Happy New Year! Bring on 2018!

So, just like that it is 2018! Where did the last 12 months go?!

Thank you for all the support in 2017, I’ve gained some new followers and I expanded my reach out beyond WordPress and Twitter to also now include Facebook! It’s been a busy year – I managed to smash my Goodreads Reading Challenge by reading 60 books (my husband would say that means I’ve been sat reading too much but hey, what does he know?!).  Here’s hoping that I can do the same this year.

So coming up at Chapter and Cake is 2018 is;

  • Details of my new ratings system for my book reviews
  • My new #ShareAChapter plans – watch this space for that one!
  • My favourite reads of 2017 – a recap
  • (hopefully) 60 more book reviews for you all!

I look forward to sharing all this and more with you all as we look forward to a new year.  In the meantime, if you have any book recommendations, please do share with me!

Advertisements

Book Review: Sleigh Rides and Silver Bells at the Christmas Fair by Heidi Swain

Sleigh Rides & Silver Bells

Book number 60 in my Goodreads Reading Challenge is Sleigh Rides and Silver Bells at the Christmas Fair by Heidi Swain.

When Anna takes on the role of companion to the owner of Wynthorpe Hall, on the outskirts of Wynbridge, she has no idea that her life is set to change beyond all recognition.

A confirmed ‘bah humbug’ when it comes to Christmas, Anna is amazed to find herself quickly immersed in the eccentric household, and when youngest son Jamie unexpectedly arrives home it soon becomes obvious that her personal feelings are going all out to compromise her professional persona.

Jamie, struggling to come to terms with life back in the Fens, makes a pact with Anna – she has to teach him to fall back in love with Wynthorpe Hall, while he helps her fall back in love with Christmas. But will it all prove too much for Anna, or can the family of Wynthorpe Hall warm her heart once and for all…? (Thanks Amazon)

So the cover of this novel has been enticing me for the last few weeks every time that I go to the supermarket.  I finally decided that I needed a bit of Christmas cheer in my life, it’s that time of year and I am a sucker for a good Christmas story.  Book reviews for this have been filling my Twitter feed so this really was the only choice!  Plus I have read The Cherry Tree Cafe, so I had already been introduced to Wynbridge and was more than happy to revisit such a lovely setting.

Anna, our main character, was really interesting to follow.  Anna had a tough time growing up, and all her bad memories revolved around Christmas.  As a result she has spent her grown up life avoiding anything to do with Christmas.  When the option to take on a companion role in a remote part of England where it is planned that Christmas will barely be celebrated, she jumps at the opportunity.  Six weeks to hide away, throw herself into her work and pretend that Christmas does not exist.

Jamie, the son of Angus and Catherine Connelly, finds himself back at Wynthorpe Hall with a potential burden to bear.  Upon meeting and discovering each others secrets, Anna and Jamie agree to help each other.  Anna will help Jamie to fall back in love with his home, whilst Jamie will help Anna discover a love for Christmas.

We follow Anna and Jamie as they seek to deal with their own issues whilst trying to help each other.  What follows are two journeys of self-discovery where both Anna and Jamie find what is missing in their lives, all set in the run up to Christmas.

Obviously this has an undercurrent of romance (we all need a little Christmas romance in our lives), and the setting of Wynbridge is just magical.  It is a small town, with a close community who all look out for each other.  I love Christmas novels, and this one is a great one. It has everything you want from a Christmas novel: snow, lights, romance, community and family.  I definitely recommend this novel if you want to top up on Christmas cheer before the big day!

Rating: 📖 📖 📖 📖

 

Book Review: Claiming Colton by Melanie Shawn

Claiming Colton

So book number 59 in my Goodreads Reading Challenge (yes 59…I have smashed my reading challenge this year!) is Claiming Colton by Melanie Shawn.

