Book News

Book Review: Snowdrops on Rosemary Lane by Ellen Berry

I am pleased to be welcoming Ellen Berry and the blog tour for her new novel, Snowdrops on Rosemary Lane.

 

Last winter she had a plan.

Lucy fell in love with tumbledown Rosemary Cottage as a child. So thirty years on, when she loses her city job and discovers the cottage is for sale, it feels like fate. She’ll raise her children in Burley Bridge and transform the cottage into a B&B with her husband.

But a year can change everything . . .

Now Lucy is juggling two children and a B&B, but on her own. Christmas looks set to be their last on Rosemary Lane – until she meets James, a face from her past and someone who might offer a different kind of future . . .

Should Lucy leave the cottage behind? Or could this winter on Rosemary Lane be the start of something new?

 

I am not crying, I have something in my eye…. OK, I am crying.

It was hard not to reach for the tissues with the latest book by Ellen Berry.

It focuses on Lucy, who after losing her job in Manchester, makes the decision with her husband Ivan to move to the picturesque village of Burley Bridge. It is not all plain sailing for Lucy and her family and there are many ups and downs along the way. Lucy wonders whether Rosemary Cottage is her forever home after all?

It’s not hard to feel love and empathy for Lucy especially as things happen for her pretty early on in the novel.

James, like Lucy is dealing with issues that I think a lot of people would be able to relate to. He and Lucy have many layers to them. I liked them both a lot.

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Book Review: The Rector’s Daughter by Jean Fullerton

The Rector’s Daughter is the latest novel from Jean Fullerton and I am happy to be welcoming her blog tour to Novel Kicks today. 

Charlotte is the daughter of Reverend Percival Hatton. She’s been ok to follow the path set out for her. She’s happy to help the poorer people of the parish (much to her father’s annoyance.)

She also has an understanding with Captain Nicholas Paget who she is expected to marry.

Everything in Charlotte’s world changes when she meets Josiah Martyn.

Josiah is in the area to help build the first tunnel under the River Thames. He’s an ambitious, Cornish mining engineer and he is the complete opposite to Nicholas. He is not at all the man the Reverend wants for his daughter.

Josiah and Charlotte grow closer. Can they defy the odds against them and have their happy ever after?

 

The Rector’s Daughter is, I am ashamed to admit, the first novel I have read by Jean Fullerton.

Charlotte is a character I warmed to straight away. She is a good person, who, in and out of love, is having to fight against the expectation of her class and gender.

Josiah is such a likeable, honourable leading man and I like the idea of him and Charlotte together. Whether they do make it, I hope you find out for yourself by reading the novel.

The supporting characters are a mixture of wonderful and outright horrible. Some I wanted to throw in a cupboard and throw away the key. Haha.

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Book Review: A Convenient Marriage by Jeevani Charika

Chaya is a young woman torn between her duty to family and her life in the UK. While her traditional Sri Lankan parents want her to settle down into marriage, what they don’t know is that Chaya has turned away the one true love of her life, Noah, terrified of their disapproval.

Gimhana is hiding his sexuality from his family. It’s easy enough to pretend he’s straight when he lives half a world away in the UK. But it’s getting harder and harder to turn down the potential brides his parents keep finding
for him.

When Chaya and Gimhana meet, a marriage of convenience seems like the perfect solution to their problems. Together they have everything – friendship, stability and their parents’ approval. But when both Chaya and Gimhana find themselves falling in love outside of their marriage, they’re left with an impossible decision – risk everything they’ve built together, or finally follow
their heart?

Will they choose love, or carry on living a lie?

 

Featuring a subject that is obviously close to the heart of the author, ‘A Convenient Marriage’ has, at its centre, two main themes; arranged marriages and a couple of LGBT characters.

Let’s get the wee bit about the story out of the way (for more details…buy the book!)

Getting married to satisfy the expectations of family and society, Gim and Chaya are two of the most satisfying, realistic characters I’ve come across for a good while. The way the author has drawn them and the culture they come from really touched me.

