Book Reviews

Book Review: Confessions of an Alleged Good Girl by Joya Goffney

I am pleased to be welcoming Joya Goffney to Novel Kicks and the blog tour for her novel, Confessions of an Alleged Good Girl. 

Monique lives a perfect life as a preacher’s daughter, and girlfriend of the town’s golden boy. But its not that simple. She’s torn between her parents, who want her to remain their pure, virginal daughter, and her boyfriend, Dom, who wants to explore the more intimate side of their relationship.

Tired of waiting, Dom breaks up with Monique, spurring her to discover she has a medical condition that make her far from perfect. With the help of Sasha, an overly zealous church girl, and Reggie, the town’s bad boy, she concocts a plan to win Dom back. But along the way, she must face some home truths: maybe she shouldn’t be fixing her body to please a boy, maybe Sasha is the friend she needed all along and maybe Reggie isn’t so bad after all…

*****

Monique has the perfect life. She’s the Pastor’s daughter and is dating the town’s golden boy, Dom.

However, her life is more complex below the surface.

She’s torn between the promise she made to save herself for marriage and Dom’s wish that their relationship become more intimate.

After many failed attempts at sex, Dom breaks up with Monique. In trying to understand why, she discovers that a medical condition may be to blame.

With help from her new friend, Sasha and bad boy, Reggie, Monique tries to cure her condition in the hope that she gets Dom back.

When I read the blurb for this book, I found it very intriguing, so I was excited to be invited onto the blog tour.

First, I love the cover. It’s so vibrant, interesting, and colourful.

Although this book is marketed as YA, I got a lot from this book, and I feel teenagers and adults alike can relate. It has many levels to it.

Monique is suffering with a condition called Vaginismus. This novel faces that subject head on and not only did I find this refreshing, it also raises awareness of the condition whilst having a plot that moves along well.

Joya Goffney doesn’t shy away from letting her characters talk about big issues including sex.

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Book Review: Bad Penny by Michele Gorman

Penny’s life is one big, fat secret… and everyone is about to find out.

Penny isn’t the girl she used to be, or the woman everyone thinks she is now. At 19, she bolted for London and never looked back. Nobody there knows who she was – not her care home colleagues, her boss, her clients or even her best friend and flat-mate. Auntie Mags is her only connection to her past, and she’s keeping schtum.

Oli can’t believe his luck. Not only is he about to fulfill his dream of really making a difference (assuming he wins his seat in the upcoming general election), now he’s met the perfect woman. Within a few dates he’s sure he wants to spend the rest of his life with Penny, and it’s all he can do not to shout it from the rooftops.

But Penny has hidden her secret by not shouting from any rooftops. In fact, the quieter, the better. So when Oli’s campaign swings into gear and the reporters start circling, it’s not only her future that’s about to come crashing down.

How can she find a happy ending with Oli when her past will definitely ruin his future, yet living with the lie will ruin their future together?

Then Penny’s past gets out of prison, and he’s about to turn up like a… bad penny.

*****

Penny has a secret and everyone is about to find out.

At 19, she fled to London. No one knows of her life before, not even her best friend/flatmate. Only her Auntie Mags knows her full history.

When Penny meets MP candidate, Oli, they hit it off. However, as Oli begins campaigning, it’s going to be harder for Penny to keep her secret.

Oh I love Michele’s novels so much. This book was no exception.

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Book Review: Old Friends by Felicity Everett

Moving in together. What could go wrong?

Two couples, best friends for half a lifetime, move in together. What could possibly go wrong…?

Harriet and Mark have it all: successful careers, a lovely house in a leafy London suburb, twin boys on the cusp of leaving home. Yvette and Gary share a smaller place with their two daughters in a shabbier part of the same borough.

But when the stars align for a collective move north, it means a fresh start for them all. For Mark, it’s a chance to escape the rat race; for Harriet, a distraction from her unfulfilled dream of a late third child. Gary has decided to reboot the Madchester band that made him famous, while Yvette hopes it will give her daughters what she never had herself.

But as the reality of their new living arrangements slowly sinks in, the four friends face their own mid-life crises, and the dream becomes a nightmare…

*****

Harriet and Mark are both successful. They have two boys on the verge of graduating and moving out and they have a lovely home in a nice part of town.

Their friends, Gary and Yvette, live nearby in a smaller house in a less affluent neighbourhood. Yvette has been a teaching assistant for many years and Gary, a member of a 90’s band, is just about to attempt a comeback.

When it turns out that all four of them are moving up north, they all decide to move in together. Will it be as fun as they imagine or will it simply lead to trouble?

Old Friends was my introduction to Felicity Everett so I didn’t know what to expect.

Immediately, I was hooked on this story, wondering what was going to happen next.

It’s very clear from the beginning how close these two women are. The men have been bought together by the friendship shared by their wives and it was interesting to see how these dynamics and relationships changed as the story progressed.

It’s these characters that drive the narrative rather than external plot points (things outside the perimeters of these four people and their choices.) It deals with some sensitive themes and I feel it does this well. There are some dark moments yes but there are also many insightful ones too, as well as funny scenes – much like life really.

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Book Review: Spring Tides at the Starfish Café by Jessica Redland

A big lovely welcome back to Jessica Redland. She is here with the blog tour for her latest novel, Spring Tides at the Starfish Café. 

Welcome back to the Starfish Café – where you will find stunning views, delicious food and lifelong friendships.

A new season…

As winter turns to spring, Hollie – owner of The Starfish Café – is feeling content as she settles into her new life with her loving boyfriend, Jake, and their adorable dog Pickle.

But when an unwelcome visitor threatens the future of her café, Hollie must stay strong to protect her family’s legacy…

A leap of faith…

Emerging from an unhappy relationship, Tori finds herself with nowhere to stay and nobody to talk to. The long-hidden secrets of her past weigh heavily on her until a chance encounter with Finley, struggling to come to terms with his own secrets, provides an opportunity to open up.

Can she find the strength to stop hiding from her past and face up to her family? Especially when that would mean letting her guard down and learning to trust again…

A fresh start…?

Little do Hollie and Tori know that their lives are about to collide at The Starfish Café and they may be able to help each other with a fresh start. After all, with good friends in your life, nothing is impossible…

*****

Winter is now Spring. Hollie and Jake are settling into their new life with Pickle and business at the Starfish Café has never been better. 

However, someone wants Hollie’s café and it seems they will stop at nothing to get it. 

Tori has been with Layton for a few years. After a near death experience, she begins to question their relationship, his commitment and behaviour. It’s also been years since she has spoken to her family. If she left, where would she go? 

I was so excited to be invited onto this blog tour. It was so lovely to be back at the Starfish Café. It was like grabbing a cup of tea, pulling up a chair and being back with old friends. 

Don’t worry if you’ve not read Snowflakes Over the Starfish Café. Although this book is book two in the series, it could be read as a standalone in my opinion. However, the first book is brilliant so I would recommend it. 

Hollie continues to be a wonderful, kind, relatable character. She’s a lot stronger and self assured this time around which was good to see. 

Jake continues to be his lovely, charming self and it was great to see him grow as the plot progressed.  

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Book Review: A Year of Mr Maybes by Judy Leigh

A lovely big welcome back to Judy Leigh who is here with the blog tour for latest novel, A Year of Mr Maybes. 

Never say never to falling in love…

Val didn’t expect to be starting again in her seventies, but when life gives her lemons, Val is determined to make lemonade.

Settled into her new home – a picture-perfect fisherman’s cottage in the small Cornish seaside town of Lowenstowe – Val is ready to start a new chapter. And with her son due to get married next Christmas, there’s also the little job of finding herself a plus-one to help her face her ex-husband and his new girlfriend.

With the support of her neighbour Connie, and after decades of married life, Val takes the plunge back into the world of dating with trepidation and excitement. But can she remember how the single life works, let alone what her type is? There seem to be plenty of Mr Maybes, but no sign of Mr Right.

As the year passes, and as friendships and community life flourish, Val begins to blossom. And as Christmas approach, she might just decide she doesn’t need that plus-one after all – although never say never… 

*****

Val is in her seventies and didn’t expect to be starting again. 

After the end of her marriage, she moves to the Cornish town of Lowenstowe. 

