Wednesday, 31 December 2014

My Favourite Reads of 2014

Last year I posted My Favourite Books of 2013 and my list ended up being pretty long and diverse.  As 2014 comes to a close it is time to look back at some of the books which captured my imagination, and my heart, over the past twelve months.  If you click on the link beneath each picture you'll be taken to my review to find out exactly what made it such a wonderful read.  Hopefully it'll inspire you to add some of them to your collection in 2015.


 
 

 

 

 

 

 


 


 

 

 


 




 

 
 
 




Tuesday, 30 December 2014

The End of the Year Round Up 2014

Christmas might be over but there's some final wrapping up to do at Books with Bunny...

I've had a rollercoaster year health-wise as some of you know, and as 2014 drew to a close I found myself with answers as to why I've been feeling rubbish for so long.  After a hospital admission, an ECG, X-Rays, a flexi-scope, a colonoscopy and biopsies taken, I was diagnosed with Crohn's Disease just before Christmas- where the digestive tract becomes inflamed.  Crohn's manifests itself in lots of different and unpleasant ways, and not everyone with IBD (the umbrella term which covers both Crohn's Disease and Ulcerative Colitis) has the same symptoms and signs- mine are abdominal pain, diarrhoea (sometimes with blood/mucus), achy joints, extreme fatigue and feeling feverish.  It is a disease which has no cure, but it can go into long term remission.  That's my main goal for 2015-to get it under control so there's less chance of me needing harsh treatments or surgery.  I'm currently taking a high dose of steroids to try and reduce the inflammation that's spread through my colon, awaiting a very sci-fi sounding capsule test which will see if there's inflammation elsewhere and  have numerous appointments at the hospital with specialists to assess the best medication for me.

With all this going on, my blog has naturally had to take a back seat for a while.

I'm not going to get the chance to catch up with writing the reviews I missed out on when I was at my most poorly, so, just for a sense of finality, here are the other books I've read this year that I haven't had chance to review.  I'm planning on 2015 being a new slate in many, many ways, so it's time to wrap 2014 up!

I read and enjoyed-

The Wrong Knickers- Bryony Gordon
Geek Girl 2- Holly Smale
Beautiful Bastard- Christina Lauren
Beautiful Stranger- Christina Lauren
Beautiful Player- Christina Lauren
The Christmas Bake Off- Abby Clements
The Little Stranger- Sarah Waters
The Last Days of Rabbit Hayes- Anna McPartlin (review coming in January, as it is released in paperback on New Years Day)
The Girl on the Train- Paula Hawkins (review coming on January 15th 2015, as this one isn't actually released yet)

I read and wasn't so keen on-

All I Want for Christmas- Claudia Carroll

I was nowhere near my target of 250 books read in 2014, but I enjoyed my reading, blogging and the wonderful friendships I made and built on with other bloggers, authors and publicists throughout the year. 

Here's to 2015!


Friday, 19 December 2014

Books for Christmas- A guide to buying those last minute presents

Last minute shopping getting you flustered?  In my opinion you can't go wrong with a book, and here are my recommendations for the game addict, teenager, fangirl and bibliophile in your life.

For the one addicted to games-
Collins Little Book of Bananagrams

If you're buying for one of the many Bananagrams addicts out there, then this little book of hints and tips could be the perfect stocking filler.  It's a handy, pocket-sized guide of useful ways to work challenging letters into a game, variations to the traditional game and even ways to get extra vital seconds of time over your opponent (who knew there was such a knack to turning over tiles?)

My only slight gripe is there are LOTS of exclamation marks and ellipses in this book, which when you read it cover to cover rather than dipping in and out can be a bit much.  However, the book fulfils exactly what it sets out to, so I can't argue with it as a fun gift for the wordaholics.

After reading this I'm expecting to win every game of Bananagrams I play over Christmas and reign as Top Banana in my house. 


For the teenager-
Girl Online- Zoe Sugg

There's been a lot of furore over this one, especially the question did 'Zoella' write it herself ?  (The answer to that is no, it was ghostwritten).  Most importantly, is it worthy of the hype?

I have to say I really enjoyed Girl Online.  It's not a lifechanging book, not the best written, it's predictable.  But I found myself whizzing through, keen to find out if Penny and Noah had a future.  It's a contemporary look at teen life which examines the effect social media has on friendships and relationships, and as a blogger myself I thought it really came across how a community can come together through shared interests and discussion.  Personally, I would have liked to have seen more of Penny's blog posts and feel it would have allowed further character development and for me as a reader to get to know more of her innermost thoughts.

There are plenty of fantastic YA books out there right now, but if you're looking for the must have book for teen girls this Christmas then you can't go wrong with Girl Online.

For the fangirl-
McBusted- Jennifer Parker

For the die hard fans of Busted and McFly, McBusted feel like a bit of a compromise.  True, there's an overlap in their guitar-led musical styles, their devil-may-care attitudes and their lack of conformity towards mainstream fashions, but they have very definite fanbases of their own.  However, now McBusted are an actual bone fide band rather than a bit of a musical experiment as it first seemed (their debut album as a six piece released last month signifying this as a serious project for all involved rather than the extended 'lad's trip' of music, madness and mayhem which doubled as their 2014 tour), they earned a book of their own.  And Jennifer Parker was the one to write it. 

If you've ever been a fan of Busted and/or McFly then you'll find excerpts from interviews and the official books quoted throughout familiar.  It's probably most suited to a newbie to the fandom. Although this is an unofficial product, there's obviously been great care taken to make this book as reliable and trustworthy as possible- not something which can always be said when it comes to unofficial books about popstars. 

