Wednesday, 12 December 2018

Book Review - Christmas at Black Cherry Retreat by Angela Britnell

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Title: Christmas at Black Cherry Retreat
Author: Angela Britnell
Format reviewed: Ebook
Source: Publisher supplied copy
Publisher: Choc Lit
Publication Date: 3rd December 2018
Rating: 4 Stars

What if you had nowhere to call home for Christmas? 
When Fee Winter books a winter break at the remote Black Cherry Retreat in the small town of Pine Ridge, Tennessee, it’s with the idea that the peace and quiet will help her recuperate from her hectic life as a photographer.

But what she didn’t bank on was meeting Tom Chambers and his huge, interfering yet lovable family. With them, could Fee finally experience the warmth and support that’s been missing from her own life – and maybe even find a place to call home in time for Christmas?

Oh I do love a Southern American drawl on a sexy man in a book, and Tom Chambers has that and the typical good manners too in spades.  I warmed to him almost instantly. 

Fee on the other hand although I felt for her, I really was unsure about her at the start, but as the book progresses and she starts to open up, she really grew on me and I loved her by the end. 

Neither character has had an easy run of things recently and both have something major in common, but apart from that they are as different as chalk and cheese. But yet there is definitely an attraction between them, which is rather obvious quite early on. 

I absolutely loved the setting of the Black Cherry Retreat and of the town of Pine Ridge which appears to be run by the Chambers family - there are so many of them, and they are like a community in their own right.  What a range of personalities, but its clear they all look out for one another, even if they can be a bit on the nosy  / gossipy side! 

The location was perfect, and so so pretty,  I loved every aspect of it - well apart from the lack of wifi as that would have driven me mad!  Quite a few of the family are in law enforcement, which did lead to a couple of rather dramatic scenes. 

However its not just drama driving this book, its good characterisation, lovely writing and a great emphasis on relationships both family and romantic.  There is an adorable child,  great sorrow in the past and a few moments that had a happy tear glisten in my eye. 

Please don't be put off by Christmas in the title - this can easily be read throughout the year, the Christmas element is really rather small - I would say Autumn would be more apt as it takes in from Halloween, and Thanksgiving too.  Which is a shame as I was hoping for a greater festive feeling. 

All in all I did really enjoy this book,  I always seem to love the heroes this author writes, and Tom is incredibly easy to fall for.  An incredibly pleasant story, that kept me entertained while I was reading. 

Thank you to Choc Lit for this copy which I have reviewed honestly and voluntarily. 

Tuesday, 11 December 2018

Book Review - Can't Get You Out Of My Head by Sue Shepherd

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Title:  Can't Get You Out of My Head
Author: Sue Shepherd
Format reviewed: Ebook
Source: Author supplied copy
Publisher: Corazon
Publication Date: 26th March 2018
Rating: 5 Stars

A moving and funny story about sisters, secrets and second chances.

Twin sisters Beth and Lisa do everything together, so what will happen now they both want a life of their own?

"A fabulously endearing and engaging read that I didn’t want to stop." Sarah Hardy, By The Letter Book Reviews.

Beth has a secret she's kept from everyone except her sister. But it's time to get on with her life. Could a seductive Italian, a smooth-talking charmer or backpacking around Australia be the answer?

Lisa feels she's always lived in her sister's shadow. Maybe now it's her turn for some fun, whatever the consequences. But will her drunken antics land Beth in trouble?

And when it comes to the crunch, will one sister have to give up what she wants so the other can have what she needs?

I honestly don't know what I think of this book, the whole premise which I can't really talk about as it may be a massive spoiler, despite it being revealed relatively early on - is something I'm really unsure about, and not completely convinced I believe is feasible. 

However putting that aside I appeared to be hooked on the book, I had no idea where I was on the tube while reading,  and completely lost myself into the heart of the story. 

Which to me means that the writing was excellent, there was plenty of engrossing plot, there were many highs and lows and all of the supplementary characters were incredibly believable and relate able to. 

This is a book that takes place over many years from Beth and Lisa's childhood onwards. For twins they are completely different but also as close as anything, which makes their conversations quite enjoyable. 

