Wednesday, 19 July 2017

Sharing the Book Love

Sharing the Book Love

There is nothing better than receiving books as gifts. Kindle (ebooks) are fine, but a proper physical book is magic. In my capacity as a book reviewer/blogger I am very lucky in that I receive a lot of books for free. Some are ebooks, some are paperbacks and some are hardbacks. I am fortunate enough to have author Heidi Swain as a best buddy too so I get her to sign my books by her too! Through book events I have been lucky enough to meet many authors like Milly Johnson, Jane Costello, Andy Jones, Isabelle Broome, Lucy Holliday, Juliet Ashton, Penny Parkes, Iona Grey and many more. They are a friendly bunch and regularly chat to their fans on social media - Twitter is their favourite.

Sharing the book love however is something I am passionate about. For me there is nothing nicer than giving somebody a well chosen book as a gift. It can be one I've read and loved - in that case you need to read it quickly so we can discuss it! - it could be one that I've heard about and know you will love or it could be something tied in with World Book Night/Day. 
I also have a page on Facebook Mary's Writing Page where I run lots of giveaways and that is also a great way to spread book love.

Recently I spoke to a few people I had gifted books to and it was lovely to hear that they had enjoyed their books. Last week I was asked by my friend Sammie for some reading recommendations as she is pregnant - YAY. She wants to get some reading done on her maternity leave. The obvious choice that sprung to mind was The Yorkshire Pudding Club by Milly Johnson. Luckily I had a spare copy so Sammie received one of those. I also had a spare copy of another favourite of mine Summer at Skylark Farm by Heidi Swain so Sammie is borrowing that too. It made me happy to give my friend books I had read and loved. Many of you know that Heidi dedicated Summer at Skylark Farm to me, so it will always hold a special place in my heart.

Sammie and Summer at Skylark Farm


The two friends who receive the most books from me - lucky things - are Tara and Emily. I met Tara through my part-time job for a large supermarket chain and Emily started out as my Macmillan nurse and then became a close friend.
Tara likes romantic comedy and women's fiction and I know if I give her a book I've enjoyed that she will love it. The other day I literally shoved a book under her nose from the shelf at work and told her to buy it and read it! She did and loved it. That book was The Girlfriend by Michelle Frances, it hooked me from the beginning and I would highly recommend it to thriller lovers.

Tara's book haul and a quote I gave her from our shared favourite Winnie the Pooh

Emily and I bonded over the love of our two favourite authors Jill Mansell and Tess Gerritsen. One very happy moment was when I asked Jill to send a signed postcard for Emily to me. I gave it to Emily and she was delighted, went goose bumpy and very nearly cried. How beautiful that an author and a gift can bring so much pleasure.

Jill Mansell

Tess Gerritsen

The other night I was able to give Emily a goody bag courtesy of Sara-Jade Virtue at Simon & Schuster/Books and the City. SJ is the most generous book giver I know and I am very lucky that she invites me to lots of lovely blogging events and author get togethers. Inside the bag were 4 books all of which I got signed to Emily and she was so excited she wanted to leave our table in the restaurant and go home to begin reading.
My lovely Mum in-law -Wendy- received a signed book from Santa Montefiore that I won in a Mother's Day competition. Since then we send her a lot of Santa's books and now that she lives in Ireland a lot of Irish authors have also appeared as gifts. Of course Wendy always receives Heidi's latest book.

Mum's collection - the newest Heidi is still to be sent!

We share a love of Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier and for one birthday we got her a vintage hard-backed copy. She has also had a beautiful copy of Jane Eyre too.

'Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again.'

So if ever you want to give somebody a present, give them a book. Even if they say they don't read a lot, there is a book out there for everyone.

I have included some messages below and books I have recommended to people, so if you see something you fancy then give it a go!


You gave this book to me, and I have read it twice. It has also been passed around the females in the family and is currently being read by my mummy. My nan took it to Canada where she read it and then her sister read it. It is an easy read but is a real feel good book. It made me laugh as I could so relate to the characters pregnancy in the story. xxx

Maggie received the same book from me on World Book Night

My sister Linda read The Cherry Tree Cafe after I talked about it non-stop!

