Thursday, 22 September 2016

Blog Tour Review: Nice Day For A White Wedding by A.L. Michael

Nice Day for a White Wedding by A.L. Michael
Published: 22nd August 2016
Publisher: Carina UK
Pages: 187
Available on Kindle

Sometimes, Happy Ever After is where the real trouble begins...
Chelsea Donnolly wasn’t supposed to amount to anything. But if there’s one thing the bad girl
from the estate liked better than trouble, it was a challenge. So, to the amusement of her best
friends Evie, Mollie and Ruby – and the disbelief of her teachers – this bad girl turned good.
These days, Chelsea is the kind of girl people are proud to know – and, after a surprise trip to
Venice, she has a ring on her finger to prove it. But to get there, she’s had to learn to keep her
deepest secrets from everyone – even her fiancé. And when wedding preparations threaten to blow
her cover, Chelsea can’t help but wonder: in her battle to the top, might she have left the best parts
of herself behind?

 Nice Day for a White Wedding is the second book in the Camden House series by A.L. Michael. It follows on from the first book Goodbye Ruby Tuesday but this time the main character is Chelsea and not Evie.
At the beginning of this book life couldn’t be better for Chelsea, she’s back in touch with her old school friends and their creative arts project The Ruby Rooms is doing really well, she’s doing great in her job and things are perfect with boyfriend Kit. When Kit whisks Chelsea off for a spur of the moment romantic holiday and proposes in Venice Chelsea couldn’t be happier, until she realises that they will have to now meet each other’s families. Something Chelsea has been dreading for months as Kit has no idea about Chelsea’s past or even her real surname, so meeting her family will be a shock for him.
Kit suggests they spend a few days with his family at their Italian holiday home. Reluctantly Chelsea agrees and what she finds when she arrives makes her wish she hadn’t. Kit’s family (apart from his sister) are awful snobs and almost immediately they see Chelsea as an outsider. As the week goes on Kit starts to change and Chelsea begins question whether or not he’s the right man for her after all. Can these two overcome their differences concerning money and their backgrounds and make things work?
I was a bit unsure about this book at first when I realised Chelsea was the main character as I didn’t like her as much as Evie and Mollie in Goodbye Ruby Tuesday. However we see a different side to Chelsea in this book and learn more about the way she ticks. Coming from a poor estate background Chelsea has learned the money can mean the difference between eating and not eating and has grown up still being extra careful with her money and spends it wisely even though now she has a good job and can afford nicer things. When she meets Kit’s family she is disgusted by the way they waste money and their attitude that because they have lots of money they are better than anyone else.  His mother Jemima being the worse for this as despite being wealthy she is still a vulgar horrible person who is incredibly rude to Chelsea for no reason and quite possibly the worst mother-in-law you could have.
As Kit and Chelsea try and work through their differences we are given lots of drama from the additional characters which had me hooked and made this a really enjoyable and well-rounded story full of brilliant comedy moments. My favourite scenes involved Chelsea having her eyebrows shaped, comedy gold I loved it!
I love A. L. Michael’s writing, she creates wonderful characters and drama filled stories which are both funny and emotional. I’ve loved Nice Day for a white Wedding and am really looking to book three.  I can highly recommend this to anyone who wants to get lost for a few hours in this wonderful read.
Thank you so much to A. L. Michael, the publishers and Neverland Blog Tours for this copy to review and for inviting me to be part of the blog tour.

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Friday, 16 September 2016

The Holiday Swap by Zara Stoneley

The Holiday Swap

The Holiday Swap by Zara Stoneley
Published: 2nd September 2016
Publisher: Harper Impulse
Pages: 392
Available on Kindle
Rating: 5/5

Two women, two very different lives – one perfect solution to escape festive heartbreak!
Tucked away in the idyllic English countryside, Daisy Fischer’s cosy little cottage has always been her safe haven. But when her completely dependable boyfriend issues her an ultimatum, Daisy realises there’s a whole world out there she’s missing out on.
Florence Cortes’s life couldn’t be better – gorgeous apartment right on the beach, fabulous job and dreamy boyfriend, or so she thought. Suddenly, Flo’s life isn’t so perfect after all.
When the girls house swap for the holidays, it’s not long before Daisy is being distracted by sun, sea and sexy Javier while Flo finds herself snowbound for Christmas with only handsome neighbour Hugo and a house full of animals to keep her company.
Love actually does seem to be all around this Christmas, but in the places Flo and Daisy least expect to find it…

After reading and adoring Zara Stoneley’s first novel Stable Mates I knew I just had to read The Holiday Swap straight away. With a plot similar to my very favourite movie I was sure it was going to be a winner for me and it was, it was utter perfection and one that needs adding to my paperback collection when it’s released.

