Friday, 23 February 2018

Book Review - Cold Blood by Robert Bryndza - #HolidayReading Book 14

Book 14 of 30 that I read on my holiday to Fuerteventura in December 2017

Amazon UK
Title: Cold Blood
Author: Robert Bryndza
Format reviewed: Ebook
Source: Netgalley
Publisher: Bookouture
Publication Date: 20th September 2017
Rating: 4 Stars



The suitcase was badly rusted, and took Erika several attempts, but it yielded and sagged open as she unzipped it. Nothing could prepare her for what she would find inside…

When a battered suitcase containing the dismembered body of a young man washes up on the shore of the river Thames, Detective Erika Foster is shocked. But it’s not the first time she’s seen such a brutal murder…

Two weeks earlier, the body of a young woman was found dumped in an identical suitcase. What connects the two victims? As Erika and her team set to work, they quickly realise they are on the trail of a serial killer who has already made their next move. 

Yet just as Erika starts to make headway with the investigation, she is the target of a violent attack. Forced to recover at home, and with her personal life falling apart, everything is stacked against her, but nothing will stop Erika. 

As the body count rises, the case takes an even more twisted turn when the twin daughters of Erika’s colleague, Commander Marsh, are suddenly put in terrible jeopardy. The stakes are higher than ever before, but can Erika save the lives of two innocent children before it’s too late? She’s running out of time and about to make a disturbing discovery…there’s more than one killer. 

Brilliantly gripping, Cold Blood will have you hooked from the first page and holding your breath to the heart-stopping and shocking ending. 

Another excellent addition to the Erika Foster series. This time though the book felt quite different. 

There was as always the emphasis on Erika and how the police were dealing with trying to solve the crimes and catch the killer. 

Then at the same time we have the story as told by the villain, in a way that almost had me feeling compassion.  For various reasons this section seemed a lot fuller and larger than normal but it was an interesting story. 

I loved seeing how this series progresses and this time the crime spree was really difficult to work from, if it wasn't for the other part of the book I wouldn't have had a clue!

Full of graphic description and rather disturbing scenes, this is further progression of the larger storylines for these characters. 

Thank you to Netgalley and Bookouture for this copy which I reviewed honestly and voluntarily. 

Thursday, 22 February 2018

Book Review - The Perfectly Imperfect Woman by Milly Johnson

Amazon UK
Title: The Perfectly Imperfect Woman
Author: Milly Johnson
Format reviewed: Ebook
Source: Netgalley
Publisher: Simon & Schuster UK
Publication Date: 22nd February 2018
Rating: 5 Stars


Marnie Salt has made so many mistakes in her life that she fears she will never get on the right track. But when she ‘meets’ an old lady on a baking chatroom and begins confiding in her, little does she know how her life will change.

Arranging to see each other for lunch, Marnie finds discovers that Lilian is every bit as mad and delightful as she’d hoped – and that she owns a whole village in the Yorkshire Dales, which has been passed down through generations. And when Marnie needs a refuge after a crisis, she ups sticks and heads for Wychwell – a temporary measure, so she thinks.

But soon Marnie finds that Wychwell has claimed her as its own and she is duty bound not to leave. Even if what she has to do makes her as unpopular as a force 12 gale in a confetti factory! But everyone has imperfections, as Marnie comes to realise, and that is not such a bad thing – after all, your flaws are perfect for the heart that is meant to love you.

The Perfectly Imperfect Woman is the heart-warming and hilarious new novel from the queen of feel-good fiction – a novel of family, secrets, love and redemption … and broken hearts mended and made all the stronger for it. 

What a book! In part its an ode to a cheesecake, in parts it is the history of a small village in Yorkshire with all of the myths surrounding it, in parts its a story about a realistic main character who has her flaws, but ultimately has  a good heart and in parts it is so many other things I can't sit here listing its merits all day! 

I absolutely loved this book, it took the reader on a rather unexpected journey, it has a few surprises along the way and generally was incredibly gripping throughout.  

The way Marnie first met Lillian is certainly amusing and memorable, and learning all about the village of Wychwell was interesting. I will say there are a fair few villagers that I really disliked but with a sort of enjoyment to my dislike of them. They weren't main characters but did add an extra dimension to the story. 

