Monday 31 August 2015

Book of The Month: August

The Little Flower Shop By The Sea
by Ali McNamara

The blossom is out in the little Cornish harbour town of St Felix

But Poppy Carmichael's spirits aren't lifted by the pretty West Country spring. Inheriting her grandmother's flower shop has forced her to return to Cornwall, a place that holds too many memories.

Poppy is determined to do her best for the sake of her adored grandmother, but she struggles with the responsibility of the more-shabby-than-chic shop. And with the added complication of Jake, the gruff but gorgeous local flower grower, Poppy is very tempted to run away...

The pretty little town has a few surprises in store for Poppy. With new friends to help her and romance blooming, it's time for Poppy to open her heart to St Felix and to the special magic of a little flower shop by the sea!
*     *     *     *     *
I was really looking forward to reading The Little Flower Shop By The Sea as it sounded like a fun read with a gorgeous seaside setting. But I was patient and saved the book for my holiday - and I'm so glad I did as it made the perfect pool-side read!

The writing is warm and I loved the sense of community within St Felix. I devoured the book, finishing it in a couple of days as I didn't want to put it down.

With it's array of fantastic characters (both of the human and animal variety) and its vivid coastal setting, I didn't want the book to end. I wanted to remain in St Felix and find out more about the characters we meet. I'm hoping that one day Ali McNamara will return to St Felix, perhaps to The Blue Canary...

You can see my full review of The Little Flower Shop By The Sea here

Saturday 29 August 2015

My Summer Reads: My Book of The Summer

This is my last ever My Summer Reads post of 2015. I've read some fantastic books this summer so it's been quite difficult choosing a favourite. But chosen I have!
My Book of The Summer 2015 is...

The Love Shack
by Jane Costello

Life's great when you're 29 years old with a gorgeous girlfriend and fulfilling job. Until you have to move back in with your mum . . .

Dan and Gemma have found their dream first home, but the asking price is the stuff of nightmares. The only way they'll ever save enough for the deposit is by moving in, rent-free, with Dan's mum.

It's a desperate solution, but it's only for six months. And Gemma's determined to make it work, no matter how bad things get.

But between Dan's mum's kitchen karaoke, her constant innuendos, irrepressible argumentative streak and - worst of all - her ham and pineapple curries, life back at home would test the patience of two saints. Which Dan and Gemma most definitely are not.

Then, as they're trying to convince themselves it will all be worth it, Gemma's past comes back to haunt her. And suddenly the foundations of their entire relationship are shaken to their core…
*     *     *     *     *
I loved The Love Shack. It was such a fun, vibrant read with some fantastic characters. I often found myself laughing out loud at the antics of Gemma and Dan as they moved back in with Dan's mother in order to save some cash to buy their dream home. I liked that we got to see the situation from both Gemma and Dan's point of view with the alternating perspectives, giving the reader a full picture of what was going on.
Jane Costello's writing has such an easy flow to it and is full of warmth and wit, which made it the perfect summer read for me.
You can see my full review of The Love Shack here

Friday 28 August 2015

My Summer Reads In Pictures



My Summer Reads is a celebration of summer reading, with reviews, giveaways and sunshiny reading habits.
You can see the reviews of my summer reads here or click to see more photos on Instagram

