Thursday, 28 January 2016

Book review: You and Me, Always by Jill Mansell


"On the morning of Lily's twenty-fifth birthday, it's time to open the very last letter written to her by her beloved mother, who died when she was eight.
Learning more about the first and only real love of her mum's life is a revelation. On the same day, Lily also meets Eddie Tessler, a man fleeing fame who just might have the ability to change her world in unimaginable ways. But her childhood friend Dan has his own reasons for not wanting Lily to get too carried away by Eddie's attentions.
Before long, secrets begin to emerge and Lily's friends and family become involved. In the beautiful Cotswold village of Stanton Langley, nothing will ever be the same again..."


Reading a Jill Mansell story is like a comforting hug. It's warm and reassuring, makes you happy and cheers you up if you need it. That's exactly how You and Me, Always made me feel when I read it earlier this month.

Picture the scene- Christmas is over. The decorations are down, mince pies are eaten, the back-to-work blues are setting in and everything's a bit... 'meh'. I wanted to read something I could get lost in and would life my spirits, and it didn't take very long to choose this book that was practically yelling to me from my kindle. 

The story follows Lily, who, on her 25th birthday opens the last letter from her mum, who passed away when she was younger. Before she died, Lily's mum wrote her a series of letters to open on her birthday, but this is the last one. In it, she talks about her first love (before Lily's absent father) which inspires Lily to try and find the man who meant so much to her mother. 

We also meet Lily's life-long friends Patsy and her brother Dan. I LOVED these two, I thought they were both brilliant in different ways. Patsy is brash and outgoing and I really enjoyed hearing about her string of disastrous dates. As well as that she's kind and caring and overall I think is a really great support to Lily. Her brother Dan is wonderful, he's a womaniser but is also funny and handsome, so you can see why! The three characters friendship is lovely to see... they'd do anything for each other and I thought this was the highlight of the story for me. 

Then there's Eddie Tessler, an actor who's seeking a bit of quiet time away from the spotlight. When he and Lily meet there's a spark, an instant fizz of attraction that has you intrigued from the offset. He's so different to Lily's small-town-girl life, which makes it so interesting to see how the two work out. I'm not going to spoil anything (what would be the fun in that!?) but I will say that although I'd guessed how this, and Lily's love-life, would turn out - I wasn't disappointed. 

Now, with Jill Mansell stories I come to expect a pretty, quaint location and You and Me, Always delivers on this front. The small village where Lily lives sounds beautiful and charming and captured my imagination from the offset. In such a small place though, everyone knows everyone and no secret is rarely left unturned. As the story progresses, you can see the tangled webs that have formed and discover some shocking secrets along the way. They're what make this story a bit grittier and absorbing - it adds a dynamic edge to a lovely romantic fiction story. 

Overall, You and Me, Always is a wonderful read. Packed with great characters, a pretty location, friendship, romance and secrets it's what you expect from a Jill Mansell novel and it certainly delivers. I think she just gets better and better each time and this is up there as one of my favourites. It's engaging, funny and emotional and picked me right up out of my January slump! Thanks, Jill! 


*A big thank you to the publishers of the book, Headline,  for an advance copy on Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review. 

Sunday, 24 January 2016

Book review: Wickham Hall by Cathy Bramley




"Holly Swift has just landed the job of her dreams: events co-ordinator at Wickham Hall, the beautiful manor home that sits proudly at the heart of the village where she grew up. Not only does she get to organise for a living and work in stunning surroundings, but it will also put a bit of distance between Holly and her problems at home.

As Holly falls in love with the busy world of Wickham Hall - from family weddings to summer festivals, firework displays and Christmas grottos - she also finds a place in her heart for her friendly (if unusual) colleagues.

But life isn’t as easily organised as an event at Wickham Hall (and even those have their complications…). Can Holly learn to let go and live in the moment? After all, that’s when the magic happens…"



For those of you that read my blog regularly, you’ll know I’m a HUGE fan of Cathy Bramley. I find it hard to believe that this time last year I hadn’t read anything by her, and yet now she’s up there as one of my favourite authors. Wickham Hall is her latest release, originally split into a four part serial like her other stories, and then released in a full paperback version earlier this month. When I heard the description for Wickham Hall, I was hooked. The story follows Holly as she lands her dream job - events organiser for the prestigious and beautiful Wickham Hall. 