Colton McCord was just a regular cowboy before the world made him famous after several stints on reality TV. And even though he turned on his charm for prime time, his real heart belonged to the one he let go because he loved her…

Bella Connor thought she’d never return to Wishing Well. Although it was her home, she could never forget how he broke her heart while at the same time changed her life forever…

The gorgeous blonde is back to settle her late grandfather’s affairs. The sexy all-American boy is ready to shoot his final reality dating show. Life kept them apart and now it was bringing them back together. Will Colton finally be able to tell her the truth and never let her go? Will Bella be able to let go of the past for a chance at a future they both deserve? (Thanks Amazon)

So, I decided to deviate from my lengthy TBR list and go back to an easy-read, small town American romance.  They never fail to disappoint!  Claiming Colton is the 5th book in the Wishing Well series but it is a standalone novel, so thankfully I did not need to have read the previous 4 books to enjoy this one.  I’ll be honest, I grabbed this one because it was a Kindle freebie (grab it here while you can!) and I’m glad I did.

This novel centres on Bella Connor and Colton McCord, childhood sweethearts who were torn apart by family and life when they were teenagers.  For over a decade, Bella has stayed away from Wishing Well, her hometown full of heartache and pain, and the place that she left carrying a life-changing secret.

Colton has spent the last decade caring for his sister whilst dealing with fame following his appearance on several reality tv shows.  However, he has never forgotten his true love Bella.

Bella and Colton find themselves thrown together upon Bella’s return to the small town as she attempts to settle her late grandfathers affairs.  What follows is a lot of passion (I hope you don’t mind a bit of sauciness in your novels!), and the uncovering of years of secrets whilst they each seek to work out what it is they really want from life.

This is a definite easy-read.  I really enjoyed it as a quick bit of escapism between other more heavy novels on my TBR list.  There are no surprises in this novel, but surprises were not what I was looking for – I wanted a good, passionate romance and that is what I got!  My only criticism of this novel is that I felt more could have been done with the reality tv show that features within the novel – there could definitely have been some mileage in this as a storyline.  However, all in all, a very enjoyable, light read.

Rating: 📖 📖 📖 📗

*BLOG TOUR* A Wedding at Mulberry Lane by Rosie Clarke

A Wedding at Mulberry Lane

As you all know, I read The Girls of Mulberry Lane by Rosie Clarke recently and I loved it, so jumped at the chance to read A Wedding at Mulberry Lane and be a part of this blog tour!  WWII fiction, particularly focused on the plight of women at that time, is a personal favourite of mine.  It really highlights the strength of women in times of adversity.

Love, marriage, birth, death and betrayal in the East End of London make up life in Mulberry Lane. Perfect for fans of Nadine Dorries, Cathy Sharp and Donna Douglas.

Maureen Jackson knew life as a trainee nurse wouldn’t be easy, but she didn’t expect her hospital to be badly bombed on her first shift. Plus Maureen still has her family and friends in Mulberry Lane to keep her busy – she’s needed as much there as she is by her patients.

Running the pub on the corner of Mulberry Lane, Peggy Ashley is used to taking in all sorts of waifs and strays. But the arrival of a dashing American captain has got tongues wagging about Mulberry Lane’s favourite landlady…

Janet Ashley’s husband is back from the frontline. Which is more than so many of the wives of Mulberry Lane. But her beloved Mike is a completely different man from the one she fell in love with – and what’s more he doesn’t remember her, or their young daughter. How do you cope when your darling husband is a virtual stranger?

As WW2 continues around them, the women of Mulberry Lane know that community spirit and friendship is the key to surviving the Blitz. (Thanks Netgalley)

A Wedding at Mulberry Lane is the second in the Mulberry Lane series by Rosie Clarke, and it really was lovely to catch up with Maureen, Peggy, and Janet again.  When I read The Girls of Mulberry Lane I had been disappointed about the way it ended due to the number of loose ends it left – thankfully Rosie put me right on Twitter and let me know that the next book in the series would be out on the 1st December!

So back to the book in question…A Wedding at Mulberry Lane see’s us return to London to find out how Peggy, her daughter Janet and their friend Maureen are coping with what life, love and war are throwing at them.

