Tuesday, 26 March 2019

Book Review - Secrets of Willow House by Susanne O'Leary - Blog Tour - #HolidayReading Thailand

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Amazon UK
Title: Secrets of Willow House
Author: Susanne O'Leary
Format reviewed: Ebook
Source: Netgalley
Publisher: Bookouture
Publication Date: 25th March 2019
Rating: 5 Stars

A heartwarming and moving story about secrets, fresh starts and the power of friendship, set in the wilds of Ireland’s shores.

Maeve McKenna is on the verge of a breakdown. Having worked herself into the ground as a sought-after interior designer in London, she’s in desperate need of a vacation.

Philomena Duffy is a little lonely. After losing her husband, their crumbling mansion, Willow House, feels awfully empty.

With the rugged shores of Ireland calling, Maeve visits her aunt Philomena in Sandy Cove, where she once, as a teenager, kissed a wild, mysterious boy – a kiss she has never been able to forget. The beautiful night’s sky is dotted with stars as far as the eye can see, and Maeve is worlds away from her chaotic life in the city.

As Maeve throws herself into restoring Willow House to its former glory, a deep friendship with Philomena begins to blossom. Surrounded by the faded walls and peeling carpets of the old mansion, together they stumble across a secret that turns their family upside down.

All the while, she can’t stop thinking about the enigmatic boy from her past, and that magical kiss… Is he still in Sandy Cove?

Just as she’s beginning to feel at home, reality calls. Part of Maeve can’t bear to leave Willow House and its rocky beach. Does she have the courage to leave the security of her old life behind, and put down new roots in Sandy Cove, or is that just a daydream?

I loved my time spent at Willow House with Maeve and her aunt Phil. It is set in a small village of Kerry, Ireland, and the Atlantic coast setting sounded delightful. 

We get to discover just what Uncle Joe's secret was that contributed to Maeve visiting her aunt, and I'll admit I had put the blocks into place quite a bit before the character. 

But it didn't matter, as it was how they pieced it together that was entertaining, and deciding what to do about the information once they have it, which really made this book. 

I loved how Maeve changed over the course of the book, from an incredibly stressed out interior designer, with hilarious but fussy clients, to how she is back in the place of her childhood summers 

There are a couple of men interested in Maeve, and one of them appealed to me far more than the other, but you'll need to read it to see who they are and how it played out. 

This is another enchanting read from Susanne O'Leary and I'm delighted to learn it is the start of a series.  I can't wait to return to Sandy Cove. 

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

Monday, 25 March 2019

Book Review - The House of Birds and Butterflies by Cressida McLaughlin - #HolidayReading Mexico

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Amazon UK
Title: The House of Birds and Butterflies
Author: Cressida McLaughlin
Format reviewed: Ebook
Source: Netgalley
Publisher: Harper
Publication Date: 26th July 2018
Rating: 4 Stars

Abby Field loves every inch of Meadowsweet Nature Reserve on the idyllic Suffolk coast where she lives and works. Especially Swallowtail House, the rambling but empty country house that seems to look out at her each time she passes it’s shut-up windows.

When a TV wildlife programme choses a rival location for their new series, Meadowsweet is under threat – unless Abby can whip up a plan to keep the visitors flocking. But she finds herself distracted by the arrival of a brooding – and annoyingly handsome new neighbour… bad-boy novelist, Jack Westcoat.

With the pressure on, Abby and her cute rescue huskie, Raffle, must pull something special out of the bag. But with Jack in need of a good friend – and Abby feeling the pull of attraction, she can sense her resolve fluttering away…

Until reading this book I don't think I had given nature reserves a thought ever. I think I knew they must exist but past that I had no clue. 

I am astounded by the amount of research that must have gone into the writing of this book.  

I felt as thought I was on the Meadowsweet Reserve along side Abby, as we spotted assorted wildlife, and the details were easily able to paint a vivid picture. 

I loved the assorted events that Abby put on over the course of the book at the reserve, as well as her slow building friendship with the lodge at Peacock Cottage. 

In fact its the lodger, Jack who had the most interesting story-line, just why was he there, and what was he running from. 

An entertaining story that will appeal to both fans of the author and nature lovers.

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

Saturday, 23 March 2019

Book Review - Cut Off by Mark Billingham

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Amazon UK
Title: Cut Off
Author: Mark Billingham
Format reviewed: Paperback
Source: Purchased
Publisher: Sphere
Publication Date: 1st February 2018
Rating: 5 Stars

It's the moment we all fear: losing our phone, leaving us cut off from family and friends. But, for Louise, losing hers in a local café takes her somewhere much darker.

