Monday, 28 September 2015

The Drowning Lesson by Jane Shemilt

Emma and Adam are doctors at the top of their fields and so when they are offered the chance to take their three children to Africa for a year for a research placement it seems like the opportunity of a lifetime. It's going to be an experience they'll never forget. 

But for all the wrong reasons. 

When Emma arrives home one night to the sickening sight of an empty cot, their family's dream adventure turns into their worst nightmare. 

Thousands of miles from home and from anyone who can help, they must discover the truth. Is this a random abduction, a tragic accident or something far more sinister?

Having loved reading Daughter by Jane Shemilt earlier this year I was excited to read another thrilling read by this author so as soon as The Drowning Lesson arrived through the door I started it straight away.

Emma and husband Adam are both in the medical profession and when Adam gets an opportunity to go to Botswana on a research post for a year but Emma is reluctant to uproot their family for a year and the competitive side in her wants to push her work and research and the thoughts of a year out is not what she wants but the family all make the trip which is about to throw their life upside down as they go out as a family of 5 only to return as a family of 4.

The opening chapter grabbed my attention straight away as we discover at the beginning about the missing child, the storyline then alternates between the time before the abduction and the events following the abduction which works really well with this storyline as it helps us build a picture of the family and others around them and yet manages to keep the suspense as to what happened to the missing child.

The reason I have given this book only a three star rating rather than a four is because I really didn’t take to any of the characters in this book as they were all rather cold characters and where I felt like I should have utter sympathy for a family who is going through what the Jordan family were going through I found that I wasn’t really eager for them to find their child to reunite their family because  although Emma was going through the motions of trying to get her child back the determination and devastation couldn’t be felt through the pages it seemed like she had lost an item rather than a child. I just fell if I could have connected to Emma more and had the emotion present then this could have been a much stronger read.

There is suspense, intrigue and the author has an easy flow to her writing which I love it is so easy to read one of this authors books in one sitting. She has created a family who had a lot of flaws and who have struggled to find a balance which unfortunately is quite often the case in working families.

I had my suspicions who could have been involved in the disappearance but the author put enough little turns and arrows pointing at other people to keep me on my toes and still question other characters so I feel like she done a great job in keeping the suspense running throughout the book.

The author brings the setting of Botswana to life with her descriptive writing, it was easy to visualise the surroundings.

Although Daughter is still my favourite by Jane Shemilt I would still say that The Drowning Lesson is worth a read I just found it was missing that little something for me this time but I could still appreciate the authors skilled writing style.

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Monday, 14 September 2015

The Things We Do For Love by Alice Peterson

Today it is my stop on The Things We Do For Love by Alice Peterson blog tour. Alice is one of my top 5 authors so I was thrilled to be asked to be a part of this blog tour and I am pleased to be able to share with you my review for this heart warming book. I am also joined by Alice who has a special Guest Post for us.

Falling in love with … ouch… your boss…! Or your teacher, or in my case…
In the Things We Do For Love, I don’t think I’d be giving the game away too much by saying January finds herself in a hopeless situation: she not only falls in love with her boss, but she falls in love with her married boss. So it got me thinking about the people I’ve fallen for, people I really shouldn’t have even noticed in that way. I haven’t found myself in such a tangle as January, working in an office, seeing my boss every day, emotions becoming more and more confused, and desperately trying to keep my distance because the last thing I want to do is break up a relationship. I feel for January. It’s not easy keeping her distance when she is the boss’s PA and he calls you into his office every other minute…
My love life hasn’t been nearly as complicated as January’s but that’s not to say I’ve never fallen for people that I just shouldn’t have fallen for… I have done so quite a few times, and some experiences I can’t write about (sorry) because he may well be reading this! So instead, I am going to take you back in time, to my first crush.
I was twelve years old and had just begun playing competitive tennis. Mum had arranged a tennis lesson with the Winchester Club pro, Dave. Up until then I’d had no interest in boys (and certainly not in men). You should have seen the clothes I wore! Dowdy old kilts and polo necks, thick tights and shirts buttoned right up to the collar - and my hair was styled in two fat plaits. The only love of my life was my tennis racket that I frequently took up to bed with me, along with our family dog, Gemma. So I didn’t understand quite why I began to feel whatever is was for Dave, especially when he stood opposite me on the court, hand on his hips, frowning as he said,
‘You’re too fat and you need to cut your hair!’
From then on, it was true love!
Here was this vision, this man in a turquoise shell tracksuit and smart trainers, a chain around his wrist, or was it around his neck, I can’t really remember, except thinking it was so different to my father! I think he might have even had one ear pierced. It was all so exciting. My knees gave way and my heart began to pound as we hit some balls across the net. And then when I served he was standing right behind me, showing me the shoulder and swing action. It must have been his authority, charisma, charm, his leadership qualities and the fact that we were working towards the same goal: me getting to play at Wimbledon. And lastly, his looks might have had something to do with it. He wasn’t good looking in a conventional way but he was definitely attractive. He would have been in his early 30s when I first met him and married, but that didn’t stop me from fantasising about Dave driving me away in his red sports car and often I imagined what it would feel like to kiss him (I really hope he’s not reading this!!) Often he was in my diary entries with hearts around his name. Over the years, up until I was eighteen, I did, of course, get over my crush and we became good friends on and off the court - no scandal I’m afraid, and thank goodness too. Rather than falling in love, instead Dave saw me to the starry heights of becoming one of the top ten best players in the country, and I will always look back affectionately to those times. 

