Friday, 30 October 2015

Written In The Scars - Mel Sherratt

I am hugely honoured to be sharing the cover and first chapter for Mel Sherratt's new book 
Written In The Scars 
published today 30 October 2015

About the book...
Welcome to The Estate - where even the darkest times have their lighter moments... 


Sometimes they’re visible. Sometimes they’re burdens that we carry around with us. 

You can’t see Donna’s scars from a joke of a marriage. 

You can’t see Lewis’s scars from his time in the army. 

You can see Megan’s scars but she won’t let you. 

And Mary can’t always remember how she got hers. 

If the past could be erased to make a better future, we’d all want to do that, wouldn’t we? No matter how dangerous the consequences might be… 

WRITTEN IN THE SCARS is the fourth book in The Estate Series but each one can be read as a standalone novel. 

First scene of Written in the Scars...

With a minute to spare before her shift was due to start, Donna Adams rushed into Shop&Save. She ran into the staff room at the back of the building and slipped her green overall over the top of her summer dress. Already she could feel sweat forming, although the glorious hot spell they were enjoying was supposed to break later.
‘Made it by the skin of my teeth,’ she sighed, joining her work colleague and supervisor, Sarah Hartnoll, behind the counter. ‘Bloody hell, it’s as hot in here as it is outside.’ She glanced at the clock. ‘Sorry, I would have been here earlier but I’ve had trouble with Mum not wanting me to leave. She was holding onto my arm for dear life, convinced that someone is trying to kill her again.’
Donna’s mum, Mary, had been living in a self-contained flat for a few years since Donna’s dad had died. More recently, she’d been diagnosed with dementia. After wandering off in the night, setting off the alarm to the front door, and being brought home by the police on three separate occasions, Donna had made the heart-breaking decision to move her into sheltered accommodation, where there would be someone to keep an eye on her all the time. 
Sarah shook her head in sympathy. ‘Never a dull moment in your life, is there?’ 
‘Never.’ Donna logged into the till and then looked up at the television monitor that was split into quarter views of the area in front of them. There were a few customers but thankfully no one was after their attention, and if she wasn’t mistaken, Darren, their youngest member of staff, was stacking shelves in the far right corner. 
The shop had four aisles, all covered by cameras, but it was well known amongst a certain group of people for being easy to steal from. Many a time she and Sarah had left someone to it rather than risk either a tongue-lashing or a hand raised to them. They had both learned the hard way over the years not to interfere with some customers. 
‘I still feel guilty every time I go and see Mum,’ Donna added. ‘But even if I had the time, I just don’t have the energy to give her what she needs.’
‘You should get Keera to do more.’
Donna stared at Sarah, before smiling at the elderly man who was walking towards them. ‘Chance would be a fine thing with my lot,’ she replied, helping him to fill his shopping bag before handing it back. 
Donna had two children. A son, Sam, who was twenty-two and nineteen-year-old Keera, who had recently returned from a short time working in Ibiza. 
 Sarah held up a hand. ‘I’d much prefer to hear all about the hen party on Saturday. Did you enjoy yourself or did you feel like the oldest swinger in town?’ 
Donna rang the money through the till. ‘You might be laughing on the other side of your face when I tell you what happened.’ She paused for dramatic effect once the customer had gone on his way. ‘I met someone.’
‘Yes! His name is Owen, his eyes are so sexy – and his body is mmm-mmm.’ 
Donna smiled even more as she thought back to Saturday night. The hen party Sarah was referring to had been for a woman that Donna used to go to school with. About a month ago, Susan Parker had popped into Shop&Save by chance as she’d been driving through the estate. They’d been really good friends at school but had lost touch when Susan had moved out of the area. Once they’d recognised each other, they had got chatting and Donna had found herself invited to the night out. She’d declined at first as she wasn’t sure she would know anyone else who was going, but Susan had mentioned a few names of women she knew, and said it would be great to catch up again. 
