Best friends Louise and Emma grew up next door to each other in a grim inner-city suburb of Dublin. Now Louise, an art conservator, is thousands of miles away in Sydney, restoring a beautiful old painting. She meets Dan, whose family welcome her as one of their own, but she will always feel lost until she finds her mother who walked out when she was just eight years old.
Back in Dublin, Emma is stuck in a job where she is under-appreciated and underpaid, but her biggest worry is her ex-partner, Jamie. Emma has lost so much because of Jamie: her innocence, her reputation, almost her life. Now she is at risk of losing Isla, her young daughter.
So where is Louise's mother? Will Emma ever be free of her ex? Both women frantically search for answers, but when the truth finally emerges it is more shattering than they had ever expected.
Just over a year ago, I read Worlds Apart by Ber Carroll. That book told the story of Erin and Laura, in Ireland and Australia – I loved it. It was so honest, and I was hooked from the beginning, completely wrapped up in how their stories were unfolding.
So, when I got an email about reviewing Carroll’s latest book, Once Lost, I was excited. On it’s face, it seemed like it would be just as good as Worlds Apart – two women, half a world away from one another, dealing with life, and everything it throws at them. I wasn’t disappointed!
Emma and Louise are both very well written, and the reader immediately sympathises with their situations, even though they may not have experienced anything similar themselves. It’s not easy to write characters that are so realistic, so Carroll should be commended for that. The characters were quite reminiscent of Erin and Laura in Worlds Apart though; even insofar as they had the same initial!
Also beautifully written are the descriptions of life in Ireland and Australia. Being an Aussie girl myself, I always love it when Australia features in a story, and I’ve visited Ireland too, so I was happy to be reminded of my adventures there.
This is definitely a book I’d recommend. A little more serious than ‘chick lit’, this is fiction that is worth reading in a cozy chair with a warm cuppa. Now, please excuse me, I’m off to hunt down some of Carroll’s other books!
She's in a long-term, committed relationship. With her business.
In three years Madeline Spencer has single-handedly grown her marketing agency, Grounded Marketing, into one of the country's fastest growing companies. But her success has been at the expense of her social life, and her girlfriends have had enough. They'll do whatever it takes, from speed dating to blind dates, to show her there's more to life than work.
Only Maddy is having a hard time forgetting about her business. She's about to pitch for her biggest client ever and the mysterious media mogul, Paul Neilsen, has volunteered to mentor her. Maddy might just be in with a shot of landing the account – if she can keep her mind on the job. Working with Paul is not at all what she'd imagined, and Maddy finds herself torn between her ever increasing workload and her feelings for Paul. She's discovering playing in the big league means making sacrifices ... and Maddy must decide what she can't live without.
I love a good chick lit read (no surprise there!), and The Pitch was no disappointment. I immediately warmed to Maddy, with her business savvy and take-no-prisoners attitude. Her self-starter, a rapidly growing environmentally focused marketing business, was the kind of business I’m interested in, which probably attracted me to the book even more.
As the book progressed, Maddy did too. Her single minded work-attitude softened as she discovered the benefits of a work-life balance, and her friends helped to keep her sane as an unexpected romance turned everything she knew on its head.
The one thing that rankled as I read was Maddy’s physical description; Williams describes an Amazonian goddess, completely flawless… Her beauty was a recurring element in the book, and at times I just wished she was more ‘regular’.
But, that aside, I loved gentlemanly Paul, his sweet children, and Maddy’s gaggle of girlfriends – I was excited to discover that Williams has already written one book from the perspective of Maddy’s best friend, which I am on my way to download as soon as I post this review!
On the whole, this book left me feeling cheery and all plot twists were wrapped up nicely (leaving room for another book in the series, of course!). Really, what more do you want than to put down a book and feel happy!?
Secrets in the Sky
How far should you go to keep a secret?
No-one ever accused Sophie Campbell of being a coward. From caving trips to rooftop pranks, it appeared nothing could hold her back, especially once she landed a dream job promising travel all over the world.
