Tuesday, 27 October 2015

The Little Bookshop on the Seine - Rebecca Raisin

"Bookshop owner Sarah Smith has been offered the opportunity to exchange bookshops with her new Parisian friend for 6 months! And saying yes is a no-brainer – after all, what kind of a romantic would turn down a trip to Paris…for Christmas?
Even if it does mean leaving the irresistible Ridge Warner behind, Sarah’s sure she’s in for the holiday of a lifetime – complete with all the books she can read!
Imagining days wandering around Shakespeare & Co, munching on croissants, sipping café au laits and watching the snow fall on the Champs-Élysées Sarah boards the plane.
But will her dream of a Parisian Happily-Ever-After come true? Or will Sarah realise that the dream of a Christmas fairytale in the city of love isn’t quite as rosy in reality…"

I LOVE Rebecca's writing and this, the first in a new series, is no disappointment. With familiar characters that we've met before in previous books, reading The Little Bookshop on the Seine is like snuggling up in your most comfy dressing gown and slippers, in front of the fire after being caught in the rain! 
Set in Paris, beautiful descriptions of the city had me wishing I could re-visit - Rebecca obviously took her research VERY SERIOUSLY INDEED, as her descriptions of the maracons sampled by Sarah on her visit to Ladurèe were spot on! With a sweet romantic story, likeable characters and  a sense of feeling not quite too sure as to what was going to happen in some places, I really do think that as well as being Rebecca's longest novel to date, it is also her strongest. Much as I love the gang in Ashford, I found the introduction of new characters really exciting, and there was a good strong, storyline running throughout.
A brilliant, cosy, perfect-for-reading-on-gloomy-autumn-days read, Rebecca Raisin has brightened up my day once again.

The Little Bookshop on the Seine is out now and you can get it here:

PS: Just a little tip....Rebecca's Gingerbread Cafe series is now available in paperback! V exciting news and you can get it here:

**My thanks to the publisher for my ARC**

Monday, 26 October 2015

Sewing The Shadows Together - Alison Baillie

"Can you ever get over the death of your sister? Or of your best friend? More than 30 years after 13-year-old Shona McIver was raped and murdered in Portobello, the seaside suburb of Edinburgh, the crime still casts a shadow over the lives of her brother Tom and her best friend Sarah. When modern DNA evidence shows that the wrong man was convicted of the crime, the case is reopened. So who did kill Shona? Sarah and Tom are caught up in the search for Shona's murderer, and suspicions fall on family and friends. The foundations of Sarah's perfect family life begin to crumble as she realises that nothing is as it appears. Dark secrets from the past are uncovered, and there is another death, before the identity of the real killer is finally revealed...Set in Edinburgh, the Outer Hebrides and South Africa, Sewing the Shadows Together is a thoroughly modern murder mystery that keeps the reader guessing to the end. Filled with characters who could easily be friends, family or people we work with, it asks the question: Do we ever really know the people closest to us?"

I have to say, I thought I had this one sewn up (haha pardon the pun) all the way through. I was convinced, absolutely convinced, that I KNEW who the murderer was. Surely it was obvious - very tiny little subtle hints pointed me in one single direction - til it turns out that it was just a very clever red herring and I was completely wrong. Something that I love in a book.
This was very well-written and I did really enjoy it, however I did feel that some of the characters could have been a bit bolder, for want of a better word. I liked Sarah, but I think I would have liked her more with a bit of fire in her belly, she just seemed to take her lot lying down, with no argument.
The killer was a shock - but perhaps would have been more of a shock if that person had had more of a presence through out the novel - this is in no way a criticism, in fact if there had been more of a presence it might have ruined the whole thing. I never guessed it though and that's the main thing! 
An enjoyable read, I will definitely look out for more by Alison Baillie.

