Tuesday, 21 October 2014

BOOK REVIEW: The Mysterious Affair at Castaway House by Stephanie Lam

It's 1965 and eighteen year old Rosie Churchill has run away to the beautiful  but run-down Castaway House in the sea-side town of Helmstone. But when she uncovers a scandal locked away in the walls of the old house, she comes to realise that neither her own troubled past nor that of the house will stay buried for long...
In 1924 fresh faced Robert Carver comes to Castaway House to spend a languid Summer in the company of his much wealthier cousin, Alec Bray. But the Brays are a damaged family, with damaging secrets. And little does Robert know that his world is about to change forever.
As Rosie begins to learn more about Robert, the further she is drawn into the mysterious history of the house, and their stories, old and new entwine.

Publisher: Penguin
Pages: 504

The Mysterious Affair at Castaway House is Stephanie Lam's first book and it is a corker. At 504 pages, it is a book that you can really get your teeth into; the writing is extremely alluring and I was quickly engrossed in the events at Castaway House.
Stephanie Lam flits between the two main characters, Rosie Churchill in 1965 and Robert Carver in 1924. I really enjoyed having both a male and female narrator; it very clearly defined the two time periods of the book.
Rosie has run away from home and is hiding away in Castaway House. The house has been converted into now decaying flats but Rosie can see how beautiful the house must have been. Rosie has several secrets of her own but she discovers that her new home has many skeletons in the cupboard. As she begins investigating, Rosie uncovers scandals and secrets from the past that are still affecting those in the present.
Robert Carver spent the Summer of 1924 at Castaway House. It belonged to his wealthy cousin Alec Bray and Robert is looking forward to spending time with Alec and taking advantage of the sea air. However, upon his arrival, Robert is shocked to discover that Alec has taken a wife. Clara Bray is a glamorous and mysterious character. She has brought many secrets to the house and Castaway seems to be full of scandal and damaged relationships. Robert's Summer at Castaway House is not what he expected at all and it will alter his future forever,
The Mysterious Affair at Castaway House is an enticing andMy Cousin Rachel by Daphne Du Maurier on several occasions.
mysterious read. Although the story is different, I felt that it reminded me of
I found both parts of the story interesting and I felt that Stephanie Lam tied them together very well. She lays down very subtle clues throughout the story and I enjoyed working out what had happened and how the characters were linked. Not that this book is predictable, the twists at the end took me completely by surprise and provided an excellent ending.
I very much hope that Stephanie Lam will write more books and I urge you to read her brilliant debut.

Many thanks to Katie at Penguin for sending me a review copy, The Mysterious Affair at Castaway House is out now. 

Friday, 17 October 2014

Fabulous Fridays: Chick Lit

I have been thinking about this post for a while but have been putting it off as I hate, hate, hate the term Chick lit! I think it has far too many derogatory connotations yet it is one of my favourite genres to read. So off I went to get a definition of what Chick Lit is and I found this:

Chick Lit is genre fiction which addresses issues of modern womanhood...

This still isn't great as it still sounds a bit feminist and bra burning to me but I interpret it as books about women! I am a woman and therefore it is likely that I am going to enjoy reading books about other women, I hold my hands up to the fact that I very rarely read books with a male lead character or written by a man. I think this is a subconscious choice, I do have a few male authors who I enjoy but it is mainly books by female authors sitting on my TBR pile.

So sorry for the preamble but here is a list of some of my favourite chick-lit books and inadvertently this list also includes all of my favourite chick-lit authors. These are the writers I go to when I want a great story, likeable characters, a bit of drama and the odd happy ending. These are the authors that I get excited about having a new book out as I just know that I am guaranteed a treat! 

I apologise right now if you don't agree with my definition of Chick Lit but I hope that some of these books might be of interest to you, just click on the title to read my review!

