Page Links

Home      About      Reviews      Contact     

24 December 2013

Review: 'I Heart Christmas' by Lindsey Kelk (2013)

Angela’s planning her very own fairytale of New York…

• Enormous Christmas tree
• Eggnog
• Eccentric British traditions
• Gorgeous man

But Santa’s throwing her a few curveballs – new job (as if it’s not mental enough already), new baby-craze from her best friend Jenny, and Alex determined they should grow up and settle down. Once friends start turning up uninvited on her doorstep (and leading her astray), can Angela really have a merry little Christmas? So much for happy holidays – something’s got to give…

One of the reasons why 2013 has been a brilliant year for all chick lit lovers is the fact that Lindsey Kelk has treated us with not just one, but two fabulous new releases. In the summer, the first of her brand-new series hit the shelves, ‘About a Girl’, which introduced us to a new Kelk heroine, Tess (click here to read my review of the book). It was soon announced that in December we would be treated to the next part in the beloved ‘I Heart...’ series, and I think I wasn’t the only one who unashamedly jumped up and down as soon as I heard this news. Not only am I a big fan of Lindsey Kelk’s ‘I Heart...’ books, but I also absolutely love everything related to Christmas, so as soon as my Amazon order including ‘I Heart Christmas’ arrived, I couldn’t wait to get stuck in!

Angela Clark has done a pretty good job organising her life: she is now happily married to the incredibly handsome love-of-her-life Alex Reid, they have a nice apartment in Brooklyn, she has a job at a women’s magazine she helped launch... And to give everything that extra bit of sparkle it needs, Christmas is coming! Angela is extremely excited to celebrate Christmas with Alex in New York: relaxing in their own decorated Christmas paradise with all the yummy foods and useless television a girl could possibly need. However, things turn out slightly different from Angela’s original planning. Big changes at work, unexpected visitors on her doorstep, a best friend who suddenly decides she wants a baby, and a husband who unexpectedly starts dropping hints about expanding the family... Out of the blue, Angela’s Christmas seems to become a complete disaster and she’s not sure what she can do to save it (unless continuing to eat mince pies in front of your Christmas tree would actually miraculously solve all your troubles)...

The combination of an ‘I Heart...’ novel and Christmas was simply destined to be a recipe for success. At certain moments I was a tiny bit afraid my excitement for this novel would be too much and it would result in a book that couldn’t possibly meet my expectations, but I once again learned to never doubt Lindsey Kelk’s abilities to deliver a thoroughly entertaining and wonderful story. It is so good to be back with this fantastic cast of characters: Angela, Alex, Jenny, Louisa, James... I couldn’t wait to find out what they had been up to and what would happen to them next. In the book, the relationships between on the one hand Angela and Alex and on the other hand Angela and her best friends Jenny and Louisa are explored even further, and Angela finds herself in new, exciting (but also scary) situations. As soon as I started reading I was taken in by everything that was happening and I couldn’t put the book down until I had read the very last words (while shedding tears from laughter multiple times along the way).

Lindsey Kelk is a magnificent author, and I quite simply can’t ever get enough of her novels. They are quick-paced, witty, entertaining and laugh-out-loud funny, and with each part of the ‘I Heart...’ series she manages to drop Angela at the centre of a completely new adventure which I can’t put down. I have only nice things to say about this book, and want to urge any chick lit fan out there to get a copy or to add it as a last-minute gift to your Christmas wish-list. ‘I Heart Christmas’ is a wonderfully festive, laugh-out-loud hilarious, and sparklingly splendid addition to the ‘I Heart...’ series. Definitely one of my favourite reads of 2013, and I sincerely hope there will be just as many books starring Angela and her friends as there are James Bond films!


23 December 2013

Review: 'Starry Night' by Debbie Macomber (2013)

Carrie Slayton, a big-city society-page columnist, longs to write more serious news stories. So her editor hands her a challenge: She can cover any topic she wants, but only if she first scores the paper an interview with Finn Dalton, the notoriously reclusive author. 

Living in the remote Alaskan wilderness, Finn has written a megabestselling memoir about surviving in the wild. But he stubbornly declines to speak to anyone in the press, and no one even knows exactly where he lives.

Digging deep into Finn’s past, Carrie develops a theory on his whereabouts. It is the holidays, but her career is at stake, so she forsakes her family celebrations and flies out to snowy Alaska. When she finally finds Finn, she discovers a man both more charismatic and more stubborn than she even expected. And soon she is torn between pursuing the story of a lifetime and following her heart.

Thanks to the lovely people at Random House I received a review copy of Debbie Macomber’s 2013 Christmas novel, ‘Starry Night.’ I stumbled upon this book while looking around on the Internet and I immediately couldn’t stop looking at the cover. It’s simply gorgeous, isn’t it? I’d love to spend a Christmas in a log cabin in the middle of nowhere, watching the sky for falling stars... What could possibly be more romantic? I hadn’t read anything by Debbie Macomber before, but after a bit of research I discovered that she hasn’t only written more than 100 novels, but also owns her own tea room, ‘Victorian Rose Tea Room’, and her own yarn store, ‘A Good Yarn.’ Wow, what an inspiration! I couldn’t wait to read ‘Starry Night’ and secretly found myself hoping I’d straight away like Debbie Macomber’s style, because that means I’ll have plenty of books waiting for me! 

Carrie Slayton is getting tired of her job as a reporter for the society page for a Chicago newspaper. After two years of visiting and writing about parties, she is ready to write a bigger and more serious piece. She is given the chance to do just that, the big opportunity she has been waiting for, but it involves finding reclusive author Finn Dalton. The author of a chart topping survival book has never done any interviews before, and all Carrie has is a lead to Alaska. With a bit of luck, she manages to find the log cabin where Finn lives, in the absolute middle of nowhere. However, he isn’t at all thrilled with this unexpected visit from a reporter and Carrie realises it will take some hard work to get the interview she is after from this stubborn, but at the same time incredibly attractive, man...