This is a novel where the power of culture and family are central to all that’s wrong with large parts of some societies and because of that, all down to this readers upbringing, I did find that a little hard to understand. However, in the end, this is a novel about friendship and all that should be important.

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NK Chats To… Laura Briggs

Hello Laura and welcome to Novel Kicks. Can you tell me a bit about your book, Sea Holly and Mistletoe Kisses?

Hi Laura, and thanks so much for inviting me to share with your readers! Sea Holly and Mistletoe Kisses is a cosy Christmas read and the third book in my romance series known as ‘A Little Hotel in Cornwall’. It continues the adventures of Maisie Clark, an aspiring author who follows her writing dreams across the Pond to a quaint Cornish hotel by the sea. Readers can expect a festive, feel-good read, as Maisie and the rest of the staff at the Penmarrow prepare to host an ice sculpting competition at the historic hotel.

 

Are you able to tell me a little about what you’re currently working on?

Currently, I’m working on the edits for Book Four in the series, The Cornish Secret of Summer’s Promise. It features a daring heist, an unexpected secret, and a romantic crossroads that Maisie never expected!

 

When you begin a novel, what do you focus on first?

Hmmmm. I think it varies from project to project, but I tend to focus first on the central plotline or event that kicks off the story. Then the characters tend to develop alongside the twists and turns in the plot that help to bring the whole story together.

 

Which songs would be on a playlist for Sea Holly and Mistletoe Kisses?

Christmas songs! I have everything from classic to modern on my holiday music playlists, so it could feature anything from Bing Crosby to Mariah Carey songs.

 

What is your idea of a perfect Christmas? 

Oooh, that’s a tough one! I think something peaceful but festive and cozy that involves sharing the joy of the season with others would be a good place to start!

 

How do you approach the editing process and what is the biggest mistake that new writers make do you think?

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Book Review: The Last Day of Winter by Shari Low

It’s a pleasure to be welcoming Shari Low back to Novel Kicks with the blog tour for her novel, The Last Day of Winter. 

One December wedding. One runaway bride. One winter’s day to bring everyone together again.

Today is the day Caro and Cammy are due to walk up the aisle. But Caro’s too caught up in the trauma of her past to contemplate their happy ever after.

Stacey’s decision to return from L.A. is fuelled by one thing – telling Cammy how she feels, before it’s too late.

Wedding planner, Josie, needs to sort the whole mess out, but she’s just been dealt some devastating news. Can she get through the day without spilling her secret?

On a chilly winter’s day, they have twenty-four hours to prove that love can lead the way to a brighter future…

 

The Last Day of Winter focuses on an ensemble of characters on a day just before Christmas. On the day Caro and Cammy are meant to go down the aisle, Caro’s past makes her doubt that this is her happy ever after.

The fate of the wedding is further put into question when Stacey returns to LA to tell Cammy how she feels about him.

Josie, the wedding planner needs to sort this out despite being given some devastating news.

Can love find its way within these 24 hours?

Shari, you made me cry again! I am not too proud to admit it either.

Oh, this novel.

First, the amazing characters. Each of them have their own, complicated feelings. All were developed well and nothing with any of them was black and white. Even where Caro is concerned, I felt enormous sympathy and empathy. This is a terrific ensemble of different personalities and they all fit together so well.

Plot wise, a lot is placed within the 24 hours in which it’s set but nothing feels rushed. The description of Glasgow sounds so incredible and it’s set at Christmas so it gave me all the early festive feels.

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A Moment With… Steve Exeter

Welcome to author, Steve Exeter. 

With October being Black History Month, I am pleased to be welcoming Steve to Novel Kicks. He is here to talk about his book, Severus: The Black Caesar who was the first African Emperor.

 

About the book: 

Severus follows the amazing true story of a rebellious boy who grew up in an African province and became the first Black Caesar of the Roman Empire, the head of a dynasty that would lead Rome through bloody civil wars and rapidly changing times.

As a young man, Severus hates the Romans and conspires to humiliate them. What begins as a childish prank unfurls into a bloodbath that sends Severus careening into his future.

