Sunday, 18 December 2016

'A Christmas Surprise' by Emily Murdoch (Review as part of the Writerly Yours Christmas Readathon)

About the Book - in my own words

'A Christmas Surprise' is a wonderfully written Regency romance novella about Lady Audrey who has now turned 18 years of age, the perfect age to host a society Christmas Ball to find a husband. Lady Audrey has never met any man that has made her consider marriage in her whole 18 years. How can she possibly find a husband at such an event and why would she when she is perfectly happy in her life.

Lady Audrey's loving father describes the account of Lady Audrey's first Christmas Ball, when her mother was still living. Lord Robert describes how magical the event was with her mother and how well the idea of a masked ball went down well with the guests. This particular detail intrigues Lady Audrey and she thinks what a wonderful way to 'come out' as a new woman of society, so there it was, Lady Audrey was going to plan her very own masked Christmas Ball at Scotchmore Castle. 
At the Christmas Ball, a tall dark and handsome stranger asks Lady Audrey to dance, to which she happily agrees....

Will Lady Audrey ever find out the stranger's true identity? Will she ever marry? 

Favourite Quote

“And that is not right. A man should not be measured by the worth in his pocket, but the worth in his heart.” 

The Review

If you have suffered a bit of a book slump recently and you're just wanting a quick read, lots of romance and a sprinkle of Christmas, then this is it!

This Christmas Romance Novella, the way in which it is written and the Regency era interested me right away and I couldn't wait to start reading.

When I started reading the first chapter, I did think 'Oh no, I really hope this isn't going to revolve around class and money too much' and luckily 90% of the book is Romance.

The romance story between Lady Audrey and Thomas is so beautiful, I only wish there was more of it, I could have read 100 pages more at least! but I am glad there wasn't much suspense around Lady Audrey finding out the stranger she danced with was Thomas. It would have driven me crazy! I think it would have been nice to read about how Lady Audrey and Thomas were when Audrey was younger and their lives leading up to the reveal, especially about how Thomas became the valet.

I did feel there was very little description of Christmas apart from the Ball being a 'Christmas Ball' and there was only really a subtle mention of Winter for my liking. This family comes with wealth so I think in reality, the Christmas decorations and food etc would have been more grand so a little bit more content around how the castle was decorated for Christmas would have added to the festive feeling - I am being picky here!

At the end when Thomas told Lady Audrey that she is the 'best Christmas Surprise he ever had' - I feel like the romance was deeper than that comment, even if he said 'This is the best Christmas I've ever had' I think it would have fitted better. That's just me being picky, again!

All in all, I love this novella so much. I want to read it all again and I will definitely be recommending this story to family and friends as we all love the Georgian/ Regency/ Victoria era when it comes to Romance!

4/5 Stars, thank you Emily!

S x

Actual Blurb

Every year for thirty years Lord Robert, the Viscount of Marchwood, throws a Christmas Ball. 

But this year the Marchwood Christmas Ball holds extra importance. 

His daughter, Lady Audrey, has just turned eighteen, and it is time for her to be introduced into society. 

It is Audrey’s first, best, and potentially only chance of securing a husband. 

Especially seeing as there are rumours that the Marchwood money is running dry. 

But headstrong Lady Audrey is not sure she wants a husband. 

Ever since her mother died she has been left to her own devices. 

Though she is very close to her father, it was often the servants she turned to for companionship, particularly Thomas, who, five years older than her, was always the person she depended on for conversation. 

She is not ready to leave everything she knows, and the thought of abandoning her father breaks her heart. 

She is determined that only someone truly special will take her away from her home. 

But with the ball centred around a masquerade theme, everyone is in disguise. 

And a handsome stranger threatens to steal Audrey’s heart. 

Could he hold the key to her heart? 

And when she unmasks him will it be a good, or bad, Christmas Surprise? 

‘A Christmas Surprise’ is a festive regency romance novella.