There, she meets new friends and begins to find a new lease of life and possibly, a new love. She and her neighbour, Connie, go on a mission to find Val a plus one for Val’s son’s wedding in December. They have a year to find Mr December. Can Val find someone new before the year is out? 

I have become such a fan of Judy Leigh’s novels so I jumped at the chance to be involved in the blog tour for her latest novel, A Year of Mr Maybes. 

From page one, I was completely immersed. 

Immediately, Val is someone you can empathise with. Within the first few pages, her life is forever changed. The character is written with much strength and I loved how there was very little time where she felt sorry for herself. She picks herself up and carries on. That’s inspiring. 

Connie and Loveday are brilliant supporting characters and I loved them. 

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Book Review: The Seed of Rosewood by Massimo Rozzoni

This book is a historical novel (many of the characters are real), set in 1715 in Scotland, the Caribbeans and in London.

In the form of a diary written by the protagonist, the 15 year-old Patrick Douglas, it narrates the events that the boy in spite of himself, has to face.

He will be kidnapped from his small fishermen’s village in the North of Scotland by a crew of adventurers, who will sow death and violence on the route that will lead them to cross the Atlantic.

He will be thrown into a crude and ruthless reality and he will witness the real life of pirates, made of cruelty, superstition, greed and depravity.

In the profound darkness of evil and resignation, he will see the shining light of hope, of good and love, but like the defenseless flame of a candle in the storm…

*****

Scotland, 1715.

Translated from the original novel, Il Same Del Palissandro, The Seed of Rosewood is where we meet fifteen-year-old Patrick, who is kidnapped by the notorious Captain Alexander and his men.

Forced to sail the Atlantic with a group of pirates, Patrick quickly has to adjust to a harsh and violent reality whilst trying not to lose hope that one day, he might see his family again.

Books about piracy are not normally at the top of my list but having read the blurb for this novel, I found it intriguing especially as I love historical fiction.

From page one, the reader is immediately thrown into the action as we are introduced to Captain Alexander and his crew and we see what they are capable of.

For someone like Patrick – a young boy who has known nothing but love and safety to be suddenly introduced to the violent and chaotic life of a pirate, really creates an interesting contrast with these characters. I instantly felt such fear, anxiety and empathy for the main character, that I couldn’t put the book down. I needed to know what happened next.

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Book Review: Living Your Best Life by Maxine Morrey

I am happy to be welcoming Maxine Morrey back to Novel Kicks with the blog tour for her latest novel, Living Your Best Life. 

Some days Bee feels invisible. Most days Bee does not feel as if she is ‘living her best life’.

Sure she has a loyal group of friends, a job she’s good at, and a small London flat to call home, but a lot of the time, Bee feels as if no one actually ‘sees’ her.  

Her best friend, the unfeasibly handsome and successful Luca Donato does not have that problem. People are practically falling over themselves whenever they see Luca, but one thing the two friends do have in common, is they haven’t yet found the ‘One’.  When their friend Tia challenges them to change all that through online dating, Luca and Bee set about the task with very different levels of enthusiasm.

The saying goes that you have to kiss a lot of frogs to find your prince, and it’s not long before Bee is ready to admit defeat. But with Luca inundated with potential love interests, Bee is determined not to give up. Surely her perfect partner is out there somewhere… 

*****

Bee has spent most of her life feeling invisible and not worthy despite the efforts of her friends to tell her otherwise – especially her best friend, Luca who, up until now has never given any indication that he wants to settle down.

When a mutual friend challenges them to change their love lives through online dating, Bee reluctantly agrees. Luca thinks you can find love through apps, Bee not so much.

Having previously read Things are Looking Up, I was excited to be invited onto the blog tour for Maxine’s latest novel, Living Your Best Life.

I adored Bee from the first page. Bee felt so real to me, so relatable. She’s complicated and shadowed by her upbringing and lack of self esteem. I think many readers will unfortunately know how that feels. I think we’ve all also had those moments at work where we’ve felt under-appreciated but never wanting to rock the boat.

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Book Review: The Personal Shopper by Carmen Reid

I am pleased to be welcoming Carmen Reid and the blog tour for her novel, The Personal Shopper.

Meet Annie Valentine: stylish, savvy, multi-tasker extraordinaire. As a personal shopper in a swanky London store, Annie can be relied on to solve everyone’s problems . . . except her own.

Because as a busy single mum to two kids, Annie’s realised there’s a gap in her life as well as her wardrobe. But with her heart still hurting from losing the love of her life, Annie’s discovered that finding the perfect partner is turning out to be so much trickier than finding the perfect pair of shoes!

Can she source a genuine classic? A lifelong investment? Or will Annie realise that her perfect man is already sitting on the front row of her life…

*****

Annie Valentine is stylish, savvy and great at her job, even if her boss thinks otherwise.

Being a single mother, she does the best she can.

What she is missing is a man.

Can she find the right one? Can he live up to the lost love of her life? Has the perfect love been in front of her all along?

The Personal Shopper was my introduction to Annie Valentine and to Carmen Reid. Although this book did take me a couple of chapters to get into, once I did, I couldn’t put it down and read it in one sitting.

This novel was a lot of fun but deals with sensitive themes well.

Annie feels like a real, relatable character. She has a need to be control and at work, she is. She’s straight talking and successful. However, due to past events, there is a vulnerable side to her that she tries to hide. This possibly leads to her making some questionable choices in her personal life.

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Book Review: The Unsinkable Greta James by Jennifer E. Smith

Greta James is adrift. Literally.

Just after the sudden death of her mother – her most devoted fan – and weeks before the launch of her high-stakes second album, Greta James falls apart on stage. The footage quickly goes viral and she stops playing. Greta’s career is suddenly in jeopardy – the kind of jeopardy her father, Conrad, has always warned her about.

Months later, Greta – still heartbroken and very much adrift – reluctantly agrees to accompany Conrad on the Alaskan cruise her parents had booked to celebrate their fortieth anniversary. It could be their last chance to heal old wounds in the wake of shared loss. But the trip will also prove to be a voyage of discovery for them both, and for Ben Wilder, a charming historian who is struggling with a major upheaval in his own life.

In this unlikeliest of places – at sea and far from the packed venues where she usually plays – Greta must finally confront the heartbreak she’s suffered, the family hurts that run deep, and how to find her voice again.

I adored this novel.

Both Greta and Conrad are complicated, complex characters but beneath it all, they grieve for the person they have lost and find it hard to communicate. Greta is just trying to hang on to the one thing in her life to which she truly feels she belongs – being a musician.

Both Father and Daughter are very relatable. At least to me. I’ve known the grief Greta feels. The themes of grief and loss were handled with care and grace. I wanted Greta and Conrad to be ok.

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Book Review: Unravelling by Helen Forbes

I am very happy to be welcoming Helen Forbes to Novel Kicks with the blog tour for her novel, Unravelling. 

A forest of secrets 

Two bodies are found buried in a Highland forest, a place that haunts the dreams of Kate Sharp. Her mother, Ellen, died when Kate was a child. Does the forest hold the secret to her death? 

A secret journal 

Kate discovers her mother’s journal, and the tale of a tragic unravelling begins to unfold. Ellen’s story is one of fear and hope, love and loss, set against the imposing background of Craig Dunain, a psychiatric hospital where she should have been safe.  

Unravelling the truth 

Someone else from Ellen’s past is searching for answers, and he will stop at nothing to find them. Unaware of the danger stalking her, Kate continues her search. Will she find the answers? And can she save her own life?  

***** 

Two bodies are found in a forest near to where Kate Sharp’s mother, Ellen, died years earlier, when Kate was a child.

Following the death of her Grandmother, Kate is searching for answers about her mother.

As Ellen’s story unfolds, Kate discovers it’s one of love, loss, fear, despair and hope.

Someone from Ellen’s past is also trying to find out what happened. Can they figure out the truth? Can Kate save her own life before it’s too late?

This is the first book I’ve read by Helen Forbes. I found the blurb very intriguing. I was excited to be invited onto the blog tour for Unravelling.

Told from the point of view of Kate, Ellen, Daniel and Jamie, this book, from page one, immediately drew me into the novel and into the lives of these characters.

Nothing is what it seems on the surface and, aside from Kate, I wasn’t sure who to trust.

