Book Reviews

Book Extract: Starlight on the Palace Pier by Tracy Corbett

Starlight on the palace pierA big hello to Tracy Corbett and the blog tour for her new novel, Starlight on the Palace Pier. 

After an injury derails her dream of becoming a professional dancer, Becca Roberts heads home to Brighton in search of a fresh start.

And, when a part-time dance teacher role becomes available at The Starlight Playhouse, it seems like her stars are finally aligning. The crumbling old playhouse might need a bit of tender loving care (and a lick of paint!), but Becca is more than up to the challenge.

That is until Becca’s first love (and first heartbreak), Tom, waltzes into the Starlight Playhouse, and she realises life by the sea might not be as simple as she thought…

I have reviewed the book below but first, Tracy and Avon have shared an extract with us. Enjoy.

*****Beginning of extract.*****

Becca was suffering with her second hangover in the space of forty-eight hours. She’d met up with a couple of old school friends last night and had ended up at Patterns. Why had she drunk so much? Her head hurt, her eyes hurt, even her hair hurt. But most of all her knee hurt. Too many gin cocktails coupled with dancing in high heels until the early hours had aggravated her injury…again. If she carried on like this she might never make a full recovery. But it was hard to remain focused on her rehabilitation when she knew her dancing career was over.

Still, she didn’t want to walk with a permanent limp, so she needed to dial down the abuse and let her knee heal, which was why she was sitting in the kitchen with an ice pack balancing on her knee. Two paracetamols and two ibuprofens had dulled the pounding in her head, but she still felt battered.

It wasn’t the best preparation for an interview. But then, she wasn’t even sure she wanted the job. Teaching was certainly an avenue lots of dancers chose after retiring, but they were usually the ones who’d had successful careers and had taken teacher training courses. She hadn’t done any of that. She’d never considered herself the teaching type. On the other hand, she needed a job. And Jodi was desperate for an ally, so Becca had contacted Carolyn Elliot-Wentworth and applied for the position.

She drank another glass of water and forced down a slice of toast, but she knew fresh air would be the only real antidote. A walk up to Preston Park would do her good, plus it would help strengthen her thigh muscles, something the consultant said was necessary to protect her knee from future injury.

Yesterday’s clouds had blown away leaving a lovely September day. It was warm enough that she didn’t need a coat, so she headed away from the marina up towards Victoria Fountain, reacquainting herself with her home town. Once a place filled with cheap housing, hippies and squatters struggling to make a living, Brighton had been transformed into a thriving town full of artists and celebrities.

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Book Review: Every Breath by Nicholas Sparks

every breathEvery Breath is the new novel from Nicholas Sparks and is due to be released by Sphere tomorrow. 

Hope Anderson is at a crossroads. After six years with her boyfriend, she is no longer sure what she wants, and when her father becomes ill she heads to her family’s cottage at Sunset Beach in North Carolina to make some difficult decisions.

Tru Walls has been summoned across an ocean from where he was born and raised in Zimbabwe by a letter from a man claiming to be his father. In journeying to Sunset Beach, Tru hopes to unravel the mystery surrounding his mother’s life, but the letter will lead him in an unexpected direction.

When these two strangers’ paths cross, their chance encounter sets in motion a heart-breaking story – one that will transcend decades, continents and the workings of fate.

Tru has travelled to North Carolina from his home in Zimbabwe to meet a man he’s never met. His plan is to have this meeting and head back home as soon as possible. What he doesn’t count on is meeting a woman on the beach. She’s a stranger but he has the feeling that he’s met her before.

Hope has come to her family beach house one more time before it is sold. Whilst walking her dog she looses sight of him. Scottie is brought back by a handsome stranger. Like Tru she has a feeling that she knows him.

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Book Review: Oh! What a Pavlova by Isabella May

oh what a pavlovaKate Clothier is leading a double life: a successful jet-setting businesswoman to the outside world, but behind closed doors, life with Daniel and his volcanic temper is anything but rosy.

Some days – heck, make that EVERY day – cake is her only salvation.

Slowly but surely, the cities she visits – and the men she meets – help her to realise there IS a better future.

And the ley lines of Glastonbury are certainly doing their best to impart their mystical wisdom…

But will she escape before it’s too late?

Oh! What a Pavlova focuses on Kate. Professionally, she is a foreign rights seller for books but in her personal life, things are not looking so good for her. She’s been with Daniel for a few years and the abuse he displays toward her is getting worse every day.

The narrative does jump a round a little bit as it’s pretty much Kate’s story told in the first person.

It took me a couple of chapters to get into this novel as the subject matter isn’t a happy one. Despite this, I believe it was handled well. Some scenes in the book are very shocking.

