Monday, 15 December 2014

Book Review - A Season to Remember by Shelia O'Flanagan

A Season to Remember
A Season to Remember by Shelia O'Flanagan
Published: 27th October 2011
Publisher: Headline Review
Pages: 372
Available in Hardback, Paperback and on Kindle
In this collection of interlinked short stories Sheila O'Flanagan brings her own trademark sparkle to Christmas - a time when friends, families and lovers traditionally come together and when every person is hoping their wishes will come true.
Firstly I would like to thank bookbridgr and Headline Review for sending me a copy to review, it’s been a long time since I read a novel by Shelia O’Flanagan and it was a pleasure to read something by her again.  Unlike her other books A Season to Remember is a collection of short stories all linked because they take place at The Sugar Loaf Lodge. I didn’t realise this initially and was worried I wouldn’t enjoy this book as much because of it, but I’m pleased to say it was a joy to read and definitely put me in a festive mood.
The Sugar Loaf Lodge is run by Neil and Claire Archer, who have turned it from derelict old house with a tragic past into a luxury boutique hotel, which I would love to visit myself one day! The book begins by introducing us to Neil and Clare and we learn that they are having financial difficulties and have hardly any bookings for over Christmas. They’ve just rejected a deal to sell the hotel to a large company, financially this was maybe not the best decision but they both feel a connection to the hotel, Claire especially. Somehow the Sugar Loaf becomes fully booked for Christmas and they begin to welcome their guests for the season.
Each of the rooms in the hotel are named after Irish mountains and so are the chapter titles, in each chapter we meet the room occupants and learn  their background story and find out how they ended up at the Sugar Loaf Lodge for Christmas. I really liked this and was surprised how much background details we learn about these characters in such a short amount of time, they felt like we’d known them for much longer than a few pages.  Not all of their stories are happy ones but I loved the way that while at the Sugar Loaf they all seemed to let their worries melt away and enjoyed themselves.
The Sugar Loaf Lodge for me was the perfect place to set a Christmas story, the place just oozes luxury with its first class restaurant and award winning spa. Set at the foot of the mountains in lovely grounds it makes the perfect place to spend Christmas, I mean who can resist roaring log fires at Christmas?
Louisa’s story was my favourite as it gave the Lodge some history and helped to bring the whole book together as you could begin to see how Claire felt such a connection to the place and why the guests felt so spoilt. I also liked the way the last couple of stories tied many of the characters together as they celebrated Christmas Day together, this for me made this book better the a short story collection. I would love for Shelia O’Flanagan to write more about some of these characters as I’d love to know what happens next to them.
If you are looking for a feel good Christmas read then I can highly recommend this book, it highlights the fact we don’t always get on with our families but at Christmas we try our best to compromise and come together to make the best of what we have. It has left me with a lovely warm Christmassy glow and a longing to go to The Sugar Loaf Lodge myself someday.
Rating 4/5

Friday, 5 December 2014

Book Review - A New York Christmas by Anne Perry

A New York Christmas (Christmas Stories, #12)
A New York Christmas by Anne Perry
Released: 23rd October 2014
Publisher: Headline
Pages: 154
Available in Hardback and on Kindle
December, 1904. Jemima Pitt, now twenty-two, agrees to act as a “suitable companion” to her friend Delphinia, who is traveling to New York to be married to Brent Albright, toast of New York high society. Jemima is excited about the prospect of a Christmas adventure in a strange big city, but little does she expect to be enlisted on a top secret mission by Brent’s brother Harley, to track down Delphinia’s estranged mother. After some detective work and a little luck, they manage to locate her lodgings—but to their horror, they find Maria dead. Truly her parents’ daughter, Jemima is determined to unmask the killer, and enlists the aid of handsome young police officer Patrick Flannery to do it. And along the way she comes to learn an important lesson about staying true to oneself, no matter the cost. Once again, as only she can, Perry delivers a darkly suspenseful, ultimately heart-warming novel that truly captures the essence of the holiday spirit.
Jemima Pitt, I’m assuming the daughter of Inspector Pitt in one of Perry’s others series’ is heading to New York to accompany her wealthy young friend Delphinia Cardew to New York to marry into the Albright family, who are the cream of New York society. On arrival Jemima finds herself mixed up in the murder of Maria, a women believed to be Delphinia’s estranged mother. Jemima must use all her detective skills picked up from her father to help her out of trouble.
I really wanted to enjoy this story more than the previous Anne Perry novel which I read, but sadly I did not. I found the characters weak and the plotline bordering on ridiculous. The first thing that bothered me was that Jemima at twenty-three is considered past-it and only useful as a chaperone to nineteen year old Phinnie. Jemima herself came across very easily led, all Harley Albright had to do was smile at her and she followed him round New York on a silly quest, later on in the story she meets Patrick Flannery again who again pays her a little attention and she’s smitten, which made her seem a little desperate. I found Phinnie to be an incredibly annoying character; she was so smug about her fancy wedding, if I was Jemima I would have smacked her.
There was no mystery around the murder, it was obvious who has done it and why and I really couldn’t understand why Jemima was unable to see what was right in front of her nose. It lacked any kind a depth which makes a good crime novel. As for this being a Christmas novella, well the only link to Christmas throughout the whole book is the fact that New York is covered in snow, a very weak link to Christmas.
I’m glad that this was a short novella as it only took me an hour to read, any longer and I think I would have given up. I know Anne Perry has a huge following and has written a great number of books but they are not for me. I would like to thank bookbridgr for sending me a copy to review; sadly I can only give this book 1/5.

