Book Review: Christmas Spirit by Nicola May

coverI am loving all the Christmas stories being released and I’m very excited to be part of the blog tour for Christmas Spirit, the novella from Nicola May. 

It’s two days before Christmas – and Evie Harris finds herself both manless and jobless. After a chance encounter with handsome Greg (and egged on by her toy-boy-eating friend, Bea) she agrees to work at a homeless shelter on Christmas Day.

Striking up an unlikely friendship with homeless Yves, Evie begins an unwitting journey of spiritual awakening, all set against the sparkling winter backdrop of London landmarks. 

A New Year’s Eve revelation is on its way . . . but will it leave Evie with a happy heart, or will she allow the pre-Christmas past to dictate her future?

Two days before Christmas, Evie has found herself without a job and without her boyfriend.

By chance, she meets Greg and ends up volunteering at a homeless shelter on Christmas Day.

This is also where she meets the mysterious Yves.

Evie embarks on a spiritual journey she doesn’t expect but could be the start of better things.

Oh my! This book.

From beginning to end this novella had me hooked. I don’t have anything bad to say about it. It’s not a long book but I devoured it very quickly because I did not want to stop reading.

Evie has many things happen to her. Still reeling from one thing something else quickly comes along. We’ve all had experience of that at one time or another.

Greg is a smashing love interest and the mysterious Yves adds some additional magic to this festive plot. Who is he? Where has he come from?

Christmas Spirit

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Book Extract: Hush Hush by Mel Sherratt

Hush HushHush Hush is the new novel from author Mel Sherratt and her blog tour rolls into Novel Kicks today.

A killer is on the loose, attacking people in places they feel most safe: their workplaces, their homes. It’s up to DS Grace Allendale to stop the murders, and prove herself to her new team.

All clues lead to local crime family the Steeles, but that’s where things get complicated. Because the Steeles aren’t just any family, they’re Grace’s family. Two brothers and two sisters, connected by the violent father only Grace and her mother escaped.

To catch the killer, Grace will have to choose between her team and her blood. But who do you trust, when both sides are out to get you?

Mel and Avon have shared an extract today. Enjoy. 

***** start of extract*****

Grace slowed down to catch her breath, and her run became a jog.

The house she was renting was around five miles from Bethesda Police Station, depending on which road you took, in a part of the city called Weston Coyney. Caverswall Avenue was just through a set of busy traffic lights and near to Park Hall Country Park.

The house was a pre-war semi, tucked away at the top of a cul-de-sac. Phil and Becky Armstrong, who lived next door, had been relieved to see her moving in, telling her in much detail about the rowdy family who had been evicted. It explained why it was clean and recently decorated, with a newly fitted kitchen and bathroom. Everything had been trashed before the last tenants had left.

Making sure the sound of the machine couldn’t be heard through the walls of the adjoining house was the first thing Grace had checked with her neighbours. There was nothing worse than the drone and pounding of a treadmill, especially in the early hours of the morning. Luckily, she had space for it at the back of the house in the small conservatory, and the couple told her they couldn’t hear anything. They said they didn’t mind a bit of noise here and there after what they’d had to live with for the past six months.

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Novel Kicks Writing Room: Fairytale Reimagined

Novel Kicks Writing RoomToday in the writing room, I thought it would be fun to write a fairy tale. 

We all know the classics; Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty etc.

Writing no more than 1,500 words, pick a fairytale and put it into a modern setting.

You can merge a couple if you like.

For example, what if Cinderella worked for a cleaning company and had a lazy manager who was horrible. Sleeping Beauty worked in the city but couldn’t stop falling asleep in important meetings? Rapunzel has a fear of heights.

Have fun.

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Novel Kicks Book Club: After You by Jojo Moyes

After you

Penguin, June 2016

Hello November. 

For this month’s book club, I’ve chosen After You by Jojo Moyes.

This is the sequel to the fantastic Me Before You. Anyone can take part in our book club at any point in the month and you can discuss books from the comfort of your armchair so you don’t even have to go out in the horrible weather.

As usual, I have posted a question below to kick off the discussion.

About After You: 

Lou Clark has lots of questions.

Like how it is she’s ended up working in an airport bar, spending every shift watching other people jet off to new places.

Or why the flat she’s owned for a year still doesn’t feel like home.

Whether her close-knit family can forgive her for what she did eighteen months ago.

And will she ever get over the love of her life.

