Tuesday 23 December 2014

My Top Five 2014 Reads!

~ My Top Five 2014 Reads ~

2014 brought me a wonderful year of books and I'm excited to share my favourite five. I thought this was surprisingly easy until I changed my mind three times very late on! But here goes... my top five 2014 reads and my book of the year!

#5 ~ The Dead Wife's Handbook by Hannah Beckerman

I still can't believe that The Dead Wife's Handbook is Hannah Beckerman's debut novel. It's such an original, life-affirming story and the writing really moved me. Surprisingly for the unique circumstances the main character is found in, I really connected with her and was emotionally invested in what was a really special book.

#4 ~ Made in Nashville by Mandy Baggot

My Review ~

I love Harper Impulse and I love contemporary romance novels but I was still surprised by how popular a novel Made in Nashville became for me. I didn't do a very good job at hiding that Jared Marshall is one of my favourite leading male characters ever but it was honestly the whole novel that I fell in love with!

#3 ~ One Step Closer to You by Alice Peterson

My Review ~

I wasn't surprised that One Step Closer To You became one of my favourite 2014 reads, because Alice Peterson is an author that never lets me down, but I did find that her latest novel was a massive step above her other stunning books. The characters and the relationships between them were all developed gorgeously and I loved the way Alice worked hope and positivity into such a dark theme. 

#2 ~ The Judas Scar by Amanda Jennings

My Review ~

If you've had just one book related conversation with me this year, you've heard about The Judas Scar. I've probably forced a copy upon you and you've probably come back and told me just how great you think it is too. I could talk about this novel all week and you all know it. A powerful, emotional, tense, gripping and bloody brilliant novel from an author who will never understand how stunning I think her writing is and how excited I am to read more of it. 

#1 ~ The Memory Book by Rowan Coleman

My Review ~

My book of the year is The Memory Book by Rowan Coleman for about a million different reasons. It's a beautiful, incredibly written novel - though I'm sure anyone who's read it should be able to tell that. I read this book at the complete right time in my life - it struck me emotionally, and still does just thinking about it months after I've read it. What really makes The Memory Book my book of the year is that from Rowan Coleman's wonderful writing, I took something really personal out of this novel which has genuinely helped me on my way through the most difficult time of my life. I would never expect or believe that a piece of fiction could impact my life in any way like the way The Memory Book has. I'm honoured that I got to read it and everyone else should read it too, if only just to appreciate what a truly stunning writer Rowan Coleman is.

Monday 22 December 2014

Review ~ The Year of Taking Chances by Lucy Diamond.

Title: The Year of Taking Chances.
Author: Lucy Diamond.
Publisher: Pan Macmillan.
Genre: Women's Fiction.
Ebook Publication Date: December 15, 2014.
Paperback Publication Date: January 1, 2015.
Source: Review copy.
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars.

Purchase: Amazon UK

Because love is always worth the risk...

It's New Year's Eve, and Gemma and Spencer Bailey are throwing a house party. There's music, dancing, champagne and all their best friends under one roof. It's going to be a night to remember.

Also at the party is Caitlin, who has returned to the village to pack up her much-missed mum's house and to figure out what to do with her life; and Saffron, a PR executive who's keeping a secret which no amount of spin can change. The three women bond over Gemma's dodgy cocktails and fortune cookies, and vow to make this year their best one yet.

But as the months unfold, Gemma, Saffron and Caitlin find themselves tested to their limits by shocking new developments. Family, love, work, home - all the things they've taken for granted are thrown into disarray. Under pressure, they are each forced to rethink their lives and start over. But dare they take a chance on something new?

I loved The Year of Taking Chances. Really loved it. In it we’re brought three completely believable leading female characters, Gemma, Saffron and Caitlin – normal women with everyday kind of problems. Their stories aren’t telling anything groundbreakingly new or extravagant but the novel is delivered in such a wonderful kind of way it will have you laughing one second, a little emotional the next and always rapidly turning the pages for more until you get to the end of the 450+ pages and realise that’s just not enough because this book was FAB and now it’s over. Maybe that’s just me, but I thought The Year of Taking Chances was simply brilliant.