  OK then Mrs. Not exactly recommended to me by you but as you went on about it, then I thought I would give it a try lol! The Cherry Tree Cafe by Heidi Swain. A pleasant easy read with a light hearted story and a leading lady you could relate to. Lizzie makes a few wrong direction decisions but in the end love wins out and The Cherry Tree Cafe itself is described in such detail that I felt it was a real place and I really would like to go and visit there. Linda xx

Lily and the Octopus by Steven Rowley was recommended to me by the Marketing Director of Simon and Schuster Dawn Burnett and I loved it. I then lent it to my friend Heather who loved it too.

Letters to the Lost by Iona Grey. I recommend this book to everybody as I absolutely love it to bits. It is one of the best books I have ever read and if romance is your bag you must read this! It also won a Romance Novelists Association Award.

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins. A lot of people say they find this confusing as the timeline skips. My advice is make sure you read the chapter title every time. It tells you who is talking and the time they are set in, honestly if you read that you won't have any problems.

The Girlfriend by Michelle Frances. Another excellent thriller about a mother, son and his girlfriend and how toxic a relationship can become. I read it in one sitting.

Behind Closed Doors by BA Paris. I have texted 5 people today to tell them they must read this. I have never hated a character so much as I did in this book. The writing is intense and very disturbing. I read it during a thunderstorm and I felt very uncomfortable. I would give anything to be able to write as well as this.

ALL of Heidi Swain's books. I love them and plan to move to Wynbridge. I care not a jot that the town is a figment of Heidi's imagination, I'm off to eat cake at The Cherry Tree Cafe, drink cider and eat bacon from Skylark Farm, go and have Mince Pies and Mistletoe at the Christmas Market and visit the vintage camping experience at Cuckoo Cottage.

That's all for now, but if you fancy winning one of 4 books I have to give away then answer this simple question:

Which book by Milly Johnson did I recommend for Sammie to read during her pregnancy?

Answer either below in the blog comments or on my Facebook Writing Page here Winners will be announced on Friday 21st July.


Sammie reading pic

Wendy Heidi pic

Jo read Cherry tree

Heather read Lily and the octopus

Saturday, 15 July 2017

Book Review - The Upstairs Room by Kate Murray-Browne

The Upstairs Room


Kate Murray-Browne

 Pre-Order here for release on 27th July 2017

Genre: Horror
Contemporary Horror
Adult Fiction

Eleanor, Richard and their two young daughters recently stretched themselves to the limit to buy their dream home, a four-bedroom Victorian townhouse in East London. But the cracks are already starting to show. Eleanor is unnerved by the eerie atmosphere in the house and becomes convinced it is making her ill. Whilst Richard remains preoccupied with Zoe, their mercurial twenty-seven-year-old lodger, Eleanor becomes determined to unravel the mystery of the house’s previous owners – including Emily, whose name is written hundreds of times on the walls of the upstairs room.

Thank you to Pan Macmillan and Netgalley for this ARC, which I have reviewed voluntarily and honestly.

Now I don't mind admitting I am a total wimp when it comes to horror, so I was in two minds whether or not to read this book. I did obviously, but made sure I read it in the daytime or with the lights on. It doesn't help that my bedroom is the 'Upstairs Room' in my cottage either and so far - and believe me I have checked - there are no strange drawings on my walls.

