Archive | October, 2012

Book review: The Hex Factor by Harriet Goodwin

31 Oct

Xanthe Fox can’t wait to turn thirteen, but as the big day arrives her world starts to fall apart. Set-up at school for something she didn’t do, it seems her age-old enemy, Kelly, is making trouble for her…and as things escalate, even her best friend Saul starts to doubt her innocence. With the school threatening to expel her, and mysterious glowing Xs appearing in front of her eyes, Xanthe turns to Grandma Alice for help. But what the old lady tells her will change Xanthe’s life for ever…

Regular visitors to this blog will know that I love books about witches so I was very excited to be offered a review copy of The Hex Factor (brilliant title!). Despite being aimed at a slightly younger audience than the majority of the books I read (it’s perfect for the 9-12 age group), as an adult I still thoroughly enjoyed this story and I read it very quickly because I couldn’t put it down until I found out what happened to Xanthe!

The story begins just a couple of days before Xanthe’s thirteenth birthday on her return to school after the Christmas holidays. I liked Xanthe and her friends straight away as they got excited about her birthday party and caught up after their break. The group come across as very normal and I’m sure that Xanthe and her friends hopes and worries will be familiar to a lot of readers. Xanthe is excited about becoming a teenager but little does she know that her life is about to change more than she could have ever imagined!

It soon becomes clear that Xanthe has a rival at school in the form of Kelly. The day before Xanthe’s birthday things start to take a turn for the worse following an incident in art class and from that point on Xanthe’s world is turned upside down. The Hex Factor is fast paced and has lots of twists and turns to keep readers gripped with plenty of mystery and magic thrown into the mix.

As well as liking Xanthe’s friends I also thought her parents and in particular her lovely grandmother Alice were great characters. This book made me miss really my own Gran who I used to go and chat to when things were tough just like Xanthe does. But she never told me anything as exciting as the secrets that Alice passes to Xanthe shortly after her birthday! I don’t want to give any spoilers but I loved the history and mythology that Harriet Goodwin has created and thought this was a fun, engaging and exciting read.

The Hex Factor did feel very much like the start of the story for Xanthe and there is great potential for a whole series of adventures for her and her friends in future. There’s even a hint of romance in Xanthe’s friendship with Saul and I hope we see this develop if there are future books. An excellent read for Halloween (or any time!)

4/5

You can find out more about Harriet Goodwin and her books at: http://www.harrietgoodwinbooks.com/

I’d like to thank the publisher for sending me a review copy of this book.

Book news: The Last Summer (US release) by Judith Kinghorn

30 Oct

Some exciting book news for US readers today. One of my favourite books of 2012, Judith Kinghorn’s debut The Last Summer is released by Penguin USA on 31st December and in my opinion is the perfect book to start your New Reading Year with. It has a lovely striking cover which I actually like better than the UK version. This is one of my favourite reads of the year so far so highly recommended!

I was almost seventeen when the spell of my childhood was broken…It was the beginning of summer and, unbeknown to any of us then, the end of a belle epoque…

In July of 1941, innocent, lovely Clarissa Granville lives with her parents and three brothers in the idyllic isolation of Deyning Park, a grand English country house, where she whiles away her days enjoying house parties, country walks and tennis matches. Clarissa is drawn to Tom Cuthbert, the housekeeper’s handsome son. Though her parents disapprove of their upstairs-downstairs friendship, the two are determined to see each other, and they meet in secret to share what becomes a deep and tender romance. But soon the winds of war come to Deyning, as they come to all of Europe. As Tom prepares to join the front lines, neither he nor Clarissa can envision what lies ahead of them in the dark days and years to come. Nor can they imagine how their love will be tested, or how they will treasure the memory of this last, perfect summer.

You can find out more about author Judith Kinghorn at: http://judithkinghorn.co.uk

Read my review of The Last Summer

Read my interview with Judith Kinghorn

Guest book review: Postcards from the Heart by Ella Griffin

29 Oct

Today I’m pleased to welcome back Rachel to One More Page with her review of Ella Griffin’s Postcards from the Heart.