Sewing the Shadows Together is out now and you can get it here:

**My thanks to Alison for my review copy**

Wednesday, 21 October 2015

The House on Cold Hill - Peter James

"The House on Cold Hill is a chilling and suspenseful ghost story from the multi-million copy bestselling author of Dead Simple, Peter James.
Moving from the heart of Brighton and Hove to the Sussex countryside is a big undertaking for Ollie and Caro Harcourt and their twelve-year-old daughter Jade. But when they view Cold Hill House - a huge, dilapidated Georgian mansion - Ollie is filled with excitement. Despite the financial strain of the move, he has dreamed of living in the country since he was a child, and he sees Cold Hill House as a paradise for his animal-loving daughter, the perfect base for his web-design business and a terrific long-term investment. Caro is less certain, and Jade is grumpy about being separated from her friends.
Within days of moving in, it becomes apparent that the Harcourt family aren't the only residents of the house. A friend of Jade's is the first to see the spectral woman, standing behind her as the girls talk on FaceTime. Then there are more sightings, as well as increasingly disturbing occurrences in the house. As the haunting becomes more malevolent and the house itself begins to turn on the Harcourts, the terrified family discover Cold Hill House's dark history, and the horrible truth of what it could mean for them . . ."

I have to say, this was an absolutely brilliant read. Although I am a big Peter James fan, and he is possibly one of the most charming authors I have had the good fortune to meet, I tend to stick with the Roy Grace novels so I wasn't too sure what to expect with this one. There was no disappointment - it is a fantastic, good old fashioned ghost story, one that gives you shivers down your spine. 
I loved The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson and this novel has a very similar feel - the sense of isolation, confusion, and the idea that it could really be happening, it could be imagined, who knows? It's a formula that works really well, and when the characters are as likeable as Ollie and Caro it's easy to fall into reading and be completely unable to put it down. 
The eerie goings on gave me goosebumps, and that slightly panicky feeling that you get on the way back from the bathroom in the dead of night - a deliciously spooky read with a cracking ending, I absolutely loved it. Peter James is an absolute master of his craft.

The House on Cold Hill is out now and you can get it here:

**MY thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for my ARC**

Friday, 16 October 2015

Christmas at the Gingerbread Café - Rebecca Raisin FREE EBOOK!

"Christmas is the season the Gingerbread Café in Ashford, Connecticut was made for…but owner Lily couldn’t be feeling less merry if she tried. She’s spent another year dreaming of being whisked away on a sleigh-ride for two, but she’s facing festive season alone – again. And, just to give her another reason to feel anything other than candy-cane perky, a new shop across the road has opened… Not only is it selling baked goods, but the owner, with his seriously charming smile, has every girl in town swooning.
But Lily isn’t about to let her business crumble — the Gingerbread Café is the heart of the community, and she’s going to fight for it! This could be the Christmas that maybe, just maybe, all her dreams – even the someone-to-decorate-the-Christmas-tree-with ones – really do come true!"

Christmas at the Gingerbread Café Free eBook!

To celebrate the release of the Gingerbread Café series being published in paperback on Friday the 22nd of October, Carina UK have made the first eBook in the series free on all eBook retailers in the UK for a limited time! 
Please grab a festive eBook for FREE! 
Kobo http://www.whsmith.co.uk/products/christmas-at-the-gingerbread-caf-once-in-a-lifetime-the-gingerbread-cafe-book-1-/9781472073785

Or a paperback version here: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Gingerbread-Cafe-Christmas-Chocolate-Wedding/dp/0263918033/ref=sr_1_7_twi_pap_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1444902306&sr=8-7&keywords=rebecca+raisin

I loved this book SO MUCH - as an actual Christmas freak, who starts buying christmas sandwiches in the supermarket in October, this was a perfect read for me. See below for a cheeky little extract - and if you love Christmas, and all that goes with it, you won't be disappointed.