The Things We Do For Love
September 10th 2015
Published by Quercus

Love may hurt, but not loving hurts even more . . . 
 January Wild loves her daughter, her dog and her childhood home by the sea. Single parenting is tough, but January has no regrets. She has a job she loves, a happy home and the support of her beloved grandfather. The arrival of a new boss, however, threatens to shake up January's safe world. Ward Metcalfe loves great sales results and a well-run office. Everyone at her office agrees: Ward is a soulless, corporate slave driver. Even Spud, the company mascot, dislikes him. 
 A secret stands between them. Yet over time January sees there is more to Ward than meets the eye. Rumours circulate. 
What exactly is he hiding? 
and is January prepared to risk everything to find out?

I can’t tell you how excited I was to start reading Alice Peterson’s latest release The Things we do for Love. I have adored every single book this author has delivered and I trust her writing so much that I didn’t even read the synopsis as I just wanted to full into the storyline straight away.

Our heroine in this book is January, she is a strong and courageous character who has a pure heart of gold so she is easy to love. She has had a very tough life from an early age and yet she still picks herself up and pushes on with life and seems to overcome each hurdle and finding herself that little bit stronger but it is clear that she still holds a lot of emotion inside.

The book jumps back and forth through time which allows us to really get to know January and see what she has had to go through in life. We meet her precious little girl Isla who is a wonderful little girl who unfortunately suffers with Cerebral Palsy which is a big pressure on January especially having to juggle being a single parent and also a job to pay the bills it leaves little time for herself or for romance to blossom.

This is such a poignant read that so incredibly beautifully written. I was so moved by January’s story it was highly emotive and yet in the same breath I also found the storyline quite uplifting too. The author has poured her heart into this book and it is felt through every chapter. The topic of Cerebral Palsy plays a strong part in this storyline and the author tackles this subject with such tenderness but also with a lot of knowledge surrounding the condition so it showed that the author undertook plenty of research in this area.

As well as the storyline pulling on my heartstrings which I often find when I read an Alice Peterson novel there was also a splash of romance too and it was great to watch the romance blossom and you can’t help but wish for January to have a happy ending after all she has been through.

I have enjoyed each and every book by Alice Peterson and constantly find myself recommending them but my favourite has always been By My Side and I have a special attachment to that book and I have to say that The Things We do for Love was the first book of hers to come very close to knocking this one off of my top spot!

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Saturday, 12 September 2015

Three and a Half Heartbeats by Amanda Prowse.

Grace and Tom Penderford had a strong marriage, a comfortable home in the Hertfordshire countryside, and a healthy baby girl. They were happy. They were normal. But soon after Chloe turns three, tragedy strikes. A disease called Sepsis claims the life of their daughter, devastating their little family. The Penderfords had never heard of Sepsis - a cruel, indiscriminate disease that claims a life somewhere in the world every three and a half seconds. Now, with their world crumbling, they must mend each others broken hearts... and try to save their marriage if they can. 

