Thursday 28 October 2021

Guest Review: Under the Mistletoe by Sue Moorcroft

Christmas. A time for family, friends – and rekindling old flames…

When Laurel returns to the village of Middledip, she’s looking for a quiet life. Adjusting to her recent divorce, she’s ready to spend some time getting back on her feet amidst the glorious snow-dusted countryside.

Yet, life in Middledip is far from straightforward. Coming to the aid of her sister, Rea, as she navigates her own troubles, Laurel barely has a moment to think about where her own life is going.

However, time stands still when she sees her old flame, Grady Cassidy – and it’s soon as if they’ve never been apart. But through her happiness, Laurel remembers why she left the village all those years ago, as she recalls a dark night and Grady’s once-wayward brother, Mac…

Can Laurel learn to forgive and forget? Or will her chances of Christmas under the mistletoe with Grady remain a dream?

Review: I have been eagerly awaiting Sue Moorcroft’s latest Christmas novel; they are always well worth the wait. This time, she is taking us back to the little village of Middledip, the setting of many of her books. Like me, readers of Sue’s books will be familiar with this village and I was pleased to find myself returning to some recognisable haunts. Everyone in the village seems excited for Christmas and is busy with preparations. As soon as I began to read this book, I was transported to their world and found it difficult to put it down.

Successful artist Laurel Hill is the central female character in this story. With Christmas approaching, she is returning to her childhood home in the village of Middledip to help out her agoraphobic sister Rea, who is concerned over the uncharacteristic behaviour of her teenage daughter Daisy. Laurel has only been in the village a short time when she bumps into her childhood sweetheart Grady Cassidy. Many years previously, Laurel left Middledip suddenly without explanation, leaving them both broken hearted. Only a few people know what caused her to leave. As Laurel and Grady rekindle their relationship, it becomes clear that she must give him some explanation, although it may adversely affect his friendship with his brother. In the midst of sorting out her sister’s life, Laurel must struggle to find a way forward with her own and figure out whether Grady can be part of her story.

Sue Moorcroft deals with some tough issues in this story, and deals with them well. Although there are dark moments, there is also room for humour and for the magic of Christmas in a snowy village setting to shine through. This community, familiar to so many readers of this book, are so incredibly skilled in arts and crafts that I felt the urge to at least get the knitting needles out since I have never been able to draw anything recognisable. I enjoyed meeting some new characters in this story, but I wasn’t drawn to them all. In fact, I had trouble liking Laurel; I felt she wasn’t fair to Grady who was falling over himself to help her. Having said that, I would still recommend this book, especially for reading in the run up to Christmas. The Christmas spirit flowing in Middledip would warm any reader’s heart.

To order your copy now, just click the link: UK or US

Tuesday 26 October 2021

Top Ten Tuesday: Halloween Freebie (Books with spooky/autumnal themes) 26/10/21


Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018. It was born of a love of lists, a love of books, and a desire to bring bookish friends together.

Ok you probably know by now that I am not much of a spooky books reader. I love a good thriller but I really haven't delved in the horror genre even though I love horror films. So here's a list of some spooky books and some books with autumnal themes that are perfect for this time of year!

And a little book vs movie plug...

Sunday 24 October 2021

Movie Review: What Did I REALLY Think of Dune?


Guest Review: Lancaster: The Forging of a Very British Legend By John Nichol

'The Avro Lancaster is an aviation icon; revered, romanticised, loved. Without her, and the bravery of those who flew her, the freedom we enjoy today would not exist.'

Sir Arthur Harris, the controversial chief of Royal Air Force Bomber Command, described the Lancaster as his 'shining sword' and the 'greatest single factor in winning the war'. RAF bomber squadrons carried out offensive operations from the first day of the Second World War until the very last, more than five and a half years later. They flew nearly 300,000 sorties and dropped around a million tons of explosives, as well as life-saving supplies. Over 10,000 of their aircraft never returned. Of the 7,377 Lancasters built during the conflict, more than half were lost to enemy action or training accidents.

The human cost was staggering. Of the 125,000 men who served in Bomber Command, over 55,000 were killed and another 8,400 were wounded. Some 10,000 survived being shot down, only to become prisoners of war. In simple, brutal terms, Harris's aircrew had only a 40 per cent chance of surviving the war unscathed.

Former RAF Tornado Navigator, Gulf War veteran and bestselling author John Nichol now tells the inspiring and moving story of this legendary aircraft that took the fight deep into the heart of Nazi Germany.

Review: This is a book about the Avro Lancaster, the bomber that flew with the Royal Air Force (RAF) during the Second World War, and the people that crewed and maintained this iconic aeroplane. The author, John Nichol is a former RAF navigator who flew bombing missions himself during the Gulf War in 1991.

