Review of 2015 and Thank You!

twitter profile picI wasn’t sure about doing a blog post today but then I realised that I have had such a strange and fantastic year that I need to do this.

I ended 2014 with a psychology degree and an idea of where to go next but also a need to have some time off after what had been quite a stressful and turbulent few years.  I already loved reading and set my Goodreads challenge for this first time because I was determined that reading more would be part of my year off from study, etc.  To achieve this goal I also joined a book group which is still going strong and introducing me to lots of new authors.  Little did I know in those first few months what would happen in the later part of the year.  I had reviewed a few books, but not many at this point and then I discovered NetGalley and started doing reviews for that as well and, I admit, I got a little carried away.  Oops!

Realising that having somewhere other than Goodreads to post reviews would be useful and wanting to get more out of the whole reviewing experience I started my twitter account and it has exceeded my expectations so much.   Then I realised that not having a blog was limiting what I could do so I started this and again have been surprised by the result.  I love using NetGalley but I still can’t get used to the fact that authors and publishers are willing to send me books for review, every time I get a request I get so excited!  I know there are books which I have had for a while and not yet read but please be patient, I’ve spent the last few months of the year trying to get to grips with working while volunteering, blogging, continuing to read and review, juggling 2 Open University courses and dealing with a few other things so while I haven’t read the books yet I promise I will read them.

I have a few plans for next year, some of which are blog related and some not.  I plan on making some small changes to the blog to hopefully make it more user friendly and I am also determined to start posting more regularly, even if it’s only Stacking the Shelves posts at the weekend.  I am continuing with everything I am doing now but I also have a project I want to work on, something that I have wanted to do for years but circumstances and lack of confidence prevented me until now so it will be interesting to see what happens with that.

I volunteered at the Bloody Scotland crime fiction festival this year and it was excellent and I’m hoping to do that again in September 2016.  I’ve also applied to volunteer on World Book Night 0n 23rd April 2016 so fingers crossed I get accepted.

I expect 2016 to be a busy but fulfilling year and for once I’m actually looking forward to the New Year so all that remains is for me to say a massive THANK YOU to everyone who has followed me, tweeted and re-tweeted me and generally made the past few months absolutely brilliant.  Thank you to all the bloggers, authors and publishers that have talked to me, given me auto-approval (Bookouture) or just been thrilled that I’ve enjoyed their books.

Hope you all have a brilliant New Year, see you on the other side!

 

 

My favourite new (to me) authors of 2015.

Although this blog is only a few months old I have been reading and reviewing books all year and have discovered quite a few new authors along the way.  I’ve also completed my Goodreads reading challenge and this year have read 58 books, far more than the 35 I was thinking I might manage!   I’ve seen quite a few interesting posts recently of people’s top 10 books this year and while I think this is a great idea I’ve decided choosing 10 books from 58 would be too tricky so have instead chosen to do a list of my favourite new authors I have discovered this year.

This list is in no particular order and does not mean in any way that other authors works I have read were not good but simply that these authors are ones who I will follow and get excited about new books of theirs being published.

1. Latashia Figueroa.  I’ve only read one novella by this author which was the first part of a trilogy but it was so intensely gripping that I have to read the rest of the series and will definitely be watching this author in 2016.

2. Maggie James.  I’ve read two of Maggie James’ books so far, one on novel writing and one psychological thriller and I loved both.  I have another psychological thriller of hers on my kindle waiting to be read and going by what I’ve already read I know I won’t be disappointed.

3. S.G. MacLean (Shona MacLean).  I read her debut novel for my reading group in the summer and am still remembering parts of it now. Every time someone asks for a novel recommendation, Shona’s is the one I suggest because it stands out above every other debut novel I have ever read.  I had never heard of this author until I read her book but am now a huge fan, the writing, scene setting and story telling are absolutely spot on.  If you like crime, especially historical crime and have never heard of this author I urge you to look her up and I hope you enjoy her books as much as I have.

4. Rachael Lucas.  The first Rachael Lucas novel I read was Sealed with a Kiss, I can’t remember how I found it but  I know the idea of running off to start a new life on a Scottish island appealed to me so I bought it and was hooked.  I’ve read and re-read this book and the novella follow-up already this year and I’m quite sure I’ll be reading them again before the next book comes out in 2016.  This is an author I will definitely be following and will probably become one of those whose books I buy without needing to think about it.

