Does My Bump Look Big In This? by Amy Lynch

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Length: 329 pages

Note: The cover image leads to a universal Amazon buy link  for the book

What they say: the MOTHER of all comedies is due…
Newlyweds Barry and Becky are just back from their tropical honeymoon. The tans are gorgeous, and it was five star luxury all the way. But there’s a problem. Barry’s desperate for a baby, and Becky’s not quite so keen.
Surrounded by pregnant friends and a mother who’s talking about the ticking of invisible biological clocks, Becky starts to feel the pressure. When a surprise pregnancy rocks the boat, Becky’s friends and family are rooting for her all the way. Will she navigate the choppy waters to motherhood? Will she survive antenatal classes? Can she avoid stretchmarks, indigestion and her dreaded boss? And most importantly of all… does her bump look big in this?

The Review: You’ll remember I raved about Bride Without A Groom (read review here), hoping that there was a sequel coming out. How happy was I when I saw that this book was available for pre-order?! Of course then I did what I’ve done to much of and am fixing this year and put it aside and got bogged down with other stuff but I’m happy to say this book was paramount in getting me out of a really bad reading slump.

As you know I adore chick lit and this, that of the ‘Legally Blond’ and ‘Clueless’ variety, is rarely done as well as it is by Amy Lynch. I have seen it likened to the Shopaholic Series by Sophie Kinsella, and it needs to be, because these books are every bit as satisfying, fun and enjoyable as Ms. Kinsella’s (excellent) ones. Again we’re following Becky as she clip clops through life, having opinions on anything and everyone, as well as deciding exactly how everything needs to happen. I loved how you rea

There is a plethora of over the top, inappropriate jokes (I regularly laughed, trying to stop myself as I did) on getting ready to have a baby that are brave and oh-so satisfying, but never crude and again I felt like this book was tailor made with references or mentions of ‘Friends,’ ‘Big Brother,’ ‘Ghost, ‘The Snapper, ‘ ‘Mount Carmel hospital (where I was born!) and ‘Orange Is The New Black.’ Oh and Patrick Swayze, but I’ll lower my head for that particular reference!  This seems like a short review but I think I’ve made my point, you’ll know.

My finishing point is that they say that the sign of a good book is that you want to press it into the hands of others and actually I have a number of people who will adore this. This could be read as a standalone but really, if you know you’ll like it, why would you?! As I did. Cannot wait for Amy Lynch’s next book and I’m pretty sure I’m in for the long haul.

Rating: 5/5

Pot Love by Sylvia Ashby

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Length: 302 pages

Note: As always the cover image leads to a universal Amazon buy link for the book

What they say: Ashley Burkе is your average next-door girl. She lives with her boyfriend, loves her work and secretly fancies her boss.

When Ashley loses it all through no fault of her own, well, apart from snogging her boss and getting caught by his fiancée, she needs to act fast to find a new job. A lucrative vacancy comes her way – a spot on a popular day-time TV – but there is a catch. It’s a cookery spot and Ashley can’t cook to save her life.

Can learning to cook burn your heart? 

The Review: Remember Treachery of Trains (read review here)? Well at the time I saw this, which is Sylvia Ashby’s first book, and I was mesmerised but the thought of pairing Ms. Ashby’s excellent turn of phrase with cookery, a subject that I am obsessed with, mainly because I can’t! The book opens with a recipe for scrambled eggs (I ADORE when people put recipes into fiction books!), and we meet Ashley Burke, who is nervous about beginning to cook it. You might think this is unrealistic but I can totally, totally identify with this. Even though I am a stay at home Mum, my husband is the cook in the family, and every day I stand before whatever I am about to attempt to cook with apprehension. The only things that even roughly work out are the things that you can’t feed your kids more than once a week, and require simply putting in the oven (they are fine with this!) Everything else? It ends up charred (never undercooked, I don’t want to give them food poisoning!), crispy, soggy or lumpy. Things congeal that shouldn’t, and the meals always just taste  a little bit wrong (my husband is diplomatic, but did once admit he didn’t know how I try so hard and yet my food always tastes a bit off). But I digress …

Ashley’s mantra is “I’m not giving up and ordering a takeaway” and she wants to have something presentable for her very by the book boyfriend Simon, who by now banks on her not being able to put anything forward as an alternative for take-out. There are some great references in here, from Aimee Winehouse to The Truman Show to Mission Impossible to Jamie Oliver, which made the sum of all parts, the book in its entirety feel like it was custom fit for me.

