Monday 28 December 2015

Bella's Christmas Bake Off by Sue Watson

Bella's Christmas Bake OffBella's Christmas Bake Off by Sue Watson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Time taken to read - 1 day

Pages - 314

Publisher - Bookouture

Blurb from Goodreads

Two best friends. One big lie. The best bake off EVER. Bella Bradley is the queen of television baking - a national treasure. Her Christmas specials have been topping the ratings for years and her marriage to Peter 'Silver Fox' Bradley is the stuff of Hello magazine specials. But this year things are going to be different. For Amy Lane, Bella's best friend from school, life hasn't held quite the same sparkle. And when Amy's husband walks out three weeks from Christmas, it seems their lives are further apart than ever. Amy has watched Bella's rise to fame fondly, despite the fact Bella was always a terrible cook. But when she realises that Bella's latest Christmas book is made up entirely of Amy's mother's recipes, the gloves are off... After winning a competition to appear on Bella's TV show, Amy is going to make sure that for Bella and her viewers, this will definitely be a Christmas to remember... A hilarious, heart-breaking and feel good read about best friends, baking and the magic of Christmas.

My Review

Amy Lane is a content house wife, baking, watching her old estranged friend Bella's cooking programme and getting ready for Christmas. Amy is a teacher, living a relatively mundane life whilst her old friend is married to a big star, her cooking show goes from strength to strength & is living the perfect superstar life. When Amy's husband drops a bombshell it snowballs a chain of events that will change everything for Amy & Bella. Bella hasn't spoken to Amy in years, refuses to answer her mail & despite being rubbish at cooking is now pulling off amazing feats in her televised show. When Amy realizes Bella has been passing off her mothers recipes as her own, it is one blow to many & Amy is ready to take Bella down!

This is a great festive read although you can read it any time of the year. A story of friendship, betrayal, love, lessons in life, humour, realism and a wee glimpse into what appears to be a wonderful celebrity style life. Amy has felt guilty for years over why her and Bella fell out all of those years ago, now she is angry at Bella's betrayal, her husbands abandonment & takes matters into her own hands. The story is both endearing and at times quite amusing. There are a few wee surprises and revelations along the way although I did see one or two coming.

I could have read this book in one sitting had circumstances permitted however I did devour it over the course of one day. The writing flows, is very easy to follow and I really did enjoy it, a lovely wee read for Christmas eve. I would recommend this to anyone to be honest, I can't imagine anyone not enjoying it. Many thanks to Kim at Bookouture for providing me with a copy of this in exchange for an honest review and introducing me to a new author. I would read this author again, 4/5 for me this time, you can obtain your own copy now either on kindle or paperback.

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Wednesday 23 December 2015

Merry Christmas - December giveaway

This may be my latest giveaway yet. Apologies however, the act of juggling work, home life and the madness that is Christmas has proven to have me, if not beaten, at least off schedule. So, Decembers giveaway will be one £5 Amazon Voucher.

The competition will run until the end of the month. Open worldwide, as long as you have an email account you can use for Amazon you can enter.

I hope you are all set for Christmas, if you celebrate. Here is a few of the pictures from the OTT festive decorations in our house. The tackier the better, most things do not match and some are decades old :D

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The Deep by Nick Cutter

The DeepThe Deep by Nick Cutter
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Time taken to read - 5 days

Publisher - Headline

Pages - 394

Blurb from Goodreads

A plague is destroying the world's population. The 'Gets makes people forget. First it's the small things, like where you left your keys ... then the not-so-small things, like how to drive. And finally your body forgets how to live.

But now an unknown substance with extraordinary power to heal has been discovered in the depths of the Pacific Ocean. Nicknamed ambrosia, it might just be the miracle cure the world has been praying for.

A research lab has been established eight miles below the sea's surface, but all contact with the team has been lost. Dr Luke Nelson's brother is down there and as desperation for a cure outweighs common sense, he agrees to descend through the lightless fathoms ... perhaps to face an evil blacker than anything he could have imagined.

