My Top 5 Books of 2016

Hi guys, and happy Friday! as much as I can’t believe it we are already at the end of December and New Year is knocking at the doors. I have such mixed feelings about 2016, it was full of lovely moments, worthwile people and situations, things that I’ll never forget, new beginnings, new chances, new friends but it was also full of sad, painfull moments and I feel like saying, get lost 2016! It is time for something new and positive.

In 2016 I read 195 books. Not as many as the previous year but with life getting in the way and time being so precious I am glad that I could read so many books at all! And those were brilliant books, that I adored and gushed about. However, and I am not sure why, probably because I read so much and am picky, not many books have made it to my Hall of Fame – in fact, I am shocked that there are so few but I think that really, I love many books but only few of them have blown me away – the book must really have this something special!  And so, this year, there are only 5 of them – the very special ones, the crème de la crème of all the books that I had a pleasure to read. Here they are!

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 These Days of Ours by Juliet Ashton. What can I say? I truly adored this book, it had everything I need and want from a book. All my family and friends have read this book thanks to my reccomendations and all of them loved it! The way the author captured all the feelings in this story and it touched and moved me, it made my cry and laugh, tit made me talk to the characters and experience everything together with them – a gorgeous, unforgettable book!  Here is my review of this astonishing novel.

Somewhere Inside of Happy by Anna McPartlin. Already in 2015 51aqd3kunvlher novel “The Last Days of Rabbit Hayes” has made it to my top read, and in 2016 Ms McPartlin has – again, and thanks so much for this! – delivered a beautiful, moving novel with a twist. I laughed and I cried when reading it, and I couldn’t stop to admire the incredible writing style and the way the author has written this story, and I can tell you one thing: whatever you do, please read this novel! Here you can read my review of this emotional, exceptional story.

29750478The Little Bookshop of Lonely Hearts by Annie Darling. It was a story that just blew my mind away – it had all that I’m looking for in a book: it was full of warmth, INCREDIBLE humour, fantastic, vivid characters and it had one of the best plots ever, and well, it took place mostly in a bookshop! I still can remember how much warmth and feeling there were on the pages and this feel – good factor, and that it made me feel warm and happy. Here you can read my review of this gorgeous, charming, heart – warming book!

A year without Lisa Dickenson’s book would be a lost year, guys! I’ve no idea what ‘ve been 28798187doing before Lisa started writing books – I just can’t imagine my bookshelf without her gorgeous, heartwarming paperbacks! If you haven’t read You Had Me at Merlot I can only say drop whatever you do and buy it! It was a MUST READ this summer, and not only summer because it’ll brigthen the most grim days. It really deserves a standing ovation, folks, Lisa’s humour is an exceptional one, and you always have a feeling that her characters are your best friends – so no matter what, dear Lisa, please keep the books coming! You Had Me at Merlot  had all what I am looking for in a book and even more and I. FREAKING. LOVED. EVERY. SINGLE. MINUTE.OF. IT. So there. Yes. I loved it. In case you don’t believe me, check my review here pretty please.

29622942And last but not least. It is a book by the author that her debut novel has also found itself on my top reads in 2015 list, and it always warms my heart to see that the second dreaded book is as great as the previous one! Please say hello to A Life Without You by Katie Marsh, a story that I loved with my whole heart. Full of emotions, tricky decisions to be made, brilliant characters and complex plot, written in incredibly beautiful way – and here you can read more why I loved this book so much.

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A Cotswolds Christmas by Kate Hewitt

A Cotswolds Christmas by Kate Hewitt

 

32021986Publisher: Tule Publishing

Publishing Date: 17th October 2016

Series: Willoughby Close #1

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

Number of pages: 112

Genre: Women’s Fiction, Romance

 Buy the Book: Kindle | Paperback

 

Synopsis:

Welcome to Wychwood-on-Lea… a not-too-quaint village where frosty evenings, welcoming fires, and second chances will make this a Christmas you’ll never forget.

