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Perfect cup of hot chocolate

Christmas Ever After - Sarah Morgan

Firstly, I’d like to appreciate how truly beautiful the cover of this book is, the colour of the deep blue sky, the wonderful London skyline and the image of a girl on a bench reading a book screams to me “read me now!” Add to this the wonderfully tactile feel of the glitter and the addition of a cute, glittery puffin on the back and the book is truly an item of beauty and luckily enough, what’s inside is just as beautiful.

 

Skylar is a jewellery designer who loves designing and creating beautiful jewellery. Jewellery that has meaning, an emotion, a declaration but something above just a flashy show of wealth.  It pains her that her parents see her passion and her dream as a hobby and not a real career.  So she is delighted when her boyfriend Richard makes the trip over to London to spend the opening night of her newest exhibition.   Richard is a rising political star and for him to take the time out of his hectic r

 

However, what should have been Sky’s night of celebration turns to pain and anguish after a public proposal from Richard goes wrong and after she is hurt and Richard just leaves her alone- Sky is left wondering perhaps her relationship with Richard had been a lie. Into her exhibition walks Alec Hunter who thinks of Sky as a ditzy princess but when he sees how much pain Sky is in, he decides that he can’t leave her alone and takes a reluctant Sky back to his hotel to help her recover.

 

Due to the possibility that Sky may have suffered a head injury and can’t be left alone, Alec has to take Sky with him to his Christmas visit to his parents. Due to pain in Alec’s past, this is not easy but Sky leaves his family and eventually him, enchanted with her warmth and sparkiness even in time of great personal pain.

 

This novel was like a perfect cup of hot chocolate in winter, it was filled with warmth and made the reader feel good inside. There is heartache sure but the author makes the reader feel so connected with Sky and Alec that you are willing the couple to overcome their own personal barriers to find some happiness for themselves. 

 

The settings are wonderfully described and I loved the descriptions of Alec’s loving but brutally honest family who welcome Sky into their home. Puffin Island is also lovingly described and as there are some more books in this series, I definitely want to read more about the island and its inhabitants.

 

This is a truly magical Christmas story that kept me reading long into the night and which I highly recommend to get you in the mood for your own Christmas Ever After.

 

Warm, Sweet and Funny

Hopelessly Devoted to Holden Finn - Tilly Tennant

After having followed Tilly Tennant on Twitter and having a few Twitter conversations with her, I was very excited to learn that she was soon to release her debut novel, Hopelessly Devoted to Holden Finn and bought a copy as soon as it was released.  Firstly, I’d like to admire the beautifully vibrant and eye catching cover which really appeals to me as a reader and what’s inside the covers is just as warm and wonderful.

 

The reader is introduced to Bonnie and her teenage daughter Paige who has a crush on Every Which Way, a boyband whose lead singer is Holden Finn.  Unbeknownst to Paige, her mum Bonnie also has developed feelings for Holden and so is extremely excited when Paige wins a competition to meet Every Which Way and Bonnie has to accompany her daughter and might actually get to meet Holden herself!

The book follows the adventures of Bonnie and Paige after meeting Holden and the rest of the band and it seems that Bonnie’s life is about to get more complicated than she had ever dreamed.    Bonnie was so well drawn that I felt as if she were my friend and all I wanted was the best for her.  She is a warm, funny and caring person, in fact she loves her daughter so much, she is prepared to sacrifice her own happiness to give Paige what she thinks she wants.

 

The supporting cast are fantastic too with the sharp, straight talking Linda who is the instigator of many of the book’s comic moments, and the strong dependable Max who has feelings for Bonnie.   I loved inhabiting the wonderfully warm, sweet and funny world of this novel and was so sorry when it ended.  I am going to start waiting impatiently for Tilly’s next book!

Compelling, romantic and humorous

Singles' Holiday - Elaine Spires

Having not previously read Elaine Spires’ work I had no idea of what to expect from this book but the blurb attracted me with its description of beautiful, luxurious Antigua and the twists and turns of a group of single people who join forces on holiday and the many adventures they all face.

