The Canal Boat Cafe: Casting off (Book 2) by Cressida McLoughlin

castingoff.jpgLength: 107 pages

Note: As always, the image leads you to a universal buy link for the book

What they say: Welcome to Cressida McLaughlin’s heartwarming The Canal Board Cafe – step aboard!

Summer Freeman has embarked on a new life afloat. She’s taking the Canal Boat Café on a scenic journey and is meeting old friends and new. Among the new is Claire from the bohemian boating community who is keen to take Summer under her wing. Mason, the handsome photographer from Willowbeck, seems intent on tracking her down, but Summer has discovered that Mason isn’t all that he seems to be.
Summer starts to feel a real sense of freedom amongst wandering river folk, but she soon finds herself missing Willowbeck… and Mason, whose articles she has been reading online. Will Summer embrace the nomadic lifestyle or will she find herself drawn back to Willowbeck, the place she loves best and where Mason is waiting?

The review: You’ll remember I named ‘All Aboard’ (The Canal Boat Cafe Series Book 1), my book of the year so far (read review here ) , and I have to admit, when people ask what I recommend in terms of rom coms/ chick lit or light hearted romance, this is still the first book that comes to mind. What a relief and a thrill, then, to be able to say I can continue to recommend that they read and ingest this, the second book of the Canal Boat Series by the brilliant Cressida McLaughlin. It is named ‘Casting Off’ and the perfect Summer Freeman is indeed casting off, she’s left Willowbeck and is now moored by Foxburn. The perfection of book 1 is nicely continued with a reminder of what is going on. Again I swooned for Ms McLaughlin’s beautiful description and enticing lead in:

‘She had opened the hatch when she was on board, leaving a teapot and some bit size brownies next to a sign that said ‘help yourself-the canal boat cafe will be opening soon’

A new place brought with it new characters, the main one being the bright, vibrant, mildly mistrusting but fantastically amicable Claire. My notes regularly returned to me simply saying ‘I love her!’for it was true-who wouldn’t love a trader that booms out a great range of musical gems of all genres unapologetically? I’m always using the term ‘smile out loud,’ but here I properly grinned, she was fantastic and played a huge part in Summer’s roving life.Claire contributed to the comedy which made me properly smile, for example when the customers came in asking for food that Claire had initially told Summer to start including in her spread, and Summer found herself asking questions:

‘Have you had a good day? Bought any music?’

There was a very different band of characters who set the tone very nicely, that of magic and enchantment as we were regaled with stories, some funny, some sad, some other worldly. As Summer released the story of her life which we knew from book 1 to a new character I almost felt as if we had moved with her, from apartment search to boat to the decision to make a new life and it was all so familiar and wonderful.

The one thing that sets Ms McLaughlin’s writing apart is the attention to detail, the daily tasks and routines of the boaters, the ins and outs and mechanics of their vehicles made everything so much more realistic and vivid in my mind. There’s buckets of romance and drama, the arrival of old friends, some welcome, some not so much, and always, always a wish to know of a place such as this, a warm, cosy, friendly haven filled with tasty treats. There’s also an ending with a kick that sent me straight to buy books three and four.

This could be read as a standalone, and you’d have a good picture of the goings on, but I’d say get back to book 1 and savour the whole fantastic journey. Again, gorgeous!

Rating: 4.5/5

Extract-Better In The Morning by Fern Ronay

Following my review of Better In The Morning yesterday (see review here), I’m thrilled to give you an extract of the book. Thanks again to the author for the book in return for an honest review and of course for the extract! Remember it’s only $0.99 at the moment!

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Length: 293 pages

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

What they say: Veronica Buccino has a plan: marry John DelMonico and quit her soul-sucking job as a lawyer. And when he tells her he has big news, she’s certain he’ll pop the question. But instead of proposing, John informs her that he’s moving to London.

Heartbroken, Veronica feels lost. Salvatore and Antoinette, her dead grandparents, begin to visit her dreams in an attempt to steer her in the right direction. At their suggestion, Veronica takes a news reporting class, which leads to a challenging freelance assignment covering a conspiracy trial. She also begins dating an unlikely suitor: creative Syd Blackman.

Just when her love life and career are looking up, Veronica is tossed back to square one by an event that makes her question all her new choices.

The Extract:

“‘Overnight parking. Ten dollars an hour.’ That’ll cost ya a pretty penny,” Grandpa Sal said.

“‘Intermix. Sale.’ Look at that. They’re havin’ a big sale,” Grandma Ant pointed out.

