Wednesday, 30 December 2015

My top 20 of 2015


It's been absolutely fantastic year of reading with 147 books read, so it was quite hard to whittle it down to my top 20 reads of the year.

A lot of the books are so completely different and brilliant in their own right, so I don't think I could pick an absolute favourite.  After much deliberation and without further ado, in no particular order, my top 20 reads of 2015 are:



Click on any book cover to be taken to my review and then on to Amazon where you can purchase these fabulous books for yourself.

With such amazing reads in 2015, I am really looking forward to a book-filled 2016.

Wishing you all a happy and healthy 2016.
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A Boy Called Christmas - Matt Haig


You are about to read the true story of Father Christmas.
It is a story that proves that nothing is impossible.
A Boy Called Christmas is a tale of adventure, snow, kidnapping, elves, more snow, and a boy called Nikolas, who isn't afraid to believe in magic.

What did I think?

This is a truly magical book - if you don't believe in Father Christmas, you certainly will after reading this.


Nikolas is like Cinderella, being left in the abominable care of his Aunt whilst his father goes on an expedition to find the legendary mythical elf village of Elfhelm.  Nikolas decides to leave home and follow in his father's snowy footsteps, meeting Blitzen the reindeer along the way.  We learn all the secrets of Christmas; how Father Christmas gets down chimneys; how reindeer fly; why Santa wears a red hat; and the best lesson of all - why 'impossible' is an old elf swearword.

The illustrations are outstanding and the prose is magical, making this an instant hit with kids of all ages...ahem...and adults.  It's definitely my festive favourite and I will read it again every Christmas to reignite the magic and sparkle of this most wonderful time of the year.

I bought this treasured signed edition from Canongate Books.

My rating:






Buy it from Amazon

The Astonishing Return of Norah Wells - Virginia Macgregor



One ordinary morning, Norah walked out of her house on Willoughby Street and never looked back. Six years later, she returns to the home she walked away from only to find another woman in her place. Fay held Norah's family together after she disappeared, she shares a bed with Norah's husband and Norah's youngest daughter calls Fay 'Mummy'.
Now that Norah has returned, everyone has questions. Where has she been? Why did she leave? And why is she back? As each member of the family tries to find the answers they each need, they must also face up to the most pressing question of all - what happens to The Mother Who Stayed when The Mother Who Left comes back?
From the author of What Milo Saw, comes this powerful, emotional and perceptive novel about what it takes to hold a family together and what you're willing to sacrifice for the ones you love.

What did I think?

This is an absolutely delightful story, beautifully written in a style unique to Virginia Macgregor.  I have named What Milo Saw in my top 20 books of 2015, so I was absolutely delighted when I was invited to read an advance copy of The Astonishing Return of Norah Wells.

Norah's daughters, Ella and Willa, are such vibrant characters that they were an absolute pleasure to read.  I found it hard at first to remember who was who as their names are so similar, but once they made it into my heart I could tell them apart.  Ella remembers her Mum, Norah.  She didn't know why Norah had left them and had set up a Twitter campaign to find her Mum.  Willa was just a baby when Norah left and Norah's friend, Fay, is the only Mummy that she knows.  Their lives are thrown into turmoil when Norah returns.

Norah's story is so emotional.  It is clear that she never stopped loving her family so it's really hard, as the reader, to understand why she left.  Virginia Macgregor tells Norah's story so compassionately that, by the time all of the jigsaw pieces fell into place, the whole Wells family felt very dear to me.

The conflicting emotions of Ella and Willa were portrayed so sympathetically.  Ella is so angry that her Mum doesn't appear to have a good reason as to why she left.  Willa, on the other hand, is quite accepting and is more than happy to have two Mums.  They are both amazing girls and Ella is a perfect example of how we lash out at those we love whereas Willa reminds us to accept people for who they are.

This is a truly magical book with an unconventional family that you will surely fall in love with.  Without a doubt, The Astonishing Return of Norah Wells is sure to become one of the big hits of 2016.

