The Chocolate Lovers’ Christmas by Carole Matthews

chocolatelovers

Length: 496 pages

As always, the cover image leads to a universal Amazon buy link for the book

What they say:

Christmas is just around the corner but the women of The Chocolate Lovers’ Club have more to worry about than present shopping . . .

Lucy loves running Chocolate Heaven but she hasn’t spent time with her boyfriend, Aiden, in weeks. And then her ex-fiance turns up and things become even more complicated.

Nadia hasn’t let herself get close to a man in a long time, yet she can’t help feeling drawn to Jacob. Will he be her last chance for a happy ending?

Chantal and her husband, Ted, are besotted with their baby daughter Lana – but she’s not sure that’s enough to base a marriage on.

Autumn is dealing with a tragedy that has hit too close to home. But when she doesn’t get the support she needs from her fiance, will she look elsewhere for comfort?

Can friendship overcome all in . . . The Chocolate Lovers’ Christmas.

The review: Well, I’m not sure that this IS a review, given that I unfortunately called it a day at 36%, after two years and numerous attempts to read, but I need to let you know why I didn’t finish, so here it goes.

I requested this book on the back of numerous rave reviews, all four and five stars, from various bloggers out there. We all know that Carole Matthews and Sarah Morgan took their roles as queens of Christmas some time ago, and I’d read ‘Calling Mrs Christmas,’ and  ‘With Love at Christmas’ and I think one other and had always fallen in love with them and eaten them up over the holiday period. I found her descriptions magical and wonderous and everything a Christmas read should be.

I’m not sure whether it’s been since I’ve started blogging, and so have upped my range of books, but I found myself drifting away from the story, of Lucy, manager of ‘Chocolate Heaven, her friends, Autumn, Chantal and Nadia, and her boyfriend, Aidan.  I didn’t really connect with any of them, finding them a little immature and a bit selfish. What drove this home was that anytime anyone was ANYWAY nice to anyone else, there were cries of how lovely they were, how selfless etc, and as it happened a few times it began to grate a little.

From the start there was comedy, only because I wasn’t sure I liked the characters, I’m afraid it didn’t really connect. Interspersed with everything going wrong for Lucy, with some really funny moments that I honestly would have liked if I wasn’t finding it hard to connect with her, were some more serious issues, the story of Autumn’s past, which for the first time made me realise what people meant when they said some issues didn’t fit in with the chick lit genre and felt out of place. Jumping from fun and hilarity to this, with the drama dial suddenly upped out of nowhere just felt muddled and I found myself shrugging a little. Add to this their solution to everything was chocolate, and yes I know this is The Chocolate Lovers’ series, and so it’s a given, but it was mentioned so much the word itself lost all meaning.

The descriptions of setting, as they headed towards Christmas, as ever, were stunning, beautiful, magnificent, making you want to transport yourself to that time of year. And so I trundled on. I stopped and started this book so many times. I’ve only ever given up on three books in my life, and I couldn’t fathom that this would be number four. I know that there are a world of people out there that adore this book, and I’ve no doubt there will be so many people who will love it, and it will be a great Christmas read for them, unfortunately not for me. Thanks to Netgalley for this book in return for an honest review, and apologies it didn’t work out.

No rating as I didn’t finish.

The Christmas Surprise by Samantha March @BySamanthaMarch

christmassurprise

Length: 77 pages

Please note that the cover image leads to a universal buy link for the book

What they say: Juliette Mabry is a happily married stay-at-home wife and mother…until there appears to be trouble brewing in her nearly ten-year marriage. Juliette takes it upon herself to find out if her husband is up to no good, but does she want to know the truth? Everything is revealed on Christmas, and Juliette is in for her biggest Christmas surprise.