But Sophie’s jet-setting lifestyle is not what it seems and she’s been spending more time in the quiet English village of Saffron Sweeting than she cares to admit. When her beloved Great Aunt Wol dies suddenly, Sophie loses one of the few people who truly know her. As friends, family and an old flame gather for the funeral, questions soon follow. Worse, Sophie finds herself increasingly attracted to the man most likely to expose her secrets. Can she manage to guard her past, yet finally follow her long-held dream?
Featuring both new and familiar characters, this stand-alone romantic comedy is set two years before Saving Saffron Sweeting. With side helpings of British tea, cake and wit, Secrets in the Sky explores how finding the courage to be yourself can be the toughest challenge of all.
Secrets in the Sky had a lot going on. Family death, unexpected inheritance, at least two family secrets, some blackmail, old friends, a phobia, romantic misunderstandings and gossipy neighbours. That said, Wiles combined all of these elements to make a great chick lit read.
Sophie was a layered, complex character who’s life was really in a bit of a mess. Thanks to reconnecting with Bella, an old friend, she starts getting help with her crippling fear of flying – a great idea, seeing as everyone in Saffron Sweeting thinks that she is a flight attendant! Slowly, as Sophie’s well-meaning lies begin to unravel, she starts to find her way back to who she really wanted to be.
Saffron Sweeting was filled with quirky characters that helped flesh out the story, but didn’t overwhelm it. Some secrets lasted until the last pages, others came out along the way, with the help of an old flame and a helpful pilot.
I really enjoyed this book, and would love to read more about what happens to them next. I know Wiles has written another book, Saving Saffron Sweeting, which is set in the same town but features different main characters… but I want to know more about what happens to Sophie, Tom, and Bella!
The Boardwalk Antiques Shop
Julie Wright, Melanie Jacobson, and Heather B. Moore
Welcome to Tangerine Street
Tangerine Street is a must-see tourist stop with a colourful mix of one-of-a-kind boutiques, unique restaurants, eclectic museums, quaint bookstores, and renowned bed-and-breakfasts. The Boardwalk Antiques Shop is an exclusive shop where every antique has a story, and each story possesses the gift to match true love. The customer who buys an antique also buys its story and soon discovers that its story unites the past with the present, creating an unexpected romantic future…
“Where Every Antique has a Story”
MESSAGE IN A BOTTLE: Jennifer is newest owner of The Boardwalk Antiques Shop, inherited from her aunt. When Jennifer arrives in Seashell Beach, her first priority is to meet with a realtor to sell the place. She laughs out loud when she discovers the realtor’s name is Mr. Studly. But the more Jennifer gets to know Paul Studly, the more she finds reasons to stay and run the antiques shop herself.
SOLVING FOR X: Abbie is only a little bit obsessed with antiques, okay, a lot. So when Holden, an out-of-town business executive, tries to purchase the tin soldiers that Abbie’s had her eye on, Abbie refuses to back down. The antiques shop owner issues a challenge: whoever comes up with the best story for wanting the soldiers, will become the new owner. Abbie isn’t about to let some fancy executive beat her out, no matter how charming he is.
A STITCH IN TIME: When Cate learns that antiques dealer Henry Lancaster has purchased the sewing machine left to her by her grandmother, Cate is determined to get it back. What she isn’t counting on is that Henry has just as much claim as Cate. And it doesn’t help that Henry is good-looking and apparently single. Getting to know Henry becomes an unexpected surprise, sending her life into a sudden detour.
The Boardwalk Antiques Shop, by Julie Wright, Melanie Jacobson, and Heather B. Moore, was written in a very unique format. It is made up of three short stories, set in a small town. Each story is written by a different writer, but each story overlaps, and has a connection with the Boardwalk Antique Shop.
I love books about women running creative small businesses, but I’m not always sold on short stories. So, I started this novel with mixed expectations. Pleasantly, I was surprised! Each short story had very different leading women, and I quickly got involved with their stories and decisions. While each story was short, they were self contained and loose ends were nicely tied up. Of course, there’s an element of suspended reality when a couple can meet and fall in love within a hundred pages, but that was helped by the fact that the stories took place over the span of months, not days. We might just have read a snipped of their story, but in their timeline there was more than a few days between first-sigh and love.
