Friday, 31 July 2015

My Sister's Secret - Tracy Buchanan

About the book...
Willow’s memories of her parents are sun-drenched and full of smiles, love and laughter. But a mysterious invitation to a photographic exhibition exposes a secret that’s been buried since a tragic accident years ago.

Willow is forced to question everything she knew about Charity, her late mother, and Hope, the aunt she’s lived with since she was a child.

How was the enigmatic photographer connected to Willow’s parents? Why will Hope not break her silence?

Willow cannot move forward in her life without answers. But who can she really trust? Because no one has been telling the truth for a very long time.

ADDICTIVE, GRIPPING and EMOTIONALLY POWERFUL, this is the perfect read for your summer holiday escape.

An extract...
Shock registers on his face. ‘No way.’

The rest of the crew are quiet as they watch me. I’ve been wanting this for such a long time, campaigning the Greek authorities to let me dive it as soon as I got my first set of qualifications when I was eighteen.
And now here I am.

I turn back to contemplate the sea. It’s gentle and aqua-coloured, tempting me in. I know how deceiving it can be, how in one moment it can turn into a death trap, like it did for my parents.

‘Ready?’ Ajay says, standing beside me as the rest of the crew line up.

I take a deep breath, channelling that queen of the Amazons, then put my snorkel into my mouth.

This is it.

I jump in before I can stop myself, the warm salty water splashing on to my face. My inflated jacket makes me bounce up and down for a few moments, then I start deflating the stab jacket and the weights around my waist pull me under. The sound of the boat’s engine, birds squawking above, the rippling sea all disappear as I descend. There’s just the deep quiet, that special quality of silence that only comes with being underwater.

The colour of the water around me changes the further down I get, from aqua to green to deep blue then misty black. The warmth dissipates a little and everything seems to slow down.

Is this how Mum and Dad felt before they were eaten up by the sea? I try to picture them. The last time I saw my mum, I was so tired, I barely took it in. Why had I been so bloody tired? If only I’d held on to wakefulness just a few moments longer, there would have been more than just fragments of memory to grasp at: the red of Mum’s lipstick, that crooked tooth of hers. If I’d been more awake, I could have held tight to her, told her not to go away, cried and begged.

Then Dad. I still remember the feel of his soft fingers against my forehead as he brushed my fringe away from my eyes a few days before, the smell of his citrus aftershave as he leant down to kiss me, green eyes like the sea. Maybe he would have delayed the launch if I’d begged him to? Aunt Hope said he was like putty in my hands, one of the country’s richest businessmen and his daughter had him wrapped around her little finger. Would it have been enough, my desperate plea for him to stay? How different things would have been if he had.

Ahead of me, I see the yellow of the other divers’ fins. The mist disperses and Ajay swivels around, his long legs like reeds. He shoots me a thumbs up and I do the same. At first I can’t see the ship, it’s so murky down here. But then it comes into view. I grab the torch attached to my wrist and shine it ahead of me. The ship is vast, stretched across the ocean floor like a white beached whale. Half its upper deck is smashed into the ocean floor’s surface, the side of the ship with its name – Haven Deluxe – emblazoned across it is tilted towards me. What was once floating is now submerged, wood and metal as one with the
seabed as it rests on its side in the foggy sea. 

My aunt Hope says the ship’s dead, an underwater coffin. But it still feels alive to me, as though any moment it might pounce into life and spill out all the memories from my parents’ last night alive.

I stare at it, feeling an unbearable sadness. The first time I saw it was on the front of the brochure. Even at just seven, I could sense my dad’s excitement. Finally the cruise ship he’d dreamt of building was ready for its maiden voyage. He used to read the brochure to me like it was a copy of The Very Hungry Caterpillar.

About the author...
Tracy Buchanan is a web journalist and producer who lives in Milton Keynes with her husband, their little girl and their one-eyed Jack Russell. Tracy travelled extensively while working as a travel magazine editor, sating the wanderlust she developed while listening to her Sri Lankan grandparents’ childhood stories – the same wanderlust that now inspires her writing. 

Monday, 27 July 2015

Secrets at the Maple Syrup Farm - Rebecca Raisin

About the book...
Maple sugar kisses...

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

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

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

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

Links to buy the book:-

About the Author...
Rebecca Raisin is a true bibliophile. This love of books morphed into the desire to write them. She's been published in various short story anthologies and in in fiction magazines, and is now focusing on writing romance.

Rebecca aims to write characters you can see yourself being friends with. People with big hearts who care about relationships, and most importantly believe in true love.