Through a tragic love affair, dangerously close battles and threats both internal and external, Severus accrues power — and enemies — in his unlikely rise to become the most powerful man in the ancient world.

 

Without further ado, chatting about his book and the fascinating history behind it, it’s over to you, Steve. Welcome. 

 

I was encouraged and excited to see that notable historian Patrick Vernon included the Roman Emperor Septimius Severus on his list of 100 Great Black Britons and that he ended up ranking as highly as 25 in the final list.

Severus died in York in 211 BC and was arguably the first black man to set foot on British soil, but he came not as a slave, but as Emperor. Behind this still little-known fact there is the incredible tale of someone who grew from rebellious youth to the most powerful man in the ancient world.

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Book Review: The Family Upstairs by Lisa Jewell

In a large house in London’s fashionable Chelsea, a baby is awake in her cot. Well-fed and cared for, she is happily waiting for someone to pick her up.

In the kitchen lie three decomposing corpses. Close to them is a hastily scrawled note.

They’ve been dead for several days.

Who has been looking after the baby?

And where did they go?

Two entangled families.

A house with the darkest of secrets.

 

Libby has just inherited a house on one of the most exclusive streets in Chelsea. She is only focused on one thing once she gets into the house and this is to find out anything she can about the family she never knew. However, sinister secrets lurk in the rooms of this abandoned house and Libby isn’t sure she is going to like what she finds.

I have loved the direction Lisa Jewell has taken her novels and so I was eager to read this one. To be honest, this one had me from the blurb on the back of the book.

Told from the point of view of Libby and Lucy in the present and Henry decades before, it does tend to jump around a bit but they all have such a distinct voice that I had no issue keeping up with whose point of view I was reading from.

This book really appealed to my love of mystery and it is present all the way through. Just when I thought I had sussed something out, another plot twist would happen. It is written so well and had me obsessed right until the end.

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Spotlight: Words & Kisses Subscription Box

Words & Kisses is a subscription service/online book club for people who like their books with happy endings.

I am a sucker for a happy ending. I am a proper romantic and I love subscription boxes so when I was approached by the lovely Amy at Words & Kisses about reviewing her book subscription box, she didn’t have to ask me twice.

My book arrived beautifully wrapped in pink tissue paper with a lovely note.

It was like Christmas had come early as I couldn’t help but tear the wrapping open to reveal the surprise inside.

I received The Right Swipe by Alisha Rai. One read of the description and it was clear the right choice had been made for me. It is a great way to discover novels you may not have read or picked up otherwise.

How it works is so simple. Visit wwww.wordsandkisses.com.

*Subscriptions are three months for £34.99, six months for £69.99 or a twelve month subscription for £139.00. Alternatively, you can pay a recurring monthly subscription of £11.99 if you want to try it out first. If you live in the UK, postage is included.

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Book Extract: The Summer Springsteen’s Songs Saved Me by Barbara Quinn

Hello to Barbara Quinn and the birthday blog tour for her novel. The Summer Springsteen’s Songs Saved Me

 

Coming home to catch her husband with his face between the long, silky legs of another woman is the last thing Sofia expects—and on today of all days. So, after scratching an expletive into his Porsche and setting the cheating bastard’s clothes on fire, she cranks up her beloved Bruce and flees, vowing never to look back.

Seeking solace in the peaceful beachside town of Bradley Beach, NJ, Sof is determined to start over. And, with the help of best friends, new acquaintances, a sexy neighbor, and the powerful songs of Springsteen, this may be the place where her wounds can heal. But, as if she hasn’t faced her share of life’s challenges, a final flurry of obstacles awaits.

In order to head courageously toward the future, Sofia must first let go of her past, find freedom, and mend her broken soul.

 

Barbara has shared an extract today. Enjoy.

 

***** beginning of extract*****

 

Behind us a car’s radio blares “Born in the USA.” Curious, I turn and watch a black convertible pull into the driveway next door. The sandy-haired man in the driver’s seat sings at the top of his lungs and bangs his hands on the steering wheel. He alternates his drumming with a little air guitar. He does neither well.

