Thursday 31 August 2017

Book Review - Sunshine After The Rain by Daisy James

Amazon UK
Title: Sunshine After The Rain
Author: Daisy James
Format reviewed: Ebook
Source: Netgalley
Publisher: HQ Digital 
Publication Date: 5th July 2017
Rating: 4 Stars

A summer that changes everything…
Frazzled workaholic Evie Johnson has finally had enough! When she’s blamed for a publicity disaster at the art gallery she loves, she decides to flee the bright lights of London for the sun-drenched shores of Corfu and turn her life upside-down.

Under the shade of the olive trees, she picks up her dusty paintbrushes and begins to chase the dreams she had put aside for so long. But she never expected to bump into drop-dead-gorgeous Sam Bradbury – and certainly not whilst wrapped only in a towel!

A summer fling is the last thing Evie wanted but a few stolen kisses under the stars might just begin to change her mind…

Highly entertaining story about rediscovering your passions, and about silver linings to potential disasters.

What struck me most about Sunshine After The Rain were the descriptions of Corfu, which really brought the scenery alive for me. I laughed out loud when I realised I was approaching a scene that included not only a flirty, good looking Greek man, but also boat - although that may just be my love of Shirley Valentine reaching out! 

Then there were the descriptions of various ends of the colour spectrum when discussing painting and watercolours. I could see the various shades of blue so clearly, and just wished I was in Corfu alongside Evie to be able to see the landscapes for myself. 

Three things drew me towards this book initially - the bright vibrant cover, the author Daisy James, whose books I always tend to enjoy, and the setting of Corfu.  Yet the first few chapters which really set up exactly why Evie goes to Greece, and that set the tone for the book, really drew me in, and I was enjoying them a lot, which only heightened once we get to the sun drenched shores of Corfu. 

The story was easy to follow and I just love this authors writing ability, and the way she can draw me into the story and see everything so vividly in my minds eye.  Oh and Sam Bradbury's character may have had a lot do with some my enjoyment too, especially a scene with pool, no one around and very little clothing! In fact Sam generally was great, he encourages Evie to try to get over her artistic block, and also acts as a partial tour guide to parts of Corfu that are slightly off the beaten track. 

I thoroughly enjoyed Sunshine After The Rain and I'm already looking forward to reading the next book written by Daisy James. 

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

Book Review - Almost A Bride by Jo Watson

Amazon UK
Title: Almost A Bride
Author: Jo Watson
Format reviewed: Paperback
Source: Bookbridgr
Publisher: Headline Eternal
Publication Date: 4th May 2017
Rating: 5 Stars

That moment you catch your boyfriend in bed with another woman and then mistakenly get arrested. #awks

Annie doesn't want to dwell on the fact that she walked in on her bf wearing nipple clamps on the day he was meant to propose to her. She just wants to move on - cue escaping to a tropical paradise.

Life is dreamy on the beaches of Mauritius, until the nightmarish appearance of her ex and the 'other woman'. Faced with the enemy, Annie refuses to look like the sad, lonely single she actually is. She needs a decoy - and fast. Enter Chris, a sexy screenwriter who agrees to play her pretend boyfriend.

But as a battle of the exes commences, the white sand, tropical heat and a pina colada (or five) might just be the cocktail for a real romance - and the adventure of a lifetime.

Hilarious from start to finish, In a book that feels like it could be on the big screen as a great rom-com in its own right.  Well it does feature a sexy man who is like the hero of your average rom-coms and the whole book just had the feel to it. I would love to see this made into a film. 

The prologue really sets the scene for the pacing and humour of this story, and had me grinning from ear to ear, as I had my first feel for Annie’s character. 

Of course what was attracting me to the book besides the beautiful cover is the knowledge that it was predominately set in Mauritius, given I’m a huge fan of travel, and enjoyed my holiday there many years ago. 

What I wasn’t expecting was just how much I was going to enjoy this book as much as I did. For after a disastrous break up with her ex (who she thought was going to propose to her), Annie and her friends head off on holiday to Mauritius for a girls holiday. 

Only Annie ends up away for the first few days by herself, bumps into her ex and his new woman, and American Chris offers to become Annie’s fake Australian boyfriend Boyden! Unfortunately the ex is so determined that Annie is faking with Boyden, and determine to prove it there is a huge amount of competition between the men, and in fact the two couples, with highly amusing outcomes. 

