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31 July 2013

Review: 'Second Time Around' by Erin Kaye (2012)

Divorcee Jennifer Irwin has it all – a successful interior design business and two loving children. But as her 45th birthday approaches and her children prepare to start their own lives, Jennifer is left feeling lonely in her empty nest.

That’s when she meets Ben Crawford – a man 16 years her junior – as their attraction heightens, Jennifer realises what she’s been missing. But mindful that the small-town Ballyfergus residents would never approve, they conduct their affair in secret.

But a secret is never a secret for long…

As the affair surfaces, Jennifer encounters opposition from friends and family, especially her daughter Lucy. Enraged by her mother’s relationship, Lucy seeks comfort in the arms of charismatic but troubled, Oren. Jennifer knows that Oren is not the man he seems, but can she convince her daughter of that?

And with everything going against them, can Jennifer and Ben’s love survive? Or will she risk losing her daughter to be with the man she loves?

As readers of this blog will know, I am part of a Twitter book club (@TheNewBookClub) and the novel picked for the month of July was Erin Kaye’s ‘Second Time Around.’ I was really excited when I found out this was going to be the book club’s next read, because I’ve been looking for an excuse to finally read an Erin Kaye novel! I’m in love with the gorgeous covers of ‘Always You’ (which is lying on my to-read pile as well) and ‘Second Time Around’, and I’ve only been hearing good things about this author from other bloggers. So, during my holiday days spent near Portsmouth and the Isle of Wight I picked up this novel with high hopes!

Jennifer Irwin is a 44-year-old, divorced businesswoman who lives in the town of Ballyfergus in Ireland. With her daughter Lucy off at university, and her son Matt making plans to find a place of his own, Jennifer decides it is time for her to get back in the field and start dating again. However, she doesn’t expect to find lust and love packaged in the form of Ben Crawford, heir to the Crawford empire, and 16 years younger than her. It doesn’t take long before the news of their relationship comes out, and both Jennifer and Ben’s families aren’t thrilled, to say the least. While Jennifer has her own love life to deal with, her daughter Lucy has found her own Prince Charming at university. His name is Oren and he is a devoted Christian, looking for the perfect wife. As soon as Lucy brings him home, Jennifer can feel something is not right. But with her own love troubles to deal with, will she be able to convince everyone else of Oren’s true nature?

‘Second Time Around’ focuses on a modern-day theme that is often looked at in a slightly humorous light; older women falling for younger men (does the term ‘cougar’ ring any bells?). It is slightly ridiculous that it is widely accepted that older men have relationships with younger women, but when it’s the other way around, it is considered strange or simply not done. I love how Erin Kaye tackled this subject, mainly because I loved the pairing of Jennifer and Ben. Jennifer is a great leading character, and I fell in love with Ben from the first description of him. There was absolutely nothing weird about their relationship, and I could really feel the chemistry between them throughout the novel. All the characters in the book were really well-written, though, and I specifically liked the extra storyline that focused on Lucy and Oren. I felt for Lucy at the beginning of the novel; she's so unhappy at university and feels really lonely. Her meeting Oren (who is quite a character, let me tell you!) changes everything, and I thoroughly enjoyed reading about Lucy's transformation as a person towards the end of the story.

This novel shows that it is never too late for love and that you can have a second chance at it. I really enjoyed ‘Second Time Around’ and the theme it focused on, and it has definitely inspired me to pick up another Erin Kaye novel as soon as possible!

Rating:8,5/10

30 July 2013

August 2013 releases to look forward to! (Part 2)

Yesterday's blog post focused on some of the fabulous book releases that are coming up this August... And as if that wasn't enough, even more exciting novels are on their way to shops near you next month! 


Niamh Greene - 'Coco's Secret' (15th of August 2013)

Coco Swan has always been embarrassed by her name.

With a name like Coco, she thinks people expect her to be as exotic and glamorous as the famous designer, not an ordinary-looking small-town antiques dealer who could win an award for living cautiously.

But when a vintage Chanel handbag turns up in a box of worthless bric-a-brac, Coco's quiet world is turned upside down. Where did it come from? And is it just coincidence that it's the same bag Coco's late mother always wanted for her?

When Coco discovers a mysterious, decades-old letter hidden in the bag's lining, she sets off on a quest to piece together the story behind it, stumbling across secrets that span three generations as she goes.

Could the beautiful Chanel bag be about to teach Coco more than she wants to learn? Or will it show her just where her heart can take her if she lets it lead the way?

Why so excited? --> Earlier this year I read Niamh Greene's novel 'A Message to Your Heart', which I would definitely recommend to any chick lit fan. I've been looking forward to 'Coco's Secret' for quite some time, because I can't wait to read another Niamh Greene novel and because the blurb has simply captivated me. I already love Coco, the fact that she is an antiques dealer, the mysterious old letter hidden in a Chanel bag... Sounds like a great recipe for a lovely novel!


Hazel Osmond - 'Playing Grace' (15th of August 2013)

Grace Surtees has everything carefully under control - her work life, her home life and her love life - especially her love life.

But then her boss hires Tate Saunders, a brash American, to spice up the gallery tours his company provides. Messy and fond of breaking rules, Tate explodes into her tidy existence like a paintball, and Grace hates everything about him...

...doesn't she?

Because, for Grace, the alternative would be simply too terrifying to contemplate: to love Tate rather than hate him would mean leaping out of her comfort zone, and Grace's devotion to order hides some long-kept secrets... secrets she's sure someone like Tate Saunders could never accept or understand.

Why so excited? --> Okay, am I the only one who can already almost breathe in the chemistry between Tate and Grace? I am really curious to read more about these two, especially because of Grace's intriguing past. What are the secrets she is hiding? And will she be able to keep them hidden? This novel has definitely caught my attention, what about yours?