 

The novel follows the many adventures of a large group of people who book a holiday with a company called Travel 2gether who arrange holidays for people who for whatever reason don’t wish to travel alone.  The group travel to the wonderfully exotic location of Antigua which is beautifully described.  The novel is told from all of the group’s individual points of view (the group size is approximately 20 plus the point of view of Eve who is the group’s tour leader.

 

The reader is introduced to a large number of characters quite fast and because of the changing point of view, this leads to some confusion at the beginning as the reader is unfamiliar with each character but as the narrative moves along each character becomes more defined.

 

I adored reading this book as it is fast paced and follows each day’s adventures but each episode is quite short and usually ends on a cliffhanger which made the book quite addictive and by about halfway through the book, I actually felt as if I was part of the group and couldn’t wait to find out what adventures the group had got up to.

 

This book is full of romance, humour and a few darker scenes too as each character’s backstory is explored as each character reveals their very different reasons for joining the Singles’ Holiday group.   I also enjoyed how the reader got to know Eve quite well and she has as much adventure as the rest of the group and I really liked and cared about what happened to her.

 

This is a compelling, romantic and humorous tale and there is a wonderful mix of characters, some you like and some you don’t and some who you change your opinion of throughout the book.  Highly recommended.

wonderfully evocative

The Apartment in Rome - Penny Feeny

As Italy is the top of my wishlist places to visit, the title of this novel immediately appealed to me.  After looking at the cover and reading the blurb on the back, I expected a usual run of the mill chick lit book and was completely surprised at the darker side of life and love that is portrayed in this fantastic read.

 

At the beginning of the book we are introduced to Gina who works as a photographer and is in a complicated relationship with her married lover who also happens to be her landlord of her apartment.  Into this already complicated scenario comes Sasha an English teenager who is on an exchange trip and it is through her innocent romance that the threads of Gina’s life begin to fall apart.

 

This is a wonderfully involving story and the viewpoint changes throughout the book which helps to drive the narrative along.  Although at times I was despairing at Gina’s actions, I always felt enough sympathy for her that I cared what happened to her.  This book also shows a side to asylum seeking that I was unfamiliar with as Gina’s latest photography assignment takes her into the lives of the young refugees that aren’t legally meant to be in the city but can’t go home so are trapped, feeling lonely and vulnerable.

 

The descriptive writing is wonderfully evocative and the reader is immediately transported to the city of Rome even if it is a darker, more unfamiliar side to the place.  For me, I felt the ending was a little too neat and happy for Gina which didn’t seem to match the darker story that followed before.  However, on the whole, I loved reading this book, especially the last third where it was full of mystery and intrigue and I would love to read more work from this author.  A fabulous read.

Fast paced and well written

Conditional Love - Cathy Bramley

I fell in love with this book from a first glimpse of its cover.  It is a wonderfully vibrant green colour with a bold illustration which makes the book stand out when seen on a bookshelf.  I was lucky enough to attend the world’s smallest book launch for this book and get my copy signed by the lovely Cathy Bramley who I had recently “met” on Twitter.

 

Sophie Stone is 32 and she doesn’t lead a very exciting life but after she is dumped by her boyfriend Marc on Valentine’s Day and then finds out she has inherited a house from a long lost relative, life suddenly takes unexpected turns including meeting the architect Nick.   The inheritance however comes with a condition attached, Sophie must agree to meet her father who she hasn’t seen since she was a little girl.

 

This is a fast paced, well written book and the character Sophie is very likeable although sometimes I wanted to shout at her to come to her senses about Marc but I take this as a good sign that I care enough about a character to want to shout at them!  There is plenty of humour in the story and I especially liked the incident where Sophie swears for the first time in her life at the most embarrassing moment.   The book also deals with some serious issues in a sensitive way.