Thursday 27 August 2015

My Summer Reads: The Cherry Tree Cafe by Heidi Swain

Lizzie Dixon is expecting a proposal from her boyfriend Giles after he's treated her to the day at a spa followed by a romantic meal. But rather than producing a ring, Giles delivers a devastating blow: he's breaking up with Lizzie and going back to his ex, who he has never stopped loving.
When it looks like she is about to lose her job too, Lizzie feels like her life is falling apart. With encouragement from her best friend, Jemma, Lizzie returns to her hometown where Jemma is preparing to open a café. Putting her sewing and crafts skills to good use, Lizzie helps to reinvent the café.
The Cherry Tree Café distracts Lizzie from her heartbreak, as does the familiar face of her high school crush Ben, but can Lizzie really get over Giles and move on with her life?
I was looking forward to reading The Cherry Tree Café as it contains two of my favourite things: cake and crafts. I loved the café setting of the book and I wanted to join in the sewing sessions and eat a cupcake or two! I liked Heidi's writing style as it eased me into the story nicely and had a lovely flow to it. I immediately took against Giles (the pig!) and hoped that by moving back with her loved ones, Lizzie could rebuild her life.
There are some hiccups along the way, especially with Lizzie's former crush Ben, who has a mysterious, heartbreaking past himself, and Lizzie and Jemma's friendship becomes strained, which is a shame as they work well as a team. I hoped they could find a way to resolve their issues and remain the close friends they obviously are. Although as a reader I knew what would happen with regards to Lizzie's love life (and wouldn't have wanted it any other way), there were plenty of twists, turns and surprises to keep me on my toes!
There are some great characters within the book, whether they are sweet and likable or not quite so sweet and likable. I was particularly interested in the relationship between Lizzie and her mother and I adored the bond between Lizzie and her father as they united against her mother's sometimes brusque nature.
I thought The Cherry Tree Café was a fun, craft-and-cake-filled novel that I enjoyed very much.
My Summer Reads is a celebration of summer reading, with reviews, giveaways and sunshiny reading habits.

Wednesday 26 August 2015

My Summer Reads: The Little Flower Shop By The Sea by Ali McNamara

Poppy Carmichael spent many happy childhood holidays in St Felix, a picturesque coastal town where her grandmother owned a flower shop. It's been fifteen years since Poppy has been to St Felix and she is no longer the carefree child who would run through the town with her older brother, Will. A sadness envelops Poppy as she returns to St Felix -and not just because her beloved grandmother has passed away.
Poppy never intended to work with flowers like many members of her family have chosen to do, so she isn't overly thrilled when she discovers her grandmother has left her the flower shop in St Felix in her will. Poppy doesn't want to take over The Daisy Chain, but returns to St Felix to appease her mother. But once she's back in St Felix, Poppy begins to feel the magic of the town again, especially when she starts to make new friends. Perhaps St Felix and the flower shop can help Poppy overcome her past and help her to find happiness once more.
I've been looking forward to reading The Little Flower Shop By The Sea for a while but I decided to be patient and save it for my holiday, which turned out to be a great decision as the book made such a wonderful summery read that was perfect for reading by the pool. Ali McNamara has such a warmth to her writing that I immediately slipped into the world of Poppy and could vividly imagine the gorgeous coastal town of St Felix. It sounds like such a lovely, magical place with its gorgeous scenery and a great sense of community. I particularly liked The Blue Canary and its owners. We only meet them briefly but I would love to know more about them in the future!
The book is jam-packed with wonderful characters. Jake, the supplier of The Daisy Chain's flowers, and Ash, a local gardener, both provided a splash of romance while Poppy's new friend Amber provides the breath of fresh air Poppy needs in both her social life and the shop. I also adored the animals within the book. Basil the dog sounds like a loving, loyal companion while Miley the capuchin monkey is a little bit cheeky and would definitely be fun to have around.
When the book begins, Poppy is quite a prickly character, but I liked how she develops as the story moves along and her steely armour is chipped away by the friendships she forms - both of the human and animal variety. There is so much going in on the book, from Poppy and her past to the re-opening of the flower shop and the mystery of a set of flower pictures that my interest was always piqued and I was glued to my Kindle. I really didn't want the book to end!

My Summer Reads is a celebration of summer reading, with reviews, giveaways and sunshiny reading habits.


Tuesday 25 August 2015

#AmWriting Draft Two


Last month I was getting my Christmas on, revising my Christmas novella but now I'm back to our good old British summer (which sometimes feels a lot like Christmas...)

I worked hard revising my Christmas novella but it was also a lot of fun revisiting the characters and building on what I already had to what I hope is now an even better book. I'm (nervously) looking forward to sharing it! I'm missing the festive songs already so roll on 1st November (I'm not even close to kidding about that).

I've had a couple of weeks away from my laptop as I've been away with my family to Bulgaria (which definitely did NOT feel like Christmas, unless you're a turkey roasting in the oven) but now it's time to get cracking on with my new book.

I'm just over half-way through the second draft so I'm sorting out any issues I picked up after finishing the first draft and having a general tidy up. I know my characters much more now than I did when I started the first draft so I can use this knowledge in the second draft to make sure my characters remain consistent. For example, you can't have a character choffing a fat, juicy steak in the first chapter if you later find out they're a vegetarian!