I really liked the basic plotline of this novel and the characters at its core. Carrie is a likeable main character and I instantly wanted her to succeed; she is an independent and ambitious woman, and I found myself rooting for her to find Finn and to get that big break she had been longing for. Finn is the stereotypical image of an isolated man who is in touch with nature, stays away from civilization, and immediately makes any female heart beat that little bit faster. I was really captivated by Finn and his background, and I loved learning more about him. 

There is a wonderful wintery atmosphere in the novel that suits this time of year perfectly. I loved the scene setting of the novel, particularly the contrast between busy Chicago city life and calm, beautiful Alaska. The only thing I would have preferred is for the novel to have been longer; the book’s a little over 200 pages, placing it somewhere between a novella and a regular novel. I really enjoyed the characters and the storyline and I definitely would not have minded if it had all been a bit longer! Overall, ‘Starry Night’ is a light and stunning read with a warm tale of romance at its centre, and a book I recommend to anyone looking for a quick read during the holiday season!


20 December 2013

Review: 'Coming Home for Christmas' by Jenny Hale (2013)

Allie Richfield loves  Christmas, so when she lands a job as House Manager for the amazing Ashford Estate—which includes organizing the Marley family festivities—she is in her element. With a budget bigger than her life savings and a team of staff, how hard can it be?

As one-by-one she meets the Marleys, she’s about to find out…

Allie’s new boss, Robert, might be gorgeous, but he’s also colder than the snow outside and refuses to come home for Christmas. Robert’s playboy brother, Kip, flirts with her relentlessly; and his sister, Sloane, arrives home with baggage—both the divorce-kind and the Louis Vuitton kind. Their ninety-two year old grandmother, Pippa, spends her day grumbling at everybody from her mobility scooter.

With Robert intending to sell Ashford, it’s the Marley’s last chance to create some happy memories in their family home—and Allie is determined to make it happen… even if it takes a little Christmas magic! With the festive spirit in full swing, she might even discover a little happiness of her own…

The cover of Jenny Hale's 'Coming Home for Christmas' has to be one of the prettiest Christmas covers of 2013. The colours, the couple sitting underneath the umbrella, the snowflakes at the top, the swirly font of the title... I love all of it! There's nothing like visiting grand houses or country estates during the holiday season; I'm a sucker for pretty houses and festive decorations, so the plotline of this novel, which centres around the heroine getting a job as the house manager of a large estate around Christmas time, immediately caught my interest and I was absolutely delighted when I found a review copy in my mailbox. I simply knew this had to be a good read!

Thirty-something Allie Richfield seems to be back at square 1. She's single, just lost her job as a nanny, and is back living with her mother. With a little bit of help from her sister, she manages to land herself a job as a house manager at a gorgeous family estate in Virginia. It's not something Allie saw herself doing, but from the moment she meets Robert Marley, the oldest son and the person resposible for Ashford House, she is intrigued by him. It doesn't take long before Allie gets to know the other members of the Marley family, including matriarch Pippa and Robert's brother and sister, Kip and Sloane. Allie takes it upon herself to bring the Marley family back together for one last Christmas at Ashford House, but this turns out to be slightly more difficult than she expected...

I loved the plotline of this novel. I really enjoyed reading about Allie's experiences as a house manager at Ashford House, and seeing how she developed different relationships with all of the Marley family members. Robert is the slightly broody business man whom Allie can't quite read, Kip is the youngest and carefree sibling who just wants to have some fun, Sloane is the older sister who has been through a lot and is trying to redefine her role in life, and then there's Pippa, the owner of the house who seems a bit grumpy at first, but turns out to be one of the most fascinating characters of the novel. There's a great mix of different people with a wonderful and enjoyable storyline behind it, including a touch of romance, which is the recipe for a great read, if you ask me!

Besides the fact that the story mainly takes place in December, around Christmas time, the novel suits this time of year perfectly because it focuses on themes like family, forgiveness and hope. Keywords which embody what Christmas is all about. Jenny Hale's writing is easy to get into and she managed to completely take me in with her words, not wanting to put the novel down. 'Coming Home for Christmas' is an enchanting holiday romance that will make you feel all warm and happy inside, the perfect feeling with which to start this festive time of the year!


19 December 2013

Review: 'Christmas Carol' by Michele Gorman (2013)

One winter wedding, two happy couples, three ex-boyfriends. And a very uncomfortable weekend.

Carol hates Christmas. Being recently dumped, she’s not crazy about weddings either. So her sister Marley’s nuptials, over the Christmas weekend, are making her positively Scrooge-like. When she arrives at the stately home in rural Scotland to find her three ex-boyfriends in attendance, Carol has no choice but to face her ghosts to discover what really happened in those relationships, learning a lot about herself in the process. As the snow falls outside and the fire crackles in the hearth, might one of the wedding guests become the harbinger of Christmases to come?

I wasn’t familiar with author Michele Gorman's work, so when I received a review copy of her latest novella, 'Chistmas Carol', from publisher Notting Hill Press, I was quite excited about this chance to discover more about her writing. I loved the sound of another Christmas tale to get me into a festive mood before the holidays, and sometimes a short novella is just perfect reading material for a long train ride or a couple of hours to spare!

