Book Reviews

Novel Kicks Book Club: Dash and Lily’s Book of Dares by David Levithan and Rachel Cohn

Hello December. I am excited as this is my favourite time of the year.

The trees and lights are going up and the cold weather has certainly arrived so there is no better reason to curl up with a cup/glass of something and a book (I know I say this every month,) and I am hoping you’ll join me with reading this month’s book club.

I’ve chosen Dash and Lily’s Book of Dares by David Levithan and Rachel Cohn.

This book sounds like a lot of fun and has an interesting premise. As normal, I have posted a question to kick off the discussion. Hopefully see you in the comments.

 

About Dash and Lily’s Book of Dares.

I’ve left some clues for you. If you want them, turn the page. If you don’t, put the book back on the shelf, please.

At the urge of her lucky-in-love brother, sixteen-year-old Lily has left a red notebook full of dares on her favourite bookshop shelf, waiting for just the right guy to come along and accept. Curious, snarky Dash isn’t one to back down from a challenge – and the Book of Dares is the perfect distraction he’s been looking for.

As they send each other on a scavenger hunt across Manhattan, they’re falling for each other on paper. But finding out if their real selves share their on-page chemistry could be their biggest dare yet….

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Book Review: It’s Not PMS, It’s You by Rich Amooi

Hello to Rich Amooi and the blog tour for his novel, It’s Not PMS, It’s You. Welcome, Rich. 

Ruth “Ruthless” Harper is on the verge of becoming managing partner at her all-male consulting firm and she won’t let anything stand in her way. That includes men, relationships, and that dreaded F word, FEELINGS—distractions she eliminated long ago.

After the worst day ever (a near-death experience and a public wedgie, for starters), Ruth realizes she doesn’t want to live and die alone. She puts together a business plan to find the perfect man and dives head first into the murky online dating pool. All she wants is a high-powered executive who understands how important her career is. If only it were that easy.

Problem is most men are intimidated by Ruth’s confidence and shocked by her bluntness. The exception being her landscape designer, Nick, whose cool demeanor and unsolicited dating advice are driving her nuts. He’s the antithesis of the business-oriented man Ruth envisions for herself, so why do all signs keep pointing back to him?

 

Ruth is a workaholic and has been too busy for love. She’s about to become a managing partner in her all-male consulting firm and she is not going to let anything stand in her way.

However, after experiencing the worst day which includes a near death experience and a public wedgie, she makes a plan to meet the perfect man. She doesn’t want to end up alone.

Nick, who Ruth has employed as a landscape gardener isn’t intimidated by her confidence or bluntness.

Can Ruth’s perfect man be closer than she thinks?

I wasn’t sure what to expect from this book. From the first chapter however, I knew it was going to be a book I was going to love. I couldn’t put it down. I mean, the title alone is brilliant.

Ruth is a funny, real, relatable character who doesn’t apologise for who she is and knowing what she wants.

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Book Review: The Perfect Widow by A.M. Castle

I’d like to welcome A.M. Castle to Novel Kicks today and the blog tour for her novel, The Perfect Widow.

Louise Bridges has the perfect life.

A loving husband, Patrick. Two adorable children. A comfortable home.

So when PC Becca Holt arrives to break the news that Patrick has been killed in an accident, she thinks Louise’s perfect world is about to collapse around her.

But Louise doesn’t react in the way Becca would expect her to on hearing of her husband’s death. And there are only three plates set out for dinner, as if Louise already knew Patrick wouldn’t be home that night…

The more Becca digs, the more secrets she uncovers in the Bridges’ marriage – and the more she wonders just how far Louise would go to get what she wants…

Is Louise a loving wife – or a cold-hearted killer?

 

Louise Bridges has the perfect life. She has the husband, two wonderful children, the house, the car and the lifestyle many would and do envy.

When the police arrive to tell Louise that her husband is dead, her veneer doesn’t falter.

Becca, who works for the police sees something strange in Louise’s behaviour. What starts as curiosity turns into obsession as she tries to prove whether Louise is just grieving or whether she murdered her own husband.

This isn’t a normal crime whodunnit. It’s unique in its set up and it’s unlike anything I have read, especially in this genre.

