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29 November 2013

December 2013 releases to look forward to!

I bet I'm not the only one who's incredibly excited about the fact that December is almost here, which means it's time for Christmas music, Christmas decorations, Christmas presents, Christmas treats, and most importantly, Christmas books! There are some brilliant reads out there to get you into the Christmas spirit, and in the upcoming month I'll definitely pay some attention to these holiday reads. However, December also has some other fabulous releases coming up, so if you are still looking for something to add to your Christmas wish-list, look no further! 


Lisa Dickenson - 'The Twelve Dates of Christmas' (December 2013)


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...



Stacey Ballis - 'Out to Lunch' (3rd of December 2013)


Jenna has lost her best friend.
With Aimee gone so tragically young, Jenna barely knows where to turn. Aimee was the one who always knew what to do—not to mention what to wear. The two built a catering company together and had so much in common—well, except their taste in men. Jenna never understood what the successful, sophisticated Aimee saw in Wayne, with his Star Wars obsession and harebrained business schemes.

And gained her best friend’s husband….

But Aimee has left a shocking last request: Jenna now has financial custody of the not-so-merry widower. True, Wayne needs someone sensible around to keep him under control, but what was her dear departed friend thinking?

The thing is, as she gets to know Wayne better, his latest moneymaking idea actually starts to intrigue her. Her attractive new lawyer boyfriend doesn’t approve of it—but then, Wayne doesn’t approve of her attractive new lawyer boyfriend. Now Jenna has to figure out what direction her life is going to take next. And she can’t help asking herself: What would Aimee do?


Erin Lawless - 'The Best Thing I Never Had' (5th of December 2013)


So much more than a love story, more of a life story.

Five years ago they’d been six friends at university that laughed hard and loved harder.


Nicky and Miles, the couple that were always meant to be… Leigha and Adam, maybe not.


So when Harriet and Adam grew close, during those long summer days in the library and too many seminars they (well, Adam) hadn’t prepared for, they did the one thing that changed everything. They kept a secret. And when it came out, the trust was broken.


When the day comes for bridesmaids to be chosen, and best men to fulfil drunken promises, Nicky and Miles’ wedding isn’t just a wedding, it’s a reunion – loaded with past hurts, past regrets, past loves.


Can you ever relive those uni days – or would you ever want to?



Anna Bell - 'Don't Tell the Groom' (5th of December 2013)


Penny has big dreams for her wedding day. She wants an unforgettable celebration, perfect down to the last detail, and has been saving for ages to make her dream a reality. When Mark finally pops the question, it's the best moment of her life.

Until Penny checks her wedding fund and is horrified to discover that something has gone terribly wrong. There's far less money there than she'd thought... and it's all her fault. She can't tell Mark the truth about what she's done, he knows nothing about how much time she spends gambling online. Her only choice is to seek help for her addiction and get married on a drastically smaller budget.


Working under the pretense of surprising Mark with her plans on their big day, operation 'Don't Tell the Groom' rolls into action, with surprising, hilarious and often moving results.



Mhairi McFarlane - 'Here's Looking at You' (5th of December 2013)


Anna Alessi – history expert, possessor of a lot of hair and an occasionally filthy mouth – seeks nice man for intelligent conversation and Mills & Boon moments.

Despite the oddballs that keep turning up on her dates, Anna couldn’t be happier. As a 30-something with a job she loves, life has turned out better than she dared dream. However, things weren’t always this way, and her years spent as the ‘Italian Galleon’ of an East London comprehensive are ones she’d rather forget.


So when James Fraser – the architect of Anna’s final humiliation at school – walks back into her life, her world is turned upside down. But James seems a changed man. Polite. Mature. Funny, even. People can change, right? So why does Anna feel like she’s a fool to trust him?



Alexandra Brown - 'Christmas at Carrington's' (5th of December 2013)


Georgie Hart loves Christmas time at Carrington’s Department store. Running the luxury handbag department, Georgie adores helping customers in the hunt for the perfect gift for the perfect someone. And this year is no exception – now she has the hunky Tom, Mr Carrington himself, to spend the special day with.

But when Tom springs a surprise, Georgie’s plans are thrown into chaos. Carrington’s is getting a fresh lease of life in a hot new reality TV show, featuring formidable retail guru, Kelly Cooper.


As the first show airs, Georgie is shown in a far from flattering light. Worse is to come when Kelly’s vile daughter appears to get her claws into Tom. Georgie fears this will be the worst Christmas ever, but Santa still has a little surprise for her stocking this year – she’ll just have to wait until Christmas to find out…



Louise Candlish - 'The Island Hideaway' (5th of December 2013)


How far would you follow him before you accept it's over? 

Eleanor Blake, distraught after breaking up with her fiance Will, decides to do what most would scarcely dare: secretly follow him to the island hideaway where he's on holiday with the woman who took her place. But on the shimmering, sun-drenched Sicilian island of Panarea, distractions come in many forms - including her fellow hotel guest Lewis, an enigmatic Englishman with secrets of his own to protect. And then there's Frannie, a young Italian actress on the island to prepare for her first film role, who is as charming as she is beautiful. Can she really be so perfect? And shouldn't Eleanor be the first to suspect that things might not be as they seem?



Liz Trenow - 'The Forgotten Seamstress' (5th of December 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?



