Saturday, 31 December 2016

Review - Baby Dolly by Hollie Overton

Baby Doll by Hollie Overton was a book that had been on my radar for a very long time before I finally got round to picking it up. From the start of this review I can safely say that I found this particular book to be a brilliantly addictive and gripping read that I flew through in less than 24 hours. I very much regret leaving it sat on my Kindle neglected for so long!

In this book we meet Lily who we soon learn has been held captive for the past eight years of her life but who, thanks to her captor making a mistake, has the opportunity to break free. Having given birth during her time in captivity, Lily has a six year old daughter called Sky and now that they are free Lily’s priority is to keep her daughter safe as they return home to her family. Being reunited with her family, particularly her twin sister Abby, is far from easy but Lily is determined to ensure that her captor is appropriately punished for what he put her and her family through. This is the story of how a family adjusts to seeing someone who they all thought they would never see again. 

One thing that works really well for this book is the way in which the story is told from the viewpoint of several different characters, including Lily, her mother Eve, her sister Abby and her captor Rick. This really allows the reader to get to know each of the characters, get inside their heads and discover exactly what each of them were thinking. I have to say that Rick’s chapters really made me understand just how twisted he was and they evoked some pretty strong emotions in me - I felt incredibly angry towards him and sickened by the way he seemed to feel no remorse for what he had put Lily through. Meanwhile Lily was a character who surprised me as despite all that she had endured she was by far the strongest person in the book and one who I admired greatly. 

From beginning to end this is a wonderfully fast-paced novel that is packed full of many twists and turns throughout that were completely unpredictable and which I did not see coming. In recent times I’ve seen a lot of books about people being held captive in which you never get to read about what life is really like for them when they are released. In this respect Baby Doll is a book which really stands out from the crowd and I thought that it was really interesting to read about how Lily adjusted to her new-found freedom after such a long time without it. 

Whilst reading this book I discovered that it has been selected as a Richard and Judy Book Club read for Spring 2017 and honestly believe that it fully deserves to be on that list. Hollie Overton has written a mightily impressive debut novel in Baby Doll and I both predict and hope that this is just the first of many great novels that I will read by this author!

Friday, 23 December 2016

Review - Scared to Death by Rachel Amphlett

Prior to reading Scared to Death I’d never read anything be Rachel Amphlett before so had little idea what to expect. However, I can safely say that I think I discovered Rachel’s writing at just the right time as Scared to Death is the first book in a new series that features Detective Kay Hunter. There’s absolutely no doubt that this novel got the series off to an incredible start. 

Within Scared to Death, husband and wife, Tony and Yvonne Richards return home from holiday to what can only be described as a nightmare. During their absence their daughter has been kidnapped and they are told by her kidnappers that their daughter will only be released if they pay a ransom. After paying the ransom they are informed of where their daughter is but nothing could possibly prepare them for what they find when they get there for their daughter is no longer alive. In a state of shock they phone the police and Detective Seargeant Kay Hunter is assigned to work on the case along with her colleague Detective Constable Ian Barnes - they are responsible for figuring out exactly what went on.

One thing that has to be said about this book is that the situation it presents seems scarily realistic and as such I found that it was very easy to become involved in the story and I was desperate to find out what happened. What undoubtedly worked in this book's favour was Detective Seargeant Kay Hunter, a great lead character, who was strong and intelligent in the world of policing. Thanks to the way in which the author had presented information about her life not just at work but also at home, by the end of the novel I felt like I had really got to know her. 

The book wasted absolutely no time in getting started and threw the reader straight into the midst of the drama where the tension was palpable. The tension only continued to grow as the novel progressed and I can safely say that this book more than kept me on my toes, it was impossible to predict and I had absolutely no idea where it was going to take me next. This was far from one of your slow-moving detective novels as it was fast-paced from the beginning and, with relatively short chapters which I thought worked wonderfully for this book, I found myself flying through it incredibly quickly. It's the sort of book that I imagine would work extremely well as a successful television Drama. 