Chris was by far my favourite character from his attempts at Aussie slang, to his job as a rom-com writer, to the clear chemistry there is between Annie and Chris, even as friends to start you can tell they are really in tune with each other. 

It is an engaging story that was fun and quick to read, and is a perfect beach read, where you just want to escape for a while into a good book. Having read all 3 of Jo Watson’s Destination Love books, I can safely say this is my favourite of them all. 

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

Wednesday 30 August 2017

Guest Post - The Books of Summer by Brian Paul Bach - #Blogival


Or, At Least, A Few Such Notions

Brian Paul Bach

I guess I’m kind of an oddball reader. That is, not your typical (capable) consumer of reads for enjoyment, first and foremost. Nothing against such pursuits, it’s just that I’m more of a grab-bag kind of explorer, book-wise. Also, I’m maddeningly slow in plowing through pretty much everything. True, I have an astigmatism that ensures my progression will be clunky and start-stop-start, but it’s really because I’d rather be writing than reading. You know, distractions arise – such as, non-related ideas crowding in, a relentless parade of superfluous sensations, and most significantly, my two-year-old hound Hudson sitting before me, smiling, snuffling, and grunting  all of which suggest ‘git off yer ass and let’s go goof off’, and I enthusiastically obey without any equivocation whatsoever.

Thus, my own Dog of Summer eclipses any Books of Summer that may vie for prominence. And that’s taking in the upcoming Total Eclipse of the Sun, due in August, which he’ll probably sleep through...

Nevertheless, citing a few ‘summer-ian’ (though not Sumerian) book-looks is a cinch, because I can wax fondly over any read that evokes sweet reminiscences of moods to be treasured.

I tend to gravitate to fiction that conveys cinematic vividness and nonfiction that supports such characteristics (including books about the movies themselves). I guess that’s why I threw everything I knew about the film world into my four-part epic-noir-satire saga, FORWARD TO GLORY. And I did so with a general feeling of everything being right with the world, such as one might encounter in an afternoon of deepest summer, and the enjoyments therein.

So, with the Fahrenheit/Celsius rising, time to settle back on a ramshackle chaise, with both book and matching beverage of the moment. Here are five, randomly selected, in no special order.

Hobson-Jobson: A Glossary of Anglo-Indian Words and Phrases and of Kindred Terms Etymological, Historical, Geographical and Discursive by Yule, Burnell and Crooke 1902. India is one of my specialties, and yes, it is noted for its varying aspects of heat. Yet, I’ve never been more chill than when I got up before dawn to visit the Taj Mahal at Agra. That’s where I got this particular book, a totally fascinating compendium that you can dip into on any page and discover how shampoo, bungalow, juggernaut and thousands more terms evolved. And yes, ‘Hobson-Jobson’ is fully explained. Hands down, one of my all-time favorite desert island books. Perfect gin+tonic reading.

A Tennessee Williams omnibus: Suddenly Last Summer, Cat On A Hot Tin Roof, The Night of the Iguana 1950s-60s. Just because ‘summer’ is in the title of a book, it doesn’t necessarily mean anything seasonal, but most of this master dramatist’s works are evocative of some kind of hot spell, either literally or emotionally. Plays can be pretty fast to read, especially if you know the story. And because these three classics are three classic films, going through them is even more enjoyable. It’s also interesting to note the differences between stage and screen versions. Refreshment? Ice tea (preferably spiked), but no mint julips – clich├ęs do not apply to Tennessee Williams.

At The Mountains of Madness by H.P. Lovecraft 1973. I acquired this book as a youth while visiting Oxford one summer, and I was pulled in because of the wonderfully bizarre cover. I’d never read Lovecraft before, but the contents didn’t disappoint. On beyond Poe, it takes place in Antarctica, where an expedition makes some ghastly discoveries, all of which are shiver-worthy. The only possible antidote: a hot toddy.

Baedeker’s Southern Italy and Sicily 1903. I’ve been to Naples, Pompeii and Sorrento, but not yet further south. I love old guidebooks and of course, Baedeker’s are top of the line. This is the grand tour approach, meticulously detailed, with delightful period touches, yet completely current with the substance that matters. The tactile quality of these little red books is sensuous, the maps are pure amazement, and it’s worth every lira to splurge on a select Italian white.

Rootabaga Stories by Carl Sandburg, illustrated by the Petershams 1922.
Not necessarily a summer-oriented collection, except that it reminds me of rose-tinted and carefree summers of childhood, when joys were so simple, especially when discovering such a parade of splendid originality as these ingenious inventions. It’s a pretty big book for kids, and I’m powerful thirsty. Lemonade...? Well, now that I’m all growed-up, I think I shall send out for cold beer.

