Friday, 20 November 2015

Mistletoe & Mayhem - Catherine Ferguson

About the book...
Lola Plumpton can’t believe her luck.

Christmas is coming and her gorgeous boyfriend, Nathan has offered up his swanky apartment to host the Plumpton family’s festive celebrations. It looks set to be a Christmas to remember. And it is – but for all the wrong reasons.

As the 25th December draws closer, Lola unexpectedly finds herself missing some key components:

1. A job (but who needs one of those anyway, when you’ve got the ultimate family Christmas to prepare for?)
2. Money (no job equals no money, it turns out.)
3. A boyfriend (yup, Nathan the hunk has said adios to Lola – and in the *most* embarrassing way possible…)
4. Somewhere to host her fabulous family Christmas (because of course, no Nathan means no des res apartment.)

Lola’s at a loss about what to do. But one way or another, she’s going to make this the happiest Christmas her family’s ever had…

About the author...
Catherine Ferguson burst onto the writing scene at the age of nine, anonymously penning a weekly magazine for her five-year-old brother (mysteriously titled the ‘Willy’ comic) and fooling him completely by posting it through the letterbox every Thursday.

Catherine’s continuing love of writing saw her study English at Dundee University and spend her twenties writing for various teenage magazines including Jackie and Blue Jeans and meeting pop stars. She worked as Fiction Editor at Patches magazine (little sister to Jackie) before getting serious and becoming a sub-editor on the Dundee Courier & Advertiser. Moving south in her thirties, she set up Surrey Organics, delivering fresh organic produce to people's homes – and this experience provided the inspiration for her first attempt at writing a full-length novel.

Catherine’s first novel HUMBUG AND HEARTSTRINGS is very loosely based on Dickens’ A CHRISTMAS CAROL and is a clever, modern tale about the price of friendship, the cost of enmity, and the value of love. She lives with her son in Northumberland.

So Avon are having a Craft Off - Bloggers vs Avon Staff to promote Catherine Ferguson's latest book Mistletoe & Mayhem. Today it's my turn on the blog tour to go head to head with Helena Sheffield from Avon - may the best woman win ;D

So my challenge was fruity Christmas - how hard can it be? TRUST ME VERY!!
This is a simple yet effective way to make some lovely decorations for your Christmas Tree 

Step1: Get some oranges
Step 2: Thinly slice and blot with kitchen paper to remove excess juice
Step 3: Lay on top of a greaseproof paper lined baking tray and cook on a low heat for hours 
and hours and hours - don't keep opening the oven and prodding them like I did. 
I thought they'd never dry out and in fact they took approx 3hrs! ;D
Step 4: Once dry, remove from oven (these could have done with a tiny bit longer)
Step 5: Put in bowl, gather ribbon, scissors & a cocktail stick to push the ribbon through the orange 
Step 6: ta da!! Lovely decs ready for the tree.

So thank you Avon for letting me part of this fun challenge now to see whose 
have turned out the best.  Helena how did you do? #AvonCraftOff

For those of you who may want to try this at home the Avon instructions are below.

The Mistletoe & Mayhem Craft-Off

My thoughts...
I bought an ecopy of this book for the bargain price of 99p from Amazon and have thoroughly enjoyed reading it. I was so wrapped up between turning the pages, baking oranges and planning my own family christmas the hours just slipped away.  Long distance meal planning and christmas shopping lists are all go here.  I go a bit giddy where christmas is concerned and love everything to do with it.

Mistletoe & Mayhem has really got me in the mood for christmas and I'm thankful that no matter how chaotic my life can seem at the minute, Lola's is much worse.  Unlike Lola I have a job I love, I've saved some pennies to pay for Christmas food and presents.  Have a husband and daughter that muck in with the chores and the cooking and I live in a house big enough to host whoever may end up on my doorstep christmas morning.  And, best of all I have my beautiful fruity decorations ready for my tree - they're just in the airing cupboard, finishing the drying process now ;D

So, Mistletoe & Mayhem is as you would guess set during the lead up to Christmas.  Lola is our lead character and has it all, all except a house big enough to host her family for Christmas that is. Then Nathan, her boyfriend comes to the rescue galloping in on his white charger by offering his 'des res' and everything looks like it'll turn out alright.  But, it's not long before everything is turned on its head. Lola finds herself dumped, therefore also has nowhere to host christmas. She also finds herself jobless, therefore no money to pay for it either.

Thank goodness for her flat mate and the new friendships she makes with her new neighbours.  This is a light hearted read as you would expect that had me smiling and laughing - with Lola I hasten to add, not at her - well not too often anyway.  The first hobby that springs to mind when thinking of someone that couldn't sing would not be to join a choir - but that's what Lola did - hilarious!