In the week before the hen do, Donna had still had doubts about whether to go or not, but Keera persuaded her that she might have a bit of fun. And how glad she was of that now.
‘How I got his attention is beyond me,’ she continued. ‘There must have been lots of women his age that he could—’
‘Wait!’ Sarah held up a hand. ‘How old is he?’
‘Thirty-five.’ Donna dropped her eyes momentarily. ‘He’s too young.’
‘No, he isn’t.’
‘I’m forty-two.’
‘Don’t say it like it’s a disease!’ Sarah scoffed. ‘Besides, aren’t we supposed to be as young as we feel? And at least you look after yourself. Half the women on this estate walk around in their pyjamas and slippers.’ 
‘I suppose.’ Donna sighed loudly. ‘I’m not seeing him again, though.’
‘Oh! He didn’t want a second date?’
‘Technically that wasn’t a first, but yes, he did ask if he could take me out tomorrow night.’
‘And you said no?’ Sarah’s tone was one of incredulity. 
Donna shook her head. ‘You know I don’t have time – what with looking in on Mum and getting to work and then there’s Sam, who couldn’t look after a flea without—’
 ‘The world won’t fall apart if Donna Adams doesn’t come to its rescue.’ Sarah folded her arms. ‘You should let that family of yours fend for themselves once in a while.’
‘Leave everyone to their own devices?’ Donna shuddered at the thought. ‘It would be carnage!’
A young woman with the brightest of red hair came towards the till, and while Sarah served her, Donna stood staring into space. If truth be told, she hadn’t thought of much else apart from Owen since Saturday evening. She could still recall the taste of him on her lips as he’d dipped his head to give her a long, lingering, goodnight kiss. A delicious shiver pulsed through her body.
‘Earth to Donna, hello!’ Sarah waved a hand in front of her face. 
Donna giggled. ‘Honestly, though. It’s been such a long time since anyone’s been interested in me, I just keep thinking that maybe it was too good to be true.’
‘Will you listen to yourself? You haven’t had a good seeing to in months – just get in there and bang him one if you get the chance.’ Sarah picked up two mugs from beneath the counter. ‘I’ll make us a brew. And then I want to hear everything.’ She glared at Donna. ‘And I mean everything.’ 
Donna kept one eye on two teenage boys who had just walked in whilst Sarah went off to the staff room to make the tea. Sarah was just a few months older than her. Her hair fell to her shoulders, and she showed off pretty blue eyes below a blonde fringe. She wasn’t particularly overweight for her height of five foot four but she did have a tendency to wear tight clothes that emphasised, rather than complimented, her shape. 
Donna wished she had curves like Sarah’s, but she was thin to the point of being scrawny. Most of the time she put it down to all the stress that came with her life, but a lot of it was to do with her erratic eating patterns and the fact that she was always on the go. Add that to the long-limbed build of a marathon runner and sadly she was never going to be as voluptuous as Sarah, no matter how much she would like to be. And, being a woman in her early forties, things had begun to sag that were beyond Donna’s control. 
Still, she could dream. Owen had made her night a lot more fun than she had thought possible. 
Moments later, Sarah passed a mug of tea to her. 
‘I wish I’d been invited too,’ she said, wistfully. ‘You seem like you had a great time.’
Donna glanced up at the CCTV monitor again. The teens had been and gone with a couple of chocolate bars and a can of pop. There were only two customers in the shop at the moment, and they were in the middle of an argument. She turned to Sarah.
‘It was one of those perfect nights where you don’t expect anything to happen and then—’ She was interrupted by the ring of her phone, rolling her eyes when she saw who it was. ‘What’s up, Sam? Oh – but you have his phone?’ Donna looked confused as she spoke to the person on the other end. ‘Yes, I’m his mother, his next-of-kin.’ She gasped. ‘What do you mean— is he okay? He what? Oh, no. I’m on my way.’
‘What’s wrong?’ Sarah was already at Donna’s side. She touched her lightly on the arm. 

