Monday, 31 August 2015

All of the Above - James Dawson HOT KEY BOOKS WEEK

The Blurb

This is a funny and moving love story about friends, first loves and self-discovery by Queen of Teen 2014. When sixteen-year-old Toria Bland arrives at her new school she needs to work out who her friends are in a crazy whirl of worry, exam pressure and anxiety over fitting in. Things start looking up when Toria meets the funny and foul-mouthed Polly, who's the coolest girl that Toria has ever seen. Polly and the rest of the 'alternative' kids take Toria under their wing. And that's when she meets the irresistible Nico Mancini, lead singer of a local band - and it's instalove at first sight! Toria likes Nico, Nico likes Toria, but then there's and friendship have a funny way of going round in circles.

The Review

I posted a Waiting on Wednesday for All of the Above a few months ago, so when Hot Key books asked if I'd like a review copy of this book I couldn't have snatched their hand off any faster.  Seriously, this has been one of my most anticipated reads of the year.  I read the sample chapter after YALC (you can read all about that here, including my experience of meeting James Dawson) and that only made me more desperate to get my hands on a copy.  The characters had attitude and sass and personality, and I couldn't wait to find out more about them and their lives.

I read All of the Above in two sittings, and if I could have cancelled everything else in my life to be able to read it in one, I would have.  It was that good.

From the moment new girl Toria arrives in town, she attracts attention.  Which group will she slot into?  The geeks?  The freaks?  The plastic girls?  It's almost luck that she gets 'buddied up' with Daisy and finds herself surrounded by a mismatched group of eclectics - a group who quickly give Toria purpose and help her re-engage with society.  As the novel progresses each friend faces their own challenges, and it's the support and encouragement of the others that pulls them through. 

All of the Above is definitely Toria's story, but I defy anyone who reads it not to fall in love with the whole cast.  I laughed, cried and totally bought into their relationships.  Driven by issues such as sexuality, mental health, eating disorders and self-harm but built primarily around love and friendship, this book had me in reeled in right from the off. You'll recognise people you know in the characters and that only adds to their appeal.  I fell a little bit in love with Polly, she's brash and brazen and acts without thinking of the consequences.  She's exactly how I wanted to be at seventeen, although in reality I was more of a Toria, far too caught up in what other people thought of me to be true to myself.  Although this is a YA book, I'm sure this will also appeal to the adult market.

I loved the seaside setting and could absolutely envisage the arcades, the pier, the crazy golf course.  James Dawson does the most fantastic job of creating characters and scenes that stay with you long after you finish the final chapter - I was left craving more and I don't think it'll be long before I reread this one.

I'm really cautious about giving too much away, because to share the key plot points would be to dilute the impact it'll have when you read All of the Above, and read it you must.  So, how would I describe this book?

a) Funny?
b) Insightful?
c) Engaging?
d) Cram-packed with emotion?
e) Superbly written?

I'd have to add a further option - f) All of the Above.

One of my favourite books of 2015, without a shadow of a doubt.

All of the Above is published by Hot Key Books on September 3rd 2015.

With thanks to the publisher who provided me with a copy of this book in return for my honest, unbiased opinion.

Saturday, 29 August 2015

August 2015 Book Haul vlog!

I love watching book vlogs, especially book hauls.  I'm nosey when it comes to people's shelves and incoming books and I know other readers are too.

That's why I've decided to do a monthly haul vlog showing exactly which bookish delights have made their way into my hands!

This is my first book vlog, so please be gentle with me...

Watch my August 2015 Book Haul vlog here!

Wednesday, 26 August 2015

Waiting on Wednesday : List of the Lost- Morrissey

I'm hugely excited about Morrissey's first fiction book and was thrilled today when I was emailed this information about it from a publicist at Penguin.  Normally I'm incredibly patient, but I'm seriously hoping I get to read this as an ARC - bookblogger, Morrissey fanatic, hipster- come on, I tick all the boxes!  However, if I have to wait until 24th September it'll be out just in time for my birthday, and it'd make a pretty good present...
List of the Lost
to be published by Penguin Books on 24 September 2015 at £7.99
Penguin Books is delighted to announce the forthcoming publication of List of the Lost, Morrissey’s extraordinary novel, on 24 September.
‘Beware of the novelist … intimate and indiscreet … pompous, prophetic airs … here is the fact of the fiction … an American tale where, naturally, evil conquers good, and none live happily ever after, for the complicated pangs of the empty experiences of flesh-and-blood human figures are the reasons why nothing can ever be enough. To read a book is to let a root sink down. List of the lost is the reality of what is true battling against what is permitted to be true’ – Morrissey
Morrissey’s record-breaking bestseller, Autobiography, was published by Penguin Classics in October 2013.
My review of Morrissey's Autobiography.

Waiting on Wednesday- Lost Ocean- Johanna Basford

I've hopped on the adult colouring bandwagon and I've got to admit it's so therapeutic.  I'm finding it the perfect way to wind down of an evening and Johanna Basford's books are so utterly beautiful - they are an absolute joy to work on.  So this week I'm Waiting on Wednesday for her forthcoming release Lost Ocean, published by Virgin books on October 22nd.

The Blurb

A beautiful new colouring book that takes you on a magical journey beneath the waves, from the creator of the worldwide bestsellers, Secret Garden and Enchanted Forest.

With Lost Ocean, Johanna Basford invites colour-inners of all ages to discover an enchanting underwater world hidden within the depths of the sea.

With intricate pen and ink illustrations to complete, colour and embellish, readers will meet shoals of exotic fish, curious octopuses and delicately penned seahorses, visit coral reefs and barnacle-studded shipwrecks, and discover intricate shells and pirate treasure. Secret Garden and Enchanted Forest fans and newcomers alike will delight in this creative journey into an inky new world.

