Old Pine Cove is the one place on earth Suzie swore she’d never return to, but then her boss asks her to manage one of their bookstores there. Since it’s only temporary, she agrees. Besides, what could possibly go wrong?
Gosh, how naïve of her.
Alex Denverton opening the door with that smoldering look of his, that’s what could go wrong. It’s been ten years since she broke his car and his heart. How is she supposed to focus on work knowing he’s right next door? And why did she even agree to organize the annual Winter Walk with him?
One thing is certain, though. If Suzie wants to have a magical Christmas, she can’t ask Santa to make it happen. It’s up to her to decide: go big or go home.
Snowflakes and Sparks focuses on Suzie. Living in LA, working in a bookshop and hoping for promotion, she didn’t think she would ever return to the small town of Old Pine Cove but it’s where she finds herself, just before Christmas, managing the bookshop there.
She has not been in town long when she sees Alex. She’s not seen him since she left and broke his heart ten years earlier. He’s as gorgeous as she remembers and seems to have no anger toward her.
How was she supposed to concentrate with him next door? She has even said she’d help organise the winter walk with Alex. What could go wrong?
Snowflakes and Sparks was my introduction to Sophie-Leigh Robbins but it won’t be the last book of hers I read.
I read this at the beginning of December and it immediately put me in the festive mood.
I loved Suzie from the beginning. She is a very open, friendly and relatable character. I want to be her friend.by
Marjorie, Stacy, Raymond and Dora each hold a different story to their chest – lost loves, abandoned dreams, crippling self-confidence issues, and simply feeling invisible. For each of them, the thought of letting those stories out is almost as terrifying as letting strangers in, and that makes for a very lonely life indeed.
But when these four strangers who have struggled to “fit in” end up on the same table for an event at their local community centre, little do they know that their lives are about to be entwined and changed forever because of an Afternoon Tea club.
Cue an unexpected journey of self-discovery, some unlikely new companions, and plenty of tea and biscuits along the way…
This novel had me at the title. Tea is one of my favourite things. There’s a lot more to it than that though.
The Afternoon Tea Club focuses on Marjorie, Dora, Raymond and Stacy.
All vary in ages but all are harbouring their own secrets and insecurities. These four characters are also lonely in their own ways.
When The Afternoon Tea Club is announced in their local area, each of our main characters goes although some are more reluctant than others. Dora, Raymond, Marjorie and Stacy are four unique characters who have more in common than they realise. I don’t want to say too much about the plot because, as normal, I hope you will decide to discover this book.
Marjorie carries a lot of learned behaviour and has much emotional baggage tied into the relationship with her husband.
Dora also has a lot of hurt from her past and it’s been something she’s been running from for a long time.
Raymond is probably one of the sweetest fictional characters I have come across. He’s a simple man who is still in love with his wife ever after her death.
Stacy is missing so many aspects of love from her life and she almost has to hit rock bottom to find herself again.
I think out of all of the characters, I related to Stacy the most. She and I don’t share life experiences but there was just something about her. Although, I think she may be a little braver than me.by
Working for a department store where Christmas arrives in August, Eve prefers her own festivities to be low key with nothing more complicated than an oven ready turkey and frozen peas while she spends the day in her pyjamas. Unfortunately, this year her husband has invited his best friend to visit, the glamorous and sophisticated Abby, and Eve reluctantly decides that she needs to inject a little sparkle into their laid back and slightly shabby Christmas.
So the celebrations are upgraded to include champagne and canapes along with homemade gravy and organic turkey and plans are made for a Christmas that looks as though it has emerged from the pages of a glossy magazine.
But even the best laid plans can go wrong and as Eve struggles with her mini Yorkshire puddings and an interfering cat, she is suddenly faced with an unexpected guest and an explosive secret that threatens to put her vision of a perfect Christmas in jeopardy.
Eve prefers the quiet life at Christmas especially as working in a department store means that the festive season arrives in summer.
This year though, she has to trade her PJ’s and minimum efforts for all out glamour and perfection when her husband announces that his best friend, Abby is coming to stay for twelve days over Christmas.