There are so many storylines and subplots in this book that I could take all day just trying to tell you about them. Instead I will say there is plenty in there for everyone, I was never confused, and I loved seeing this look at Marnie's life and how it changed over a period of time. 

This is an excellent book from Milly Johnson, its just a shame it had to finish. There are some really funny bits, some more emotional sections, it touches on issues such as adoption, there are secrets to be revealed and its just an all around fabulous book. 

Thank you to Netgalley and Simon and Schuster for this copy which I have reviewed honestly and voluntarily. 

Wednesday, 21 February 2018

Book Review - Air Guitar and Caviar by Jackie Ladbury - #HolidayReading Book 13

Book 13 of 30 that I read on my holiday to Fuerteventura in December 2017

Amazon UK
Title: Air Guitar and Caviar
Author: Jackie Ladbury
Format reviewed: Ebook
Source: Author supplied copy
Publisher: Fabrian Books
Publication Date: 2nd February 2017
Rating: 4 Stars


Busker Dylan spends his days pulling pints in the local pub and singing on the high street, waiting for fame to call. That suits him fine, until beautiful, but frosty air stewardess Scarlett tosses some coins into his hat but ignores his killer smile and his offer of pizza. 

He sets out to make her fall in love with him but Scarlett isn’t in the right frame of mind to date anyone let alone a penniless, if charming, busker boy.

Dylan's desperate for his big break, but will it bring him the happiness he longs for? And with Scarlett's past threatening to ruin her future, will Dylan be left to make sweet music all on his own?

Best-selling author Chris Manby says, "I love Jackie Ladbury’s warm, engaging and amusing characters so Air Guitar and Caviar promises to be a real treat." 

Amusing will they, won't they romance that will have you flying by the seat of your pants. 

Absolutely loved Dylan's character, he is the typical cheeky chappy, regular busker on the street with dreams of stardom, who happens to fall for Scarlett before hes even met her properly. 

Scarlett is an air hostess, who is determined that she shouldn't be dating, much less someone who on their first meeting uses an incredibly corny chat up line. 

I really enjoyed the interactions between Dylan and Scarlett, and really wasn't sure how the book was going to turn out, despite a sneaking suspicion. 

A very enjoyable debut novel from Jackie Ladbury that will have you smiling!

Thank you to Jackie Ladbury for this copy which I have reviewed honestly and voluntarily. 

Tuesday, 20 February 2018

Book Review - A Country Escape by Katie Fforde

Amazon UK
Title: A Country Escape
Author: Katie Fforde
Format reviewed: Ebook
Source: Netgalley
Publisher: Cornerstone Digital 
Publication Date: 22nd February 2018
Rating: 5 Stars


Fran has always wanted to be a farmer. And now it looks as if her childhood dream is about to come true.

She has just moved in to a beautiful but very run-down farm in the Cotswolds, currently owned by an old aunt who has told Fran that if she manages to turn the place around in a year, the farm will be hers.

But Fran knows nothing about farming. She might even be afraid of cows.

She's going to need a lot of help from her best friend Issi, and also from her wealthy and very eligible neighbour - who might just have his own reasons for being so supportive.

Is it the farm he is interested in? Or Fran herself?

Warm, funny and wonderfully romantic, this is Katie Forde at her very best.

What a wonderful warm hug of a story, I felt completely at home reading this book right from the first pages and really didn't want it to end, as the characters were so lovely. 

It is such a shame that I'm not a fan of cheese, as I think this book is even better for those that can't live without cheese, as it is one of the main features of book. I have learnt far more about dairy farming and the making of soft cheese than I ever thought possible.   This is just one in a long line of professions that I feel I know a lot better after reading a book by Katie Fforde. 

There are two potential heirs for Hill Top Farm, but its Fran who responds to the letter and agrees to live at the farm for a year and try to make it profitable in order to gain the inheritance as and when Mrs Flowers does pass away.   I loved Frans regular visits to Amy Flowers, and it was clear she came to care for the old lady a great deal. 

Being a chef Fran's solutions to how to make more money from a dairy farm involved food, but none of her plans would ever come to anything without a large injection of cash.