I’m struggling with where to start this because every aspect of this novel was a joy to read. One thing which stood out to me was how the author created so many characters to care about. There’s Gemma, who is set to learn that sometimes something unexpected can happen which will turn your life completely on its head. On New Year’s Eve, Gemma meets Caitlin, who is still struggling to pick up the pieces after the death of her mother, and Saffron who looks to be escaping and hiding away from her own problems. I loved all three of these characters and seeing their friendship built upon throughout the novel, but what I really enjoyed was how it wasn’t just the obvious characters Lucy made me care about. I was rooting for so many individual family members and friends that I lost count of the amount of happy endings I was hoping for. There were Gemma’s children, who were either struggling with hormones or confused about the situation their family was in. Max and Harry, I loved. Bunty, she was completely mad and at times really made me laugh with all her ridiculous demands. At other times, her more sensitive side touched me and I loved her character. I could name so many other characters, even characters in such minor roles that they were only mentioned once or twice and still left a lasting impression on me. The characters were written with such warmth and heart that I couldn’t help but care.

There was a moment in this book where the title really set in – the moment where Gemma, Caitlin and Saffron are working together to help Gemma impress Bunty with her ‘business’, her dress-making. On the spot, they’re creating a brand and their bond is growing closer and you can almost feel their energy through Lucy’s invigorating writing. This moment in the book was the highlight for me for so many reasons. One, because it was the point where I sat and thought – I’m really attached to these characters, things are looking up for them and it really matters to me where they’re going. The main reason was because it was the moment the title hit – the moment where one character we’ve so easily been made to care for is taking her chance, the chance to change her life and honestly it was a little inspiring. If I hadn’t been so lucky as to get this advance copy, I could imagine myself reading this a little after New Year, wallowing at failing one of my silly little new year’s resolutions until I get to this moment and choose to look at the bigger picture and see that there’s much better ways of changing my life for the better. That’s why I think Lucy is on to a winner with this novel because the characters she develops are so realistic, it’s so easy to relate with traits in all of them and then not only get taken in by their lives but also start thinking about your own a little bit. All women at times might feel resolutions like losing loads of weight are the way to go, but seeing Gemma, Caitlin and Saffron choose to take charge of their lives instead feels a much more rewarding attitude to me.

I’ll admit that I did just love every single thing about The Year of Taking Chances. From the pacing to the direction it was taken in and from the way such serious and at times sad themes are covered yet we never lose the underlying positivity and uplifting nature. Marriage, pregnancy, careers, health, bereavement and friendship, just to name a few, are all typical kind of chick lit themes seen in this book but Lucy Diamond’s writing is not typical – it is flawless. The dialogue was always fresh and I loved the wit and charm in the writing. The characters of Gemma, Saffron and Caitlin were all great to read. I loved them individually, from the strength and bravery they could show as their lives changed direction, to their family relations and different approach to the situations put in front of them. Together, I adored seeing their friendship grow and well, you just wouldn’t want to cross them when they put their heads together! The Year of Taking Chances is about love and choosing to live your life, instead of watching it pass by, and in my opinion it’s the perfect book to start your year off right.

Review also posted on Goodreads | Amazon UK

Sunday 21 December 2014

New Year's Giveaway.

2014 has been a wonderful year of books - if only we had time to read them all :) On Christmas Eve, I'll be revealing the top five books I read this year but for now I want to know the one 2014 release you think I need to make sure I've read.

Comment below with:
the one 2014 book you would recommend to me and one of you, chosen at random, will win a £20/$20 Amazon voucher on New Year's Day.

Comment below with a book released in 2014 you'd recommend. Books which weren't 2014 releases won't count and entries telling me you can't pick a book won't either - I just want some fab book recommendations!
Giveaway ends 23.59 UK time on 31/12/14.
One winner will be picked using random.org and will win a £20/$20 Amazon voucher.
Open worldwide.


I hope you all have a lovely Christmas and a healthy, happy new year!

Also, don't forget to check out my 2000 followers giveaway here where you can win one new book a month for six months and more :)

Saturday 20 December 2014

Review ~ Spirits of Christmas by Nicky Wells.

Title: Spirits of Christmas: A Rock'n'Roll Christmas Carol.
Author: Nicky Wells.
Publication Date: October 3, 2013.
Source: Review copy.
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars.

Purchase: Amazon UK | Amazon US

At one time, up-and-coming rock singer Jude had it all: a great band, a platinum record, a loving girlfriend. This Christmas, however, he is well down the road towards spontaneous self-destruction.

