Book Review: Breakfast at Darcy's by Ali McNamara

When Darcy McCall loses her beloved Aunt Molly, she doesn't expect any sort of inheritance- let alone a small island! Located off the west coast of Ireland, Tara hasn't been lived on for years, but according to Molly's will, Darcy must stay there for twelve months in order to fully inherit. It's a big shock. And she's even more shocked to hear she needs to persuade a village full of people to settle there too.
Darcy must leave behind her independent city life and swap stylish heels for muddy wellies. Between sorting everything from the plumbing to the pub, she meets confident, charming Conor and sensible, stubborn Dermot but who will make her feel really at home?
I didn't get chance to read Ali McNamara's first book but my sister did and she loved it so I was really looking forward to trying Breakfast at Darcy's. My sister obviously has very good taste in books as Ali McNamara is brilliant and Breakfast at Darcy's is a great read.
I loved the whole idea of the book and I think the author has been very clever. All of the characters have been taken out of their comfort zones when they are put on the island and they all change so much during the book; obviously this makes for very entertaining reading. Darcy McCall is central to it all, she has to make Tara work and get everyone to pull together even though she has only just met most of the characters. Darcy is particularly likable and I enjoyed reading about what she was getting up to. Her relationships with Conor and Dermot add a romantic side to the book and there are quite a few surprises towards the end.
Ali McNamara's writing is extremely witty, life on Tara gives the reader many funny moments and although the book is set on a tiny remote island, the author makes sure that there is plenty going on to interest the reader.
My only gripe with this book has nothing to do with the writing; it's the front cover that I don't understand. Whilst it is lovely looking, I don't think it gives the reader any idea of what this book is about. This might just  be me though and I didn't have any issues with the book itself.
I am going to have to get Ali McNamara's first book now and I enjoyed this one so much, I wonder what she will write next?

Dot Scribbles Rating 4.5/5

Many thanks to the lovely people at Sphere for sending me a copy of Breakfast at Darcy's, it is available now.


Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas everyone! Hope that your day is filled with all things festive and that hopefully there are one or two books waiting under the tree!


Book Review: Miracle on Regent Street by Ali Harris

For the past two years, Evie Taylor has lived an invisible existence in London, a city she hoped would bring sparkle to her life. But all that is about to change. For winter has brought a flurry of snow and unexpected possibilities. Hidden away in the basement of Hardy's- once London's most elegant department store- Evie manages the stockroom of a shop whose glory days have long since passed.
When Evie overhears that Hardy's is at risk of being sold, she secretly hatches a plan. If she can reverse the store's fortunes by December 26th- three weeks away and then transform it into a magical destination once again, she might just be able to save it. But she's going to need every ounce of talent and determination she has, in fact, she's going to need a miracle.
This book is simply magical! I started in yesterday and finished it first thing this morning, I just didn't want to put it down.
Ali Harris has written a wonderful story about love, family, loyalty, friendship and most importantly following your dreams. Evie Taylor is instantly likeable; she has worked in the stockroom of Hardy's for more than two years but most of the staff don't even know her real name. This all changes when Evie learns that Hardy's is under threat. She comes up with a plan to save the store but to do this she is going to have to leave the stockroom and show everyone what she's really made of.
Throw into the mix Joel, the gorgeous American who has come to review Hardy's accounts; Sam the delivery guy who would perhaps like to more than good friends; her sister who is convinced that her husband is having an affair and a father that Evie feels she will never please. There are so many lovely characters in this book, especially those who work in the store; it is great to see how Evie brings them all together.
Hardy's is at the centre of the book and I loved imagining how it would look as Evie worked her magic. I couldn't help thinking that this book would make a great Christmas film; it's such a heart-warming story with lots of magical elements.
I can't recommend this book enough, Ali Harris's writing is superb. Don't let the book's festive theme put you off reading it in the new year. Reading it at Christmas time is a bonus but it would still be a great read at any time of the year. I was also very excited to read that Ali has a new book out in 2010 called The First Last Kiss, if it is anywhere near as good as this one then we are in for a treat.

Dot Scribbles Rating 5/5

Many thanks to Simon and Schuster for sending me a copy of this book to review, it is available now.