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Book Review: Christmas With The East End Angels by Rosie Hendry

christmas with east end angelsIt’s great to be welcoming Rosie Hendry to the blog today and the tour for her new novel, Christmas With The East End Angels. 

It’s the most wonderful time of the year – and the East End Angels are working hard to keep Londoners safe.

Frankie is trying hard to keep everything together. She can count on the support of the East End Angels, even in the face of family trouble.

Winnie’s beloved husband, Mac, is putting himself at risk every day in the bomb disposal unit and she’s finding it hard while he’s away.

Bella is growing in confidence and happiness. Her friendship with Winnie’s brother, James, is getting closer all the time.

Christmas on the Home Front is a hard time with loved ones far away – but the women of the Auxiliary Ambulance service are making do and mending.

This is the latest in the East End Angels series and my introduction to Winnie, Frankie and Bella. This does work as a standalone novel. I didn’t feel like I was playing catch up at all. Rosie’s writing style has an ease to it that made me get fully involved very quickly.

The women are working at Station 75 during WWII. Even though the Blitz has abated, there is still a threat that something will happen especially as news from abroad seems to only get worse.

I could tell straight away that the three main characters had a close friendship – one that would survive many things and the kind that you want during a turbulent time. I loved the three of them together and in this novel, they are joined by Rose, originally from Austria (so you know from the offset that her story is going to be emotional and heartbreaking.)

It was nice reading about an element of war-time London that I was less familiar with. It’s inspirational seeing how these women rallied and did what they could to ‘keep calm and carry on.’

The atmosphere Rosie creates really pulled me in to the world of these women. Despite the fact that it’s a bleak time in Britain’s history, these characters bring hope warmth, love and laughter. For me, this book is very much about them. Each girl is facing their own personal battle. It just happens to be set in WWII which makes their efforts to keep going all the more poignant.

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Book Review: Winter Without You by Beth Good

Winter Without YouIt’s a pleasure to welcome Beth Good to Novel Kicks and the blog blast for her new novel, Winter Without You which has been released today by Quercus. 

After the tragic death of her boyfriend, Hannah Clitheroe is hiding away from the world. But when she discovers she’s inherited a house in Cornwall, she knows it’s time to face reality.

Her estranged grandmother lived in Kernow House for years, but Hannah soon realises someone else thinks it’s rightfully theirs: Raphael Tregar, a difficult man who quickly gets under her skin.

But as winter sets in, there’s one more thing that keeps her up at night, and the rising fear that she may not find her true home in Cornwall after all…

Winter Without You focuses on Hannah. Having recently lost her boyfriend, Hannah has retreated to Cornwall where her Grandmother has left her a house in her will.

It’s not going to be as straightforward for Hannah though especially when she meets her unfriendly neighbour, Raphael.

This is a love story that is further enhanced by the setting and the people.

Hannah has had her share of tragedy. From the beginning, she is very easy to empathise with and like and therefore is a wonderful lead character. I sense that beneath all the sadness and grief, she has a strength, determination and most importantly, a sense of hope about her. I very much wanted her to succeed and felt invested in her story.

Raphael (I love that name) is brooding and mysterious. He is also at times very unpleasant but I certainly wanted to be wrong about him.

The setting in which her recently acquired inheritance sits sounds absolutely beautiful – somewhere I would like to visit.

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Book Review: A Christmas Gift by Sue Moorcroft

a christmas giftA big lovely welcome back to Sue Moorcroft. We are very happy to be the first stop on blog tour for her new novel, A Christmas Gift which has been released today by Avon. 

Georgine loves Christmas. The festive season always brings the little village of Middledip to life. But since her ex-boyfriend walked out, leaving her with crippling debts, Georgine’s struggled to make ends meet.

To keep her mind off her worries, she throws herself into organising the Christmas show at the local school. And when handsome Joe Blackthorn becomes her assistant, Georgine’s grateful for the help. But there’s something about Joe she can’t quite put her finger on. Could there be more to him than meets the eye?

Georgine’s past is going to catch up with her in ways she never expected. But can the help of friends new and old make this a Christmas to remember after all?

Welcome to a Middledip Christmas! Yes, it’s ‘that’ time of year again and we can rejoice with the release of the latest novel from Amazon and Sunday Times best-selling author, Sue Moorcroft. And, even better, for long-standing fans, she’s taken us back to Middledip! Don’t worry if you’re new to reading this author, by the time you’ve finished reading this book, you’ll be dying to check her back catalogue to discover more of this enchanting village she has created.

