The Most Wonderful Time of the Year by Joanna Bolouri / Blog Tour

Hello, hello and happy Monday! Guys, I have an incredible treat for you today! I am absolutely, totally excited to be kicking off Joanna Bolouri’s blog tour for her new, festive novel “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year”. I adore Joanna and her books, I love the way she perceives the world and how downt – to – earth her wriritng is, and also the fact that she makes me cry with laughter, so couldn there be a better start to a new week than to treat yourself to this book? Really, just go and buy it and thank me later for the recommendation!

Thank you, Alainna, for letting me be a part of this blog tour!

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year by Joanna Bolouri

 

32147678Publisher: Quercus

Publishing Date: 20th October 2016

Source:  Copy provided by the publisher in return for an honest review, thank you!

Number of pages: 416

Genre: Literature/Fiction (Adult), Women’s Literature

 Buy the Book: Kindle | Paperback

 

Synopsis:

A hilarious and heartwarming Christmas comedy. Perfect for fans of Mhairi McFarlane, Tracy Bloom & Chrissie Manby.

Thirty-eight year old Emily has a satisfying job, fab friends, an amazing car and, most importantly, a wonderful flat, exactly 411 miles away from the judgemental, batshit crazy, interfering family she reluctantly sees twice a year. In fact, the only minor stress in her life is her twenty-something neighbour Evan and his penchant for flirting, loud music and even louder sex . . . but he’s nothing she can’t handle.

Emily also has a boyfriend called Robert and it’s going really well. So well, in fact, that this year Emily is hoping to take him home for Christmas to meet her family. Finally she won’t be subject to five days of nosy questions from her parents and pity looks from her younger married siblings.

But when Robert breaks up with her a week before Christmas, Emily is gutted. How on earth is she going to face her family now? Enlisting the help of party boy Evan (in exchange for one month’s rent and the use of her convertible) Emily is determined to take Robert home for Christmas come hell or high water, even if it isn’t the real Robert . .

Rating: 5/5

“The Most Wonderful Time of the Year” is Joanna Bolouri’s third novel, and third that I had a pleasure to read. And also third that I am rating with 5 stars – Joanna is the right person in the right place and I’ve no idea what I’ve done before without her books! Yes, I have the feeling that every novel by her is a little gentler than the previous one but they are still incredibly funny, incredibly sharp observed, with incredibly well developed and memorable characters, and Joanna describes the world just as it is, in this brilliant, sharp, down – to – earth and so realistic way and I think that right now “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year” is my favourite book by this author – but I love all three of them, so you can imagine, no? And one thing more – in the synopsis it says it is a perfect book for fans of Mhairi McFarlane, Tracy Bloom and Chrissie Manby and I whole – heartedly agree, but I think that soon we will read on other book covers that it’s a perfect read for fans of Joanna Bolouri – believe me, she’s the one and only!

The idea of this book was so simple yet Joanna has masterfully and skilfully and effortlessly created the most entertaining and enjoyable story. Emily is dating Robert, a shark in his job and even is she didn’t want it, he is supposed to visit her family for Christmas. Unfortunately, shortly before Christmas, something happens and there is no more Robert – but as Emily’s family, and especially her mother, are expecting him to come, and Emily knows that when she now won’t bring a boyfriend home there will be no end to harassing her. So what now?
Enter Evan. He’s Emily’s neighbour from next door and to say that Emily dislikes him would be an understatement. But somehow, it happened that Emily persuaded Evan to be Robert and to come with her to visit her family. They have a few days to practice hugging (sic!) and for Evan to step into Robert’s shoes. Only for the sake of Emily’s family, and for them to not tease her mercilessly.

I absolutely, totally loved the interactions between the characters, as Joanna Bolouri is the champion of writing the most hilarious, funny and straight to the point sharp dialogues. I adored the characters and I warmed to them all immediately, well, with the exception of Robert, of course – the real Robert. Evan, on the other hand, was brilliant, and sure, he didn’t agree to help Emily just so, there was a hidden agenda to it, but it was a great hidden agenda, and I kept my fingers crossed for him. He was full of life, he was kind and helpful and he was great to have him around.
Emily is over 30 and she didn’t have a lot of luck when it comes to love, and it’s a thorn in her mum’s side as she would happily see her married. Emily’s family is lovely but they take every opportunity to wind her up so the only thing Emily wants right now is to prove to them that she also has a love life – hence inviting Robert for Christmas extravaganza at her family home.
Emily so changes throughout the story! Even though we get to know her as always complaining, I didn’t have any problem to immediately like her, because her problems were in fact so small that it was somehow funny to hear her moaning about them. Her life, her neighbour Evan being too loud, bad habits of her flatmates, her always unhappy mum, her brother and sister… there was always something to be unhappy about and while usually I’d be fed up with such character, Emily was written in a way that made her hilarious and I adored her, period – please, do not complain about Emily because I’m going to eat your head!
And guys, believe me, Emily’s family was not as bad as she painted them! It was in fact this kind of a family that is my favourite kind and I’d love to spend Christmas with them because under all the picking faults, uptightness, patronising, video – gaming it turned out that they are normal people, with problems, biggest or smallest, but with problems, and it suffice to only tell the truth and not hide in a shell – it was this kind of a family that, only given a chance, will support you no matter what.