First of all I need to talk about the setting for this fabulous story. Wickham Hall sounds bloody amazing! A proper stately manor home with gardens, a tea room and gift shop… it captured my heart as much as it did Holly’s. When I was younger I actually worked in a manor house in my local village and it certainly wasn’t as fun as working at Wickham Hall sounds - I’m jealous! I loved the community spirit the place has - everyone works well together and they become almost like a family which is lovely to see.

As usual, Cathy has created a heroine that you instantly warm to and hope everything works out for her. Holly is down-to-earth and relatable, a great trait for stories like this. When she gets the job at Wickham Hall - a place that has meant a lot to her and her mum for many years - I was thrilled for her, and that was after only reading for a few pages. Imagine what it’s like when you’ve got to know her through the whole story!

Although I really liked Holly, she does seem quite lonely at first. She lives at home with her Mum and has one best friend and no love interest. Now, I’m not in any way saying she has to have a love interest to not be lonely, but it’s clear her world is fairly small and closed - off. That’s what I loved about her working at Wickham Hall - seeing her make new friends, becoming part of a team and even finding a potential love interest.


That’s where Ben (or Benedict) comes into play. Oh, Ben. Straight away he peaked my interest and I warmed to him. He’s the son of Lord and Lady Fortescue, who own Wickham Hall,  and, with some reluctance from him, is next in line to inherit this amazing Hall. Sounds dreamy, right? Right. But the problem is he wants freedom - he’s a talented artist and wants to follow his passion, not be cooped up and taking orders from his Dad. For a ‘trial run’ he starts working alongside Holly in the events team. I loved watching the two of them interact and the chemistry is fizzing from the offset. Holly also tries to get him to see the opportunity he has ahead of him and how, actually, returning to Wickham Hall could be an amazing thing.

I loved getting an insight into her job as she settles into her role at Wickham Hall. The events organisation sounded so much fun and I loved her ideas. Fireworks night sounded beautiful and putting together a special calendar to sell in the gift shop really built up a picture of the place in my head and captured my imagination. Wickham Hall itself is the driving force of this story and one that thrilled me from the very beginning -I LOVED it.

Cathy also explores some different issues in this story, in a perfectly crafted way. From early on there are hints that all isn't well with Holly's mum, and as the story progresses its clear she's a hoarder. She can't let anything go and the small cottage is brimming with unecessary items. The way Cathy introduces this is seamless - it isn't spelt out to you as a reader, but hinted at... building up a picture. I thought this really showcased Cathy's amazing writing skills and also kept me interested as a reader. Her mum's issues also explain the organised and the need to be obsessively tidy from Holly - it's a way to counteract her mum's problem and almost done as a coping mechanism. A clever addition to the story and one that really showed the different layers of Holly's personality. 

Overall, this is another absolute corker from Cathy Bramley. She just gets better and better - creating beautiful locations, gripping and lovely storylines and fantastic characters that stick with you a long time after reading. Like in Ivy Lane and Appleby Farm, community spirit is a dominating feature of this story and I loved watching such a range of characters with different and vivid personalities work together. If you want a read that captures your imagination, warms your heart and leaves you with a smile on your face then look no further - Wickham Hall is what you need. 

Wednesday, 20 January 2016

Cover reveal: The Dangerous Gift by Jane Hunt



Today on the blog I'm delighted to share the cover for Jane Hunt's next novel, The Dangerous Gift, published Feb 9th. 

Jane is the mum of one of my great Uni friends Megan, so I was really excited when she got in touch and asked me to share her latest cover on my blog as it's pretty swoon-worthy! 