Life is looking up for Saffy. She has a great job, a gorgeous flat in the most desirable part of Dublin and – after six years – it looks like her boyfriend, Greg, is going to propose. Greg (just voted the 9th most eligible man in Ireland) is on a high, too – he’s about to swap his part as a heart-throb in an Irish soap for a break in Hollywood. His best mate Conor wakes up every morning with Jess, the most beautiful woman on the planet but, even after seven years and two kids, she won’t marry him. He spends his days teaching teenagers and his nights writing the book he hopes will change everything, including Jess’s mind. But their happy endings are playing hard to get. It seems everyone’s keeping secrets – one night stands, heartbreak, grief and loss are all in the mix. It’s going to take some tough questions and even tougher answers before anyone’s being honest – even with themselves.

I was attracted to this book when I read the cover which said the book was about thirty something’s trying to find their way through life.  Combined with the title I thought it would be about some soul searching around reaching that age and wondering what direction to take in life.  It also was said to have a comedic element and as I enjoy romantic comedies I thought it would be right up my street.  Usually when I read books they teach me something in that they allow me to see life through another person’s perspective and in that sense can be life changing, so I was looking forward to reading this book.

The novel centres around the lives of two couples Saffy and Greg and Jess and Conor, although Saffy is the lead character in the story. The book is divided into three parts and was different to what I expected in that the first part had a very light hearted tone.  Important decisions are stumbled upon in almost a slap stick humour style and at first Saffy and Greg reminded me of a couple in their early twenties at university with little to worry about with nothing being too much of a problem for them.

Part two takes a dramatic turn where Saffy’s attention is focused on a much more serious health matter whilst also dealing with massive revelations in her relationship with Greg.  Deceit is a theme heavily featured in part two although the author still manages to inject comedy moments through Greg’s interaction in the story line and comic observations within the much more serious story line.

One thing I did notice in terms of the author’s style is her ability to change the direction of the story and the path you are taken on with hand break turn speed which left me thinking, ‘hmm where are we going now?!’.  I became more interested in the book after reaching part two and more gripped by the story line as I kept wondering where the title, “Postcards from the Heart” fitted into the mish mash of the two main couples loves lives.

Towards the end of part two things start to fit into place as Saffy examines some of the other key relationships in her life and Saffy is faced with strong feelings that she must work through. Amongst the main story line,Griffin introduces sub relationships which create added confusion to the mix and leave the reader wondering up until the last pages which characters will end up together.

If this book taught me anything it was that life can be extremely complicated but that people deal with it and find their way in the end. As a first novel I would give the book between three and four out of five just because it took me personally a while until I became fully engaged with the story, but maybe that reflected the journey the author intended to take me on, in that when the more serious issues are approached, the reader automatically becomes more engaged just as the characters equally become more engaging in the book.

Thanks Rachel – this sounds like a good read and I think the cover is lovely!

You can find out more about Ella Griffin on her website at: http://www.ellagriffin.com/

Book review: Killer Heels by Rebecca Chance

27 Oct

From the boardroom to the bedroom, the catwalk to the kerbside…

Starry-eyed ingenue Coco Raeburn is passionately ambitious. She will do anything – and anyone – to get her own editorship at a top fashion magazine. And her ruthless boss Victoria Glossop, editor at top UK fashion magazine Style, will do everything in her power to stop her…

But Victoria has her own ambitions – she wants the top job at Style’s US headquarters, and nothing will come between her and her dream. Uber-svengali Jacob Dupleix, media magnate, owner of Style, and one of the most powerful men in New York and London, is used to controlling all he sees. But when Victoria demands that he give her the US Style editorship, he gives in, little realizing that his empire could be about to fall apart. In New York, mentor and voice of calm in a storm, Mereille watches the shifts of power with detached amusement. If only they knew quite how much power she could wield if she had to… 

Because it is set in the world of high fashion magazines and focuses mainly on an ambitious young woman and her extremely successful editor, this novel is going to get a lot of comparisons to The Devil Wears Prada and because it features a powerful male lead who likes to assert his dominance in all areas of his life, Killer Heels is going to be compared to Fifty Shades. There are some basic similarities between these novels but in my opinion, Killer Heels is far better than either of the others!