The review: First off I have to mention that the author of this book is none other than Samantha March, who runs blog tours on Chick Lit Plus. I have always followed Ms. March on both Facebook and her blog and love how her posts are so bright, inspirational and motivational. There was also the fact that I knew she had written a great deal of books (see them here) and so, when I saw this for free last year (£0.99 now), well, you know, you’re always curious, aren’t you? So I guess I’m starting off my Christmas books here. I know it’s early, but I think it’s going to be another year where there’s going to be a lot of excellent titles out here (last year I steered very clear but the year before I read a fair few, see wrap up here) so off we go!

This story starts with a lady in a toilet stall, listening to the rumour mill starting up about someone’s partner having an affair and I was intrigued straight away. The scene was reminiscent of Desparate Housewives, and indeed this programme was mentioned, with our protagonist wondering if they could be talking about her best friend, who had once been caught sleeping with her gardener. And this was the essence of the story, which had me so early on, and kept me through every twist and turn with its ‘who can you trust?’ tale of betrayal and deceipt. It featured lavish lifestyles, yoga and Botox, but with more likeable characters than I’d have expected from a book set in this backdrop. The descriptions were beautiful and grabbed you and put you right there, the suspence got you and I read it in an evening. The only issue I had was that I felt it could have been just a little braver, but saying this I enjoyed the ending. Add to this that it was a free Christmas read which made it that little bit more satisfying! This is a book that will definitely send me back to Ms. March’s back catalogue.

Rating: 4.5/5

 

Novella Review: The Snowflake Valley Advice Fairy by Holly Tierney-Bedord

thesnowflakevalley

Length: 95 pages

Please note that the cover image leads to a universal Amazon buy link for the book

What they say: The author of Right Under Your Nose: A Christmas Story brings you another sweet, festive holiday novella.

At just twenty-five years old, Elinor has landed the job of her dreams: She’s going to be Merry the Advice Fairy for the Snowflake Valley Gazette. She’s ecstatic that she’s about to embark on a fun, cushy career while living in the cutest, quaintest town she’s ever known.

She’s barely settled into her desk at work when that famous Snowflake Valley shimmer starts to fizzle. The real Snowflake Valley bears little resemblance to the picture postcard tourist destination she and her family loved when she was a child. Her new co-workers are uninspiring, to say the least, and the problems that people are submitting to the Gazette are much weightier than what she was expecting.

Losing faith in herself, Elinor considers cutting her losses and moving on. However, the attention of hot young reporter Nile might be enough to get her past her chilly start in Snowflake Valley, and back to seeing its charm once again.

 
The Review: It’s funny that the last line of the blurb uses the word ‘charm,’ because no word is more apt for this gorgeous little novella. From the very beginning, where we meet Elinor as she introduced to her new surroundings at the Snowflake Valley Gazette, I could tell this was going to be special. Elinor has some very romanticized visions of Snowflake Valley brought about by her childhood memories of apple picking at Harvest Fest and caroling there at Christmas time, however she soon realizes that there’s a harsh reality out there, and her job is to deal with it, by turning agony aunt and answering the problems people send into the newspaper. I loved the letters, with problems that ranged from heartbreaking to properly hilarious, with one making me say ‘yes!’ as I laughed out loud.

The characters in this book were excellent, the romance lovely, the story brilliantly spun and actually, this is one that I’ll possibly read again. An extremely satisfying read and an author I will most definitely be back to for more and more (by the way I’ve reviewed Boots On The Ground by Ms. Tierney-Bedord here  , Weekend Immune System here and there’s an author interview here).

Thanks to the author for this book in return for an honest review .

Rating: 5/5

About the author

hollytierneybedford

Website

Blog

Twitter:  ( @hollytierney)

Facebook

Holly’s Amazon Page

Upstairs, Downstairs … and the Lift in Between: A Novella (Drakenfall Book 1)

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Amazon UK

Amazon US

What they say: This is a complete stand alone 15K story with its own happy ending in the Drakenfall Series.

