked goods at the local market bringing back the tradition of lavender used in the recipes which is something that was new to me but a pure hit with the customers.

Jo Thomas has an incredibly fast paced writing style that wraps you up leaving me unable to put it down meaning I finished this book in unbelievable time even though I didn’t feel quite ready to leave Del and her friends.

I thoroughly enjoyed this novel which is no surprise as Jo Thomas is such an incredible author who teases us with such idyllic locations and makes our mouth water with delicious delights. If you love a novel that will warm your heart with new beginnings and leave you with an uplifting feel from the wonderful community spirit then Escape to the French Farmhouse will not disappoint.

Kindle                                      Paperback

Monday, 24 August 2020

The Gin O'Clock Club by Rosie Blake

 


Lottie is always in a hurry, rushing through her days ticking tasks off her to-do lists. Teddy is worried about his granddaughter - and he knows that his late wife, Lily, would have known exactly what to say to make things better. Now that Lily has gone, it's up to Teddy to talk some sense into Lottie.

With the help of Arjun, Geoffrey and Howard, the elderly reprobates who make up his Gin O'Clock Club, Teddy makes a plan to help Lottie find her way back to the things that really matter - family, friendship and love. But as Lottie balances a high-powered job with her reluctant attendance at whist drives, ballroom dances and bingo, Teddy wonders if she's really ready to open up her heart to the possibility of true happiness...


I have previously read and enjoyed How To Stuff Up Christmas and How To Find Your ( First) Husband by Rosie Blake and it feels like an age since I was lost in her light hearted witty writing so I was looking forward to starting The Gin O’Clock Club which is her latest release. I love the cover of this novel and think that it is a step up from the previous look of Rosie Blake’s novels.

Lottie is career focused and determined to achieve her career goals but she is crumbling under the pressure of trying to juggle work, her relationship, her best friends upcoming wedding and supporting her recently widowed Grandfather Teddy.

Teddy misses his wife Cora dearly and is trying to adjust to life without Cora to take control. His Granddaughter Lottie and partner Luke seem to be losing their way and with the help of his friends Teddy has a plan for Lottie and Luke to try courting the old way.

This is by far my favourite book by Rosie Blake, her usual light hearted writing style flows through this novel but there is also an emotive element that touched my heart when dear Teddy writes to his wife, the love of his life who has recently passed away. Each letter Teddy writes shows his struggles as he is learning to live life without Cora and it was hard to see how much he misses her dearly and at times his letters are almost asking for help, guidance and forgiveness.

Lottie is extremely hardworking and passionate about her job which is commendable but I also found at times I wanted to throttle her and tell her not to take those around her for granted and dear girl get a diary, notebook and some highlighters and get organised!

Luke was a real gentleman and a real gem with a kind heart and the patience of a saint! He embraced each of the dating scenarios that were thrown at him just so he could spend some quality time with Lottie.

A wonderful light read with engaging characters that touches on grief, romance and looking at the importance and struggles of getting work and life balance right.



Friday, 21 August 2020

Midnight Sun by Stephanie Meyer

 


When Edward Cullen and Bella Swan met in Twilight, an iconic love story was born. But until now, fans have heard only Bella's side of the story. At last, readers can experience Edward's version in the long-awaited companion novel, Midnight Sun.

This unforgettable tale as told through Edward's eyes takes on a new and decidedly dark twist. Meeting Bella is both the most unnerving and intriguing event he has experienced in all his years as a vampire. As we learn more fascinating details about Edward's past and the complexity of his inner thoughts, we understand why this is the defining struggle of his life. How can he justify following his heart if it means leading Bella into danger?


I know I wasn’t alone in my excitement at another book in the Twilight series being released and I admit I shamefully spent the morning at the window waiting for my delivery to arrive! I admit that when I heard that Midnight Sun was a retelling of Twilight but from Edwards point of view I had slight reservations because fundamentally we know what happens but my excitement and desperate need to be reunited with these characters pushed any doubts aside.

The first few chapters I found myself whizzing through quickly, enraptured in Edwards voice as he first meets Bella and is conflicted with emotions of the natural desire to taste her sweet blood but also an intense protective part of him wants to keep her safe.

Around half way through I found my interest had started to waiver, without having any suspense factor and knowing what was going to be the outcome there wasn’t enough new insights from Edwards point of view to hold my interest and to keep me racing through the pages. I enjoyed seeing more of the bond between Edward and Emmett and I also feel like more of Jaspers character shone through in this book, a character who never left a large impression on me in the other novels I found I really warmed to his character in Midnight Sun.

This is a weird one to review because although I don’t feel I can rave about it and tell you it was amazing and you must make it your next purchase, I also couldn’t tell you to not waste your time with it either there were good aspects to it but for such a large book there just wasn’t enough new material to keep me entertained and make it an amazing unforgettable read like the others.