Definitely a book that will get you thinking and it tackles a few tough issues too. Certainly a story you need to go into with an open mind, and to get the most from you may if you are like me suspend reality while you read it, just to be able to go with the flow.  

Thank you to the author for this copy which I have reviewed honestly and voluntarily. 

Monday, 10 December 2018

Book Review - Confessions of an Angel Cat by Nic Tatano

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Title: Confessions of an Angel Cat
Author: Nic Tatano
Format reviewed: Ebook
Source: Author supplied copy
Publisher: Self published
Publication Date: 18th May 2018
Rating: 5 Stars

Meet Murphy, an Angel Cat. An actual Guardian Angel in the form of a cat.

No, seriously.

Guardian Angels take different forms on Earth, but in the case of Angel Cats, they’re sent on missions to fix broken lives. And while doing so, they strive to achieve a “heart lock” with a human, a bond so strong it will last forever. Their reward is to spend eternity in Heaven with their special person.

Alas, Murphy has failed several times and is beginning to wonder if he’s cut out for the job.

But when he’s assigned to Maggie Ryan, a seriously ill teenage girl who is ready to give up, he begins to see the proverbial bright light.

Will he be able to turn Maggie’s life around, and, in doing so, achieve the heart lock he so desperately wants?

I have just been on the most amazing roller coaster of emotion with this book which has given me all the feels, and had me welling up a few times too.    I can't believe I let it sit unread on my kindle so long, just due to my own scepticism when it comes to anything slightly unusual such as angels. 

For without a doubt Murphy is an angel cat, I now completely believe angel cats may exist, and he is one incredibly special cat, once he finds his forever home.  He is an inspirational cat and he at the same time answers questions that every single cat owner I'm sure would love to know the answer too. 

It is clear this has been written by a real lover of cats, and in fact this book combines what appear to be the authors two trade marks, at the moment, an adorable feline, and a strong willed red-headed lady. 

And what a leading lady she is, Maggie's story is just wow - and it will stick with me for ages.  However I can barely touch on all the amazingness in this book as in doing so it would be major spoilers for all aspects of Maggie's life. 

Rest assured this is heart warming, emotional and completely inspirational. From the first few pages I knew I needed to know more, and I have just sat and read the last half of the book in one sitting, as nothing would have been able to tear me away from it.  

This is definitely a book that has got me thinking, and of all the various theories out there, I really love the idea of angel cats, and them trying to earn their heart lock with a human - really bonding them.   Everything about how Murphy explains things is really cute and lovely.  And then we also see more of Maggie's life in real time, not from a cat perspective, which means you get to know more facets of her life too. 

Maggie and Murphy are a dream team, both as wonderful as each other and have both completely touched my heart.  I'm so happy that I had the chance to read this, it truly is a special little book. 

Thank you the author for this copy which I have reviewed honestly and voluntarily. 

Friday, 7 December 2018

Book Review - It's A Wonderful Night by Jaimie Admans

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Title: It's A Wonderful Night
Author: Jaimie Admans
Format reviewed: Ebook
Source: Netgalley
Publisher: HQ Digital
Publication Date: 5th October 2018
Rating: 5 Stars

One night will change their lives forever…
Georgia Bailey is closing up her little charity shop in Oakbarrow when she gets a mysterious late night call from a stranger, threatening to jump off the town’s bridge.

Something about the man’s voice is faintly familiar but all she can do is stay on the line and after talking for hours, losing sense of time passing, coax him back from the edge.

The next morning, Georgia walks to work, buys a festive latte from Leo (who she’s had a crush on for months!) at the local coffee shop, and is shocked when she suddenly recognizes the voice from last night…

A heartwarming festive love story that reminds us that even in the darkest of times, hope is always just around the corner!

I had been saving this book for a while, to read when I hopefully had enough time to savour every moment, as I had an inkling between the blurb and the author that it would be something special. 

It is more than something special and needs to take pride of place in anyone's festive book collection, or in fact any bookshelf at all. 