Have a lovely weekend

Dot
xxx 

The Teashop on the Corner by Milly Johnson (Simon & Schuster, 492 pages) Life is full of second chances...if only you keep your heart open for them.
Spring Hill Square is a pretty sanctuary away from the bustle of everyday life. And at its centre is Leni Merryman's Teashop on the Corner, a place where three people will find a friend to lean on.
Carla Pride has just discovered that her late husband Martin was not who she thought he was. But now she must learn to put her marriage behind her and move forward.
Molly Jones' ex-husband Harvey has reappeared in her life after many years, wanting to put right the wrongs of the past before it's too late.
And Will Linton's business has gone bust and his wife has left him to pick up the pieces. Now he needs to gather the strength to start again.
Can all three find the comfort they are looking for in The Teashop on the Corner? And as their hearts are slowly mended by Leni, can they return the favour when she needs in the most?

Thirteen Weddings by Paige Toon (Simon & Schuster, 422 pages) Sometimes you just have to step out of the light to see clearly again...
Bronte never expected to see Alex after their one night together, but she never stopped thinking of him. So when she arrives at work one day to find that Alex is a new colleague, she is secretly thrilled. The only problem is that Alex is now engaged to the girl he was on a break from the night they met.
Determined to move on, Bronte becomes a part-time wedding photographer, alongside her day job. Surrounded by loving couples, tearful bridesmaids, mischievous  pageboys and interfering mother-in-laws, she struggles through wedding after wedding whilst he heart is slowly torn apart.
As Alex's own wedding day draws ever nearer, their chemistry becomes harder to ignore. Bronte must decide whether to fight for the man she loves, or to let him go forever. 

You're The One That I Want by Giovanna Fletcher (Penguin, 400 pages) Maddy, Ben and Robert have been inseparable since they met in the school playground. They've stuck together through thick and thin, feeling safe in the knowledge that they have each other.
So when Ben falls hopelessly in love with Maddy, he decides to keep it quiet for the sake of their friendship. Until Robert swoops in and kisses Maddy- irrevocably fracturing things between them as the kiss turns to love.
But when Robert and Maddy's love turns sour, can Ben continue to say nothing? And can Maddy choose between her two best friends?

Take a Look at Me Now by Miranda Dickinson (Avon, 416 pages) When Nell's on-off boyfriend Aidan calls her into his office, the last thing she expects is to lose her job. Heartbroken and unemployed, she makes a radical decision to blow her redundancy cheque and escape to San Francisco. But is the glamour of the city too good to be true? And can Nell leave her past behind?

A Cottage by the Sea by Carole Matthews (Sphere, 448 pages) Grace had always been best friends with Ella and Flick. The late night chats, shared heartaches and good times have created a bond that has stood the test of time.
When Ella invites them to stay for a week in her cottage in South Wales, Grace jumps at the chance to see her old friends. She also hopes that the change of scenery will help her reconnect with her distant husband.
Then Flick arrives: lovable, bubbly, incorrigible Flick, accompanied by the handsome and charming Noah.
This is going to be one week that will change all of their lives forever...

The Mystery of Mercy Close by Marian Keyes (Penguin, 624 pages) Helen Walsh doesn't believe in fear- it's just a thing invented by man to get all the money and good  jobs- and yet she's sinking . Her work as a private investigator has dried up, her flat has been repossessed and now some old demons have resurfaced.
Not least in the form of her charming but dodgy ex-boyfriend Jay Parker, who shows up with a missing person case/ Money is tight- so tight Helen's had to move back with her elderly parents- and Jay is awash with cash. The missing person is Wayne Diffney, the 'wacky one' from boyband Laddz.
He's vanished from his house in Mercy Close and it's vital that he's found- Laddz have a sell-out comeback gig in five days time.
Things ended messily with Jay. And she's never going back there. Besides she has a new boyfriend now, the very sexy detective Artie Devlin and it's all going well, even though his ex-wife isn't quite 'ex' enough and his teenage son hates her. But the reappearance of Jay is stirring up all kinds of stuff she thought she'd left behind.
Playing by her own rules, Helen is drawn into a dark and glamorous world, where her worst enemy is her own head and where increasingly she feels connected to Wayne, a man she's never even met. 

