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27 February 2017

Review: 'Mixing It Up' by Tracie Banister (2016)

Born with a silver spoon in her mouth, Manhattan upper-cruster Cecily Sinclair now uses that pricey utensil to dish up fancy French fare on her cooking show, Serving Romance. When there’s an executive shake-up at the network, she’s not worried. Not much anyway. Her show’s a hit after all. Why would the new CEO want to mess with success?

The driving force behind several buzzed-about networks, Devlin Hayes is considered to be a wunderkind in the television industry. Although his plans to rebrand CuisineTV and make Serving Romance more Millennial-friendly don’t thrill Cecily, her charming, blue-eyed boss is a hard man to say “no” to and she really wants to keep her job—even if that means sharing screen time with a loathsome blast from her past. 

Mercurial Italian chef Dante Marchetti a.k.a. “Il Duce” was once Cecily’s boss, and she has the PTSD to prove it. Now the owner of one of the hottest restaurants in town, Dante’s egomania knows no bounds and his constant attempts to provoke and upstage Cecily make her want to conk him on the head with a sauté pan. She thinks they’re toxic together, but viewers love their chemistry and clamor for more. 

As Cecily battles to maintain the integrity of her show, she finds herself scheming and manipulating right along with Dante and Devlin. Is she fighting a lost cause? Does she really belong on TV, or would her culinary talent be better served elsewhere? And could one of the men who makes Cecily’s blood boil ignite a passion in her for something other than food?

Last year I was contacted by author Tracie Banister with a review request for her novel 'Twin Piques' (click here to read my review). When I finally got to the novel, I was blown away by Tracie's writing skills and how much I actually enjoyed the book, and I was immediately excited about her next read. So, when Tracie contacted me at the end of last year about her latest release, 'Mixing It Up', I immediately said 'yes' when she asked me to review the book, without even reading the description. I am always in the mood for a good chick lit read and I already had a good feeling I would end up enjoying this one just as much, or perhaps even more, than 'Twin Piques'...!

Cecily Sinclair loves her job as a TV-chef. In her own show 'Serving Romance' she gets to share her passion for French food and cooking with her audience, and according to the audience numbers they seem to love it as well. But then CuisineTV is taken over by Devlin Hayes, who has all kinds of plans to give the channel a make-over and make it more appealing for millennials. Cecily has to fight to keep her show on the air, and matters become even worse when she gets a new co-host in the form of Italian chef Dante Marchetti, a former boss she never got along with and still can't stand. With all the changes in her life, and an unexpected chance at romance, Cecily is forced to make some pretty important decisions; decisions that could change everything she has been used to for the past couple of years...

If I hadn't already fallen in love with Tracie Banister's stories before picking up this novel, I am sure 'Mixing It Up' would have definitely done the trick; what a fantastic read! In the book we get to follow TV-chef Cecily who has a real passion for French food. Cecily loves her own TV show, 'Serving Romance', so is quite shocked when the new boss of CuisineTV decides it's time for a make-over, and she suddenly has to team up with Italian chef Dante Marchetti, whom she can't stand. I straight away warmed to Cecily and really loved the storyline. There was more than enough going on to make me want to read on, and I just really liked the setting of the TV cooking world, even though I hardly ever watch any cooking shows on TV; Tracie Banister just managed to make it fascinating with everything that was going on in the book and her captivating and fun writing style.

One of the strengths of this novel is definitely the collection of characters. As already mentioned I liked Cecily, but there are also some wonderful and interesting other characters, such as new TV boss Devlin, Cecily's cousin Dina, her good friend Paige, and frustrating but funny chef Dante Marchetti. The different personalities really complement one another and add their own touch to the story, which is easy to get through and get back into because of the fast pace, good-length chapters and just great writing. I'm definitely a Tracie Banister fan and if you haven't yet read one of her novels, don't hesitate any longer and pick one up as soon as you can, especially if you're a chick lit fan. All in all, 'Mixing It Up' is an amazingly enjoyable, fun and entertaining read I couldn't get enough of; loved it from start to finish and wish there was more!
For more information about this book: / / Goodreads

Thanks to the author for providing me with a review copy in exchange for an honest review.

25 February 2017

Blog Tour: 'The Orphan's Tale' by Pam Jenoff

I'm both honoured and excited to be part of the blog tour for author Pam Jenoff's new novel 'The Orphan's Tale' today to celebrate its recent release! 

Below you can find a special guest post from Pam herself, so be sure to check it out!