 Computer genius Maisy Potter crosses an ocean to take her dream holiday at the English country estate-turned-resort, Drakenfall … where the winsome Mark Prebys works below stairs. With him, Maisy discovers a carefree happiness she’s never known. But will the troubles dogging her from back home, a secret whispered behind parlour curtains, and misunderstandings to beat the band extinguish the magic they think they’ve found in each other? And if not, what happens when Maisy’s enchanting holiday ends?
The Review: I read this as part of the Love In An Elevator short story anthology (it has since been released as a standalone), and was taken straight away. It is told more in the manner of a Jane Austen classic, which to start with took me a little bit to get into, as it’s like a different language to me (to my shame I haven’t read many classics since my teenage years), then by the end of it I was taking down the book it’s preceding’s name to read. I adored the characters, smiled at the romance, and there were many hidden humor gems that made me nod along in appreciation. Even if I didn’t know of Geralyn Corcillo as one of the most inspirational, fun, supportive, hardworking people on social media, I would be all over this as it’s something that little bit different, so spellbinding and gorgeous that it’s perfect for this time of year. I would say this is one series I most definitely not be missing. Stay tuned for the review of A Drakenfall Christmas which is part 2 of this series as part of its blog tour.
Rating: 5/5

The Things I Should Have Told You by Carmel Harrington

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Please note that the cover image leads to a universal Amazon buy link for the book

What they say:

Every family has a story…

But for the Guinness family a happy ending looks out of reach. Olly and Mae’s marriage is crumbling, their teenage daughter Evie is on a mission to self-destruct and their beloved Pops is dying of cancer. Their once strong family unit is slowly falling apart.

But Pops has one final gift to offer his beloved family – a ray of hope to cling to. As his life’s journey draws to a close, he sends his family on an adventure across Europe in a camper van, guided by his letters, his wisdom and his love.

Because Pops knows that all his family need is time to be together, to find their love for each other and to find their way back home…

The Review: I have to start by reminding you of ‘Every time a bell rings’ which I reviewed last year (see review here) and re-iterating what a powerhouse author Carmel Harrington is. I’m lucky enough to know Carmel, through the Imagine, Write, Inspire writing group I belong to, and she is seriously one of the most vibrant, helpful, amazing people I’ve ever met. There’s a reason I’m telling you this, and that is that this book very much matches her personality. It is a book full of warmth, family and hope, a book that is full of messages and ideals, all nicely bundled together with fantastic imagery and great characters. I really enjoyed this book. I read it over three nights, and each day thought about it and looked forward to sitting down with it. As you can see from the blurb it involves a family that is falling apart heading off on a camper van journey. The journey itself is long, and puts us in different locations with so much description, that I found myself actually thinking of the day when I might bring my children on a similar one, to experience the culture and history and beauty that was ever present here. There were so many moments of faraway enchanting symbolism that were excellant.

There were arguments and tension that are all too real in family life, and a number of chords were struck. That being said I suppose I found at times it was a little too innocent especially in terms of the children, and they seemed old beyond their years at times but I don’t have girls so I just may not know what I’m talking about here!

I have to say that over that last year my taste in books has changed a lot, which I suppose it should. I used to struggle with books such as this, that were very homely, and Irish, with warm, wholesome romance but now I must say this is very much up my street. A special mention to Pops, I worried about him through out the book and was afraid to reach the end (not a spoiler!) Very much recommended and actually one I’ll be shouting about in the shorter evenings, where books such as this serve as a treat to be consumed in front of a fire, or at least in a warm room with the rain beating down outside. I loved this book.

Rating: 4.5/5

Note: I don’t know if I’ve told you previously about how I live for The Irish Book Awards? It pretty much dictates my reading in the Winter months, and I’ve found some of my favourite authors that way. Well now Ms. Harrington is nominated for this award. If you have read this book and want to vote for her look in the Sunday Independent Newcomer of the Year award here, or even if you just want to have a gander at the range of books and throw in a few votes for those you have read and enjoyed over the year from Irish authors then see fiction awards here . See non fiction here .