Monday, 24 August 2015

Picnics in Hyde Park- Nikki Moore

The Blurb

The last story in the fun & flirty #LoveLondon series from exciting new chick lit author Nikki Moore! The perfect novel for reading in the sunshine… and falling in love with London.

A summer to remember…or forget?

When Zoe Harper returns to the UK after five long years in New York, the last thing she expects is to find her younger sister Melody jobless, homeless, broke and dumped. Unfortunately, life has a way of delivering the unexpected. She should know that, given her ex-fiancĂ© Greg’s faithless behaviour.

Filled with rage and determined to get revenge on the infamous Reilly brothers for her sister’s heartbreak, as well as get some answers, Zoe hatches plan Nannygate. Unfortunately that means moving in with the gorgeous but uncaring music producer Matt Reilly to be nanny to his two adorable, complicated children. But something isn’t adding up, and over the course of the hot London summer, she starts to think that perhaps Matt isn’t so bad after all.

Let down by his last nanny and weighed down with guilt about his wife’s death three years before, wealthy but camera-shy Matt has spent a long time pushing people away, including his own kids. His stunning new nanny challenges him every single day in completely different ways, but maybe that isn’t such a bad thing?

But what happens when you open your heart, and someone isn’t who you thought they were? And can it really be true love when it’s on the rebound, and starts off with a plan for revenge?

The Review

2015 could quite possibly be renamed 'the year I raved about Nikki Moore's Love London series'.  I'm pretty sure everyone I know is sick of me saying how much I enjoyed the five novella length books (my favourite being Valentine's on Primrose Hill ).  I featured Picnics in Hyde Park as my Waiting on Wednesday a few weeks ago and I was so excited to be able to read the final instalment of the series at last.

This time we're following Zoe and Matt's story.  After Zoe's sister Melody is rapidly dismissed from her job as nanny to Matt's children without so much as an explanation, Zoe is keen to get revenge.  When the opportunity arises to take over Melody's position, she grabs it with both hands, keen to gain information that will bring him into disrepute.  However, the more she gets to know Matt, the more she likes him...can she follow through with her plan?  Or will love get in the way?

I really enjoyed this novel length book and found myself getting swept along by the plot, especially the story about Matt's late wife Helen. I really wanted to know exactly what had happened to her!  Whilst not a mystery as such, there were clues dropped in alluding to how she died and I was desperate to know why Matt clammed up every time she was mentioned.   Matt's children were adorable, I wanted to wrap Aimee up and give her a hug and tell her everything would be OK in the end. 

It was also fabulous to find out a little bit more about the characters met in previous Love London books, Nikki Moore managed to cleverly weave them into Picnics in Hyde Park without it being clumsy or clunky. 

The romance and relationship between Zoe and Matt sizzled and there were some red hot scenes between the two of them, especially with the wool jacket involved!  All in all they were a likable couple and the fact there were some snarky comments and disagreements made them more believable.

The only niggle for me was when things that were obvious were being spelled out, especially in relation to childcare, safeguarding and education.  I'm not sure if this was irritating to me because my day job is in childcare or because it felt a bit unnecessary, but that was the only negative for me in what was a highly enjoyable novel. 

I'm reluctant to say farewell to this series, but can only thank Nikki Moore for writing her heart out to produce contemporary romances which are a love story of a couple within a love story for a place.  My visits to London via her books have been a real delight, a highlight of my summer. 

I love, love, love the Love London series!

Picnics in Hyde Park is out now, published by Harper Impulse.

With thanks to the author who provided me with a copy of this book in return for an unbiased review.

Friday, 21 August 2015

Geek Drama- Holly Smale

The Blurb

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

Harriet Manners knows that the hottest observed place on earth is Furnace Creek in Death Valley. She knows that dolphins shed the top layer of their skin every two hours. And she knows just how badly auditions can go, especially when you’re a model. But she has no idea what to do when her arch-nemesis decides the school play is the perfect opportunity to humiliate her…

Can GEEK GIRL survive the bright lights of the stage?

The Review

I read the first two Geek Girl books last year when I was in hospital and they were such a tonic-  YA books full to the brim with slapstick humour and an entertaining plot.  They covered friendship (and bullying), first love, family and were crammed full of strange and interesting facts which Harriet shares with anyone who'll listen. 

Geek Drama is book 2.5 of the series and was released for World Book Day.  It's not a full length book, but these 128 pages squeeze in a lot of story.  There are the same hilarious characters throughout- Harriet and her family, Harriet's best friend Nat (who always wanted to be a model- and then Harriet inadvertently stole her dream), arch enemy Alexa and stalker Toby.  I loved getting to find out more about them in this novella length read.

As Nat decides she's ready to pursue her new dream of being an actress, the girls audition for parts in the school production of Hamlet.  It's an unconventional adaptation of the play in every sense, but that only enriches the entertainment value provided- I wouldn't expect anything less than slightly madcap in a Geek Girl book!  The moment when Nat realises her role isn't quite what she expected was laugh out loud funny-I could see it so clearly in my mind.  I want these books to be made into films SOOOOOO badly.

These books are fabulously funny yet also convey the importance of friendship, being true to yourself and developing resilience.  I love how Holly Smale strikes that balance between comedy and issues that are important to teens (and beyond.  I'm in my mid thirties and still need to work on developing a thicker skin). 

I can't wait to read the third and fourth books in the series- I'm a Geek Girl fangirl and proud of it!

Geek Drama is out now published by Harper Collins Children's Books.

Wednesday, 19 August 2015

One Night in Edinburgh- Charlotte Howard

The Blurb

Chloe Shard has travelled to Edinburgh to meet up with a potential client, and has just twenty-four hours to convince them to sign her contract. But when she meets the delicious Ethan, he proves to be so much more than an enticing distraction. It’s not long before Chloe has some life changing decisions to make, and less than a day to make them.

The Review

It's been quite a while since I've read an erotic/hot romance, and when I heard about the City Nights series through author Lisa Fox (whose One Night in New York is out this month) I was keen to find out more.