Scared to Death was one of those books that kept me awake way past my bedtime as once I had started it I was very reluctant to put it down. Based on how great I found this first book to be, I can honestly say that I predict great things for this series of books which I will most definitely be following very closely. This most certainly won’t be the first and last book by Rachel Amphlett that I read. 

Saturday, 17 December 2016

Review - The Food of Love by Amanda Prowse

Every time I hear about a new novel from Amanda Prowse I can’t wait to get my hands on it. Over the years I have had the pleasure of reading many of Amanda’s novels and she has most definitely become one of my favourite authors. The Food of Love is, in my opinion, one of her finest and most unforgettable novels that she has written to date and I’m delighted to be able to share my review of this masterpiece with you today. 

Within The Food of Love we are introduced to the Braithwaite family which consists of Freya and her husband Lockie and their two children, Charlotte and Lexi. After many years of marriage, both Freya and Lockie are still very much in love with one another and Freya believes that she has a very close relationship with her two daughters who at first glance both seem to be doing well. However, when Freya receives a telephone call from Lexi’s headmistress her whole world is turned upside down, things are not as perfect as they at first appeared to be. 

Before reading this book I made a point of not looking at any spoilers so can safely say that what was revealed came as a massive shock to me. As with all of her novels, Amanda has dealt with a very real issue, which in this case is anorexia, that I’m sure is one that affects so many people’s lives. The way she approached her subject matter throughout the novel was quite simply superb and I felt that she treated it with the utmost respect and it was clear that she had taken the time to research her subject matter in very great detail. I found it particularly interesting to read about the psychology behind eating disorders and appreciated the fact that we went on a journey with the family from diagnosis through various forms of treatment. 

There were a couple of other things I loved about this book, with the first being the way in which Amanda has created a family who you can’t help but fall in love with and feel connected to. I felt as if I was a part of their story and really felt their emotions whilst reading the book, from sadness to happiness to frustration and everything in between. I also really loved the way in which this book was written and thought that the way in which the chapters were structured was exceptionally clever. Whilst the first parts of each chapter dealt with the main part of the story, the second parts were a countdown to an event that was only revealed right at the end which certainly gripped me and had my thoughts racing in all directions wondering what was going to happen. 

The Food of Love was undoubtedly one of the most emotional and powerful novels that I have read in a very long time. I found it to be an irresistible read that has made me feel grateful to have the life that I do and can safely say that with each book she writes, Amanda’s writing seems to be going from strength to strength. This book was absolutely no exception to that and I didn't hesitate to award it five shimmering stars! All that's left for me to say is that I highly recommend this book and am already really looking forward to reading what Amanda writes next - hopefully I won’t have too long to wait!

Saturday, 10 December 2016

Review - Be My Baby by A. L. Michael

Be My Baby by A. L. Michael is the third and final instalment in The House on Camden Square series of books. As this is the first book by the author that I’ve ever read before, I’m ashamed to say that I missed out on the other books in this series. However, this did not stop me from enjoying By My Baby which turned out to be a wonderful read. 

In Be My Baby we meet Mollie who is a single mum to young Esme. Being passionate about healthy eating, Mollie is also the face behind Mollie Makes…and is surrounded by wonderfully supportive friends who are all keen to see her succeed. Although Mollie seems to have a lot going for her, she can’t help but reflect on her past life and wonder how different things would be if she had made different decisions. She doesn’t have to wonder for long when a familiar face from her past unexpectedly turns up on her front doorstep. 

Each and every single character that we met during Be My Baby were perfectly crafted and seemed incredibly real. What really stuck out for me and what was particularly lovely to read about was the mother and daughter relationship that existed betwen both Esme and Mollie. Whatever happened, you knew that they would always be there for and were extremely protective of each other. For an eleven-year-old girl I found Esme to be an incredibly intelligent character and one who I adored. She knew she didn’t fit in at school and recognised that what made her stand out from her peers was the lack of a father figure in her life. As I read of the powerful emotions she felt, my heart broke for her and I’m sure that there are many people who will be able to relate to Esme’s story. 

