Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Review: Shopaholic on Honeymoon by Sophie Kinsella

The new Mr and Mrs Brandon are on honeymoon, and Becky has big plans! They've got a whole year to explore Venice, learn yoga in India, sleep in little wooden huts in South America… maybe even see penguins in the Arctic. And of course they’ll need to buy just a few essential souvenirs along the way (everyone needs a set of Murano glass goblets, after all).

They’re not just tourists, they’re travellers. Becky is sure it is just the thing that Luke needs – time to unwind. He’ll come back a changed man… with all the good bits still intact of course.

But it soon becomes clear that Luke has different plans entirely. Can Becky help him let go, or will this little disagreement threaten their whole honeymoon?

Review
I've seen the film adaptation of Confessions of a Shopaholic, and I'm pretty sure I've read some of the books (clearly in the days before Goodreads existed to help me keep track). I therefore knew what to expect from this short story, introduced as an extra 'treat' for readers to bridge the gap between a couple of the novels. Set in Venice, it gives readers an insight into the couple's honeymoon - which in Becky's case sounds more like an extended shopping trip! Becky has her endearing qualities, but she also has her irritating side, and as a frugal Yorkshirewoman all her impulsive spending is something I will never understand. Of course, this being a Shopaholic novel that was to be expected. What I didn't expect was the ending. What started out as a cute short story essentially descended into Becky throwing a massive tantrum because she couldn't have her own way, I felt sorry for poor Luke! That said, this is a short and sweet read that will please Shopaholic fans everywhere. I only wish that we could have read more about the adventures they had in the other places they visited on their 'round the world trip' too. 3/5 stars.


*At time of purchase this novel was available for free on Amazon and was read as part of the Clean Out Your E-Reader Challenge!*

Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Release Day Blitz / Giveaway: Love, Lucy by April Lindner


Today I'm excited to be part of the release day blitz for Love, Lucy. I've been looking forward to this book for a while! Read on for a guest post from the author in which she shares “Some Rules of the Road” for travelling abroad, as Lucy did in the book. This blast also includes a giveaway for a copy of the book courtesy of Rockstar Book Tours and 3 signed JANE posters courtesy of the author. So if you’d like a chance to win, enter in the Rafflecopter at the bottom of this post.

LOVE, LUCY
Author: April Lindner
Release date: January 27, 2015
Publisher: Poppy
Pages: 304
Formats: Hardcover, eBook

Synopsis

While backpacking through Florence, Italy, during the summer before she heads off to college, Lucy Sommersworth finds herself falling in love with the culture, the architecture, the food...and Jesse Palladino, a handsome street musician. After a whirlwind romance, Lucy returns home, determined to move on from her "vacation flirtation." But just because summer is over doesn't mean Lucy and Jesse are over, too.

In this coming-of-age romance, April Lindner perfectly captures the highs and lows of a summer love that might just be meant to last beyond the season.

Find it: AMAZON | BARNES & NOBLE | THE BOOK DEPOSITORY | INDIEBOUND | GOODREADS

About the Author

April Lindner is the author of three novels: Catherine, a modernization of Wuthering Heights; Jane, an update of Jane Eyre; and Love, Lucy, releasing January 27, 2015. She also has published two poetry collections, Skin and This Bed Our Bodies Shaped. She plays acoustic guitar badly, sees more rock concerts than she’d care to admit, travels whenever she can, cooks Italian food, and lavishes attention on her pets—two Labrador retriever mixes and two excitable guinea pigs. A professor of English at Saint Joseph’s University, April lives in Pennsylvania with her husband and two sons.



Guest Post

SOME RULES OF THE ROAD

Like Lucy Sommersworth, the heroine of Love, Lucy, my parents gave me the gift of a lifetime: a backpacking trip to Europe. I was a bit older than Lucy—22, and just out of college—but when I arrived in Milan, Italy with a Eurail pass, a copy of Let’s Go: Europe, and a seventy-pound backpack I could barely lift, I was a wee bit terrified. Like Lucy, I spoke only a little bit of Italian, just barely enough to get by, and I wasn’t particularly good at reading maps or train schedules. Unlike Lucy, I was travelling solo.

Luckily, my journey began with training wheels. I’d just taken a college Italian class, and my professor had offered a safe crash pad for the first few days of my trip—in her family home in the Alps. Less luckily, when I reached Malpensa airport, nobody was there to pick me up. Giddy with excitement and jet lag, I wandered around the airport, eavesdropping on Italians as they hugged each other hello and goodbye, and had noisy arguments. I’d never felt more alone in my life. Where would I sleep that night if my ride didn’t show up?

