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From Manhattan with love 3: Miracle on 5th Avenue by Sarah Morgan

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Length: 352 pages

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

What they say:

Hopeless romantic Eva Jordan loves everything about Christmas. Even if she is spending it alone housesitting a spectacular Fifth Avenue apartment. What she didn’t expect was to find the penthouse still occupied by its gorgeous–and mysterious–owner.

Bestselling crime writer Lucas Blade is having the nightmare before Christmas. With a deadline and the anniversary of his wife’s death looming, he’s isolated himself in his penthouse with only his grief for company. But when the blizzard of the century leaves Eva snowbound in his apartment, Lucas starts to open up to the magic she brings…This Christmas, is Lucas finally ready to trust that happily-ever-afters do exist?
The review: At the end of the last book I read by Sarah Morgan I have to admit I was a little bit worried. I was afraid I was getting too old, or perhaps too cynical or something for Sarah Morgan’s gorgeous books, and by that reasoning all of chick lit (I know, drama queen!). This made me hold off on reading this for some time, which was a pity! I am thrilled to say this book brought me back to the magic and sparkle that have always surrounded me as I swallowed her work, book by book (maybe I was coming down with something last time?!)

Anyhoo the book begins with a lovely foreword by Ms. Morgan, that readied me for the off and made me smile and get comfy. Miracle on 5th Avenue follows the same format as before (if it ain’t broke, etc, etc!), with ingenious quotes from each of the characters starting us out. I remembered the characters straight away and listened as Paige and Eva discussed a Christmas proposal as part of their business Urban Genie. Their business and everything surrounding the business was so interesting and I loved their dedication and excitement (it was more professional than I remembered last time too). What was even better, though, was the comedy and the great atmosphere that came when the friends were together, with Eva, Paige and Frankie constantly making me smile.

Eva was working on decorating a writer’s (yes!) apartment for Christmas while he was away. The only thing is, he’s not away, he’s hiding out from his family, who are worried about him, as he struggles with writer’s block for a book that he hasn’t begun which is due imminently. I loved everything about Lucas’ story. I loved that he was a horror writer, which gave an unexpected layer of darkness that fit well into a warm, sparkling book such as this. I could picture him straight away, and warmed quickly to his indifferent, sometimes seemingly cold (I knew that wasn’t really him!) interior, that spilled out when he just wanted to get writing (we’ve all been there!) Their meeting was perfection although I did wonder how it was going to spin out into the length of a book. Enter a storm and a number of issues that meant that everything had to happen as I hoped it would (most entrancing romance and hottest chemistry I’ve read in some time) !

So to recap: Excellent characters, realistic scenarios that forced events to unfold (yes they could happen!), Lucas’ dark writing and romantic past, Ms. Morgan’s trademark descriptions that invoked both magic and wonder, comedy that was bang on the mark, gorgeous romance and sizzling, phenomenal chemistry made for one unputdownable, satisfying book.

Thanks (a million!) to Netgalley for this book in return for an honest review. By the way I read this in one night and it was in February, sitting by the fire as it was frosty outside. Apologies for not posting before now-it may be a Christmas read but Christmas doesn’t take over the full book, most is within Lucas’ apartment. Saying that I’d definitely read as a Christmas one as I can, just because, you know, it’s Sarah Morgan! Also can totally be read as a standalone. And sorry for the gushing but this book was like coming home for me.
Rating:5/5

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They All Fall Down by Cat Hogan

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Length: 322 pages

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

What they say: Ring-a-ring o’ rosie . . .
… Someone wants to play.
… Who’s not playing the game?
… Now Someone must pay.

Jen Harper likes to play it safe. She is settling into life on the outskirts of a sleepy fishing village with her little boy, Danny. Life by the sea – just how she wanted it.

When she meets Andy, she feels the time has come to put her baggage and the scars of the past behind her. Then she is introduced to Scott, Andy’s best friend, and is stung by his obvious disdain for her. Why is Scott so protective of his best friend? What is the dark secret that threatens all of them?

In her attempt to find answers, Jen must confront her demons and push her relationships to their limits. By digging up the past, she puts Danny and herself in danger. Will she succeed in uncovering the truth before they all fall down?

Raw and energetic, They All Fall Down is a fast-paced and addictive novel exploring the depths of flawed human nature, the thin line between love and obsession and the destructive nature of addiction.

The Review: Having met the lovely Cat Hogan a number of times before, I was very excited to get to this, which so many top author’s have lauded and recommended.

