20 December 2013

Christmas Reads from Harper Impulse

Harper Impulse have rapidly become one of the go-to publishers for amazing eBooks this year, and I have read quite a few already that I have thoroughly enjoyed! Luckily for us readers, they have quite a lot of eBooks coming out that are festive themed as well, and with the Christmas holidays quickly approaching, I thought I would do a quick round-up in case there's anything you want to load your Kindle up with for those Christmas evenings! Click on the covers for more information.

19 December 2013

Book Review: Driving Home for Christmas by Emma Hannigan

"Christmas at Huntersbrook House is a family tradition and this year it's even more important as, with mounting debts and insufficient income from the livery yard, it looks like the Craig family might have to sell their beloved family home.

Pippa, Joey and Lainey are the three grown up Craig children who, caught up with their own lives in Dublin, are, as yet, unaware of the problems facing Huntersbrook.

Joey is starting to wonder if his controlling, fitness-mad girlfriend really is the one for him. Lainey, the family worrier, is doing her best to ignore her ex's recent engagement while also trying to look out for her sister Pippa whose frivolous lifestyle is about to catch up with her.

As the Christmas season approaches, the Craig family need to do some soul-searching and what better place than around the fire at Huntersbrook House.

One thing's for sure, this is a Christmas none of them will forget. But will it be their last at Huntersbrook or will they manage to save the family home?"

Rating: 5/5

You can buy Driving Home for Christmas as an eBook or a paperback now.

I'll  be honest and say I haven't yet read anything by Irish author Emma Hannigan, although I have heard great things about her books from other book reviewers so far. When her new publishers Headline Review sent me a review copy of her new book Driving Home for Christmas, I was really excited to start it and finally find out about this new author. I have to mention the lovely cover as well, it's very festive looking and quite under-stated but very beautiful to look at. Now I have read the book, I'm so pleased I have finally read something by Emma Hannigan, and look forward to reading more!

The Craig children have always loved having Christmas at their family home, Huntersbrook. But they are completely unaware of the troubles that their parents are having with the house... so much so that this might be the final family Christmas at the house. There's the only son, Joey, the man who loves being home with family at Christmas more than anyone else, although he's not sure his current relationship with his fitness mad girlfriend is going the right way. Self-obsessed Pippa is worrying about the status of her finances this Christmas, and isn't sure if she can dig her way out of the hole she's gotten into. Finally, there's motorbike loving Lainey, feeling abandoned by her beloved grandmother and distanced from her mother, as well as still getting over her break-up. Will the Craig family be able to spend more than one more Christmas at their treasured family home?

I love a book that I can get lost in from the beginning, and this was one such book. There were quite a few characters to get my head around, and I did have to concentrate quite hard to work out who was who and get it straight in my head, but I had, it was an easy read. The story moves between all of the characters, with the 3 Craig children being the main ones that we follow, although we do see their parents, and some letters between the housekeeper and the estranged grandmother Maggie too. The stand out character for me was Pippa. I really disliked her at first, her attitude pretty much stank but as the book progressed, I warmed to her far more, and she is the character who changed the most in the book. Lainey blended into the background for me too much, she was a little bit forgettable although nice enough, but I couldn't find myself remembering her storylines over Pippa.

The setting of beautiful Huntersbrook house was perfect. It sounds like an idyllic country pad, especially when it's fully decorated for Christmas, and seems the perfect place for a big family Christmas. When I read about their financial troubles, I was hoping for a happy ending, and I found myself feeling very invested in the story overall because I genuinely cared for them. Family is a hugely important theme in the book, and I really liked how the Craig family come together in times of need and are very close. There are some sentimental moments, as well as some more light-hearted and funny moments, as well as a bit of a shock revelation towards the end that I hadn't seen coming. By the end, I felt that I really knew the Craig family, and was hopeful that they would all have a happy ending with Christmas fast approaching. Everything about this book was a joy to read, the writing was wonderful and really allowed me to get lost in the story, and I have to say I adored this festive treat of a novel. I can't wait to read more from Emma Hanngian, and I highly recommend you read this book this Christmas!

16 December 2013

Book Review: Christmas at Carrington's by Alexandra Brown

"Carrington’s Department store is thrown into a spin when the staff learn that a hot new reality TV show is to be filmed in-store, featuring the formidable retail guru, Kelly Cooper. Georgie Hart, in charge of Luxury Handbags, is reluctant, but quickly realises that the show could give Carrington’s a new lease of life. With Christmas around the corner, she’s also hoping that the season will deliver her the perfect Christmas present, in the form of Tom, the store’s dishy boss.