I received this e-book from the publisher, Little Brown Book Group, via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

My rating:




Pre-order now from Amazon - to be released 14 Jan 2016

Destiny - Louise Bagshawe


Kate Fox was a teenage orphan from the rough side of the Bronx. Now a beautiful woman, Kate wants wealth and security for life. When media mogul Marcus Broder proposes, it seems the dream has come true. But a life of pampered luxury does not make Kate happy. When she walks out and forges a career of her own, a humiliated Marcus is furious. Bitterly jealous, he is determined to destroy her. Wall Street's favourite entrepreneur, David Abrams, has heard the rumours that Kate Fox is a gold digger. But is Kate still the woman she once was? When irresistible passion flares between them, David has to decide if winning Kate is worth the gamble of losing everything he has...including his heart.

What did I think?

After reading and enjoying Sparkles by Louise Bagshawe, I decided to pick up another of her books.  I was quite disappointed with this one - it seemed rather flat and trashy in comparison with the glamour and excitement of Sparkles.

I have remarked before on Louise Bagshawe's descriptive writing whereby she ensures that the reader knows what each character is wearing, both clothing and makeup.  Destiny seemed to go a little bit too far, in my opinion.  I'm all for reading that somebody is wearing a Chanel suit but stating that your main character is wearing Sure Ultra Dry anti-perspirant made me feel like I was being hit with subliminal advertising.

Kate is a likeable character, even though she set out with the purpose of snaring herself a rich husband.  She soon finds out that money can't buy happiness and leaves her husband.  It's not long before she truly falls in love with another rich guy, although will he see past her gold-digger label?

It wasn't a bad little story, although very predictable and far too many mentions of what a fabulous ass some people have.  To the point where I was thinking, oh we haven't read about her amazing ass in this chapter yet...oh there it is.

This isn't one I would recommend, so I'm glad it was loaned rather than bought.  Now I'm off to buy me some Sure Ultra Dry...

My rating:


Billy and the Devil - Dean Lilleyman


Resonant of Irvine Welsh and Charles Bukowski, but unique in its style, voice and addictive central character. Billy and the Devil is a shocking, compelling and intimate portrayal of isolation, sexual misadventure, and addiction. Told in a series of brilliantly rendered observations and episodes from Billy's life, this controversial story charts an all-too real descent into alcoholism. It is an unflinchingly vivid journey to a place of no return, where love is lost in the darkest of woods - a boy, who becomes a man, who becomes his own worst devil. But ultimately, what choice does Billy have? Raw, poetic, with moments of pure imaginative visceral genius, Billy and the Devil is by turns funny and sad, brutal and tender, horrific and uplifting. You will be both challenged and moved by this astonishing debut novel from author Dean Lilleyman.

What did I think?

This is such an astonishing debut that I read this book in one sitting; it was so addictive that I couldn't bear to put it down.  I have never read a book like it - it is so poetic and beautifully dark.  The subject matter of an alcoholic spiralling into self-destruction was at times difficult to read but I was completely entranced by the devil in my inability to stop reading.  

From the moment that his father left his mother pregnant, Billy's path was mapped out for him.  It was a path he happily followed as long as there were bottles of Bells along the way.  Billy travelled through life like a tornado, leaving damage and destruction in his wake, not caring who he hurt or what he did as long as he could drink himself into oblivion.

As dark as this book was, there are some really funny moments in it.  The book is so realistic, emotive and raw that Billy's actions caused me to both laugh and cry.  There are incidents in the social club and in Burtons that made me cry with laughter but also to question the effect of alcohol to make Billy do these things in the first place.

This is a book that should be given to all alcoholics on their road to recovery - highlighting the damage caused by excessive alcohol consumption to your life and your body.  It is an absolutely amazing debut novel that shows the effects of alcoholism in a sobering light.

I received this book from the publisher, Urbane, in exchange for an honest review.

My rating:






Buy direct from the publisher
Buy it from Amazon

Monday, 28 December 2015

Sparkles - Louise Bagshawe


Crossing decades and continents, SPARKLES is the totally compelling story of the Massot family. Fabulously wealthy, internationally adored, the Massots own one of the last great aristocratic jewellery firms in Paris.

But where is its owner Pierre, missing presumed dead for 15 years? And what will happen to his beautiful young widow Sophie? The answers lie rooted in the past and form part of the future - in a way no-one could ever have guessed...

What did I think?

