Friday, 28 March 2014

Review: Betrothal (Queen's Honor, Tales of Lady Guinevere: #1) by Mande Matthews

Lady Guinevere wants to marry for love, and intends to fight for this right as the kings of the neighbouring realms fight literally over her - for her hand in marriage brings with it land and riches. King Melwas arrives to take her hand by force, and it falls to King Arthur to save the day, although it is a certain Sir Lancelot that captures Guinevere's attention. Lancelot is unsurprisingly dark, handsome and brooding - the perfect hero - whilst Arthur with his 'halo' of blonde hair is the epitome of flattery and charm, with more than just a touch of arrogance. However it seems that Arthur's intentions are honourable, and Guinevere has an important decision to make, one that will affect not only her life but the lives of her people...

I have always loved anything to do with the King Arthur legend, so was very excited to spot this book for free on the kindle store! With a gorgeous cover and an interesting spin on the age old love triangle between Arthur, Guinevere and Lancelot, this is a novella that I would definitely recommend. Betrothal is part one of two of the Queen's Honor series and I can't wait to find out what happens next. 5/5 stars.

This book is available for FREE on Amazon and was read as part of the Clean Out Your e-Reader Challenge 2014.

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Blog Tour / Review / Giveaway: For the Love of Murphy

This is my very first blog tour! For the Love of Murphy is an anthology of romantic stories by various authors that I would definitely recommend. Synopses for each of the stories can be found below, followed by a brief review. Plus, there's a giveaway to win a paperback copy of the anthology and a $10 Amazon gift voucher!

Publisher: Roane Publishing
Release Date: March 17, 2014

No Wrong Turns by Lisa A. Adams
Jessica Brannah is escaping from her last heartbreak with a loaded car and a new address. But, when Murphy's Law finds her stranded in a back country town, she realizes there's no outrunning love.

Falling For You by Michelle Ziegler
Darci’s ready to move on. Too bad the dating pool stinks.  Until, a ghost from her past resurfaces—the man she missed out on in college. Andrew was the one man she’d always loved, but neither of them ever made a move.  But, old feelings aren’t the only thing resurfacing of late.  Darci’s ex comes crawling back at the most inappropriate time, and with all the testosterone flying, she might not end up with either man.

Coffee and Cufflinks by Annabella Blume
Fresh out of a failed relationship and exhausted by a constant barrage of fiascos at work, Olivia Johnson doesn't see that the man of her dreams standing right in front of her. She tells herself the morning coffee meet-ups with Daren are nothing but coincidence, but even she can’t deny his unequivocal attractiveness. When a night entertaining clients takes a turn for the worst, and Daren shows up where she least expects him, failure starts to look more like fate. 

A Slippery Slope by Rebecca Hart
Anne Montgomery is psyched for her girl’s only weekend, despite her friends’ choice of vacation locale—the snowy slopes of Harris Peak Ski Resort—where someone as notoriously accident prone as she has no business being. When Murphy’s Law finally catches up with her, Anne is forced to consider there may be times when it pays to be unlucky.

The Shamrock Incident by London Saint James
Florist, Marissa Carmichael isn’t usually a klutz, but she’s in a hurry and having a bad day. In her haste, she loses her balance and tumbles from the back room of her shop, arms flailing. Her less than graceful entrance halted by a headfirst crash into a display case chock full of silk flowers.
Trey Cleary didn’t think his day could get any worse, until he finds. himself picking the side view mirror of his BMW up from the ground. On a mission to do something about it, he locates the flower shop matching the name on the back of the van that mangled his ‘baby'. But, his car is forgotten when a beautiful woman bursts into the room like an out of control whirling dervish, and takes one mother of a wipeout into the shop’s counter. Coming to her aid brings out the hero in him like no one he’s ever encountered, and leaves him with a need to know more.
For Marissa and Trey, this just might be the one time it pays to be unlucky.

Click for the tour schedule

For the Love of Murphy is an anthology of stories that are perfect for quick-reads. Each story is short and sweet, with characters that are both believable and likable. I particularly liked how many of the female characters are clumsy and a little awkward, much like myself! The male characters are, of course, all swoon-worthy, especially Sean in No Wrong Turns which I think was my favourite of the bunch. I enjoyed all of the stories and look forward to reading more by each of the authors!