Her home is soon covered with pages ripped out of magazines, pages of notes and failed cooking attempts as Eve becomes slightly obsessed with making everything perfect. She is surrounded by an excited youngest daughter, an eldest daughter who doesn’t waste a chance to remind her of the amount of waste generated over Christmas and a confused husband but she gets tunnel vision and is soon even redecorating the spare room in anticipation of Abby’s arrival.
I had a mixture of sympathy and annoyance toward Eve at the beginning of the book as I had a feeling it was not going to go as planned.by
Why did a remote police station, built to combat pirates, find itself at the centre of a murder-suicide after a constable went on the rampage? How did Chinese gangsters avoid conviction after serving a deadly dinner to Frenchtown’s elite? And why is the Foreign Office still withholding a key document to solving a murder that took place in the Gobi desert in 1935?
By delving deep into 12 of China’s most fascinating murder cases, Murders of Old China delivers a fast-paced journey through China’s early 20th-century history – including its criminal underbelly.
Uncovering previously unknown connections and exposing the lies, Paul French queries the verdict of some of China’s most controversial cases, interweaving true crime with China’s chaotic and complicated history of foreign occupation and Chinese rival factions.
I rarely feature non-fiction on Novel Kicks but when I was asked if I wanted to take part in the blog tour for Murders of Old China and read about the premise, I jumped at the chance.
Each chapter focuses on a different case and even though it’s non-fiction, it felt that I could have been reading a fictional murder mystery novel. Some of it was almost unbelievable.
The mystery and the twists and turns in these cases appealed to my love of puzzles and history.
This has made me want to know as much as possible about this era that I have previously not known anything about.by
The trees and lights are going up and the cold weather has certainly arrived so there is no better reason to curl up with a cup/glass of something and a book (I know I say this every month,) and I am hoping you’ll join me with reading this month’s book club.
I’ve chosen Dash and Lily’s Book of Dares by David Levithan and Rachel Cohn.
This book sounds like a lot of fun and has an interesting premise. As normal, I have posted a question to kick off the discussion. Hopefully see you in the comments.
About Dash and Lily’s Book of Dares.
I’ve left some clues for you. If you want them, turn the page. If you don’t, put the book back on the shelf, please.
At the urge of her lucky-in-love brother, sixteen-year-old Lily has left a red notebook full of dares on her favourite bookshop shelf, waiting for just the right guy to come along and accept. Curious, snarky Dash isn’t one to back down from a challenge – and the Book of Dares is the perfect distraction he’s been looking for.
As they send each other on a scavenger hunt across Manhattan, they’re falling for each other on paper. But finding out if their real selves share their on-page chemistry could be their biggest dare yet….by
Ruth “Ruthless” Harper is on the verge of becoming managing partner at her all-male consulting firm and she won’t let anything stand in her way. That includes men, relationships, and that dreaded F word, FEELINGS—distractions she eliminated long ago.
After the worst day ever (a near-death experience and a public wedgie, for starters), Ruth realizes she doesn’t want to live and die alone. She puts together a business plan to find the perfect man and dives head first into the murky online dating pool. All she wants is a high-powered executive who understands how important her career is. If only it were that easy.
Problem is most men are intimidated by Ruth’s confidence and shocked by her bluntness. The exception being her landscape designer, Nick, whose cool demeanor and unsolicited dating advice are driving her nuts. He’s the antithesis of the business-oriented man Ruth envisions for herself, so why do all signs keep pointing back to him?
Ruth is a workaholic and has been too busy for love. She’s about to become a managing partner in her all-male consulting firm and she is not going to let anything stand in her way.
However, after experiencing the worst day which includes a near death experience and a public wedgie, she makes a plan to meet the perfect man. She doesn’t want to end up alone.
Can Ruth’s perfect man be closer than she thinks?
I wasn’t sure what to expect from this book. From the first chapter however, I knew it was going to be a book I was going to love. I couldn’t put it down. I mean, the title alone is brilliant.