Mary Simses - 'The Irresistible Blueberry Bakeshop and Cafe' (15th of August 2013)

Manhattan lawyer Ellen Branford is going to fulfill her grandmother's dying wish - to find the hometown boy she once loved and give him her last letter. Beacon, Maine, home to blueberry fields and eccentric locals, is the last place she wants to go so close to her upcoming wedding. Hoping to be in and out in 24 hours, Ellen ends up the talk of the town when a tumble into the ocean introduces her to Roy Cummings, the carpenter who saves her life. Roy happens to be the nephew of Ellen's grandmother's lost love, and the one person who can bring closure to her quest. But as Ellen learns what Beacon has to offer and what her grandmother left behind, she may find that a 24 hour visit will never be enough...

Why so excited? --> As some of you might know, I'm a sucker for books that have to do with cupcakes, cookies, ice cream parlours, tea houses... So the fact that the title includes the words 'blueberry bakeshop' is already enough to get me interested! I also like the sound of this love story; a bride-to-be travelling to a small town, trying to find the boy her grandmother loved and wants to give her last letter too, meeting a carpenter in that town... I read that fans of Nicholas Sparks will love this, and since I adore his novels, I can't wait to start with this one!


Colette Caddle - 'From This Moment On' (15th of August 2013)

Lynn Stephens' life has been tough recently, thanks to Vincent Boland, the manager at the four-star hotel where she works. But, after standing up to him, she is delighted when she is vindicated.

Lynn loved her job and she was good at it and now, with the support and love of her partner, parents and friends, she can put this terrible time behind her and find a job in another hotel.

But the consequences of Vincent's actions are more far-reaching than Lynn knows and the after-effects are still being felt throughout the small town. The Boland family is powerful and influential and it's not long before Lynn realizes that this man still has the capacity to destroy her and all she holds dear.

Why so excited? --> Anyone else who already wants to hit this Vincent character in the face? The description of Lynn Stephens and what has happened to her has grabbed my attention, and I'm quite curious to find out what it is exactly that happened and how she is going to deal with everything coming her way. Colette Caddle's novels haven't disappointed me before, so I'm looking forward to picking up this one!


Lesley Pearse - 'Forgive Me' (15th of August 2013)

Eva Patterson's life is forever altered by the devastating discovery of her mother, Flora, dead in the bath leaving only a note: 'Forgive Me'.

Until Flora's suicide, Eva's world had been secure - but overnight everything changes. For when Flora leaves Eva a London artist's studio in her will, she finds her mother had a secret past.

In the studio's attic are Flora's paintings and diaries, and Eva learns her mother was a popular artist in the swinging sixties. Eva's hunt for answers uncovers clues to a shocking crime which led Flora to hide her past.

But will discovering the truth destroy Eva's belief in everything she holds dear? And will this journey lead her and those she loves into danger?

Why so excited? --> I received a review copy of 'Forgive Me', the latest release by bestselling author Lesley Pearse, an author I'm not familiar with. The blurb sounds fascinating, though, and it's always good to check out new authors! I'm looking forward to reading more about Eva's journey and her discoveries related to her mother's past. 


Emma McLaughlin & Nicola Kraus - 'The First Affair' (27th of August 2013)

Jamie McAlister has resigned herself to the fact that in this job market, her painfully expensive degree might only get her a position at Starbucks, when she suddenly lands a prestigious internship at the White House. Although she doesn’t hit it off with the other interns—lockjaws who come from so much money that ten weeks without a paycheck doesn’t faze them—she is eager to work hard and make the best of the opportunity while it lasts.

An unexpected encounter late one evening with the charismatic President Gregory Rutland seems like just a fleeting flirtation, but when he orchestrates clandestine meetings and late-night phone calls, their relationship quickly escalates. Jamie knows what she is doing is wrong: he’s married, he has kids, he’s the President. Yet each time she tries to extricate herself, Greg pulls her back in.

With the conflicted desires of the most powerful man in the world driving her to her breaking point, Jamie can’t help but divulge intimate details to those closest to her. But she must have confided in the wrong person, because she soon finds herself, and everyone she cares about, facing calculated public destruction at the hands of Greg’s political enemies, and—perhaps no matter how much he cares about her—at the hands of Greg himself.

Why so excited? --> Most chick lit lovers will know Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus from their bestselling novel 'The Nanny Diaries.' Well, they're back with a new book, and I love the sound of it! An internship at the White House sounds fantastic, and the main character Jamie having an affair with the actual president... Sounds like an entertaining read to me! 


Liane Moriarty - 'The Husband's Secret' (29th of August 2013)

Cecilia Fitzpatrick, devoted mother, successful Tupperware business owner and efficient P&C President, has found a letter from her husband.

'For my wife, Cecilia Fitzpatrick
To be opened in the event of my death'

but Cecilia's husband isn't dead, he's on a business trip. And when she questions him about it on the phone, Cecilia senses something she hasn't experienced before, John-Paul is lying. 

What happens next changes Cecilia's formerly blissful suburban existence forever, and the consequences will be life-changing for the most unexpected people. 

Why so excited? --> I've heard so many good things about this novel, which will be released in the UK this August. The cover is stunning and even though the blurb doesn't give too much away, it has already convinced me that this is a book I can't and don't want to miss out on!


Be sure to pick up your own copies of these August releases, coming to stores near you soon!



29 July 2013

August 2013 releases to look forward to! (Part 1)

At the end of July, I guess we can finally say that summer has definitely arrived in Europe! I've been on holiday for two weeks in the UK and had the loveliest weather, so managed to spend some nice days wearing sun dresses, reading good books, and enjoying (probably too much, oops) ice cream! And *snap*, before you know it, August is almost upon us, which of course means lots of great new releases! Whether you still need some ideas for novels to take with you on holiday, or whether you are already back home and need some cheering up because you had to say goodbye to the summer holiday bliss too soon... I'm sure this list of upcoming releases will bring a smile to your face!