Like Kate’s life, this book has many aspects. Kate sees her work trips away as an escape from the situation at home. At the beginning, it seems black and white and quite frustrating. The reader doesn’t quite know how someone like Kate could stay with someone like Daniel. She seems such a strong character. It isn’t until you get further into the novel that you begin to really understand the motivations and behaviours of the characters.

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Book Review: ‘Tis The Season To Be Single by Laura Ziepe

Tis the season to be singleAll they want for Christmas…

Rachel is in shock. She was sure that her boyfriend was about to propose – not break up with her! Even worse, it turns out he’s been cheating on her…

Grace can’t bear the thought of spending another Christmas with her lazy, unappreciative husband. Surely it’s time to shake things up a bit?

Amber knows she should be happy that her best friend Jack is getting married, but there’s a little part of her that can’t help think ‘it was always meant to be me’!

With Christmas fast approaching, surely there’s no better time to be single – yet will the three friends manage to keep their promise and ban all men until the New Year?

‘Tis The Season To Be Single focuses on Rachel, Grace and Amber. They all work together in a big department store and have grown to be very close friends. When they all suddenly find themselves single at Christmas, they make a pact to go to the annual work ball together. Of course, nothing ever goes as planned.

This book is told from the point of view of all three women. Grace has realised she’s not happy in her marriage. Rachel has recently discovered that her boyfriend hasn’t been faithful and Amber says she actually doesn’t mind being single and doesn’t want a serious relationship.

Each character has a distinct point of view and voice. They were all very likeable, flawed yet wonderful characters and it didn’t take long before I got invested in their story.

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Book Review: Dreaming of Christmas by T.A.Williams

dreaming of christmasIt’s the dream Christmas: snow, mountains… and, er, an ex-boyfriend. But can Zoe still find love in the Alps?

Dumped on Christmas Eve by her long-term boyfriend, it’s been a rough year for Zoe Lumsley. But then she gets an invitation she can’t refuse: an all expenses paid skiing holiday with old university friends.

The bad news: her ex, Grant, will be there with his new girlfriend. But so will her former flatmate Billy, the organiser, and in the meantime he’s done rather well for himself. As Christmas in the Alps approaches, it’ll be great to see the old gang. Some more than others…

My thanks to Netgalley for the ARC first of all.

This was my first book by T.A.Williams and believe me, I’m so annoyed! So very annoyed at myself, because it’s the first of this author’s that I’ve read! Dammit! On the plus side, as it’s the first, that means I’ve plenty more to look forwards to.

Now, if that isn’t a hint that this’ll be a very good review…I give up.

The main protagonist, a certain Zoe (Clumsly) Lumsley was dumped on Christmas Eve by her longtime boyfriend from university, Grant.

A year later, unhappy in her journalistic job and dreading the forthcoming Christmas anniversary, she finds solace in an unexpected all expenses paid holiday in Austria from another of her flatmates from university, albeit one now more known for being a reclusive IT billionaire. together with the other residents of the flat. This, unfortunately, includes Grant.

A series of adventures ensue with much skiing, quaffing of top quality wine and champagne, with all the protagonists having something to hide including, though she doesn’t realise it until near the end of the book, Zoe herself.

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A Moment With… Julie C. Gardner

Julie GardnerForgetting Ophelia is the new novel from Julie C. Gardner (released today by Velvet Morning Press.) She’s joined me today to talk about her life in books. Over to you, Julie. 

I owe my obsession with reading, at least in part, to my sister Nancy. More specifically to her tonsils. I was seven and my sister was six the year my family drove from California to Texas to spend Christmas with our cousins. On the way, Nancy broke out in yet another of her fevers, her throat swelling up, her tonsils the size of tennis balls. It was a truly miserable situation.

For me.

Why? Because Nancy, who was my only playmate on this road trip, was suddenly quarantined. No more alphabet games in the backseat of our car. No songs or hand-slapping routines.

On a pit stop at my Aunt Elaine’s house in Arizona, my aunt took pity on me and my loneliness, whisking me away to a local bookstore where she bought me The Secret of the Old Clock.

I curled up with my new mystery, gobbling the adventures of this titian blonde named…Nancy.

The love was instantaneous. I wanted to be a titian blonde. I wanted to BE Nancy Drew.

I read every book of hers I could get my hands on. Then the Trixie Belden series. Harriet the Spy. A Wrinkle in Time. Island of the Blue Dolphins. By the time I was ten, I decided to be Judy Blume, not merely devour all her books.