Luckily, my professor’s brother arrived at last to whisk me away to the family home in Domodossola. The extended family welcomed and fed me, gave me tours of their city with its charming medieval center, helped me practice my Italian, and, when the time was right, brought me to the train station where my solo travels began for real. It was time to take off the training wheels. 

If I’d felt alone back in the airport, I was even more so on that train to Verona, a city where I didn’t know a soul. In those pre-internet days, I could disappear into thin air and nobody would even notice I was gone. The thought was chilling, but oddly exciting.

By nightfall, I’d made it to Verona. I’d figured out the public transportation, found a youth hostel, and booked myself a bed. Best of all, I had introduced myself to a handful of other backpackers. We hung out together in the hostel’s common area, sharing bread and cheese, exchanging stories, discussing the rules of the road—those bits of practical wisdom our travels were teaching us. Here are a few.


Time passes differently on the road.  Spend a few very intense hours seeing the sites with strangers and by the end of the day, those strangers have become a part of your story. Years later you’ll see their faces in your photo album and still remember stray details of the adventures you shared together, even if you can’t quite recall their names. 


Spontaneity is key.  There are few things as magical as showing up at a train station with no idea where you’re headed next, picking a random train, and hopping on. 

Janis Joplin said it best: Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose.  When you’re carrying all your possessions on your back in a city where you don’t know a soul, you’re absolutely free. You can go anywhere, do anything. That freedom has its lonely moments—but it can be the doorway to all kinds of adventures.


Embrace misadventure.  As carefully as you plan there will be crazy mistakes: wrong turns, slept-through train stops, multilingual misunderstandings, and all kinds of other blunders—and these will make the best stories. My misadventures are some of my favorite memories. The time I missed curfew and had to climb into my hostel through a second-story window. The morning when, hanging out my recently washed clothes to dry, I dropped my wet underthings out the window, onto a stranger’s head. The night when, with no room to stay in, I slept on Venice’s train station steps with about a hundred other backpackers, the stars above us and the Grand Canal stretched out before us.

Would I trade that last memory for a safe, comfy night in an actual bed?  Not on your life.

Giveaway 
There is a blast-wide giveaway, ending February 6th at 11:59 p.m. Pacific, for:

  • 1 copy of LOVE, LUCY to be ordered from Amazon or The Book Depository – Int’l
  • 3 JANE posters (signed) – US only

Enter in the Rafflecopter below...

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Saturday, 24 January 2015

Review: Lost in Italy by Stacey Joy Netzel

The best laid plans...

Halli Sanders spent two years planning the trip of a lifetime to Italy. Her itinerary did not include being stranded by her siblings, kidnapped by a sexy American movie star, dodging bullets, or fleeing criminals in a car chase around Lake Como. And that's just in the first three hours.

...often go awry.

Trent Tomlin put his movie career on hold to investigate his brother's murder-ruled-suicide at his Italian villa. He's closing in on the suspects when an American tourist unwittingly films the murder of the retired cop helping him. The killers will stop at nothing to get the evidence-including holding Halli's family as collateral. Life's a little different unscripted. Thrust into the role of real-life hero, Trent finds himself falling for the Plain Jane whose beauty blossoms with every challenge they face. But how can he keep the evidence from falling into the wrong hands and get justice for his brother and friend without betraying Halli and her family?

Review
You know a book is good when it keeps you up reading until 4am! It's fast paced and gripping, and I just couldn't put it down! The villain of the piece is worthy of any Bond film, and indeed you can picture the car chases and daring escapes as if you are watching them on a screen.

The relationship between Trent and Halli is adorable - I literally felt like hugging my kindle at certain  moments! Thrown together by circumstance, they live completely different lives but they sparked off each other really well, and the novel fizzed with sexual tension to the point where I just wanted to shout at them to admit their feelings to each other.

I liked Halli. She was feisty and determined, and despite her anxiety issues she was willing to do anything to save her family. Then there's Trent. Hollywood megastar turned real-life action hero he is every girl's dream. With a dazzling smile and a body to match women fall at his feet, but it's the personality behind the cool-guy bravado that I really fell for, and I've no shame in saying that I was in love with him by the end.

Another great thing about this book is that it's a standalone; as I got more and more into the story I was worried that it was going to end abruptly and tell me to buy the next installment but thankfully it's all there - though I would love to read about Trent and Halli again someday, and it would be interesting to see how their relationship would work back in the real world.

Sure, the plot is a little far-fetched, but escapism is exactly what I look for in a novel - and I'd be Trent's sidekick any day!

5/5 stars: Equal parts action and romance, Lost in Italy is a novel that will keep you up all night and leave you with a massive smile on your face.


*At time of purchase this novel was available for free on Amazon and was read as part of the Clean Out Your E-Reader Challenge!*

Clean Out Your E-Reader Challenge.