As you can see above the book is set in a fishing village and, actually before I go on I have to highly commend the author for an astoundingly vivid and stark setting, that had me daydreaming of the majesty of waves lashing against rocks. This was further punctuated on reading of Cat Hogan’s fabulous bio, which showed her love and affinity for the sea. From the start of the book I was happy out, with a read that at times turns away from the thriller genre I’d put it in, leaning more towards an irishy fiction one instead.  I’m not always a fan of books that are so irish in terms of the nuances and language (yes I do know where I’m from), and for a while struggled to connect with the villagers (some of them were very unlikable) but then the thriller part, the meeting of the baddie of the story, via one heck of a backstory, soon put time to that.

Jen moves into a new house with her gorgeous son Danny, who I adored. A prerequisite is that they move in with Andy, a friend of her Aunty Pat, who is recently deceased. Andy is a lovely character but unfortunately brings some baggage with him in the form of his extremely jealous best friend Scott, a rich playboy who thinks the world owes him something. Here we get some insight into an evil that is about, as he uses wealth and power to destroy all around him and I couldn’t wait to see where it all went. The climax was excellent and I was very excited to see that there was actually a sequel There was a Crooked Man (which is now on my Kindle!) All in all a book I really enjoyed.

Rating: 4/5

A Dog Like Lloyd by Jacqueline Sheehan

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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: Happiness can be found in the most unexpected places…

Roxanne Pellegrino’s world collapses when her husband dies unexpectedly, and overwhelmed by her all-consuming grief, she runs away for a new start on Peaks Island.

But her new life of solitude is interrupted when she meets Lloyd – a stray black Labrador with an equally unhappy past. As both slowly begin to heal, a remarkable friendship blossoms, and Roxanne will soon discover she’s not so alone after all…

The Review: Considering half of the volume of books I used to read were stories about dogs and horses (other half were Dean Koontz, Stephen King, Patricia Cornwell and John Grisham- bet you’d never have guessed!) I don’t read enough stories with pets and dogs as the subject matter. I figured this out the other week when my son came home with a Michael Morpungo book and it got me thinking back to how I’d fall into stories of loveable, honest pets that would give up their life to get back to their master, would save humans at the drop of a hat no matter how they’d been treated, or who were strugging to find ‘the one’ in terms of an owner.

This is the story of Lloyd. Lloyd had found ‘the one,’ but has somehow been separated from them, and has landed in the hands of the new Animal Control warden of Peaks Island, Roxanne. Roxanne is struggling after the loss of her husband, the lovely vet, Bob, who she feels she could have saved. It is a beautiful, rich story, and I found myself immersed in it, but was sometimes disappointed that it wasn’t told just a little bit more simply, that it had to be on a bit of a grander, more spiritual level, but this is just personal preference (you know at this stage I like them kept simple!).

Although Roxanne is very familiar with the animal world from being with Bob, we get to study and experience the warmth and vividness of the descriptions of the animals as she meets them in text and in real life and we learn so much, both in relation to what they are and their care.

There is also the story of Melissa, a teenager, who is also finding life tough and we wonder where the lives of the three (Lloyd being one), will cross over. Melissa’s story is a tough one, she is hiding an eating disorder, and at times I found it a bit difficult to read.

I adored Lloyd, the big black Labrador, who even told us his story at one point in the book, a piece I had most definitely been looking forward to. The descriptiveness of the rugged, wild surroundings was fantastic, as were the nuggets of information on different, unusual animals that came to them, and I found Roxanne’s actual journey to be well done too, although very sad in places. All in all it was a lovely, thought provoking read that will get me looking out more doggy tales! Thanks so much to Ebury Publishing for this book in return for an honest review.

Rating: 4/5

The Cinderella Reflex by Joan Brady

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Length: 338 pages

Note: The cover image leads to a universal Amazon Book link 

What they say:It’s time to stop waiting for prince charming and rescue yourself

No matter how strong and independent Tess Morgan appeared on the outside, she was always let down by her inner five-year-old – who persistently believed that one day her Prince would come.

Real life is tough. For Tess, her job with struggling local radio station Atlantic 1FM is very tough. Between dealing with the demands of her megalomaniac presenter Ollie Andrews, her neurotic boss Helene Harper and the crazy workload associated with her role as producer on the This Morning programme, sometimes she just wants someone who will make all the problems go away.