= SYNOPSIS =

After a tragic plane crash kills Jennie Taylor’s guardians, she returns to her childhood home—and her first love, Jared Stewart.
At just eighteen years old, Jennie had left the Unicorn Ranch in Texas to seek a life in the outside world. But she wasn’t just running toward independence. Heartbroken and confused, Jennie fled her home after Jared harshly rejected her on the eve of her birthday.
Now she must choose between making a new life on the ranch she has grown to love, or returning to her simple but empty life in England. The choice seems obvious at first, but nothing in life is simple…
Jared is forced to share control of his beloved ranch with the woman he wants but can't have.
When Jennie receives an anonymous note, she goes to Jared for support. But what she finds is more than she was prepared for, driving the two further apart than ever. When an old friend is murdered and suspicious accidents escalate, endangering Jennie’s safety, Jared becomes her reluctant protector.
Jennie knows Jared is hiding something, but does he really want her gone from the ranch? And if so, could he be the one behind the ominous threats?
Determined to prove Jared isn't involved, Jennie turns detective. Can she succeed in her courageous but reckless investigation…or is the truth a dangerous gift she won’t survive?


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: 

‘Writing has touched my life in every decade. At fifty, I took a risk and made writing my career, fulfilling a lifetime ambition.'

I enjoy writing blogs, book reviews and especially stories. Vivid imagery, atmospheric settings, strong females and sensual males are essential for my stories. Everyday life and ordinary people inspire me. How would someone react, if faced with something extraordinary? A thread of romance runs through my all my books, whether they be suspense, fantasy or historical.

I want to let my readers escape their lives for a while, experience new places, new people and most importantly, new emotional lows and highs My favorite parts of the writing process are; finding a person, event or place that makes me want to write a story about it and the writing itself; when your fingers cannot type fast enough, to transcribe your thoughts.

Family is very important to me. My two children are my greatest achievement to date.

I am an animal welfare supporter and regularly use social media to promote animal welfare issues.


Links: 

Sunday, 17 January 2016

Book review: Deadly Obsession by Nigel May

Amy Barrowman grew up on the wrong side of the tracks. So when she falls in love with millionaire Riley Hart and he asks her to marry him she can’t believe her luck. She has found true love and her happy ever after. 

Riley Hart is a Millionaire Man about Town. Men want to be him and women want to bed him. But to achieve Riley’s status, you have to tread on a lot of toes and make a lot of enemies. 

When Riley is gunned down at the nightclub they own, Amy is determined to avenge his death. She receives a mysterious letter detailing a list of suspects including Riley’s sworn enemy, actor Grant Wilson. But with an obsessive passion brewing between her and Grant and a dangerous assassin trailing her every move it would seem Amy has opened a deadly and tempting Pandora’s Box. In settling the score for her husband has Amy put herself into terrible danger? 




If you know me well by now, you'll know that picking up a bonk-buster style novel isn't usually for me. However, when I read Scandalous Lies by Nigel May (you can read my review here) I was pleasantly surprised - it was a gripping, well-written story with some added steamy sex scenes. Deadly Obsession is Nigel's new book and will be released on 19th February. I was very excited when I received a copy through NetGalley to read and eagerly started reading. 

What struck me first about Deadly Obsession is how dark and twisted it is. Nigel May usually explores tense and intriguing storylines, but this one is another level. It follows the main character Amy, who is dealing with the murder of her beloved husband, Riley. After a few months of grief, all she knew becomes questionable when she receives a hand-written letter from her dead husband, explaining he's actually alive. Amy starts to try and find out the truth- finding out on the way her husband, who she believed to be running a wealthy plastics business, was actually a high-profile gangster, running a crime empire. 

I enjoyed watching her find out the truth, even at times if it was difficult, and there were many twists and turns throughout the story that keep you on your toes. You couldn't really trust anyone, which kept me hooked.... would anyone be able to help her get to the truth?

There is such a range of different, gritty characters throughout Deadly Obsession that keeps the story interesting. I really felt for Amy and, as time passed, Riley made me so irritated. His past is so dodgy and it's clear he's spent the whole duration of their relationship lying through his teeth. Nothing is as she thought and it's extraordinary how different his life actually was, instead of what she thought. Grant Wilson, actor mega-star and Riley's life-long rival is a charming addition to the story and I was rooting for Amy to fall for him as he seemed so kind and supportive. I will say that there are lots of characters in Deadly Obsession and occasionally it was hard to keep up, or someone would be mentioned and I'd have to think about who they were and how they fit into the story. However, after a while I got into it and began to remember how the large cast fit together. 