5. Rebecca Raisin.  I saw the description of The Little Bookshop on the Seine and couldn’t resist it.  I’ve loved Paris for years and although I’ve only been once, about 15 years ago, I’ve never forgotten the atmosphere that the city has.  This book recreated that for me, along with interesting and realistic characters and this is why this author has become a new favourite after only one book.  After all, anyone who can make me want to drop everything and hop on the next plane to Paris has to be good!

6. Holly Martin.  I know there are a lot of people who have discovered Holly Martin this year (including me!), probably helped a lot by the fact she managed to write not 1, but 2 Christmas novels.  Both of these were magical stories and although I haven’t reviewed Snowflakes at Silver Cove yet I have rated it as 5 stars.  From what I’ve read so far her novels are definitely the ones I want to be snuggled up with while having hot chocolate and being glad I’m not outside in appalling weather.

7. Cathy Bramley.  I’ve only read one Cathy Bramley novel so far (I know, I need to work on this!) but it was ideal for me.  Conditional Love, a story of someone holding themselves back from what they really want in life, sounded so much like me that I had to read it and see what happened and I was not disappointed.  The writing style was a little different to what I’m used to so to start with I wasn’t sure I’d like it but by the end I was cheering Sophie on and probably needed a tissue or two for the last few pages.  Definitely a new favourite for me and someone whose books I really need to catch up on.

8. M.J. Lee. I’ve only recently discovered this author having read his book, Death in Shanghai, as part of a blog tour and I’m so very glad I did as I loved it.  While the majority of this list are not crime authors this genre has always been my favourite so to find a new author whose book and characters I enjoyed was a real pleasure and a delight.  Death in Shanghai is the first in a series of novels with Inspector Danilov and the brilliant Strachan and is certainly a series I will be following with great anticipation.

9. Marcie Steele.  Although Marcie Steele is better known as Mel Sherratt I have to confess I’d never read any of her books until I discovered Stirred With Love through the wonderful publishers, Bookouture.  I loved the fact that her stories were realistic and put characters I could relate to in realistic settings with believable  problems.  This is definitely an author to watch for me and I’m obviously going to have to add some Mel Sherratt books to my reading list for next year.

10. Jenny Hale. Bookouture have provided me with a lot of new authors this year and Jenny Hale is one of them.  While I had mixed feelings about one of the characters in Christmas Wishes and Mistletoe Kisses I did enjoy the book and I know this was one where I was in need of tissues at the end.  This is possibly the only book that has ever made me feel excited about Christmas ( a period of the year which I enjoy mainly because I get to read and not work!) and that is why Jenny Hale has made my list of favourite authors for 2015.  I know she is working on a new book just now which is due out next year and I’m looking forward to reading it already.

Although I will be reading books by these authors next year as well as authors I already love I am hoping that 2016 will introduce me to even more excellent authors to add to my favourites list.

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading this, whether you agree with my choices or not, and I hope that you’ve found one or two new authors to add to your to read list.  I’m off now, back to Diagon Alley where Harry Potter is just about to be introduced to the wizarding world.

 

 

 

Stacking the Shelves

stacking the shelves

It’s been a few weeks since my first Stacking the Shelves post but I want to make this a regular feature of my blog and have received some excellent books recently hence this new post.  Stacking the Shelves (hosted by Tynga’s reviews) is about sharing all of the books you have received in the past week whether they are physical books or ebooks.  As a one-off and because it’s been  a while since the last one of these, I’ve decided to put up all the books I have got since December 1st which will at least mean that I’m up to date.

Books I have bought this month.

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The Sea Detective

I don’t often buy paperbacks because my bookcase is full but I couldn’t resist these two and am looking forward to reading a Christmas murder mystery over the next few weeks.  The Wilkie Collins book caught my eye too and sounds intriguing so that should be good and the Sea Detective is a book group choice so while I don’t think I would have  chosen it myself it does sound interesting.

ARC’s or Review books I have received this month.

The Good Kind of BadDestination Thailand 183 Times a Year

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Green Hills of Home  I Came to Find a Girl   Killer Pursuit   Diary of a Stressed Out Mother: 'Bedlam'The Fire Within (Kell of the Deep Space Corps Book 1)The Silk Merchant's Daughter

Our Endless Numbered Days

 

The Pestilence   Kitty's Countryside Dream: A feel good romantic comedy about life, love and family.