Helene, meanwhile, is having difficulties of her own. Coming up to her fortieth milestone birthday, her career has taken a wrong turning down an unpleasant cul-de-sac and she’s becoming impatient for the day when her married lover will make an honest woman of her.

Things go from bad to worse when Atlantic 1FM is suddenly bought over by mogul Jack McCabe, who immediately launches a competition for a new star at the station. Soon nerves are frayed and friendships strained as everyone battles to keep their jobs.

Tess gets back in touch with the ex she still thinks of as The One Who Got Away. Helene tries to pull strings with her influential lover.

But what will it take for both women to stop playing Cinderella and find a way to launch their own rescue?

The Review: I had seen both this book and the author, Joan Brady at the Wexford Literary festival and it had gone on my tbr straight away and so I was beyond thrilled to be offered it for review. But instead of starting with the beginning of the book, I’ll move to a little bit before that and turn to the dedication:

‘For Vera, who inspired me to write in the first place with these words of wisdom: “All you have to do to get good marks in English is to make things up.”‘

which, straight off the bat, I found to be so charming, and so, smiling, I settled down to read, happy to get going.

Tess Morgan is struggling at her job at a radio station. This setting was excellent, as we got a real feel for day to day events and issues and the problems that will kill a good, or indeeed sometimes average shows. These shows are more the problem for Tess, along with a highly strung presenter, Ollie Andrews, who she is charged with managing. This was coupled with the daily chore of dealing with her boss, Helene, who is constantly on her back, a falling listenership and talk of a takeover. The book is very much character driven and there were some characters I loved and others I didn’t warm to as much, but I loved that we got to know Helene too, that it wasn’t just Tess’ opinion of her.

The whole book had a lovely homely feel to it, very Irish, and I read it in two nights, very much engrossed and unable to put it down, in fact I was loathe to put it down and would easily have read in one night had I been able to. I predicted some of the occurrences and was thrilled when they happened exactly as I hoped they would. This was especially true for some of the comedy moments, which I really enjoyed.

At times there were a few niggles, some repetition in terms of wording, but that could have been me being a little pernickety. My other  issue turned out to be quite a big one for me, that perhaps it felt a little like I’d read it in the wrong time, I felt that I’d have connected with all of that better a few years ago during the recession as opposed to ‘post recession’ (I know we’re not fully post recession but for some reason I just couldn’t reconcile this with the present day).

Even though the subject matter is one that could potentially and rightly cause debate, how talented, intelligent women don’t fulfill their destiny because they’re waiting for their prince to rescue them, I found this to be a very enjoyable, light, easy-going read, one for people who like some homely, charming comedy.

Thanks so much to the author Joan Brady, Poolbeg and to Tracy Brennan from Trace Literary Agency  for the book in return for an honest review.

About the author

joanbrady

 

Joan Brady is is an award-winning Irish journalist and broadcast producer. She started her career as a features writer and newspaper columnist for Independent Newspapers and later worked as a researcher, producer and scriptwriter for RTE, Ireland’s national television and radio station.

The Cinderella Reflex is her first novel and is published by Poolbeg press

Her second novel, Reinventing Susannah, also published by Poolbeg, is coming soon!

Joan is represented by US-based Tracy Brennan from Trace Literary Agency

Find her on:

Facebook

Website

 

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

Beyond The Lens (Lucy Mitchell book 1) by Hannah Ellis

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Please note the cover image leads to a Universal Amazon link for the book

What they say:

Who says the camera never lies?

When twenty-six-year-old Lucy Mitchell loses her job, she
momentarily loses her mind too and agrees to take part in
a reality TV show. Before she knows it she’s jetting off to a
piece of paradise on a beautiful Spanish island.
Much to her surprise, Lucy makes new friends and has
the time of her life, even indulging in a behind-the-scenes
romance with a hunky cameraman.
Convinced the production will never make it to the screen,
Lucy is on cloud nine, but she soon finds that things are not always as they seem

 

The Review: You’ll remember I reviewed Friends Like These by Hannah Ellis (read review here  ) and My Kind Of Perfect (review here and extract here) and was thrilled with how warm and relatable her characters were, and how easy it was to fall into the story lines and accompany said characters on their journeys. This book, I’m happy to say, also ticked the box in this regard, plus so many more.

