Archive | August, 2013

Short story spotlight: A Little Bit of Summer by Ella Griffin

31 Aug

At Dublin florist “Blossom & Grow”, life’s loves, joys and sorrows are expressed through the language of flowers.

The stories of three women’s lives are tied together as they grapple with the thorny issue of love.

Ciara spends her third wedding anniversary alone, wondering if she will ever mend her broken heart.

Seven years into a relationship, Katy isn’t looking for someone – until he appears.

Lara, still getting over a broken marriage, is trying not to fall for a much younger man…

A Little Bit of Summer is a collection of three short stories which showcase Ella Griffin’s quirky style and wry sense of humour perfectly. There’s romance, love, heartache and heartbreak as we meet three very different women, linked by Dublin florist, Blossom and Grow.

This ebook was released as a summer holiday collection and is perfect if you’re off on a late summer break but is actually very readable for any season! The focus of the three separate stories is relationships and I thought Ella’s protrayal was realistic and insightful; she really gets to the heart of her characters’ thoughts and emotions whilst still retaining a little bit of magic!

The stories are titled for their leading ladies; Ciara is getting over the break up of her marriage which has been a complete shock to her system.   This was my favourite of the three short stories and really made me smile. Katy is in a long-term relationship but while boyfriend Ben might seem perfect, there are cracks beneath the surface. And Lara is also trying to come to terms with the fact that the man she married isn’t the man she thought he was.

The stories overlap in a number of ways and I thought the linkages were very clever. There are unexpected twists and Lara’s story in particular surprised me. I’m a great one for liking the ends of a story tied up and often find that short stories leave me wanting more but Ella cleverly ties the three separate strands together to make this feel like a substantial read.

This collection definitely made me want to read more of Ella Griffin’s work and I’m now looking forward to her new novel, The Heart Whisperer which is out next month.

4/5

I’d like to thank Ella and her publisher for sending me a review copy of this short story collection.

A Little Bit of Summer is out now in ebook formats.

The Heart Whisperer will be released in paperback and ebook formats on 12th September.

You can find out more about Ella and her writing at: http://www.ellagriffin.com/

Book news: Oh Brave New World by Julia Hoban

31 Aug

The cover for this book caught my eye as I was browsing online the other day. Strictly speaking Oh Brave New World isn’t a new book; it was previously published as Willow in the US and Scarred in the UK, but publisher Sphere are relaunching it on September 5th in ebook format. I’m so glad they are as I’d missed this one on the original release and it sounds like an excellent read!

Oh Brave New World is released in ebook formats on 5th September. Find out more on the Little, Brown website.

Book review: The Illusion of Separateness by Simon Van Booy

27 Aug

In The Illusion of Separateness, award-winning author Simon Van Booy tells the haunting and luminous story of how one man’s act of mercy on a World War II battlefield changes the lives of six strangers across time and place. From wartime Britain and Nazi-occupied France, to modern-day Los Angeles, the characters of this gripping novel – inspired by true events – include a child on the brink of starvation, a blind museum curator looking for love, a German infantryman, and a humble caretaker at a retirement home in Santa Monica. Whether they are pursued by old age, shame, disease, or regret, these incandescent characters remain unaware of their connection until seemingly random acts of selflessness lift a veil to reveal the vital parts they play in each other’s lives.

The Illusion of Separateness is a beautiful novel from Simon Van Booy. The book is actually a set of interconnected stories and from the start I was pulled in by the mystery of how a soldier whose plane crashes in France in 1944 could be linked to a cleaner in California in 2010 and a young boy in a red brick terrace growing up in Manchester in 1980s. These mysterious linkages held my attention for the whole book and the twists and turns of the story were brilliantly done.

The narrative is told from six separate viewpoints, travelling backwards and forwards in time and around the world as Simon Van Booy examines how a small action in one place can lead to a whole other course of events. I loved the historical detail, the variety of settings and the wonderful depth of characters in this book. For a novel of just over two hundred pages, this story really does pack a punch.

The descriptions are vivid, sometimes harrowing and heartbreaking but ultimately ending in a sense that all is well and everything is as it should be and I was fascinated by piecing the stories together to make a whole. The clever title is reference to the seemingly separate stories that are actually deeply interwoven and this book made me wonder about the linkages all around me. Philosophically this is a really interesting novel and would make a great book for reading groups to examine and discuss.

Simon Van Booy’s writing is beautiful; almost simplistic in style but every word counts and had a big impact on me. The Illusion of Separateness is one of those rare novels that I wanted to go back and read again as soon as I’d finished it and I’m sure that on the second reading I would pick up even more of the linkages between the fascinating characters.