Connect with Rebecca:-
Facebook - Rebecca Raisin / Blog - Twenty-six Letters / Twitter - Rebecca Raisin

My thoughts...
I was given an ecopy of this book by the author in exchange for an honest review which I'm more than happy to give.

Rebecca Raisin is an author that writes such delicious stories you can't help but devour them in one sitting.  The Gingerbread series kicked off with Christmas at the Gingerbread Cafe and I was hooked.  Each book in the series was like adding icing on to the cake, making each more delicious than the last.  Rebecca's style of writing ensures the characters she penned become like true friends.  I really miss them when the book ends. 

Secrets at Maple Syrup Farm sees Lucy beginning a journey.  For the last ten years she had been caring for her sick mother, working double shifts to pay the rent and generally putting her own life on hold.  All that changes when her mother makes her promise to take a year out - a year to find herself and discover what she wants in life.  Her  mother secretly hopes she'll apply for a scholarship to art college in France, believing she has what it takes as an artist; a belief not shared by Lucy.  She literally has no confidence in herself at all, her only focus is providing comfort for her mother.

When Lucy gets on the first bus leaving town I wonder where she's going only guessing towards the end of the journey when I realise she's sat next to CeeCee - my heart literally melted, this women is a heart on legs and knowing Lucy was headed for Ashford made me sit grinning like an idiot.

Secrets at Maple Syrup Farm is a book that encapsulates everything that is Ashford and its inhabitants.  It's  a story that highlights the closeness of a community with big hearts, each and every resident giving freely of their time and advice to each other when needed.  Rebecca has tapped into the charm, love and characters of a small community in much the same way as Lucy finds herself doing at Maple Syrup Farm, where she found herself a job as a farmhand.  The goodness flows and with it barriers are lowered.

With each book Rebecca has written I find the storylines go a little bit deeper, the characters I've previously come to know and love providing a solid framework for the stories to rest upon.  This story demonstrates the need to give time to ourselves as well as other people.    Lucy had to learn that it was alright to take as well as to give. This story demonstrates time and again that there is always a reason for our actions, although the motivation behind them is not always clear at the time.   Lucy's mum did her the biggest favour, although it wasn't clear to Lucy at the time by making her travel, proving that if we love someone we should set them free, although heart breaking she gave Lucy her wings. 

This is a beautiful book, focusing on relationships between mothers and daughters, friendship, love and trust. I smiled, laughed and cried throughout Secrets at Maple Syrup Farm.  If you like me are looking for a read that will pull at your heart strings, make you smile and awww then this is a book for you.   It is a sensory book that one minute will have you drooling at the food and the next sniffing with emotion.  The descriptions are so vivid, smells and tastes seem so real I’m sure I gained weight just reading about them.  It has characters that I'd be proud to call my friends and a town that I'd move to tomorrow.   There’s nothing like a small town community to close ranks and protect it’s own, residents and visitors alike. Rebecca has done it again, delivering exactly what I expected and more.  I highly recommend this book and urge you to head to amazon and order it now - you won't be disappointed.  Once again, I loved it, loved it, loved it.

Friday, 24 July 2015

Yellow Room - Shelan Rodger

It is my great pleasure to welcome Shelan Rodger, author of Yellow Room to my blog.  Yellow Room has been published by Cutting Edge Press, a publishing house with a reputation for books that are hard hitting, that will stretch your mind, that are meaningful and will touch your heart; covering subjects that many would shy away from. I love Yellow Room, it is a thought provoking read that has stayed with me long after I turned the final page.  Today I share a Guest Post written by Shelan, next week I'll be sharing my review.

About the book...
Set in England and Kenya during the post-election crisis of 2008, a psychological drama that explores the power of secrets to run and ruin our lives

Chala has grown up in the shadow of a tragic act—as a small child she killed her baby sister in their yellow room. Even now, in her thirties, her state of mind is precarious and both she and her partner struggle with the demons of her past. When a one night stand leaves Chala pregnant, and her beloved adoptive father dies, she decides to go to Kenya and visit the scene of her parents' deaths. Slowly memories of  the events in the yellow room return, the political uprising puts a new meaning on life, and the future can only be faced by making a choice—to deceive or tell the truth.
About the author...
Shelan's life is a patchwork of different cultures. Born in Nigeria, she grew up among the Tiwi, an aboriginal community in Australia, and moved to England at the age of eleven. After graduating in Modern Languages from Oxford, she travelled to Argentina, where she spent nine years teaching and setting up a language school. Another chapter in England was followed by six years in Kenya, where she got involved in learning and development, with an emphasis on anti-discrimination. She now lives in Spain, working in international education - and writing.