4/5 stars: Sweet straightforward romances that are ideal for a ten minute escape from reality.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Review: The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger

I absolutely LOVED this book! I saw the film version at the cinema a few years ago but as always the book is a hundred times better, and I only wish that I'd read it first. I was a little daunted by how thick the novel was; at over five hundred pages I thought it would take some time to get through but I raced through it in a matter of days!
The story follows Clare Abshire, who first meets her future husband Henry DeTamble when she is six, and he is thirty six. Henry suffers from a rare genetic condition which causes him to randomly time travel into his past or his future, a condition which he has no control over. We travel with Henry as the novel charts his relationship with Clare, flipping between past, present and future.

The first person narrative shared between Henry and Clare works perfectly with the plot, and I liked how Clare's accounts of events matured from the excited ramblings of her childhood into the reflections of a woman filled simultaneously with love and fear for her husband. The story is told with enough sincerity for the reader to accept time travel as a completely believable and natural act, and the narrative, as confusing as it sounds, was surprisingly easy to follow.

Henry was presented exactly as he should be, a little awkward and outside of society. He is a time travelling librarian who has a love of literature; an almost perfect prince in an unconventional fairytale. Clare always knew that Henry was to be her 'happy ever after', until visitations from the future begin to disturb their happy domesticity. From trouble conceiving to the deaths of loved ones, life is far from perfect. The theme is notably similar to Richard Curtis' latest film About Time, which coincidentally also stars Rachel McAdams (she must have a thing for time travellers!) The idea of living for the moment, of making the most of the here and now, is prevalent; you can't change the past (or the future) so embrace the present. This raises another question; Clare's future is set in stone from the minute she meets Henry, which makes you wonder whether your destiny is similarly already decided, whether your fate is unavoidable.

However hard Henry tries, he can't stay in the present, and once Clare grows up she realises that being left behind is hard. 'In fairytales it's always the children who have the fine adventures. The mother has to stay at home and wait for the children to fly in the window' (126). Clare is Mrs Darling in Peter Pan, to all the Whovians out there she is the girl who waited, but unlike Amy Pond she doesn't get to join her 'imaginary' childhood friend on his adventures. Clare represents the other side of the fairytale, for while the hero is off fighting dragons there is always someone somewhere waiting for his safe return.

As an English graduate/nerd I appreciated the use of literary references throughout the novel, from quotations and poems to the more subtle allusions that other readers might have missed. The one downside to this novel is that although there is a lot of attention to detail, there is at times a little too much. I found myself skimming huge paragraphs describing the laborious process of paper making in Clare's studio, and the lists of punk bands Henry was so keen to show off his knowledge of. All of this of course paints a vivid picture of the characters and their lives but it quickly gets tiresome. I would much rather have had more detail about Henry's excursions through time and where he ends up, but of course this is the story of his wife, of the woman waiting for his return, and so the focus is on the more domestic aspect of their lives, and rightly so.

Told with sincerity and feeling, The Time Traveler's Wife is a grown up fairytale of love, loss and life. I can't recommend it enough.

5/5 stars: A moving tale of the girl who waited, and the man she was destined to love.

Saturday, 15 March 2014

Review: The Only Reason for the London Season by Kristin Vayden

After a humiliating first season as a debutante, Dianna Trowl is back and determined to bag herself a husband- even if she has to break social convention to do so. Lord Southridge longs for nothing more than a woman who stands out from the crowd, one who isn't afraid to speak her mind. Determined to find himself a wife this season it seems as if all his prayers have been answered the minute that Dianna walks into the ballroom...

This is a short and sweet historical romance, and as an introduction to Vayden's work it worked a treat. Southridge is just perfect - tall, blue-eyed and charismatic- whilst Dianna is a quirky heroine. I liked how even in such a short story we got narrative from both of their perspectives, it made it seem all the more romantic.

4/5 stars: a wonderful little read that I would recommend to any historical romance fan.

This book is available for FREE on Amazon UK and was read as part of the Clean Out Your e-Reader Challenge 2014.