When I was in fifth grade, my parents took me to a bank where they were handing out free copies of James A. Michener’s Hawaii. The book was roughly the size of a toaster. As I announced my plan to read all 1,000 pages of this sprawling saga, my parents chuckled. “Go ahead!” (Of particular interest were the sexy scenes, since I’d recently watched my school’s puberty films.)

By then my sister had had her tonsils removed, and I’d moved on to Little Women, Jane Eyre, Pride and Prejudice, A Tale of Two Cities. A bevy of classics littered my nightstand and saved me from being completely boy-crazy. (Rest assured, I was still plenty boy-crazy. Just ask Nancy and my parents.)

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Book Review: If Cats Disappeared From The World by Genki Kawamura

Picador, September 2018

Picador, September 2018

This young man’s days are numbered. Estranged from his family, living alone with only his cat Cabbage for company, he is unprepared for the doctor’s diagnosis that he has only months to live.

But before he can set about tackling his bucket list, the Devil appears with a special offer: in exchange for making one thing in the world disappear, he can have one extra day of life. And so begins a very bizarre week . . .
Because how do you decide what makes life worth living? How do you separate out what you can do without from what you hold dear? In dealing with the Devil our narrator will take himself – and his beloved cat – to the brink.

If Cats Disappeared From The World has been translated from the original Japanese novel. The narrator of this book finds out that he hasn’t got long to live. In shock, in returns to his empty flat with only his cat for company.

Soon, he gets a visit from the Devil who claims he can offer a deal; one day extra of life in exchange for one thing disappearing from the world.

He considers the offer but then the stakes rise and he’s not sure it is such a good idea. Nothing else as I don’t want to spoil it.

He begins to look at his life and reevaluate. He begins to question how far he is willing to go.

The themes of this book reminded me a little of ‘All My Friends Are Superheroes,’ and like that book, I adored this one.

I am a cat lover and this was the main thing that drew me to this novel. The cat on the cover is incredibly cute! It reminded me of my cat.

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Book Review: I Invited Her In by Adele Parks

iinvitedherin‘I invited her in… and she took everything.’

When Mel hears from a long-lost friend in need of help, she doesn’t hesitate to invite her to stay. Mel and Abi were best friends back in the day, sharing the highs and lows of student life, until Mel’s unplanned pregnancy made her drop out of her studies.

Now, seventeen years later, Mel and Abi’s lives couldn’t be more different. Mel is happily married, having raised her son on her own before meeting her husband, Ben. Now they share gorgeous girls and have a chaotic but happy family home, with three children.

Abi, meanwhile, followed her lover to LA for a glamorous life of parties, celebrity and indulgence. Everything was perfect, until she discovered her partner had been cheating on her. Seventeen years wasted, and nothing to show for it. So what Abi needs now is a true friend to lean on, to share her grief over a glass of wine, and to have some time to heal. And what better place than Mel’s house, with her lovely kids, and supportive husband…

This dark, unsettling tale of the reunion of long-lost friends is thoroughly gripping exploration of wanting what you can’t have, jealousy and revenge.

 

I Invited Her In is the new novel from best-selling author Adele Parks.

Mel and Abigail were friends at university. From the moment Mel met Abi, she was drawn to her. Even when nineteen year old Mel finds out she’s pregnant, Abi is right there with words of support.

Years later, the women reconnect after years of no contact. When Abi e-mails Mel telling her that she’s getting a divorce, Mel is quick to offer Abi a place to stay for a few days. It’s not long before Mel is as enthralled by Abi than she was at university.

Both Abigail and Mel have secrets and they are all about to be revealed.

This story is one of friendships, enemies, revenge, possible dark agendas and betrayal.

Mel is a contented mother of three, happily married to Ben. She doesn’t see the harm inviting her old friend into her home. It’s at this point that the twists and turns of the story begin to appear in quick succession.

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NK Chats To… Shari Low

sharilowHi Shari, thank you so much for joining me today. Can you tell me a little about your new novel, Because Mummy Said So and what inspired it?

Delighted to be here! Because Mummy Said So is a collection of columns and features I’ve written about the mayhem, chaos and hilarious bits of family life and imperfect parenting. It’s packed with embarrassing moments, mortifying disasters, amusing antics and there are a couple of tear jerking stories too. Don’t mention my oldest leaving home at 16 last year – it still makes me weep pathetically. Hopefully everyone from expectant and new mums to empty nesters will find something in there that makes them laugh or brings up a favourite memory of their own.

 

What is your writing process like from concept to editing?

This book was a little different from my usual novels, as it involved searching back though 15 years of writing about raising children and selecting all the stories I thought people would enjoy most. It was like reliving the big motherhood moments all over again and I loved every minute of it.