Three and a Half Heartbeats is the third book I have read by Amanda Prowse and I found this such a moving read that hit me hard with real facts at the beginning of each chapter. The storyline focuses on Grace and Tom who have such a precious and loving little girl Chloe, they live in a beautiful home and Grace is very focused on her career which pays the bills. The picture perfect family has their heart broken when Chloe falls ill and with her parents not recognising the symptoms of sepsis they didn't realise how serious things were. 

This has to be one of a very few amount of books that I have read that has left me thinking and feeling so overwhelmed because this is a book that delivers a hard message and brings awareness to Sepsis in a hard hitting way. At the beginning of each chapter we are given information and statistics about Sepsis and as each chapter progressed I was finding each statistic more shocking. I have heard of Sepsis before but I never really knew what it was and I certainly lay wouldn't know the warning signs to look out for so this book has really taught me something that could be life saving.

The book is full of raw, emotion and the author has dealt with the subject matter so delicately. The author not only brings awareness to this awful disease but she also shows the effect grief has on relationships and this she delivers beautifully.

This is one to really pull at the heart strings but for all the right reasons as this book will have you wanting to spread the word for everyone just to take a couple of minutes to look up what the symptoms are to look for for this horrendous disease. The proceeds from this book is going straight to the Sepsis Trust so just buying this book will make a difference. I have been unable to read a book since finishing this one as it had a big impact on me.

Sleep Over Event with Amanda Prowse and Haley Hill

Amanda Prowse and Haley Hill will be attending the Sleep over Event at London Olympia on the 17th September and will be doing a reading from their books. What better way to get to see two very talented authors whilst supporting two fabulous charities too Breast Cancer Now and Macmillan Cancer Trust.

Tickets are available Here PURCHASE TICKETS Tickets are £30.

The event is being held at London Olympia and the event starts at 6pm don't forget to bring your PJ's and sleeping bag! If you are unable to sleep over you can still enjoy the event and stay for as long as you are able.

Friday, 11 September 2015

The Tea Planter's Wife by Dinah Jefferies

Today it is my stop on The Tea Planter's Wife by Dinah Jefferies blog tour which I am thrilled to be a part of because Dinah is an incredilbe writer and her new book has even been picked for the Richard and Judy Book Club. I am pleased to be able to share an extract from the book with you today.