Unwitting at first, Jude has progressively alienated his band and driven away the love of his life. Tonight, the night before Christmas Eve, he has broken the final taboo during a disastrous gig. Yet Jude doesn’t see how badly his life has derailed, not until a ghostly procession of legends passes through his bedroom with a series of vivid and powerful wake-up calls.

Will the Spirits help Jude put the friendship, love, and rock music back into his Christmas?

Spirits of Christmas is a modern-day rock’n’roll adaption of Charles Dickens’ classic A Christmas Carol. This novella will enchant romance readers, rock lovers, fans of ghost stories, and everybody who adores the festive season.

Spirits of Christmas is a rock and roll take on the Charles Dickens classic A Christmas Carol. I’ve actually never read A Christmas Carol or any of its adaptations so I don’t know how Nicky Wells’ take on it fares in that aspect but I did think it was a really creative and entertaining festive novella. Nicky looked to be having tons of fun when writing this book, with the rock and roll side shining out and this was a refreshing, vibrant tale with a difference. When the author looks to have put their absolute heart and soul into a story, I find I enjoy it a lot more and that was the case here as Spirits of Christmas was tons of fun.

The novella starts with Jude in the middle of an argument with his band The Blood Roses, soon to be followed by discovering his girlfriend Carrie has left him. He’s rude, arrogant, ungrateful and unappreciative and though on surface not a very likeable person at all, he does make the perfect Scrooge. After a few too many beers, Jude encounters the Ghost of Forewarning who is later followed by the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future. This is where the story really gets going and I really did love the rock and roll edge to the spirits. They added a great twist to a tale which is about to get a little darker as their involvement leads to us learning a lot about Jude and his character – the bad traits but also some of the good too. I loved how Jude went from being obstinate to then becoming more emotional when the ghosts try and get through to him. I found myself willing his character to transform and for him to try and make amends. I would have liked to have learnt more about the other characters impacted by Jude’s actions, but then I do understand why the focus remained strongly on Jude.

The lessons the ghosts teach Jude change the tone of the book and I loved the last third or so of the story. I found myself reading with a big smile on my face and hoping everything would turn out right for him. Of course, it was Christmas, so I invested in that festive spirit and wanted the best outcome possible. Nicky’s style of writing does a wonderful job at making you invest in a character who isn’t your typical nice guy – he makes mistakes and likes putting the blame on other people but you just know there’s more to him than that! I loved Spirits of Christmas and especially the way it ended – it’s a story of hope, opportunities and second chances and one that will be staying with me this Christmas time.

Review also posted on Goodreads | Amazon UK | Amazon US

Ultimate rock chick author Nicky Wells writes romance with rock stars—because there’s no better romantic hero than a golden-voiced bad boy with a secret soft heart and a magical stage presence!

Nicky’s books offer glitzy, glamorous romance with rock stars—imagine Bridget Jones ROCKS Notting Hill! If you’ve ever had a crush on any kind of celebrity, you’ll connect with Nicky’s heroes and their leading ladies.

Born in Germany, Nicky moved to the United Kingdom in 1993 and currently lives in Lincoln with her husband and their two boys. Nicky loves listening to rock music, dancing, and eating lobsters. When she’s not writing, she’s a wife, mother, occasional knitter, and regular contributor at Siren 107.3 FM with her own monthly show. Rock on!

Nicky’s books: Sophie’s Turn | Sophie’s Run | Sophie’s Encore | Spirits of Christmas | Fallen for Rock | Fairy Tale in New York

Blog | Twitter | Facebook | Romantic Novelists’ Association | Sapphire Star Publishing | Amazon | Goodreads | Pinterest | Google+

Did you know? There’s a single out now by Nicky’s fictional rock band Tuscq come to life! “Love Me Better” is available for download from Amazon, iTunes and many other places.

Friday 19 December 2014

Review ~ The Last Protector by Stephanie Keyes.

Title: The Last Protector (The Star Child companion novella).
Author: Stephanie Keyes.
Publisher: Inkspell Publishing.
Genre: Fantasy.
Publication Date: December 15, 2014.
Source: Review copy.
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars.

Purchase: Amazon UK | Amazon US | B&N | Kobo

Gabriel Stewart helped his best friend Kellen St. James save the world from The Scourge in the Battle of Dublin. But before that? Gabe was just an ordinary guy who kept having dreams about a little boy with black hair and green eyes—a boy he hadn’t even met yet.

And even weirder? Gabe’s mind kept replaying these images on loop of things he’d never seen. He heard voices in his head when no one was around. And he actually blew off hot Valerie Gibbons to chase after the black-haired kid in the park. What was up with that?