Monday 24 August 2015

My Summer Holiday: Sunny Beach, Bulgaria

For our summer holiday, we spent a week in Sunny Beach, Bulgaria. We'd never been to Bulgaria before so we weren't sure what to expect but we were looking forward to a week of relaxing in the sunshine!

We stayed at Laguna Park, which was lovely. The room was spacious and modern and the kids enjoyed the pool. There were loads of shops, bars and restaurants nearby as well as the beach.
Next to the hotel was a children's play centre with trampolines, climbing frames, slides, bouncy castle and inflatable slides, which Isobel loved (apparently three trips there wasn't enough!)
As well as the play centre, Isobel was a big fan of the hotel's two small playgrounds. Day or night - it didn't matter to Isobel. It was always playground o'clock in Bulgaria!
The hotel was all inclusive but we did eat out too. A family favourite was the Mandarin Bar and Grill but I also loved the Chinese style chicken at The Old House
I managed to get quite a bit of reading done during the holiday. I took my Kindle with me, loaded up with some of the reads I was really looking forward to. I read: The Cherry Tree Café by Heidi Swain, The Little Flower Shop By The Sea by Ali McNamara and The Quality of Silence by Rosamund Lupton, which I'll be reviewing here on the blog soon.
Our journey home was a bit dramatic due to a massive thunderstorm. I usually love a storm but when you're left sitting on a plane for an hour unable to take off because of one, it's not so good! The runway was being hit (eek!) which was causing the runway lights to cut off so we weren't going anywhere until it had passed over. And then there was the rain which was, to quote the pilot, almost biblical and it looked like someone was holding a hose pipe towards the windows, which also delayed out flight.
But we made it home (eventually) to a not-quite-so-sunny Manchester but, if I'm honest, I was quite looking forward to the cooler weather. Bulgaria at this time of year is HOT and was usually between 30 and 33 degrees, which is far too melty for this pale Brit!
You can see more photos from our holiday over on Instagram

Saturday 8 August 2015

A Blog Break

I'm taking a little blog break over the next couple of weeks so that I can hopefully enjoy some sunshine with my family and catch up on some reading. 

I'll still be hanging around on social media though. You can find me loitering on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest.

I'll be back on the blog on Monday 24th August so I'll see you then!

Friday 7 August 2015

MSR: Summer Cover Star: The Cherry Tree Cafe by Heidi Swain

I'm a cover-stroker and I'm not ashamed to admit it

The Cherry Tree Café

by Heidi Swain
Cupcakes, crafting and love at The Cherry Tree Cafe...

Lizzie Dixon's life feels as though it's fallen apart. Instead of the marriage proposal she was hoping for from her boyfriend, she is unceremoniously dumped, and her job is about to go the same way. So, there's only one option: to go back home to the village she grew up in and to try to start again.

Her best friend Jemma is delighted Lizzie has come back home. She has just bought a little cafe and needs help in getting it ready for the grand opening. And Lizzie's sewing skills are just what she needs.

With a new venture and a new home, things are looking much brighter for Lizzie. But can she get over her broken heart, and will an old flame reignite a love from long ago...?
*     *     *     *     *
The cover of Heidi Swain's The Cherry Tree Café is gorgeously summery, from the bright blue set against the pastel pink, the image of outdoor eating and the fluttering birds and butterflies. My favourite part is the bright and cheery bunting - who doesn't love a bit of bunting?
The cover is so inviting and I just want to step into the cover, sit at that blue table and eat the delicious cakes on offer. I can't actually step into the cover (boo hiss) so I will have to make do with reading the book - which I'm very much looking forward to doing!
If there's a cover you're bursting to shout out about, let us know by joining in Cover Stars!
More details here