Enjoy voting (closes midnight 11th November 2016)!

The Treachery of Trains by Sylvia Ashby

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Amazon UK

Amazon US

What they say: Sky has made an abominable mistake at work. Something so awful she doesn’t dare stay in the HR office of XIM Technics for fear of being lynched by her colleagues.

So she gets on a train…

What happens when it hasn’t been your day, your week, your month, or even your year?

Sky Candy is about to find out.

The Review:  ‘The Treachery of Trains’ is listed on Amazon as a romantic comedy, but I have to admit, I wish I had a better categorisation for it, because it’s a different type of romantic comedy. This is the book for which women’s fiction was created for, one of those books that has romance and comedy in it aplenty, but also has traveling and craft beers, and stunning artistic descriptions, with more than a hint of edginess and darkness to it. There were times it reminded me of a light thriller as you moved along with Sky wandering along, not sure what to do after her calamity of a mistake. The mistake, and Sky’s working environment was brilliant, and for a while I forgot it was to change as I settled in nicely to the day to day ups and downs of a HR manager in a large firm.

We also got to see Sky in her home state, existing day to day, not really living, with hints into her life as a child which were both tragic and heartwarming and this was where the light dimmed a little, without at all affecting my enjoyment of the book. The comedy was Grade A, totally up my street, catching you unaware just when you needed it, such as Sky’s first encounter with a guy who was trying to help her, which culminated in him being locked out of his apartment and her inadvertently doing the same as she tried to help him back. And Sky was always trying to help. I think this book was possibly the best selfless heroine I have come across in some time, with a nice balance of self disbelief coupled with some lovely subtle shows of how she’s always looking out for other people, without us being belted over the head with it. The characters were brilliant, in particular her aunt and uncle, and then there was her Mum, the artist:

“I told her how I used my mum’s favourite lipstick to draw on her best silk scarf one afternoon while she was taking a nap. When she woke up she looked at the ruined lipstick and scarf, ripped a proper painting out of its frame and put the scarf in its place. ‘This is not your best work, Sky, but it’s your first. It deserves recognition,’ my Mum said.'”

All in all I adored this book. I loved the descriptions, the feeling that you didn’t know where it was going, the fact that it was light enough to be a rom com, but dark enough to not be, the twists, the turns, the love interest (who was perfection), the egos, the attitudes, mixed in with the sweetness and homeliness. Thanks so much to the author for this book in return for an honest review and I’m off to look into ‘Pot Love,’ her first book.

Rating:5/5

 

 

 

Tapestry by Elle Turner (a book of short stories)

tapestry

What they say: In hope, in pain,
we lose, we gain,
but always and forever
the human heart braves life
in light and in shade

A collection of twelve short stories exploring the complexities of life and love.

The review: I’m a sucker for short stories. I’m always using the phrase ‘dip in, dip out’ in relation to how you can read them but actually I generally read a book of short stories in one go. It’s the same with books with short chapters, I think to myself ‘just one more, just one more,’ and before I know it I’m nearing the end and am somewhere between tired and irritable and excited to see how the story will end. ‘Tapestry’ was no different. The title of the book first grabbed me and this was quickly followed by the cover. I thought about what a tapestry was, and this book definitely lived up to the title, with stories that are interwoven, themes and characters popping up all over the place with frayed edges, strands almost at breaking point and loose ends that are clearly visible.

The subject matter varied, but they are mostly love stories with a darker tinge to them, some so dark they border on claustophobic, not always a bad thing, it just meant that they reeled me in. I did find that there was possibly one too many in a row on unrequited love and obsession but then the subject matter changed again and all was good with the world. The crossover in particular was artfully done, as you guessed which character would appear again, and, coupled with the presence of twists timed very, very, well, alongside an absence of a twist where there was none required, I was very happy out!