I decided to start with the places I've visited or hope to visit, and I liked the sound of the Edinburgh story so thought it would be a good way to test out the series. 

It begins with business woman Chloe heading to Edinburgh to try and strike a lucrative deal, but when she meets Ethan she finds she's not focussing on her job, she's focussing on him.  But when she realises she's lost her box of sample products, she thinks she's blown her chance of the pitch anyway...

I enjoyed the story in this one, although the ending was very much in the realms of fiction rather than reality.  But then that's one of the reasons I read, to escape everyday life, so it didn't bother me too much.  I did wish there had been more made of Edinburgh itself though, the location didn't play that big part in the story and it could have been based anywhere.

There's sex in this one pretty much from the off, but then I expected that because of the novella length and the intention of the series.  That taxi scene- it's pretty hot stuff!  I've read my fair share of hot romance/erotic fiction over the years, and this was well written compared to much of what's on the market. 

If you like this genre, give it a whirl.  It's encouraged me to read some of the other titles in the series- next stop, San Francisco!

One Night in Edinburgh is out now, published by Tirgearr.

Monday, 17 August 2015

Sunshine and Spaniels- Cressida McLaughlin

The Blurb
Hilarious, touching and fun, Primrose Terrace will appeal to dog lovers everywhere and fans of Lucy Diamond, Cathy Bramley and Trisha Ashley.

Cat Palmer’s dog-walking business, Pooch Promenade is taking off. It hasn’t been plain sailing but with the help of her flatmate Joe, she’s taken on some more new clients from Primrose Terrace. But when she meets boisterous puppy Olaf, who is owned by harassed single mum Frankie, she wonders if she has bitten off more than she can chew! Cat’s also getting to know her sexy neighbour Mark and his Collie, Chips, a little better, but is there more to him than meets the eye? Perhaps sorting out her best friend Polly’s love life will be easier than her own…

Sunshine and Spaniels is the second part of a serialized novel told in four parts – all set in Primrose Terrace.

The Review

I read and reviewed part one of the Primrose Terrace series earlier this year- you can see that review here.  I mentioned then how I wasn't always a fan of serialised novels, and that still holds true.  Personally, I find it takes a while to reengage with the characters when there's been a while between release dates, and then the first few pages are spent reintroducing the protagonists and the setting.  However, that's just my taste, and although I still feel I'd rather be reading this in one lovely chunky book than in shorter novella-style snippets, I can only review on what's in front of me at the time.

And what was in front of me was some fabulous writing!  Cressida McLaughlin has created such a warm and friendly place in Primrose Terrace, somewhere it is a delight to visit, even if that is only through the pages of a book. 

Cat, the cheery optimist who runs a dog-walking business, organises a puppy picnic at the local park.  Here we are introduced to lively puppy Olaf and his family, and Cat, always keen to help, offers her support to struggling young Mum, Frankie.  I loved this storyline.  It had the cosy, community feel I always adore, and without giving too much away, never have I so coveted a fictional bedroom!

I liked that Cat's friend Polly was given her own love interest this time around too- as a veterinary nurse with a kind, caring nature, she deserves some happiness.  I hope that by the next instalment things will still be on an upward trajectory for her (and her beau has the most perfect job!)

The love triangle for Cat still smoulders on- should she pick enigmatic Mark or her reliable housemate Joe? (Pick Joe, pick Joe!)  I have less of a bad feeling about Mark after this one, but there's still an element of distrust.  He's just so unreliable, which is never good.  Plus Joe sounds so lovely- if she doesn't end up with him, he can be my next book boyfriend instead.  Some of the things he does are incredibly thoughtful and that always makes me swoon.

Overall, I really enjoyed reacquainting myself with these characters.  I hope Cressida McLaughlin is writing fast, because I'm gagging for a full length novel full of the heart and humour that this series has.  Sunshine and Spaniels is another winner!

Sunshine and Spaniels is out now, published by Harper Collins.

With thanks to the publisher who gave me a copy of this book in return for my unbiased opinion.

Friday, 14 August 2015

Kate and Alf- Carrie Stone

The Blurb

Kate loves Alf. And Alf loves Kate… Doesn’t he?

Kate can’t wait for her long-term boyfriend Alf to propose. So he might be a bit of a control freak who’s obsessed with his career … and he also seems to have conveniently forgotten their two-year plan to get married, buy a bigger house and have children. But Kate’s sure that ring will be on her finger soon.

When her thirty-second birthday ends in humiliating, proposal-less disaster, even Kate is left wondering if Alf really is The One. Then Alf’s friend, Marcus, needs a place to stay. With his dark eyes, easygoing manner and kind concern for Kate, Marcus is everything Alf is not - and it's not long before Kate begins to wonder if there’s more to life than diamonds.

The Review

The gorgeous cover was what initially attracted me to this book, I love the hazy colours of the skyline and the silhouette couple.  I'm also a big fan of books that focus entirely on one couple, which the title suggested this would be.

As it happened, Kate and Alf isn't just the story of one couple.  Kate is the central character, thus the book revolves around her and the people in her life- those she works with at the residential home, cares for and socialises with.  I'm actually quite glad there was a spread of characters as it soon became apparent that Kate and Alf aren't the perfect couple, and if the novel had purely focussed on their relationship it would probably have been a mentally draining read.

From the offset it's clear that Kate wants to settle down whilst Alf's happy to plod along in the same way they always have.  Kate's miserable because she's expecting a shiny engagement ring and a proposal of marriage, and Alf - well, he's oblivious to the situation, believing they are fine as they are. 

A lot of Alf's behaviour seemed selfish (the way he spoke about her artwork made me furious!) and I wondered exactly why Kate was so enamoured with him, but then I found myself irritated with how she expected Alf to change.  I was getting frustrated with them both, because if they'd only been more open and honest about what they expected from their relationship they might have been happier, either together or apart!