Having read and enjoyed Beauty earlier this year, my lovely god-sister loaned me a few Louise Bagshawe books.  It was recommended that I start with Sparkles and I can see why - it's completely addictive reading, with more bitching and backstabbing than an episode of Dynasty.

As with Beauty, Louise Bagshawe goes into such descriptive detail, from the designer of the clothes to the cut of the diamond, that a multi-dimensional picture is created in your mind and the characters are almost jumping out of the page in 3D.

I loved and loved to hate all of the characters.  There is Pierre's widow, Sophie, who has to step in to save the business for her son, Tom.  Pierre's haughty mother, Katherine, who bends Tom's ear and convinces him that Sophie is devaluing his inheritance.  Tom, the son, and spoilt playboy who thinks he's a man but can't see when he is being played.  Not forgetting my favourite love to hate character of Judy, one of Pierre's mistresses, who intends to get her hands on the Massot business one way or another.

There is a massive twist in the story and I didn't guess all of it.  In fact it's a twist that, once revealed, keeps twisting.  It reminded me that hell hath no fury, like a woman scorned...but which scorned woman will have her revenge?  You'll just have to read it for yourself to find out!

My rating:




How to Stuff Up Christmas - Rosie Blake


Eve is heartbroken after discovering her fiancé is cheating on her. Being surrounded by the joys of Christmas is more than Eve can bear, so she chooses to avoid the festivities by spending Christmas alone on a houseboat in Pangbourne. Eve gets gets an unexpected seasonal surprise when handsome local vet Greg comes to her rescue one day, and continues to visit Eve's boat on a mission to transform her from Kitchen Disaster Zone to Culinary Queen. 

But where does Greg keep disappearing to? What does Eve's best friend Daisy know that she isn't telling? And why is there an angry goose stalking Eve's boat?

A hilarious and heart-warming novel about Christmas, catastrophes and cooking, containing exclusive Christmas recipes, from the talented Rosie Blake.


What did I think?

This book has an absolutely gorgeous cover with sparkly lettering and mouthwatering gingerbread but, getting a hint from the title, we get the impression that this isn't going to be a story full of sparkle and sweetness.

As much as I liked the characters of heart-broken Eve and hunky vet Greg, it was Eve's dog Marmite who stole my heart.  When Eve's ex-boyfriend, Liam, broke her heart, she took Marmite as revenge as she knew how much he loved the dog.  As the story unfolds, Marmite is pivotal in mending Eve's broken heart and she finds out how much she really does love Marmite after all.

There was a really good will they/won't they going on with Eve and Greg that had me guessing right up to the very end.  Eve, understandably, is finding it hard to trust again and Greg has personal issues to deal with.  I kept thinking that the stars were about to align but then something happens and I thought fate was perhaps trying to tell them something.  I was also wrong in my guess as to whose body part caused the breakup between Liam and Eve, as Rosie Blake had very cleverly drawn my attention elsewhere.

The recipes at the start of some chapters were a lovely addition and give us a hint as to what culinary delight Eve was going to attempt next.  I say 'attempt', as Eve is not known for her cooking and you just knew that every time she heads into the kitchen a disaster is ready to strike.  Disaster or not, the prawn and leek linguine sounds delicious and I'll be copying out that recipe to try myself, with fully defrosted prawns of course.

This is not just a simple love story; there are surprises and twists with lots of laughs, making it the perfect festive read.

I received this book from the publisher, Corvus, in exchange for an honest review.

My rating:




Buy it from Amazon

Wednesday, 23 December 2015

A New York Christmas (Christmas Novellas 12) - Anne Perry


Thomas Pitt's daughter Jemima, now a young woman, leads the cast of Anne Perry's enthralling festive mystery. In New York, at the turn of the century, where new American money and old English aristocracy collide, a young bride's secret past could destroy her future. Jemima, in America as a chaperone until her friend's wedding, is instead drawn into the crisis, and must decide whom to trust, and how to thread her way through the dangerous streets of this cold, brash new city.

What did I think?

This was a very quick read and wasn’t at all what I expected; it didn’t really have much to do with New York or indeed Christmas.  I suppose, putting the title aside, it wasn’t a bad little story.  There is a little twist, although it was a very easily guessable ‘whodunit’.