PS: Not that I get snockered while reading, but on such an afternoon, I do not question the summery magic that results from indulging in such pleasures.

Thank you so much Brian for sharing your books of summer with us. 

Forward to Glory: Tempering

Butterbugs is a nobody, a nothing. But that’s not why he’s compelled to drive to Hollywood and hurl himself upon the mercy of the cinematic capital. His only dream is to act. Without any plans, resources or friends, he throws caution to the wind and embarks on a journey to the City of Angels. The trials that result pose only one question: will Butterbugs remain a non-entity, or will his big dream come true?

Facing the movie monolith’s prospects alone, Butterbugs attempts to perform dramatic scenes in front of the homeless and amongst the inebriated. Living in his car, and with dwindling reserves, he searches for opportunities, takes on a hazardous scaffolding job, and makes desperate pleas to bankers for clemency. Isolation leads to alienation, from fringe existence to bare survival, all in a city which cradles high achievement and bottomless failure. Despite his rough start, Butterbugs is strangely attractive to other outcasts turned possible allies: Heatherette – a mysterious force for good whom he weirdly rejects, and who in turn, rejects him; Starling – the thief who tries to love him; ProwlerCat – who might indeed save him, though it is far too early to know for sure. At one of his bleakest moments, Butterbugs receives his first sign of hope that his dreams remain alive: a screen test and the chance to be an extra in a major production. But now, with his first opportunity in hand, nothing seems as it should, except his going forward.

Abundant with movie lore and invention, Forward to Glory I: Tempering by Brian Paul Bach is an ode to the cinema and the bewitching power of entertainment. 

Purchase from Amazon UK

About the author

Brian Paul Bach is a writer, artist, filmmaker and photographer; he has worked across the entertainment business, in theatre, music and as an academic. He now lives in central Washington State with his wife, Sandra. His previous works include The Grand Trunk Road From the Front Seat, Calcutta’s Edifice: The Buildings of a Great City, and Busted Boom: The Bummer of Being a Boomer.

Goodreads author page:
Goodreads FORWARD TO GLORY page:
Facebook author page:
Twitter: @ftgquartet

Follow along with the rest of Clink Street Publishing's big blogging festival - Blogival 

Book Review & Giveaway - The Worst Case Scenario Cookery Club by Chrissie Manby

Amazon UK
Title:  The Worst Case Scenario Cookery Club
Author: Chrissie Manby
Format reviewed: Ebook
Source: Netgalley
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
Publication Date: 24th August 2017
Rating: 5 Stars

In the quaint seaside town of Newbay, a beginner's cookery course is starting. And three very different students have signed up...

Liz's husband has left her for a twenty-something clean-eating blogger, and she's determined to show the world - and her daughter - she's just as capable in the kitchen. John, newly widowed after fifty years of marriage, can't live on sympathy lasagnes forever. To thirty-year-old workaholic Bella, the course is a welcome escape from her high-pressure job. Their only common ground: between them, they can barely boil an egg!

Enter talented chef Alex, who is determined to introduce his pupils to the comforts of cuisine. As Liz, John and Bella encounter various disasters in the kitchen, the unlikely trio soon form a fast friendship. Their culinary skills might be catastrophic - but could the cookery club have given them a recipe for happiness?

Chrissie Manby has cooked up a winning recipe of a story that has had me thoroughly enjoying this cold rainy August evening. I even became oblivious to the sound of the rain on our plastic conservatory roof, while I was reading about Liz and her broken marriage! 

A year ago Liz’s husband moved out to be with Brittney a considerably younger health and fashion blogger, and Liz is still coming to terms with it, along with 15 year old daughter Saskia. They also have an adorable dog Ted. 

Between Saskia and Ted there are loads of amusing incidents, and from various “conversations” between mother and daughter, Liz decides she needs to learn how to cook, she also needs to put Ted on a diet. 

In the meantime Alex has set up a beginners cookery lesson course In Newbay, although there are only a handful of people interested in taking part. As the lessons progress Liz, Bella, John and Alex form unlikely friendships, and we learn all about various things hidden in their pasts. 

The food described in the lessons are mouth-watering and the only thing missing from this book are the full recipes so you can learn to make the dishes yourself. There are some absolutely hilarious scenes in this book, mainly involving Liz and her family. 

