Ivy Lane – Spring

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Tilly Parker needs a fresh start, fresh air and a fresh attitude if she is ever to leave the past behind and move on with her life. As she settles in to a new town seeking peace and solitude, taking on her own plot at Ivy Lane allotments seems like the perfect solution. But the vibrant, friendly Ivy Lane community has other ideas and endeavour to entice Tilly into seedling swaps and Easter egg hunts. Can Tilly let new friends into her life, or will she stay a wallflower for good?

Ivy Lane is a serialized novel told in four parts – taking you from spring to summer, autumn to winter – which tell a charming, light-hearted and moving story you won’t want to put down.

My opinion: I requested this book from Netgalley based on its beautiful cover. I know, how shallow?! But it paid off, so it only goes to show that sometimes it’s ok to judge a book by its cover!

Tilly has made a new start. New home, new job and new hobby. She decides to take on an allotment at Ivy Lane as a way to help her pass the time and busy her mind. What she wasn’t expecting was to make new friends at the allotments and become part of a tight knit community. She’s not sure whether this is what she wants and something that has happened in her past makes her extremely wary of absolutely everyone around her. Unfortunately, she doesn’t find the solace she was expecting at the allotment…

I was a little wary of the story when I first started as I wasn’t sure whether Tilly was going to be a bit of a wet character who liked to wallow in her misery and feel sorry for herself. My fears didn’t last long though and I soon got to know Tilly. We don’t find out in this book what the mysterious thing is that has happened in her past to make her the person she is now, but I liked that. We know that this story is going to be in four parts and I like the fact that I am getting to know Tilly first without knowing her big secret.

There are some fantastic, colourful characters at the allotments and they really bring the story alive. All of the characters are well rounded and lifelike and I can’t think of a single one that I hated. This was a very quick read and quite a feel good story. Definitely good for when you need a pick me up and brilliant writing. I’ve already pre-ordered the next installment and am looking forward to reading more about everyone at the allotments! It has even inspired me to sort my own garden out…

My rating: A fab five stars!

I received an advance copy of this book from the publishers via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review

One Step too Far

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An apparently happy marriage. A beautiful son. A lovely home. So what makes Emily Coleman get up one morning and walk right out of her life to start all over again? Has she had a breakdown? Was it to escape her dysfunctional family – especially her flawed twin sister Caroline who always seemed to hate her? And what is the date that looms, threatening to force her to confront her past? No-one has ever guessed her secret. Will you?

My opinion: Wow, just wow.

This story is a real keep you on the edge of your seat thriller that is that clever you aren’t really sure why you are on the edge of your chair, but just know that something isn’t right! It is fast paced, exciting and actually, for most of the story, is the picture of normality, with just a sense of what is to come.

Emily Coleman runs away to London. We don’t know why, we just know she does and that she is leaving her family behind. When she gets there, she builds a new life for herself and makes new friends. The main story is intertwined with a number of stories explaining how we got to today, with one large piece missing until the last part of the book.

The book is separated into three parts with short chapters within each part. From about half way through the second part I was frantically trying to stay awake to keep reading because the twists just kept coming.

There is no way that you can guess how it ends. Or for that matter how it begins!

My rating: A fantastic five stars!!

One Step too Far is being relaunched today! I was provided with an advance review copy of the book prior to its original launch in 2013 in return for an honest review. My review was originally published on Reading in Progress.

Calling All Services

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Alex Frey, successful businesswoman, wife and mother to a busy and demanding family, doesn’t find it easy to take a break. So when she’s hospitalised with a mysterious illness, paralysed and afraid of what the future might bring, frustration meets fear and she can’t wait to escape the hospital, get back in control of things and return her family to the normality of salmon paste sandwiches. At home, her husband Grant is determined to manage the kids, Alex’s parents, his sister and anything else life can throw at him while his wife is away recuperating. But what else can possibly go wrong while Alex is in hospital? The Frey family is about to find out.

My opinion: We meet Alex as she is admitted to hospital. A busy businesswoman, she doesn’t expect to be floored by a mystery illness that creeps up on her. Her husband is left to look after the kids and manage his mother in law while Alex is in hospital which can only end badly…

Although the book could be thought to touch on a few slightly depressing subjects (sudden illness, hospitalisation etc), it is far from it. Tara Ford has a talent in being able to turn a bad situation into a funny one, something which often happens in real life but can be difficult to replicate in writing. Tara really hits the nail on the head with this funny, fast paced story that has some great characters. I really liked Alex and could feel her frustration at having to stay in hospital and leave everything to her husband.