There are some adorable scenes involving baby animals, and even if Fran isn't a native farmer she does clearly care about animals, although I'm not sure she will ever love the cows.   She does love the views on the farm, and I loved seeing her determination to turn the farm around, along with her best friend. 

Easily one of my favourite books by this always talented author, I loved every second of A Country Escape and it almost made me want to leave London in order to become a farmer myself. 

Thank you to Cornerstone Digital and Netgalley for this copy which I have reviewed honestly and voluntarily. 

Monday, 19 February 2018

Book Review - Runaway Bride by Mary Jayne Baker - Rachel Reads Randomly Book #87

Amazon UK
Title: Runaway Bride
Author: Mary Jayne Baker
Format reviewed: Ebook
Source: Netgalley
Publisher: Harper Impulse
Publication Date: 16th February 2018
Rating: 5 Stars


Here comes the bride… but how long can she hide?

When Kitty Clayton flees her wedding with no money, no bank card and no phone, her life seems worryingly futureless. All she knows is, she’d rather sleep on the streets than go back home to cheating Ethan.

After picking her up hitch-hiking, widowed children’s author Jack Duffy takes Kitty under his wing, looking out for her until she gets back on her feet. And it’s not long before the two grow close…

But with Jack struggling to recover from the guilt he feels over his wife’s death and Kitty refusing to face up to the problems she’s running away from at home, will the two ever manage to share a happily ever after?

From the first few pages I loved this book with its fabulous sense of humour. I mean how often do you start a book with a bride running away from her own wedding,. wearing wellies with her wedding dress, and not caring about anything else other than how to get far far away. 

Hitchhiking may not be the most logical thing but she ends up in the company of Jack Duffy and his little orange campervan, and his pregnant dog too. Jack appear to have a rescuer complex as he is determined to keep Kitty safe and really goes above and beyond to help her out. 

I loved Jack and his whole nomadic way of life, he has a really cool job, and his dog is adorable too.  Kitty is also a fabulous character and I loved seeing how the friendship between the two grows. 

Finding out what caused Kitty to run from her wedding had me gasping in shock as did other storylines that were related to that.  It was really compulsive, enjoyable reading. 

This may only be the second book I've read by this author but she is quickly becoming a firm favourite and one I will attempt to read a lot sooner than I have been for her next releases. 

Thank you to Netgalley and Harper Impulse for this copy which I have reviewed honestly and voluntarily. 

Thanks to everyone that picked me a fabulous book to read this week, I really appreciate it and look forward to seeing how this weeks vote pans out. 

Rachel Reads Randomly - Vote #88


 
Thank you everyone for your input last time. The results of the last vote were:

0 Votes -   Between a Rockstar and  Hard Place by Portia MacIntosh
1 Votes - The Perfect Match by Debbie Macomber
4 Votes  - Crazy For You by Emma Heatherington
5 Votes - Runaway Bride by Mary Jayne Baker

What a great choice this week, is was close but so glad that I have read Runaway Bride as I'm starting to think I need to bump Mary Jayne Baker up to must read author on my mental lists! 

So this year I've decided instead of changing what part of the TBR I randomise each week, I'm going with at least until I get bored, books released in the current month - so for the next few weeks all the options will be books released in February - that is February from whatever year they were published! (At least based on the publication date I put on my master spreadsheet). Should give all books a few chances to get picked over a year and be slightly quicker for me to set up!  

Below is my initial theory for this feature, and then a bit further, what you are all waiting for... This weeks's vote! Enjoy!

I am also awful at deciding what book to read next, as I often have about 10 titles or authors jumping into my brain at any time, shouting at me to read them, and I tend to worry I have made the wrong decision while reading a perfectly good book. I am hoping this will save me having to make at least 1 choice a week, while possibly providing a review to the site of a book you all either love or are curious about yourselves. 

So what I am proposing, is my lovely loyal readers of Rachel's Random Reads, select one book for me to read a week, and I will post the review the following week. 

This week's random numbers are...

And the books these numbers correspond to are...


So the 5 choices with my gut feeling responses are:



11 - Secrets by Debbie Viggiano - The couple of books I've read by this author I have really enjoyed and delighted that she has signed to Bookouture for future releases
28 - Six Foot Six by Kit De Waal -  One of this years Quick Reads releases, the author seemed really nice at the launch event
44 - The Moment of Truth by Shari Low - Really enjoy this author, but don't recall anything about the book 
46 - Sugar Mummy by Simon Brooke - If you know anything about this book please tell me, I don't know anything of the top of my head! 
48 - Finding Margo by Susanne O'Leary - Another of Bookouture's new signings if I recall and again another author I've greatly enjoyed in the past. 

