Sunday, 18 February 2018

Book Review - The Year of Surprising Acts of Kindness by Laura Kemp

Amazon UK
Title: The Year of Surprising Acts of Kindness
Author: Laura Kemp
Format reviewed: Ebook
Source: Netgalley
Publisher: Orion
Publication Date: 22nd February 2018 
Rating: 3 Stars


When Ceri Price arrives in the small seaside village in West Wales, she only means to stay for a couple of nights - long enough to scatter her mother's ashes, and then go back to her life as a successful make-up entrepreneur.

But when a case of mistaken identities means she lands a job as the barmaid in the local pub, she unexpectedly finds friendship, and perhaps a chance at love.

But when the plans for a new housing estate put the local woodland under threat, she fears the way of life here could disappear.

Then mysterious acts of kindness start springing up around the village - a string of bunting adorns the streets, a new village signpost appears out of nowhere and someone provides paint to spruce up the houses on the seafront. Who is behind these acts of kindness and can they help in the race to save the village from the faceless developers...?

Welcome to the Village of Love. Where friendship flourishes and love blossoms...

Absolutely loved the idea of a year with surprising acts of kindness, and loved the setting of this book too, a small forgotten village in West Wales. 

The assorted villagers in Dwynwen soon crept into my hear, and I especially enjoyed Mel's story.  And although I appreciated what Ceri was trying to do for most of the book it took me a while to warm up to her, and even by the end I still wasn't sure. 

There are some good storylines in the book which did keep me reading, but having read other books by the author before, this one fell short for me.  The descriptions of the village in Wales were incredible and I loved the many many colours that Mel sees the world in. Ultimately I think it was me not the book that wasn't quite right, I can't put my finger on it, as there is nothing whatsoever wrong with the book,  it just didn't quite work for me. 

Thanks to Netgalley and Orion for this copy which I have reviewed honestly and voluntarily. 

Author Spotlight on Isabella May - Blog Tour

Today I have an interview between Emma Mitchell from EmmaTheLittleBookworm and Isabella May, author of The Cocktail Bar.   Enjoy!

Years Ago – what was your childhood like? 

School

I went to a fabulous village primary school and I think this was the best start my parents could have given me in so many ways. Everything about it was quite Enid Blyton and lovely. I have nothing but happy memories of the friends I made there, the teachers and the lessons. 

Unfortunately, high school was more than peppered with bullying, but I am eternally grateful all the same. The lessons learned there amongst my peers fuelled a determination to succeed, which may never have happened had I been a popular, beautiful, un-kooky kid. Nevertheless, I did pretty well academically, although my shyness meant I was never really on any of the teachers’ radars.
Friends

I always hung out with the unconventional ones and we had The Best Fun!

Family

All of my family memories are a vast swirl of hygge-like happiness… marred only by the odd recollection of Santa bringing my sister the Barbie and me the Sindy – grr.

Are you married? 

Yes, nine years ago I married my lovely husband in a whirlwind, fun-packed day at Cheltenham’s Pittville Park surrounded by our family and friends. Lucky him!

Children?

I have three children. A ten year old (going on thirteen year old) daughter, who shares many of my characteristics, a seven year old son, who is super laid back and balances us all out. And then there is my beloved baby daughter who was born sleeping nine years ago. But I will always be mum to three children, whether they are all with me, here in the physical, or not. 

Pets?

Unfortunately not. Life is so busy with two young children, and I know from my own bunny-obsessed childhood, it’s rarely the kids who do the cleaning out and feeding…

Work

What did you do before you became a writer (if you are a full-time writer that is!) What other job do you have now? 

Before I became a full-time writer I ran a part-time, boutique Literary Agency… before that I worked in children’s publishing for over a decade. My whole working life to date has definitely been about books in one form or another!

But nowadays I am 100% an author… This opportunity doesn’t come along every day and so I intend to embrace it wholeheartedly.

Hobbies

Other than writing, what else you love? 

Travel, travel and more travel. But hey, I also love baking, reading, cocktailing and trampoline jogging to high vibe music (the latter has kind of tailed off over Christmas, I must confess!). 
Law of Attraction is another big area of fascination. I can spend days getting lost in books and teachings on the many tangents of this subject. I am also a Level 3 Pranic Healer. It’s a super empowering form of energy healing which works alongside medicine, but also blows the mind (in a good way)!