For starters, even though it is set in New York, its lead characters and author are British and this comes across strongly in the writing giving a very different tone to the book with Rebecca Chance showing a wicked sense of both humour and drama. The story is more than a simple tale of ambition and sex and focuses in-depth on the two key characters looking at their personal lives as well as their careers and the impacts their burning ambition has on their lives and I was absolutely gripped from the first page .

The novel is cleverly plotted, starting in ‘Manhattan now’ and then taking us back to ‘London then’ so as a reader I was immediately hooked and dying to know the answers to a whole host of questions about lead character Coco. As the main narrative tells the story of Coco’s rise, there are short flash forwards to the present which slowly tell the end to the story and build the novel to a shockingly dramatic climax.

Narrated in the third person but told alternatively from Coco and Victoria’s view points, the combination of the two stories and plot twists that rival anything that Dallas could throw at us made this an absolute page turner for me. I loved the complexity and depth that Chance gave her lead characters. It’s easy to make assumptions about a book like Killer Heels filled with glamour sex and drama and all of those elements are present but I also loved the way that my perceptions of Victoria and Coco changed as the book went on. Who would have known that I would actually find myself identifying with Victoria (on some things) by the end of the book?! I love being surprised and that added to my enjoyment of this book.

And despite the gloss, glitz and wonderful descriptions of high fashion New York life, Chance also shows us the less desirable and even dangerous side to the fashion and publishing industries. Killer Heels touches on the size zero debate, the dilemmas facing working parents and the extremes celebrities go to to look a certain way. I thought Chance captured Coco’s ambition and the lure of the lifestyle so well. As Coco abandons her old life and changes beyond recognition Chance shows the good and the bad; the glamour backed up with the pressure to look a certain way and the perks of the job but also the less glamorous side of essentially putting your life on hold to make sure someone else’s runs perfectly.

Imagine The Devil Wears Prada but bitchier, Fifty Shades but sexier and Ugly Betty with even more drama and you have Killer Heels. This is a big bold and dramatic read with an involving story line building to an edge of your seat ending! My favourite of Rebecca’s books so far and I’m so glad that I don’t have to wait long for her next book!

5/5

I’d like to thank Ally at Simon and Schuster for sending me a review copy of this novel.

You can find out more about Rebecca Chance and her books at: http://www.rebeccachance.net/

Rebecca’s next book Bad Angels is released on 8th November.

Book news: The First Last Kiss by Ali Harris

25 Oct

I thought the cover for Ali Harris’ debut novel Miracle on Regent Street was gorgeous but then I saw the cover for her second novel The First Last Kiss which is out in January. I love how the cover design is in keeping with that of the first book and I think this one is just gorgeous! The story sounds like a real weepy too and I can’t wait :-) The First Last Kiss will be published by Simon and Schuster on 17th January and if you head over to the Books and the City website you can read a chapter now!

How do you hold on to a love that is slowly slipping away from you?

Can you let go of the past when you know what is in the future?

And how do you cope when you know that every kiss is a countdown to goodbye?

This is the story of a love affair, of Ryan and Molly and how they fell in love and were torn apart. The first time Molly kissed Ryan, she knew they’d be together forever. Six years and thousands of kisses later she’s married to the man she loves. But today, when Ryan kisses her, Molly realises how many of them she wasted because the future holds something which neither of them could have ever predicted…

Book review: The Peach Keeper by Sarah Addison Allen

23 Oct

Welcome to Walls of Water, North Carolina, a place where secrets run thicker than the town’s famous fog.