Nothing had prepared her for the shock of Ceylon’s scorching heat, nor its clashing colours, nor the contrast between the bright white light and the depth of the shade. Noise bombarded her: bells, horns, people and buzzing insects surrounding her, swirling and eddying, until she felt as if she were being tipped about, like one of the pieces of flotsam she’d been watching earlier. When the background noise was eclipsed by loud trumpeting, she spun round to stare at the timber wharf, mesmerized by the sight of an elephant raising its trunk in the air and bellowing.
    When watching an elephant had become quite normal, she braved the Port Authority building, made arrangements for her trunk, then sat on a wooden bench in the hot steamy air with nothing but her hat to shade her, and with which, from time to time, she swatted the clusters of flies that crawled along her hairline. Laurence had promised to be at the dockside but, so far, there was no sign of him. She tried to recall what he’d said to do in the event of an emergency, and spotted Mr Ravasinghe again, making his way out of the second- class hatch in the side of the ship. By avoiding looking at the man, she hoped to hide her flush of embarrassment at her predicament, and turned the other way to watch the haphazard loading of tea chests on to a barge at the other end of the docks. 
   The smell of drains had long since overpowered the spicy fragrance of cinnamon, and now mingled with other rank odours: grease, bullock dung, rotting fish. And as the dockside filled with more disgruntled passengers being besieged by traders and hawkers peddling gemstones and silk, she felt sick with nerves. What would she do if Laurence didn’t come? He had promised. She was only nineteen, and he knew she’d never been further from Owl Tree Manor than a trip or two to London with Fran. Feeling very alone, her spirits sank. It was too bad her cousin hadn’t been able to travel out with her, but straight after the wedding Fran had been called away by her solicitor, and though Gwen would have entrusted Laurence with her life, all things considered, she couldn’t help feeling a bit upset. 
    A swarm of semi- naked brown- skinned children flitted among the crowd, offering bundles of cinnamon sticks, and with enormous, imploring eyes, begged for rupees. A child who couldn’t have been more than five pulled out a bundle for Gwen. She held it to her nose and sniffed. The child spoke, but it was gobbledegook to Gwen, and sadly she had no rupees to give the urchin, nor any English money either, now. 
   She stood and walked about. There was a brief gust of wind, and, from somewhere in the distance, came a troubling sound –  boom, boom, boom. Drums, she thought. Loud, but not quite loud enough to identify a regular beat. She didn’t wander far from the small case she’d left by the bench, and when she heard Mr Ravasinghe call out, she felt her forehead bead with perspiration. 
‘Mrs Hooper. You cannot leave your case unguarded.’ 
She wiped her forehead with the back of her hand. ‘I was keeping my eye on it.’ 
‘People are poor and opportunistic. Come, I’ll carry your case and find you somewhere cooler to wait.’
‘You’re very kind.’ 
‘Not at all.’ He held her by the elbow with just his fingertips, and forged a path through the Port Authority building. ‘This is Church Street. Now look over there –  just at the edge of Gordon Gardens is the Suriya, or tulip tree as it is known.’ 
She glanced at the tree. Its fat trunk folded deeply like a woman’s skirt, and a canopy studded with bright orange bell- shaped flowers offered an oddly flaming kind of shade. 
‘It will provide a degree of cool, though with the afternoon heat coming on so strong, and the monsoon not yet arrived, you will find little relief.’ 
‘Really,’ she said. ‘There’s no need for you to stay with me.’ 
He smiled and his eyes narrowed. ‘I cannot leave you here alone, a penniless stranger in our city.’ 
Glad of his company, she smiled back. 
They walked across to the spot he’d indicated, and she spent another hour leaning against the tree, perspiring and dripping beneath her clothes, and wondering what she’d let herself in for by agreeing to live in Ceylon. The noise had amplified, and though he stood close, hemmed in by the crowds, he still had to shout to be heard.
‘If your husband has not arrived by three, I hope you won’t mind my suggesting you retire to the Galle Face Hotel to wait. It is airy, there are fans and soft drinks and you will be infinitely cooler.’ 
She hesitated, reluctant to leave the spot. ‘But how will Laurence know I’m there?’
‘He’ll know. Anyone British of any standing goes to the Galle Face.’ 
She glanced at the imposing fa├žade of the Grand Oriental.
 ‘Not there?’ 
‘Definitely not there. Trust me.’
 In the fierce brightness of the afternoon, the wind blew a cloud of grit into her face, sending tears streaming down her cheeks. She blinked rapidly, then rubbed her eyes, hoping she really could trust him. Perhaps he was right. A person could die in this heat. 
A short distance from where she stood, a tight bundle had formed beneath rows and rows of fluttering white ribbons strung across the street, and a man in brown robes, making a repetitive high- pitched sound, stood in the centre of a group of colourful women. Mr Ravasinghe saw Gwen watching. 
‘The monk is pirith chanting,’ he said. ‘It is often required at the deathbed to ensure a good passing. Here I think it is because great evil may have transpired at that spot, or at the very least a death. The monk is attempting to purify the place of any remaining malignancy by calling for the blessings of the gods. We believe in ghosts in Ceylon.’ 
‘You are all Buddhists?’ 
‘I myself am, but there are Hindus and Muslims too.’
‘And Christians?’ 
He inclined his head. 
When by three there was still no sign of Laurence, the man held out a hand and took a step away. ‘Well?’ 
 She nodded, and he called out to one of the rickshaw men, who wore very little more than a turban and a greasy- looking loincloth. 
She shuddered at how thin the man’s brown naked back was. ‘I’m surely not going in that?’ 
‘Would you prefer a bullock cart?’ 
She felt herself redden as she glanced at the heap of oval orange fruits piled up in a cart that had huge wooden wheels and a matted canopy.
 ‘I do beg your pardon, Mrs Hooper. I shouldn’t tease. Your husband uses carts to transport the tea chests. We would actually ride in a small buggy. Just the one bullock and with a shady palm- leaf hood.’ 
She pointed at the orange fruits. ‘What are those?’
‘King coconut. Only for the juice. Are you thirsty?’
 Even though she was, she shook her head. On the wall just behind Mr Ravasinghe, a large poster showed a dark- skinned woman balancing a wicker basket on her head and wearing a yellow and red sari. She had bare feet and gold bangles on her ankles and she wore a yellow headscarf. mazzawattee tea the poster proclaimed. Gwen’s hands grew clammy and a flood of sickening panic swept through her. She was very far from home. 
‘As you can see,’ Mr Ravasinghe was saying, ‘cars are few and far between, and a rickshaw is certainly faster. If you are unhappy, we can wait, and I’ll try to obtain a horse and carriage. Or, if it helps, I can accompany you in the rickshaw.’ 
At that moment, a large black car came hooting its way through the crowd of pedestrians, bicyclists, carts and carriages, only narrowly missing numerous sleeping dogs. Laurence, she thought with a surge of relief, but when she looked in through the window of the passing vehicle, she saw it contained only two large middle- aged European women. One turned to look at Gwen, her face a picture of disapproval. 
Right, Gwen thought, galvanized into action, a rickshaw it is.