There are plenty of pictures for your visual pleasure and if your fangirlling heart doesn't beat faster reliving Harry's bulging biceps during Strictly Come Dancing or Danny's half unbuttoned shirts (hello chest hair!) then there's something seriously wrong.

If you can't give the gift of Mr Judd or Mr Jones to the McBusted fan in your life this Christmas (and you can't- sadly they're already spoken for) then this book could well be the next best thing. 

For the bibliophile-
The Bookshop Book- Jen Campbell

I don't know where to start with this one.  My mind was literally blown. 

I guess it's pretty obvious that I'm totally and utterly smitten by all things books.  I wouldn't have a blog dedicated to them if I wasn't!  And bookshops are even better, so many of these beautiful word-carrying, dream-fuelling objects all gathered together in one space.

The Bookshop Book shares the stories of some of the best/most unique/most famous book shops in the world, as well as those of the people who run them and the people who keep them going.  I beamed continually as I read this book and made a mental list of the ones I desperately need to see for myself!

So be warned, this is a great present for anyone who loves books and bookshops, but may lead to daydreaming and wanderlust.

With thanks to the publishers of McBusted, The Bookshop Book and Collins Little Book of Bananagrams for providing me with a copy of these books in return for an honest review.

Saturday, 13 December 2014

The Little Christmas Kitchen- Jenny Oliver

 
 
I loved Jenny Oliver's last Christmassy offering.  The Parisian Christmas Bake Off was sweet, fun and festive (you can read my review) and it's fair to say I was very excited to find out what she'd be bringing to the table this year.
 
The Blurb
 
Christmas at the Davenports’ house was always about one thing: food!
 
But when sisters Ella and Maddy were split up, Ella to live in London with their Dad, and Maddy staying in Greece with their Mum, mince pies lost their magic.  Now, a cheating husband has thrown Ella a curved snowball…and for the first time in years, all she wants is her mum. So she heads back to Greece, where her family’s taverna holds all the promise of home. Meanwhile, waitress Maddy’s dreams of a white Christmas lead her back to London…and her Dad.  But a big fat festive life-swap isn’t as easy as it sounds! And as the sisters trade one kitchen for another, it suddenly seems that among the cinnamon, cranberries and icing sugar, their recipes for a perfect Christmas might be missing a crucial ingredient: each other.

The Review

The Little Christmas Kitchen started off with a bang as Ella ran from her problems in London and hot tailed it to Greece- I was immediately interested in her story.  We are led to believe she had a nigh on perfect life until finding out her husband has been cheating on her with one of 'the girls' and I would perhaps have liked this to have been shown a bit more of their relationship before things went belly up.  However, I loved the imagery and doubt of her 'taxi scene' and the thought of her hapless cheat balancing a ten or twelve foot tree precariously as she walks from their flat. 

Maddy on the other hand-well, I struggled to warm to her at first -I'm not sure if it was because in the early chapters she was portrayed as self centred and jealous of her sister's London lifestyle (although I did always admire Maddy's drive and the pursuit of following her dreams to sing).

Being honest, this story didn't grab me in the same way The Parisian Christmas Bake Off did. I loved the wonderfully descriptive writing and zippy dialogue, yet there were occasions in the first 25% where I skimmed over the text.  I suppose it was a bit of a slow burner for me.  However, by the end I was well and truly won over, enjoyed finding out how life changed for both sisters, and when it came to the descriptions of the food ... wow. Just wow.  I think I actually physically drooled. 

Overall, this is an easy chick lit read about the difficulties families and relationships face, with festive undertones and a foodie flavour.  If, like me, you aren't immediately hooked, it is well worth persevering.  My opinion definitely changed as the story developed and characters I was convinced I didn't give two hoots about won me over and had me hoping for resolutions and a hopeful future.  The Little Christmas Kitchen is a charming read.


Jenny’s latest novel THE LITTLE CHRISTMAS KITCHEN is out now.
 
Hungry for more? Try  THE VINTAGE SUMMER WEDDING and THE PARISIAN CHRISTMAS BAKE-OFF, which are also available in paperback.

With thanks to the publisher for providing me with a galley copy of this book in return for my honest opinion.
 

Thursday, 4 December 2014

Skating at Somerset House- Nikki Moore


This looks like such a fun read for those long winter nights!  I can't wait to get stuck in!
 
 
Out on 4th December

Book 1, #LoveLondon Series; Skating at Somerset House by Nikki Moore

There’s nothing Holly Winterlake loves more than Christmas and skating, so working as an Ice Marshall at London's Somerset House is a dream come true.

Noel Summerford hates the festive season and is a disaster on the ice, so taking his godson to Somerset House is his idea of the nightmare before Christmas!

Things are bound to get interesting when these two collide…

With a forty foot Christmas tree, an assortment of well meaning friends and relatives, and a mad chocolate Labrador, will this festive season be one to remember … or forget?

 


More books in the #LoveLondon series coming soon!

Released over December 14 to May 15 by HarperImpulse;

Bk 2, New Year at The Ritz (Short Story)

Bk 3, Valentine's on Primrose Hill (Short Story)

Bk 4, Cocktails in Chelsea (Short Story)

Bk 5, Strawberries at Wimbledon (Short Story)

Bk 6, Picnics in Hyde Park, (Novel)

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

On Strike for Christmas- Sheila Roberts

It's time for more Advent-ures in Fiction!  Today I'm talking about Shelia Roberts' festive offering On Strike for Christmas.



