Sunday, 30 August 2015

A moment of reflection...

I'm going to start this post off with a little disclaimer. I've been debating over the past few days whether to press 'publish' on the below post or not. I don't want it to seem like a cry for attention or anything - it's not that at all. But last night, I realised it was OK to post this. My blog is quite personal, filled with my thoughts and feelings (granted usually on books, not everyday life, but there can be exceptions!) so I decided to share it with you. 

There are two reasons I'm writing this latest blog post. 

The first is that I love my blog. Over the past few months Little Northern Soul has become a passion of mine, not just a hobby, and is an outlet for me to express my thoughts and opinions, connect with others that have similar interests (or book taste!) and just generally be creative. I sometimes see it as a diary and so the below is a way for me to get my current thoughts and emotions down, on paper (so to speak) as a way of release. The second reason is that I haven't been as focussed on my blog lately and not putting my usual effort and enthusiasm into it, so I wanted to explain why. 

Just over four months ago my Grandma had a stroke. A big one. From the off set we knew it wasn't a good prognosis. It was a difficult few weeks - she was awake and responsive but as she'd lost the ability to speak, couldn't communicate apart from saying 'yes', which was distressing when she was trying to say something. I'm not going to go into it all, but she carried on for four weeks before she passed away just over a week ago, on Saturday 22nd August. 

Grief is a really weird thing. It's (thankfully) not something I've had to experience too much. My Grandad passed away about eight years ago, but if I'm honest I don't remember it that much. This is the first time I really feel like I'm experiencing grief, and boy is it an emotional rollercoaster. 

Some days I'm absolutely fine. I go about my day as normal - work, gym, dinner, TV, bed - with little or no thoughts as to the loss of my Grandma or what my Dad is going through. I didn't see or speak to my Grandma every day like my Dad did, so there isn't something missing on a day-to-day basis for me, its more the family events, Christmas and Sunday dinners that I will find hard without her being there. Also, because I don't live with my parents, I'm not seeing them every day and seeing how they're coping. That slight removal from the situation can make it easy to, for a little while, forget and carry on as normal.

Then there's similar days to that,  but with the addition of feeling guilty. Why should I be able to laugh or smile? relax? enjoy myself? My Dad certainly isn't doing that at the moment, so should I? The enormity of the guilt will weigh on my shoulders and I still don't really know the solution to this. 

Then, there's sadness. Overall, I'd been doing pretty well really but last night I came home from spending the day with my family and I felt really sad. I had to stop myself from crying into my pizza (it was so delicious I couldn't bring myself to do so) and my thoughts kept flitting back to my Grandma, memories of happy times and thinking of how drawn and sad my Dad had looked yesterday. 

The thing is, it'll be hard for some time. The funeral is on Friday and I think it will give us a chance to say goodbye and reflect on how we feel, but that won't be the end of the grief - then there's the difficult task of sorting out her belongings, clearing (and eventually selling) her house which will be a whole host of other memories re-surfacing and then disappearing. The finality of my Grandma's home going will also be wretched and very difficult. But, despite the horrible situation thats happening at the moment, I know I'm really lucky. Our family are close and supportive and I know we'll help each other through it as best we can. I'm lucky I got to spend the time with my Grandma that I did, some families don't have that so really, I need to focus on the good times we shared, not the loss. As well as family my OH is brilliant, truly brilliant, and can sense when I'm down, giving me a hug or thrusting a glass of wine towards me which is just what I need at the moment. 

In time, I know I'll get back to normal with the blog, reading, work etc. At the moment though I'm finding it hard to concentrate on reading (I'm still reading the book I started last week - eek!) and then trying to  create a coherent, interesting review for you all to read seems a daunting task at the moment. I'm sure that will change - hopefully soon- as reading and the blog are a great form of escape for me - they allow me to switch off from the outside world. Precious, stolen moments of reading are the perfect cure for such an emotional time. 

So sorry if this post seems a little strange, I know its not my usual content at all. I just wanted to explain what's going on in my head and why Little Northern Soul has taken a slight backseat. I'm still tweeting and planning blog posts (mainly on the good days) and I'm sure eventually all days will be a good day, and I can give the blog the focus I want it to have. At the moment though, that extra time and energy is being spent on my loved ones. Thanks for reading if you've got this far, I hope it makes sense. 

