Thursday, 17 August 2017

Escape to Willow cottage by Bella Osborne with extract

Escape to Willow Cottage (Willow Cottage Series) by [Osborne, Bella]

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…

Escape to Willow Cottage was originally digitally published as a four-part serial under the title Willow Cottage. This is the complete story.

I have got an extract to share with you.

Chapter 3 p.27-28

Beth’s phone rang. ‘The voice of sanity! Hello, Carls.’

‘At last it’s not your wretched voicemail. How are you and where the hell are you?’ ‘I’m feeling surprisingly normal in the village of the totally insane. How about you and Fergus?’

‘Nick came round here last night. We didn’t tell him anything but he says he’s going to find you.’ Beth couldn’t help the feeling of ice fear that trickled through her body. Her mind flashed back to the night she left. Beth looked around her: another troop of Morris dancers was in the middle of the green hopping up and down as another group practised nearby. People were chatting and laughing and the sound filled the air. This was a world away from her London life; there was absolutely nothing here that could connect her to what she’d left behind. Despite the state of Willow Cottage it made sense to stay here for the time being.

‘He’ll never find me here.’

‘Where is here exactly?’

‘Dumbleford. It’s west of Stow-on-the-Wold.’

‘Sounds like place names from Narnia to me. What’s it like?’

‘The cottage I bought is practically a ruin, there’s a man living in my willow tree, the only person under fifty thinks I’m an idiot, everyone else is barking mad and today they are having a Morris dancing competition on the village green.’

‘Actually, I like the sound of that. The Morris dancing, not the rest of it.’

Beth lowered her voice and took a step back from Leo so he wouldn’t hear what she said. ‘Between you and me I think I may have made a huge mistake with the cottage. I’m speaking to the solicitor tomorrow to see what options I have. I’ll keep you posted.’

Wednesday, 16 August 2017

The Silence Between Breaths by Cath Staincliffe

The Silence Between BreathsThe Silence Between Breaths by Cath Staincliffe
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Passengers boarding the 10.35 train from Manchester Piccadilly to London Euston are bound for work, assignations, reunions, holidays or new starts, with no idea that their journey is about to be brutally curtailed. Holly has just landed her dream job, which should make life a lot easier than it has been, and Jeff is heading for his first ever work interview after months of unemployment. They end up sitting next to each other. Onboard customer service assistant Naz dreams of better things as he collects rubbish from the passengers. And among the others travelling are Nick with his young family who are driving him crazy; pensioner Meg and her partner setting off on a walking holiday and facing an uncertain future; Caroline, run ragged by the competing demands of her stroppy teenage children and her demented mother; and Rhona, unhappy at work and desperate to get home to her small daughter. And in the middle of the carriage sits Saheel, carrying a deadly rucksack ...

I had to leave writing this review for several days as I wanted to digest the impact that this made on me so that I could give a heartfelt review. I'm glad that I did this as the book was still as emotionally strong as it was when I finished it. Terrifyingly realistic and unfortunately breathtakingly plausible.

Essentially it's about 8 people who catch the 10.35 Manchester Piccadilly train bound for London Euston except that for me it was 9 people who boarded that train and I was the ninth passenger. You don't read this novel as a bystander you feel you are there taking that fateful journey with them and live to tell the tale that leaves the kind of stain that you will never get rid of. I know if I now make a train journey I will think of Naz, Holly, Jeff, Nick and Lisa with their two children, Meg, Caroline and Rhona along the way. There is also an interesting secondary character who is Saheel's (the terrorist) younger sister Kulsoom whose account that day and her actions back in Manchester does in some way humanise the terrorist for the reader and the impact it has on his own family.

It is a skillfully written stark tense novel that is topical of the day and a timely reminder of the world in which we live. As the 8 passengers are introduced to the reader they take on very real personas some I liked and some I wasn't too fond of. All the people travelling that day are taking that train for different reasons and we learn through the introductions just why they boarded that particular train again highlighting that sometimes things that happen are just fate and it reinforced that you can never know what's around the corner in life.

We are propelled through this novel at the speed of the train, moving ever closer to the inevitable as the train eats up the miles and our terrorist is becoming ever more jittery. Saheel is on the train with one intention and that is to blow it up along with himself for the sake of Allah and as the train enters a tunnel and slows down to stop he does just that. We know that some of the 8 people will not get out alive and the terrible injuries that the others suffer as a result of surviving are just horrific and once the bomb goes off that should be the end of this gripping novel but in a way it's just the beginning for those survivors who are facing a future that will be so different from their past.