This is such a fun read, it will definitely have you smiling but, like many books it is multi faceted.  It's not all frivolity and laughter, there are some deeper storylines that go some way to explaining peoples behaviours and lessons are taught and learnt.  Christmas shouldn't be about spending lots of money and being stressed to death.  It's about friends and family supporting each other, coming together to spend quality time having fun.  Lola is taught by her gorgeous flatmate, who is just so lovely that you don't have to spend lots of money on food, decorations and gifts - you can make things cheaply just like the orange decorations I made in the article above and the pleasure gained from knowing you've made something yourself is tenfold what it would be had you just picked up something from the shops.

On top of that, this book is peppered with recipes and ideas for a homemade christmas, Rocky Road - YES PLEASE!  Chocolate Vodka anyone - HELL YES!!  Don't miss out get your copy of this edible read now and take the stress out of Christmas.

Thursday, 19 November 2015

Conditional Love - Cathy Bramley

About the book...

What surprises might life have in store for you?

A takeaway, TV and tea with two sugars is about as exciting as it gets for thirty-something Sophie Stone. Sophie’s life is safe and predictable, which is just the way she likes it, thank you very much.

But when a mysterious benefactor leaves her an inheritance, Sophie has to accept that change is afoot. There is one big catch: in order to inherit, Sophie must agree to meet the father she has never seen.

Saying ‘yes’ means the chance to build her own dream home, but she’ll also have to face the past and hear some uncomfortable truths…

With interference from an evil boss, warring parents, an unreliable boyfriend and an architect who puts his foot in it every time he opens his mouth, will Sophie be able to build a future on her own terms - and maybe even find love along the way?

About the author...
After four years of flinging herself round the dance floors of Nottingham's nightspots, British author Cathy Bramley somehow managed to get an honours degree in business.

She then plunged herself into the corporate world of marketing, working on high-powered projects such as testing the firing range of SuperSoaker water guns and perfecting the weeing action of Tiny Tears until deciding in 1995 to set up her own marketing agency.

She now lives in an idyllic Nottinghamshire village with her husband, two daughters and a dog called Pearl.

My thoughts...
I was extremely honoured to be asked if I'd like to read this updated version of Conditional Love by Sarah Harwood at Transworld, Cathy Bramley's publishers as part of the blog tour in exchange for an honest review, something which I'm more than happy to do.

I have to say I'm a serious Cathy Bramley fan, everything I've read by her I've just loved. An afternoon spent wrapped in a comfy blanket with coffee, chocolate and one of Cathy's books is a perfect afternoon spent. She writes about characters that touch your heart, that could very well be your friends or neighbours.  Each and every storyline, could be true.  She manages to balance the serious and less likeable characters with fun, kind light-hearted ones that will have you smiling and   laughing out loud, yet at the same time they aren't just frivolous, some very serious topics are tackled along the way.  

Conditional Love is no exception, this was originally self published by Cathy before signing a contract with Transworld and updating it to the version we have now with the incredibly beautiful cover.  The beginning of this book really sets the tone for our leading lady Sophie, Valentines day should be all hearts and flowers but not for her - her boyfriend decides that this would be the day that instead of proposing he would dump her.  Nothing seems to run smoothly in Sophie's life - not at work, romantically or personally.  Her mother lives in Spain and she doesn't know her father.

Then totally out of the blue Sophie gets news that she is the beneficiary of a surprise inheritance, not an insignificant inheritance either but one tied up with conditions. She has inherited a house and a lump sum of money.  But, before it can become her home she must also satisfy another condition - one that is difficult and heart rending, a request made by her great aunt - a woman she never knew but a woman who feels she should stir up the hornets nest from beyond the grave. 

As a character you can't help but like Sophie, she may well be in her thirties but she isn't at all confident or mature for her years, she seems to be stuck in her early twenties, ditzy and a bit madcap. Nothing is ever simple or straight forward where she is concerned and  she seems to allow others to influence her, none more so than her mother who firmly pulls her strings from her home in Spain.  

There is one thing you can firmly rely on with a novel by Cathy Bramley though and that is as the story unfolds the characters will grow with it.   It's fair to say I muttered and goaded Sophie in the beginning to toughen up and fight back, she just seemed so weak and then slowly but surely I sat back and watched quietly as her resolve strengthened and she grew more confident. Taking baby steps to getting her life in order. 

This story demonstrates quite strongly that you have to take control of your own destiny but you don't have to do it alone. Your friends and family will support you along the way and sometimes they have to be cruel to be kind, a true friend like Sophie's flatmates Jess and Emma will tell you the truth.  It just might not always be what you want to hear but it is sometimes necessary.