I absolutely loved the whole book but it really started to feel festive and even more hilarious when Evan and Emily got going to Scotland. This journey, and then meeting the family, it was entertaining, it has a good feeling and there were the most fantastic one – liners. But don’t think that the book is for belly – laugh purposes only! Oh no! Underneath all this fun there are some more serious issues, issues that affected Emily’s family for long and that finally, eventually exploded like a Christmas cracker only to show that the devil is not so black as he’s painted and no matter what you are and how you are, your family is there for you, and I loved this message in this story.

“The Most Wonderful Time of the Year” is a brilliant novel about family bonds, second chances and the fact that age isn’t important when it comes to love. There was enough Christmas feeling to it and from the start to finish it was an entertaining, laugh – out – loud novel with some much more tender and poignant moments to it, but also with so many sarcastic moments – just what the doctor ordered! So if you still don’t know what to buy your best friends for Christmas, please treat them to this novel, it will be a perfect Christmas gift! Highly, highly recommended!

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Christmas Under a Starlit Sky by Holly Martin / Blog Tour

Hi again guys, hope your Thursdays is running very smoothly – if it is, but also if it isn’t, you can do one thing: treat yourself to a copy of “Christmas Under a Starlit Sky” by Holly Martin. It is a second book in The Town Called Christmas series, and, as usually, it is full of festive spirit, ups and downs and loveable characters. There is something magic in Holly Martin’s writing, something warm and uplifting and you can always be sure that her books will brigthen the days. So don’t hesitate, order your copy and enjoy Juniper Island!

Christmas Under a Starlit Sky by Holly Martin

 

31700615Publisher: Bookouture

Publishing Date: 19th October 2016

Series: A Town Called Christmas #2

Source:  Copy provided by the publisher via NetGalley  in return for an honest review, thank you!

Number of pages: 252

Genre: Literature/Fiction (Adult), Romance

 Buy the Book: Kindle | Paperback

 

Synopsis:

Step inside a beautiful winter wonderland where love, laughter and cosy nights by the fire will make this Christmas one to remember.

Neve Whitaker loves managing the Stardust Lake hotel. She gets to work alongside her wonderful family and she’s spending Christmas on the most enchanting, snow-covered island in Scotland. So why is her heart so heavy this festive season?

It might have something to do with the gorgeous actor Oakley Rey, the man she finished with before he left for California and the man she loves more than anything. With Oakley’s career in Hollywood soaring, Neve is convinced she’d only hold him back. She had to end it with him – at least that’s what she keeps telling herself.

But now she has a secret she’s struggling to keep, and when Oakley arrives on Juniper Island determined to win her back, Neve is thrown off balance. Will Neve’s fear of having her heart broken again push Oakley away for good, or is it time for her to take a leap of faith?

Get swept away by this deliciously sweet and heartwarming tale, and spend an unforgettable Christmas on Juniper Island.

Rating: 5/5

So guys, it is official now, not only is Holly Martin the real Queen of Christmas stories, but Juniper Island stays my absolutely favourite fictional setting! This picturesque island has just got under my skin and even though I am much more this person who’d rather spend her days enjoying the warmth of the sun, I’d make exception for Juniper – please, take me there any time! And the more snow, the better! The story picks up right where “Christmas Under a Cranberry Sky” ended, introducing us to a very shocked Neve seeing her ex – boyfriend arriving at the island, and this time the story focuses closely on their relationship and their will they/won’t they. In theory you could read “Christmas Under a Starlit Sky” as a stand – alone novel but I’d advice you to read the book in the right order, as there is just too much to miss!

“Christmas Under a Starlit Sky” is the perfect mix of the most beautiful Christmas spirit, drama, humour and gorgeous settings. However, I really liked the fact that this time Holly Martin put a stop to too many descriptions – don’t get me wrong, I love her descriptions, I think you could show Holly a gray stone and she would be able to write about it in the most beautiful, descriptive way, totally bringing it to life, so what I mean by saying that she put a stop to them is that she described the island and its surroundings in a very detailed way in the first book in the series, and in “Christmas Under a Starlit Sky” she focused more on characters. And apropos characters – boy, am I glad that I’ve read “Christmas Under a Cranberry Sky”, as I think I’d be a little too overwhelmed by the number of the heroes just entering the scenes – there were many of them, but all of them already known to me, so I didn’t have any problems with knowing who is why and why and what they’re doing – but, to be really honest, I think if I haven’t read the previous book, I’d be confused, as Holly didn’t explain who are all the people, which is only obvious, as we got to know them before.

I enjoyed both the storylines running in this book, this of Neve and Oakley and this of Ivy and Adam – though I have a feeling that the second was a little too chopped, too far – fetched at the moments, but of course I do understand where both of them were coming from and why such reactions. But still, I totally enjoyed the fact that Holly Martin didn’t make the romances go too smoothly, that they were not so straight – forward and that, to be honest, every outcome  was possible.