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Book Review: The Cocktail Bar by Isabella May

A big hello to Isabella May. She joins me today with the blog tour for her book, The Cocktail Bar. 

Rock star, River Jackson, is back in his hometown of Glastonbury to open a cocktail bar… and the locals aren’t impressed.

Seductive Georgina is proving too hot to handle; band mate, Angelic Alice, is messing with his heart and his head; his mum is a hippie-dippy liability; his school friends have resorted to violence – oh, and his band manager, Lennie, AND the media are on his trail.

But River is armed with a magical Mexican elixir which will change the lives of three lucky people. Once the Mexican wave of joy takes a hold of the town, he’s glad he didn’t lose his proverbial bottle.

Pity he hasn’t taken better care of the real one…

*****

Fed up with life on the road as a musician, River returns home to Glastonbury. His plan… to open up The Cocktail Bar and, thanks to an encounter with a mysterious woman named Mercedes, potentially change the lives of three people.

To begin with, the locals are not happy. Old school friends are trashing his bar, his ex manager is on his trail and the local aristocracy is up in arms.

There is also the matter of Georgina, a girl from his past. He is soon in a casual relationship with her. However, she has her own agenda and believes Karma is a dish served cold.

Things become even more complicated when Alice, his former bandmate, returns home. She also happens to be the girl that River is actually in love with.

Having previously read, Oh! What a Pavlova, I was looking forward to taking part in the blog tour for Isabella May’s latest novel, The Cocktail Bar.

Told from the point of view of River, Alice and Georgina, it did take me a couple of chapters to settle into the novel and connect with the characters. Once I did though, I couldn’t put it down.

River is an interesting man. Deep down, he is fiercely loyal to the people he loves, if not a little naive to the behaviour of some of the people around him. He, like many people, including Alice, is trying to find his place in the world and that is something many readers will be able to relate to.

I found Georgina an unlikeable character, even before you find out what she’s up to. However, she does add tension and conflict to the story. The same can be said for Lennie.

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Book Review: Queen Bee by Nina Manning

I am pleased to be welcoming Nina Manning back to Novel Kicks with the blog tour for her novel, Queen Bee. 

In the quiet village of Helesbury, Miranda Wallace prides herself on being the most popular member of her small social circle; the perfect friend, the best mum – the queen bee.

Until one day, Verity arrives. Cool and indifferent, Verity is everything Miranda isn’t, but she threatens to shatter Miranda’s picture-perfect life.

Suddenly plagued with insecurities, Miranda is certain Verity is hiding something. And Miranda knows all about secrets and the damage they can cause, because she’s hiding some of her own.

So when Verity threatens to reveal the truth about Miranda and destroy the perfect life she’s built, Miranda knows she has to act to protect the people she loves – even if the results are deadly.

*****

Miranda is enjoying her new life, away from all the mistakes in her past. What’s more, she feels as though she has a true friend in Evie. Life for Miranda is bordering on perfect. 

However, the arrival of Verity starts to pull Evie away from her. Who is this woman? Why is Evie interested in being her friend? Soon, Miranda finds life getting out of control, like it was before.

I had previously read The Bridesmaid by Nina Manning and loved it. I was excited to read her latest novel, Queen Bee. 

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Book Review: Before We Grow Old by Clare Swatman

I’d like to welcome Clare Swatman to Novel Kicks today and the blog tour for her latest novel, Before We Grow Old. 

When seven-year-old Fran first met Will they knew instantly that they were made for each other. For eleven years they were inseparable, but then, at the age of eighteen, Will just upped and disappeared.

Twenty-five years later Will is back.

Is fate trying to give them a second chance?

Still nursing the heart break from all those years ago, Fran is reluctant to give Will the time of day. The price Will must pay is to tell the truth – the truth about why he left, the truth about why he’s back…

And Fran has her own secrets to hide. The time has come to decide what Fran and Will really want from life – before it’s too late.

*****

Will was the love of Fran’s life. Having been friends since childhood, she thought they would always be together.

When Will then leaves, leaving Fran a letter, she’s heartbroken, thinking she will never see him again.

So, bumping into him twenty five years later is a shock.

Can they pick up where they left off? Is Will hiding something? Worse still, will he find out Fran’s secret?

From the moment I started reading, I knew this book was going to make me cry. I can’t give you a solid reason how I knew, but I did.

Fran is a relatable character in many ways. She’s a single parent, trying to do the best she can for her son and when Will returns, she gives herself hope that she can be happy. Of course, life sometimes has other plans. I really felt a lot of love and empathy for her and Will at multiple points in the novel.

The other characters in the novel are wonderful; Kieran and Elodie especially. Clare Swatman does a really good job of pulling the reader into the story and making them feel like they are a part of this family, going through all these adventures and emotions.

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Book Review: My Heart Went Walking by Sally Hanan

I am pleased to welcome Sally Hanan to Novel Kicks today and the blog tour for her upcoming novel, My Heart Went Walking. 

Kept apart by their love for one man, two sisters embark on their own paths towards survival, love, and understanding, until all three finally meet again in the worst of circumstances. And the reality might break them all.

My Heart Went Walking is a heartbreakingly beautiful novel that sweeps from the small Irish town of Donegal to the “big smoke” of Dublin City; a book that celebrates the pull of family and the chance of redemption. It is a novel for everyone who feels connected to the Irish approach to life-that of grit and laughter-and also for everyone who loves an overriding message of hope and restoration in all things.

***

Una doesn’t want to leave her family, especially her sister, Ellie. It also means saying goodbye to the boy she loves. However, she holds a secret and so must make a choice..stay and reveal her secret or leave everything she’s ever known.

So, she goes to Dublin to seek a new life, with no plan and little money.

Back in her hometown, Ellie has no idea why her sister left. Even Una’s best friend, Cullen doesn’t seem to know where she is.

These three people will be reunited through the most tragic of circumstances. Secrets will be revealed that have the capacity to change their lives forever.

Set in Donegal and Dubin in 1983, My Heart Went Walking is told from the point of view of three people; Una, Cullen and Ellie.

All three are well written and develop in interesting ways. They all have to deal with pretty intense situations and it was easy to forget as I progressed through the book that they were all still teenagers, having to navigate their way through some heartbreaking and difficult circumstances.

Una has to especially grow up incredibly quickly when she finds herself in Dublin, away from home and alone. She seems very strong but when you begin to get to know her, you see that she is just a young girl who has so much fear and doesn’t want to face it. I think a lot of people can relate to that. Whether, as a reader, you agree with certain decisions she makes will be up to you to decide but I felt that she, like Cullen, was trying to do the best she could and do right by the people she loved.

Cullen is a confused guy who doesn’t understand why the girl he loves suddenly disappears. He’s very much a good guy. I really felt for him through this story as he is, in a way, stuck in the middle between his past with Una and his potential future with Ellie.

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Book Review: Mr.Sunnyside: Imagination by CK Gregory

When Tommy, a young boy, is stuck at home on a rainy day with nothing to do, even his mommy can’t help him, especially with breakfast.

An eggstrordinary egg called Mr. Sunnyside comes to his rescue — only Tommy can see him. Mr. Sunnyside saves him from boredom by giving Tommy a lesson in imagination.

Mr. Sunnyside, a delicate egg, shows Tommy a new meaning in life by teaching him how to use his imagination. Buckle up and get ready for an eggciting ride — an adventure of a lifetime when Mr. Sunnyside enters Tommy’s life as a play friend! Tommy’s life will never be the same — he goes from feeling sad to eggcellent!

Tommy is a young boy stuck inside on a rainy day with nothing to do and is bored. Even his mother can’t help him.

Mr Sunnyside appears. Only Tommy can see him.

Soon, Tommy and his new friend delve into imagination and go on an adventure of a lifetime.

This book is so incredibly sweet. Being in my 40’s, I am not its target audience of 1-11 years but I couldn’t help smiling all the way through.

Tommy is a character I believe a lot of children will love and relate to. Many I am sure have or have had imaginary friends at some point, I know I did. Also,  being in the UK, we have our share of rainy, boring days.

Mr Sunnyside is an egg and is a unique imaginary friend. He is very positive and fun.