After many hours of panic, Louise is relieved when someone gets in touch offering to return the phone. From then on she is impatient to get back to normal life.

But when they meet on the beach, Louise realises you should be careful what you wish for...

If you enjoyed Cut Off, try Love Like Blood, the latest novel in the series starring Mark Billingham's detective hero, DI Tom Thorne.

Would you believe me that this was my first book from Mark Billingham, and what a story it was. 

It really is a quick read at around 90ish pages, and took me the time I had my dinner one evening to read it. 

It has a terrifying concept behind it, when Louise manages to lose her phone.  After all I know if I was in that situation I would equally feel lost without mine.  

This was creepy, it had me gripped and gave me an excellent introduction to perhaps the tip of the author's dark depths.  There was good characterisation and I really did feel Louise;s fear.  

If you are looking for something slightly on the dark side, that really hooks you in, and really is a quick enjoyable read, and a great example of how a novella should be written, then look no further than Cut Off. 

Friday, 22 March 2019

Book Review - A Vintage Summer by Cathy Bramley - Blog Tour

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Amazon UK
Title: A Vintage Summer
Author: Cathy Bramley
Format reviewed: Ebook
Source: Netgalley
Publisher: Transworld
Publication Date: 21st March 2019
Rating: 5 Stars

London has not been kind to Lottie Allbright. Realising it’s time to cut and run, she packs up and moves back home – but finds her family in disarray. In need of a new place to stay, Lottie takes up the offer of a live-in job managing a local vineyard. There’s a lot to learn – she didn’t even know grapes could grow so far north!

Butterworth Wines in the rolling Derbyshire hills has always been run on love and passion but a tragic death has left everyone at a loss. Widowed Betsy is trying to keep the place afloat but is harbouring a debilitating secret. Meanwhile her handsome but interfering grandson, Jensen, is trying to convince her to sell up and move into a home.

Lottie’s determined to save Butterworth Wines, but with all this and an unpredictable English summer to deal with, it’ll be a challenge.

And that’s before she discovers something that will turn her summer – and her world – upside down . . .

Because I love this author so much, I downloaded the book without reading the blurb, and then started reading it still without having a look at a blurb.  From the title I think I was expecting something perhaps featuring vintage clothes, and evidently I didn't look at the cover properly, or vineyards may have come to mind! 

We meet Lottie in London, as the groundskeeper of a crematorium and trying to desperately keep her boyfriend happy. I took an instant dislike to Harvey and it was well grounded, and  I cheered when Lottie made the decision to move back to Derbyshire to be closer to her family. 

Little did she realise at the time that it would be the best decision she ever makes and she ends up living and working at Butterworth Wines, and learning all about viticulture.   

It is once we are the the vineyards that the book really gets going, and I loved the wide variety of people who volunteered at this family business,. All of which I loved getting to know, especially Betsy and Majorie who are widowed ladies who are hoping to see the vineyard through one last summer and harvest. 

Betsy and Majorie are a real pair, so close to each other and listening to them bicker is always amusing. 

While Lottie is getting to know this new business, and the readers are learning all about the English Wine industry, we are also getting to know Jensen, Betsy's grandson.  And is he who will be so key to many of the outcomes of the book. 

I loved this look at an English vineyard, and it has all of Cathy Bramley's warmth, love, good feeling, excellent writing, easy to picture settings and people and just everything you want for a wonderful and charming book. 

In some respects I felt it was slow to get going properly, ie, to get to the key bits of the book, the moving to Derbyshire, but it was a highly engaging and enjoyable slow start, and it was all relevant and key information, that would help you empathise with Lottie later in the story. 

This is vintage Cathy Bramley through and through and I urge her fans, and those new to the author to give this a go if you want an incredibly enjoyable story and a lovely feeling at the end of it. 

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

Please do take some time to follow along with all the other lovely bloggers taking part on this tour. 

Book Review - A Year at Castle Court by Holly Hepburn - #HolidayReading Mexio

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Amazon UK
Title: A Year at Castle Court
Author: Holly Hepburn
Format reviewed: Paperback
Source: Publisher supplied copy
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Publication Date: 27th December 2018
Rating: 5 Stars

Sadie is a single mum, nursing a broken heart. Her best friend from childhood, Cat, is burned out from working long hours as a chef in Paris. In need of a change, they decide to invest in their dream – running their own handmade biscuit shop in gorgeous Castle Court, a three-storey food court tucked away behind Chester's bustling streets.