Interesting selection that I will be curious to see which I will be reading! 

And authors, if its your book up on this feature, feel free to take part, vote for yourself, or stir up excitement amongst your fans! 

Pick your favourite or the one you most want me to review, or just the one you are curious about, and leave me a comment below, before midnight on Wednesday. 

I look forward to seeing what I will be reading over the weekend, courtesy of you all. 

The explanation if you haven't seen the feature before. 

How is this going to work?

Every Monday, I am going to have a post like this, which is going to have some choices on it. I am planning on using random.org to select 7 random numbers, to coincide with my spreadsheet of unread books.  

I will from that produce a list of hopefully 5 books, I reserve the right to veto any books, and will give reasons for them, if it occurs.

I will take screenshots and post them, of the chosen books, and also give you my instinctive reactions to the choices (without checking blurbs or any other info about them, which could be interesting as there are probably many forgotten about books on my spreadsheet!). 

Your task is to post a comment on this post, with the book you would like me to read this week. At midnight on Wednesday I will take a tally of the votes and the book with the most, I will read and review for the following Monday, where you will also get a new choice post. 

In the event of a tie, I will chose which one appeals most, for the Monday review, and possibly try and read and review the other to appear when I can. 

I am hoping this will provide some variety to the books appearing, and will let me potentially read or discover some great authors that I have wanted to read but not got around to yet.

Sunday, 18 February 2018

Book Review - The Year of Surprising Acts of Kindness by Laura Kemp

Amazon UK
Title: The Year of Surprising Acts of Kindness
Author: Laura Kemp
Format reviewed: Ebook
Source: Netgalley
Publisher: Orion
Publication Date: 22nd February 2018 
Rating: 3 Stars


When Ceri Price arrives in the small seaside village in West Wales, she only means to stay for a couple of nights - long enough to scatter her mother's ashes, and then go back to her life as a successful make-up entrepreneur.

But when a case of mistaken identities means she lands a job as the barmaid in the local pub, she unexpectedly finds friendship, and perhaps a chance at love.

But when the plans for a new housing estate put the local woodland under threat, she fears the way of life here could disappear.

Then mysterious acts of kindness start springing up around the village - a string of bunting adorns the streets, a new village signpost appears out of nowhere and someone provides paint to spruce up the houses on the seafront. Who is behind these acts of kindness and can they help in the race to save the village from the faceless developers...?

Welcome to the Village of Love. Where friendship flourishes and love blossoms...

Absolutely loved the idea of a year with surprising acts of kindness, and loved the setting of this book too, a small forgotten village in West Wales. 

The assorted villagers in Dwynwen soon crept into my hear, and I especially enjoyed Mel's story.  And although I appreciated what Ceri was trying to do for most of the book it took me a while to warm up to her, and even by the end I still wasn't sure. 

There are some good storylines in the book which did keep me reading, but having read other books by the author before, this one fell short for me.  The descriptions of the village in Wales were incredible and I loved the many many colours that Mel sees the world in. Ultimately I think it was me not the book that wasn't quite right, I can't put my finger on it, as there is nothing whatsoever wrong with the book,  it just didn't quite work for me. 

Thanks to Netgalley and Orion for this copy which I have reviewed honestly and voluntarily. 

Author Spotlight on Isabella May - Blog Tour

Today I have an interview between Emma Mitchell from EmmaTheLittleBookworm and Isabella May, author of The Cocktail Bar.   Enjoy!

Years Ago – what was your childhood like? 

School

I went to a fabulous village primary school and I think this was the best start my parents could have given me in so many ways. Everything about it was quite Enid Blyton and lovely. I have nothing but happy memories of the friends I made there, the teachers and the lessons. 

Unfortunately, high school was more than peppered with bullying, but I am eternally grateful all the same. The lessons learned there amongst my peers fuelled a determination to succeed, which may never have happened had I been a popular, beautiful, un-kooky kid. Nevertheless, I did pretty well academically, although my shyness meant I was never really on any of the teachers’ radars.
Friends

I always hung out with the unconventional ones and we had The Best Fun!