I read it quite quickly (Amazon say it’s only 74 pages), with my eyes rarely moving from my Kindle. It’s always commendable when your eyes remain glued to the screen and your fingers continue to scroll, as if you’re in a trance, and that’s what happened here. There are twelve stories in this book, and I didn’t flick ahead once, nor did my eyes stray from the page. That being said there were possibly one or two I didn’t enjoy as much as the others, but that was evened out by the presence of a few that were outstanding (as well as a few very ingenious ones!).

Very much recommended, in particular for a journey, I think it would pass the time very nicely indeed, just hope that nobody creeps up on you!

Rating 4.5/5

My February Bookish Wrap Up!

Please note: if you don’t have the time to read through the post, the pics link to the reviews! Enjoy:)

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So it’s been a good February, reading wise, maybe better writing-wise, as I finally put aside something I’ve been working on for a long time, that has been giving me no joy, and have started on a new story instead. I felt better the second I made the decision, as it was like pulling teeth, and although I’ve been set back a few months I’m really excited to see where the new story takes me:)

In terms of books, Valentines was very much in the air, with me finding myself very happy on reading the next of The Star and Sixpence series by Holly Hepburn, Valentine’s Day at the Star and Sixpence, which was really good, although it didn’t quite beat Snowdrops at the Star and Sixpence, one of my top Christmas reads, and continuing with me finding a short gem from Fiona Gibson, author of As Good as it Gets called The Valentine-Free Zone. I was honoured to be part of Samantha Tonge’s ‘How to Get Hitched in 10 days’ blog tour. How to Get Hitched in 10 days was the perfect short story for those who are fans of their rom coms that have multiple characters and many misunderstandings and was beyond enjoyable, although in a different way to Game of Scones, which I had read last year.

 

As you can see from above it was a month where I mostly back to a few fave authors, with The Girl You Lost by Kathryn Croft being almost as enjoyable as The Girl With No Past, which was a five out of five read for me. I also rediscovered Virginia Macgregor, whose second book ‘The Astonishing Return of Norah Wells‘ was as unputdownable as ‘What Milo Saw.

I was very taken with the bewitching Smart Girl by Rachel Hollis, although I decided it might be for a different age-group to myself. I became a fan for life of Erin Lawless, as I wrote my review for ‘Somewhere only we know,’ a rom com that visits the emigration office to see if the vibrant Nadia will be deported, got to meet a group of zany friends that made me laugh out loud in ‘Friends Like These,’ jumped out of my comfort zone to investigate the 7/7 bombings in The Theseus paradox by David Videcette(I also posted an excerpt), and finally, but perhaps most excitingly, I had a blogger interview with the beyond lovely Sharon, from the brilliant Shaz’s Book blog. Not a bad month, actually!;)

The Valentine-Free Zone: A Love Maybe eShort by Fiona Gibson

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Amazon UK

Amazon US

What they say: The Funny One: Part of the Love…Maybe ebook short story collection.

Jenny’s teenage son Cameron wants her out of their flat while he cooks a special Valentine supper for his girlfriend… so how on earth is she supposed to spend the most romantic night of the year?

A laugh-out-loud Valentine’s read, perfect for fans of ‘Outnumbered’ and Fern Britton.

***This is a short story, which you can also buy as part of the Love…Maybe Eshort Collection***

 

The Review: First off change ‘Jenny’ to ‘Sally’ and ‘Cameron’ to ‘Riley’ in the blurb above (wires crossed somehow)!!!! When I was looking up Valentine’s reads this jumped out at me after reading and adoring ‘As Good As It Gets‘ by Ms. Gibson, as well as while looking forward to ‘The Woman Who Upped And Left‘ by the same author (out soon and I can’t wait!).  Here we meet 39 year old Sally, a full time beauty therapist, who is with Michael, a man whose interests don’t quite mirror her own. Wandering around an art gallery on Valentine’s day, listening to Michael bemoan all things romantic, and thinking about her son Riley’s impending departure from the family home, Sally wonders if this is all there is  is to her life. Cue Valentine’s evening and Sally has been told to vacate the premises so Riley can have a Valentine’s night in. Michael is busy and Sally is at a loss. Enter a night out with some friends where a ‘Valentine’s free zone’ is declared and Sally begins to realise what life is all about.

