Sunday, 29 May 2016

Book Review: Out of Practice by Penny Parkes

Meet married mum of two and successful GP Holly Graham as she relocates her family to join the team at The Practice at Larkford, hoping to find the peaceful life she craves, despite the chaos that comes with her two year old twins and the troublesome state of her marriage. It will certainly be a challenge to keep her private and professional lives separate in such a tight-knit community.
Her colleagues have their own issues to contend with. The gorgeous Dr Dan Carter is struggling with to focus on work and the last thing he needs is any more stress; having his ambitious ex-girlfriend Dr Julia Channing working alongside him isn't really helping. Thankfully, the rather delectable Dr Taffy Jones is on hand to distract Holly from the escalating situation at home.
Feisty octogenarian and resident celebrity, Elsie Townsend, is Holly's favourite patient and saving grace. Elsie's inspirational Life Lessons come at the perfect moment, as The Practice is suddenly under threat of imminent closure and Holly rediscovers her voice and her priorities just in time …
I was lucky enough to be given a special proof edition by the publishers Simon & Schuster in exchange for an honest review.

Holly Graham is mother to adorable twins, wife to Magnificent *snigger* Milo and has the weight of the word on her shoulders when she takes on a new role as GP in the lovely village of Larksford.

Poor Holly's self-esteem is at an all time low. Her husband, Milo, constantly puts her down, and is confusing her with his erratic behaviour. One moment he is horrible and condescending; the next he blindsides her with his charm, and she wonders if she is going mad. She is determined to ride through the rough patch because she doesn't want to deny her two boys their father. But as time goes on, she wonders if they would all be better off without him.

Her friendship with Lizzie isn't much help. Lizzie is always badmouthing Milo, hating the way he treats Holly, but she is oblivious to the way she herself manipulates Holly.  She is constantly putting her friend down, belittling her and eroding Holly's self-esteem. Between Milo and Lizzie, it's surprising that Holly isn't a shivering wreck.

But then Holly makes such an impact at the doctor's surgery she works at. She makes so many new friends, including Doctors Dan and Taffy, and the irrepressible Elsie, always on hand to hand out her life lessons and advice – and the odd cocktail.

Out of Practice is a brilliant funny read, and very touching in parts. One of the twins, Ben, is quite sensitive, and seeing how he develops as Holly has some choices to make is lovely.

A great story of community and village life – just what the doctor ordered!

The Out of Practice ebook is out now, or you can pre-order the paperback here (other retailers are available!

Friday, 27 May 2016

Book Review: Those Summer Nights by Mandy Baggot

Sunshine, soft white sand and a sizzling hot millionaire – you don’t get trouble in paradise, right?

Imogen Charlton is sorted. Dead-beat husband? History. Dream job? Application sent. But then her impulsive brother, Harry, spends every last penny on a Greek restaurant in Corfu, and is determined to run it himself. It’s up to Imogen to bring him to his senses.

When sexy millionaire Panos Dimitriou offers to buy back his family taverna, Imogen wonders if all her prayers have been answered (and all her fantasies about to come true). But Harry won’t budge, and his enthusiasm is infectious.

Bright pink bougainvillea tumbling over whitewashed walls, endless blue skies, the sparkling Mediterranean; it’s hard not to fall for Corfu. And that’s not all Imogen is falling for…

As the sparks of passion fly between Imogen and Panos, is Imogen having second thoughts on selling the restaurant? And will she have to choose between love and a new dream?

This summer, spend long sunny days on the beach, and balmy nights in Greek tavernas on the gorgeous island of Corfu. Perfect for fans of Lucy Diamond, Miranda Dickinson and Lindsey Kelk.
Thank you to Netgalley and Bookoutre for the Advance Reading Copy.

I have a love/hate relationship with this book. Don't get me wrong - it is a FABULOUS read. I truly loved it. The sights, smells and sounds of Greece came flooding back to me through the pages of this glorious book. I fell in love instantly with the characters, and the village of Acharavi in Corfu. Greece has a huge piece of my heart since my first holiday in Crete at the age of 15, and Those Summer Nights brought it all back to me.

Although I love Imogen and Panos ,my favourite character is Panos's grandmother, the indomitable Elpida. Not the stereotypical image I had in my head of a little old lady dressed entirely in black, Elpida is a force to be reckoned with, but in an adorable way. She dresses in bright colours, lycra and short dresses, but her values are still firmly rooted in family and tradition, and she does her best to make her grandson see sense.

Those Summer Nights certainly heat up with passion between Imogen and property tycoon Panos, who are battling each other over his determination to turn the peaceful little village into another Kavos *shudder*.

The tricky subject of bipolar disorder is handled well with great sensitivity in the character of Harry, Imogen's brother. He has a propensity for impulsive hare-brained schemes which have all but destroyed his marriage. But he surprises everyone with the work he puts in when he buys a dilapidated taverna he renames Halloumi, his dedication to make a go of it infecting everyone around him.

And the descriptions of the food... wow, they made me yearn for a bloody good moussaka and baclava!

So why a love/hate relationship with the book, when I loved everything about it? After I finished it, I spent hours torturing myself looking at holidays online. I'm pretty sure Greece is my spiritual home. But this year, I will just have to go sit in the garden at the first hint of sunshine, with Greek yoghurt and honey, and reread this book. If I concentrate hard enough, I could be at Halloumi...

Maybe next year!

Those Summer Nights is published today and you buy it here (other retailers are available!).

Book Review: Summer at Rose Island by Holly Martin

Fall in love with the gorgeous seaside town of White Cliff Bay this summer and enjoy long sunny days, beautiful beaches and… a little romance. 
Darcy Davenport is ready for a fresh start. Determined to leave a string of disastrous jobs and relationships behind her, she can’t wait to explore White Cliff Bay and meet the locals. 
When Darcy swims in the crystal clear waters of the bay, she discovers the charming Rose Island Lighthouse. But it’s not just the beautiful building that she finds so intriguing… 
Riley Eddison doesn’t want change. Desperate to escape the memories of his past, he lives a life of solitude in the lighthouse. Yet he can’t help but notice the gorgeous woman who swims out to his island one day. 
Darcy is drawn to the mysterious and sexy Riley, but when it seems the town is trying to demolish his home, she soon finds herself having to pick sides. 
She’s fallen in love with White Cliff Bay. But is that all Darcy’s fallen for? 
Pull up a deck chair, sink back with a bowl of strawberry ice cream and pick up the summer read you won’t be able to put down.

It was refreshing to meet Darcy Davenport, an intelligent woman with a background in Marine Biology that the author has obviously spent time researching. Darcy's arrival in White Cliff Bay starts off ripples which gradually turn into waves crashing into village life.

I love her. She's feisty, strong-willed and determined to fit into village life, even if everyone seems to know what's going on in her life before she does. But she is also vulnerable; dismissed as a failure by contemptuous parents who have eroded her belief in her abilities to succeed in a career.

Brooding cowboy Riley is lusted over by most of the female population (including me), but he keeps himself to himself. Then along comes a 'mermaid' who turns his world upside down.

Riley's home, the lighthouse, is at the heart of the story, with the battle to save this much-loved landmark bringing the community together. This is the third book in the White Cliff Bay series, but the fact that I haven't read the previous two did not matter as it works as a standalone novel. Although I will be going back to read the previous two as I'd like to find out more about the lovely characters we encounter in this one - and it's the closest I'm going to get to living in such a spirited village.

The book had me giggling at certain points, and it is a lovely feel-good read. Perfect summer reading.

You can buy Summer at Rose Island on Amazon here (other retailers are available!).

Friday, 20 May 2016

Book Review: The One We Fell In Love With by Paige Toon

Phoebe is caught between a rock and a hard place. Settle down and get married, or return to the French Alps to pursue her passion?
Eliza is in love with someone who is no longer hers. In fact, he probably never was… And her dream of becoming a successful musician seems to be vanishing before her eyes.
Rose is out of a job and out of a boyfriend. To make matters worse, she’s been forced to move back in with her mother…
But these very different girls have one thing in common. Angus. The one they fell in love with…

Thank you so much to the author and Simon & Schuster UK for the very lovely proof copy. I am privileged!

Oh swoon! Get your tissues ready, and be prepared to howl with anguish/laughter/anger/laughter.

Sibling rivalry is rampant in the Thomson family. Triplets who are only identical in looks, and in their taste in men - one man in particular. In every other way they are dramatically different. No one can say no to Phoebe, nor do they want to; Rose is sometimes 'prickly' but practical, and Eliza is the rock chick who hasn't found her place yet. I think she is my favourite, as she seems so often to be on the outside of her sisters, who are very close.

And they are all in love with Angus (so am I!).

The story does flit between timelines, which I did find a little hard to keep up with, but that was probably because sometimes I had to read a couple of chapters at a time, so I lost the thread a little. It was still great to read, and when I was able to read it in bigger chunks, I was totally immersed in the story and the characters.

I have to confess I kind of guessed what was happening later in the book, but only cos I am such a drama queen myself, and I'm always looking for what could happen. It was written with a good deal of sympathy, and I really felt for poor Angus. Toby is adorable too, even if his method of transport is a skateboard! Watching as the characters learn more about themselves and reconcile their differences, is fascinating.

It's another fabulous story from Paige Toon, who is now one of my favourite authors.

You can buy the book here (other retailers are available!).

Wednesday, 11 May 2016

Book Review: The Girl Who Lied by Sue Fortin

The truth hurts…
Erin and Roisin were once friends until a fatal accident ruined both their lives. Now, Roisin has discovered a secret—one Erin has kept for over a decade—and she’s determined to make Erin pay for her lies.
Erin wants nothing to do with Roisin. She has a new life in London and no intention of going back home. Yet when her father is mysteriously and critically injured, Erin has no choice but to return and face Roisin—and her past. Erin knows if the secret of what she gave up got out, the consequences could be devastating.
When Roisin suddenly disappears, suspicion soon lands on Erin. She would do anything to protect her family, but just how far is she willing to go when time is running out…?
Thank you so much to Sue for the ARC in exchange for an honest review.

This was a great easy read which drew me in right from the start. So many intriguing secrets, and the main one is slowly revealed as I became more and more involved with the character. There's a real sense of family running throughout. Erin has not had an easy childhood and ran away from home, but when her father is injured she has to come back. She tries to keep the past safely hidden but Roisin is determined that she is going to pay. Roisin is horrible. I know she has suffered loss and difficulties resulting from that loss, but she really is bitter about it all. Such a contrast to the other lovely characters in the story - with the exception of Erin's English tosser of a boyfriend. Ugh, give me a sexy Irishman over that pompous twat any day! Shame he doesn't fall into the Irish sea!

There is lots of drama and suspense, both psychological and romantic, which kept me riveted right till the end. I found myself holding my breath in a couple of places.

A brilliant read! You can buy it here (other retailers are available!).

Tuesday, 10 May 2016

Book Review: A Passion So Wild by Louise Rose-Innes

Former socialite, Lexi, adores her new, fulfilling life as a gorilla vet in the Congolese jungle. Even the surrounding political volatility can't dim her contentment - until she meets the sanctuary's enigmatic benefactor, Sir Anthony. He's wealthy and arrogant, appearing more concerned with his company's image than the welfare of the sanctuary he's endowed. He symbolizes the empty, pampered life she left behind - so why is she falling for him? When rebels attack the sanctuary, Sir Anthony is the only man who can keep her safe - yet he's also the biggest threat her heart has ever faced.
A fast-paced, romantic suspense novel from Amazon Bestselling Author, Louise Rose-Innes.
Louise writes contemporary romance and romantic suspense novels. Visit her author page on Amazon -

Thank you to the author for a copy in exchange for an honest review.

A Passion So Wild is a sweet story set in the dangerous jungle. Lexi left her privileged life in New York behind to care for injured gorillas. The descriptions of life in the jungle are vivid, from the colours and smells to the sounds - I could almost hear the monkeys and birds calling to each other.

It was different to what I usually read - I prefer stories with more dialogue, which can tell me more about a character, so with this one I'm afraid I didn't feel quite as involved with the characters. Although saying that, the story was told from either Lexi or Tony's point of view, so we could see what they were thinking. I think perhaps I talk too much myself!

The jungle is a dangerous place as there is the constant threat of violence from the rebels. The story is full of suspense, and my heart was beating faster when the clinic came under direct attack. 

I was surprised later on when the romance developed - the temperature soared - I had thought up to that point that it was one of those sweet innocent stories about true love, so I was a little shocked - in a GOOD way! - when the sex was as steamy as the jungle!

It took a little with for me to really get into the story, but then it develops with lots of action and has obviously been well researched. I want a baby gorilla!

You can buy A Passion So Wild here (other retailers are available!).

Friday, 6 May 2016

Book Review: The Swimming Pool by Louise Candlish

'I can't take my eyes off the water. Can you?'
 It's summer when Elm Hill lido opens, having stood empty for years. For Natalie Steele - wife, mother, teacher - it offers freedom from the tightly controlled routines of work and family. Especially when it leads her to Lara Channing, a charismatic former actress with a lavish bohemian lifestyle, who seems all too happy to invite Natalie into her elite circle.
Soon Natalie is spending long days at the pool, socializing with new friends and basking in a popularity she didn't know she'd been missing. Real life, and the person she used to be, begins to feel very far away.
But is such a change in fortunes too good to be true? Why are dark memories of a summer long ago now threatening to surface? And, without realizing, could Natalie have been swept dangerously out of her depth?

I was delighted to receive an advanced reading copy from the publisher.

This book got right under my skin. The main character, Natalie, is enticed into a friendship with the beautiful Lara and all her glamorous lifestyle has to offer. 

Bored, fed up with her husband's straight-laced predictable attitudes, her life has up to now been consumer by daughter Molly's severe phobia of water, to a point where Natalie knows that she is herself drowning her daughter with her own guilt.

Seduced by the hedonistic lifestyle of the rich and beautiful Channings, she finds herself becoming more distanced from her husband Ed and best friend Gayle, who are both disapproving of Natalie's new friends. Natalie is a perfect example of a woman in the grip of a midlife crisis, rebelling against those she loves for the promise of something new and exciting. Nat may appear selfish and needy but she is leaping at a chance to help her daughter where previous attempts have failed.

Lara's daughter Georgia is a replica of her mother, but ironically Ed cannot see this, he is swayed in his own way to see Georgia as a perfect role model for Molly. 

My experience of reading The Swimming Pool was like being submerged in the water. I was totally immersed in the story with its beautiful, vivid descriptions. It is an almost surreal experience, a story of toxic friendships, manipulation and guilt, filled with dramatic tension. The story is cleverly written, told from various points in time; after a terrible accident; the weeks leading up to it; and glimpses into a shameful secret in Natalie's childhood.

A truly mesmerising read.

Thursday, 5 May 2016

Blog Tour - The Wacky Man by Lyn G Farrell

Today I am so excited and honoured to be part of the Blog Tour for Lyn G Farrell's eviscerating debut novel, The Wacky Man. Award winning author Lyn has very kindly agreed to take part in an Author Q&A.

You can read my review here

What made you write this book?

Lyn: I couldn't write anything else until this novel was finished. There is a lot of research about violence to children looking at sociological, psychological, or economical aspects but I wanted, above all, to put the battered child at centre stage, something I've not seen much of before in fiction. I drew on my own experiences to show what the child thinks and feels, and how they carry consequences of abuse. 

Despite her lack of schooling, Amanda is a very intelligent, articulate young woman. Your author bio suggests that you too did not attend school as much as you should - how did you develop your wonderful use of language?

Lyn: I was a chronic truant, due to trauma, by the age of 12. My mother taught us me and my siblings to read before we started school so by the time I was isolated from school I was a voracious reader. I worked my way through my brother’s set of encyclopaedia and my mother’s entire book collection as well as newspapers and magazines. I also used to borrow books off my oldest sister who was at university by then and read anything she left behind after a visit home. I even tried Bukharin and the Bolshevik revolution once though I gave up after the first two chapters went right over my head. My English teacher also allowed me to attend his classes twice a week despite my truanting. He encouraged me to write stories and I also got my hands on more reading material by doing this. When I went back into education and then started university I had the opportunity to keep growing my language use. 

There are some harrowing scenes in the story. Was it difficult writing these or did you find the words flowed easily? 

Lyn: The words flowed easily but at times I wanted to run away from the story. There is one part that I still can't read without breaking down but it had to be in the book, so I just worked through all the sadness until it was complete. At other times I took a break from it, to deal with the way I was feeling. I'd go watch TV or sit on my allotment until I felt at peace again. It's important to have a coping strategy so that you can switch off when you really need to. 

In the book, you acknowledge that the authorities are trying to help Amanda (Mr Kramm, Mr Broeder etc.), but she considers herself beyond help. Do you think they could have done anything more to help her?

Lyn: I think they help as much as they could. Resources are limited, they both work with many children, not just Amanda and they make home visits, something that goes beyond the call of duty. If they hadn't helped Amanda I doubt she would have made it as far as she did. I think the book highlights how damaged children close off because they have learned not to trust, and how that creates barriers to accepting help from good people. 

Which writers have influenced you? Is there one you'd consider to be a mentor?

Lyn: Clio Gray was, literally, my mentor. I didn't realise when I approached her just how good she was (she was nominated for the 2016 Man Booker and the Bailey's Prize with 'The Anatomist's Dream'). I asked her to mentor me and she taught so much about how to improve my writing. I learned from one of the masters. 

Alice Walker's 'The Colour Purple' had a huge influence on me. I remember reading the book and thinking that I could write the story I had inside me because she had also tackled a tough (and taboo) subject. I was also blown away by the uniqueness of her writing style. And Marge Piercy's 'Woman on the Edge of Time', that I read when I was about 14, gave me hope that I could, one day, forge my own path in life.

Are you a disciplined writer? Do you set yourself word goals or a time you have to write?

Lyn: I do set goals, yes, though not for word counts (I've never tried that so perhaps I should). I write daily lists of things that I want to accomplish. I always put far more tasks on than I could realistically achieve so really it's a 'rolling task list' but every time I put a line through a finished task, I feel wonderful. Using lists mean that I always achieve some of my goals.

I have to write around my job so I'm used to my time for writing being very irregular. Sometimes I'm very driven. I won’t do anything but write in any spare time that I have. If I'm too shattered after the day job the energy for writing evaporates and I can't return to it for anywhere from a day to a week and I'll turn to other things instead. I'll read other novels too when my own writing has dipped and then I'll return to it refreshed and start the whole cycle again. 

What are you writing next?

Lyn: My next novel is about the healing power of unusual friendship. I've written quite a lot of first draft pieces about my main two characters and researched at length for one of them. I've planned the outline and timeline for this novel – a complete departure from my first book where I just jumped in head first. I'm keen to see how the two writing methods compare. 

Do you have any advice for writers?

Lyn: Everything you write will make you a better writer. If you having difficulty writing something the way you see it in your head, don’t be put off. You need to think about it to make it better. When I was writing The Wacky Man, I used to get really despondent when I couldn't solve a technical problem in the plot or when the words didn't convey what I had in my head. Now I know it’s just part and parcel of writing better stories. Never give up, just give your mind time to work it through. And make sure you have something to write on at all times, for when that breakthrough comes.

So there you go, my first Author Q&A. I hope you enjoyed it, and thank you to Lyn for answering questions on an riveting and amazing book that just simply HAS to be read. 

Book Review - The Wacky Man by Lyn G Farrell

I am taking part in my first ever blog tour for this amazing book! I've got a fabulous Q & A with Lyn G. Farrell, the author of The Wacky Man, to share with you all. 

But here is my review. The Wacky Man was the winner of the 2015 Luke Bitmead Bursary, the UK's biggest prize for unpublished authors. And here's why:

My new shrink asks me, ‘What things do you remember about being very young?’
It’s like looking into a murky river, I say. Memories flash near the surface like fish coming up for flies. The past peeps out, startles me, and then is gone…
Amanda secludes herself in her bedroom, no longer willing to face the outside world. Gradually, she pieces together the story of her life: her brothers have had to abandon her, her mother scarcely talks to her, and the Wacky Man could return any day to burn the house down. Just like he promised.
As her family disintegrates, Amanda hopes for a better future, a way out from the violence and fear that has consumed her childhood. But can she cling to her sanity, before insanity itself is her only means of escape?

Wow. Just wow. This is the compelling, brutal story of a teenager in a family broken by the father's violence. I say brutal, but the descriptions of the violence are not gratuitous at all, but written as matter-of-fact, as Amanda and her family have accepted their lot. Outside intervention has little effect, our heroine is apparently beyond help. The contrast between some of her teachers, who consider her nothing more than a big problem for them, and those who do care - Mr Kramm and 'shrink' Mr Broeder - is vivid, and heart-breaking.

Amanda is an intelligent, articulate young woman, despite her avoidance of education. It is harrowing  that there are children such as Amanda out there. We all know it happens, but this book brings it to the forefront of your mind. Some people are unfortunately unsalvageable, and we see the obstacles in the way of those who try to help them rather than leaving them to rot in society.

Despite, or perhaps in spite of, the harrowing story, I highly recommend this novel. It is not a misery memoir - it is so much more, so well written that I could not put it down. Amanda's voice prevents it from being depressing even though she is close to losing her mind, and her situation is so very heartbreaking.

The author wrote this book not to evoke sympathy and hand-wringing, but to be a voice for children like Amanda who are so often not heard.

It's bloody brilliant.

Thanks to the publisher Legend Press for an advanced reading copy.

Tuesday, 3 May 2016

Book Review: Summer at the Star and Sixpence by Holly Hepburn

The perfect summer novella for all fans of Cathy Bramley and Scarlett Bailey.
When sisters Sam and Nessie left the city lights to take over The Star and Sixpence pub in Little Monkham, little did they realise they'd be taking on the villagers too...

Thrown in at the deep end with a wedding to organise at the same time as launching their new hotel rooms, the last thing they need is Sam's past catching up with them.
As the scandal strikes, the only question is will the villagers stick their necks out for two relative newcomers? Or will Franny, the terrifying postmistress, see them gone for good...

Spend a lazy summer day with Summer at the Star and Sixpence - the perfect novella for those long sunny afternoons.

This summer novella is the third instalment in the series, the previous being 'Snowdrops at the Star and Sixpence' followed by 'Valentine's Day at the Star and Sixpence'.

I haven't read many novellas before, and this is the first time I have become invested in a novella series. I'm usually too impatient to find out what happens next, but with these being released every 2 or 3 months, I can just about contain my excitement!

I had read the previous instalments on Kindle, so it was lovely to receive a special edition advanced reading copy from those lovely people at Simon and Schuster.

It's perfect for reading whilst lazing in the garden. Unfortunately for me it was snowing at the time (in April!) so I was wrapped up in my granny blanket reclined on the sofa rather than lounging in the sun. But still I was immersed in the story of Sam and Nessie's newest plans for their inherited pub, renting rooms out, including a beautiful bridal suite. The bride in question is someone very influential in the world of travel writing, so they need to impress her!

It was lovely to see Nessie and Owen finally on their first date, even if it doesn't quite go according to plan, but more exciting was finding out the reason Sam was so happy to leave her London life behind.

It is short and sweet, and I look forward to reading 'Autumn at the Star and Sixpence' which will be released - you guessed it - in the Autumn!