From Bella’s story we get some human kindness in her role as public defence lawyer, and one particular client of hers I had a soft spot for.  Even John’s story that seemed straight forward isn’t quite as it seems, although listening to him reminisce about his late wife is heart-warming. 

As a fan of Chrissie Manby I am delighted to see a return to Newbay, the town featured in A Fairy Tale for Christmas. The NEWTs are mentioned again as is another character who I remember from the previous book. Although the setting may be familiar, this is a whole new story, new cast of main characters and stands completely alone from her previous work. 

From the moment I started this book I knew I was reading another fabulous story, from one of my favourite authors, and it wasn’t long before I was telling mum that I need to buy her a copy of the book too, as it is just up her street!  I devoured this book from cover to cover and after finishing my main thought was - “it’s a shame I have to wait so long for another book by the author, I need more”! 

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

Giveaway to Win a paperback copy of The Worst Case Scenario Cookery Club (Europe Only)

I'm not sure how but an extra copy of The Worst Case Scenario Cookery Club appeared in my post the other day, and having already read it, I figured I would give it away to one lucky winner! This is an early copy, as the paperback isn't out until toward the end of September! 

Giveaway open internationally, all options are voluntary, but please do what they ask, as I will be verifying the winner. Giveaway closes 23:59 05/09/2017. Winner will be announced on twitter, and they will need to reply within 7 days, or forfeit the prize, and I will re-draw for a new winner.  Good luck everyone.

Tuesday 29 August 2017

Book Review - Big Sexy Love by Kirsty Greenwood

Amazon UK
Title: Big Sexy Love
Author: Kirsty Greenwood
Format reviewed: Ebook
Source: Author supplied review copy
Publisher: Self published
Publication Date: 29th June 2017
Rating: 5 Stars

Olive Brewster is living a small, safe life. She’s happy enough with her job at the local market, it’s no big deal that doesn't have boyfriend, she even likes that she still lives in her childhood home. No drama and no fuss means no problems! And that's just how she likes it.

Except … Olive's best friend in the world​, Birdie, is dying.

Birdie has one final wish. She wants to track down her first love, her epic once in a lifetime love, her "Big Sexy Love", Chuck. And because she's stuck in the hospital she needs Olive's help to do it. But there’s a teeny problem: Chuck is somewhere in New York and Olive has never even left her home town, let alone roamed the crazy streets of Manhattan!

As if the big city isn't scary enough, Olive has to contend with Seth, a cocky comedy TV writer who thinks she’s a joke; Anders, a bored socialite who’s taken a shine to her; and the fact that no matter how hard she tries to track down Chuck, he does not seem to want to be found.

Can Olive learn to overcome her fears, abandon her old safe routine and fulfil her best friend’s dying wish?  It's going to take extra bravery, one badass attitude and a whole lot of Big Sexy Love to make it happen …

I can't work out whether I'm supposed to laugh or cry, as I have definitely been doing both, while reading this utterly fabulous book. In some respects its bittersweet, and in others its one of the funniest books I've read this year. What I can definitely say is that I was completely hooked on the story and almost missed my stop on the tube while reading, and that was during the first 20%!!!

I've not really read anything quite like this before, and it definitely is another gem from this immensely talented author. 

Olive is such a engaging character, she has barely experienced anything life has to offer, is scared of water and planes, has only ever left her home county once, is even scared of the thought of being in love, or anything along those lines. 

However Olive is Birdie's best friend, and Birdie is unfortunately terminally ill, so when her dying wish is for Olive to go to New York to track down Chuck Allen, her Big Sexy Love, Olive has to say yes despite being terrified. 

Even from the start with Olive in an airport, on her first ever plane, despite not really understanding her fears for myself, I was laughing at the situations she was getting into. There is a very memorably scene early on from the journey to New York that was hilarious. 

But the fun didn't stop there, every situation, every other page practically was filled with Olive doing stuff so far out of her comfort zone, I wasn't sure whether to laugh, applaud, cheer for her, all the while being aware that Birdie isn't in a great way. 

Each chapter starts with either some text messages to/from Olive, her browser history, to do lists etc which give great insights into her current frame of mind, while she is on her New York adventure.  

I absolutely loved the variety of people she met on her journey, from the obnoxious American queue jumper in the airport, to the slightly weird man she drinks with pre-flight, to the creepy hairdresser billionaire, plus the people that start referring to her and hunting her down on social media, in a sub plot of craziness that I adored. 