Thursday, 4 December 2014

Release Day Round Up #13

This week there are five books which have been released which have taken my interest:

You Think You Know Me
You Think You Know Me by Clare Chase
Released: 3rd December 2014
Publisher: Choc Lit Uk
Available on Kindle
Sometimes, it’s not easy to tell the good guys from the bad …

Freelance journalist, Anna Morris, is struggling to make a name for herself, so she’s delighted to attend a launch event for a hip, young artist at her friend Seb’s gallery.

But an exclusive interview isn’t all Anna comes away with. After an encounter with the enigmatic Darrick Farron, she is flung into the shady underground of the art scene – a world of underhand dealings, missing paintings and mysterious deaths …

Seb is intent on convincing Anna that Darrick is up to no good but, try as she might, she can’t seem to keep away from him. And as she becomes further embroiled, Anna begins to wonder – is Seb’s behaviour the well-intentioned concern of an old friend, or does he have something to hide?
I am lucky enough to have a review copy of this sent from Choc Lit UK, I've only read a few chapters but so far it seems really good, look out for my review next week.
I’ll Take New York
I'll Take New York by Miranda Dickinson
Released: 4th December 2014
Publisher: Avon
Pages: 416
Available in Paperback and on Kindle
Have you ever given up on love?

When her boyfriend lets her down for the last time, Brooklyn bookshop owner Bea James makes a decision – no more. No more men, no more heartbreak, and no more pain.

Psychiatrist Jake Steinmann is making a new start too, leaving his broken marriage behind in San Francisco. From now on there'll just be one love in his life: New York.

At a party where they seem to be the only two singletons, Bea and Jake meet, and decide there’s just one thing for it. They will make a pact: no more relationships.
I haven't read many Miranda Dickinson novels but I don't think I can resist the cover of this one with it gold highlights, plus it seems a like a good plot line.

The Snow Angel by Lulu Taylor
Released: 4th December 2014
Publisher: Pan
Pages: 400
Available in Paperback and on Kindle
Order now from Amazon
A forbidden passion. A lifetime of consequences.

Cressida Felbridge is living the high life as a debutante in 1960s London society when she is courted by a friend of her brother's and set to marry. Wishing only the best for his daughter, her father decrees that she must have her portrait painted to mark the occasion. But as soon as she meets the painter Ralph Few, Cressie knows her life will never be the same again. Soon, she is deeply in love with Ralph, but there is one problem: Ralph is still married to Catherine. As Cressie is drawn into a strange, triangular relationship, Catherine's behaviour becomes increasingly erratic and Ralph and Cressie escape to Cressie's family home in Cumbria. But Catherine will not give up Ralph that easily . . .
In the present day, Emily Conway has everything she could wish for: a huge house in West London, two beautiful children and a successful husband, Will. But as Emily and Will drive to a party, Will reveals that he has been betrayed by his business partner. Steering the car off the road at high speed, their perfect life is abruptly ended. When she wakes from her injuries, Emily is told of a mysterious legacy: a house in Cumbria on the edge of an estate, left to her by a woman she has never met. Could this house provide the chance to start anew, or does it hold secrets that she must uncover before it can be at peace?
Lulu Taylor is one of my favourite authors and anything she writes will definitely end up on my bookshelf. I have a copy of this one on its way to me, so keep an eye out for my review in the next few weeks.