My Review

We start with The 'Gets - people are dying and the plague is cruel, people forgetting simple things at first until your body forgets how to function. Luke Nelson knows how it feels to lose someone to it and wants a cure, everyone does. His brother Clayton, a mad scientist, is part of a team working 8 miles under the sea surface on a cure. If anyone can crack this it will be Clayton, but contact with the team has been lost and Luke must descend to find his brother, to face his family demons and hopefully establish if there is a cure. Why lies waiting beneath may be worse than that which Luke has left above.

This is really a sci-FY style story. We have a horrible plague robbing humans of who their are before they eventually die. Then we have a research lab, 8 miles under the surface where Clayton is experimenting trying to find a cure. When Luke finally agrees to head down, memories of his past surface and Luke has to try and deal with that, as well as some of the impossible sights in front of him.

Wonders of the earth, death, madness and destruction are waiting below. This book is quite eerie in the way the atmosphere is build up when Luke descends. The writer has you feeling claustrophobic as the walls close in and the tension builds. However, I felt initially the story was going to be about The 'Gets plague, this was really a precursor for everything that comes when Luke gets below the sea. That is the main focus of the story, that and his childhood and his abusive mother. There is also animal experimentation and cruelty which I found quite hard to read although it was within context for the story. I think this will be a huge hit with many people, for me though I just didn't enjoy it. A lot of jumping around, the animal thing and I would have liked more on The 'Gets, 2/5 for me this time. Thanks so much to BookBridgr for providing me with a copy in exchange for an honest review. I would read this author again, I just didn't love this particular story.

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Thursday 17 December 2015

The Last of the Bowmans by J Paul Henderson

The Last of the BowmansThe Last of the Bowmans by J Paul Henderson
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Time taken to read - on and off for 4 days

Pages - 288

Publisher - No Exit Press

Blurb from the back cover

After an absence of seven years, Greg Bowman returns home from America to find his father lying in a bamboo coffin, his estranged brother Billy stalking a woman with no feet, and his 79 year-old Uncle Frank planning to rob a bank. While renovating the family house, he is unexpectedly visited by the presence of his dead father and charged with the task of 'fixing' the family. In the course of his reluctant investigations, Greg discovers an unsettling secret of his father's, and one that brings him face to face with the consequences of his own past.

My Review

Lyle Bowman was 83 years old when he died, bringing his son Greg back home from America to attend the funeral. Greg has always been a bit of a loose canon whilst his brother Billy has been a straight laced hard working family man. Greg aims to renovate his fathers house before heading back home and leaving it all behind him, however, Lyle has other plans. He died leaving behind unfinished business that Greg will now need to sort, from his stable brother who is harboring a secret and stalking a colleague to his 70+ year old Uncle Frank who is planning to Rob a bank. Greg has his work cut out for him, dealing with the nosey neighbour, his family problems, his fathers ghost telling him what to do and self exploration, Greg is about to embark on quite a journey.

If I had to use one word to sum up this book it would be bizarre but not in a bad way. The book is laced with humour despite starting with a death. A ghost whose choice of clothing itself raises an eyebrow, a family that is in crisis albeit hilariously so at so many points, it also deals with some big serious issues. It depicts a dysfunctional family that are forced back into each others lives after a loss and learning to be there for each other and the value of having a relationship with loved ones.

The writing is easy to slip into, I generally hate reading books over the course of a few days as you often forget things or miss parts, not so with this book. The characters, whilst not all likable, make an impression and stay with you. A quirky wee read and the first time I have read or in fact heard of this author, I would read more of his work. Thanks so much to RealReaders for sending me an ARC in exchange for an honest review, you can buy your own copy from January 21st, 2016. If you like something a wee bit different with humour, serious issues intertwined and very easy to follow, this is the book for you!