The book covers the aircraft’s development and its subsequent deployment from the end of 1941 onwards with Bomber Command, taking the fight to the enemy’s territory. Like his earlier book about the Spitfire, a lot of the focus is on people and there are numerous stories of those who flew in the aircraft, mostly based on interviews with the ever-diminishing survivors of the war. Hence, there are accounts not just of operational sorties, but of those who survived after their aircraft was shot down. The book is illustrated with numerous photographs in black and white and in colour. There is a bibliography at the end.

The book is an interesting account of this famous aeroplane and the people who flew in it. However, the loss rate among the aircrew was very high (greater than that of soldiers in the First World War), so many of the stories are very poignant. Like the author’s previous book, I found the writing style episodic, with many apparently unconnected short paragraphs, and sometimes the timeline was difficult to follow. Additionally, the method of quoting the references could have been better, with each chapter having its own list, resulting in thirteen pages of references and notes. If each reference had been assigned its own unique number throughout the whole book, there could have been a single list instead of eighteen separate lists.

Overall, however, I found the book to be a fascinating read with many personal stories of heroism and tragedy. There is also an interesting discussion of the RAF’s bombing campaign and the controversy surrounding it in the post-war years.

To order your copy now, just click the link: UK or US

Friday 22 October 2021

Guest Review: Christmas Surprises at Mermaids Point by Sarah Bennett

Christmas is a time for love, laughter, families and friends, and in Mermaids Point, everyone is getting ready for the festive season.

For Nerissa and Tom, this will be their first Christmas as a couple, but making sure they have time for each other, whilst blending their families, will take some careful planning. What festive traditions will they make their own?

Laurie and Jake are flat out running Laurie’s seafront cafĂ©, packaging up orders of mince pies, sausage rolls and other delectable Christmas goodies, as well as finding time for Jake’s journalism.  But when Jake’s mum offers them an unexpected gift, their plans are turned upside down.

Alex can’t help but be charmed by beautiful and talented Ivy, but he’s still recovering from his ex-wife’s betrayal and has a secret life he’s not ready to share with anyone yet. But as the Christmas spirit starts weaving its magic, Alex may find himself ready for love sooner than he imagines.

For Andrew, nothing is more important than family. As friends and family gather beneath his roof it's a time for reflection about what the future might hold.

As far as Nick is concerned, pop sensation Aurora Storm is the ‘one that got away’. After they shared a brief holiday fling, he has been thinking about her ever since. Is Christmas the perfect time to finally reach out to her, or is love at first sight just in fairy-tales?

Review: This novella is the third part in the Mermaids Point series from this author. The books in the series are set in a small seaside town of the same name and feature mainly recurring characters. They are, however, all standalone reads. I enjoyed the first two books in the series and found this one, like them, a quick and absorbing story. As the title suggests, the story is set in the run up to Christmas, and I looked forward to discovering how the season was celebrated in Mermaids Point. I must mention the book’s gorgeous cover - such a lovely illustration of the town all decked out for a snowy celebration. 

The story sees the characters readers of the previous books will recognise preparing for the festive season. Cafe owner Laurie is up to her eyes in orders for mince pies. Her journalist boyfriend Jake is busy writing his novel. Laurie’s parents are looking forward to hosting friends and family for the big day but wondering what the future will look like when their children leave home. Laurie’s brother Nick is thinking about the girl he shared some magical time with over the summer and wondering what she is doing now. The town’s doctor, Tom, and partner Nerissa are preparing for their first Christmas together, while Tom’s brother Alex is visiting, taking a break from the big city, writing and the attentions of his ex-wife. Alex is also hoping to reconnect with local girl Ivy, who has her own worries and hopes for the future.

This was a short, but nonetheless enjoyable, visit to Mermaids Point to catch up with familiar characters and what is going on in their lives as they look forward to Christmas. A wealth of topics are included within the pages of this book and there was promise of exciting future developments for some of the characters that I look forward to discovering in future parts of the series. Once again, I found myself wishing that the town was real; I can imagine standing on the seafront, breathing in the salty air and enjoying the Christmas sights and smells. I can certainly recommend this short book to readers of this series as well as those new to the town. I was glad to find that there will be more books about Mermaids Point and its residents next year; I’ll be on the lookout for those. 

To order your copy now, just click the link: UK or US

Wednesday 20 October 2021

Top 10 Favourite Books of 2021 Q3-What Made Our Favourite Reads List This Time?

Here's the q3 list of favourite books from 2021. As always there are 5 from me and 5 from Mum since she guest reviews on the site too!

These are in no particular order just 10 books we've loved!

Guest Review: The Christmas Escape by Sarah Morgan

It was supposed to be Christy Sullivan’s perfect Christmas escape – a dream trip to Lapland with her family and best friend, Alix. But facing a make-or-break marriage crisis, Christy desperately needs time alone with her husband, Seb. Her solution? Alix, along with Seb’s oldest friend, Zac, can take Christy’s daughter on the planned Lapland trip, and they will all reunite there for Christmas Day. After all, what are friends for?

There’s nothing Alix won’t do for Christy, but Christy’s plan to save Christmas is testing their friendship. Especially as Alix and Zac have a difficult history of their own.