Charlotte Phillips - 'Kiss Me on This Cold December Night' (12th of December 2013)


Christmas in London – a time for late night shopping on Regent’s Street or ice skating at Somerset House under a blanket of twinkling fairy lights, the warming, welcoming aroma of mulled wine in the air…

Or, alternatively, a time for bumping into the ghosts of one night stands past in Ella Scott’s case!


Checking into her boutique hotel for a weekend of Christmas shopping, the last person Ella expects to bump into at reception is Tom bloody Henley – ambitious doctor, highly eligible bachelor and with whom she had the most unbelievable, mind-blowing brief encounter five Christmases ago.


But Ella slipped out quietly the morning after all those years ago for a reason and although Tom’s got a look on his face that suggests Christmas has come early, there’s no way she’s going to be repeating past mistakes… right?



Lynn Marie Hulsman - 'Christmas at Thornton Hall' (12th of December 2013)

When Juliet Hill unwittingly discovers a most-definitely-not-hers-rhinestone-studded lace thong in her high-flying lawyer boyfriend’s apartment, this usually feisty chef is suddenly single and facing a very blue Christmas – with only a ready meal for one to keep her company!

So when she’s personally requested to cater for the family at Thornton Hall three days before Christmas, it’s not long before Juliet’s standing at the (back) door of the impossibly grand ancestral pile.

The halls are decked, the guests are titled, those below the stairs are delightfully catty, and all-American Juliet sets to work cooking up a glorious British Christmas with all the trimmings.

But other flames are burning besides those on the stove… Sparks fly with Edward, the gorgeous ex-soldier turned resident chef, and are those sidelong looks Juliet’s getting from her boss, the American tycoon Jasper Roth?

As the snow starts to fall on the idyllic Cotswolds countryside, so does the veneer of genteel high society and there are more than a few ancient skeletons rattling out of the Hall’s numerous dark cupboards!


Kim Gruenenfelder - 'Keep Calm and Carry a Big Drink' (24th of December 2013)


It's been almost a year since Mel, Nic and Seema pulled their magical charms out of the cake at Nic's bridal shower and most of their happily-ever-afters seemingly came true. Seema is about to marry Scott in an elaborate three-day affair. Nic is glowingly pregnant. And Mel... well, Mel feels as if she accidentally veered off the rails of her life at some point and isn't sure how to get back on. She recently became single again, she's been threatened with a layoff from her teaching job, and she has to find her own place now that Scott is moving in with her roommate, Seema.

Nic thinks Mel just needs a new cake charm to bring her good luck. . . and decides to rig the cake pull at Seema's bridal shower. Desperate for travel, Mel asks for the passport charm. But, once again, the cake proves to have a mind of its own, and she pulls a charm she doesn't want, and can not use. Rather than be bound by the charm's prophecy, Mel realizes she, and she alone, is responsible for her destiny. A spur of the moment decision takes her to Paris and then Maui, where she finds herself on an adventure that she never could have imagined, experiencing the trials and tribulations of a life suddenly and perfectly unplanned. And, along the way, she begins to learn that, however nonsensical it may seem, the cake is never wrong...

26 November 2013

Review & Guest Post: 'Second Time Lucky' by Sophie King (2013)

Once Bridgewater House was the stately home of Lord Pearmain. Now, however, the house has been divided into separate residences for financial purposes. The Lord is forced to live in one of the humble apartments alongside his newly acquired housemates, among them a newly-divorced mother-of-three, a legendary screen goddess of the 1940s, and an American PhD student. Over an eventful year their children, a burglar, a friendly dog, a very capable cleaner, and at least one ghost will transform all of the residents' lives.

Earlier this year I was contacted by Corazon Books about reviewing Sophie King’s novel ‘Love is a Secret’ (click here to read my review). I really enjoyed it, so when I was contacted about a review copy of another Sophie King novel, I couldn’t wait to start reading! ‘Second Time Lucky’ was originally published in 2007, but was re-released as an e-book on the 7th of November 2013 by Corazon Books. I hadn’t seen or heard about ‘Second Time Lucky’ before, but I instantly liked the sound of the blurb and looked forward to getting to know a new group of characters created by Sophie!

Bridgewater House used to be a grand country house, but over the years it has been converted into several separate apartments, housing different kinds of characters. Louise used to be a happily married woman, until her husband left her for his mistress. She’s now a single mum with no job and three children to take care of, and forced to move from a large mansion to a small apartment. Roddy used to be the heir to Bridgewater House, but is now a recovering alcoholic trying to do everything in his power to be able to see his two kids, whom he loves more than anything in the world. Then there’s Molly, who used to be a famous actress and has just lost her beloved husband Gideon. However, she’s still able to see him and can’t stand the thought of being left alone. Last but not least, there’s Marcie, an American PhD student, who has turned her dream of marrying a true English gentleman into reality by marrying business man David. Yet, her two awful stepchildren weren’t part of her perfect picture and neither were their problems to have a baby together. All the residents of Bridgewater House have their own secrets, but nothing can stay hidden for long from your neighbours... 

One of the things I really love about Sophie King’s novels is her ability to create a truly fascinating and entertaining group of various characters who are all dealing with their own personal secrets and desires. This not only provides the reader with several interesting storylines to enjoy, but it also results in the novel dealing with numerous issues which I am sure most readers will be able to relate to, whether it’s one of these topics or more. I didn’t want to put this novel down, because each time I finished a chapter, a new chapter would start focusing on another storyline I had almost forgotten and couldn’t wait to find out more about. There were also a few twists and turns towards the end of the book I did not see coming, which resulted in a lovely ending.