When the film crew arrive, things start to go wrong. One of Tom’s old flames, Zara, is working on the show and then, to top things off, Tom and Zara are sent off to Paris and New York for a spot of extra filming. When Georgie settles down in front of the box to watch the first show, worse it to come – Georgie is shown in a far from flattering light and she is horrified to learn what Tom has been up to.

Georgie fears this is turning out to be the worst Christmas ever, but Santa might have a got a little surprise in store for her stocking this year – but she’ll just have to wait until Christmas to find out!"

Rating: 4/5

You can buy Christmas at Carrington's as a paperback or an eBook now.

Alexandra Brown's second is a follow-up to her first, Cupcakes at Carrington's, which was released earlier this year. I was really pleased that this is going to be a series because I really enjoyed the first book, and there is something nice about a series, knowing that when you pick up the book it'll contain familiar characters, people that you know and you don't have to spend too long getting to know new characters. This book picks up shortly after the first one, with Georgie still working at her beloved Carrington's department store, with Christmas fast approaching. It's a fun second outing from Alexandra Brown, and while I didn't think it was better than the first book, it was still a lovely festive read.

Georgie still loves her job at Carrington's department store where she has worked alongside her friends for years. It's even better now that she's dating the boss, Tom, although of course she didn't know that when she first met him. Christmas is fast approaching at the store, and Georgie is shocked when Carrington's signs up to be a part of a new reality show, hosted by TV personality Kelly Cooper. Georgie isn't prepared for what lies ahead, and is surprised to find herself as a big star of the show, especially when she isn't shown in the best light. Georgie is also surprised to find a new side to Tom when the reality show starts as well, and she starts questioning whether he is indeed the man he led her to believe he is. Will Georgie be able to make everything right in time for Christmas, or is she in for her worst festive season ever?

The addition of the reality show element was different, and certainly made for some interesting reading. I will be honest and say that parts of it did get annoying for me. I found that Georgie was a little bit naive about the show, and the effect it has on her character was that she becomes a little bit obsessed with her image and looking good, which is totally unlike any Georgie we have met before, and I didn't really like the change. It also stops the natural aspect of the department store that I loved before too which was a shame. I dislike designer name-dropping in books (just a personal thing!) and there was a lot of that in here. I can't say that the characters of Kelly and her awful daughter were worthy additions to the book either, I really couldn't stand either and found myself flicking through their scenes just to get away from them! It was a fun idea for the book, but I just wasn't overly keen on it, some bits just seemed a bit too silly for me.

However, I did love the preparations for Christmas at the store, and I really did hope that Tom and Georgie would have a happy ending together, despite the strange goings-on within the book. I really loved the story involving Sam, the owner of the cupcake store within the shop in this book, it was very emotional and tough to read in parts but it was very well handled by Brown, and it added a more sombre tone to an otherwise quite fluffy read. I thought Georgie's character handled things incredibly well too, I wasn't expecting to find this storyline in this book, but it worked well and I have to compliment Brown's writing for how she handled it. The friendship between the two women is so wonderfully written, and so real that it was a joy to read, and I hope for more of this in the further books in the series.

As in the previous book, I loved the descriptions of the department store. There are quite a few changes to it thanks to the reality show, but the heart of it remains the same, with its talented and lovely staff, and it sounds like a great place to go and shop, especially at Christmastime. This, together with the character of Georgie, are what reading this book is all about, it's one to get lost in. Perhaps the only thing lacking in this book was a real romance storyline. Georgie spends nearly the entire book away from Tom, the man she loves, and nothing very much seems to happen involving the pair up until right at the end, when it felt a bit rushed. I would have loved to see Tom back in there a bit earlier for a more romantic feel to the book. The book stealer though was definitely Sam and Georgie - a wonderfully written friendship and storyline. For those who loved Cupcakes at Carrington's, you'll certainly want to pick up a copy of the second book in the series, but do be prepared for something completely different! A fun festive read that has you laughing and crying along.

9 December 2013

Book Review: How To Fall In Love by Cecelia Ahern

"She has just two weeks. Two weeks to teach him how to fall in love – with his own life.

Adam Basil and Christine Rose are thrown together late one night, when Christine is crossing the Halfpenny Bridge in Dublin. Adam is there, poised, threatening to jump. Adam is desperate – but Christine makes a crazy deal with him. His 35th birthday is looming and she bets him she can show him that life is worth living before then. 

Despite her determination, Christine knows what a dangerous promise she’s made. Against the ticking of the clock, the two of them embark on wild escapades, grand romantic gestures and some unlikely late-night outings. Slowly, Christine thinks Adam is starting to fall back in love with his life. 