Amazing Grace blares out from the speakers above me, and I cry, not delicate, pretty tears, but great big heaves that will puff up my eyes, like a blowfish. That song touches me, always has, always will. With one hand jammed well and truly up the turkey’s behind I sing those mellifluous words as if I’m preaching to a choir. Careful, so my tears don’t swamp the damn bird, I grab another handful of aromatic stuffing. My secret recipe: a mix of pork sausage, pecans, cranberries and crumbled corn bread. Punchy flavors that will seep into the flesh and make your heart sing. The song reaches its crescendo, and my tears turn into a fully-fledged blubber-fest. The doorbell jangles and I realize I can’t wipe my face with my messy hands. Frantic, I try and compose myself as best I can.
“Jesus Mother o’ Mary, ain’t no customers comin’ in here with this kinda carry-on! It’s been two years since that damn fool left you. When you gonna move on, my sweet cherry blossom?”
CeeCee. My only employee at the Gingerbread Café, a big, round, southern black woman, who tells it like it is. Older than me by a couple of decades, more like a second mother than anything. Bless her heart.
“Oh, yeah?” I retort. “How are you expecting me to move on? I still love the man.”
“He ain’t no man. A man wouldn’t never cheat on his wife. He’s a boy, playing at being a man.”
“You’re right there.” Still, it’s been two lonely years, and I ache for him. There’s no accounting for what the heart feels. I’m heading towards the pointy end of my twenties. By now, I should be raising babies like all the other girls in town, not baking gingerbread families in lieu of the real thing.
I’m distracted from my heartbreak by CeeCee cackling like a witch. She puts her hands on her hips, which are hidden by the dense parka she wears, and doubles over. While she’s hooting and hollering, I stare, unsure of what’s so damn amusing. “Are you finished?” I ask, arching my eyebrows.
This starts her off again, and she’s leg slapping, cawing, the whole shebang.
“It’s just…” She looks at me, and wipes her weeping eyes. “You look a sight. Your hand shoved so far up the rear of that turkey, like you looking for the meaning of life, your boohooing, this sad old music. Golly.”
“This is your music, CeeCee. Your gospel CD.”
She colors. “I knew that. It’s truly beautiful, beautiful, it is.”
“Thought you might say that.” I grin back. CeeCee’s church is the most important thing in her life, aside from her family, and me.
“Where we up to?” she says, taking off her parka, which is dusted white from snow. Carefully, she shakes the flakes into the sink before hanging her jacket on the coat rack by the fire.
“I’m stuffing these birds, and hoping to God someone’s going to buy them. Where’s the rush? Two and a bit weeks before Christmas we’re usually run off our feet.”
CeeCee wraps an apron around her plump frame. “It’ll happen, Lil. Maybe everyone’s just starting a little later this year, is all.” She shrugs, and goes to the sink to wash her hands.
“I don’t remember it ever being this quiet. No catering booked at all over the holidays, aside from the few Christmas parties we’ve already done. Don’t you think that’s strange?”
“So, we push the café more, maybe write up the chalkboard with the fact you’re selling turkeys already stuffed.” This provokes another gale of laughter.
“This is going to be you in a minute—” I indicate to the bird “—so I don’t see what’s so darn amusing.”
“Give me that bowl, then.”
We put the stuffing mix between us and hum along to Christmas music while we work. We decorated the café almost a month ago now. Winter has set in. The grey skies are a backdrop for our flashing Christmas lights that adorn the windows. Outside, snow drifts down coating the window panes and it’s so cozy I want to snuggle by the fire and watch the world go by. Glimmering red and green baubles hang from the ceiling, and spin like disco balls each time a customer blows in. A real tree holds up the corner; the smell from the needles, earth and pine, seeps out beneath the shiny decorations.