Book Review: Postcards from the Heart by Ella Griffin

Saffy has a dream job at a top Dublin ad agency. She's got her high-maintenance purple-boot-wearing mother at a safe distance. And she thinks her actor boyfriend Greg- the next Colin Farrell is going to propose.
Conor worships the beautiful Jess. But after seven years and twins, she still won't marry him. He spends his days teaching terrifying teenager and his nights writing the book he hopes will change everything- including her mind.
But happy endings are playing very hard to get...
Postcards from the Heart is one of my favourite books of 2011. Marian Keyes describes Ella Griffin as a 'fresh, funny voice' and I think she is spot in, I think Ella Griffin will be an author to watch out for in 2012!
The book revolves around Saffy and her relationship with Greg and then the relationship of Conor and Jess. Saffy would like nothing more than for her actor boyfriend Greg to propose but things don't go to plan and Saffy's life is turned upside down.
Conor and Jess are settled with their twins but Connor has his sights set on more. He would love for Jess to be his wife but she is having none of it. Writing by night and teaching by day, Conor is chasing his dream of being a published author. However, his dreams are not shared by all of those around him and he is running out of the effort needed to convince them.
I think that Postcards from the Heart has a great balance of humour and poignancy. I had several laugh out loud moments but also felt that the characters had enough depth for me to want to invest my emotions in them.
Of the two female characters, I liked Saffy a lot more than Jess. I felt that Jess was quite selfish and at times I was questioning why Conor thought she was so wonderful. I think this just added to my enjoyment of the book though as predictable, likable characters can become a little boring.
I think that Ella Griffin has written a really lovely book that explores different types of relationships including those between friends also those between parents and their children. There was a lot going on in the book but I felt that the author tied the sub-plots together very well. The different story lines meant that the books had a really good pace; I always wanted to read on to the next chapter in order to find out what was going to happen next.
I am very excited by Ella Griffin's writing. I hope that she has many more books to offer in the future as I know I would definitely  buy them.

Dot Scribbles Rating 4.5/5

Many thanks to Ella for sending me a copy of her book  to review, Postcards from the Heart is published by Orion and is available now.


Book Review: Trapped by Michael Northrop

The day the blizzard started, no one knew that it was going to keep snowing for a week. That for those in its path, it would become not just a matter of keeping warm, but of staying alive.
Scotty and his friends are among the last seven kids at their high school waiting to get picked up that day and they soon realise that no one is coming to get them. Still, it doesn't seem so bad to spend the night at school, especially when Krista and Julie are sleeping just down the hall.
But then the power goes out, then the heat. The pipes freeze and the roof shudders. As the days add up the snow piles higher and the empty halls grow colder and darker, the mounting pressure forces a devastating decision. 
I really liked the sound of this book and thought that the striking simplicity of the cover was excellent too. Scotty and his friends are the last seven kids left at the school. The rest of the kids went home when the blizzard started but this lot are still waiting for someone to come and get them. At first it seems like a big adventure, a bit of fun, but the snow gradually gets higher and higher, then the lights and the heat go out. What of no one is coming, how long can they really last in the freezing cold conditions?
I think that Michael Northrop's idea for this YA book is excellent and in the main, I really enjoyed reading it. Northrop really captures the many different emotions, the initial excitement and then the fear begins to kick in. The only thing that I struggled with was the pace, there were a few parts in the book where hardly anything happened and then the pace would suddenly pick up again. I felt that the author was extremely good at giving the reader the feeling of being trapped; the descriptions of the snow building up and taking the light with it really creeped me out.
Overall, I think this book was very good and YA readers will love it. It's one of those books that puts you in a situation and makes you wonder how you would handle it, how would you survive? It's perfect for this time of year so curl up and give it a go.

Dot Scribbles Rating: 3.5/5

Many thanks to Atom for sending me a copy of this book to review, Trapped is published on December 22nd.


New to Dot Scribbles Shelves

There have been some lovely books dropping through the letter box over the last couple of weeks. I have read 87 books so far this year and was hoping to get to 100 so we shall have to see! Some of these will hopefully help me on my way:

Trapped by Michael Northrop (Atom, 22nd December) The day the blizzard started, no one knew that it was going to keep snowing for a week. Scott and his friends are among the last seven kids at their school waiting to get picked up that day and they soon realize that no one is coming for them. Still, it doesn't seem so bad to spend the night there, especially when Krista and Julie are sleeping just down the hall. Then the power goes out. Then the heat. The pipes freeze. The roof shudders. As the days add up, the snow piles higher, the empty halls grow colder and darker and the mounting pressure forces a devastating decision...
I think I am going to read this next, it sounds ever so good!

Scissors Paper Stone by Elizabeth Day (Bloomsbury, 2nd February 2012) Charles Redfern is in a coma. As he lies motionless, his wife Anne and daughter Charlotte are forced to come together to confront their relationships with him- and with each other.
Anne, once regarded as beautiful and clever, has felt herself disappearing for years, paling besides her husband's harsh brilliance. Anxious to fit in with the expectations of the people around her, she keeps her disillusionment buried inside, mechanically attending the endless round of drinks parties and dinners in her keenly social neighbourhood, and trying to ignore the guilt that trails behind her like a shadow.
Charlotte, battling an inner darkness that threatens to overwhelm her, is desperate to prevent her relationship with not-yet-divorced Gabriel from disintegrating through her own self-sabotage.
As the full truth of Charles's  hold over them emerges into the light, both women must come to terms with the choices they have made, and the uncertainty of a future without the figure that has dominated them for so long.
This sounds so good, really looking forward to it. 