The Blurb

It's time for the men to take over . . . NYT Bestselling author Sheila Roberts gives the best gift of all in this funny, heartwarming story that touches the very core of Christmas spirit.

At Christmas time, it seems as though a woman's work is never done. Trimming the tree, mailing the cards, schlepping to the mall, the endless wrapping - bah humbug! So this year, Joy and Laura and the rest of their knitting group decide to go on strike. If their husbands and families want a nice holiday filled with parties, decorations, and presents - well, they'll just have to do it themselves.

The boycott soon takes on a life of its own when a reporter picks up the story and more women join in. But as Christmas Day approaches, Joy, Laura, and their husbands confront larger issues in their marriages and discover that a little holiday magic is exactly what they need to come together.

Sheila Roberts makes me laugh. I read her books and come away inspired, hopeful, and happy.
- Debbie Macomber

The Review

This is the first Sheila Roberts book I've read, and she's not an author I'm familiar with at all.  I haven't heard of her in the book blogging community or on the bookish forums; I haven't seen people tagging her books as 'to read' on Goodreads.  And after reading On Strike for Christmas, frankly I'm surprised.  There are other authors out there of a similar ilk who are better known but that in my opinion don't write with as much verve and insight.

This is a gentle book really, examining gender roles and Christmas tradition in a jovial way.  I could certainly relate to Joy!  When she's dashing about trying to create a festive environment for her family and conjure up a Christmas to remember, her husband Bob seems rather miserable about the whole affair.  And she soon realises her household isn't the only one like that and there's a revolution on their hands!  Can the men take up the reins?  And can the women give up their control?

At times this book was a little bit twee, but overall it is a warm and cosy read to unwind with  after you've been battling the crowds on the high street or slaving over a hot stove at home.  You don't need to concentrate to enjoy the writing style which is conversational and flows at a steady pace. 

It might be a little bit too gentle for me, but for fans of  writers such as Debbie Macomber and Cecelia Ahern, I can imagine this is a perfect Christmas treat.

Monday, 1 December 2014

A New York Christmas- Anne Perry



The Blurb

New York, 1904. Jemima Pitt arrives in a city where new American money and old English aristocracy collide. She's here to chaperone her friend, Delphinia, who has crossed the ocean to marry one of New York's richest men, but Jemima discovers a secret that could destroy Phinnie's future. Drawn into the crisis, Jemima desperately wants to protect her friend. And she must use all her courage and wits to decide whom to trust, and how to thread her way through the snowy streets of this brash new city. A New York Christmas is the enthralling new festive tale from the master of Victorian mysteries.

The Review

I wasn't sure whether this would be my kind of book, if I'm honest.  Whilst the cover was Christmassy and I am a true New York-phile, I worried that this might be a bit granny-ish.  It just gave out that kind of vibe.  However, I'm pleased to say it wasn't and I easily read it over two sittings. 

A New York Christmas is a short read, only 160 pages, which gives a glimpse into a wealthy world. I do love a bit of glamour, but this book is a bit more gritty than that.  Chaperone Jemima finds herself embroiled in a mystery relating to Delphinia's mother and soon there are accusations aplenty and fallings out among the elite. 

I was interested to know what would happen and had no idea that it was going to have the twists and turns it did, but the ending of this one was a disappointment to me.  In my opinion the final ten pages or so were just a stretch too far, unfortunately, and tried to cram too much in.  It was as though the slow build up came to a sudden end, like the author was trying to wrap up the book to meet a deadline or fit into a certain number of words.

That said, I can see why Anne Perry has a large fan base, her writing was easy to read and her characters strong and vivid.  Fans of the Victorian crime and mystery genre may well enjoy this book.

Finally, whilst it is a festive read according to the title, I would have preferred a stronger Christmassy vibe-especially as it was earmarked as my first Advent-ures in Fiction book for the year!

A New York Christmas is out now, published by Headline.

With thanks to the publisher for providing me with a copy of this book in return for an honest review.

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Tip Top Teen Reads- Ten Things we Shouldn't Have Done and Geek Girl



 
Ten Things We Shouldn't Have Done- Sarah Mlynowski

The Blurb
I was about to live a sixteen-year-old's dream.
House on the beach.
No parents.
Parties whenever we wanted.
Boys wherever we wanted.

April and her best friend, Vi, are living by themselves. Of course, April's parents don't know that. They think she's living with Vi and Vi's mum. But it's not April's fault that her dad decided to move away in the middle of high school. So who could blame her for a little white lie? Or the other nine things that April (probably) shouldn't have done that year...

The Review
I saw this book in Waterstone's and was immediately drawn in by the eye catching cover- simple, yet bold.  And when I read the blurb, I knew this would be a book I'd enjoy.

There is typical teen melodrama when April realises her family doesn't revolve just around her, and after a few well-told untruths she moves in with her best friend Vi.  They end up in a lot of scrapes- a hot tub, the obligatory teen parties, gaining a kitten being just some- and April realises that life as a grown up is not always all it's cracked up to be.  Throw in some boys just to make things that bit more messy and voila!  You'vre got Ten Things we Shouldn't Have Done.

This is a fun book with some serious messages, and reading it has definitely made me keen to seek out more by this author.  It's a YA book with enough bite for the haters who say 'but they're for teenagers!' when I tell them I'm reading this genre, and it is chock full of action and drama.  I read it over two days and loved every second of it.

The perfect read to drag me out of my reading slump- thanks Ms Mlynowski!



Geek Girl-Holly Smale

The Blurb
“My name is Harriet Manners, and I am a geek.”