Although each story was written by a different writer, their styles were very similar and they flowed together nicely. That said, the main characters were all very unique, which meant that the stories were set apart from one another. In fact, the stories were interesting enough that I would have liked to seem them expanded into full length stories, particularly the story of Jennifer taking over her Aunt’s antiques shop.
For lovers of chick lit and happy endings, I would recommend stepping into the world of Seashell Beach. The Boardwalk Antiques Shop was the centre-point for this novel, but there is another book in the series, featuring the Fortune Cafe, with the same three-part format, aptly named The Fortune Cafe. I’ve already downloaded it, and am looking forward to reading about more of the characters in Seashell Beach!
I received a copy of The Boardwalk Antiques Shop, by Julie Wright, Melanie Jacobson, and Heather B. Moore from Inspired Kathy of Book Blasts and Blog Tours, in exchange for a review and my honest opinion.
All's Fair in Love and Cupcakes
Betsy St. Amant
Kat inspected rows of the same old cupcakes. They seemed to blink back at her, as if they knew she was capable of so much more.
Kat Varland has had enough of chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry.
At twenty-six years old, Kat is still living in the shadows of her family in Bayou Bend, Louisiana. Still working shifts at her Aunt Maggie s bakery. Still wondering what to do with her passion for baking and her business degree. And still single.
But when Lucas Brannen, Kat s best friend, signs her up for a reality TV bake-off on Cupcake Combat, everything Kat ever wanted is suddenly dangled in front of her: creative license as a baker, recognition as a visionary . . . and a job at a famous bakery in New York.
As the competition heats up, Lucas realizes he might have made a huge mistake. As much as he wants the best for Kat, the only thing he wants for himself her is suddenly in danger of slipping away.
The bright lights of reality cooking wars and the chance at a successful career dazzle Kat s senses and Lucas is faced with a difficult choice: help his friend achieve her dreams . . . or sabotage her chances to keep her in Louisiana.
Have you ever seen Cupcake Wars? Loved it? Then this sweet as pie Southern baking adventure will be right up your alley! Basically, this is the story of that baking competition (with a different name…), from the point of view of a contestant.
Kat Varland is a creative baker trapped in a traditional bakery. Her best friend, Lucas, enters her in the bake-off to boost her confidence, and win her love (which, unbeknownst to him, he already has!). However, he didn’t read the fine print – if she wins, she’ll be moving across the country. Without him.
Written from both Kat and Lucas’ points of view, the book is slightly frustrating in that the reader immediately knows that the characters are in love with one another, but the characters themselves are a little slow figuring that out.
That said, the characters are interesting and well-written, and I always like chick lit that explores the narrative from the man’s point of view. The supporting cast could have been more developed, because I actually really liked them and felt they could have been even more involved.
The competition was well described – having watched the TV show (which is never directly referenced as inspiration… but it clearly was), I knew the set up and appreciated reading about how everything unfolded! Plus, cupcakes are my weakness, and there were lots of tantalising cupcakes being baked and eaten throughout!
Definitely another good chick lit read – I’ve been on a roll recently! FYI, this is another ‘clean’ book. Nothing full frontal here! Worth a read, especially for the budding bakers out there.
Klara Walldeen, orphaned as a child and brought up by her grandparents on a remote Swedish archipelago, is now a political aide in Brussels. And she has just seen something she shouldn’t: something people will kill to keep hidden.
On the other side of the world, an old spy hides from his past. Once, he was a man of action: so dedicated to the cause that he abandoned his baby daughter to keep his cover. Now the only thing he lives for is swimming in the local pool.
Then, on Christmas eve, Klara is thrown into a terrifying chase through Europe. Only the Swimmer can save her. But time is running out...