Eleanor and Richard have bought a large house that needs a lot of work doing to it. They have two young children Rosie and Isobel. They rent their basement - a lounge, bedroom and shower room - to Zoe, a local young woman who works in a nearby art store.
Despite the estate agents claims the house looks like it hasn't been lived in for a long while and whoever did live there looks like they left in a hurry. The upstairs room has walls covered in strange drawings, shapes and over and over again the name Emily is written everywhere. There are also children's belongings in the room and a locked suitcase. The door has scratches all over it on the inside as if somebody has been trying to get out whilst on the outside of the door is a large bolt. Whoever tries to enter the room is always met with a strange feeling of pressure from the other side of the door, as if somebody or something is pressing against the door to prevent entry. Eleanor also finds with regularity pebbles ranging in size lined up neatly in the room and on the pavement outside the house. The pebbles make their way nearer and nearer to the house until eventually they are lined up on the doorstep. Richard insists it is just children messing about and nothing to worry about. Eleanor is not convinced and by now she has begun to feel very unwell. She has crippling headaches and vomits constantly. Her symptoms however improve dramatically the longer she is out of the house. Her toddler daughter - Rosie - is also showing signs of being affected by some unknown force. 
Rosie's temper tantrums have reached alarming levels and she has begun to bite Eleanor with a vicious force. Rosie prefers to be at nursery, going into meltdown at weekends when she has to stay at home. Then the night terrors begin and Rosie starts to talk about 'Girl', who is always to blame for any wrongdoing, mess or tantrum.

This book has the makings of an excellent, classic, horror novel. Not a psychological thriller, but a proper spine chilling, read with the lights on horror. However it seemed to lose it's way somewhat. A lot of time was spent going over Eleanor and Richard's past, how they met and so forth. None of this seemed relevant in my opinion, but the author could have been using the negative feelings and underlying tension to explain why the house felt haunted. After all it is claimed by those in the know that buildings pick up on the residents and that spirits can be unsettled by the forces around them.
Then there is their lodger Zoe. Again a lot of time is spent looking into her life, her ex-boyfriend, her Mother, her friends and her new relationship with a guy she has met through work called Adam. Again I wasn't sure why this and indeed the character of Zoe was included. Richard begins to have a fixation with Zoe, visiting her living quarters etc, but beyond that nothing appears to happen.
Zoe has had strange things begin to happen to her since moving into the basement. She wakes up feeling paralysed, unable to move as if there is a force sitting on her chest, she sleepwalks and is found by Eleanor in the upstairs room.

Eleanor tries to glean as much information as she can from the neighbours about the house and the previous owners. The only thing they all tell her is that the mother - Mrs Ashworth - always looks harassed, ill and scared and her daughter Emily was not 'all there'. 

When I got to the end of the book I was none the wiser who the 'Girl' or this spirit was, if there actually was a spirit or if the house was indeed haunted. Did Emily - the previous owner's daughter - have anything to do with it? Did her illness stem from the house or was she ok before they lived there.
I felt slightly cheated if I'm honest.

However in terms of horror writing Murray-Browne excels. I was absolutely petrified reading the descriptions of the strange goings on and I did feel the hairs go up on the back of my neck a few times.
I may devote some time to re-reading this book again and I would be interested to read reviews from other readers to see if their point of view helps me understand the story further. I wonder if the background stories of Eleanor, Richard and Zoe are more pivotal to the story than I gave them credit for.

I am giving this book 4* as the horror writing is fantastic and I really think it deserves another read by me!

Book Review - While You Were Sleeping by Kathryn Croft

While You Were Sleeping


Kathryn Croft

Purchase here

Genre: Adult Thriller
Psychological Thriller

Yesterday your life was perfect. Today you’ll find out that was all a lie.

A gripping, shocking psychological thriller, with a twist that will take you by surprise. For fans of Gone Girl, The Girl on the Train and Behind Closed Doors.

Tara Logan adores her perfect little family: husband, Noah, and two children, teenager Rosie and eleven-year-old Spencer. 

But her happiness is shattered when she wakes up one morning in her neighbour’s bed, with no memory of how she got there or what happened between them. And worse – he has been stabbed to death.

Convinced she didn’t kill Lee and scared of losing everything she cares about, Tara flees home and stays silent, holding her breath as the investigation grips the neighbourhood.

But as her daughter spirals out of control, and her husband becomes increasingly distant, Tara starts to wonder if someone in her life knows what really happened that night. When the police turn their questions towards her, Tara realises she has to find out. 

But what will it take to uncover the real story, and can she survive the truth?

Thank you to Bookouture and Netgalley for this ARC, which I have reviewed voluntarily and honestly.