About the Author

Emily Murdoch is a medieval historian and writer. She has authored a medieval series and a regency novella series, and is currently working on several new projects. To stay updated on her writing and upcoming books, follow:

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Saturday, 17 December 2016

‘The Collector’ by John Fowles (Review)

‘The Collector’ by John Fowles

“I love making, I love doing. I love being to the full, I love everything which is not sitting and watching and copying and dead at heart”.

“I hate the uneducated and the ignorant. I hate the pompous and the phoney. I hate the jealous and the resentful. I hate the crabbed and mean and the petty. I hate all ordinary dull little people who aren’t ashamed of being dull and little”.

General plot: Frederick becomes obsessed with a girl (Miranda) who lives close to him in a town called Lewes. He follows her, watches her and he falls in love. Frederick kidnaps  Miranda so he can be with her forever.

This was a book chosen by my other half one day while we were out for searching for a good ol' book haul. He read it and raved so much about it that I had to see what all the fuss was about, I was a little bit sceptical as we don't usually enjoy the same books. Here is what I thought.

It’s not like I couldn’t put this book down which is what I always hope for in a new book but
I found that throughout the book, I began to feel so much sympathy for Miranda’s character, that this book almost brought me to tears a few times; however, this book goes against all the feelings you think you should feel towards Frederick, it's really surprising and made me question myself a number of times!

I would describe this book as 'disturbing’ because no one can ever imagine what it must feel like to be kidnapped but this book gives some insight into that and how one might feel in that situation. Boy, is it horrific and I found, sometimes hard to read.

I would also describe this book as 'thrilling’ because you can be on the second to last chapter and you still don’t know how this book will end and it just grips you.

I had my thoughts before I started this book, and let’s just say, I couldn’t have been more wrong.

I would definitely recommend if you enjoy a twisted, eerie thriller. This has to be one of the best.

Rating - 8.2/10


Wednesday, 14 December 2016

‘Palo Alto’ by James Franco (Review)

‘Palo Alto’ by James Franco

A book about a group of teenagers struggling with how they feel, think and act towards certain aspects/ people in their lives. The last chapter was a separate short story all of it’s own.

Rating - 7/10

If I was to describe this book in 3 words: Dark, Modern, Indie and Captivating.

Favourite Quotation’s: 

“I guess in some people’s lives, no one tells you what to be, and so you be nothing”.

“What an adventure lies behind one quick turn of the steering wheel”.

A few reason’s I purchased this book:

I was hoping for another ‘Perks of Being a Wallflower’ and this seemed like it would be similar, I have seen this book advertised in film a lot recently and I wanted a book that I wouldn’t be able to put down (I wasn’t disappointed).

From the first line of the first chapter, this book caught me,

“Ten years ago, my sophomore year in high school, I killed a woman on Halloween”

The deal was done, I was buying the book. With a first line like that, how can someone not be curious about how this happened, why this happened and everything in between?

The last chapter (the bonus story) was one of my favorite parts of the whole book. It was different to the rest of the content but still as modern and captivating.. just more naive and innocent.

I wasn’t expecting to be taken a back by how graphic this novel was at times but I think that’s what makes read more ‘modern’ and 'indie' and what separates it from similar books within these genre's.

The reason why this book didn’t receive a 10/10 for me was because I got a little lost with the characters sometimes. I wasn’t always sure which character I was reading about, I don’t think this was made clear enough (for me) and there are only 213 pages, I would have liked a longer book (which is also a compliment!)

Overall, I would recommend this book and I am looking forward to seeing the movie when it is eventually released here in the UK.

S x

Thursday, 8 December 2016

'A Monster Calls' by Patrick Ness (Review)

Most of you avid readers (especially the YA lovers) will have definitely heard of 'A Monster Calls'. There has been so much hype over this book online and after reading quite a few Christmas Romance novels, I needed something a little different.