Highly recommended!

5/5

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

You can find out more about Simon Van Booy and his writing at: http://www.simonvanbooy.com/

Book news: Briar Rose by Jana Oliver

26 Aug

This gorgeous book (just look at that cover!) was a wonderful surprise when it dropped through my letterbox recently. As regular readers will know, I love fairytale reimaginings and this one sounds brilliant. Briar Rose is released in paperback and ebook formats on 12th September and I’m looking forward to reading it very soon!

A dark and sexy reimagining of the Sleeping Beauty fairy tale

Briar Rose believes in fairy tales . . .

And now, because of a family curse, she’s living one. Doomed to fall asleep for one hundred years on her sixteenth birthday, Briar has woken up in the darkest, most twisted fairy tale she could ever have dreamed of – miles away from the safe, boring small-town life that she has left behind.

Briar must fight her way out of the story, but she can’t do it alone. She always believed in handsome princes, and now she’s met one her only chance is to put her life in his hands, or there will be no happy ever after and no waking up . . .

Cocktail Hour Giveaway Winners!

26 Aug

The winners are …

Samantha and Caroline

Congratulations! I have sent you both an email. Thanks to everyone who entered. Look out for more giveaways very soon!

Rip It Up Giveaway Winner

26 Aug

 

The winner is …

Kay

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

Book review: The Irresistible Blueberry Bakeshop and Cafe by Mary Simses

24 Aug

Manhattan lawyer Ellen Branford is going to fulfill her grandmother’s dying wish – to find the hometown boy she once loved and give him her last letter. Beacon, Maine, home to blueberry fields and eccentric locals, is the last place she wants to go so close to her upcoming wedding. Hoping to be in and out in 24 hours, Ellen ends up the talk of the town when a tumble into the ocean introduces her to Roy Cummings, the carpenter who saves her life. Roy happens to be the nephew of Ellen’s grandmother’s lost love, and the one person who can bring closure to her quest. But as Ellen learns what Beacon has to offer and what her grandmother left behind, she may find that a 24 hour visit will never be enough…

The Irresistible Blueberry Bakeshop and Cafe is a captivating and romantic novel set by the sea in Maine, New England and a lovely debut from Mary Simses. This is the story of Ellen Bradford who carries out her grandmother’s dying wish by travelling to her old home town to deliver her final letter. The book gets off to a dramatic start as grieving Ellen wanders along an old dock and is swept out to sea. She is rescued by a local man and the story takes a series of surprising and often entertaining twists from that point on.

I liked Mary Simses style of writing straight away; this book has been likened to Nicholas Sparks’ novels and I think this is a good comparison as all the elements of romance, mystery and emotion that you would expect from Nicholas are present in Mary’s writing too. I loved the mystery that is slowly revealed as Ellen goes about her quest to deliver her grandmother’s letter. The Irresistible Blueberry Bakeshop and Cafe is two stories in one as Ellen discovers the details of her grandmother’s past and tries to make sense of her own romantic feelings in the present.

It took me a while to warm to Ellen; she comes across as very focussed, business-like and almost a bit of a snob to begin with and is quite critical of life in small town Beacon compared to her high flying life as an attorney in Manhattan.  But we soon begin to see another side to her as the town and its occupants work their magic on her and she prolongs her stay to follow the trail of her grandmother’s past. I thought Ellen’s rescuer Roy was a great character and their banter made me smile.

As you might imagine for a book with such a delicious title, there are many mouthwatering descriptions of food throughout the novel and I enjoyed the way that Mary Simses brought food into the plot. My mouth was watering as I read and I really want to try cider doughnuts now! The beautiful New England scenery is also lovingly described and it’s clear that Mary knows this part of the world well making  The Irresistible Blueberry Bakeshop and Cafe a wonderfully evocative read.

As Ellen’s fiancé Hayden makes a surprise appearance, she finds herself caught between her old self and her new experiences. I was hooked to the very end of the novel, waiting to find out the truth behind Ellen’s grandmother’s letter and to see what Ellen’s own choices over her future would be. Written with warmth, humour and plenty of romance, The Irresistible Blueberry Bakeshop and Cafe is a delicious read and perfect for a late summer holiday or for cosying up with as autumn begins!

4/5

The Irresistible Blueberry Bakeshop and Cafe is out now in paperback and ebook formats.