Carol is a successful business-woman who lives for her work, doesn't want anything to do with men after several relationships gone wrong, and hates Christmas. So, when her sister Marley decides to get married over the Christmas weekend at an estate in rural Scotland where her Blackberry can't possibly get any reception, Carol isn't excited, to say the least. Add three ex-boyfriends to this festive winter mix, who are all attending the wedding, and it can undoubtedly be said that this will be a Christmas Carol will remember for quite some time to come.

Charles Dickens' novel 'A Christmas Carol' has to be one of my favourite Christmas stories of all time. Over the years, the tale of Scrooge has been retold many times in numerous different ways and Michele Gorman has given it her own personal touch in this novella. Carol is a modern female version of Scrooge, and just like the original Scrooge, as a reader I slowly but steadily learned to love her with every page I turned. I really liked how the author turned this classic tale in a thoroughly enjoyable modern-day version. I loved the idea of the winter wedding, the confrontations between Carol and her past boyfriends, and the setting (Craighorn Hall, a manor in rural Scotland) sounds absolutely stunning.

One of the downsides of novellas is that they aren’t as long as a regular novel which can result in a lack of detail and not being able to get to know the characters of the story as a reader. However, both of those things didn’t play a role in this particular novella. Michele Gorman gives the reader plenty of background information and I had no trouble getting to know the main character Carol. If you are looking for a quick festive read to get you into the holiday spirit, look no further! ‘Christmas Carol’ is a fast-paced and enjoyable holiday read, and a lovely retelling of the ultimate classic Christmas story most of us can’t get enough of round this time of year.


18 December 2013

Review: 'Driving Home for Christmas' by Emma Hannigan (2013)

Christmas at Huntersbrook House has always been a family tradition - log fires, long walks through the snowy fields and evenings spent in the local pub. And this year the three grown-up Craig children are looking forward to the holidays more than ever. Pippa to escape her partying lifestyle and mounting debts in Dublin; Joey the demands of his gorgeous girlfriend who seems intent on coming between him and his family; and Lainey to forget about her controlling ex and his recent engagement to another woman.

But with the family livery yard in financial trouble, this Christmas could be the Craig family's last at Huntersbrook as they face the prospect of selling the ancestral house.

As the holiday season gets underway, the family need to come up with a way to save their home, and face the problems they've been running away from in Dublin. And what better place to figure things out than around the fire at Huntersbrook House?

There are so many things to get excited about around this time of year: sparkly Christmas decorations, the scent of pine trees in the air, gorgeous coloured lights in the dark, lots of yummy treats... But the holiday season wouldn’t be the same without some brilliant holiday chick lit reads to get us into the right mood! I saved all of my Christmas reads for December, so they would really help me to look forward to the holidays even more (and secretly start hoping for snow!). The first book on my list this year was Emma Hannigan’s ‘Driving Home for Christmas.’ I hadn’t read anything by Emma Hannigan before, but I couldn’t wait to get stuck in!

Every year the Craig family comes together to celebrate Christmas at their family home in Wicklow, Huntersbrook House. However, even though Holly and Paddy Craig love the house more than anything, financial troubles are causing them to think about selling, so Holly wants to do anything she can to make this last Christmas at Huntersbrook House one to remember. At the same time, the three Craig children, Pippa, Joey and Lainey, are dealing with their own troubles. Pippa might have been using her credit cards a bit too easily, Joey is trying to save his relationship with his selfish girlfriend, and Lainey is trying to forget the break-up with her ex-boyfriend and start a new life for herself. They are all looking forward to spending their Christmas days at the warm and lovely family home, not knowing it might be the very last time...

The gorgeous cover of this novel fits the story that is inside perfectly; they both definitely managed to get me into the holiday spirit! Huntersbrook House sounds like a wonderful home and it’s the perfect setting for a Christmas story like this one. I could easily imagine all the Christmas decorations and the family sitting in front of the log fire. Family is to me one of the most important parts of the holiday season, and I loved this story about the Craig family struggling with their own individual troubles, but also finding one another during Christmas time. The story is told from different perspectives, giving the reader the chance to get to know each of them and their specific storyline. I loved all three of the Craig children; Pippa, Joey and Lainey each have their own troubles to overcome. However, the same goes for Holly and Paddy, who are trying to think of solutions to not have to sell their beloved family home. 

There’s a splendid mix of loveable characters, and Emma Hannigan’s writing includes a good dose of humour combined with several slightly serious topics, with family at its centre. From the first few pages I was absorbed by this book, and whenever I looked up I was disappointed I wasn’t in the snow at Huntersbrook House myself! ‘Driving Home for Christmas’ is a wonderful and heart-warming Christmas read which will make you want to snuggle up on the couch with a blanket and a cup of hot chocolate, ready for whatever the holiday season will bring!


16 December 2013

Review: 'The Herbalist' by Niamh Boyce (2013)

When the herbalist appears out of nowhere and sets out his stall in the market square he brings excitement to Emily's dull midlands town. The teenager is enchanted - the glamorous visitor can be a Clark Gable to her Jean Harlow, a Fred to her Ginger, a man to make her forget her lowly status in this place where respectability is everything.

However, Emily has competition for the herbalist's attentions. The women of the town - the women from the big houses and their maids, the shopkeepers and their serving girls, those of easy virtue and their pious sisters - all seem mesmerised by this visitor who, they say, can perform miracles.

But when Emily discovers the dark side of the man who has infatuated her all summer, once again her world turns upside down. She may be a dreamer, but she has a fierce sense of right and wrong. And with the herbalist's fate lying in her hands she must make the biggest decision of her young life. To make him pay for his sins against the women of the town? Or let him escape to cast his spell on another town?

