Thursday, 31 December 2015

Top Ten Books I Read in 2015

2015 was a great year in books for me. Choosing just ten books for this list was a tricky task, but there were some that really stood out. Some are debuts, others are older books that I've only just got around to reading. All are brilliant in their own right, and I implore you to read them for yourself!

1) Kit by Marina Fiorato. My book of the year. If you like Mulan you'll love this!

2) The Silvered Heart by Katherine Clements. The tale of Katherine Ferras, highwaywoman.

3) The Lost Art of Keeping Secrets by Eva Rice. An older book, but an instant favourite.

4) The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion. Such a lovely, quirky, funny book.

5) The First Wife by Erica Spindler. So gripping that I read it in less than 24 hours.

6) Trigger Mortis by Anthony Horowitz. Bond is back.

7) The Affair by Gill Paul. The story of one woman's life-changing summer in beautiful Italy.

8) The Versions of Us by Laura Barnett. Think Sliding Doors meets One Day.

9) Amy Snow by Tracy Rees. Foundling Amy Snow embarks on a life-changing treasure hunt.

10) The Monogram Murders by Sophie Hannah. The welcome return of Monsieur Poirot.

You can check out the full list of books I read in 2015 here...

Review: The Affair by Gill Paul

 Rome 1961. The cameras roll on the film set of Cleopatra and the explosive Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton love affair is about to capture the world’s attention.

When Diana Bailey begins work as a historical advisor, tensions are running high. The film is in financial crisis and a media storm is brewing over the Taylor-Burton relationship.

Diana adjusts to a new life away from her troubled marriage, and strikes up a close friendship with Helen, a young make-up artist, as well as seeking solace in Ernesto, a charismatic member of the film crew. But Helen is harbouring a dark secret - one that will affect Diana in more ways than she could ever imagine…

An enthralling story of love and passion, set against the stunning backdrop of one of the most iconic Hollywood movies ever made

I've been wanting to read this book for a while so was pleased when I finally got my hands on it. The plot is much deeper and darker than I was expecting, which can only be a good thing. What really sells this book though is its setting, and it's easy to see how Diana was seduced by the glamour and beauty of the Italian film set. The Taylor/Burton romance is one that fascinates the public even to this day, and the glimpses into the world behind the scenes of the making of Anthony and Cleopatra made the novel even more interesting. Gill Paul's research into her subject and attention to detail really pay off, leaving us with a wonderful novel with many layers and storylines that all intertwine. I couldn't help but feel for Diana and I understood why she acted the way she did, and I really wanted Scott to get the career making scoop that he craved. This book was everything that I hoped it would be and more. Easily one of the best books that I've read this year!

Wednesday, 30 December 2015

Review: The Silvered Heart by Katherine Clements

The legendary figure of Kate Ferrars, the infamous highwaywoman, is brought gloriously to life in this gripping tale of infatuation, betrayal and survival. 

1648: Civil war is devastating England. The privileged world Katherine Ferrars knows is crumbling under Cromwell's army, and as an orphaned heiress, she has no choice but to do her duty and marry for the sake of family.

But as her marriage turns into a prison, and her fortune is decimated by the war, Kate becomes increasingly desperate. So when she meets the enigmatic Ralph Chaplin, she seizes the chance he offers. Their plan is daring and brutal, but it's an escape from poverty and the shackles of convention. They both know if they're caught, there's only one way it can end... 

Just when I thought I had my best reads of 2015 list all sewn up along comes this wonder! I've always been fascinated by outlaws and highwaymen and the legends that accompany them, so I knew from the off that the plot was right up my street. But I didn't expect to love it as much as I did. I literally couldn't put it down - and as I often say when a book keeps you up reading until 3am you know it's a good'un.

Katherine's writing style hooked me from the start; she's a very talented writer and has clearly researched her subject well. I'd actually not heard of 'The Wicked Lady' before, but after this I think I'll be embarking on some research of my own! Katherine Ferrers was wonderfully written - even though many of her actions were morally questionable I completely understood why she did what she did. Cast aside and downtrodden by her husband she yearns for a life of excitement, a way of bettering her circumstances without relying on men. Although Rafe does look out for her she likes the idea of their relationship in both a professional and personal sense being a partnership, a match of equals. I loved Rafe from the start - it's impossible not to be drawn into those amber eyes. I longed for Katherine and Rafe to find a way to be together, but of course this is not your standard historical romance fluff, and so things aren't quite so straightforward. Without giving too much away there's a twist that I was desperately hoping wouldn't happen, and I genuinely ended up reading a few pages through my fingers. I was absorbed completely in Katherine's story, and was sad to see it come to an end. That said, the way the book ended worked really well, especially the epilogue from Martha's point of view.