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Monday 7 December 2015

The Sunrise by Victoria Hislop

The SunriseThe Sunrise by Victoria Hislop
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Time taken to read - 3 days

Publisher - Headline Review

Pages - 406

Blurb from Goodreads

In the summer of 1972, Famagusta in Cyprus is the most desirable resort in the Mediterranean, a city bathed in the glow of good fortune. An ambitious couple are about to open the island's most spectacular hotel, where Greek and Turkish Cypriots work in harmony. Two neighbouring families, the Georgious and the Özkans, are among many who moved to Famagusta to escape the years of unrest and ethnic violence elsewhere on the island. But beneath the city's façade of glamour and success, tension is building.

When a Greek coup plunges the island into chaos, Cyprus faces a disastrous conflict. Turkey invades to protect the Turkish Cypriot minority, and Famagusta is shelled. Forty thousand people seize their most precious possessions and flee from the advancing soldiers. In the deserted city, just two families remain. This is their story.

My Review

It is 1972, set in Famagusta in Cyprus, hot spot for tourists and flourishing for the locals. Aphroditi & her husband Savaas are already proud hotel owners but Savvas has his sights set even higher and wants to build a bigger lavish hotel for the creme de la creme. Everything looks to be going well when Turkey invades, the unrest had warned it would lead to this but some of the locals refused to believe it. Forty thousand flee from the soldiers but a few refuse to leave their homes, this is the story of a handful of people before and after the invasion.

My lack of knowledge on history is really quite shocking and I am the first to admit I don't willingly pick up books like this. However fiction based on fact I really enjoy as you get involved in the characters and learn about historical events and the impact of them. I went on to read up on this and see some of the pictures, it is a shame this place is still abandoned, guarded and left uninhibited.

This story creates a powerful vision of what this beautiful island was like and the version of the book I received came with some black and white photographs on the pages and a map of Cyrpus in 1972. There are some characters that you can invest in, some you like and some I came to loathe, the book also highlights the destruction an invasion and civil unrest can have. There is a focus on relationships, how some can form, be destroyed or strengthen when put under so much pressure. Marital affairs, murder, brutality and rape are some of the topics covered, not in excessive minute detail but they are mentioned. I think, for some books like this it can make for really uncomfortable reading, however the main focus I felt was on the impact of these events rather than lots of hard to read details. I have read this author before and I would read her again, 3/5 for me this time. Thanks to BookBridgr for sending me a review copy in exchange for an honest review.

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Thursday 3 December 2015

Turn Of Mind by Alice LaPlante

Turn of MindTurn of Mind by Alice LaPlante
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Time taken to read - 1 day

Publisher - Bond Street Books

Pages - 320

Blurb from Goodreads

Is the perfect murder the one you can't forget or the one you can't remember?

Dr. Jennifer White, a brilliant former surgeon in the early grips of Alzheimer's, is suspected of murdering her best friend, Amanda. Amanda's body was found brutally disfigured — with four of her fingers cut off in a precise, surgical manner. As the police pursue their investigation and Jennifer searches her own mind for fractured clues to Amanda's death, a portrait emerges of a complex relationship between two uncompromising, unsentimental women, lifelong friends who were at times each other's most formidable adversaries.

My Review

This book turned out to be very different from what I was expecting to be honest. I was thinking it was going to be a big murder mystery, this isn't exactly the case. Told in first person format and through diary entries, both by Jennifer and members of her family, we see the decline of Jennifer's state of mind and condition. Jennifer has Alzheimer's, her best friend is found murdered, her body has been mutilated with surgical precision. So why would an Alzheimer's sufferer be a suspect? Jennifer was a top surgeon until her condition forced her to stop practicing and she was heard to argue with the victim.

This book has stayed with me even though I have read a few since. You get a glimpse into what it must be like for an individual with this condition. What it must be like for the family, it is very emotive and disturbing to read, particularly for readers who have had someone close to them diagnosed and living with this condition.

The crime takes a back seat for the most part, however before the story does go back to the murder. I loved Still Alice but this was very different. Pick this up with the knowledge that Alzheimer's is the main chunk of this story, from the point of view of Jennifer and how she experiences and interacts with not only the family but the police investigating. It is a brave angle to come at Alzheimer's from and certainly different from any of the books I have read before. 4/5 for me this time, I will be looking for more work by this author.

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