But has she done enough to change his mind for good? And is that all that’s starting to happen?"

Rating: 4/5

You can buy How To Fall In Love as a paperback or an eBook now.

I always like to be honest in my reviews, so I have to start by saying I do tend to find Cecelia Ahern's books a bit hit and miss. Some of those that I have read I loved, others have been a bit 'meh' and I haven't liked others at all - in fact, her most famous book 'PS. I Love You' is one that I really didn't like, but a previous festive offering called 'The Gift' is one of my favourite books. I think the problem for me is that I don't like books that have something magical in them, I don't really have time for it and Ahern tends to put a lot of that into her book. However, I really liked the sound of her latest book 'How To Fall In Love' and decided I wanted to give it a go, and I am pleased that I did, I really enjoyed this one!

Christine Rose seems to stumble upon people who need help more than ever, and none more so that when she meets young Adam Basil on a bridge in the middle of the night. He's threatening to jump and Christine is determined to talk him down. She does, but has to promise Adam that she can make him love life again before his next birthday... in just 2 weeks. Adam, though, is really down on life, and sure that he won't feel happy again. Christine is determined that she will succeed, but is fearful of what might happen if she doesn't succeed. She knows failure is not an option, but Adam is quite sure she won't be able to succeed. Christine tries her hardest, but is she going to be able to Adam fall in love with life again before his time runs out?

In order to really enjoy this book, you have to really allow yourself to get totally lost in the story and really love both Adam and Christine. If you don't, then you're going to struggle to support Christine in what she is doing, but I honestly doubt people will have a problem in liking either of these characters. Christine is very kind and warm-hearted, almost to a fault but she just loves to help people. In fact, she's quite good at it, and despite a horrific experience only a short while ago, she is determined to help Adam, even though she knows she is really up against it with him. Adam, too, is incredibly likeable and you wonder what it is that has made him hate his life so much he feels he can throw it all away. As things become clear in the book, we can see that there is immense pressure on him, and you do feel very sorry for him, and hope that Christine can work her magic and make him see the good in his future.

While there isn't anything overtly magical in this book as there is in many of Ahern's previous ones, the things that happen have to be more than mere coincidence. Christine seems to run into those in need of help rather frequently, and her job lends her to helping others too. Christine is also a big fan of 'help yourself' book, often turning to a self-help book to help her with Adam too. This is linked in to the story, through Ahern naming all of her chapters 'How To...' which I thought was an amusing touch. It's quite an emotional novel, there's a lot in there to pull at your heart-strings, and you do feel very emotionally invested in the story, even as you turn the last page. I was willing a happy ending as I don't think I could have handled anything but, simply because I had grown to love these characters through Ahern's writing.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book, and was pleased that I could enjoy one of Cecelia's books again! I thought the story and the characters were brilliantly written, and you really did care about them and what was going to happen to all of them. I found Ahern's writing very easy to read, the narrative was enjoyable and I found it was easy to put the book down and pick it up again and get completely involved once more. For me, this is definitely one of Ahern's better books, and I would definitely recommend it those who both love her books, and those who have perhaps been a bit put off in the past like me by her love of the magical. How To Fall In Love is a beautiful love story, and one that will fill your heart with hope.

6 December 2013

eBook Review: Doubting Abbey by Samantha Tonge

"Swapping downstairs for upstairs… How hard can it be!? 

Look up the phrase ordinary girl and you’ll see a picture of me, Gemma Goodwin – I only look half-decent after applying the entire contents of my make-up bag, and my dating track-record includes a man who treated me to dinner…at a kebab shop. No joke! 

The only extraordinary thing about me is that I look EXACTLY like my BFF, Abbey Croxley. Oh, and that for reasons I can’t explain, I’ve agreed to swap identities and pretend be her to star in the TV show about her aristocratic family’s country estate, Million Dollar Mansion. 

So now it’s not just my tan I’m faking – it’s Kate Middleton style demure hemlines and lady-like manners too. And amongst the hundreds of fusty etiquette rules I’m trying to cram into my head, there are two I really must remember; 1) No-one can ever find out that I’m just Gemma, who’d be more at home in the servants quarters. And 2) There can be absolutely no flirting with Abbey’s dishy but buttoned-up cousin, Lord Edward. 

Aaargh, this is going to be harder than I thought…"

Rating: 4/5

You can buy Doubting Abbey as an eBook now.