A Christmas Feast and other stories

A Christmas Feast by Katie Fforde
Released: 4th December 2014
Publisher: Arrow
Pages: 240
Available in Paperback and on Kindle

Add some extra sparkle to your Christmas by joining Katie Fforde for a perfect, romantic Christmas feast of short stories. Collected together for the first time and including one brand new story.

Make your Christmas wishes come true...
I have a review copy of this to read and I'm really looking forward to grabbing a few moments here and there the read a story all in one go. Look out for my review soon.

Red Rose, White Rose
Red Rose, White Rose by Joanna Hickson
Released: 4th December 2014
Publisher: Harper
Pages: 400
Available in paperback and on Kindle

Richard, the thirteen-year-old Duke of York, England’s richest heir.
Told through the eyes of Cicely and her half-brother Cuthbert, Red Rose, White Rose is the story of one of the most powerful women in England during one of its most turbulent periods. Born of Lancaster and married to York, the willowy and wayward Cicely treads a hazardous path through love, loss and imprisonment and between the violent factions of Lancaster and York, as the Wars of the Roses tear England’s ruling families apart.
So nearly queen herself, Cicely Neville was the mother, grandmother and great-grandmother of kings – and her descendants still wear the crown.
I haven't read an historical fiction in ages, so when I came across this book it seemed perfect. I've not read anything by this author before and very little about the Neville family, so looking forward to getting a chance to read this sometime.
This will be my last Release Day Round for 2014. I hope you have enjoyed taking a look at my favourite releases and have found some interesting books to add to your tbr piles. I will be back on January 1st with the first Release Day Round Up of 2015.

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Book Review - A Christmas Hope by Anne Perry

A Christmas Hope
A Christmas Hope (Christmas Novellas #11) by Anne Perry
Published: October 23rd 2014 (Paperback)
Publisher: Headline
Pages: 165
Available in Hardback, Paperback and on Kindle
London, 1868. As the Christmas season begins, Claudine Burroughs feels little joy in its endless social calls and extravagant events. Working at a clinic for desperate women has opened her eyes to a different world.

Then her two worlds collide. A prostitute smuggled into a grandiose Christmas party is found brutally beaten. Poet Dai Tregarron stands accused. But Dai insists he was trying to protect her from the violence of three young men. Claudine believes him, but with society closing ranks against him, how can she prove his innocence without risking everything?

This was my first experience with an Anne Perry Christmas novella and I found it to be a gritty look at Victorian England. The blurb sounded intriguing and I was hoping for a mystery set among the grandeur of a Victorian Christmas, instead I got a slightly depressing look at the morals of the Victorian upper classes, done in a way which I found slightly repetitive.
Claudine Burroughs is an outsider in her social circle and spends much of her time helping less fortunate women in a clinic. I wanted to feel something kind of empathy for her as she’s not happy in her marriage to her husband who clearly doesn’t love her but she just came across as a rather dull character.
There is no real mystery to the story as it’s obvious to the reader what happened to the poor young woman. This is more a story of Claudine trying to find a way to convince people to do the right thing and not let their social standing impact on their actions. It gives a very bleak view of the concept of marriage in Victorian England; love is not a factor often considered it seems, this for me made a quite bleak story. I’m someone who loves a little romance in a book, especially at Christmas.
If you are a fan of stories set in Victorian times you will probably enjoy the bleak realism this book portrays, for me it lacked depth in the mystery and was missing a little Christmas spirit.
Thank you to bookridgr for sending me a copy to review. Rating 2/5

Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Top Ten Tuesday - Books I'm Looking Forward to in 2015