They soon discover that Castle Court has its own community – a little haven of delight against the stresses of the outside world. But not everyone welcomes the new business; the patisserie owner is less than pleased by what she sees as direct competition and Greg, who runs the fancy bistro that dominates one end of the courtyard, doesn't think Sadie and Cat have the talent or business acumen to succeed. Luckily, there's support in the form of the delectable Jaren, who owns the Dutch waffle house opposite Smart Cookies, and Swiss chocolate-shop owner, Elin. And if all else fails, the friends can drown their sorrows in Seb's cocktail bar on the third floor!

This book left me craving biscuits... well not only biscuits but Dutch pancakes, american diner food and cocktails amongst others from all the fabulous places at Castle Court. 

Sadie and Cat are trying to navigate their first year in business of Star Biscuits, despite others in the court seemingly hating them, natural disasters and all manner of other things. 

Split into four parts, this was a very easy to read book, and  was enjoying every second of it. 

Despite suspecting I may know who each of the girls may end up in a a relationship with by the end of the book, I thoroughly enjoyed the journey of them getting to that point. 

And the biscuits what fabulous designs, and I had no idea so much work went into running an iced biscuit shop. 

I loved the other foodie shopkeepers in Castle Court and the whole community they have there. I just wish it was real so I could visit. 

Another joyous book from Holly Hepburn, which I loved every moment of.

Thank you to Simon & Schuster for this copy which I have reviewed honestly and voluntarily. 

Thursday, 21 March 2019

Book Review - Rosie's Travelling Tea Shop by Rebecca Raisin

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Amazon UK
Title: Rosie's Travelling Tea Shop
Author: Rebecca Raisin
Format reviewed: Ebook
Source: Netgalley
Publisher: HQ Digital
Publication Date:  3rd March 2019
Rating: 5 Stars

The trip of a lifetime!
Rosie Lewis has her life together.

A swanky job as a Michelin-Starred Sous Chef, a loving husband and future children scheduled for exactly January 2021.

That’s until she comes home one day to find her husband’s pre-packed bag and a confession that he's had an affair.

Heartbroken and devastated, Rosie drowns her sorrows in a glass (or three) of wine, only to discover the following morning that she has spontaneously invested in a bright pink campervan to facilitate her grand plans to travel the country.

Now, Rosie is about to embark on the trip of a lifetime, and the chance to change her life! With Poppy, her new-found travelling tea shop in tow, nothing could go wrong, could it…?

A laugh-out-loud novel of love, friendship and adventure! Perfect for fans of Debbie Johnson and Holly Martin.

For Rosie it is a journey of self discovery as well as a trip around the UK, after she buys a campervan while drunk the evening her husband leave her for another woman. 

He accuses her of being predictable and suspects his leaving won't have any effect, whereas it is soon apparent it was the best thing he could have ever done for Rosie. 

Rosie is filled with self doubt and it was wonderful to see how she developed over the course of the summer, travelling around various festivals in her brand new travelling tea-shop.  The first person she meets at her first campsite is Aria, who runs a travelling bookshop. 

They team up and Rosie starts blending teas inspired by classic books which all sounded perfect - after all cream teas and books go together so well.  I really enjoyed getting to know Aria and just why she was travelling too. 

In fact there are all manner of interesting people on the travelling van circuit,  and a whole variety of different festivals where they popped up over the summer months.  

As I have come to expect from a book from Rebecca Raisin, it has a wonderful warm feel to it, everything is really well described, there is some humour and the back stories make you think a bit too.  There is even a gorgeous guy, who continued to surprise both me and Rosie.  

This was such a pleasure to read, I lost myself within the pages and felt as though I was at the various festivals with Rosie.  And Poppy her bright pink campervan is fabulous too.   

An incredibly enjoyable book and I already know that the wait for the next book by this talented author will be far too long! 

Thank you to Netgalley and HQ Digital for this copy which I have reviewed honestly and voluntarily,. 