Last year I took part in the Clean Out Your E-Reader Challenge, and it's time to do it all over again! I'm a little late to the party this time around, but I've plenty of books that I'm determined to get through before the challenge ends. Click on the picture to find out more and take on the challenge with me! I'm not setting myself any goals - mainly because I always seem to fall short - but my first review is coming soon!

Friday, 16 January 2015

Blog Tour / Giveaway: Stable Mates by Zara Stoneley

 Today I'm excited to be part of the blog tour for Stable Mates, the fun
and flirty new novel by Zara Stoneley! I really loved this book!

Synopsis
Welcome to tranquil Tippermere, an idyllic village nestled deep in the Cheshire countryside. Home to lords and ladies, horsemen and farmers, and plenty of secrets and scandals…
Leaving a scumbag ex behind her, Lottie Brinkley has hotfooted it out of Spain and back home to the country in serious need of some flirtatious fun to soothe her aching heart. Luckily for her she’s spoilt for choice with not one but three eligible bachelors offering a steamy romp in the hay! But faced with the attentions of roguish eventer Rory Steel, the smiling Irish eyes of hunky farrier Mick O’Neal, and mysterious newcomer Tom Strachan, how can she possibly choose?
When billionaire landowner Marcus James drops dead unexpectedly, his WAGish wife Amanda threatens to sell the heart of the village and sets her sights on Tom! It seems things are heating up for little Tippermere… both in and out of the saddle.

Purchase Links: Amazon  B&N  Kobo  Foyles  Waterstones
                             Sainsbury's  Google Play  iTunes  Blackwells

What readers are saying …
'...reminded me of Jilly Cooper whose books I grew up with. Stable Mates is up there with Riders and Rivals. If you loved these books then you will love this one'

'...the perfect mix of horsey shenanigans, Cheshire glamour and flirty fun.’ 

Review
    I've read a fair few books for blog tours over the past year, and this is definitely up there as one of the best! I live in a close-knit rural community myself, and although North Yorkshire is decidely less glamorous than Cheshire I could relate to many of the characters, especially Lottie. Wherever life takes you you inevitably find yourself drawn back home to the people that you love, and Lottie fits right back into village life as if she has never been away. This is really her story, and throughout the course of the novel she finds out who she really is and what she truly wants for herself.
    All of the female characters in this novel are distinctly different. Aside from Lottie we have Pip the journalist who makes it her mission to keep up with - and create - village gossip, Amanda - recently widowed and horse-phobic, Sam the footballer's wife who has just moved in nearby, and Tiggy - the scruffy but well-meaning groom to Lottie's father Billy.
    Then of course we have the men. From Mick the silver-tongued Irish farrier to Tom the male- model turned single-father there really is someone for everyone's taste. My favourite though was Rory, the adorable eventer. I was as besotted with him as Lottie is by the end of the book!
    Keeping an eye them all is Lottie's grandmother Lady Elizabeth Stanthorpe - a brilliant character. Gin-and-tonic in hand she single handedly manages Tippermere and it's residents without them even realising. Her stiff-upper lip exterior coupled with her fierce loyalty for her family and friends make her a formiddable force, yet one that is adored by all who know her. 
    I'm a sucker for animal characters too, and this novel has plenty! The horses and hounds and their quirky personalities all made me enjoy the book even more.
    By the end of the novel you know the characters so well that you feel as if they are your friends, and I was a little sad to say goodbye, especially to Rory and Lottie. I would love a follow up book, or even a short story, just to give us an update on what happened to them next.

5/5 stars: Fun, flirty and a little bit filthy, Stable Mates is a tale told with real humour and heart.

About the Author
Bestselling author Zara Stoneley lives in deepest Cheshire surrounded by horses, dogs, cats and amazing countryside. When she’s not visiting wine bars, artisan markets or admiring the scenery in her sexy high heels or green wellies, she can be found in flip flops on the beach in Barcelona, or more likely sampling the tapas!
Zara writes hot romance and bonkbusters. Her latest novel, ‘Stable Mates’, is a fun romp through the Cheshire countryside and combines some of her greatest loves – horses, dogs, hot men and strong women (and not forgetting champagne and fast cars)!

She writes for Harper Collins and Accent Press.

Author Links: Website  Twitter  Facebook  Google+

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Tuesday, 6 January 2015

End of Year Book Survey 2014

I stumbled across this survey over at The Perpetual Page Turner, and thought it would be a fun way of reflecting on the past year in terms of books and blogging. You can see my full list of books I read this year here!