Anna Vere has escaped to the Cotswolds for Christmas to try to heal from her broken engagement and, far worse, her broken dreams. When her reserved room at a bed & breakfast is flooded, she takes up the offer of camping out in Willoughby Close, the converted stables of the nearby manor house… and is taken under the wing of sexy local carpenter Colin Heath.

What starts out as merely helping a neighbor in need turns into far more as Colin and Anna share a surprisingly intense and emotional connection, weaving their own Christmas magic as they spend the holiday together. But Anna has a secret she’s scared to reveal, something that could destroy the fragile bond they’ve just created, and Colin knows she’s only in England for a short time. Can these two sudden soul mates risk their hearts for a love that has yet to be tried and tested?

Get swept away by this poignant and heartwarming story, set in beautiful Wychwood-on-Lea, in the English Cotswolds. And look forward to four more books set in Willoughby Close, where everyday miracles and happily-ever-afters are guaranteed.

Rating: 3/5

I haven’t read many books by Kate Hewitt but those that I’ve read I really loved, so I was really excited when I spied “The Cotswolds Christmas” on NetGalley. The festive cover, the lovely title just scream Christmas, don’t you think? It is also a prequel to Kate Hewitt’s new series, Willoughby Close. The setting was gorgeous, and the idea of renovating the cottages was also brilliant, and I personally can’t wait to see them when they’re finished. I’d only feel sorry that it snowed only once in the story.

The writing style was brilliant, just the way I like the stories to be told. It was warm and inviting and – simply – I liked it. In comparison to the slow pace of the whole story, the end felt much too rushed and it wrapped up so quickly. Anna and Colin are this kind of characters that you don’t feel any connection to, so as a result you also don’t care much about them, and it’s a pity, because there was a lot of potential and their stories were interesting. I don’t know, Anna seemed so impassive, expecting Colin to take matters in his hands and fight for her. It’s OK, of course, but there are always two sides, two people, right? She just made assumptions and jumped to conclusions. I think that with more depth and development to the characters I’d enjoy them much more, I just had a feeling I don’t know them well enough to like them more. But I still enjoyed them, and I also liked being introduced to all the other characters that I hope we’ll see in the future parts of the series.

So actually yes, in theory everything was OK with this book but it just didn’t quite hit the mark for me. There was in fact not much happening and the whole romance/falling in love/feeling the attraction bit felt flat for me – don’t get me wrong, it was cute and lovely and quick (but as much as it was cute, it was also incredibly quick – I mean, after only three days of being together Anna and Colin started to plan their life together and wondering who should give up on their previous life. Yes, sure, lovely and sweet and romantic but somehow rushed) but I didn’t feel the sparkles. and somehow I also couldn’t warm to the characters, I am not sure why, I just had a feeling they both really don’t know what they want. There is also not as much of festive feeling, as I have expected, judging on the lovely cover. However, brownie points to the author for adding the more poignant moments and giving the story more depth and touching upon some sensitive issues. It made the story much more realistic in my opinion, as it was not only bed of roses but some real troubles and problems as well. So altogether, “A Cotswold Christmas” is a lovely, emotional romance, but it was lacking in the festive feel for me, as I expected tons of snow and Christmas trees. But it was romantic and cute and yes, I liked it, and I will be for sure reading the other parts in the series.

Christmas Cheer by Bella Osborne

Christmas Cheer by Bella Osborne

 

29750481Publisher: Avon

Publishing Date: 20th October 2016

Series: Willow Cottage #2 (read my review of #1 here)

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

Number of pages: 111

Genre: Women’s Fiction, Romance

 Buy the Book: Kindle

 

Synopsis:

A cosy and heartwarming seasonal romance, perfect for fans of Trisha Ashley.

Beth is running away. With her young son Leo to protect, Willow Cottage is the lifeline she so desperately needs. Overlooking the village green in a beautiful Cotswolds idyll, Beth sees a warm, caring and safe place for little Leo.

When she finally uncovers the cottage from underneath the boughs of a weeping willow tree, Beth realises this is far more of a project than she bargained for and the locals are more than a little eccentric! A chance encounter with gruff Jack, who appears to be the only male in the village under thirty, leaves the two of them at odds but it’s not long before Beth realises that Jack has hidden talents that could help her repair more than just Willow Cottage.