Guest Post...
Yellow Room. Yellow is the colour of the third chakra, associated with our sense of self-worth, the place where guilt and secrets dwell. Why are we so fascinated by secrets? Why do we have secrets? The phrase ‘skeleton in the closet’ was first used in the early 1800s – what a wonderfully vivid image that still is!

Whether they are born of fear or shame, denial or the urge to avoid hurting another, so often secrets create pain and guilt. We pay a price for the things we keep bottled inside us, and sometimes the bottle bursts. Secrets are often bound up with relationships and how we define their boundaries. How much should you share with your partner? What belongs to you and you alone? Secrets protect people – sometimes the owner of the secret, sometimes an innocent who would otherwise become a victim. So in theory, they can be harmless…can’t they? They are often connected to our sense of who we are and how we are seen by the world. In the widest sense of the word, they can be about the things we bury or hide from ourselves. Secrets are a clue to our sense of personal identity if we listen to them.

With Yellow Room I wanted to explore the power of secrets to run our lives. I wanted to delve into the grey areas in relationships. The urge to protect someone you love from the truth. And – incredibly – it has only just dawned on me while writing this blog post that the reason for this is probably because of what happened to me as a child. I can share this now because the person I wanted to protect is buried in the African bush, in – ironically - a place called Secret Valley. My secret: when I was 9 years old, I was sexually abused by a man who was supposed to be a friend of the family. My reasoning for not sharing this was very simple. ‘If my father knows, he will kill the man who did it and then my father will be sent to prison.’ So I kept it buried deep inside my 9-year old little body. For years. Now, as an adult, I can look back and understand the toll that took. As the novelist Jennifer Lee Carrell wrote, ‘A secret is a kind of promise…it can also be a prison.’ I saved my father from prison but I created my own…and when I finally shared what had happened with my mother, it was a huge relief.

The personal story I’ve just told you is very specific but I believe we all live with different kinds of secrets inside us. If we look deep into our own hearts, we can feel their presence. Perhaps they are specific, perhaps vague and undefined. Should we attempt to articulate them, at least to ourselves, or are they best left alone? 

Secrets are like scars that heal over a wound which never quite disappears…I hope you enjoy the secrets of Yellow Room.

Huge thanks Shelan for another wonderful book and for visiting my blog today :)

Thursday, 23 July 2015

Fairytale Beginnings - Holly martin

About the book...
Love is an open door…except when it keeps slamming in your face.

Hopeless romantic Milly Rose has had her fair share of heartbreak. Obsessed with all things Disney, she refuses to give up on finding her Prince Charming – he’s out there somewhere, isn’t he?

When Milly is given a job to investigate the origins of an historical building in the village of Clovers Rest, she’s not sure what to expect. What she discovers takes her breath away - a beautiful real life Cinderella castle, complete with turrets, a magnificent drawbridge AND a very handsome owner…Cameron Heartstone.

As Milly and Cameron begin to unearth the secrets of Clover Castle, they can’t ignore the intense chemistry building between them. But they’ve both been hurt badly before. Can they take a big leap of faith and find their own happily-ever-after?

About the author...
I live in sunny Bedfordshire in a house with round windows. I studied media at university which led to a very glitzy career as a hotel receptionist followed by a even more glamorous two years working in a bank. The moment that one of my colleagues received the much coveted carriage clock for fifteen years service was the moment when I knew I had to escape. I quit my job and returned to university to train to be a teacher. Three years later, I emerged wide eyed and terrified that I now had responsibility for the development of thirty young minds. I taught for four years before History Off The Page came to my school to do a Tudor day. I now drive round the country in my little white van, dressing up as a Viking one day and an Egyptian High Priestess the next. 

I love to write. The characters do exactly what I want them to do, most of the time. Sometimes they do seem to go off and do their own thing without my permission. It is complete escapism into a world where I have full control.

I've been writing for four years now, every spare second I have, I'm scribbling ideas in a notebook or typing a scene on my laptop. I have written three romantic fiction books. Changing Casanova and The Chainsaw Masquerade were recently shortlisted for the Festival of Romance New Talent Award. My short story, One Hundred Proposals, won the Belinda Jones Travel Club short story competition and was published in the Sunlounger anthology.

My thoughts...
I was given an ecopy of this book by Holly's publishers Bookouture in exchange for an honest review which I'm more than happy to give.

I've read everything Holly has written and each book has taken me on a journey - oohing and aching until the happy ever after ending; so hearing she had written a fairytale type book I was hooked before I even started.

We're introduced to Milly as she chugs into the village of Clover's Rest in her temperamental but much loved car, she's here to view Clover Castle on behalf of the Castle Heritage the company she works for. The company who Cameron - owner of Clover Castle has approached for financial support to help towards the running and upkeep of his much loved, but money draining inheritance.