It was a gripping read that sadly highlights our modern world and its' troubles in that terrorism is a daily reality and like it or not we are all part of that reality being caught up in a misguided ideology that has no winners in the end. Powerfully written but hard to read in parts as so poignant in places that the reality of the characters having to become collateral damage is hard to accept and too high a price to pay for these sense less acts of terrorism. I have to give this 5 stars for the beautifully crafted characterizations and of both points of view of the victims and the family of the terrorist - this novel will stay with me for a long time.

I would like to thank the publisher for sending this in exchange for an honest review.

Monday, 14 August 2017

Love at the Italian lake with extract

Sophia Bertoni discovers her boyfriend in bed with another woman, and realizes her life is going nowhere. Leaving her high-pressure job, she travels to Italy to stay with her grandmother while she figures out her next move. When Sophia –​ quite literally –​ bumps into devastatingly handsome Joe Lancaster her plans are turned upside down.

 As the two realize they’re both spending the summer in the same town, a love affair seems on the cards. But Sophia and Joe are both burdened by family secrets. Despite their attraction, will the sun set on Sophia and Joe’s romance – or will they find love at the Italian lake?


Sophia checked her handbag again for the fiftieth time. Passport, purse and tickets were there just as they had been five minutes ago. Her stomach churned with nerves and she took a few deep breaths to try to release some of the tension. It wasn’t that she was nervous about flying, though. More that she was going away in the hope that being in different surroundings would help her to find a new direction in life. The lack of a more solid plan than this was actually terrifying, because Sophia had always had focus, always known her goals. So the fear in her belly was fear of the unknown.

Her mother and Kaisha had insisted on taking her shopping the previous weekend and it had been a learning curve for the usually clothes-cautious Sophia. Kaisha had asked her how much she had to spend on her getaway wardrobe and when Sophia had told her, Kaisha’s face had lit up. The first purchase Kaisha had encouraged her to make, a pair of oversized Chanel sunglasses with gold rims, had made Sophia giggle. Her usual sunglasses were smaller and selected not to attract any attention. But the size of the Chanel ones alone drew attention to her head. However, when she put them on, she was pleased to find that they suited her face shape and her mother told her they made her look like Sophia Loren.

Something about that compliment sparked something in Sophia and, with her mother and sister-in-law as cheerleaders, she spent a very happy day trawling the shops and splurging on a whole new wardrobe. After being accustomed to wearing her low-key work uniform of suits and blouses, and weekend casuals in beige and cream, trying on clothes that were colourful, daring and with significant price tags, was extremely liberating.

She peered out of the airplane window at the clouds and her eyes watered. It was so bright out there. Hopefully, it was a sign… that her future would also be bright, or at least that the weather was nice in Italy. She pressed her nails into her palms; she was being silly, looking for signs. She just needed to relax and enjoy whatever lay ahead. Be… what was it they
called it… more accepting? More… positive? Even if her new wardrobe did make her feel like she was a bit out of her comfort zone.

Also at Kaisha’s insistence, there had been the almost total body waxing, including her eyebrows. Sophia usually gave her legs and underarms a quick swipe over with a razor but when Kaisha had seen Sophia’s legs in the changing room, she’d immediately dragged Sophia off for emergency waxing. It had hurt like hell and Sophia swore she’d never put her flesh through such agony again. But afterwards, she did have to admit that her skin was extraordinarily smooth. And she liked the way that her new eyebrows framed her eyes so neatly. She’d been worried she’d end up looking completely surprised but the beautician had reassured her that she knew what she was doing. When it had come to permanent makeup though Sophia had refused, horrified at the idea – no matter how good Kaisha claimed permanent eyeliner was. They had reached a compromise by Sophia allowing herself to be talked into buying buy an extra three bikinis and her mother had been delighted.

Saying goodbye to her parents at the airport had been difficult, especially seeing the conflicting emotions war in her mother’s eyes because Sophia was going to visit her own mother. Sophia hadn’t seen her Italian nonna in about ten years. Her parents didn’t visit as often as they’d have liked because of the restaurant, but Sophia’s mother assured her that Nonna Spinoli was as fit and sprightly as ever. She refused to get involved in social media, but telephoned Sophia’s mother every week without fail to fill her in on the ins and outs of her life and those of her friends in the pretty town of Malcesine. What Sophia could recall of her grandmother was a strong dark-haired woman with a personality that filled every room she entered. Even as a child, Sophia had sensed that Nonna Spinoli’s presence had a significant impact upon her mother, and that her mother changed when Nonna was around. 

It was as if she shrunk like a flower in the too-hot sun, as if Nonna shone brightly enough for
the two of them. Perhaps that was another reason why her mother didn’t try to get over to Italy more often; she didn’t like to lose her identity as she seemed to around Nonna Spinoli.
Sophia’s ears popped and she realized that the plane had begun its descent. She held tightly onto her handbag and swallowed hard.