Ashley is a newsreader, which gives a nice edge to the book, as she reads about politics and the like, but when something hits the fan and she needs a new job she sees the perfect presenting job. Only trouble is, it’s presenting a TV cookery show. What ensues is a book that wouldn’t let me go, as we watch Ashley begin to learn about cooking from the spell binding Giacomo, a top chef who imparts a world of knowledge about food and his native Sardinia. The depth here was enthralling and I was reeled in to experience it all, the culture, the produce, the dishes. The change of location, as in The Treachery Of Trains, was perfection as it both educated me and made me wasn’t to go travelling to see Sardinia in all it’s beauty.

I loved the humour, the descriptions, the characters (in particular her mum, who was just so vivid), the gorgeous (gorgeous) romance, the pacing, all of it. This coupled with the fact that I’ve ‘met’ Sylvia Ashby on social media and she’s so lovely, mean I’m totally in- another author to follow.

Rating: 5/5

 

 

All We Have Lost by Aimee Alexander

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Length: 276 pages

Please note that the cover image leads to a universal amazon link for the book

What they say:

From the bestselling author of Pause to Rewind and The Accidental Life of Greg Millar comes this ‘stunning tale of modern marriage.’

Kim Waters seems to have it all: her own PR agency, a loving husband and two adorable children. Then Kim announces that she’s fed up plugging Flush toilet cleaner and writing sparkling press releases for mediocre products; she wants to write ‘the great novel’ and spend more time with her young family. She folds her business and settles down to a life of cosy domesticity.

If only it were that easy. The ‘great novel’ is, in fact, a great struggle. Life as a domestic goddess has (many) hidden challenges. And her relationship with her husband is rapidly losing its equilibrium.

As the perfect life Kim has built for herself starts to crumble comes the revelation that will make her doubt everything she had taken for granted…

The Review: I saw Aimee Alexander aka Denise Deegan, speaking at a literary festival some years ago, and I knew from her covers which were dark, her extract, which was a rom com, and the way she spoke about writing, that she was one to read straight away. Of course I didn’t. Instead I went to Amazon, bought two of her books, constantly reminding myself I had to read her, with this hitting fever pitch as I watched everyone around rave over The Accidental Life Of Greg Millar … And again I didn’t get to her. Until Christmas time, and boy am I relived I did!

So the book begins with the lead arriving home to a darkened house after she’s missed her children’s bedtime again. The narrative, that of the first person, present tense variety, was perfect. We see Kim, the working mum who feels guilty all the time, who has done this one too many times and decides to give up life as she knows it to become a stay at home mum and a writer (yes!). This resulted in some very funny book issues, which I couldn’t get enough of (I loved how the protagonist had to come to terms with a best friend who had a book deal based off her notoriety while she was starting from the absolute beginning). My only issue actually was that the writer in me would have loved to see more of this.

This book struck so many chords with me. The feelings, the change of dynamic in the house, sometimes possibly perceived as opposed to actual, and the difference in relationship between Ian and Kim, who were such a great pairing. There were times in this book that I took it upon myself to be mad for Kim as household tasks were now handed over to her, but with no please or thank you (would you know that I perhaps see some of our home situation here, lol?) as decisions they made jointly were suddenly solely the duty of the earner of the house (no fingers, stop typing, you are NOT going to do this!) There was an excellent portrayal of the mixed emotions that come with going from a career to staying at home with children, with the feelings of being content and happy to be with the kids sometimes being usurped by loneliness, an itch to do more, a niggling feeling that you’ve lost your place in terms of value in the world, as well as your rights in the household.

The pacing was excellent, with twists and turns, cliches that turned out not to be and side issues and back issues that I won’t go into as I don’t want to spoil it. I’ll tell you that this is what I would catalogue as a slightly darker form of ‘mom lit,’ and it’s one I’ll be recommending all around me. I really enjoyed this and will most definitely be reading Aimee Alexander’s books (see her catalogue here), again.

Rating: 4.5/5

Queen of Blogging by Therese Loreskar

 

thequeenofbloggingLength: 145 pages

Note as always the cover image leads to a buy link for the book

What they say: The Queen of blogging is a fast paced, entertaining story about making ends meet when you have toddlers, a husband that works too much and showing off your life on a blog for the outside world to see.

Kajsa runs Sweden’s largest Health and Fitness blog. There’s only one small problem; it’s all a big lie. Between her blog entries on healthy nutritious porridge and flashy running shoes, she lies on the sofa watching TV and eating sweets. Her only exercise is using the remote control.

Her life seems perfect: A beautiful house in an attractive suburb of Stockholm, three children, a loving husband and loads of money.

