Archive | December, 2012

My year in books – favourites of 2012

31 Dec

I’ve just finished reading my 80th book this year and there have been some brilliant reads amongst them. To end the year, I’ve chosen my ten favourites below (in publication date order). Click the titles to go to my reviews.

The Last Summer by Judith Kinghorn

Published by Headline in February

A brilliant debut that has stayed with me all year. Published in the US today!

Find out more at: http://www.judithkinghornwriter.com/

Read my interview with Judith

Leftovers by Arthur Wooten

Published by Galaxias Productions in February

A 1950’s ‘romantic dramedy’ set against the backdrop of the Tupperware revolution!

 Find out more at: http://www.arthurwooten.com/

Women and Children First by Gill Paul

Published by Avon in March

Released to coincide with the 100th anniversary of the sinking of  The Titanic – absolutely gripping survival story!

Find out more at: http://www.gillpaul.com/

Read my interview with Gill Paul

 The Perfume Garden by Kate Lord Brown

Published by Corvus in June

A heartbreaking and romantic story set during the Spanish Civil War.

 Find out more at: http://perfumegarden.blogspot.co.uk/

Read my interview with Kate Lord Brown

Shadow of Night by Deborah Harkness

Published by Headline in July

Vampires, witches, daemons and 16th Century London – what’s not to love?!

Find out more at: http://deborahharkness.com/

Before I Met You by Lisa Jewell

Published by Century in July

One of my favourite authors adds an historical element to her bow!

Find out more at: http://www.lisa-jewell.co.uk/

When it Happens to You by Molly Ringwald

Published by Simon and Schuster in August

Told as a series of interconnecting short stories – beautiful!

Find out more at: http://www.iammollyringwald.com/

Easy By Tammara Webber

ebook edition Published by Penguin in September

I only read this book last week so it’s a late entry into the 2012 top ten and I haven’t had chance to write my review yet. But wow! The UK paperback is released on 3rd January and it could be just the book you need to get your new reading year off to an excellent start!

The Vintage Teacup Club by Vanessa Greene

Published by Sphere in October

A lovely story of friendship with a gorgeous vintage touch.

You Had Me At Hello by Mhairi McFarlane

Published by Avon in December

Another late entry onto the list. It reminded me a bit of One Day but much, much better!

So, that’s my list. I have no doubt that there are some 2012 releases that should be on the list that I haven’t had chance to read yet (they are looking at me accusingly from my ‘to read’ pile as I type). I’d love to hear your favourites and suggestions for 2012 books that I must read in 2013!

I’d also like to take this opportunity to say a big thank you to all the people who read and support this blog. I’m privileged to have met (in real life and online) an amazing bunch of readers, authors and publishers this year and I can’t wait to do it all again in 2013!

Signed Married by Christmas Giveaway Winner

19 Dec

 

The winner is …

Nikki Hilton

Congratulations! I have sent you an email. Thanks to everyone who entered.

Christmas Giveaway: Win a signed copy of Married by Christmas by Scarlett Bailey

18 Dec

Earlier today I reviewed Scarlett Bailey’s Christmas ebook Santa Maybe and I’m very excited to have a signed copy of her new full length Christmas novel, Married by Christmas to give away to one lucky reader!

All she wants is a perfect Christmas Eve wedding…

It’s been on Anna’s wish-list since she was a little girl, dreaming of a far happier family life than she’d ever experienced.

But now – only two weeks before her big day – her perfect husband-to-be drops a bombshell… 

Only nothing’s going to stop Anna’s plans – not even the pesky inconvenience of discovering her groom already has a wife!

To be in with a chance of winning just leave a ‘pick me’ comment in the box below and I’ll draw a winner using random.org after the closing date. This giveaway is open to UK residents only and will close at noon on Wednesday 19th December so be quick with those entries!! The winner will be announced on Wednesday 19th December and postal services permitting I’ll get the book to you before Christmas :-)

Good luck!

Countdown to Christmas Novella Review: Santa Maybe by Scarlett Bailey

18 Dec

Amy Tucker is single. So single in fact she hasn’t had a man in her room for three years and her idea of a good time is buying new kitchenware at Ikea. So when she wakes up on Christmas Eve to find a strange man at the end of her bed, she is more than surprised.