 

This is a wonderful debut novel and I shall look forward with interest to read more of Cathy’s work.  Highly recommended.

 

Warm, joyful and heartbreaking

The Sweetness of Forgetting - Kristin Harmel

The Sweetness of Forgetting opens with Hope who has returned to her home town to continue to run her family’s bakery.  She is feeling rather disillusioned with her life as she is the mother to a teenage daughter who seems intent on hating Hope and blaming her for her parents’ divorce.  The bakery is in danger of failing due to missed loan repayments and she has had to reluctantly put her grandmother in a memory care home due to Alzheimer’s and again Hope feels this is a part of her life where she has failed.

 

After a trip to visit Rose (her grandmother) at the care home, Hope sets of to Paris with a list of names that Rose has given to her so she can find out what happened to these people.  It is here that Hope begins a journey of discovery.  She discovers many unknown secrets about Rose and her own mother, Josephine who has recently died of breast cancer.  Whilst on this journey Hope also discovers how to make peace with her own past and becomes determined not to repeat the mistakes of her mother and grandmother.

 

This is a fantastic read filled with mystery, secrets discovered and love that never gives up hope.  It made me cry towards the end and I was so sorry to close the book and leave the characters behind.  It is a wonderful blend of historical storytelling and the after effects that are felt in the present day and I really enjoyed the fact that the historical element of the story was quite enlightening in that I learned some history about elements of resistance in Paris and Europe during the Second World War that I wasn’t familiar with.

 

A wonderfully warm, joyful and heartbreaking novel that also includes some recipes that I am quite keen to experiment with and after looking on Amazon I have discovered that the author has published an e-novella which is a prequel to this book called The Snow Globe.  I am off to read it now!

Beautiful, lyrical and magical

The Wild Girl - Kate Forsyth

I’d firstly like to say that the cover of this book is absolutely stunning (I know you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover but the vivid colour and silhouetting makes it really stand out) and although I read an electronic copy of this book, the cover would definitely be tempting on a bookshelf.

The Wild Girl follows the life of Dortchen Wild who along with her six sisters and parents, lives next door to the Grimm family who went on to publish their world famous fairy tales.  This is a reimagining of Dortchen Wild’s life and her relationship with the Grimm family, in particular her love for Wilhelm Grim set in a small German kingdom called Hesse - Cassel.

 

The modern versions of the Grimm brothers’ fairy tales are quite watered down, sanitised versions of what were originally quite dark and brutal tales and this book follows the tumultuous and difficult lives of the two families during the Napoleonic war and its aftermath and there are many scenes in the book that deal with the brutality and desperation faced by people in wartime.

 

The first third of this book moved quite slowly although the writing is full of wonderful descriptions of the woodland that Dortchen loves to explore which earns her the name of “The Wild Girl” in the family.  However after this, the story starts widening its scope and starts becoming a page turner as the reader is shown the endless obstacles that Dortchen and Wilhelm face when they finally realise they want to spend their lives together.  Once this happened, the book became fast paced and I stayed up late to try and finish each chapter, desperate to know the outcome for the two young lovers.

 

This book contains many themes including the effect of war and poverty, familial ties and how sometimes in the past, a marriage born out of love wasn’t necessarily the best option in life which would spark interesting discussions for a book group so I think it would be an ideal choice for a book group read, maybe alongside a copy of the Grimm Fairy Tales?

 

This book blends historical fiction with beautifully lyrical descriptions and the weaving in of the fairy tales to highlight various aspects of Dortchen’s life make for a very compelling read.  I shall certainly be exploring more work by this author.  It was fantastic and I was sorry to leave the characters at the end of this book.

Warmth, humour, friendship and love

Just For Christmas - Scarlett Bailey

 

Having been looking forward to reading this book for ages, I was so excited to win a signed copy in a Twitter competition.  I had fallen in love with the lovely cover with its wonderful spattering of glitter to make it look especially festive.