I've been lucky enough to have received several review copies of some thoroughly enjoyable novels written by Irish authors the past couple of months. Niamh Boyce's 'The Herbalist' was one of them, and with a first glance at the cover my interest had already been sparked. I love the girl in the red dress and the fabulous font of the title. I read somewhere that Niamh Boyce was named '2012 Hennessy XO New Irish Writer of the Year' and people had been anticipating her debut novel for quite some time. In other words, enough reason to start reading!

'The Herbalist' is set in a small town in 1930's rural Ireland, a town in which nothing out of the ordinary usually happens. Until a mysterious man named Don Vikram Fernandez comes to the village and sets up his market stall in the town square. With his special potions and creams, he quickly manages to spark the interest of all the women in the village. Most particularly, seventeen-year-old Emily who immediately falls for him. However, it doesn't take long before she realises the herbalist has managed to caught the attention from almost every single woman in town, and he might not be as friendly and fascinating as Emily thinks he is...

The different chapters of the novel focus on various female perspectives, which is something I really enjoyed. Next to teenager Emily who falls for the mysterious herbalist, there's Sarah, who is also a stranger in town and takes over Emily's job in one of the shops in the town owned by Carmel, another one of the female voices in the book. Next to that, there's also the beautiful rich doctor's daughter Rose, and strange townswoman Aggie, who sees and knows everything. Overall, I thought there was a great group of different female characters and I was intrigued by all of them, wanting to know what they were thinking and what would happen to them. I don't want to give too much away about the storyline, but life in a small town and the fact that you never know what goes on behind closed doors are fascinating themes that play a central role.

I personally thought the story started quite slowly, which is why it took me a bit of time to really get into it. However, it did give me the time to distinguish between the different narratives, and when I was taken in, I couldn't get out until the end. Niamh Boyce really managed to capture the mood perfectly, and the feeling of this novel haunted me for several days after having finished it. This is one of those books that somehow stays with you and unravels new details every single time you read it. 'The Herbalist' is an evocative and hauntingly well-written story, and a definite great read for any lovers of historical women's fiction.


11 December 2013

Review: 'This Child of Mine' by Sinead Moriarty (2013)

Anna and Laura, Sophie and Mandy - two mothers, two daughters and a story about the bond of motherly love.

Anna is proud of the job she has done raising eighteen-year-old Sophie. It's always been just the two of them, but that doesn't matter because Sophie has everything she could ever need.

It's a miracle that Laura's daughter Mandy is as happy as she is, considering that Laura remains haunted by the loss of her first child before Mandy was born.

Both women carry painful secrets and can never forget the day their paths crossed. But a chance discovery is about to bring everything into the open, and mothers and daughters, love and lies, past and future, will spectacularly collide...

During 2013 I’ve often come across the name of Irish author Sinead Moriarty. In August her latest novel ‘Mad About You’ was released, but I was contacted by the lovely people at Penguin Ireland about a review copy of ‘This Child of Mine.’ This novel was originally released in 2012, but it was published again in September 2013 with a slightly different cover. Not only was I curious to find out more about Sinead Moriarty and her novels, I also was immediately taken in by the blurb of this book, which promises a fascinating and gripping read.

‘This Child of Mine’ tells the story of two completely different women. There’s Anna; who has done a wonderful job raising her eighteen-year-old daughter Sophie. Her whole life is dedicated to Sophie, and Anna wouldn’t have it any other way. And there’s Laura; who is still trying to come to terms with the loss of her first daughter, Jody, even though she has her difficult teenage daughter Mandy to keep her busy. One thing Anna and Laura have in common is the moment their paths crossed, which influenced their lives in the biggest way, and now it looks as if their paths are about to cross again after an unexpected and shocking discovery...

This review will probably be slightly vague in places, because I don’t want to ruin any reading experiences by giving too much about the book away! The novel deals with a rather controversial topic, which results in a story that is both emotional (it made me swipe away a tear every now and again) and gripping (I finished the book within a few hours, not wanting to stop reading). Sinead Moriarty’s writing style is wonderful and captivating, which works really well with this kind of story. As I already said, I was really gripped by this tale from the first few pages and didn’t want to put it down.

One of the strengths of this novel is the fact that the story is told from several different perspectives. This way the reader not only learns about different aspects of the storyline, but it also results in various emotions which make you sympathise with all of the characters in a different way. At the core of the book there’s a mix of strong and fascinating characters; not only mothers Laura and Anna and their daughters Sophie and Mandy, but also other supporting characters. Sinead Moriarty’s ‘This Child of Mine’ is a truly compelling, intriguing and in-depth read that will draw you in until you’ve finished all of it. Highly recommended to any lovers of women’s fiction; a thoroughly good read!


10 December 2013

Review: 'I Wished for You' by Amy Huberman (2013)

‘I Wished For You’ is the story of Grace who is at that age where there are six weddings a year and the question on everyone's lips is: who's next? She and her boyfriend Robbie seem the perfect fit, but when he unexpectedly goes down on bended knee, Grace freaks out. Cue the mother of all meltdowns.

On top of that, Grace's passion for fashion is not exactly fulfilled by her job - dressing well-to-do ladies with way more money than style. Cue - in her addled state after the bended knee fiasco - losing it in work, with disastrous consequences.

Into Grace's train-wreck of a life comes Verity - ex-Hollywood costume lady and vintage clothing queen. Verity is not called the Vintage Vixen for nothing: she has seen it all and done it all and her life makes Grace's look about as exciting as Songs of Praise. Verity tells Grace that the secret of happiness is to discover her 'heart wish'. If only Grace could work out what her heart's greatest wish really is ...

When I was contacted by Penguin about Amy Huberman’s new novel ‘I Wished for You’, I immediately liked the sound of the book. I wasn’t familiar with Amy Huberman’s work; her first novel ‘Hello Heartbreak’ was published in 2009, became a bestseller and was nominated for two Irish Book Awards in 2010. After doing some research on the Internet I especially found people applauding Amy Huberman for her humour, which made readers laugh out loud, so I was looking forward to sitting down with ‘I Wished for You’ and see if I’d enjoy it!

