Tuesday, 20 February 2018

Blog Tour Review: Best Friends by Carys Jones


Best Friends by Carys Jones
Published: 1st February 2018
Publisher: Aria
Pages: 330
Available in Paperback and on Kindle
Rating: 3/5

Blurb
Four friends, a terrible secret, and one week to stay alive. . . Grace doesn't have a family. That was taken away one dreadful day when she was just six, and her twin brother Peter was killed. Instead she has her best friends and flatmates – Jasper, Franklin and Aaron – and nothing can tear them apart. Living in London, and trying desperately to make a living, the four friends are rapidly running out of money and hope. So, when they find a discarded suitcase in a skip, they can't believe their eyes when its contents seem to answer all their prayers. But then a there is a knock on their door, and a very disgruntled thug with revenge on his mind, gives them one week to return his belongings, or they will pay with their lives. Soon the fractures in their friendships begin to show, and when one of them ends up fighting for his life, the stakes are raised even higher. Will any of them get to the end of the week alive, or will the best of friends become the deadliest of enemies. . .

Review
Best Friends is the first novel by Carys Jones that I have read and is a novel which I found gripping in places with a sinister undertone throughout. Best friends Grace, Franklin, Aaron and Jasper all share a two bedroom flat in London while they struggle to makes their dreams of fame and fortune a reality. It’s almost rent day and with no fixed employment between them the friends have once again struggled to find the rent money. After yet another day of let downs and setbacks the friends decide to head out and drown their sorrows with a drink or two. Many drinks later the foursome head home facing possible eviction from their flat. Franklin in his drunken state decides to have a rummage in skip they pass by, what they find in the skip changes their lives but not quite in the way they first expect. They’ve found a case with £20,000 and all their prayers seem answered. Until the owner of the case wants it and its contents back. Having spent all the money the friends have just seven days to pay back what they owe, or they will pay with their lives. What follows is an intense week where these four friends are tested to their limits.


Each of the friends are longing to pursue their dreams of fame through various creative outlets. Aaron is a guitarist in a small band struggling to hit the big time, Franklin longs to be an actor and Jasper is in the middle of writing a novel while working as a freelance writer and Grace, a classical trainer dancer longs to find that special dance company where she can finally feel she belongs. As the week progresses they each question if they really can make it to stardom or whether to give up and get a regular job. I liked that there are hints of romance between Grace and Aaron which has gone wrong but I would have liked more details of how their relationship fell apart.


I wanted to love this novel as I thought the premise was unique but sadly it left me a little disappointed. It started out well and I was gripped with how the friends reacted to finding the money and then their struggles as they tried to pay it back. I found myself racing to the end to find out what would happen but sadly the ending felt very anti-climactic and that ruined the story for me, after so much build up I was expecting a little more. I also found it strange how Grace’s past is mentioned throughout the book as I didn’t feel this fit with the rest of the story. It also seemed odd that the four friends just seem to take the stranger demanding the money at face value and didn’t seem to question who he was, where he came from and if the money was actually his.


Best Friends is an interesting read which centres around the concept of every action has a reaction and it might not be the one you’re hoping for. It’s a novel which takes a good look at friendship bonds and examining just how far they can be pushed.  Although not my favourite book it was still an enjoyable read and one which may appeal to those who want something a little different.


Thank you so much to Aria for sending me a copy to review honestly and for inviting me to be part of the blog tour.

Monday, 19 February 2018

Blog Tour Review: Scandal by Sasha Morgan


Scandal by Sasha Morgan
Published: 1st February 2018
Publisher: Aria 
Pages: 418
Available in Paperback and on Kindle
Rating: 5/5

Blurb
As the new custodian of the ancestral home, Treweham Hall, Tobias Cavendish-Blake soon discovers exactly what he's inherited. Instant financial action is needed if the Hall is to survive the mounting debts it's racking up. Adding insult to injury the family is forced to sell the Gate House on the estate to lottery winners Gary and Tracy Belcher – not the kind of neighbours Tobias was hoping for. Megan Taylor inherits her grandmother's country cottage in the village of Treweham and decides to make a fresh start there, taking a job at the local country pub. When Megan meets Tobias, the attraction is clear, but she is determined to resist his charms, put off by his reputation and that of his best friends – the rakish Seamus Fox, son of a millionaire race horse trainer and dastardly jockey Dylan Delany. But Tobias is a hard man to resist. . .