If I could sum up The Swimmer by Joakim Zander in a single word, it would be ‘intriguing’. For starters, the book was fast paced and dramatic, with mysterious phone calls and bodies piling up, but it wasn’t until three quarters of the way through the book that the reader really knows what the bad guys so desperately want. Then, there was a protagonist who’s name is never revealed, who is nothing if not mysterious. Plus, with several main characters, the book is written as though one is going to be the central character, only for there to be a sudden about-face midway through the novel.
While such a slow reveal of crucial details can be incredibly frustrating in a book, in this instance it worked. Zander’s narrative was so well written that it didn’t matter. In fact, it added to the story. The characters themselves had no idea what they had stumbled into, and rather than the reader having all of the facts while the characters struggled to catch up, I felt like I was uncovering the information with them, and was very invested in the journey.
I also appreciated the ‘real-life’ aspects of the story, that tied into the war in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the role of government organisations like the CIA. With a portion of the book written from the perspective of a disillusioned career spy, the insights offered into the ‘grey areas’ of espionage were rather fascinating. The unusual setting, in Sweden and Brussels, was an additional bonus – the Swedish archipelagos were a unique and fascinating backdrop.
This book was an interesting look at how the actions of one person can create ripples that span not only distance, but time. One split second can change everything. Zander did a great job of describing the effects of those ripples and tying together the strands of the characters’ lives. I’d definitely recommend this book to lovers of political thrillers.
I received a copy of The Swimmer by Joakim Zander from the lovely Trish at TLC Tours, in exchange for a review and my honest opinion.
It is a secret the Chinese government has been keeping for forty years.
They have found a species of animal no one believed even existed. It will amaze the world.
Now the Chinese are ready to unveil their astonishing discovery within the greatest zoo ever constructed.
A small group of VIPs and journalists has been brought to the zoo deep within China to see its fabulous creatures for the first time.
Among them is Dr. Cassandra Jane ‘CJ’ Cameron, a writer for National Geographic and an expert on reptiles.
The visitors are assured by their Chinese hosts that they will be struck with wonder at these beasts, that they are perfectly safe, and that nothing can go wrong.
Of course it can’t…
GET READY FOR ACTION ON A GIGANTIC SCALE.
As a pretty die-hard Matthew Reilly fan, I was pretty keen to read his latest action novel. I loved his earlier work, like Ice Station and Contest, and have been to see him speak and have him sign my books – I was impressed! However, I’ll admit that his more recent work has leant a little more towards gratuitous action and violence than actual plot or character development. Perhaps due to upheaval in his personal life (which I won’t go into detail about), he seems to have been off form for a few years. So, I was a little apprehensive picking up Great Zoo.
Things got off to a great start; I loved Reilly’s concept. To sum things up, the Chinese have come up with a grand scheme to put them on par with the cultural titan that is America. They’ve invited politicians, environmentalists, and journalists to have a sneak peak of their pride and joy, and are determined that reviews will be positive, no matter what. However, Jurassic Park style, the best laid plans are destined to end in disaster when you put ancient, intelligent creatures in a zoo and expect them to behave. The main character, CJ was a woman (a first for Reilly), which was a nice change of pace, and her partner in crime is her brother, which rules out any lame love-at-first-sight-amongst-carnage rubbish. I thought that the reasoning behind the existence of the animals was plausible (and believable!), and I liked the political spin on the project – though I’m not sure Chinese readers would be so keen to hear about their amazing working capabilities but lack of imagination…
As the story rapidly developed, I was hooked. I raced through the book alongside the characters as they fought to escape the hellhole they’d landed themselves in. The action was intense, the animals interesting, the mythology fascinating – I couldn’t put it down, and am keen for a sequel (here that Matthew? I’ve already figured out how it could work, call me!).
Has Reilly returned to form? Yes and no. This was an epic action book, definitely in the vein of Jurassic Park (which I also love). I was hooked, and I liked the premise a lot. I felt the book had a little more soul than, for example, the last Jack West book, which was more action for the sake of action than anything else. However, there could have been more development as far as characters and creatures go, and there was probably still some gratuitous violence that I could have done without (although I appreciate the imagination behind someone’s lungs being sucked out of their body…).