It really was love at first sight - that was, firstly between Milly and the Fairytale Castle - perfect in every way but not exactly what she considers heritage upon her first sighting.  Then sparks fly between Milly and the enigmatic Cameron - an attraction they both tried to ignore, but not too hard I have to say.  

Holly has created a magical book that is so far fetched it could only be a fairytale.  It has  a Fairy Castle, potential royal connections, love at first sight, both good and evil characters, magical moments, treasure, curses, enchantments and a promise of a happy ever after.

Holly doesn't think Clover Castle fits the criteria of Castle Heritage but is determined to find a way to help Cameron save his home. She and Cameron team up, helped by the resident ghost to uncover and disclose the mysteries and stories that surround the castle, hoping against hope to find a hidden treasure and preserve the castle.

Milly and Cameron are up against old wives tales, witchcraft and the positively weird, alongside sabotage and jealousy but as in all good fairytales - good will overcome bad and Holly sprinkled the pages with magical fairy dust, lifting the story time and time again.

Fairytale Beginnings was a perfect piece of escapism, a story that will get under your skin transporting you back to your childhood dreams.  To a time when dreams of finding your own prince charming to whisk you off on a white charger to a pretty castle on the hill was commonplace.

Thank you Holly for letting me re-live my dreams :) x

Wednesday, 22 July 2015

A Year In The Life of a Playground Mother - Christie Barlow

About the book...
A YEAR IN THE LIFE OF A PLAYGROUND MOTHER Ever had the pleasure of collecting your children from the school playground? Even if you haven't this is a hilarious must read. A month by month comical tale of a young mother fighting for her place in the world against the backdrop of the Playground Mafia. As her life unfolds and she takes us through from one amusing anecdote to another the characters come to life. There is Penelope who has a lot more going on in her life than she bargained for and Mrs Noland who has a lot less than she claims, not to mention Rupert who is a VERY busy man. With Mrs High School Musical, The International Sex God and The Frisky Pensioner, the characters are undeniably fascinating and leave you compelled to read more. Who knew that one false move in the playground, one step in the wrong direction or smile at the wrong person could lead to such complications? The witty one liners and side splitting stories will keep you amused from beginning to end. Lively and entertaining, a hilarious comedy that every playground mother can relate to.

About the author...
Christie Barlow the author of A Year in the Life of a Playground Mother decided to teach her children a valuable life lesson and show them that they are capable of achieving their dreams. She is just a Mum who wrote a book to prove to her children whatever you want to do in life go for it. The book she wrote to prove a point is now an Amazon #1 bestseller in the UK and USA.

My thoughts...
I was invited to read 'A Year In The Life Of A Playground Mother' by the author Christie Barlow who is published by one of my favourite publishing houses Bookouture.  Although this wasn't a book I would normally choose - it's been a long time since I stood on a playground and preferring books with a little bit more grit, dark psychological thrillers being my favourite the answer was an easy yes for me as I haven't read a bad book published by Bookouture yet - and I've read a lot!

The lead character Rachel and her family are moving house.  Moving to her ideal home in the country, getting away from the rat race and playground mafia to a quiet country life - or so she thinks.  She turns her back on one playground only to arrive in another in a state reminiscent of Groundhog Day.

I thought I'd read a few pages on my phone 10% of the book later I thought I was going to die laughing.  This really was comedy gold - side splitting humour that had me laughing out loud every other page. I literally devoured this book in a day, smiling the whole way through.

Christie described the playground and village antics in such a way that I  spent the whole book, 'oh my godding' before collapsing laughing again. There are so many cliches of playground and village life that I'd defy anyone not to have encountered some of it at some time.  Living in a village everyone, knows everyone and is usually related in some way - the neighbours, sisters, cousin's uncle - you get the picture and every village has an odd character or two, this village was full of them.  Gossip, scandal - both true and made up made for some hilarious antics with literally every turn of the page.  Bitchy, competitive mothers that I could cheerfully have slapped - I bet we've all met them at some stage.

Rachel makes friends or I should say, is befriended by Penelope - a women who, at first I could have throttled, but eventually came to pity.  Once the gloss was removed a different person emerged but getting there provided immense hilarity. Penelope and her husband Rupert were something else, every weekend taking over Rachel's home, organising her life during the week - their antics left me with my jaw gaping. They were totally oblivious to sarcasm and had skin like rhino's - one such incident that left me open mouthed was when Rachel's husband put up extra coat hooks in the hall with their name on.  They had no idea of the sarcasm attached, instead they were flattered, just typical of people only interested in themselves and their own self importance.