Grace has been together with her lovely boyfriend Robbie for years and they seem to be perfect for one another. However, Grace’s 30th birthday is nearing and people around her keep asking her when she will be the one walking down the aisle; a question Grace clearly isn’t ready for yet. So when Robbie proposes to her, Grace doesn’t know what else to do than to say ‘no.’ Looking for a new challenge in her life, she ends up in a vintage clothing store which is run by an older woman named Verity. Grace tries to focus on other things in her life, but it is Verity who tells her about people’s ‘heart wish’, the one thing they long for in order to find happiness, and Grace knows she will have to discover her own ‘heart wish’ in order to find what she has been looking for all this time.   

It took me quite some time to really get into the novel, but as soon as I was, I really enjoyed the plotline and wanted to continue on reading to discover what Grace would do to find her ‘heart wish’ and whether she would be able to find it or not. I liked Grace, even though she managed to really frustrate me at some points. I think she’s a main female character a lot of women will be able to relate to, and I personally loved her passion for clothes and old films. The references to female figures like Audrey Hepburn, Grace Kelly and Elizabeth Taylor and the amazing pieces of clothing they wore, really added a special touch to the book. The secondary characters in the novel are also fantastic; I specifically liked Lisa, who is Grace’s hilarious best friend, and Verity, the shop owner who almost becomes like a fairy godmother to Grace. 

I have to admit I had to get used to Amy Huberman’s distinctive sense of humour at first, but she definitely made me laugh out loud multiple times. I love how her funny side gives the book a specific Amy Huberman feel, which shows that she clearly has her own unique style of writing. ‘I Wished for You’ is a witty, light, fun read that is a thoroughly enjoyable mixture of chick-lit, vintage clothes and romance, and I’m personally quite curious to see what Amy Huberman will come up with for her next book!


9 December 2013

Blog Tour: 'The Forgotten Seamstress' by Liz Trenow (2013)

It is 1910 and Maria, a talented young girl from the East end of London, is employed to work as a seamstress for the royal family. As an attractive girl, she soon catches the eye of the Prince of Wales and she in turn is captivated by his glamour and intensity.

But careless talk causes trouble and soon Maria’s life takes a far darker turn. Disbelieved and dismissed she is thrown into a mental asylum, shut away from the real world with only her needlework for company.

Can a beautiful quilt, discovered many years later, reveal the truth behind what happened to Maria?

I hadn’t heard of author Liz Trenow before I was contacted about a spot on the blog tour for her latest release, ‘The Forgotten Seamstress’, but apparently I have been missing out on another great author! I’m so excited about being a part of this blog tour, because I immediately not just loved the sound of ‘The Forgotten Seamstress’, but also Liz Trenow’s style as a writer. In her work she manages to weave historical detail and the modern day and age together in a fascinating way, which comes back in the storylines of her previous novel ‘The Last Telegram’ and the novel that’s in the spotlight on my blog today, ‘The Forgotten Seamstress.’

When Caroline Meadows finds a gorgeous quilt she remembers from her childhood during a clean-out of her mother’s attic, she is immediately intrigued to find out more about the origins of the well-crafted piece. Not only the detailed patterns have caught Caroline’s attention, but there’s even a hidden message embroidered into the quilt. Caroline’s search brings her back to the start of the 1900’s, when talented young seamstress Maria Romano used to work for the British royal family. However, her crush on the handsome Prince of Wales unexpectedly influences the course of the rest of her life. It is now, 100 years later, up to Caroline to find out what exactly happened to Maria and to unravel the story behind that beautiful quilt.

I loved this novel; the combination of the historical aspect brought to the modern day and age was incredibly fascinating, and I loved finding out more about both Caroline and Maria. Even though the title of the novel refers to Maria, the seamstress, it is Caroline who takes on the main role in the book. We only find out about Maria’s life through old taped interviews and memories, but this actually only adds a special touch to the whole story, if you ask me. I loved how the novel itself managed to resemble the quilt that plays such a central role in the book: all kinds of different bits and pieces, brought together, to form something beautiful.   

It is clear a lot of research has gone into this novel, which results in a wonderful sense of historical detail. I’m a big fan of anything British, so the link to the British royal family and Buckingham Palace was something I specifically liked. Yet, I also loved the whole idea of this gorgeous handmade quilt with a personal story behind it. There was even a hint of mystery to the story, which made me curious to find out more and resulted in me not wanting to put the book down. Liz Trenow has delivered an intriguingly fascinating and well-written novel with ‘The Forgotten Seamstress’, and I already can’t wait until the release of her next novel, ‘The Poppy Factory.’


Click here to order an e-copy of 'The Forgotten Seamstress'; the paperback version is released in January 2014!

5 December 2013

Review: 'The Proposal' by Tasmina Perry (2013)

When Amy Carrell's wealthy boyfriend ends their relationship just before Christmas, she's left to nurse her broken heart alone. With nothing to lose, she replies to an advertisement requesting a companion for a mysterious 'Manhattan adventure'. 

Whisked off to New York with eccentric British aristocrat Georgia Hamilton, Amy experiences a glamorous side of the city that she's never seen before. Along the way, Georgia initiates her protegee in the arts of old-school elegance. 

But as Georgia shares her life lessons, Amy discovers a painful secret in her mentor's past. A secret that shattered her future. A story of love and betrayal that only Amy has the power to put right.