What I loved about the way in which this book was written is how it painted the bigger picture, in that not only did it tell the present day story but also gave us an insight into Mollie’s past with flashbacks appearing regularly and at just the right time without interrupting the overall flow of the novel. This is a book that I found so easy to love and although there were a few sad moments there were also many humerous moments which helped to make it a super entertaining and light-hearted read. A. L. Michael has successfully weaved several important topics into this book, dealing with them in a sensitive manner and has created a story which to me really highlights how important it is for a person’s wellbeing and happiness to let go of the past and live in the moment. 

Having enjoyed this book so much, one thing I really regret is not having discovered this series sooner than I did. Whilst I feel that the book undoubtedly works very well as a standalone novel I feel certain that I’ve missed out on what I’m sure were two brilliant stories. I’ll definitely be back to read more by A. L. Michael in the future. 

Monday, 5 December 2016

Review - A Year and a Day by Isabelle Broom

Having heard such wonderful things about Isabelle Broom’s beautiful writing I couldn’t wait to get started with A Year and a Day which more than lived up to my expectations. A Year and a Day turned out to be a truly stunning and captivating wintry read that I fell in love with from the very first page. In addition to transporting the reader to the beautiful city of Prague, it tells a beautiful story which together make it an unforgettable reading experience. 

A Year and a Day introduces us to five characters - Megan and Ollie, Hope and Charlie and Sophie who are all at different stages of their lives and who have all travelled to Prague for very different reasons. With Megan not having time for a relationship and instead wanting to focus on her career as a photographer and Ollie being a teacher who wants to research the city of Prague for his lessons, Megan and Ollie have travelled to Prague as nothing more than good friends. 
Meanwhile, as a new couple Charlie has whisked Hope away for what should be a romantic break, a time which is slightly spoiled by Hope’s recent fallout with her daughter and Charlie’s strange behaviour. Then there is Sophie who has travelled to Prague alone, where she met Robin when they were just teenagers travelling the world together, but it’s clear that something’s bothering her. Just how will Prague change the lives of these characters? 

Each chapter is told from the perspective of a different character - either Megan, Hope and Sophie - something which is very easy to follow and something which works really well for the book. I feel like we really got to know each of the characters and their relationships and felt really connected to their stories. I loved the way in which the lives of the characters all crossed and the way in which they all became good friends in such a short space of time, looking out for eachother. 

Isabelle’s way of writing throughout A Year and a Day was truly captivating and once started I was well and truly hooked, I couldn’t get enough of it. Isabelle has created a really magical story that transported me to a place that I’ve heard so much about and would definitely love to visit one day. The city of Prague has been well and truly brought to life, with so much description of the sights and sounds that the city has to offer, and it’s clear that Isabelle has done her research very well. I could visualise everything that was taking place and felt that I learned a lot about Prague. 

Whilst this book isn’t heavily focused on Christmas but instead relationships and the beauty of a city during winter, it was a superb book and a real pleasure to read. Upon reaching the end of this book with a happy tear in my eye I knew that what I had read was special and is truly deserving of every five star review it receives. I’m really looking forward to reading Isabelle’s next book! 

Thursday, 1 December 2016

Review and Excerpt - Brides and Bouquets at Cedarwood Lodge by Rebecca Raisin

Anyone who follows my blog will know that I've already read a number of fabulous Christmas books this year. The latest festive story I had the pleasure of diving into was Brides and Bouquets at Cedarwood Lodge by Rebecca Raisin, which was simply divine. It most certainly kept my spirits raised and left me with a smile on my face. 

Within this book we are transported to Cedarwood Lodge in the run up to Christmas, the most wonderful time of the year for many. At the lodge which Clio hopes will become known as the ultimate and most desirable wedding venue, Clio is working hard to ensure that everything is perfect for the bridal expo that is going to take place there. Whilst things don't always go as planned leaving Clio feeling rather stressed and suffering from sleepless nights, she is supported by her best friend Amory along with many more unforgettable characters. Between them all will Clio's hopes and dreams become a reality or are they destined to fail?

One thing I can say is that Rebecca has amore than achieved her aim of creating characters with big hearts who care about relationships and who you can see yourself being friends with. Clio was undoubtedly one of these characters, who despite having more than her fair share of issues to deal with cared very deeply about and always looked after her friends. I wished she was real as I would definitely appreciate having a friend as wonderful as her in my life! 