Mr. Air Guitar gives off an aura of happiness and an appearance that says “I’m carefree” that annoys me. I dislike him, even if he’s a fellow Springsteen fan. He makes me think about the huge pack of trouble I’m trying to unload, the one named Jerome, the one who routinely porks his trainer. Still, nothing requires me to be friends with the neighbors.

Terri opens her door and climbs out. She waves at Mr. Air Guitar, but the man remains engrossed in his playing and fails to notice. He strums a muscled arm again to the blast of the radio, and my ears grow hot. The guy probably knows nothing about the meaning of the song he sings. The mantra “Born in the USA” isn’t a rallying cry for overzealous patriots no matter how many times they try to claim it.

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Book Review: The Men by Fanny Calder

City life in the 1990s. Anonymous, intense, paradoxical and sometimes lonely.

A young, haunted woman falls in love with a singer. She finds she has been consumed by the relationship and when it ends – as it inevitably does – she feels unable to quite rediscover herself. Cities can draw you into even darker places, and she embarks on a series of intense relationships with thirteen men of very different types, from a rough sleeper to a millionaire, and from a transvestite to a leading politician.

As she is propelled through a series of extraordinary adventures and wild parties she finds she begins to lose her own identity. Is there a way out?

 

The Men by Fanny Calder focuses on an anonymous woman. She’s our narrator.

As the book begins, she is in a relationship with a singer. This ends in heartbreak. We then look at the thirteen subsequent relationships she has including one with a homeless man, a Politician and a Millionaire.

This is not a book I would have picked off a shelf and this is why I love running the Novel Kicks blog. It means books like this don’t pass me by.

The narrator gives the reader little glimpses into her relationship history and it doesn’t hold back whatsoever.

The character does have happy moments in her quest for romantic love but she is also insanely honest with her observations about these men, the world around her and her lack of fulfilment with love and life. It’s one of the things I liked most about this novel as well as the conversational writing style.

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October: Recent and Upcoming Releases

Bantam Press

I am excited to be writing about a whole load of new novels being released soon and there are some fantastic sounding titles in my list this week.

Coming out on 29th October is the latest Jack Reacher novel from Lee Child. It’s called Blue Moon.

Two rival criminal gangs are competing for control. They have not counted on Jack Reacher.

He is trained to notice things; like the elderly man sitting near him on the Greyhound bus with an envelope full of money and the other passenger hoping to get rich. He had not counted on Jack Reacher either.

I have to put my hands up and admit that I have not read a Jack Reacher novel but I may have to start as this sounds brilliant.

I saw the movie and didn’t hate it as I know a few people did. Are you a fan of Jack Reacher?

Let me know why and which book I should start with in the comments below.

 

Headline

From Lee Child to the Queen of crime novels. The latest novel from Martina Cole, No Mercy has been released this week.

This is another author I don’t know a lot about which is strange considering I love my crime novels but my Mum loved her books.

In No Mercy, Diana Davies has been head of the family business since her husband died. She’s a woman in a man’s world but no one would dare mess with her.

Her only son is about to enter the business and even though he a born criminal, this doesn’t mean that he doesn’t have to earn his mother’s trust along with everyone else.

His blind spot is his wife and three children. He has a painful truth to learn.

 

The Puzzle of You is the latest novel from author, Leah Mercer and is due to be released on 1st November and is a book that sounds totally up my alley.

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Book Review: The Flower Arranger from JJ Ellis

Agora Books, 26th September 2019

Today’s blog tour features the debut novel, The Flower Arranger from JJ Ellis. 

And now he knew what was wrong with the arrangement. It was the Ma… the negative space… There was only one thing beautiful enough to fill it and — finally — she was with him. Ready, if not willing, to play her role.

Holly Blain wants to cover real news. The entertainment beat — pop stars and teen trends — was not why she moved to Tokyo. When she meets Inspector Tetsu Tanaka, head of Tokyo’s Metropolitan Police’s Gaikoku-jin unit, it might just be her big break.