Over the course of four seasons, Beth realises that broken hearts can be mended, and sometimes love can be right under your nose…

Rating: 4/5

“Christmas Cheer” is the second instalment in Bella Osborne’s Willow Cottage’s series, and it rather should be read as a part of the series, as it starts exactly where we left in the first novella and continues on the characters’ adventures without all over again going into details about who is who and why. It is already some time since I’ve read “Sunshine and Secrets” and I was worried that I forgot most of the things and characters but by the end of the first chapter I already felt at home and remembered everything.

It was nice to be back in the village, with all its villagers, some more weird than the others, and to see that Beth and her son Leo are getting settled in and finding not only friends but also jobs. One of the jobs involves Beth taking care about Jack’s dog Daisy, and oh my word, can this dog create a havoc! But she’s a lovely dog, Daisy is, really, and at least it is cleared up why she’s getting crazy every time she sees one of the villagers and her trolley.

I know that after reading the first part I had some problems with the story following also Beth’s best friend Carly and her boyfriend and somehow it just didn’t sit with me, as it seemed as if there were two different stories in one book. However, this time, I took it stoically – the sudden switches between Beth and Carly’s stories, maybe it just should be like this, and moreover, the stories start to intertwine in my opinion, and Carly is more at Beth’s, and it works now.

Bella Osborne’s writing is getting better and better. It’s easy to follow, it’s light, with a right dose of humour – there are some really hilarious scenes in this novella! – and seriousness. The characters are developing, and the cottage is taking shape, and I loved to read about all the ideas Beth had and how the villagers were willing to help her. The writing is really vivid and down to earth and I could easily imagine all the things really happening.

So it was really great to see Beth and Leo starting to fit in and it is a real pain to see that there are for sure troubles coming in! Of course, this part ended with a cliff – hanger as well, and I think there will be some unexpected visits in the third part, but I am also dead sure that a big, huge understatement happened at the end of “Christmas Cheer” and that it’s also going to create chaos and there will be a lot of jumping to conclusions, and it already annoys me because I want to see Beth happy, and I know, deep in my heart, that she and Jack just belong together! I am certain that problems are expecting us in the third instalment, “A Spring Affair” – and I can’t wait to read it! “Christmas Cheer” was a funny, poignant and also romantic and festive short story – I recommend it!

The Silver Bells Christmas Pantomime by Lynsey James

The Silver Bells Christmas Pantomime by Lynsey James

 

cover100809-mediumPublisher: HQ Digital

Publishing Date: 1oth November 2016

Series: Luna Bay #3

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

Number of pages: 196

Genre: Women’s Fiction, Romance

 Buy the Book: Kindle

 

Synopsis:

This Christmas pantomime is about to be the talk of the town!

Luna Bay’s festive preparations are well under way and the much anticipated annual pantomime is to be, once again, the highlight of the season. Too bad that the village’s very own actress and darling of Broadway, Alice Woods, isn’t feeling in the mood for Christmas.

Until the pantomime comes under threat and a grief-stricken Alice is forced to push her personal pain aside and step up to direct – after all, the show must go on…

So with (more than) a little help from her new found friends, not to mention one very gorgeous Hollywood A-list celebrity, the play begins to come together, but will Alice finally believe that Christmas is a time for miracles after all?

Rating: 4/5

One thing is certain. Till now I’ve only read Lynsey James’s debut novel and I had some problems with it. However, “The Silver Bells Christmas Pantomime” is Lynsey`s fourth book and I can absolutely, totally ascertain that it is much, much better than her debut, both in writing style, characters descriptions, storytelling and general feel. I was a little sceptical of requesting this author’s book after the first novel that I’ve read but now I actually regret not doing it!

“The Silver Bells Christmas Pantomime” is the third and final book in the “Luna Bay” series and I was a little afraid when starting it that I may be confused or that maybe I’ll miss too much on the previous books, that I haven’t read. However, it was not the case. I’m guessing the story mentions previous characters but it is actually dedicated to Alice Woods, I’m guessing a new character to the series.