All in all this book did what it said on the tin - a feel good book. It was hilarious throughout with characters that were so exagererated they had to be ficticious.  The sort of book that once you pick it up and start reading you finish in no time, laughing the whole time - better than any tonic you can buy in the chemist.  Not my usual type of book but just the job at the time I read it - thank you Christie for lifting my spirits and for repeatedly making me laugh like a drain. 

Monday, 20 July 2015

Don't Turn Around - Caroline Mitchell

About the book...
You don’t know him. But he knows you.

Soon he would be able to touch her, to feel the warmth of her blood. And when the time came, nothing would stop him.

As D.C. Jennifer Knight investigates a routine stabbing in the quiet town of Haven, she is shocked at what seems like a personal message from beyond the grave.

When more bodies are found, Jennifer is convinced the killings are somehow linked. What she discovers is more chilling than she could possibly imagine. The murders mirror those of the notorious Grim Reaper – from over twenty years ago. A killer her mother helped convict.

Jennifer can no longer ignore the personal connection. Is there a copycat killer at work? Was the wrong man convicted? Or is there something more sinister at play …

With her mother’s terrifying legacy spiralling out of control, Jennifer must look into her own dark past in a fight not only to stop a killer – but to save herself and those she loves.

About the author...
Author of the UK’s most talked about true paranormal story, Caroline Mitchell lives with her husband, four children and two dogs in a pretty village on the coast of Essex. 

Born in Ireland, she moved to the UK twelve years ago and became a police officer. Paranormal Intruder is the true story of her encounters with the supernatural.

My thoughts...
I as given an ecopy of this book by Bookouture, Caroline Mitchell's publishers in exchange for an honest review which I'm more than happy to give.

This is the first in a series of novels featuring D C Jennifer Knight.  Don't Turn Around is a chilling, crime thriller that will make the hairs stand up on the back of your neck as you try to make sense of the obvious and the just plain odd moments. I wasn't sure how I felt about reading a book with a paranormal twist - I'm a scaredy cat at heart but, I have to say the voices in Jennifer's head and apparent messages from beyond the grave was hard to ignore.   They didn't frighten me, they just gave the story an edge - making this crime thriller less obvious.

D C Jennifer Knight is considered a tough cookie, confident in her manner, working on her home patch, sleepy Haven. An area considered quiet, until a sudden spate of killings that triggers a chain of events. The tension quietly builds until you can almost lift it off the page as Jennifer wonders if she is going quietly mad whilst considering the possibility of a copycat killer. The crimes are so similar to those from twenty years ago that culminated in her mother, also a detective, securing a conviction. Questions are asked and messages come in unusual guises.

Thankfully, I read Don't Turn Around during daylight hours, just the title alone made me twitchy and the characters Caroline created were perfect. A blend of good and bad with both simple and complex natures. On first impressions Jennifer was a confident, strong character but in fact was hiding a weaker character under the armour of her job, she had serious trust issues and strong OCD tendencies with a troubled childhood that followed and still haunted her in adulthood, a mother and sister in denial, not wanting to acknowledge the past.

The story had me hooked with so many twists it was impossible to even guess the outcome of the investigation.  Each chapter finished was like removing layers in a pass the parcel, giving a little clue here and there. The clues led me a merry dance, at times I couldn't even differentiate between real and imagined occurrences.  I never even come close to fully unravelling the plot - and even now it has ended there story hasn't ended - Jennifer is a complex character that I hope Caroline will reveal more of in her next book.  I highly recommend this book if you want to read a thriller with a twist that will keep you guessing until the end and to be honest it's not often that occurs.

I highly recommend Don't Turn Around, addictive but not predictable in any way.

Monday, 13 July 2015

The Riviera - Karen Aldous

About the book...
The journey is only as good as its end…

It’s been a hard journey, but Lizzie Lambert’s life is a Proven├žal dream come true. Her business is wildly successful, and with her little boy and the love of her life, Cal, she is making a beautiful home on the vineyard for their blended family.

But when Cal goes to America to support his son through a teenage crisis, it becomes clear the kid’s not the only one with some growing up to do: Cal’s glamorous ex-wife wants to get her claws in him again. As Cal spends longer and longer away, Lizzie wonders, was it all too good to be true?

Escape to Provence with Karen Aldous’ The Riviera, the perfect read for an idyllic summer.

About the author...
Karen Aldous enjoys village life on the edge of the north-downs in Kent with easy access to the buzz of London. Not only does she love the passive pleasures of reading and writing, she also craves the more active pursuits with her family and friends such as walking, cycling and skiing especially when they involve food and wine!

Karen gets much of her inspiration from her travels and if she had to choose, France, Greece, Switzerland, Italy and the USA would be her favourites. However, wherever she goes, she discovers a new character emerges in 'Karen's World'. 