Wednesday, 20 March 2019

Book Review - The Hopes and Dreams of Lucy Baker by Jenni Keer - #HolidayReading Mexico

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Amazon UK
Title: The Hopes and Dreams of Lucy Baker
Author: Jenni Keer
Format reviewed: Ebook
Source: Netgalley
Publisher: Avon
Publication Date: 21st March 2019
Rating: 4 Stars

Meet Lucy, aged 25, and Brenda, aged 79. Neighbours, and unlikely friends.
Lucy Baker is not your usual 25-year-old. She is more at home reading and knitting in her cluttered little flat than going out partying and socialising.

79-year-old Brenda is full of wise and wonderful advice, but when she’s diagnosed with dementia her life begins to change. Before her memories slip away for ever, Brenda is desperate to fulfil one last wish – to see Lucy happy.

Gifting Lucy the locket that helped Brenda find her own true love, she hopes to push her reticent neighbour in the right direction. But is Lucy Baker ready for the opportunities and heartbreaks of the real world? It’s about time she put her knitting needles aside and found out…

The Hopes and Dreams of Lucy Baker will be the most charming, heart-warming and feel-good novel you will read this year, perfect for fans of Ruth Hogan and Gail Honeyman.

An accomplished debut with some memorable characters. 

I adored Lucy's friendship with her older somewhat magical neighbour Brenda. From their friendship you could tell there was a close bond and just what sort of person she is.

Scratbags the stray cat is adorable and plays a key part in the story, by helping to soften the edges of the most unlikely of people. 

I enjoyed seeing the developments in Lucy as she learnt to be more confident and the story with the locket is great. 

Also enjoyed seeing just which celebrities Lucy could knit/ 

Its a heartwarming story from an author that I am most likely going to be keen to read more from. 

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

Tuesday, 19 March 2019

Book Review - Love Heart Lane by Christie Barlow - #HolidayReading Mexico

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Amazon UK
Title:  Love Heart Lane
Author: Christie Barlow
Format reviewed: Ebook
Source: Netgalley
Publisher: Harper Impulse
Publication Date: 21st March 2019
Rating: 5 Stars

Welcome to Love Heart Lane…

When Flick Simons returns to the small village of Heartcross she only expected to stay for a few days. The white-washed cottages of Love Heart Lane might be her home, but the place holds too many painful memories, and of one man in particular – Fergus Campbell.

When a winter storm sweeps in, the only bridge connecting the village to the main land is swept away! As the villagers pull together, Flick finds herself welcomed back by the friends she once left behind. And as the snow begins to melt, maybe there is a chance that Fergus’s heart will thaw too…

Could not put this book down. From the moment it started, I was drawn into Felicity;s life, and at the point the book moved to Heartcross, well I had to read it in one sitting, staying up to the small hours.

Definitely a book worth sacrificing sleep for!!

There is so much drama and action in Love Heart Lane, that I couldn't believe it.  

it's all about the community of Heartcross who need to come together when their small Scottish village is cut off from the rest of the world. 

It is about Felicity returning to Heartcross properly after 8 years, hoping that her friends will welcome her and wondering just what sort of reaction Fergus will give her. 

There is a whole cast of warm and lovable characters, who I can't read to more about in the rest of this series. 

I think I may be saying it with every book but Christie Barlow is getting better and better, her writing is fabulous and the way the story jumps off the page and gets under your skin is remarkable. 

What a wonderful book, that I adored every second of. 

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

Monday, 18 March 2019

Book Review - The Cornish Village School - Second Chances by Kitty Wilson - #HolidayReading Mexico

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Amazon UK
Title: The Cornish Village School - Second Chances
Author: Kitty Wilson
Format reviewed: Ebook
Source: Netgalley
Publisher: Canelo
Publication Date: 4th October 2018
Rating: 4 Stars

Ex-ballerina and single mum Sylvie is in trouble. Juggling her ballet classes in the nearest town, preparing shy Sam for his first day at Penmenna Village school and trying to finally move out from the farm she shares with her cantankerous Uncle Tom means life is anything but easy.

Television Journalist Alex is facing challenges of his own. Seeking a calmer environment for his newly adopted daughter, Ellie, he’s swapped reporting in war zones for the school PTA in quiet Penmenna, where his best friend Chase has persuaded him to start laying some roots.

Fireworks ignite when Sylvie and Alex meet but as Ellie and Sam become instant best friends, will they be able to keep things strictly platonic for the sake of the children?

It was lovely to be back in Penmarra and the Cornish Village school.  If you have read the first book then the setting and teachers will be familiar to you. 

If you haven't, fear not,  this easily reads as a standalone with two new families and main characters. 