I was asked by author Samantha Tonge to review her new book with publishers Carina, called Doubting Abbey. According to the internet, it is perfect for fans of Downton Abbey, a show I have no interest in whatsoever so I was a bit nervous when I started it that it really wouldn't be my cup of tea at all. However, I decided I had to give it a chance and I'm really pleased that I did because I thoroughly enjoyed it, it was quite different from other things I have read lately and had me laughing away at points. I also loved the cover, although I do have to note the similarities between it's title format and that of Lindsey Kelk's 'I Heart...' series... perhaps designed to draw readers of that popular book series in?!

Gemma Goodwin works as a waitress, likes her short skirts, tight clothes and layering on the make-up. So when she is asked by her flatmate, the aristocrat Abbey Croxley to pretend to be her for a few weeks at her crumbling family home Applebridge Hall, for the popular TV show Million Dollar Mansion, Gemma is sure she can't pull it off. With a crash course in manners, etiquette and dressing like Abbey, Gemma is thrown in at the deep end with Abbey's cousin Lord Edward and the rest of the family. Gemma is sure she will found out and kicked out of the home, but as time goes on, Gemma finds herself adapting to the role of Abbey quite well. But will she be able to save the Croxley family home before it's too late, and win the TV show's huge prize?!

As I said before, I'm not really a fan of Downton Abby and have never seen an episode, so I was wondering how much I would enjoy this. Luckily, I needn't have worried and that's mainly due to the brilliant lead character Gemma, otherwise known as Abbey in the book. She's a pretty normal girl, happy with her life until she's thrown into a world that is completely alien to her. This of course leads to lots of hilarious calamities that Gemma finds herself in, mainly because she had good intentions but they don't always come off for her, and it really does make you smile and cringe at the same time! Gemma really does try so hard to be Abbey though, and you really love her for it, although my favourite part of Gemma was when she was being herself, observing what was going on around her, very funny!

Another of my favourite characters in the book was the brilliant Lord Edward. He's a stuffy aristocrat, but Gemma is sure there is more to him than meets the eye. Included at the start of chapters in the book is his blog, his first outing online like this actually and it really brings a smile to your face! You do see a different side to him here, and I liked the inclusion of it, it certainly gives the book something different. The descriptions of the house and the other members of it too were excellent, everything from the lavish grounds to the bedrooms, from the cook to the TV crew who descended on the house were well written and brought to life on the pages so well. I did fall in love with Applebridge Hall, it sounded perfect despite it's few flaws, and you really do want the poor old building to win the money and get a second chance at being fabulous again for the Croxley's!

The book was a really good read, and I really enjoyed the whole read. It was very amusing from start to finish, and the trials and tribulations of poor old Gemma definitely put a smile of your face and keep you turning the pages ready for more! The Croxley's suspicions about "Abbey", lovely Lord Edward, and a bit of competition makes for a page-turning read, and I found it so easy to read, and was able to pick it up and dive straight back into the story immediately because I was so involved in it, and was really hoping for a happy ending for the Croxley's and Applebridge Hall! Samantha Tonge's debut novel is a real fun read, and definitely one I can recommend. It's not a festive read despite the cover perhaps hinting at that, but it was still a great story, even for those of us who don't like Downton like me! A lovely, easy-to-read, enjoyable book.

4 December 2013

Giveaway! Win a Headline Christmas Book Hamper!

As part of the blog tour for Emma Hannigan's brilliant new festive read Driving Home For Christmas, Headline have kindly offered me an amazing prize to giveaway to one lucky reader before Christmas, a Headline Book Hamper!

This amazing prize contains the following:
Emma Hannigan's Driving Home For Christmas
Tasmina Perry's The Proposal
David Beckham's brand new book
and Mary Berry's Christmas Collection!

What a prize! All you have to do to enter is use the giveaway form below, and I'll use Rafflecopter to pick the winner. The winner MUST get their postal details back to me asap, as we want to send the hamper out by December 16th to ensure you get it in time for Christmas, so please keep an eye on your emails after the closing date of Thursday 12th December as I'll be emailing the winner as soon as I can! Open to UK residents only. Closes on 12/12/13 at 23:59.

Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Blog Tour: Driving Home for Christmas by Emma Hannigan

Today I am thrilled to be a part of Emma Hannigan's blog tour for the release of her brand new festive themed novel Driving Home For Christmas! The book has been released by Headline, and I started it last night, it's already a brilliant read! Emma was kind enough to write me an article for the blog tour about her favourite Christmas songs, one of my favourite things about Christmas I have to say, let me know if you agree with Emma's choices in the comments! Look out for an amazing competition coming shortly too!

You can buy Driving Home For Christmas as a paperback or an eBook now!

Emma Hannigan's Christmas Song Favourites!

5. Fairytale of New York - Kirsty Mac Coll & The Pogues
I know many people feel this song is over played at Christmas but I love it. It’s a wonderful mix of traditional Irish music with a little touch of Christmas magic.