Harriet Manners knows that a cat has 32 muscles in each ear, a “jiffy” lasts 1/100th of a second, and the average person laughs 15 times per day. She knows that bats always turn left when exiting a cave and that peanuts are one of the ingredients of dynamite.

But she doesn’t know why nobody at school seems to like her.

So when Harriet is spotted by a top model agent, she grabs the chance to reinvent herself. Even if it means stealing her best friend's dream, incurring the wrath of her arch enemy Alexa, and repeatedly humiliating herself in front of impossibly handsome model Nick. Even if it means lying to the people she loves.

Veering from one couture disaster to the next with the help of her overly enthusiastic father and her uber-geeky stalker, Toby, Harriet begins to realise that the world of fashion doesn't seem to like her any more than the real world did.

As her old life starts to fall apart, will Harriet be able to transform herself before she ruins everything?

The Review
Oh, I loved it.  I loved it, I loved it, I loved it.  Harriet as the most unlikely model, Nat as the disgruntled but ever supportive best friend, Toby as the out and out weirdo and of course Nick, the ultimate in hot boy... This was a perfect teen read.

I'd actually bought Geek Girl a while ago and put it to one side, now I am wondering why on earth I did that as I am desperate to move straight on to the second book in the series!  It is just so much FUN.  I loved the scene where Harriet is 'discovered' and her first photoshoot had me laughing out loud (I wouldn't be able to stand in ridiculously high heels, I can tell you that now.  And with snow in the mix too, I'd be on my way to A and E).

It's a bit like a Louise Rennison book in style, which is only a good thing if you're a teen book, right? And you certainly don't have to be a cool kid to relate to the characters, because they are just typical teenagers wandering around with insults graffitied on their bags, trying to fit in (or at least, not stand out).

If these books had been around when I was younger I'd have read them back to back over and over again.  Actually, who am I kidding?  I'll probably still do that now.  After all, books are for enjoying, and whilst I'm not the target market, I can honestly say I'm a fan of Holly Smale's after reading Geek Girl.

Friday, 21 November 2014

Wonder/The Julian Chapter- RJ Palacio

 
The Blurb

'My name is August. I won't describe what I look like. Whatever you're thinking, it's probably worse.'

Auggie wants to be an ordinary ten-year-old. He does ordinary things - eating ice cream, playing on his Xbox. He feels ordinary - inside. But ordinary kids don't make other ordinary kids run away screaming in playgrounds. Ordinary kids aren't stared at wherever they go.

Born with a terrible facial abnormality, Auggie has been home-schooled by his parents his whole life. Now, for the first time, he's being sent to a real school - and he's dreading it. All he wants is to be accepted - but can he convince his new classmates that he's just like them, underneath it all?

The Review

I honestly don't know where to start with this one.  I'm not sure there are enough superlatives in the dictionary for me to spout out, and I don't know if I can convey how much love I have for this book.  But I'll try and explain to you just why I love Wonder so much.

First, let's talk about August.  He's different.  Or rather, he looks different, but as you read his thoughts and fears you appreciate that he's actually experiencing life in exactly the same way as everyone else.  He's nervous about starting a new school, he worries what people will think of him, he doesn't want to be judged purely on his Star Wars obsession.  But because August looks so different to his peers, he is stared at wherever he goes, openly mocked, ignored or told he is repulsive.  Life for August isn't easy.  He can't just be a ten year old boy, he's 'The Freak', 'The Ork'.  The other children at his new school don't understand why he looks like he does, and most are afraid of him purely because of his appearance. 

August is ridiculed throughout, particularly by privileged Julian and his hangers-on.  It is uncomfortable to read and I am not ashamed to admit there were tears on numerous occasions.  However, the friendships August does make shine through.  His lunchtime pal Summer is beautiful inside and out, and as warm as her name would suggest.

Told through the eyes of August, his family and his peers, it examines how one person can affect the lives of people around them.  It will cause you to consider your own actions and words more closely, and although I wouldn't call it an easy read because it will challenge your thinking (emotive-yes, engaging- yes, easy-no), it is beautifully simplistic in its message. 
 
 
As an adult reading Wonder (particularly one who has worked in education for the last sixteen years), I was especially interested in the portrayal of the teachers in the book.  Mr Browne, the English teacher with a penchant for precepts, is wonderful.  He encourages children to be introspective, to become better people and most of all to 'choose kind'.  Every child should have a teacher like him for at least one year of their schooling (I very fortunately had a brilliant teacher for two years, Mr Richards, who taught kindness and empathy alongside poetry and creative writing).  The Head teacher, Mr Tushman is also a brilliant character.  I'd say he has a quiet power, and a real knowledge about just what is going on inside his school walls.
 
It is impossible to explain just why this book is such a hit with adults and children alike except to say it is truly unique, and a book which deserves to be read, and reread until we are all better, kinder people.  It is one of my favourite reads of the year, hands down.
 
So my final message to you is to choose Wonder.  And most of all, choose kind.

 
New editions of Wonder contain The Julian Chapter (which can also be bought separately), giving the viewpoint of the ringleader and bully.  Equally as well written as Wonder, and just as powerful, I was brought to my knees by this addition to the book.  It could so easily have been overkill, but RJ Palacio judged this one just right. 
 
WIN!
 
To raise awareness of Anti-bullying week, the publisher has very kindly given me a 'Wonder Bundle' to dish out to one lucky reader.  To enter, simply comment below telling me why you should win, or tweet using the hashtags #bwbwonder and #choosekind.  A winner will be selected at random on Tuesday 26th November. Due to postage costs, I am sorry that this is a UK only competition. 
 