When I received a review copy of Tasmina Perry’s latest release, ‘The Proposal’, it felt almost as exciting as getting a beautifully-wrapped gift. The book was tied with a gorgeous blue ribbon, and combined with the lovely cover, it truly felt like an early Christmas present! Next to that, I was excited about being able to read a new novel written by Tasmina Perry, who has definitely become one of my favourite authors during the past year. The blurb of ‘The Proposal’ promises a slightly different read than Tasmina Perry’s usual style, so I was quite curious to start reading!

Amy Carrell is an American dancer who has dreamed of performing on the London West End. However, after an injury, she finds herself spending most of her time auditioning and working as a waitress instead of performing. When her boyfriend Daniel, who in contrast to Amy was born in a wealthy family and has a promising career ahead of him, breaks up with her right before Christmas, Amy is fed up with it all. Longing to visit her family in New York, she reacts to an advertisement of an old lady named Georgia Hamilton who is looking for a companion to join her on a New York adventure. Soon, Amy and Georgia are on their way to New York and as the two spend more time together, Amy learns more about Georgia’s fascinating time as a debutante in the 1950s and her reason for wanting to visit New York for the first time...

The Tasmina Perry novels I’ve read so far could be described as glamorous and mysterious, and revolve around the death of a specific character. ‘The Proposal’ is completely different, which is shown by the cover and blurb, and instead promises a romantic tale perfect for the holidays. One thing the novel has in common with Tasmina Perry’s other books, though, is that it is a brilliant and captivating read. I fell in love with this novel as soon as I had read the first chapter and found myself thoroughly enjoying the journey through modern-day London and New York, and 1950s England. The book included some amazing flashbacks, which tell the story of Georgia’s experiences as a young debutante. I loved how the glamour and feel of old-fashioned times was brought to life, and I felt myself being able to conjure up the image of beautiful ballrooms filled with girls dancing in elegant dresses.

One of the strengths of this novel is definitely the two female characters at the centre of the story: Amy, who is trying to fit in and find her place in the world, and Georgia, who has been through a lot in her life. I loved reading both of their stories, and I really enjoyed the way the novel switched between the modern day and age and the 1950s. Tasmina Perry is a fantastic story teller, and this novel proves that she can do it all, whether it’s a mysterious murder mystery or a lovely warm tale of romance. ‘The Proposal’ is an elegant, fabulous, splendid novel of which I enjoyed every single word, and I would recommend this to anyone who loves a bit of romance. A perfect gift for the holidays!


4 December 2013

Review: 'The Drake Equation' by Heather Walsh (2013)

She’s a Democrat, he’s a Republican. She spends her days fighting global warming at an environmental non-profit, he makes his living doing PR for Bell Motors and their fleet of SUVs. But as soon as they meet, Emily Crossley and Robert Drake realize they have encountered their intellectual match. You’re never challenged, he tells her. You’ve surrounded yourself in a cocoon of people who think exactly the same way you do. She hurls the same accusation back at him, and the fiery debates begin. Despite both of their attempts to derail it, there is no denying that they are falling in love. But their relationship is threatened by political differences, Robert’s excessive work hours, and Emily’s fear of losing her identity as she falls deeper in love. Can their love survive? The Drake Equation is a tale of modern love and all its complexities.

Next to the obviously gorgeous cover, ‘The Drake Equation’ immediately caught my attention when author Heather Walsh told me it was her own homage to Jane Austen’s ‘Pride and Prejudice.’ As some of you might know, I’m a big fan of Jane Austen and am always open to sequels to her works or stories based on them. Yet, the blurb of ‘The Drake Equation’ also spiked my interest, so overall I was quite curious to see and discover what this novel would be like!

Emily Crossly is a twenty-something who is extremely passionate about her work at the non-profit environmental organisation GeoForce. She’s a true liberal at heart and does everything in her power to reach GeoForce’s goal to reduce the amount of SUV’s and other gas-guzzling cars. At one of GeoForce’s yearly events, Emily meets Robert Drake. A man who appears to be just as driven as her, but for the enemy: he works at Bell Motors, the only auto manufacturing company in the area, and a conservative at heart. Even though Emily and Robert don’t seem to have anything in common, they instantly notice the attraction between them and decide to give it a shot. Is it really true that opposites attract or will it be impossible for Emily and Robert to look past their individual differences?

‘The Drake Equation’ is Heather Walsh’ own homage to Jane Austen’s ‘Pride and Prejudice’ and I can definitely see the similarities between the famous love story of Elizabeth and Darcy on the one hand, and Emily and Robert, the main characters of this novel, on the other hand. The book focuses mainly on the development of the relationship between Emily and Robert: as complete opposites of one another, will they be able to overcome their differences? The book is really well-written, particularly the dialogues were great to read and at the core there are some fascinating and realistic characters, even though they might seem a bit stereotypical at first. There is also a good mix of smaller characters, such as Emily’s co-workers Carson and Andy, who added some subplot to the novel. 

One of the elements of this book I wasn’t too sure about at first is the amount of attention that is given to political matters and environmental concerns. Numerous dialogues between Emily and Robert focus on these topics, which gives the novel an intelligent character, but I was personally glad when the story became a bit more than just these controversial subjects to discuss. Overall, ‘The Drake Equation’ is just what it says on the cover: a contemporary love story; one that is really well-written and has two interesting and likeable characters at its core. I thoroughly enjoyed this novel and I hope we hear more from Heather Walsh in the future!


3 December 2013

Blog Tour: 'The Twelve Dates of Christmas' by Lisa Dickenson

Claudia is a girl in a rut. At 30, her life is stale and the romance with long-term boyfriend, Seth, has disappeared. Determined to inject some festive spark back into their love life, Claudia and Seth go on their first date in a very long time to the Royal Opera House. But when the night ends in disaster, Claudia suddenly finds herself facing life - and Christmas - alone.