As usually, the characters were created with so much love and feeling! They were all enjoyable and full of depth and for me it is impossible not to fell for Holly Martin’s characters. They make mistakes, they often have some life – changing decisions to be made and they always feel so realistic and true to life. They are also always full of stories, and often they are heart – breaking, but with this author you can be sure one thing, that they are going to get their happy ever after after all – because they all deserve it! I adored Adam and kept my fingers crossed for him and the misunderstanding between him and Ivy made me feel so, so desperate and so, so mad, especially as I liked also Ivy, and I so, so wanted that everything would work out well for them! You know, sometimes you just know better than the characters themselves, you have the feeling that they should be together no matter what, and I had this feeling with Adam and Ivy this time. There are also some mentions of Gabe, Pip and Wren and it was lovely to see them all again, going strong. Holly just always makes it so easy to like her characters, to grow attached to them, and it is always a great joy to see them all again.  

Oakley Rey was a very macho character and I have to admit, I had some troubles to get to like him. He was just too confident for my liking, too straight – up and he behaved as if we owed him. Sure, yes, I get it, a film – star, but still, the introducing scenes where he’s just come to the island and behaved as if he was expected there, and going straight to Neve’s room were too much for me. However, quickly I started to warm to him and even if I can’t say that he’s my favourite character, I liked how hard he was on the outside and soft inside, and how he wanted to win his love back – even though it turned out to be not so easy task. However, this time, I had some issued with this love that was to be won back – Neve. I’m usually not so bothered when the characters make decisions that are controversial or are not up to my street, because why shouldn’t they, right, but Neve has reached a totally different level here, in my opinion of course. I don’t want to spoil the reading for you, so I won’t say what was it that bothered me so much, but let me just tell you that it was childish and the never – ending “sacrifices” of both sides were too much.

There was this overwhelming warmth in this story and the feeling of being welcomed and I found “Christmas Under a Starlit Sky” really unputdownable – I wanted to know how it’s going to end and how many curveballs the author is going to throw at the characters. It is a wonderful, festive romance, full of poignant and humorous moments, and it is really all what I could ask for. This story blends secrets, lies, surprises, hope, accidents, misunderstandings together and the end result is a hooking, atmospheric and down – to – earth novel with characters that you root for. I loved to be back to Juniper Island, immediately felt at home there and it was great to be back with the characters that truly felt as your best friends. There is all the time something happening, there is a lot of drama, but it is also full of happy moments. I highly recommend it – and not only to the fans of Christmas, because I am sure that everyone will find something to love about this book.

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My Sister’s Bones by Nuala Ellwood / Blog Tour

Hi guys, and happy Thursday! Today I am absolutely thrilled to be a part of Nuala Ellwood’s blog tour and to present you my thoughts on her incredible, compelling debut “My Sister’s Bones”. It is a book that makes you think and it’s an unforgettable story, which for me is always a sign of a really good book! Make sure you read it when it’s out!

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My Sister’s Bones by Nuala Ellwood

 

512nlbeoxwl-_sx323_bo1204203200_Publisher: Penguin

Publishing Date: 9th February 2017 (Hardcover) / 1st November 2016 (ebook)

Source:  Received, in return for an honest review, thank you!

Number of pages: 400

Genre: Literature/Fiction (Adult), Mystery, Thriller

 Buy the Book: Kindle | Paperback

 

Synopsis:

Kate Rafter is a high-flying war reporter. She’s the strong one. The one who escaped their father. Her younger sister Sally didn’t. Instead, she drinks.

But when their mother dies, Kate is forced to return home. And on her first night she is woken by a terrifying scream.

At first Kate tells herself it’s just a nightmare. But then she hears it again. And this time she knows she’s not imagining it.

What secret is lurking in the old family home?
And is she strong enough to uncover it…and make it out alive?

 

Rating: 5/5

“My Sister’s Bones” is Nuala Ellwood’s debut novel – although I really can’t believe that it’s a debut, as it is one of the most complex, compelling and thought – provoking books that I have ever read. It was a story touching about some very present issues and the fact that the author herself comes from a family of war reporters only made the read so much more realistic. You could so easily spot that she knows what she’s writing about. But Nuala Elwood didn’t stop at showing a real picture of  Aleppo, she also added an element of a very incredibly and very well plotted mystery, which made the book even more hooking, even more complex.

It is a story about dysfunctional families – Kate’s father was an alcoholic who abused her and her mother. Her younger brother drowned when he was a baby and Kate’s father blamed Kate and her mother for this. Kate’s younger sister, then their father’s pet, now is following in his footsteps, drinking hard, and she has already driven away her own daughter that she had when she was a teenager. The sisters were never close to each other, and now, after their mother’s death, there is really nothing more that could make them feel closer and like a family.