 
 

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Waiting for Doggo- Mark B. Mills



The Blurb

One man. One dog. One big love. The perfect novel for anyone who loves MARLEY AND ME, IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE or ONE DAY.

No-one ever called Dan a pushover. But then no-one ever called him fast-track either. He likes driving slowly, playing Sudoku on his iPhone, swapping one scruffy jumper for another. He's been with Clara for four years and he's been perfectly happy; but now she's left him, leaving nothing but a long letter filled with incriminations and a small, white, almost hairless dog, named Doggo. So now Dan is single, a man without any kind of partner whether working or in love. He's just one reluctant dog owner. Find a new home for him, that's the plan.

Come on...everyone knows the old adage about the best laid plans and besides, Doggo is one special kind of a four legged friend...and an inspiration.

The Review

There's been plenty of hype about Waiting for Doggo (or just plain 'Doggo', as it is affectionately known for short).  Other bloggers raved about it and the publicity team at Headline have gone all out to make sure that we know about this book.  To say I had high expectations is an understatement.

The book is actually mainly about Dan, Doggo's owner.  He's the kind of guy who blunders along through life, not quite sure what's going on around him. And since his long term partner Clara left him suddenly, he's had even more doubts about what he wants.  And what he does wants, and ultimately does, is surely going to only cause more chaos in the long run.  So how on earth can he take responsibility for a dog, not least a dog his ex rescued from Battersea on a whim? 

Dan throws himself into his job, taking Doggo to work with him, and before long the scruffy, unattractive mutt (Doggo, not Dan) soon becomes part of the furniture, livening up the office and the everyday work scenes which might otherwise have seemed borderline mundane in print.  The little anecdotes about Doggo delivering the mail for example, were cute and evocative. 

It is Dan's workplace which is so much like many other working environments, which had me laughing.  The boss, the wannabe, the Billy big bollocks full of eye-rollingly bad ideas...they're all there, and you'll recognise them from your own experiences.  Mark B Mills certainly knows how to create a character that will make you feel.  And Doggo himself will certainly do that.  He's the ugly, oddball dog that they never thought they'd be able to rehome.  And he has a weird obsession with Jennifer Aniston.  But I loved him.

This isn't a gripping mystery, or a passionate romance.  It isn't a gory crime, or a laugh out loud comedy.  But it is a story of a likeable man, with his best-mate of a dog, and how together they approach a life-changing period.  Waiting for Doggo brims with positivity and hope.  It will make you believe that you can.  It is a book which is difficult to categorise and it's equally difficult to explain just how Doggo captured my heart and captivated my mind.  Touching doesn't cut it.  Engaging only skims the surface.  Heartwarming sounds all too twee, especially when you consider the Tupperware scene (you'll know it when you get there). 

I can only say it is unique, and that I found myself turning page after page even when part of me wasn't sure why.  I was strangely hooked.  Doggo won me over. 

And with that ending, there has to be another instalment at some point, surely? I need more Doggo in my life.

Waiting For Doggo is released on November 20th, published by Headline.

With thanks to the publishers for providing me with a copy of this book in return for my honest opinion.

 

Monday, 17 November 2014

Roy- The Roy of the Rovers autobiography

The Blurb

The greatest story ever told by the world’s most beloved sportsman, Roy of the Rovers, in his own words for the first time.

The shocking details of the five terrifying kidnappings that threatened to blight his playing career; the stomach-churning murder attempt in 1980, which left Roy in a life-threatening coma; the sickening car bomb attack that tragically killed eight of Roy's team-mates while on a pre-season tour of Basran; the devastation of losing his wife, former Melchester club secretary Penny Laine, who died in a car accident that brought Roy closer than ever to quitting the game he loved.

And finally the horrific helicopter crash in 1993 that resulted in the amputation of Roy's legendary left foot, bringing the curtain down on his sensational, game-clinching, goal scoring exploits.
Candid, emotional, optimistic, and never nothing less than inspiring, the autobiography of the man all fans of the game know simply as Roy Race aka 'Roy of the Rovers' lays bare for the first time the truth behind soccer's ultimate fairy-tale story.

It’s all Rover, and it is here for the first time for his fans to enjoy all in one victorious book.

The Review

Roy Race (AKA Roy of the Rovers) is the perfect football hero.  He's successful, a family man and dedicated to his beloved Melchester Rovers in a way that few modern day footballers are.  He's one on his own, and I'm surprised he (ahem) hasn't written an autobiography before now.

I really wanted to love this, to fondly relive some of the moments from the comic strips of my youth, such as the Mel Park earthquake.  Unfortunately, I found it a bit lacking.  Firstly, I found the discrepancies between the blurb and actual text of the autobiography irritating, for example the 'eight FA Cups' of the back cover to the ''eleven times' FA Cup winner mentioned on p112 and 'five terrifying kidnappings' which become being 'kidnapped nine times' on p131.  I don't know if it's supposed irony, playing on the hyperbole of the comic strips and Roy's confident demeanour or what, but I found it extremely frustrating. I'm not a big enough fan to know Roy's career history off pat, so I don't know which, if either, are factually correct.  Not good for an autobiography.

I would also have loved some of the iconic images of Roy's career in a picture section-after all, isn't that the bit we all flick to first in any autobiography worth its salt?  There was nothing like that.  I'm not sure if it was due to copyright, but I found that really disappointing.

Also, I am a massive fan of Penny and would have liked more of their life together to have been focussed on in the book.  Unfortunately, she comes across as little more than a baby machine, which isn't fair portrayal. 