Least of all, when the beautiful man claims to be Santa and has sexy stubble to rival George Clooney.

Santa whisks Amy on an exciting and unforgettable journey around the world through time and space. But can he really make Amy’s Christmas dreams come true?

This novella was originally released as a twenty-four part advent calendar with a chapter each day in December last year. I really enjoyed the story but confess that towards the end of December the chaos of a new baby and preparations for Christmas got in the way of me reading the final chapters of the story so I was pleased to see that Scarlett Bailey has released the whole story as an ebook novella this year.

This is a fun escapist Christmas read which follows Amy Tucker as she wakes to find a very sexy Santa in her room on Christmas Eve. Santa is charged with granting Amy’s Christmas wish and whisks her off on an adventure involving time travel and more than a little magic. I really enjoyed this story – it’s pure Christmas fun and something completely different to the other contemporary Christmas stories and novellas out there.

Taking in Bethlehem, New York and of course The North Pole and with a cast of characters that includes some familiar famous faces from history, a group of trainee angels and some very cool elves, Santa Maybe is an enjoyable quick read that will leave you with a smile on your face. I loved my namesake Amanda the celestial probation officer and thought the variety and pace of the plot was excellent.

And for those looking for a good dose of romance this is an excellent choice as Santa takes Amy to visit the scenes of relationships past, present and future to help Amy find the love of her life. Scarlett Bailey has a great sense of humour and I’m looking forward to reading her new full length Christmas novel Married by Christmas next.

4/5

Stop by again later today for the chance to win a signed copy of Married By Christmas.

Read my review of Scarlett’s debut novel The Night Before Christmas.

Book news: No Such Thing As Immortality by Sarah Tranter

17 Dec

As regular blog readers will know I do have a bit of a weakness for vampire books so I got very excited when I read about Sarah Tranter’s debut No Such Thing as Immortality. Written from the point of view of the vampire hero of the novel, this sounds like another great read from Choc LitNo Such Thing as Immortality is out for Kindle now and will be released in paperback on 7th January 2013.

I will protect you until the day I die … forever!

A vampire does not have to feel any emotion not of his choosing.  And Nathaniel Gray has spent two hundred years choosing not to feel.  But when he accidentally runs Rowan Locke off the road, he is inexplicably flooded with everything she’s feeling, and that’s rage, and lots of it.

He is consumed with the need to protect Rowan at all costs including from himself. To Nate, what is happening is unthinkable and is pretty much as unbelievable as the existence of faeries. 

But you see, ‘There is no such thing as …immortality.’

This is Nate’s story …

You can find out more about Sarah and her writing on her website at: http://www.sarahtranter.com/

Christmas Short Story Spotlight: Staying Away at Christmas by Katie Fforde

16 Dec

Miranda and her daughters have rented a cosy cottage for Christmas. The only trouble is, Anthony and his children are booked into the same place. In a moment of Christmas spirit, Miranda suggests they all spend Yuletide together. Will the mistletoe help ease the tension and bring some cheer? Will romance blossom under the stars? Or will it be a Christmas they’d all rather forget? 

I’ve read quite a few short stories so far this winter and was very excited to see a Christmas short story from Katie Fforde released earlier this month. This is a lovely quick read just perfect for grabbing a few minutes time out amidst the chaos of the Christmas season.

This sweet read focusses on two families that end up booked into the same cottage for Christmas. It’s classic Katie Fforde with lovely characters and a hint of romance. The story takes place on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and the days after and features testy teenagers, family tensions, love and drama against a backdrop of traditional Christmas elements. Staying Away At Christmas left me with a warm festive glow and I really hope Katie decides to revisit these characters in a future full length novel as I ‘d love to know more about them and what happens next!

The download also includes the first chapter of Katie’s new novel A French Affair which is out in February – can’t wait!

You can find out more about Katie and her books at: http://www.katiefforde.com/

Book review: You Had Me at Hello by Mhairi McFarlane

14 Dec

What happens when the one that got away comes back? 