Review
Scandal by Sasha Morgan is a book full of secrets, lies, romance and sex and is the perfect guilty pleasure read. In the quiet Cotswold village of Treweham a whole array of scandal is unfolding, involving more or less the whole village.
Tobias Cavendish-Blake has just taken over the role of Lord Treweham Hall the passing of his father. He may have inherited a beautiful house, but he’s also inherited a load of stress as the upkeep for the hall is too high and with the debts his father has left the family are struggling. He needs to reign in his mothers spending and provide a much-needed income quickly.
One of Tobias’ money-making schemes involves renovating and selling off part of the estate, the Old Gatehouse. This is something he finds particularly hard, especially when he sees what the lottery winning buyers Gary and Sharon do to the place.
Newcomer Megan has inherited her grand-mother’s quaint little cottage in the village, a place she sees as a sanctuary after her recent break-up with cheating ex-boyfriend Adam. It’s not long before Megan has fully integrated herself into village life, taking a job in the local pub, becoming firm friends with local girl Finnula and catching the eye of the new Lord.
Village Casanova Dylan Delaney may finally have met his match with stable-hand Flora, will she be the one to finally settle the famous jockey.
These among other great characters make a great story with numerous plotlines which all interweave and work beautifully together to create an engaging and thrilling read. I love Sasha Morgan’s writing and think this story could be made into a series as I’d love to read more about these characters.
I also loved the way the idyllic scenery of the Cotswolds and grandeur of Treweham Hall have been captured in the writing. I’ve been to this part of the country and reading Scandal has made me long for another visit to the quaint chocolate-box villages of this part of the country.
Full of sexy liaisons, family secrets and horsey shenanigans Scandal is the perfect escapist read ideal for fans of Jilly Cooper, Tilly Bagshaw and Fiona Walker. I loved everything about this novel and am keeping my fingers crossed for more form Sasha Morgan very soon.
Thank you to Aria for sending me a copy to review honestly and for inviting me to be part of the blog tour.



Friday, 16 February 2018

Blog Tour Review: The French Adventure by Lucy Coleman


The French Adventure by Lucy Coleman
Published: 1st February 2018
Publisher: Aria
Pages: 292
Available in Paperback and on Kindle
Rating: 5/5

Blurb
Suddenly unemployed and single, Anna escapes to her parents' beautiful house in France for a much needed recharge – and to work out what she wants to do next with her life now her carefully mapped out plan has gone out the window.

Anna gives herself 6 months to recuperate, all the while helping renovate her parents' adjoining gites into picturesque B&Bs. But working alongside the ruggedly handsome Sam on the renovation project, she didn't expect for life to take an unexpected, if not unwelcome, twist...

Review
When Anna witnesses her boyfriend of over a year Karl deny all existence of their relationship to get himself a promotion, Anna does the only self-respecting thing she can do and walks out of her job and out of a life with Karl. After renting out her house Anna sets off to spend six months in France to help her parents renovate their farmhouse B&B in the countryside, but also to figure out what to do with the rest of her life.

Anna is soon enchanted by life in France, the slower pace and beautiful countryside make her relax and enjoy the little things in life. It also helps that she’s working alongside sexy handyman Sam whose passion for his work hides his deeply tormented past. A past Anna longs to know more about, but Sam’s a very private person and doesn’t initially let Anna in, but slowly the two begin to form a solid friendship. A mystery surrounding the history of the B&B brings Anna and Sam even closer and soon Anna begins to realise that maybe her heart belongs in France not just for the summer.

The French Adventure is a beautifully written story about love, planning, and not letting the past control your future. Anna is a great character, she’s caring, and she’s not afraid to get stuck in and try something new and put her twist on it – rendering with a plastic knife and gloves for example. Anna needs to have a plan and needs to know the next step, that’s probably why working on the farmhouse suits her so much, this is the total opposite to Sam though. Sam prefers to live completely in the moments blocking out all traces of the past and not even planning for tomorrow, which drives Anna nuts but as they say opposites attract right?