I have laughed and I have almost cried during the reading of this story - it really gave me all the feels and I was hooked on Georgia and Leo's story.   

There are so many strong themes running through this book, mental health, the decline of the high street, nostalgia for Christmas's past,  and the film It's A Wonderful Life to name a few.  And between them all these story elements combine into a simply wonderful story. 

The plot is incredible, it has everything you could want from a book set in December in the run up to Christmas. I loved how although there is a massive lie at the heart of the book it is there for all the right reasons, but equally could blow up in Georgia’s face completely.

There are some completely light hearted moments, the suggestions from Leo about Santa for their big project are hilarious,  as were some of their conversations. But other times there was a more sensitive serious tone to the book which just drew me in further.

And the descriptions, well they are fabulous.  There is a scene in Hawthorns where I could picture every last thing so, so clearly and the best way I can describe it was like I was reading a description of Mr Magorium’s Wonder Emporium – I got the exact same feeling from both of those!

It’s a Wonderful Night is without a doubt one of my favourite books of the year, and I would recommend it to just about everyone.  It is just that good!

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

Thursday, 6 December 2018

Book Review - The Winter Secret by Lulu Taylor

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Amazon UK
Title: The Winter Secret
Author: Lulu Taylor
Format reviewed: Ebook
Source: Netgalley
Publisher: Pan Macmillan
Publication Date: 29th November 2018
Rating: 5 Stars

‘My dear boy, the place is cursed. It always has been and it always will be . . .’

Buttercup Redmain has a life of pampered luxury, living in beautiful Charcombe Park. Her older husband, Charles Redmain, is wealthy and successful, and proud of the house he has painstakingly restored, once owned by a famous ancestor. Buttercup is surrounded by people who make her life delightfully easy. But the one thing she really wants seems impossible.

There are other discomforting realities: her husband’s ex-wife Ingrid still lives nearby although Buttercup has never met her. And it soon becomes clear that all the people who make Buttercup’s life so carefree are also watching her every move. Does she actually live in a comfortable but inescapable cage? And what is the real story of her husband’s previous marriage?

In the late 1940s, Xenia Arkadyoff lived in Charcombe Park with her father, a Russian prince, and her mother, a famous film star. Life seemed charmed, full of glamour and beauty. But behind the glittering facade lay pain, betrayal, and the truth about the woman Xenia spent her life protecting.

Now Charcombe Park is calling back people who were once part of its story, and the secrets that have stayed long hidden are bubbling inexorably to the surface . . .

My head is reeling, from that completely addictive conclusion to a wonderful book. 

This is easily Lulu Taylor back to her best, and one of my favourite books by this author for a few years at least.  

No idea where to start this review - there are quite a few threads to this story, but separated enough by chapters and where necessary year headings to make it very easy to follow and not be confused.  In fact despite the length of the book, I found it to be a very fast story to read, and was gutted any time I had to put it down to get on with my real life. 

The book all centres around Charcombe Park, a massive house which although magnificent to the outsiders eye, has had a chequered history.   We learn about a few of the generations of people living in it and the two smaller properties either side of it.    

There is Buttercup Redmain, wife of Charles Redmain who currently owns the house.  She lives to the untrained eye a wonderful life full of great riches, and the freedom to not work, and just do as she wishes.  However as the reader starts to delve beneath the surface, you soon see the truth of the situation.  

She however is not the first Mrs Redmain, and she doesn't know much about Ingrid who was, only what she has been told, but she is highly curious, but unsure who she can trust.  Ingrid lives in one of the two smaller properties, despite being divorced from Charles. 

Then there is Xenia, she also used to live in Charcombe Park, with her famous actress mother and father.  We get to learn about life in the late 1940s, and 1950s from Xenia's perspective and there is definitely an interesting story line about her mother in that.  We also get to see her as an old lady now, and I couldn't help but feel sorry for her. 

Actually I had a great deal of sympathy for all three of the key ladies in this story, as the truth starts to emerge.   

This is a book that definitely crept under my skin as I was reading it, and when I wasn't I was thinking about it, wondering just what direction the story would take.    