Ordinary Women, Extraordinary Times: Why I Love Historical Fiction
Picture your life as it is right now.  Perhaps family and job, relatively stable with a reasonable expectation of continuing on much the same path.  Then suddenly you are cast from your home, separated from your lived ones and forced to survive in circumstances for which you are not remotely prepared.
Welcome to historical fiction.
This is the situation most of protagonists face.  I generally write about women in the first half of the twentieth century, usually sometime around the Second World War.  Whether in a rural or urban setting, working or upper class, these woman faced much more rigid social conventions than we do today.  They were generally expected to get married, raise a family and live not far from where they grew up.  But then, something happens. 
That something is what makes for great story.
In my books, I get to take a woman out of her traditional role and turn her feet from the expected path in an entirely new direction.  Take, for example, one of my two protagonists in The Orphan’s Tale.  Noa is a sixteen year-old who has been cast out of her parents’ home after becoming pregnant by a German solider.  She’s barely surviving living over a train station when she finds a boxcar full of unknown infants headed for the concentration camps, steals one of the infants and flees.  Now she has to take care of herself and the baby without a home.  The circus provides refuge but she has to learn the aerialist act to blend in.  This is hardly the path she expected in her life.  She’s ill-prepared for the challenges and at first she fails mightily.  But in taking on the new role, she is pushed and grows in ways that she would have never suspected.  It’s the hero’s journey, on steroids.
And that is what I love about writing historical fiction.  I love to take women out of their traditional roles and thrust them into circumstances they could have never imagined but for war or other external catastrophe.  To test their metal and hold my breath to see if they succeed. 
Ultimately this test is about you, the reader.  Because my goal in writing is to put you, the reader, in the shoes of my protagonist, to have you feel the fear and discomfort.  To face the test and ask yourself, what would I have done?  To have you stand at the praecipe with my protagonist, to stand at the doorway and question whether or not to step through.
I hope the answer is yes.
Thanks, Pam!

24 February 2017

Review: 'My Sister's Bones' by Nuala Ellwood (2017)


Kate Rafter is a successful war reporter. She's the strong one. The one who escaped Herne Bay and the memories it holds. Her sister Sally didn't. Instead, she drinks.

But when their mother dies, Kate is forced to return to the old family home. And on her first night she is woken by a terrifying scream.

What secret has Kate stumbled upon?
And is she strong enough to uncover the truth . . . and make it out alive?

Not too long ago I unexpectedly received a review copy of Nuala Elwood’s novel ‘My Sister’s Bones’ which was released by publisher Penguin on February 9th. I have to admit I sometimes can’t help myself and judge a book by its cover, but if I had done that in this case I am pretty sure I would never have picked up this novel. The cover does nothing for me, and the book description also doesn’t really entice me to be curious about the story inside. However, the good thing about receiving copies like this thriller for review is that I didn’t make the decision in the book shop to not pick it up, I was lucky enough to get a copy and simply for that reason it is worth sitting down with it and giving it a shot…!

Kate Rafter has always enjoyed her job as a war reporter, travelling to dangerous areas to report local news to the rest of the world.  When the passing of her mother brings Kate back to the UK, she is forced to not only deal with her own issues, such as the effect all the horrible things she has encountered has had on her, but also with her remaining family, namely her younger sister Sally and Sally’s husband Paul. Sally is an alcoholic, and has been for years, and even though Paul tries to bring the two sisters together, their relationship seems to be ruined. As Kate starts to hear and see things no one believes are real, she finds herself in a difficult situation. But Kate is determined to discover the truth, whatever that may be.

If you love a good thriller, then I think I can safely say that you will not be disappointed  by picking up Nuala Ellwood’s ‘My Sister’s Bones.’ The novel is compelling, has some dark and intense elements at its core and a captivating storyline with an interesting set of characters. That being said, though, I have to be honest and say at the start of this review that this is just not my genre. I miss a bit of warmth and humour, and secretly still find myself keeping my fingers crossed for a happy ending for all. However, I do think, also based on other reviews that I’ve seen, that this is a good read, especially since it did manage to keep my interest and kept me guessing and wanting to know what would eventually happen to main character Kate and some of the other secondary characters in the novel. Kate is a fascinating main character; I won’t say I really ended up loving her, but I did understand some of the decisions she made and why she is the way she is. Both her and Sally’s story intrigued me, and I enjoyed learning more about the both of them and their history.

I don’t want to give too much away about the plotline, because that can ruin the reading experience, especially for a read like this one, where it is better if you know hardly anything about the story before you dive in. There is a realistic set of characters at the core of the story and there are a few twists and turns along the way to keep you guessing. The author’s writing style is quite engaging, a balanced mix between dialogue and description/scene setting, and the chapters are of a good length. While I personally wasn’t 100% engrossed in the read, I do honestly think fans of this particular genre will be able to really enjoy this in the way it should be enjoyed, because even though I am definitely not an expert when it comes to this genre, ‘My Sister’s Bones’ is a compelling and tense read that had me on the edge of my seat, and it is undoubtedly worth a chance.
For more information about this book: / / Goodreads

Thanks to the publisher for providing me with a review copy in exchange for an honest review.