Rebecca Chance - 'Killer Queens' (1st of August 2013)
Every little girl grows up dreaming of finding a prince - but what if the fairy tale turns into a right royal nightmare? 

Lori is a beautiful, blonde, all-American athlete. When the charismatic ruler of a small, filthy rich European state asks for her hand, she thinks she's snagged Prince Charming. But she soon realizes that all that glitters is not gold... 

Belinda was once the most recognized and loved princess in the world. Forced to stage her own death, she lives incognito abroad with her adoring royal lover. Now, she is determined to return to England to see her son Hugo wed, even if it means risking her own life. 

Chloe, Prince Hugo's fiancĂ©e, is the archetypical English rose. But it's a long road to becoming a princess, even when you're dating the heir to the throne. Perhaps the fairy-tale ending isn't all it was cracked up to be... 

Killer queens, scheming kings, murder plots and lashings of steamy sex - find out what REALLY goes on behind closed palace doors. 

Why so excited? --> I'm so incredibly excited about this novel, and I am sure many of you will want to pick up your own copy as well after just reading the blurb! As a real girly-girl, I love everything that has to do with royalty, princesses, gorgeous gowns, castles... So, the fact that this novel focuses not on one, but three different female characters within the world of glamorous royalty, makes me want to get my hands on this book as soon as possible!

Claudia Carroll - 'Me and You' (1st of August 2013)

I’m fine. I’m sorry. Please take care of him for me. And maybe one day I’ll get to explain.

Angie knows a lot about her best friend Kitty.
She knows Kitty is mad and wild and loves to wear clashing colours. She knows she’s incredibly funny and generous but also very unreliable.
And she knows that there is a perfect explanation for Kitty standing her up on her birthday.
She thinks she knows everything about Kitty, except she doesn’t.

Kitty knows that she is the happiest she has ever been.
She knows she’s so lucky to have a lovely boyfriend, Simon and a best friend like Angie. But what she doesn’t know is that on this night, her past is finally going to catch up with her and change everything.

Why so excited? --> I read my first Claudia Carroll novel at the start of this year, and really enjoyed it. I've heard good things about her latest release, 'Me and You', so I can't wait to read this one. The blurb doesn't give too much away, but already manages to intrigue me. What will happen to Angie and Kitty? What is it about Kitty's past? I have high hopes for this book and can't wait to read it!

Louise Candlish - 'The Disappearance of Emily Marr' (1st of August 2013)

Arriving on the windswept Ile de Re off the coast of France, Tabby Dewhurst is heartbroken and penniless, unable even to afford a room for the night. Then she overhears a villager repeating aloud the access code to her front door and, hardly believing her own actions, Tabby waits for the villager to leave and lets herself into the house...

And so she enters the strange, hidden world of Emmie, whose sudden offer of friendship is at odds with her obsession with her own privacy. Soon Tabby begins to form suspicions about Emmie, suspicions that will lead her back to England – and to a scandal with shattering consequences.

Why so excited? --> I've never read anything by Louise Candlish before, but the beautiful cover of 'The Disappearance of Emily Marr' straight away caught my eye. The blurb also has a mysterious sound to it, and I've become quite curious to learn more about Tabby and Emmie and the scandal that is mentioned!

Catherine Alliot - 'My Husband Next Door' (1st of August 2013)

When Ella married the handsome, celebrated artist Sebastian Montclair at just nineteen she was madly in love. Now, those blissful years of marriage have turned into the very definition of an unconventional set-up. Separated in every way but distance, Sebastian resides in an outhouse across the lawn from Ella's ramshackle farmhouse.

With an ex-husband living under her nose and a home crowded by hostile teenaged children, gender-confused chickens - not to mention her hyper critical mother whose own marriage slips spectacularly off the rails - Ella finds comfort in the company of the very charming gardener, Ludo.

Then out of the blue Sebastian decides to move on, catching Ella horribly unawares. How much longer can she hide from what really destroyed her marriage . . . and the secret she continues to keep?

Why so excited? --> 'My Husband Next Door' sounds like a trustworthy, enjoyable chick lit novel, and to my opinion you can't ever read enough of those. I like the idea of Ella living so close to her ex-husband, and can only imagine the kind of situations that will lead to. Especially if you add a hunky gardener to the story!

Sinead Moriarty - 'Mad About You' (1st of August 2013)

Emma and James Hamilton have weathered lots of storms in their ten-year marriage. From the heartbreak of infertility, to the craziness of then becoming parents to two babies in one year, to coping with James losing his job, somehow they have always worked as a team.

However, the pressure of moving from Dublin to London for James's new job - away from familiar surroundings and the family Emma loves - puts them under stress like never before. So when James starts getting texts from a stranger - texts that show startling insights into their lives - Emma is not sure what to think. She is far from home, isolated and before long finds herself questioning everything about their relationship.

Maybe those texts are telling her the truth and the life she believed to be solid and secure is just a mirage. Somehow she has to get a grip, but how can she do that when a stranger is set on driving Emma out of her home and her marriage?

Why so excited? --> I've read about Sinead Moriarty being compared to authors like Marian Keyes and Jodi Picoult, which are both big names within women's fiction. 'Mad About You' sounds like a slightly more dramatic novel than a typical chick lit, and it has definitely caught my attention. Looks like a promising read!

Milly Johnson - 'It's Raining Men' (1st of August 2013)

A summer getaway to remember. But is a holiday romance on the cards…? 