The group of characters was incredible. I can’t say that I fell for them, that I loved them because there was something in them that made them not so easy to like. I, however, felt sympathy to them, although those feelings were jumping from person to person – I found myself trusting one of them, only to start to develop feelings of mistrust some time later and to wonder if it is really as they say. In this story full of twists and turns, secrets and lies of the worst category, incredible curveballs we got to know Kate and her background slowly, bit by bit, when she’s being questioned by a therapist at the police station, and there were surprises at almost every turn. The author has in a very realistic way brought all Kate’s anxieties and fears to life, in a great way she has shown how a mind of a PTSD person works – and it was terrifying to see it, to be honest. Kate was a very strong person but the author’s ability to pull the wool over our eyes and to play with our minds made me feel uncertain about Kate’s sanity, to be honest – I really didn’t know what I should believe in. But she felt so incredibly strong and real in her fight to keep sane.

Also Sally, Kate’s sister, was brilliantly developed and her character was not at all straight – forward. I think Nuala Ellwood didn’t create her characters to be liked by the reader, but they for sure don’t leave us indifferent – I wanted to shake Sally, there were moments that I despised her even, but I also wholly and totally fell for her later on.

It was a clever, complex and addictive read. I found myself totally engrossed in this story and I couldn’t see all the twists and turns coming, even though I was desperately trying to piece all the things together – I actually knew WHO, I guessed it relatively quickly (for my detective skills, of course) but I didn’t know why and to whom – it totally, absolutely took me by surprise, I just haven’t seen it coming, even with all those hints – because I think we can say that the author was from time to time hinting at this person. However, I just didn’t see it.

It was a disturbing, depressing story but reading it didn’t make me feel like this. Sure, I was not laughing out loud or something, oh my word, of course not, but you know how sometimes, when a book is so depressing it makes you feel exactly the same. This time though I felt anger, desperation, compassion, I truly felt like a part of the characters’ world, as if I was witnessing it with my own eyes – the author has incredible way with the words and she can perfectly get into her characters’ heads, taking us with her. You mostly really don’t know who to believe, what is real and what is a lie, and I absolutely loved this tangled web of uncertainties. The end though, in comparison to the whole book, was much faster, things happened there almost with the speed of light, and in comparison to it the whole book feels much slower.

The author has written a truly though – provoking and controversial story and if you have a chance to read it, do not hesitate – it is clever and compelling, a thriller with a difference. Yes, it is not the easiest read, there are some really dark and depressing issues touched upon in it, such as the war in Syria and the situation of the refugees, or, closer home, mental terror, blackmail, alcoholism, domestic abuse, and I probably read it in the right moment in my life, because I think you really need to be in a right mood to appreciate it. However, I think you won’t want to miss it, as it’s a great page – turner, an emotional rollercoaster of a journey, full of shocking revelations. “My Sister’s Bones” is  about love and hate, loss, forgiveness and families, with a very – VERY – good plot full of things that I haven’t seen coming, not in a million years. Hats off to the author for not only writing about Syria but also for the great research on how PTSD can impact an individual person who experienced an indescribable trauma. It kept me on my toes all the time and I really didn’t know where it was going. The writing was very realistic and easy to follow and the brilliantly developed characters just got under my skin. Highly, highly recommended!

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Snowflakes and Christmas Cakes by Lindsey Paley / Blog Tour

So there – today we have another Blog Tour for you, ha! I love such busy days 🙂 It is for Lindsey Paley’s festive novella “Snowflakes and Christmas Cakes” which is the first in the Camille Carter series and it is a real heaven for food lovers! There is also a great giveaway (UK only, sorry guys), and you can win an e – copy of the book PLUS an ACTUAL CHRISTMAS CAKE! How great is it???

Snowflakes and Christmas Cakes by Lindsey Paley

 

25758647Publisher: Purple Heather Publishing

Publishing Date: 15th June 2015

Series: Camille Carter #1

Source:  Received, in return for an honest review, thank you!

Number of pages: 178

Genre: Women’s Fiction

 Buy the Book: Kindle

 

Synopsis:

When all-round buttercream princess, Millie Carter, becomes stranded at Craiglea Manor Cookery School, she believes her chance of enjoying a merry festive season is over.

The village of Aisford is Christmas-card perfect, but Millie hates it – she hates the snow, her freezing fingertips, and being forced to look like her Aunt Marjory in a mud-splattered wax jacket and wellies instead of her beloved shorts and sparkly sandals.

She plots her escape but ends up locking spatulas with the estate manager, Fergus McKenzie, who is forced to rescue her before she succumbs to a severe dose of hyperthermia. Things start to improve with the arrival of handsome Sam Morgan, fresh from the beaches and rum shacks of the Caribbean.

Can Millie accept her fate? And will Aisford sprinkle some of its seasonal magic on her troubles?

Snowflakes and Christmas Cakes is a festive story of love and friendship and reaching for the buttercream icing and edible glitter when life gets tough.

Rating: 3/5

“Snowflakes and Christmas Cakes” is the first book in the Camille Carter series and I was very intrigued by the synopsis – I’ve no idea why but I like stories about such Scrooges because usually they end with them changing their mind totally, and it’s brilliant. Moreover, it mentions butter cream icings and something about being stranded because of snow, and so I thought, oh yes, it is for sure a story for me.