Even though ‘Second Time Lucky’ was written in 2007, it’s a read that feels contemporary and I’m really glad Corazon Books is giving Sophie King’s novels the attention they deserve! ‘Second Time Lucky’ is an easy-to-read, thoroughly enjoyable and lovely read, and a novel I highly recommend to any chick lit or women’s fiction fans!

Rating:8,5/10


***

I'm delighted to welcome Sophie King to the blog today for a special guest post! Enjoy! :)

AM I THE ONLY ONE who's forgotten what I learned at school? We've just come back from a short break in France. Great opportunity - or so I thought - to practice my schoolgirl French. But not a bit of it!

My 'Please could you heat up my croissant?'plea, was met with a stony gaze from the sultry-eyed Gallic waiter on our first day.

'I told you not to complain,' hissed newish husband who is much more laid-back.

It turned out, after a rather tricky conversation involving one of those 'Speak French in Five Minutes' books, that I'd asked the waiter to 'sleep with the frigid croissant'. Strangely, he didn't see the funny side! Still, maybe it's boosted les Anglais' reputation for unusual bedroom behaviour...

(The plus factor was that it gave me a chance to observe him from close quarters and make Hero notes for my next novel.)

Still, it made me wonder what exactly my brain had done with all that knowledge which had been drummed into me from my long-ago school days. Time was when I'd been more than capable of holding my own in a French conversation, partly because I was packed off on several exchange trips. ( There's another story to this but I daren't write it.)

Has my brain switched off its French app due to maturity (I'm not that old and besides, I knock back my omega oil capsule every day). Or is it simply because I don't need to use it on a regular basis? And if so, why can't I remember my nine times table which would still come in useful in the supermarket. (The other day I had one of those mortifying moments at the till where I didn't have enough cash even though I'd mentally trotted up the cost. It might have been all right if I hadn't left my credit card behind in one of my other handbags...)

It's not just Maths either which has become eroded over time - although, to be honest, it was never firmly entrenched in the first place. My current geography know-how is a continual source of hilarity to my children who are much more location- aware than I am. Indeed, my eldest will never let me forget that I got him a D at school for declaring that Sydney was the capital of Australia. (Yes, yes, I know it's really Canberra.)

Frankly, I think it's because I was taught the wrong things at school. Below is a list of the subjects that would really have come in useful;

How to budget my Ins and Outs (money-wise)

How to budget my Ins and Outs (relationship-wise)

How to get my children to do what I want

How to stop worrying

How to have self- confidence

How to deal with bullies

How to cook (properly)

How to remember names of politicians so I can attempt a reasonably-informed conversation

How to hold my own with the computer

In fact, the list is endless! If you've got something you'd like to add, do email me at sophie@sophieking.info under the subject heading ' What I wish I'd Learned At School' . You could win a copy of my latest novel. 

Can't wait to hear from you! Bon Chance! (I think I got that right....)

Read more Am I The Only One? posts on my blog at http://blog.sophieking.info

Thanks to Sophie King for writing this lovely guest post! Be sure to order your own copy of 'Second Time Lucky', available on Amazon here!

25 November 2013

Review & Interview: 'Solomon's Tale' by Sheila Jeffries (2013)

The story of a little cat who saved a family in crisis.

Solomon’s story began one stormy night…

Found on the doorstep in the middle of a thunderstorm, Solomon enters the King family as a tiny, wet ball of fur. But as his new owner Ellen coaxes him back to life, it becomes clear
that he is no ordinary cat.

Wise beyond his years, this little black and white kitten becomes the family’s protector. As Ellen and her young son deal with abuse, homelessness, and the loss of everything they
hold dear, it is Solomon who brings light to the darkest times.

Inspiring, moving and heartbreaking, ‘Solomon’s Tale’ is the story of an extraordinary cat who is the most faithful of friends. The perfect read for fans of ‘A Street Cat Named Bob’.

When I was contacted to review Sheila Jeffries’ novel ‘Solomon’s Tale’, which was released by Avon on the 21st of November 2013, I at first wasn’t too sure whether I would enjoy this book. I’m not an incredibly big lover of cats or animals in general, and this novel seemed to be a big stretch from the genre I usually go for (chick lit). However, somehow the sound of little cat Solomon and his tale caught my interest (I promise it wasn’t just the pretty glitter on the cover of the book), and I decided to give it a chance, seeing it as an opportunity to step away from my trustworthy chick lit novels and try a new flavour for a change!

Solomon is a black-and-white cat who has led a good life as the pet of young girl Ellen. He is now part of the spiritual world, where he is given the challenge to go back to earth and back to his former owner, Ellen, who is now a grown woman and struggling in her life. Solomon doesn’t have to think twice about this and tries everything he can to find his way back to Ellen to help her through the difficult times.

As the blurb already shows, ‘Solomon’s Tale’ is quite a unique story, mainly because it is told from a completely different perspective, namely that of a cat. Next to that, spirituality and the topic of reincarnation take on a significant role in the book. Because of these two elements, I wasn’t too sure about this at first, but Sheila Jeffries really managed to convince me with Solomon’s voice and I felt myself wanting to turn the pages of the book, curious to find out whether Solomon would be able to find Ellen and how he would help her. I loved Solomon; he’s not just a cat, but an easily loveable character and I really enjoyed reading about his dedication to Ellen and the relationship between the two of them. I personally like this idea of a pet looking out for you, and whether you believe in this or not, Sheila Jeffries managed to turn this into a thoroughly enjoyable tale.