‘First time in Italy?’ the woman sat next to her asked, eyeing Sophia’s white knuckles.

‘No but I haven’t been out here for a while.’

The woman, who appeared to be about the same age as Sophia, nodded. ‘It’s beautiful. You’ll love it.’

‘I hope so.’

‘It’s the land of love and dreams.’ The woman smiled broadly. ‘You’ll find whatever it is you’re searching for here.’

About the Author :
Darcie Boleyn has a huge heart and is a real softy. She never fails to cry at books and movies, whether the ending is happy or not. Darcie is in possession of an overactive imagination that often keeps her awake at night. Darcie fell in love in New York, got married in the snow, rescues uncoordinated greyhounds and can usually be found reading or typing away on her laptop.

Friday, 11 August 2017

The Second Love of My Life by Victoria Walters

The Second Love of My LifeThe Second Love of My Life by Victoria Walters
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

In the Cornish town of Talting, everyone is famous for something.

Until recently Rose was known for many things: her infectious positivity; her unique artistic talent; and her devotion to childhood sweetheart Lucas.

But two years ago that changed in one unthinkable moment. Now, Rose is known for being the young woman who became a widow aged just twenty-four.

Though Rose knows that life must go on, the thought of carving out a new future for herself is one she can barely entertain. Until a newcomer, Robert, arrives in Talting for the summer...

Can Rose allow herself the chance to love again?

Get lost in Victoria Walters' immensely touching debut novel, and discover a world that will capture your imagination and heart.

Not a great novel from my point of view. Its about a woman called Rose who loses the love of her life Lucas in an accident. She know that she must go on but she's not sure she knows how. It is a typical fairy story with fairly tangible characters and a somewhat emotionally charged story line but it didn't really gel with me.

It was very predictable and lacked substance with no curve balls to keep the interest going. I did get a bit bored and confess to having skim read a lot of the book looking for something exciting to happen but it didn't.

I suppose it is an adequate holiday read but nothing exceptional and instantly forgettable. Sorry I can only give this 2 star rating.

I would like to thank the publisher for sending this in exchange for an honest review.

Wednesday, 9 August 2017

The Silent Hours by Cesca Major

The Silent HoursThe Silent Hours by Cesca Major
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

An epic, sweeping tale set in wartime France, The Silent Hours follows three people whose lives are bound together, before war tears them apart:

Adeline, a mute who takes refuge in a convent, haunted by memories of her past;

Sebastian, a young Jewish banker whose love for the beautiful Isabelle will change the course of his life dramatically;

Tristin, a nine-year-old boy, whose family moves from Paris to settle in a village that is seemingly untouched by war.

Beautifully wrought, utterly compelling and with a shocking true story at its core, The Silent Hours is an unforgettable portrayal of love and loss.

Based on a true story and set in war torn France this story is told through multiple viewpoints. Beginning in the 1950's it follows three people whose lives are bound together ; Adeline a mute who has taken refuge in a convent; Sebastian a Jewish banker who is desperately in love with Isabelle, and Tristan a nine year old boy who moves to the country from Paris and who can't understand why some of his classmates disappear. All these characters have through one reason or another found themselves in the small village of Oradour-sur-Glane in south west France.

Isabelle is waiting for her brother Paul to come home from the war and they write letters to each other while he is held prisoner when he is captured. She meets the young Sebastian and they fall in love. Tristan and his family also flee Paris to the relative safety of this small village and this is where he learns the horrors of war and finally grows up. The skillful writing uncovers the dreadful tragedies and hardships that this small village suffered during the war years and the knowledge that 642 men, women and children were massacred by Nazi soldiers really did happen leaves a lasting impact on the reader.

A powerful and moving account of a historical event bought back to life with vivid descriptions and often hard to read accounts of brutality at the hands of the Nazis. Has to have 5 stars

I would like to thank the publisher for sending this in exchange for an honest review.

Monday, 7 August 2017

The Dead Ground by Claire McGowan

The Dead Ground (Paula McGuire, #2)The Dead Ground by Claire McGowan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Stolen. Missing. Dead...

Forensic psychologist Paula Maguire, already wrestling with the hardest decision of her life, is forced to put her own problems on hold when she's asked to help find a baby taken from a local hospital.

Then the brutal, ritualistic murder of a woman found lying on a remote stone circle indicates a connection to the kidnapping and Paula knows that they will have to move fast if they are to find the person responsible.

When another child is taken and a pregnant woman goes missing, Paula finds herself caught up in a deadly hunt for a killer determined to leave no trace, and discovers every decision she makes really is a matter of life and death...

No one is safe from the killer that waits at the dead ground.