Wednesday, 5 August 2020

Unlocked curated by Sadie Restorick




UNLOCKED: FROM SURVIVING TO THRIVING explores the strategies and tools that every person can use to overcome the distress and anxiety associated with returning to life after lockdown. Globally we have faced change, turmoil and stress over recent months and we are now faced with entering the next phase of this crisis; this is your essential guide on that journey. Designed to help you feel more empowered and discover practical ways to improve your own psychological health, every chapter in this book will motivate you to make the necessary changes to improve your wellbeing. From resilience and positive thinking to improving your sleep, remote working, fuelling your body and growing your own vegetables, it is a very eclectic mix of positive advice and strategies that you can adopt as part of your own personal action plan. An exclusive collection from ten renowned industry experts, the techniques introduced will not only help you adjust to life after lockdown but will provide you with a wealth of different ways you can positively overcome any crisis in your life.

Having lost my husband last year and to then be thrown into lockdown it is difficult to keep positive and to think of how I find my new normal when venturing out into a very different life, some days it feels a little like Alice living in wonderland!

Because reading is where I find my solace I was keen to find a book that maybe able to give me some help and guidance to dealing with returning to life after such uncertainty and that is where I came across Unlocked. As the cover tells us the book is formed by the thoughts and expertise of ten experts in various different specialties who share their wealth of knowledge with us to help us go from surviving to thriving.

Each chapter is told by one of the different experts and I found each of them interesting and insightful, there were certain things that I didn’t feel was releveant or related to me personally such as the chapter by Marilyn Devonish who talks about remote working which although isn’t something that is effecting me it may help other readers who do find themselves working from home due to the effects of covid.

Caroline Sherlock and Sacha Mulligan both really stood out to me. Caroline Sherlock is a nutritional therapist who educates us in diet and lifestyle changes that will benefit us, improving our immune system, managing our moods and stress, informing us of what foods we need more or loess of and the benefits of certain vitamins too. Something I have really struggled with is sleeping properly and Caroline breaks down many things especially sugars that have an effect on our sleep so I am going to take her advice and lower my sugar intake to see if this has an effect and improves my sleep.

Sacha Mulligan is a life coach who teaches us about positive psychology and I fund her really engaging and down to earth. Sacha gives us tips in improving our confidence and self-belief  by using Gratitudes and visualisation techniques which I have been doing since reading this book and I do feel that by doing my gratitudes in the morning sets me in a more positive mindset setting me up for a better day ahead.

An added touch was at the end of each of the experts sections there is an “about the author” section so we get to know a bit more about them personally, about their profession and passion as well as links to their websites and socials which I have already gone and followed a few of them and I have to say Sacha Mulligan is a little pocket rocket who does regular live videos with positive content that almost has a little community feel to it too.

I thought Unlocked was a very beneficial read, some similar books I have found recently have had a slight condescending feel to them which has been unhelpful and is the reason they are now gathering dust on the side but Unlocked has information and little tips that I believe I will be able to take onboard as I find my way to my new normal.

The short sharp chapters give the details we need without the waffle making it perfect to snatch the odd chapter here and there and to mark those experts pages whose information I want to reread. I would recommend this book if you are looking for positive advice in moving forward after and looking after yourself as we emerge from this surreal time.


Kindle                             Paperback


Tuesday, 28 July 2020

The Beginner's Guide to Loneliness by Laura Bambrey




Laura Bambrey was born in Dorset but raised in Wales. She’s worked as a trapeze choreographer, sculpture conservator and stilt walker, amongst others, and spent most of her time collecting stories from the people she met along the way.

She has spent many years as a book blogger and reviewer of women’s fiction and now lives in Devon with her very own romantic hero and a ridiculously fluffy rabbit named Mop. The Beginner’s Guide to Loneliness is her début novel.

You can follow her on
twitter: https://twitter.com/LauraBambrey
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/LauraBambreyBooks/
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/laura_bambrey_books/
Blog: laurabambreybooks.blogspot.com


Hello Laura, it is wonderful to have you here with us today on the publication of your debut novel The Beginner’s Guide to Loneliness. It is an unusual time in the world at the moment so how will you be spending your publication day, do you have any celebrations planned?


Hi Rea! Thank you so much for having me on your fabulous blog. Yup - things are definitely quite strange, that’s for sure! Today I’ll mostly be hopping between social media and obsessively checking Amazon for the joy of seeing the book live (don’t hate me! I think this step is pretty much compulsory on pub day ;) ).


Later, my wonderful other half is cooking a celebratory meal. We might not be going out - but it definitely counts as the most exciting day in my lockdown calendar :)



This novel called out to me because loneliness is not something that is often featured in novels but is something that effects so many of us, what was your inspiration for this novel?


As you say, I think loneliness is something we all experience at some point in our lives. No matter how loved and surrounded by people we might be, events and circumstances can cause us to feel lonely. It can be a quick, fleeting thing or an issue that we live with longer-term. And it’s so taboo to talk about it - have you noticed that? Admitting that you are, or have been, lonely seems to carry all sorts of weight with it - and yet it can affect our lives so dramatically.