Family

All of my family memories are a vast swirl of hygge-like happiness… marred only by the odd recollection of Santa bringing my sister the Barbie and me the Sindy – grr.

Are you married? 

Yes, nine years ago I married my lovely husband in a whirlwind, fun-packed day at Cheltenham’s Pittville Park surrounded by our family and friends. Lucky him!

Children?

I have three children. A ten year old (going on thirteen year old) daughter, who shares many of my characteristics, a seven year old son, who is super laid back and balances us all out. And then there is my beloved baby daughter who was born sleeping nine years ago. But I will always be mum to three children, whether they are all with me, here in the physical, or not. 

Pets?

Unfortunately not. Life is so busy with two young children, and I know from my own bunny-obsessed childhood, it’s rarely the kids who do the cleaning out and feeding…

Work

What did you do before you became a writer (if you are a full-time writer that is!) What other job do you have now? 

Before I became a full-time writer I ran a part-time, boutique Literary Agency… before that I worked in children’s publishing for over a decade. My whole working life to date has definitely been about books in one form or another!

But nowadays I am 100% an author… This opportunity doesn’t come along every day and so I intend to embrace it wholeheartedly.

Hobbies

Other than writing, what else you love? 

Travel, travel and more travel. But hey, I also love baking, reading, cocktailing and trampoline jogging to high vibe music (the latter has kind of tailed off over Christmas, I must confess!). 
Law of Attraction is another big area of fascination. I can spend days getting lost in books and teachings on the many tangents of this subject. I am also a Level 3 Pranic Healer. It’s a super empowering form of energy healing which works alongside medicine, but also blows the mind (in a good way)!

Future

What plans do you have for your writing? 

I have a list of future potential novels as long as my arm… but one day at a time. I think so often we get wrapped up in the destination, but actually, it’s the journey that’s the most thrilling part. And I plan to stay on this writing journey for quite a while, drinking in some *hopefully* pretty amazing views!

Work? 

See, I don’t think of any of this writing game as work (even the marketing side of things). For me it feels like play. And that’s how I know it’s the right path. I just intend to keep doing what I do creatively until the ideas run out…

Family? 

There are heaps of places I would love to go back to with my family, to see that place afresh, from a totally different perspective. But I think that the most important thing for any family is to try to get the work/life balance right. I think we have it sussed.

Bucket list? 

I’ve never been the world’s greatest fan of this term… but I DO love the idea of putting travel at the top of any list, preferably to somewhere where they serve up fabulous cocktails and cake.

Amazon UK

Rock star, River Jackson, is back in his hometown of Glastonbury to open a cocktail bar… and the locals aren’t impressed.

Seductive Georgina is proving too hot to handle; band mate, Angelic Alice, is messing with his heart and his head; his mum is a hippie-dippy liability; his school friends have resorted to violence – oh, and his band manager, Lennie, AND the media are on his trail.

But River is armed with a magical Mexican elixir which will change the lives of the Three Chosen Ones. Once the Mexican wave of joy takes a hold of the town, he’s glad he didn’t lose his proverbial bottle.

Pity he hasn’t taken better care of the real one…

About Isabella May


Isabella May lives in (mostly) sunny Andalucia, Spain with her husband, daughter and son, creatively inspired by the sea and the mountains. When she isn’t having her cake and eating it, sampling a new cocktail on the beach, or ferrying her children to and from after school activities, she can usually be found writing.

As a Co-founder and a former contributing writer for the popular online women’s magazine, The Glass House Girls - www.theglasshousegirls.com - she has also been lucky enough to subject the digital world to her other favourite pastimes, travel, the Law of Attraction, and Prince (The Purple One).

She has recently become a Book Fairy, and is having lots of fun with her imaginative 'drops'!

Oh! What a Pavlova is her debut novel... and her second novel has already been submitted to her publishers: watch this space...