So, what do we have here? Well, I’ll start by stating that you won’t get too much about the story itself from me, as I don’t believe in giving too much away (you’ll find that on other reviews), I prefer to concentrate on other things.

A Christmas Gift Blog Tour - NovA wee snippet of story – Georgine France isn’t having the best of times since her boyfriend walked out on her, leaving her to deal with his debts, and when her sister comes to stay after splitting with her husband for reasons she doesn’t quite reveal, the prospect of producing the Christmas Play for the Performing Arts College she works for, suddenly turns into more work than she’d like. Throw in a blast from the past in the form of the enigmatic Joe Blackthorn, who has more than a few secrets of his own to sort through and you’ve got the enthralling tale of the year!

Sue is a (and I hope she’ll pardon me the choice of word) mistress of emotion, and she takes us through the wringer here, to be sure (Georgine’s father is not in the best of health either). All the main characters are beautifully rounded and, as is always the case with Sue’s novels, she has some of the best secondary characters that could be written. I always feel like I’ve been introduced to a new family by the time I’ve finished reading a Sue Moorcroft story, and that is just the same here.

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Novel Kicks Writing Room: Five Random Sentences

Novel Kicks Writing RoomToday’s exercise is writing a story. 

Today, I thought it would be fun to take five sentences and put them together into a story. Overall, try to make the piece 1,500 words and spread these out across the whole thing.

The five sentences are:

. He would believe me. I would make sure of it. 

. The pineapples in my grandmother’s house had a mind of their own. 

. Is it just me or did the cat just speak to me. 

. I was getting really tired of this rush hour traffic. 

. Ben knew that robbing the bank was a risk but one he needed to take. 

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Book Review: The Witches of St. Petersburg by Imogen Edwards-Jones

witches of petersburgImogen Edwards-Jones and the blog tour for her new book, The Witches of St. Petersburg joins Novel Kicks today. 

The Russian Empire is on the verge of collapse. Revolution is in the air. The starving stalk the streets of St Petersburg and yet the Imperial Court still commute between their estates and organise their lavish balls.

Two sisters arrive in the city. Princesses from Montenegro; they are famed for their wild beauty and mystical powers. Initially ridiculed and outcast as the daughters of a provincial ‘Goat King’, they react in the only way they know how. They befriend the isolated Tsarina Alexandra and, using their gifts, they help her in her increasingly desperate quest to give birth to a son and heir. The circle closes. The girls are the gateway. Gurus, clairvoyants, holy fools and charlatans all try their luck. Then in one last, doomed, throw of the dice, the sisters introduce Rasputin into the Russian Court…

Based on the true story of the lives of Princess Militza and Princess Anastasia of Montenegro during the dying days of the Russian Empire, The Witches of St Petersburg is a tale of love, lust, power and betrayal at the heart of the Romanov Court.

Although I don’t know too much about it, this part of Russian history has always held a fascination for me and is why I wanted to read this novel especially as it is based on a true story.

Militza was the most fascinating character for me. Her relationship with her sister was also intriguing. There are very much outsiders and I can relate to that.

The overall setting was written so vividly and with much detail. You can tell how much work and love went into writing this book.

I did find it hard to keep up with who everyone was to begin with. There was a few times where I had to refer to the handy character guide at the beginning but this wasn’t a huge deal; just hard to keep up with all the Russian names.

The plot is engaging and had me wanting to keep reading. It has also made me want to find out more about this period in history.

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Book Review: Miss Marley by Vanessa Lafaye

I was very happy to be asked to join the blog tour for Miss Marley by Vanessa Lafaye. This novella is due to be released on 1st November 2018 by HQ.

miss marley coverBefore A Christmas Carol there was… Miss Marley

A seasonal tale of kindness and goodwill

Orphans Clara and Jacob Marley live by their wits, scavenging for scraps in the poorest alleyways of London, in the shadow of the workhouse. Every night, Jake promises his little sister ‘tomorrow will be better’ and when the chance to escape poverty comes their way, he seizes it despite the terrible price.

And so Jacob Marley is set on a path that leads to his infamous partnership with Ebenezer Scrooge. As Jacob builds a fortress of wealth to keep the world out, only Clara can warn him of the hideous fate that awaits him if he refuses to let love and kindness into his heart…

In Miss Marley, Vanessa Lafaye weaves a spellbinding Dickensian tale of ghosts, goodwill and hope – a perfect prequel to A Christmas Carol.