I'll be honest, I really wish it had been done as a compilation of the highlights of Roy's career in comic strip format-whether that was simply linking the strips that had been run over the years with snippets of text in between or completely reworking it but retelling the story we all know and love in the format we are familiar with.  I wasn't overly enamoured by the ghost writers style either, I'm convinced there are fans out there who could have done a better job of sharing Roy's inimitable story.

For me, I'm sad to say, it didn't work.  I'd say this is one for the 'die hards' but unfortunately I think most die hards would say this is a poor, inaccurate effort to recreate the magic of Roy's career and moreso his private life.

NB. Yes, I am fully aware Roy Race is a fictional character.

With thanks to the publisher who sent me a copy of this book in return for an honest review.

Roy is out now, published by Random House.

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

One Hundred Christmas Proposals- Holly Martin BLOG TOUR

 
 
The Blurb
 
The eagerly anticipated follow-up to One Hundred Proposals.
 
If you thought Harry & Suzie’s life couldn't get anymore sweepingly romantic than Harry asking her to marry him at the end of One Hundred Proposals – think again!
 
It’s Christmas in a snow-kissed London, and the.PerfectProposal.com have vowed to carry out one hundred proposals in December. No easy task at the best of times - made even more complicated by Harry & Suzie trying to plan their first Christmas and a visit from the dreaded in-laws. But one hundred deliciously Christmassy proposals later they find themselves asking if everything is still perfect in their own relationship….
Welcome back to the divinely warm world of One Hundred Proposals – with a sprinkling of pure, joyful, festive magic.
 
Have yourself a very merry Christmas indeed with Holly Martin’s Christmas novella.
 
The Guest post
 
I am delighted to have a lovely guest post from Holly which will pull at your heart strings and your Christmas bells! She is sharing some romantic Christmas proposals with us today which will get you in the perfect frame of mind for Harry and Suzie's latest instalment.  Over to Holly....

Whilst looking for ways to share about the release of One Hundred Christmas Proposals, I came across these gorgeous Christmas Proposals. 

I love this one because the mother in law is more bothered about her precious box, I love it because the man is so impatient for her to unwrap the present that he unwraps it for her.  I love it because even when he gets down on one knee she still has no clue and I love her reaction, the ‘I can’t breathe, sobbing really hard’ reaction.  It doesn’t need to be in a romantic setting with all the bells and whistles, it just needs to be the man you love asking you to spend the rest of your life with him



Ahh this one is so simple, so sweet and she has no idea, even when the proposal is staring her right in the face.  I love that her family were involved in the proposal and I love her wailing, shrieking, sibbing reaction when she finally realises what is going on.



Ah where would my list of Christmas proposals be without a flash mob.  I love the music, the dancing, the fountains and the Christmas lights and that they carry on dancing after the proposal has taken place.



This is just a gorgeous proposal, and my absolute favourite proposal of them all.  I love the mountains, the candles in the snow and the little hand carved signs. I love the Christmas tree decorated with special memories and the horse drawn sleigh.  I love the music and I love this has been set up and filmed by a REAL proposal company.  I wonder if they have two best friends that work for them too.


You can buy One Hundred Christmas Proposals from Amazon, just click on the link below.

Saturday, 1 November 2014

Christmas Wedding at the Gingerbread Cafe- Rebecca Raisin

 

I am super-dooper excited to be a part of the blog tour for Rebecca Raisin's Christmas Wedding at the Gingerbread Café today.  And why?  Well, firstly because Ms Raisin knows how to tell a story.  She's got that old-school romance and community feel down to a tee and creates characters that as a reader I cared about.  And secondly, I am very fortunate to now class Rebecca as a friend.  In fact, she says I was the one who encouraged her to make this a series (I'll take all the credit I can get, any hint of a link with this trilogy is good enough for me). 
 
So, the end is nigh.  The final instalment of the Gingerbread Café is upon us.  But it's a good one.  BOY, IS IT A GOOD ONE!  Christmas?  Check.  Wedding?  Check.  Future Mother-in-Law that will make your skin crawl?  Check. 

Let's get down to business...
 
The Blurb
 
 You are invited to the wedding of the year!
Snow is falling thick and fast outside the Gingerbread Café and inside, its owner Lily is planning the wedding of the year. Her wedding! She never dreamt it would happen, but this Christmas, she’ll be marrying the man of her dreams - in a Christmas-card-perfect ceremony!
The gingerbread is baking, the dress is fitted and the mistletoe’s in place – for once, everything’s going to plan. That is until her mother-in-law arrives... Suddenly, Lily’s famous cool is being tested like never before and her dream wedding is crumbling before her eyes.

In the blink of a fairylight, the Gingerbread Café has been thrown into chaos! Lily thought she had this wedding wrapped up, but with so much to do before she says ‘I do’, can Lily get to the church on time – and make this Christmas sparkle after all?

The Review

I'm feeling a teensy bit sad writing this, knowing it's the last in the Gingerbread Café series.  Lil, Damon and CeeCee are like old friends to me, the kind you don't see regularly but when you do get together it's like time and distance are immaterial.  Basically, these characters took me on a journey (I know that sounds a bit X-Factor, but still...).  Without giving away too much to anyone who hasn't read the previous two books (where have you been?  Get yourself copies NOW!), there has been heartache, upheaval and a few tears shed on the road to this wedding.  But now it's time for happiness to reign and for Lily to plan her perfect winter wedding. 