Daisy Fischer has the ideal rural life settled with boyfriend Jimmy. He doesn’t get in the way of Daisy’s everyday life with her horse Barney, dog Mabel and her dog grooming business and that’s the way Daisy likes it. So when Jimmy wants to make their relationship more serious Daisy’s shocked as she was happy as she was and thought Jimmy was too. Deciding she needs time away to think about her future, Daisy heads off to Barcelona for a break with best friend Anna.

Florence Cortes has the dream life, she lives in beautiful Barcelona by the sea, has the ideal job writing for her own magazine and has the perfect boyfriend in Oli or so she thinks. When a dream trip to Paris doesn’t end quite the way Flo imagines she realises it’s time to take time out think about what she really wants out of life.

When Daisy and Flo realise that a weekend of fun just isn’t a long enough break they decide to swap lives for the last few weeks before Christmas. So Daisy stays in Barcelona and spends some time alone until she meets handsome Javier who just seems to keep popping up wherever she goes. Florence returns to Tippermere the place she grew up hoping to work out what she really wants. Having sworn off men until she returns home Flo begins to be distracted by Daisy’s next door neighbour Hugo, who is determined him and Flo are going to get better acquainted.

Can Daisy and Flo find what they are looking for before they go home and can they allow the unexpected romance that is brewing into their lives?

I loved both of the main characters Daisy and Flo. Despite being miles apart geographically these two I found were very similar, they’re both longing for that perfect man to come along and sweep them off their feet or horse in Daisy’s case. They both have dreams which initially they are reluctant to follow. Daisy to travel and see the world and Flo to write her novel. I loved reading how they both grew in confidence after their shattered relationships and became stronger and more determined to follow their dreams and was really pleased they both got some romance with some proper hunky men.

This is a novel set in two very contrasting places, we have the snowy, sleepy village of Tippermere in Cheshire England where everything seemed cosy and settled. Then we have the sun, sea, sand and excitement of the big city of Barcelona filled with new experiences on every corner. I loved both of these settings and thought the contrast worked perfectly making this the ideal summer read to accompany your sunbathing or the perfect winter read to cosy up by the fire with a mug of hot chocolate.

I love Zara Stoneley’s writing style, its fast paced giving enough details to set the scene perfectly but also to carry the story along. She has included some wonderful comical moments, many involving Flo falling over and some sizzling romance scenes. The Holiday Swap is a book about second chances, friendships and grabbing hold of your dreams. I simply adored this book and think it has made the ideal book to start my festive reading.

I’d like to thank the publishers Harper Impulse and Netgalley for a review copy in exchange for my honest review.

Thursday, 15 September 2016

Blog Tour: The Secret by Kathryn Hughes, ‘The Summer of ’76: Phew, what a scorcher!’ by Kathryn Hughes

The Secret

The Secret by Kathryn Hughes
Published: 8th September 2016
Publisher: Headline Review
Pages: 416
Available in Paperback and on Kindle

Mary has been nursing a secret.
Forty years ago, she made a choice that would change her world for ever, and alter the path of someone she holds dear.
Beth is searching for answers. She has never known the truth about her parentage, but finding out could be the lifeline her sick child so desperately needs. When Beth finds a faded newspaper cutting amongst her mother's things, she realises the key to her son's future lies in her own past. She must go back to where it all began to unlock...The Secret.

Today it's my pleasure to welcome Kathryn Hughes author of The Letter and The Secret to my blog and today she is sharing her experience of the Summer of 1976, over to Kathryn:

Phew, what a scorcher!

‘Phew, what a scorcher!’ It’s an oft-repeated headline when the weather gets a tiny bit too hot and it’s usually accompanied by a picture of Blackpool beach, not a square inch of sand to be seen, as burnished bodies stretch out on gaudy beach towels.  Never has this headline been more accurate though than in 1976 when England’s green and pleasant land turned brown and withered right before our eyes.  That summer has become the benchmark against which all subsequent summers are measured.  It was the hottest summer since the famous ‘records began’ and remains unsurpassed.