I haven’t read any of Anne Perry’s books before so I am not familiar with her Thomas Pitt series.  In this book, Thomas’ daughter, Jemima, is escorting her friend, Delphinia, to New York to be married into the wealthy and powerful Albright family.  Delphinia has a skeleton in her closet that puts her impending marriage in jeopardy – the mother she thought was dead is alive and well, and is living in New York with a questionable reputation.  If Delphinia’s mother, Maria, attends the wedding, Delphinia will be shamed.

Jemima agrees to visit Maria with Harley Albright, who is Delphinia’s future brother-in-law, to ask her to stay away from the wedding.  When Jemima arrives at Maria’s apartment she finds her dead and Jemima is accused of her murder.  Now Jemima must find out what really happened to clear her name and find out who framed her.

It’s not a bad little story to pass an hour or so – a bit like a Sunday afternoon Miss Marple.  Apart from one twist, that I didn’t see coming, it was quite predictable.  Perhaps it’s a book that the older generation might enjoy.

I received this book from the publisher, Headline, via Bookbridgr in exchange for an honest review.

My rating:




Buy it from Amazon

The Mice of Holy Redeemer Hill - Christopher Carnahan



After a disastrous year, a little, overworked mouse named Mystic and her family are trying find the joy of Christmas. As their preparations are underway, menacing rats dampen their holiday spirit. Nosey kids pose a constant threat. They’ve managed to make friends with a rambunctious scurry of squirrels who have vowed to protect and keep them safe in their home in a crèche outside of Holy Redeemer Parish. 

The parish is home to a dedicated but lonely priest and two nuns who teach at the church school. Together they are on their own quest to help those struggling during the Advent season. A National Guard veteran recently returned from war struggles with symptoms of PTSD. A homeless man seeks redemption. A young woman tries to escape from an abusive relationship. As the drama unfolds, their lives intertwine with those of the creatures on the grounds the parish grounds building to an explosive ending.

Written so that the story unfolds throughout the Advent season, this book is broken into 25 short chapters that can be read once a day from the first of December until Christmas.


What did I think?

I was drawn to this book as part of my festive reading as it was described as kind of an advent book, with 25 chapters to read throughout December.  I think I would have found it hard to link the stories together if I had only read one chapter every day, so I read a few chapters at a time.

The book touches on the side of Christmas we don’t like to see, but should be reminded of – those who are homeless, suffering from PTSD, victims of domestic violence, or separated from loved ones.  It reminds us of forgiveness in the face of adversity, to never give up and that small is mighty.

Although there were some nice little stories, I was expecting a warm Christmassy glow at the end which unfortunately I didn’t get.

I received this e-book from Books Go Social in exchange for an honest review.

My rating:




Buy it from Amazon

Christmas Evie - Nicola May



It’s two days before Christmas and Evie Harris finds herself both manless and jobless. After a chance encounter with handsome Greg (and egged on by her toy-boy-eating friend, Bea) she agrees to work at a homeless shelter on Christmas Day. 

Striking up an unlikely friendship with homeless Yves, Evie begins an unwitting journey of spiritual awakening, all set against the sparkling winter backdrop of London. 

A New Year’s Eve revelation is on its way … but will it leave Evie with a happy heart, or will she allow the pre-Christmas past to dictate her future? 

What did I think?

Wow!  What an amazing little novella; this book gave me goosebumps and really warmed my heart on a cold winter night.  It’s a quick read that packs a big punch.

Evie is suddenly single and unemployed at Christmas and, when she meets handsome stranger Greg in the pub, agrees to help out in a homeless shelter.  It is there that she meets one of the homeless men, Yves, and she agrees to meet him at various locations around London.  At each location, the beauty of London shines through and Yves with a ‘Y’ hands Evie with an ‘E’ a little card at the end of each excursion reminding her of the lesson learned.  With his sudden appearances and disappearances, it quickly became apparent that there was something special about Yves.  He really made Evie look inside herself and open her heart to the possibility of a new relationship.

I have to give a special mention to Evie’s friend, Bea, who was responsible for my many chuckles when reading this book.  She is absolutely hilarious, and is the complete opposite to peaceful Yves.  She really doesn’t care what she says and is the perfect tonic to cheer up both Evie and the reader.