Maureen has left Mulberry Lane (and her ungrateful father) behind her as she starts her nurse training.  She is determined to assist in the war effort by caring for those injured in the war whilst fighting for love – the love of her childhood sweetheart Rory, but also the love of her friends as the bombs continue to rain down across England, putting everyone she loves in harms way.

Peggy loves her life as landlady of the Pig & Whistle in Mulberry Lane.  Despite shortages and rations, her pub remain the hub of the lane, a place where the local residents feel safe but also a place where celebrations happen – celebrations of love and life.  Whilst caring for her customers, Peggy is left dealing with her own demons…the discovery of her husbands secrets, but also the arrival of a rather handsome American soldier.

Janet is delighted to have her beloved husband Mike home from the war, but what she discovers is that war can really change a man.  Along with their young daughter, Janet finds herself fighting for a man who doesn’t remember either of them, whilst he struggles to deal with his injuries.

I am a big fan of the characters in these Mulberry Lane novels.  Peggy, Janet and Maureen are all strong females who are forced to fight for love and life at a time when death and destruction were so prevalent.  Whilst the three of them are fictional characters, the setting they find themselves in is anything but fictional.  London during the Blitz was a dark and dangerous place to be, where death could find you even if you weren’t a soldier fighting at the front.  Despite the nightly air raids, the unexploded hidden bombs and the total destruction of homes and livelihoods, Londoners were forced to go on, day in and day out as they waited for news of their loved ones, ever hopeful that their friends and family would make it home safely.  The role of women during this time was so important as they held together their families and worked hard to keep businesses afloat.  Rosie Clarke captures all of this within these novels, and I cannot wait for the third instalment in this series to find out where the war takes these strong, hard-working women.

Thank you to Rosie Clarke, Aria and Netgalley for providing me with a copy of this novel in exchange for my review, and for inviting me to be a part of this blog tour.

Rating: 📖 📖 📖 📖

Author bio

ROSIE CLARKE

Rosie Clarke was born in Swindon, but moved to Ely in Cambridgeshire at the age of nine. She started writing in 1976, combining this with helping her husband run his antiques shop. In 2004, Rosie was the well-deserved winner of the RNA Romance Award and the Betty Neels Trophy. Rosie also writes as Anne Herries and Cathy Sharp. Find out more at her website: http://www.rosieclarke.co.uk

Links to buy

Amazon: http://amzn.to/2um5o8l

Kobo: http://bit.ly/2zYLGC4

iBooks: http://apple.co/2zrPwnR

 

 

Book Review: Some Kind of Wonderful by Giovanna Fletcher

Some Kind of Wonderful

So book number 57 in my Goodreads Reading Challenge (yes I know I’ve smashed it *pats self on back*) is Giovanna Fletcher’s Some Kind of Wonderful.

When the love of your life says you’re not The One, who are you? Lizzy and Ian have been a couple since the first week of university. Now, after celebrating a decade together, everyone thinks they’re about to get engaged. Instead, a romantic escape to Dubai leaves Lizzy with no ring, no fiancé and no future. Lizzy is heartbroken – but through the tears, she sees an opportunity. This is her moment to discover what she’s been missing while playing Ian’s ideal ‘better half’. But how much has Ian changed her, and who should she be without him? Determined to discover who she is at heart, Lizzy sets out to rediscover the girl she was before – and, in the meantime, have a little fun… (Thanks Netgalley!)

I have (nearly) worked my way through all of Giovanna Fletchers novels (I still have to read Always With Love – exciting!) and I’ve got to be honest, I didn’t think anything could beat her first novel, Billy and Me.  I loved Sophie and Billy’s story, and I really believed that this was Giovanna’s best work.  Until I read Some Kind of Wonderful.

Lizzy is heartbroken.  She has spent 10 years of her life loving Ian, a man she believed to be The One.  She has also spent 10 years waiting for The Question.  Holidays and milestones have passed them by as she continued to wait for him to confirm her belief that they were meant to be together forever.  When the moment finally arrives however, Ian removes all her hopes and dreams for their future whilst waving a diamond under her nose.  Heartbroken, grief-stricken and direction-less, Lizzy returns home to her family to try to rediscover exactly who she is and who she wants to be post-Ian.