Ruth is a funny, real, relatable character who doesn’t apologise for who she is and knowing what she wants.by
Louise Bridges has the perfect life.
A loving husband, Patrick. Two adorable children. A comfortable home.
So when PC Becca Holt arrives to break the news that Patrick has been killed in an accident, she thinks Louise’s perfect world is about to collapse around her.
But Louise doesn’t react in the way Becca would expect her to on hearing of her husband’s death. And there are only three plates set out for dinner, as if Louise already knew Patrick wouldn’t be home that night…
The more Becca digs, the more secrets she uncovers in the Bridges’ marriage – and the more she wonders just how far Louise would go to get what she wants…
Is Louise a loving wife – or a cold-hearted killer?
Louise Bridges has the perfect life. She has the husband, two wonderful children, the house, the car and the lifestyle many would and do envy.
When the police arrive to tell Louise that her husband is dead, her veneer doesn’t falter.
Becca, who works for the police sees something strange in Louise’s behaviour. What starts as curiosity turns into obsession as she tries to prove whether Louise is just grieving or whether she murdered her own husband.
This isn’t a normal crime whodunnit. It’s unique in its set up and it’s unlike anything I have read, especially in this genre.
It’s told from a ‘then and now’ structure with a POV from both Louise and Becca. I liked this as it gave me an insight into each of their motivations and character.
Louise is a character I tried to empathise with but I found this hard to do. However, I don’t think I was meant to like her and I needed to question her motives and decisions. It was like she was set up to put the reader on edge and this added to the tension throughout the novel. I loved this aspect. Although I didn’t like her, I wanted to understand her and that made me want to keep reading and for this reason, I think she was very well-developed.
Becca is a character I found to be quite a sad and lonely woman; similar to Louise really. Becca sees work as a way to fill her life and escape her reality. Both in their own way are seeking validation.by
Last winter she had a plan.
Lucy fell in love with tumbledown Rosemary Cottage as a child. So thirty years on, when she loses her city job and discovers the cottage is for sale, it feels like fate. She’ll raise her children in Burley Bridge and transform the cottage into a B&B with her husband.
But a year can change everything . . .
Now Lucy is juggling two children and a B&B, but on her own. Christmas looks set to be their last on Rosemary Lane – until she meets James, a face from her past and someone who might offer a different kind of future . . .
Should Lucy leave the cottage behind? Or could this winter on Rosemary Lane be the start of something new?
I am not crying, I have something in my eye…. OK, I am crying.
It was hard not to reach for the tissues with the latest book by Ellen Berry.
It focuses on Lucy, who after losing her job in Manchester, makes the decision with her husband Ivan to move to the picturesque village of Burley Bridge. It is not all plain sailing for Lucy and her family and there are many ups and downs along the way. Lucy wonders whether Rosemary Cottage is her forever home after all?
It’s not hard to feel love and empathy for Lucy especially as things happen for her pretty early on in the novel.
James, like Lucy is dealing with issues that I think a lot of people would be able to relate to. He and Lucy have many layers to them. I liked them both a lot.by
Charlotte is the daughter of Reverend Percival Hatton. She’s been ok to follow the path set out for her. She’s happy to help the poorer people of the parish (much to her father’s annoyance.)
She also has an understanding with Captain Nicholas Paget who she is expected to marry.
Everything in Charlotte’s world changes when she meets Josiah Martyn.
Josiah is in the area to help build the first tunnel under the River Thames. He’s an ambitious, Cornish mining engineer and he is the complete opposite to Nicholas. He is not at all the man the Reverend wants for his daughter.
Josiah and Charlotte grow closer. Can they defy the odds against them and have their happy ever after?
The Rector’s Daughter is, I am ashamed to admit, the first novel I have read by Jean Fullerton.
Charlotte is a character I warmed to straight away. She is a good person, who, in and out of love, is having to fight against the expectation of her class and gender.