A fast paced thriller that dives straight into the action. Tara has spent the evening with her neighbour Lee Jacobs, after she pops over to see his wife and her friend Serena. She is out on a hen-do, so Tara has a drink with Lee. The next morning Tara wakes up in Lee's bed, unable to remember anything at all. Lee has also been stabbed and is lying in the bed beside her. Tara has no blood on her at all. She panics, grabs her clothes and flees home. Tara's daughter Rosie has many issues and the family is used to treading on eggshells around her. Rosie becomes a suspect in the murder investigation and has both Tara and her husband Noah wondering if their daughter could be capable of murdering someone in cold blood.

There are many twists and turns in the book  a few too many where Rosie is concerned if I'm honest - but the book is well crafted.
The only criticism I have is of DCI Huny's character. I felt that he doesn't really bring much to the story and although a police involvement is needed, I am not sure if it needs his character.

All in all this was a very good thriller and the added bonus was I didn't guess the ending! 

Book Review - The Regulars by Georgia Clark

The Regulars
Georgia Clark

Purchase here
Genre: Contemporary fiction 

Best friends Evie, Krista and Willow are just trying to make it through their mid-twenties in New York. They're regular girls with typical quarter life crises: making it up the corporate ladder, making sense of online dating, and making rent.

Until they come across Pretty, a magic tincture that makes them, well ...gorgeous. With a single drop, each young woman gets the gift of jaw-dropping beauty for one week, presenting them with unimaginable opportunities to make their biggest fantasies come true.

But there's a dark side to Pretty, too, and as the gloss fades for these modern-day Cinderellas, there's just one question left: what are they prepared to sacrifice?

Thank you to Simon and Schuster and Netgalley for this ARC which I have reviewed honestly and voluntarily.

This book is not what I was expecting at all! Evie, Krista and Willow are 3 friends, average looking, trying to get on in a tough New York City. Evie is a copywriter for Salty magazine, Krista dropped out of law school - much to her Father's disgust - to follow her dream of becoming an actor and Willow is a photographer, desperately trying to step out of her famous film directors Father's shadow.
Evie is currently single and is bi-sexual. She can't seem to meet the right person, male or female. Krista is single and Willow is in a relationship with Mark, although nine months into their relationship Willow has only just begun to call herself his girlfriend.
All 3 women are convinced if they were a little more beautiful, a little more successful and had bubbly personalities all their problems will be solved. Then one evening in a bar Krista has a drink with the stunning Penny - although Krista doesn't remember her being stunning when she knew her years ago. Penny hands her a tiny bottle of liquid called 'Pretty'. This small, innocuous looking bottle has far reaching consequences for all 3 women.
Is being 'Pretty' or just a 'Regular' the best way to be?

I had been given an exclusive chapter sampler at a Blogger evening with Simon and Schuster/Books and the City and I was desperate to read more. The book like I said is not at all what I was expecting. I found some of the language difficult to understand when the characters were talking about feminism and sexual preference, but it didn't really detract from the story.
The story reminded me a little of the film 'Death Becomes Her' in the way that people can never be happy with their lot.

A good read all in all. 

Tuesday, 4 July 2017

Book review - Last Seen Alive by Claire Douglas

Last Seen Alive
Claire Douglas

Pre-order here
Publication date: 13th July
Genre: Thriller, Mystery, Woman's Fiction

She can run
Libby Hall needs to hide, to escape from everything for a while. Which is why the house swap is a godsend. The chance for Libby and her husband Jamie to exchange their tiny Bath flat for a beautiful haven on the wild Cornish coast.
But she can't hide
But before they can begin to heal their fragile marriage, Libby makes some disturbing discoveries about the house. And soon the peace and isolation begin to feel threatening. How alone are they? Why does she feel watched?

Because someone knows her secret
What is Jamie hiding? Is Libby being paranoid? And why does the house bring back such terrible memories? Memories Libby's worked hard to bury. Memories of the night she last saw her best friend alive . . . and what he did.

Thank you to Michael Joseph/Penguin and Netgalley for this ARC, which I have reviewed honestly and voluntarily.

