Thursday, 30 June 2016

This Last Kiss by Madeleine Reiss

This Last Kiss

This Last Kiss by Madeleine Reiss
Published: 30th June 2016
Publisher: Zaffre (twenty7)
Pages: 327
Available in paperback and on Kindle
Rating: 3/5

Rora Raine is finally coming home to Hastings, twelve years after she left her grief-stricken father, and fled the love of her life, Carl.

Struggling to support her bright but troubled daughter, Rora has convinced herself she'll never love again.

When she meets a bumblingly charming stranger, Rora's heart begins to thaw.

But, try as she might, she can't run from true love forever.

Funny, warm-hearted and soaringly romantic, This Last Kiss is the redemptive story of two star-crossed lovers, told through each and every kiss they share.

This Last Kiss is Madeleine Reiss’s second novel but the first which I have read. Rora Raine has finally come back to her hometown of Hastings to visit her estranged father who is dying. Twelve years ago Rora fled to London after a beach party went badly wrong, leaving behind her grieving father and the love of her life Carl. As Rora and her daughter Ursula begin to rebuild their life in Hastings can the events of the past ever be laid to rest?
The Last Kiss is written through 22 of Rora’s “kisses” starting back in 1996 when she first met Carl moving back and forth between then and the present day of 2010.  I thought this was a very clever way of writing the book as many of us have special kisses which have defined important events in our lives and this is reflected in the book.  The writing flows seamlessly between the different times making the story flow well.
I enjoyed reading This Last Kiss, my favourite parts were when Rora and Carl were teenagers and were experiencing there first flushes of love and romance. Madeleine Reiss has captured their youthful innocence perfectly, making them quite endearing at this point in the book. As grown I wasn’t as keen on Rora, she seemed a little be too self-absorbed in her own problems to pay full attention to daughter Ursula’s problems. It isn’t until Rora’s father makes a passing comment that Rora even realises her daughter is being bullied at her new school. I liked the characters of Carl and Krystof very much as felt they added some light-heartedness to a very emotional book. Carl with his extreme dare-devil behaviours and Krystof with his over the top declarations of love.
I felt overall this was a book that was incredibly sad and left me feeling a bit flat. So many sad things happen in this book that it’s hard to imagine Rora and Ursula will ever get their happy ever after as every time they come close something happens and it’s snatched away from them.
This Last Kiss is a book about forgiveness, about first loves and true loves and of being able to find peace in things and move on. If you enjoyed reading Me Before You by Jojo Moyes, One Day by David Nicholls or One Summer Night by Emily Bold then I think you will enjoy This Last Kiss as it has the same emphasis of enjoying love and romance before it ultimately ends.
Thank you so much to the publishers for sending me a copy to review in exchange for my honest opinions.

GIVEAWAY - The publishers have kindly offered three copies of This Last Kiss to giveaway on my twitter account so pop on over to @joanne2913 and enter - UK only please at the publishers request.

Wednesday, 29 June 2016

The Secret of Orchard Cottage by Alex Brown

The Secret of Orchard Cottage

The Secret of Orchard Cottage by Alex Brown
Published: 2nd June 2016
Publisher: Harper
Pages: 400
Available in Paperback and on Kindle
Rating: 5/5

April Wilson is wondering what to do next – her life has been turned upside down after the loss of her husband so she’s hoping to piece herself together again with a visit to her elderly great aunt, Edith. Arriving in the rural idyll of Tindledale, she’s dismayed to find Edith’s cottage and the orchards surrounding it in a sorry state of disrepair. Edith seems to have lost interest completely, instead she’s become desperate to find out what happened to her sister, Winnie, who disappeared during WWII.

April gets to work immediately, discovering that the orchard still delivers a bumper crop each year, and with the help of some of the villagers – including Matt, the enigmatic Farrier – begins to unravel the mystery of the missing Winnie. Slowly,
April can feel things coming to life again – but can Orchard Cottage work its magic on her too?

