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Rowan’s Well by C J Harter

rowans

Length: 314 pages

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

What they say: Who’s the one person you’d trust with your life? Think again.

Mark Strachan has everything: good looks, beautiful, doting wife, great job, loyal best friend… and a secret flaw that goes to his very core. A deep secret he’ll wreck lives to protect.
Mark’s life is about to change. He’s going to commit an act so shocking there’ll be no going back. Unless someone can stop him.
At Rowan’s Well, on North Yorkshire’s rugged cliffs, Mark will force his family, and best friend Will, to face the consequences of loving a man like him.
At Rowan’s Well, it’s hard to tell where love ends and hatred begins…

If you like psychological thrillers with page-turning suspense and shocking twists, you’ll love this.

The review: So to begin we’re not actually beginning at the beginning, but sometime closer to the end of the story, it is ten years after, although what the after is we don’t know. Mark Strachan is telling a story while ‘looking out of the window at the upper floors of the high-security wing opposite’ about an event when he was young to someone whose part in this story we don’t know. His story is vivid and packs a punch almost straight away-I could tell this character had issues and was very likely to be telling of something that had played a part in something he had done (hence the ‘after’) or the person he had become.

We are shot back to twelve years before where Mark is starting in boarding school, noticibly without any of the parental support other have. I think books like this hit me hardest, with characters that would be so different if they had a family who showed them the love they so craved, and Mark is a character I’ll probably be adding to my ‘best of’ list come the end of the year. Luckily, he falls in quickly with the lovely Will, and you get the impression that they’ll both have each other’s backs. We’re shown a lot of how the boys get on and interact, and I really enjoyed both the banter and light/ dark humour. Then things happen, and one fateful night we see Mark saving Will, but at the cost of another lad’s life.

Mark is an interesting character, where Will is an open book, we constantly wonder whether secretly all the bad luck that piles up in stacks around Mark, is actually his own doing. When I say bad luck, there are a number of events that take place over their lives, most involving expanses of water, that are so real, you feel the fear, the panic, that comes with being trapped under water. (There are a number of these, and you do wonder why they choose to stay anywhere near water!!)

The outstanding imagery also left me in no doubt that this was to be a beautiful read (I was to be correct!) Actually, I have to admit here that I can sometimes have to force myself not to skim over imagery, but I couldn’t even consider that here, it was second to none, powerful and vivid and amazing.

We are told there’s something in his eyes that make people nervous, yet the author is pretty excellent at showing us Mark’s point of view, making us worry that all the bad luck that befalls him ISN’T because of him. This is an interesting book because it has a hint of all the light horror stories I read as a teen (I know, you’d never know, would you?!) and it had me hooked.

There is the added dimension of his home life, where we wonder about his mother, and see him gravitate towards Will’s family. The jump comes when both him and Will fall for two women who are twins, and so we know they’re bound together for life. So begins a chapter in Will’s life where he truly has someone to love. I have to admit I read through this somewhat impatiently, and sometimes was confused, in particular as to their family dynamic, which I didn’t find so clear, waiting for something bad to happen, and when it did, when we found out what Mark did, we were placed in a scenario of having to find out if it was intentional, planned. To get Marks viewpoint throughout this, while looking at the prison system and seeing the differing opinions of Mark on the outside and through the prison employee’s eyes, was excellent. Actually it was Mark’s time in prison I enjoyed the most as Mark tried to communicate what had led him to this point, his horrendous past and I really empathised (special mention for Fitz, who broke my heart) and noticed that he was possibly the most human bad guy I have read to date. I read this book as I would watch a film, and the last scenes played out perfectly, with my heart in my throat. If I am to find any issues with this, it’s the descriptions of the timeline, I think I’d have rather to have just been given the dates as opposed to this ‘x years before or after, ‘ but, saying that it probably won’t bother most, I also found some parts a little confusing, but more seasoned readers of this genre will figure it out! I would highly recommend this book.