I loved the way this book is written; the characters are well developed the plot is interesting, but I think my favourite part was the vivid images that were conjured up through Lucy Coleman’s writing. I would just have loved to have seen the beautiful field of sunflowers bobbing their heads at sunset and feel very jealous of Anna that she got to see this. The French Adventure is a beautiful romantic tale from start to finish and I loved every page.

Thank you so much to Aria for inviting me on this blog tour and sending me a copy of The French Adventure to review honestly.




Wednesday, 14 February 2018

Blog Tour Review: The Runaway Wife by Rosie Clarke


The Runaway Wife by Rosie Clarke
Published: 1st February 2018
Publisher: Aria
Pages: 426
Available in Paperback and on Kindle
Rating: 5/5

Blurb
Love, marriage, obsession, betrayal and treachery in 1920s London – a powerful and gritty saga perfect for fans of Kitty Neale, Josephine Cox and Rosie Goodwin.

The hedonism of London in the roaring '20s is a world away from Annabel Tarleton's ordinary country existence. Until a chance meeting with the charming Richard Fortescue at a society ball changes her life for ever.

Swept off her feet by the dashing Richard, and his renowned fortune, Annabel soon realises that all that glitters isn't gold. Her bid for freedom has come at a terrible price and she finds herself trapped inside a marriage that behind closed doors is cruel and brutal.

Annabel has no choice but to flee, and will do everything to save herself, and her unborn baby, from destitution. But the very rich and very powerful expect to get what they want – and Richard wants only one thing – Annabel...

Review

The Runaway Wife was a book which I was really looking forward to reading. Firstly because it’s written by Rosie Clarke who is fast becoming one of my favourite authors in the saga genre and secondly it was set in the 1920s and 1930s a period of history I love reading about for all the glitz and glamour. It’s a book which didn’t disappoint and was devoured in just a couple of days as I tend to get lost in Ms. Clarke’s writing.

Annabel and her family are feeling the pressure of money troubles after their father lost most of their money in bad investments during the stock market crash. They still have their home but its at the point of falling down around them. Annabel is a woman with intelligence, tenacity and charm longs to go out into the world and find a job. But her mother has other ideas Annabel must marry well like her brother Ben and secure some money for the family, Annabel has too much of a sense of duty to disobey her mother.  Which is how she finds herself married to Richard Hansen, instead of the man she has fallen in love with working class Paul Keifer, a printer.  Richard is a man who is rich, handsome and completely charming on the outside, much approved by Annabel’s mother. Alone in their marriage Annabel soon learns Richard is a cruel and violent man who will stop at nothing to get his own way. Fearing for her own life Annabel decides she’s had enough and runs away…after all any life is better than one with Richard.

Annabel is a great character, she hard-working, honest and has any easy nature which seems to put those around totally at ease and I loved how much she changed throughout the novel. At the beginning she has her hopes and dreams but ultimately is controlled by her mother. After her marriage to Richard begins to go wrong she grows in independence and is determined to make her own decisions about her future.

I found The Runaway Wife to be a realistic and well-rounded portrayal of life in the roaring twenties. Every detail has been thought of and described from the glamourous costumes and hairstyles of the rich and famous to the everyday details of making the families bread on the farm. Written at a time when society was beginning to be more equal with the rich people facing the losses of the stock market and women demanding their right to vote this was a very exciting and uneasy time in history and I think Rosie Clarke has managed to capture this atmosphere perfectly in her novel.  It’s a book which brings together all classes of people with this well written and gripping story. I loved that is was a bit grittier than your usual saga featuring some more unpleasant aspects of life.

I really enjoyed The Runaway Wife and think anyone who has an interest in this period in history will enjoy this book.  Thank you to Rosie Clarke for writing another brilliant story and thank you to the publishers Aria for inviting me to be part of the blog tour.




Tuesday, 13 February 2018

Blog Tour Review: Prosecco and Promises by A.L. Michael


Prosecco and Promises (Martini Club #2) by A.L. Michael 
Published: 12th February 2018
Publisher: Canelo
Pages: 202
Available on Kindle
Rating: 5/5

Blurb
A feel-good story of self-discovery and love in the face of grief, join Mia in the beautiful Italian island of Ischia. Perfect for fans of Mhairi McFarlane, Lindsey Kelk and Lucy Vine.