I thoroughly enjoyed everything about this novel, and already looking forward to seeing that this author writes next. 

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

Wednesday, 5 December 2018

Book Review - Not Just For Christmas by Natalie Cox

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Title: Not Just For Christmas
Author: Natalie Cox
Format reviewed: Ebook
Source: Netgalley
Publisher: Orion
Publication Date: 15th November 2018 
Rating: 5 Stars

Charlie hates the holidays, and this year is shaping up to be her worst yuletide ever. Her boyfriend has left her for his personal trainer, her flat is out of bounds after a gas leak, and her mother has gone to spend Christmas in Melbourne with her fifth husband. Finding herself single, mildly concussed and temporarily homeless, Charlie hesitantly agrees to dust off her wellies and spend the festive season in Devon, looking after Cosy Canine Cottages, her cousin Jez's dog-care centre.

However, her plans for a quiet rural Christmas with only the four-legged friends for company are dashed as soon as she meets Malcolm the deaf Great Dane, Hugo, his gorgeous (but engaged) owner, and Cal, the undeniably attractive but unbearably haughty and patronising local vet...

Dogs... check
Christmas... check

Two gorgeous men... check 
Hilarious situations... check 
Main character who is not keen on Christmas or Dogs but needs to learn to embrace both.... check  

I mean what more could you ask for from a Christmas book. This was completely delightful.  There were laugh out loud moments, absolutely adorable moment and a rather unusually scary happening right at the beginning too. 

A series of unfortunate circumstances leave Charlie temporarily homeless, single and having to take time off work, she ends up in Devon with her cousin Jez.  Jez though runs Canine Cottages where owners can leave their beloved dogs safely, while they head off on holiday.   However Charlie isn't really keen on dogs at all. 

So when Jez then announces she is spending Christmas abroad and needs Charlie to look after the place you know things are going to get interesting.  

Despite being a main character who isn't too keen with dogs she is remarkably easy to like, she is big hearted and a bit of a soft touch.  Thankfully the local vet keeps popping in to make sure she doesn't do anything too silly with the dogs. 

And what fabulous animals they are, from the twins who live outside and love nothing more than to pull a suky,  to Peggy who is heavily pregnant,  Malcolm the huge Great Dane, Jed the show dog, Slab who is just really old but sweet they all have such distinct personalities and all utterly gorgeous. 

Easily this is a book for the Christmas and animal lovers amongst you, there is plenty of plot to keep you interested and a few surprises in store too.  It is a lovely heartwarming read, and although it may be the first book I've read from this author, I am sure it won't be my last either. 

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

Tuesday, 4 December 2018

Book Review - Deck The Halles by Stephanie Dagg

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Title:  Deck The Halles
Author: Stephanie Dagg
Format reviewed: Ebook
Source: Author supplied copy
Publisher: Self Published
Publication Date: 
Rating: 4 Stars

It’s next Christmas at the little French llama farm.

Last Christmas infamous Australian author Nick bought the farm, that was meant to be furnished and without llamas. The reverse proved to be the case. Noelle had been sent to pet sit the llamas until his arrival. After a decidedly frosty start, Nick and Noelle’s relationship warmed up rapidly and they’re now happily living together, with an ever growing assortment of animals.

They’re looking forward to a quiet, romantic Christmas together but at the last moment Noelle is called on to find a venue for the annual national llama show. The local agricultural halles are free so she books them, thinking that’s all she’ll have to do to help. She couldn’t be more wrong! On top of that, various relatives start turning up on her doorstep unexpectedly, as the result of assorted crises. The farmhouse is about to burst at the seams. Add in a few other events, such as playing the part of a pixie at a Christmas fĂȘte, organising Nick’s book launch and training a non-cooperative  llama for the agility class in the show, and Noelle is pushed ever closer to the end of her tether. Can she hold it together and stay as calm as a llama? Or will she be the next member of her family to make a bolt for pastures new?     

This festive, feel-good and fun novel is the sequel to ‘Fa-La-Llama-La: Christmas at the Little French Llama Farm’ but can be read as a standalone.  