Ratine: 4.5/5

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The Chocolate Lovers’ Christmas by Carole Matthews

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Length: 496 pages

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

What they say:

Christmas is just around the corner but the women of The Chocolate Lovers’ Club have more to worry about than present shopping . . .

Lucy loves running Chocolate Heaven but she hasn’t spent time with her boyfriend, Aiden, in weeks. And then her ex-fiance turns up and things become even more complicated.

Nadia hasn’t let herself get close to a man in a long time, yet she can’t help feeling drawn to Jacob. Will he be her last chance for a happy ending?

Chantal and her husband, Ted, are besotted with their baby daughter Lana – but she’s not sure that’s enough to base a marriage on.

Autumn is dealing with a tragedy that has hit too close to home. But when she doesn’t get the support she needs from her fiance, will she look elsewhere for comfort?

Can friendship overcome all in . . . The Chocolate Lovers’ Christmas.

The review: Well, I’m not sure that this IS a review, given that I unfortunately called it a day at 36%, after two years and numerous attempts to read, but I need to let you know why I didn’t finish, so here it goes.

I requested this book on the back of numerous rave reviews, all four and five stars, from various bloggers out there. We all know that Carole Matthews and Sarah Morgan took their roles as queens of Christmas some time ago, and I’d read ‘Calling Mrs Christmas,’ and  ‘With Love at Christmas’ and I think one other and had always fallen in love with them and eaten them up over the holiday period. I found her descriptions magical and wonderous and everything a Christmas read should be.

I’m not sure whether it’s been since I’ve started blogging, and so have upped my range of books, but I found myself drifting away from the story, of Lucy, manager of ‘Chocolate Heaven, her friends, Autumn, Chantal and Nadia, and her boyfriend, Aidan.  I didn’t really connect with any of them, finding them a little immature and a bit selfish. What drove this home was that anytime anyone was ANYWAY nice to anyone else, there were cries of how lovely they were, how selfless etc, and as it happened a few times it began to grate a little.

From the start there was comedy, only because I wasn’t sure I liked the characters, I’m afraid it didn’t really connect. Interspersed with everything going wrong for Lucy, with some really funny moments that I honestly would have liked if I wasn’t finding it hard to connect with her, were some more serious issues, the story of Autumn’s past, which for the first time made me realise what people meant when they said some issues didn’t fit in with the chick lit genre and felt out of place. Jumping from fun and hilarity to this, with the drama dial suddenly upped out of nowhere just felt muddled and I found myself shrugging a little. Add to this their solution to everything was chocolate, and yes I know this is The Chocolate Lovers’ series, and so it’s a given, but it was mentioned so much the word itself lost all meaning.

The descriptions of setting, as they headed towards Christmas, as ever, were stunning, beautiful, magnificent, making you want to transport yourself to that time of year. And so I trundled on. I stopped and started this book so many times. I’ve only ever given up on three books in my life, and I couldn’t fathom that this would be number four. I know that there are a world of people out there that adore this book, and I’ve no doubt there will be so many people who will love it, and it will be a great Christmas read for them, unfortunately not for me. Thanks to Netgalley for this book in return for an honest review, and apologies it didn’t work out.

No rating as I didn’t finish.

The Christmas Surprise by Samantha March @BySamanthaMarch

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Length: 77 pages

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

What they say: Juliette Mabry is a happily married stay-at-home wife and mother…until there appears to be trouble brewing in her nearly ten-year marriage. Juliette takes it upon herself to find out if her husband is up to no good, but does she want to know the truth? Everything is revealed on Christmas, and Juliette is in for her biggest Christmas surprise.

The review: First off I have to mention that the author of this book is none other than Samantha March, who runs blog tours on Chick Lit Plus. I have always followed Ms. March on both Facebook and her blog and love how her posts are so bright, inspirational and motivational. There was also the fact that I knew she had written a great deal of books (see them here) and so, when I saw this for free last year (£0.99 now), well, you know, you’re always curious, aren’t you? So I guess I’m starting off my Christmas books here. I know it’s early, but I think it’s going to be another year where there’s going to be a lot of excellent titles out here (last year I steered very clear but the year before I read a fair few, see wrap up here) so off we go!