4. Stay Another Day - East 17
East 17 were probably the ultimate bad boys at one point when I was growing up. So it was pleasantly surprising when they came up with this rather tender and heartfelt song.

3. All I want for Christmas is you - Mariah Carey
This song makes me happy! It’s fun and frivolous and I love the message that people are what really matter at this time of year.

2. Last Christmas – Wham
I idolized Wham as a teen. I was in George’s camp rather than Andrew’s! But this song in particular tugs at my heartstrings every time I hear it. At sixteen I lost my best friend in a car crash. This was ‘our’ song. No matter how many times I hear it or how many years have gone by it always reminds me of her!

1. Driving Home for Christmas - Chris Rea (of course)
I adore the story this song creates. It was the inspiration for my book and I can’t imagine any one disliking the image it evokes!

Thanks so much, Emma!

Blog Tour: The Twelve Dates of Christmas by Lisa Dickenson

Today I am thrilled to be part of 2 brilliant blog tours, and here to kick off the first is the fabulous Lisa Dickenson! Her first novel, a festive offering called The Twelve Dates of Christmas has been serialised into 6 separate eBooks, all following the same character trying to find some romance at Christmas! Lisa was kind enough to answer some of my questions for her blog tour, lots of Christmas themed ones of course, so please enjoy!

You can buy Lisa's The Twelve Dates of Christmas series as eBooks here!

Interview with Lisa Dickenson

Q1. Please tell us about your series of eBooks 'The Twelve Dates of Christmas'.

Thank you for asking!  Twelve Dates is all about Claudia, and how her same-old-same-old life suddenly gets shaken like a snowglobe just weeks before Christmas.  Things get pretty confusing as she embarks on a number of dates, and she realises that both the last thing, and the first thing, she wants is romance.  It’s sparkly and festive, and hopefully will bundle readers into a warm of seasonal world of London at Christmastime.

Q2. What inspired you to release the books as 6 parts as opposed to one big story?

I’m afraid I can’t claim credit for that one – it was my Editor at Little, Brown, Manpreet, who came up with this idea.  She’d wanted to try serialising a women’s fiction novel, and Twelve Dates split quite neatly into six parts!  It works especially well at Christmas, when more and more of the novel can be revealed the closer you get to the big day, like an advent calendar.

Q3. Do you have any Christmas traditions in your house?

All of them!  I’m mega-annoying at Christmas because I always want everything to be very traditional and exactly the same every year!  But one thing is that I do like to kick the season off with a screening of Muppet Christmas Carol.

Q4. What's your favourite thing about Christmas?

I’m not sure I could pick one thing – which is super lame of me.  Can I pick the run up as a whole?  The Christmas adverts appearing, the red cups in Starbucks, the lights, the carols, the yuletide jumpers…  And also now one of my favourite things about Christmas is that my first ever novel was released.  

Q5. What are some of your favourite festive reads?

Ooo I love reading festive reads in the run-up to Christmas!  There’s nothing better than curling up in a coffee shop with a gingerbread latté and devouring thousands of evocative words about Christmas.  Chick Lit is my go-to genre for a festive fix – I love Winter Wonderland by Belinda Jones among many others – but a classic that I read every year is A Christmas Carol by Mr Dickens.

Q6. What do you do when you aren't writing?

Urm, mostly I procrastine, but that’s when I’m supposed to be writing!  When I’m supposed to be doing nothing of the sort, I’ll either be thinking up reasons not to go to the gym, wandering about the house looking for snacks, walking along by the beach, watching US TV shows or at my day job, at a scientific publishers.

Q7. If you were stuck on a desert island, what 3 things would you want with you?

A massive can of aerosol sun spray, a knife, and a superyacht.

Q8. If you could be as successful as any other chick lit writer, who would it be?

I’d love to be as successful as Jackie Collins (aiming high, much?!) because she writes whatever the heck she wants, several books at a time, lives in a mansion, is published around the world, and I think is actually a very strong role model as well – she’s built this huge empire writing about women who run major companies, who hold the power, who enjoy having a partner but their happiness isn’t reliant on them.

Q9. Are you working on something new for next year?

I am!  Or at least I’m supposed to be… I really must get my head down and get on with it so I can send some material to my lovely agent Hannah at The Marsh Agency soon.  It’ll be another chick lit novel, but this time set (mainly) in the US, where my leading lady wins a place at a film summer school.  She knows nothing about the movie industry, and is totally out of her depth.  I’ll be sure to throw lots of trials and tribulations at her, poor girl!

Thanks so much, Lisa