I sat between my grandparents in the back of a cab. It was impossible to go two blocks without one of them reading a sign aloud.

“‘P.J. Clarkes.’ I knew a P.J. years ago. Peter Joseph. The Scarpettas. Nice family. Owned a butcher shop.”

I was squished, my knees high up as my feet rested on the hump in the middle.

“‘Haru.’ That’s that sushi stuff you like, right, Veronica?” My grandmother patted my leg. “She enjoys her sushi, our Veronica. Gah bless her.”

I studied the back of her head as she looked out the window. Her tight, white curls were sprayed in place.

“Why don’t you try sushi, Antoinette?” my grandfather teased.

“Why don’t you try it, Salvatore? Big shot. I’d like to see ya try that raw fish.”

My grandfather laughed without making a noise, his chubby hands on his big belly as he cracked himself up. “With a little gravy, a little mozzarella, I might like it.”

I smiled at the pronunciation. “Mootzadel,” I whispered to myself. My non-Italian friends always laughed at how I said it.

“I’ll believe that when I see it.” My grandmother leaned past me to look over at my grandfather.

“‘High-End Home Furnishings.’” My grandfather pointed. “That’s where they try to sell ya a ten-dollar vase for a hundred dollars. They call it high end.”

I laughed. I had bought a hundred-dollar vase there when I moved to the city.

“They got some beautiful stuff,” Grandma Ant countered.

The cab stopped at a red light, and I sat up to stretch my back. My grandmother took that opportunity to push my long, brown hair to the side and rub my back. The woman can’t keep her hands off me.

We were on our way to get cupcakes. I reminded myself that, technically, I was sleeping. And technically, I wouldn’t really eat a cupcake. And technically, my grandparents were dead.

But it all felt real—the cupcake, the cab, my grandparents—and technically, that was all that mattered.

I looked up as the light turned green. On our next visit, we’ll be discussing the big news.

“Right here,” I told the taxi driver as we pulled in front of The Cupcake Shop on West Seventy-Second Street. We hopped out without paying the cabbie. That was how it worked there—the waiters and waitresses and taxi drivers on the other side never expected to get paid. Grandpa Sal would say that was why they called it Heaven.

As my grandmother and I surveyed the selection in the glass case, my grandfather tapped my shoulder. “They don’t sell cannoli here? What kinda bakery is this?”

“Oh, um…” I looked up at the blackboard menu above the counter. “Nope. Sorry, Gramp. They have really good cupcakes though.”

“Cupcakes? Who wants a cupcake?”

“Don’t listen to him, Veronica,” my grandmother said. “He’s a pain in the coolie. What are you getting? I’m gonna have the red velvet. My friend Ruth was here with her grandson last week and said the red velvet is out of this world.”

“I’ll have the red velvet too,” I said.

My grandmother ordered, and as we left with our cupcakes, she stopped at the condiment bar to grab a handful of sugar packets. Before I could say “Gram, seriously?” she shrugged. “What? For my coffee later on.”

At restaurants, she used to take the leftover bread from the basket, wrap it in a napkin, and stuff it in her pocketbook. It mortified my mother and me, but she would say something about living through the Great Depression and ‘going without’ and ‘It’s a sin to let it go to waste.’

In front of the bakery, the three of us squeezed on a bench that I couldn’t recall ever having seen there before. My grandfather bit into a cannoli that came from I don’t know where. Another reason they call it Heaven.

The weather was perfect—a clear, crisp day, cool in the shade, warm in the sun.

I hope the weather is just like this tomorrow night.

“It’ll be like this tomorrow night,” Grandma Ant said. She was concentrating as she slowly pulled off the wrapper of her cupcake.

“I’m excited, but I don’t want to say too much,” I said. “I’m always afraid of jinxing things.”

I thought I heard Grandpa Sal make a noise. A “Ha” or a “Huh.” I turned to him as he furiously wiped cannoli powder off his sweater.

“Did you say something?”
“Me? No.” He wiped faster.
I peeled the wrapper off my cupcake and took a big bite. I closed

my eyes, enjoying the sun on my face as I worked my mouth around the perfect combination of cream cheese frosting and moist red cake.

“Look out!” my grandfather shouted.

I bolted up, eyes wide open. “What the fu—” I caught myself. “What?” I swiveled my head up and down the street and turned to look behind me toward the bakery, but I saw nothing amiss.

“That biker almost slammed into that car over there.” My grandfather motioned to the street with a jut of his chin.

“Or ya could say the car almost slammed into that bike rider,” my grandmother said.