MY REVIEW Nineteen-year-old Gwendolyn Hooper steps off a steamer in Ceylon full of optimism, eager to join her new husband. But the man who greets her at the tea plantation is not the same one she fell in love with in London. 

Distant and brooding, Laurence spends long days wrapped up in his work, leaving his young bride to explore the plantation alone. It's a place filled with clues to the past - locked doors, a yellowed wedding dress in a dusty trunk, an overgrown grave hidden in the grounds, far too small for an adult... 

 Gwen soon falls pregnant and her husband is overjoyed, but she has little time to celebrate. In the delivery room the new mother is faced with a terrible choice, one she knows no one in her upper class set will understand - least of all Laurence. Forced to bury a secret at the heart of her marriage, Gwen is more isolated than ever. 

When the time comes, how will her husband ever understand what she has done?

The Tea Planter’s Wife by Dinah Jefferies took me on a cultural and atmospheric journey through Ceylon is the 1920’s. When our heroine Gwen arrives in Ceylon to begin her new life with her husband she doesn’t receive the welcome from him that she was expecting. Laurence works away a lot and so Gwen at only 19 years old finds herself alone with a lot of time on her hands and knowing very little about the culture in Ceylon or the running of the Tea Plantation but she is determined to find out more but she soon uncovers a hidden secret but as the storyline moves along poor Gwen is faced with a difficult decision which leaves her hiding a heartbreaking secret of her own.

The author’s knowledge and research shines through in this book from the vibrant and alluring descriptions of the landscape and the house which makes them easy to picture, to the method of tea production and also the cultural side of things back in Ceylon in the 1920’s. The author really piqued my interest throughout this book and I found it quite disturbing and eye opening to see the way things were back then especially the part about the crocodile bait, I was horrified! I love to read fiction books that manage to capture my interest, entertain me but also teach me something and this is exactly what happened whilst reading this book.

Each of the characters in this book were all so well drawn, Gwen who was our main character had a youthful vulnerability to her at the beginning of the book and as the storyline progressed we watch her grow as a character and certain events that she faces lead to her having to grow up quickly. I was wary of Laurence all the way through the book, at times he seemed like a perfect gentleman but because of secrets that were kept and because he was absent for long periods of time I was sure he had more to hide! Even the characters who I didn’t like such as Christina and Verity managed to bring an air of suspicion and helped to bring tension to the storyline.

The storyline flows at a very slow pace but I think this worked well for this detailed and evocative book but I did find the last third of the book I was eager for the story to move along a little more and for the pace to quicken but my interest was still held.

I was thoroughly immersed in this storyline and I thought it was a beautifully written book, although The Separation still remains my favourite by this author this book is still one I will be recommending.