 

What’s the best thing about being an author and writing a book? What’s the most challenging?

The best thing is undoubtedly the moment it gets released. I’ve written 22 novels now and I still get every bit as excited as I did when my first book hit the shelves. The most challenging is the actual writing! My process tends to go along the lines of panic, type, eat a biscuit, panic, type, eat a biscuit, panic, type… until I finally write “The End”.

 

What’s your favourite word and why?

Most of them are rude, so I’ll stick with “mum”– because cheesy as it sounds (sorry!) it’s my very favourite thing to be. Continue reading

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Book Review: The Winter That Made Us by Kate Field

winter that made usWhen Tess finds herself unexpectedly alone and back in Ribblemill, the childhood village she thought she’d escaped, she’s sure she can survive a temporary stay. She’s spent a lifetime making the best of things, hasn’t she?

Determined to throw herself into village life, Tess starts a choir and gathers a team of volunteers to restore the walled garden at Ramblings, the local stately home. Everything could be perfect, if she weren’t sharing a cottage and a cat with a man whose manner is more prickly than the nettles she’s removing…

As winter approaches, Tess finds herself putting down her own roots as fast as she’s pulling them up in the garden. But the ghosts of the past hover close by, and Tess must face them if she’s to discover whether home is where her heart has been all along.

 

The Winter That Made Us is told from the point of view of Tess. She has returned to Ribblemill; the village she grew in for the first time in years. It’s the place she couldn’t wait to leave.

She tries to make the most of the situation by throwing herself into village life. She starts a choir as well as gathering a team to restore the walled gardens at the nearby stately home.

Rather than stay with her parents (her relationship with her mother is a little strained,) Tess takes the offer to rent a cottage. She ends up sharing the cottage with Noah, a man who makes it clear he wants to be left alone. They are also soon joined by a kitten named Morag.

As winter approaches, things from both Tess and Noah’s pasts catch up with them to the point where they can’t be avoided. Can she and Noah find themselves again?

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Book Review: One Day in December by Josie Silver

one day in decemberLaurie is pretty sure love at first sight doesn’t exist. After all, life isn’t a scene from the movies, is it? But then, through a misted-up bus window one snowy December day, she sees a man she knows instantly is the one. Their eyes meet, there’s a moment of pure magic…and then her bus drives away.

Laurie thinks she’ll never see the boy from the bus again. But at their Christmas party a year later, her best friend Sarah introduces her to the new love of her life. Who is, of course, the boy from the bus.

Determined to let him go, Laurie gets on with her life. But what if fate has other plans?

One evening, just before Christmas, Laurie is on the top deck of a London bus. When it stops, she sees a guy sat at the bus stop and they have a moment.

Before he can get on the bus/before Laurie can get off, the bus leaves the stop and Laurie misses her chance.

Despite looking for him for a year, Laurie is convinced that she will never find ‘bus boy.’ That is until her best friend introduces her new boyfriend.

One Day in December is not a typical boy meets girl story and this is one of the things I liked most about it (not that I am not a fan of the more conventional love stories.)

Told from the point of view of Laurie and Jack, I liked how I could get to know them and see the different thoughts, feelings and opinions.

The plot is compelling. The story builds at a good pace – it’s very much about the characters. All the twist and turns revolve around their story and behaviours.

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Book Review: The Memory Collector by Fiona Harper

the memory collector memory collector

Heather Lucas lives her life through other people’s memories.

Heather doesn’t want to remember her childhood, not when her mother’s extreme hoarding cast her family life into disarray.

For Heather’s mother, every possession was intimately connected to a memory, so when Heather uncovers a secret about her past that could reveal why her mother never let anything go, she knows there’s only one place she’ll find answers – behind the locked door of her spare room, where the remains of her mother’s hoard lie hidden.

As Heather uncovers both objects and memories, will the truth set her free? Or will she discover she’s more like her mother than she ever thought possible?

Heather had a difficult childhood mainly down to her mother and the hoarding habit. The only normal memories she has are when she went on holiday with her Auntie. Now as an adult, she is still experiencing the ripple effect that started when she was little and it’s beginning to control her as much as it did her mother.

Heather is quite a complicated character. All she remembers from her childhood are the piles of things her mother had filled their house with; it all invisible to anyone beyond the front door.

She is dealing with a lot of emotions. She, like her mother has the makings of a hoarder. She has a room full of things including some that she has obtained through shoplifting.

She knows that she should clear out the spare room and her mother’s belongings before it gets worse, but whenever she tries, she finds reasons not to.