The supporting characters are a mixture of wonderful and outright horrible. Some I wanted to throw in a cupboard and throw away the key. Haha.by
Chaya is a young woman torn between her duty to family and her life in the UK. While her traditional Sri Lankan parents want her to settle down into marriage, what they don’t know is that Chaya has turned away the one true love of her life, Noah, terrified of their disapproval.
Gimhana is hiding his sexuality from his family. It’s easy enough to pretend he’s straight when he lives half a world away in the UK. But it’s getting harder and harder to turn down the potential brides his parents keep finding
When Chaya and Gimhana meet, a marriage of convenience seems like the perfect solution to their problems. Together they have everything – friendship, stability and their parents’ approval. But when both Chaya and Gimhana find themselves falling in love outside of their marriage, they’re left with an impossible decision – risk everything they’ve built together, or finally follow
Will they choose love, or carry on living a lie?
Featuring a subject that is obviously close to the heart of the author, ‘A Convenient Marriage’ has, at its centre, two main themes; arranged marriages and a couple of LGBT characters.
Let’s get the wee bit about the story out of the way (for more details…buy the book!)
Getting married to satisfy the expectations of family and society, Gim and Chaya are two of the most satisfying, realistic characters I’ve come across for a good while. The way the author has drawn them and the culture they come from really touched me.
This is a novel where the power of culture and family are central to all that’s wrong with large parts of some societies and because of that, all down to this readers upbringing, I did find that a little hard to understand. However, in the end, this is a novel about friendship and all that should be important.by
Jessica Ridley’s life has just been turned upside-down – and not in a good way! So when blast-from-the-past Tristan Ludworth invites her to stay at Bluebell Castle and transform it into a winter wonderland, it’s the perfect distraction for Jess and her two young children…
Jess is used to planning even the most elaborate events in her sleep, but she certainly didn’t expect to be working so closely with Tristan at the castle – or that she could still find him quite so handsome after all this time!
And with a little holiday magic in the air, it’s becoming harder and harder to resist his charms. Can Tristan convince Jess to give love one more chance, just in time for Christmas?
Jess is on the up and up with her job. She also has a huge crush on her colleague, Tristan. Then, when they are on the verge of taking things beyond flirting, Jess leaves and both their lives take different directions.
Years later and Tristan and Jess’s paths cross again. Tristan has left London and returned to Bluebell Castle to help run his family estate. When he finds out that Jess’s marriage has ended and she needs a job and sanctuary for herself and her two boys, he offers Jess a job.by
Summer 1914: Shy young woman, Amy Fletcher, lives a quiet life in Sussex. An office worker, she lives at home, along with her parents and spirited younger brother, Bertie. But her life is transformed when she meets handsome young man, Edmond Derwent, son of one of the wealthiest families in the small town of Larchbury, and student at Cambridge University.
The couple are falling deeply in love when war breaks out and, eager to do his duty for England, Edmond signs up as an officer. The couple plan to be wed, eager to start a new life together – but their happiness is short-lived when Edmond is sent to Flanders to lead his men into battle. Amy trains as a VAD nurse and is soon sent to France, where she sees the true horror of war inflicted on the brave young men sent to fight.
Separated by war, Edmond and Amy share their feelings through emotional letters sent from the front line. But when Edmond is critically wounded at Ypres, their love faces the biggest test of all – can their love stay strong while the world around them is crumbling?
In Summer 1914, Amy Fletcher lives with her family in Sussex.
When she meets Edmond Derwent, her life is transformed forever when she falls in love with him.
The couple plan to marry but when war breaks out, Edmond is sent to Flanders after he signs up as an officer. He wants to do his duty to England.
Amy then trains as a VAD nurse and is also sent over to France where she sees the horror of war first hand.
Separated by WWI, can Amy and Edmond’s love survive?
This book mostly focuses on Amy with chapters from Edmond’s point of view also. This really helped to get an overall view of what it was like for the soldiers in WWI and the people left behind.
Immediately, I liked Amy. At the beginning of the book, she shows great integrity and loyalty to her friends and family and I loved that.by
One December wedding. One runaway bride. One winter’s day to bring everyone together again.