If I'm being honest, this book didn't absorb me as much as previous Nigel May books did. Certain parts just didn't hook me in as much as others have. I also found the sex scenes slightly awkward - I know I've admitted that I don't usually enjoy this genre anyway, but in this story the sex scenes just didn't add as much to the story as they have in previous books... I felt some were put in just so it could fit into the bonk-buster genre and that didn't really sit well with me. I know that though is more down to my personal tastes and I can imagine that if you're a fan of steamy romance, then this will definitely be a story you want to read. 

Overall, Deadly Obsession is worth a read. It's a gritty, crime-ridden plot with an outstanding twist. Seriously, I didn't see the ending coming at all. You're taken down so many different routes on this story that it's really hard to imagine just how it will end and it's a really shocking ending that I really enjoyed. So, for me, Deadly Obsession was an enjoyable story but maybe not my favourite by Nigel May.  When it comes out next month, I'd definitely recommend it if you're a fan of bonk-busters with a gritty plot and an intriguing twist. 

*A big thank you to the publishers of Deadly Obsession - Bookouture - for an advance copy of the book via Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review 


Wednesday, 13 January 2016

Book review: Stirred with Love by Marcie Steele


Still grieving after the loss of her beloved husband, Lily Mortimer is determined to do something with the time she has left. 

After the end of her fairytale marriage, thirty-something Kate is trying hard to mend her broken heart. 

Chloe, a young woman with the world at her feet, is struggling to know what to do with her life. 

When Lily embarks on a new venture in the picturesque town of Somerley, the three women come together to open The Coffee Stop, the most charming cafĂ© for miles around. 

But opening a coffee shop is never as simple as it seems, especially when you add neighbouring competition, local heart throbs and heartbreak to the mix. 

When tragedy strikes, can the three women pull together to make the new business fly, or will Lily’s last chance disappear down the drain along with yesterday’s coffee grinds? 



As I said in my review of The unfinished Symphony of You & Me, I'm really enjoying spending this month indulging in some older reads that I've been longing to pick up from my bookshelf for some time. Stirred with Love by Marcie Steele is one of those books that I've been wanting to read for some time now... it sounds great, looks great and is just my kind of story.  Really, that could actually be my whole review. Job done. However, I will go in to a little more detail.... seen as it's you ;) 

So the story centres around Lily, who is re-opening her cafe following the death of her beloved husband. She hires Kate and Chloe to work full-time for her to help her get it back up and running. Chloe is a great character - a feisty teen who's also a little lost, feeling pressured by her Dad to go to University when it's clear she doesn't really want to. Then there's Kate, who is mending a broken heart following the break-up of her marriage. 

What I loved most about Stirred With Love was the unlikely friendship between the three women. They're all different ages - generations, even, yet they get along so well. By the end of the story they're not just colleagues or friends - they're family, and I thought that was such a lovely aspect to the story. They really support each other through tough times and good, and I liked that the story centred more around friendship that romance. 

The setting for Stirred With Love is the tearoom and if you read my blog regularly then you'll know that I'm a sucker for a good tea room. I LOVE them as a basis for a story and this one is no different. In fact, it's exceptional. It really stuck in my mind and captured my heart. It's a wonderful place to read about and is the driving force of the book.

Marcie Steele is wonderful - she has an engaging way with words and the ability to make a straight-forward storyline something more complex and exciting. This is a story that pulls you in and absorbs you, as well as sticking in your mind for sometime afterwards. It's a heartwarming tale full of friendship, hard work and coffee. The perfect story to relax with and one I'd highly recommend. 

Saturday, 9 January 2016

Review: The Unfinished Symphony of You and Me



"
Sally is an incredible singer but she sings only in her wardrobe where nobody can hear her. She'd rather join a nudist colony than sing in public.
That is until she ventures to New York where a wild and heady summer of love and loss changes her forever. No longer able to hide in the shadows, Sally must return home to London to fulfill a promise she cannot break - to share her voice.
But just as she's about to embark on her new life, a beautiful man turns up on Sally's doorstep bearing a sheepish smile and a mysterious hand-written message.
How did he find her? Why is he here? Does he hold the truth to what happened back in New York? And, with him back on the scene, will she still have the courage to step into the spotlight?"