Tanaka isn’t so sure. Always one to do things by the book, he’s hesitant about bringing this headstrong reporter into his carefully controlled investigation.

But young women keep disappearing and Tanaka is given no choice. He and Blain must trust each other if they are to stop a tormented killer from bringing his twisted plan to its shocking conclusion.

Filled with twists and turns, this unforgettable thriller is JJ Ellis’ first novel.

Holly Blain is quite new to Tokyo and wants to make her mark as a crime reporter. Covering the entertainment wasn’t exactly what she envisioned when she thought about her reporting ambitions.

She is delighted when she is introduced to Inspector Tetsu Tanaka from Tokyo’s Metropolitan Police’s Gaikoku-Jin unit. He could be her way to gain the scoop to further her career.

Tanaka isn’t so sure about Holly and keeps her at arm’s length.

Wow…. just wow.

The Flower Arranger is the debut novel from JJ Ellis but it won’t be the last I read from this author.

Told from the point of view of Tanaka, Holly and the killer, this book pulled me in from the moment I picked it up. I found it compelling and quite frankly unputdownable.

I had what I call itchy book fingers when I was forced to put it down. I just wanted to pick it up and continue reading.

The setting is so vivid. I have never visited Japan but I could see myself walking the streets with the characters. I felt totally emerged.

Tanaka is a strong and believable character. He’s an honourable policeman and wants to do his due diligence. He is one for the rules and his reaction to Holly was an interesting one. His relationship with her has a fascinating arc to it and I certainly want to see these two together in another novel.

Holly was more of an enigma to me. Not a lot is given away about where she’s come from and what has happened before she reached Tokyo. This is a book in itself I think and one that I would also read. There is certainly more to Holly than we see here. She and Tanaka are total opposites but they work.

It took me a few pages to get my head around who everyone was. Not a bad thing, just me.

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Upcoming Novel Releases

Chatto & Windus, Sept ’19

Autumn is on its way (even though the weather can’t quite make up its mind.)

What this does mean is a great list of fantastic novel releases and here is my first list of the books I am looking forward to reading.

The first book on my list has already come out but it is one I am incredibly excited about. It’s one I’ve been waiting years for… The Testaments by Margaret Atwood.

Ever since I read the Handmaid’s Tale when I was sixteen, I have been wanting to know what happened next. The TV show has been great for that but there is something for me about a novel straight from the original author that makes it extra special. I am also interested to read it having had the perspective from the TV show and the continued development of the characters from that. I have heard such good things about this book.

Released on 10th September, The Testaments picks up fifteen years after the end of the first book, Gilead maintains its power but there are signs that it’s beginning to crumble from within. Three women’s lives converge with explosive results.

 

HarperCollins, Sept ’19

The second novel in the list is another book I have been waiting so long for and that is Postscript by Cecelia Ahern. I have been fortunate enough to get an advanced copy and I am planning on reviewing soon.

I adored PS I Love You and so the sequel had a lot to live up to. I wasn’t sure how it was going to work. The first one had such a unique plot. How was the story going to carry on?

I won’t say too much now about my thoughts at this stage but a summary of the plot is that Postscript starts seven years after the end of PS I Love You and six years after Gerry’s last letter.

A group contacts Holly. They call themselves the PS I Love You club and they are asking her for help. She begins a relationship with the group and is soon finding herself drawn back to the feelings she thought she had left behind.

It has been released today (19th September) so is available to read now.

 

A Patchwork Family: Taking Chances by Cathy Bramley is part three in a four-part serial and is due to be released on 3rd October.

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Book Review: We Met in December by Rosie Curtis

Hello to Rosie Curtis and the blog tour for her latest book, We Met in December. 

What if you couldn’t get away from the one who got away?

This December, unlucky-in-love Jess is following her dream and moving to Notting Hill. On the first night in her new house-share she meets Alex, the guy in the room next door. They don’t kiss under the mistletoe, but there’s still a spark that leaves Jess imagining how they might spend the year together – never mind the house rule against dating…

But when Jess returns from her Christmas holiday, she finds Alex has started seeing Emma, who lives on the floor above them. Now Jess faces a year of bumping into the man of her dreams – and, apparently, the woman of his.