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

You can find out more about Mary and her writing at: http://www.marysimses.com/

Guest post: Cioppino Recipe by Mary Simses

24 Aug

Today I’m delighted that One More Page is the final stop on Mary Simses’ Irresistible Blueberry Bakeshop and Cafe blog tour. Mary’s debut is a lovely, romantic story set by the sea and perfect for summer!

Mary grew up in Connecticut and has spent most of her life in New England where she worked in the magazine publishing industry and then as a corporate attorney.

The Irresistible Blueberry Bakeshop and Cafe  is packed with mouthwatering descriptions of food and today Mary is sharing her own recipe for Cioppino with us. Welcome Mary!

Cioppino (fish stew)

1/3 cup and 1 tablespoon butter

1 onion, chopped

1 clove garlic, minced

½ bunch fresh parsley, chopped

1 14.5 ounce can stewed tomatoes

1 14.5 ounce can chicken broth

1 bay leaf

1-1/2 teaspoons dried basil

¼ teaspoon dried thyme

¼ teaspoon dried oregano

½ cup and 2 teaspoons water

¾ cup white wine

13 ounces large shrimp, peeled and deveined

13 ounces bay scallops

10 small clams

10 mussels, cleaned and debearded

¾ cup crabmeat

13 ounces cod fillets, cubed

  1. Over medium-low heat, melt butter in a large stockpot; add onion, garlic and parsley. Cook slowly, stirring occasionally until onions are soft
  2. Add tomatoes to the pot (break them into chunks as you add them). Add chicken broth, bay leaf, basil, thyme, oregano, water and wine. Mix well. Cover and simmer 30 minutes
  3. Stir in the shrimp, scallops, clams, mussels and crabmeat. Stir in fish. Bring to boil. Lower heat, cover and simmer five to seven minutes until clams open. Ladle soup into bowls and serve with warm, crusty bread.

Makes 7 servings

Thank you Mary!

The Irresistible Blueberry Bakeshop and Cafe is out now in paperback and ebook formats.

You can find out more about Mary and her writing at: http://www.marysimses.com/ 

Please stop by again later today to read my review and please do check out the other stops on the tour!

Book review: Rose Harbor in Bloom by Debbie Macomber

22 Aug

Welcome to the Rose Harbor Inn, where every room has an inspiring new view, and every guest finds a second chance..

Jo Marie has started to feel at home running the Rose Harbor Inn. Now it’s springtime, and in memory of her late husband, Paul, Jo Marie has designed a beautiful rose garden for the property and enlisted handyman Mark Taylor to help make it happen. Jo Marie and Mark don’t always see eye-to-eye but deep down, she finds great comfort in his company. And while she still seeks a sense of closure, she welcomes her latest guests, who are on their own journeys.

Annie arrives in town to organise her grandparents’ fiftieth wedding anniversary celebration. But she’s struggling to move on from her broken engagement, and her grandparents themselves seem to be having trouble getting along. But all the best parties end with a surprise, and Annie is in for the biggest one of all.

Mary has achieved incredible success in business, yet serious illness has led her to face her sole regret in life. Almost nineteen years ago, she ended her relationship with her true love, George, and now she has returned to Cedar Cove to make amends.

Together, the women discover that sometimes you have to travel far from home to find the place where you really belong.

While I was on holiday earlier in the summer I read Debbie Macomber’s short story, When First They Met which introduces us to Jo Marie, the lead character in Debbie’s latest Cedar Cove novel, Rose Harbor in Bloom. I loved Debbie’s easygoing and honest style of writing and I really want to find out what happened next to Jo Marie so when I was given the chance to review this book and be part of Debbie’s blog tour, I was very excited!

I’ve probably gone about my introduction to Debbie’s lovely Cedar Cove series in a slightly strange way as this book is actually the second to visit the Rose Harbor Inn and I haven’t read The Inn at Rose Harbor, but I have to say that it didn’t matter. This novel stands perfectly well on it’s own with a number of self contained stories in it and any references to the previous book and Jo Marie’s earlier life are fully explained. Having said that, there are some updates on characters encountered in book one of the series and I do plan to go back and read the first book as I really enjoyed this one.

I don’t know if it’s because Jo Marie owns an Inn or because Debbie has captured the community charm so well but this book reminded me a little of my cherished Gilmore Girls with the small town setting where the community works together and everyone knows everyone else. As I entered the world of Cedar Cove I felt myself relax and settle in, excited to get to know the characters and beautiful setting.  Reading this book was like having a good nosy around the town and getting all the gossip!