Today is the day Caro and Cammy are due to walk up the aisle. But Caro’s too caught up in the trauma of her past to contemplate their happy ever after.
Stacey’s decision to return from L.A. is fuelled by one thing – telling Cammy how she feels, before it’s too late.
Wedding planner, Josie, needs to sort the whole mess out, but she’s just been dealt some devastating news. Can she get through the day without spilling her secret?
On a chilly winter’s day, they have twenty-four hours to prove that love can lead the way to a brighter future…
The Last Day of Winter focuses on an ensemble of characters on a day just before Christmas. On the day Caro and Cammy are meant to go down the aisle, Caro’s past makes her doubt that this is her happy ever after.
The fate of the wedding is further put into question when Stacey returns to LA to tell Cammy how she feels about him.
Can love find its way within these 24 hours?
Shari, you made me cry again! I am not too proud to admit it either.
Oh, this novel.
First, the amazing characters. Each of them have their own, complicated feelings. All were developed well and nothing with any of them was black and white. Even where Caro is concerned, I felt enormous sympathy and empathy. This is a terrific ensemble of different personalities and they all fit together so well.
Plot wise, a lot is placed within the 24 hours in which it’s set but nothing feels rushed. The description of Glasgow sounds so incredible and it’s set at Christmas so it gave me all the early festive feels.by
Christmas is meant to be a time of giving, so with Chesterwood food bank under risk of closure Fern knows just what to do to save it. She’s going to get the town to create a living advent calendar.
Fern, and her best friends, call for help from the local community to bring this calendar to life. When Kit, the new man in town, offers his assistance Fern’s heart can’t help but skip a beat (or two).
As they grow ever closer, Fern must admit that Kit’s breaking down the barriers she built after the death of her husband. But his past is holding him back and Fern doesn’t know how to reach him. No matter how hard she tries.
In this town, Kit’s not the only one with secrets. Domestic goddess Cara is behaving oddly, burning meals in the oven and clothes whilst ironing, and Davina’s perfect children are causing trouble at school leaving her son, Jasper, desperately unhappy.
Can the Christmas Calendar Girls find a way to bring the community together in time to save the food bank, while still supporting their families and each other? Can Fern find love again with Kit?
Chesterwood Food Bank is under threat of close and Fern has come up with what she thinks is the perfect plan to save it. A living advent calendar. With the help of her best friends, Cara and Davina, she begins to put her idea into motion.
She is also getting closer to Kit who is the temporary caretaker at her daughter’s school and the only man to get close to her after the death of her husband, Adam.
However, Kit has a secret and it is holding him back.
One of Davina’s son’s is acting strangely and the other is deeply unhappy. Domestic goddess Cara is starting to forget things. Can the three of them pull together and make it a perfect Christmas by saving the food bank?
The Christmas Calendar Girls is everything I love in a Christmas novel.
The idea of a living advent calendar sounds brilliant and makes this Christmas lover want to see something like this for real. As the story progressed, I couldn’t help but feel more and more festive.by
In the kitchen lie three decomposing corpses. Close to them is a hastily scrawled note.
They’ve been dead for several days.
Who has been looking after the baby?
And where did they go?
Two entangled families.
A house with the darkest of secrets.
Libby has just inherited a house on one of the most exclusive streets in Chelsea. She is only focused on one thing once she gets into the house and this is to find out anything she can about the family she never knew. However, sinister secrets lurk in the rooms of this abandoned house and Libby isn’t sure she is going to like what she finds.
I have loved the direction Lisa Jewell has taken her novels and so I was eager to read this one. To be honest, this one had me from the blurb on the back of the book.
Told from the point of view of Libby and Lucy in the present and Henry decades before, it does tend to jump around a bit but they all have such a distinct voice that I had no issue keeping up with whose point of view I was reading from.
This book really appealed to my love of mystery and it is present all the way through. Just when I thought I had sussed something out, another plot twist would happen. It is written so well and had me obsessed right until the end.by