Our main character, Camille – or Millie – Carter much more prefers sun to snow, but she’s just landed herself a job running a cookery course in a manor house in England. There is the whole set of circumstances that led to this situation, including a cheating boyfriend, and a sister asking for a favour. But Millie was of course totally unprepared and she arrived in the middle of a snow storm, dressed in a cardigan, without a coat or winter boots. Promising beginning, no? But it is not the end of her troubles yet, oh no, it’s rather a beginning, as when she arrives she learns that because of the weather the course has been cancelled! And because of the weather she is stranded at the manor house for the weekend!

The author introduces us to a whole bunch of characters which, in a novella with 178 pages, could have been confusing, but this time Lindsey Paley has brilliantly managed it. I didn’t have any problems to recognize who is who and to whom they belong, and it’s really a big brownie point for the author. They are all well drawn and they all are so very different, which makes the story this tad more interesting and colourful, and all of them had their own stories, which they of course tell, and some of them are heart – breaking, some of them incredibly uplifting, and actually it requires a real talent to squeeze this all in a novella. Millie seems to be a tough cookie but she also has a softer side to herself. She also seems to be a very prone – accident girl, always ending in the wrong place, usually outside and freezing to death. We have many male characters in this story, some of them more pleasant, some of them less.

Millie is a chef, so there are some very delicious food descriptions and it’s like a real heaven for all the food lovers. But be aware – don’t read it when you’re hungry 🙂 When Millie is in rush she cooks and bakes and the food she creates looks and sounds incredibly mouth – watering.  I was waiting for some recipes at the end of the book, as it usually happens when there is so much cooking in the story but, sadly, not this time.

The author has for sure a great imagination and she can write some very descriptive scenes and yes, I like winter, but I do like summer more, but after reading this story I can’t wait for a real, white winter to come.

However, my own, biggest problem with the book was the fact that I had a feeling that the book itself doesn’t know what it wants to be – a romance, a nice story about a girl with delicious food in the background, a drama, crime… Because there was all of the above mentioned and somehow it just didn’t work together in my opinion. It started as a story about Millie, telling her history and showing how she adapts to the new – and very accidental place she found herself in – and it was OK, but then, suddenly, totally out of the blue there was this very unexpected and very too far – fetched ending including guns, shoots, police and drug smugglers. And I thought, WTF? How come? Why? I think it would much better work in a full – length novel, as here it looks like the author just didn’t have time and enough space to develop an idea or two of hers and nonetheless she added it to the story but for me it felt as if there were two different stories. I also had a small problem with the characters, especially with Millie at the beginning, and with Fergus – I just couldn’t understand their approach, as I didn’t see any reason for them, especially Fergus, to be so arrogant, so hot and cold blowing, and I also didn’t understand where this antipathy was coming from and why was he so – I don’t know: jealous? of Millie if he disliked her so obviously? Something just didn’t sit together here and made me feel a little too confused for my liking. The drama was also far too far – fetched for my liking and when Millie – again! – left the house in her rage I just couldn’t help but roll my eyes.

Altogether, it was a twisty and turny story with a great potential and I am very sorry that I didn’t love it as much as I hoped for. But there is a festive feeling to it, it has some funny moments, as well as some poignant ones and personally I am waiting to read the next book in the series.

GIVEAWAY:

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Someone New by Zoe Miller – Guest Post/Blog Tour

Hi guys, and happy Monday! Today I have a real, real treat for you – I am absolutely delighted to be kicking off the Blog Tour for Zoe Miller’s newest release, “Someone New”. I love Zoe’s books and I love the sound of this one as well and I can’t wait to read this story! But today I have a guest post from the Author herself on the importance of following your dreams – because we all agree that it IS important, right? So put your feet high and enjoy! And thank you Zoe for stopping by!

SOMEONE NEW: Blog Tour Day 1

I’d like to say a huge thank you to Agi for kicking off the blog tour for Someone New and I’m delighted to be featured as a guest post on her blog, On My Bookshelf.

 Today’s post is all about the importance of following your dreams, as it’s one of themes in Someone New. But can we ever really follow our dreams? What gets in the way?

 Sometimes it’s ourselves and our unrealistic expectations.

 The first night Grace Bailey, the main character, meets Danny, he talks to her about her New Year resolutions. He asks her to think about how she intends to make the very best of the next twelve months, because he hopes she will have a wonderful year. He encourages her to work out what she really wants out of her life instead of just drifting through it. He puts up posters on her living room wall containing life affirming messages that make her feel happy, energised and glad to be alive when she gets up in the mornings, instead of merely going through the motions. One of these posters tells her to ‘Dream Big’.

 However, in a world where we need to pay the rent and the bills, how realistic is this? Is Danny being too simplistic or is the practical reality of following your dreams a lot different to what people might expect?

 We’d all love to take the advice doled out across social media in countless feel-good sound bites and uplifting quotes; ‘Follow your dreams’; ‘Live the life you imagine.’ How many of us imagine winning the euro millions so that we can turn our backs on the day  job, spend more time on a passionate hobby, climb Mount Kilimanjaro, see the Northern Lights, or travel the world first class?