I’d like to read more about the Frey family so hope that we get to read more about them in the future, although I’m not sure that there is anything left to go wrong!

A good storyline, great characters and a real laugh out loud book. I’d recommend this for anyone looking for a bit of light relief!

My rating: Four stars

I received a copy of this book from the author in exhange for an honest review

Mother, Mother

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An electrifying debut novel about what happens when the one who should love you the most becomes your worst enemy. Sure to appeal to fans of GONE GIRL and WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT KEVIN

Meet the Hurst Family.

Meet Violet Hurst -16 years old, beautiful and brilliant. So why is she being accused of being a danger to herself and others?

Meet her brother Will Hurst – the smartest and sweetest twelve-year old boy around. But does he really need all that medication he is being told to take?

Meet oldest sister Rose – the one who got away. She disappeared one night in her final year of school, never to be heard from again.

My opinion: I was very intrigued by this book and just had to give it a go. It was also the change I needed to get me out of a deep reading slump!

The Hurst family are screwed up from the moment we meet them. Violet has been admitted to a psychiatric ward after taking drugs and attacking her brother who is very much still the baby of the family, mother Josephine who is blatantly a bit “different” and dad Douglas who is noticeably disinterested and possibly distracted elsewhere. And there is big sister Rose. She disappeared with her boyfriend and hasn’t been seen since and is a taboo topic for discussion with the family.

Right from the very outset I had the feeling that something was wrong and everything wasn’t quite as it seemed. I kept trying to figure out what the secret was in the family, but I wasn’t able to guess it in its entirety. It was so intricately woven and just kept unfolding all the way from beginning to end, it really kept my interest and kept me guessing! I really didn’t like Will from the very beginning. I could tell that he had been conditioned in a certain way and he was so pretentious sometimes. Josephine was a great character, even though she is one that you just love to hate. To be able to craft a character who is so obviously deranged but in a way that you can’t quite figure her out is a mark of real talent.

Violet was my favourite character. I loved the way she developed through the book from wild teenager to someone I really felt a connection to. This was a great book and I’m so glad I read it and it got me out of my reading slump. I’d recommend this to fans of Room and Before I Go to Sleep. It is compared in the blurb to Gone Girl, but don’t let that put you off. I hated Gone Girl, but loved this book!

If anyone has any recommendations of similar psychological thrillers that you think I may like then please get in touch!!

My rating: Five stars

Guest post: Why I Love Romance by Julie Shackman

Alpha males who are completely uninhibityed and seething with emotion and passion.

Think Rhett Butler, Heathcliff and Mr Darcy.

Heroines who know what they want from life and are not frightened to show how they feel.

Ever since I was about 13, I have been fascinated with the romance genre. I would stare in awe at the glossy covered novels of Judith Krantz and devour every word.

I would hold these often gold embossed novels in my hands and wonder what it would be like to write romantic tales and have readers savouring every word. To have people, comma, cry and lose themselves (hopefully!) in your stories.

The varied characters, settings and intricacies of my favourite genre never ceases to amaze me.

When I started pulling ideas together for “Rock My World”, my debut contemporary romance novel, I hoped to create the magic of the romance novels I read.

Stevie Vee, my ghostly 80s rock singer, whose spirit can’t rest – but why?

Matt Jardine, the sexy, arrogant journalist. Is there more to him than just his newspaper empire family name?

And reporter Ruby Cameron, my protagonist. Feisty, always championing the underdog and often inadvertently putting her foot well and truly in it!

From gorgeous locations to time travel and moral dilemmas, romance novels boast some of the most imaginative, funny and creative authors around.

In a world where news can often be depressing, it is heart-warming to know there are novels out there which can reach out to the reader and truly deliver the “feel-good factor”.

How could anyone not fall in love with reading romance?

Julie is the author of romance novel Rock My World – available to buy now!

Rock My World New Cover - 27 March 2014

Ruby Cameron is an ambitious reporter for a local paper where she is fed scraps of news, and lives with a man whose “idea of living dangerously is to leave the heating on when we pop out to the shops”. But after catching her squeaky clean boyfriend in flagrante delicto she ups sticks and moves into her own small home, only to discover the ghostly presence of a cheeky rock star who becomes her confidant as the dynamics of her small town, and her feelings about her dashing new boss, begin to throw up more questions than she can answer. Will Ruby discover who she really is, and perhaps more importantly, who she wants to be?