Future

What plans do you have for your writing? 

I have a list of future potential novels as long as my arm… but one day at a time. I think so often we get wrapped up in the destination, but actually, it’s the journey that’s the most thrilling part. And I plan to stay on this writing journey for quite a while, drinking in some *hopefully* pretty amazing views!

Work? 

See, I don’t think of any of this writing game as work (even the marketing side of things). For me it feels like play. And that’s how I know it’s the right path. I just intend to keep doing what I do creatively until the ideas run out…

Family? 

There are heaps of places I would love to go back to with my family, to see that place afresh, from a totally different perspective. But I think that the most important thing for any family is to try to get the work/life balance right. I think we have it sussed.

Bucket list? 

I’ve never been the world’s greatest fan of this term… but I DO love the idea of putting travel at the top of any list, preferably to somewhere where they serve up fabulous cocktails and cake.

Amazon UK

Rock star, River Jackson, is back in his hometown of Glastonbury to open a cocktail bar… and the locals aren’t impressed.

Seductive Georgina is proving too hot to handle; band mate, Angelic Alice, is messing with his heart and his head; his mum is a hippie-dippy liability; his school friends have resorted to violence – oh, and his band manager, Lennie, AND the media are on his trail.

But River is armed with a magical Mexican elixir which will change the lives of the Three Chosen Ones. Once the Mexican wave of joy takes a hold of the town, he’s glad he didn’t lose his proverbial bottle.

Pity he hasn’t taken better care of the real one…

About Isabella May


Isabella May lives in (mostly) sunny Andalucia, Spain with her husband, daughter and son, creatively inspired by the sea and the mountains. When she isn’t having her cake and eating it, sampling a new cocktail on the beach, or ferrying her children to and from after school activities, she can usually be found writing.

As a Co-founder and a former contributing writer for the popular online women’s magazine, The Glass House Girls - www.theglasshousegirls.com - she has also been lucky enough to subject the digital world to her other favourite pastimes, travel, the Law of Attraction, and Prince (The Purple One).

She has recently become a Book Fairy, and is having lots of fun with her imaginative 'drops'!

Oh! What a Pavlova is her debut novel... and her second novel has already been submitted to her publishers: watch this space...




Saturday, 17 February 2018

Book Review - The Little Cottage on the Hill by Emma Davies

Amazon UK
Title: The Little Cottage on the Hill
Author: Emma Davies
Format reviewed: Ebook
Source: Netgalley
Publisher: Bookouture
Publication Date: 19th February 2018
Rating: 5 Stars


There’s blossom in the trees and daffodils as far as the eye can see. Maddie is looking forward to a fresh start in the countryside, but there’s just one little problem…

Following a scandal at her high-flying PR agency, twenty-six-year-old Maddie flees London to help promote what she thinks is going to be a luxurious holiday retreat in the countryside. Everything is riding on her making a success of this new job…

Yet when she arrives, Maddie is horrified to find a rundown old farm in a terrible state. The brooding and secretive owner, Seth, spent all his money on leasing the land when he fell in love with the beautiful, dishevelled farm cottages and the very romantic story behind them.

When Maddie discovers an old oil painting by the original owner’s wife, she unlocks the secret of the farm’s history and quickly realises she must start getting her hands dirty if this very special place is going to have any chance of survival. As she and Seth begin working together, the stunning view from the top of the hill is not the only thing that’s leaving her breathless…

After weeks of hard work the dream looks like it might become a reality, until a secret from Maddie’s past threatens to snatch it all away again. Can Maddie find a way to save the business and herself? Will she finally find a place to keep her heart within the crumbling walls of the little cottage on the hill?

Another glorious story from Emma Davies, whose books are going up and up my need to read as soon as I get them list with each new book. 

Admittedly I did wonder at the opening of the book whether I had perhaps read too many books in the genre as it did feel quite familiar to me, but once you get into the nuts and bolts of the characters, the plot and the writing, it was a really heartwarming story. 

Like Maddie was, I wa drawn to this part of the Shropshire countryside and the story of the cottages and area. I loved all of Maddie's visions for the place, from the wildly inappropriate ones with her London brain still in gear, to things more inline with Seth's vision for the place once she finally understands what he is trying to achieve. 