Although I had an idea in my head where the story was going, I wasn’t entirely right and the ending completely surprised me.  It’s a wonderful book that reminds us of those we miss at Christmastime and when they are still in our thoughts, they will never be very far away from us.

This is an absolutely superb short-story.  It is perfect for reading during the festive period, curled up in front of the fire with a nice glass of sherry.

I received this e-book from the author in exchange for an honest review.


My rating:




Buy it from Amazon

Heart Conditions (Breakup Doctor book 3) - Phoebe Fox


Running a massively successful relationship counseling practice should guarantee smooth sailing in a girl’s own love life...

Breakup Doctor Brook Ogden has spent the last year sifting through the fallout from the disastrous decision that led to her unconscious uncoupling with boyfriend Ben Garrett. Despite advising her clients you can’t be friends with an ex, she and Ben have somehow begun to stitch together a friendship—one Brook hopes is slowly turning into more. That is, until Ben introduces his new girlfriend, Perfect Pamela, a paragon of womanly virtues who is everything Brook is not.

While Brook navigates her newly volatile emotional life, an unwelcome surprise shows up on her doorstep: the ex-fiancé who broke her heart two years ago—one month before their wedding. Between her ex’s desire to rekindle their attachment, her best friend Sasha’s unexpected crisis, and her own unsquelchable feelings for Ben, Brook finds herself questioning the personal progress she’s made in the last two years—and threatened with the highest-stakes Breakup Doctor failures she’s ever faced.

What did I think?

I don’t usually like to jump into a book mid-series but I made an exception in this case as this book sounded like so much fun.  With this being book 3 and my having enjoyed it so much, I can certainly say that you can read this as a stand-a-lone without having to read the earlier books.  Although I definitely want to read the first two books now!

So Brook, the Breakup Doctor, is torn between two men; her ex-fiancé Michael and her ex-boyfriend Ben.  It’s a bit like team Edward or team Jacob in the Twilight saga – the reader will end up rooting for one or the other, just as I did.  Michael appears to have changed since breaking off his wedding to Brook and Ben seems to have moved on by dating Perfect Pamela.  One is available, one is not – which one has captured Brook’s heart?

I have to say that my favourite character was Ben’s dog, Jake.  He reminds me of Scooby Doo – he’s so hilarious and loving that I eagerly looked forward to his appearances.  Thankfully, Phoebe Fox seemed to enjoy writing about Jake as he is almost one of the main characters himself.  I had many laugh out loud moments thanks to his escapades.

There’s also an interesting little story going on with Brook’s best friend, Sasha who is in a relationship with Brook’s brother, Stu.  Brook helps Sasha through a dilemma in a most unconventional way, which I found very amusing.  Sasha has a difficult decision to make and I thought it was handled very sensitively.

The Breakup Doctor was just the thing to put a smile on my face and I would heartily recommend a dose of this when you’re feeling blue.

I received this e-book from the publisher, Henery Press, via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

My rating:




Buy it from Amazon

The Glittering Art of Falling Apart - Ilana Fox


1980s Soho is electric. For Eliza, the heady pull of its nightclubs and free-spirited people leads her into the life she has craved - all glamour, late nights and excitement. But it comes at a heavy cost.

Cassie is fascinated by her family's history and the abandoned Beaufont Hall. Why won't her mother talk about it? Offered the chance to restore Beaufont to its former glory, Cassie jumps at the opportunity to learn more about her past.

Separated by a generation, but linked by a forgotten diary, these two women have more in common than they know . . .

What did I think?

This was an amazing book and I absolutely loved the dual storyline of Cassie in the present day and Eliza in the past.  The way that Eliza’s story unfolds through her diaries that Cassie found made this such a poignant and believable story.  Although the story is about Cassie discovering Eliza’s diaries, it is Eliza’s story that takes precedence and Cassie is the medium through which we must discover it, warts and all.

Eliza left home at 17, drawn to the bright lights of Soho, but finds a reality harsher than she expected.  The author is not afraid to touch on the old seedy side of Soho, covering subjects such as drug addiction, exploitation of models and prostitution.  Many youths of the 80’s will recognise songs that are mentioned in the book, which ensure that the reader is fully immersed in the era.  Reading about Eliza’s decline was sometimes difficult as I had really come to care about her. 