However, things start to crumble when she accidently writes on her blog that she is best friends with a famous Hollywood personal trainer. The problem is he’s never met, let alone heard of her.

An ambitious journalist, who doesn’t believe Kajsa has been honest about her blog or her friendship with the personal trainer, sets out to destroy her. 

Besides having to handle the annoying journalist, she must also deal with Peter, “the blog following hunk”, and a bizarre and outrageous priest who keeps spreading Kajsa’s secrets all over town! 

Bestselling Swedish author Therese Loreskar writes with a never-ending sense of humour and energy.

The Queen of Blogging is for anyone who enjoys a comic read that also explores the downside of our generation’s constant use of social media.

The Review:  I bought this on sight on a bus going to Dublin sure that it was going to be a quick, easy, ‘ have to tell everyone you know about’ read, and started into it straight away.  I was rewarded for this with a prologue that made me nod along as I read:

‘Blogging. For some people, it’s a hobby. For me, Kajsa, it’s a way of life. I live in Sweden, with my husband, three children, and a dog, in a very nice suburban neighbourhood.’

The prologue goes on to tell us about a lie that leads to ‘the biggest mistake of my life’ and boom! I’m sitting back and ready to go. You’ll guess by now that I’m either going to gush or rant, and while I’ll try not to go on too much, I’m afraid it will not be the former. The story is told in first person, which can be good in chick lit, and which I like. The only thing was, when we meet Kajsa, I didn’t like HER almost straight away. The constant ‘it’s so hard having three children and a dog’ was the first thing to get to me, followed by the ‘it’s so tough keeping my blog going, people expect a lot when you’re getting paid for it,’ which wasn’t done in such a way that you knew deep down she didn’t mean it, and while I laughed out loud and really enjoyed some parts, I cringed or furrowed my brow disapprovingly at more (the husband has a secret that made my head hurt). I’m afraid there were some editing issues, and an ending that was just beyond surreal. So in general I liked the concept, but there was a bit too much suspending reality for me.
Rating: 2.5/5

It’s good to be back!

So by now you may or may not know that we live in the country in Ireland, in a place that is beautiful and a dream by day (our kids get home from school and just scatter!) and a thriller writer’s dream by night, being cold and drafty with odd sounds coming from a neighbouring farm, plenty of big trees hiding who knows what, animals prowling about (it’s my first time coming anywhere near a mink!) and a darkness that attacks both your eyes and your senses when the stars aren’t visible (we do have the most stellar display of stars by night, and are lucky to get to stand and appreciate them with the kids!) As an aside, all four of my children have not slept through a whole night since we moved it here, this could be anything, but we blame the house!

Now with all of this comes the big problem in Ireland that is debated regularly- that of rural internet.The Irish government are investing in broadband and aim to have every house equipped with fibre high speed broadband in the next four years. We live so far into the sticks that I do appreciate it must be difficult having to lay lines to places where there may only be one or two houses, and the cost must be shocking too!

When we moved in here there weren’t even phone lines about and the internet we received straight after they were set up was of a hit and miss variety, some days on, some days not. Obviously I blog and my husband is in computers and the absence of internet, while amusing at first, started to get to us. We contacted our provider and was told there was fifty per cent chance we could receive ANY internet at any time of the day. We got a dongle and soon it stopped working and we were told there was no internet in our vicinity at all. My kids love looking at minecraft videos on YouTube and soon we began to fight (not in a savage, ‘Lord of The Flies’ way), just bickering, over my husband’s phone, which has unlimited internet which wasn’t always so fast anyhoo. My Kindle stopped downloading books (I’d sometimes go to family houses or into shops and wait around just so I could get their internet). I gave up on looking up blogs and my own blog was left by the wayside.

Now I don’t want to tempt fate, but yesterday we moved to Three. When I was setting up they were dubious about our speed, and to be fair it’s not the same as it would be in Dublin, something I always took for granted, but I just watched while my Kindle began to download three books I haven’t been able to get to for some time and practically started screaming down the phone at the poor guy.

I’m writing this post to let you know  that hopefully I’m back. This morning I began to read blogs, I spent last night on writing.ie for writing tips (my writing, well editing, has gone south too lately due to kiddies being sick or just waking up) and now my blog is open again and I’m heading straight over to my my writing group on Facebook and the chick lit group I’m on too. I’m so happy. I can’t wait to share all the books I’ve read over the past month with you, and to see what you’ve all been up to as well. It’s good to be back (now hopefully I haven’t set anything bad in motion!) Happy 2017 everyone, and hope your reading, blogging, writing or studying is going just great-remember January isn’t over yet and it’s never ever ever too late to get going on those goals!:)

Big hug,

Bernadette (or Berni) xxxxx

Christmas Under A Starlit Sky by Holly Martin (Book 2 of the ‘A Town Called Christmas’ Series)

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What they say: Step inside a beautiful winter wonderland where love, laughter and cosy nights by the fire will make this Christmas one to remember.