Paperback                Kindle

The Lovely team at Penguin have generously offered me three copies of this book to giveaway.
This is a Uk and Ireland only giveaway this time.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thursday, 10 September 2015

The Beachside Guest House

When Rosa and Bee get together in the run-up to Bee's wedding, they reminisce about the holiday they took together as teenagers to the beautiful Greek island of Paros. They remember the sandy coves, the guest house in the converted windmill where they stayed with their friend Iona, and the gorgeous local men. As memories of that long-forgotten holiday resurface, they are forced to confront the turns their lives have taken - and the guilt they both feel about letting Iona slip away from them. 

When they learn that the windmill guest house is going bust they form a plan: why not go back to the island and take it over themselves? And so begins a life-changing journey - because it turns out that opening a guest house and reliving their teenage dreams isn't that easy . .

Feeling poorly and looking out the window at rain isn't how I expected the last bank holiday to be so I decided to curl up and have a holiday from my bed with Vanessa Greene whisking me off to the Greek island of Paros in her latest release The Beachside Guest House.

Rosa and Bee have reached a point in their lives where they need a new start so when they see the Windmill on Paros is up for sale Rosa is keen to revisit the place where the girls spent a wonderful holiday together with fond memories and so she decides to buy the Windmill and with Bee's help get the guest house up and running again, but there is someone missing, Iona the third wheel in their friendship. 

This is a wonderful uplifting light read that focuses on a strong friendship between the three girls Bee, Rosa and Iona. Each of the girls are facing a trying time in their lives and yet they can all rely on each other and their strong bond to try and help each other through. I loved each of the girls equally which is unusual for a group of three girls and I found their friendship was very believable and natural.

The storyline surrounding Iona is definitely one that had my back up and it was hard to watch her lose confidence and see how vulnerable she was around such a vile manipulative man and so her storyline was really touching.

There are no hidden twists and turns it was just simply an uplifting, fast paced read that I read in one sitting. The descriptive writing that Vanessa Greene uses creates an idyllic setting really makes you feel a part of this beautiful scene.

This really is a perfect beach read with its short sweet chapters, warming characters with a beautiful friendship and a tranquil setting. I enjoyed my visit to the Beachside Guest House.

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Wednesday, 2 September 2015

United States of Love by Sue Fortin

Since splitting from her husband, single mum Anna Barnes is enjoying her new found freedom and independence. However, she didn't bank on working for Tex Garcia – or the sparks that fly between them. The gorgeous American chef is getting the locals hot under the collar and not just because of his culinary prowess! One problem: Tex can't commit and women pass through his life like dishes going out to service! Will it be the same with Anna? One thing’s for sure, this All American man is determined to break her self-imposed rule of never mixing business with pleasure – and add some spice into the mix…

United States of Love is the first book I have read by Sue Fortin so I didn’t know what to expect and I have to say the cover didn’t appeal to me, after looking at her more recent covers they definitely have a softer more appealing look to them.

Anna is a single mum who is juggling three jobs to support her son and the last thing she needs is her ex turning up out of the blue after a year and making things difficult.

Tex is new to the town of Arundel and has plans to open a restaurant. He is a real charmer but doesn’t like commitment and after he saves Anna on their first meeting both of them feel sparks but can he change his ways.

This was a gently paced romantic read that had more ups and downs than Thorpe parks rollercoasters! The storyline grabbed my attention from the start and held my attention all the way through. At times I was frustrated with Tex and Anna and I would have loved to have banged their heads together.

I loved Tex ( apart from his name!) he had a suave way about him but without being arrogant and so he seemed like a perfect match for our lovable, hardworking Anna who has had a tough time on the romance side so she could really do with someone to show her adoration and treat her well. What shone through for me in this book alongside the romance was the relationship between Anna and her son Luke. No matter how hurt and angry Anna was with her ex Mark she still managed to put her son and his feelings first which was a very hard thing to do.

Mark was such a vile manipulative character who I despised and the author created a monster in this character and I actually thought him and evil Christine would make a perfect pair. I loved each of the supporting characters from Anna’s brother and sister in-law to Tex’s friend Jaime and Yvonne they brought a nice touch to the book and support to Anna and Tex.

The storyline was predictable but this didn’t dampen my enjoyment of the book. There was a light hearted witty tone to the book and yet it does briefly touch on a serious issue. I found this a light hearted romantic read with engaging main characters. I look forward to reading another book by this author as she has such an easy flowing writing style so I will definitely be picking up another book by this author. 

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