What I most appreciated about this book was Kate's relationships with the elderly residents at the care home where she worked.  Humorous, insightful and a reminder that friendship can span age barriers, the sections where they were gossiping, reading tea leaves and crying on each other's shoulders were the highlights of this book for me. 

This book evoked strong reactions in me, which shows the power of Carrie Stone's words.  Her descriptions were fantastic and I could clearly visualise the characters and settings.  That said, I found Alf such an unlikable character that it did impinge on my enjoyment of the book as a whole, particularly in the first half. 

The final pages of Kate and Alf wrapped up the story well and I enjoyed the interweaving of plots and characters. 

Overall, I'd say don't go into this one expecting hearts and flowers, instead expect adult angst.  I'll look out for more books by Carrie Stone, but I'd love to see her write a more traditional rom-com fiction release as I think that would best showcase her writing style.

Kate and Alf is out now, published by Harper Impulse.

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

I read this book as part of #HIReadathon 2015.

Crazy, Undercover, Love- Nikki Moore

The Blurb

*Shortlisted for the Joan Hessayon Award for New Writers 2015*

Uber-feisty career girl Charley Caswell-Wright travels to Barcelona for a weekend assignment as PA to the gorgeous Alex Demetrio, CEO of Demetrio International.

But she's there under entirely false pretenses: to get her life back on track. Having lost the job she worked so hard to earn, she’s determined not to give it up so easily, especially when she didn’t deserve to lose it in the first place.

Mr Dreamy CEO is her only chance of clawing back her career – and her reputation. So she has to keep things strictly professional… boy, is she in trouble!

The Review

I've had this book on my kindle for the best part of eighteen months, but for some reason I hadn't got around to reading it.  However, having read the five novellas in Nikki Moore's Love London series and waiting for the release of the final full-length instalment Picnics in Hyde Park (which came out yesterday- yay!) I decided it was time to read Crazy, Undercover, Love.

Charley, who has lost everything following her dismissal from the job she loved, is determined to clear her name. She's worked too hard for too long to allow her reputation to be tarnished by false allegations.  In an attempt to prove her innocence, Charley blags her way into a temporary PA role for CEO Alex Demetrio.  However, she didn't bargain on there being a magnetic attraction...

What I really loved about this book was Charley's strong-willed, feminist attitude- more heroines like this please!  It totally challenged the myth that women in romance novels are all reliant on men (that stereotype comes from outside the romance reading/writing community, but it's very definitely still there) and I found her commitment and drive inspirational. 

Alex was the alpha male- successful, handsome, on a bit of a power trip.  That doesn't always work for me, but I actually found myself drawn to him.  He was a bit of an enigma, and I liked that.  By the time I reached the end of the book it was easier to understand why he behaved the way he did, and although I'd correctly predicted the conclusion pretty early on I still felt satisfied by the ending of Charley and Alex's story.  It had a strong, unique plot which had me glued to my kindle and just the right amount of romance/sex alongside the more serious storyline of Charley's dismissal.

I liked how the story had flashbacks to the situation that left Charley in her predicament and felt that for a debut novelist Nikki Moore handled these exceptionally well.  The writing style was highly readable and I was surprised by how soon I seemed to reach the end of the book!

Crazy, Undercover, Love is a meaty romance with a strong plot, which may appeal to fans of Christina Lauren.

Crazy, Undercover, Love is out now, published by Harper Impulse.

With thanks to the publisher who provided me with a copy of this book in return for an honest, unbiased review.

I read this book as part of the #HIReadathon 2015.

Tuesday, 11 August 2015

Waking up in Vegas- Romy Sommer

The Blurb

What happens in Vegas…

Waking up to the bright lights of Vegas in an unfamiliar penthouse suite, cocktail waitress Phoenix Montgomery finds she’s covered from head to foot in gold glitter and not alone – aside from the empty bottle of champagne, there’s a mystery man in the shower and a huge sparkly ring on her finger!

Stays in Vegas?

There’s no denying Max Waldburg’s demi-god sex appeal but commitment-phobic Phoenix doesn’t do relationships. Only it seems her new husband (agh!) has other ideas…he’s trying to keep that ring on her finger and his wife firmly back in his bed. The only question on her lips is – why? Or maybe, why not?

The Review

I first discovered Romy Sommer's Westerwald series during #HIFortnight when I read The Trouble with Mojitos.  At the time I didn't realise it was actually book two (is there anything more frustrating than reading a book out of sequence?!) but as it happened it didn't matter too much as the books can be enjoyed  as stand alone reads.

Waking up in Vegas shares the story of Phoenix and Max, an unlikely couple who wake up in bed together following a wild night out.  Phoenix soon realises this stranger is her new husband and she's horrified. She doesn't want commitment- least of all to someone she doesn't know! Max, however is smitten and believes he's found 'the one'.  The story revolves around the couple finding out more about each other, uncovering secrets along the way.

Phoenix is a strong-willed heroine and I really liked that about her, even though I times I wanted to shake her for trying to fight her feelings.  And Max...well, he was the perfect hero- deliciously hot, sensitive and determined to fight for the true love he's convinced he's found.

This book had me laughing, cringing and wishing for the happily ever after.  A beautifully written contemporary love story with a hint of mystery, Waking up in Vegas is perfect for dreamy romantics everywhere.  I've currently only got these books on kindle, but I desperately need to get my hands on paperback copies to sit on my shelf alongside my other favourite books.

It's fair to say the Westerwald series has stolen my heart.

Waking up in Vegas is out now, published by Harper Impulse.

I read this book as part of the #HIReadathon.  Read, love, review!

Monday, 10 August 2015

Beyond Grace's Rainbow- Carmel Harrington

The Blurb

Winner of the March 2013 Kindle Book Award

Beyond Grace’s Rainbow is the deeply emotional and poignant story of young single mother Grace Devlin. With a wonderful cast of supporting characters and plenty of charm, this will have you laughing and crying at the turn of a page.