‘Think of the great duos of history. We’re just like them.’ ‘You mean like Kylie and Jason? Torvill and Dean? Sonny and Cher?’ ‘I think you’ve missed the point, Rachel.’

Rachel and Ben. Ben and Rachel. It was them against the world. Until it all fell apart. It’s been a decade since they last spoke, but when Rachel bumps into Ben one rainy day, the years melt away.

They’d been partners in crime and the best of friends. But life has moved on: Ben is married. Rachel is not. Yet in that split second, Rachel feels the old friendship return. And along with it, the broken heart she’s never been able to mend.

Hilarious, heartbreaking and everything in between, you’ll be hooked from their first ‘hello’.

One look at the striking and colourful cover and fab title and I knew that Mhairi McFarlane’s debut was a book I had to read. I thought the synopsis sounded fun but I hadn’t realised what an absolute treat I was in for. Within the first twenty pages I’d laughed out loud at least twice and found myself completely nostalgic for my university days in Sheffield. You Had Me At Hello is a laugh out loud almost painfully realistic rom-com exploring the often fine line between love and friendship and examining what can happen when the one that got away comes back and I loved it!

You Had me at Hello  is the story of Rachel and Ben and splits its time equally between the present, where Rachel now in her early thirties is living and working in Manchester and flashbacks to Ben and Rachel’s university days. The flash backs were my favourite parts of the story. I thought Mhairi captured the carefree student life perfectly with all its hope and romance and I found myself rushing through the pages to find the next instalment of how Ben and Rachel met and became the best of friends.  In the present we find that Ben is now married. Rachel’s love life is complicated to say the least and I was dying to know what had happened between the two to lead them to lose touch for ten years when there is clearly some unfinished business.

I’m sure this is a book that will really strike a nerve; who hasn’t wondered about ‘the one that got away’?!  But there’s a lot more going on in the plot than just Ben and Rachel’s story. I enjoyed the side story involving Rachel’s career and I loved the fact that all of the characters were flawed and very human with Rachel’s friend Mindy being one of my favourite characters as the story progressed. The book looks at relationships of all kinds; friendship, working relationships, marriage and family and although there were some predictable relationship issues, it was refreshing to read a book featuring thirty-something single women that didn’t go out of its way to dis parenthood yet didn’t focus on it either.

As a romance, You Had Me At Hello ticked all the boxes for me and I pretty much fell for Ben right from the start. The chemistry beween him and Rachel is very well written and Mhairi cleverly kept me guessing right to the end of the book as to what happened between Ben and Rachel at uni and how their relationship would turn out in the present. I must admit that I was a bit dubious about a book where a married man reconnects with an old flame but Mhairi gave Ben so much integrity and made him so nice that my concerns soon went out of the window!

You Had me At Hello had me from the first page and has made a late entry onto my favourite books of the year list. I can’t wait to read more from Mhairi McFarlane!

5/5

I’d like to thank Becke at Avon for sending me a review copy of this novel.

Event write up: Christmas Girls' Night In at Brixton Library

10 Dec

Last Wednesday I went to the brilliant Girls’ Night In event at Brixton Library where I got to meet fabulous authors, eat delicious cake and talk about books (yes, it was my idea of a perfect night in/out!)

The evening started with readings from the five authors present (from left to right in the pic below: Rebecca Chance, Kate Harrison, Helen Smith, Alex Marwood and Scarlett Bailey (AKA Rowan Coleman)) which had the audience in high spirits and laughing straight away as Rebecca entertained us with a fine variety of accents ;-)

Following a q&a session which saw the authors talking about their favourite Christmas memories and what they hope to find under the tree this year we were invited to sample the amazing cake (by http://www.fabulous-cakes.co.uk/) and mingle/get our books signed.

The team at Brixton library were fabulous hosts and everyone had such a lovely time – just another reminder why libraries are so important!

 

Book news: The Runaway Princess and Swept Off Her Feet by Hester Browne

10 Dec

I’m a big fan of Hester Browne’s writing so was disappointed when her last two novels came out in the US with no sign of UK release. But that all changed earlier this week when I spotted that The Runaway Princess and Swept Off Her Feet are to be published by Quercus and the ebooks are out this week!! (on the 13th December to be precise!)