Thursday 6 August 2015

My Summer Reads: The Sun In Her Eyes by Paige Toon

Amber and Ned have been growing apart lately and their marriage is put under further strain when Amber's father suffers a stroke. Although living in London with Ned, Amber grew up in Australia and she returns home to care for her father alone as Ned has work commitments. Her husband feels so far away - both physically and emotionally - especially when Amber runs into her old friend, Ethan. Amber was in love with Ethan during her teens and her old feelings rush to the surface once again.
I was really looking forward to reading The Sun In Her Eyes as I was intrigued by the blurb. Amber was involved in a car crash when she was only three and while she survived, her mother was killed. But before she died, she left a message with a passing woman who tried to help. Almost thirty years have passed but Doris has never forgotten the woman she tried to help and her child. Now in her nineties, Doris wants to track Amber down and make sure she received the message her dying mother was so adamant she hear. I was intrigued about the message Amber's mother had left, but this part of the book wasn't touched on very much at all - in fact it's quite far into the book before Doris manages to get in touch with Amber. Sadly, I felt a little disappointed when the message did arrive as I was expecting much more and it felt a bit flat after such high expectations.
Other than that, I did enjoy the book, even if I didn't always agree with Amber's actions. She has a lot of problems to deal with - and not only her father's health. Her marriage has been suffering and we find out what has been happening to push the couple apart. I liked how Paige Toon managed to change my opinion of certain people throughout the book. What you see to begin with is not necessarily what you get in the end!
While Amber is in Australia, she stays with her father, Len and his partner, Liz. Amber and Liz never got on when Amber was a teenager, to the extent that Amber left home when she was eighteen. As soon as she arrives in Australia, we see Amber and Liz revert back to the teenager/stepmother relationship they had back then. I was hoping that they could learn to get along as it's clear they both care about Len and want him to recover after his stroke as much as possible.
The Sun In Her Eyes wasn't always quite what I was expecting but I found it to be an enjoyable read.
My Summer Reads is a celebration of summer reading, with reviews, giveaways and sunshiny reading habits.

Wednesday 5 August 2015

Book Crafts: Gift Card Holder

Gift Card Holder
Last month, I made a butterfly gift tag as part of my Book Crafts feature (you can see the post here). I liked the butterfly so much, I started to think how else I could use it.
A great gift for a book lover is a gift card to use on books, so I decided to make a gift card holder with a bookish theme, using my new friend, the bookish butterfly!
To make the butterfly, you can use the step-by-step guide from last month, obviously leaving out the gift tag part. Click here for the butterfly guide
To make the gift card holder, you will need:
Bookish Butterfly
Gift Card
Coloured card (I used blue and pink)
Double-sided tape
Hole punch
Craft knife
Craft cutting board
Metal Ruler
Using your gift card as a guide, fold and cut a mini card out of your coloured card (I used blue here) and punch a hole in the side so you can fasten the card together with ribbon later
Open up your card and on the right-hand side, draw four lines,  using your gift card as a guide again. The first two lines should be towards the top of the gift card and quite close together, with the next two lines towards the bottom.
Using a cutting board to protect your surface, cut along these lines using a craft knife and a metal ruler. This will create two bands, which you can slip the gift card into
 to hold it in place
That's the basic gift card holder. Now you can do the fun bit and decorate!
Cut a strip of contrasting card (I used pink) and stick onto the front of your card with double-sided tape. Trim the ends
Using double-sided tape, attach your butterfly to the strip
Attach three buttons to the top of the card; one on the contrasting strip and one each either side
Thread ribbon through the punched hole and tie in a bow
And there you have it - your bookish gift card holder!
Of course, you can decorate the front however you'd like. If you do have a go, I'd love to see what you come up with!
Click here to see all Book Crafts

Tuesday 4 August 2015

Special Offer: A Beginner's Guide To Salad

Ruth loves nothing more than curling up in front of the telly with a family-sized bar of chocolate. She doesn’t do diets and she certainly doesn’t do exercise. But all that changes when she’s invited to her school reunion.

Bullied at school for being overweight, Ruth’s first reaction is to rip the invitation into a million pieces. But then Ruth hatches a plan. She’ll lose the weight and arrive at the reunion looking gorgeous and glamorous, leaving her old classmates in awe. Especially her former crush, Zack O’Connell.

With the help of her friends and a new, unbelievably hot colleague, Ruth begins her transformation. With six months until the reunion, losing weight will be a piece of cake, right?
A Beginner's Guide To Salad is available for just 99p for a limited time
Available from Amazon here