She likes to write about strong independent women who can direct their own lives - but struggle to control them! And, of course there's always a gorgeous hunk or two!

My thoughts...
I was given an ecopy of The Riviera in exchange for an honest review by Karen's publishers Carina which I am more than happy to give. I didn't read the synopsis or give more than a cursory glance to the cover, so unlike me as I am an out and out cover tart, it was sufficient  just to know Karen Aldous had written another book.

It's July 2015 and the sun is finally shining because at last, I have got my hands on a copy of Karen Aldous' latest offering The Riviera, a sequel to The Vineyard.  It seems so long since I read The Vineyard, yet in reality it's just short of eleven months.

Karen has woven a story of love around family, trust and friendships with a healthy dose of romance for good measure.  Secrets are uncovered, friendships and relationships are forged. This is a  truly beautiful novel that will at times break your heart, then lift it beyond recognition. 

The Riviera gives us the chance to find out what happened to our main characters Lizzie and Cal after we closed the final chapter on them in The Vineyard along with their mothers and best friends Charlie and Sophie.  Suffice to say Cal and Lizzie are madly in love and planning for the future. Their happiness and love literally oozes off the pages, burning hotter than the hottest french sunshine ever could until a cloud hangs over them, that nothing seems able to shift.

Just as they are making plans and building their dream home together Cal receives an urgent message from his son, a cryptic message for help that sees Cal boarding a plane to America to offer him support. He wasn't able to support him through his younger years so is determined to be there for him now.   Although, at this stage he has no idea how much and for how long that support will be, he just knows he has to put his relationship with his son first.

The time Cal spent with Jack brings them closer together but without realising pushes his relationship with Lizzie to the edge.  Just like in real life events unfold and  a few curve balls are thrown prompting some truthful but painful conversations.  The emotions run high and as a reader I wasn't quite sure which way things would go. This book displays so well how lack of communication and trust can cause problems to escalate.  Often situations are multi faceted and are easy to misread, you've got to be able to see things from many angles to truly understand.

The Riviera sees Cal and Lizzie repeatedly pulled in different directions, trying to do their best by their family and by their work commitments and it's all down to Karen's descriptive ability that I felt I was taking the journey with them.  The vulnerability and innocence of Jack and Thierry, Lizzie's son melted my heart time and time again.  Past problems, hurt, mis-trust and jealousy  drive a wedge between Cal and Lizzie  that just didn't feel right.  I was firmly in their corner willing them to sort out their problems, I could have cried for a wasted relationship.

This novel delivers exactly what you except and more - providing escapism with more than a touch of reality.  I'd advise everyone to grab a glass of wine and settle down for a journey that is highly emotional but will leave you sighing contentedly.  The hot french sun sees passion and tempers running high but what happens when the evening cools with the setting sun - you'll have to read it for yourself and find out.  You won't be disappointed, Karen Aldous is an author that you need on 'auto order'.  As I raise my glass of rose I ask Karen how can you top this? Cheers!

Monday, 6 July 2015

Summer Flings & Dancing Dreams - Sue Watson

About the book...
Dance like nobody’s watching. Love like you’ll never get hurt…
Laura Watkin’s heart isn’t broken, she’s just forgotten how to use it.

After years on her own, the highlight of single mum Laura’s week is watching Strictly Come Dancing with a glass of Pinot Grigio and a large helping of imagination.

With her daughter Sophie going travelling, Laura knows the time is right to do something for herself for a change. One disastrous Zumba class later and Laura ends up at the feet (literally) of gorgeous dance instructor Tony Hernandez.

A natural dancer and inspiring teacher, Tony rekindles in Laura a passion she inherited from her ballroom dancer father – and with it comes a dream… to make him proud.

But when Tony enters them to perform at the National Dance Festival, can Laura’s new-found confidence survive the test? And with a once-in-a-lifetime chance to learn Flamenco in Spain, could Laura truly learn to dance like nobody’s watching… and love like she’ll never get hurt?
A laugh-out-loud, uplifting comedy about finding the courage to be yourself, the importance of dreams, and learning to grab life by the glitter balls. 

About the author...
Sue Watson was a TV Producer with the BBC who combined motherhood and family life with a busy career. However, one day it dawned on Sue that Cosmo magazine may have been telling porkies about 'having it all,' and her life had become a slightly crazed juggling act. 