Best friends from work May, Lara and Clare are desperate for some time away. They have each had a rough time of it lately and need some serious R & R. So they set off to a luxurious spa for ten glorious days, but when they arrive at their destination, it seems it is not the place they thought it was. In fact, they appear to have come to entirely the wrong village… 

Here in Ren Dullem nothing is quite what it seems; the lovely cobbled streets and picturesque cottages hide a secret that the villagers have been keeping hidden for years. Why is everyone so unfriendly and suspicious? Why does the landlord of their holiday rental seem so rude? And why are there so few women in the village? Despite the strange atmosphere, the three friends are determined to make the best of it and have a holiday to remember. But will this be the break they all need? Or will the odd little village with all its secrets bring them all to breaking point…?

Why so excited? --> I adore Milly Johnson's novels. They're always great fun and have gorgeous covers! I have been looking forward to the release of 'It's Raining Men' for quite some time now, and I'm really glad it's almost August so I can finally get my hands on a copy! I love the sound of the story: three best friends needing some time off, finding themselves in a small village with a secret... Can't wait!

Diane Chamberlain - 'Necessary Lies' (1st of August 2013)

North Carolina, 1960. Newlywed Jane Forrester, fresh out of university, is seeking what most other women have shunned: a career.

But life as a social worker is far from what she expected. Out amongst the rural Tobacco fields of Grace County, Jane encounters a world of extreme poverty that is far removed from the middle-class life she has grown up with.

But worse is still to come. Working with the Hart family and their fifteen-year-old daughter Ivy, it’s not long before Jane uncovers a shocking secret, and is thrust into a moral dilemma that puts her career on the line, threatens to dissolve her marriage, and ultimately, determines the fate of Ivy and her family forever.

Soon Jane is forced to take drastic action, and before long, there is no turning back.

Why so excited? --> Another enchanting cover and an intriguing blurb! I received a review copy of this novel, and I can't wait to start reading it. I like the fact that the novel is set in the 1960's and Jane sounds like a fascinating character with an interesting story to tell. Looking forward to reading this!

Be sure to visit this blog in the upcoming days to read about more fabulous August 2013 releases! 

21 July 2013

Review: 'The Longest Holiday' by Paige Toon (2013)

'Don't wait for the storm to pass; learn to dance in the rain…'

 Laura has been married to the man of her dreams for seven months. But a week before the wedding, Matthew made a terrible mistake. 

Escaping the humiliation that is now her marriage, Laura is whisked off to Florida's Key West by her best friend Marty. A carefree holiday full of cocktails and fun, surrounded by gorgeous, tanned men, is exactly what the doctor ordered. 

Distraction comes in the form of sexy Cuban scuba diver Leo. Laura's instant attraction to him knocks her flying, and she falls hard. 

As the end of the holiday approaches, Laura doesn't want to go home. Is it time to face the music? Or is there more to Key West than a holiday romance?

If there is something that can get me really excited, it’s a new Paige Toon novel. I read ‘Pictures of Lily’ several years ago, and since then Paige has definitely been one of my favourite chick lit authors. I don’t know what it exactly is about her novels, but they always manage to take over my life for several hours, in the best way possible! Once you get stuck in one of her tales, you don’t want to put it down until you’ve finished it. I had already fallen in love with the gorgeous cover (such lovely summer colours) of ‘The Longest Holiday’ and even though it took me some willpower, I decided it would be the perfect first read of my summer holidays this year. So, while I was on the way to my first holiday stop, the lovely city of Bath in England, I got stuck in ‘The Longest Holiday.’

Laura Smythson’s life is suddenly turned upside down when she finds out her husband of just a few months, Matthew, made a horrible mistake on the evening of his stag do. In an attempt to leave it all behind, Laura goes on a trip to Key West in Florida with her best friend Marty, where they spend their time in the sun, drinking and relaxing. Thankfully, Laura finds a good distraction in the form of diving instructor Leo, whom she fancies straight away. As the end of the trip comes near, however, Laura knows she shouldn’t do anything with her feelings since she is still married, but at the same time she can’t stand the thought of leaving Key West and Leo behind...

This was such an enjoyable and great read. I immediately got the ultimate holiday feeling from the descriptions of Key West, and from the beginning of the story I was already hooked. I especially loved Laura, she’s a great heroine that is easy to warm to, and the chemistry between her and Leo (such a great and brooding male hero to fall for!) was amazing. I love it when you find yourself rooting for two people to get together, and to me, the sparks between these two were practically coming from the pages! 

Paige Toon’s writing style is simply captivating, and easy to read, which made me fly through the pages of ‘The Longest Holiday’ and not want to put it down. I especially loved the saying that is used on the cover of the book: ‘Don’t wait for the storm to pass, learn to dance in the rain.’ The way this was used in the novel was so fitting and definitely inspiring! If you are looking for that perfect summer read to take with you to the beach or on holiday, definitely pick up this novel... Trust me, you will not want to put it down!

Rating:9/10

16 July 2013

Review: 'Party Games' by Jo Carnegie (2013)

Although the countryside town of Beeversham looks picture-perfect, nothing is quite as it seems. Behind closed doors, three women are struggling to lead the lives they want.

Vanessa seems like she simply must have it all - she's beautiful, rich and married to gorgeous actor, Conrad. But beneath the glitz, she is asking herself whether this really is the life she wants to lead - when she has so much, why does she feel so empty?

Meanwhile, Fleur is trying desperately to save the farm that her family have lived on for hundreds of years, when playboy Beau makes her an offer she can't refuse.

And Catherine has given up the high-flying career she thought she always wanted, and is trying to build a wonderful new life in the country. But finding rural bliss is harder than it looks.

Hopes and dreams, loves and losses - and lots and lots of secrets - let Jo Carnegie take you behind the scenes of one very special town.

Since I first saw the cover of Jo Carnegie’s latest novel ‘Party Games’ and had read the blurb, I was secretly hoping I would be receiving a review copy, and thankfully, I did (thank you, Transworld!). I hadn’t read anything by Jo Carnegie before, but I really liked the sound of ‘Party Games’. A picture-perfect village, three female characters with their own stories to tell, hopes, dreams, secrets... I knew, without a doubt, that this would be an entertaining read!