Since her mother died when Mia was a child, her dad has been her best friend and her idol. Now, the cancer he survived years before is back, and this time there’s no fighting it. To make matters worse her dad’s last request is for Mia to leave him and visit her mother’s family on the Italian island of Ischia so she doesn’t have to be there at the end.
Arriving at the sun-soaked island, Mia is embraced by the warm, crazy family she doesn’t know. While she waits for the phone to ring with the dreaded news, Mia desperately looks for a connection to the mother she never knew. Stumbling upon an antique shop run by the charming Antonio and his grouchy but handsome grandson Salvatore, she throws herself into helping with the shop restoration. As Mia and Salvatore’s bickering soon turns to chemistry, will she risk having her heart broken when she knows what’s waiting for her at home?

Review

Prosecco and Promises is the second novel in A.L Michael’s Martini Club series. I haven’t read the first book in this series Cocktails and Dreams yet but as I enjoyed Prosecco and Promises so much I intend to go back and read it very soon. Don’t worry if you haven’t read Cocktails and Dreams either as Prosecco and Promises focuses on another of the club’s regulars Mia and works perfectly well as a standalone novel.

Mia’s heart is on the verge of breaking. She’s losing her dad and instead of staying by his side until the end, he has sent her away to the island of Ischia near Naples to learn more about her mother’s family. Being among relatives is strange to Mia at first as its been just her and her dad for so long but and she resents being pushed away during his last few days. It’s not long before Mia starts to unwind and finds that being around people who care about her is something she could get used to. Her stay on the island is also helped by the handsome but arrogant Salvatore who Mia just can’t seem to stay away from.

I have always loved A.L. Michael’s ability to create sassy strong female characters and I think Mia is my favourite to date. She’s had a lot of hurt in her life which makes her blunt and a little closed off. She isn’t easily swayed by looks or meaningless gestures as Salvatore finds out, unlike the rest of the women on the island Mia doesn’t instantly fall at his feet, she stands her ground and is true to herself. I loved seeing her passion for history shine throughout the novel, especially on her trip to Naples with her endless questions to the tour guides. I’m glad she was brave enough after her fathers passing to embrace her dreams fully.

This is a wonderful book with some surprising twists throughout which added more depth to this gentle romance. It’s a book full characters which you can’t help but adore, some being very stereotypically Italian, but I loved them all. Enzo however was my favourite, I loved reading about all his over the top romantic gestures and had my fingers crossed he’d finally get his girl. It’s a book about family, passion and heartbreak. If you can read this and not be on the verge of tears at least once I’ll be impressed.  I feel the heart-breaking moments are perfectly balanced though with romance and laughter making this a perfect read.

I’m off to read Cocktails and Dreams now and learn more about Savvy, Mia’s best friend and keeping my fingers crossed that my guess for the next character to have their story told is correct. Thank you so much to the publishers and Netgalley for providing me with this copy to review and for inviting me to be part of the blog tour, I loved everything about Prosecco and Promises.

Saturday, 10 February 2018

Blog Tour Review: Behind Her back by Jane Lythell


Behind Her Back (StoryWorld #2) by Jane Lythell
Published: 8th February 2018
Publisher: Head of Zeus
Pages: 368
Available in Paperback and on Kindle
Rating: 4/5