There are books, or in this case short stories, that cause you to gush and exclaim and proclaim and then there are tales that don’t need it. This e-short, part of a larger collection that I’m sure to check out later in the year, is simple, easy going, cliched (in the best possible way) chick lit at it’s very best. We have an idea where it’s going and yet we want to head along on the journey anyway, and savour and enjoy. I sat down with it and then didn’t move until it was finished. There was romance, fun, misunderstandings … everything you want with a short such as this. Very much recommended and I’ll continue to watch for Fiona Gibson’s work.

Rating: 4.5/5

 

My Christmas Wrap up (and an extra little something for Christmas…)

Well, all that’s left is to give an overview of all the Christmas books on my blog. I have to say I enjoyed the books of the festive season so much, they really brought forward all the excitement and cheer of Christmas so that I got into the mood in early October! They were so diverse that I have a few favourites. Not only that, but there’s a few I have no doubt I’ll be recommending a few years on, they dragged me in and wouldn’t let me out of their warm, beautifully festive clutches! You’ll guess what they are from the reviews.

So here it goes. Obviously the list isn’t complete due to the demise of my right hand, my Kindle, but I’ve covered those that I would have gotten a chance to read had my one year old not been curious about the device he sees in my hand most days (read all about it and take a look at the books I had to leave behind here!) The reviews are linked in with the name of the books to make it easier for you. Enjoy and merry Christmas!

If you like them a little bit dark,  geeky … and brilliant The Art Of Christmas (a short story) by Jane Lovering is for you

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If you like them warm, beautiful and magical, with lashings of fairy dust and charm, then Every Time a Bell Rings by Carmel Harrington is for you

everytimea bell

If you like them charming, funny and gorgeously festive, with romance and a nice hint of suspense, then Snowdrops at the Star and Sixpence (a novella) by Holly Hepburn is for you.

Snowdrops

If you love a bit of a dash to the altar, coupled with warmth, beauty, festiveness and all in between then Snowed in For Her Wedding (a short story) by Emma Bennet is for you.

Snowed In For Christmas

If you like short, hilarious, mad cap ‘mom lit’ that’ll make you laugh out loud and while away the hours after the kids are gone to bed, then Survival of The Christmas Spirit by Aimee Horton (short story) is for you.

SurvivalOfTheChristmasSpirit

If you like them spooky, kooky and yet warm, christmassy and funny then Make A Christmas Wish by Julia Williams is for you.

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If you like books with  beautiful characters, stunning Christmas scenes and gorgeous romance with some comedy in there too, then Christmas Ever After by Sarah Morgan is for you.

ChristmasEverAfter

If you like a warm, magical, festive ‘dreams can come true’ romantic comedy, then Christmas Wishes and Mistletoe Kisses by Jenny Hale is for you.

Christmas Wishes and Mistletoe Kisses

If you like them to be all about family getting together at Christmas, with pandemonium and brightness and festiveness, tears and smiles, then An Endless Christmas (a novella) by Cynthia Ruachti is for you.

Anendlesschristmas

If you want to go on a Christmassy road trip, that’s bright, festive, and all about goodwill and cheer, with a reminder of the holy side of Christmas, then The Christmas Joy Ride by Melody Carlson is for you.

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I’ll finish with All I Want for Christmas, a piece I’m very proud of as it was written by our Imagine, Write, Inspire writing group led by the amazing Carmel Harrington (I know, blatant self promotion here, but I honestly think you’ll enjoy!). So if you like one long festive, quirky romantic comedy, narrated by different people to give different parts of our lead character’s story, then All I Want for Christmas is for you!

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