The town of Beeversham is a small village in England where big things are about to happen. An anonymous building corporation has plans to knock down the town’s castle and build a large theme park instead, promising new jobs and more tourists. The inhabitants of Beeversham are against the plans, but how can they stop this enormous change from happening? At the centre of this, we have three female inhabitants of the small town: Vanessa, the UK’s favourite female celeb, who is stuck in an unhappy marriage until she meets the new hunky gardener Dan; Fleur, who is doing everything she can to save her family’s farm while trying to ignore heartthrob Beau’s romantic advances; and Catherine, who has given up her career as a successful magazine editor in order to start a family in the countryside, but when she can’t get pregnant she finds herself looking for something else to keep her occupied. Much is happening in the small town of Beeversham, but no one knows what enormous changes lie ahead...

Where do I start with this novel?! After about fifty pages, I already noticed a lot was going on. Different storylines, many characters... It really took me a bit of time to get into the story, but as soon as I did, I simply didn’t want to stop reading. The novel became kind of addictive, like a soap opera, with all the intrigue, lies, secrets, unexpected twists and turns. I loved the three female characters (Catherine, Vanessa, and Fleur) and their individual storylines. They were each really different characters that brought a fascinating story to the table, and I loved how the novel focused on them in turns, while using the main Beeversham tale as a red thread to which everything else was somehow linked.

‘Party Games’ can really be described as a soap opera on paper which is scandalously enjoyable and addictive. I really liked Jo Carnegie’s writing style; pleasant, quick, easy-to read. However, I did sometimes lose track of all the different characters and who was who and what their link to the other villagers was. I really loved Vanessa, Fleur and Catherine and the characters close to them, so I wouldn’t have minded if some of the smaller characters would have remained anonymous. Overall, ‘Party Games’ is an addictive, thoroughly enjoyable, scandalous and glamorous read you will not want to put down, and I personally can’t wait to pick up some of Jo Carnegie’s other novels.

Rating:8/10    
  

13 July 2013

Review: 'Little Beauty' by Alison Jameson (2013)

A unforgettable story about one woman's struggle to do the best for her child.

1975: Laura Quinn has spent her life on the remote and beautiful Inis Miol Mor - Whale Island- off the west coast of Ireland. After the death of her parents, and faced with the continuing reluctance of her lover, Martin, to marry her, she realizes she needs to leave the island for her life really to begin.

She accepts a job as a housekeeper with a wealthy couple on the mainland. But a year later, Laura is back, and this time she is not alone. She has at last found the love of her life: a baby son named Matthew. But what sort of life can an unmarried mother have on a remote Irish island in the 1970s? In this complex situation is revealed a picture of a tightly knit community where Laura inevitably comes under pressure to conform to the rules of society.

I didn’t know anything about Alison Jameson or her 4th of July release, ‘Little Beauty’, before I received a review copy of the novel in my mailbox (thanks Transworld!). The book has a stunning cover; I really like the design of it, the sea, the sand, the flowers, the little cloud hanging in the air with the author’s name in it. It’s also a cover that fits the tale inside perfectly. I didn’t really know what kind of novel to expect after reading just the blurb, but I was quickly taken in by Laura and her story.

Laura Quinn has always lived on the Irish island Inis Miol Mor, also known as Whale Island, where she is considered a bit of an outcast. This mainly has to do with the fact that her mother committed suicide and that their house was built facing the sea, which is considered bad luck. Laura feels as if nothing on the island is making her happy, including her uncertain relationship with lighthouse keeper Martin, so she decides to take on a job as a housekeeper on the mainland. A year later, Laura is back on the island and she has found the light in her life in the form of a son named Matthew. Yet, Laura is a single mother, which is not accepted by the other inhabitants of the island, and it doesn’t take long before she finds herself struggling to hold onto that one bit of happiness in her life.

‘Little Beauty’ is not your typical chick lit novel, and certainly not a light read. Laura is a slightly odd character, but I warmed to her as the novel progressed. I also liked Martin (even though I went from like to dislike in continuing waves throughout the story), and I fell in love with Audrey (the woman for whom Laura starts working as a housekeeper) when she was introduced to the story. I loved her description, her clothes, the way she danced around the kitchen... However, as the story continued, my feelings for Audrey changed. I don’t want to give too much away, but those of you who have read or will read ‘Little Beauty’ will understand what I am talking about. What happens to Laura is heartbreaking, and it really influenced the way I looked at the characters and the story as a whole.

Alison James has a really particular own way of writing, which I had to get used to at the beginning. At times, I thought the story was a bit long-winded, but at the same time the descriptions and emotions were really well-written and realistic. ‘Little Beauty’ is quite an intense read and definitely a story that will linger in your mind afterwards. If you are looking for something a tad heaver than your average chick lit, something emotional and original, then I’d certainly recommend picking up a copy of this novel. Even though it was a slightly different read, I enjoyed ‘Little Beauty’ and I have a feeling Laura Quinn’s tale will stay with me for quite some time to come!

Rating:7/10 


9 July 2013

Review: 'In the Summertime' by Judy Astley (2013)

It's twenty years since Miranda, then sixteen, holidayed in Cornwall and her life changed forever. Now she's back again - with her mother Clare and the ashes of her stepfather Jack, whose wish was to be scattered on the sea overlooked by their one-time holiday home.

The picturesque cove seems just the same as ever, but the people are different - more smart incomers,fewer locals, more luxury yachts in the harbour. But Miranda and Clare both find some strangely familiar faces, and revisit the emotions they both thought had disappeared.

When I found a review copy of Judy Astley’s latest novel ‘In the Summertime’ in my mailbox (thanks to the amazing people at Transworld), I immediately started longing for my summer holidays a little bit more. The cover and blurb promise a perfect-for-a-day-on-the-beach holiday read, so I was looking forward to getting stuck in the story and imagining myself sitting on a sunny Cornwall beach!