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Book Review: The Newcomer by Laura Elizabeth Woollett

When her 29-year-old daughter Paulina goes missing on a sleepy pacific island, Judy Novak suspects the worst. Her fears are soon realised as Paulina’s body is discovered, murdered.

Every man on the island is a suspect, yet none are as maligned as Paulina herself, the captivating newcomer known for her hard drinking, disastrous relationships, and a habit for walking alone. But even death won’t stop Judy Novak from fighting for her daughter’s life.

*****

Judy Novak fears the worst when her 29-year-old daughter, Paulina, goes missing on a pacific island where strangers stand out.

When her daughter’s body is found, every man on the island becomes a suspect.

As the investigation begins, Paulina’s behaviour prior to her death comes under scrutiny; her heavy drinking, her disastrous relationships and a habit for walking alone.

Judy won’t stop fighting for her daughter though.

The premise for this novel intrigued me and so I was excited to be invited onto the blog tour for The Newcomer by Laura Elizabeth Woollett.

Wow is what I want to say about this book. I am not sure what I can say without giving too much away but I will give it a go.

From page one, this story draws you in and immediately I was hooked. It’s a crime novel, yes but there are so many more layers to it.

Let’s begin with Paulina. She’s such a complicated character. I felt sympathy, frustration, love and anger toward her. Sometimes, it was all of these feelings at once. She moves to this island in search of something. To begin with, I don’t think even she knows what this is. She’s dealing with so many internal demons and as a result, she acts out in the only way she knows how. Paulina is a perfect example of ‘don’t judge a book by a cover.’ She is hiding a lot under an extroverted/alcohol induced personality. Most of all though, she just wants love. Laura Elizabeth Woollett does such a great job of conveying how lost and broken Paulina is.

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Book Review: My Lucky Night by Olivia Spring

Romance Can Happen When You Least Expect It…

She hates Christmas. He’s about to change her mind…

Cassie isn’t a fan of Christmas. After a string of unlucky incidents during the festive season—including getting dumped—this year she decides to spend the day at home. Alone. No men. No complications.

But then her nightmare boss demands she track down this year’s most coveted Christmas gift—and the only person who can help is an annoyingly sexy Frenchman she’s just met.

Nicolas might look hot, but Cassie can tell he’s also arrogant, irritating and in love with himself. Exactly the kind of guy she hates. Plus, he’ll only help her find the gift if she helps him with something in return…

Could Cassie’s festive fortunes finally be about to change? Can she learn to love Christmas again? And will Cassie get lucky in more ways than one?

*****

Cassie isn’t a fan of Christmas. After a string of bad luck in previous years, she has decided that she’s spending the day at home, alone. No dinner, no tree. She’s simply ignoring Christmas.

When she literally bumps into a handsome French stranger, she dismisses him as rude. However, fate keeps pushing them together. She wonders if Christmas can be magic after all.

This is the second book in the ten-year crush series but can be read as a standalone. I didn’t feel like I was playing catch up at all.

Cassie is a wonderful character. She’s funny, flawed and real. She’s also had a lot happen to her so immediately, I wanted things to work out for her.

Nicolas is a lovely male lead. He’s a bit mysterious to start with and it was great to gradually learn more about him.

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A Moment With… Barry Kirwan

I am very pleased to be welcoming Barry Kirwan back to Novel Kicks and the blog tour for his latest novel, When The Children Return. This is the second book in the Children of the Eye series. 

Ten years have passed since the Axleth invaded Earth and a few hundred humans escaped aboard the ship Athena, piloted by the Artificial Intelligence who calls himself Ares. Now, the refugees approach Earth, determined to take back their home. But something has followed them from deep in space, and as war breaks out on Earth, humanity must decide who is the real enemy. 

 

I have reviewed the book below but first, Barry is here to share his writing process with us. Over to you, Barry.

 

My friends, family and colleagues all know I have a full-on day job, so the question they all ask, is when (the hell) I have time to write? I usually joke that I have a clone and a time machine, although I can’t quite recall which came first…

More seriously, I don’t sleep that much. You could call it insomnia, but I have no trouble falling asleep. It’s just that several times a week I wake up really early, like 3 or 4 in the morning. It’s actually a really great time to write, because nobody is emailing you, it’s dead quiet, and my mind is lucid, full of possibilities, whereas later in the day, frankly it’s knackered, and needs to veg out in front of Netflix or something. That early in the morning I’m writing in the kitchen, a cup of tea once an hour. If I have a good idea, I can’t type fast enough, and my tea goes cold…

Often I work in brasseries in the morning (e.g. from 7-9am), as I live just outside Paris, and the coffee is good, and the noise and bustle somehow stimulates my mind in a different way, maybe because I have to focus. I need to have the idea of the chapter, at least how it begins, and what’s at stake, before I can start. I never just start writing, hoping that somehow it will be good. It won’t be, not for me, it’ll be rubbish. So, I have to have the idea, a direction, and then I see where my fingers take me. I also need to have a sense of urgency, because I aim to write very pacey novels, and that is not just down to tricks; I have to feel that way when I’m writing.

I’m mean to my characters. A lot of crap happens to them. If they could meet me I person in the real, I don’t think I’d last long. But I do suffer with them, and can get quite emotional when I’m writing, which can be awkward when sitting in a busy brasserie, shedding a tear into my espresso macchiato. It’s rare I put tears on the page though, rather I leave it understated, and usually the reader gets it, and they feel it too when a character is having a really rough time, or gets killed off.

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Book Review: Honeybee Cottage by K.T. Dady

The last time Joey Walker watched Josh Reynolds leave Pepper Bay was three years ago.

She decided there and then that the next time he visited she would never in a million years, even if her life depended on it, sleep with him ever again. She was done with secretly being in love with him. She couldn’t keep falling into his arms every time he was around. Josh was never going to see her as anything more than a holiday fling, or a sure thing. She had made her decision and had happily stuck to it, but only because he wasn’t around. She soon realises just how hard keeping him at arm’s length actually is when he unexpectedly turns up just before Christmas.

Josh had always loved Joey, but he knew she never took him seriously. She had no reason to. Growing up, he only went to his grandmother’s family home in Pepper Bay for the summer. As an adult, he knew that the world viewed him as a playboy heir to his grandfather’s millions. This year, he was determined to prove just how reliable he could be. He was back, and on a secret mission to get Joey to fall in love with him, because she was all he had ever wanted.

*****

Joey hasn’t seen Josh since the last time he left Pepper Bay three years ago.

That’s when she decides that she’s no longer going to sleep with him ever again.

She’s also done being in love with him. She’s done with simply being his holiday fling whenever he decides to float into town.

Out of sight, out of mind makes this easier but her resolve is tested when Josh returns just before Christmas.

Josh loves Joey but she sees him as nothing more than a friend. She doesn’t take him seriously.

He’s determined to show how serious he is about her because she’s all he ever wanted.

Oh it’s December. I love Christmas settings in novels, especially at this time of year.

This is book two in the Pepper Bay series. When I pick up a series without reading the previous novels, in this case, Starlight Cottage, I always worry that I’m not going to know what’s going on. Not the case with this. It can be read as a standalone.

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Book Review: The Cold Killer by Ross Greenwood

It’s hard to live when you think you deserve to die…

When a tired old inmate is found dead in his cell, the prison is obligated to investigate and so DI Barton attends. The men he interviews have been convicted of some of the worst things a human being can do, but it appears likely that the death was due to natural causes.

When the house of the dead man is burgled and that crime is followed by a suspicious fire, Barton desperately needs to speak to his widow, but she’s nowhere to be found.

In the space of twenty-four hours, everyone he wants to talk to has vanished. Then he receives some post which makes him believe he could be the next to disappear.

Barton’s investigation goes full circle, through a series of brutal murders, back to the prison, and all signs are pointing to the fact that he’s made a terrible mistake.

There’s a violent killer on the loose, who wants everyone to learn that some people deserve to die.

*****

 

DI Barton has been called to the prison. An elderly inmate has been found dead in his cell. It looks like natural causes…or was it?

Soon, DI Barton and his team are in a race against the clock. DI Barton could be facing more danger than he realises especially as the person they are seeking believes that some people deserve to die.

This was my introduction to DI Barton and his team. The premise for this book intrigued me. It very much had a Line of Duty, gritty feel to it, so I was excited to be invited onto the blog tour for this novel.