This is easily one of my favourite books that I have read this summer, its a great feel good read that will have you in stitches but also tears.  My only recommendation is don't read this on public transport unless you don't care where you end up, as tearing yourself away for a second to get off a bus or train, is close to impossible. 

Kirsty Greenwood has clearly done it again, in producing a masterpiece of comedic genius, wacky adventures and some surprisingly serious moments too.  This is a must read for romantic comedy fans, and I just hope this eventually makes it to the big screen as its the sort of film I'd enjoy watching over and over too! 

Thank you so much to Kirsty Greenwood for this copy which I have reviewed honestly and voluntarily. 

Thursday 24 August 2017

Book Review - The Lemon Tree Cafe by Cathy Bramley - - Blog Tour - #AroundTheUKIn144Books,#Derbyshire

Amazon UK
Title: The Lemon Tree Cafe
Author: Cathy Bramley
Format reviewed: Ebook
Source: Netgalley
Publisher: Corgi
Publication Date: 24th August 2017 
Rating: 5 Stars

When Rosie Featherstone finds herself unexpectedly jobless, the offer to help her beloved Italian grandmother out at the Lemon Tree Cafe – a little slice of Italy nestled in the rolling hills of Derbyshire – feels like the perfect way to keep busy.

Surrounded by the rich scent of espresso, delicious biscotti and juicy village gossip, Rosie soon finds herself falling for her new way of life. But she is haunted by a terrible secret, one that even the appearance of a handsome new face can't quite help her move on from. 

Then disaster looms and the cafe’s fortunes are threatened . . . and Rosie discovers that her nonna has been hiding a dark past of her own. With surprises, betrayal and more than one secret brewing, can she find a way to save the Lemon Tree Cafe and help both herself and Nonna achieve the happy endings they deserve?

The Lemon Tree is Cathy Bramley at her magnificent best. From the first page where I was gasping and giggling at what turned out to be a double entendre (and not the only one in the early chapters), to the drama of the entirety of part 3 - Tea and Sympathy, to the huge community minded village events, plus a popular returning character from the Plumberry School of Comfort Food book, and all manner of other goodies inside! 

When Rosie took a stand in her social media marketing job, she goes back home to her Nonna's cafe and offers to work for a month as a favour to her grandmother, and secretly to perhaps organise the place a bit better, while trying to get a new job. 

I loved The Lemon Tree Cafe with its two great waitresses and of course Rosie's Nonna, Maria. Maria is a remarkably private person and I never guessed exactly what she was hiding until it was revealed. Neither did I fully guess just why Rosie doesn't trust men, and it was surprises like these that made this book so gripping. 

From about the 50% mark onwards the book was impossible to put down, as I was already engrossed with the characters, and the story just seemed to ramp up as it progressed. I was loving the warmth and vitality that the author brings to her characters, and just stepping into this novel felt like a comforting hug. 

And of course you can't have a book review, about a book focusing on an Italian cafe, without mentioning food, it sounded delicious. As a word of warning if you are a huge fan of pizza you will love certain aspects of this book without a doubt, and may have your fingers itching to reach and call for your local delivery service! 

The pacing of this book was just right, and conveniently for the purpose of it having been released in four parts, there were little intrigue or mini cliffhangers as you came to the end of each part, which added to the grippiness of this book, as I could just continue turning the pages to see what would happen next. 

I absolutely adored every second of The Lemon Tree Cafe, from its moments to make you laugh, to the deep secrets that shocked me, and the overwhelming sense of family and community I felt from the book. This is an addictive book, that is quick to read and will leave you craving your next Cathy Bramley fix. 

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

Please take a look at the blog tour for more The Lemon Tree Cafe goodness! 

Wednesday 23 August 2017

Book Review - A Castle in Cornwall by Laura Briggs

Amazon UK
Title: A Castle in Cornwall
Author: Laura Briggs
Format reviewed: Ebook
Source: Author supplied review copy
Publisher: Self published 
Publication Date: 12th July 2017
Rating: 4 Stars

Just when everything is finally perfect for Julianne, a sudden request has her helpless in the face of giving up the life she loves most. The only thing distracting her from the future is her current assignment: a secret royal wedding at a southern Cornish castle, where Lord William's cousin needs all the available help she can find to ensure its success.