One of the more surprising things I learnt from this book was all about thatching, which is unfortunately a dying craft, but one explained in a lot of detail.  It really was quite interesting to think about how many years of history the straw must be able to contain.  

I also loved Clara and her fierce protectiveness of Seth, although I could fully understand it once you are privy to their rather extraordinary background.  Generally  I loved all the main characters of this book and their sense of family despite none of them being related.  

The Little Cottage on the Hill is a charming story, that I enjoyed reading every second of, but I can't help but hope that this ins't the last we have seen of Maddie. 

Thank you to Netgalley and Bookouture for this copy which I have reviewed honestly and voluntarily. 

Friday, 16 February 2018

Book Review - When I Was Invisible by Dorothy Koomson - #HolidayReading Book 12

Book 12 of 30 that I read on my holiday to Fuerteventura in December 2017

Amazon UK
Title: When I Was Invisible
Author: Dorothy Koomson
Format reviewed: Paperback
Source: Purchased
Publisher: Arrow
Publication Date: 23rd March 2017 
Rating: 5 Stars


In 1988, two eight-year-old girls with almost identical names and the same love of ballet meet for the first time. They seem destined to be best friends forever and to become professional dancers. 

Years later, however, they have both been dealt so many cruel blows that they walk away from each other into very different futures – one enters a convent, the other becomes a minor celebrity. Will these new, ‘invisible’ lives be the ones they were meant to live, or will they only find that kind of salvation when they are reunited twenty years later?

Wow, just wow, utterly speechless..completely unputdownable, addictive and brilliant. 

If you are already a fan of this author and haven't read the book yet, then go out and buy it now..don;t even wait to end of this review, you won;t be disappointed. 

If you have never read a Dorothy Koomson before, then you are missing out and this is an excellent book to get you hooked on the author. 

This is a book that does tackle tough uncomfortable subjects, but thankfully leaves the intricate bits to your imagination. 

One of my earliest concerns about the book was that it was two characters of very similar names, thankfully they both have nicknames, and completely different stories to tell so was easy to tell them apart.. 

After a shared childhood, these two best friends lead radically different lives, not seeing each other for many years. Both though have the power due to their shared experiences and desire to become practically invisible. 

This is a gritty book that will keep you hooked and absorbed for hours as you jump back and forth during both of their lives, the different acquaintances made etc.. until you get to an unexpectedly thrilling finale. 

Absolutely loved every second of the experience of reading When I Was Invisible.

Thursday, 15 February 2018

Book Review - Love To Hate You by Jo Watson

Amazon UK
Title:  Love To Hate You
Author: Jo Watson
Format reviewed: Ebook
Source: Netgalley
Publisher: Headline Eternal
Publication Date: 6th February 2018
Rating: 5 Stars


Sera is usually a good girl. (Except for one wild night in the backseat of a stranger's car!) But what happens when that bad boy turns out to be her new boss? And what happens when he wants more than one night...and he can be very persuasive...

I have managed to read Love To Hate You at just the right point in my life, where I couldn't work out what I was really in the mood to read but knew I needed to get lost in a story. 

Well I got utterly hooked on Sera and Ben, to the extent that I am 100% in lust with a fictional character. I would love him to be real, and I'm sure I would appreciate him far more than Sera will! 

The level of heat coming off this book is insane, the chemistry between Sera and Ben is sizzling,  and I was loving the double entendres, the innuendos, every single exchange between the two leads. I was sitting there as  a fly on the wall as such, wishing that I was Sera. Yet there aren't a huge amount of sex scenes, its all suggestive comments, dialogue, the hints at what is possible between them, that actually makes the book feel even sexier than you would think. 

Ok not her background, that sounds tough, but then again Ben hasn't been entirely upfront to start with either, and when you eventually get to know them, there is an extra dimension added to both characters. 

Love to Hate You starts in hilarious fashion and doesn't let up, it is pure escapist fun and I couldn't get enough of any of the characters.   I especially love Sera's pseudo family, JJ and Bruce who she lives with. They are simply fabulous. 