The narrative is split between DI Barton and a man known throughout as ‘The Cold Killer.’ I liked how this was done, especially as I didn’t know the identity of the man but knew it must have been someone I had met. This added to the suspense and tension that built well as the story progressed. I had fun trying to piece it together.

It didn’t feel as though there were any slow parts in this book. The pace moves along really well.

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Book Review: Sisters Behaving Badly by Maddie Please

Sisters Kitty and Jenny haven’t spoken since a very disappointing Carvery lunch. Kitty, sixty-two, thinks Jenny is turning grey. Jenny, sixty-six, thinks Kitty needs to grow up!

So when both sisters inherit a farmhouse in rural France, it gives them the perfect chance to heal the rift between them. Except the farmhouse is a wreck, the garden is terrorized by a flock of chickens, not to mention a donkey with a serious flatulence problem!

Kitty is determined to enjoy herself, especially when she meets gorgeous French builder, Leo. Ooh la – la! And Jenny finds the fully stocked wine cellar helps enormously with missing horrible husband Paul – hic!

And as the two sisters begin to repair their fragile friendship, they discover that being bad is actually very good for the soul.

*****

Kitty has not spoken to nor seen her older sister, Jenny in a while.

So, when they both inherit a farmhouse in rural France, they are given time to hopefully heal their relationship.

They may well just discover that being bad… isn’t bad.

This is the first novel I’ve read by Maddie Please. Having read the premise for this book, I was excited to be invited onto the blog tour.

I loved the setting for this story. I could see the house and surrounding area from the way it’s described. It sounds stunning. I imagined it like Colin Firth’s Garden in Love Actually.

I liked that these ladies were in their sixties and were still having fun. I think it makes them very relatable. As sisters, even as adults, both of them know exactly what buttons to press.

Kitty is very easy to love. She’s a fun character who wears her heart on her sleeve and takes things as they come, even if it means jumping into situations without thinking.

Jenny was a little harder to get to know and therefore, it took me longer to warm to her. She’s a little shy and reserved and therefore, it’s easy to think that she’s not going to be a likeable person when you first meet her.

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Book Review: Horsing Around by Lexi Rees

Calling all pony fans!

This journal and activity book is bursting with pony-fuelled fun. Whether you’re preparing for your first lesson or out collecting rosettes every weekend, this book has everything you need.

✓ set your riding goals and track your progress

✓ record your best riding moments

✓ tackle the horsey games and puzzles

✓ test your equestrian knowledge

✓ giggle at the funniest horse jokes

✓ try the fun pony-themed arts and crafts

✓ save your precious pony memories

Can you complete all the challenges and become a riding superstar?

*****

I have become a big fan of Lexi Rees’s workbooks, journals, and fiction so I was delighted to be invited onto the one-day blog blitz for Horsing Around, a journal and activity book.

Horsing Around is packed with activities, trackers, to-do lists and planners relating to horses and ponies whether the child in your life is caring for one or just loves them.

With beautiful illustrations, it’s something I would have loved to have had as a child (even though I have never had access to a horse.)

It really gives the young horse lover in your life the chance to be creative especially as there are also colouring pages and ‘how-to’ for crafting projects.

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Book Review: Sleep Tight by C S Green

Even in your dreams you’re not safe…

The nightmare is only just beginning…

When DC Rose Gifford is called to investigate the death of a young woman suffocated in her bed, she can’t shake the feeling that there’s more to the crime than meets the eye.

It looks like a straightforward crime scene – but the police can’t find the killer. Enter DS Moony – an eccentric older detective who runs UCIT, a secret department of the Met set up to solve supernatural crimes. Moony wants Rose to help her out – but Rose doesn’t believe in any of that.

Does she?

As the killer prepares to strike again, Rose must pick a side – before a second woman dies.

*****

DC Rose Gifford is called in to investigate the death of a young woman who has been suffocated in her bed.

As she works the case, she can’t help but feel that there’s more to this death than it appears.

Rose then meets DS Moony, an eccentric older detective who runs a secret department of the MET set up to solve supernatural crimes.

Moony wants Rose’s help but Rose doesn’t believe in ghosts… does she?

The killer is preparing to strike again. Rose must decide what she believes in before someone else dies.

Having read the premise for this novel, I was excited to be a part of the blog tour for Sleep Tight, book one in the Rose Gifford series.

Right from the beginning, this novel had me completely hooked.

The plot unfolds at a great pace as does the tension and suspense. It had me completely on edge, especially with the supernatural elements.

I was gripped all the way through as I tried to figure out what was going on and what Rose’s role in it would be.

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Book Review: I’ll Be Home For Christmas by M W Arnold

I’ll Be Home For Christmas – Book Three in the Broken Wings series. 

A mysterious key left by her murdered sister, leads Air Transport Auxiliary pilot Betty Palmer on a journey of discovery and danger. Given up to an orphanage upon birth, the parents she’s long thought had no part in her life force themselves back in, purely out of greed and self-preservation.

Penny’s life is unexpectedly turned upside down by a potentially life-changing situation, which causes her wounded husband to question their marriage. No-one seems safe in this year of turmoil in the middle years of the war, as some relationships face breaking point whilst others become stronger.

Kidnap, crashes and dogfights, the girls of the Air Transport Auxiliary Mystery have never faced such dangers. To survive may not be enough as they must find the strength to rise above the most trying times yet of their lives.

*****

The ATA (Air Transport Auxiliary) Mystery Club is back in I’ll Be Home For Christmas, the third instalment of the Broken Wings series.

Betty finds a key belonging to her late sister and soon finds her estranged parents back in her life, much to her dismay.

Penny receives news that will change her life and before long, marriages, relationships and loyalties are tested.

The girls find themselves facing more danger than they’ve ever faced before.

Yay! The ladies of the ATA are back.

I’ve grown so fond of this group of characters. It really does feel like I am catching up with old friends. I want to be part of their gang.

That, and the fact that this book is set at Christmas meant I pretty much devoured this story as quickly as I could.

This can be read as a standalone, but I do recommend reading the previous two books in the series (A Wing and a Prayer and Wild Blue Yonder,) as it gives a better overall picture of what has happened prior to this book plus, well, they are brilliant. They have given me a real interest in learning about the ATA.

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Book Review: Under the Mistletoe by Sue Moorcroft

Christmas. A time for family, friends – and rekindling old flames…

When Laurel returns to the village of Middledip, she’s looking for a quiet life. Adjusting to her recent divorce, she’s ready to spend some time getting back on her feet amidst the glorious snow-dusted countryside.

Yet, life in Middledip is far from straightforward. Coming to the aid of her sister, Rea, as she navigates her own troubles, Laurel barely has a moment to think about where her own life is going.

However, time stands still when she sees her old flame, Grady Cassidy – and it’s soon as if they’ve never been apart. But through her happiness, Laurel remembers why she left the village all those years ago, as she recalls a dark night and Grady’s once-wayward brother, Mac…

Can Laurel learn to forgive and forget? Or will her chances of Christmas under the mistletoe with Grady remain a dream?

*****

Welcome to a Middledip Christmas!

As a fan of the author’s work for a good while now, I was delighted to find this year’s 2nd novel was set in her wonderful construction of Middledip. All the characters she’s populated this village with are back, and it feels like we’re back home.

This story contains all the usual humour we’ve come to expect from Ms Moorcroft, together with a healthy dish of mental and physical bullying to be conquered, as well as dealing with the issue of agoraphobia.

This is a beautifully written read which effortlessly switches between laugh out loud moments to those where you find tears streaming down your face without realising it.

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Book Review: The Girl She Was Before by Jess Kitching

Nat lives a picture-perfect life, but it wasn’t always this way. A victim of horrific bullying when she was a teenager, Nat will do anything to keep distance between the girl she was before and the woman she is now.

But when her best friend is murdered and people begin to point their finger at her, Nat’s new life quickly begins to unravel.

To Nat, it’s no surprise that the crime happened at the same time as the return of her biggest tormentor, Chrissy Summers. A woman with a violent streak who destroyed lives when she was younger and isn’t afraid to do it again.

Face to face with the past she so firmly keeps behind her, Nat’s sanity wavers as her determination to reveal Chrissy as the monster she knows her as rises to dangerous heights.