Now Julianne and the rest of Cliffs House's staff — including special guests Pippa and Dinah — are helping bring together a English royal cousin and a European prince for their special day ... only Julianne finds herself drawn into the event more deeply than she intended when she becomes the accidental confident of the bride-to-be's secret dilemma.

Will Julianne's advice save a royal wedding from disaster? Or will her personal life — and the dilemma she and Matt are facing at the end of the summer — stand in the way of happily-ever-after?

If I wasn't aware of book 7 in this series about to be published, I would be saying that this is a fabulous conclusion to the series. If feels like a lot of the loose ends from the previous books have been tied up, and even the message to the reader at the start of the book implies that the next one will feel a bit different. 

In fact already A Castle in Cornwall had a slightly different feel to it, partly as it wasn't really set at Cliff House, but in a castle elsewhere in Cornwall, and features far too much of a royal wedding, and a cast of characters involved in that, that I really didn't care for. 

I was far more interested in Julianne and Kitty's character and story development, than the main event being planned. In fact I found I was loving Kitty's sections a lot, even if the play her community theatre group was putting on, really wasn't to my taste. 

This is another good novella in the series, and although I wasn't keen on the characters involved in planning the royal wedding, I did start to like the bride and Julianne's interactions, especially when Julianne stumbles across something she isn't meant to know.  

As a fan of the series it was great to see Dinah and Pippa both return to help out  with this wedding, as well as seeing all the recurring characters. We also have the first introduction to the new chef at Cliffs House, and I wonder just where he will fit into future books. 

This was not my favourite book in the series, but it still adds to the series, and draws some series story arcs to a more rounded finish. 

Thank you to Laura Briggs for this copy which I have reviewed honestly and voluntarily. 

Book Review - The Honey Farm on the Hill by Jo Thomas

Amazon UK
Title: The Honey Farm on the Hill
Author: Jo Thomas
Format reviewed: Ebook
Source: Netgalley
Publisher: Headline Review
Publication Date: 24th August 2017
Rating: 5 Stars

We never forget the one who got away.

Eighteen years ago Nell fell in love in the mountains of Crete and life changed for ever. Nell's daughter, Demi, has never met her dad. Nell never saw him again.

When she gets the chance to return to the hilltop town of Vounoplagia - where everything began - Nell can't resist the urge to go back and find him.

Working on a honey farm perched high up in the hills, there's plenty to keep her busy. And she will quickly realise the town harbours just as many secrets as she does.

But if Nell's favourite romantic films are right, there's a happy ending in store for each of us. All she has to do is seek out the magic of the mountains...

Jo Thomas takes you there.

Transport yourself to Crete this summer, to a rather special Honey Farm (that is missing its bees), a huge mystery as to what is happening to rare herb, masses of great Greek food, and the search for a lost love, in this wonderful new novel from Jo Thomas. 

Incredibly enjoyable to read and a relatively quick read at that, it is full of one main great story plus a few other threads interlinking in. This is a book where I learnt a whole new acronym that I had never come across before, for Nell  decides to spend summer in Crete as a WWOOFer (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farm), on a Honey Farm near a village she spent time in many years ago. She is also hoping to track down the love of her life, and father of her now grown up child, but isn't sure if he even still lives there or what the reactions to her will be. 

I loved how Nell slotted into life in Crete with Kostas, Maria and Mitera who own the honey farm on the hill. Learning about the properties of various herbs and spices and the general way life in rural Crete was eye opening and made me really long to be a part of life in Vounaplagia.  Nell having been a mother for 18 years, is slowly trying to rediscover who she is, while her daughter has an adventure in London. 

This is a rather apt book to read in summer, as often the discussion of how to keep bees safe emerges, as they play such a critical role in the world, and this is a story that encompasses that as a theme. Admittedly I could have done without descriptions of angry swarms of bees as I tend to run a mile if I see a single bee, but other than that, there is definitely a useful message to be taken from that element of the book. 

The writing is evocative and I could practically smell the herbs in the air in Crete, taste the various foods and when there was the sense of danger, my heart was beating extra fast for the characters. This is easily my favourite book so far from Jo Thomas, an author who seems to improve with each book and they are all fabulous! 

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

Tuesday 22 August 2017

Book Review & Giveaway - It Takes Two by Emily Harvale

Amazon UK
Title: It Takes Two
Author: Emily Harvale
Format reviewed: Ebook
Source: Author supplied review copy
Publisher: Crescent Gate Publishing
Publication Date: 19th July 2017
Rating: 5 Stars

Alison Warner knows love doesn’t always last. Wedded bliss is hit and miss and she’s not taking any chances. She’s the daughter of divorce lawyers, so Ali knows the statistics by heart. Now her parents are adding to the numbers and Ali’s more certain than ever: marriage is not for her.