When she was a 16-year-old girl, Miranda spent her summer holiday in Cornwall, where she experienced certain things that changed her life completely. She’s now a 36-year-old woman and going back to that exact same village in Cornwall to spend the summer. Main reason is her mother Clare, who has just lost her husband Jack, and wants to scatter his ashes on the sea near their beloved Cornish holiday home. Miranda’s teenage kids, Silva and Bo, have come along on the trip, and it doesn’t take long before Harriet, Miranda’s sister, joins them as well. Miranda soon realises that in contrast to what she initially expected, there are still lots of familiar faces walking around in Chapel Creek, including her former best friends Jess and Andrew, and her holiday crush Steve. It doesn’t take long before forgotten memories and emotions return, and it becomes clear this holiday has much in store for not just Miranda, but the rest of her family as well.

Miranda is such a likeable and warm character; I liked her from the first few pages of the novel. I enjoyed the fact that the story focused on different generations of one family. There’s Miranda in the middle (together with her sister Harriet, who is fleeing from her famous footballer boyfriend and the paparazzi); their mother Clare, who is trying to deal with the loss of her husband; and the kids, Silva and Bo, who are both dealing with their own teenage troubles of trying to fit in. Family takes on a central place in the story, and I loved the way Miranda tries to keep them all together. Next to this, the scene setting and the descriptions of Cornwall were fabulous, and they really gave me that summer feeling.    

After reading this novel, I found out it is actually a sequel to another novel by Judy Astley, ‘Just for the Summer.’ I had absolutely no idea about this when I started reading ‘In the Summertime’, but I never had the feeling as if I was missing bits of information. Astley has made sure everyone can read and enjoy this novel, and now I am actually looking forward to reading the prequel to see what the characters were like in their younger years! ‘In the Summertime’ is a lovely holiday read about a variety of characters, spread over three generations, which will warm your heart and make you long for sunshine and long days on the beach! 

Rating:7,5/10

8 July 2013

Review: 'The Chocolate Money' by Ashley Prentice Norton (2013)

 
Set in 1980s Chicago and on the East Coast, this electric debut chronicles the relationship between an impossibly rich chocolate heiress, Babs Ballentyne, and her sensitive and bookish young daughter, Bettina. Babs plays by no one’s rules: naked Christmas cards, lavish theme parties with lewd installations at her Lake Shore Drive penthouse, nocturnal visits from her married lover, who “admires her centerfold” while his wife sleeps at their nearby home.

Bettina wants nothing more than to win her mother’s affection and approval, both of which prove elusive. When she escapes to an elite New Hampshire prep school, Bettina finds that her unorthodox upbringing makes it difficult to fit in with her peers, one of whom happens to be the son of Babs’s lover. As she struggles to forge an identity apart from her mother, Bettina walks a fine line between self-preservation and self-destruction.

From the moment I first saw the cover of ‘The Chocolate Money’ appearing on my Twitter timeline, the image has somehow been stuck in my mind. I don’t know what it is, because it’s not that I particularly love the cover image that much, but the title and the photo managed to capture my attention. So, when I received a review copy of the novel (thanks, Transworld!) in the mail, I was quite curious to start reading and discover what the story would be like.

‘The Chocolate Money’ tells the story of Bettina and her mother Tabitha Ballentyne, known as Babs. Babs is the heiress to a chocolate company fortune, which means she can buy and do practically everything she wants. Even though Bettina grows up in a world of luxury and glamour, she misses one important thing and that’s attention. Babs is not your average mother, which makes it tricky for Bettina to try and fit in with the other students at the elite prep school she is sent to. Bettina tries to find her own identity, but with her mother constantly loitering in the shadows of her mind, she finds herself struggling with some typical and some not-so-typical dilemma’s of growing up and becoming your own person.

Babs is probably the most horrible mother I’ve ever come across in the fictional world. She’s incredibly selfish, inappropriate, and has an excessive luxury lifestyle she seems to find more important than anything else. The story is told from Bettina’s perspective, beginning when she is just an 11-year-old girl until she has grown up and is a 26-year-old woman. Ashley Prentice Norton deals with the various rather controversial topics the novel tackles (such as child neglect, underage drinking, all kinds of sexual acts) with a dark, sarcastic sense of humour. Apparently there are traces of her own experiences as a Rockefeller heiress in the novel, which is probably why it all seems absurd, but hauntingly realistic at the same time.   

‘The Chocolate Money’ is definitely not a book for everyone. You must be able to deal with quite some shocking details, as the book is a bit disturbing and messed-up at times. I was fascinated by Bettina’s character from the start and her yearning for attention, trying to showcase this in various ways. I enjoyed reading about her time at boarding school, which included some interesting characters like Meredith, Holly and Cape. The story moves along quickly, which resulted in me finishing the novel after just a few hours. This book has received some great reviews and in a way I can understand why. I think certain readers will definitely enjoy this novel and find it captivating, but I personally found it was all a bit too twisted and too dark for my liking. Overall, an interesting but slightly disconcerting look into the world of the wealthy that focuses around a teenage girl’s unheard cry for attention, which will interest some, but will shock others.
 
Rating:6/10
 

5 July 2013

Interview with Lindsey Kelk!

On the 4th of July, Lindsey Kelk's fabulous new novel 'About a Girl' was released (click here to read the review)! The lovely Lindsey found some time in her busy schedule for a short interview for this blog, thanks so much Lindsey! :)


 


Can you tell us something about your new novel, ‘About a Girl’?
Sure! It’s a fun, funny novel about how life sometimes takes an unexpected turn. I think it’s a good escapist, summery read.