The Secret of Orchard Cottage is Alex Brown’s third novel set in the lovely village of Tindledale. Having read only the first book The Great Christmas Knit-Off, which I loved, I wasn’t sure if the books followed on, however as each book focuses on different members of the village I believe you can read them in any order.
In the Secret of Orchard Cottage we meet April Wilson, who after grieving for her husband Graham for eighteen months decides it’s time for a change and heads off to visit her old Aunt Edie in Tindledale, who she has sadly lost touch with as she cared for her terminally ill husband.
On arrival April finds things in a very overgrown state and her Aunt in a very confused state as she keeps calling April Winnie. Who is Winnie and why is her Aunt so fixated on what happened to her? As April’s visit nears its end she feels very apprehensive about leaving her Aunt and retuning home so when step-daughter Nancy reassures her everything’s fine at home April decides to stay at Orchard Cottage and help her Aunt solve the mystery of Winnie and where she is.
Right from the start of reading this I was struck by the different tone Alex Brown has set for this novel, it seems deeper and more emotional.  Which given the themes of bereavement and dealing with Dementia is understandable. This isn’t a sad book though, in fact I found it to be a very heart-felt and uplifting novel.  For fans of Alex’s previous novels there is still that special something which makes her writing just come alive, especially with the number of wonderful comical moments throughout the book, which were probably my favourite parts.
I love the characters that Alex Brown creates and there are some lovely ones here. April herself is a lovely lady who has a heart of gold but has sadly missed her chance to have children when her husband became ill. She instantly forms a bond with teenager Bella, who just happens to be the daughter of April’s childhood sweetheart Matt. She also becomes closer to step-daughter Nancy when she comes to visit and together they help Edie to piece together the mystery of Winnie, her sister who vanished in the war. These women also manage to bring to bring Orchard Cottage back to its former glory, despite a few hiccups along the way.
The Secret of Orchard Cottage has everything I want in a book, a beautiful setting, some heart-warming characters and a little bit of mystery. I loved this book and think it should be on everyone’s reading list this summer as Alex Brown has once again shown what a gifted storyteller she is.
Thank you so much to the publishers and Netgalley for my review copy in exchange for my honest opinions.

Wednesday, 22 June 2016

Counting Chimneys by Sandy Taylor

Counting Chimneys: A novel of love, heartbreak and romance in 1960s Brighton (Brighton Girls Trilogy Book 2)

Counting Chimneys by Sandy Taylor
Published: 10th June 2016
Publisher: Bookouture
Available in paperback and on Kindle
Rating: 5/5

Brighton 1969: Dottie Perks steps off the train and breathes in the sea air, the smell of fish and chips, and the precious childhood memories of a friend and place she’ll never forget.

Dottie Perks has forged a new life for herself in London, a new job and sweet boyfriend Joe to keep her warm at night. She’s safe, happy and loved. What more could she ask for?

But when Dottie returns home to Brighton for a family celebration, the last person she expects to see is her first love; the boy who stole her heart… and broke it. Ralph Bennett.

As old familiar feelings come rushing to the surface, Dottie struggles to deny the strong chemistry that still exists between them. She can’t throw away everything to be with Ralph…can she? And if she does, how can they ever overcome the pain and tragedy of their shared past?

Counting Chimneys is the second novel in the Brighton Girls Trilogy by Sandy Taylor. If you haven’t read the first book The Girls from See-Saw Lane, then I really suggest you do as it gives you Dottie’s history, plus it’s a fantastic read.
Counting Chimneys starts four years after the first book ended and Dottie has moved to London to try and forget about all the heart-break she left behind in Brighton. She’s made a new life for herself, sharing a flat with a girl called Polly and has a job on a music magazine called Trend, she even has a lovely new boyfriend called Joe. Everything is going alright for Dottie until she has to return to Brighton for a family christening and who should also be there, but Ralph Bennett, the love of her life and the reason for all her heart-break. As soon as she sees Ralph Dottie’s life is thrown upside down once more as she realises she still loves him and probably always will. Can Dottie throw away her life in London for a second chance with Ralph and will it be happy ever after if she does?
Once again I was easily drawn into Dottie’s story. Sandy Taylor has a way of writing which mixes perfectly emotions, drama and wonderful descriptions making Counting Chimneys, like her previous book a joy to read. 
I loved all the new characters which have been introduced in this book, Polly, Rose, Matthew, Tristan and Stephen all give Dottie some support when once again heartbreak strikes and become like a second family to her. They also added some light-hearted moments such as Stephen and Tristan taking their cat Colin for a walk, that just made me laugh. Even snotty-nosed sister Rita has some moments of being bearable for Dottie.
Sandy Taylor seems to have captured 1960s life perfectly.  Along with it still frowned upon to have unmarried couples staying over with each other, there are hostilities towards those who are different. I loved that Dottie wasn’t fazed by any of this and made her own mind about people, becoming close to Stephen, Tristan and Matthew despite the looks and comments she received.  I felt this showed how much Dottie had changed and grown up from The Girls in See-Saw Lane when she was a teenager and always concerned about her weight and how she looked and what other people thought of her. I can’t wait for the third book to see how Dottie changes as she hits her thirties.
I found Counting Chimneys to be just as enjoyable as Sandy’s first book and hope we don’t have to wait too long before we find out if Dottie can have a happy ever after that lasts.
Thank you so much to Bookouture and Netgalley for the review copy in exchange for my honest opinions.