To The Moon and Back by Jill Mansell (Headline, 416 pages) When Ellie Kendall loses her husband Jamie in an accident she feels her world has come to an end. But life has to go on and eventually she's ready for a new start- at work, that is. She definitely doesn't need a new man, not while she has a certain secret visitor to keep her company...
Entrepreneur Zack McLaren seems to have it all, but the girl he can't stop thinking about won't give him a second glance. Why can't she pay him the kind of attention she lavishes on Elmo, his time share dog?
Having moved  to an exclusive flat in North London, Ellie becomes friendly with neighbour Roo who's harbouring a secret of her own. Between them, can both girls sort out their lives? Guilt is a powerful emotion, but a lot can happen in a year in Primrose Hill...

Monday, 13 October 2014

BOOK REVIEW: Trust In Me by Sophie McKenzie

When friends tell lies, who can you trust?
Julia has always been the friend that Livy turns to when life is difficult. United eighteen years ago by grief at the brutal murder of Livy's sister, Kara, they've always told each other everything  or so Livy thought.
When a fresh tragedy strikes, Livy cannot accept what Julia is supposed to have done. But little does she realise that digging into her best friend's private life will tear the very fabric of her own existence apart. 

Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Pages: 440 

This book was so good! I read it in just two days, the story was so compelling that I didn't want to put it down. Trust In Me is the first book I have read by Sophie McKenzie but I have already ordered her first as I think she is a very talented thriller writer.
McKenzie does not waste any time in ra
mping up the tension. Within the first few chapters Livy has discovered her friend Julia's body. It very much looks as though she committed suicide but Livy will not accept this. Brought together by Livy's sister's murder, they have been incredibly close over the years, sharing everything, or so Livy thought. As Livy begins looking for answers about Julia's death, she discovers that her friend had many secrets. These secrets are related to Livy's past and her sister's murderer but they have dire consequences in the present, especially for herself and her beloved family.
Trust In Me had me guessing throughout. Sophie McKenzie is simply brilliant at throwing in red herrings, there were so many times when just one word would convince me that I had worked it all out, only to discover that I was nowhere near.
The ending of this book was terrifying and so well written , the last few chapters kept me up very late as I just wasn't prepared to go to sleep without knowing the conclusion.
Trust In Me is thriller writing at its best, sharp, clever and gripping, you need to read this book.

Many thanks to Jamie at Simon & Schuster for sending me a review copy, Trust In Me is out now. 

Sunday, 12 October 2014

BLOG TOUR: Why did I decide to set this part of the narrative here?’ by Rachel Hore

I am pleased to host Rachel Hore on the latest stop of her blog tour today. Her latest book A Week In Paris is out now, here's the blurb and my review will be coming soon! 

The streets of Paris hide a dark past…
September, 1937. Kitty Travers enrols at the Conservatoire on the banks of the Seine to pursue her dream of becoming a concert pianist. But then war breaks out and the city of light falls into shadow.Nearly twenty-five years later, Fay Knox, a talented young violinist, visits Paris on tour with her orchestra. She barely knows the city, so why does it feel so familiar? Soon touches of memory become something stronger, and she realises her connection with these streets runs deeper than she ever expected.As Fay traces the past, with only an address in an old rucksack to help her, she discovers dark secrets hidden years ago, secrets that cause her to question who she is and where she belongs…
A compelling story of war, secrets, family and enduring love.
Sounds good doesn't it? Below is a piece written by Rachel Hore discussing her choice of setting:

 After Kitty and Gene returned from their honeymoon in the south of France early in 1938, they moved into an apartment on the sixth floor of a residential block in St Germain in the 6th Arrondisement, on the left bank of the Seine.  Their street, Rue des Palmes des Martyrs, you will not find on any real map, but I imagined it as a typical quiet sidestreet of the neighbourhood, a mixture of apartments and local shops, a street that gets the sun at certain times of day, where people greet neighbours and market stall-holders, but otherwise tend to keep themselves to themselves.  I liked the thought of the Knox family living high up, so that they could hear the whistling of the swallows diving for insects in the summer air, and look down behind the building to a tranquil courtyard with an old chestnut tree.  Around the corner was the little atelier where Eugene bought a beautiful walnut piano for his bride.
St Germain, like many parts of Paris, is full of peaceful little courtyards and squares that many visitors to the city never see. Being on the edge of the student quarter it has its Bohemian side, but mostly it’s very respectable.  Kitty and Gene decided to live there because they already knew the area and felt comfortable in it.  Their apartment was also conveniently near where M. Deschamps, Kitty’s teacher, lived and not far from Kitty’s friends at the Convent.  It was a bit more of a journey for her to attend the Conservatoire on the Right Bank, and Gene had to take the Métro out west to the American Hospital, but these things were manageable.
One of the main landmarks of the area remains the Romanesque tower of the church of St Germain-des-Prés, once part of a rural abbey.  It is the oldest church in Paris, founded in 558 AD and named after a bishop who was buried there.  Across the street is the café Les Deux Magots, famous as the favourite watering hole of the Existentialist philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre, feminist writer Simone de Beauvoir and their circle, but that was after Kitty and Gene’s time. It is now an over-priced tourist spot.
In the 19th century, St Germain was an artists’ quarter.  Corot and Fantin-Latour both had studios in the Rue des Beaux Arts.  Around the corner from St Germain-des-Prés in the lovely leafy Place de Furstenberg, Delacroix lived and worked.  The Musée d’Orsay by the river that today houses some of their paintings was a mainline train station in Kitty and Gene’s day.
There are several small pretty parks in this area. In any of them I can imagine Kitty and little Fay meeting Lili and her charge Joséphine.  They might have also visited the spacious Luxembourg Gardens down the road, of which Victor Hugo once said, ‘Whoever is there breathes happiness.’

Many thanks to Rachel Hore for writing this piece and to Hayley at Simon & Schuster for organising the tour. Check out the tour information on the side to see where to go next. 

Friday, 10 October 2014

Fabulous Fridays

Okay, I know it's late but it's still Friday so here's this week's Fabulous Friday post! I've gone for something a little different this week as I realised that it's not actually that long until Christmas which is completely terrifying as I have no ideas for what to buy people what so ever! However, I did have a little look at some things that I might like and I realised that the majority of items linked to books in some way so I thought I would do a list this week of gifts you could buy for your book loving friends (or yourself) 

If you click on the product name then it will take you to the website where you can purchase them! I am in no way endorsing any of these sites, these are just the ones that came up in my Google search. 

Have a good weekend

Dot
xx

First up is this lovely set of classic book cover coasters, I am definitely putting these on my wish list.

If you are anything like me then you will have A LOT of notebooks, I get a little bit twitchy if I only have one spare one on my desk! This one can be personalised for all your bookish notes


I think that I am going to have to get this Charlotte's Web t-shirt for Darcey, they do it in adult sizes too though if you are particularly taken by it!



The Folio Society produce some absolutely stunning books, I think they are so lovely as gifts, below is one of my favourites but it's worth looking at the website as there are so many to choose from. They also do children's books which I think are a very special gift to give at any time. 

1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die is a brilliant gift for a book lover, someone bought me an edition a few years ago and I still dip in and out of it if I am looking for some reading inspiration.

I get told off for constantly buying new mugs and Dr S now operates a strict 'one in one out' policy so now I have to get my kicks by buying them for other people. This book worm one is lovely


Finally, I have a very boring black leather cover on my Kindle so I think I shall be dropping some hints about one of these for Christmas!


I hope that you like some of these ideas and that they may kick start your Christmas shopping. I'll be back next week with some book ideas!