Once upon a time, Willa Jackson’s family owned the beautiful house on the top of the ridge. Now it symbolises her family’s ruin and a legacy Willa longs to escape from.

Paxton Osgood also yearns to break free, especially from her parents’ expectations, and the heartbreak of unrequited love. Desperate for a distraction, she decides to restore the empty mansion to its former glory.

But the discovery of a long-buried secret, a friendship that defies time, and a touch of magic, will transform both women’s lives in ways they would never have expected.

Sarah Addison Allen is one of my favourite authors; I love the way her books combine magical realism with Southern charm to give romantic reads that are just a little different. The Peach Keeper is no exception, telling the story of Willa Jackson and Paxton Osgood and the beautiful mansion that links them in more ways than they can imagine.

The novel works history, nature and romance together to create an intriguing tale of love and betrayal. I found The Peach Keeper a little darker initially than Sarah Addison Allen’s previous books and perhaps for this reason, it took me a little longer to get into than her other novels, but the story and its mysteries and magic soon sucked me in and by the mid-way point I couldn’t put it down.

Willa and Paxton are very different characters and I liked the contrast between them. Willa owns a hiking goods store, works hard and goes out of her way to lead a steady and unnoticed existence. Paxton holds a wealthy and privileged position in local society but feels the weight of her responsibilities heavily. She also works hard and panics if her organised life veers off track. Both women are looking for an escape of different kinds; Willa from her past and Paxton from her present. The fact that the character s are around my age really drew me to them and I liked that although there is a lovely romantic element to the story, that there was much more to the story than that.

There are a lot of individual threads to the story and I enjoyed watching them come together as I read. We discover that Willa and Paxton’s grandmothers set up The Women’s Society Club in 1936 and as the society prepares to celebrate its 75th anniversary, Paxton has taken on a project to restore the Blue Ridge Madame mansion and launch it on the anniversary. Willa and Paxton are both strongly connected and drawn to the mysterious house and another layer of intrigue is added to the plot as Willa begins to investigate the history of the house that her family used to own and the society her grandmother helped to found. As Willa and Paxton are thrown into each others paths, things start to change; the assumptions made about each other are challenged and the two leading ladies find themselves acting out of character.

This is very much as story of laying the past to rest and moving forward. Add in some intriguing male characters in the form of Paxton’s brother Colin and  Paxton’s best friend Sebastian and their shared high school history with Willa and Paxton and the plot becomes even more intriguing. I love the chemistry that Sarah Addison Allen creates between her characters, be it in friendship or romance and because of this I found The Peach Keeper an uplifting read.

The romance element is also very well done and certainly kept me guessing as I read. I loved the way that the ending worked out and this book left me with a happy glow and a smile on my face.

4/5

You can find out more about Sarah Addison Allen and her novels at: http://www.sarahaddisonallen.com/

 

Book news: Billy and Me by Giovanna Fletcher

22 Oct

How’s this for a cover to brighten your Monday morning? Isn’t it fab?! I’ve had this book on my list of ‘debuts to look out for in 2013′ for a while and it’s had a change of title recently to go with the stunning new cover. Billy and Me is out in May 2013 and sounds like a great read.

When you’ve got the dream boyfriend everything should be perfect, right?
So why isn’t it? wonders Sophie May.

When Sophie and Billy met and fell in love, she thought she was living in a fairytale.

After all, Billy is an actor, a teen heartthrob adored by girls around the world – and he loves Sophie. She’s the only girl for him.

But being on Billy’s arm comes at a price. Their relationship has thrown Sophie right in the spotlight after years of shying away from attention. 

Can she handle the constant scrutiny that comes with being with Billy? But most of all, is she ready for her secret heartbreak to be found out and shared with the nation?

What, she wonders, will that mean for Billy and me?

You can find out more about author Giovanna Fletcher on her blog at: http://www.giovannasworld.com/

Book review: 666 Park Avenue by Gabriella Pierce

18 Oct

What if your mother-in-law turned out to be an evil, cold-blooded witch … literally?