Following a devastating family tragedy, Eliza then discovers her mother’s estranged family who own stately Beaufont Hall in Buckinghamshire.  Her Aunt is quite cold towards her and it takes the unearthing of a shattering family secret to find out why.  Despite this, Eliza manages to build a lovely relationship with her cousin and shakes off her old life in Soho like a butterfly emerging from a chrysalis. 

Some might say that the ending was a little predictable, but it was the absolutely perfect ending to this tragic story and Eliza’s final letter did actually bring tears to my eyes.

This is a book full of family secrets and devastating events that really pulled at my heart-strings.  Even though it made me cry, I really loved this book and would read it again.

I received this e-book from the publisher, Orion, via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

My rating:




Buy it from Amazon

Christmas Treat: Excerpt from 183 Times a Year by Eva Jordan

As Christmas approaches and 2015 draws to a close, I am delighted to share a Christmassy excerpt from one of my favourite books of 2015: The wonderful 183 Times a Year by Eva Jordan.  Many thanks to Eva Jordan for allowing me to post an excerpt from her fabulous book.



Chapter 26

IT’S BEGINNING TO LOOK A LOT LIKE CHRISTMAS

Lizzie

Every year I swear my cynical, socialist views will not be temporarily disabled and blindsided by some over sentimental, mawkish, consumer driven, drivelling TV advert. I will not be moved by a Christmas campaign designed to pull at the heartstrings whilst inadvertently directing the purse strings. I will not be moved, in any way, shape or form by advertising that has now become as much a part of the yuletide season as turkey, absurdly silly knitwear and mistletoe and woe in soapland. And yet, once again, this year like every other year finds me in the kitchen, after making excuses to absent myself, blubbing like a baby. I am, I have to admit, stirred by the genius of the Christmas advert.

Everyone has caught onto it. TV advertising with an emotional connection; nostalgia poked and provoked. So, here I sit, quite innocently minding my own business, watching the usual Saturday night TV when out of nowhere, during the commercial breaks, I am dragged, like poor old Ebenezer Scrooge, back through the memories of my Christmases past.

First there are the Christmases of long past—my own childhood. A childhood where my parents struggled but stayed together nonetheless; money was tight, carpets and wallpaper were a distasteful mix of browns and olive greens and always had some sort of flowery design. Flares, long hair and platform shoes were the order of the day—for men as well as women—and life seemed a little more—simple. We didn’t have a lot but we were grateful for what we did have and filled the gaps with love.

Then of course we are reminded of the big man himself; Christmas past but not so long ago. Depictions of a round, jolly, seventy something year old in a bright red, fur trimmed suit to match his beard with black shiny boots and the all-important sack of toys. Father Christmas doesn’t live at our house anymore but through the power of advertising I grieve his loss. I am reminded of those magical moments I created with Cassie and Connor—later Maisy and Simon too. Carrots left out for Rudolph and a mince pie and glass of sherry for Santa; decorating the tree to Christmas songs, then worn out and huddled together on the sofa, cup of hot chocolate in hand, watching something seasonal; and of course the squeals of delight at some ridiculous ungodly hour,

“He’s been!! He’s been!!”

And not a care in the world that I had nothing or very little to open—the giving far more enjoyable than the receiving.

Then of course there’s Christmas present. Sulky, surly teenagers; the yoof of today aggrieved and embarrassed at their parents, grandparents or younger siblings best efforts to include them in the festive seasons activities, only to be drawn in at the last minute under mock protest and duress. I sigh out loud, lost in an abyss of memories.

Where has it gone? Where have all the years gone?

‘You okay babe?’ Simon has sneaked up behind me. He wraps his arms around my waist and holds me—tight. I lay my hands on top of his and hold on for dear life. I don’t reply. Simon thinks I’m mourning sentimental memories of Christmases past—which I am—but I’m also grieving the loss of my friend. My best friend.

‘Christmas adverts eh? They get me every time too.’ I swing round and look at Simon as he folds me into his chest. He strokes my hair and I can smell him—fresh, familiar and safe. I eventually look up.

‘The kids are growing up fast eh?’

Simon tilts my chin up towards him and looks at me. ‘Just remember the words of one very wise old man,’ he replies. I frown—confused. ‘It’s not a life, it’s an adventure!!’ Simon declares in his best cockney accent, which is in fact very poor. But it’s done the trick and I’m smiling again.