This story starts with a lady in a toilet stall, listening to the rumour mill starting up about someone’s partner having an affair and I was intrigued straight away. The scene was reminiscent of Desparate Housewives, and indeed this programme was mentioned, with our protagonist wondering if they could be talking about her best friend, who had once been caught sleeping with her gardener. And this was the essence of the story, which had me so early on, and kept me through every twist and turn with its ‘who can you trust?’ tale of betrayal and deceipt. It featured lavish lifestyles, yoga and Botox, but with more likeable characters than I’d have expected from a book set in this backdrop. The descriptions were beautiful and grabbed you and put you right there, the suspence got you and I read it in an evening. The only issue I had was that I felt it could have been just a little braver, but saying this I enjoyed the ending. Add to this that it was a free Christmas read which made it that little bit more satisfying! This is a book that will definitely send me back to Ms. March’s back catalogue.

Rating: 4.5/5

 

The Other Side Of The Wall by Andrea Mara

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 Length: 402 pages

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

What they say:

When Sylvia looks out her bedroom window at night and sees a child face down in the pond next door, she races into her neighbour’s garden. But the pond is empty, and no-one is answering the door.

Wondering if night feeds and sleep deprivation are getting to her, she hurriedly retreats. Besides, the fact that a local child has gone missing must be preying on her mind. Then, a week later, she hears the sound of a man crying through her bedroom wall.

The man living next door, Sam, has recently moved in. His wife and children are away for the summer and he joins them at weekends. Sylvia finds him friendly and helpful, yet she becomes increasingly uneasy about him.

Then Sylvia’s little daughter wakes one night, screaming that there’s a man in her room. This is followed by a series of bizarre disturbances in the house.

Sylvia’s husband insists it’s all in her mind, but she is certain it’s not – there’s something very wrong on the other side of the wall.

The Review: I was very lucky to have read an earlier form of this book, as I’m blessed to share online space with Andrea Mara (a freelance journalist whose blog is the brilliant officemum.ie) in the Imagine Write Inspire writing group (come on, I had to!) , led by the most lovely Carmel Harrington, and was blown away that this was a debut. Enough about that, however. This book starts as every thriller should, in the middle of the night, with our lead character woken with a jump. After some time she looks out to see that there’s a child’s body floating in the pond next door, only, on further investigation, there isn’t. And so begins Sylvia’s story, where a series of happenings are making her wonder if there’s something going on with the new people next door, or whether it’s all in her mind.

We have multiple point of views here, as well as following Sylvia on her daily passage as a working mum. The author of this book has, as this is her forte, presented us with various mothers, there’s Sylvia, but there’s also Kate, who is a stay at home mum. I loved the lighter relief of their everyday routines, and the issues that arose with partners, relatives and work but was quickly reeled into the plights of various characters. I felt you were immersed time and time again in the everyday before a new build up started-something beginning to niggle at you before suddenly you were presented with a shock.

I was gripped by the back stories of the various characters (there’s a lot of jumping in terms of timelines, but I enjoyed the way it was done) and in particular that of Kate and her brother, Miller, which was the story that took over my mind both times (I couldn’t review until I had read it in its current form) I put the book down. I’ve probably told you before that my brother has AS and so every time I read about a character who is a little different it takes hold. The treatment of Miller really got to me and I started to feel that whatever we might learn he had done was justified (I know, I know!).

The storytelling was perfection, the descriptions excellent, and I’m always a sucker for multiple point of views and the fact that there were multiple mysteries to be solved too meant this suited me down to the ground. This book isn’t gory but there is the possibility of a few grimaces along the way, the idea of what one character does to another human being being a tough one to stomach. I will say that there was in particular one loose end that I would have enjoyed being tied up a little neater but it niggled at me at the time and then was quickly replaced with memories of other things that had happened. All in all a very atmospheric, memorable thriller (not listed as this on Amazon, is under sagas, literary and fiction?!) that rose to an excellent climax and is beyond beyond (done purposely!!) recommended.