As Clements writes in her Author's Notes, Katherine Ferrers is a real historical figure, which only serves to make the story even more fascinating to me - although most of her 'The Wicked Lady' associations are but myth and legend. The historical context of this novel - the time of political unrest during and after Cromwell's regime - creates a tense backdrop, and with aristocrats and their peers displaced in society it is no wonder that some of them turned to extreme measures to ensure a future for themselves and their families.

5/5 stars: Katherine Farrers is a fascinating subject and character. Her story is the stuff of legend - prepare to be gripped. Easily one of the best books that I've read this year!

***Thanks to bookbridgr for providing a copy of this book in exchange for a review!***

Saturday, 12 December 2015

Spotlight / Giveaway: Callie's Christmas Countdown by Julie Ryan

As the countdown to Christmas is well and truly under way, what better book to feature on my blog today than Callie's Christmas Countdown by Julie Ryan:

Callie is an event planner, organising weddings and corporate parties. What she'd really love however, is to organise the perfect Christmas. How difficult can it be after all? She simply needs to get her divorced parents talking to each other, sort out a Christmas Eve wedding for the daughter of a millionaire and wait for her hunky, rich boyfriend to propose. What could possibly go wrong?

Amazon UK

About the Author
Julie was born and brought up in a mining village near Barnsley in South Yorkshire. She graduated with a BA (hons) in French Language and Literature from Hull University. Since then she has lived and worked as a Teacher of English as a Foreign Language in France, Greece, Poland and Thailand. She now lives in rural Gloucestershire with her husband, son and two cats, a rescue cat and a dippy cat with half a tail.  She is so passionate about books that her collection is now threatening to outgrow her house, much to her husband’s annoyance, as she can’t bear to get rid of any! They have been attempting to renovate their home for the last ten years.
She is the author of the Greek Island Mystery series, Jenna’s Journey, Sophia’s Secret and Pandora’s Prophecy, each of which can be read as a standalone. She considers Greece to be her spiritual home and visits as often as she can. 

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Tuesday, 8 December 2015

Top Ten New to Me Authors I Read in 2015

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

I've read books from plenty of new authors this year, and these are just a few of my favourites:

1 Eva Rice - The Lost Art of Keeping Secrets is just so beautifully written.

2 Erica Spindler - The First Wife was so gripping that I read it in a day!

3 Tracy Rees - Amy Snow won Richard and Judy's Search for a Bestseller, and it's easy to see why.

4 Marina Fiorato - Kit is my book of the year by a mile. More on that next week!

5 Louise Candlish - The Sudden Departure of the Frasers had me intrigued from the start.

6 Gill Paul - The Affair, with it's backdrop of the Burton/Taylor romance in Italy, is stunning.

7 Sophie Hannah - The Monogram Murders marks a welcome return to fiction for Monsieur Poirot.

8 Graeme Simsion - The Rosie Project is just hilarious and wonderful.

9 Laura Barnett - The Versions of Us is a very clever book. This girl has talent.

10 Zara Stoneley - Stable Mates/Country Affairs are my guilty pleasure reads of the year.

Who made your lists this week?

Wednesday, 2 December 2015

December Blog Update

You may well have noticed my posts have become more sporadic of late. In the past couple of months I've gone from having one job (part time farm worker) to three. As well as helping on the farm when time allows, I now also work in the box office of a local theatre and as a Christmas temp in Waterstones - every book lover's holy grail! So while I spend all day reading (the commute is up to an hour each way), selling and talking about books, I now have very little time to actually write about them. I do have a few yearly wrap up posts/top ten lists scheduled for the next few weeks, and I'm aiming to get some more reviews up in the near future too - I miss blogging! So bear with me dear readers, and forgive me if I haven't had time to read and comment on as many of your posts as I'd like to. Once the Christmas madness is over normal service should hopefully be resumed :)