I totally loved the idea of the pantomime, and I totally loved the actors! Again, the feeling of community was great in this story, and I always so adore to see the villagers supporting each other, but also pushing their noses in others’ people business, no matter if wanted or not. And Lynsey James has created here some very unforgettable characters, believe me! Next to our main heroine Alice Woods, who is lovely, guys, she’s so normal and down to earth, and so genuine with all her feelings, we have for example Christabel who’s been taking charge of the pantomime for years. And making it a disaster every year, even though it’s her pride and joy, but as Christabel knows everything better there is nothing – and nobody – stopping her! Until Alice decides she gives it a try, only to jet off her mother from her. Then we have Lucy and Emily, and I’m guessing the previous stories were about them, and as the girls were so lovely, warm and full of fun I desperately need to read their stories! And let’s concentrate shortly on the male characters, and especially Ethan Fox, mmmm, Ethan Fox that played Mr Darcy….. Ethan Fox, who seems to appear everywhere Alice is… Ethan Fox that made my heart beat faster… And the brilliant, colourful cast members of the pantomime, so entertaining and so full of life, who only waited to show their true talents.

I liked the romance aspect, and even though Ethan was a Hollywood star and suddenly found himself in the little Luna Bay to catch a breath, it was still believable and they both, Alice and Ethan, with their awkwardness, uncertainty and problems only made it feel more realistic. I also liked to see Alice blossoming – you could think three years of grieving are enough, right, because starting to live again doesn’t mean forgetting, no? Yet somehow I felt sympathy for Alice and fell for her and it was a great joy to see her coming back, to see the new Alice, not shy and keeping herself to herself anymore.
For me personally the second half of the book went a little downhill. While the first half kept me totally entertained, I had a feeling that then it slowed down a little, there were too many repetitions for my liking, when the character were re – telling what’s happened, and I had a feeling that it’s not as light – hearted and funny anymore. But still, it was a great and engaging read. no worries there!

So altogether, this book is full of positive vibrations, feel – good factor and it was a great joy to read it. A lovely story about friendship and leaving past behind but not forgetting it! It’s about courage and about coming out of your comfort zones and pluck up the courage again, about learning to trust and hope again. The writing style was flowing, it was lovely, warm and inviting, and the author has filled the story not only with great characters but also with very palpable feelings of friendship, despair, love, hope, romance, and there were some surprises and twists on the way as well! A lovely, festive read that put a smile on my face, just what I needed!

An Off – Piste Christmas by Julie Houston

An Off – Piste Christmas by Julie Houston

 

32860697Publisher:

Publishing Date: 1st November 2016

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

Number of pages: 127

Genre: General Fiction (Adult), Homour

 Buy the Book: Kindle

 

Synopsis:

From the author of #1 Humour Bestsellers GOODNESS, GRACE AND ME, THE ONE SAVING GRACE and LOOKING FOR LUCY, a brand new festive novella to make you laugh and warm your heart…

The last thing Harriet Westmoreland wants is Christmas away from home, particularly when skiing, snow, heights and freezing her backside off are on the menu. While her own family, together with her best friend Grace’s, are soon whizzing down ridiculously high and scary mountains in the fashionable Italian resort of Cortina d’Ampezzo, Harriet is stuck in the remedial class on the nursery slopes unable, it seems, to remain vertical.

Tired of trying to stay upright in the dunces’ class, Harriet decides to overcome her fear of heights and take her bruised body off to explore the refugios in the magnificent Dolomites above Cortina. And maybe catch a glance of George Clooney, rumoured to be in town… But what happens next triggers a totally unexpected avalanche of events which proves that, for friends Harriet and Grace and all their families, Christmas really is a time for little miracles…

Rating: 3.5/5

“An Off – Piste Christmas” is my first book by Julie Houston but I was immediately drawn to this cover and the description made me hope that it’s going to help me to leave the actual reading slump behind. As previously I didn’t know much about this book, I also didn’t know that this is a second novella featuring the Westmoreland family, however through many hints I started to guessing it. But you can absolutely read it as a stand – alone novel, as there are enough flashbacks and the author gives enough information for the new reader to know that and what happened in the past. However, now my curiosity is piqued and I will be for sure reading the previous novels in the closest future!