Author Rebecca Raisin

Of course, there is a spanner in the works, and this particular spanner is her future Mother-in -Law, who whizzes into town determined to not only take over, but in Lily's eyes ruin the whole day.  There was one moment (it involved floral table arrangements and was the absolute final straw!) where I literally threw my kindle down in rage.  This is my Lily, she doesn't need this! Appreciate her, you vile old bag!  Your son is lucky to have her! were my thoughts
Although I remained sure the ceremony would happen, I did have a few doubts about whether it would go smoothly and all I could think was that Lily has been through enough!  And when the ceremony passed, with a tender moment to remind everyone of the true meaning of love and friendship, I had a tear in my eye and a lump in my throat.  Totally beautiful.
Christmas Wedding at the Gingerbread Café is a story of family- not just those you are born into, but those you make for yourself.  It is the perfect Christmas read, not just because it reminds you to value those you love, but because it is sweet, funny and most of all festive.  And on a personal level, it reminded me of my own Christmas Wedding in 2005.
Although this is the end of the Gingerbread Café series (sob!) there is more to come from Rebecca Raisin, and I'm hoping on cameos from all the characters in further books.  And I'm desperate for a book about a young CeeCee-I need to know just how she got so wise, and I'd love to see how her personality has evolved.  She's so caring and fun loving, I'm sure she could have had her fair share of romances in her youth.
So my final words are to BUY THIS BOOK.  I was trying desperately to think of a comparison for people who haven't read Rebecca's work yet,  and I've come up with one- she's a modern Maeve Binchy.  If you love books about community life with true-to-life characters in true-to-life situations, delivered with gentle humour and heartfelt emotion, these are for you.

With thanks to the author for providing me with a copy of this book in return for an honest review.  Christmas Wedding at the Gingerbread Café is out now in ebook format.

Friday, 31 October 2014

Erotic Autumn part 2

So, I'm here again with a further instalment of Autumn sauce!  Today I'm reviewing the final book in Pippa Croft's Oxford Blue trilogy (you can find reviews of the first two books by scrolling down the page here ) and the first book in Sylvia Day's successful Crossfire series.  Gorgeous male leads and sexy scenes aplenty...

Third Time Lucky- Pippa Croft
 
 
I consider myself extremely fortunate to have followed the Oxford Blue series from the very beginning, but of course there is one problem with being the first on the scene when it comes to trilogies/serials...the waiting!  I felt like I was waiting forever to get a copy of Third Time Lucky! But I can say it was well worth the wait.

Alexander and Lauren are a great fictional couple.  A far cry from perfect, especially when they keep secrets from each other, but they have a spark.  Although the Oxford Blue series is erotic and as such there are lots of sex scenes, their relationship is built on more than that.  Lauren is the feisty American full of spirit and confidence and Alexander is the aristocratic Brit, sometimes moody and bullish but strong and determined. 

Book 2 ended with a real cliffhanger (I don't want to give too much away here!) and now Lauren and Alexander face new challenges.  I loved how the impact of this gave Lauren more power- it was sexy and exciting and proved that Alexander needed her just as much as she needed him, in every sense.

There were also some highly entertaining scenes involving scheming bitch-face Valentina getting her comeuppance (finally!  Honestly one of my least favourite fictional characters-which proves she is well crafted) and the world's slimiest professor getting, shall we say, a cold shower of sorts.  I do love it when the baddies get their just desserts.

I wasn't particularly keen on the ending, that was the one part which didn't quite ring true for me, but appreciate that if this was to be the final instalment there needed to be a level of 'closure'.  However, I want more!  Please Pippa?! 

And I am desperate for someone to come along and make a TV series of this.  It would go down a storm on E4.  Beautiful Oxford, country retreats, a man in uniform, the American girl, the glamorous Italian cowbag and of course oodles of racy scenes...it has it all. 

If you are a fan of the New Adult genre and you haven't yet read the Oxford Blue series, you really must.  You'll be left clamouring for more.

With thanks to the publisher for providing me with a copy of this book in return for an honest review.  All three books in Pippa Croft's Oxford Blue series are out now.

Bared to You- Sylvia Day

 
Yes, I'm probably the very last person in the world to read Bared to You. I'd heard so much about Sylvia Day and the Crossfire series, but one thing put me off.  'It's just like Fifty Shades...'

I'm not snooty about reading erotica/smut/whatever you want to call books with some explicit sex scenes AT ALL, but I do value a well-told story with strong characters and good structure.  That was what Fifty Shades lacked for me, and was why I didn't finish it.  But Bared to You was so much better!

Part of that was that Gideon Cross, the wealthy, stylish businessman male lead.  I developed a bit of a book crush, I'll admit it.  He was powerful and strong and deliciously handsome.  He did have signs of the one thing that really bugs me about men in erotic fiction though- hints at a troubled past.  Why does this seem to be such a common denominator in these books?  Most men I know are really into sex, and that isn't because of a troubled past, or an abusive relationship or anything else, it's because THEY LIKE SEX.

I also really liked Eva.  She'd been figuratively suffocated by an overprotective mother and so of course, she's ready to go off the rails a bit when she escapes to the decadence of New York.  And when she meets the undeniably attractive Gideon Cross, there are naturally going to be fireworks. 

I personally thought it was a very well written book- the characters grew as the story built, the plot was decent and the sex scenes were among the best I've come across in erotic fiction.  It is decadent, engaging and whipped me right into their world.  I'm not generally one of these women who lust over businessmen.  I love a man in a suit as much as the next girl, but I'm not that turned on by power.  But honestly, that guy... with his money and success, I could be drawn in, turning into a helpless little kitten like Eva, unable to resist him.

I've not yet read the rest of the series, but I definitely will be. 