If you are looking for a way to leave behind your troubles, delve into a potential new relationship that will have you needing a cold shower yourself, then Love To Hate You is certainly a book for you. I was already a fan of Jo Watson's writing from her previous three books and although this certainly had a slightly different feel to it, it was amazing, it was hilarious and I already know I will be first in line for future releases. 

Thank you to Netgalley and Headline Eternal for this copy which I have reviewed honestly and voluntarily. 


Wednesday, 14 February 2018

Guest Post - Rebekah Louise talks about Bulletproof Proposal


I am very excited to share this post with you. As most of you will be aware, I have published my latest book ‘The Bulletproof Proposal’.

This is my second book and I decided to write a novelette. I love the idea of a short story, the reader can enjoy it in one or two sittings, fitting it in around their hectic lifestyles.

The idea for ‘The Bulletproof Proposal’ came when a close friend of mine was waiting for her partner to propose. I thought about what someone might do in that situation and I think most people would try and gain control, giving rise to the idea for my new book.

This story was an exciting piece for me to write. I took on Lisa’s character with ease as she was fun to write about (I think I could also see some of myself in her). Authors will tell you to write about a topic that you would want to read yourself and this is a book that I would want to snuggle up with. I also love the cover, which I had great fun designing, and I am guilty of choosing a book by its cover, so I hope it will attract you too. My wonderful husband put together the book trailer and I think it is a wonderful teaser of what’s to come.

‘The Bulletproof Proposal’ was published in November 2017, and my hope is that you’ll enjoy reading it as much as I loved writing it. Please leave a review if you liked it, on either Amazon or Goodreads, and tell your friends and family about it, it would be much appreciated.


Thank you so much Rebekah for sharing that with us. I loved The Bulletproof Proposal when I reviewed it earlier this year. 


After five years of dating Lisa is anticipating that all-important question, will you marry me?

Impatient, Lisa decides to take matters into her own hands and propose to Matt, after all it is the 21st Century.

Only she takes it one step further and with the help of her best friend Mandy, she prepares the ultimate proposal.

What she doesn’t know is whether this will be the beginning of her happily-ever- after or the beginning of the end.



Book Review - Would Like To Meet by Polly James - #HolidayReading Book 11

Book 11 of 30 that I read on my holiday to Fuerteventura in December 2017

Amazon UK
Title: Would Like To Meet
Author: Polly James
Format reviewed: Ebook
Source: Netgalley
Publisher: Avon
Publication Date: 30th June 2016
Rating: 4 Stars

A hilarious, heart-warming read perfect for fans of Shirley Valentine and You’ve Got Mail.

Could the worst thing that’s ever happened to Hannah Pinkman also turn out to be one of the best?

She and her husband Dan have reached the end of the line. Bored with the same gripes, the same old arguments – in fact, bored with everything – they split up after a trivial row turns into something much more serious.

Now Hannah has to make a new life for herself, but that’s not easy. She’s been so busy being a wife and mum that she’s let all her other interests slip away, along with her friends. And when Hannah is persuaded to join a dating site, her ‘best match’ is the very last person she expects it to be . . .

A clever, funny and poignant novel about life after a long relationship, the importance of friendship, and rediscovering your identity.

incredibly funny story about a couple in their almost fifties, that break up on New Years Day, and then try to spend the next year trying to move on from each other.

Told from Hannah's perspective, we see just what dating is like for a slightly older woman, and it sounds no better than for younger women! It is hilarious, from an outsiders point of view at least!

I loved how Hannah tries to make new friends, tries internet dating, and all sorts of other things to try to get over Dan, but you need to read the book to see if anything works. 

This was quite a quick and easy book to read, and I think there are characters within it that anyone can relate to. 

Really enjoyed Would Like To Meet and would be interested to see what else the author writes in the future, 

Thank you to Avon and Netgalley for this copy which I have reviewed honestly and voluntarily. 

Tuesday, 13 February 2018

Book Review - Forget Her Name by Jane Holland

Amazon UK
Title: Forget Her Name
Author: Jane Holland
Format reviewed: Ebook
Source: Netgalley
Publisher: Thomas & Mercer
Publication Date: 25th January 2018
Rating: 5 Stars


Rachel’s dead and she’s never coming back. Or is she?