We follow Lizzy as she reminisces about who she was before she met Ian.  I particularly enjoyed her reminiscing about her nights out in Chelmsford and in Dukes, somewhere my friends and I spent many fun filled evenings in our late teens (most Mondays, Thursdays and Saturdays to be precise!).

What I loved about this book is that it was not about a boy.  Yes, I appreciate that Ian ditched Lizzy, but that is only the beginning of the story.  This is a story about Lizzy the woman, a woman who needs to find out what she wants from life.  Discovering who she wants to be as a person, as a professional and what she may eventually want from a future relationship.  It is also about her discovering what she doesn’t want to be, and the breakdown in her relationship finally gives her some perspective about some areas of her life that she has stringently ignored due to her total focus on The Question.

This is chick-lit, but it is chick-lit that makes you consider your own position in the world.  It makes you think about what is really important, and whether you are really acknowledging your own needs as well as everyone elses.  Life is short, and everyone deserves to be happy.

I loved this novel, and it really does make me excited for what Giovanna will present to us all next.  I definitely recommend this thought-provoking, uplifting novel about self-discovery which really does highlight just how strong women really are.

Thanks to Netgalley, Penguin and Giovanna Fletcher for providing me with a pre-publication copy in exchange for my honest review.

Rating: 📖 📖 📖 📖

Book Review: Afternoon Tea at the Sunflower Cafe by Milly Johnson

Afternoon Tea at the Sunflower Cafe

Book number 56 in my Goodreads Reading Challenge is Afternoon Tea at the Sunflower Cafe by Milly Johnson.

When Connie discovers that Jimmy Diamond, her husband of more than twenty years, is planning to leave her for his office junior, her world is turned upside down. Determined to salvage her pride, she resolves to get her own back. Along with Della, Jimmy’s right-hand woman at his cleaning firm, Diamond Shine, and the cleaners who meet at the Sunflower Café, she’ll make him wish he had never underestimated her.

Then Connie meets the charming Brandon Locke, a master chocolatier, whose kindness starts to melt her soul. Can the ladies of the Sunflower Cafe help Connie scrub away the hurt? And can Brandon make her trust again? (Thanks Amazon)

So I picked up this novel expecting it to be about a community based around the Sunflower Cafe, but in all honesty it was actually about a cleaning firm.  If I had really truly known that (I obviously did not read the blurb properly) then I probably would not have picked up this book – a cleaning firm just does not seem to be the most exciting of settings.  However, if I had not picked up this book I would have been missing out.  This novel is all about its characters, with Connie Diamond as our central character.

Connie is a stereotypical housewife, as seen through the eyes of a mistress.  She is a frumpy Mum, someone who exists to look after her husband and ensure that he is happy.  She looks after their home, working hard to ensure that Jimmy can work hard at the business.

Della is Jimmy’s right-hand woman at Diamond Shine, and has been in love with him since the moment she started working for him – something that Jimmy is very quick to exploit, despite knowing that his business cannot function without her.

Together, Connie and Della are a formidable force following the discovery that Jimmy is having an affair with the very demanding office junior, Ivanka.  The affair is not the only discovery to be made by Connie, and fuelled by her anger, disappointment and grief she is compelled to take action against her lying, cheating husband.

This book is full of stereotypical characters – frumpy housewife, philandering husband, young demanding mistress and a bitter employee.  I believe however that these characters are absolutely perfect for this novel.  We follow Connie and Della as they both learn about themselves and each other, what they are capable of and what they can truly achieve if they are willing to work hard and accept nothing less than the best for themselves from life and relationships.

I really enjoyed following Connie on her journey of self-discovery (and who doesn’t love a bit of romance thrown in for a deserving character!), but I also enjoyed following Jimmy, a man who has clearly got himself in too deep with no way out.