Number Of Books You Read: 56
Number Of Re-Reads: 0
Genre You Read The Most From: Romance

BEST IN BOOKS

Best book you read in 2014?
It's a toss up between The Illusionists and The Night Circus (you can view my full top ten here). Both are amazing, but as The Illusionists was actually published this year I'll go with that one. It's brilliant.


Book you were excited about and thought you were going to love more but didn't?
Park Lane. The plot is right up my street, but something about the writing just didn't grab me like it ought to have done. It is still a good book though!


Book you “pushed” the most people to read (and they did) in 2014?
I don't tend to push people to read books, especially as my close friends and family have such different tastes to me when it comes to books. Although I did make my Mum read The Vintage Girl, who loved it so much that she passed it onto my Grandma!

Favorite new author you discovered in 2014?
Hester Browne. The Vintage Girl was just brilliant.


Best book from a genre you don’t typically read/was out of your comfort zone?
The Secret Place by Tana French. I won it in a Goodreads giveaway and it is something I would never have usually picked to read.

Most unputdownable book of the year?
The Secret Place. It's full of suspense from the very first page and I just couldn't put it down! 


Favourite cover of a book you read in 2014?
Once Upon a Masquerade by Tamara Hughes. The book itself is brilliant too, a twist on Cinderella! 


Most memorable character of 2014?
Rosie the Elephant. I love it when books have animals as actual characters, and she is one of the best.


Most beautifully written book read in 2014?
How to Build a Girl by Caitlin Moran. The subject matter might be tough but the way it is written is just wonderful. For a first novel I was very impressed!

Most thought-provoking/ life-changing book of 2014?
Again I have to say How to Build a Girl. The 'girl' may well have been six years younger than me, but I could really relate to her and her struggle to find her place in the world.


Book you can’t believe you waited until 2014 to finally read? 
The Time Traveler's Wife. I'd seen and loved the film but the size of the novel put me off a bit. It was even better than I had expected, and I was surprised at how quickly I got through it.


Shortest & longest book you read in 2014?
Longest is probably The Time Traveler's Wife, no idea on the shortest!

Favorite book you read in 2014 from an author you’ve read previously?
Oddly enough all bar one of the books I read this year were by new-to-me authors. Ice Cream at Carrington's by Alexandra Brown is a great summer read!


Best book you read in 2014 that you read based on a recommendation from somebody else?
I had heard great things about The Edge of Never, and I wasn't disappointed. Just stunning.


Newest fictional crush from a book you read in 2014?
Too many to list! I'd marry Sean from The Oyster Catcher, but in terms of hotness Devil Wix from The Illusionists definitely wins. With a name like that he had to really!

Best 2014 debut you read?
The Oyster Catcher by Jo Thomas. It has been described as a 'runaway' Kindle bestseller, and it's easy to see why.

  
Best worldbuilding/most vivid setting you read this year?
The imagery and description in The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern is just incredible.


Book that put a smile on your face?
I've read a fair bit of historical romance this year - call it my guilty pleasure. Corny they may be, but they never fail to raise a smile, and I really loved The Twelfth Night Wager by Regan Walker. 




Book that made you cry or nearly cry in 2014?
None this year! It's not that I'm unemotional, I just don't read sad books!

Hidden gem of the year?
Season of Light by Katharine McMahon. Think Pride and Prejudice meets The French Revolution.


29. Most unique book you read in 2014?
The Night Circus. There's nothing else like it.

30. Book that made you the most mad?
Any and all the books I read that ended on cliffhangers!


YOUR BLOGGING/BOOKISH LIFE

New favorite book blog you discovered in 2014? 
All the blogs that I follow are my favourites. Cop out answer but it's true!

Favorite review that you wrote in 2014? 
The Illusionists. I loved the book so much that I put a lot of effort into the review, and I'm quite proud of it.

Best discussion/non-review post you had on your blog?
I don't do many of these kind of posts, but I enjoyed the Personality Test: Which Fictional Characters Are You Most Like? I found my results really interesting too!

Best event that you participated in (author signings, festivals, virtual events, memes, etc.)?
Volunteering at Cheltenham Literature Festival was one of my highlights of this year. Working at events and signings with authors and celebrities was so much fun! Very long hours but I enjoyed every second!


Best moment of bookish/blogging life in 2014?
Being accepted onto Bookbridgr. I was so excited when I got the acceptance email. 

Best bookish discover (book related sites, book stores, etc.)?
Definitely Bookbridgr. Great discovery for me, not so good for my tbr pile!

 
Did you complete any reading challenges or goals that you had set for yourself at the beginning of this year? 
I just fell short of my Goodreads Challenge of reading 60 books, although my initial target was 30 until I upped it so I technically completed it...

...So that's my year in books all wrapped up - here's to another year of reading! Please do leave links to your lists, I'm really interested to read them!