As I already said, ‘Solomon’s Tale’ is different from my usual reads, but I definitely do not regret agreeing to read and review it. It is an original story that focuses on a different and interesting perspective, namely that of a cat, and Sheila Jeffries managed to write it in such a way that I did not even miss a human voice. ‘Solomon’s Tale’ is a different, warm, light and quick read that is suitable for both adults and teenagers, and I certainly recommend it to animal lovers or people who are simply looking for something else than the average read!

Rating:7,5/10

***

I'm delighted to have author Sheila Jeffries on 'A Spoonful of Happy Endings' today to talk about her new release, 'Solomon's Tale'! 

Can you tell us something about your new novel, 'Solomon's Tale'?
Solomon was a special cat, and I felt his story would touch people's hearts. I enjoyed writing it and everyone says they can't put it down. I originally wrote it to help parents to know what to say to comfort a child who is grieving for a lost pet, and I feel it has worked. It's a deep book with a light touch, easy and fun to read, but tackling some big issues like birth, death, re­incarnation and angels.

Where did you find the inspiration for the plot line of  
'Solomon's Tale'?
Inspiration has never been a problem for me. Stories queue up in my head. First I get the essence of the story and the characters, then the plot evolves organically as I am writing. I've tried many times to do a plot outline but I never can. I just have to trust that it will come, and it always does.

You've written numerous children's books, but you see 'Solomon's Tale' as a new start. Can you tell us about that?
When I was writing for children I got type cast, always writing a commissioned 'next in the series book '. My best children's books, the ones I was passionate about, are still unpublished, but I hope that is about to change. I've always been interested in spiritual stuff, and it's at last finding its way into fiction, thanks to enlightened publishers like Harper Collins.

'Solomon's Tale' is written from the perspective of a cat. Why did you decide to use an animal's perspective? Did you find it in any way challenging?
A must­have ability for any writer is being able to get inside the mind of their characters, so I didn't find it difficult at all. I am a sensitive person and I can pick up feelings from anything that is alive, even a plant. Cats are highly evolved beings with complex emotions and an innate spirituality that is very pure. Our own innate spirituality has been messed up by education, peer pressure and religion. So choosing a cat as the narrator was actually quite liberating!

I've read on your website that you've already written a sequel to this novel. Can you perhaps give us a sneak peek?
The manuscript is currently on my editor's desk, so I can't give too much away. It's about Solomon's favourite, the tabby kitten who was cruelly snatched away from him. I've had to research animal healing and communication for this book and that's been amazing, and I mean AMAZING.

What are some of your favourite books or authors? 
Marina De Nadous, Kate Morton, Janet Frame, DH Lawrence, Tarjei Vesaas, and poetry.

Do you have any tips for aspiring writers?
Write from the heart. Don't procrastinate but just get on with it, even if you write rubbish you can edit it later. Build a social media platform long before your book is published.

And last, but not least, if you had to describe 'Solomon's Tale' in just 3 words, which would you pick?
Spiritual cat story.

Thanks very much, Sheila! :) 

If you are interested in getting your own copy of 'Solomon's Tale', click here to order it on Amazon now!



20 November 2013

Review: 'Yours Truly' by Kirsty Greenwood (2013)

Newly engaged Natalie Butterworth is an easy-going girl. She'll do anything for a quiet life and if telling a few teensy white lies keeps her friends and family happy, then so what? It's not like they'll ever discover what she's really thinking...

Until one night, thanks to a pub hypnotist, Natalie's most private thoughts begin to bubble up and pop out of her mouth. Things get very messy indeed, especially when some sticky home truths offend her fiancé.

Natalie must track down the hypnotist before her wedding is officially cancelled. So along with bad influence bestie Meg, Natalie finds herself in the Yorkshire Parish of Little Trooley - a small village bursting with big secrets, nosy old folk and intriguing Wellington-wearing men.

When the girls get stuck in the village with no means of escape and no way to break the hypnotist's spell, Natalie is forced to face the truths she has been avoiding her whole life...

I have to admit, Kirsty Greenwood’s ‘Yours Truly’ has to be one of the 2013 releases I have been looking forward to the most. Many of you chick lit fans out there will undoubtedly recognise Kirsty’s name from Novelicious, an amazing chick lit website and now also digital imprint of fantastic women's fiction. Kirsty self-published her novel ‘Yours Truly’, which became a big hit, and she is now signed by Pan Macmillan. The paperback version of ‘Yours Truly’ will be available from the 21st of November 2013 (click here to get it on Amazon now), but I was lucky enough to receive a review copy. I knew this book would not disappoint, so I saved it for a time when I needed a good book to cheer me up, and this one definitely did the trick!

Natalie Butterworth is a 27-year-old who can be described as being a push-over. She does everything to avoid any form of confrontation, tells everyone what they want to hear, and is afraid to stand up for herself. Yet, Natalie is satisfied with her life and especially her engagement to the fit and handsome Olly. So, when Natalie’s best friend Meg takes her on an evening out to the pub and Natalie ends up accidentally hypnotized to only tell the absolute truth and nothing but the truth, she at first doesn’t necessarily expect any trouble. Until she discovers she might not be as satisfied with her relationship, her job, and her upcoming wedding as she thought, and there’s no way to hide her true feelings any longer. Natalie knows she has to find Amazing Brian, the man who hypnotized her, which brings her to the tiny Yorkshire village Little Trooley. All Natalie wants is her old life back, but on her journey to get there she is forced to face some truths, whether she wants to or not...