So, January is now upon us and I'm trying to dispel any pre-Christmas blues by immersing myself in some bloody good books! January is fairly quiet on the blog-tour front, so I'm enjoying being able to work my way through some books that have been shouting at me from my bookshelf for a very long time, as well as reading some amazing proofs for books coming later this month (I feel very lucky!). I decided to read The Unfinished Symphony of You and Me straight after Christmas and I loved it! I had no doubts that I would (Lucy Robinson is a genius!) but I really, really, really loved it. Here's why! 




The Unfinished Symphony of You and Me was released in 2014, so I'm a bit behind the times with this one. If, like me, you haven't had chance to read this delight yet - then please, please, do. Go, now. Now I tell you! It's FAB. 

Lucy Robinson's writing style always brings a smile to my face. It's witty, absorbing but also so genuine. She creates characters that are so real and you really relate to. They have good points, bad points, flaws and strengths and I just love that about her stories. 

Sally, the main character in this story, is no exception to that. She is a great main character that I rooted for from the very start. She's a super-talented singer but has no self belief. Thanks to her unsupportive parents she doesn't act on her amazing skill, instead choosing to sing opera in a wardrobe. Yes, you head that right. A wardrobe. This is such a funny and unique aspect to the story, but also really defines her character. Sally isn't one to take a chance on her dream or do something for herself, she's too busy worrying about others. She's a kind and caring soul, who I hoped would find some confidence and inner strength to follow her dream, rather than everyone else's. 

That's pretty deep, but this is what happens when you read a Lucy Robinson novel! Light 'chick-lit' reading it is not. There are so many layers to her books that make them stand out from the Women's Fiction crowd. 

So anyway, back to the book. The story is split into two time-frames: the past, when Sally and her friends take on some work for an opera company in New York, where they enjoy being in a new country and city, doing what they love, but also get up to all sorts of mischief. Then there's the present, where we see Sally take on the (rather unwanted) challenge of starting opera school, as she promised she would to the person that means the most to her. I liked the switch in times, it kept the story fast-paced and also added a layer of mystery as there are hints at a big drama occurring in New York which you don't find out about towards the end. I also loved that Lucy had made the different chapters 'acts' or 'scenes', to keep within the opera theme. 

The story is jam-packed with wonderful characters. I loved Jan, Sally's larger than life opera school buddy, who had me laughing out loud on many occasions. Barry, her friend who she travels to New York with is also hilarious and then Julian. Oh, Julian. Sally's love interest is quirky but lovely. Their romance had me on tenterhooks, I loved seeing their relationship unfold in the flashbacks to New York, but wanted to know why they weren't together in the present day. I really rooted for it to work out between them as it was obvious they were meant to be together. 

I'm not a big opera person really, but that doesn't matter. There is plenty of detail in the story to show that Lucy has done some great research which brings the setting to life, but doesn't bore you to tears if you're not a fan. A wonderful balance. 

As usual, Lucy Robinson has created a funny, tongue-in-cheek romance story with MUCH more to it. There's plenty of emotion and mystery to go alongside the romance storyline, which makes it stand out from the crowd. This is one of those stories that you'll think about for a long time after finishing, it's so good. You really become invested in the plot and the characters, so much so that it's a weird point of wanting to race through to find out what happens but being sad when it gets to the end. A wonderful all-rounder and an absolute must read! 

Sunday, 3 January 2016

2015 book awards: best seasonal stories (Summer & Christmas)

There's something really fun and comforting about reading a book about the season you're in. Over Christmas, I love settling down with a festive book to get me in the Christmas spirit and in the Summer, I enjoy reading books jam-packed with summery activities and good weather. These are my picks of the best Summer and Christmas-themed books from 2015. 