 But if we all decided to ignore the day job and live the life we imagined, come Monday morning what would happen to the wheels of industry and commerce? What would happen to us? Winning the euro millions is on a par with the odds of winning The X factor – what if we didn’t have the money? You can’t live on fresh air.

 The idea of dropping everything to follow your dreams, while tantalisingly attractive, has to be grounded in a big, large dose of reality. On the one hand we have to be able to support ourselves, but on the other hand if we want to be successful at something we are passionate about, it can take a lot of hard work, dedication and sacrifice. Mountaineers will spend years in preparation, likewise Olympic medallists. Most writers are following their dreams of publication by squeezing in writing time while they hold down a day job to pay the bills. How many times have people been labelled an overnight success, when in reality it took them years to reach that pinnacle of achievement? Even X Factor finalists will speak of long and tiring days spent on practise and rehearsals.

 The heroes on our television screens and in our newspapers will tell us that they did not get where they are thanks to a magical twist of fate or a sprinkling of fairy dust, but in the way they decided to spend the ordinary moments that make up ordinary days. Our heroes follow their inner drum beat, using reserves of passion, confidence and dedication, single-minded discipline as well as bucket-loads of that four-letter word called ‘work’. They know that dreams take shape during long, often lonely hours spent in practice on cold early mornings, they are nourished late into the night, when time with family, friends and television and surfing the net and a social life is regularly sacrificed.

 In Someone New, Danny, despite his life-affirming, life-fulfilling encouragement, doesn’t suggest that Grace walks out of her job to chase her dreams, even though she’s put them on hold for three years. He gives her a timeline and encourages her to make a start, he suggests she puts aside some time every night and make them a priority.

 Can Grace do this? Even when her world falls apart in ways she never imagined?

Find out in Someone New.

Thank you Agi, for having me as a guest on your blog!

Zoë xx

About Someone New

In her heart, Grace knows the perfect, reliable, good-looking Gavin isn’t right for her. Then28963821 she meets Danny. Unpredictable and spontaneous, he turns her world upside down. All of a sudden, Grace is seeing life differently and doing things she never thought she’d do.

But tragedy strikes when Danny dies in a motorbike accident, shattering Grace’s world. As she struggles to come to terms with her loss, she becomes more and more convinced that she’s being followed – sighting a motorbike exactly like Danny’s everywhere she goes. And she starts to wonder if Danny’s death was really an accident.

When she finally voices her suspicions to her family and the police, though, no one seems willing to believe her.

Meanwhile Grace feels ever more under threat as sinister things begin happening to her. What was Danny hiding from her? And what kind of danger is she in now?

 

About the Author:

 Zoë Miller writes contemporary novels laced with suspense and intrigue. She was born on zoe-miller-image-2the south side of Dublin, where she still lives with her husband. She has two daughters and a son. As a child, Zoë was always the one with her head stuck in a book and she enjoyed reading so much that it compelled her to write. Someone New is Zoë’s eighth book to be published by Hachette Books Ireland, and Zoë fits in her writing between family time and the day job.

Website: www.zoemillerauthor.com

Twitter: @zoemillerauthor

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Someone-New-Zoe Miller/dp/1473607256/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1476799874&sr=8-1&keywords=someone+new+zoe+miller

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Seven Steps to Happiness by Stella Newman

Seven Steps to Happiness by Stella Newman

 

28943414Publisher: Headline Review

Publishing Date: 20th October 2016

Source:  Received from the publisher in return for an honest review, thank you!

Number of pages: 352

Genre: General Fiction (Adult), Women’s Fiction

Buy the Book: Kindle | Paperback

 

 

 

 

Synopsis:

Do you love Marian Keyes, Sophie Kinsella and Jill Mansell? If so, Stella Newman is for you!

Is there a formula for happiness?

If it’s Netflix, two-for-one Malbec and the perfect toasted-cheese sandwich, Lenny has it covered. But when her friend Juliet finds herself at rock bottom, Lenny realises it’s going to take more than that to fix her.

Luckily help is at hand in the form of HappyGuru: a plan which promises happiness in seven easy steps. So when Lenny is asked to research it, she puts scepticism aside and persuades Juliet they should give it a go.

The friends quickly find themselves immersed in mindfulness, juice cleanses and death-defying circus stunts. Yet as Juliet becomes increasingly buoyant, things only get more complicated for Lenny.

Can it be that happiness is only seven steps away?

A funny and moving novel of friendship, heartbreak, and the restorative power of melted cheese.

Rating: 5/5

I love Stella Newman books. I just love them, and every new release is a real treat for me, and I’d love Stella to write them quicker and keep them coming! So there, Stella, I’ve said it. There is always food in her stories, and she can really write in a very yummy, suggestive way and the dishes she suggests in her novels are so, so brilliant! This time, in “Seven Steps to Happiness”, there is also food but I couldn’t help thinking that this book was a little different to previous Stella’s books, a little more serious in tone, about different issues and food, yes, it play a major role but I think not as important as in the previous novels. But I’m not saying that it’s wrong, oh no, I think the author has brilliantly captured the essence of the novel and in a great way told us a story of two friends, Lenny and Juliet.