I loved loved loved this book. I instantly liked Natalie, who is a relatable and entertaining heroine, and as soon as she was forced to only tell the truth, I couldn’t stop laughing out loud. Next to her, there’s a great mix of likeable characters, such as dreamy bartender Riley, lovely best friend Meg, and slightly annoying-but-in-a-good-way sister Dionne. The setting of the novel was also brilliant; the tiny village of Little Trooley is described in perfect detail and I’d simply like to pack my bags and move there right now! However, great characters and a beautiful setting don’t make a novel. Thankfully, the book also has a great storyline with its own original twist, and all of this combined together made me not want to put this book down for even a single second.

If you ask me, this novel is exactly what the genre ‘chick lit’ is all about: an inspiring female heroine who finds herself being challenged, trying to find her way in this world, with a special dose of love, friendship, family, humour, hunky men and delicious food. ‘Yours Truly’ is a charming, addictive, laugh-out-loud funny book, and definitely one of my favourite reads of 2013. Kirsty Greenwood has presented us with a wonderful debut novel, and I already see a future for her as one of the new big voices within the world of chick-lit. A must-read for anyone looking for a great and funny read!

Rating:10/10


18 November 2013

Review: 'Coco's Secret' by Niamh Greene (2013)

Coco Swan has always been embarrassed by her name.

With a name like Coco, she thinks people expect her to be as exotic and glamorous as the famous designer, not an ordinary-looking small-town antiques dealer who could win an award for living cautiously.

But when a vintage Chanel handbag turns up in a box of worthless bric-a-brac, Coco's quiet world is turned upside down. Where did it come from? And is it just coincidence that it's the same bag Coco's late mother always wanted for her?

When Coco discovers a mysterious, decades-old letter hidden in the bag's lining, she sets off on a quest to piece together the story behind it, stumbling across secrets that span three generations as she goes. Could the beautiful Chanel bag be about to teach Coco more than she wants to learn? Or will it show her just where her heart can take her if she lets it lead the way?

One of the first novels I reviewed for this blog was Niamh Greene’s ‘A Message to Your Heart’. It was a lovely, uplifting read and a book I still recommend to others. So, when I heard a new novel by Niamh Greene was being released, I immediately knew I wanted to pick up a copy and read it, hoping I would end up enjoying this new novel as much as I did Niamh’s previous one. Luckily, I received a review copy of ‘Coco’s Secret’ (thank you, Penguin!) and couldn’t wait to get stuck in!

When she was just thirteen years old, Coco Swan’s mother died unexpectedly, leaving her in the care of her grandparents. Over the years, she has grown up in a small and safe English village, helping her grandmother Ruth with the family antiques shop. Coco often thinks about her mother, who lived a thrilling and exotic life travelling the world to find amazing new pieces to sell in the antique store, and how she decided to name her daughter after the fabulous Coco Chanel, hoping her daughter would grow up to do big things as well. Coco feels she is the complete opposite of all this: plain, leading an uneventful life, invisible. However, one day Coco buys a marble topped table at an auction, and in the boxes of junk on top of it she finds a beautiful real Chanel bag; just like the one her mother had always wanted her to have and cherish. Within the bag, Coco finds a letter, and soon she finds herself embarking on a journey to discover the true story behind this letter...

Niamh Greene is a born storyteller and her ability to turn something slightly random, like a handbag, into something amazing is what makes this novel such an enjoyable read. As a reader, you are taken on an enchanting journey through the past and present, and I found myself with a constant smile on my face while reading this book. I instantly liked Coco, she’s an easily loveable and relatable heroine, and I loved joining her on her journey to discover the story behind the Chanel handbag and the letter inside it, but also on her path to discover who she is and what she wants in life. 

One of the things that also instantly attracted me to this novel is the way antiques and vintage fashion play a significant role. I love strolling around antique stores, and learning more about the history of fashion femme fatales like Coco Chanel, so this element of the novel definitely caught my attention. Next to that, Niamh Greene has created a cast of easily loveable characters (including Coco’s grandmother Ruth, such a great and inspiring woman), and managed to add a mysterious feel to the book, making you want to turn the pages until you know everything about that bag and the letter. ‘Coco’s Secret’ is a warm, enchanting, feel-good read that I recommend to any female reader, and I personally can’t wait for Niamh Greene’s next book!

Rating:8,5/10 



14 November 2013

Review: 'Deep Blue Sea' by Tasmina Perry (2013)

Beneath the shimmering surface lies a dark secret...

Diana and Julian Denver have the world at their feet. With a blissful marriage, a darling son and beautiful homes in London and the country, Diana's life, to the outside world, is perfect. But nothing is as it seems...

When Julian dies suddenly and tragically, Diana is convinced there is more to it than meets the eye. She calls on the one person she had never wanted to see again - her sister, Rachel.

A former tabloid reporter, Rachel appears to be living the dream as a diving instructor on a Thai island. The truth is she's in exile, estranged from her family and driven from her career by Fleet Street's phone-hacking scandal.