Life alone is exciting, scary and full of soon-forgotten exercise regimes and ill-advised attempts at crafting sexy underwear. It's also filling up with dates, surprisingly. With best friends Penny and Nick at her side, a surplus of festive markets, mulled wine and Christmas tunes, Claudia attempts to face all this change with gusto. One thing's for certain: this year, Christmas is going to be very different . . .

A couple of months ago, I met a lovely person through Twitter named Lisa Dickenson. She was busy with her upcoming Christmas novel while tweeting about the fierceness of Beyonce, the amazingness of Pacey Witter and everything else ‘Dawson’s Creek’, and the fabulousness of book series like ‘The Babysittersclub’ and ‘Sweet Valley High’ (yes, I desperately wanted to start my own babysittersclub and have an amazing twin sister, didn’t we all back in the 90’s?). How could I not like this person?! So, ever since I heard about Lisa’s upcoming book ‘The Twelve Dates of Christmas’, I’ve been excited about it and couldn’t wait to read it. Luckily, I managed to get a spot on Lisa’s blog tour and I’m so excited to not only review her novel today, but also have a special feature for all of you in which Lisa talks about her own favourite Christmas books!

Claudia loves her boyfriend Seth, but after several years of being together the spark has somehow left their relationship. So, when they have an exclusive date planned at the Royal Opera House, Claudia wants to give it her best shot to find back that missing spark. However, her first December date doesn’t exactly go according to plan, and at the end of the night she finds herself alone, not knowing what to do with herself or her life. However, with the help of her amazing best friends, Penny and Nick, Claudia is ready to face the upcoming Christmas holidays. The most wonderful time of the year, which will present Claudia with twelve dates that will surprise and inspire her to find that spark in her life she has been missing. 

‘The Twelve Dates of Christmas’ is released in quite an original and exciting way, namely in six different parts. The first part, Dates 1 & 2, was released on the 11th of November and the last part, Dates 11 & 12, will be available from the 16th of December. I was lucky enough to receive all parts bundled together in one paper copy to review, so I read the story as a whole, without wanting to put it down! Wow, what an amazing read! I expected I would really enjoy this novel, but I have to say it managed to exceed my already high expectations. Lisa Dickenson’s writing style is fantastic: the story flows easily, the scene setting makes it so easy to picture it all in your mind (there’s nothing like the city of London at Christmas time, I absolutely loved all the places Claudia visited and the way Lisa described it all in perfect and festive detail), and I found myself laughing out loud so many times (which resulted in quite a few strange looks from other train passengers). The humour in this book is definitely one of its main strengths, and also one of the reasons why I enjoyed the story so much.

Claudia is a funny, sweet, loyal and relatable heroine; I think every single female reader will be able to recognise herself in Claudia one way or another. Next to her, there are some brilliant other characters as well like Penny, Claudia’s best friend, and Nick, who made my heart beat just that tiny bit faster every single time his name appeared on the page (I want one just like him underneath my Christmas tree this year, please!). There’s honestly nothing negative I can say about this book, because I really loved it and it’s without a doubt one of my favourite releases of 2013, and my absolute favourite Christmas-related release of this year. ‘The Twelve Dates of Christmas’ is an incredibly funny, magical, and simply brilliant read which will undoubtedly get you into the Christmas spirit. I’m already excited about 2014, because I honestly can’t wait to read more of Lisa Dickenson’s work! 

Rating:10/10 (with a special dose of glitter and sparkly Christmas lights!)  

As I already mentioned above, I'm so excited to welcome the absolutely lovely Lisa Dickenson to 'A Spoonful of Happy Endings' today to entertain us with her favourite Christmas books! :)

My Favourite Christmas Books
Let me set the scene for you. Close your eyes. No WAIT! Open them, because otherwise you can’t read this. Oh, what a crap start. Can we begin again?

Let me set the scene for you. It’s six in the evening and you’ve just got in from work. In the dead of winter, the world outside has been inky black for nearly two hours already. It’s also bloody cold. You’ve thrown on the heating, showing festive spirit and blatant disregard for the electricity bill. The [insert favourite meal here] is in the oven. The Christmas lights are on and your cosy home is twinkling. Pour yourself a Baileys. A bit more. Come on, there’s plenty more in Tesco, pour yourself a proper one. Now you can submerge yourself into that fabulous festive read you’ve been saving. It’s all yours, and by the end you know you’re going to feel ten times, a hundred times, more Christmassy than you do now.
Picking the perfect Christmas read is hard. You know that absolute horror of spending Christmas with a different family for the first time, perhaps because you’re staying with your partner this year, or you’re with friends, or all your relations have merged into one uber-Christmas which seemed like a fab idea until someone got the party games out? And suddenly you’re aware that not everyone does Christmas Day Exactly Like You. In other words, they do it wrong. And that’s why picking a perfect festive read is hard because you need to read what makes you feel the most festively festive.
I guess what I’m rambling on about is just to say that my choices of favourite Christmas books aren’t a definitive list of what are The Best Christmas Books Of All Time. You might think they’re rubbish. You might love every one of them (in which case, I think we should spend Christmas together!). But the important thing is that from now on your favourite Christmas book is The Twelve Dates of Christmas by Lisa Dickenson.

A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens 
Charles Dickens totally started the Christmas fiction trend, as far as I’m concerned. And as much as I love the Muppet adaptation, the book is *nearly* as good. The evocative language completely enfolds you into a Dickensian London at Christmas, and the story of grump-bag Scrooge and his Bah Humbug-ways as he’s visited by three ghosts (four, including Jacob Marley) make perfect dead-of-winter reading.