The Review

Grace Devlin is a single mother living in Dublin.  Her former partner is a recovering alcoholic and hasn't been part of their son Jack's life.  However, now he's sober and back on the scene.  But things have changed.  Grace may still have the same close knit friendship group and a positive outlook on life, but she's just been diagnosed with cancer. 

Grace needs a bone marrow donor if she's to be in with a chance of recovering, but she was adopted as a baby and her birth mother Catherine hasn't made contact.  In a desperate bid to prolong her life, Grace reaches out to Catherine, revealing her ill-health.  When they meet they get along well, but Grace doesn't understand why her birth mother won't share the details about her biological father when there's a chance he could save her life. It was this subplot that really had me hooked. I loved the secretive nature and especially enjoyed it when Grace's friends Tom and Gerry took it upon themselves to go undercover to find out more...

I'll admit, this wasn't always an easy book to read.  It deals with cancer, bereavement, adoption, addiction and other sensitive topics.  Really, it should be one of the most depressing books out there, judging on subject matter alone.  However, the book is built around Grace and her wonderful group of supportive friends.  I loved how they would genuinely do anything for each other.  They were a truly eclectic mix of characters with big personalities which only brought depth to their relationships.  I particularly had a soft spot for Abby and found her speed dating scenes cringeworthy-I wanted her to find a good, reliable man so much! 

It's the gentle humour and rock-solid friendships that stop this book from being overwhelmingly heavy going even in the darkest moments, and my only negative is that there were a lot of exclamation marks throughout- not just in the dialogue but in the narrative too.  When reading I take great note of the intonation, but for me they came around too frequently and I felt some of the impact of the heavy scenes was lost as they often ended on a light note. 

That said, by the time I got to the end of this book I was snivelling into a tissue.  The characters had been through so much and I honestly felt like I'd been through it with them.

I'm excited to read Carmel Harrington's second novel The Life You Left after reading this, because if the plot of Beyond Grace's Rainbow is anything to go by I'm in for a treat.  This woman knows how to tell a story!

Beyond Grace's Rainbow is out now, published by Harper Impulse.

With thanks to the author who provided me with a copy of this book in return for an unbiased review.

I read this book as part of #HIReadathon 2015. 

Sunday, 9 August 2015

The Making of Us- Erin Lawless

The Blurb
HarperImpulse are delighted to introduce brilliant debut author Erin Lawless… perfect for fans of Mhairi McFarlane, Katy Regan and David Nicholls!

A free teaser of Erin Lawless’s fabulous debut The Best Thing I Never Had, complete with extra scenes and character biographies.

The Review

It's no secret that I'm a huge fan of Erin Lawless.  I absolutely raved about The Best Thing I Never Had back in 2013 and this summer's wonderful Somewhere Only We Know was better still.  I'd somehow missed that there was this freebie teaser for Erin's debut title, so I was delighted when I stumbled across it on Amazon.  More stories from one of my favourite authors!

The Making of Us is a collection of short snapshot moments using characters from The Best Thing I Never Had.   I love the banter between the students in the stories and particularly enjoyed the story of a forfeit following a lost bet!  There's also character profiles which reveal additional information about the friendship group.

If you've not read anything by Erin Lawless, this is a great way to get acquainted with her humorous, easy style and if you read and enjoyed her debut you'll enjoy the opportunity to know a bit more about her characters. 

It made me long for more!

The Making of Us is free and available to download from Amazon.  Published by Harper Impulse.

I read this as part of #HIReadathon 2015.  To get involved, follow the hashtag.

Saturday, 8 August 2015

Stable Mates- Zara Stoneley

The Blurb

'A great treat for readers who love their books jam-packed with sexy men and horses.' Bestselling author Fiona Walker

Welcome to tranquil Tippermere, an idyllic village nestled deep in the Cheshire countryside. Home to lords and ladies, horsemen and farmers, and plenty of secrets and scandals…

Leaving a scumbag ex behind her, Lottie Brinkley has hotfooted it out of Spain and back home to the country in serious need of some flirtatious fun to soothe her aching heart.

Luckily for her she’s spoilt for choice with not one but three eligible bachelors offering a steamy romp in the hay! But faced with the attentions of roguish eventer Rory Steel, the smiling Irish eyes of hunky farrier Mick O’Neal, and mysterious newcomer Tom Strachan, how can she possibly choose?

When billionaire landowner Marcus James drops dead unexpectedly, his WAGish wife Amanda threatens to sell the heart of the village and sets her sights on Tom! It seems things are heating up for little Tippermere… both in and out of the saddle.

‘Fans of Fiona Walker will love this book’ – ThatThingSheReads

The Review

When I first started reading this I wasn't sure I was going to enjoy it.  That's nothing to do with Zara Stoneley's writing, which was entertaining from the off.  It's more that I'm not in the least bit interested in horses.  I can appreciate their beauty, but I've never been a rider.  When the other girls at school were begging for ponies, I begged for books. And I was slightly concerned that Stable Mates would have too strong a focus on riding for me to be able to enjoy it.

However, I needn't have worried. Although there are plenty of horsey scenes, you don't need equestrian knowledge to follow the plot, which focuses around life in the fictional village of Tippermere.  The large cast of characters are caricatures of country life- the old-money landowners, the wannabe WAGs, the 'outsider' who everyone has their suspicions about...and they're all a bit randy.  It's like Emmerdale, but with more money.

For the first half of the book I was a bit confused about everyone's role.  Reading it on kindle didn't help, because there was a character list at the front which I could have flicked back to if I had it in paperback format.  Plus everyone seemed to have a nickname as well as their given name, which took a bit of remembering!  However, once I stopped being hung up on who everyone was and just let myself become immersed in the mayhem, I enjoyed it much more.