Lots of love, L xxx

Wednesday, 26 August 2015

Book Review: Appleby Farm by Cathy Bramley

"Freya Moorcroft has wild red hair, mischievous green eyes, a warm smile and a heart of gold. She’s been happy working at the cafĂ© round the corner from Ivy Lane allotments and her romance with her new boyfriend is going well, she thinks, but a part of her still misses the beautiful rolling hills of her Cumbrian childhood home: Appleby Farm.

Then a phone call out of the blue and a desperate plea for help change everything…

The farm is in financial trouble, and it’s taking its toll on the aunt and uncle who raised Freya. Heading home to lend a hand, Freya quickly learns that things are worse than she first thought. As she summons up all her creativity and determination to turn things around, Freya is surprised as her own dreams for the future begin to take shape.

Love makes the world go round, according to Freya. Not money. But will saving Appleby Farm and following her heart come at a price?"

For those of you that read my Ivy Lane review, you'll know I'm a HUGE fan of Cathy Bramley. Her writing style is engaging, detailed and so well thought through, her characters are lovable and realistic, and the stories are set in the prettiest English locations. She also has the most beautiful book covers. I mean seriously, feast your eyes on that delight above... I think that cover and the one for Ivy Lane are my favourites of the year. So pretty. 

Now, I'm a pretty impatient person and as much as I disliked having to wait this long to get my hands on another of her masterpieces, I couldn't bring myself to read Appleby Farm in it's original, four-book-series form. The wait between each part would have been too much, so I decided to hold out for the full paperback version, which was released last week. I'm so glad I did, as this is an immersive, brilliant read that more than lives up to expectation following the high standards of Ivy Lane. 

The story follows Freya, who you may remember as the waitress at the tea rooms at Ivy Lane. She receives a call from her Aunt Sue, to say that her Uncle is ill and they need help at the farm. She swiftly heads over to Appleby Farm to help them, which reveals the extent of the trouble they're in. Freya starts coming up with ways to get the farm thriving again and diminish the debt that has piled up, all while trying to deal with being separated from her boyfriend Charlie and working on her distant and poor relationship with her parents. 

I loved, loved, lovedddd Freya. She is a great main character to follow - generous, kind and family-focused, doing all she can to make sure her Aunt and Uncle are OK. She's quite flitty and not comfortable settling down in one place, always looks for the next adventure and place to explore. This made me like her even more, it added depth to her character and it was intriguing seeing her inner battle between settling down at the farm to help her family, or move on to the next thing. She's funny too, some of my favourite parts of the story were her chats with her uncle, who is a real sweetheart, and her reunion with her old childhood friend Harry (who is pretty great too). I also really liked Lizzie, the bartender at the local pub and Freya's firm friend from the moment she arrives at the farm. She is funny and a little kooky, and I thought she was a brilliant addition to the gang. 

Appleby Farm is set in the Lake District, which provides some beautifully described scenery - I particularly loved the little shepherds huts which Freya changes into a 'glamping' destination - they sound pretty fun! Any book that focuses on tea and cake is a winner in my eyes, so when Freya set out to make the old unused barn a vintage tea room I was in my element, it sounded so cute and dainty, not to mention tasty!

I really enjoyed how this story linked back to Ivy Lane. It features a couple of appearances from Tilly, who I loved from that story. Appleby Farm can be read as a stand alone novel in itself, it won't be confusing, but it's more fun if you've read the first so you can see the link and reconnect with characters you loved from Ivy Lane. I'm so chuffed that this didn't disappoint and was as brilliant, if not better (?!) than Ivy Lane.  I really, really enjoyed it.

So, if you're looking for a story that's comforting, homely and absolutely absorbing look no further. Appleby Farm is an absolute treat of a story and showcases the wonderful talent of Cathy Bramley. I can't wait for more....


Tuesday, 25 August 2015

20 Things I Learnt at the Belgium Grand Prix

So for any of you that follow me on Twitter, you may have gathered that I spent this past weekend at the Belgium Grand Prix. It was a fab weekend and I'll be posting a more detailed blog post later in the week about it. In the meantime, I thought I'd share with you the 20 Things I Learnt at the Belgium Grand Prix. Even if you're not an F1 fan, I hope you enjoy.