Winter Wonderland, by Belinda Jones
This is a lovely, heart-warming and original Christmas book which is as much about the magical, wintery setting of Quebec as it is about the budding romances between the characters. It follows Krista (sidenote: love that name) who embarks on an unexpectedly life-changing trip to Canada for her travel writing website. While she’s there we read all the twinkling Christmas loveliness we’d expect from a rom-com, but with added dog-sledding, ice hotels, Cirque du Soleil and hunky French-Canadian gents. It’s no secret that I’m a bit of a Belinda Jones fangirl (I just LOVE books set abroad) but this has to be one of my faves.


Big for Christmas (Sweet Valley Twins), created by Francine Pascal
Don’t judge me. It’s just… I “used to” read this a lot when I was younger. I mean, it’s basically a rip-off of the movie Big, but with those Californian blondies with the ‘blue-green eyes the colour of the pacific ocean’. If that alone doesn’t make you want to spend the 1p it costs to buy it from Amazon right now, here’s the storyline: Jessica and Elizabeth, are like soooo prepping to go to the Christmas party of the year when their parents say they’re too young! Then some magic stuff happens and they wake up to find themselves as twenty-somethings with BOOBS and HIGH HEELS and stuff. It’s amazing.

The Night Before Christmas, by Scarlett BaileyFirstly, I love the cover. Secondly, I think this is a fab idea for a Christmas story – one girl, going to the idyllic Christmassy cottage with her friends over yuletide, who ends up torn between three men – her current boyfriend, her ex-boyfriend who’s lumbered over to join them, and a hunky new chap. It’s funny and festive and as warm and mulled wine!

The Jolly Christmas Postman, by Janet and Allan Ahlberg
This is such a good Christmas book, and I thoroughly recommend anyone with kids, or nieces, nephews, godchildren, nearby schools that need books, etc. to buy this. It’s basically a children’s story book about a cheerful postman who delivers Christmas parcels and letters to the local fairytale folk (i.e. Red Riding Hood et al) but the VERY BEST THING is that you get to open real envelopes and inside are real letters and real presents! It’s just… I can’t… it’s awesome.

‘Twas the Night Before Christmas, by Clement C. MooreTechnically this is more a poem than a book, but it’s been turned into books so many thousands of times that it counts. The last thing that’s read in millions of homes around the globe before going to sleep on Christmas Eve means there’s no way I could leave this off the list.

 Happy Christmas everyone!

2 December 2013

Jane Lark's 12 Days of Christmas Blog Tour!

12 Days Banner Final

Welcome to the 12 Days of Christmas Tour with Jane Lark!

After signing with publisher Harper Impulse, Jane, author of the smash-hit Marlow Intrigues series, has decided to end 2013 with a bang! She’s gathered together some of the industry’s best authors to create one enormous Christmas giveaway.

The huge prize is made up of more than 30 books, a combination of signed paperbacks and eBooks, and two gorgeous book bags. It’s the perfect early Christmas present for any bookworm and all you’ve got to do to win is feast your eyes on the details below and enter 
via the Rafflecopter . . .

To kick off the prizes, Jane is giving away copies of her much loved The Illicit Love of a Courtesan and its highly anticipated follow-up The Passionate Love of a Rake
NEWBookCoverQuote_IllicitLove NEWBookCover_PassionateLove

Jane's books have been a huge hit with fans, leading to an ever-increasing fan base and comments such as:

"Jane Lark has an amazing talent to draw the reader in from the first page onwards."
- CosmoChickLitan

And to celebrate her upcoming December release of NA novel I Found You, you could also win a unique rucksack.

The book is already causing excitement among readers and looks set to be the must-read NA of 2014.
IMG_1140[1] NEWBookCover_IFoundYou
But that's not all folks! As if Jane's books weren't enough, check out the other amazing books included in the prize pot, you're sure to find one or two of your fav authors getting involved...
12 Days of Christmas TP
  12 Days of Christmas TP2  

Entry to Jane Lark's 12 Days of Christmas giveaway extravaganza is easy, just follow the authors on Facebook or Twitter, plus maybe give the comp a shout-out tweet (or two) all via the Rafflecopter below and you're golden. But don't forget to keep your fingers crossed too!

Please take a moment to read through the giveaway terms and conditions:
* This is an international giveaway.
* Signed paperbacks are to be sent from the authors themselves. Jane Lark, BestChickLit and/or any authors involved accept no responsibility for delivery failures. The winner must be open to accepting eBooks in any format i.e. Kindle copies and via iTunes voucher, from different sources. In the event of .mobi copies, the winner must have an Amazon Kindle account and be prepared to add selected addresses as approved emails on their Personal Document settings.
* Some of the books involved in the giveaway contain adult and sexual content and this should be taken into consideration before reading. Jane Lark, BestChickLit, Harper Impulse and any of the participating authors are free to amend any of the giveaway details at any time.

Good luck!

1 December 2013

Upcoming blog tour: 'The Forgotten Seamstress' by Liz Trenow

On Monday the 9th of December I'm delighted to be a part of the blog tour for Liz Trenow's new novel 'The Forgotten Seamstress'! 

It is 1910 and Maria, a talented young girl from the East end of London, is employed to work as a seamstress for the royal family. As an attractive girl, she soon catches the eye of the Prince of Wales and she in turn is captivated by his glamour and intensity.

But careless talk causes trouble and soon Maria’s life takes a far darker turn. Disbelieved and dismissed she is thrown into a mental asylum, shut away from the real world with only her needlework for company.

Can a beautiful quilt, discovered many years later, reveal the truth behind what happened to Maria?

Be sure to check back on the 9th of December to read more about 'The Forgotten Seamstress'! :)