Neve Whitaker loves managing the Stardust Lake hotel. She gets to work alongside her wonderful family and she’s spending Christmas on the most enchanting, snow-covered island in Scotland. So why is her heart so heavy this festive season?

It might have something to do with the gorgeous actor Oakley Rey, the man she finished with before he left for California and the man she loves more than anything. With Oakley’s career in Hollywood soaring, Neve is convinced she’d only hold him back. She had to end it with him – at least that’s what she keeps telling herself.

But now she has a secret she’s struggling to keep, and when Oakley arrives on Juniper Island determined to win her back, Neve is thrown off balance. Will Neve’s fear of having her heart broken again push Oakley away for good, or is it time for her to take a leap of faith?

Get swept away by this deliciously sweet and heartwarming tale, and spend an unforgettable Christmas on Juniper Island.

 

The review: I had heard so much about the first book of this series, Christmas Under a Cranberry Sky, that when I saw this on Netgalley I was absolutely thrilled. I had read ‘Tied Up with Love‘ (by Holly Martin writing as Amelia Thorne) before I started blogging, and knew Ms. Martin’s romance and comedy to be exemplary, and her pacing excellent and again they didn’t disappoint.

There were four main characters in this book- and we meet them at the Stardust Lake Hotel where Neve is manager and Adam is on contract. I say four main characters but actually, there were a lot of minor characters here too, and I think that reading the first in this series would have been better to start with. Neve and Oakley have history and are trying to figure out whether they are willing to make it work (he is a famous actor whose life is in America, she is on Juniper Island in Scotland). It says in the blurb that Neve has a secret to keep and yes, it is a big one, with many missed chances for the revelation coming and going. This will annoy quite a few people, as there were roadblocks a plenty, and yes, some of them I predicted, in a ‘if such and such happened now it would be crazy,’ and then it would happen and yet, this book still hit the mark for me. I’m afraid the only issue I had was that I found some of the story to be a little confusing, in particular I didn’t have a feel for who the characters were in terms of their age and appearance and had to skip back in places to figure out what was going on, this could have been an editing issue or it could have just been me, I’m not sure to be honest.

There was another ‘will they, won’t they’ which was filled with lovely moments that were really sweet and had me nodding along. As I said above, Ms.Martin’s romance is perfection as was the chemistry in the book and the (cough) sex. What with that and the constant drama that had me read this in two evenings, it was a book I thoroughly enjoyed. Thanks to Netgalley for the book in return for an honest review.

Rating: 4/5

Short story: Three Men and A Maybe by Katey Lovell

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Length: 59 pages

Please note that the cover image leads to a universal Amazon buy link

What they say: It’s the age-old saying. You wait all day for a bus, and then three come along at once. But proposals? That’s just ridiculous. And yet, on New Year’s Eve, as the countdown finishes and the whole pub erupts in celebrations, Cerys finds herself staring at her ex-fiancé, Ricky. Who just so happens to be kneeling on the floor, ring in hand, asking her to marry him. Again.

And if that weren’t enough, hot barman Angelo, and longtime friend Huw also decide to pop the question. At the exact same time.

Three men, two real contenders, but just one choice. What on earth will she do?

The Review: I’d read a few of Katey Lovell’s short stories before (I’m afraid I haven’t reviewed them on the blog yet so here’s the Amazon link-make sure to check them out and her new book ‘The Singalong Society for Singletons,’ which is on my Kindle and to be read very soon here ) and as I did I kind of nodded and smiled. They were nice, romantic, enjoyable, short reads that were perfect for getting you out of reading slumps.

This story was just a little bit edgier, and had me sitting up, just a little more. We meet Cerys, the designated driver on New Years Eve, watching people become drunker and drunker around her. It had all the trademark activities of a night out-too high heels being discarded, friends getting with strange guys in pub corners and crazy dancing and I was there, almost experiencing it all. There was a jump back of eighteen months and we got an insight into one aspect of Cerys’ old life, and then we went back years further, with the descriptions of the background settings putting you, the reader, back to the time too, with excellent additional little descriptions that really added to the effect.

I have to say this was a very satisfying read and is actually free on Amazon so definitely one to download and has me looking forward to her full length novel, The Singalong Society for Singletons, which, as I said above, I’m looking forward to reading very, very soon!

Rating: 5/5