So after much soul searching (and comfort eating) Sue abandoned her TV career, bought a pink laptop and wrote a novel. 'Fat Girls and Fairy Cakes,' tells the story of Stella Weston, whose life is a constant struggle with a nasty boss at work, the weighing scales and being a mum, wife and daughter. 
Originally from Manchester, Sue now lives with her husband and teenage daughter in Worcestershire. When she's not toiling over her latest novel, Sue bakes (and eats) cake and enjoys very large tubs of Caramel Chew Chew ice cream all to herself while watching 'The Biggest Loser USA.' 

My thoughts...
Sue Watson is an author that brings a smile to my face, her writing bounces between energetic and thought provoking.  One minute I'm laughing until I'm crying, the next sitting reflecting and sometimes crying again - all in a good way of course.  

Summer Flings & Dancing Dreams is just brilliant, I loved every page.  It's a book about relationships between mothers and daughters, about living life for yourself, not through others, a book of self discovery with humour softening the edges.

It begins on Sophie's wedding day, or what would have been if she'd not just been jilted - They are both sitting in the churchyard reflecting on life, both feeling a bit of a failure and knowing they need to do something. Her mother, Laura is trying to comfort her, not really having the answers needed to soften the blow.    Sophie decides she's going to go travelling, wanting to escape the embarrassment of her failed relationship, Laura just wants a life - she's a single parent, stuck in a rut, working in her local supermarket, a job she hates but needs to help pay for the care home her mother lives in and an aborted wedding.

Sue drags you headlong into a story before you even get chance to take a breathe.  I don't think I have ever laughed out loud and literally choked trying to stop laughing as much as I did whilst reading certain scenes in this book - Laura unfortunately was the cause of most of it.  Her relationship with both her daughter and mother at times cause utter mayhem.  I've so many favourite moments - Laura's trip to a Zumba class, dragged along as a way of getting fit by her friend Carole. Her  often cringeworthy visits with her 'deaf' mother at the nursing home and hilarious, foot in the mouth moments caused by her Skype conversations with her daughter (only a mother's first conversation would be about knickers) when she was travelling are some of them.  Sue's descriptions are so vivid I could well have been with her in every scenario, particularly stood in the dance class with them and her description of Laura's moves convinced me Sue had been a fly on the wall when I tried Zumba - an exercise that requires a modicum of co-ordination - something neither Laura or I have.  

I loved how Sue portrayed the characters in particular the leading ladies.  We see each in turn slip into the role of both mother & child.  Each caring for and nudging each other on.  In the beginning Laura is stuck in the middle acting as parent to both her daughter and her own mother.  Sophie also taking on the role of parent, worrying about her mum and urging her to 'get a life' not quite being able to fully let go and live her own life because of worrying about her mother. Until she does, then...... well let's just say tables are turned and Sophie has a 'be careful what you wish for' moment or two.

After the one and only Zumba class Laura attends she finds herself dragged into a ballroom dancing class run by Tony.  He's spotted her moves and thinks she'd be perfect..... really is the only thought I had at this moment.  The music, the history - Laura grew up surrounded by dance as both parents were professional dancers and the fact that Tony was gay, therefore off limits, gives Laura confidence and security.  Her mouth kept saying no, but her feet and body said something else altogether. The music unlocking her inner self - Tony nurturing and pushing in equal measures, when dancing she became a different person.

I'm smiling just writing this review as I think back to how the characters evolved and grew in this book.  The dancing and Tony's friendship were a catalyst for Laura's growth - the ripples growing ever wider as her confidence grew.  Sue through Summer Flings & Dancing Dreams demonstrates it's never too late to learn and dreams aren't just for young people.  We each have to be there, to love and support our family and friends but should all live our own lives too - I'm inspired to find a dance class - the energy and fun just poured out of this story, if someone can just point me in the direction of the nearest Tony first!

Huge thanks to Kim and all the team at Bookouture for giving me the opportunity to read Sue Watson's latest offering - Sue I love you, you make me smile and I'm tapping my feet waiting for your next book - just one small thing - I missed the cake :)

Sunday, 5 July 2015

My Sister's Secret - Tracy Buchanan

I'm so excited to be part of the Cover reveal for 
My Sister's Secret by Tracy Buchanan

Willow’s memories of her parents are sun-drenched and full of smiles, love and laughter. But a mysterious invitation to a photographic exhibition exposes a secret that’s been buried since a tragic accident years ago.

Willow is forced to question everything she knew about Charity, her late mother, and Hope, the aunt she’s lived with since she was a child.

How was the enigmatic photographer connected to Willow’s parents? Why will Hope not break her silence?

Willow cannot move forward in her life without answers. But who can she really trust? Because no one has been telling the truth for a very long time.