 

Jacob and his sister Clara Belle Marley know poverty. Banished to the workhouse after the death of their parents, they learn early how to look out for themselves. When they suddenly come into a small bit of money, they manage to build a better life. Whilst Clara eventually wants a family, Jacob is fuelled by an ambition to never be poor again no matter what it costs him.

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens is possibly one of my favourite stories. For me, it sums up Christmas and everything it should be about. So, as a fan, I am quite protective of it.
Saying that though, when I read about this story, I was intrigued. I love it when I can read something that gives me an insight into what happened before the story we all know and love; provided it is done right. This was done fantastically well.

Miss Marley is told from the point of view of Jacob’s Marley’s sister, Clara Belle. It follows she and her brother from when they are children to adulthood. It focuses on her relationship with her brother, his budding friendship and business transactions with a much younger Ebenezer Scrooge and touches on his relationship with Belle beyond what you see in A Christmas Carol.

Vanessa Lafaye really captured the essence of the original novel but brought something new to it. You can tell that she had a love and respect for the original book. She has brought another aspect to these characters. It’s great to be able to have an idea as to why Jacob appears to Scrooge covered in chains and regret.

This book is about one hundred and fifty pages so it doesn’t take long to read but it’s not hard to get fully immersed in it. I could imagine myself in London surrounded by these characters. Many points in the book had me particularly sad for one character in particular.

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Book Review: Love Punked by Nia Lucas

Love Punked Front coverIt’s the weekend which hopefully means a chance to snuggle up with a book for many of you. Today, Nia Lucas joins me with the blog tour for her new novel, Love Punked.

When her life is irrevocably altered by a post-Rave tryst on her mother’s floral patio recliner, Erin Roberts’ long-standing relationship with Humiliation takes her down a path that’s not so much ‘less well trodden’, more ‘perilous descent down sheer cliffs’.

Armed with a fierce devotion to her best friend and the unrequited love for the boy she might have accidentally married at age seven, when Erin falls pregnant at sixteen, life veers off at a most unexpected tangent.

Her journey to adulthood is far from ordinary as Erin learns that protecting the hearts of those most precious to you isn’t balm enough when your Love Punked heart is as sore as your freshly tattooed arse.

Whilst raising football prodigies and trying not to get stuck in lifts with Social Work clients who hate her, Erin discovers that sometimes you have to circumnavigate the globe to find the very thing that was there all along.

 

Erin has just turned sixteen. She is not the most popular of people with her peers but she knows that all she needs is her best friend Lees. If she could just get Daniel to fancy her too, it would make things even better.

However, when one night changes the course of her life, she has to make some very big adjustments with poignant and sometimes hilarious results.

From the first chapter, I knew that I was going to love Erin and her story.

With her being sixteen at the start of this novel, she is the same age I was in the middle of the 90’s (where this book is primarily set,) I found her very relatable. I saw flashes of awkwardness from my teen years in parts of her story. It made me feel quite nostalgic in places.

 

Love Punked

 

I couldn’t imagine being a mother at her age.

The plot is wonderfully developed, compelling and it all unfolds at a good pace. When I consider how this book begins, I really couldn’t predict how it was going to end.

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Novel Kicks Fiction Friday: Spooky Times

Novel Kicks Fiction FridayIt’s Friday which means it’s time to start writing some fiction. 

Fiction Friday is our weekly writing prompt. The aim is to write for a minimum of five minutes and then keep going for as long as you can. Once you’ve finished, don’t edit, just post in the comments box below.

Halloween is just around the corner and so the prompt is spooky themed. 

Imagine you are a ghost in a haunted house. You are scared of everything and anything.

It’s 31st October. This is your least favourite day. This is the day people won’t leave you alone.

Write a conversation between the ghost and someone who is trick or treating.

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Book Extract: Second Chances at the Log Fire Cabin by Catherine Ferguson

second chancesThe blog tour train rolls in today for Second Chances at the Log Fire Cabin by Catherine Ferguson. 

It’s time to cosy up this winter…

When Roxy proposes to her boyfriend Mac in a moment of madness on live TV, she’s mortified when he rejects her. To escape the embarrassment, she takes a job working as cookery assistant at a Christmas house party at the idyllic Log Fire Cabin. Roxy hopes the new job will take her mind off Mac, because to her eternal annoyance, she hasn’t been able to stop thinking about him…

But when Mac turns up at the cabin in unexpected circumstances, things begin to go awry. Can Roxy heal her own heart this Christmas? Or is someone waiting in the wings to help her…?

Catherine and Avon have shared an extract from the book below. Let me know what you think in the comments. 