Sunday, 5 October 2014

BOOK REVIEW: The Little Shop of Hopes and Dreams by Fiona Harper

Nicole Harrison is planning the proposal of the century. Too bad it's not her own...
Nicole, a born organiser and true romantic, thinks she's created the perfect job at Hope & Dreams proposal agency, staging YouTube worthy proposals. That is, until she's hired to plan a proposal by gorgeous photographer Alex Black's girlfriend.
Alex is the New Year's kiss that Nicole hasn't been able to forget- and now she's planning his wedding to someone else. But if she lets herself fall for Alex's charms, her reputation and business will be ruined before they've even got off the ground! Suddenly the girl who's always prepared is at a loss...and falling head over heels.
They say that life's what happens when you're busy making other plans. But what about love?

Publisher: Harlequin
Pages: 396

Fiona Harper is a new author for me but I did enjoy her latest release, The Little Shop of Hopes and Dreams. 
Nicole Harrison has big ambitions which she is channeling into her own business, Hopes & Dreams proposal agency. Helped by her friends Peggy and Mia, Nicole organised show stopping proposals that will be talked about for years. Nicole is tired of being the underdog and the business is her chance to be the person she has always wanted to be. The agency gets its big break when Saffron Wolden-Barnes, society It-Girl, walks in one day to ask them to organise a proposal to her photographer boyfriend Alex Black. Nicole can't believe her luck and sets out to meet Alex in the guise of a journalist in order to learn more about him so that she can arrange the perfect proposal. However when they come face to face, Nicole is shocked to discover that Alex is her New Year's Eve kiss. A man she left in a nightclub before finding out his name but a man that she has thought about every day since. Nicole has feelings for this man but if she messes up Saffron's proposal then she knows her business will be over. Should she follow her business head or her heart?
The Little Shop of Hopes & Dreams is a lovely, easy, romantic read. I liked the characters, especially Alex and whilst I felt sorry for Saffron; I ultimately wanted Nicole to find happiness. The proposal agency is a great idea and it allowed for a lot of humour to be injected  into the book via various situations.
Fiona Harper writes with an abundance of warmth and wit, I would recommend this book.

Many thanks to Cara at Harlequin for sending me a review copy of this book. 

Monday, 29 September 2014

BOOK REVIEW: The House We Grew Up In by Lisa Jewell

When a tragedy breaks a family apart, what can bring it together?
The Birds seem to be a perfect family: mother, father, four children, a picture-book cottage in the country.
But when something happens one Easter weekend, it is so unexpected, so devastating that no one can talk about it.
The family shatters, seemingly forever.
Until they are forced to return to the house they grew up in. And to confront what really took place all those years ago. 

Publisher: Atria Books

My lovely friend Kim at Still Reading recommended  this book to me and she had no idea that I was a huge Lisa Jewell fan. This book for me was both heartbreaking and mesmerising. Lisa Jewell weaves a story that is very difficult to read at times but the characters were so compelling and realistic that I couldn't put it down.
The Bird family has Loreli as its matriarch and she has always been a little eccentric and a compulsive hoarder. When tragedy strikes the Bird family, Loreli's eccentricities go into overdrive until there is literally no room in the house for anyone but her. She has built new walls and corridors from the items she has hoarded. The image of this ethereal woman all alone, estranged from her family is utterly devastating. Lisa Jewell shows the reader how the situation has arisen and how family secrets can have truly awful consequences.
The book is mainly told from the children's points of view and jumps back and forth between the past and present. Megan, Beth,, Rory and Rhys were close as young children, all connected by their mother, yet they are virtually strangers now; almost driven away by the woman who gave life to them.
The hoarding aspect of the book was fascinating; I have watched several programmes about this obsession and I felt that Lisa Jewell showed the devastation it can cause and the many reasons behind it. The fact that Loreli's house is a beautiful cottage in the Cotswolds almost compounds the damage. Through her hoarding she gradually loses the only thing she has left, her beautiful home, the last member of her family.
The House We Grew Up In is a thought-provoking and poignant read. I felt as though it was a lot darker than Lisa Jewell's previous books. It felt a little more grown up and personally I am a big fan of this new direction in her writing.
I can't recommend this book enough but you will definitely need to set aside some time as you won't be able to put it down.

Many thanks to Atria Books for allowing me to read a review copy via Netgalley.

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