For Rachel, Diana's request opens old wounds. But she is determined to make amends for the past, and embarks on a treacherous journey to uncover the truth - wherever it may lead...

Earlier this year I was introduced to author Tasmina Perry when I got the chance to read and review her novel ‘Perfect Strangers.’ I was instantly taken in by the glamour, intrigue and mysteriousness of this book, and was quite curious to read more of her work. During the summer of 2013, ‘Deep Blue Sea’ was released and I was lucky enough to receive a review copy of the novel. I was really looking forward to picking up this book and discovering more about Tasmina Perry’s writing, hoping I would enjoy the novel just as much as I enjoyed ‘Perfect Strangers’!

To strangers it might seem that Diana and Julian Denver lead the perfect life: they are happily married, have a son whom they both adore, and lead a luxurious lifestyle which offers them anything they could possibly wish for. Yet, when Julian is unexpectedly discovered dead in their Notting Hill home, Diana’s life is turned upside down. Amidst all the chaos, there is one thing she knows for sure: Julian would never have taken his own life. Even though they haven’t spoken to one another in years, Diana decides to contact the person who will certainly be able to help her, her sister Rachel. Rachel used to be a tabloid reporter, but after being involved in a phone hacking scandal, she was forced to give up her career. She now lives in Thailand, where she runs a diving school together with her business partner Liam, but when Diana phones she know she’ll do whatever she can to help to uncover the mystery surrounding Julian’s death. 

Once again, Tasmina Perry did not disappoint. ‘Deep Blue Sea’ is an intriguing novel that had me guessing and wanting more from its very first chapters. A great mix of characters (I specifically loved Rachel and Diana, and how their relationship as sisters develops throughout the novel), lots of intriguing twists and turns, and the fabulous scene setting (the reader is taken to all kinds of places all over the world, and I personally straight away fell in love with Diana and Julian’s amazing houses in the countryside and London) define Tasmina Perry’s own unique style; a style I have definitely come to love after reading two of her novels.

I really like it when a book manages to grip you, makes you want to know the truth, and doesn’t allow you to put the novel down until you have discovered all the details and solved the mystery. However, the fact that Tasmina Perry not only focuses on suspense, but also adds a layer of romance to her stories, once again adds to her own personal writing style and makes me appreciate her work even more. ‘Deep Blue Sea’ is a highly addictive, glamorous, and intriguing read which will have you guessing until the end and undoubtedly longing for more! 

Rating:8,5/10       



12 November 2013

November 2013 release: 'Yours Truly' by Kirsty Greenwood


Newly engaged Natalie Butterworth is an easy-going girl. She’ll do anything for a quiet life and if telling a few teensy white lies keeps her friends and family happy, then so what? It’s not like they’ll ever discover what she’s really thinking…

Until one night, thanks to a pub hypnotist, Natalie’s most private thoughts begin to bubble up and pop out of her mouth. Things get very messy indeed. Especially when some sticky home truths offend her fiancé.

Natalie must track down the hypnotist before the wedding is officially cancelled. So along with bad influence bestie Meg, Natalie finds herself in the Yorkshire Parish of Little Trooley - a small village bursting with big secrets, nosy old folk and intriguing Wellington-wearing men.

When the girls get stranded in the village with no means of escape and no way to break the hypnotist's spell, Natalie is forced to face the truths she has been avoiding her whole life...

Kirsty Greenwood (whom all of you chick-lit fans might know from the fabulous 'Novelicious' website) is releasing her first novel, 'Yours Truly', on the 21st of November! I have been looking forward to this novel for quite some time now, especially after all the amazing things I've heard about it from other people. Kirsty Greenwood is named as the new chick-lit author on the scene to look out for, and apparently 'Yours Truly' is incredibly funny and entertaining. I can't wait to read it! 


Be sure to pre-order your own copy on Amazon by clicking here!


11 November 2013

Review: 'The Debt and the Doormat' by Laura Barnard (2013)

Poppy and Jazz have been best friends from the first week of university. Whenever these two get together trouble isn’t far away and things haven’t changed much. When Jazz gets herself into financial trouble Poppy, being a good friend, offers to help. She instead ends up being talked into swapping lives, with Jazz insisting it will be good and help her get over her broken heart.

Poppy is thrown into a new life, full of crazy housemates. There’s fitness freak Izzy, horrendously beautiful bitch Grace and the slightly gorgeous, if not incredibly grumpy Ryan.

Quickly, with the help of Jazz, her life is thrown upside down. Madness ensues and her need to please everyone gets her in more trouble than she could ever imagine.

Before she knows it she’s got a fake boyfriend and is hiding so many secrets she’s scared they’ll spill out any minute. With a bullying boss, a sex crazed colleague, a mental mother and three brothers each with their own dramas, life has gotten pretty difficult for Poppy. And all of this would be much easier, if she could just stop falling over.

Will she get her life back to normal before her brother’s upcoming wedding? And will she want to?

Laura Barnard contacted me several weeks ago about reviewing her debut chick lit novel, ‘The Debt and the Doormat.’ Even though the title didn’t immediately tell me what kind of novel I could expect, the blurb quickly showed me that the book is about two best friends who decide to swap lives. I really liked this idea and was looking forward to finding out more about Poppy and Jazz, so within a few days I found a review copy in my mailbox to get lost in!