Rating: 5/5

Excerpt: The Big Dreams Beach Hotel by Lilly Bartlett @MicheleGormanUK

 

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Amazon UK

Amazon US

Length: 228 pages

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

I’m afraid this is horrendously late, as it was due by the weekend, and a big big apology needs to go to both Michele Gorman and Harper Impulse, but I suppose the silver lining is that instead of telling you to pre-order, I can tell you that The Big Dreams Beach Hotel is now available on Amazon. I’m reading a lot of thrillers at the moment and wanted something a little lighter and I really enjoyed The Second Chance Cafe In Carlton Square (read review here), so when I remembered I had this to promote I went straight to Kindle Unlimited to download. Anyhoo, enough rattling on, here’s the story!

A heartwarming, cosy romance from Sunday Times bestselling author Michele Gorman, now writing as Lilly Bartlett

This is a brand new standalone novel from the author of the Carlton Square series with a whole new cast of characters to fall in love with!

What they say: Wriggle your toes in the sand and feel the warm breeze on your face at the hotel that’s full of dreams…

 Three years after ditching her career in New York City, Rosie never thought she’d still be managing the quaint faded Victorian hotel in her seaside hometown.

 What’s worse, the hotel’s new owners are turning it into a copy of their Florida properties. Flamingos and all. Cultures are clashing and the hotel’s residents stand in the way of the developers’ plans. The hotel is both their home and their family.

 That’s going to make Rory’s job difficult when he arrives to enforce the changes. And Rosie isn’t exactly on his side, even though it’s the chance to finally restart her career. Rory might be charming, but he’s still there to evict her friends.

 How can she follow her dreams if it means ending everyone else’s?

The Excerpt:

New York is where I fell head over heels for a bloke named Chuck. I know: Chuck. But don’t judge him just because he sounds like he should be sipping ice-cream floats at the drive-in or starring in the homecoming football game. Rah rah, sis boom bah, yay, Chuck!

Believe me, I didn’t plan for a Chuck in my life. But that’s how it happens, isn’t it? One minute you’ve got plans for your career and a future that doesn’t involve the inconvenience of being in love, and the next you’re floating around in full dozy-mare mode.

I won’t lie to you. When Chuck walked into our hotel reception one afternoon in late October, it wasn’t love at first sight. It was lust.

Be still, my fluttering nethers.

Talk about unprofessional. I could hardly focus on what he was saying. Something about organising Christmas parties.

‘To be honest, I don’t really know what I’m doing,’ he confided as he leaned against the reception desk. His face was uncomfortably close to mine, but by then I’d lived in New York for eighteen months. I was used to American space invaders. They’re not being rude, just friendly. And Chuck was definitely friendly.

‘I only started my job about a month ago,’ he told me. ‘It’s my first big assignment, so I really can’t fuck it up. Sorry, I mean mess it up.’ His blue (so dark blue) eyes bore into mine. ‘I’m hoping someone here can help me.’

It took all my willpower not to spring over the desk to his aid. Not that I’m at all athletic. I’d probably have torn my dress, climbed awkwardly over and landed face-first at his feet.

Keep him talking, I thought, so that I could keep staring. He looked quintessentially American, with his square jawline and big straight teeth and air of confidence, even though he’d just confessed to being hopeless at his new job. His brown hair wasn’t too long but also wasn’t too short, wavy and artfully messed up with gel, and his neatly trimmed stubble made me think of lazy Sunday mornings in bed.

See what I mean? Lust.

‘I noticed you on my way back from Starbucks,’ he said.