 

The reader isimmediately drawn into Alex Munro’s world.  She has recently left her home she shared with her father in Edinburgh and has moved to the other end of the country to a lovely little Cornish village of Poldore (fictional) to become the harbourmaster much to the amusement and wonderment of the villagers.

 

It is clear that Alex is also running away from some romantic mishap which is slowly revealed to the reader.  Alex makes some new friends in the village and also meets Ruan who seems quite remote and not as immediately friendly as the others but Alex’s interest is piqued by this elusive man.

 

The writing in this book is magical, the setting of the fictional village of Poldore is vivid and beautiful and the other villagers are wonderfully drawn and most of all I fell in love with the dog that Alex reluctantly becomes the new owner of , Buoy- he is a loveable scamp and plays a key role later in the book which nearly bought me to tears.

 

There is warmth, humour, friendship and love in this lovely Christmas tale which weaves a wonderful spell and I think I am correct in thinking that this may not be the last visit to Poldore- I am counting down the days already!!

Humour, warmth and sprinkling of Christmas magic

Spirits of Christmas - Nicky Wells

When I found out that this novel was a retelling of A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens I was a little apprehensive about reading it as I wondered if there could be anything new to add to this most traditional of Christmas tales.  However, I needn’t have worried as in Nicky’s hands and with the help of some rock and roll magic, this is a fun, festive frolic.

 

The reader meets Jude who is the lead singer of a rock band who initially enjoyed much success but mainly due to Jude’s increasingly surly and rude behaviour, have now declined sales and expectations.  Jude’s personal life is not much better as Jude comes home to an empty flat on Christmas Eve where his girlfriend  had been living with him.

 

Once the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future visit Jude, each in the guise of some very recognisable stars of rock and roll although as said in the book “ things are not as they appear to be”.  The ghosts visit Jude to let him know how his life could end up if he continues down the self-destructive and selfish path he has been going down.  Will Jude learn from his mistakes in time to make Christmas a time to celebrate or not?

 

I loved reading this novella, there was humour and warmth and a sprinkling of Christmas magic.  Although this is the first book I have read by Nicky Wells, I understand that some characters from her other work also make an appearance.  A lovely piece of escapism and I shall certainly be reading more of Nicky’s work.

Grotesquely fascinating

The Chocolate Money - Ashley Prentice Norton

The title first attracted me to this book as anything with chocolate attracts my eye and secondly, the cover picture is so vibrant and eye-catching that I was excited to discover what was inside and wow I was completely unprepared for what I found!

 

The Chocolate Money follows the adventures of Bettina Ballentyne and her mum Babs, beginning in 1978, Chicago when Bettina is 11.  Bettina calls her mum Babs which is indicative of the relationship between mother and daughter as Babs seems to regard her daughter as part-confidante for her own love affairs and part-inconvenience.  Babs and Bettina are heiresses to a massive fortune hence the title’s reference to chocolate money which was the source of the inheritance.

 

Bettina lives a very unconventional life with her mother who throws elaborate parties that are looked down upon by society but to which everyone who matters wants to attend.  Babs’ idea of sex education for her daughter is to describe how to give a satisfactory blow job.  

 

Once Bettina is fifteen she attends an elite private school where she hopes to make a new start and try to reach out and make friends with girls her own age who don’t know about her prospective fortune and her impulsive, hedonistic mother.  However it seems that Bettina is unable to escape the damage inflicted upon her by her mother’s behaviour and here the reader is left trying to scream out to Bettina to stop her falling in the same trap as her mother.

 

I found this book grotesquely fascinating, there is a lot of swearing  and quite a few graphic sex scenes and it’s a very dark book full of twist and turns.  However, the author makes you care so much about Bettina that you are eager to see what happens to her.

 

I loved the ambiguous ending and felt it fitted in with the rest of the tone of the book as a whole and kept thinking of Bettina for a while after I had finished the book.  This is a very dark, fascinating and thought provoking book which I couldn’t put down. Absolutely fantastic!