Saturday, 17 February 2018

Book Review - The Little Cottage on the Hill by Emma Davies

Amazon UK
Title: The Little Cottage on the Hill
Author: Emma Davies
Format reviewed: Ebook
Source: Netgalley
Publisher: Bookouture
Publication Date: 19th February 2018
Rating: 5 Stars


There’s blossom in the trees and daffodils as far as the eye can see. Maddie is looking forward to a fresh start in the countryside, but there’s just one little problem…

Following a scandal at her high-flying PR agency, twenty-six-year-old Maddie flees London to help promote what she thinks is going to be a luxurious holiday retreat in the countryside. Everything is riding on her making a success of this new job…

Yet when she arrives, Maddie is horrified to find a rundown old farm in a terrible state. The brooding and secretive owner, Seth, spent all his money on leasing the land when he fell in love with the beautiful, dishevelled farm cottages and the very romantic story behind them.

When Maddie discovers an old oil painting by the original owner’s wife, she unlocks the secret of the farm’s history and quickly realises she must start getting her hands dirty if this very special place is going to have any chance of survival. As she and Seth begin working together, the stunning view from the top of the hill is not the only thing that’s leaving her breathless…

After weeks of hard work the dream looks like it might become a reality, until a secret from Maddie’s past threatens to snatch it all away again. Can Maddie find a way to save the business and herself? Will she finally find a place to keep her heart within the crumbling walls of the little cottage on the hill?

Another glorious story from Emma Davies, whose books are going up and up my need to read as soon as I get them list with each new book. 

Admittedly I did wonder at the opening of the book whether I had perhaps read too many books in the genre as it did feel quite familiar to me, but once you get into the nuts and bolts of the characters, the plot and the writing, it was a really heartwarming story. 

Like Maddie was, I wa drawn to this part of the Shropshire countryside and the story of the cottages and area. I loved all of Maddie's visions for the place, from the wildly inappropriate ones with her London brain still in gear, to things more inline with Seth's vision for the place once she finally understands what he is trying to achieve. 

One of the more surprising things I learnt from this book was all about thatching, which is unfortunately a dying craft, but one explained in a lot of detail.  It really was quite interesting to think about how many years of history the straw must be able to contain.  

I also loved Clara and her fierce protectiveness of Seth, although I could fully understand it once you are privy to their rather extraordinary background.  Generally  I loved all the main characters of this book and their sense of family despite none of them being related.  

The Little Cottage on the Hill is a charming story, that I enjoyed reading every second of, but I can't help but hope that this ins't the last we have seen of Maddie. 

Thank you to Netgalley and Bookouture for this copy which I have reviewed honestly and voluntarily. 

Friday, 16 February 2018

Book Review - When I Was Invisible by Dorothy Koomson - #HolidayReading Book 12

Book 12 of 30 that I read on my holiday to Fuerteventura in December 2017

Amazon UK
Title: When I Was Invisible
Author: Dorothy Koomson
Format reviewed: Paperback
Source: Purchased
Publisher: Arrow
Publication Date: 23rd March 2017 
Rating: 5 Stars


In 1988, two eight-year-old girls with almost identical names and the same love of ballet meet for the first time. They seem destined to be best friends forever and to become professional dancers. 

Years later, however, they have both been dealt so many cruel blows that they walk away from each other into very different futures – one enters a convent, the other becomes a minor celebrity. Will these new, ‘invisible’ lives be the ones they were meant to live, or will they only find that kind of salvation when they are reunited twenty years later?

Wow, just wow, utterly speechless..completely unputdownable, addictive and brilliant. 

If you are already a fan of this author and haven't read the book yet, then go out and buy it now..don;t even wait to end of this review, you won;t be disappointed. 

If you have never read a Dorothy Koomson before, then you are missing out and this is an excellent book to get you hooked on the author. 

This is a book that does tackle tough uncomfortable subjects, but thankfully leaves the intricate bits to your imagination. 

One of my earliest concerns about the book was that it was two characters of very similar names, thankfully they both have nicknames, and completely different stories to tell so was easy to tell them apart.. 

After a shared childhood, these two best friends lead radically different lives, not seeing each other for many years. Both though have the power due to their shared experiences and desire to become practically invisible. 

This is a gritty book that will keep you hooked and absorbed for hours as you jump back and forth during both of their lives, the different acquaintances made etc.. until you get to an unexpectedly thrilling finale. 

Absolutely loved every second of the experience of reading When I Was Invisible.
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