At first, I thought he meant he’d noticed me. That made me glance in the big mirror on the pillar behind him, where I could just see my reflection from where I was standing. At five-foot four, I was boob-height behind the desk in the gunmetal-grey fitted dress uniform all the front-desk staff had to wear. My wavy dark-red hair was as neat as it ever got. I flashed myself a reflected smile just to check my teeth. Of course, I couldn’t see any detail from where I stood. Only my big horsy mouth. Mum says giant teeth make my face interesting. I think I look a bit like one of the Muppets.

‘Do you have the space for a big party?’ he said. ‘For around four hundred people?’

He didn’t mean he’d noticed me; only the hotel. ‘We’ve got the Grand Ballroom and the whole top floor, which used to be the restaurant and bar. I think it’s even prettier than the ballroom, but it depends on your style and your budget and what you want to do with it.’

Based on his smile, you’d have thought I’d just told him we’d found a donor kidney for his operation. ‘I’ve been looking online, but there are too many choices,’ he said. ‘Plus, my company expects the world.’ He grimaced. ‘They didn’t like the hotel they used last year, or the year before that. I’m in over my head, to be honest. I think I need a guiding hand.’

I had just the hand he was looking for, and some ideas about where to guide it.

But instead of jumping up and down shouting ‘Pick Me, Pick Me!’, I put on my professional hat and gave him our events brochure and the team’s contact details. Because normal hotel receptionists don’t launch themselves into the arms of prospective clients.

When he reached over the desk to shake my hand, I had to resist the urge to bob a curtsy. ‘I’m Chuck Williamson. It was great to meet you, Rosie.’

He knew my name!

‘And thank you for being so nice. You might have saved my ass on this one. I’ll talk to your events people.’ He glanced again at my chest.

He didn’t know my name. He’d simply read my name badge.

 

About the author:

Michele Gorman square (2015_02_13 17_34_58 UTC)

Lilly Bartlett’s cosy romcoms are full of warmth, quirky characters and guaranteed happily-ever-afters.

Lilly is the pen-name of Sunday Times and USA Today best-selling author, Michele Gorman, who writes best friend-girl power comedies under her own name.

Calling Major Tom by David M. Barnett @orionbooks

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Length: 304 pages

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

What they say:

AS FEATURED ON THE GUARDIAN – THE HEARTWARMING EBOOK BESTSELLER

Forty-something Thomas is very happy to be on his own, far away from other people and their problems. But beneath his grumpy exterior lies a story and a sadness that is familiar to us all. And he’s about to encounter a family who will change his view of the world… for good.

The Review: A blurb such as this, a cover such as THAT, and reviews that were spread across Twitter stating what a lovely, heartwarming read this was- well, there wasn’t any chance I was going to pass up a chance to review Calling Major Tom, was there? Given that Space Oddity would be one of my favourite ‘sit and ponder the world’ type songs (I don’t get a chance to do it often, mind you;)), I ran for this one.

The blurb doesn’t give much away, but this is the story of Thomas Major. Thomas is one of those grumpy, witty characters that make you nod along. You know, as far as journeys go, that he has to go on one, and yet, you have the feeling he doesn’t have to travel too far. Physically, however, Thomas Major goes on one heck of a journey- as, as a result of an unfortunate mix up (done brilliantly, I just had to laugh!), Thomas Major is chosen (on the day David Bowie dies), to go into space.

At the same time we meet a family, fronted by Emily, who’s too young to front a family, but who has to, due to issues with her nan, Gladys, who was just so gorgeous. We hear the voices of each of the different characters and wander along with them, wondering how this can all possibly get sorted in the end. Their story made my breath catch a few times, as I waited for the crossover between Thomas’ (dubbed Major Tom by the media) story and theirs (well, you knew it had to come, didn’t you?). One thing I would say is that the point of view and day could change without it being addressed and that put me off a little at times but this wasn’t too big a deal.

I won’t give away too much but I will say that the comedy made me snort out loud, and I was quite emotional at times too. To describe it I’d have to say if you like films such as Little Miss Sunshine you’d be quite on the mark for loving this book and I’ll probably pull it out again in the future for a re-read. Thanks so much to Orion books and Netgalley for this book in return for an honest review.