Fast paced, exciting tale full of festive cheer

North Pole Reform School - Jaimie Admans

Being new to the work of Jaimie Admans and relatively new to the YA genre, I was not sure what to expect from this book, however, I needn’t have worried because I found a fantastically festive story.

 

Mistletoe Bell (or Misty as she insists on being known as) hates Christmas and everything about it, especially her particularly festive name.  One night she has a visitation from a purple moose who reveals to her that her recent actions which have conspired to ruin Christmas,  have earned her a place at the North Pole Reform School.

 

Misty believes she is hallucinating until she wakes up and realises she is actually at the North Pole along with 4 other people to try and rehabilitate themselves into liking the festive season.

 

This was a fast paced and exciting story full of festive cheer (along with zombies) and Jaimie succeeds in creating a believable and vibrant world which includes elves, zombies and a very strict and misanthropic Father Christmas.  The romantic element of the book worked well and took me back to my teenage years where each glance and shared comment is imbued with emotion. 

 

I would have liked to learn more about the other 3 people in Misty’s reform group as their back stories seemed interesting – maybe these will be explored in a future book?

 

I really enjoyed this wonderful and engaging novella and would highly recommend it to get you in the mood for Christmas.

Fun Frolic about the wildest Bennet sister

Who Needs Mr Darcy? - Jean Burnett

The title of this book caught my attention immediately as I am a huge Jane Austen fan and Pride and Prejudice is one of my favourite books and Mr Darcy is one of my favourite fictional heroes.  So I was very interested to discover how the author would treat the subject.

 

The story follows the adventures and many mishaps of Lydia Bennet, the youngest Bennet daughter who infamously elopes with the charming rake Wickham.  The book opens when Lydia is a widow after Wickham dies in battle at Waterloo (though perhaps not as heroically as he would have hoped).  Lydia is back at Pemberley with Elizabeth and Fitzwilliam Darcy and she is eager to get away from her stuffy brother –in—law and sister so she can finish “mourning” for the loss of Wickham and start enjoying life again as only she knows how.

 

Lydia faces many trials and tribulations in this book and early on she has an encounter with a highwayman which is significant for her future.  She has many adventures with her friends and has to rely on her wits and beauty to get her out of many unfortunate situations.

 

This is a fast moving, exciting adventure with a serious undertone.  Lydia literally has to rely on her looks to earn her keep at times and this book highlights the plight of young women who for whatever reason weren’t secured a comfortable lifestyle because of whom they married.  The Lydia in this book seems a lot more astute and worldly wise in this book compared to the one we meet in Pride and Prejudice.  I can understand why this as the reader needs to care about Lydia in order to read a whole book about her.

 

I really enjoyed this book, it’s like an old fashioned adventure with, spies, murder, intrigue royalty  and of course romance and the ending was left sufficiently open for a possible sequel which I hope there is as I can’t wait to see what Lydia gets up to next!!

Fun, Festive Frolic

Spirits of Christmas - Nicky Wells

When I found out that this novel was a retelling of A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens I was a little apprehensive about reading it as I wondered if there could be anything new to add to this most traditional of Christmas tales.  However, I needn’t have worried as in Nicky’s hands and with the help of some rock and roll magic, this is a fun, festive frolic.

 

The reader meets Jude who is the lead singer of a rock band who initially enjoyed much success but mainly due to Jude’s increasingly surly and rude behaviour, have now declined sales and expectations.  Jude’s personal life is not much better as Jude comes home to an empty flat on Christmas Eve where his girlfriend  had been living with him.

 

Once the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future visit Jude, each in the guise of some very recognisable stars of rock and roll although as said in the book “ things are not as they appear to be”.  The ghosts visit Jude to let him know how his life could end up if he continues down the self-destructive and selfish path he has been going down.  Will Jude learn from his mistakes in time to make Christmas a time to celebrate or not?