‘The Debt and the Doormat’ focuses on two best friends named Poppy and Jazz. The two girls have known each other since their first year at university, and even though they have their differences, they have been inseparable ever since. Poppy is the more sensible and organized one, while Jazz leads a crazy fun-filled life without any rules. When Jazz manages to get herself into thousands of pounds of debt, Poppy wants to help her friend out and they decide to swap lives. They change homes and make a pact that whatever the other tells you to do, needs to be done. Poppy soon finds herself living with Jazz’s roommates, including the gorgeous but slightly grumpy Ryan. Her life is turned upside down within a matter of days, the question is: is this really what she needs to loosen up a bit, or was her old lifestyle not that bad after all?

I really liked the plotline of this novel; Poppy and Jazz have a great friendship and I loved how Poppy is willing to help out Jazz, no matter what. The swapping of lives results in some funny and crazy situations, which made me laugh out loud quite a few times. There’s an interesting mix of characters at the core of the story; Poppy and Jazz seem to be complete opposites but make the best of friends, there are the roommates Izzy (a sweet girl who is a complete fitness freak) and Grace (the ultimate bitchy beautiful one), and of course, Ryan, the grumpy but handsome male in the house, for whom Poppy seems to have a soft spot from the first time they meet. There’s friendship, crazy situations, and a touch of romance; a great mix for a chick lit novel.

Even though the plot was easy to follow, I couldn’t help but feel like the novel was written more like a TV show than an actual book. Most of the chapters started with a new event or situation starring the group of characters, making it feel like all these separate episodes of a TV show instead of flowing like one story. I also noticed some traces of the TV show ‘Friends.’ The book has a lot of potential, with an enjoyable storyline and a good mix of characters, but somehow it felt like a collection of events to me, instead of an actual novel. Overall, ‘The Debt and the Doormat’ is a light and fun read that focuses on best friends and what happens when they decide to pull themselves out of their comfort zone, resulting in some predictable but definitely enjoyable situations which undoubtedly many readers will be able to laugh at or even relate to.

Rating:7/10


8 November 2013

Review: 'The House We Grew Up In' by Lisa Jewell (2013)

Meet the Bird Family.

All four children have an idyllic childhood: a picture-book cottage in a country village, a warm, cosy kitchen filled with love and laughter, sun-drenched afternoons in a rambling garden. But one Easter weekend a tragedy strikes the Bird family that is so devastating that, almost imperceptibly, it begins to tear them apart. The years pass and the children become adults and begin to develop their own quite separate lives. Soon it's almost as though they've never been a family at all.

Almost. 
But not quite.

Because something has happened that will call them home, back to the house they grew up in - and to what really happened that Easter weekend all those years ago.

Lisa Jewell has been one of my favourite authors for several years now. Her novels ‘Thirty-nothing’ and ‘One-Hit Wonder’ were some of the first chick lit books I bought, and ‘Vince and Joy’ is one of the first chick lit novels I fell head over heels in love with. Through the years, Lisa Jewell’s books have been of a constant quality, and I know whenever I find a new novel with her name on the cover, it must be a good read. So, when I was contacted by Random House about a review copy of Lisa Jewell’s latest release, ‘The House We Grew Up In’, I couldn’t shout ‘YES’ quick enough. I love the new covers of Lisa Jewell’s latest books, and I couldn’t wait to get stuck in another promising story!

In the year 1981 the Bird family seems to have it all. Lorelei and Colin are happily married, and their children Megan, Bethan and twins Rory and Rhys have the perfect childhood growing up in a lovely house in a small country village. But then, one Easter weekend, tragedy strikes and from that moment on, life will never be the same again for each member of the family. As time passes, the children grow up and everyone goes their separate ways. Until another event brings them all back together again, back to that house filled with memories of a happy family, and that one moment that changed absolutely everything.

‘The House We Grew Up In’ focuses on a period of 30 years in total, namely from 1981 until 2011. Each chapter provides the reader with details of what happened each Easter weekend, slowly bringing all the pieces of the Bird family puzzle together. At the centre of it all, is the Bird house, which at first comes across as a simply beautiful place, filled with sunshine, love and laughter, but later on also shows the darker side of the people who lived there. The great mix of characters and storyline had me hooked from the start, and I felt myself entirely gripped by it all. The novel deals with numerous sensitive topics, such as keeping secrets from one another, cheating, mental illness, hoarding; but relationships, in their various fascinating and complex ways, are at the core of it all.

I personally loved how the story switched from present to past and back again, which resulted in me slowly managing to piece all the details together. All the Bird family members managed to speak to me in a different way, all with their own personal flaws and experiences. Every family has their own secrets, and I loved how Lisa Jewell portrayed this one particular group of people. It wasn’t always easy to read, because there are many painful scenes in the book, but at the same time the book was just incredibly fascinating and I was unable to put it down. With the beautifully written, simply gripping and poignant ‘The House We Grew Up In’, Lisa Jewell has once again shown what a brilliant storyteller she is, and I eagerly await her next release.

Rating:8,5/10


5 November 2013

Review & Giveaway: 'Conditional Love' by Cathy Bramley (2013)

All her life she has dreamed of a home of her own, so what’s holding her back?

Sophie Stone, thirty-something serial procrastinator, lover of Take That, Tesco knickers and tea with two sugars, rarely steps out of her comfort zone. So when an unexpected inheritance from a great aunt she’s never met forces her to meet her father, it threatens the very foundations of Sophie’s world.