Blurb
Liz Lyon is a television producer and busy single mum to a teenage daughter. She works at StoryWorld, the UK's favourite morning show. As both confidante and team leader, she is the person tasked with controlling the conflicts and tantrums that flare up off-air. Having just started dating again, she's also having to deal with a few conflicts and tantrums at home...
Following a blissfully peaceful two-week holiday in Italy, Liz has returned to find a new colleague has joined the station. Lori Kerwell has been brought in to increase the show's profitability. But Liz is not sure that's the only thing on Lori's agenda.
As Lori builds her power base with the bosses, Liz finds herself wondering what's really going on behind her back...
Review
Behind Her Back by Jane Lythell is the story of Liz Lyons, a TV produces for the hit daytime show StoryWorld. On her return to work after a two week break there’s a new member to the StoryWorld team Lori Kerwell. A woman who knows exactly what she wants and takes no prisoners on her way to get there.  There is instant tension between her and Liz, as Liz is used to being the woman in control and doesn’t like her job criticized from an outsider. Along with the tensions building between Liz and Lori there is also a storm brewing among returning presenter Fizzy and her stand-in Leyton, both wanting to be the solo star of the show.  In among the rivalry, secrets and back-stabbing Liz also finds time to juggle caring for her teenage daughter Flo, keeping her house in order and finds time for the occasional date.
I really liked Liz as a character, she’s driven to do well in her job but not to the extent that it takes over all her life. She’s a single mum and makes sure that fifteen-year-old daughter Flo knows she’s loved and that Liz is there for her always, despite usually getting the brunt of Flo’s teenage angst when things don’t turn out quite as she planned. She’s also very loyal towards her team and tries her best to make sure they are all happy at work and will defend them when any of them come under-fire. Liz has also kept secrets for various members of her team, which in the wrong hands could have ruined their careers and their private lives. My favourite part was reading about her getting ready for the big awards dinner and looking for the perfect dress and all the insecurities which go with that. These scenes showed her at her best a real woman which many of us can relate, who every now and then gets to be the princess.
Lori, couldn’t be more different from Liz and was not someone I warmed to. She’s cold-hearted, ruthless and will manipulate people to get what she wants. The way she made suggestions for the programme which were frankly stupid was annoying, more so that the big bosses seemed to run with her idea and the leave Liz with the blame when it went wrong made me angry for Liz. I didn’t like Fizzy much either as she seemed to be able to manipulate people, especially men into doing what she wanted too, the only difference was she has a much bubblier personality than Lori so got away with it more.  
Written from Liz’s perspective, it felt very much like reading a diary as there is a lot of narrative where Liz is contemplating events which have happened to herself. I really liked this format of writing as it mirrored the storyline making it feel like one of those real-life TV documentaries.  I was unaware until about a third of the way through the book that this is the second StoryWorld novel. Events from the previous novel are described enough that I didn’t feel I missed out by not reading the first book. I was a little sad that just as I had really got into the novel it seemed like it had ended, leaving me with a few questions as to what happened next, like what happened with Ron? Hopefully this means there is a third StoryWorld novel on its way…fingers crossed.
Behind Her Back is a realistic look at life behind the lens, looking at the relationships between presenters and producers and the underlying tensions and rivalries among them all. It is a book I enjoyed very much and I look forward to reading more from this author.

Friday, 9 February 2018

Blog Tour Extract: Unconvicted by Olly Jarvis


Unconvicted by Olly Jarvis
Published: 29th January 2018
Publisher: Canelo
Pages: 318
Genre: Legal Thriller, Thriller,
Available on Kindle

Today on the blog I am delighted to be part of the blog tour for Unconvicted by Olly Jarvis. This is Olly's second Jack  Kowalski novel, following on from Cut-Throat Defence, published in 2016. Hope you enjoy reading this extract from this addictive legal thriller. 

Blurb
In a razor-sharp legal thriller, Jack Kowalski must win two challenging trials to save his reputation and his career
Junior barrister Jack Kowalski is crushed. His client Timothy Smart appears to have committed a monstrous crime while on bail – a bail application Jack fought hard to win.
When a high-profile Polish footballer is charged with rape and demands a fellow countryman represent him, Jack must overcome his guilt and get back to work. Before long he takes on a second case, a GBH for instructing solicitor Lara Panassai, who Jack remains desperate to impress. But neither case is what it seems, and Jack will face an extraordinary uphill battle to see that justice is done…
The second Jack Kowalski novel, Unconvicted is a gripping courtroom drama written with the expert insight of a practicing criminal barrister, perfect for fans of William L. Myers, Deborah Hawkins, and Scott Turow.