The covers have just appeared on Amazon and these are the only images that I can find at the moment so apologies that one of them is a little small but I wanted to share them because they are just sooo pretty!

Both books sound excellent too and I’m really hoping Santa is listening when I say that they would make a great addition to my library ;-)  Paperback versions will be released next year.

When Evie Nicholson is asked to visit Kettlesheer Castle in Scotland to archive the family heirlooms, she jumps at the chance. Evie’s passion for antiques means that, for her, the castle is a treasure trove of mysteries just waiting to be uncovered.

But in each heirloom lies a story, and in the course of her investigations Evie stumbles upon some long-buried family secrets. Add handsome, gloomy heir Robert McAndrew and a traditional candlelit gala to the mix and Evie’s heart is sent reeling with an enthusiasm that may just extend beyond the Kettlesheer silver…

Amy Wilde is tired of the idiots her glamorous flatmate Jo keeps foisting upon her – she’d much rather be digging in the garden with her dog Badger at her side than trying to find the man of her dreams.

That is, until she meets Leo Wolfsburg. Handsome, polite and funny, Leo is everything Amy could want in a boyfriend. Best of all, the attraction seems mutual. 

But Leo’s lifestyle is a world away from her own. Private planes, charity balls, exclusive members’ clubs – Amy begins to realise that her simple existence is being turned upside down. Is that what she wants? And just where is Leo’s home country of Nirona, anyway? Is there something he isn’t telling her?

You can find out more about Hester Browne and her writing on her website at: http://www.hesterbrowne.com/

Countdown to Christmas novella review: The Twelve Days to Christmas by Michele Gorman

5 Dec

What if his proposal had an expiration date?

Hannah’s in a bit of a pickle. In twelve days she flies from Hong Kong to the US with Sam, where he’s finally going to meet her parents… and ask to marry her.

Since overcoming a rather rocky patch in their relationship (which was totally his fault), he really is a new man, and they’re completely in love. The problem is, she feels panicky every time she contemplates matrimony. Which is perfectly normal, isn’t it? Isn’t it?! She has no idea but she’s got to find out before he pops the question… because she’s not 100% sure she’s going to say yes. Which will make for a very uncomfortable family holiday. He’s got to ask her before they go. So Operation Proposal begins. 

As time ticks down to their flight, Hannah realizes that her own secrets are threatening their future. Before she can be happy with Sam, she’s got a lot to learn about herself in the twelve days to Christmas.

The Twelve Days to Christmas is actually Michele Gorman’s third book to feature Hannah and her friends and is a novella follow up to the full length novels  Single in the City and Misfortune Cookie. I haven’t read either of the earlier novels and didn’t find this a problem. The Twelve Days to Christmas is a great standalone novella and the key background is recapped by Hannah as she tells her story.

For a novella this felt like a substantial read (it’s 120 pages in paperback) and I enjoyed the exotic Hong Kong location which made it stand out as a little bit different. The story is told in twelve chapters each starting with a line from a new version of The Twelve Days of Christmas which gives and indication of the events in the chapter to come. I enjoyed this original twist on a Christmas classic and thought it made the book flow well. Gorman’s writing has plenty of humour and I enjoyed meeting Hannah and her friends.

There’s a great tension to the story as the story of Hannah’s relationship with Sam is revealed and she ponders their future and keeps us guessing as to what her reaction to his proposal will be. With a few nice twists, a good supporting cast of characters and some romantic surprises, I found this a quick and fun read. The Hong Kong setting and storyline focussing on Sam and Hannah’s relationship mean that this isn’t an overtly Christmassy book in the traditional sense but still a lovely festive romance read.

The ending was excellent and Gorman gets extra points from me for including a flash forward epilogue which satisfied my curiosity! Out now in paperback and as an ebook, this is well worth adding to your Christmas reading list.

4/5

You can find out more about Michele and her writing at: http://www.michelegorman.co.uk/

Michele and fellow authors Scarlett Bailey, Abby Clements, Victoria Connelly, Miranda Dickinson, Belinda Jones, Carole Matthews, Talli Roland, and Julia Williams are taking part in the Christmas Creche Visit now lots of bookish festive fun!