Any mental health condition is hard to put across in fiction and Fiona does this with much sensitivity. I felt so much empathy for Heather. I found her very relatable and what she goes through in the book broke my heart. I’ll hold my hand up…. I did cry.

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Cover Reveal: The Foyles Bookshop Girls at War by Elaine Roberts

Roberts_Elaine original_previewThe Foyles Bookshop Girls at War by Elaine Roberts is the second book in the Foyles Girls series.

I am excited to be part of the cover reveal for The Foyles Bookshop Girls at War. Here is a bit about it…

Swapping books for the bomb factory takes courage – and could be dangerous.

Working at the Foyles bookshop was Molly Cooper’s dream job. But with the country at war she’s determined to do her bit. So Molly gathers her courage, and sets off for the East End and her first day working at Silvertown munitions factory…

It’s hard manual labour, and Molly must face the trials and tribulations of being the ‘new girl’ at the munitions factory, as well as the relentless physical work. The happy-ever-afters Molly read about in the pages of her beloved books have been lost to the war. And yet the munitions girls unite through their sense of duty and friendships that blossom in the most unlikely of settings…

So, here is the cover. Ready?

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Book Review: I Give You My Heart by SarahJane Ford

I Give You My Heart CoverAlice Richards looked forward to watching the seeds of love she and her husband planted bloom and grow well into their old age. But her plans for the future shrivel up and die when she learns she has an inoperable brain tumour.

Determined that she won’t die in vain, she decides to become an organ donor. With a few precious months left, Alice begins documenting her fairytale romance—from their first meeting to the children they dreamed of having. She’ll pass on every detail to her heart’s next owner… along with careful instructions to send her husband reminders of her undying love. Before her time runs out, Alice must find the perfect candidate to guide her husband through unimaginable grief and hold the memory of their love in her heart.

I Give You My Heart is an emotional romantic fiction novel with an uplifting message. If you like strong-willed women, undying love stories, and honest portrayals of coping with a terminal illness, then you’ll love SarahJane Ford’s heart-warming epic.

An unmissable love story full of warmth, beauty and with a huge, beating heart. Perfect for fans of Cecilia Ahern’s ‘P.S. I Love You’ and Jojo Moyes’ ‘Me Before You’.

I Give You My Heart is told from the point of view of Alice. She has just been told that she has a terminal brain tumour. There is nothing the doctors can do. Alice decides to bring happiness out of the worst time of her life. She decides to donate her organs and give strangers she’s never met the ultimate gift. However, her one stipulation is that she decides who gets her heart and for a very special and unique reason. A small number of elements reminded me of the film, Seven Pounds starring Will Smith. A film I loved.

Alice is one of those characters where you want to jump into the pages and give her a hug. Her situation broke my heart from the moment I began to start reading. What she is going through is like going on an emotional rollercoaster with all of the characters. It’s quite a journey from beginning to end.

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Book Review: Odyssey in a Teacup by Paula Houseman

Odyssey - Paula_Houseman_Odyssey in a Teacup_AMAZON_LRGE_NOV15Encounters with a pair of supersized Y-fronts; a humourless schoolmarm with an unfortunate name and monstrous yellow incisors; and a tut-tutting, big-breasted, modern-day gorgon are the norm for Ruth Roth. She’s used to crazy.

Her mum squawks like a harpy and her dad has a dodgy moral compass. Add in daily face-offs with a relentlessly bitchy mirror, and Ruth’s home life feels like a Greek tragicomedy.
 
She hankers for the ordinary. But blah is not a good fit for someone who doesn’t fit in. And isn’t meant to.
 
Ruth’s vanilla existence is an issue for her besties—her hot-looking, obsessive-compulsive cousin and soul mate (who needs to do everything twice-twice), and her two closest girlfriends.
 
With their encouragement and a good homoeopathic dose of ancient mythology, Ruth embarks on an odyssey to retrieve her spirit. She’s confronted with her biggest challenge ever, though, when one of these friends sends her spiralling back into a dark place.
 
The decision she must make can either bring her out or launch the mother of all wars in her world.

Odyssey in a Teacup is told from the point of view of Ruth and this is her story as she tries to navigate herself through the complications of childhood, adolescence, religion, relationships, friendships and family issues.

This novel a coming of age story that is totally unique. Ruth has a very distinct voice and is a character I’ve not come across before.

Her thoughts and feelings toward a number of experiences is explored and it is done with her own sense of humour that had me laughing out loud. She is very relatable. She is maybe the friend you wished you had at school. She’s funny, awkward, intelligent and naive.

Her cousin Ralph is the type of boy I’m sure everyone has met at some point and he is a great partner in crime to Ruth as well as her best friends, Maxi and Vette.

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