It’s told from a ‘then and now’ structure with a POV from both Louise and Becca. I liked this as it gave me an insight into each of their motivations and character.

Louise is a character I tried to empathise with but I found this hard to do. However, I don’t think I was meant to like her and I needed to question her motives and decisions. It was like she was set up to put the reader on edge and this added to the tension throughout the novel. I loved this aspect. Although I didn’t like her, I wanted to understand her and that made me want to keep reading and for this reason, I think she was very well-developed.

Becca is a character I found to be quite a sad and lonely woman; similar to Louise really. Becca sees work as a way to fill her life and escape her reality. Both in their own way are seeking validation.

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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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Book Review: Starlight Over Bluebell Castle by Sarah Bennett

Hello to Sarah Bennett and the blog tour for her latest novel, Starlight Over Bluebell Castle. 

Jessica Ridley’s life has just been turned upside-down – and not in a good way! So when blast-from-the-past Tristan Ludworth invites her to stay at Bluebell Castle and transform it into a winter wonderland, it’s the perfect distraction for Jess and her two young children…

Jess is used to planning even the most elaborate events in her sleep, but she certainly didn’t expect to be working so closely with Tristan at the castle – or that she could still find him quite  so handsome after all this time!

And with a little holiday magic in the air, it’s becoming harder and harder to resist his charms. Can Tristan convince Jess to give love one more chance, just in time for Christmas?

 

Jess is on the up and up with her job. She also has a huge crush on her colleague, Tristan. Then, when they are on the verge of taking things beyond flirting, Jess leaves and both their lives take different directions.

Years later and Tristan and Jess’s paths cross again. Tristan has left London and returned to Bluebell Castle to help run his family estate. When he finds out that Jess’s marriage has ended and she needs a job and sanctuary for herself and her two boys, he offers Jess a job.

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Book Review: Until We Meet Again by Rosemary Goodacre

I’m welcoming Rosemary Goodacre to Novel Kicks today and the blog tour for her novel, Until We Meet Again. 

Summer 1914: Shy young woman, Amy Fletcher, lives a quiet life in Sussex. An office worker, she lives at home, along with her parents and spirited younger brother, Bertie. But her life is transformed when she meets handsome young man, Edmond Derwent, son of one of the wealthiest families in the small town of Larchbury, and student at Cambridge University.

The couple are falling deeply in love when war breaks out and, eager to do his duty for England, Edmond signs up as an officer. The couple plan to be wed, eager to start a new life together – but their happiness is short-lived when Edmond is sent to Flanders to lead his men into battle. Amy trains as a VAD nurse and is soon sent to France, where she sees the true horror of war inflicted on the brave young men sent to fight.

Separated by war, Edmond and Amy share their feelings through emotional letters sent from the front line. But when Edmond is critically wounded at Ypres, their love faces the biggest test of all – can their love stay strong while the world around them is crumbling?

 

In Summer 1914, Amy Fletcher lives with her family in Sussex.

When she meets Edmond Derwent, her life is transformed forever when she falls in love with him.

The couple plan to marry but when war breaks out, Edmond is sent to Flanders after he signs up as an officer. He wants to do his duty to England.

Amy then trains as a VAD nurse and is also sent over to France where she sees the horror of war first hand.

Separated by WWI, can Amy and Edmond’s love survive?

This book mostly focuses on Amy with chapters from Edmond’s point of view also. This really helped to get an overall view of what it was like for the soldiers in WWI and the people left behind.

Immediately, I liked Amy. At the beginning of the book, she shows great integrity and loyalty to her friends and family and I loved that.

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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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Book Review: The Christmas Calendar Girls by Samantha Tonge

Samantha Tonge has dropped by today with the blog tour for her new novel, The Christmas Calendar Girls. 

Christmas is meant to be a time of giving, so with Chesterwood food bank under risk of closure Fern knows just what to do to save it. She’s going to get the town to create a living advent calendar.

Fern, and her best friends, call for help from the local community to bring this calendar to life. When Kit, the new man in town, offers his assistance Fern’s heart can’t help but skip a beat (or two).

As they grow ever closer, Fern must admit that Kit’s breaking down the barriers she built after the death of her husband. But his past is holding him back and Fern doesn’t know how to reach him. No matter how hard she tries.