We meet Lucy Mitchell, shocked by the fact that she’s just lost her job, and in the mood to rebel just a little:

‘I’d never stolen anything before in my life. I couldn’t even bring myself to take a mint from the bowl beside the till at the hairdresser, so I was quite proud of the stapler in my handbag. At first, I’d considered returning it. I’d actually retraced my steps, sure I couldn’t live with the knowledge that I was basically a common thief.’

And that’s Lucy. Someone who has the hint of a rebel inside her that has tried to conform as much as possible. I warmed to Lucy straight away, as I did with most of the characters and smiled very early on in the book as Lucy realised that she was going to take her Mum’s, who’s motto surely is ‘seize the day,’ advice and do just that. I accompanied Lucy on holidays, again, as with Ms. Ellis’ other books, walking alongside her, grinning as events unfolded, and wondering where this journey would take her personally. I enjoyed the pacing, which ambled along in a book full of warm, light hearted banter, with friendships and romances blooming all around. There was everyday, easygoing action, as the contestants completed trials to get prizes, with comedy interspersed.

I must admit I then wondered what we were catching a glimpse of when hints of mystery were flashed at us. I knew that there was something coming, and was not prepared for the twist that arose. When I saw ‘part 2’ and things began to speed up, I was beyond surprised. The twist was great, and I began to question everyone ‘we’ had met, including Adam, which came as a surprise to me. This gave me my only issue, because although I had enjoyed the first part and was taken along with it, when the pacing picked up in part 2, I did wish that part 1 had been that bit more snappy and part 2 had been prolonged, just a little.

The characters were great, ones I look forward to meeting again, the romance was every gorgeous shade of perfect, and the comedy, warmth and mystery definitely satisfied.

Rating: 4/5

About the author

Hannahellis

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Twitter @BooksEllis

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Author page on Amazon

The Things I Should Have Told You by Carmel Harrington

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

What they say:

Every family has a story…

But for the Guinness family a happy ending looks out of reach. Olly and Mae’s marriage is crumbling, their teenage daughter Evie is on a mission to self-destruct and their beloved Pops is dying of cancer. Their once strong family unit is slowly falling apart.

But Pops has one final gift to offer his beloved family – a ray of hope to cling to. As his life’s journey draws to a close, he sends his family on an adventure across Europe in a camper van, guided by his letters, his wisdom and his love.

Because Pops knows that all his family need is time to be together, to find their love for each other and to find their way back home…

The Review: I have to start by reminding you of ‘Every time a bell rings’ which I reviewed last year (see review here) and re-iterating what a powerhouse author Carmel Harrington is. I’m lucky enough to know Carmel, through the Imagine, Write, Inspire writing group I belong to, and she is seriously one of the most vibrant, helpful, amazing people I’ve ever met. There’s a reason I’m telling you this, and that is that this book very much matches her personality. It is a book full of warmth, family and hope, a book that is full of messages and ideals, all nicely bundled together with fantastic imagery and great characters. I really enjoyed this book. I read it over three nights, and each day thought about it and looked forward to sitting down with it. As you can see from the blurb it involves a family that is falling apart heading off on a camper van journey. The journey itself is long, and puts us in different locations with so much description, that I found myself actually thinking of the day when I might bring my children on a similar one, to experience the culture and history and beauty that was ever present here. There were so many moments of faraway enchanting symbolism that were excellant.

There were arguments and tension that are all too real in family life, and a number of chords were struck. That being said I suppose I found at times it was a little too innocent especially in terms of the children, and they seemed old beyond their years at times but I don’t have girls so I just may not know what I’m talking about here!

I have to say that over that last year my taste in books has changed a lot, which I suppose it should. I used to struggle with books such as this, that were very homely, and Irish, with warm, wholesome romance but now I must say this is very much up my street. A special mention to Pops, I worried about him through out the book and was afraid to reach the end (not a spoiler!) Very much recommended and actually one I’ll be shouting about in the shorter evenings, where books such as this serve as a treat to be consumed in front of a fire, or at least in a warm room with the rain beating down outside. I loved this book.

Rating: 4.5/5

Note: I don’t know if I’ve told you previously about how I live for The Irish Book Awards? It pretty much dictates my reading in the Winter months, and I’ve found some of my favourite authors that way. Well now Ms. Harrington is nominated for this award. If you have read this book and want to vote for her look in the Sunday Independent Newcomer of the Year award here, or even if you just want to have a gander at the range of books and throw in a few votes for those you have read and enjoyed over the year from Irish authors then see fiction awards here . See non fiction here .

Enjoy voting (closes midnight 11th November 2016)!