 

 

You can find my review of Kitty’s Countryside Dream here

 

The review for The Fire Within will be up by 30th December so keep an eye out for that.  My review for The Pestilence will be up on 25th January as I’m reviewing it as part of the blog tour organised by Neverland Blog Tours.  Also the review for Killer Pursuit will be up on 26th January as I review it as part of the blog tour organised by Xpresso Book Tours. Clearly January is going to be a busy month for me!  Reviews for the other books will also be posted once I’ve read them.

Review of Kitty’s Countryside Dream

Kitty's Countryside Dream: A feel good romantic comedy about life, love and family.     4 stars

Book blurb: New home. New life. New beginning. It’s time for Kitty Lewis to start living again . . .

When Kitty inherits Bluebell Lodge from her grandmother, a farm in the beautiful Staffordshire countryside, it’s time for fresh air and a fresh start. Up to her elbows in chickens and ponies, Kitty soon realises there’s an awful lot to learn about farming. Still, at least the locals seem friendly, not least her handsome neighbour Tom…

But just as Kitty is beginning to find her feet, the discovery of a long-hidden diary,at the farm, by a mysterious character called Violet changes everything. Who is Violet and what is her message for Kitty? As Kitty fills in the lost pieces of her family jigsaw and discovers some shocking revelations, will her countryside dream fall to pieces? When it comes to life in the country, nothing is ever quite as it seems …

My review: Having seen the cover reveal of this book I was thrilled to be able to get an advanced copy from NetGalley. Thanks to Bookouture and Christie Barlow for that. As I was between books, having just finished an excellent but intense detective story I decided that the timing of this book arrival was perfect and I was not disappointed. As this is a new book I’ve included the blurb above so won’t repeat it here but will say that there is so much more to this than the blurb covers. Aside from Tom and the lovely, but occasionally irritating Kitty, there is also Jeannie who works on the farm, her brother Robin, Lucinda the local bakery owner and a few other characters, all of whom are well-written and completely realistic. The setting of the story is also lovely and well-written but what is the focus in this book is Kitty’s life.

Until she inherited Bluebell Lodge she knew nothing about her grandmother and so the inheritance comes as a complete surprise. Moving into the flat she has also inherited she begins working on the chicken farm that comes with the Lodge and then finds Violet’s diary which slowly reveals a few family secrets along with the identity of Violet herself. While dealing with these revelations Kitty is also trying to understand her feelings towards Tom as well as making new friends and learning how to be a chicken farmer. There were a few instances in this book when Kitty irritated me (hence my earlier comment) as I could see what was coming and she was missing it completely. However, even when everything I had figured out was revealed there were still more shocks and surprises in store that had me reaching for some tissues.

This is an excellent book which swept me along so well that I read it in less than a day. I loved the characters and the story and will definitely be reading more by this author. This is definitely a book to read curled up with a mug of tea or hot chocolate.

The book is out on 25th February 2016 and is available to pre-order now.

Death in Shanghai – Blog Tour

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Blurb: Shanghai, 1928. The body of a blonde is washed up on the Beach of Dead Babies, in the heart of the smog-filled city. Seemingly a suicide, a closer inspection reveals a darker motive: the corpse has been weighed down, it’s lower half mutilated…and the Chinese character for ‘justice’ carved into the chest.

The moment Inspector Danilov lays eyes on the dismembered body, he realises that he has an exceptional case on his hands. And when the first body is followed by another, and another, each displaying a new, bloody message, he has no option but face the truth. He is dealing with the worst kind of criminal; someone determined, twisted…and vengeful.

Someone who must be caught….whatever the cost.

Death in Shanghai is the first novel in M J Lee’s Inspector Danilov series, perfect for fans of Philip Kerr.

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/25679475-death-in-shanghai?ac=1&from_search=1#other_reviews

Amazon UK: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Death-Shanghai-Inspector-Danilov-Book-ebook/dp/B00WKMG54G/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1447339815&sr=1-1&keywords=death+in+shanghai