Rating: 4.5/5

The Sinking Chef (Pot love 2) by Sylvia Ashby @bysylvia_a

 

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Length:339 pages

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

What they say: Bridget Jones meets Burnt in this delightful comedy novel about a talented YouTuber and the guy who keeps trying to bring her down. Although part of a series this book is completely standalone, as are all other novels in the Pot Love Series.

In Belsize Park, London, Ashley works hard on her daily YouTube channel “The Sinking Chef”. It’s filmed right in her kitchen, so she doesn’t go out much.

James is a gruff British TV director, turned publisher, who Ashley had a crush on ages ago. She has moved on but when he calls with an offer to take her out to lunch she doesn’t say no. It’s only lunch – what can go wrong?

The day Ashley meets James for lunch and he promises her a book deal, she makes the worse decision in her life – to hide the book deal from her boyfriend, Giacomo. As things progress Ashley’s secrets mount up and other things in her life unravel. Is there a connection? And how is she going to get out of this without losing Giacomo and the life she loves?

Set in the heart of fast-paced London, The Sinking Chef is a charming story of love, recipes, secrets, and the determination to do thinks right by those you love most in your life.

 

The Review: Some things you’ll already know from my previous reviews of The Treachery of Trains (review here) and Pot Love 1 (review here):

  1. Sylvia Ashby can transport you straight to any part of the world with just a few words.
  2. Her stories are captivating and she does romance and heat like no other (swoon!)
  3. I’ve ‘met’ her through the internet and she’s beyond lovely!

So, now that’s out of the way: Pot Love 2. When I heard this was coming out I was very excited. I’ve told you all before how horrendous I am in the kitchen and so I lean towards all books where there’s talent or not shown in terms of food. I have to admit I worried a bit that it wouldn’t come close to Pot Love 1, where we watched Ashley struggle to overcome her culinary gremlins, but I needn’t have.

We begin the book (as we did last time) with a recipe, although this time it’s that of Pasta alla Puttanesca. The recipe was written in lay person’s language which really made me warm to the Pot Love series all over again. Our story, however, begins not in the kitchen, but back with Ashley. She’s wandered in error onto Mumsnet, and is speaking to a number of mothers, horrified at what she’s hearing. She has no children, but is being pressured into getting pregnant since her and the lovely Giacomo are together three years now. The comedy made me settle in, and I knew I was in for a treat.

As the story flowed on, I was reminded of how much I enjoy Ms. Ashby’s characters, with her mother, new husband and kids, who weren’t exactly au fait at showing Ashley love, then of course the lovely Giacomo and the re-introduction of her nemesis James, who I was sure was out to get her. In terms of comedy, there’s some oldies but goodies in there, from an employee who is worried about getting into trouble abandoning the phone with ‘a feeble voice saying “Hello!’ and “Is anyone there?” from the receiver,’ to Ashby’s pros and cons list for relationship issues : ‘PROS: I Can’t go back to dating I CAN’T! … CONS: I Can’t go back to dating I CAN’T!’ There is also a cookery book deal (yay to us seeing the inside of an agent’s office!), some underhanded dealings with Giacomo’s top restaurant and some backstabbing.

This is a lot perkier than either of Ms. Ashby’s previous books, and not one for people whose reviews tend to make sure to tell us all that something was fine for a book in this genre (chick lit) or that they don’t usually read books in this genre etc. For those who are fans of a good romantic comedy or chick lit book, however, this is a quirky fun read with a nice lashing of sophistication on the side. Extremely enjoyable and very much recommended.

Rating: 4.5/5

Oh by the way just to tell you that the recipes from the books are actually found in a new Pot Love Recipe book which I had to have as the recipes were written so simply even I felt I could have a go! (I’m going to make it easy for you, you’ll find it here!!)

Pps Tune in tomorrow for an excerpt from Pot Love 2!

That is all!