Romance plays a big part in this novel as you would expect from the jacket.  Love really is blind as Sophie eventually realises when she has two potential suitors and she doesn't always pick the right one. Nick, the architect she employs is quiet, unassuming but adorable and then we have loud, over confident sometimes ex, sometimes not boyfriend Marc - ooh I disliked him from the off, he really was an arrogant, upstart.  I know who I was rooting for.  Why is it some people pick the bad ones and keep going back for more?  Such a realistic storyline, we've all got a friend or acquaintance that has done that.  No amount of advice will help, they have to make their own mistakes just as Sophie does. 

So if you are looking for a book with both strong main and sub characters, that will engage you so much you'll find yourself talking and muttering out loud to them then this is for you.  I really loved reading Conditional Love, losing myself in the plot.  Hurt, sadness and intrigue butted up to friendship, happiness and love.  Along with some sad, sensitive bits there's also lots of humour and laughter to keep you smiling throughout.  Yes, some people may say it's prescriptive to have a happy ever after but, it is what we all hope for and expect when we pick up a book with such a beautiful jacket written by one of the best contemporary authors on the market at the moment - so thank you Cathy for delivering another slice of heaven in the form of Conditional Love - just perfect. 

Tuesday, 10 November 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.

My thoughts...
I was given an ecopy of this book by Helena Sheffield at Avon Books, Trisha Ashley's publisher in exchange for an honest review which I am more than happy to do.

I have always loved Trisha Ashley's books, they provide exactly what you expect, happy ever after books, with edible delights and a real story within.  A Christmas Cracker I think has to be my most favourite of her christmas books so far.  I was literally creased up laughing, reading bits aloud to my husband who tried very hard not to laugh - he and I have different senses of humour mines stupid - his isn't apparently! 

The start of this book isn't what you'd usually expect from a Christmas novel, the lead character Tabby sent to prison for fraud - framed both by her friend and her boss and as a result dumped unceremoniously by her fiancé.  Life really couldn't get any worse until she is rescued by Mercy a prison visitor with a difference.  She sees good in people, is not quick to judge and feels they could form a good working relationship, helping each other out of a fix in the process.

She finds herself as the potential saviour of The Cracker Factory, a dying business literally.  All of the staff are well into pension age and it's fair to say the business is past it's best too. Tabby and Mercy need each other in equal measures.  Tabby needs a job, home and a fresh start and Mercy needs Tabby's youth and ideas to save the family business. But, everything doesn't run smoothly for Tabby, despite the full support, friendship and love, freely given to her by Mercy and her new friends from The Cracker factory she has to find the strength to cope with her past and the open animosity of Randall, Mercy's nephew.  He has a different view of Tabby and is highly suspicious of her motives.

I have always loved Christmas themed books and this one, in my opinion is one of Trisha Ashley's best.  With Trisha's writing I always know what I'm going to get.  Characters involved in real life situations that I can take to my heart and cheer on to the end, counterbalanced with a few to boo and hiss at just like a good pantomime.  A Christmas Cracker is full of goodies and baddies, sparring their way through the pages until eventually the good overcomes bad and Trisha delivers a happy ending.  A Christmas Cracker has a bit of everything love, laughter and romance, characters that made me smile and laugh out loud, both human and animal. Only a fellow pet owner will understand what important roles pets can play in a household and Tab's slightly snobby cat definitely comes to rule the roost when he comes to stay at Moat Farm.

Christmas cracker jokes head many of the chapters and they had me laughing and giggling, repeating them verbatim to my husband who rolled his eyes wider and wider the more I told him - what a fab idea of Trisha's and they added to the light hearted, happy feeling a christmas book should have. I loved watching Tabby change as she gained confidence and as her ideas became a reality.

This is a book that I make no hesitation in recommending, it really is fab.  Christmas is such a special time of year and Trisha has really got me in the spirit, I'm counting the days until I get to pull my first cracker - I only hope the jokes are as good as the ones in A Christmas Cracker.