Ever since fabulously wealthy Malcolm Doran walked into her life and swept her off her feet, Jane Boyle has been living a fairy-tale. When he proposes, Jane can’t believe her incredible luck and decides to leave her Paris-based job as a fledgling architect and make a new start with Malcolm in New York.

But when Malcolm introduces Jane to the esteemed Doran clan, one of Manhattan’s most feared and revered families, Jane’s fairy-tale takes a darker turn.

Soon everything she thought she knew about the world-and herself-is upended. Now Jane must struggle with new-found magical abilities and the threat of those who will stop at nothing to get them.

666 Park Avenue was one of my ‘Six most anticipated paranormal romance books of 2012‘ so I’ve been looking forward to reading it for a while. The story focuses on Jane Boyle and her whirlwind romance with the super-rich Malcom Doran. The majority of the book is set in the staggeringly wealthy world of New York’s Upper East Side where the Doran family have their home. I loved the style of the book straight away, this is paranormal romance in the style of Sex and the City or The Devil Wears Prada and being a huge fan of both chick lit and paranormal romance genres this made perfect reading for me.

The story is fast paced and fun with heaps of glamour and a wonderful dangerous magical undertone. I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough once I’d started reading to find out what would happen to Jane next. You’ll never view your Mother in Law in the same light again after reading this book! As Jane enters the Doran’s world of privilege  breeding, wealth and tradition it becomes clear that her new mother in law has very high standards and will only accept the best of everything; including her son’s choice of wife and it soon becomes clear that there is much more to Lynne and the Doran family that initially meets the eye.

Pierce has cleverly created a paranormal word that fits so well with my image of high society New York and the details of the magical and mysterious woven into the everyday made this a gripping read for me. Jane’s character is interesting and goes through quite a learning curve during the book as she begins to discover who she really is and what her powers are. Initially I thought she was perhaps a little naive and willing to give up her life for Malcom too quickly but as the story progressed I grew to like her a lot and was pleased to find that she was made of much stronger stuff than I first thought.

666 Park Avenue is only the start of Jane’s story and with a fair amount of back stabbing and some shocking twists already, I suspect there is a lot more drama to come for Jane and the Dorans. I’m also looking forward to seeing more of some of the excellent supporting cast in the next books in the series. I loved Jane’s new friend Dee who fully embraces her witchy side and helps Jane to begin to discover her potential and I hope brother and sister, Harris and Maeve will feature as the story goes on.

If you haven’t read a paranormal romance before this might just be the book to introduce you to the genre – try it if you like your chick lit glam sexy and dangerous! Canvas has done an amazing job on the covers for this series – they really stand out and the books look fantastic lined up together on a bookshelf. The second book in the series The Dark Glamour is released today (look out for a review soon!) and the final instalment, The Lost Soul will be out in January 2013. Expect to hear a lot more about this series as the TV show inspired by the books has recently premièred in the US and has been picked up by ITV2 for UK release soon!

4/5

I’d like to thank publisher Canvas for sending me a review copy of this book.

You can find out more about Gabriella Pierce and 666 Park Avenue at: http://www.canvasbooks.co.uk/

 

Book news: The Charm Bracelet by Melissa Hill

17 Oct

New York, Christmas and a mysterious charm bracelet – what more could you want from a book?!

I’ve been eagerly awaiting the paperback version of The Charm Bracelet by Melissa Hill and was even more excited when the new Christmassy-themed cover popped up as I was scrolling though my Amazon wish list the other day.

Isn’t this gorgeous and I think the story sounds wonderful – I have a charm bracelet that I add charms to for special occasions so I’m really looking forward to seeing what happens in this story. Thankfully we don’t have long to wait as the new edition is out next week. I’ll be first in the queue on 25th October :-)

Holly O’Neill knows that every charm bracelet tells a story.