The question is, can Nat prove Chrissy is a killer, or will Chrissy get to Nat and her family before she has the chance?

You can’t outrun the past…

*****

Nat has a perfect life. As an online influencer, the perception of perfect is important.

However, her life wasn’t always like that, having been subjected to horrible bullying as a teenager.

She will do anything to keep her perfect life.

Then her best friend is murdered, and her nemesis returns to town.

When Nat is then accused of murder, her life begins to crumble in a big way.

Wow! That’s the first word that comes to mind. Wow!

From page one, this book doesn’t so much pull you into the action, it pushes you in with both hands.

Told from Nat’s point of view in the present, there are also ‘then’ flashback chapters involving an unnamed schoolgirl and the horrible bullying she’s subjected to by Chrissy Summers and her gang. When I say horrific, I mean totally horrific. When you read it, you’ll know what I mean.

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Book Review: Brooklyn Monroe Wants It All by Karen Booth

Brooklyn Monroe Wants It All

She can’t hit the snooze on her biological clock forever…

Love, career, kids—Brooklyn Monroe wants it all. Her beauty company? A triumph. Her love life? Total fail. At 42, that makes motherhood her top priority.

With no man in her life, she’s prepared to fly solo, but her plan is derailed when a mailing list mishap turns Brooklyn into a someone-get-me-pregnant internet meme. Making her PR nightmare go away entails a soul-baring interview on national TV. And the guy asking the questions? Her all-too sexy ex.

Talk show host Alec Trakas is the king of bad timing. Case in point, his heartbreaking romance with Brooklyn. Alec was all about commitment but Brooklyn was launching her start-up, and forever wasn’t in the cards.

Now a shot at his ultimate dream job depends on convincing Brooklyn to spill the secrets leading to her viral celebrity. It sets Alec’s star rising, but puts Brooklyn in a sea of flirty men.

Fate has thrown them back together. Sparks are flying. But is the timing finally right? Because having it all might not be worth the risk of losing each other again.

 

*****

 

Successful business… check.

Love Life… disaster.

At 42, Brooklyn Monroe knows that, if she wants to be a mother, that time is running out.

As she considers her options, an office joke gone wrong quickly makes her into a viral internet meme, where suddenly everyone knows her plans for motherhood.

Her ex, Alec knows that his career depends on whether he can get Brooklyn to agree to a TV interview about her new found fame. Is fate throwing them together again? Can Brooklyn really have it all?

Brooklyn Monroe Wants It All is the second book in the Never Too Late book series. However, you don’t have to have read Gray Hair Don’t Care to be able to read this one. It stands alone. Lela and Donovan do make an appearance in this though.

Brooklyn is a wonderful, strong, successful character. In fact, the book overall has empowering women and I loved that. These characters have worked hard and achieved success. You don’t feel that they need to be rescued by men.

It shines a spotlight on motherhood, especially for women in their forties and this was something I could immediately relate to.

Alec is a great male lead. He is written as a strong man but I feel that there was also a vulnerability to him. A conversation he has with another male character showcases this perfectly.

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Book Review: The Perfect Daughter by Alex Stone

The perfect daughter…

Jess Harper has spent her whole life trying to make her mum, Abigail happy and proud. And everything Jess does, from the clothes she wears, the job she has, the men she dates, are all approved by Abigail first.

The perfect boyfriend…

So when Jess announces that she has a new man in her life – plumber Adam – Abigail is less than impressed. ‘A plumber? Really, Jessica….’ Adam encourages Jess to break free from her mum’s manipulation, can’t she see what’s happening?

The perfect mother….

But Abigail is only doing these things to keep Jess safe, to protect her from getting hurt again…isn’t she?

Or the perfect liar?

Jess, caught in the middle, doesn’t know who to believe or trust. And then Adam vanishes without trace.

Now Jess is the police’s prime suspect and they want to know if Jess really is as perfect as she seems….

*****

Jess is always trying to be the dutiful daughter. She runs everything by her mother, Abigail first. That’s normal right?

Her mother knows best after all and Jess isn’t always trusting of her own judgement. Not if past experiences are anything to go by.

Plus, all Abigail wants to do is to protect her daughter.

So, when Jess meets Adam, Abigail is less than impressed.

Determined to prove her mother wrong about Adam, he practically moves in to her flat. They have a future.

However, when Adam disappears without a trace, Jess is the prime suspect.

From page one, this novel had me hooked. Told from Jess’s point of view, we enter the mind of someone who really doesn’t know who she is nor does she trust herself.

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Book Review: The Girl in the Maze by Cathy Haywood

‘I would caution you against delving into the past. The past is often best left exactly where it is.’

Emma Bowen has never had a close relationship with her mother, barely speaking with her in the last years of her life. But after her mother’s death, Emma finds something that might just explain the distance between them.

Discovering letters between her mother and grandmother, it seems to Emma that her mother has always been difficult.

As she searches for answers about her own childhood, Emma is drawn into the mystery of her mother’s enigmatic life. The more she finds, the more lost she feels, but Emma is determined to uncover her mother’s past, and the secrets held within it, whatever the cost.

An enthralling story of three women, generations apart, linked by one terrible tragedy.

*****

Emma had never been close to her mother.

After her mother’s death however, she finds something that may not only explain why her mother was always a little distant but also a secret that will change Emma’s life forever.

I found the premise of this novel immediately intriguing. I have always been fascinated by the relationship between mothers and daughters.

Told from the point of view of Betty, her Daughter, Margaret and Granddaughter, Emma, it gives the reader a real insight into three generations of women – their differences and parallels. The story also occasionally focuses on Emma’s stepfather, Jack and his input and influence over the women.

I also liked how the painting that featured in the novel was interpreted in many different ways. This really added an extra dimension to the story.

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Book Review: The Room in the Attic by Louise Douglas

A child who does not know her name…

In 1903 fishermen find a wrecked boat containing a woman, who has been badly beaten, and a young girl. An ambulance is sent for, and the two survivors are taken to All Hallows, the imposing asylum, hidden deep on Dartmoor. The woman remains in a coma, but the little girl, Harriet, awakens and is taken to an attic room, far away from the noise of the asylum, and is put in the care of Nurse Emma Everdeen.

Two motherless boys banished to boarding school…

In 1993, All Hallows is now a boarding school. Following his mother’s death and his father’s hasty remarriage, Lewis Tyler is banished to Dartmoor, stripped of his fashionable clothes, shorn of his long hair, and left feeling more alone than ever. There he meets Isak, another lost soul, and whilst refurbishment of the dormitories is taking place, the boys are marooned up in the attic, in an old wing of the school.

Cries and calls from the past that can no longer be ignored…

All Hallows is a building full of memories, whispers, cries from the past. As Lewis and Isak learn more about the fate of Harriet, and Nurse Emma’s desperate fight to keep the little girl safe, it soon becomes clear there are ghosts who are still restless.

Are they ghosts the boys hear at night in the room above, are they the unquiet souls from the asylum still caught between the walls? And can Lewis and Isak bring peace to All Hallows before the past breaks them first…

*****

It’s 1903. Fishermen find a boat containing an unconscious, badly beaten woman and a young girl. They are both taken to All Hallows, an asylum on Dartmoor.

As the woman remains in a coma, the young girl, Harriet is taken to an attic room and put into the care of Nurse Emma Everdeen.

In 1993, All Hallows is now a boarding school for boys. Lewis is sent there after the death of his mother. He feels alone and isolated.

He then meets his new roommate, Isak. Their room is in the attic, located in the old part of the building.

The boys begin to learn more about each other and about the school’s past as an asylum.

It soon becomes clear that the past is restless and that many ghosts still linger.

From the moment I read the premise for this book, I knew it was going to be a book I would find intriguing.

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Book Review: The Best Christmas Ever by Karen King

Lexi Forde adores Christmas. She’s especially looking forward to it this year as it’s the first Christmas with her boyfriend Ben and her older brother is visiting from Canada with his family.

They’ll all be spending Christmas at her parents’ house in Devon.

But when Lexi surprises Ben at work, she sees him kissing someone else and discovers he’s been having an affair. Devastated, she travels to Devon alone.