Others do not share her views. Her cousin Sasha’s got engaged; her best friend Jules is giving ‘Bridezilla’ new meaning and even her crazy gran, Gertie’s dogs are getting hitched. When her life-long friend, Simon Hart unexpectedly proposes, Ali’s convinced the world’s gone mad.

Having an arrogant new boss is the last thing Ali needs right now. Aidan Rourke has come to run The Shimmering River and Water Sports Centre – a job that should have been Ali’s. But at least she can be sure of one thing. Marriage is definitely not on Aidan’s mind. Although it’s abundantly clear something else is...

A sheer pleasure to read, I was hooked on this easy to read, fast flowing story, that despite the blurb had far less weddings than I was expecting.  In fact although Ali and Simons friends all seem to be getting engaged around them, there was only one wedding in the entire book, which I found quite refreshing. 

Which meant that the book had a slightly different focus, and that is on Ali, her parent's argumentative relationship, Ali's friendship with Simon, her new boss at the Shimmering River and Water Sports Centre, Aiden, and also her friendships. 

As the book is written in the third person, even though most of the chapters focus on Ali, there are occasional glimpses into Simon and Aiden's lives too. Aiden is a smooth talking, rich lothario and is someone my opinion changed about regularly.  Simon on the other hand is Ali's long time best friend, but things became awkward after a proposal, which may or may not have been in jest. 

There is a kayaking scene in which I found the dialogue to be quite witty and clever, while seeing what the town looked like from the river was quite novel too.  

I have no idea how but I read this cover to cover in under three hours, in one sitting. I just couldn't tear myself away and as the chapters were generally quite short, even if you are the sort that continually says "just one more chapter" you may end up even further than you expected before you know it.  

I am a huge fan of Emily Harvale's books and have been for many years, and this one is incredibly enjoyable, well written and even features one of the most unlikely weddings I've ever seen. Add to it warring divorce lawyers, a grandma who seems a bit off the wall, a bride-zilla of a best friend, a massive engagement party to open the book, and a character who doesn't believe in marriage and you have all the ingredients for It Takes Two, a fabulous romantic comedy. 

Thank you to Emily Harvale for this copy which I have reviewed honestly and voluntarily. 

Giveaway to win 1 x signed copy of It Takes Two (Open Internationally)

Emily Harvale is as always being incredibly generous to readers of Rachel's Random Reads, and has given me one signed copy of It Takes Two to give away to a lucky winner. 

Giveaway open internationally, all options are voluntary, but please do what they ask, as I will be verifying the winner. Giveaway closes 23:59 31/08/2017. Winner will be announced on twitter, and they will need to reply within 7 days, or forfeit the prize, and I will re-draw for a new winner.  Good luck everyone.

Book Review - The Cosy Canal Boat Dream by Christie Barlow - Blog Tour

Amazon UK
Title: The Cosy Canal Boat Dream
Author: Christie Barlow
Format reviewed: Ebook
Source: Author supplied review copy
Publisher: Harper Impulse
Publication Date: 22nd August 2017
Rating: 5 Stars

Welcome to the Little Rock marina – where hearts are healed and dreams are made…

For the last two years Nell Andrews has been struggling to stay afloat. As her life tumbled down around her, the only safety net has been her cosy canal boat, The Nollie. Tucked away inside, Nell has found a place to heal her broken heart. And now she’s ready to move on and follow her dream…

Gorgeous Guy Cornish, with his easy Irish charm, makes him an instant hit with everyone at the marina, and the perfect person to help Nell with her project. But Guy has his own reasons for being at the marina, and a past that threatens to sink Nell’s dream…

Without a doubt my favourite Christie Barlow book of all time. From the prologue that hooked me in and gave me such a clear picture of the Little Rock Marina, to the instant familiarity I felt with the characters and the overall cosy and warm feelings I got from the book, made this a story I adored reading. 

Two years on from the sudden death of her husband, Nell is slowly trying to get more of a grip on her life. Things really start to change when an opportunity comes up for her to follow a dream and set up a project in her late husbands memory. 