Did you know that llama shows exist, similar to dog shows? Different classes of llama, plus some fun categories.  Neither did I until I read this book, but seeing Noelle determined to enter her llamas into two categories of the upcoming show just before Christmas, 

And which categories is she trying to enter? Well those would be fancy dress and agility.  Yes I never knew llamas could do agility courses either, and all of Noelle's attempts to get any of her llamas ready and amenable to taking part are utterly hilarious. 

This book picks up a year later than Fa-La-Llama-La  and if you haven't read it then don't worry this can definitely be read as a standalone.  We get to see what Noelle and Nick are up to a year on.  I am delighted to say the house is far more of a home than it was, but life is anything but simple. 

Over the course of the book, all of Noelle and Nicks best laid plans for the Christmas season go completely awry, with a series of unexpected visitors and their accompanying issues.  

Deck the Halles has many characters but the focus at all times is with Noelle, so it doesn't get confusing with what could have easily been many perspectives.     

There is so much humour thrown into this quirky festive tale, I loved every moment of it.   If you are looking for a slightly different Christmas book, filled with all sorts of animals, charismatic characters and just  a lot of fun, then this is definitely a book to look out for. 

Thank you to the author for this copy which I have reviewed honestly and voluntarily. 

Monday, 3 December 2018

Book Review - 25 Days 'til Christmas by Poppy Alexander - Blog Tour

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Amazon UK
Title: 25 Days 'till Christmas
Author: Poppy Alexander
Format reviewed: Ebook
Source: Netgalley
Publisher: Orion
Publication Date: 1st November 2018
Rating: 5 Stars

Christmas is a time to get together...

Kate Thompson used to love Christmas. But that was before her husband went away with the army and didn't come home. Now she can hardly stand the festive season.

But Kate knows there is more to life than this, and her son Jack needs a Christmas to remember. What she needs is a Christmas miracle, and if there isn't one on its way, she'll just have to make her own.

So begins Kate's advent countdown to the best Christmas ever. She has it all planned out, but you can't plan for the unexpected, and when her life starts to unravel can her friends and the community around her help her save Christmas for all of them...?

Curl up and countdown to Christmas with a heart-warming festive romance, perfect for fans of Jenny Colgan, Debbie Johnson, and Holly Martin.

What an amazing book - Poppy Alexander has managed to deal with a whole host of tough issues, while surrounding it with this most magical Christmas book that for the most part is incredibly uplifting, and utterly enchanting to read. 

I loved the idea of Kate making Christmas special again for her and Jack by doing one Christmassy thing a day for the whole of December, and it doubling up as a low cost advent calendar. For as a single mum, Kate is struggling big time with finances and with the whole manner of other things going on in her life,  she is an inspirational character for so many. 

There is so much I would love to say about this simply wonderful plot but yet I think it really would be one of those books to come into fresh with no knowledge like I did and simply lets the words carry you away to Kate and Jack's lives and also meeting Daniel and what he has been through, and discovering the ups and downs of the book for yourself. 

A fair amount of the meatier topics don't become as apparent until quite a way into the book but I believe they are writen and dealt with in a suitable manner, and highlights all sorts of things, some of which I rarely see in fiction, so are certainly eye opening. 

On the face of it it is a mother and son trying to feel more festive and I loved all the activities that were planned, and Jack is a lovely little boy.  There are some true acts of kindness in this book, some selfless helping, and just some absolutely wonderful characters (as well as at least a couple I really disliked).  

As each chapter more or less is focused on another of the days in the countdown to Christmas, if you are a book lover without much time, I think you could easily read each day of the book, at one a day in your own countdown to Christmas - as a little Christmas treat to yourself. 

Or you can do what I did and sit and devour it, I found the tube journeys I was taking to and from the theatre the day I read most of this, flew past and I'm glad my subconscious seemed to know where I was.   

This is the first book I have read by the author and it certainly won't be the last. I can 't wait to see what the comes up with next. 

Thank you to Netgalley and Orion for this copy of the book which I have reviewed honestly and voluntarily. 

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