So just how hot was that summer and how long did it last?  Well, for starters we dealt in Fahrenheit back then which I always think sounds more impressive. The heatwave officially began on 22nd June 1976 and lasted until 26th August 1976, a total of nine weeks, although the reality was the drought began much earlier with below average rainfall since April the previous year. From 22nd June until 16th July, the UK sizzled in temperatures of at least 27 degrees C, every single day. Even more remarkable, during the same period the mercury rose to 32 degrees C for fifteen consecutive days, peaking on 3rd July at 35.9 degrees C or for those of us that were there, 96 degrees F. So, we’ve established it was hot, very hot, and prolonged too, but how did this affect us?

It goes without saying we were desperately short of water.  Reservoirs resembled the cracked plains of the African savannah, but without the wildebeests. It was absolutely forbidden to use a hosepipe even to the extent where we were encouraged to grass up our neighbours if their lawn appeared to be greener than it ought to be.  The water authorities shut off the main supply and erected standpipes in the streets.  Friendships were forged as people stood in the queue, bucket in hand, swapping tales of sunstroke, heat exhaustion and how little Johnny had fried an egg on the pavement.  The government took out full page advertisements in the papers urging us to save water.  We were told to only take a bath if it was absolutely necessary and then no more than five inches deep. It became a symbol of national pride to have a dirty car.  Crops failed, food prices soared and as the grass didn’t grow farmers used up all their winter hay stocks to feed the starving cattle.  When some parts of the country were down to their last thirty days of water, emergency plans were drafted to bring water in by tanker from Norway.

I was only a child that summer so for me it was a blissful, carefree time spent playing outside, eating ice pops and Jubblies by the truckload, and making my special perfume from rose petals, which smelled like a compost heap the next day. With no such thing as Factor 50, my shoulders turned the colour of a coffee bean.  For the working population however, conditions were tough.  Air conditioning in offices and cars was non-existent and productivity levels fell. At Wimbledon, for the first time in its history, umpires were permitted to remove their jackets.  Even Big Ben downed tools as it suffered its first and hitherto unrepeated, major breakdown due to metal fatigue.  Its long hands did not crawl round the dial for three whole weeks which was surely synonymous of Britain grinding to a halt. There was no respite at night either. Even with all the windows flung open, sleep was impossible.  I resorted to lying on a wet towel in my bed.

And the ladybirds!  They were everywhere, all over the car windscreen and the pavements, making it almost impossible not to crunch them underfoot.  As all the plants had died there was nothing left for them to feed on and there were reports of them sucking the sweat off people as they desperately tried to rehydrate.  

Finally, on 24th August, enough was enough and the Government appointed Denis Howell as the Minister for Drought.  It worked.  Three days later it began to rain. And rain and rain.  If the ladybirds had reached biblical proportions then the torrential downpour that followed would surely have sent Noah running to his workshop.

Thank you so much Kathryn

Sunday, 11 September 2016

Blog Tour: The Girl From The Savoy by Hazel Gayor , My Top 5 Literary Heroines by Hazel Gaynor

The Girl From The Savoy by Hazel Gaynor
Published: 8th September 2016 (paperback)
Publisher: Harper
Pages: 528
Available in Paperback and on Kindle

Dolly Lane is a dreamer; a downtrodden maid who longs to dance on the London stage, but the outbreak of war takes everything from her: Teddy, the man she loves – and her hopes of a better life.
When she secures employment as a chambermaid at London’s grandest hotel, The Savoy, Dolly’s proximity to the dazzling guests makes her yearn for a life beyond the grey drudgery she was born into. Her fortunes take an unexpected turn when she responds to an unusual newspaper advert and finds herself thrust into the heady atmosphere of London’s glittering theatre scene and into the sphere of the celebrated actress, Loretta May, and her brother, Perry.
All three are searching for something, yet the aftermath of war has cast a dark shadow over them all. A brighter future is tantalisingly close – but can a girl like Dolly ever truly leave her past behind?

Today I'm thrilled to welcome Hazel Gaynor author of The Girl From The Savoy, A Memory of Violets and The Girl Who Came Home to my blog. Today she is sharing her top 5 literary heroines, so over to Hazel:

My top five literary heroines 
I love writing strong female characters in my novels and often draw on real women from my own family for inspiration. Yorkshire women are made of strong stuff! Of course there are dozens of literary heroines I adore, but here are five I especially admire, and who have always stayed with me.
Jane Eyre – While it might be a cliché to choose Jane Eyre, I would happily argue her case! I first read Charlotte Bronte’s novel when I was sixteen, and instantly fell in love with it, and with Jane. For me, she is the perfect heroine. From the start of her story - an abusive childhood (the Red Room terrified me), the awful experience of school and the death of her dear friend Helen Burns - I longed for Jane to thrive and to find happiness. Far from being a helpless damsel in distress, Jane is a woman who knows her own mind and was a heroine way ahead of her time. I love this book, and I love Jane.
Elizabeth Bennet – Again, perhaps something of a cliché, but I can’t leave her out! I first read Pride & Prejudice for my English Literature A’ Level and found so much to admire in Lizzy as she grapples with the social inelegance of her mother and the fates of her sisters as they try to secure a husband. Elizabeth is clever and witty, sarcastic and playful. Her hate/love relationship with Darcy is literary brilliance.
Eliza Doolittle – An unlikely heroine, I loved Eliza from the moment I first read Pygmalion. She is sassy and witty, a dreamer and a pragmatist. Her desire to make a better life for herself is brilliantly captured by George Bernard’s Shaw writing, and her interactions with Professor Higgins make for some fabulous dialogue. Eliza has a huge heart and an iron will. She puts Higgins in his place again and again, and refuses to become the puppet he expects her to. Bravo, Eliza. Bravo!
Holly Golightly – The heroine of Truman Capote’s novella, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Holly (a country girl who changes her name from Lula Mae Barnes to fit better in New York society) is outspoken, impetuous and loves to shock. As her story is revealed through Fred, the narrator, we see a more vulnerable side to her. The novella is much darker than the movie which added plenty of Hollywood romance through Audrey Hepburn’s iconic portrayal of Holly.
Miss Havisham – Poor haunted Miss Havisham, the bride who never was. Great Expectations is my favourite Dickens novel and Miss Havisham one of my favourite tormented heroines. The mind games she plays with Estella and Pip are truly awful. I both fear and pity Miss Havisham in her tattered wedding dress which goes up in flames. She is a wonderfully disturbed character, and completely unforgettable.

Thank you so much Hazel and I agree Yorkshire women are made of strong stuff!

Thursday, 8 September 2016

Goodbye Ruby Tuesday by A.L. Michael

Goodbye Ruby Tuesday

Goodbye Ruby Tuesday by A. L. Michael
Published: 29th April 2016
Publisher: Carina UK
Pages: 243
Available on Kindle
Rating: 5/5

Four friends have become three.
But that’s only the beginning. Ruby, Evie, Mollie and Chelsea were the bad girls at school. But Ruby was the baddest. Evie fought her anger, Mollie fought her mother and Chelsea…well, Chelsea just fought. But Ruby set her sights on a bigger stage. And together, they dreamed of a future where Ruby could sing, Evie could make art, Mollie could bake, Chelsea could dance – and all of them could finally feel at home.
A decade later, the girls are reunited for the funeral of Ruby, who took the world – and the charts – by storm, before fading too soon. And Evie doesn’t know whether to laugh or cry when she learns that Ruby has left them a house on Camden Square – the perfect place for them to fulfil their dreams. But does she dare take the plunge, and risk it all for one last shot at the stars?

Goodbye, Ruby Tuesday is the first book in A. L. Michael’s new series The House on Camden Square. The story starts as friends Evie, Mollie and Chelsea meet up at their old friend Ruby’s funeral. The funeral has brought them all back together in  their home town of Badgeley where they all grew up on the estates at the wrong side of town and were never expected to amount to much. While reminiscing about their teenage dreams of escaping the small town and making it big in the arts they are given a letter from Ruby’s one-time foster mum who said Ruby had left it for them.

On opening the letter the girls discover that Ruby has left them the last few months lease on her rented building in Camden and in the letter she urges them to take a chance and go after their creative dreams by opening a gallery and workshop for the creative arts which can be accessible to anyone.

Each of the girls have different reactions to this. Evie is very excited as she longs to get away from her mother and conman father who keeps drifting in and out of their lives whenever he wants money. She’s the most creative of the group and has a way of making things happen so sees this as an amazing opportunity. Mollie is more reluctant as she has ten-year old daughter Esme to think of, but a chance to get away from alcoholic mother is one she has to take. Chelsea doesn’t seem to like the idea at all, but then she’s managed to get away and make a new life in London and doesn’t seem to want her old friends to be part of it.

When Evie finally convinces her friends to make a new start they’re in for a few months filled with hard-work, fun and laughter and even a little romance. Can they finally make their dreams come true?