She’s determined not to let her break-up spoil her family Christmas. But when she arrives, Lexi discovers the council won’t allow the Christmas tree on the green to be decorated this year; it’s too dangerous and has to come down. Lexi is desperate to save their favourite family tradition and make this Christmas extra special.

Can she save the tree and mend her broken heart in time for Christmas?

*****

The first Christmas book I read this year is a…cracker! Sorry, I couldn’t resist.

This is a multi-generational story set in a charming village in Devon.

Lexi is back home for the holidays but not with whom she thought was a wonderful boyfriend in tow.

With a Christmas-mad family (including a Grandma who she’s worried will get arrested at any moment), a new hunky man on the block looking for a new start whilst trying to keep a nutty but sweet pooch on the leash (I’ll stop), this was a book I found very difficult to put down.

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Book Review: A Christmas Wish on a Carousel by Lottie Cardew

Snuggle up under your favourite blanket and escape to the beautiful village of Pebblestow this winter, for one of the most heartwarming stories of the season…

When Cara Mia Shaw makes a desperate wish one night, while riding on a carousel at a Christmas market, little does she know her small, but safe world is about to spin off its axis.

Befriending a fascinating returnee to the village, an elderly woman called Perdita with a jaunty pink beret and the wisdom of a life well lived, might set Cara on a different, albeit harder, course, if she’s brave enough to listen. Art was always her passion, after all, even if fate seemed to have other ideas.

And then there’s the new man in her life, who her friends think is perfect for her because they set her up with decent, reliable Greg in the first place. Cara’s been hurt enough times to know the difference between a good man and a feckless one. Until Wilfred comes along – moody, sarcastic, and scattered – just to complicate matters and meddle with Cara’s resolve, to the horror of almost everyone around her. But is either man ultimately meant for her, anyway? And will she self-sabotage as usual, or gamble everything this time, including her heart?

It might take the highs and lows of friendship, the risk of a forbidden romance, and a Pomeranian called Loki – not to mention some much-needed Christmas magic – before Cara finally realises the wish she made that night on the carousel might just be about to come true.

 

*****

Cara makes a wish on a carousel at a local Christmas market. Soon after, her quiet life turns upside down.

Her friends set her up with Greg, who is a decent, reliable man. She also meets Wilf, the not so dependable brother of her ex-employer. Is one of them the one?

She also meets Perdita, an elderly resident who has come back to the village. Could she send Cara on a different course?

As I have said many times on this blog, one of the things I love most about this time of year is the arrival of novels with Christmas/festive settings. This one was wonderful, drew me in and was magical.

Cara is a bit of a lost soul, at least, that’s my impression. She’s also stuck and scared. I also got the same impression about Wilf and of course, the two connect. There is a mystery surrounding Wilf and I found it interesting to see how they both developed through the novel. I really wanted them to find happiness, even if it wasn’t with each other.

Perdita was also intriguing. I couldn’t quite work out how she fitted into the story but I wanted to know more about her. She’s fabulous.

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Book Review: The Cat Who Saved Books by Sosuke Natsukawa

Natsuki Books was a tiny second-hand bookshop on the edge of town.

Inside, towering shelves reached the ceiling, every one crammed full of wonderful books. Rintaro Natsuki loved this space that his grandfather had created. He spent many happy hours there, reading whatever he liked. It was the perfect refuge for a boy who tended to be something of a recluse.

After the death of his grandfather, Rintaro is devastated and alone. It seems he will have to close the shop. Then, a talking tabby cat called Tiger appears and asks Rintaro for help. The cat needs a book lover to join him on a mission. This odd couple will go on three magical adventures to save books from people who have imprisoned, mistreated and betrayed them. Finally, there is one last rescue that Rintaro must attempt alone . . .

*****

Cats and Books. This novel had me before I even got to the first page.

There is something whimsical about the front cover that immediately pulled me in.

This book is only about 224 pages so it isn’t a long read but it’s an interesting, sweet, compelling story.

Rintaro is a guarded character at the beginning as he is grieving the loss of his beloved Grandfather and is facing a complete life change as a result. He is due to move and has to put his Grandfather’s bookshop up for sale. I think he’s someone a lot of people will find relatable and easy to empathise with.

Instead of going to school, Rintaro decides to work in the bookshop. One of his classmates, Sayo refuses to give up on him and goes to the shop every day to try and persuade him to come to school.

Sayo is a complete contrast to the restrained Rintaro and I found their dynamic interesting – what they bought out in each other.

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Book Review: The Village Inn of Secret Dreams by Alison Sherlock

After escaping her parents’ unhappy marriage to sleepy Cranbridge a long time ago, Belle Clarke dreams of staying at The Black Swan Inn forever.

But with the rundown Inn threatened with closure, Belle may be forced to leave, unless a buyer can be found … quickly.

So, when her oldest friend Pete Kennedy returns from working abroad with a plan to save the Inn, Belle should be overjoyed. The trouble is, Pete has some rather radical ideas for the renovation which Belle disagrees with.

But when a snow storm hits, Belle and Pete are forced to put aside their differences and work together to help the village.

Can Belle realise her dreams to stay in Cranbridge and can Pete ever stop running from his past?

As they try to save The Black Swan Inn, secrets are revealed and just maybe they’ll finally find out how they really feel about each other.

*****

The Village Inn of Secret Dreams is the third book in the Riverside Lane series.

Belle Clarke sees the village of Cranbridge as her home. She wants to stay there forever, working at her Uncle’s inn, The Black Swan.

When the inn is threatened by closure, Belle may have to leave. Cue Pete Kennedy, her oldest friend.

He buys the inn and has plans but these are the opposite of Belle’s vision.

Can Pete and Belle put aside their differences and save not only the inn but help the village too.

It was so lovely to be back in Cranbridge. It was really like being back with old friends. The descriptions and setting of this village sounds so stunning, especially as it’s set during Autumn and Christmas (I am feeling so festive now.)

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Book Review: The Readers’ Room by Antoine Laurain

When the manuscript of a debut crime novel arrives at a Parisian publishing house, everyone in the readers’ room is convinced it’s something special. And the committee for France’s highest literary honour, the Prix Goncourt, agrees.

But when the shortlist is announced, there’s a problem for editor Violaine Lepage: she has no idea of the author’s identity. As the police begin to investigate a series of murders strangely reminiscent of those recounted in the book, Violaine is not the only one looking for answers. And, suffering memory blanks following an aeroplane accident, she’s beginning to wonder what role she might play in the story …

*****

A manuscript for a debut crime novel arrives on Violaine Lepage’s desk and everyone agrees that it’s going to be huge. The only problem is, no-one knows who the author is.

This becomes a bigger issue when it’s shortlisted for the Prix Goncourt, France’s highest literary honour.

Also, people start to die in similar circumstances to the novel, the Police come calling and Violaine wonders what part she has to play in everything.

I have become such a fan of Antoine Laurain’s novels and so I was excited to read this one and I was immediately intrigued by the premise.

This book is a mystery. Who is this writer and who is the person murdering people? I got drawn in straightaway, wanting to know who, where and why.

Set at a Publishers in France,  I wanted to be a part of the Readers’ Room team. I could also see myself in the setting. How Antoine Laurain describes the city and Violaine’s workplace and home – it’s all so vivid and beautifully written. I could picture this world through the eyes of these interesting, complicated and relatable characters.

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Book Review: The Ballard of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins

Ambition will fuel him.

Competition will drive him.

But power has its price.

It is the morning of the reaping that will kick off the tenth annual Hunger Games. In the Capitol, eighteen-year-old Coriolanus Snow is preparing for his one shot at glory as a mentor in the Games. The once-mighty house of Snow has fallen on hard times, its fate hanging on the slender chance that Coriolanus will be able to outcharm, outwit, and outmaneuvre his fellow students to mentor the winning tribute.

The odds are against him. He’s been given the humiliating assignment of mentoring the female tribute from District 12, the lowest of the low. Their fates are now completely intertwined – ; every choice Coriolanus makes could lead to favour or failure, triumph or ruin. Inside the arena, it will be a fight to the death. Outside the arena, Coriolanus starts to feel for his doomed tribute… and must weigh his need to follow the rules against his desire to survive no matter what it takes.

*****

Snow Lands on Top!