“What? Stuff like that doesn’t happen here.” I looked around, still trying to find the biker and car in question.

“Nah, but ya know”—my grandfather held the cannoli wrapper in a tight ball in his fist—“close calls are always good reminders.”

“Gotta brace yourself,” Grandma Ant whispered. “For what?” I asked.

“Ya know—this, that, the other thing. Life, Veronica. Life.” Finished with her cupcake, she ran her pinky along each side of her mouth, making sure her orangey-red lipstick was still intact.

I looked back toward the street. Couples were holding hands as they walked. Young mothers pushed strollers.

“I don’t want to hear that,” I said. “Don’t I brace myself enough? Aren’t I nervous enough? Can’t I enjoy this?” I let out a satisfying exhale. “Can’t I enjoy this cupcake?” I sat back and took another bite. I chewed slowly when I felt my grandmother reach over and start smoothing my hair. I tried not to flinch or swat, but I did a sort of ducking motion instead. “Can you—can you—just please, Gram. Can I savor this in peace? Please.”

“Oh, yeah, yeah, sweetheart, of course. You enjoy.”

“You wanna have your cupcake and eat it too?” Grandpa Sal laughed. Grandma Ant laughed too.

I stifled an eye roll. “Yes.”
“Good luck, my little brasciole,” Grandpa said.
They know something. I can feel it, and I know I should ask them directly.

But I didn’t ask. Instead, I did the only thing I knew how to do up to that point: I ignored that uncomfortable feeling and focused on my cupcake. Cream cheese frosting is Heaven.

 About the author:

fernronay

Nobody says it better than the author herself! Read about Fern Ronay on her website here

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Better In The Morning by Fern Ronay

betterinthemorningAmazon

Barnes and Noble

Length: 293 pages

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

What they say: Veronica Buccino has a plan: marry John DelMonico and quit her soul-sucking job as a lawyer. And when he tells her he has big news, she’s certain he’ll pop the question. But instead of proposing, John informs her that he’s moving to London.

Heartbroken, Veronica feels lost. Salvatore and Antoinette, her dead grandparents, begin to visit her dreams in an attempt to steer her in the right direction. At their suggestion, Veronica takes a news reporting class, which leads to a challenging freelance assignment covering a conspiracy trial. She also begins dating an unlikely suitor: creative Syd Blackman.

Just when her love life and career are looking up, Veronica is tossed back to square one by an event that makes her question all her new choices.

The Review: We meet Veronica with her grandparents Salvatore and Antoinette, having a run of the mill conversation that set the tone nicely. All are Italian, and I loved the tone, nuances and warmth of it all. The grandparents, as you most probably read in the blurb, are deceased, but Veronica can see, feel and speak to them as if they are alive. I have to admit, I’m not usually one for the supernatural, but Ms. Ronay did this beyond perfectly. I loved her grandparents, who gave us many sayings, words of wisdom and life lessons, throughout the book actually, with peeks into the past and the future. They also gave us sparks of comedy that hit the mark and made me smile regularly.

The story is of Veronica, who is waiting for her big break-from her career. She hates being a lawyer, and can’t take much more of her colleagues, Beverly and Kate, who seem to glean every ounce of happiness they can from Veronica, by throwing extra work and late nights at her constantly. Although they weren’t the nicest of people, they threw up one of my problems with this book-the fact that I found Veronica to be horrendously lazy! If she hadn’t spent so much time on the internet, looking up human interest stories, she wouldn’t have had to stay so late in the first place (I know, I’m harsh, but she was very lazy!) I couldn’t warm to her, there were a number of times I felt she overreacted, and I got a bit too much of the ‘I usually take too much rubbish from people’ vibe from her. I’m afraid at times this soured the story for me, just a little.  Aside from her, all of the characters did their jobs well, I enjoyed Jada, obviously loved the grandparents, and her parents, and Syd … oh how I loved Syd from the second he appeared! I looked forward to reading and read very quickly, there were many moments I truly enjoyed, and I always looked forward to picking it up. A nice light read that will be enjoyed by many, and only $0.99 at the moment! Tomorrow I’ll bring you an excerpt from the book. Thanks to the author for the book in return for an honest review.

Rating: 4/5

About the author:

fernronay

Nobody says it better than the author herself! Read about Fern Ronay on her website here

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On Snapchat @FernRonay

 

 

Release Blitz-Catch A Falling Star by Geralyn Corcillo

Today I’m thrilled to be part of the Release Blitz for catch A Falling Star by Geralyn Corcillo (Read my reviews of her 4 in the Morning Short Stories anthology here or an anthology of short stories, ‘Love in an Elevator’ which contains her story ‘Upstairs, Downstairs … and the Lift in Between’ here).