Sylvia Day, I am at your mercy.  Or at least, that of Gideon Cross.

Bared To You is out now, as are books 2 and 3.  Book 4 in the Crossfire series, Captivated by You is out on November 18th.

Thursday, 30 October 2014

The Wedding Ring- Katey Lovell

Well, this is a bit of a cheat really.  It's not a book, it's a short story.  And what's more, it's mine.

I was chosen as a winner in a nationwide short story competition earlier this year, and The Wedding Ring was my entry.  You can read it (and the other winning entries) for free by clicking on the link below.

http://www.panmacmillan.com/thewindowseat/creativewritingcompetition

Monday, 20 October 2014

Catch up blog post- Erotic Autumn Part 1

I have managed to fall behind big time with blogging.  This is partly because I haven't been very well (after almost ten years of tests and generally feeling dire I FINALLY had a test for IBD- Crohn's Disease/Ulcerative Colitis- which has come back abnormal.  Hopefully now I can get medication and things will get easier).  We are also trying to sell our house and buy another one, which is just chaotic.  Plus, I started a new job last week so I am now back to working five days a week.  What with all this, plus trying to write myself whenever possible, blogging has been the thing to slide.

However...I have still been reading, and a lot of what I've been reading has been some steamy romance!  So here's a little update for Erotic Autumn.

If I Were You- Lisa Renee Jones

The Blurb

How it all started…

One day I was a high school teacher on summer break, leading a relatively uneventful but happy life. Or so I told myself. Later, I’d question that, as I would question pretty much everything I knew about me, my relationships, and my desires. It all began when my neighbor thrust a key to a storage unit at me. She’d bought it to make extra money after watching some storage auction show. Now she was on her way to the airport to elope with a man she barely knew, and she needed me to clear out the unit before the lease expired.

Soon, I was standing inside a small room that held the intimate details of another woman’s life, feeling uncomfortable, as if I was invading her privacy. Why had she let these items so neatly packed, possessions that she clearly cared about deeply, be lost at an auction? Driven to find out by some unnamed force, I began to dig, to discover this woman’s life, and yes, read her journals—-dark, erotic journals that I had no business reading. Once I started, I couldn’t stop. I read on obsessively, living out fantasies through her words that I’d never dare experience on my own, compelled by the three men in her life, none of whom had names. I read onward until the last terrifying dark entry left me certain that something had happened to this woman. I had to find her and be sure she was okay.

Before long, I was taking her job for the summer at the art gallery, living her life, and she was nowhere to be found. I was becoming someone I didn’t know. I was becoming her.

The dark, passion it becomes…

Now, I am working at a prestigious gallery, where I have always dreamed of being, and I’ve been delivered to the doorstep of several men, allof which I envision as one I’ve read about in the journal. But there is one man that will call to me, that will awaken me in ways I never believed possible. That man is the ruggedly sexy artist, Chris Merit, who wants to paint me. He is rich and famous, and dark in ways I shouldn’t find intriguing, but I do. I so do. I don’t understand why his dark side appeals to me, but the attraction between us is rich with velvety promises of satisfaction. Chris is dark, and so are his desires, but I cannot turn away. He is damaged beneath his confident good looks and need for control, and in some way, I feel he needs me. I need him.

All I know for certain is that he knows me like I don’t even know me, and he says I know him. Still, I keep asking myself — do I know him? Did he know her, the journal writer, and where is she? And why doesn’t it seem to matter anymore? There is just him and me, and the burn for more.


My thoughts

I really liked the idea for this book- the dusty journals holding deep, dark secrets and the idea of a modern day love interest linked to the past. 

But I found it really hard to feel involved with the story, and it only got harder for me to maintain my interest when I realised I didn't like the male lead at all.  I found him creepy and weird and my skin literally crawled right off me at a few points.  I completely understand the author trying to make him dark and secretive, but for me it was too much. 

It is hard to say much else about this one as I was overwhelmed by the negative emotion I felt towards Chris, but it was reasonably well written and there was a plot to go along with the sex, which isn't always true of erotic romance.

I did finish this book, although it was partly through sheer determination not to be beaten by the freaky weirdo guy, but won't be rushing out to read the rest of the series.

The Girl Behind the Mask- Stella Knightley

The Blurb

Leaving the heartache of sexual betrayal behind her in London, historian Sarah Thomson intends to make the most of her research trip to Venice. But she soon finds her attention consumed by mysterious millionaire Marco Donato. Despite their deepening relationship, however, the handsome playboy persists in playing a secretive game.

What exactly is Marco hiding? The subject of Sarah's research is eighteenth-century Venetian Luciana Giordano. At a time when debauchery is the city's favourite pastime, virginal Luciana is kept out of trouble by a zealous chaperone--until she meets a man who promises to help her escape her restraints. But just what does the worldly stranger want to teach her in return?


My Thoughts

Now, this one I LOVED.  The gorgeous cover had me smitten to start with, but this book is so much more than a pretty face.

It is erotic, it is spine-tinglingly sexy and it has a cracker of a story line.  Essentially, it is your high brow smut, well written and doubling up as part historical novel.  I didn't think I'd be falling in love with this one as much as I did, especially when I realised it was partly set in eighteenth century Venice.  But Stella Knightly totally captivated me and maybe even opened my eyes to how fiction set in a different era can still offer everything I enjoy in a novel.

The characters were great, the setting was exquisitely described, the kinky bits were brilliant.  All in all, this is a winner, infact I'd say it is one of my favourite reads of the year.  I gave it to my Mum after I'd finished it and she loved it too!