As she prepares for her wedding to Dominic, Catherine has never been happier or more excited about her future. But when she receives an anonymous package—a familiar snow globe with a very grisly addition—that happiness is abruptly threatened by secrets from her past.

Her older sister, Rachel, died on a skiing holiday as a child. But Rachel was no angel: she was vicious and highly disturbed, and she made Catherine’s life a misery. Catherine has spent years trying to forget her dead sister’s cruel tricks. Now someone has sent her Rachel’s snow globe—the first in a series of ominous messages…

While Catherine struggles to focus on her new life with Dominic, someone out there seems intent on tormenting her. But who? And why now? She doesn't have the answers - and in one final question lies her greatest fear.

Is Rachel still alive?

I have no idea how on earth I am supposed to describe this book, but I will say I was gripped from the start and read it in 3 hours flat, without pausing except to tell mum to stop talking at me as there was only 10% left..and that yes I had started it at dinner time!!  

The first of my "OMG WTF" moments came at the end of the first chapter, and it was one of many.  For over half the book I wax utterly convinced I had cracked what was happening, but evidently I was wrong and thankfully don't have the dark depths to my being to even contemplate just how many layers are in this book that have been crafted so carefully that you are literally guessing and unsure as to the potential ending the entire time. 

I would love to tell you about the book but given what I now know, there is very little I can say that won't give potential hints as to the plot and what may be crucial, or a double bluff or something else at any given time. 

Regardless it was an immensely cleverly crafted story with some truly memorable characters. Forget Her Name is a book that got under my skin, I didn't particularly find it creepy, although in places it was slightly disturbing. 

I had a lot of empathy for the main character, especially when seeing how others were reacting to her various claims. It was like there was a mystery wrapped up in a psychological drama, that just works on so many levels. 

I truly believe this could be Jane Holland's best book so far and I've read quite a few of them.  It has everything you want in this sort of book, and a premise that I haven't seen  before, at least not in this way.  

Absolutely amazing, ultimately I dare you to Forget Her Name after you see what she has been through in this book, I bet you won't be able to! 

Thank you to Netgalley and Thomas & Mercer for this copy which I have reviewed honestly and voluntarily. 

Monday, 12 February 2018

Book Review - In Her Wake by Amanda Jennings - Rachel Reads Randomly Book #86

Amazon UK
Title: In Her Wake
Author: Amanda Jennings
Format reviewed: Ebook
Source: Purchased
Publisher: Orenda Books
Publication Date: 10th February 2016
Rating: 3 Stars


A perfect life … until she discovered it wasn’t her own

A tragic family event reveals devastating news that rips apart Bella’s comfortable existence. Embarking on a personal journey to uncover the truth, she faces a series of traumatic discoveries that take her to the ruggedly beautiful Cornish coast, where hidden truths, past betrayals and a 25-year-old mystery threaten not just her identity, but also her life. Chilling, complex and profoundly moving, In Her Wake is a gripping psychological thriller that questions the nature of family – and reminds us that sometimes the most shocking crimes are committed closest to home.

I can see why this book has had so many good reviews, it is a very different story, written by a clearly talented author.  However it may just be because I read it in such small sections as either the book did't take over my life, oor just as I had no time, but I just didn't connect how I would have liked to with the story. 

For the most part I am confused by elements of the story and although I can kind of believe that this could happen in real life, to the extremes of all the characters, just niggled at me.  I can't really explain it here, as to do so would give you inklings as to what would be coming up in the book that just isn't fair. 

Suffice to say that Bella's had a hard time, and it leads to her going to Cornwall where she makes a shocking discovery and the book goes on from there. 

Due to assorted flash backs, and random memory flashes I was often confused about just what I was reading. In fact bewilderment is probably how I felt for sections of this book. 

Although the rest of the time, when I knew what was going on I thought it was a very good book. I really did feel sorry for Bella, and some of the other characters, and the chapters that gave the key other perspective were some of my favourites in the book. Always good to have the useful background, and it did make me understand some of the decisions that had been made. 

In Her Wake is a very good book, but I think its one I should have read when I could have reading in longer sections, and thus got to grips with story a lot quicker. 