Thursday, 13 March 2014

Review: She Walks in Beauty by Siri Mitchell

Clara Carter loves poetry, and dreams of going to Vassar college to further her education. However her interfering aunt has other ideas. Franklin De Vries, the city's most eligible bachelor is back in town and it is her intention for Clara to marry him. Forced to debut a year early, Clara along with her best friend Lizzie, are primped and preened and squeezed into corsets. Clara's lessons change overnight from maths, science and languages into dancing, social etiquette and small talk, and she dreads the impending season. Her training pays off and Clara is soon the talk of the society-pages, but all that she wants is to be free to make her own choices in life and love, particularly as Franklin isn't exactly Prince Charming. Set in New York's Gilded Age, She Walks in Beauty is as much a coming of age story as a romance, as Clara faces an internal battle between following the rules and forging her own path.

It was the title of this novel that first drew me to it; in my mind anything that quotes Byron must be good! The characterisation was a tad stereotypical; overbearing aunt, absent father, best friend turned love rival etc, but this didn't detract from the story. Told entirely from Clara's point of view, you get a sense of how constricted she was- both in terms of how she had to behave and how tight her corset was- and I only wish that she'd had the guts to say 'no' sooner. The glittering world of opera houses and ballrooms becomes the platform that can make or break a socialite's career, and it is an era that I love reading about, although it is made pretty clear throughout the book that 'all that glitters is not gold.' This setting, along with the novel's overriding themes of social convention and propriety reminded me very much of Edith Wharton's Age of Innocence, with Newland Archer's yearning to be free mirroring Clara's plight.

4/5 stars: the story of a reluctant debutante thrown into high society, determined to make a life for herself outside of social convention.

This book is available for FREE on Amazon kindle, and was read as part of the Clean Out Your e-Reader Challenge 2014.

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

March Book Haul

This morning I brought home my first library haul of the month:

Longbourn - Jo Baker

"'If Elizabeth Bennet had the washing of her own petticoats,' Sarah thought, 'she would be more careful notto tramp through muddy fields.'

It is wash-day for the housemaids at Longbourn House, and Sarah's hands are chapped and raw. Domestic life below stairs, ruled with a tender heart and an iron will by Mrs Hill the housekeeper, is about to be disturbed by the arrival of a new footman, bearing secrets and the scent of the sea."

The Other Typist - Suzanne Rindell

"New York City, 1924: the height of Prohibition. In a police precinct on the lower East Side young typist Rose Baker coolly records the confessions of killers and gangsters. But when a new typist arrives - the captivating Odalie - Rose finds a true partner in crime. Flitting between sparkling speakeasies by night and their work at the precinct by day, the girls are drawn further into a dark, glamorous world. Soon Rose's fascination with Odalie and her glittering life turns to obsession. But does she know the real Odalie, and what will happen if she dares to find out?"

Season of Light - Katharine McMahon

"1788, and unrest rumbles across France. Asa Ardleigh, the impressionable daughter of a country squire, travels to Paris with her newly wedded sister, Phillipa. In the heady days before the Revolution they find a city fizzing with ideas - and Asa falls in love with the dashing activist, Didier Paulin. But as the storm clouds gather, Asa must return home. In England, no one knows of Asa's liaison and the family's financial worries put pressure on her to marry elsewhere. An exiled marquise is employed to help finesse Asa's accomplishments - until disturbing news arrives from France..."

I also received two books to review from Goodreads First Reads this week:

The Fortune Hunter - Daisy Goodwin

"In 1875, Sisi, the Empress of Austria is the woman that every man desires and every woman envies. Beautiful, athletic and intelligent, Sisi has everything - except happiness. Bored with the stultifying etiquette of the Hapsburg court and her dutiful but unexciting husband, Sisi comes to England to hunt. She comes looking for excitement and she finds it in the dashing form of Captain Bay Middleton, the only man in Europe who can outride her. Ten years younger than her, Bay has everything to lose by falling for a woman who can never be his, for he is promised to Charlotte, rich and devoted yet with a mind of her own. But Bay and the Empress are as reckless as each other, and their mutual attraction is a force that cannot be denied..."