What did the old lady want her to discover? Was there more to her parents’ break up than she was lead to believe? Sophie will have to face some startling home truths before she can finally build a future on her own terms.

Today, I’m happy to be a part of the Fiction Addiction book tour for Cathy Bramley’s debut novel ‘Conditional Love.’ I instantly loved the cover of the book as soon as I saw it (the pretty red umbrella and the rain consisting of little hearts, too cute!) and the blurb promised a good chick lit read, so I couldn’t wait to get stuck in!

Sophie Stone is a thirty-something who is pretty content with her life. She has a job at a newspaper, the Herald, which she isn’t too excited about but pays the bills; she has a boyfriend Marc, who seems to be fonder of her money than of her as a person, but he’s really fit and good-looking; and she still lives in the same flat she has been living in for years, together with her roommates Jess and Emma.
Sophie isn’t the type of person who likes to step out of her comfort zone, but when she is dumped by Marc on Valentine’s Day and is unexpectedly confronted with a family inheritance, Sophie realises it might be time for a change. Her great-aunt Jane, whom Sophie didn’t even know existed, has left her a part of her inheritance, namely a bungalow. The trick is, though, that she can only receive her part of the inheritance if she meets up with her father, who abandoned Sophie when she was just a little baby. Sophie will have to make some life-altering decisions, and this time around, she can’t simply hide away in a corner and hope everything will fix itself...

I had absolutely no trouble warming to the main character of this novel, Sophie. I instantly liked her, (except for the few moments where I wanted to just scream at her for still liking her ex, Marc) and the same goes for most of the other characters. Sophie’s roommates Emma and Jess, who are sisters, made me laugh out loud with their constant bickering and I think I fell just a tiny bit in love with Nick Cromwell, the architect Sophie gets into touch with. I really enjoyed the different storylines of the novel and the various topics that are focused on, specifically Sophie’s struggles with her family. She is trying to decide whether to meet her father, who abandoned her and her mother when she was just a baby, but at the same time she is quite curious to hear her father’s side of the story. Sophie is forced to make some really important life-changing decisions, and it was great to see Sophie develop as a person because of everything going on in her life.

When first reading the blurb, I can imagine some people thinking that the plot of this book is perhaps a bit clichéd and has been done many times already. However, I definitely think Cathy Bramley managed to give it her own twist, and I personally loved this tale and the characters at its core. This is her debut novel, and I am definitely looking forward to hearing more from her. ‘Conditional Love’ is a warm, well-paced, fun novel, which I am sure any chick lit/romance fan will enjoy!

Rating:8,5/10 

Be sure to enter Cathy Bramley's fabulous giveaway to win some amazing prizes!

4 November 2013

Review: 'Henry and Rachel' by Laurel Saville (2013)

Brought to live with the George family as a child, all anyone knew about enigmatic Rachel was that she worked hard, making herself indispensable to the plantation. And she remained a mystery until the day she disappeared…even to her husband. Especially to her husband.

Henry was Rachel’s opposite—gregarious where she was quiet, fanciful where she was pragmatic. After years of marriage, Rachel left Henry and their oldest son without explanation and set off on a steamer for New York City with their other four children. Was her flight the ultimate act of betrayal or one of extraordinary courage? Eight characters connected by blood and circumstance reconstruct Rachel’s inexplicable vanishing act.

Thanks to Sarah Hall Productions, I received a review copy of Laurel Saville’s historical novel ‘Henry and Rachel’, which was published on the 15th of October 2013. I hadn’t read anything by Laurel Saville before, but the fact that the novel is based on real letters written by her own family, more specifically her great-grandparents, sparked my interest. I even received a folder with some extra background information on Laurel Saville, her family, and the novel, which only made me more curious to read the novel and find out more.

After his first wife died in childbirth, Henry was devastated and did not see himself falling in love with someone else. However, as soon as he lays eyes on Rachel, he is captivated by her. Rachel was brought to live with the George family, but she has always been the quiet and pensive type, hiding in corners and not making herself noticed. The two end up together, but their marriage is not a happy one. One day, Henry and his oldest son come home to an empty house; Rachel has taken the four other children with her and has left to go to New York. This novel tells the story of what exactly happened, and how things turned out this way for Henry, Rachel and their family.

Henry and Rachel’s tale is at the core of this novel and is told from the perspective of eight characters that each play a significant part in the story. The background setting is an island in the West Indies in the early twentieth century, a time in which race and class distinction played important roles. The basis for a fascinating and strong narrative is definitely there, but unfortunately somehow this did not result in an intriguing read I did not want to put down. This probably partly had to do with the fact that I thought that Rachel, one of the main characters of the book, was really difficult to read. She’s a distant woman, who eventually decides to flee to New York in order to give her children a better life including an education, but throughout the story I found it difficult to decide whether I liked her or not. Next to her, there weren’t any other characters I specifically liked or disliked, so I kind of missed an emotional link with the people at the core of this novel.

It’s really too bad that the novel is not heavy in plot, because Laurel Saville’s way of writing is captivating. I wasn’t surprised to find out that she has won several awards with her specific lyrical voice, and I’m quite curious to read more of her work. I am positive that others will enjoy ‘Henry and Rachel’, it’s an atmospheric and undoubtedly well-written novel, but personally I wasn’t able to connect with the characters and had expected more, based on the blurb and background information.

Rating:6/10