Thanks to everyone for the overwhelming majority decision on this weeks vote. I really do have weird reactions to some of these psychological thrillers, some I read in 1 sitting ignoring the outside world, and others I just seem to struggle with. So the question is will you be going to give me a 4th in this genres in 4 weeks to read? (I wrote this days before I randomised for this week, so no idea at this stage what the choices are!). 

Rachel Reads Randomly - Vote #87


 
Thank you everyone for your input last time. The results of the last vote were:

1 Votes -   Cut Off by Mark Billingham
1 Votes - Loveandpizza.it by Daniela Pesconi-Arthur
1 Votes  - The Wedding Caper by Laura Briggs
6 Votes - The Last Laugh by Tracy Bloom
14  Votes - In Her Wake by Amanda Jennings 

In Her Wake was an overwhelming majority this week, I'm just sorry to say I didn't enjoy it was much as I did Sworn Secret. I could see it was clever and what it was trying to do but I may just have been the wrong book for me given some of my concentration levels recently.  Thanks for picking it though, would have sat on my TBR for even longer otherwise. 

So this year I've decided instead of changing what part of the TBR I randomise each week, I'm going with at least until I get bored, books released in the current month - so for the next few weeks all the options will be books released in February - that is February from whatever year they were published! (At least based on the publication date I put on my master spreadsheet). Should give all books a few chances to get picked over a year and be slightly quicker for me to set up!  

Below is my initial theory for this feature, and then a bit further, what you are all waiting for... This weeks's vote! Enjoy!

I am also awful at deciding what book to read next, as I often have about 10 titles or authors jumping into my brain at any time, shouting at me to read them, and I tend to worry I have made the wrong decision while reading a perfectly good book. I am hoping this will save me having to make at least 1 choice a week, while possibly providing a review to the site of a book you all either love or are curious about yourselves. 

So what I am proposing, is my lovely loyal readers of Rachel's Random Reads, select one book for me to read a week, and I will post the review the following week. 

This week's random numbers are...


And the books these numbers correspond to are...


So the 5 choices with my gut feeling responses are:



12 - The Perfect Match by Debbie Macomber - 2 stories in one for an author that I always enjoy reading. Heart warming romances normally. 
15 - Crazy For You by Emma Heatherington - This is an author I've not read yet but know she it tending to write emotional books at the moment but not sure about this one. 
40 - Runaway Bride by Mary Jayne Baker - This book is out this week, I've enjoyed the one other book I've read by this author and I know there are meant to be puppies in here somewhere! 
47 - Between a Rockstar and  Hard Place by Portia MacIntosh - My spreadsheet mentions its a prequel - if this wins and it turns out to be a short story prequel - I will almost certainly read the other book so long as I have it!  Love this author. 
51 - Recipes For Disaster by Sheryl Browne - Love this author too, and really should read more of her back catalogue.  This option has been removed as the book isn't properly available for sale anywhere at the moment. 

Wow after the last few weeks I can say safely that it won't be a psychological thriller winning this week! What we have a is a group of authors I tend to really enjoy, and I hope if you have read them you love as much as I do. But what will win?

And authors, if its your book up on this feature, feel free to take part, vote for yourself, or stir up excitement amongst your fans! 

Pick your favourite or the one you most want me to review, or just the one you are curious about, and leave me a comment below, before midnight on Wednesday. 

I look forward to seeing what I will be reading over the weekend, courtesy of you all. 

The explanation if you haven't seen the feature before. 

How is this going to work?

Every Monday, I am going to have a post like this, which is going to have some choices on it. I am planning on using random.org to select 7 random numbers, to coincide with my spreadsheet of unread books.  

I will from that produce a list of hopefully 5 books, I reserve the right to veto any books, and will give reasons for them, if it occurs.

I will take screenshots and post them, of the chosen books, and also give you my instinctive reactions to the choices (without checking blurbs or any other info about them, which could be interesting as there are probably many forgotten about books on my spreadsheet!). 

Your task is to post a comment on this post, with the book you would like me to read this week. At midnight on Wednesday I will take a tally of the votes and the book with the most, I will read and review for the following Monday, where you will also get a new choice post. 

In the event of a tie, I will chose which one appeals most, for the Monday review, and possibly try and read and review the other to appear when I can. 

I am hoping this will provide some variety to the books appearing, and will let me potentially read or discover some great authors that I have wanted to read but not got around to yet.
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