Bring Me Home - Alan Titchmarsh

"Standing at the door of the lochside castle that has been his family's home for generations, Charlie Stuart welcomes his guests to the annual summer drinks party. Conversation, laughter and the clinking of glasses soon fill the air as friends and neighbours come together to toast the laird's happiness and prosperity. But Charlie sees the truth behind the facade: the sacrifices made to safeguard the estate; the devastating losses that have haunted him for decades; the guilt that lies at the heart of it all. And in a few hours, he knows, the perfect afternoon will come to an end. The past, with its dark secrets of love, death, loyalty and betrayal, is about to catch up with him. And it could finally tear his family apart . . ."

Have you got any new books you're excited to read this week?

Thursday, 6 March 2014

Review: The Summer I Gave Up Boys by Kassandra Kush

Kaliyah Simon is a book blogger who owns seven hundred and seventy seven books. Sound familiar? After a very public break up with her boyfriend she is home from college for the summer with every intention of spending it without male company. That is until her arch-nemesis Isaiah Winters bumps into her at the airport and suddenly seems to want to be friends. Reunited with her old friends, Kaliyah's life reverts to that of her school years, complete with high-school crushes and gossip galore. Sun, sand and pool parties combine to make this summer one that Kaliyah will never forget.

This is a take on the age old tale of girl thinks she hates boy, girl actually loves boy, yet it is told with enough sincerity to avoid it being cheesy. Kaliyah as a character was entirely relatable, and the story is told with refreshing honesty from her point of view. It's pretty clear from the outset how this novella is going to end, but that's not a bad thing.

4/5 stars: A short and sweet, if a little predictable read to pass an evening with.

This book is available for FREE on Amazon, and is my first book read as part of the Clean Out Your e-Reader Challenge 2014.

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Popular Authors You've Never Read

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.

This week the topic is popular authors that you've never read. As an English graduate there's plenty of books that I've missed out on reading over the years in favour of more 'classic' works, so I have a lot of catching up to do!

1) I might as well get the biggie out of the way... J.K Rowling. Our teacher read Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone to us in Year 6 and aside from that I've just never really got into it. I'm not as against it as I once was now that the hype has died down so maybe it's time to give Rowling's work another go...

2) J.R.R. Tolkein. Another case of the hype putting me off I think. I've never made it through any of the LOTR films either!

3) Dan Brown. We read an extract from The Da Vinci Code during a history seminar on the Templars it didn't exactly make me want to read the rest of it.

4) Rainbow Rowell. I've only come across her pretty recently but I can't wait to read Fangirl!

5) Nicholas Sparks. I've half seen The Notebook and that's as close as I've got to his novels.

6) Stephen King. His work isn't really my kind of thing, though I did love the film version of The Green Mile and was surprised to discover that he wrote the book.

7) John Green. Literally all of the readers I know, both online and off, have been saying how amazing The Fault in Our Stars is.

8) Jodi Picoult. I've never been one to willingly read tear jerking novels, but I've heard great things about My Sister's Keeper.

9) Leo Tolstoy. War and Peace might be pushing things a bit , but I would love to read Anna Karenina one day.

10) Markus Zusak. The Book Thief is another of those books that everyone seems to have read but me.

How about you? Any authors that you're ashamed to admit that you've never read?

Monday, 3 March 2014

Review: Made in Essex by Laura Ziepe

I received an advance copy of this book via Goodreads first reads. To be honest, this book is not my usual
taste, but I decided to give it a go as something light to read in between more demanding books.

The story follows three friends, Jade Kelly and Lisa, and their arch rival Adele through the trials and tribulations of love, life and business. It is VERY stereotypical, designed to appeal, unsurprisingly, to fans of the hit ITV2 show The Only Way is Essex, a category which I don't fit into. That said, Made in Essex is well written with well developed characters; it follows on from another of Ziepe's book called Essex Girls but it made perfect sense to me without having read the other novel. Ziepe was offered a part in the first series of TOWIE so she knows the world that she's writing about inside out, and it shows.

However, the constant use of the famous Essex colloquialisms ('totes amaze' 'jel' and of course 'reem') really grated on me, as did Kelly's frequent 'blonde' moments which seemed forced into the narrative, and a little out of character considering how clever she was at other moments in the plot. I was hoping for more than just a reinforcement of the Essex stereotype, and in this respect I was disappointed.

3/5 stars: If you like TOWIE then you'll love this, but it's just not my thing.