The Inn at Rose Harbour is a wonderfully gentle read that is perfect for curling up and escaping with. I loved the charm of the close knit community of characters and the different threads of the story that kept me intrigued as I read. As well as focussing on Jo Marie’s story as she tries to come to terms with the death of her husband Paul, we meet new characters Annie and Mary who are guests at the Inn for the duration of the novel.

Annie has organised a fiftieth wedding anniversary party for the grandparents whose relationship she so admires but encounters stormy waters as she tries to come to terms with the break up of her own relationship and her loved-up grandparents seem to have fallen out. Throw in the reappearance of childhood friend and tease Oliver and the scene is set for some emotional ups and downs for Annie.

Lone guest at the Inn, Mary is facing up to her past and wondering about her future as she arrives in Cedar Cove to see if she can salvage the relationships she left behind. Although all three of the female leads in Rose Harbor in Bloom go on an emotional journey throughout the book, I found Mary’s most poignant. Yet, despite heartbreak and sorrow along the way, the story remains positive, romantic and  uplifting and I love the idea that each of the guests that visit the Inn get a second chance in some way.

Although the pace is gentle, there are some brilliant twists to the story and Debbie puts some tantalising cliffhanger endings to her chapters which had me turning the pages as quickly as I could to find out what would happen next. As the story ended, there was plenty of scope for the next instalment and I left Jo Marie having thoroughly enjoyed my visit to her Inn and Cedar Cove. This is a series that I will definitely revisit and I’m looking forward to reading more from Debbie soon.

4/5

I’m delighted to be part of Debbie’s blog tour today to celebrate the launch of Rose Harbor in Bloom. Please do check out the other stops on the tour and visit Debbie’s website at: http://www.debbiemacomber.com/

Book review: By My Side by Alice Peterson

19 Aug

One step can change everything…

Cass Brooks loves her job, her boyfriend Sean, her life. Until, leaving home one morning, distracted and hungover, she steps into the path of a truck.

When she wakes up, she can’t walk. And suddenly all her hopes and dreams, the plans she’d made with Sean, the future she thought she’d have, seem out of her reach.

But then fate intervenes again. Cass meets Ticket, a loyal golden Labrador who refuses to leave her side. And on a flight to Colorado, she sits next to Charlie, who believes he can show her a life full of possibilities, if only she’ll let him.

Cass wants her life back the way it was. Charlie knows this cannot be. Yet a future beckons all the same…

By My Side is the first novel I’ve read by Alice Peterson and I really enjoyed her honest and very well researched portrayal of Cass Brooks whose life is changed forever in a split second one morning when she walks into the path of a truck. The Cass we meet in the very first chapter of the book is a fun, flirtatious medical student feeling the first flush of love and lust with boyfriend Sean. After the accident the contrast is marked; Cass is left paralysed from the waist down and has to try to come to terms with her disability and the fact that life will never be the same again.

Alice Peterson has created an amazing character in Cass and as the story is told in the first person, the narrative feels very personal and private. We get to see first-hand the difficulties that Cass experiences doing things she previously took for granted and I had so much respect for her as a character and found myself rooting for her through the book. I loved that Cass’s story wasn’t sentimental; this is a warts and all depiction of coming to terms with a physical disability and pays brilliant tribute to organisations like Back Up and Canine Partners who really do make a huge difference to people’s lives.

I found By My Side a very emotional read, particularly when Alice showed the impact of Cass’s accident on her family and friends and introduced supporting characters with similar disabilities to Cass. The background stories of the supporting cast were are certainly thought provoking and as I read I felt myself becoming attached to Cass’s friends as much as Cass herself and I admired the way Alice acknowledged that different people react very differently to disability and their stories do not always have the conclusion that we’d hope for.

Overall though, By My Side is an uplifting and positive book as Cass begins to venture out into the world with the support of her beloved assistance dog Ticket. Ticket completely stole the show for me in this book. I’m not really a dog person but I fell in love with him immediately. Aside from Ticket Cass’s mum was one of my favourite characters and I loved the role she played in supporting Cass to get her confidence back.

The romance element of this novel was also beautifully and cleverly done and certainly kept me guessing. By My Side is a compelling and thoughtful read that I thoroughly enjoyed. I’ll definitely be adding Alice’s other novels to my reading list and look forward to reading more from her soon.

4/5

By My Side is out now in paperback and ebook formats.

You can find out more about Alice and her books at: http://www.alicepeterson.co.uk/

I’d like to thank Margot at Quercus for providing a review copy of this novel.