Coriolanus Snow is 18 and a student in the Capitol, ten years after the end of the war. With the effects of the war still fresh in the mind of those both Capitol and Districts, the 10th Hunger Games is about to begin. Snow is one of 24 students chosen to be in the first batch of mentors for the incoming tributes.

When he is assigned the girl tribute from District 12, he sees this as the biggest humiliation. Once the games begin however, it becomes a battle for survival both in and out of the arena.

From the time I first read The Hunger Games books and saw the films, I found myself wondering about President Snow and how his story began so when I found out that The Ballard of Songbirds and Snakes was going to be from Snow’s perspective, I was excited. Surely he was not born with that much hatred and contempt for the districts?

When we meet Coriolanus, the Snow family are one tax bill away from losing their home. They are as far away from the President’s mansion and riches as they could possibly be. His Grandmother is frail, his Parents dead and his Cousin, Tigris does all she can. Their biggest fear is that someone finds out about their situation and the Snows become a laughing stock. No, they need to keep their secrets.

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Book Review: Jane’s Away by Clare Hawken

Roger Kurmudge is rather smug about his affluent life and happy marriage.

It’s just as well his wife, Jane, is totally in the dark about what he got up to in the past. But on his retirement day, Jane disappears. Roger’s about to panic. Will he have to sell some shares or – heaven forbid! – the house in Bordeaux to pay a ransom demand? Worse – has Jane discovered his guilty secret?

Then Jane’s emails start arriving. Take the dog to the vet. Look after grandson Alfie for the day. Do the washing, shopping and cooking. Host Christmas for the family. Roger doesn’t know why Jane’s gone but he’s sure he can manage her ‘women’s work’ without any trouble. Although it’s harder than it looks.

As the weeks go by and Jane stays away, Roger is forced to re-examine everything he thought he knew about his family, his life and himself. But even if Roger can change for the better, will Jane ever come back? Or has she, too, been keeping secrets of her own?

 

*****

Roger is quite pleased with his perfect life. He’s about to retire from a successful business, he has a nice home in Guildford and he has a beautiful and dutiful wife. He has good reason to be smug right? Especially as he’s managed to keep his secret all these years.

When Jane disappears on the day of his retirement and e-mails from her begin to appear, Roger must quickly learn to adapt but Jane’s job of running the house, walking the dog and looking after their grandson should be easy – or so he thinks.

Roger or ‘Woger’ at the start of this story is one of the most frustrating fictional characters I have ever met. He has this attitude that his family are happy purely based on the fact that he’s always provided for them financially and because of this, he feels that he is well liked and respected, both in his personal and professional life. I really wanted to give him a piece of my mind. Haha.

However, as the book progressed, I loved seeing how Roger adapted and began to realise what he had and what he’d taken for granted. There is a wonderful life lesson with this novel and it is tackled well.

The supporting characters are all well rounded and real. Alfie especially was adorable and I really liked Jamie.

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Book Review: The Matchmaker’s Lonely Heart by Nancy Campbell Allen

London, 1885

Amelie Hampton is a hopeless romantic, which makes her the perfect columnist to answer lonely heart letters in The Marriage Gazette. When Amelie plays matchmaker with two anonymous lonely hearts, she also decides to secretly observe the couple’s blind date. To her surprise, the man who appears for the rendezvous is Harold Radcliffe–a grieving widower and a member of Amelie’s book club.

Police detective Michael Baker has been struggling ever since his best friend and brother-in-law died in the line of fire. Because he knows the dangers of his job, he has vowed never to marry and subject a wife and family to the uncertainty of his profession. But when he meets Miss Hampton, he is captured by her innocence, beauty, and her quick mind.

When a woman’s body is pulled from the river, Michael suspects the woman’s husband–Harold Radcliffe–of foul play. Amelie refuses to believe that Harold is capable of such violence but agrees to help, imagining it will be like one of her favorite mystery novels. Her social connections and clever observations prove an asset to the case, and Amelie is determined to prove Mr. Radcliffe’s innocence. But the more time Amelie and Michael spend together, the more they trust each other, and the more they realize they are a good team, maybe the perfect match.

They also realize that Mr. Radcliffe is hiding more than one secret, and when his attention turns toward Amelie, Michael knows he must put an end to this case before the woman he loves comes to harm.

*****

London 1885.

Amelie is a hopeless romantic. Detective Michael Baker has vowed never to marry.

When the body of a woman is pulled from the Thames, Michael and Amelie’s paths cross but can romance bloom in the middle of a murder investigation?

Romance and mystery… perfect!

Amelie is a lovely character with the matchmaking interest of Emma Woodhouse, the sweetness of Jane Bennett and the sass of Lizzie Bennett and I loved her. She’s a strong character but at the same time, and like a lot of us, she wants to fall in love and this makes her a little naive when it comes to her own love life. Love can blind you.

Michael is a wonderfully flawed hero. He’s dealing with grief and loss and without realising it, it’s made him lonely and I believe this makes him very relatable. He certainly doesn’t count on meeting Amelie.

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Book Review: Codename Firefly by C. J. Daugherty

Gray Langtry is on the run. As the only child of the British Prime Minister, Gray’s life has been in turmoil ever since her mother was chosen to lead the country.

Both she and her mother are targets of a Russian assassination plot. And what’s worse, members of her mother’s own cabinet are involved. A team of bodyguards never leaves her side. The press attention is relentless. And then there are the death threats.

Now, after an attempt on Gray’s life, she has been moved to an elite boarding school in the British countryside. Shielded by high walls and locked gates, Gray finally feels safe, but the plotters are still hunting, and soon they will find her.

Gray’s personal bodyguard, Julia, and the school’s young headmistress are determined to protect her. They both know how dangerous things are. The assassins searching for Gray are highly trained. And when they arrive they will aim to kill. Dylan, a mysterious American student, seems to know more than he should – but he’s always there when Gray needs him. Can she trust him? Can she trust anyone?

As winter closes in and darkness falls, Gray will have to think fast.

The hunters are coming.

 

*****

After an attempt on her life, the UK Prime Minister’s daughter, Gray has been sent to a special boarding school with elevated security. It’s somewhere she should be safe. However, her attackers are not finished with her and are back to finish what they started.

As a guy in his (cough) forties, I am not the target audience for this novel. However, that’s not to say that I didn’t find it enjoyable. This is the sequel to Number 10 (which I hadn’t read prior to starting Codename Firefly) but it’s not a problem, this can be read first or as a standalone. Enough is explained so that you can keep up with what has happened to Gray.

Gray herself was a little bit of a mystery to me but I can see her being relatable in many ways. Gray is a normal kid, trying to be as normal as she can despite her circumstances.

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Book Review: Lil’s Bus Trip by Judy Leigh

It’s always a good time for a road trip…

When 82-year-old Lil decides to book herself, her 65-year-old daughter, Cassie, and her friend Maggie on a bus trip across Europe, she hopes for a little adventure to counteract the monotony of life in sheltered accommodation.

Along with three members of the Salterley Tennis Club and the Jolly Weaver five-a side football team, whose ideas of a good time are rather different to Lil’s and strikingly at odds with each other’s, the merry band of travelers set out on their great adventure.

From moving moments on the beaches of Normandy, outrageous adventures in Amsterdam, to the beauty of Bruges and gastronomic delights of France, the holiday is just the tonic Lil, Maggie and Cassie needed. 

And as the time approaches for them to head home, Lil makes an unexpected discovery – even in her advancing years, men are like buses – there isn’t one for ages then two come along at once. Is Lil ready to share her golden years, and can the ladies embrace the fresh starts that the trip has given them. Or is it just too late to change… 

*****

When 82 year old Lil decides that she needs a holiday, she takes her daughter Cassie and her best friend Maggie along for the ride. Along with a variety of different people, they embark on a mini bus tour of Europe and soon discover that it’s never too late to live and love.

This book, to begin with, was a bit of a slow burner. As there are a few people going on the holiday, it meant that quite a few characters needed to be introduced early on. However, once they actually got going on the holiday, I couldn’t put the book down.

Told mainly from the point of view of Lil and Cassie, it covers their holiday across France, Belgium and Amsterdam with many hilarious, poignant and wonderful moments along the way.

It was interesting to see how all the different personalities interacted, especially as they were all travelling in quite close proximity and were a variety of ages.

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