Wednesday, 8 June 2016

Daughters of the Silk Road by Debbie Rix

Daughters of the Silk Road

Daughters of the Silk Road by Debbie Rix
Published: 15th April 2016
Publisher: Bookouture
Pages: 298

‘She crossed over to the shelf where her father kept the dragon vase. He had placed it there when they first arrived in Venice. She took it down carefully, feeling it cool and comforting under her shaking fingers.’
Venice 1441: Maria and her brother Daniele arrive in the birthplace of their father, Niccolo dei Conti. An Italian merchant who has travelled far and wide, Niccolo has brought spices from India, lengths of silk and damask from the lands east of India and porcelain; a vase of pure white, its surface decorated with a cobalt blue dragon, the Chinese symbol of good fortune.
Maria settles in her new home, watching the magnificent and bustling city come to life each morning from her bedroom window. But while her father is away travelling, she soon finds herself and Daniele in terrible danger. She must protect her brother at whatever cost, and she must guard the delicate vase.
London 2015: Single mother Miranda is struggling to make ends meet and build a new life for her and daughter Georgie. When Miranda meets the charming but mysterious Charles, she is intrigued. Could he be her second chance at love? And why is he so fascinated by the old vase sitting on her hall table…

Daughters of the Silk Road is the second novel by Debbie Rix and one I was very much looking forward to after reading her debut novel Secrets of the Tower last year. Initially I was struck by how utterly gorgeous the cover of this book is, it just screams opulence and exotic travels to me.

Like her previous novel this is written in a dual time-frame, one set in the present day with bookshop worker Miranda and her daughter Georgie. The second is set initially in 1441 and covers almost two hundred years up to the middle of the 17th century. In Secrets of the Tower this dual aspect time frame worked extremely well as both the past and present wove together to create one story. In Daughters of the Silk Road I think Debbie has been slightly less successful in creating a cohesive story. I think the main reason for this is that the story set in the past is stretched too far. In the beginning we meet Maria and her brother Daniele and learn how the Ming Vase was brought to Europe but as the story progresses we hop forward in time and are told snippets of history from various members of their family. These were enjoyable on their own but I felt they were more like individual short stories rather than cohesive chapters in a novel.

I think story set in the present day was my favourite part and would have liked more from Miranda and Georgie. I really liked the fact that Georgie never seemed to give her mum much grief for not having much money and loads of new things, something which I know a lot of teenagers would moan about.  I loved  that sometimes it felt like Georgie was the mum and Miranda was the kid, especially after she falls for evil Charles and is mooning around waiting for him to call again and Georgie makes her get on with things. Speaking of Charles, he seemed like he was hiding something right from the start and I didn’t like him one bit. I thought he had the perfect ending to his story.

One thing which frustrated me and which I felt would have brought the story together was how Miranda ending up having the vase sat on her hall table in London when the last we knew of it in historical context was it was in Amsterdam. What happened in between?

I think Debbie Rix is a phenomenal researcher of history and this really shines through in her novels. Her descriptions of the places and times were amazing and so incredibly detailed that I felt completely immersed the scene, right down to how the streets smelt.

Although I enjoyed Daughters of the Silk Road, for me I felt it wasn’t quite as good as her first novel, so I’m rating this book 4 out of 5.

Thank you to the publishers for this copy to review in exchange for my honest opinions.

Monday, 6 June 2016

Summer at Skylark Farm by Heidi Swain

Summer at Skylark Farm

Summer at Skylark Farm by Heidi Swain
Published: 2nd June 2016
Publisher: Simon & Schuster UK
Pages: 464
Available in e-book

Amber is a city girl at heart. So when her boyfriend Jake Somerville suggests they move to the countryside to help out at his family farm, she doesn't quite know how to react. But work has been hectic and she needs a break so she decides to grasp the opportunity and make the best of it.

Dreaming of organic orchards, paddling in streams and frolicking in fields, Amber packs up her things and moves to Skylark Farm. But life is not quite how she imagined - it's cold and dirty and the farm buildings are dilapidated and crumbling.

But Amber is determined to make the best of it and throws herself into farm life. But can she really fit in here? And can she and Jake stay together when they are so different?

