Thursday, 24 March 2016

5* review: The Night That Changed Everything by Laura Tait and Jimmy Rice

Rebecca is the only girl she knows who didn't cry at the end of Titanic. Ben is the only man he knows who did. Rebecca’s untidy but Ben doesn’t mind picking up her pieces. Ben is laid back by Rebecca keeps him on his toes. They're a perfect match.

Nothing can come between them. Or so they think.

When a throwaway comment reveals a secret from the past, their love story is rewritten.

Can they recover from the night that changed everything? And how do you forgive when you can’t forget?

Every now and again a book, quite innocent looking, just pops up and changes things. Not physically or outwardly, but when you've read it the world just seems a little bit different. This is that book for me.

I began reading with no expectations, and really quickly I began to see it was special - it had captivated me, made me laugh, cringe and really quickly feel for the characters. I was hooked. Then as the story progressed it drew me so far in I felt I was living it along with the characters; feeling their highs and lows along with them. And then BAM, the 'thing' happened, and it just blew me away. The book changed from a romantic, laugh along tale, to the most emotional thing I've read since Jojo Moyes' Me Before You, and since laying it down I've been unable to pick up another book (it was only a few hours ago but with a reading list as long as mine progress needs to be made).

The Night That Changed Everything follows a group of friends, some childhood school friends, some old uni housemates, some work colleagues, but more specifically is narrated in alternate chapters by Ben and Rebecca (told alternately by best friends Laura Tait and Jimmy Rice). You are drawn so quickly into their worlds by their razor sharp come backs and warm, insightful humour, and feel their dilemmas as though they are your own.

As with most late twenty-something groups, there are relationship issues, job stresses and the usual - and some more unusual - family problems, all talked and laughed about, roughly figured out between the gang and a bottle of whisky; and perfect couple Ben and Rebecca are just that, perfect together...and then a comment is made, and everything changes.

I did not see any of the shocks in this book coming, and one literally tore me apart - left me weeping and generally feeling as though this had happened within my friendship group - sad but true. 

By the time the book had finished - which I wanted to shake it vigorously just to see if I could squeeze another few chapters out of it to prolong my time with the gang - I was happy, I  they had overcome all my their woes and it was time for me to leave them to live their lives. Blimey...what a ride.

I would strongly urge everyone to read this book, it is a bittersweet, laugh out loud book that really will make you realise that life is for the living. And will someone find Jemma and make her be my best friend?

Many thanks to Rebecca Hunter at Transworld Publishers for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review. 

Wednesday, 23 March 2016

Dorothy Koomson - That Girl From Nowhere Blog Tour

That Girl From Nowhere 

Review, Q&A and Fujufilm Instax 8 Mini Giveaway

Top 5 Book Characters

Dorothy Koomson is the author of ten published novels (number 11 is out May 2016). Here, she undertakes the very difficult task of choosing her five favourite characters from the books she has written.

5. Clemency Smittson from That Girl From Nowhere
Clemency is a woman in her late thirties who was adopted as a baby and unknowingly sets herself on the path to meeting her birth family when she moves from Leeds to Brighton during a turbulent period in her life. Clemency is a new entry on the list, obviously because she’s my last published character. She arrives here, though, because she is probably one of my most complicated characters to date. She is so incredibly flawed, it was great to create her. With all that she faces in her life, she tries to do the right thing but often gets it wrong, while being a bit of a people pleaser. She’s also strong minded, selfish, big-hearted and loving. I hope that comes across in the telling of her story.

4. Serena Gorringe & Poppy Carlisle from The Ice Cream Girls
Cheating, I know, to have two of them but I couldn’t separate them. I love these two characters because they were the first two I wrote when I penned my first ‘emotional thriller’ – a book with a crime at the heart of it that focuses mostly on the impact that crime has on the people involved. Poppy and Serena are both sexually involved with their violent teacher as teenagers and when he winds up dead they’re both accused of it but only one of them goes to prison. Serena and Poppy are both products of their involvement with a violent, manipulative man and I based my characters on the real-life experiences of the people I spoke to. I felt a real responsibility when writing the book to accurately portray those experiences and not descend into sensationalist stereotypes about seductive young girls who lead grown men astray.