Thursday, 5 November 2015

The Little Bookshop on The Seine - Rebecca Raisin

About the book...
La Vie En Rose
Bookshop owner Sarah Smith has been offered the opportunity to exchange bookshops with her new Parisian friend for 6 months! And saying yes is a no-brainer – after all, what kind of a romantic would turn down a trip to Paris…for Christmas?
Even if it does mean leaving the irresistible Ridge Warner behind, Sarah’s sure she’s in for the holiday of a lifetime – complete with all the books she can read!
Imagining days wandering around Shakespeare & Co, munching on croissants, sipping café au laits and watching the snow fall on the Champs-Élysées Sarah boards the plane.
But will her dream of a Parisian Happily-Ever-After come true? Or will Sarah realise that the dream of a Christmas fairytale in the city of love isn’t quite as rosy in reality…

A deliciously feel-good Christmas romance perfect for fans of Debbie Johnson and Julia Williams

The Little Paris Collection:
The Little Bookshop on the Seine
The Little Antique Shop under the Eiffel Tower
The Little Perfume Shop off the Champs-Élysées

Also by Rebecca Raisin
The Gingerbread Café trilogy:
Christmas at the Gingerbread Café
Chocolate Dreams at the Gingerbread Café
Christmas Wedding at the Gingerbread Café
The Bookshop on the Corner
Secrets at the Maple Syrup Farm
Buy Links:-
Amazon UK  / Amazon US /  iBooks / Nook / Kobo / Sainsbury's
About the author...

Rebecca Raisin is a bibliophile. This love of books morphed into the desire to write them. She’s been widely published in various short-story anthologies, and in fiction magazines, and is now focusing on writing romance. The only downfall about writing about gorgeous men who have brains as well as brawn is falling in love with them – just as well they’re fictional. 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, once-in-a-lifetime love.

Follow her on:-
 Twitter: @jaxandwillsmum /  Facebook / Website

My thoughts...
I received an ecopy of this novel by Carina, Rebecca Raisins publisher in exchange for an honest review which I'm more than happy to give.

I make no secret of the fact that I love Rebecca's books and was hooked from the very first one 'Christmas at the Gingerbread Cafe'.  She has a writing style that is warm and inclusive and the stories wrap themselves around you like a warm hug.

The Little Bookshop on the Seine is the first in a series of books that Rebecca has set in Paris.  In lots of ways I could relate more to this story than her others as I know many of the locations mentioned reasonably well, it's a spit from England and I've visited many times as a child and then because my daughter lived just outside Paris for a couple of years I got to visit fairly frequently again.

Sarah, runs the Little Bookshop on the Corner in Ashford and is persuaded by her online friend and fellow bookshop owner Sophie to do a six month exchange and swap shops and homes.  The offer comes at a time when both girls need a lift, but for different reasons.  Sophie is escaping a broken heart and Sarah is lonely, her bookshop isn't doing as well as it could and decisions need to be made about what she does with her future.

With some trepidation, Sarah said good-bye to her friends, home and business and flew half way round the globe taking a risk but hoping for a huge adventure, a trip to lift her and make her see more clearly.

To say Paris and The Little Bookshop on The Seine were completely different to everything Sarah knew would be an understatement - she has come from a small town, a leisurely pace of life where everyone knows everyone and lands in Paris to the complete opposite.  Her new home and business are immense and within a couple of hours Sarah's head is spinning and she has been robbed of everything but the clothes she stood up in.

What a start!  This is another example of a storyline that runs deeper than the first of the Gingerbread books.  With this book Rebecca really gets under the skin of the main character Sarah.  A character I'd previously grown to know and love, she was so sweet and homely, instantly likeable and dreamy, always lost in the plots and characters of her latest read. Because of the impression I had of her it really was quite a shock to see her leave Ashford for Paris.  Such a brave thing to do for such a quiet, shy person. This book sees Sarah taken outside of her comfort zone, away from everything that she knows and she literally has to sink or swim.

This is a beautiful book that evoked many emotions.  Time and time again I felt for Sarah, she really did flounder, pushed way out of her comfort zone.  It was difficult at times to read how she was mocked and ridiculed by Sophie's staff who ran rings round her in more ways than one and I have to say Ridge really surprised me too. Many situations arose which pulled at my heart strings until gradually, through mistakes made, new friendships forged, she began to embrace the Parisian way of life and gradually found pockets of acceptance for herself.

The best part of the book was seeing Sarah gaining confidence and strengthening her mental attitude and resolve to life.  She really came into her own, emerging like a beautiful butterfly from a chrysalis.   Each knock and set-back driving her forward - to stand up for herself yet all the while retaining her kind, friendly, sweet nature.  

As you can imagine being set in Paris this book was as much of a sensory read as all the previous books set in and around the Gingerbread Cafe.  Wandering around the markets and shops of Paris with Sarah I found myself drooling - I literally could taste and smell the delicious goodies on offer - Rebecca your descriptive skills are second to none, once again I've gained pounds just reading your book.

I highly recommend this book, but more importantly this author.  Rebecca Raisin is a temptress of the highest order - only she would have me looking at flights and surfing the internet for unusual tea shops and cafes.  I so want to live inside her books, they provide the perfect amount of escapism - so thank you :)