Wednesday, 20 September 2017

Blog tour: The Little Bakery on Rosemary Lane - Ellen Berry (extract)


**Take a trip to the Yorkshire village of Burley Bridge, where a new arrival is going to shake things up…**
Growing up in a quiet Yorkshire village, Roxanne couldn’t wait to escape and find her place in the world in London. As a high-powered fashion editor she lives a glamorous life of perennial singlehood – or so it seems to her sister Della. But when Roxanne gets her heart broken by a fashion photographer, she runs away, back to Della’s welcoming home above her bookshop in Burley Bridge.
But Burley Bridge, Roxanne discovers, is even quieter than she remembered. There’s nothing to do, so Roxanne agrees to walk Della’s dog Stanley. It’s on these walks that Roxanne makes a startling discovery: the people who live in Burley Bridge are, well, just people – different from the fashion set she’s used to, but kind and even interesting. Michael, a widower trying to make a go of a small bakery, particularly so. Little by little, cupcake by cupcake, Roxanne and Michael fall into a comforting friendship.
Could there be a life for Roxanne after all, in the place she’s spent 46 years trying to escape?

Extract Seven from Chapter Two pp 29-30

Sean took her hand as they fell into a brisk walking pace. ‘I still can’t believe you were baking something for me,’ he added, throwing her a fond glance.
‘Hmm. Well, I probably won’t again.’
‘No, it’s really sweet of you. But it’s not very . . . you, is it?’
‘Obviously not,’ she muttered.
‘I mean, it seems more like something your sister would do. Didn’t she send you that tin of edible tree decorations at Christmas?’
‘Yes. I didn’t have the heart to tell her I hadn’t got it together to buy a tree . . .’ In fact, Roxanne had taken the delicious snowflake-shaped butter cookies into the office, and everyone had swooped upon them over drinks one afternoon. This was when Cathy was still editor and it was possible to have fun at work, in the days when there were frequent gales of laughter and the sound of a cork being popped.
‘I’d never have thought of you as a baker,’ he added.
‘Yes, okay, Sean . . .’
‘It’s quite sexy actually,’ he added, grinning now.
Despite the turn of events, she couldn’t help smiling. ‘I knew it. You actually want a wifey type in an apron, don’t you? That’s what you’ve been holding out for . . .’
‘God, yes,’ he teased. ‘Floury hands and lipstick on, waiting for your man to come home . . .’ He fell silent as they turned the corner into Roxanne’s tree-lined street.
‘Sean, look!’ They both stared. A fire engine was parked outside her block.
‘It’ll be okay,’ he said quickly, taking hold of her arm. ‘It might not be your place. It could be another flat . . .’ But this time, she shook him off and broke into an actual sprint. Despite her unsuitable footwear, she clattered towards the vehicle. She quickly spotted Isabelle, who was looking her usual elegant self – chic silver bob, simple navy blue dress – and hovering at the main door.
‘It was Henry who called them, love,’ she announced. ‘I told him it’d be nothing – that you’re always burning toast. A waste of resources, I said! I phoned your mobile a couple of times but it just rang—’
‘Sorry, Isabelle, I didn’t realise . . .’ Roxanne hurried past her and charged upstairs. She always put her phone on silent when she was out on a date with Sean.
‘I said you once burnt your fringe off the gas ring,’ Isabelle called after her, ‘when you were lighting a cigarette . . .’ The elderly woman’s voice faded, to be replaced by strident male tones on Roxanne’s landing on the top floor: ‘Sounds like someone’s coming now – finally. Christ, what a bloody waste of time . . .’


Monday, 11 September 2017

Book review: Quarterback - Dustin Stevens

Fifty-four minutes after Kris Hopkins was born, his father snuck into the hospital nursery and slid a miniature football into his hands. It has been there ever since, helping him through the death of his mother, through a childhood with a single parent that was always working, even getting him a college education.

Now thirty-seven and the aging star quarterback for the Portland Warriors, Kris suffers his fifth concussion and for the first time is forced to take stock of the life around him. Of the son that abhors football and goes out of his way to avoid games. Of the college sweetheart and mother of his child he never did right by. Of the fancy car and posh home that all lend themselves to an image he never intended to create.

More than that though, it forces him to take stock of his own mortality and trying to determine how someone that has always identified himself as a football player comes to grips with that part of his life ending.

My opinion.
One of the things I've always very much appreciated in Dustin Steven's writing, is the raw honesty of his characters. Whether it's their physical appearance, their behavior or thoughts, Dustin always gives you a 'real', unapologetic person. 
Although knowing next to nothing about football, the thrill of the game, the locker room excitement and the fan-euphoria described was contagious. Just as vivid was Kris' struggle coming to terms with his new, post-injury reality. 
Where it fell short for me, was Kris' personal life. His character struggles with finding a balance between "Kris Hopkins" and "the quarterback", and that conflict almost translated itself into the writing as well. Where "the quarterback's" turmoil was expressed so well, Kris' emotions when it comes to his personal relationships, remained a complete mystery throughout the book. To me it felt like there is so much more to this character and his story, and therefore the book just didn't live up to it's full potential. Missed opportunity.


Thursday, 7 September 2017

Book review: The Shadow Sister - Lucinda Riley (The Seven Sisters #3)

Star D'Aplièse is at a crossroads in her life after the sudden death of her beloved father - the elusive billionaire, named Pa Salt by his six daughters, all adopted by him from the four corners of the world. He has left each of them a clue to their true heritage, but Star - the most enigmatic of the sisters - is hesitant to step out of the safety of the close relationship she shares with her sister CeCe. In desperation, she decides to follow the first clue she has been left, which leads her to an antiquarian bookshop in London, and the start of a whole new world . . .

A hundred years earlier, headstrong and independent Flora MacNichol vows she will never marry. She is happy and secure in her home in the Lake District, living close to her idol, Beatrix Potter, when machinations outside her control lead her to London, and the home of one of Edwardian society's most notorious players, Alice Keppel. Flora is pulled between passionate love and duty to her family, but finds herself a pawn in a game - the rules of which are only known to others - until a meeting with a mysterious gentleman unveils the answers that Flora has been searching for her whole life . . .

As Star learns more of Flora's incredible journey, she too goes on a voyage of discovery, finally stepping out of the shadow of her sister and opening herself up to the possibility of love.

Transporting readers from the majestic mountains and lakes of Cumbria, to the glorious 'Garden of England' in Kent, The Shadow Sister is the third spellbinding story in the Seven zsisters series.

My opinion.
I literally only put this book down to eat, sleep and work. And reluctantly so.
My expectations for this one were pretty high. I've loved everything I read so far by Lucinda Riley, and the first two installments in The Seven Sisters series were, to be honest, simply brilliant. The Shadow Sister might just be my favourite in the series so far... although I probably felt this excited about the previous two as well. The amount of detail and research that goes into these profound characters and various complicated and surprising plot lines is, as always, astonishing. Lucinda Riley's talent to completely capture her readers knows no bounds.
Through the story of her two elder sisters, we already caught a few glimpses of Star, who up until the start of this book remained a complete mystery. I loved getting to know her, her interests and, of course, especially her family history. Maybe it's her ties to England or her love of books, but I fell in love with her character and this story immediately. Could not put this down.
As another sister's mystery is solved, the questions surrounding Pa Salt and the girls' unusual childhoods remain. I cannot wait to discover more of Atlantis' hidden secrets.
What a brilliant series.


Read the first two brilliant installments in The Seven Sisters series:


Wednesday, 19 July 2017

Book review: Give Me The Child - Mel McGrath

An unexpected visitor.

Dr Cat Lupo aches for another child, despite the psychosis which marked her first pregnancy. So when Ruby Winter, a small girl in need of help, arrives in the middle of the night, it seems like fate.

A devastating secret.

But as the events behind Ruby’s arrival emerge – her mother’s death, her connection to Cat – Cat questions whether her decision to help Ruby has put her own daughter at risk.

Do we get the children we deserve?

Cat’s research tells her there’s no such thing as evil. Her history tells her she’s paranoid. But her instincts tell her different. And as the police fight to control a sudden spate of riots raging across the capital, Cat faces a race against time of her own…

My opinion.
Give Me The Child is an incredibly gripping read which will haunt you and won't let you rest before you've finished reading it. 
I just couldn't put this down. It's incredibly intense and at times so very frustrating, but every time I thought I might take a break from this story, I ended up reading another 10 chapters. 
The element of personality disorders, psychoses and mental manipulation make this book gripping and terrifying at the same time. When one of the characters gets pushed into a corner, unable to intervene, discredited and shut out, the book gets frustrating. But all the same, unputdownable. You just have to get to the end to be able to sleep. 
Give Me The Child kept surprising me and got me hooked until the very last page. I most definitely lost sleep over this one.

Give Me The Child is out 27 July.
Pre-order now!


Thank you to @HQStories for this ARC.

Monday, 3 July 2017

Book Blitz: Summer at Buttercup Beach - Holly Martin (Hope Island #2)


Pull up a deck chair and bask in the beautiful sunshine on Buttercup Beach. The sand is warm, the sea is sparkling blue and romance is sizzling in the air… 

For two years Freya Greene has hidden the fact that she’s totally and utterly in love with her best friend Rome Lancaster. It’s not been easy – they work together in his glasswork business, she lives above his workshop and, he’s completely gorgeous. But Rome has never shown any sign of returning those feelings. Until now… 

Lately they’ve shared affectionate touches and words heavy with meaning. Yet Freya knows Rome has a damaged heart. After losing his fiancé in a tragic accident, he’s not allowed himself to fall in love. 

Freya has already had her heart broken by a man who couldn’t let go of a past love. Can she risk it happening again? Rome and Freya have a friendship that could blossom into something more. Are they both brave enough to take that chance? 

My opinion.
Holly, Holly, Holly. You have yet to write a book I don't absolutely love from the moment I start reading it. After reading the first installment in the Hope Island series (Spring At Blueberry Bay) I knew Rome and Freya's story would be just as perfect. And I was right.
Eventhough you had a pretty good idea of how their story would end, as with every Holly Martin book you're never quite sure about the journey that's going to get them there. Surprising twists, unexpected bumps in the road,... Always interesting and never predictable.
Holly's characters always feel real and honest, their passion and love tangible and their conversations genuine and believable.
Love can be the most amazing thing, and yet slowly destroy you. Both Freya and Rome know this, each from their own terrible experiences in the past. They both struggle with their feelings for each other and it's knowing how much they've been hurt before - and thanks to Holly Martin's fabulous writing - actually almost feeling their hurt, that makes Rome and Freya's love story even more intense and romantic. 
I could not put this book down. I cried, laughed and swooned. Absolutely and completely in love with Rome... and Hope Island. I already marked my calendar for the next release.


the gorgeously romantic first installment in the Hope Island series

Tuesday, 27 June 2017

Book review: The Killing Grounds - Jack Ford (Thomas Cooper #1)


Ex-US Navy-turned-investigator Thomas J. Cooper is tortured by the past.

A deadly fight with Somali pirates and a tragic accident at sea have left him struggling with PTSD and an addiction to prescription drugs.

When he and his colleague Maddie return to the Democratic Republic of Congo to investigate the mysterious disappearance of a plane, what they find is far more sinister and dangerous…

My opinion.
Where to even begin. The Killing Grounds is a thrilling read with such a complex and multi-layered plot, it's difficult to just sum my reading experience up in a few sentences.
First things first: I love the cover. Great design - stands out without being too loud. The same goes for the blurb. It gives you just enough to draw you in, but not too much as to give away too much of the story-line. Perfect balance.
As I mentioned before, the story is pretty complex. There's lots of different characters, each with their own secrets, but also with their own dynamics between them. I can't say all of them came across right away (the dynamic between Cooper and Maddie is a tough one for me to really understand, and Rosedale took some getting used to as well), but slowly they all find their place in the story. The same goes for the complex puzzle they stumble upon in Congo. What starts out as a pretty straight forward mission soon becomes complicated, dangerous and very unpredictable. The plot grows bigger and more detailed and when it finally clicks.. well, it left me amazed and surprised.
The beginning of the story is a bit confusing with a lot of new characters and a lot of (unfinished) conversations. As a reader you get some hints about what happened in the past between these characters, but the emotions run high from the very beginning. And those more "heated" discussions or dialogues made it a bit difficult to find your bearing.
I was hooked from the moment their mission started and I have a feeling I will think back on this book, long after turning that last page. Because apart from some more "difficult" dynamics and dialogues between the characters, this was a thrilling read. The Killing Grounds has relationships, politics - both US and international - violence, grief, addiction, religion and superstition and so much more at its heart, all with an incredible amount of research and detail. I would definitely love to revisit Thomas Cooper in Jack Ford's upcoming novels.


Thank you HQ Stories for the opportunity 
to read and review an ARC of this thrilling read.

Thursday, 15 June 2017

Book review: The Program - Suzanne Young (The Program #1)

Sloane knows better than to cry in front of anyone. With suicide now an international epidemic, one outburst could land her in The Program, the only proven course of treatment. Sloane’s parents have already lost one child; Sloane knows they’ll do anything to keep her alive. She also knows that everyone who’s been through The Program returns as a blank slate. Because their depression is gone—but so are their memories.

Under constant surveillance at home and at school, Sloane puts on a brave face and keeps her feelings buried as deep as she can. The only person Sloane can be herself with is James. He’s promised to keep them both safe and out of treatment, and Sloane knows their love is strong enough to withstand anything. But despite the promises they made to each other, it’s getting harder to hide the truth. They are both growing weaker. Depression is setting in.

And The Program is coming for them.

My opinion.
I remember a fellow book blogger raving about this book a couple of years ago. Both the title, the cover and blurb stood out to me back then and apparently left an impression, because when I accidentally stumbled upon 'The Program' at the library, I just knew I had to read this.
I'm not sure it completely lived up to my expectations of it. Meaning that reading the book didn't really have the same impact on me as I thought it would - or as hearing about it when it first came out did. 
That being said, the story is pretty brilliant. Not only does it raise the issue of mental health, it also pinpoints one of the main issues surrounding mental health: it's not talked about enough. Whether this has to do with shame, misconceptions, fear or the lack of trust, the topic is still too much of a taboo.
In Sloane's world The Program controls everything and with the threat of taking all their memories away, it suppresses Sloane, or anyone else, showing true emotions and honesty. So with the notion of The Program facilities, the yellow scrubs and horrible pills, this story is set in a different reality... but to me, this reality created by the Program is in a way an enlargement of how people struggling with mental health issues or depression may feel suppressed, stigmatized or scared to show honesty.
It's a powerful message, mixed with a touching story about how some connections run deeper than remembering anecdotes, how remembering a feeling can be just as powerful as remembering certain truths. How people can still find their way back to each other despite obstacles thrown in their way. 
So even though I don't feel the typical post-reading-YA-series-addiction, I'm really happy I read this book and I'll be very tempted to pick up the next books in the series to find out more about what happens to Sloane and James after The Program.