3. Kamryn Matika from My Best Friend’s Girl
She was my first ‘complicated’ (read: slightly unsympathetic) character. Kamryn she has been hurt by her best friend - Adele - and fiancĂ©, Nate, when they have a one-night stand and Adele goes on to have Nate’s child. Kamryn cuts them both off but years later, Adele gets in touch to ask her to look after her daughter because she’s dying. When I first wrote her I thought I had to make her more ‘perfect’ and likeable but as the story unfolded, I realised that she had every right to be prickly and slightly stand-offish – she’d been wronged many times over. That realisation, I think, allowed me the freedom to be more realistic with all the characters in the book and I had a lot of fun creating someone who wouldn’t normally be the main character/hero of a story.

2. Greg Walterson from The Chocolate Run
He is the bad-boy of my second novel and probably my most favourite male character out of all the men I’ve created. People tell me all the time they like my male characters, but when I ran a survey on my website, Greg was the winning lead man. There is something delicious and dangerous but also comforting and kind about him. Yup, still my favourite male character.

1. Ceri D’Altroy from The Cupid Effect
Ceri, who in The Cupid Effect discovers she’s modern-day Cupid, is the character out of all of my books who is most like me. She finds the same things funny as me, she has the same taste in TV heroes and people used to tell her their problems all the time (people used to do that to me, too). She’s the character who secured me my first publishing deal so I’ll always love her just that bit more for that. (Don’t tell my other characters.)

Thanks, Donna, that was fun. Dorothy x

That Girl From Nowhere by Dorothy Koomson is published on 24th March by Arrow, price £7.99 in paperback. 


Share your favourite photo and its story to #ThatGirlMemories to win a Fujifilm Instax 8 camera.


Clemency (Smitty), was adopted not long after birth with nothing other that a box decorated with butterflies to link her to her birth mother (the tradition/tale behind this box is captivating). After a painful breakup and while still grieving the death of her adoptive father, who throughout the book we see was a wonderful, caring man, she decides to pack up her life and move to the town she was born, Brighton, with the view of carrying on her jewellery making business. Her somewhat domineering mother decides, without invitation, to move with her. Clemency is certain the agenda behind this is to make sure she does not try to trace her birth family, which she has promised her adoptive mother she will never do. But a chance meeting sees that the decision is taken from Smitty's hands, and this starts a chain of events which changes everything in Smitty's life.

True to form Koomson tackles a variety of sensitive issues with care, making them as believable as they are hard hitting. I found looking deeply into Smitty's life and feelings interesting, how she perceived herself and the world around her, the feeling of being unwanted, not finding a place she belonged. The family dynamics of both her natural and adoptive family were especially fascinating, although I'm not sure I cared for any of her family members much - especially the deplorable cousin Nancy. So much jealousy, betrayal and deception goes on behind closed doors.

As always Koomson has a fabulous knack of writing an engaging tale with interesting twists and natural and in parts humorous dialogue, so many times I had to remind myself I was not reading someone's memoirs. I particularly enjoyed the vivid description of Smitty's many photographs on her wall (a collection of her most important life memories), and it has inspired me to get a 'real' camera to take photos over the summer and be able to have them in my hands instantly. 

Fans of Dorothy Koomson will devour this and it will make fans of new readers.


Share your favourite photo and its story to #ThatGirlMemories to win a Fujifilm Instax 8 camera.

Monday, 21 March 2016

5* review - Return to the Little Coffee Shop of Kabul by Deborah Rodriguez

Six women forever joined by a little cafe in Kabul
Sunny, former proprietor of the Little Coffee Shop and new owner of the Screaming Peacock vineyard. Can she handle the challenges of life on her own?
Yasmina, the young mother who now runs the cafe, until a terrifying event strikes at the heart of her family and business...
Layla and Kat
Afghan teenagers in America, struggling to make sense of their place in the world...