I loved everything about this book, it’s the perfect easy going read and had me feeling nostalgic for my own old school friends and our teenage dreams. Evie, Mollie and Chelsea are all wonderful characters who seem to work well together and make each other stronger. My favourite character though had to be Esme, Mollie’s young daughter. She was the perfect cheeky ten-year old, wanting to have fun but also having moments of being incredibly sensible and grown-up, which made for some brilliant conversations with her mother and Evie.

I love the way flashbacks to their teenage years have been included as this explains what happened to Ruby and how she influenced their teenage lives and how each of the girls ended up where they did before Ruby’s funeral.

I also loved the romance that developed in the story. I thought it was very well written as it had all the makings of a real relationship, including romance, sex, arguments, misunderstandings and those clumsy moments you have in a new relationship.

Goodbye Ruby, Tuesday was a great read and has me very eager to continue with the story in the next book as I’m longing to find out what happens next for Evie, Chelsea and Mollie. It’s book full of fun with some emotional parts which are just deep enough not to make the story too heavy. It’s a book I think anyone who remembers their teenage dreams should go and read.

Wednesday, 7 September 2016

Blog Tour Review - Tempting Isabel by Rissa Brahm

Tempting Isabel by Rissa Brahm
Published: 24th May 2016
Publisher: 108 Dergrees
Pages: 336
Available on Kindle
Rating: 4/5

Luck. Lust. Love.

Wedding planner Isabel Ruiz is cursed. Her hometown of Puerto Vallarta, Mexico agrees, considering her tragic track record. Alone and loveless, she creates fairy-tale weddings for others. Her only distraction? The occasional anonymous fling. So to avoid further tragedy, her rule, one–night–only, is never broken…

Until Zack.

Self-made millionaire Zack James is in town for his brother’s wedding, when a sudden spell of depression hits. Maybe burned out by his fast and luxurious lifestyle? Not even his two female companions hold any interest.

That is, until he meets Isabel.

She humbles and captivates him, reigniting his thirst for life. With her, Zack feels more alive than ever. To his delight—and her dismay—they share a deep bond, a sensual connection, and one mind-bending night.

Zack must have her – to complete him. And Isabel must escape him – to save him.

Their game of catch and chase leads to lust-turned-love. For Isabel, it's fate’s cruelest joke. But Zack won’t quit, positive he’s the cure to her curse. Can he convince her to risk everything with him? Or will it all go south…in paradise.

Tempting Isabel is the first book in Rissa Brahm’s new Paradise South series.  In this book we meet Isabel and Zack, two people so different but so completely right for each other.
Isabel Ruiz works as a wedding planner in Puerto Vallarta in Mexico. She believes she has been cursed as anyone who ever gets close to her ends up in a fatal accident. Shunned by most of the town and all but three of her eleven siblings Isabel leads a lonely and loveless life, throwing herself into her work in order to gain some happiness. When she needs a release she has some strict rules about the men she encounters, no last names and one night only for Isabel cannot risk the life of anyone else by allowing them to come too close, until she meets Zack James and everything changes.
Self-made millionaire Zachery James is visiting Puerto Vallarta for business and pleasure, his little brother Darren is getting married. He’s a self-confessed womaniser but recently he’s hit a dry spell where the woman around just don’t satisfy him anymore. Zack begins to fall into a depression until he bumps into Isabel literally and there she is the woman of all his dreams, all he has to do now is win her heart.
When these two meet the sparks fly and the chemistry between them is red hot, vowing just one   night Isabel lets herself go. Fate is very cruel to Isabel for whenever she’s fallen in love disaster has struck and has ended in fatal damage, but she can’t get Zack out of her head which leads them into very dangerous territory. As Isabel pushes Zack away to save him from her curse Zack becomes even more determined that he is the one that break it for good. Can these two overcome fate and live happy ever after?
Initially I found this quite a hard book to get into, at the beginning there is an awful lot of swearing which kind of put me off and both Zack and Isabel seemed characters that were shallow and self-centred. This changed after about chapter six after these two meet, after that I began to quite like them and at the end I was surprised by how well Rissa Brahms has developed the characters.
After a slow start this book really picked up for me and became everything I believe a good romance should be. It had two characters with red hot chemistry, a beautiful setting, some very entertaining dialogue and a little bit of mystery. Towards the second half I became completely engrossed and was sad to finish, but luckily I have two more books in the series to go and read.
I’d like to thank the author Rissa Brahma and Neverland Blog Tours for my review copy in exchange for my honest opinions and for inviting me to be part of the blog tour.

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