In pride of place, sitting squarely in the bay window, is our gingerbread house. It’s four feet high, with red and white candy-cane pillars holding up the thatched roof. There’s a wide chimney, decorated with green and red jelly beans, ready for Santa to climb down. And the white chocolate front door has a wreath made from spun sugar. In the garden, marshmallow snowmen gaze cheerfully out from under their hats. If you look inside the star-shaped window, you can see a gingerbread family sitting beside a Christmas tree. The local children come in droves to ogle it, and CeeCee is always quick to invite them in for a cup of cocoa, out of the cold.
I opened up the Gingerbread Café a few years back, but the town of Ashford is only a blip on the map of Connecticut, so I run a catering business to make ends meet. We cater for any party, large or small, and open the café during the week to sell freshly made cakes, pies, and whatever CeeCee’s got a hankering for. But we specialize in anything ginger. Gingerbread men, cookies, beverages, you name it, we’ve made it. You can’t get any more comforting than a concoction of golden syrup, butter, and ginger baking in the oven in the shape of little bobble-headed people. The smell alone will transport you back to childhood.
CeeCee’s the best pie maker I’ve ever known. They sell out as quickly as we can make them. But pies alone won’t keep me afloat.
“So, you hear anything about that fine-looking thing, from over the road?” CeeCee asks.
“What fine thing?”
She rolls her eyes dramatically. “Damon, his name is. The one opening up the new shop, remember? You know who I mean. We went over there to peek just the other day.”
“I haven’t heard boo about him. And who cares, anyhow?”
“You sure as hell wouldn’t be bent over dead poultry, leaking from those big blue eyes of yours, if he was snuggled in your bed at night.”
I gasp and pretend to be outraged. “CeeCee! Maybe you could keep him warm—you ever think of that?”
“Oh, my. If I was your age, I’d be over there lickety-split. But I ain’t and he might be just the distraction you need.”
“Pfft. The only distraction I need is for that cash register to start opening and closing on account of it filling with cold hard cash.”
“You could fix up those blond curls of yours, maybe paint your nails. You ain’t got time to dilly-dally. Once the girls in town catch on, he’s gonna be snapped right up,” says CeeCee, clicking her fingers.
“They can have him. I still love Joel.”
CeeCee shakes her head and mumbles to herself. “That’s about the dumbest thing I ever heard. You know he’s moved on.”
I certainly do. There’s no one in this small town of ours that doesn’t know. He sure as hell made a mockery of me. Childhood sweethearts, until twenty-three months, four days and, oh, five hours ago. He’s made a mistake, and he’ll come back, I just know it. Money’s what caused it, or lack thereof. He’s gone, hightailed it out of town with some redheaded bimbo originally from Kentucky. She’s got more money than Donald Trump, and that’s why if you ask me. We lost our house after his car yard went belly up, and I nearly lost my business.
“Lookie here,” CeeCee says. “I think we’re about to get our first customer.”
The doorbell jangles, and in comes Walt, who sells furniture across the way.
“Morning, ladies.” He takes off his almost-threadbare earmuff hat. I’ve never seen Walt without the damn thing, but he won’t hear a word about it. It’s his lucky hat, he says. Folks round here have all sorts of quirks like that.
“Hey, Walt,” I say. “Sure is snowing out there.”
“That it is. Mulled-wine weather if you ask me.”
CeeCee washes her hands, and dries them on her apron. “We don’t have none of that, but I can fix you a steaming mug of gingerbread coffee, Walt. Surely will warm those hands o’ yours. How’d you like that?”
“Sounds mighty nice,” he says, edging closer to the fire. The logs crackle and spit, casting an orange glow over Walt’s ruddy face.