My rating and review:    4.5 stars

Knowing I already enjoy historical crime and having loved Boris Akunin’s Fandorin series I was intrigued by the blurb for this book. This is not a book to be read quickly and rushed through but one to be savoured. I admit it took me a little while to get into the story, partly I suspect due to introducing and developing the main characters, but suddenly halfway through everything got going. What had been a steady police investigation suddenly gained pace and intensity and I was completely hooked. I loved the characters (clearly not all of them!) but Danilov and Strachan develop into an excellent team during the course of the book and we begin to understand them as the story progresses and insights into their characters and lives are revealed. The detail and description of Shanghai is excellent, I’ve never been there but I could clearly imagine the sights, sounds and smells of the city. I also loved all the little details, like the meals Strachan had when he got home at night, little details like that made this book stand out for me. I know the second in the series is due out in March and I will definitely be reading it. I have been quite bereft since the Fandorin series ended but I think in Danilov I have found a new detective to follow and I will be impatiently waiting for book 2 and all the subsequent books in the series.

author pic      About the author:   Martin has spent most of his adult life writing in one form or another. As a University researcher in history, he wrote pages of notes on reams of obscure topics. As a social worker with Vietnamese refugees, he wrote memoranda. And, as the creative director of an advertising agency, he has written print and press ads, tv commercials, short films and innumerable backs of cornflake packets and hotel websites.
He has spent 25 years of his life working outside the North of England. In London, Hong Kong, Taipei, Singapore, Bangkok and Shanghai, winning awards from Cannes, One Show, D&AD, New York and London Festivals, and the United Nations.
Whilst working in Shanghai, he loved walking through the old quarter of that amazing city, developing the idea behind a series of crime novels featuring Inspector Pyotr Danilov, set in 1920s and 30s.
When he’s not writing, he splits his time between the UK and Asia, taking pleasure in playing with his daughter, practicing downhill ironing, single-handedly solving the problem of the French wine lake and wishing he were George Clooney.

Twitter: https://twitter.com/WriterMJLee

Website: http://t.co/toUE3oTBWT

Giveaway

Blogspot: a Rafflecopter giveaway

WordPress: http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/bf63305747/?

Review: That’s What Friends Are For

That's What Friends Are For by Marcie Steele     4 stars

Having read and enjoyed Stirred With Love I was thrilled to get an advance copy of this from Netgalley and Bookouture (thanks!). This is quite different from Marcie’s other book in that the characters have all known each other for years. We meet them at a tricky point in their lives, Sam’s marriage is not as it seems, Louise is out every weekend trying to distract herself from the fact that she is not happy being single and her relationship with her teenage daughter is not as good as it used to be. The return of someone from their past leads to a lot of change and turmoil for both Sam and Louise and for their relationship, as well as for their friends and family.

Although there are a lot of characters in this book the way it is written means that there is no confusion over who is who or what they are doing, which can sometimes occur in books with multiple significant characters. All of the characters are well-written and Louise and Sam’s characters both develop as the story progresses. I enjoyed this book and read it in two days which is unusual for me. All in all this is a really good book which shows that even the best of friends keep secrets and you never know someone as well as you think you do. Definitely a book worth reading.

Review of Summer at Shell Cottage

Summer at Shell Cottage by Lucy Diamond     5 stars

As a fan of Lucy Diamond’s books I was looking forward to reading this one but between studying and new books constantly enticing me to read them it got rather left behind until recently. I decided to take a break from Netgalley and other review books and read something from my very full to read shelf and this is what I chose and I was not disappointed.

Summer at Shell Cottage tells the story of Olivia Tarrant who is dealing with the recent death of her husband and consequently not looking forward to the family’s annual summer holiday to Shell Cottage. Her children and grand-children are also having problems of their own which means quite a few of them are keeping secrets and as we all know, secrets have a habit of being found out. Ultimately the family decide to stick with tradition and have their annual holiday which is the cue for shocks, revealing of secrets (see what I mean!?!!), new friendships and repairing of relationships. Although things are resolved by the end of the book, it is by no means a happily ever after perfect ending which is ideal as life is never perfect and the ending of this and other Lucy Diamond books are more realistic and plausible because of it.

As you can no doubt tell I loved this book. The fact that I read it in November didn’t detract from it at all and possibly helped me enjoy it even more as I was able to escape the dull, wet evenings and imagine I was enjoying gorgeous summer weather in Devon. The characters were all believable and well-written as always and the descriptions of Devon and Shell Cottage were so good I could almost hear the sea.

If you haven’t discovered Lucy’s books before I would definitely recommend trying this one and, if you’re a current fan and haven’t read it yet, it’ll definitely be worth the wait! I’m now off to read some of my other books while I wait, a tad impatiently, on her next book coming out on 28th January (i’m so excited!!).