 

***** start of extract*****

If I don’t find work soon, I might have to move back in with Mum and Dad. As much as I love them, the idea of returning to the little backwater town on the south coast, where I grew up, and sleeping in my old single bed is not an appealing thought. I’d be miles from all my friends in Surrey.

And miles from Jackson . . .

Christmas at the Log Fire Cabin Blog TourA log shifts in the grate and makes me start. I stare into the flames, lulled by the seasonal cheer of the blaze and the thought that it will soon be Christmas. Whatever happens on the jobs front, I’ll still be spending the festive season with Jackson. It will be our very first Christmas together!

It’s so snug in the room, I feel myself starting to drift off . . .

I can’t breathe. I feel like I’m choking.

My heart is thundering as panic flares inside me. The hands of a faceless stranger are squeezing my throat and pressing on my face, blocking my airways. Slowly suffocating me.

I’m desperate to escape from the room but the door is locked. Pulling on the handle, I try to call out for help, but no sound emerges. Grasping to pull the obstruction away from my face, I find to my horror that there’s nothing there. The so-called hands choking me are invisible.

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Book Review: Roar by Cecelia Ahern

ROAR Jacket High resThere is much excitement here at Novel Kicks today. I am delighted to be the first stop on the blog tour for Roar. This is the new novel from the brilliant Cecelia Ahern. 

Have you ever stood at a crossroads, undecided…Have you ever had a moment when you wanted to roar?

From much-loved, international bestseller Cecelia Ahern come stories for all of us: the women who befriend us, the women who encourage us, the women who make us brave. From The Woman Who Slowly Disappeared to The Woman Who Returned and Exchanged her Husband, discover thirty touching, often hilarious, stories and meet thirty very different women. Each discovers her strength; each realizes she holds the power to make a change.

Witty, tender, surprising, these keenly observed tales speak to us all, and capture the moment when we all want to roar.

Roar is the latest novel from Cecelia Ahern. The book has thirty short stories that has something for every woman.

I have made no secret of the fact that I absolutely adore Cecelia’s novels. When I heard about this one, I was very intrigued to read it. Roar is slightly different to anything she has written before.

This assortment of stories carry a similar theme but all have something unique to say.

All the way through, it looks at women, our sense of self, self-esteem, our relationships with ourselves, with men and other women also.

It’s an interesting and very powerful look at how some of us look at the world and where we see ourselves within it.

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Book Extract: The Mischief Maker by Simon Maree

the mischief makerA big hello to Simon Maree who is here to share an extract from his novel, The Mischief Maker.

He’s just a soul whose intentions are good… Oh Lord, please don’t let him be misunderstood…

Joe has a problem. He is falling in love with his new housemate. Nothing unusual there, except for Joe is a poltergeist and this sort of thing just shouldn’t happen. Joe is suffering an existential crisis of no small proportion.

The object of his misguided affections – a feisty and self-assured teenager named Harriet. Will he be able to save her from something much darker than himself that lurks in the shadows of the Brighton house they share? Will she be able to help him on his newfound quest for redemption?

 

***** start of extract*****

I’d been waiting for someone like her for a great while. I had no idea how long. I’d all lost track of time. It could have been years, decades or even centuries. If I was given to clichés, I could say that it felt like an eternity, but nobody knows what that’s like (although I’m learning, slowly; one day at a time).

I knew that she was the one before I even laid eyes on her. I could feel the energy sparking off her like tiny shooting stars even as she turned the corner onto Westall Avenue and strolled past the terraced houses, gazing out at the small, grey strip of English channel visible across the main road at the bottom of the street, her blue eyes blazing with righteous indignation beneath that bible black fringe with the purple streaks, and her pretty little head all full of candyfloss and pop stars.

Her mother strode beside her; a handsome, confident looking, auburn haired woman with high heels and a briefcase, but I felt nothing. I had no use for her, except perhaps as a stooge of some sort.

They slowed as they got nearer to the house, studying digits on doors, the older woman checking and double checking the paperwork in her hand, until they found what they were looking for, the magical number 33 that hung upon the portal to my own little kingdom.

The wrought iron gate gave it’s usual grating complaint as Mummy Dearest pushed it open, walked past the tiny and somewhat forlorn front garden, and approached the door, my brand new obsession in her expensively perfumed wake.

I stared out at them from the downstairs front room bay window. I could barely control my excitement as Mrs. Businesswoman put her ‘A to Z’ of Brighton into her case and glared at her state of the art smartphone.

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