This was a really enjoyable, easy-read piece of chick lit.  It is a story all about friendship the importance of those friendships which I really enjoyed.  I haven’t read anything by Milly Johnson before, but I have another couple of her books on my TBR list – I’m looking forward to diving in with them!

Rating: 📖 📖 📖 📖

Book Review: Holy Crap! The World is Ending by Anna-Marie Abell

Holy Crap! The World is Ending

Book number 55 in my Goodreads Reading Challenge is Holy Crap! The World is Ending by Anna-Marie Abell.

End Times Are Here!
Now you can eat whatever you want and not care if you gain weight.

The president has announced that Earth is going to collide with a rogue moon, and in the process, our entire planet is going to be smashed to bits. As one would expect, upon hearing this news, humans went ballistic. It was as if every sports team in the world lost their championship game at the same time. No car was left unrolled—but oddly enough, Taco Bell remained open and made unfathomable profits in the last days. Apparently, Doritos Locos® Tacos were a popular last meal.

Autumn (who for the purpose of this retelling asked to be portrayed as drool-inducing hot with kick-ass ninja skills) has just been handed the task of saving all of humanity. With the help of her unbelievably sexy alien boyfriend and her kleptomaniac friend with fire-retardant hair, Autumn takes a spaceship and races to save her fellow humans by using the Ark of the Covenant. Along the way, she discovers how sheltered people are from the truth of extraterrestrials and their power to either protect us or destroy us.

Stupid government. 
(Thanks Netgalley)

So, firstly I need to give you all a little context.  I. Love. Disaster. Movies.  This is a fact.  The cheesier the better to be quite honest.  2012 is probably my all time favourite, but I also love The Day After Tomorrow, Armageddon and Independence Day.  Great films.  I also have a love for the Syfy channel.  Some of the films on there are so terrible they are amazing!  Anyway, I digress.  Back to the book.

Naturally I chose this book based entirely on its title.  What is not to love about this amazing title: Holy Crap! The World is Ending.  How a Trip to the Bookstore Led to Sex With an Alien and the Destruction of Earth.  Amazing book title, and it definitely does what it says on the tin!

So this novel revolves around Autumn, a young women who is suddenly forced to address the fact that the Earth is about to be destroyed by a rogue moon.  Autumn is just a normal girl trying to find her place in the world.  What she actually finds is a super hot, sexy alien who may just be able to help her save humanity.

My first thoughts when I started reading this book were about the similarities with The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy.  I love Douglas Adams novels (not the film though, sorry Martin Freeman.  Although Alan Rickman was the perfect casting for Marvin!). However, the more I read the more I realised that despite the light-hearted parts of this novel, the dark sections were far darker than I was expecting.  There was rape, murder and pillage rife in society following the announcement that humanity was over.  Mistrust of the aliens who were offering to save them caused so many people to give in to their primal urges of violence and ultimately, fear.

Once I’d finished the novel, I discovered that Anna-Marie Abell has a significant interest in learning about the Anunnaki and her research is very evident throughout this novel.  I found myself looking up some of the historical references to the Anunnaki myself (how did we survive before Google?!).  I was also interested to discover that this novel is intended to be the first in a series, and I will definitely be reading the next one.

This is a novel all about aliens, the history of Earth and ultimately the destruction of Earth.  It definitely falls within the sci-fi category, and so was out of my comfort zone, having only previously read The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy and Fade Out by Patrick Tilley (FYI: I loved both) within this genre.  I now plan on exploring more sci-fi novels, so all recommendations are very welcome.

So if you like sci-fi, or would just like to try reading something a little different then I highly recommend that you pick up this novel.  It really highlighted the potential breakdown of society in light of devastating news, whilst also raising the question; How much do we really know about what is beyond our planet, and what information do our Governments really keep from us?

Thank you to Netgalley, Anna-Marie Abell and Alien Abduction Press for providing me with a free copy of this novel in exchange for my honest review.

Rating: 📖 📖 📖 📖