I also felt the plot really developed as the book went on.  At first it seemed to be out and out sex, but then there's the rumours about why model Tom has suddenly appeared in the village and it had me wanting to know more.  There was also more romance as the story wore on which always wins me over.  The final scenes of the book were my favourite, there were revelations, celebrations and titillation!  I'd love to see this as a TV series, there's plenty of humour and drama that would lend itself to being adapted for television.

I can absolutely see why this has drawn comparisons to Jilly Cooper and Fiona Walker. Stable Mates is a fun romp for anyone who enjoys their fiction with a side order of quickies in the haybales!

Stable Mates is out now, published by Harper Impulse.

I read this book as part of the #HIReadathon 2015.  To find out more, follow the hashtag.

Friday, 7 August 2015

One Kiss- Lisa Fox

The Blurb

Sometimes one kiss can change everything.

New Year's Eve is supposed to be a night for celebration and new beginnings. For best friends Kat and Dean, it is a nightmare filled with disastrous dates and enraged ex-girlfriends!

Lucky for them, they've got each other to help laugh off the embarrassing, and downright inappropriate, moments. But then midnight rolls around and neither of them have anyone to kiss…

There's no doubt this is a night they will always remember.

The real question is whether it will be a night they want to forget…

The Review

I'm loving novellas at the moment.  I'm not sure if it's because my son's off school for the summer and we're out and about on trips/visiting friends etc and it's hard to find time to read for extended periods, but they're definitely suiting my lifestyle.  I've always preferred to lose myself completely in a book and read it in as few sittings as possible, so when time is limited these shorter reads still hit the spot.

One Kiss is the classic story of two friends taking the step towards coupledom.  Kat, the sassy heroine, is reluctant to get involved- she doesn't want to get hurt again so romance is the last thing on her mind- and Dean is fresh out of a relationship with a glamorous French model.  It probably isn't a good idea, but as New Year's Eve becomes New Years Day Kat and Dean don't want to be the only people on the planet with no one to kiss, their friendship takes a turn into something more serious. 

I tend to like stories of friendship blossoming into something more- it's cute when a couple have history!  Plus Dean was such a sweet character- if he was my friend, I wouldn't be standing by letting other women get with him!  Both his actions and words had my heart skipping a beat.

However, as well as being a sweet romantic will they/won't they, there were some hot scenes in there!  I remember liking the balance between sweet and sexy in Lisa Fox's A Kiss in the Dark and this was in a very similar vein- although if anything, I enjoyed this one more.

One Kiss had me hooked- a perfect way to spend a couple of hours.  This sharp, pacey novella was a joy to read.  

One Kiss is out now, published by Harper Impulse.

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

I read this book as part of the #HIReadathon- follow the hashtag to get involved!

Wednesday, 5 August 2015

Cover reveal for The Broken Hearts Book Club by Lynsey James

I'm delighted to be able to reveal the stunning cover for The Broken Hearts Book Club by Lynsey James.  Isn't it pretty?
The Blurb
Secrets never stay buried for long…
Lucy Harper has always been good at one thing: running from her past. But when her beloved Nana Lily passes away she has no choice except to return to the one place in the world she most wants to avoid…
Luna Bay hasn’t changed much in the eight years she has spent in London. The little Yorkshire village is still just as beautiful, but the new pub landlord is a gorgeous addition to the scenery!
Lucy only intended to stay for a day, yet when she discovers that Nana Lily has not only left her a cottage but also ‘The Broken Hearts Book Club’, Lucy is intrigued. Her Nana never have mentioned the club and Lucy can’t wait to get started, but walking into her first meeting she is more aware than ever that her past is finally catching up with her.
One way or another, Lucy must finally face the secrets she’s kept buried for so long – or spend the rest of her life on the run…
Author Bio: Lynsey James was born in Fife in 1991 and has been telling people how to spell her name ever since. She's an incurable bookworm who loves nothing more than getting lost in a good story with memorable characters. She started writing when she was really young and credits her lovely Grandad- and possibly a bump on the head from a Mr Frosty machine- with her love of telling stories. She used to write her own episodes of Friends and act them out in front of her family (in fact she's sure she put Ross and Rachel together first!)
A careers adviser at school once told Lynsey writing wasn't a "good option" and for a few years, she believed her. She tried a little bit of everything, including make-up artistry, teaching and doing admin for a chocolate fountain company. The free chocolate was brilliant. When Lynsey left her job a couple of years ago, she started writing full-time while she looked for another one. As soon as she started working on her story, Lynsey fell in love and decided to finally pursue her dream. She haven't looked back since.
When Lynsey's not writing, eating cake or drinking tea, she's daydreaming about the day Dylan O'Brien FINALLY realises they're meant to be together. It'll happen one day…


I'm excited to read it, and as it's released in ebook format on 1st September, published by Carina, there's not long to wait!

Waiting on Wednesday- Every Time a Bell Rings - Carmel Harrington

This is a Waiting on Wednesday first for me- there's not even a temporary cover for the book I've chosen yet, so I've used a still from the film it's inspired by!  As it's the #HIReadathon, I decided to go for a Harper Impulse book.  I love a festive read and am already excited about my annual Advent-ures in Fiction feature that runs here on Books with Bunny throughout December- and one I'll definitely be including is Carmel Harrington's Every Time a Bell Rings. 

The Blurb

An angel gets its wings…

Belle has taken all the Christmas decorations down. This year they won’t be celebrating.
As foster parents, Belle and Jim have given many children the chance of a happier start in life. They’ve loved them as if they were their own. They shouldn’t have favourites but little Lauren has touched their hearts. And now her mother is well enough to take her back and Belle can’t bear the loss.

Hence, Christmas is cancelled.

So when Jim crashes his car one icy December night, after an argument about Lauren, Belle can only blame herself. Everything she loves is lost. And Belle finds herself standing on The Ha’Penny Bridge wishing she had never been born.

But what happens to a Christmas wish when an angel is listening…

Will Belle realise, before it’s too late, that her life is the most wonderful life of all?