As Gabe searches for the truth, fate continually puts him in Kellen’s path, but will he be able to stop the Children of Danu from stealing Kellen before the battle begins? What will it take for Gabe to become The Last Protector?

*The Last Protector is a companion novella--intended to be read after the other books in the series.

Creeping along, I slipped through the gates before they closed. The exterior lights shut off. The glow from inside the mansion threw shadows across the courtyard, making everything around me creepier. If that was even possible. At least these people hadn’t invested in motion lights.

I needed to get to the window on the second floor. And how the heck did I know that? Like everything else about this trip, I just did. A tall trellis swamped with vines ran up one side of the house. That could be the ticket. I inched closer.

I'd just about made it when a raspy voice reached my ears.

"The boy is alone. You've done well by me.”

Shivers ran up and down my arms as I swallowed and turned. No one. It must've come from inside the house. Ahead, a small window, one of those decorative deals, stood open. Taking slow steps, I moved toward it.

"Thank you," said a second voice, crisp, sort of fancy…British, maybe?

"We can take him now. Use his power to harness what I need,” Spooky Voice said.

“As you wish.

Go, go, go. A voice or maybe my own thoughts echoed inside my brain. I didn’t have time to think.

Go, go, go. The voice came back. I had to get to the second floor. Now.

The wood trellis scratched my hands when I grabbed hold. Splinters pierced my skin as I scaled the wall. I had to get to the boy.

"This is crazy, Gabe." I muttered the words. “This could actually be the stupidest thing you've ever done."

I climbed to the window way faster than I thought I could. This one part of me wanted to glance back, to see if Val noticed me. I ignored it though—I needed to get to the top.

To the kid with green eyes.


Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | All Romance | Indie Bound | Waterstones

I’ve followed the entire The Star Child series by Stephanie Keyes, who has brought me some pretty immense fantasy novels with great world-building and strong characters. My favourite character along the way has been Gabe and so I was very excited to see him as the main character in The Last Protector. Stephanie Keyes never lets me down and The Last Protector provided the opportunity to hold on to this wonderful series for a little bit longer – and it did not disappoint. I’m not a huge fan of companion novels and novellas but I think Gabe’s character was one of the most deserving to be in one, and a chance to read more about Gabe was never going to be a bad thing. The Last Protector is another entertaining instalment to a fantastic series.

The book takes us briefly through the stages of Gabe’s life, when he’s learning more about who he is and being drawn to the mysterious Kellen St James. If you’re a fan of Gabe from the previous books, I think it’s impossible you won’t be a fan of this novella. It’s Gabe at his finest – with his sharp wit and his humour alongside that caring, loyal personality he has too. I loved learning a bit more about his background and the way this book is set out makes sure we get all the important stuff told in an easy-to-devour style. The Last Protector only made me love Gabe even more and though I thought the format of this book worked brilliantly, I also felt like I could just read about him for a lot longer. It was a joy to be able to discover more about him.

I love the journey this book takes us on and it doesn’t repeat or waste time going over things we already know – we’re simply allowed to explore the adventure Gabe goes on in more detail and it was told extremely well, as usual. The Last Protector is insightful and fascinating and another top piece of writing - I’ve called Stephanie Keyes my go-to fantasy author a few times before and she again hasn’t let me down. I was eager to see Gabe in his own book, and not only did she deliver that but in a companion novella which actually worked. Now as my last request, please can this series go on forever?!

Review also posted on Goodreads | Amazon UK | Amazon US

Stephanie Keyes grew up in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and spent years traveling and working as a Corporate Trainer before she made the decision to pen her first novel. As a teen, her family always accused her of having an “overactive imagination.” Now, she’s encouraged to keep her head in the clouds and share her world with readers.

Keyes is the author of the YA Fantasy series, The Star Child, which currently includes The Star Child, After Faerie, The Fallen Stars, and The Star Catcher, all from by Inkspell Publishing. The Fallen Stars was a 2013 semi-finalist in the Kindle Book Awards. The Star Child has topped the Amazon best-seller list several times since its 2012 release. Steph writes YA novels because she’s a hopeless romantic who lives to believe that Magick truly does exist. She is hard at work on a new YA novel.

*Author photos courtesy of Kristina Serafini Photo

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Thursday 18 December 2014

Review ~ The Man Who Can't Be Moved by Tilly Tennant.