 

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What they say: When TV star Wendy Hunter is about to have her most closely guarded secret viciously exposed by the paparazzi, she desperately tosses out a juicy bone to distract them: she announces her engagement to southern high school football coach Colin Scott. One problem. She’s not really engaged to him. In fact, she barely knows him. Um … barely. But will one unforgettable night last year be enough to get him to go along with her charade? 

 Wendy goes to Louisiana to see him and discovers that Colin is not sothrilled to be suddenly “engaged” to her. He’s got some secrets of his own that his famous “fiancée” is putting in serious jeopardy. Still, he agrees to her fake engagement … as long as she agrees to play by his rules: Wendy has to stay in town for three weeks to play the part of Colin’s one true love, all without wrecking his life. 

 Let the games begin. But when their time together is up, will either of them be able to–or want to–go back to the way things were? 

 **This novel reads as a stand alone story within the In Love in the Limelight universe, where the stars and paths of different characters might cross, and where the paparazzi is always ready to sink in its glittery talons. 

About the author:

thumbnail_GeralynCorcillo

When she was a kid growing up in Scranton, Pennsylvania, Geralyn Vivian Ruane Corcillo dreamed of one day becoming the superhero Dyna Girl. So, she did her best and grew up to constantly pick up litter and rescue animals. At home, she loves watching black & white movies, British mysteries, and the NY Giants. Corcillo lives in a drafty old house in Hollywood with her husband Ron, a guy who’s even cooler than Kip Dynamite. 

 Geralyn’s website: geralyncorcillo.com

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Lost by Elle Field

lost

Length: 262 pages

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

What they say: “I’m starting to realise that age is just a number, but Tabitha pointed out I’m only saying that because I’m twenty-five, engaged, and have my life together. (Touch wood things stay that way.)”

Arielle is back! OK, she’s not on her way to becoming the next Coco Chanel, her childhood dream, but she is one way step closer to running her very own shop with her business partner, Felicity.

She’s also planning her perfect romantic wedding to fiancé, Piers, and Arielle is starting to believe that she’s finally found her place in the world… Of course life is never that straightforward.

With a new-found foe interfering with her shop decisions, not to mention haughty wedding planners and loved ones facing personal struggles, will Arielle figure out what’s important before all is lost?

Lost is the second book in the delightful Arielle Lockley chick lit series, following on from the #1 best seller Kept, which was long listed in the Best Romantic Comedy category, SpaSpa Book Awards 2013. Shopaholic and Lindsey Kelk fans will love the next book in this funny coming of age series.

 

The Review: When I saw the opportunity to review one of Elle Field’s books I ran for it. I’ve seen and encountered Elle Field a number of times on Twitter and have huge admiration for both her work ethic and writing advice. This, coupled with all the gushing about her books, and the fact that I have B-side sitting on my Kindle, pushed me forward. This is book 2 of the Arielle Lockley series. I read it as a standalone and it worked well as such.

We begin this book with a prologue from Obelix, who turns out to be our lead, Arielle Lockley’s best friend. Our insight into him is that he is a nice, easy-going, slightly awkward vet, who hasn’t had any luck in the girl department and also who is gearing up for his best friend’s wedding, hoping not to let her down.We then move over to Arielle, going back in time by four months, when she is looking for the perfect premises for her new business, a boutique. We get insights into her business partner and friend, an elderly lady named Felicity and I was pulled along with Arielle, as she tried to deal with the many interruptions, events and crises thrown at her. And there were quite a few. I really enjoyed said crises, thrown in when you least expected them. I really warmed to Arielle, although she was perhaps a little over dramatic in places, as were many of the characters. There were some nice hints thrown in as to what might happen in the next book of the series and we were left on a great cliffhanger. All in all a really enjoyable book and, given the ending I will most definitely continue to follow the series (Found is out now).

Thanks to Samantha March from Chick Lit Plus for the book in return for an honest review.

Rating: 4/5

About the author:

ellefield

Elle Field writes coming of age chick lit books, and is the author of the Arielle Lockley series and Geli Voyante’s Hot or Not. She grew up in a small town in England, then moved to Scotland to study International Relations and Social Anthropology at the University of St Andrews.

Elle now lives in London with her boyfriend and their cat. She’s a massive fan of sunshine, giraffes, The Killers, Audrey Hepburn movies, playing Scrabble, musicals and tea. Oh, and reading, of course!