 Digital | Avon
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Saturday, 4 July 2015

Summer at Tiffany's - Karen Swan

About the book...
Everyone knows Cassie and Henry are meant to be together. Even Cassie's ex-husband Gil knows it. She's got a smile on her face and a Tiffany's ring on her finger and all that's needed is a date to get to the 'I do's.' Only, Cassie's  Vintage Catering business is booked for every Ascot for the next five years, she won't commit to a mortgage on a place together and she's spending more time helping her friend Suzy plan other people's weddings than her own. In fact, her girlfriends are beginning to wonder whether her year of independence, spent getting over the breakdown of her marriage, wasn't just a little too successful.

Suzy and Henry's wild and younger cousin, Gem, has no such hesitations. Love has gathered her into its embrace and she's heading to the aisle at a sprint, determined to marry her new man in the Cornish church where her parents were wed. But Cassie realises notices fault-lines in the relationship no-one else appears to see and her friendly advice to think twice spectacularly backfires, leaving her own relationship hanging in the balance.

As Henry departs for a jade mine hunt in Africa, Cassie commits to a summer in Cornwall to try to make amends to Gem. She tells herself everyone has to be allowed to make their own mistakes, but when news comes that Henry's disappeared, she realises she's made one of her own - and that a happy ending and Happy Ever After aren't necessarily one and the same.

About the author...
Karen Swan was previously a fashion editor and lives in East Sussex with her husband and three children. Her first novel, Players, was published in 2010, followed by Prima Donna. In 2011 Karen's third novel, Christmas at Tiffany's, was a Sunday Times Top Ten Bestseller.

My thoughts...
When I heard Karen Swan had written a sequel to Christmas at Tiffany's I just had to read it.  I needed to know what happened to Cassie - did she really get her happy ever after, after divorcing ex-husband Gil? So when I was asked to be part of the blog tour by Katie at Panmacmillan I jumped at the chance.

With Christmas at Tiffany's Karen Swan had created characters that were solid and well rounded, surrounding Cassie with a friendship circle that bounced off each other, each with different characteristics that fully complimented each other.  The beauty about reading a sequel is that we have already been introduced to the main players and in such a way that they seem like old friends, making the transition into a new novel easy. There is always the worry that a second book isn't going to be quite as good as the first, especially when the first was such a big success but, for me, this was equally as good - I loved it.

The love and respect that Cassie and Henry, the main characters in this book, share literally oozes out of the pages, yet somehow Cassie is holding back, her disastrous first marriage is having a damaging effect on her relationship, she just cannot seem to take that final step into a full commitment and it's this that is to the detriment of her relationship with Henry.

Cassie comes across as a confident person, in control and resilient.  She has built a strong wall of protection around herself with her friends, relationship and job which allows her to feel this way.  But, everything is shook to the core and Cassie literally crumbles whenever talk turns to making that final commitment and tying the knot - nobody can understand her hesitation, least of all Henry and his patience is running out fast.

The opposite is the case for Henry's twenty one year old, wayward cousin Gem. She has arrived back in the UK from a couple of years travelling with a tanned, blonde surfer dude hellbent on tying the knot asap. Her whole energy and outlook to life lights up the room and it's this that seems to zap the energy from Cassie, she feels dull and insignificant in comparison.

I loved the exploration of relationships in this book.  Cassie has doubts about her own relationship, founded on her past mistakes and it's this experience she feels qualifies her to advice Gem - not wanting her to jump headlong into a long term commitment when she can spot all is not as perfect as Gem thinks.  Not surprisingly a clash ensues but egged on and encourage by Suzy, Henry's sister and Cassie's best friend she continues to try to make her see sense even though by doing so she is putting her own relationship on the line.

It's when Henry sets off on one of his expeditions, leaving Cassie with an ultimatum Karen Swan takes us to a summer in Cornwall where Cassie is trying to do what is right for everyone whilst blotting out any decisions of her own.  It's here that love and friendship show through time and time again and faced with the possibility of never seeing Henry again Cassie is forced to confront her own demons.

Love and friendship are the basis for a good relationship but Karen leads us through many twists and turns, ups and downs to demonstrate that trust is the biggest factor needed in any relationship either platonic or romantic.  It's this realisation that comes at a point when Cassie thinks it's too late - I literally had my heart in my mouth as I turned the pages.

This was a chunky book, that I literally devoured - the pages practically turned themselves and all too soon I neared the end wanting to know whether everyone got their happy ever afters yet at the same time not wanting to turn the pages for fear they didn't.

This is a perfect summer read that should be seen poolside all around the world, if you haven't got a copy yet I urge you to head to Amazon now - you won't be disappointed and although this is a sequel it can be read equally well as a stand alone book.
For your chance to win a copy of 
Summer at Tiffany's enter the giveaway below!