1) If you're interested in going, sign up to email alerts for tickets as it can get you an early bird discount.

2) Going early bird also means you can look into hotels/flights etc earlier than others and try and grab a bargain.

3) It is a completely different experience being at the F1 than it is to watch it on TV. Even if you're not that interested in the sport, the sounds, smells and speed of the cars are likely to blow you away.

4) Belgium weather is notoriously unpredictable and can change quickly. Surprisingly, we had constant sun over the whole weekend but this is fairly unusual. Pack accordingly - coat, umbrella, suncream, sunglasses and a hoody.. you never know what you'll need!

4) Layer up. It's easier to pile on the layers and take them off if it's warm than it is to shiver from cold if it does rain. I wore converse, jeans, vest top, cardigan, hoody and packed a coat which worked well.

5) Pack plenty of water. It was absolutely boiling over the weekend, so it was essential we stayed hydrated. Buying bottles of water from the stalls was extortionate, so we packed plenty of water.

6) Obviously drinking lots of water means lots of toilet trips. It is ALWAYS worth paying 70c for a wee. The portaloos are a no-go by Friday afternoon so grab some change and head to a 'posh loo' (granted, they're not the height of luxury but certainly beat the portaloos!)

7) As I said above, the food stalls are really expensive. If you can, pack a picnic. It'll make it much cheaper and probably more nutritious - there's only fast food on offer (burgers, hot dogs, chips, waffles etc) and it comes at a price. We couldn't really pack a picnic as we didn't have a fridge to store food in, so I seemed to live off chips for the weekend. A pile of veg when I got home was well received!

8) Spa-Francorchamps is one of the greatest tracks on the F1 calendar, and this becomes even more apparent when you see it in real life. It takes a while to do so, but definitely walk round the whole track... it's an amazing experience. We walked round it on Friday during practice so we didn't miss much and could scout out where we wanted to sit for qualifying and the race. It took us most of the day, with a few stops, but was one of my favourite parts of the weekend.

9) As per the above point - wear comfy shoes. You'll be grateful by the end of the day.

 10) If you're on just a general admission ticket (i.e. not in a grandstand) you won't have a designated seat so need to make sure you have a good spot for race day. A 5am alarm on Sunday morning seemed excessive, but it was so worth it for the view we had.

11) Speaking of, the hill at the 'Pouhon' section of the track is a lot steeper from the top than it looks. We wedged our camp chairs into the top of the hill, so we had an absolutely amazing view. Not being good with heights (and also being notoriously clumsy and not well balanced on my feet) it's safe to say I was petrified. but, by the time the hill filled up with people I was grateful for my brilliant spot and clear view of the race.

12) Grab a spot near a giant TV screen or you won't have a clue what's going on. Commentary is split between French and English so it can be a while before you know what's happening and, without being rude, the track commentators are no David Coulthard and occasionally get things wrong or don't pick up on changes that quickly.

13) Belgium is so pretty and away from the track we spent time in pretty little villages and towns, with great food, weather and a relaxed atmosphere. I loved it.

14) Speaking of, the Belgium people were really friendly. I always feel awful when I go abroad and I don't speak the language, it seems so arrogant to expect people to speak English, but I really am terrible at grasping languages. When I went to Paris a few years ago we encountered many waitresses and bar staff who were visibly annoyed by my inability to speak French. Although I understood it, it still made me feel uncomfortable. This didn't happen in Belgium - all the waitresses and bar staff we interacted with were helpful and friendly and more than willing to try and work out what we wanted (most didn't speak fluent English so we had to meet halfway!) which made it a relaxed and enjoyable experience.

15) We drove from Leeds to Belgium as it was cheaper and actually easier. It turns out that long car journeys aren't so bad if you do them with someone you get on with. In fact, they can be fun. Radio blasting, eating sweets, chatting nonsense... brilliant.

16) ...however, if there's bad traffic/weather/other annoying drivers then the drive can be long and tense. But, you'll get through it. Honestly.

17) It is well worth going to see the F1 in real life. I've never done anything like it and it's an experience I won't forget. It's an absolutely brilliant atmosphere, being surrounded by F1 fans makes it an electric experience - particularly on race day.

18) Even if you're not that much of a fan and are going with someone that is, it's not boring and I'm sure you'll enjoy it... even if it is just because of the brilliant people-watching opportunities it provides!

19) It's not a relaxing weekend away by any means. Early starts, long days and lots of walking meant that by the time I got home (after nearly 8 hours in the car) I was knackered. Take a few extra days afterwards off work to catch up on well needed rest!

20) If you do go, make the most of it and enjoy it! It truly is wonderful.

Have you ever been to an F1 race? What did you think?

Tuesday, 18 August 2015

Book review: Pleasure Island by Anna-Lou Weatherley

"Secrets. Scandal. Betrayal. In Paradise, pleasure comes at a dangerously high price... 
Three couples each receive an exclusive invitation to the fantasy holiday destination of a lifetime...

The host: Martin McKenzie, global billionaire and media mogul. Charismatic, powerful and always gets what he wants.
The location: A breathtakingly beautiful undiscovered island, nestled in the Aegean Sea. Private, secluded and not quite as it seems.
The details: Seven days of pure hedonism, five-star luxury tailored to every desire, also includes... secrets, lies, and infidelity. As the guests begin to enjoy everything the luxury island has to offer, cracks begin to surface between the three couples. But that is not all. Someone is watching them."

So, I'm going to confess I was drawn to Pleasure Island from the cover. I thought it looked really summery and the perfect book to read when I was relaxing in the sun (granted, not on Holiday, but still.) The blurb intrigued me and then I saw fellow bloggers tweeting about how much they'd enjoyed it,  I decided I couldn't wait any longer and started to read it. 

I'm so, so glad I did as it is bloody brilliant. 

This is the first book in a fair while that's hooked me in, in an all-consuming way. When I wasn't reading it, it was all I could think about, and I'd sneak as much time as possible to read (even if it was just a few pages) so that I could keep going, as I just HAD to know what happened. 

The story follows media mogul Martin McKenzie, who invites three couples to his luxury, private island for a holiday. What they don't realise is that the entire island is rigged with secret cameras and they are being watched by a select group - 'the super 8', who have all paid good money to be involved in the 'experiment', which forces the holiday-goers into situations to see how they react, all the while them not knowing they are being filmed. While most enjoy the endless glasses of champagne, luxury spa and free designer clothes certain guests begin to suspect not is all as it seems on the island - and they have a right to be worried. They have been hand-picked by Martin McKenzie because in some way, they have done him wrong. As a reader, you begin to see what they have done to 'deserve' a place on the island, and how they are all connected to each other. 

The characters in Pleasure Island are brilliant - all completely differ from one an other and add another layer to this fantastic storyline. Some are pretty extreme like Martin McKenzie, who is downright evil and quite frankly is a little bit mad. He is a force to be reckoned with and we begin to see just how far he will go to ensure things go his way. Then there's Billy-Jo who is fame-hungry, willing to do anything to become a 'big star', with the wealth to go along with it.  She was an irritating character and the extent of her greed was unbelievable at times, but she certainly stood out in the story. When you hear about her difficult upbringing it kind of makes it more understandable, but still didn't detract from her outright selfishness. 

Over all I think my favourite character was Nate, the former footballer. He was kind and genuine and not up himself like a lot of the 'cast'. He is trapped in a marriage to Billy-Jo that he didn't really want to be in, and overall I just hoped that by the end of the story he'd end up happy. I enjoyed seeing how he reacted to certain situations throughout the story, and he becomes good friends with Angelika, another guest on the island who is, like Nate, level-headed and nice - a contradiction to some of the other guests on the island. 

My one concern was that due to the title of the story, the book would be filled with sex scenes and not much else, but that wasn't the case at all. There's the odd one or two as part of the scenarios the 'cast' are put through, but they actually weren't as detailed as I'd expected and so didn't detract from the main plot line. 

I loved the plot of Pleasure Island, it's just brilliant- unique, gripping and original and I really enjoyed reading it. There's such a mysterious edge to the story, you never quite know what's going to happen and there's plenty of twists and turns that keep you on our toes.  Pleasure Island is the perfect beach read - make sure you have some spare time on your hands when you start this though, as you won't want to put it down! If you haven't purchased this already, I'd highly recommend it - it's not to be missed! 

A big thank you to Bookouture for providing an advance copy via Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review. 

Friday, 14 August 2015

Book review: The Heavenly Italian Ice Cream Shop by Abby Clements

"Anna and her husband Matteo are ready to embark a delicious Italian adventure. After a year and a half running their ice cream shop on Brighton beach and raising their baby Isabella, Matteo is starting to miss Italy. A shared passion for ices means it's easy to settle on a new business idea - they'll open a shop in the town's cobbled square, a short walk from the sparkling blue sea. For a while, life is sweet; but then Matteo's overbearing family get involved...

Anna's younger sister Imogen feels like things are finally coming together - she's living with boyfriend Finn in a beach house in Brighton, and her photography is taking off. Then her career stalls, and the lure of Capri - and a man from her past - prove difficult to resist. 

Join Anna and Imogen and share a summer on the Amalfi Coast that you'll never forget."

Okay so I start this review with a word of caution.... this book will, without a doubt, give you a craving for ice-cream. Whether it be orange sorbet, creamy chocolate gelatto or a delicious sounding hot chocolate ice cream (which I seriously need the recipe for) this book will leave you drooling... I know that I'm certainly hankering a craving for an ice cold sweet treat that I didn't have before! 

So, on to the actual book. The Heavenly Italian Ice Cream Shop is a sequel to Vivian's Heavenly Italian Ice Cream Shop but you don't need to have read that story to understand what's going on in this book, the characters are introduced and their situations explained well enough for it to be a stand-alone novel itself. 

The story follows Anna and her partner Matteo who are living in Brighton, running a successful ice cream shop and raising their little girl, Bella. Although they are close to Anna's parents and sister Imogen, they are far away from Matteo's Italian family, who he misses. The story begins with it being clear that Matteo would like to move back to Italy for some time, and although Anna struggles with the idea of leaving her childhood home and tight-knit family behind, as well as being closer to Mateeo's overbearing and rather rude mother, she agrees to move to Italy for the summer, where they take over an already well-known ice cream shop and successfully make it their own. 

Anna's sister Imogen is suffering from major wander-lust. She is happy in her relationship with Finn, but she craves travel and adventure. When she is promised a photography job in Africa, she is really excited to get away for a while and follow her passion. The trip is soon cancelled and Imogen is really disappointed and looks for something to fill the gap... 
It's pretty obvious from the offset that Finn is a great guy and loving boyfriend, and Imogen isn't nasty or mean in wanting some distance, she just isn't sure how to handle such a commitment. I wanted to give her a good shake and tell her all would be okay, but I still really enjoyed following her journey and see how it would pan out with Finn. 

I think there are two major pulling points to this story - the food and the location. Let's start with the food. I mean, any book that has the word 'ice cream' in the title is obviously going to be a winner. The different flavours and types of ice cream had me drooling. It isn't ice cream overkill though, its not a repetitive or boring element to the story, there's just the right balance and it definitely created a rumble in my stomach! 

Then there's the location. Half set in Brighton and also in Italy, both the locations are brilliant. I loved the community feel of the pier in Brighton, how Anna has family roots there and all the shop owners all work together and get on with each other. It was the epitome of an idyllic seaside holiday and I really enjoyed the characters based there. Italy was also a great setting, it had an exotic, relaxed atmosphere that you could see rubbed off on the characters. It also just heightened the brilliant ice cream business they run, and I enjoyed it when Imogen and other characters went to visit in Italy. 

My only niggle is that some of the scenarios seemed a little rushed and weren't given the time I wanted, but that's probably a reflection of how much I loved this story - I just wanted to read as much as I could about all of the brilliant characters. The book spans a period of about six months, so I know there's an awful lot to cram in and there's a need to prioritise, but on some occasions a situation was only given a paragraph when I would have loved to have read a whole chapter. An example is when Evie goes over to Italy. I won't go into why (as I don't want to spoil anything) but really I'd have loved to have read about her trip there, but we don't - there's just a quick paragraph where she catches up with Imogen following the trip.

However, don't let that fairly minor detail put you off. Abby is a really talented writer and I absolutely loved this story. There's everything you need for the perfect summer read - fab characters, exotic sunny location, awesome food and plenty of great friendships and romance! If you need a poolside read for your holiday (or an escape from the horrible rainy English weather) then this is the book you need!

Buy the book 

Thursday, 13 August 2015

Book review: Mile High by Rebecca Chance

First class is about to get dangerous . . . Pure Air's new LuxeLiner is flying from London to LA - its inaugural journey - with a first-class cabin packed with A List celebrities. As the feuding crew compete to impress their famous passengers, the handsome pilot tries to win the attention of a pretty young stewardess.
But one VIP singer is battling something seriously sinister: watching her every step is a very determined stalker, someone who will go to any lengths to get the star to satisfy their desires. At thirty thousand feet there is nowhere to run, and nowhere to hide . . .

Rebecca Chance is an author who I've seen pop up many times on my favourite blogs... she is well known by the blogging community and well loved. Up until I read Mile High, I hadn't read any of her books and I'm pleased to say it more than lived up to expectation. 

Mile High mainly takes place on a plane, but it isn't any ordinary plane. This is the launch event of a a new, deluxe flight for only the rich and famous. Cramming this many stars into a small place is obviously going to create some drama... and boy does it.

I did wonder if the location could become dull, as it is a  small space to set a whole book around. However, it isn't a problem at all... there is more than enough drama going on to keep the story pacey and interesting. The glamorous surroundings of the plane heighten the wealth and status of it's high-profile passengers and really adds to the story. Mile High offers the reader some indulgence, it allows you to escape to the world of a mega-famous celebrity and imagine how it would be to be that famous or wealthy - indulgent escapism at it's best!

The bulk of story centers around Catalina, a global superstar and songstress with a difference - she hasn't completely let fame get to her head. I really liked Catalina, despite her fame and fortune she's actually pretty grounded and a really caring character. Sure, on occasion she takes the luxuries, or her PA's presence for granted and starts looking like your typical super-star, but on the whole she's a nice, normal person. It's clear from the offset she's recovering from a huge break-up and betrayal, but you don't find out until later on who that is with (although it does become quite obvious before it's revealed). Catalina is a very closed book and dependent on her strong friendship with her PA to distract her from her heartbreak, especially as she is struggling with the level of her fame even more than usual.

Why? because she has a stalker. Someone who leaves 'loving' messages on her dressing room wall and intrudes on her privacy. The uneasiness of this situation heightens when it appears the stalker is on the flight with her. Being in such close proximity to the stalker is, as you'd imagine, terrifying and it really adds to the drama and suspense of the story.

Then there's the bitchy air hostess Lucinda who, frankly, is a nasty piece of work. I had no idea flight crews were so full of bitchiness, never mind bitterness. There is a real hierarchy among cabin crew, and being the lead air hostess on this crew definitely massages Lucinda's already over-inflated ego. She is sleeping with the handsome pilot who can't seem to keep it in his trousers. Despite it being obvious he is only using her for her good looks, she is very, very protective over him, hoping that one day they will be together properly and not just a fling. She sets out to destroy anyone else he takes a liking to and doesn't mind what lengths to go to.... which happens on this flight. 

I was really surprised by who the stalker was. There are many hints leading up to the reveal and I thought I had it in the bag as to who it was. Safe to say I didn't, it was a big twist I didn't see coming and it just added to the enjoyment of the story. 

Mile High is really well written. It's gripping, intriguing and sexy. I'm not usually a big fan of bonk busters but this has just the right amount of detail without being too cringy to read. Overall, the story is great. I loved the location being set on a plane, it was different and created even more drama than usual due to it being such an enclosed space. The glamour of the place really transported me away from my life and into the rich, wealthy world of these celebrities which was fun! Also Rebecca makes her characters jump off the page, whether you love them, hate them, are infuriated by them or upset for them, they make you react and engage with them.

I really enjoyed Mile High and will now be familiarising myself with more of Rebecca Chance's work! 

A big thank you to the publishers for an advance copy of this story on Netgalley. 

Tuesday, 11 August 2015

Top Ten Tuesday: Authors you've read the most books from

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature/meme from The Broke and the Bookish. This week the theme is the top ten authors you've read the most books from. 

I really enjoyed this feature as it's a great way to reflect on some of your favourite authors and books. My answers aren't in any particular order.  

10. Jacqueline Wilson
My obsession with Jacqueline Wilson ran for most of my early teens. Bad Girl, Illustrated Mum, The Lottie Project, Tracey Beaker... I loved them all. 

9. Meg Cabot 
I absolutely devoured The Princess Diaries series when I was younger. I used to eagerly await the new release to see what was happening to Mia. Such a good series and a brilliant author! 

8. Lucy Diamond.
After falling for Lucy's writing style when reading One Night In Italy, I swiftly familiarised myself with her back catalogue and keep up to date with her new releases. The Year of Taking Chances and Summer at Shell Cottage were both out this year and I absolutely loved them. 

7. Marian Keyes
The Queen of Women's fiction, everything she writes is just perfection. Some of it is pretty hard-hitting too, it's not all easy going rom-coms, which is why I love her. My ultimate favourite has to be The Mystery of Mercy Close. 

6. Jill Mansell 
I love Jill's writing style, ability to create relateable characters and the way she sucks you into her stories. She is so talented and even though I don't think I've managed to read absolutely all of her books, I've given it a good go and thoroughly enjoyed each one. 

5. Miranda Dickinson 
One of my fave authors, I love every book by Miranda and cannot WAIT for her new book - A Parcel For Anna Brown, which will be out really soon. Eeek!

4. Rebecca Shaw
I devoured the village series, I must admit I've missed the last few (there's so many now!) but I loved reading about Turnham Malpas and it's residents. I also really enjoyed her Barleybridge series - set around a veterinary surgery it focused more on a vocation than a location, which was a nice change. 

3. Susan Lewis 
I've always been a big fan of Susan Lewis, her novels are gripping, intriguing and entertaining. I haven't blogged much about her books as it's been a while since I read one... but I have a copy of her new release- Without a Trace - waiting for me on my bookshelf and I can't wait to read it! 

2. Sophie Kinsella
The Shopaholic series.... do I need to say anymore?! 

1. J.K. Rowling. 

Monday, 3 August 2015

July Round-up

Hi everyone and welcome to my July round-up! 

On a personal front, July was a pretty manic month. At the very end of June the OH and I picked up the keys to our new house and excitedly moved in. July has been all about furnishing, DIY and settling in which has been brilliant but also pretty exhausting! We still don't have internet in the house (don't get me started...) so I couldn't do a round-up vlog like I wanted to, hopefully I'll be able to do one for August! 

Now, on to reading. This month has been blooming marvellous for books and has been jam-packed with fabulous reads. I'm still taking part in Paperback Summer, although haven't read as many this month as I'd have liked on account of my books being packed up into cardboard boxes for most of it! So here's a summary of my July books: 

Books I've received: 

Netgalley approvals: 

The Little Flowershop by the Sea by Ali McNamara
Summer on the River by Marcia Willett
Pleasure Island by Anna Lou Weatherley
Moving by Jenny Eclair 
Mile High by Rebecca Chance 
Scandalous Lies by Nigel May

Books I've bought: 

Books I've Read: 

Three Amazing Things About You, Jill Mansell (paperback)
Fairytale Beginnings, Holly Martin
The Great Village Show, Alexandra Brown
Heaven Can Wait, Cally Taylor (paperback)
Mile High, Rebecca Chance
Dear Darling, Ellen Faith
Scandalous Lies, Nigel May
Trouble at the Little Village School, Gervase Phinn (paperback)
Disclaimer, Renee Knight

Book of the month: 
A real tough one, but this month it has to go to Mile High by Rebecca Chance. It's not my usual kind of book (more sexy than I'd usually go for!) but I thought it was brilliant - gripping, glamorous and filled with great characters and relationships. I haven't had chance to review it yet, but keep an eye out.