My biggest problem was the number of characters. Honestly, to the end of the book I wasn’t sure who is who, why and with whom they are together. It was confusing and I hoped that there comes a moment I’ll see the light bull over my head but sadly, it didn’t happen and eventually I stopped trying with the characters. It spoiled the reading a bit to be honest. As it took me almost till the end to unravel who is related to who, to be honest, so maybe a short introduction at the beginning of the story wouldn’t go amiss. Also, the very complex and complicated nature of the relationships with a daughter dating the main character’s best friend’s ex – lover and father of her baby, and all of them going together on a fancy skiing holiday, even though the main character hates skiing… It was too much for me, to be honest.

At first the story felt too slow, maybe because of the millions of characters being introduced, but then it often felt too rushed and the things were happening so conveniently, and also I personally am not sure if bringing back dead characters to life is such a good idea – it didn’t sit with me and this subplot felt much, much, much too far – fetched for my liking. However, “An Off – Piste Christmas” was a very light read, and it made me chuckle and smile. I also immediately fell in love with Julie Houston’s writing style, that is not only full of humour but it’s so easy to follow, it’s light, warm and – let’s forget about the number of characters for a moment – I immediately felt at home. The millions of characters are likeable and believable, with their flaws, problems and interactions, and with so many of them there are many mishaps, misunderstandings and also bitching involved. The story is full of really funny scenes, and only the idea of going on the ski – holiday when you’re scared of heights and hate skiing is a hilarious one, but it is also full of much more emotional moments and it touches upon some sensible issues, and this is all perfectly mixed.

Altogether, it is a short, funny and light novella taking place in a beautiful setting, full of snow and mouth – watering descriptions of food. It’s fluffy and quick read and I personally enjoyed it with the few twists, turns and curveballs.

Chances by Ruth Saberton

Chances by Ruth Saberton

 

33304532Publisher: Notting Hill Press

Publishing Date: 18th December 2016

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

Number of pages: 172

Genre: General Fiction, Teen & Young Adult

 Buy the Book: Kindle

 

Synopsis:

Sometimes in life you have to take chances…

City girl Amber Evans is determined to get herself thrown out of her latest foster home in the countryside. Growing up on a tough estate has taught her not to trust anyone or anything and horse mad Amber knows her passion for riding can never be more than a dream.

But rural life is far from quiet especially when you’re living next door to Britain’s hottest international three day event star, Drake Owen. When Amber finds herself catapulted into a world full of glamour and rivalry she’s determined to prove she belongs there too.

No matter how dangerous it may be or who is out to stop her…

Rating: 5/5

Ruth Saberton has wanted to write a book about horses for a long time already, and boy, am I glad that she found time to do just this! “Chances” is the perfect novel for all the horse freaks, and not only, out there, and you can really see that Ruth knows what she writes about – she has brilliantly captured not only the human characters but also all the animal ones. It is a book a little different to what Ruth got me used to, it is more on the serious side and yes, I love her sense of humour and I like the lighter novels that I’ve read before but I also appreciate the fact that she wanted to try her hand in something more serious.

I caught myself thinking that I am a little like Amber – no, not as rebel as she was, but as sensitive as her, and I could totally relate to her imagining what the animals could feel, to having a big heart and understanding them – I’m exactly the same. She was so conflicted inside, our Amber, and Ruth Saberton has wonderfully put all those feelings into words, and I think being able to do just this deserves a standing ovation! I fell for Amber, immediately. Sure, there were moments that I also wanted to slap her or bang her head on the wall but oh well, she’s a teenager, so it was understandable she was behaving this way. But mostly I just kept my fingers crossed for her and I so wanted that she finds her happiness. The relationship between her and Chances was absolutely, heart – breakingly beautiful, and as I had a pleasure to see such friendships personally, it was even more palpable and understandable to me.