Clever and compelling story line with enough twists and turns to keep you going to the end. This had a reasonably good pace and believable characters, peppered with Irish charm it made this crime thriller an absorbing read. The novel was billed as the last in the series and I had not read the previous two but felt that this was easily able to be a stand alone book as the characters were easy to identify with. Set in Ballyterrin on the Irish border Paula McGuire is a forensic psychologist the daughter of an ex policeman father who is living back home and working on a stolen baby case. Paula is still very much haunted by the disappearance of her own mother when she was 13 and at 30 she is still unable to form lasting relationships because of it.

Paula is a likeable character with a strength and vulnerability that make her instantly real. A modern novel, it makes full use of technology and social media platforms which will connect with a young readership. It was a good plot with enough twists to keep the interest alive until the reveal. A well deserved 4 stars for this entertaining novel and I have made a mental note to look out for Claire McGowan's next novel.

I would like to thank the publisher for sending this in exchange for an honest review.

Saturday, 5 August 2017

#BigLittleLiesParty 31st July 2017

On Monday 31st of July I was lucky enough to be invited to the #BigLittleLiesParty by @HBO_UK. 

When I received the invitation I was really excited as this was going to be an event I could actually attend! Working as a teacher in a school it is very difficult for me to actually do anything during the week, unless the events are held at the weekend or during the school holidays I have to turn them down. 

Curious House garden, ready for yoga. 
Getting up relatively early for a Monday morning during the holiday, I made my way to the train station and headed up to London for the #BigLittleLiesParty launch, After wandering around a little lost once I got off the train I met Eliza from @relentromance we went into the event together and pretty much became firm friends 😊

Eliza and me just before Yoga
On arrival at Curious House, we were greeted by Juliana, who had organised the event and headed off to get changed ready for a morning filled of yoga with @kmyogakundalini. Looking out to the garden we were amazed at how beautiful the house and garden was. We were so lucky as the previous days were awful with torrential rain, this was the first nicest day we had, had in a while. 

I was a little apprehensive about the yoga, I had only done it once before and I wasn't very good at it, however Kathryn made it easy, there was lots of time to really think while stretching and it really helped to relax me. We had about an hour and a half of yoga, and while this sounds like a long time it flew by. I must admit though for a few days afterwards I really ached in places, I could feel where I had been stretching. 
Photo taken by Juliana
After yoga we had a quick bread, I headed off to get changed and grabbed a bottle of water before heading into the private screening of the first episode of Big Little Lies. I had already seen this episode, I watched it on sky when it very first came out, I never actually got round to watching the rest of them. (They were all stored up on my sky box to watch!) 

The screening of Big Little Lies was amazing, I really enjoyed watching the episode and to be honest I couldn't remember what happened in the episode anyway so it was like watching it for the first time. As soon as it finished I couldn't wait to get home and continue the series to binge watch it! 

When the episode finished we also watched behind the scenes footage about the characters, that was also interesting to watch. 

When we returned back to the kitchen there was an amazing spread of food ready for us, Kathryn gave us a quick healthy eating tips and reasons for eating certain foods, which was really interesting and made me look at certain foods differently now. The food was by Ottolenghi and we also had some organic wine courtesy of The Organic Wine Club.

I learnt alot about Organic wine and after tasting it would recommend it, after the event I actually popped out and grabbed a bottle of organic wine from the supermarket. Obviously this was not as good as the wine I tried at the event, however I would go to say I would only drink organic wine now. That morning after heady feel? Not present when drinking organic! 

After lunch we had some time to sit in the garden and enjoy each others company before we had a treatment of our choice.  I decided to choose a manicure, I am going on holiday next week and wanted to get my nails done for then. I could have chosen from a pedicure, manicure or massage. 

Milkbeautymaid were the people who arrived to give us our treatments. After chatting to my beautician and hearing about the company she works for I think it is amazing and if I lived in London I would certainly use them. They would be great for hen parties/baby showers or even for a girly night out! They arrive at your house/venue with all the equipment they need and provide treatments for you there. 

I decided to go for a pink colour, which is nice and summery and should go with everything!

Curious House Basement Bar
After that the event was drawing to a close and I wanted to get back before rush hour on the train, I thanked Summer (owner of Curious House) and Juliana for inviting me and headed back to the station with Eliza. As we were leaving Juliana gave us a goody bag each to take away with us. 

I had an absolute amazing day, it was all really well organised, in a stunning location and full of great company. 

After reflecting on the day I realise how it all linked and the fact it was so well thought out. In Big Little Lies the women go to yoga classes, they do seem to drink wine (a lot) and they eat healthily. I really enjoyed my time and feel incredibly lucky to have had the opportunity to attend. 

Once again I would like to thank Juliana and everyone else involved to provide an amazing launch party for Big Little Lies. If you haven't read the book or seen the series, what are you waiting for? 

Goody Bag