Summer



Summer at Shell Cottage by Lucy Diamond

Lucy Diamond novels always bring a smile to my face. She manages to create a vivid fictional world that pulls you in and absorbs you from the first page until the very end and Summer at Shell Cottage is no exception. This story follows the Tarrant family on their annual trip to Devon. I loved the different situations the characters were in and finding out what the cottage meant to them. Setting the novel in Devon during the Summer was blissful and made for perfect Summer reading... pass me a cocktail please! You can read my full review here.


A Seaside Affair by Fern Britton

This was the first story by Fern Britton I've read and I really enjoyed it. Set in a seaside town, it was a fantastic location to be set in for this season and sent my imagination into overdrive. Filled with a variety of different characters all working together to save the local theatre that's set to be bought out by a high-street coffee chain, the plot for this story really resinated with me and felt very true to life. You can read my full review here.

Summer at Little Beach Street Bakery by Jenny Colgan 

I LOVED this story - absolutely everything about it was great... the characters, the setting, the plot. The seaside location of this book perfectly suited the season, which was so well described and brought to life by Jenny. With the gorgeous sounding food from the bakery and the beautiful location, this story was a perfect Summer read that I thoroughly enjoyed. You can read my full review here


Christmas


How to Stuff Up Christmas by Rosie Blake

First of all just look at that sparkly, festive cover. I knew from the offset this would be a brilliant book to get me in the festive spirit, and I wasn't wrong! This is a great book that I absolutely adored. Rosie Blake's writing style is fantastically unique and I can't wait to read more from her. It's a fun, festive read perfect for dark winter nights. You can read my full review here


The Twelve Dates of Christmas by Lisa Dickenson

This story had me laughing out loud from the first page - it's a witty, hilarious read jam-packed with funny situations, likeable characters and lots and lots of festiveness. It's the prefect easy read for Christmas time and one that got me in the mood for celebrating. I'm already looking forward to reading it again next year! You can read my full review here.

Christmas at Lilac Cottage by Holly Martin 

Romance writing at it's finest, Holly Martin once again creates an addictive story filled with romance and sexual tension. I was willing for the main characters, Penny and Henry to act on their feeling for each other and just get it to together already! Aside from that, there's lots of festive sparkle in the story too which I loved. A brilliant all-rounder that I thoroughly enjoyed. You can read my full review here. 

2015 book awards: best debuts

2015 saw some truly wonderful debuts from authors that will remain firmly on my radar in the coming years. What's interesting is when I was compiling this list, I realised that all three of my top choices were from the same publisher, UK Carina! They are a fab publisher with some fantastic authors, including these three who joined the Carina party in 2015. 




Return to Bluebell Hill by Rebecca Pugh

Rebecca was one of the first bloggers I spoke to when I started Little Northern Soul and I class her as one of my good blogging friends. When I found out she was releasing her first novel in early 2015 I was so excited for her and couldn't wait to read it. Return to Bluebell Hill is a brilliant story - her writing is magical, she has such a great way of describing locations and characters that really brings them to life. Rebecca's second novel is out early this year and I can't wait - I just know I'm going to love it. Read my full review here



Just The Way You Are by Lynsey James 

I really enjoyed the format of this story, I thought the plot was original and entertaining. It follows Ava, an unlucky-in-love office worker who suspects the reason she's never had a successful relationship is because she's actually in love with someone she's never met. Her secret admirer (aka Mr Writer) used to write her letters and she realised she'd actually fallen for him. I loved watching the mystery unfold and was dying to know who Mr Writer was. A great story and a cracking debut. Read my full review here


The Lost Child by Ann Troup 

The Lost Child is a gripping, intriguing novel that I absolutely raced through when I got my hands on it. It is so well written it's hard to believe this was Ann Troup's debut and I'm eagerly awaiting her second novel, which will be released soon. The Lost Child is a fast-paced mystery novel packed with suspense and twists and turns. Read my Q&A with Ann Troup here 

2015 book awards: favourite fictional characters

A good book is often most memorable if it has stand-out characters that you remember for a long time after finishing the book. For me, this was one of the simplest book awards to decide, as these three characters mean a lot to me. I enjoyed reading their stories, fell for them as soon as I started reading the books they were in and still think about them now - some time after finishing the books. Also, they're all strong, female leads - girl power! 