Think 'The Neverending Story' mixed with some 'Labyrinth' and a dash of 'Perks of Being a Wallflower' (one of my personal favourites) and this is what this book reminds me of

*My Own Understanding Of The Story - little spoilers*

'A Monster Calls' is about a young boy (I'm not sure how old exactly, my guess would be around 13/14 years old), Conor who lives with his terminally ill mum. Conor suffers with nightmares but one particular nightmare on a regular basis. The one where he can't hold on any longer. His mum begins to deteriorate very quickly, which is when his dad travels from America to see him, for the first time in years. Conor is surprised he even managed to get away from his hypochondriac wife. Conor's grandma also starts to interfere in Conor's life when his mum is at her worst and even suggests he lives with her for a while...not ideal. There is another character in this book of course... the Yew tree. It's just a Yew tree... At the bottom of Conor's garden that just happens to come to life like a giant monster and begins telling Conor stories, only the 4th story - Conor has to tell.

*My Review*

Let me start off by saying this book wasn't what I was expecting. It was definitely a little more YA than what I'm used to. I think this would have been more suitable for a 13 year old. Saying that, I will probably go and see the movie because I'm curious how they're going to mange it visually. I took this recommendation from Zoella's WHSmith Book Club and as I am a similar age to Zoe (and she enjoyed it so much) I was expecting some thing else.

I did enjoy the stories told by the Yew Tree and the relationship between Conor and Lilly.

I also think the way Patrick Ness has written this book, helps you to envisage the scenes really well. I can't say a bad word about how it was written and I did read this in 3 days... there was just something missing for me and I can't put my finger on it! but I can say I wish it would have been a little longer.

If you're wanting to read something a little different, eery with a little sadness chucked in for good measure, then give this book a try.

If you have read this book, what were your views?

3/5 Stars.

S x

Saturday, 3 December 2016

'A Christmas Tail' by Cressida McLaughlin (Review)

Hello and Welcome to a whole new Christmas Book Review as part of the,
 'Writerly Yours Christmas Readathon'.  

This is the PERFECT time to get stuck into a Christmas Romance Novel.  Just as December is, well, right now. 

So, I'm sure you're thinking, 'Oh, another Christmas Romance, how is this going to be any different to the others'. Well my little loves, don't you worry. Cressida McLaughlin has you covered. So what makes this Christmas romance different? There are dogs! lots of loveable dog characters that can warm the cockles of anyone.  If you're more of a Cat lover then there's a little Cat in there too. The main character...

Cat is a kind, curious over thinker who is new to Primrose Terrace and is currently lodging at her friend, Polly and her brother,  Joe's house. Cat currently works at a Nursery, until one day when she gets herself fired. 

Becoming unemployed is the best thing that ever happened to Cat and with Joe's brilliance (Joe also manages his own illustrative business), Cat realises she can do so much more and starts her own business, 'Pooch Promenade'  - Dog walking. 

One day when Cat is walking the dogs in the park, she notices a stranger...a tall dark and handsome stranger called Mark. Although Cat is warned about Mark from the local cafe owner, she still wants to know more about him and what brings him to Primrose Terrace. Is Mark dating Jessica the pristine and classy local 'celeb'? and is this just lust or will Cat find love in time for Christmas?

The first thing that drew me to this book was the front cover. It is  so pretty and so festive. I love the pun in the title and I am a huge animal lover so this drew me in, instantly.

The way Cressida writes helps you to imagine the scenes so well. I could picture Primrose Terrace vividly and the park nearby. I wanted to jump into the novel and snap up Frankie's spare room.

Another thing Cressida explains so well are the seasons throughout the course of the book. When she described the summer days, I could almost feel the sun beating down on me. This made me pine for Summer (for a whole of 6 seconds - Autumn is my favourite season).

*Spolier Alert*

A few of my favourite scenes:

I loved the scene where Cat and Joe were in the van on the beach. I think this is when it hit them both that they were very much in love. I literally let out a little 'Grrrr' of irritation when they were interrupted.

When Mr Jasper helped Cat with Chalky - so many feels.

UGH - one of the scenes that got my back up was Mark's behaviour at Jessica's Christmas Party. This man repulses me!

I love Curiosity Kitten and I am Team Joe all the way.