He bends down and kisses me. His lips are warm and hot on mine. He loves me but he also wants me. His passion is hard and evident, to me anyway, and for a moment I’m lost.

‘Urrggghh, for god sake get a bloody room will you? That’s like well gross,’ Cassie, who has now joined us, says. A look of horror flicks across her face. I laugh.

‘You’re just jealous,’ Simon smirks.

‘As if.’

‘She’s right Dad. It’s really not right, get a bloody room.’ Maisy has now joined us too and trailing just behind her is Connor. He looks slightly puzzled.

‘Why do Mum and Simon have to get a room?’ he asks. Everyone starts to laugh.

‘Who wants hot chocolate?’ Simon shouts.


You can read my review of 183 Times a Year here.

Read my Q&A with Eva Jordan here.

Most important of all, click here to buy this fabulous book from Amazon.

Monday, 21 December 2015

Author Interview: Q&A with Eva Jordan

One of my favourite books of 2015 is the wonderful 183 Times a Year by Eva Jordan.  It's a book that really made me think about how I act and react with those I love and, to my absolute shame I have to admit, if the book was about me it would be called 360 Times a Year.  When given the opportunity to host a Q&A with Eva Jordan, I absolutely jumped at the chance and I really hope you enjoy reading my interview.  If you haven't yet had the pleasure of reading 183 Times a Year, I strongly suggest you head over to Amazon and pick up a copy for yourself.





Q: 183 Times a Year is your wonderful debut novel – what was your inspiration to write it?

A: Thank you so much Michelle. I suppose my debut novel is a social observation of family life and in particular the relationship between a mother and her teenage daughter. Although at times the mother-daughter relationship is a road fraught with diverse and complex emotions, it can also be – like many strong, female friendships – very enriching and rewarding. Inspired by own experiences and that of friends and family I felt inspired to write 183 TIMES A YEAR as an observation of the complex and diverse relationship between a mother and daughter set amongst the thorny realities of today’s sometimes divided, often extended, modern family. 


Q: I got the impression that 183 Times a Year has a semi-autobiographical feel to it, can you tell us how much of the story was influenced by your own experiences?

A: I wouldn’t say my novel is semi-autobiographical – all the characters and events are definitely fictional – but I have been, without a doubt, inspired by the relationship between my own daughters and myself but also by that of friends and acquaintances and their stories and experiences. And, of course, I have also been influenced by my relationship with my own mother.


Q: Have you always wanted to write a book and how long did it take for 183 Times a Year to go from idea to publication?

A: I’ve always wanted to be a writer and have done so, on and off, for most of my life. I had some poetry published when I was younger and more recently I’ve had some short stories published. Also, during my early twenties I joined a band with one of my brothers where I sang backing vocals but also co-wrote and recorded original material too. However it wasn’t until after I graduated as a mature student with a BA Honours Degree in English and History in 2009 that I seriously thought about writing a book. 183 TIMES A YEAR took approximately one year to write and then I suppose another year to do re-writes and edit.


Q: I picked up a few messages from your book; the main ones being to treat others as you'd like to be treated yourself and to not generalise and label people. Did you intend for the reader to learn some life lessons along the way? 

A: I don’t think it’s the job of a writer to preach their own values or belief systems to their readers but yes, I did intend for my readers to think about some of the social issues and problems that surround us. Books should make you think, and question things.


Q: There's an interesting dip into immortality in 183 Times a Year. Was the mention of Nicolas Flamel a Harry Potter influence or homage to the legendary alchemist?

A: The mention of Nicolas Flamel is actually homage to my dad. Like the grandparents in my book, both my parents have been avid readers all their lives. My dad talked of Nicolas Flamel and the philosophers stone long before J K Rowling wrote about it. That said, I am a huge fan of Harry Potter – I think my dad missed a trick there though!


Q: What are your writing routines, where do you do most of your writing and do you prefer to write with pen, pencil or keyboard?