Donna took a few deep breaths, trying to keep her panic at bay. ‘Sam’s had an accident involving a chainsaw.’ Her eyes glistened with tears. ‘He’s been rushed to A&E.’

Amazon UK Buy Link:-

About the author...
WRITTEN IN THE SCARS is the fourth book in The Estate Series but each one can be read as a standalone novel. 

I write police procedurals, psychological suspense and women's fiction with a punch - or grit-lit, as I call it. Shortlisted for the prestigious CWA (Crime Writer's Association) Dagger in Library Award 2014, my inspiration comes from authors such as Martina Cole, Lynda la Plante, Mandasue Heller and Elizabeth Haynes.

TAUNTING THE DEAD is part police procedural/part psychological thriller. It has been a standalone for two years but I have now written two more books with Detective Sergeant Allie Shenton as a main character and created a new series. FOLLOW THE LEADER will be published on 10 February 2015 followed by ONLY THE BRAVE on 26 May 2015. 

THE ESTATE SERIES are a mix of women's fiction, psychological suspense and crime thriller. They are often too dark for women's fiction alone - although the subject matters and issues are often referred to in this genre - too light in places for crime thrillers, and often not enough for the psychological suspense readers out there. They are drama meets crime. 

WATCHING OVER YOU is a standalone psychological thriller. It's dark in places, light in places, disturbing in places too - where obsession and friendship turns to murder.

I live in Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire, with my husband and terrier, Dexter (named after the TV serial killer) and makes liberal use of my hometown as a backdrop for some of my books. 

You can find out more at my website or I'm on Twitter at @writermels 

Wednesday, 28 October 2015

Christmas at Lilac Cottage - Holly Martin

About the book...
A perfect romance to curl up by the fire with: Volume 1 (White Cliff Bay)
Welcome to the charming seaside town of White Cliff Bay, where Christmas is magical and love is in the air…

Penny Meadows loves her home – a cosy cottage decorated with pretty twinkling fairy lights and stunning views over the town of White Cliff Bay. She also loves her job as an ice-carver, creating breathtaking sculptures. Yet her personal life seems frozen. 

When Henry and daughter Daisy arrive at the cottage to rent the annex, Penny is determined to make them feel welcome. But while Daisy is friendly, Henry seems guarded. 

As Penny gets to know Henry, she realises there is more to him than meets the eye. And the connection between them is too strong to ignore… 

While the spirit of the season sprinkles its magic over the seaside town and preparations for the ice sculpting competition and Christmas eve ball are in full swing, can Penny melt the ice and allow love in her heart? And will this finally be the perfect Christmas she’s been dreaming of? 

Like a creamy hot chocolate with marshmallows, you won’t want to put this deliciously heartwarming novel down. 

Spend the perfect Christmas in White Cliff Bay this year. Snowflakes on Silver Cove coming very soon. 

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 Kim at Bookouture, Holly Martin's publisher in exchange for an honest review which I'm more than happy to give.

This was my first christmas read of the year and what a beautiful story.  Holly never fails to deliver, I've previously loved every single thing she has written and this was no exception.  She writes books that leave me smiling, that have the right amount of 'love and mush' and all have a happy ending.

Penny Meadows the lead character in this book lives in a remote house overlooking White Cliff Bay, working from home as an ice-carver she doesn't have much time or opportunity for much of a social life.  The story begins as she is preparing to change that.  She has decided to let the annex of her house to Henry and his daughter Daisy and has visions of becoming fast friends with them, sharing meals and cosy evenings. 

To say their arrival didn't go exactly to plan would be a slight understatement - I really felt for Penny, she'd gone to so much trouble, expecting far more from total strangers than was probably right to do so and then when things didn't slot into place I could have cried for her.

My first impression of Henry wasn't good. He came across as a rude, grumpy man who wasn't at all interested in making friends, he was only renting Penny's Annex because of his new job in White Cliff Bay and clearly wanted to keep himself to himself. 

However, within a very short space of time - the sparks began to fly, somehow and surprisingly, there seemed to be an attraction between him and Penny.  Nothing is simple though.  Henry has a barrier in the form of his teenage daughter Daisy who he is more than a little over-protective of.  

This is a lovely story about friendship, love, relationships and trust.  Barriers are broken down and different characters emerged as the story unfolded, chapter by chapter.  There was almost a role reversal.  Henry softened and became more thoughtful and caring, whilst Penny gained in confidence - standing up for herself more and stopped allowing herself to be taken for granted. Whilst Daisy grew in confidence because of the stability at home and with her new friendship bond with Penny.

Holly has a real talent for creating characters that get under your skin.  Penny, Henry and Daisy are the main characters in this book and they are supported by a whole host of others - such as Jill, Penny's real life guardian angel - I just loved her calmness and ability to know when to turn up and when to offer advice.  In fact there's nothing not to like about this book, as the saying goes 'it does what it says on the tin'. 

A perfect christmas read, especially for the romantic out there.  This book will touch your heart, make you smile and there'ss a couble of bits that had me howling out loud too.

Sunday, 25 October 2015

Letting You Go - Anouska Knight

About the book...
What if a tragedy occurred and you only had yourself to blame? How do you move on from the past?

Alex Foster lives a quiet life, avoiding the home she hasn’t visited in eight years. Then her sister Jaime calls. Their mother is sick, and Alex must return. Suddenly she’s plunged back into the past she’s been trying to escape.

Returning to her hometown, memories of the tragic accident that has haunted her and her family are impossible to ignore. Alex still blames herself for what happened to her brother and it’s soon clear that her father holds her responsible too. As Alex struggles to cope, can she ever escape the ghosts of the past? 

About the author...
Since securing the top prize in a widely-publicised UK writing contest, Anouska Knight has become an international sensation with her debut novel, Since You've Been Gone, hitting both The Bookseller and Heatseekers bestseller lists and securing praise from the likes of Jackie Collins and Jenny Colgan. 

A former bakery owner, she has gone on to wide acclaim in her native England and now writes full-time, currently on her next novel for Harlequin Mira.

Anouska lives in Staffordshire close to the countryside where she grew up, with husband Jamie, her childhood sweetheart, their two growing boys and new baby son. When she's not writing or wrestling small children, she can still often be found baking and will whip up a cake at the drop of a hat if asked nicely.

My thoughts...
I was given an ecopy of this book via Netgalley from Cara Thompson at Mira, Anouska Knight's publishers in exchange for an honest review which I'm more than happy todo.

Wow, where do I start.  Letting You Go is an emotionally charged novel that at times is quite raw.  Alex avoids home at all costs, she hasn't been home for eight years - all because of the fall-out from a terrible tragedy.  When Alex gets a call to say her mother has had a stroke and is seriously ill in hospital - there is no choice she has to go back.  

This is a story about families, love, friendships and small time communities.  About secrets, lies and what-if's.  Alex was young, in love with Finn her boyfriend and preparing for University when her life was torn apart - shattered by a terrible accident.  Dillon, Alex's youngest brother drowned whilst she and Finn were supposed to be watching him. Alex's father blames her and Finn, jumping to conclusions about the reason they didn't see Dillon get into trouble in the water.  Finn did try to save him but it was too late. It seems that there is no way forward, nothing can ever right the situation so Alex chooses to stay away, not knowing how to make things better for her family - in particular her father, barely a civil word passes between them.

Families are complex and there is often more going on in the background than is visible at face value.  It certainly turned out to be in case in this story.  Dillon's death impacts not just on Alex but on the rest of her family and the local community, everybody is linked in some way.  Like many small towns the community is close knit and the various families and their lives are interwoven.  Alex soon learns that guilt and grief are not just hers to own, her time away has shielded her from the impact not just of Dillon's death but of her estrangement with her family and her fiends.  It seems many lives have been affected and nobody has quite perfected the art of moving forward and living life to the full.

This is a book that gained pace the more I read, as the secrets, hurt and anguish were first avoided, then confronted head on.  Life isn't easy, there isn't a rule book and everyone did their best to cope in the only way they knew how. But, once the cracks started appearing, the facades they had constructed crumbled leaving their hearts and emotions exposed for all to see.  Anouska Knight takes Alex and her family to hell and back, she really has created characters that will grab you, each and everyone real and engaging.  My heart crumbled so many times but I still had to turn the pages to find out what happened next.  An altogether uplifting story emerged and hammered home the fact that we all grieve in different ways and for different lengths of time but with the knowledge of love from family and friends, trust, communication and sometimes a still tongue life will eventually get better. 
Anoraks has demonstrated in this beautiful knowledge that it is possible to live through grief, but then allow the happy memories to come to the fore using them as an anchor to hold tight to.

Thank you Anouska for a beautiful book that emerged from a very dark place.  A book that shows there can be light at the end of a very dark tunnel. I loved it. 

Follow Me - Angela Clarke


The ‘Hashtag Murderer’ posts chilling cryptic clues online, pointing to their next target. Taunting the police. Enthralling the press. Capturing the public’s imagination.

But this is no virtual threat.

As the number of his followers rises, so does the body count.

Eight years ago two young girls did something unforgivable. Now ambitious police officer Nasreen and investigative journalist Freddie are thrown together again in a desperate struggle to catch this cunning, fame-crazed killer. But can they stay one step ahead of him? And can they outrun their own past?

Time's running out. Everyone is following the #murderer. But what if heis following you?


Ebook: 3rd December, Paperback 31st December. 

Friday, 23 October 2015

A Christmas Cracker - Trisha Ashley

About the book...
This Christmas is about to go off with a bang!

Things can’t possibly get worse for Tabby. Framed for her boss’s dodgy dealings, she’s landed up in prison. Then Tabby’s boyfriend dumps her and gives her cat away to a shelter.

But rescue comes in the form of Mercy. A master of saving waifs and strays, Mercy wants Tabby to breathe new flair into her ailing cracker business. Together, they’ll save Marwood’s Magical Christmas Crackers.

But someone’s not happy. Mercy’s nephew Randal thinks Tabby’s a fraudster. Stubborn, difficult and very attractive, her future depends upon winning him round. Standing under the mistletoe, Tabby’s Christmas is set to be one that she will never forget . . .

About the author...
Trisha Ashley is now a full-time novelist, but she has been known to work for stained glass makers and/or plumbers. She likes to paint, eat, drink, and read literary biographies. Her previous hobbies included getting divorced and packing to move. She claims to have once actually eaten Bronte burgers at the Branwell café, but her publisher declines to verify this. She lives in North Wales.

Words from Trisha's editor...
As far as I’m concerned, it’s never too early to start thinking about Christmas! So imagine my delight when Trisha Ashley delivered her latest novel, A Christmas Cracker, and I had the opportunity to be the first person to read it! What a treat that was! The heroine Tabby is the most gorgeous of protagonists, but she’s found herself in a bit of a sticky situation - on the wrong side of the law for a crime she didn’t commit. And so when kindly Mercy, who has a penchant for rescuing waifs and strays, takes Tabby under her wing and asks her to help breathe new life into her company’s failing cracker business, be prepared for the warmth and quirky humour that lovers of Trisha Ashley novels know so well. And did I mention that Mercy has a dashing nephew, Randal? I wonder if there might be a little romance on the cards too . . . you never know J

So if you’re looking for the cosiest, funniest read this Christmas, look no further than A Christmas Cracker. Curled up with a mug of hot chocolate, in front of a roaring fire, it will warm the cockles of your heart and get you into the Christmas spirit in no time at all. 

Caroline Kirkpatrick is Editor at Avon, HarperCollins. 

My thoughts....
Come back here on the 10th November for my review of this fabulous book.  With a name like Trisha Ashley you just know it's going to be a cracker of a book, add christmas to the mix and you've got the perfect cocktail of delight.

Thursday, 22 October 2015

The Dead Dog day - Jackie Kabler

About the book...
Thrilling crime debut from top TV broadcaster Jackie Kabler
The Dead Dog Day is the debut novel from successful broadcaster and former GMTV reporter Jackie Kabler.  It follows the story of breakfast TV journalist Cora Baxter, and a race against time to stop a killer from striking again.

When your Monday morning begins with a dead dog at 4 a.m. and a dead boss by ten, you know it’s going to be one of those days. And breakfast TV reporter Cora Baxter has already had the weekend from hell, after the man she was planning a fabulous future with unceremoniously dumped her. 

Now Cora’s much-hated boss has been murdered, and Cora is assigned to cover the story for the breakfast show – but as the murder enquiry continues, the trail of suspects leads frighteningly close to home. Why is Cora’s arch-rival, glamorous, bitchy newsreader Alice Lomas, so devastated by their boss’s death? What dark secret is one of her camera crew hiding? And why has her now-ex-boyfriend vanished? The race to stop the killer striking again is on...

Jackie’s novel is the first book in a new series, and she draws on her experiences of the glamourous world of television, as well as her long-standing love for crime fiction.  A popular broadcaster turned author, Jackie is now a presenter on QVC, and as well as a decade on GMTV, has also worked for BBC News, ITV News and Setanta Sports News.

“Jackie has real insider knowledge and it shows. A proper page-turning thriller. I couldn't put it down.” Lorraine Kelly

You can buy the book via Amazon UK by clicking here. 

About the author...
“A twenty-year career in news during which I covered hundreds of major crime stories has given me a wealth of material to draw on for my novels. Aside from the actual murders, everything else that happens in this book actually happened to me as a breakfast TV reporter - with minor details changed to protect identities, of course...", says Jackie Kabler.

My thoughts...
I was given a copy of this book by Jackie Kabler the author in exchange for n honest review which I'm more than happy to do.

The premise of this book really grabbed me.  My favourite genre's are crime/thrillers and contemporary women's fiction.  Add to that my passion for people watching and you've got the perfect mix.  Jackie has written a tongue in cheek crime/mystery and wall papered the plot with insider gossip from her life as a tv presenter.

I settled down with a glass of wine and opened The Dead Dog Day, prepared for an evening of self indulgence.  To say the story got off to a flying start is an understatement.  I know the clue is in the title but I wasn't expecting two deaths within the first few pages.  Firstly a dog, dead before his competition appearance on the breakfast show and then the heartless, cow of a boss, Jeanette head of the newsroom.  To say there wasn't much love lost between herself and her staff in the newsroom would be an understatement.  So although everyone was shocked at her sudden demise, nobody was actually weeping in the corner - all except Alice Lomas the newsreader that manages to get all the good jobs.

The Dead Dog Day is without doubt the most humorous murder mystery I have ever read - Cora the TV News Reporter is put in charge of covering Jeanette's murder and lives a glass half empty life.  Unlucky in both love and work. Dumped by text - her boyfriend packed up and moved out of their flat with absolutely no warning.  She's always last in the queue for the good stories to report on at work, they always go to the younger, less experienced but gorgeous Alice.  She really does come across as a hopeless case but there is something about her that put me firmly in her corner, crossing my fingers for things to come good for her.

This really was an enjoyable read, I sat with my mouth open on more than one occasion muttering no, that can't be happening - the next I was grinning like a mad woman as the story went round and round like a Benny Hill sketch.  At time it was so far fetched it was hilarious. I just loved it.  Jackie has a naturally, dry sense of humour that shines through, she's created characters that evoke a reaction - I did a lot of muttering under my breathe! 

I'm so glad this is the first book in a series, I can't wait for the next time I get to meet up with Cora and be a fly on the TV newsroom wall.  Only one thing could make this book better and that would be to sit down with Jackie and get her to dish the dirt and tell me which bits are based on fact and who apart from herself did they involve.  Thank you so much for a fab read, just the sort of book to lighten and brighten up the working week.

Bella's Christmas Bake Off - Sue Watson

About the book...
Bella Bradley is the queen of television baking – a national treasure. Her Christmas specials have been topping the ratings for years and her marriage to Peter ‘Silver Fox’ Bradley is the stuff of Hello magazine specials. 

But this year things are going to be different. 

For Amy Lane, Bella’s best friend from school, life hasn’t held quite the same sparkle. And when Amy’s husband walks out three weeks from Christmas, it seems their lives are further apart than ever. 

Amy has watched Bella’s rise to fame fondly, despite the fact Bella was always a terrible cook. But when she realises that Bella’s latest Christmas book is made up entirely of Amy’s mother’s recipes, the gloves are off… 

After winning a competition to appear on Bella’s TV show, Amy is going to make sure that for Bella and her viewers, this will definitely be a Christmas to remember… 

A hilarious, heart-breaking and feel good read about best friends, baking and the magic of Christmas. 

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.' 

Sue's second book, 'Younger, Thinner, Blonder' was released in October (2013) and her third book 'Love, Lies and Lemon Cake' was released on June 27th 2014. Followed by Summer Flings and Dancing Dreams in July of this year.

My thoughts...
I was given an ecopy of this book by Kim at Bookouture in exchange for an honest review which I'm more than happy to give.  If you've never read any of Sue Watson's books you are seriously missing out.  Her books are delicious, usually including some cake or in the case of Bella's Christmas Bake Off, a lot of cake and other delicious goodies. After reading Sue's last book Summer Flings and Dancing Dreams I got fit and lost weight - well..... I thought about it and now wish I had because this book is filled with so many delicious goodies, I gained pounds just reading it.

This is my perfect kind of book, good food, glitter, spangles and christmas.  Two main  characters that evoke genuine feelings - on more than one occasion I could have shook Amy and slapped Bella. If I wasn't laughing at their antics I was internally shouting at them. Within the first few pages all the christmas happiness is shattered when Neil, Amy's husband drops a bombshell.  It's three weeks until christmas, the tree's up and Amy is just icing the christmas cake when she finds out he's trading her in for a new model, who is not just younger, but also happens to have a pole at the end of her bed - purely for exercise of course, yeah right ;D

Adding to her misery is Bella Bradley, tv cook, life guru and all round superstar.  Amy is obsessed with her, comparing her dull life to that of Bella's - the girl who seems to have everything.  They were childhood friends growing up together, the bestest of friends, Bella and she like sisters.  That is until Amy did something that Bella thought to be unforgivable.  This book sees the tables turned.  Amy can't believe that Bella has done something so totally unforgivable and so publicly too!  She sees her chance through a TV competition to confront Bella.

This was a beautiful story about friendship and discovering what is important in life, with a little bit of love and flirting thrown in for good measure.  Two characters on the surface opposites. One larger than life, brash and hard faced.  The other sickeningly sweet and malleable.  There's tears and laughter by the bucket load, sarcasm and cutting remarks all sweetened by delicious food that will make you drool.

As the book progresses the masks are lowered and the real characters come to life - how many times do we all pretend to be something we're not, hiding behind a persona like a protective shield - presenting a facade we think people want to see. Bella and Amy are no exception, time spent together strips the layers away as secrets are revealed and truths are spoken.

She's only gone and done it again. Sue Watson has got the recipe just right, an uplifting read, with all the glitz and glamour of christmas with tantalising temptations you'll feel you can lift straight off the pages.  She's an author who I'll never tire of reading, each and every book delivers exactly what it says on the tin - escapism, laced with pure indulgence - just perfect.

Now where are the 'Rudolf Brownies?' Just one more please...... :)

If you don't buy any other christmas book this year make sure you buy this one, you won't be disappointed!

The Other Half of my Heart - Stephanie Butland

About the book...
“It smelled bittersweetly of sourdough, and there was the trace of hot, fresh bread in the air. She took a deep breath and unlocked the door”

Fifteen years ago Bettina May’s life’s veered off course in one disastrous night. Still reeling from the shock of losing everything she thought was hers, Bettina opens a bakery in a village and throws herself into the comfort of bread-making.