Rivals in the Tudor Court by Darcey Bonnette (Avon) As the daughter of the Duke of Buckingham, the future seems bright for Elizabeth Stafford. But when her father give her hand to Thomas Howard, third Duke of Norfolk, she must sacrifice all for duty. Yet Elizabeth is surprised by her passion for her powerful new husband. And when he takes on a mistress, she is determined to fight for her love and her honour...
Naive and vulnerable, Bess Holland is easily charmed by the Duke of Norfolk, succumbing to his every whim in exchange for gifts and adoration. For years, she and Elizabeth compete for his affections. But they are mere spectators to an obsession neither of them can rival: Norfolk's quest to weave the family name in to the royal bloodline.
This sounds fantastic, bit like the Tudors.

The Promise  by Lesley Pearse (Michael Joseph, 19th January 2012) London, 1914: Belle Reilly finally has the life she always dreamed of; a devoted husband in Jimmy and a hat-shop of her own. But as WW1 shatters peace and Jimmy enlists for the army, Belle realises she can no longer stand by but must volunteer to help the cause. Her work as a Red Cross ambulance driver in France throws her back into the path- and arms of Etienne, the enigmatic man who played such a significant role in her childhood and Belle finds herself torn between loyalty and passion. But the past returns to haunt her in other, more unpleasant ways and Belle's character is tested like never before. Can she survive this most brutal of wars with her spirit intact and will destiny finally lead her to lasting happiness?
I haven't read anything by this author so I am interested in giving her a  go. 

Postcards from the Heart by Ella Griffin (Orion) Saffy has a dream job at a top Dublin ad agency. She's got her high-maintenance, purple-boot wearing mother at a safe distance. And she thinks her actor boyfriend Greg- the next Colin Farrell- is finally going to propose. Conor worships the beautiful Jess. But after seven years and twins, she still won't marry him. He spends his days teaching terrifying teenagers and his nights writing the book he hopes will change everything- including her mind. But happy endings are playing hard to get...
I think this sounds really promising and Marian Keyes enjoyed it so I will be shocked if I don't!

The Two Week Wait by Sarah Rayner (Picador, 2nd February 2012) What if the one thing you most longed for was resting on a two week wait? After a health scare, Brighton-based Lou is forced to confront the fact that her time to have a baby is running out. She can't imagine a future without children, but her partner doesn't seem to feel the same way, and she's not sure whether she could go it alone. Meanwhile, up in Yorkshire, Cath is longing to start a family with her husband Rich. No one would be happier to have a child than Rich but Cath is infertile. Could these strangers help one another out?
I was really impressed by this author's last book One Moment, One Morning and this one looks just as interesting and thought provoking. 

If you have read any of these or heard anything good/ bad then let me know!


Book Review: The Stag and Hen Weekend by Mike Gayle

Phil is thrilled that Helen has finally accepted his proposal, even though he practically had to bully her into it. But before the big day, there's still one last ordeal to overcome: His stag weekend in Amsterdam. Because even with his mates all pushing forty, it's guaranteed to be less about clogs and tulips and more about getting off their faces and trawling bars for girls.
But when Phil gets talking to one such girl, everything changes: not because he fancies her, or even because she's pretty but because they have much in common, even if neither of them knows it yet.
Helen loves her boyfriend Phil, so why with a week to go has she yet to buy her wedding dress? Convinced it's a case of cold feet, she lets her friend Yaz talk her into celebrating with a Hen weekend at a luxury spa hotel.
Arriving at The Manor, Helen is expecting a weekend of champagne, pampering and laughs with old friends. The one thing she hasn't planned for is running into her ex-fiance, the man who broke her heart, the man who has a secret he's desperate the share.
Told as two separate stories that have implications for both Helen and Phil's future happiness, The Stag and Hen weekend is a fresh and original story of a couple trying to get it right and all too often getting it spectacularly wrong. 
The Stag and Hen Weekend is a really good read and I love the idea of having two books in one. It took me a while to decide which half to start first but I decided that I have never and will never go on a stag weekend so thought I would see what that was all about first. And I have to admit  that I enjoyed Phil's half of the book more than Helen's, I'm not sure why but I liked him a lot more as a character.
Mike Gayle keeps a good pace throughout, I was worried that I would find Helen's story repetitive after reading Phil's as there are certain points where they are together. However, this just didn't happen, instead you get to know both characters extremely well. They are both having doubts about the wedding and this concept gives you both of their perspectives where as normally you just get one half of the story in a book like this.
I have said in the past that I don't read a lot of books by male authors but Mike Gayle has once again shown me that I am clearly missing out. It was really refreshing to have a male central character as well as a female. In most of the books I read, the male is the support character or a plot device but as I said I actually found Phil's story more entertaining.
I have read and enjoyed a couple of this author's other books in the past but this one is definitely my favourite. It is a very clever idea and I think that The Stag and Hen weekend will appeal to many readers.

Dot Scribbles Rating: 4/5

May thanks to Hodder and Stoughton for sending me a copy of this book to review. It is published in February 2012.

BOOK REVIEW: Remarkable Creatures by Tracy Chevalier

On a windswept English beach in the early 19 th Century, two women make discoveries that change the world. And in so doing find friendshi...