Extract

Chapter 4
Jack robed in double-quick time. He rushed down to Court 8, flicking through the brief to take in the basic grounds of the application for bail. He had butterflies, but not for fear of going into Court: he’d all but conquered that in his first few months of tenancy. No, he was nervous about being unprepared, and at the possibility of getting a dressing-down from the judge.
But it was all part of being a barrister, and Jack could handle it. He was on his way, he’d won a few trials, his diary was starting to fill up, and solicitors were actually briefing him in his own name. And most important of all, he was starting to feel comfortable, not only in a wig and gown, but in his own skin.
His opponent was already in Court. Barry Smith worked in-house at the Crown Prosecution Service. A sensible and fair prosecutor who gave every brief the same meticulous consideration.
‘Here he is! Cutting it a bit fine, aren’t you, Kowalski?’ he said as Jack flung his papers onto an empty lectern on counsel’s row.
‘Don’t even go there,’ Jack replied. ‘I’ve read the basics, Barry. No previous, denies it completely. Anything else I should know?’
‘Only that we’re really worried about this one.’ His humour had vanished. ‘He’s gone totally psycho, flipped out, smashed up the house and did some pretty strange things leading up to the rape. We really don’t want him out there. This brief has got danger written  all over it.’
‘Bloody hell, Barry! Whatever happened to innocent until proven guilty?’ asked Jack. ‘I wouldn’t worry though, mate. I’ll never get bail in this.’
‘All rise!’
Her Honour Judge Beddingfield entered the courtroom and took her seat on the bench.
‘Yes?’ she said, not wasting any time.
The court clerk stood up. ‘The bail application of Timothy Smart, Your Honour. Mr Smith is for the Crown and Mr Kowalski defends.’
‘Very good. Let’s get on with it, gentlemen. I’m anxious not to keep the jury waiting in my trial. What are your objections to bail, Mr Smith?’
‘Quite simply, risk of further offences, Your Honour. The defendant has committed a very serious offence – rape of his estranged wife. He’s very unstable. There’s been a pattern of offending, all directed towards Mrs Smart: harassment, smashing windows, even entering the house uninvited and leaving bizarre and threatening messages on the walls. She’s terrified, Your Honour.’
The prosecutor handed forward some photographs of the lounge, the first of which showed the words ‘sin no more’ written in three-foot-high letters along one wall.
‘Yes, I see,’ said the judge, looking through the other photos, clearly concerned. ‘What do you say, Mr Kowalski?’
Jack got stuck in immediately: ‘There’s absolutely no corroboration for any of this, Your Honour. It all comes from Mrs Smith; only her word. There’s no bruising or injury that suggests a forced sexual act.’ Jack paused to let his points sink in. ‘Your Honour, as far  as the allegations of criminal damage are concerned, it’s pure speculation that they were committed by the defendant. There is not a shred of evidence to link him to the offences. No forensics, nor eyewitness evidence. And, as I understand it, Mrs Smart did not report any of these matters to the police at the time they were allegedly committed. Only later, when she made the allegation of rape.’
Her Honour raised an eyebrow. ‘Is that right, Mr Smith?’
‘Yes it is, Your Honour. Mrs Smart made her reasons quite clear in her witness statement. She didn’t want to aggravate matters by involving the police. She was desperately trying to find a way to appease the defendant and resolve matters amicably, for the sake of the children. He reacted very badly when she told him she wanted a divorce.’
The judge nodded. ‘Yes, I see.’
Smith continued: ‘She’d already managed to persuade the defendant to move out some months earlier. Even then, she noticed how his behaviour was becoming more erratic. As far as any lack of injury is concerned, it’s well known that it takes the case no further. There is frequently no bruising or other injury where intercourse is forced.’
‘Semen?’ said the judge.
‘None, Your Honour. The defendant suffered from sexual dysfunction during the marriage – unable to ejaculate. There was a partial DNA profile on a vaginal swab, which matched the defendant.’ Smith sat down. He’d done enough.



About the Author



Olly Jarvis is a writer and criminal defence barrister, originally from London but now working in Manchester. Drawing on his experiences, he writes both fiction and non-fiction with a particular understanding of the pressures and excitement of life in the courtroom. He wrote the highly acclaimed Radio 4 drama Judgement, and wrote and presented the BBC documentary Mum Knows Best. He is also the author of Death by Dangerous. Olly has two children and lives in Cheshire.
You can follow Olly on Twitter @OllyJarviso