 

I loved reading this novella, there was humour and warmth and a sprinkling of Christmas magic.  Although this is the first book I have read by Nicky Wells, I understand that some characters from her other work also make an appearance.  A lovely piece of escapism and I shall certainly be reading more of Nicky’s work.

Beautiful Christmas Tale

Just For Christmas - Scarlett Bailey

Having been looking forward to reading this book for ages, I was so excited to win a signed copy in a Twitter competition.  I had fallen in love with the lovely cover with its wonderful spattering of glitter to make it look especially festive.

 

The reader isimmediately drawn into Alex Munro’s world.  She has recently left her home she shared with her father in Edinburgh and has moved to the other end of the country to a lovely little Cornish village of Poldore (fictional) to become the harbourmaster much to the amusement and wonderment of the villagers.

 

It is clear that Alex is also running away from some romantic mishap which is slowly revealed to the reader.  Alex makes some new friends in the village and also meets Ruan who seems quite remote and not as immediately friendly as the others but Alex’s interest is piqued by this elusive man.

 

The writing in this book is magical, the setting of the fictional village of Poldore is vivid and beautiful and the other villagers are wonderfully drawn and most of all I fell in love with the dog that Alex reluctantly becomes the new owner of , Buoy- he is a loveable scamp and plays a key role later in the book which nearly bought me to tears.

 

There is warmth, humour, friendship and love in this lovely Christmas tale which weaves a wonderful spell and I think I am correct in thinking that this may not be the last visit to Poldore- I am counting down the days already!!

Wonderfully funny debut

Conditional Love - Cathy Bramley

I fell in love with this book from a first glimpse of its cover.  It is a wonderfully vibrant green colour with a bold illustration which makes the book stand out when seen on a bookshelf.  I was lucky enough to attend the world’s smallest book launch for this book and get my copy signed by the lovely Cathy Bramley who I had recently “met” on Twitter.

 

Sophie Stone is 32 and she doesn’t lead a very exciting life but after she is dumped by her boyfriend Marc on Valentine’s Day and then finds out she has inherited a house from a long lost relative, life suddenly takes unexpected turns including meeting the architect Nick.   The inheritance however comes with a condition attached, Sophie must agree to meet her father who she hasn’t seen since she was a little girl.

 

This is a fast paced, well written book and the character Sophie is very likeable although sometimes I wanted to shout at her to come to her senses about Marc but I take this as a good sign that I care enough about a character to want to shout at them!  There is plenty of humour in the story and I especially liked the incident where Sophie swears for the first time in her life at the most embarrassing moment.   The book also deals with some serious issues in a sensitive way.

 

This is a wonderful debut novel and I shall look forward with interest to read more of Cathy’s work.  Highly recommended.

 

Festive frolics (with added zombies!)

North Pole Reform School - Jaimie Admans

Being new to the work of Jaimie Admans and relatively new to the YA genre, I was not sure what to expect from this book, however, I needn’t have worried because I found a fantastically festive story.

 

Mistletoe Bell (or Misty as she insists on being known as) hates Christmas and everything about it, especially her particularly festive name.  One night she has a visitation from a purple moose who reveals to her that her recent actions which have conspired to ruin Christmas,  have earned her a place at the North Pole Reform School.

 

Misty believes she is hallucinating until she wakes up and realises she is actually at the North Pole along with 4 other people to try and rehabilitate themselves into liking the festive season.

 

This was a fast paced and exciting story full of festive cheer (along with zombies) and Jaimie succeeds in creating a believable and vibrant world which includes elves, zombies and a very strict and misanthropic Father Christmas.  The romantic element of the book worked well and took me back to my teenage years where each glance and shared comment is imbued with emotion. 

 

I would have liked to learn more about the other 3 people in Misty’s reform group as their back stories seemed interesting – maybe these will be explored in a future book?

 

I really enjoyed this wonderful and engaging novella and would highly recommend it to get you in the mood for Christmas.