Find out more about Elle by reading her blog  or by following her on Twitter: @ellefie

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A Summer Romance (The Little Perran Romances Book 3) by Lynda Renham

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

Length: 150 pages

What they say: A Summer Romance is the sequel to A Village Romance and is the third book in the Little Perran series by Lynda Renham writing as Amy Perfect.

Milly settles into her new job but does her boss, Ashley Wilmot-Fox, have secrets that he is hiding in Briar Lodge? Will he be able to help Milly fight the ghosts from her past? Will Billy’s blundering romance last, and will Rafe’s secret affair be exposed? As the villagers prepare for their summer fete they have no idea what will be revealed on that day.

 The Review: Some time ago I reviewed A Village Romance by Lynda Renham (see review here), part of The Little Perran Series. I actually read the next installment, this one, A Summer Romance, straight away, but things got in the way and so I never got to review. Now, while it wasn’t quite for me, I did enjoy. It begins with a nice little run down on what had happened the last time we encountered the people of Little Perran. I thought this was a nice touch- I always enjoy a nice lead in, to get you back into the spirit of the book, even though I’d just read A Village Romance. We were back to Milly, working away at her pottery, and reminded that there were secrets, and I looked forward to all being revealed.

I have to admit, the place we went to next reminded me that I hadn’t been a fan of a lot of the characters in A Village Romance, with a lot of backward notions on women being ‘made’ to do things that made me roll my eyes.

There was a lot of swoony type romance, and more canoodling, which will definitely appeal to many, however we were also hit with some slang and cursing that took away from the whole homely aspect at times. That being said there was some lovely scenes with the preparations underway for the village fete, and I liked some of the comedy we encountered. There were also characters I did enjoy and the book flew by in a dash.

I’ll be honest, while I think this book will go down very well with romance lovers, it wasn’t necessarily my cup of tea, but I did find it enjoyable. Thanks to the author for the book in return for an honest review.

Check out my previous interview with Lynda Renham and some reviews, including ‘Rory’s Proposal’ a romantic comedy I really warmed to, and  Perfect Weddings which I also enjoyed!

Rating 3.5/5

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Would Like To Meet by Polly James

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Length: 400 pages

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What they say:

A hilarious, heart-warming read perfect for fans of Shirley Valentine and You’ve Got Mail.

Could the worst thing that’s ever happened to Hannah Pinkman also turn out to be one of the best?

She and her husband Dan have reached the end of the line. Bored with the same gripes, the same old arguments – in fact, bored with everything – they split up after a trivial row turns into something much more serious.

Now Hannah has to make a new life for herself, but that’s not easy. She’s been so busy being a wife and mum that she’s let all her other interests slip away, along with her friends. And when Hannah is persuaded to join a dating site, her ‘best match’ is the very last person she expects it to be . . .

A clever, funny and poignant novel about life after a long relationship, the importance of friendship, and rediscovering your identity.

The Review: To start with, what a cover. I saw this and somehow knew that there was such a little chance of it being anything but enjoyable, and I wasn’t let down.  So we begin with a prologue that tells us of the beginnings of Hannah and Dan and we smile at how in love they are. Fast forward twenty seven years and now we are beginning to see the end, when a simple few comments quickly turn into some home truths that get out of control. I loved Ms James’ style, it reminded me of Fiona Gibson or Aimee Horton, more dialogue and funny goings on with a nice mix of realistic descriptions that put you at the scene of the crime each time. There were a few things to be sorted as you read, in the back of your mind you had an idea of what was going on, and sneaking suspicions of other happenings. The characters were great, I loved how human Hannah was, how strong her aunt Pearl was, and I loved the ‘baddy’ of the story-again so human that you couldn’t figure out what to feel about here. Joel was great, as was Dan, and I loved the insights into how both parties of the break-up felt.

My only issue with this book was, I suppose, a big enough one. When the pacing dipped I found myself having to push myself to keep going, just a little bit. The out of the ordinary events, the mix-ups, and all that involved much excitement, were so brilliantly done that the book couldn’t help but drop for me when Hannah was nostalgic or trying to figure out how to be alone, brought to the forefront by the length of the book, which could have been quite a bit shorter. That being said I still enjoyed it so much it wouldn’t hamper my excitement at finding another gem of an author to follow- I have to admit after this Ms. James’ name will be on my firmly ‘to look out for’ list (yes, I have one of those) and I’ve already bought ‘Diary of An Unsmug Married.’ Thanks to Netgalley for this book in return for an honest review.

Rating: 4.5/5