Where did you find the inspiration for the plotline of ‘About a Girl’? Is any of it based on real-life experiences? 
I always draw from real life for my books but there are rarely specific events in there. I can’t think of many women who haven’t lost a job or felt lost in life. And I’m pretty sure we’ve all had a crush on a friend or gone for the bad boy because we’re hurting. 

What do you like most about your new heroine, Tess?
I like that she takes chances. Admittedly they aren’t always the smartest chances but she goes for it anyway. And she likes to eat. That’s pretty great.

Which character in this novel did you most enjoy writing about and why?
I liked all of them actually. It was a nice change to meet some new characters, I’ve been writing the I Heart books for so long, it was interesting to develop new personalities. I love Tess, I loved her best friend Amy and writing Tess’ beach buddy Al was fun. Also I do have a bit of a crush on Nick and Charlie. I don’t know how Tess is going to choose…

If you had to describe ‘About a Girl’ in just three words, which words would you pick (other than the title itself, obviously!)?
Fun, funny escapism.

You’ve announced you’re busy working on another ‘I Heart...’ novel, namely ‘I Heart Christmas.’ How do you feel about going back to writing about Angela and co?
It’s a mixed bag. On one hand it’s like hanging out with old friends but on the other, it’s harder because so many of their stories have already been told. I hate putting Angela through anything difficult – she’s been through so much!

Why did you decide to go for a holiday (Christmas) this time around instead of another city/place?
I really wanted to tell another New York story and I love Christmas, just like Angela. It was as easy as that really!

Can you already give us just a tiny hint about Angela’s new adventures and what we can expect?
Hmm, it’s really early days in writing so I can’t really tell you anything other than someone has a baby and someone goes on an unexpected trip.


Be sure to pick up your own copy of Lindsey's new novel, 'About a Girl', in stores now! 

4 July 2013

Review: 'About a Girl' by Lindsey Kelk (2013)

I’d lost my job. I’d lost the love of my life. My mum wasn’t talking to me. My best friend was epically pissed off. And my flatmate probably had a hit out on me by now. I never meant for things to get so out of hand…

Tess Brookes has always been a Girl with a Plan. But when her carefully constructed Plan goes belly up, she’s forced to reconsider.

After accidently answering her flatmate Vanessa’s phone, she decides that since being Tess isn’t going so well, why shouldn’t she try out being Vanessa? With nothing left to lose, she accepts Vanessa’s photography assignment to Hawaii – she used to be an amateur snapper, how hard can it be? Right?

But Tess is soon in big trouble – she isn’t a photographer, she isn’t Vanessa, and the gorgeous journalist on the shoot with her, who is making it very clear he’d like to get into her pants, is an egotistical monster.

Far from home and in someone else’s shoes, Tess must decide whether to fight on through, or ‘fess up and run…

Lindsey Kelk has to be one of my absolute favourite chick lit authors of this day and age. Ever since I picked up ‘I Heart New York’ several years ago, I fell in love with the main character Angela and I find myself continuously looking forward to each new exciting part of the ‘I Heart...’ series (I can't even describe in words how excited I am about 'I Heart Christmas'!). When I heard rumours of a new Lindsey Kelk series, I was overjoyed, but I also wondered whether anything could top the ‘I Heart...’ novels. However, one way or another, I would get to read a new Lindsey Kelk novel and thanks to the lovely people at Harper Fiction that happened even sooner than I initially expected. I was curious to meet new heroine Tess and find out all about her adventures on the island of Hawaii!

Tess Brookes’ life is a complete mess: within a matter of days she finds herself without a job, stuck in an apartment with her horrible roommate, a best friend that is suddenly not her biggest fan anymore, and the love of her life knowing all about her feelings which he does not share. So, when Tess is unexpectedly offered the chance to get away from it all by hopping on a plane to Hawaii for a photography assignment, she can’t say no. The only catch: the upcoming week she has to take on the identity of her photographer roommate Vanessa, who is possibly the biggest bitch Tess has ever had the pleasure of meeting. Pretending to have a different name, taking a few photographs... How difficult can it be? Soon Tess not only finds herself in one of the most beautiful places on earth, with one of the most gorgeous men she has ever laid eyes on, but she also realises this plan might not have been as great and thought-out as she expected it to be...

I absolutely adore Lindsey Kelk’s writing style. It’s entrancing, flows easily and she's absolutely hilarious. Her novels are always filled with jokes and situations that make me crack up over and over again, and this is something I don’t personally come across with authors very often. I also loved the characters in the novel: Tess is a fabulous, entertaining and relatable heroine, even though it took me a bit of time to get used to her; Charlie and Nick are two gorgeous men and I’m still not completely sure which team I’m on; Vanessa is such a queen bitch, she made me want to step into the pages of the novel and slap her myself; and Amy is the hilarious and greatest best friend a girl could wish for. Add the dreamy descriptions of Hawaii, which made me long for cocktails and sun loungers on a gorgeous white beach, and you’ve hit the jackpot!

I can’t conclude anything else than that Lindsey Kelk has managed to do it again. ‘About a Girl’ is a thoroughly entertaining, funny, sparkling read that every chick lit fan will instantly adore. I can’t wait to read more about Tess and the other characters, and that is why I am so excited that this is going to be an actual series and not a single novel. Lindsey Kelk has come up with the perfect recipe for a fabulous and glamorous new chick-lit series which I am already really looking forward to!

Rating:10/10


3 July 2013

Review: 'The Son-in-Law' by Charity Norman (2013)


On a sharp winter's morning, a man turns his back on prison. Joseph Scott has served his term. He's lost almost everything: his career as a teacher, his wife, the future he'd envisaged. All he has left are his three children but he is not allowed anywhere near them. This is the story of Joseph, who killed his wife, Zoe. Of their three children who witnessed the event. Of Zoe's parents, Hannah and Frederick, who are bringing up the children and can't forgive or understand Joseph. They slowly adjust to life without Zoe, until the day Joseph is released from prison...