I really enjoyed getting to know Sylvie and Alex, and their two kids Sam and Ellie.  Sam and Ellie are the real stars of this book, and I loved their very different personalities. 

I also enjoyed seeing how Sylvie grew in confidence as the book progresses, as she tries to get new job and new house. 

Its an enjoyable sequel, and good to catch up with old friends to see how they were getting on.  I hope there will be more to this series as I suspect it will get better book by book!

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

Sunday, 17 March 2019

Extract - The Serial Dater’s Shopping List by Morgen Bailey - Blog Tour

Today I have a treat for you, instead of me rambling on about a book, I have an extract from The Serial Dater’s Shopping List by Morgen Bailey for you instead. 

I shake my head, attempt a smile and watch him clear the plate. Finally, he picks up the chicken bones and I expect him to eat them whole, but he just licks them clean and drops them back on the plate. He issues another belch, this time apologising as he realises it was loud enough to draw attention to himself, as if the devouring of an African family’s monthly intake wasn’t bad enough. Throughout the whole episode, there’s not been a word of proper chat between us. He’s been too busy eating and I’ve been concentrating on keeping my hotpot down. 
As the last morsel of food disappears into the black hole, the waitress heads for our table, I assume to clear the platter away, but she’s holding a plate above her left shoulder. I’m relieved it’s not big enough to be another meal for two, although I wouldn’t put it past him, but more like a standard sized dinner plate. I will it to be nothing I would normally eat, but am sorely disappointed as laid before me is a double helping of, the waitress announces, “homemade Banoffee pie”. I could cry. 
I smile less than half-heartedly at the waitress who looks sympathetically at me before retreating to the kitchen, I assume to gossip about Table 14. At the thought of the beautiful dessert being dismembered in such a way, I look at Tim’s eyebrows. I can’t bear to look any further down as his nose is running and it’s close to meeting the barbecue sauce on his upper lip. I’ve finally had enough and blurt out, “I’m sorry, but I’ve just remembered I’ve left my oven on.” But then I recall Duncan’s battle to lose weight and feel guilty, until Tim’s mouth gapes open revealing a mixture of toffee syrup and pastry, which threaten to spill over the edge like a coin cascade at a fair, and I can’t bear to look at him anymore. 
As I get up to leave, he splutters a, “so, do you want to meet again?” and I don’t know what to say without hurting his feelings. I mumble a non-committal, “I’ll message you” and almost do a Usain-Bolt-sprint down the stairs.

Well I hope that gave you a great taster of this book.  Here is the rest of the info for you, if it has enticed you to give it a go for yourself.

Are you looking for the perfect summer holiday read? Then you'll love this laugh-out-loud comedy about the highs and lows of dating.

Izzy is a journalist who usually writes a technology column for a local newspaper. Her somewhat-intimidating boss William sets her the task of dating thirty-one men, via an internet dating site, all within a month, and writing about it for the paper.

Having an active, though fruitless, social life with her friend Donna, Izzy knows what she wants in a man, so creates a shopping list of dos and don’ts and starts ticking them off as she meets the men.

Follow the ups and downs of the dating process including Tim ‘the Weeble’, whose date leads Izzy to see banoffee pie in a whole new light, Lawrence the super-skinny social worker, Felix with his bizarre penchant for Persian Piranhas, and ‘the music maestro but don’t talk about dead pets’ Jake.

By the end of the month, will Izzy have met Mr Right?

Purchase Links

Author Bio: Morgen Bailey (Morgen with an E) is an author (of novels, short stories, writing and editing guides), freelance editor (for publishers and indie authors), writing tutor (in person and online), Writers’ Forum magazine ‘Competitive Edge’ columnist, blogger, speaker, and co-founder of Northants Authors. The former Chair of three writing groups, she has judged the H.E. Bates Short Story Competition, RONE, as well as the BBC Radio 2, BeaconLit, and Althorp Literary Festival children’s short story competitions. She also runs her own monthly 100-word competition. 2018 events include talks and workshops at Troubador’s Self Publishing Conference speakers, workshops and panels at Delapre Book Festival, interviewing and workshops at BeaconLit, and NAWG Fest with her ‘Editing your Fiction’ weekend residential course. Morgen can be found on Twitter, Facebook, and many others. Her blog is http://morgenbailey.wordpress.com, and email address morgen@morgenbailey.com. 

If you want to hear more about this book and see what other fabulous bloggers say, then please check out the rest of the stops on this blog tour. 

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