Jessica Beam 
The Vintage Guide to Love and Romance by Kirsty Greenwood 

This book is AMAZING. A-bloody-MAZING. One of the funniest and most special books of 2015- this story is absolutely brilliant. Kirsty Greenwood is an utter genius at bringing the characters of her stories to life. Jessica Beam isn't your typical female lead. She's feisty, unmotivated, clumsy and, at times, a little grose. Still, she's brilliant - funny, caring and just a little lost. I loved her from the offset and loved following her on her journey - I was rooting for things to work out for her. She is one of the funniest main characters in a long time (if not ever?!) and I still think about how brilliant she was now, nearly a year after reading. I can't wait for her next adventure. Read my full review here

Anna Browne
A Parcel for Anna Browne by Miranda Dickinson 

A Parcel For Anna Browne is a magical story, one of my firm favourites by Miranda Dickinson. The story follows Anna, who leads a happy, yet unadventurous life. One day, she starts receiving parcels from a mystery sender. The parcels contain the most beautiful gifts which help Anna find out more about herself and grow in confidence. This is a wonderful story, but for me it was made by how lovely and sweet Anna is. She's the kind of person you can imagine easily being friends with and I really, really enjoyed watching her grow and develop throughout the book. Read my full review here 

Maddie
Always the Bridesmaid by Lindsey Kelk


Lindsey Kelk's writing is always absorbing and witty, and Always The Bridesmaid is no exception. This book had me laughing out loud and was a perfect, relaxing easy-read. I loved Maddie, there was just something about her that struck me. She seemed so real and relatable, the situations she found herself in and the way she reacted was so true to life that I felt like I knew her. Lindsey Kelk always writes characters that jump off a page and make you feel like you know them, and Maddie is certainly one of them. Read my full review here

2015 book awards: best series or serial

I love a great series... there's something comforting about returning back to a favourite set of characters and locations. It feels familiar and homely, especially when the book is based around characters you've really warmed to. A recent trend is 'serialising' stories, which is where one book is split into parts and released as numerous short stories, before being collated into one full story. You can see from my favourites that I'm a big fan of this idea, especially as it has produced some absolutely brilliant stories, but I will admit that I usually wait until the full novel is released as I struggle to wait so long between each novella! So, here you have my top 3 series of 2015... 




Ivy Lane by Cathy Bramley 

I firmly believe Cathy Bramley is the queen of serials - her Ivy Lane, Appleby Farm and Wickham Hall novellas have been hugely popular and as soon as you start reading you can see why. She has a fantastic way of drawing you into a story - you really warm to the characters, root for them to succeed and become absorbed in what's happening to them. I haven't read Wickham Hall yet (I'm waiting until the full novel is out in January) but I LOVED Ivy Lane and Appleby Farm. I've chosen Ivy Lane to go in this shortlist as it was the first story I'd read by Cathy Bramley and is the one that propelled her onto my list of favourite authors. The story is beautifully written, set on an allotment which is an usual and brilliant location and is just a genuinely lovely, heart-warming read. Read my full review here 


DCI Kim Stone Series - Angela Marsons

If you read my crime book award, you'll see I put Silent Scream as one of my favourite crime stories of the year. However, Angela Marsons is making a reappearence in this shortlist, as the books she's released this year are SO hard to pick between. Silent Scream, Evil Games and Lost Girls have all been released in 2015 and follow DCI Kim Stone as she solves various crimes or murders. All of the stories have been gripping, fast-paced and brilliantly written, which is why it is one of my favourite series of the year. I can't wait for more! Read my full reviews of Silent Scream, Evil Games and Lost Girls 


The Primrose Terrace series (full book: A Christmas Tail) by Cressida McLaughlin 

A christmas Tail was originally released as a 4-part E-book series, but I read the story as a whole over Christmas and I completely adored it. Despite it being focussed around dogs (and I'm not really a dog person - sorry!) it wasn't too much... the dogs provided some hilarious situations and also showed off the passions of the main character (ironically named Cat). The setting of a quiet residential street, Primrose Place, was cosy and wonderful and the story is filled with great characters. I really, really enjoyed this series (although I read it as the full novel - A Christmas Tail) and I am already excited for Cressida's next release. 