All in all I can say is that this book was full of suspense for me, warmed my heart and made me feel very Christmassy. It also made me miss my family dog, Molly who passed away a couple of years ago but also made me thankful that we had such an amazing dog for 13 years. <3

S x

This book is a bargain at 99p on the Kobo, or if you have a Kindle or would like the hard copy, you can find the link here

Monday, 21 November 2016

'Christmas at the Little Wedding Shop' by Jane Linfoot (Review)

Good Evening and Welcome to blog post no. 2.

Today I will be reviewing, ‘Christmas at the Little Wedding Shop’ by Jane Linfoot.

I have been desperate to join a book club in so long. So when @WriterlyYours got in touch on Twitter to take part in the Christmas Readathon, excited is an understatement.

As you may have seen from my Twitter description box, I am getting married (really?) in May 2018 and so when I saw this book on the Writerly Yours Twitter page, I just had to read it. 

Christmas is one of my favourite times of year and after reading, ‘A Thousand Splendid Suns’ by Khaled Hosseini (which I absolutely loved, may I add. The review is up already), I wanted something a little more 'light hearted' to get my teeth stuck into and what better than a Winter romance.

Seraphina East is a Wedding Dress designer who lives in a quaint little sea side town in Cornwall. Sera works alongside Jess, the ‘Brides By The Sea’ shop owner who keeps Sera on her toes with her bossy big sisterly ways (which Sera actually very much appreciates). Sera is mortified when her big sister ‘bridezilla’ Alice asks her to take charge of her wedding planning. Sera unwillingly agrees. 
The first task on Sera’s Wedding list is to meet the Best Man, Quinn. 
One day, as Jess is pushing Sera to try on her bridesmaid dress for Alice’s big day, there is a knock at the shop door. Sera hears a familiar voice that makes her stomach turn. It’s her ex- crush (I think 'crush' is the appropriate word), Johnny, from uni who Kate seems to remember completely ignoring her when she tried to contact him a few years ago. What is he doing here? 
I enjoyed this read as it was just what I needed at the time and it made me feel very excited to start planning my own wedding and for Christmas.
If you would like a light hearted, wintery warmer of a romance novel then here it is!

3.5/5 stars.

S x

Tuesday, 15 November 2016

'A Thousand Splendid Suns' by Khaled Hosseini (Review)

Hello everyone,

 A huge welcome to my very first (argh!) Book Review. 

This review contains no spoilers (like I'd do that to you!)

I managed to find myself in such a book slum a few weeks back and I decided to reach out to the people of Twitter and ask for a book recommendation. I received a couple of replies but one recommendation that stood out to me was via @PowersMolinar  who recomended,  
'A Thousand Splendid Suns' by Khaled Hosseini and I had previously seen Khaled Hosseini's 'The Kite Runner' and loved it, I felt I'd be onto a winner, and boy, I was not disappointed. 

About the Author: 

Khaled Hosseini was born in Kabul, Afghanistan, in 1965. In 1970 Hosseini and his family moved to Iran where his father worked for the Embassy of Afghanistan in Tehran. In 1973 Hosseini's family returned to Kabul.

In 1976, when Hosseini was 11 years old, Hosseini's father obtained a job in Paris, France, and moved the family there. They were unable to return to Afghanistan because of the Saur Revolution in which the PDPA communist party seized power through a bloody coup in April 1978. 

Instead, a year after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, in 1980 they sought political asylum in the United States and made their residence in San Jose, California.

'Mariam is only fifteen when she is sent to Kabul to marry Rasheed. Nearly two decades later, a friendship grows between Mariam and a local teenager, Laila, as strong as the ties between mother and daughter. When the Taliban take over, life becomes a desperate struggle against starvation, brutality and fear. Yet love can move people to act in unexpected ways, and lead them to overcome the most daunting obstacles with startling heroism' - Now with a blurb like that, is there any wonder I wanted to read further?

From start to finish, this book gripped me and wouldn't let go until the very end (a tear was shed, many a tear!)

This book is everything I had wished for. It was Gripping, Emotional, Unforgettable, and educational. It contained lots of love, but lots of heartache and at times, unfathomable brutality. 

This book truly opened my eyes to the true victims of war, the locals and their families who are so very often, forgotten.

I will never forget this book and I will be talking about it for years to come. 

S x