All the characters, not only the main ones, are so, so, so brilliantly written, guys, believe me! I read many books, and almost always the characters are great, but there are only a few authors that can so easily and effortlessly (at least it looks like this for us, readers) capture the characters, their ups and downs and make them feel so realistic, so honest, so genuine and so brilliantly observed! Lenny and Juliet have flaws, they make mistakes and yet I was rooting for them, supporting them in every situation they found themselves in and wanted to knock out all others that were trying to trouble them. Lenny and Juliet are friends, but they couldn’t be more different, even if you asked for it. Juliet got married as a young girl and very quickly became a mum, and now she’s working as a ghost – writer, discovering recipes for a celebrity. I adored her recipes! She was so creative and she was able to combine the most unusual ingredients and create a wonderful, tasty dish. Also, Juliet really thinks she has it all, but when we get to know her, her life is going to fall apart. I loved Juliet, and I wasn’t annoyed with her for not seeing what was coming, as I usually am with the characters that don’t see it, I only wanted to strangle her husband, that’s all. I also wanted to give her a standing ovation when she already overcame her initial shock for the way she dealt with the situation and Matt.
Lenny, the lovely Lenny. I had a feeling that she doesn’t want to show the world her real face, that she’s hiding behind a mask of a strong, resolute and assertive businesswoman, but inside she hides a really soft, warm persona. She was telling she’s happy with her life, but in fact she was missing on having her own family, I think. She was somehow stuck in a rut, both with choosing unsuitable men and sticking in the job that started to make her feel bored. I loved the friendship between Lenny and Juliet, it seemed so genuine and not too forced, all their interactions were so realistic. They haven’t always seen eye to eye, they haven’t always agreed with each other, and Lenny hated Juliet’s husband, but those details made it more true. And at the end of the day those two supported each other and could count on each other, no matter what, and this is what made me like them even more.

There was of course the romance element in the story, and with two female leading characters we could have hoped for more than one, right? What I so, so liked was that both of them were so different and that both the girls were having different problems. As for Lenny, I was DEAD SURE how it’s going to end for her, as soon as this character entered the scenes, because in my opinion there was such a FREAKING chemistry between them, no matter what they said and did and how much they didn’t like each other, and if they didn’t end together I’d be very, very disappointed.

I’m so impressed how down – to – earth and realistic the story sounded. I think you really need to have incredible skills to be able to capture all the things that make life so difficult and dull but also so colourful and optimistic and put it into interesting, hooking words, just like Stella Newman did. She is a brilliant observer of life how it is and she doesn’t beat around the bush, she shows how it really is when you feel lonely, abandoned, when you lose your job and think you have no friends.

So really, with those brilliant characters, great one – liners, sharp dialogues, perfect mix of poignancy and humour, this is a real page – turner and a book not to be missed! Combine it also with food and romance and you can be absolutely sure that you are for a real treat.

“Seven Steps to Happiness” is a story about how everything can change in your life in a heartbeat. How you can be happy and glad and in the next moment you can feel as if you’ve lost everything, or you’ve just lost everything. It shows how different the changing fortunes are. But it also shows that we should never give up, that there is always a way and that we should never allow other to undermine us. The idea of the book was that an app that Lenny was about to test promised happiness in 7 steps, and so Lenny persuaded Juliet to give it a try, but for me personally this book was much, much more than that, although sure, it is about finding happiness. It’s about second chances, it’s brilliantly observed, it’s funny and poignant at the same time, it’s a little sad but also uplifting and I enjoyed every single second of this story. There is a lot of depth in this story and I think that Stella Newman has just started a new chapter in her writing career, as this book really is on a different level – and I’m not saying that her previous novels were worse, because I loved them as much as this one – I’m just saying that it felt a little different, this bit more ambitious, and it truly lived up to my expectations. I’ve got this what Stella Newman got me used to, but I also got much, much more with this story, and I am really already looking forward towards her next release. Highly recommended!

All She Ever Wished For by Claudia Carroll

All She Ever Wished For by Claudia Carroll

 

29743550Publisher: Avon

Publishing Date: 6th October 2016

Source:  Received from the publisher in return for an honest review, thank you!

Number of pages: 496

Genre: General Fiction (Adult), Women’s Fiction

 Buy the Book: Kindle | Paperback

 

Synopsis:

A gorgeous story of chance meetings and unexpected friendships. Because sometimes what you’ve always wished for isn’t necessarily what life has in store . . .

Marriage. It’s a dream come true. Isn’t it?

One wet winter night, two women meet on a bridge. One is Tess Taylor, a personal trainer on the way to meet her boyfriend for date night. The other is Kate King, a celebrity married to a handsome billionaire who just happens to make her cry. In the cold dark evening, there is nothing to link them together but the bridge they shiver on. Little do they know they’ll both hold the key to each other’s future marriage…

All She Ever Wished For tells the story of what happens when your dream is about to come true. And what happens when that dream turns into a bit of a nightmare…

Claudia Carroll brings you a Christmas gift filled with second chances, fateful encounters and a lesson in what true love means.