Let’s be frank. This book was never written to be a literary masterpiece. Reilly also never claims that it was meant to be! He likes to write books that read like action movies, and he achieved exactly that. I struggled to ‘rate’ this book. If you’re looking for a book that immerses you in the action and as you hooked, then this is great. However, if you’re looking for great character development, then this probably isn’t the book for you. It’s fast paced and explosive, with no time for soliloquies to get to know people. Really, if you know Reilly at all, you know the kind of book you’re getting into – and if you’ve loved his early work, then you’ll probably love Great Zoo. Definitely worth a read, as far as I’m concerned! I’ll remain a loyal fan, and keep hoping that his books only get better from here.
The Kill List
A Jamie Sinclair Novel
As a top private eye turned security specialist, Jamie Sinclair has worked hard to put her broken marriage behind her. But when her lying, cheating ex-husband, army colonel Tim Thorp, calls with the news that his three-year-old daughter has been kidnapped, he begs Jamie to come find her. For the sake of the child, Jamie knows she can’t refuse. Now, despite the past, she’ll do everything in her power to bring little Brooke Thorp home alive.
Soon Jamie is back at Fort Leeds—the army base in New Jersey’s Pine Barrens where she grew up, the only child of a two-star general—chasing down leads and forging an uneasy alliance with the stern military police commander and the exacting FBI agent working Brooke’s case. But because Jamie’s father is now a U.S. senator, her recent run-in with a disturbed stalker is all over the news, and when she starts receiving gruesome threats echoing the stalker’s last words, she can’t shake the feeling that her investigation may be about more than a missing girl—and that someone very powerful is hiding something very significant . . . and very sinister.
I received a copy of The Kill List by Nichole Christoff from the lovely Lisa at TLC Tours, in exchange for a review and my honest opinion.
This book wasted no time cutting to the chase. With a crazed stalker setting his sights on security specialist Jamie Sinclair in the first few pages, Christoff quickly added an ex-husband with a missing child, and threw in another few mysteries for good measure. At breakneck speed, the clues unravel and the mysteries cross paths as they slowly unravel themselves.
This was the kind of mystery that was detailed but not dry, leaving me reading until 2am to find out what happened. I found the dynamic between Jamie and her ex-husband an interesting dynamic, which really impacted how the case unravelled. I also liked the military aspect of the story; Jamie had a military background that strongly influenced her character development, and I enjoyed her perspective on how the army base and it’s own investigations proceeded.
I thought Christoff wrote Jamie’s character to be a good balance of tough-woman-in-a-man’s-game, and vulnerable. It can be easy to skew too far in either direction, but I thought Christoff achieved a happy medium. Jamie’s character development also lent itself well to the romantic plot line in the book – instead of being included for the sake of it, the character of Adam Barrett helped develop the plot and the main character herself. I also appreciated the fact that, even though Jamie travelled between the army base, Washington, New Jersey and Philadelphia, the book didn’t make the reader waste time in transit. Nor did it detract from the story at all. Sometimes extensive travel in a book is frustrating, because the characters are stuck in a car or a plane instead of being on the ground furthering the story, but this was definitely not the case here.
With the second book in the series due out in March (The Kill Shot), I don’t have long to wait before I can get my hands on the next instalment in the series. I’m looking forward seeing how the characters introduced in the first book are incorporated into the second! This is definitely a great mystery/thriller for someone looking for something that isn’t too heavy, but is definitely riveting!
Single mother and extremely undomestic goddess, Lottie, has five days to become the ultimate B&B hostess to save her beloved Aunt Kate’s livelihood.
When Aunt Kate ends up in the hospital, Lottie and her seven-year-old daughter are called to rural Wales to stand in at the B&B. Without the faintest idea how to run a hotel (she can barely run her own life), Lottie must impress the picky hotel reviewer and his dysfunctional family who are coming to stay over Christmas. Without the rating only he can bestow, Aunt Kate will lose her livelihood.