So, in The Beginner’s Guide to Loneliness, I wanted to explore all the facets of loneliness and its links with other issues- but I really wanted to do this with a light touch. I hope that the book provides an opportunity - a conversation starter - for people to open up and talk about their experiences with loneliness.


You have been a part of the book blogging world for many years and now your first book baby is out in the real world how are you feeling about being on the other side of the reviews this time?

It’s absolutely crazy and wonderful at the same time. Scary and humbling. I’m just so grateful to every single person who has read TBGTL and taken the time to write down their thoughts and share them with the world.


Your novel is set on a retreat, did you spend time at a retreat for research purpose and was there any other research you undertook for this novel?


I’ve never been on a retreat, but my mum and dad were heavily into the hippy / permaculture scene in West Wales when I was growing up. I’ve hung out with a lot of people who’ve done the whole retreat experience - both the more glamorous, high-end, yurt-style, glamping versions, and the ones where they built their own benders to live in!



Now that your first novel is out in the real world do you have plans for a book 2 and if so can you tell us a little about it and do you feel there is more pressure on book two?


Absolutely! I’m working away at the first draft of book 2 as we speak. I can’t say too much about it just yet, but it’s a story that explores identity and the healing power of community. I’m a little bit in love with my new heroine!


I don’t know about more pressure - I guess that might build when more people have (hopefully) read The Beginner’s Guide and (hopefully) want to see another one from me. I guess there’s the personal pressure you put on yourself as a writer too - it’s got to match up and be as good as, if not better than, book one. But at the moment, I’m just focusing on letting my heroine tell me her story.



What has been the best moment of becoming an author so far?
There have been so many amazing moments already but, for me, the absolute best moment rushing upstairs to tell Jules that I’d had an email from Simon & Schuster telling me they wanted my book - that I was going to be a published author. He has been my biggest cheerleader and I wouldn’t have got this far without him. I probably wouldn’t have even started.



The Beginner's Guide to Loneliness is out on kindle today!


Tori Williamson is alone. After a tragic event left her isolated from her loved ones, she’s been struggling to find her way back to, well – herself. That’s why she set up her blog, The Beginner’s Guide to Loneliness, as a way of – anonymously – connecting with the outside world and reaching others who just need a little help sometimes.
 
When she’s offered a free spot on a wellbeing retreat in exchange for a review on her blog, Tori is anxious about opening herself up to new surroundings. But after her three closest friends – who she talks to online but has never actually met – convince her it’ll do her some good, she reluctantly agrees and heads off for three weeks in the wild (well, a farm in Wales).
 
From the moment she arrives, Tori is sceptical and quickly finds herself drawn to fellow sceptic Than, the retreat’s dark and mysterious latecomer. But as the beauty of The Farm slowly comes to light she realizes that opening herself up might not be the worst thing. And sharing a yurt with fellow retreater Bay definitely isn’t.  Will the retreat be able to fix Tori? Or will she finally learn that being lonely doesn’t mean she’s broken . . .



My Review

The Beginners Guide to Loneliness is Laura Brambrey debut novel and being a book blogger who I have connected with over the years I know we have similar tastes in books so when I see that she was releasing her debut as part of Books and the City’s Digital Originals I was intrigued and excited to read her novel.



Our main character is Tori, she has been through a devastating time and as a result has found herself not just alone but lonely which is why she set up her blog The Beginners Guide to Loneliness and as a result she has made a trio of friends but none of whom she has ever met. When an opportunity arises for Tori to attend a wellbeing retreat to review on her blog she is hesitant but with the push from her friends she sets off not knowing what she has let herself in for.


What an incredible debut by Laura she captured my attention from the first chapter and as the storyline moved along I found myself connecting and relating to Tori. She wasn’t an instantly likeable character, it was as the storyline moved along and her barriers began to come down and I found out more about her background and her issues that I slowly began to warm to her character.


There was also a great amount of supporting characters in this novel all of whom have their own problems they need to work on and they brought friendship, entertainment and even a little romance to Tori.


This novel touches on a number of issues that many of us have faced and also raises awareness of other issues too. Loneliness is something that isn't spoken about or always understood with many assuming that you don't have to be on your own to experience loneliness that sometimes you can be in a room full of people and still feel so incredibly alone and the author has brought great awareness to this topic in her novel which isn't something that crops up regularly in novels. What I loved most was the opening of each chapter where there were motivational quotes to open each chapter and I actually found some of these rather inspiring. There was a surprising revelation that I was not expecting until it was being revealed right under my nose and I was so shocked that the small clues had been there all along and yet I had no idea.


I would definitely recommend this novel if you are looking for a motivational, life affirming fictional read with the workings of friendships and the blossoming of romance to keep you gripped until the very end. A praiseworthy debut in my eyes.



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