Brides and Bouquets at Cedarwood Lodge is the second book in the Cedarwood Lodge series and I thought it was magical. Despite not having read the first book in the series I had absolutely no problem getting stuck into it, something which was undoubtedly thanks to Rebecca and her wonderful way of writing. From very early on I knew that I was reading a very special book, it was captivating and really set the scene for the reader describing everything in perfect detail which allowed me to create a perfect picture in my head of Cedarwood Lodge. 

This was the first of Rebecca's books that I've read and one thing I can guarantee is that it will not be the last. Upon finishing this book I was super excited to see that there is to be a third instalment of this series which I didn't hesitate to pre-order. Either devour Brides and Bouquets at Cedarwood Lodge in one go or savour it by reading it in multiple sittings but don't let it pass you by as the story is every bit as stunning as the gorgeous cover! 


Blustery winds lashed at the windows, rattling the shutters, and a draught raced up the staircase in an eerie woo. December had well and truly arrived, bringing with it icy winds and sheeting rain and the urge to snuggle by the fire. But there was no time for that with only a few days until our bridal expo, and Christmas to plan too.

“Tell me this place isn’t haunted, Clio,” a wide-eyed Amory said, clutching a loop of silver tinsel to her chest like a safety blanket.

“With the ghosts of boyfriends past?” I teased, warming my hands by the fire. It crackled and popped, a comforting soundtrack to frosty nights with us holed up in the lodge, working away in one room or another. While the main renovations had been done, there was always something else that needed some attention. From polishing paint-smudged finger-printed balustrades, to excavating the debris from a musty unused cupboard we’d missed the first time around.

She grinned. “You wish.”

“No I do not wish. Men complicate everything!”

The creaks and moans of the lodge didn’t bother me any more. I was used to the grand old dame making her presence felt in the whispers of wind, and shivers of brocade curtains. And if the ghosts made their presence felt then who was I to judge? I hadn’t mentioned it to anyone, but sometimes I awoke with a start, and had the feeling I wasn’t alone. Which was all sorts of crazy and I put it down to fatigue and erratic dream-filled sleep.

“Speaking of men,” Amory said falling into a plush wingback chair that we’d rescued from the basement and rejuvenated. “Correct me if I’m wrong, but I was thinking back to a few weeks ago – the night I arrived actually – and I could be mistaken; did I interrupt you and Kai? I wasn’t paying attention at the time, but I’m sure you were in his arms like… lovers.” Her eyes twinkled mischievously and it was all I could do to keep my expression neutral.

Damn it! I had tried very hard to forget all about Kai and the spontaneous kiss under the moonlight. He had left before I was up the next morning, and I hadn’t heard a peep from him since. He’d probably forgotten all about me and Cedarwood by now, and thus there’d been no point confiding in Amory about my brief clinch with the bronzed, blond, surfer, yogi, Australian project manager – just to describe him briefly – who’d helped shape the lodge back into the beauty of its halcyon days. Without him here, the work days lost some of their shine, for me anyway.

“In his arms?” I said doubtfully, as if she was silly to suggest such a thing. “God, no. We had been discussing the… the cleanup. Probably why he hotfooted out so early the next day.” I lifted a shoulder as if it was nothing, but the mention of Kai and that kiss still had the ability to make me woozy. What could I say, it had been a long time since I’d been plagued with thoughts of a man in the romantic sense – it jolted me, those long dormant feelings.

Not fooled, Amory narrowed her eyes and said breezily, “Oh, my mistake, this postcard must be for someone else then…” With a playful smile she waved the postcard in front of me.

With a shriek I snatched it from her, and held it to my chest. “Did you read it?”

She faux gasped, “I would never do that!”

“You liar!” I laughed, and lobbed a cushion at her.

Even if Amory had read the postcard, which I had no doubt she had, I wanted to read it alone and savor it. I peeked at the festive picture on the front of a snow covered park with a line saying: wish you were here. Of course, I instantly read too much into it…