In this town, Kit’s not the only one with secrets. Domestic goddess Cara is behaving oddly, burning meals in the oven and clothes whilst ironing, and Davina’s perfect children are causing trouble at school leaving her son, Jasper, desperately unhappy.

Can the Christmas Calendar Girls find a way to bring the community together in time to save the food bank, while still supporting their families and each other? Can Fern find love again with Kit?

 

Chesterwood Food Bank is under threat of close and Fern has come up with what she thinks is the perfect plan to save it. A living advent calendar. With the help of her best friends, Cara and Davina, she begins to put her idea into motion.

She is also getting closer to Kit who is the temporary caretaker at her daughter’s school and the only man to get close to her after the death of her husband, Adam.

However, Kit has a secret and it is holding him back.

One of Davina’s son’s is acting strangely and the other is deeply unhappy. Domestic goddess Cara is starting to forget things. Can the three of them pull together and make it a perfect Christmas by saving the food bank?

The Christmas Calendar Girls is everything I love in a Christmas novel.

The idea of a living advent calendar sounds brilliant and makes this Christmas lover want to see something like this for real. As the story progressed, I couldn’t help but feel more and more festive.

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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 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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Book Review: Reach For A Star by Kathryn Freeman

A lovely big welcome back to Kathryn Freeman. She is here today with the blog tour for her latest novel, Reach For a Star. 

What if your dreams were so close you could reach out and touch them? 
How could anyone resist Michael Tennant, with his hypnotic blue eyes and voice like molten chocolate? Jessie Simmons certainly can’t. But Jessie’s a single mum who can’t sing to save her life – there’s no way she’ll ever cross paths with the star tenor. 

At least that’s what she thinks until she’s unexpectedly invited to take part in a new reality TV show. The premise? Professional singers teach hopeless amateurs how to sing. The surprise? Jessie’s partner is none other than Michael Tennant!

As she becomes better acquainted with the man behind the voice, will Jessie find out the hard way that you should never meet your idols? Or will she get more than she bargained for?

 

Jessie is a single mother of two, works as a pharmacist and knows she is a little tone-deaf (I can relate to that.) This doesn’t hold her back when she is watching the singing star, Michael Tennant on television and having a big crush on him.

When her sons put her forward for a singing competition, she is horrified but even more nervous when she is paired with Michael.

I have quickly got obsessed with Kathryn’s novels so I was so happy to be included in the blog tour for this novel.

I am not sure how Kathryn does it but I would like to know how she manages to get my hooked by the end of the first page every time.

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Book Review: Let It Snow by Sue Moorcroft

A big welcome to the fantastic Sue Moorcroft and the blog tour for her latest novel, Let it Snow. 

Family means everything to Lily Cortez and her sister Zinnia, and growing up in their non-conventional family unit, they and their two mums couldn’t have been closer.

So it’s a bolt out of the blue when Lily finds her father wasn’t the anonymous one-night stand she’d always believed – and is in fact the result of her mum’s reckless affair with a married man.

Confused, but determined to discover her true roots, Lily sets out to find the family she’s never known; an adventure that takes her from the frosted, thatched cottages of Middledip to the snow-capped mountains of Switzerland, via a memorable romantic encounter along the way…

 

It may be October but it’s never too early for a Sue Moorcroft Christmas novel.

To add the topping to the cake, we’re welcomed back to the village of Middledip, Sue’s wonderful setting for quite a few of her stories. Because of this, we get a smattering of the inhabitants we’ve grown to love and this gives the novel an atmosphere of a family christmas.

Say hi to Lilly Cortez and Isaac O’Brien, out main protagonists, along with Doggo of course, a very friendly Dalmatian.

Fans of Sue will be familiar too with Tubb the Pub who has a central role in the main story. It’s very nice, this reviewer believes, that this much-loved character has more than a peripheral part in this story. In fact, this novel is chock full of wonderful, rounded, well-written characters, including Carola who’s a particular favourite of mine from Middledip.

Switzerland bounds to life off the pages to such a degree that you feel like you’re walking in the snow-clad towns, villages and fields of this Alpine country. It certainly made me wish that I could go for a visit. Here, you have a roadtrip combined with a love story that will have you silently screaming for a happy ending!

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