Thank to the lovely people at Allen & Unwin I received a review copy of Charity Norman’s new release, ‘The Son-in-Law.’ I hadn’t read anything by Charity Norman before, and I am not quite sure whether I would have picked up this novel myself. As followers of this blog will probably know by now, I am a sucker for romance and a happy ending, and those are not exactly the ingredients this novel would appear to offer at first sight. However, one of the most important things about reading is that you can relatively easily cross your personal borders and pick up a novel that might not initially be your cup of tea, but it might end up surprising you. And that is exactly what happened with this novel.

After spending several years behind prison walls, Joseph Scott is out in the wide world again. The only thing he cares about is seeing his three children, Scarlet, Theo and Ben, but this won’t be an easy task. Four years ago, Joseph killed his wife Zoe in a fit of rage, in front of their children. They now live with their grandparents, Hannah and Frederick, who have no intention of letting Joseph near his children ever again. When Joseph sees no other option but to take the case to court, Zoe’s torn family is forcefully reunited, bringing back all kinds of memories and emotions.

One of the absolute strengths of this novel is Charity Norman’s writing. After just a few chapters, I already felt myself being consumed by this story and I couldn’t get it out of my mind. The characters are incredibly well-written and realistic, just like the scene setting. I could imagine myself standing in the living room with them, which only made me feel even more drawn in by the novel. Norman especially managed to create a feeling of conflict: who of the characters do you support? There are two main different points of view, and I found myself switching between the two continually. As a reader you are really brought into the minds of these characters, and it also shows you everything might not be as straightforward as it might seem at first sight.

Even though Zoe has already died quite some time ago at the start of this novel, she takes on a central role in the story. She was a mother, daughter, and wife, and these three roles are explored in the form of her children, parents, and husband. I especially loved the three children, most specifically Scarlet; she is so clearly torn between two parties, and Norman describes this so incredibly well. Next to this, I also admired the relationship between Hannah and Frederick; after everything they’ve gone through, their love is still so strong. I don’t want to give too much away about what happens in this novel, but the last few chapters had me with tears streaming down my face, and that is something that doesn’t happen too often to me when I’m reading! ‘The Son-in-Law’ is an emotional and realistic novel that will keep you captivated from beginning to ending, and a tale that reminds you to not forget that there’s always two sides to every story.

Rating:8,5/10 


2 July 2013

Review: 'The Outline of Love' by Morgan McCarthy (2013)

Persephone Triebold has grown up in the strange desolation of the Scottish Highlands, raised by her anxious father and memories of her dead mother. Inexperienced in the rules of friendship, sex and love, Persephone takes the opportunity to replace uninhabited mountain ranges with city life and leaves to study for a degree in London.

Parties, new friends and the polluted splendour of the capital intoxicate Persephone at first, but fail to supply her with the grand passion she wants. It's only when she meets the literary star Leo Ford, a former singer who has become a celebrated writer, that she finds someone she can love. Though Persephone succeeds in entering Leo's circle of friends she finds him to be as elusive as he is sought after. And she becomes increasingly curious about the incident in his past of which no one ever speaks...

One of the great things about being a book blogger is receiving review copies from publishers for books you probably would not have known about otherwise or would not have picked up in a shop yourself. ‘The Outline of Love’ is one of those books. Thanks to the lovely people at Headline (thank you, Veronique!) I received a review copy of this novel in my mailbox, and at first I wasn’t entirely sure whether this would be a book for me. I really like the front cover, especially the pretty silhouette of London in the background, but I wasn’t too sure about the description. However, it’s important to step out of your comfort zone every now and again, especially when it comes to reading, so I decided to give it a go.

At the centre of ‘The Outline of Love’ we have PersephoneTriebold, who has been raised by her father in the desolate Scottish Highlands. Persephone can’t wait to get out of the mountains and start a new life in the exciting city of London, where she will go to study for her Management degree. As soon as Persephone arrives in London, she quickly finds herself living the typical student life: annoying roommates, new BFF’s, parties, boys... But somehow, Persephone is missing something. Something she had already been missing in Scotland and had hoped to find in a place like London. Then she meets Leo Ford, former lead singer of a famous band and now a renowned author, and Persephone finds herself completely captivated by him. Everything in her life starts to revolve around Leo and how she can possibly secure a place in his circle of friends, or perhaps even more... However, Leo is not your average man and it doesn’t take long before Persephone finds herself lost in his mystery and secrets.

There were definitely some elements in this novel that spoke to me. I liked the setting: the contrast between the rural Scottish Highlands where Persephone grew up, and her longing for a life in a city like London. I have also always had a weakness for Greek and Roman myths, so I really liked the idea of retelling the myth of Persephone and Demeter and using it as a parallel storyline. However, I didn’t find myself warming to Persephone, no matter how hard I tried. She seemed a bit empty; I was expecting strong emotions, but instead it felt like she constantly remained on the surface. Because of this, I found myself losing more and more interest after each page. At the end, some events managed to grab me, but once again I was disappointed by the way Persephone dealt with it all.

Morgan McCarthy’s writing is one of a kind; thoughtful, detailed, and not like anything else I have read before. Her descriptions of the setting are incredibly realistic and I could easily imagine myself sitting in Persephone’s house in London, or in the middle of the Scottish Highlands. It certainly does not seem like this is only her second novel. Though there was a nice plot, a good basis to start with, I did not enjoy this novel as much as I hoped I would because I felt it lacked emotion and it didn’t manage to grab me. I’ve read some amazing reviews of Morgan McCarthy’s first novel, ‘The Other Half of Me’, and from those reviews it already became quite clear: you either love McCarthy’s style or you don’t. ‘The Outline of Love’ is a thoughtful and well-written novel, which might capture the interest of other readers, but unfortunately not mine.

Rating:6,5/10