Wednesday, 7 October 2015

The Girl With No Past - Kathryn Croft

"Leah Mills lives a life of a fugitive – kept on the run by one terrible day from her past. It is a lonely life, without a social life or friends until – longing for a connection – she meets Julian. For the first time she dares to believe she can live a normal life. 

Then, on the fourteenth anniversary of that day, she receives a card. Someone knows the truth about what happened. Someone who won’t stop until they’ve destroyed the life Leah has created. 

But is Leah all she seems? Or does she deserve everything she gets?  

Everyone has secrets. But some are deadly."

BLIMEY. This book is GRIPPY - I sat and read it over the course of a day and a night, purely because I couldn't put it down. 
Another tale carried by an unreliable narrator (my reading seems to have a theme lately), I wasn't entirely sure through the entire novel whether I liked Leah Mills or not. In fact, I still don't know. The reader knows that something happened in Leah's past which means that she currently lives like a fugitive, not making any friends or letting anyone into her life. The thing that makes this book so bloody grippy, is that nothing is given away through the whole book. I LOVED that element of it - it's so cleverly written that although you know SOMETHING has happened, it is so well concealed that you have to race to the end to find out, all the while perched on the edge of your seat.
Unlikeable characters? Literally ZERO plot information? It is FABULOUS. 

The Girl With No Past is out on 15th October and you can get it here:


**Thanks to Bookouture for my ARC**

Monday, 5 October 2015

I Hope You Dance - Beth Moran

"Ruth Henderson has moved back in with her parents - something she swore she would never do, especially not at the age of thirty-three. But in the face of the mountain of debt left by her late-partner and the fact that her teenage daughter, Maggie, is expressing her grief through acts of delinquency, there was really only one option.
Returning to a house Ruth swore never to set foot in again is bad enough. Add to this an estranged father, whirlwind mother, and David - the boy next door who broke her heart - and it is little wonder Ruth can barely make it out of bed. But then, reunited with her old friend Lois, Ruth is persuaded to go along to a monthly girls' night. Here she meets a bunch of incredible women and for the first time since leaving home at eighteen, Ruth begins to make some genuine friends. She also has her first ever date - with the charming Dr Carl Barker. However, after a disastrous dinner, and a fraught Maggie still struggling with her father's death, Ruth promises her daughter she won't go out with any other men. A promise she quickly regrets when David, the boy next door, asks her to dance…"

A chick-lit type novel with a difference, I really enjoyed this book. A bit tougher than the fluffy chick-lit I was expecting, this novel surpassed my expectations. 
With very real, honest characters, I found myself sympathising with Ruth and the situation she found herself in, hoping that Maggie would find her feet and rooting for Ruth's mum over her new rival. The plot is quite clever - one that on the surface doesn't appear to be all that different to the thousands of other romantic novels out there - but it carries a sinister twist, which I loved, as it makes the story all that more intriguing, and I found myself reading on and on in an attempt to discover the final outcome.
It's a fairly emotional read, one that did bring a tear to my eye, which only reinforced how invested I was in the characters, but definitely a book I will be recommending to others.

I Hope You Dance is out now and you can get it here:

**My thanks to the publisher for my ARC**

Friday, 2 October 2015

The Dead Ground - Claire McGowan

"Forensic psychologist Paula Maguire, already wrestling with the hardest decision of her life, is forced to put her own problems on hold when she's asked to help find a baby taken from a local hospital. 
Then the brutal, ritualistic murder of a woman found lying on a remote stone circle indicates a connection to the kidnapping and Paula knows that they will have to move fast if they are to find the person responsible. 
When another child is taken and a pregnant woman goes missing, Paula finds herself caught up in a deadly hunt for a killer determined to leave no trace, and discovers every decision she makes really is a matter of life and death…"

I was lucky enough to meet Claire at a little do at Harper Collins a couple of months ago, where she was attending as her alter-ego, Eva Woods, (The Thirty List) and we got chatting about her crime novels. Claire very kindly said she would send me a copy of The Dead Ground. "Be warned," she said, "I've been told that it's a bit harrowing." And it is - harrowing, emotional and completely addictive. 
After beginning this novel, I realised I had already read the first in the series back when it was first published, so it was nice to meet up with Paula and Aidan again. Their relationship is just as complicated as it was in the first book, if not more so, and other circumstances that Paula finds herself in make things even more tangled. 
The plot line is extremely compelling - even though it is upsetting in some places I was completely unable to put it down. The story moves at a steady pace, and while it doesn't race along, there was enough tension and intrigue to keep me hooked. 
This book can be read as a standalone, but it was nice to already have read the first and have some knowledge of the characters already. 
I found it very enjoyable, despite the difficult subject matter - it was a bit gory in places, but then, I like that. 

The Dead Ground is out now and you can get it here: 

**My thanks to the author for sending me a copy**