Heidi’s first novel The Cherry Tree CafĂ© is a book which sadly I have on my kindle but due to getting married the week after it was released I’ve not read it, so I was unprepared for just how much I was going to love Summer at Skylark Farm. It was just the absolutely perfect book for me as being a country girl I love reading about village life with its community spirit, village fetes, cosy teashops and everyone gather in the local pub on a Friday night and Summer at Skylark Farm has this in bucket loads.
Amber works in corporate events and has become her bosses go-to girl when he has a problem, something Amber used to dream of but now her job is overtaking her weekends and quality time with boyfriend Jake and Amber starts to realise its time for a change.  So when Jake drops the bombshell that he’s moving to the country to help his aunty run Skylark Farm Amber decides to pack her job in and join him.
Armed with her floral wellies, Boden tops and a pile of Country Living magazine Amber throws herself into farm life, even if it is a little colder and more run-down than the glossy image she imagined. Soon she’s taken charge of the chickens and keeping a watchful eye over Pip the pony and has even made friends with Annie’s dogs.
It’s not long before Amber has become firm friends with local girls Jess and Harriet and has become part of the community even offering to take over the hosting of the May fair, but with Annie and Jake both hiding secrets can Amber commit to a life on the farm once she knows everything.
Amber is one of those characters who you just can’t help but adore. Right from the start of the book you can tell she’s a very determined lady who believes in doing her best to make people happy, even to the extent of her own happiness. I was so glad she decides to leave her job and move to Skylark Farm as almost instantly she becomes happier and more relaxed, finding joy in the little things in life like baking her own cake and having a clean henhouse.  I loved how she formed easy friendships with both Harriet and Jess and it was a real friendship where you’re not afraid to say exactly what you think and this made for some funny moments.
I loved many of the other characters, especially Annie, she might be old but she’s totally clued up and doesn’t miss a thing and I loved how she sort acted as a mother figure for Amber when she was finding things tough. I also loved how the farm animals also had their own personalities and love that Patricia the hen and Pip the Pony both have their own share of the drama.
I found Summer at Skylark farm a wonderful read full of lovable characters, with a dreamy setting of the farm and surrounding orchards and it had enough drama to keep me entertained. I think it’s the perfect book to kick-start your summer reading and one which could easily become one of my go to favourites when I need a little pick me up. So go and grab yourselves a copy and spend an idyllic afternoon down on the farm.
Thank you so much to the publishers for sending me a copy to review in exchange for my honest opinions, I think Summer at Skylark Farm by Heidi Swain deserves a big fat 5 out 5 stars.

Wednesday, 1 June 2016

Monthly Wrap-Up May 2016

May has been a really busy month for me and my family, we've had loads of birthday parties to attend which has been lovely but hasn't left as much time for reading. We've also being spending a lot of time in our vegetable garden which is now full of little vegetable plants and seedlings.

So here are the books I've managed to finish reading this month:

Bind (The Donovan Dynasty #1)  My Husband's WifeThis Must Be the Place  The Butterfly Summer

Play Dead How to Find Love in a Bookshop The Secret of Orchard Cottage

This month I have yet again been sent some fabulous book from publishers: to Find Your (First) Husband The Beekeeper's Secret How to Find Love in a Bookshop Lie With Me The House on Sunset Lake

The Madam The Comfort of Others

Massive thank you to all the publishers and authors which have sent me books this month, I'm really looking forward to reading all of them.

Once again I've gone crazy on Netgalley, surprise, surprise! Requesting all the fabulous books is becoming an addiction and I really need to find a away to read at least three times faster to catch up. So here is the massive list that's made it onto my Kindle this month:

The Santiago Sisters Love, or Nearest Offer Florence Grace Cupcakes and Confetti (The Little Wedding Shop by the Sea, Book 1) Summer at the Comfort Food Cafe: A funny, heartwarming and feel good summer romance The Secret of Orchard Cottage Dear Amy Daisy in Chains The Couple Next Door Summer at Skylark Farm The Revelations of Carey Ravine The Paris Secret Don't You Forget About Me The Last Days of Summer Last to die Lovers and Liars: An addictive sexy beach read
The Night Stalker (DCI Erika Foster, #2)The Little Village Bakery Those Summer Nights Learning to Love Counting Chimneys: A novel of love, heartbreak and romance in 1960s Brighton (Brighton Girls Trilogy Book 2) Before You Summer at Oyster Bay The Girl and the Sunbird: East Africa 1903: A beautiful, epic story of love, loss and hope. Truly Madly Guilty

I'm currently reading:

Summer at Skylark Farm All Things Cease to AppearLife SwapMy Kind of Wonderful (Cedar Ridge, #2) The One-in-a-Million Boy Song of the Sea Maid

As you can see I haven't read much more of most of these so this month I'm challenging myself to finish all of these. I'd also like to try and push myself and finish ten books this month, which should be quite hard as I've been averaging seven books a month but we'll see.

And finally onto my book of the month which has to be:

Play Dead

I absolutely love everything about Angela Marsons' D.I Stone novels, for me they are crime perfection and her latest Play Dead was just as good as her previous three, I'm just sad now as I've read them all.

So until next month Happy Reading

Joanne x