A psychological thriller with a difference. Libby Hall is married to Jamie, they have a dog called Ziggy and Jamie has an over bearing Mother and a snooty sister. The Mother and Sister are very close to Jamie's ex Hannah. Libby feels that she is not good enough for Jamie in his family's eyes, but Jamie loves her, chose her and married her.
Things haven't been going great for Libby and Jamie recently. They have lost their much wanted baby and Jamie's business isn't going as well as it should. 

So when Libby returns home to their basement flat and finds a flyer offering them a house swap in Cornwall, they decide it is exactly what they need. Phillip Heywood and his wife Tara need a flat near to Bath's hospital as their daughter needs a heart operation and it would appear that Libby and James' flat fits the bill.

They drive down to Cornwall and are surprised and astounded to see the Heywood's property is a huge house set atop a cliff with steps leading to the beach. 
Then things start to happen that leave Libby feeling uneasy. She is wary of sharing her fears as Jamie's Mother is a firm believer in 'sharing' whilst Libby likes to keep her problems to herself. Libby has the feeling they are being watched and at a visit to a lighthouse she notices a man training his camera on Jamie, the same man later shoves into Jamie, which in turn knocks Libby over and leaves her rolling towards the cliff edge. The same man is then seen in the garden of the house watching them while they walk Ziggy on the beach.
After Jamie ends up seriously ill in hospital with food poisoning they decide to return to Bath. Philip Heywood has telephoned to say that their daughter has been discharged and they have returned to their home in London.

More and more strange events occur including items being delivered to the flat that they haven't ordered and a man knocking on the door asking for sex with Jamie!
Libby is totally unnerved, is someone from her past trying to scare her? Why would Philip and Tara Heywood have an issue with them? Could Jamie's ex Hannah be involved?

So many questions that nobody can answer and Libby is afraid. Jamie is the only person she has, but someone is clearly trying to make trouble.

I really enjoyed this book. It had many twists and turns and I must admit I reread some parts to get clear in  my head who was talking. The story is set now and in the past when Libby was travelling through Thailand.
Claire Douglas describes the characters well and I found myself loathing Jamie's sister Katie and his ex Hannah. Libby bats away their snide comments like a tennis pro!

I look forward to reading more from Claire Douglas.

Clare can be found on Twitter

Book Review - Practice Makes Perfect by Penny Parkes

Practice Makes Perfect
Penny Parkes

Purchase here

The Practice at Larkford has suddenly been thrust under the spotlight – and its nomination as a ‘NHS Model Surgery’ is causing the team major headaches. Dr Holly Graham should be basking in the glow of her new romance with fellow doctor, Taffy – but she is worried that the team is prioritising plaudits over patients, and her favourite resident, the irreverent and entertaining Elsie, is facing a difficult diagnosis. Add to that the chaos of family life and the strain is starting to show.

Dr Dishy Dan Carter’s obsession with work is masking unhappiness elsewhere – he can’t persuade girlfriend Julia to settle down. It’s only as Julia’s mother comes to stay that he realizes what she has been hiding for so long. Alice Walker joins the team like a breath of fresh air and her assistance dog Coco quickly wins everyone round – which is just as well, because Coco and Alice will soon need some help of their own. Can they pull together and become the Dream Team that the NHS obviously thinks they are?

Thank you to Simon and Schuster/Book and the City Digital Originals and Netgalley for this ARC which I have reviewed honestly and voluntarily.

This is the second book by Penny Parkes based in the fictional village of Larkford, the first being Romantic Comedy of the Year award winning Out of Practice 
It was great to be back amongst the regulars again. Holly, Dan, Taffy and Julia are all GP's in the local surgery. Holly and Taffy live together along with Holly's twin boys from her marriage to Milo and Dan & Julia are also a couple. Julia is a TV star and a production company follow her around the surgery filming her consultations. Along with TV stardom to contend with the surgery has now been put forward as an example of how a modern surgery should be run. All four GP's are equal, there is no longer a Senior Partner, but is this workable? Not all is rosy behind the scenes, will this affect the surgery's future and that of it's staff?

Another delightful novel by Penny Parkes. I loved getting back in touch with the residents of Larkford to see what they were up to. There are some fantastic characters such as Elsie and the Major who make me chuckle. I hope that this is a book series that will continue.

Find Penny on Twitter