Title: The Man Who Can't Be Moved.
Author: Tilly Tennant.
Genre: Chick Lit.
Publication Date: December 19, 2014.
Source: Review copy.
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars.

Purchase: Amazon UK

Fledgling journalist Ellie Newton is keen to prove herself when she lands a hard-won job at the Millrise Echo. So when reports come in of a man camped on the corner of a local street, refusing to move until the girl who has jilted him takes him back, Ellie is on a mission to get the scoop.

She arrives to meet Ben Kelly, a man she is instantly attracted to. But she has a job to do and an incredible story to write and has soon pledged to help him win back the girl of his dreams. With Ellie’s help, Ben’s plight captures the hearts and imaginations of the public. And when a TV film crew appears to make a feature on the most romantic gesture the town of Millrise has ever seen, Ellie’s mission gets its happy ending...

But while Ellie has been busy fixing the lives of her wayward parents, providing shoulders for heartbroken friends to cry on, and worrying about her terminally-ill aunt, she hasn’t noticed that she has also been falling quietly in love – with the very man she has now ensured is hopelessly out of her reach.

Ellie must choose between doing the right thing, and the thing that feels right. And whatever choice she makes, someone will get their heart broken.

I instantly became a big fan of Tilly Tennant once I read her debut novel Hopelessly Devoted to Holden Finn earlier this year. Her festive novella Mishaps and Mistletoe published just over a month ago was magical and beautiful and so another book so soon had me thrilled. The Man Who Can’t Be Moved had everything going for it, in my opinion – the gorgeous cover, the catchy title inspired by a song which will be stuck in your head throughout the whole book, a romantic story and another set of endearing characters. I read The Man Who Can’t Be Moved in less than a day and thought this was by far Tilly’s best novel yet!

As soon as we meet the main character Ellie, we see just how hectic her life is. She’s busy trying to sort out the issues between her parents, busy trying to care for her seriously ill aunt Hazel and busy trying to catch up with her best friends in London – let alone trying hard to impress as a journalist at the Millrise Echo. Straight away it’s obvious how she spends a lot of time putting other people first. She’s caring and selfless and I really liked her character, whilst at the same time wanting her to slow down too. We see her go out to report on Ben Kelly, a guy camping out on a street corner in the hope it will be a gesture grand enough to win back his ex-girlfriend Gemma. Whether it was romantic, stupid or a bit of a both, I loved his approach and the entire concept of The Man Who Can’t Be Moved was very entertaining. Ben’s character was super sweet and he became one of my favourite male characters I’ve read this year. I loved his spirit and his attitude. The way the women on Constance Street acted towards him brought many humorous moments – from the way they’d constantly try and feed him up or make him drinks, to how eager they were to be around when the press were involved. The typical neighbourhood busy-bodies, maybe, or just women who have hearts of gold - they were developed realistically and I found them great fun to read.

Tilly Tennant has this really recognisable style of writing which I just adore. She builds on scenarios that might at first feel a bit unreal, but full of heart and imagination, and then makes them so easy to believe and buy into. I loved reading the slow-building little sparks between Ellie and Ben and was always rooting for a happy ending. The Man Who Can’t Be Moved is the perfect read for the hopeless romantic. All the little touches written into this novel were lovely to read too. The fleeting mentions of Holden Finn from Hopelessly Devoted to Holden Finn were a clever way to get the reader thinking of where life might have taken another difficult to forget character Tilly has created. I also loved how journalism in an often quiet area was represented – the days when nothing interesting is really happening and the others where even just one fascinating scoop can have the whole workplace buzzing. Ellie’s friendship with the photographer Patrick and some of her other colleagues like Ange were a highlight of this novel for me too – I loved the banter and the wit in their dialogue, along with the all-out loyalty they had towards one another.

Though I would say The Man Who Can’t Be Moved is a feel-good novel, the synopsis suggests something a little more emotional is involved and Hazel’s illness provided some more moving moments in the novel. I thought the terminal illness aspect might hit a nerve for me but it was touching and delivered in Tilly’s usual gorgeous manner. This book is beautiful right the way through and I found myself wrapped up in the lives of so many different characters – the bold, funny and considerate to the stubborn and obstinate. Tilly creates stories full warmth and emotion, packed with vivid characters and endless escapism – I can’t recommend The Man Who Can’t Be Moved enough.

Review also posted on Goodreads | Amazon UK

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