All the other characters in the book were incredibly well written and Ruth Saberton gave them this depth that made them so close to life and realistic. They were full of warmth or anger and they were so easy to like or dislike. I adored Amber’s foster family in Cornwall, the way they were there for each other, how they loved and supported each other, and I loved how Harry, after initial problems, was there for Amber and what he did for her. I admired how grown up he felt, how clever he was and the way he negotiated with Amber, or just spoke with her, was just the right to get to her. It couldn’t be easy to be Amber and mostly people just gave up on her and it was lovely and touching to see how Kate and her children fought for her.

Ruth Saberton’s writing is getting stronger and stronger. It felt mature but it also didn’t lose the lightness. In the previous books the author concentrated very much on descriptions and as much as I loved them they often kept me away from the main plot. However this time, even though there ARE descriptions, they don’t obscure this what really is important in this story, and for me personally it’s the next brownie point!
Even though the book is aimed at younger readers, I totally enjoyed it. It was mature and there was a lesson or two in it, but you as a reader didn’t feel patronized, not at all. Yes, there were moments that everything went so smoothly and you knew it would be impossible in real life, but there were also moments full of tension and sadness and you didn’t know in which direction the story is going to go. There is so much more to it than it only being your another horse/pony book and I liked how very well balanced it was, there was just enough about the horses and eventing themselves and yes, I am also a horse-y person, so the professional talk was just as normal for me, but I think that it’s not too much or too overwhelming for those who don’t talk like this on everyday basis :), and then there was the other side of the book, about bullying, social services, mental health and trying to help. A lovely, touching story about finding new beginnings, about loyalty, friendship and families, and before I could say Jack Robinson I was on the last page. I would love to see more from all the characters and Chances, this beautiful chestnut Arab from the cover, that was so full of spirit and fire – a horse that you can’t break, only work with. Beautiful story tugging at all the right heart – strings, I highly recommend it!

Christmas at the Cornish Cafe by Phillipa Ashley

Christmas at the Cornish Cafe by Phillipa Ashley

 

30361314Publisher: Avon

Publishing Date: 13th October 2016

Series: The Penwith Trilogy #2 (read my review of #1 here)

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

Number of pages: 287

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

 Buy the Book: Kindle

 

Synopsis:

The festive, feel-good follow-up to Summer at the Cornish Cafe.

Christmas will be slightly less turbulent than summer, won’t it? Demi certainly hopes so.

She and Cal are keeping their fledgling relationship under wraps for now. But then Kit Bannen, a hunky, blond – and somewhat mysterious – writer arrives at Kilhallon Resort, and not everyone is charmed. Cal is sure that Kit is hiding something. But is he the only one guarding a secret?

Demi is busy baking festive treats for the newly opened Demelza’s cafe, but when Cal’s ex Isla arrives to shoot scenes for her new drama, Demi can’t help but worry that things aren’t quite over between them. Kit flirts with both women, fuelling Cal’s suspicions that Kit has hidden motives for staying on at Kilhallon. Then Cal has to go to London, leaving Demi and Kit to decorate the cafe for Christmas . . . all by themselves.

A storm is brewing in more ways than one. As surprises unfold and truths are uncovered, can Demi and Cal finally open up to each other about their feelings?

This second novel in the bestselling Cornish Cafe series is the perfect book to curl up with this Christmas.

Rating: 2/5

I’m so surprised that this book didn’t work for me at all, especially as I think back to the first novel in the series that I rated with 4 stars. Here everything just dragged on, it was full of things – but things that for me were totally insignificant, and so on the other hand I think you must be a VERY talented author (and I mean it seriously!) to be able to write a book about those things. I must admit, I couldn’t wait for the words “The End”. It may sound harsh, but this is the way I felt when reading this story. All seemed so far – fetched there and there was not a single thing that took me by surprise or that I felt was new and fresh. I am really sorry. Really. I want all books to work for me. But here everything was just so slow and to be honest, if I read this part without reading the first one, I’d think, who the hell are the characters? So whingey and unhappy and creating problems where there weren’t any – and it really surprised me, because I enjoyed the first part! I only hope that it was an slip and am looking forward towards “Confetti at the Cornish Cafe” – though it’s a long wait, as it’s out in May!