However Gilly seems to be really opposed to the potential project, and there is a large mystery surrounding this. Whereas best friend Bea is all for it, as is new man about the marina Guy and his adorable dog Sam. Guy is very easy on the eye, and he has a very welcoming manner. Guy and Nell hit it off very fast and I felt as though I was a fly on the wall watching their initial encounters. 

Two of my favourite characters were Sam the dog, who is utterly adorable, but also shows some great doggy instincts at times, and also Jacob, Bea's son. who is a cute 5 year old, who comes out with some great lines, and is such a likeable child. 

The friendship between Bea and Nell is great, as is Bea's deli which serves delicious food. They have known each other forever and really have each others back. And yet as the book progresses various aspects of their back stories become known which completely threw me.

I would love to see Little Rock Marina used as a setting for future books, as its a great sounding place to live. The warm fuzzy feeling I felt from reading The Cosy Canal Boat Dream is similar to the feeling I get from Katie Fforde's books - its a feeling like I'm coming home and also receiving a big hug from the book, which is the best was I can sum it up. 

The author's typical sense of humour is present as is the great writing style that I have come to expect from her books. I truly thought this to be a fabulous book that as I progressed with my reading of it, I became more and more loathe to put it down, and in fact was surprised by just how quick I devoured it. The Cosy Canal Boat Dream is the sort of book that will warm you up from the inside and perfect for when you want to be lost in a cuddle of a book! 

Thanks you to Christie Barlow for this copy which I have reviewed honestly and voluntarily.

Please take a look at the rest of the stops on this blog tour 

Monday 21 August 2017

Book Review - The Art of Hiding by Amanda Prowse

Amazon UK
Title: The Art of Hiding
Author: Amanda Prowse
Format reviewed: Ebook
Source: Netgalley
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
Publication Date: 22nd August 2017
Rating: 5 Stars

What would you do if you learned that the life you lived was a lie?

Nina McCarrick lives the perfect life, until her husband, Finn, is killed in a car accident and everything Nina thought she could rely on unravels.

Alone, bereft and faced with a mountain of debt, Nina quickly loses her life of luxury and she begins to question whether she ever really knew the man she married. Forced to move out of her family home, Nina returns to the rundown Southampton council estate—and the sister—she thought she had left far behind.

But Nina can’t let herself be overwhelmed—her boys need her. To save them, and herself, she will have to do what her husband discouraged for so long: pursue a career of her own. Torn between the life she thought she knew and the reality she now faces, Nina finally must learn what it means to take control of her life.

The second I saw this book was available for download I knew I had to have it, so pressed the buttons without even reading the blurb. About a month later I was finally ready to read it, had cleared my schedule to allow time to be drawn into hopefully one of Amanda Prowse's immersive stories and started it. 

Within a chapter I thought I'd just look at the blurb just to see what sort of book I had let myself in for this time, what huge topic was going to be tackled as is often the case by the author and I will freely admit my first impression of the blurb and the initial part of the story was that I have read many books on this sort of them. 

So then I was wondering, ok I have faith in the author and I am interested in whats happening so lets see how it proceeds. Well yes to be honest I've read the husband dies leaving a huge financial mess behind story before and how the rich family pick themselves up from it...

...but before long I realised exactly why I was reading this one, and its due to the depth of emotions that the author is able to display, the real nitty gritty of the situation, the horrifying realism and thoughts that any finding themselves in Nina McCarricks' position would be feeling. all has such a ring of truth about them. 

Yet within this there were also the small moments that make a person smile, a throwaway comment from Declan who is ten, and a thoughtful gesture from Connor who is 15, that give a bit of light relief, and offer a momentary release from the tension of their lives. 

For Nina and her family have to learn how to adjust and for Nina this is hard as she didn't really do much in her old life, and now suddenly has to be everything to her children and try to earn money too. Her job search is something many people will be familiar with. It strikes me just what an isolated life Nina had and it was interesting to see how she would deal with many unfamiliar circumstances. 

I read The Art of Hiding in about 4 straight hours with only brief breaks from it. At times I found tears were near the surface especially in the early part of the book, which for me shows how emotionally involved I was with this family from a relatively early stage.  This book took me on a journey that I am entirely glad I took, it really does highlight the differences in lifestyle between the rich and poorer, as well as how in extreme circumstances you can deal with situations so far out of your own comfort zone. 

Although not my favourite book by this author, it is still a very accomplished story that was gripping to read and easily up to her normal standards. 

Thank you so much to Netgalley and Lake Union Publishing for this copy which I have reviewed honestly and voluntarily. 
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