But will Danny, the local taxi driver who she hires to help her, really be Santa’s little helper, or the Grinch who stole Christmas?
I received a copy of The Reluctant Elf by Michele Gorman in exchange for a review and my honest opinion.
I love a little bit of Christmas reading to imbue me with the holiday spirit! In fact, I think I like the lead up to Christmas day, filled with pretty decorations, good will, and holiday traditions, better than Christmas Day itself! Gorman sent me a copy of her latest short story, and it was super quaint – a great holiday read, and in a perfect, one-sitting size!
When Lottie’s beloved Aunt ends up in a coma just before Christmas, Lottie is left to rescue her dilapidated bed and breakfast from foreclosure. With just a few days, no helpers, and no DIY expertise, Lottie is in a Christmas pickle. Luckily, she and her daughter manage to enlist the help of their taxi driver, and together they plug holes in plaster with toothpaste, improvise a Victorian era Christmas, and manage to please their important guests – thus saving Christmas! There’s an added little sprinkle of romance, for good measure.
This brief story was vert well executed. Sometimes short stories don’t have enough time to satisfy my curiosity. Gorman, however, managed to give the main character enough backstory to make her actions more understandable, and successfully began and wound up the entire story, with no loose ends. There was humour and love, the most important elements in a happy Christmas season. It definitely fulfilled my desire for a little Christmas cheer in word-form!
Meow If It's Murder
A Nick and Nora Mystery
T C LoTempio
Nora Charles doesn’t believe in fate, even if she is a crime reporter who shares a name with a character from The Thin Man. In fact, she’s moving back to Cruz, California, to have a quieter life. But after finding an online magazine eager for material, and a stray cat named Nick with a talent for detection, Nora’s not just reporting crimes again. She’s uncovering them… Back in her hometown, Nora reconnects with old friends and makes some new ones, like Nick, the charming feline who seems determined to be her cat. But not everything about Cruz is friendly. Writing for a local online magazine, Nora investigates the curious death of socialite Lola Grainger. Though it was deemed an accident, Nora suspects foul play. And it seems that her cat does too. Apparently, Nick used to belong to a P.I. who disappeared while investigating Lola Grainger’s death. The coincidence is spooky, but not as spooky as the clues Nick spells out for her with Scrabble letters—clues that lead her down an increasingly dangerous path. Whether fate put her on this case or not, solving it will take all of Nora’s wits, and maybe a few of Nick’s nine lives.
I received a copy of Meow If It’s Murder by T C LoTempio in exchange for a review and my honest opinion.
I thought this book was great. Immediately, I was captured by the characters. Nora Charles, an investigative reporter turned sandwich shop owner, can’t quite put a life of snooping behind her. When she hears about the drowning of a woman who is deathly afraid of water, she immediately suspects that there’s more to the story than the initial investigation turned up. Then, she finds a handsome feline on the stoop of her shop – and he leads her to a missing PI, who just happened to be investigating the same drowning.
Naming her new sidekick Nick, Nora starts digging into the mystery with his help – it turns out he’s a bit of an investigative guru! Along with a sarcastic, but very good-looking detective and a taro-reading best friend warning her of danger ahead, Nora refuses to give up on her hunch that something isn’t right.
This mystery was one that I would’ve loved curling up by the fireplace with (unfortunately it’s 38 degrees here in Australia today, so I sprawled out under the air conditioner instead!). I thought LoTempio did a great job of bringing the characters to life, and I felt at home with them from the very beginning. The mystery was also intriguing – what really happened at sea? Where is the missing PI? Is the cat really spelling out clues with Scrabble tiles?
Rather than making Nick the Sleuth cat some kind of magical creature, Nora immediately took to the plump feline and took his help with the investigating in her stride. I liked the mix of fact and frivolity; Nora took her investigation seriously, but the story was made more lighthearted by her themed sandwiches and kooky bestie.
I’ll definitely pick up the next book in this series when it comes out, and would recommend it to anyone who loves a cozy mystery with a powerful female (or feline!) at the helm!