Rating: 5/5

Oh wow. Really. I think that with every book Claudia Carroll is only getting better and better! Also, her stories are so different to each other, which only makes waiting for her new releases more and more exciting. Yes, I must admit, I was afraid that this book won’t capture my attention as in my opinion it was a real slow burner. It gathered pace only in the courtroom and this is when the book really started to feel incredibly exciting and thrilling, but till that moment I was already panicking and asking myself what’s happening? Let’s be honest, it dragged a little on and it was hard to see what this story is really going to be about, but as soon as we entered the courtroom and experienced what the case is going to be about, the book became unputdownable for me!

Tess and Bernard are getting married, even though many other people, including Tess’s family are of opinion that they just don’t make the perfect match. Nevertheless, the wedding should take place at Tess’s family home and this what looked like a really great idea starts to cause more and more problems. Moreover, Tess has just been called for jury duty and even though she has tried everything and every excuse to wriggle out of this obligation, she need to do her duty – she must also put her wedding organization aside and soon she needs to make some decisions that may change her life. Because suddenly she really has a lot of decisions to make, and to be honest, yes, I was wondering what she sees in Bernard, the more I read into this story, but then I thought, oh well, love cannot be compelled, right? I just couldn’t help thinking that they are totally not suitable, even though Tess was absolutely sure they belong together. And for my liking the hesitation, the questioning, it happened too sudden, too out of the blue and made me a little sceptic.
Enter Kate and Damien King, the golden couple of Ireland, young, successful, beautiful, who kept the whole nation with bated breath when reading about their life. However, as their marriage came to an end, now it’s time for the very public battle in the court, that is becoming a new media folly. What happened? What did go wrong in this marriage?

This is a story about two very different women who, in the end, want the same thing. I absolutely loved how very complex and vague the author made Kate King. She firstly lets us to know her worst side (supposedly) of her, and tell her story mostly in flashbacks, usually through the eyes of journalists who have already judged her, or through the eyes’ of Damien’s lawyer, and to tell that the things told about her were not positive would be an understatement, and then slowly started to reveal her real personality. I must admit, it annoyed me that Kate was so calm and she’s never said a single word in her defence, but on the other hand I totally admired her calmness, serenity, balance and the way she was. I think it must cost a lot of strength to be like Kate in such situation. Though – not everything is so obvious! There were also moments at the end of the book that the author made it so unclear, that I myself, the person who was supporting Kate no matter what, started to doubt if her intentions were really so innocent – thanks to Claudia Carroll for making this so thrilling and not straightforward!
Actually, all of the characters are brilliantly drawn and all are memorable people. All of them are so different and the author captured the differences and the little details that made them so exceptional and so realistic in a brilliant way. Tess and her family were great, and what’s important, they were really honest with each other. Sure, her parents, or especially her mum, were paying great attention to the appearances and it was important to them what’s outside, that what the other people see is clear and immaculate, but they also didn’t give a shit to the fact that they were not as well educated as for example Bernard’s family, who, in my opinion, couldn’t be more boring with their never – ending conversations about opera, lectures and “high” art. Is it a wonder that those two families just didn’t “get” each other?
And let’s not forget the jury members! They were the most colourful, entertaining bunch of characters ever! Tess was one of the youngest, and we had a mum of a few children there, a young car – salesman, some pensioners, and Will… Oh my word, Will. I won’t say anymore, please read the book for yourself, then you will understand what I mean about Will. But back to the jury – a group of totally different people that destiny thrown together and who must stitch together, no matter what now. There were some brilliant moments involving the jury, especially they trips to lunches, and I loved their interaction and how easily they found a common ground.

The two heroines are so different, and their perspectives as well, and I loved how their paths become entwined. They were both strong and determined, proud and they knew their worth and very quickly I found myself rooting for them – even though, let me admit, at the beginning, what with the story being on the slow side, I was not so sure of them both! But mea culpa, because in my opinion they both turned out to be different women to this what I thought about them, and hats off to the author for making them so complex and ambiguous.

This story is like one big jigsaw, like matching the puzzle elements, and I absolutely loved how the information were slowly revealed, and every new thing was like a new puzzle piece. There are many of them, however I never felt confused and I didn’t have problems to follow the flow of the story. It is also a story of two relationship, two very different relationships but both of them so incredibly interesting! “All she Ever Wished For” is a powerful, thought – provoking read showing that things are not always as straight – forward or so obvious and that there is always a hidden agenda and that it is worth to dig deeper and deeper to know the truth. It is funny and at the same time it is poignant and yes, I had a problem to get into it, but quickly it had me glued to the pages and I was desperate to know what’s going to happen and how it’s going to develop. Claudia Carroll’s writing is better and better with her every new book, it is engaging and she has a great way with the words, describing feelings and emotions, characters and their personalities, places and situations in the most engaging, genuine way. The storyline was complex and really clever and I really wasn’t sure where it’s heading, taking me on a great journey full of surprises.