She spends her days kneading dough and measuring ingredients. She meets someone. She begins to heal.
Until someone who knows what happens that night walks into Bettina's bakery. In the pause of a heartbeat, fifteen years disappear and Bettina remembers a time she thought was lost for ever . . .
About the author...
Stephanie Butland's first two books were about her dance with cancer. She then turned to fiction, and Letters to My Husband is the first of two novels set in a small English town.

Stephanie lives with her family near the sea in the North east of England. She writes in a studio at the bottom of her garden, and when she's not writing, she trains people to think more creatively. For fun, she reads, knits, sews, bakes, and spins.

How I Said Bah! To Cancer: A Guide to Thinking, Laughing, Living and Dancing Your Way Through is Stephanie's story of how she learned to dance with cancer: through thinking strategies, a proactive approach to treatment, determination to keep the rest of her life going, and keeping her sense of humour (mostly) to hand. It was published by Hay House in 2011. Her second book Thrive: The Bah! Guide to Wellness After Cancer, was published in September 2012.

Stephanie's debut novel Letters to My Husband was published by Transworld in 2014.

Follow Stephanie on Twitter: @under_blue_sky or her website

My thoughts...
Many thanks to Sarah at Transworld for both my ecopy and physical copy of this book in exchange for an honest review, which I am more than happy to give.  When I was asked to be part of the blog tour I was beyond pleased.

My expectations of this book were high.  I had read Stephanie's debut Letters to My Husband when it was known as Surrounded by Water and have been tapping my fingers waiting for a second novel from her ever since.  As I closed the last page and I had to sit quietly, taking in all that I had read.  I must have felt every emotion possible reading that book, from helplessness and sadness to happiness and elation. 

The Other Half of My Heart was just as intense and it was clear pretty early on that the main character Bettina May was a workaholic.  Absorbed in building up her new business, a bakery, filling every minute of the day working on and in it, leaving little time for anything or anyone else.  She did form a tentative relationship, more of a friendship really with her neighbour Rufus and at first it was difficult to see why she held him at arms length. Before too long though it became apparent she was living the life she was as a way of coping and blocking out the past.  Her story unfolds with the past revealed bit by bit by the author who split the chapters between the present day and fifteen years previous when life for Tina, as she was known then, was pretty much perfect.  Spending almost all her time at the stables where she worked, that were owned by the parents of her boyfriend Roddy.  She had everything going for her until one dreadful night when a tragic turn of events shattered the lives of herself and those closest to her.

Stephanie created characters that really got under my skin and made me question what I would have done in the same circumstances.  Sometimes life throws us a curve ball and how we react depends upon the people and characters we were to begin with.  This is a heart breaking story that demonstrates all too clearly how a tragic accident can send ripples way beyond the point of impact.  A truly desperate set of circumstances shattered the lives of two families, everyone coping with the fallout in different ways until the past comes back to meet the present and Bettina and those she was closest too must re-visit Tina's past.

This for me was a compulsive read that was at times quite harrowing but also very uplifting - a story that demonstrates quite strongly that nothing is unsurmountable when faced with true love.  Trust and communication play a huge part in this novel and prove that it's best to face your fears head on.  Time is a great healer and distance and space are sometimes needed to see clearly but it's sometimes best to face your demons head on.

All in all a beautiful story told in such a way I felt genuine empathy for all the characters. When it ended I was left with a warm glow, whilst quietly cheering and clapping - I genuinely cared for the characters as I would any close friends. Stephanie has without doubt got the knack of getting under my skin.  An author who seems to understand that when life falls apart and is full of tragedy, grief and guilt the power of love, trust and friendship can bind it all back together again.

This novel delivered exactly what I expected and more - providing escapism with more than a touch of realism.  I highly recommend both this book but more importantly this author, a lady with huge talent.