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. Each week they create a new bookish top ten list, this week it is books we're looking forward to reading in 2015. This has been the easiest list for me to create in sometime as there are loads of books looking good for next year, so here's my top ten:
I am a huge Milly Johnson fan and have been waiting for this ever since I saw it pop up on Amazon. There's no cover picture yet but I'm sure it will be as lovely as all the others.
 The Woman Who Fell in Love for a Week
2. The Women Who Fell in Love for a Week by Fiona Walker, released 8th January 2015 in hardback
Again another author who I love and am always eagerly awaiting the next book from. They always end up making me feel really good.
Second Life
3. Second Life by SJ Watson, released 12th February 2015
Before I Go To Sleep was a brilliant debut and his second book sounds as if it will be just as good, if not better. Definitely one which will be one my pre-order list for next year.
4. Creature Comforts by Trisha Ashley, released 18th June 2015
Another favourite author who's books always make me smile. How cute is the name Halfhidden for a village name?
The Cake Shop In The Garden
5. The Cake Shop in the Garden by Carole Matthews, released 18th January 2015
I am determined in 2015 to read all the books in Carole's back catalogue that I haven't read and as there are 25 in total I have a few to go at. This is her newest one and the cover looks yummy!
6. The Dandelion Years by Erica James, released 26th February 2015
Erica James has a real talent for creating likable characters in a plotline which always has a little bit of mystery and I love reading her books. As this is set in a big country house I'm sure I will love it.
7. Summer at Shell Cottage by Lucy Diamond, released 4th June 2015
Lucy Diamond is a recent discovery for me but I love the books of hers that I have read. This will be her second book to be released next year. I already have a proof copy of her first The Year of Taking Chances and I'm excited to start reading it straight after Christmas.
8. A Vintage Wedding by Katie Fforde, released 12th February 2015
I have a dream of one day having my own vintage style wedding so I can't wait to read this book to maybe pick up a few ideas.
The Life I Left Behind
9. The Life I Left Behind by Colette McBeth, released 1st January 2015
This is Colette's second novel and looks like it has a really intriguing plot which I can't wait to read, not long till release day.
10. One Small Act of Kindness by Lucy Dillon, released 24th April 2015
I love Lucy's books, they have a lovely magical quality to them which makes for a great read, cannot wait for this one to be released.
So that's my list of books I'm most looking forward to in 2015, I'm sure there will be many more books that I will add to this list as the year gets under way. What are you most looking forward to reading next year? Take a look at other people's lists here.

Monday, 1 December 2014

Book Review - Bewitched,Bothered and Bewildered

Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered
Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered by Kerry Barrett
Published: 31st October 2013
Publisher: Carina UK
Available on Kindle
Part-time witch, full-time glamorous high-flyer Esme Mcleod rubs shoulders with celebrities for a living, has a sort-of-boyfriend …and just enough magic in her fingertips to solve life’s little irritations; why shouldn’t she cast a little spell to catch the busy barman’s attention, or to summon a latte to aid her all-nighters?

Called back to her small Scottish home town and meddling family, stiletto-clad Esme is way out of her comfort zone… But Esme must embrace her abilities as a witch, or watch her family lose their beloved café.

Except Esme has never claimed to be a whizz at witchcraft, and her charms are starting to go awry - she certainly never meant to cast a love spell on her ex-boyfriend Jamie! It’s time for urgent lessons in magic as well as love – it seems there’s only so much that muttering a few words over cupcake batter will fix…
I was kindly sent the third book in the Could It Be Magic series by Kerry Barrett to review, having not read the first two I decided to start at the beginning of the story with Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered as it sounded like a series I would love.
Esme Mcleod is a witch who works as a family lawyer in London. She has been away from from her family up in Scotland since she was a teenager. She had a disagreement with her mother over the use of magic, which Esme is not a fan of, except for when that coffee cup just needs to come a bit nearer or the barman aren’t looking her way. Her family practise magic on a daily basis in their café, helping people whether they ask for it or not.  When her cousin Harry (Harmony) asks her to come home and her run the family business as her Aunt Suky is ill with cancer Esme has no choice but to return to the home she fled from years earlier.  Esme soon realises it’s not just Suky’s illness which is making the café business suffer and the only way she can help her family is to put her magic skills to good use.
I really liked the main character Esme; I loved the way that she defended her family from outsiders even though she didn’t completely agree with what they were up to herself. She also had a way of getting into scrapes with her magic which were quite funny, such as turning one of the villagers into a frog. My favourite scenes with Esme were when she got drunk in the pub with her old friend Chloe and tried to convince her old boyfriend to date the much younger barmaid, really funny!
This is a story filled with heart-warming characters full of family loyalty, a little romance and some quite sad parts with Suky’s storyline. The story moves at a fairly fast pace and is sprinkled with magic and humour throughout which will leave you, like me wanting to find out what happen next for Esme and her family.
Rating 4/5