Zara, about to be forced into a marriage which will have devastating consequences...
These women are about to learn what Halajan, Yazmina's rebellious mother-in-law, has known all along: when the world as you know it disappears, you find a new way to live.
Reuniting us with the much-loved cast of the international bestseller, The Little Coffee Shop of Kabul. Deborah Rodriguez tells an inspiring story of women's strength and courage in a changing world.

The Little Coffee Shop of Kabul  has been one of those books that stayed with me, (I loved reading about this culture so much it inspired me to read Khaled Hosseini's A Thousand Splendid Suns ) so I was overjoyed when Rodriguez's latest offering was available for review. 

I loved being back with the women of the Kabul coffee shop. Sunny, having left Afghanistan due to the rising safety threat to foreigners, is now living on a Pacific Island and instantly hates it. After travelling with Jack, he wanted to settle down and follow his dream of running a vineyard, so the Screaming Peacock vineyard is born after a lot of soul searching and hard work. As there is such a strong bond between her and her Kabul 'family', she keeps in touch with them via Skype (and her friend Candace). Tensions are running higher there than ever, and the threat of danger is ever present, and so much closer to home than any of them realise.

Yasmina and Ahmet face struggles that come with tradition and the role of women in Afghanistan beginning - if only slowly - to change, and Ahmet is not sure how he feels about this, especially when Yasmina chooses to help Zara, a young girl promised in marriage to a vile and lecherous, not to mention incredibly powerful and dangerous older man, when she is in love with another. Halajan is there to support Yasmina while planning a little uprising of her own...

And there is Yasmina's younger sister, Layla, having travelled to a host family in America to better her English, learning Western ways and being torn herself between tradition and freedom.

There will be heartbreak along the way.

I loved the new characters in the forms of Sky, Kat and Joe who help Sunny rebuild the vineyard, I loved how Joe always had a nugget of wisdom and was very much Sunny's 'Halajan' albeit on a different continent, I also loved how wonderful and patient Sky was in helping Layla to adapt to western ways, and Kat to overcome the tragedies from her past.

All in all, Return to the Little Coffee Shop of Kabul is as equally wonderful as it's predecessor and equally as heart wrenching yet inspiring. They show huge courage in a changing world, and the ending is poignant and satisfying.

A huge...
Many thanks to the publisher for providing a copy in exchange for an honest review.

Monday, 14 March 2016

5* review: The Little Shop of Happy Ever After by Jenny Colgan

Given a back-room computer job when the beloved Birmingham library she works in turns into a downsized retail complex, Nina misses her old role terribly - dealing with people, greeting her regulars, making sure everyone gets the right books for their needs. Then a new business nobody else wants catches her eye: owning a tiny little bookshop bus up in the Scottish highlands. No computers. Shortages. Out all hours in the freezing cold; driving with a tiny stock of books... not to mention how the little community is going to take to her, particularly when she stalls the bus on a level crossing...

I knew I would never find another Jenny Colgan book that I loved more than The Little Beach Street Bakery. I was wrong! I adored the latest offering from Colgan, the warmth, the characters, the humour...the subject (a bookshop - what's not to love?). I simply could not get enough of the wonderful highland setting and Nina's life.

Nina is in my opinion a wonderful character, she's hard working, clever, caring and conscientious - so when she lost her job in the library which is being converted into some new fangled media hub which Nina's regulars would never attend, she was devastated, but knew the job would not have been for her anyway. So she took a leap of faith, her redundancy payment and the stack of books that is threatening the stability of her housemate's property and starts a new life and job in the Scottish Highlands.

What a change!

Being a city girl she first has to adapt to a very small village way of life - and all while feeling like a foreigner! She has a near death experience in her bus which scares her to death but makes her some new friends; Marek, how I loved him and their special tree.

She completely integrates within the community and begins to come out of the bookish shell in which she's hidden herself away most of her life (however we all know there is nothing wrong in living in a bookish shell)

She finds dwellings on a farm with the gruff Lennox and his dog Parsley. The relationship is a strained one due to Lennox's manner, but we eventually learn the reason why he has such tough barriers to break through. I loved Marek. I loved Lennox. 