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About Julie

I trained as a journalist but writing romance has always been a dream of mine. When I’ve not got my head in a book or drafting one, I write verses and captions for greetings card companies. Writing at home seems to be incredibly difficult for me – I usually require coffee, music and noise. “Rock My World” is my first contemporary romance novel . I have just finished writing my second novel and am polishing that at the moment whilst beginning to do some research for my third. These are also contemporary romances with a good dose of humour (hopefully!). I’m married, have two sons and live in Scotland.
ttp://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B00ICRU3J6/

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00ICRU3J6/

https://twitter.com/G13Julie

https://www.facebook.com/julie.shackman

http://julieshackman.wordpress.com/

Publisher – Not So Noble Books http://www.radicaleyes.it/notsonoblebooks/

 

Agatha Raisin: Something Borrowed, Someone Dead

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Gloria French was a jolly widow with dyed blonde hair, a raucous laugh and rosy cheeks. When she first moved from London to the charming Cotswolds hills, she was heartily welcomed.  She seemed a do-gooder par excellence, raising funds for the church and caring for the elderly.  But she had a nasty habit of borrowing things and not giving them back, just small things, a teapot here, a set of silverware there.  So it’s quite the shock when she is found dead, murdered by a poisoned bottle of elderberry wine.  Afraid the murder will be a blight on the small town, Parish councillor, Jerry Tarrant, hires private detective Agatha Raisin to track down the murderer.

But the village is secretive and the residents resent Agatha’s investigation. Of course that doesn’t stop the ever-persistent Agatha from investigating and sticking her nose where no one wants it—especially as the suspect list grows. And, as if it isn’t enough that Agatha’s ex has reentered the picture, the murderer is now targeting Agatha!

My opinion: Some of you might know that I’m a big Agatha Raisin fan. I like a good murder mystery, but only if it’s lacking in gore, involved the middle aged and is preferably set somewhere picturesque and unassuming. Unsurprisingly, I am a big fan of Midsomer Murders!

In the latest installment of Agatha’s adventures, she once again takes up the job of trying to investigate a suspicious death in a small village. This time of Gloria French, a seeming popular widow who turns out to be something of a kleptomaniac.

I enjoyed this story and although all of the Agatha Raisin books are a tad predictable and somewhat formulaic, they are good fun and I’m sure I will continue to enjoy them.

My rating: Four stars

Summer at the Lake

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It was a wedding invitation that changed everything for Floriana…

If she hadn’t been so distracted at the thought of having to witness the one true love of her life get married, she would have seen the car coming.

If she’d seen the car coming, there would have been no need for elderly spinster Esme Silcox and local property developer Adam Strong to rush to her aid.

And if Floriana hadn’t met Adam and Esme she would never have had the courage to agree to attend Seb’s wedding in beautiful Lake Como.

For Esme, Lake Como awakens memories of when she stayed at the lake as a nineteen-year-old girl and fell in love for the first time. So often she’s wondered what happened to the man who stole her heart all those years ago, a man who changed the course of her life.

Now it’s time for both Esme and Floriana to face the past – and the future – on the shores of this most romantic and enchanting of lakes.

My opinion: This is the first book I have read by Erica James and it certainly won’t be the last.

Floriana receives a wedding invitation through the post that upsets her so much that she doesn’t concentrate on where she is going and ends up getting knocked down by a car. Two onlookers, elderly Esme and property developer Adam, step in to ensure that she is ok and the three of them become unlikely, but firm friends.

Esme is an elderly spinster who lives with her cat in a house full of beautiful paintings which tell the story of her life. Adam has just split up with his girlfriend and has bought the house next door to Esme with a view to renovate it. Floriana is an eccentric young lady who is a tour guide in Oxford and is trying hard to move on from the past. Each character’s story unfolds throughout the book and we get a snapshot of the past, and an opportunity to see them move into a new future.

I really enjoyed this book. It was really well written and drew me in right from the beginning. I loved the characters, particularly Esme with her wonderful past at Lake Como and the downtrodden Floriana trying to deal with her awful sister Ann. The descriptions of the young Esme’s trip to Italy with her father were so colourful, I could imagine myself being there with her. I have always wanted to go to Italy and this book has made me want to go even more. This book was  bit of a slowburner and quite a hefty tome so sometimes I felt that it dragged a little – my only reason for not giving it five stars.

Overall, a wonderfully descriptive and romantic book and I look forward to reading more of Erica James’ books.

My rating: Four stars

I received a review copy of this book courtesy of Netgalley and Orion Publishing in return for an honest review