Saturday, 2 January 2016

2015 book awards: the most shocking twists

There have been a few books I've read this year that have completely taken me by surprise by a shocking twist - whether at the end or part-way through a story. For me, a twist that shocks you and has you telling anyone and everyone you know about it (or, if you don't want to spoil the actual twist, just constantly talking about how twisty and shocking the book was!) is a sign of a great story. These three books below are ones that had me gasping in surprise and I still think about now as they were so good.




I Let You Go by Clare Mackintosh

This is an absolutely sensational debut from Clare Mackintosh and has done so, so well. It's thoroughly deserved - this is a fast-paced, well written story that had me completely hooked. I still remember reading the end of the story and not quite believing it - I had to re-read it a few times to fully absorb what had just happened. Then, I bored my partner to death by talking to him over and over again by how shocking and unexpected the twist was (I think he was interested the first time, maybe not so much by the 55457th time!) If you haven't read this yet, then what are you waiting for?! Read my full review here 


The Day We Disappeared by Lucy Robinson

Lucy Robinson is a master of emotion, writing stories that will have you holding back tears and laughing out loud all in one go. The Day We Disappeared is no exception and I was absorbed by the great plot and wonderful characters. The biggest thing about this is the amazing twist that I really didn't see coming at all. I was so shocked and surprised (in a good way) and the twist took this from being a great book to a truly excellent, tell-everyone-you-know-and-have-ever-met book. Read my full review here 


Three Amazing Things About You by Jill Mansell 

I love Jill Mansell. She is one of my favourite authors and whatever she writes, I'll buy as I just KNOW I'll love it. I read Three Amazing Things About You this year and was completely blown away by it. It has the usual charm, intriguing characters and lovely locations that you come to expect from a Jill Mansell novel, but with another, more serious layer. One of the main characters in the story is Hallie, a girl waiting for a transplant. The story starts with her receiving a call to say she can have a transplant, so as a reader you realise that someone must have died to enable her to receive the set of lungs she so desperately needs. The rest of the story builds up to that moment and, I don't want to say anymore in case of spoiling it, but I was really shocked with how the story turned out. It was a clever conclusion which quickly propelled this into being one of my favourite-ever stories by Jill. Read my full review here

2015 book awards: best romance

I love a good romance storyline - whether it be centred around an already happy couple, or a long build-up into a budding romance. Either way, I enjoy stories that feature great couples and sweet, romantic storylines. The selection below have just that! 


Conditional Love

Conditional Love by Cathy Bramley 

Cathy is brilliant at creating fantastic characters and even more fantastic couples. In Conditional Love, Sophie meets Nick when she asks him to do some architecture work on the house she has inherited. He's not your typical hunky male lead, but she likes his quirkiness (as did I!). As the story develops, so too does their relationship and there are many hints towards romance for the two of them. I was eager for them to get on with it and get together as they'd make a great couple - I loved watching their stories unfold separately and together. Read my full review here

Jane Costello
The Love Shack by Jane Costello 

I absolutely loved this story, it had me smiling from ear to ear. Dan and Gemma are already a great, solid couple when we meet them and, as readers, we follow them as they start the process of trying to buy their first house together. As a couple they are brilliant, they play to each others strengths and I thought they were really cute. Their relationship is so realistic and true to life it made the story shine and I enjoyed seeing them go through the usual trials and tribulations of love, while supporting each other. (P.S. I really developed a soft spot for Dan - he was an absolutely wonderful main character.) Read my full review here 


Dear Darling by Ellen Faith 

I loved Dear Darling, the format of it being written as a diary was a unique twist that pulled me in. At the start of the story Sophie ends her relationship with her current idiot boyfriend, deciding to move onto better things. Cue us meeting Adam - sexy, caring and all-round drool-worthy, Adam is also Sophie's boss, so a crush is highly inappropriate but she just can't help it... and who could blame her, really?! I loved seeing them get to know each other and their relationship unfold. They are both great characters who you really root for. Read my full review here