This plot is so deep and winding I would be here for days if I explained everything I loved about it, but believe me when I say I loved it so very much.

I could not recommend The Little Shop of Happy Ever After more...a true Must Read!

With thanks to the publisher for an ecopy in exchange for an honest review.

Thursday, 10 March 2016

Missing Pieces by Heather Gudenkauf

Available from:

Everyone has secrets…
Sarah Quinlan's husband, Jack, has been haunted for decades by the untimely death of his mother when he was just a teenager, her body found in the cellar of their family farm, the circumstances a mystery. The case rocked the town where Jack was raised, and for years Jack avoided returning home. But when his beloved aunt Julia is in an accident, hospitalised in a coma, Jack and Sarah are forced to confront the past that they have long evaded.
Sarah and Jack are welcomed by the family Jack left behind all those years ago—barely a trace of the wounds that had once devastated them all. But as facts about Julia’s accident begin to surface, Sarah realises that nothing about the Quinlans is what it seems. Caught in a flurry of unanswered questions, Sarah dives deep into the rabbit hole of Jack’s past, but the farther she climbs, the harder it is for her to get out. And soon she is faced with a hard reality she may not be prepared for.

The book opens tantalisingly with the murder of Lydia Tierney decades before, as she is trying to prepare a celebratory supper for her children, Jack and Amy as they finish school for the holidays. 

Then, back in the modern day Jack receives news that the aunt that raised him, Julia, has had a bad accident back in his home town Penny Gate and he really should return - something he has been unable to do for many years and his wife Sarah has never met his family, all very strange...

His return is obviously awkward and there are many questions raised - none more so than by Sarah as things are not as they seem, it would appear that their marriage is built on a bed of lies and she is thrown into a situation where she questions everything.

Then cryptic text messages start to arrive with small clues that make her fear for her safety and she turns detective to try to find the answers she needs to unearth the clues to the murders that have taken place and to find out who her husband really is.

I really enjoyed this book! Fast paced and gripping it leaves every chapter on a cliffhanger so you just have to read on! This book reminds me in so many ways of another of my favourite authors, Diane Chamberlain and if you are a fan of hers it's a must read!

Copy provided via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review

Wednesday, 9 March 2016

5* review - The Woman Who Upped and Left by Fiona Gibson

Forget about having it all. Sometimes you just want to leave it all behind.
Audrey is often seized by the urge to walk out of her house without looking back – but she can’t possibly do that.
She is a single parent. She is needed. She has a job, a home, responsibilities…and a slothful teenage son’s pants to pick up.
But no one likes being taken for granted – Audrey least of all – so the time has come for drastic action. And no one’s going to stand in her way…

I absolutely loved the latest offering from Gibson, I am a huge fan of her older books but this is undoubtedly my favourite. 

Audrey Pepper (nee Hepburn) always knew her name was too special for her. She had a really sad childhood and always had to be the adult, taking care of everyone else, a trait which she never really grew out of as she always felt she was looking after someone - and there was no one to care for her.

When we first meet Audrey she is casually seeing Steve, a friend with very few benefits other than the odd stop over at a motorway service station. Then her fortunes seem to change as she wins the Dinner Lady of the Year competition with a choice of two prizes that are not life changing in their own rights, but have the potential to be in other ways...

She decides that she is sick of serving everyone else and picking up dirty pants from the living room floor - it is time to do something for her! 

I love all the relationships that Audrey has, with her eighteen year old son, Morgan, who is lazy, slobbish and appears quite selfish (typical teenage boy!) but underneath really does have a caring side...very deeply hidden. I love her job as a carer for Mrs. B - that was a part of the plot that seemed really special, and the friends she makes along the way.

I think she is a character that most women and maybe some men will identify with at times - I know I certainly do! The scenarios she faces are so very real and I love the witty way she deals with them. I would love a friend like Aud! 

This book really entertained me and I read it far too quickly! I would highly recommend it for a light, feel good read!

Here are the lemon Madeleines I made from the recipes in the back of The Woman Who Upped and Left: Fiona Gibson's Madeleines