Inspired by the timeless tale of beloved Christmas movie, It’s a Wonderful Life, Carmel Harrington’s next book tells the story of Belle, a young woman and foster carer from Dublin who faces the hardest decision of her life this Christmas on The Ha’Penny Bridge.

Full of Irish charm, magic, and the warmth of the festive season this is an emotional, heartwarming story that will stay with you long after you’ve reached ‘The End’. Perfect for fans of Cecelia Ahern & Jojo Moyes.

Every Time a Bell Rings is due for release on 15th October 2015, published by Harper Impulse.

Tuesday, 4 August 2015

Say It With Sequins: The Charleston- Georgia Hill

The Blurb

For fans of reality dance shows, this series is strictly irresistible!

Into the last stage of ‘Who Dares Dances’ blasts Meredith Denning, a tour de force! She’s a voluptuous, beautiful Oxford grad looking for a direction in life.

Merry is partnered with professional dancer Daniel, who is still nurturing feelings for a newly engaged Julia. Though it’s not long before these two take their incredible chemistry from ballroom… to bedroom!

With Daniel on her arm and the trophy within reach, Merry finds herself in danger of breaking the habit of a lifetime as she falls heavily for Daniel.

Find out how it all ends the final part of the flirty, fun and FAB-U-LOUS series, Say it with Sequins!

The Review

When I read the first Say It with Sequins book The Rumba back at the start of 2014, I fell in love.  Firstly, because there was going to be a romance series based around a dancing show- how brilliant a discovery that was for a Strictly addict!  But secondly, I came across a character I totally fell head over heels for- the gorgeous Welsh sweetheart Harri.  I'd enjoyed the plot, but found there were a lot of characters introduced in quick succession. 

By the time the second book in the series came out (The Waltz) I was ready to be reacquainted to the characters.  Max and Lucy's 'will they/won't they' was another enjoyable read with a hunky hero to boot.

But it's The Charleston which finishes this series with a bang.  The doubts I'd had about surplus characters in the first two books were wiped away, with short cameos from those with big personalities (the judge who is obviously based on Craig Revel-Horwood for example- genius!) lightening the mood whilst we're also reunited with protagonists from previous books (yes, I mean the lovely Harri, who's preparing to tie the knot).

Merry, a failed comedian, is drafted into the show as a last minute replacement.  Feeling conscious of her height and weight and generally out of her depth, she's paired up with Daniel, the professional dancer who's still lusting after Julia, Harri's wife to be.  The couple work hard and Merry is the surprise favourite to win the show.  However, the show's vile producer Bob has thrown down the gauntlet by forcing the contestants to face their fears.  As Merry bravely tackles a long-held phobia Daniel's loving nature and strong moral standing are revealed.    I loved this moment!  It's the equivalent of when Clark Kent becomes Superman- my heart fluttered wildly and I wanted to cheer for his forceful belief in what's right.  What a hero!

Without wanting to reveal the nature of the plot too much because that's this book's strength, I can only say it's touching and swoonsome with plenty of humour.  Romantic, satirical and wonderfully written, this is the glitterball-worthy performance in the show that has been Say It With Sequins.  Fantastic!

The Charleston is out now (as both an individual title and as part of the Say it With Sequins complete series), published by Harper Impulse.

I read this book as part of the #HIReadathon 2015.  For more information, search the hashtag on Twitter or Facebook.

Monday, 3 August 2015

Meet Me at the Honeymoon Suite- Charlotte Phillips

The Blurb

Happy ever after…?

Fascinated by weddings since her mother was jilted at the altar when she was seven years old, Amy Woods is a brilliantly efficient wedding organizer, thanks to her ability to see past all the emotion and magic of ‘the big day’. Now, after years of being the assistant, she’s landed her dream job as Wedding and Events Manager at exclusive boutique hotel The Lavington. All she needs to do is pull off her first wedding weekend without a hitch…

Unfortunately the groom turns out to be her own marriage-phobic ex-boyfriend, proving yet again that Amy is good enough to be the warm up act but never the real deal. Then she breaks all her own rules and sleeps with the delicious but definitely off limits best man! To pull off the perfect weekend now, she will need to be her most clear-headed and emotionless. But as she gets to know best man Owen outside the bedroom, keeping herself focussed on the task isn’t so easy anymore.

The Review

When you've loved a series it's always hard to say goodbye, and that's just how I feel about the Do Not Disturb series.  I've read all five novellas (and reviewed all except the first book here on Books with Bunny), and feel like I know the staff and guests of The Lavington boutique hotel inside out!

Meet Me at the Honeymoon Suite introduces Amy, the Wedding and Events Manager (who's new to the role and on probation, but ssshhhhh- let the clients believe she's experienced).  Determined to prove her worth and get confirmed in post, she needs everything to be perfect at this wedding.  The only problem is, the groom is her ex-boyfriend Luke Pemberton...

However, it turns out Amy should be more worried about Luke's charming, attractive best man Owen than her ex.  It's just a shame that both Owen and Amy are such workaholics, because despite the undeniable fireworks sparking between them and the pair ending up in bed together, it seems there's no chance of a future for the couple.

In keeping with the rest of the series, this finale is a great contemporary romance.  I enjoyed the wedding setting (I want the brides flowers- they sound absolutely divine- as do the champagne cocktails!) and the tension between the couple radiated off the page.  It sizzles!  I absolutely believed in Amy and Owen's relationship and the potential problems their 'all work and no play' attitude could have on it- but I crossed my fingers and toes for it to work out between them in the end.  This is romantic fiction, after all...

I'd highly recommend the whole series and I'm hoping there's more to come from Charlotte Phillips, and soon.  After saving these last two books to read for weeks, I read them both in a few hours- oops!  I really do need to learn to pace myself...but it's hard when you're enjoying something so much.