Jess is determined to move on and spend the year falling in love with London, not Alex – but what if her heart has other ideas?

 

We Met in December tells the story of Jess and Alex.

Jess has just moved to London after breaking up with her boyfriend. She is looking to go after the career she has always wanted.

Alex was a successful lawyer and has now given that up to re-train as a nurse. He has made a promise to himself that, after a break up with his fiancée, he would focus on his career. He did not count on meeting Jess.

First, I am completely in love with this cover. It is so beautiful.

We Met in December is told from the point of view of both Alex and Jess. I liked this as it gave me a better overall idea of what each were thinking. It’s proof that misunderstandings and assumptions can be the cause of many problems between people that’s for sure.

These two were both wonderful, compelling characters and I came to care for them a lot. I found them to be characters I really liked and want to spend time with in real life.

I also loved the supporting characters, especially Nanna Beth, Rob and Becky. I want to know more about their lives.

I became so invested in this story. I want to be a roommate in this house. It’s like a rom-com movie and I could see it as such.

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Book Extract: A Question of Us by Mary Jayne Baker

Hello to Mary Jayne Baker and the blog tour for her novel, A Question of Us. 

Two best friends. Eight pub quizzes. One shot at love…

There are some people who seem like they have all the answers in life. Clarrie Midwinter isn’t one of them.

At the age of 26, tomboy Clarrie is still struggling to become a ‘proper’ grown-up.

She’s eternally strapped for cash, she hasn’t had a date in nearly a year and her attempts to quit smoking tend to take a nosedive after the second pint. Most annoyingly of all, her ladykiller best friend Simon just won’t stop asking her out.

The only thing keeping her sane is her pub quiz team, the Mighty Morphin Flower Arrangers.

But when Simon bets her a date their team will win the quiz league, Clarrie is forced to confront what she really wants out of life – and love. Is it finally time for her to grow up?

 

Mary Jayne and her publisher have shared an extract with us today. Enjoy. 

 

***** beginning of extract*****

 

‘The chances of me getting lucky with Sally Pemberton are slim to none,’ Dave said.

‘The chances of Si getting lucky with Sally Pemberton, and me therefore receiving the knock-on benefit of a faster pint, are about 99.9 per cent. I’ll take those odds.’

Clarrie was still squinting at the photo of the dog, which was small and Ewok-like with curly beige fur.

‘I reckon it’s a cavapoo,’ she said.

Si shook his head. ‘That’s not a thing.’

‘It is too a thing, the woman next door to my mum’s got one.’

‘What, so it’s half poodle, half fizzy wine?’

She nudged him, smiling. ‘Half Cavalier King Charles, you div.’

‘You know, dogs really went downhill when they started breeding them for comedy portmanteau purposes.’

‘Go on then, write it down,’ Dave said, rolling the pen to Clarrie. ‘You’re captain, you get final say.’

‘All right.’ She jotted it into the answer box. ‘But if it’s wrong, it’s wrong. I don’t want it following me to the grave like Sonny and the fifth Marx brother.’

Sonny scowled. ‘Do we have to bring that up every week? Anyone could’ve made that mistake.’

‘Very true,’ Dave said gravely. ‘I’m sure Karl had plenty of time after writing Das Kapital for a bit of slapstick fun with the family.’

‘Oh, knob off, can you?’ Sonny rubbed a V-sign at Dave against his cheek. ‘Eight years ago I got that wrong. Jesus.’

‘Still funny though,’ Dave said, grinning. ‘Right, I’m off to the bar. Same again, you lot?’

Jeff was half asleep again, but he flickered to attention when he heard the magic word ‘bar’.

‘Another Landlord for me, young Davy.’

‘Si?’

‘I’ll skip this round.’ Simon waggled his still half-full beer. ‘All right with what I’ve got for now.’

Clarrie glanced at the dregs of her pint. She had to work tomorrow. Probably should go easy…

Oh, what the hell.

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