Many years ago she was sent one with just a single charm attached. The charms have been appearing ever since, often at challenging times, as if her mysterious benefactor knows exactly when she needs a little magic in her life.

As a result, Holly’s bracelet is her most prized possession. So when she finds someone else’s charm bracelet, she feels she has to try to reunite it with its owner. Even if the only clues she has to follow are the charms themselves.

On a search that will take her all over New York City at Christmas, Holly becomes ever more determined to piece together the details of this other charmed life. But what she doesn’t know is that her quest may also lead her somewhere she never, ever expected . . .

You can find out more about Melissa Hill and her books at: http://melissahill.info/

 

Book review: The Vintage Teacup Club by Vanessa Greene

15 Oct

(From the back cover) At a car boot sale in Sussex, three very different women meet and fall for the same vintage teaset. They decide to share it – and form a friendship that changes their lives . . .

Jenny can’t wait to marry Dan. Then, after years of silence, she hears from the woman who could shatter her dreams.

Maggie has put her broken heart behind her and is gearing up for the biggest event of her career – until she’s forced to confront the past once more.

Alison seems to have it all: married to her childhood sweetheart, with two gorgeous daughters. But as tensions mount, she is pushed to breaking point.

Dealing with friendship and families, relationships and careers, highs and lows, The Vintage Teacup Club is heart-warming storytelling at its very best.

As soon as I saw the title of this book, I knew it was one that I needed to read. The Vintage Teacup Club sounded like a cosy, warm read to curl up with this autumn and I’m a big fan of ‘vintage’ style so I was very excited to get my hands on a copy. And I wasn’t wrong; this is one of my favourite ‘chick lit’ reads so far this year and an excellent debut from Vanessa Greene.

The story centres around three characters Jenny, Maggie and Alison who meet at a car boot sale as they hunt for vintage teacups to add to their collections and spot the same set at the same time. I loved that Vanessa Greene gave an instant introduction to the three very different characters, their ‘looks’ and personalities. Jenny is young and fresh; excited about her upcoming wedding and searching for the teacups to be the perfect centrepieces at her vintage school hall reception; Maggie, independent, poised and determined is the owner of the wonderfully named flower shop Bluebelle du Jour and needs the teacups for a ‘celebrity’ wedding that she’s working on for a local model which could be her stepping stone to expanding her business and creative mum of two, Alison plans to use the teacups to make candles to sell as part of her growing craft business. The three women soon realise that they can help each other out and The Vintage Teacup Club is formed.

I thought the three lead characters were all lovely and immediately warmed to each of them. There is plenty to identify with in Maggie, Jenny and Alison and their lives and I think that this is a book that will appeal to a wide range of readers. This is very much a story about relationships and coupled with their overarching teacup ‘projects’ each woman has significant issues to deal with in her personal life too which makes The Vintage Teacup Club an absorbing read. The book examines relationships with parents, partners and friends but despite covering familiar ground, it never felt clichéd and I thought there were some excellent twists to the story as Alison’s oldest daughter begins to rebel, Jenny’s estranged mother contacts her and a past love makes Maggie reconsider her life.

There is also a lovely cast of supporting characters in The Vintage Teacup Club. I loved Ruby and Derek, the elderly couple that the girls meet on their teacup search and I thought their story was so romantic. I was also impressed that with one exception, the male characters in the book were as lovely as the female ones – very refreshing! The romance element to the story is nicely woven into the plot and although this is actually a lovely romantic read, it doesn’t overwhelm the story of three strong women getting on with their lives and careers.

As you can probably tell, I thoroughly enjoyed this book and was sad when it ended. The Vintage Teacup Club is classic, warm British chick lit at its best and a wonderful debut. I can’t wait to read more from Vanessa Greene and I very much hope that we get to catch up with Jenny, Maggie and Alison again in the future too. Highly recommended!

5/5

I’d like to thank Madeleine at Little Brown for sending me a copy of this book to review.