I'm going to miss the hotel itself too.  My trips to The Lavington are as luxurious as I'm getting at the moment and it's nice to be surrounded by opulence, celebrity and beautiful surroundings- even if it is only through fiction!

These books are perfect holiday reading- give them a whirl and let them whisk you away on a wave of humour, romance and most of all fun.

Meet Me at the Honeymoon Suite is out now, published by Harper Impulse.

With thanks to the publisher and netgalley for providing me with a copy of this book in return for my unbiased opinion.

I read this book as part of #HIReadathon- follow the hashtag on twitter or search for it on facebook to find out more about how you can get involved.

Sunday, 2 August 2015

Access All Areas- Charlotte Phillips

The Blurb

Sexy, addictive and just pure fun, don’t miss the next instalment in the Do Not Disturb series!
After losing her elderly parents, portrait photographer Anna will do anything to avoid losing the family home – the only thing she has left of her perfect childhood.

When a friend who works at the exclusive boutique hotel, The Lavington, provides a hot tip – an A list film star is staying there with her rumored toyboy lover – Anna comes up with a plan. A photo of them together could be the answer to all Anna’s money problems.

Unfortunately, she’s the worst paparazzi photographer on the planet and Jack, the hotel’s new head of security, back in England after globetrotting as bodyguard to the stars, isn’t about to allow a picture on his watch. No matter how cute the photographer might be…

The Review

I've been patiently waiting for #HIReadathon to come around because Access All Areas was one of the titles I had earmarked to read during the fortnight.  As soon as I woke up on August 1st I had this book up on my kindle ready to read.  I'd waited long enough!

Having enjoyed the previous three books in the Do Not Disturb series, I was very much looking forward to discovering what the Lavington hotel had in store this time.  As it turns out, it's a desperate Anna, smuggled into the hotel by her best friend Lucy, who's trying to get the big money shot of a big name celebrity couple.  However, she's caught in the act by the hotel's security manager Jack, who just happens to be pretty darn hot. 

I loved the balance between humour and mishaps as Anna tries to snap the elusive photo and romance between her and Jack.  How Charlotte Phillips manages to get this just right baffles me every time- it's not quite romantic comedy, yet there are laugh out loud funny moments.  It's by no means erotic fiction, but there's a few sizzling scenes.  It's not out and out emotional fiction, yet Anna's reasons for needing the money the photo will bring tugged hard on my heartstrings.  It's perfection in the form of contemporary romance. 

I'll be left with a few lasting images from this one (without giving too much away, Anna wearing clothes that are too small for her- I could see this so clearly in my mind!), and that is testament to the authors well-crafted descriptions. 

In my opinion, Harper Impulse have the best selection of romantic novellas on the market, and Access All Areas (and the whole Do Not Disturb series) are at the heart of that.  I loved it so, so much.  This is ideal summer reading and had me clamouring for the fifth and final Lavington book- Charlotte Phillips is just fantastic!

Access All Areas is out now, published by Harper Impulse.

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

I read this book as part of the #HIReadathon.  Find out more about to get involved here.

Saturday, 1 August 2015

What Happens to Men when they Move to Manhattan- Jill Knapp

The Blurb

Life in the city gives 23 year old Amalia Hastings a ride she is not expecting. As she tries to find her way on the little island that never sleeps, she discovers she has a harder time navigating through life then she does the streets of Greenwich Village!

She thought she had everything she wanted – a new apartment in Manhattan, a first-rate education at NYU, a group of trusted friends and Nicholas, a boyfriend who she once believed was her soul-mate. But somehow, it isn’t enough.

Stumbling through her relationships, Amalia encounters Michael. An attractive classmate who quickly moves from being one of her close friends, to an inconsistent friend-with-benefits. After all, the only thing consistent about New York is its beauty.

Amalia is essentially torn between two men, and Michael is torn between two women. Her best friend Cassandra is being strung along by her “boyfriend”, Bryce, and even her friend Olivia is having a secret relationship!

After getting terribly lost searching for love in all the wrong places, Amalia finds herself asking – what happens to men when they move to Manhattan?!

The Review

It's no secret that I'm a big fan of romantic fiction, and an even bigger fan of New York City. When the two are combined I'm always excited to see what's in store, and when I heard about What Happens to Men when they Move to Manhattan I couldn't wait to get stuck in.

There's very definitely a Sex and the City type feel to this one!  Protagonist Amalia is one of the privileged girls, with a posh apartment, attractive boyfriend Nicholas and a group of stylish, well-to-do friends.  But then there's college mate Michael, throwing a spanner in the works...

At first I found her quite an irritating character, almost brattish.  But then she's a 23 year old trying to find her place in the world, so I cut her a bit of slack and although I didn't find her particularly likable, nor relatable, I felt I at least understood her.

When Amalia's dumped with no solid explanation, seeds of doubts about her future are sewn.  This is what made me warm to her slightly- when it was clear that although she had a lot of material goods and a seemingly perfect life, she actually still faced the same issues as many other girls her age- although she retained her strong attitude. 

There's quite a lot of socialising and a fair few petty disagreements, which I suppose is true for people in their early twenties!  Perhaps I'm a bit too far removed from this scene now to relate to this culture, but I imagine for readers in their late teens and early twenties, or fans of NA generally, there might be more connection to the characters which would have perhaps enhanced my enjoyment.

That said, it's an easy book to read- I was surprised when I reached the end because I didn't feel I'd been reading for that long!  That's a credit to Jill Knapp's voice; her chatty flow made me zoom through the book even though there were times when the subject matter didn't grab me.

Overall, by the time I reached the final pages and Amalia had followed the path of self discovery, I cared enough about her to want to know what happens next- which is a good thing because What Happens to Men when they Move to Manhattan is the first in a series!  If you like your heroine's feisty, then this could be one for you.

What Happens to Men when they Move to Manhattan is available now in ebook and paperback formats, published by Harper Impulse.

With thanks to the publisher who provided me with a review copy of this book in return for my honest opinion.