A: We have a small room where the main computer in our house is kept and I do most of my writing there. However, if I get too many interruptions I’ll disappear upstairs with my laptop. Unlike a lot of writers I do actually prefer using a keyboard – I learned to touch type when I was in my teens so I just find it a lot easier and more convenient to type. I do have several (hundred probably!) notebooks that I carry around with me though to write down ideas when they come to me. I also, due to family commitments, prefer to write early in the morning – when it’s quiet!


Q: When you aren't writing, what do you enjoy doing?

A: When I’m not writing I love to read – fiction and non-fiction. I also love a good film or a good TV series like Sherlock Holmes, Breaking Bad and just recently I’ve been watching the second series of Fargo. I also love all kinds of music and love to watch live bands – with the odd glass or two of wine!


Q: Who are your favourite authors and do you have a favourite book?

A: I honestly couldn’t pick out a favourite author or book. I’ve read a lot of different genres and a lot of different authors over the years. I’m not a book snob either – I appreciate the simplicity of some books and the difficulty of others. Three of the most recent books I’ve read are The Last Days of Rabbit Hayes by Anna McPartlin, Love In The Time Of Cholera by Gabriel Garci Márquez and The Woman Who Walked Into Doors by Roddy Doyle – all very different, all very enjoyable. I love the classics like Wuthering Heights, Pride and Prejudice and Elizabeth Gaskell’s North and South however I also love most of Stephen King, writers like Angela Carter and I loved Philip K Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep.


Q: Tell us a little about yourself – who is Eva Jordan?

A: I am a published short story writer with a degree in English and History. I live in a small town in Cambridgeshire with my partner and three of our four children who are a constant source of inspiration! My career has been varied, including working in a Women’s Refuge and more recently at the city library. I enjoy the odd glass of wine, coffee cake and taking long walks. I also love reading or watching a good film and really enjoy the company of good friends and family. However, storytelling through the art of writing is my true passion. 183 TIMES A YEAR is my debut novel.


Q: Finally, the question that all readers of 183 Times a Year are dying to ask: can we look forward to a second novel?

A: Yes, there is definitely going to be a sequel to 183 TIMES A YEAR, which is what I’m working on at the moment. I’ve more or less structured my plan for the book and written the opening chapter. Hopefully, like my debut novel, there will be a few tears but lots of laughter. Watch this space!



You can read my review of 183 Times a Year here and read an excerpt here.

I honestly can't stop thinking about this book; it's definitely a book I will read again and I'm sure I will enjoy it just as much the second time round.

Don't wait a minute longer, buy it now from Amazon by clicking here.

Tuesday, 15 December 2015

The Blue - Lucy Clarke


They had found paradise.  What would they do to keep it?
With a quick spin of the globe, Kitty and Lana escape their grey reality and journey to the Philippines.  There they discover The Blue – a beautiful yacht, with a wandering crew.
They spend day after languorous day exploring the pristine white beaches and swimming beneath the stars, and Lana drifts further away from the long-buried secrets of home.
But the tide turns when death creeps quietly on deck.
A dangerous swell of mistrust and lies threatens to bring the crew’s adventures to an end – but some won’t let paradise go…whatever the price.

What did I think?

This book was simply amazing, completely gripping and an absolute page-turner.  I’ve had it in my pile to read for quite some time and although I was interested enough to request a copy, other books seemed to pique my interest more.  How wrong I was to leave this little beauty gathering dust.  If you have it in your TBR pile, read it now!

I love books that flick back and forth between the past and the present so I knew that once I picked this up, I wouldn't be able to put it down.  You feel that all of the characters on The Blue are running away from something or perhaps simply trying to make a new start, either way they are all hiding secrets and you don't know who can be trusted.  You can feel the air almost crackling with tension; on the surface they all appear to be friends but underneath alliances are being made and it's only a matter of time before the weakest may get thrown overboard.

I was absolutely captivated by this story, I fell in love with the beauty of both The Blue and the scenery she sailed in.  I read it so fast as I wanted to know why Lana left The Blue, what happened to Joseph and whose body is now floating in the sea.  There was so much I didn't even see coming, even though the clues were there but I was just enjoying myself so much being swept along with the magic of The Blue.

This really is a stunning book, it is so vivid and written so beautifully that I felt I was part of the voyage.  I won't ever hesitate again in picking up another book by Lucy Clarke.

I received this e-book from the publisher, HarperCollins, via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

My rating: