Wednesday, 13 November 2019

One Week 'Til Christmas - Belinda Missen

Date of Reading: 10/11/2019
Author: Belinda Missen
Publisher: HQ Digital
Publication Date: November 1, 2019
Source: NetGalley
Rating: 5/5

About the book:

Two people. One chance meeting. Seven days to Christmas.

Isobel Bennett is waiting for the number 11 bus when a man quite literally falls into her lap. Snow is falling, Christmas lights are twinkling, and a gorgeous man with dark brown hair has just slipped on ice and is now pressed against Isobel.

Isobel knows she’s not imagining the chemistry between them. But then his ride arrives and, embarrassed, he beats a hasty retreat, murmuring apologies – and Isobel realises only too late that she didn’t manage to catch his name…

When she runs into him again the next morning, she decides it’s fate.

It’s a second chance for Isobel and Tom – but there’s only one week until she’s leaving London for good. Seven days of enjoying all the festive delights the city has to offer: ice-skating at Somerset House, mulled wine on the Southbank, Christmas shopping at Liberty.

There’s magic in the air and mistletoe in the trees – but what will happen when the week is over?

For fans of Josie Silver, Lucy Diamond and Marian Keyes, this is one Christmas romance you don’t want to miss!

Review:

       Being a hardcore fan who gobbles up all her beautiful rom coms, I surely deserve a Christmas present from Belinda Missen. And . . . voila . . . here it is . . . a magical Christmas romance set in the wintry London. It's beautiful, funny, romantic and so, what can I say, Christmaseque!
    Beginning with an accident, fate has thrust Isobel into the arms of a popular actor and they have seven days to check whether the chemistry between them is for the long run or not. As you can expect this is a bumpy ride, considering the fact that they are from two sides of the world -- Australia and England. How can it work? Surely we need a Santa with his magic powder.
      While reading I was more invested in the way Missen constructs a Christmas side of London than the romance bit. Every page seems to provide a visual travelogue and for someone who has never been to London, this was a total treat. Ice-skating, mulled wine, Christmas market . . . well, festivities are in the air. This is a story that will wrap and encase you completely in a real but magical world and just like the sweet dreams in the mornings, you will never want it to end. Highly recommended!

Meet the author:


Author and sometimes foodie, Belinda is a ridiculous romantic who met her husband after being set up by a friend two states away.

Residing in country Victoria, surrounded by books, cat-fur, and half-eaten cake, Belinda divides her days between writing rom-coms, baking, and indulging her love of comic books.     

Sunday, 10 November 2019

The Poison Bed - E. C. Fremantle

Date of Reading: 07/11/2019
Author: E. C. Fremantle
Publisher: Penguin Random House
Published Year: 2018
Source: NetGalley
Rating: 4/5


About the book:

A king, his lover and his lover's wife. One is a killer.

In the autumn of 1615 scandal rocks the Jacobean court when a celebrated couple are imprisoned on suspicion of murder. She is young, captivating and from a notorious family. He is one of the richest and most powerful men in the kingdom.

Some believe she is innocent; others think her wicked or insane. He claims no knowledge of the murder. The king suspects them both, though it is his secret at stake.

Who is telling the truth? Who has the most to lose? And who is willing to commit murder?

Review:

      What will you do if your best friend is besotted with an evil person? If you are someone who will resort to any means to save your friend, then you need to hear this story. The death of Thomas Overbury is a lesson that history teaches us; in the tug of war between friendship and love, the winner will always be the latter. 
      Reading 'The Poison Bed' helped me brush up some of my history lessons. The fact that I was not familiar with this poisoning case which shook the Jacobean court at least played in my favour. But those who are familiar with the story will surely know the real culprit. All the same, this is going to give you a different perspective and will surely satisfy the history buff in you.
     Fremantle's beautiful and strong writing shook me and I closed the book with a feeling of distaste to all this political warfare. No one is invincible here and a mere lack of judgement will result in the downfall of even the mightiest. Isn't that one of the amusing things about historical fiction? It gives the reader a sense of power which comes from the knowledge of the futures of the characters involved. The story of Robert Carr and Frances Howard is no different. A love story, a murder, a tragedy -- you can call it what you may. It is all these.

Meet the author:

As a child I was the one in the corner with my nose in a book who wanted to be a writer, but with the onset of a turbulent adolescence I left school, under a cloud, aged fifteen with nothing more than a fistful of O Levels and a hapless sense that things would somehow work themselves out. Eventually, after working in various dodgy dives – I've served grey scrambled eggs to squaddies at 5.30am; I've served vintage champagne to raucous hoorays; I've pulled pints for all and sundry – I managed to find myself, much in the way Forrest Gump always landed on his feet, working as a dogsbody on a fashion magazine. Over a decade, I worked for titles such as Vogue, Elle and The Sunday Times and contributed to many others. Marriage took me to Paris, a stint at French Vogue and the birth of my two children but divorce saw me back home in London where I have remained. Fuelled by frustration with a fashion world that does no favours to women, I decided to complete my truncated education as a mature student which led, in a long and roundabout way with many frustrating impasses, to my fulfilling that childhood dream to become a novelist. 

Saturday, 9 November 2019

A Christmas Kiss - Eliza J. Scott (Blog Tour)

Date of Reading: 19/10/2019
Author: Eliza J. Scott
Publication Date: November 4, 2019
My Rating: 5/5
 
(This review is part of the blog tour organised by Rachel's Random Resources)
 
About the book:
 
A sparkling festive romance that will warm your heart this Christmas.
The week before Christmas, GP Zander Gillespie finds his festive plans in tatters. He’s supposed to be flying out to his parents’ chateau in Carcassonne with his high-maintenance girlfriend, Melissa. But she has other ideas. She wants to spend Christmas in London with her party friends – and he’s not invited.

The prospect of facing his family, with their questions and their sympathy – not to mention the ‘I told you so-s’ - just isn’t an option. Instead, Zander decides to head to his holiday cottage in the quaint moorland village of Lytell Stangdale, where he intends to hide away with his faithful rescue Labrador Alf.

Eighty miles away, Livvie’s world has come crashing down. With plans to cook a romantic meal for her boyfriend, she heads home early and walks in on him in a compromising position with their neighbour. Fed-up of his lies and philandering ways, this is the final straw.

With her Christmas plans up in smoke, the thought of spending it with her parents and her smug, married sister with her pompous husband in tow, is enough to bring Livvie out in hives. So, when she fires up her laptop and finds the perfect little holiday cottage in Lytell Stangdale available to rent over the festive period, it seems the perfect solution. Or is it…?

Zander didn't believe in love at first sight until he set eyes on Livvie. Livvie had sworn off men until she met Zander. The pair may be reluctant to give in to temptation, but fate seems to have other ideas...

Join Livvie and Zander - and all the usual characters - for a magical Christmas in Lytell Stangdale. The perfect cosy read to snuggle up with this Christmas
 
Review:
 
      Love at first sight? My usual response will be a smirk. So if I am giving a five star to this book that means the cute storyline and beautiful storyline has charmed even the cynic in me. Without a doubt, this is one of the cosiest reads that I have the pleasure of reading this year.
     This is the fourth book in the Life on the Moors series but can be read as a standalone. The characters from the previous stories make an appearance, but that doesn't need to hinder your reading pleasure. It didn't for me. Livvie and Zander and Alf, the intelligent dog, build up quite an atmosphere that makes you wish for Christmas every day. Sure, this little quadruple takes a major chunk of our attention and one could never tire of reading his gimmicks. He seems to take seriously his self-appointed duty as a chaperone to his master. Well, that means there was a rather long wait for us readers for the Christmas kiss mentioned in the title. Sigh!
       Altogether, a festive read that will make you warm and fuzzy with some pretty characters and a closely-knit community. Highly recommended . . .
 
Meet the author:
 
Eliza lives in a 17th-century cottage on the edge of a village in the North Yorkshire Moors with her husband, their two daughters and two mischievous black Labradors. When she’s not writing, she can usually be found with her nose in a book/glued to her Kindle or working in her garden. Eliza also enjoys bracing walks in the countryside, rounded off by a visit to a teashop where she can indulge in another two of her favourite things: tea and cake.

Eliza is inspired by her beautiful surroundings and loves to write heart-warming stories with happy endings.
  

Wednesday, 6 November 2019

Mother and Child - Annie Murray (Spot light)

Author: Annie Murray
Publisher: Pan
Publication Date: October 17, 2019
Source: NetGalley

About the book:

Mother and Child by Sunday Times bestseller Annie Murray is a moving story of loss, friendship and hope over two generations . . .

Jo and Ian’s marriage is hanging by a thread. One night almost two years ago, their only child, Paul, died in an accident that should never have happened. They have recently moved to a new area of Birmingham, to be near Ian’s mother Dorrie who is increasingly frail. As Jo spends more time with her mother-in-law, she suspects Dorrie wants to unburden herself of a secret that has cast a long shadow over her family.

Haunted by the death of her son, Jo catches a glimpse of a young boy in a magazine who resembles Paul. Reading the article, she learns of a tragedy in India . . . But it moves her so deeply, she is inspired to embark on a trip where she will learn about unimaginable pain and suffering.

As Jo learns more, she is determined to do her own small bit to help. With the help of new friends, Jo learns that from loss and grief, there is hope and healing in her future.

A word from the author:

Soon after midnight on the morning of December 3rd, 1984, what is still recognized as the world’s worst-ever industrial disaster took place in the city of Bhopal in central India.

A plant built to manufacture pesticide, owned by the American Union Carbide Corporation, leaked 40 tons of methyl isocyanate gas, one of the most lethally toxic gases in the industry, over the surrounding neighbourhood. This was a poor area consisting mainly of slum housing, some of it leaning right up against the factory wall.

People woke, coughing and choking. Panic broke out as many tried to flee for their lives. As they ran, their bodies broke down with toxic poisoning, eyes burning, frothing at the mouth. Women miscarried pregnancies. Many people flung themselves in the river and by dawn, the streets were littered with thousands of bodies. It is estimated that 10,000 died that first night and the death toll continued, within weeks, to a total of about 25 000. Many more have died since. There are still reckoned to be 150 000 chronically ill survivors. Their plight was not helped by the fact that Union Carbide would not release the name of an antidote to a poison that they did not want to admit was as dangerous as it really was.

The plant, making less profit than had been hoped, was being run down for closure and was in poor condition. Not one of the safety systems was working satisfactorily. In addition, the original design of the factory had been ‘Indianized’ – in other words, built more cheaply than would be expected of such a plant in a western country.

This was 35 years ago. In 1989, a paltry amount of compensation was eventually paid by Union Carbide who did everything a large corporation can do to evade taking responsibility. Their comment was “$500 is about enough for an Indian.” That was $500 to last for the rest of the life of a man who could no longer work to look after his family.

The sickness and suffering from ‘that night’ goes on in those who survived to this day. What is less well known about Bhopal however, is that even before the 1984 gas leak, the company had been dumping toxic waste in solar evaporation ponds. The lining used was about like you would use in a garden water feature. This in a country of heavy rains and floods. In the early 80s, people started to notice how bad their water supply tasted. Cows were dying.

Union Carbide closed the plant. They never cleared the site, which still stands in an area of highly toxic soil and water. The water supply in that area is so contaminated that water has to be brought in from outside. In 2001 Union Carbide was bought by the Dow Chemical Company, and is, from 2018, now DowDuPont. Despite having acquired all the assets of Union Carbide they are not prepared to accept its liabilities and clear up the site.
In the months after the gas leak in 1984, the nearby Hamidia hospital started to see children born with birth defects more horrific than any they had witnessed before. These days, because of gas- and also water-affected parents, the rate of birth defects is now reaching into a third, soon to be the fourth generation. The main parallel with the kind of extreme toxic effects would be with the children of Agent Orange in Vietnam.

The only free care in this impoverished neighbourhood for people suffering from the effects of gas poisoning, or to help with very severely handicapped children, is from the Bhopal Medical Appeal. It is to them that all the money from Mother and Child is going.

In the book, you can read more about what happened in Bhopal and about how the book itself came to be written.


Meet the author: 

Annie Murray was a ‘childhood writer.’ Her career was helped a great deal by belonging to Tindal Street Fiction Group in Birmingham and by winning the SHE/Granada TV Short Story Competition in 1991. She has published short stories in a number of anthologies as well as SHE magazine. Her first regional saga, Birmingham Rose appeared in 1995 and reached the Times bestseller list. She has since published more than a dozen others, including the ‘Cadbury books,’ Chocolate Girls and The Bells of Bournville Green, Family of Women and her latest, A Hopscotch Summer. Annie has four children and lives near Reading.


Saturday, 26 October 2019

A Cosy Christmas in Cornwall - Jane Linfoot (Blog Tour)


Date of Reading: 17/10/2019
Author: Jane Linfoot
Publisher: One More Chapter
Publication Date: October 19, 2019
Source: NetGalley
Rating: 4.5/5

(This review is part of the blog tour organised by Rachel's Random Resources)

About the book:

A December to remember…

Christmas in a Cornish castle? Sign Ivy Starforth up! Hired to kit out the holiday rental as the world’s most Instagramable festive dreamland, there’s only one thing standing in the way of her hefty paycheque – the lord of the manor.

Bill Markham could give Scrooge a run for his money but Ivy is firmly #TeamChristmas…even if her handsome host seems to be doing everything he can to sabotage her staging. Maybe she shouldn’t have stumbled in on him starkers in the hot tub?

As the temperature outside cools, things inside the castle heat up. It’s been a long time since Ivy allowed herself to give in to temptation…surely one little kiss under the mistletoe won’t hurt?

Review: 

       OMG! Can anyone pass up this cute read after seeing that stunning cover? Ya, you got it right folks, I was hooked the moment I saw it. And as for the story . . . let's just say I gained a few pounds after reading. Well, that's my advice to you. If you are on a diet, then keep away.
      There is a whole bunch of characters to confuse you in the beginning and you get to know how frustrated Ivy feels at the start. But optimism and determination always win the day. Considering the way she is wounded on last Christmas, this is a truly remarkable feat. With the kids' gang behaving more like grownups even with all the stubbornness, this Christmas in a Cornish castle brings healing to all.
         Linfoot is known to make wonders with words and she has done it again. Reading this book was like being part of the festivities in the castle. And the banter and wit was quite something to go by. The wry humour that pops up from each page had me snorting with laughter. The fact that Ivy is accident-prone must have contributed to this a lot. 
       A miraculous love, a dog that is almost human, shopping with friends and some mouth-watering dishes to savour . . . what is more to wish? This is a cosy Christmas indeed.

Meet the author:

Jane Linfoot writes fun, flirty fiction with feisty heroines and a bit of an edge. She lives in a mountain kingdom in Derbyshire, where her family and pets are kind enough to ignore the domestic chaos. Happily, they’re in walking distance of a supermarket. Jane loves hearts, flowers, happy endings, all things vintage, and most things French. When not on Facebook and without an excuse for shopping, she can be found walking or gardening.
       

Monday, 14 October 2019

The Winter of the Witch - Katherine Arden (Blog Tour)


Date of Reading: 30/09/2019
Author: Katherine Arden
Publisher: Ebury Publishing
Publication Date: January 10, 2019
Rating: 5/5

(This review is part of the blog tour organised by Random Things Tours)

About the book:

Following their adventures in The Bear and the Nightingale and The Girl in the Tower, Vasya and Morozko return in this stunning conclusion to the bestselling Winternight Trilogy, battling enemies mortal and magical to save both Russias, the seen and the unseen.


Now Moscow has been struck by disaster. Its people are searching for answers—and for someone to blame. Vasya finds herself alone, beset on all sides. The Grand Prince is in a rage, choosing allies that will lead him on a path to war and ruin. A wicked demon returns, stronger than ever and determined to spread chaos. Caught at the centre of the conflict is Vasya, who finds the fate of two worlds resting on her shoulders. Her destiny uncertain, Vasya will uncover surprising truths about herself and her history as she desperately tries to save Russia, Morozko, and the magical world she treasures. But she may not be able to save them all.

Review:

       I am devastated. Can't believe this is the last book in the Winternight trilogy. Now I know how Peter and his siblings felt coming out of the magic of Narnia to the dreary, non-magical school life. Closing this book felt something akin to that. It has been a long journey and finally, it's over. Sigh!
      If you have never heard of Winternight series, then let me enlighten you. (And before you ask, no, they are not standalone).This concerns the story of Vasya, a Russian girl born with a certain gift (yes, in ordinary terms she is a witch). Weaving Russian history and folklore together, we get to know a magical and real-world, both existing side by side. Now both are in danger and their fate depends on this outwardly ordinary but exceptionally courageous girl.
     'The Winter of the Witch' is the perfect culmination to an altogether incredible series. Action-packed from the beginning, it starts off with a heartbreaking loss (ya, the prophecies are being fulfilled) and concludes with the peace brought by the balance of two forces. We find Vasya rising to her challenges and the leader in her has finally emerged establishing a third side against the twins. OOh! If I were one of the cheyerts, I would have gladly followed her like Ded Grib. Mmm !... He is one of my favourite characters, and that has nothing to do with the fact that I love mushrooms (probably). How I would love to see all of them in a movie!
      As I have never studied Russian history or folklore, this series was also a step into a new realm. Religion is also a sensitive issue here, which I think the author has handled with tact, (devout Christians may think otherwise) stressing the fact that both the old and the new doesn't have to contradict each other. The beauty and danger of the Russian countryside, noise and excitement of Moscow and the dreariness and hope of Midnight, this book has girdled them all with an effortless charm, hooking us to this world forever.
      I don't think my review can adequately describe the beauty and impact of this series. What can I say? My life would have been incomplete without reading them. Farewell, Vasya, Morozko, Sasha and Medved. Until next time.

Meet the author: 


Born in Texas, Katherine studied French and Russian at Middlebury College. She has lived abroad in France and in Moscow, among other places. She has also lived in Hawaii, where she wrote much of The Bear and the Nightingale. She currently lives in Vermont.    
  
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