As long-held secrets unravel, and unexpected romance shines under the Northern Lights, can Christy and Alix find the courage to fight for the relationships they really want? And could this Christmas escape save the precious gift of each other’s friendship?

Review: I have really been looking forward to reading this year’s Christmas novel from Sarah Morgan. She always provides her readers with a really festive story at this time of year. As is so often the case, and promised by the enchanting cover, this book transports us to a snowy landscape and celebrates Christmas in another country, the action here taking place in Lapland. This is somewhere that I have never visited, but I’m sure that I will feel as if I have by the time the story ends, such is the power of Sarah Morgan’s writing.

The story revolves around Christy and Alix, who have been best friends since childhood. Christy has booked a luxurious Christmas trip to Lapland for them, along with husband Seb and daughter Holly. While there, Christy is going to meet up with her aunt, who she hasn’t seen since childhood. At the last minute, Christy and Seb must stay behind for a few days, and they ask Alix and Seb’s best friend Zac to take Holly to Lapland ahead of them. What Christy doesn’t know is that Alix and Zac have an awkward history, but they agree anyway. The holiday becomes a test of relationships as secrets are revealed and hearts opened - all in a wonderful, snowy landscape with the breathtaking northern lights playing above.

As expected, I absolutely loved this uplifting and heartwarming story, and can recommend it highly. There aren’t many characters in the book, but those few are well developed, interesting and likeable, with everyday problems that anyone might recognise. I know that snow isn’t everybody’s idea of heaven, but this holiday sounded magical, various adventures in the freezing outdoors being coupled with accommodation in the most superb lodges, with cosy fires and plenty of hot chocolate to warm up cold bodies. There are lots of secrets and strained relationships in this story. I enjoyed the way in which they are gradually revealed and explored. Christy finally gets to delve into the mystery surrounding her aunt Robyn, which has plagued her all her life; that proved an interesting and surprising tale in itself.

To order your copy now, just click the link: UK or US

Tuesday 19 October 2021

Top Ten Tuesday: Online Resources For Book Lovers 19/10/21


Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018. It was born of a love of lists, a love of books, and a desire to bring bookish friends together.

This is an interesting one because I probably don't utilise as many of these as I could/should so if you have any to add please leave them in comments!

1. BookTube! You knew I would start with this one because I have a BookTube channel. I discovered BookTube in around 2012 not long after starting this blog and I loved watching people talk about books online. Book hauls were where I got a lot of my bookish inspiration from!

2. Bookstagram

Another one, a bit like BookTube, I find this useful for finding out about new release and for inspiration for my TBRs. Plus it's really really pretty!

3. Book Twitter.

Basically the same as above but I tend to follow more authors and publishers on here and readers on Bookstagram. 

4. Goodreads

I know there are a lot of problems with it but I still find it really useful for tracking my reading and especially for keeping track of release dates etc in one place. 

5. Overdrive/Libby

I love this library app for listening to audiobooks. I have multiple library cards and I can have all the audiobooks I've checked out in the one place on the overdrive app. I know a lot of people have switched over to Libby and I know I would be able to listen to audiobooks faster on Libby but I'm just not ready to learn a new app right now. 

6. Hoopla

This is basically the same and Overdrive but with just one library. Every Tuesday and Thursday morning you'll find me on here looking for new releases of audiobooks and ebooks. I've also used this to watch movies because you can download and watch on a flight etc. 

7. Scribd

I don't currently have an active Scribd membership because, as you'e probably noticed, I'm reading a lot less now I'm living back in the UK and working full time again. I did absolutely love this app for finding back catalogue audiobooks as well as plenty of new releases. I have a link in my BookTube videos for a free month and I know I'll want to restart my membership again once things settle down and I get more time to read in the evenings. 

8. Audible

Again I know there are a lot of problems with this app/site. It's owned by Amazon and that audible exclusive flag means that you can't get those audiobooks anywhere else which isn't great but honestly I have relied on audible so much over the years for UK releases when I was living in the US, for giving me access to new releases when I only had my commute to and from work to listen to audiobooks and no other time for reading. Now my love of Nonfiction is also quenched by the fact that there are so many nonfiction books and biographies available through audible plus. Its a guilty pleasure!

I can't actually think of anymore right now so do help me out and let me know what online resources you use as a book lover!

Wednesday 13 October 2021

Book V Movie:There's Someone Inside Your House By Stephanie Perkins-Is Watching As Scary as Reading?


Guest Review: The Village Inn of Secret Dreams by Alison Sherlock

After escaping her parents’ unhappy marriage to sleepy Cranbridge a long time ago, Belle Clarke dreams of staying at The Black Swan Inn forever.

But with the rundown Inn threatened with closure, Belle may be forced to leave, unless a buyer can be found … quickly.

So, when her oldest friend Pete Kennedy returns from working abroad with a plan to save the Inn, Belle should be overjoyed. The trouble is, Pete has some rather radical ideas for the renovation which Belle disagrees with.

But when a snow storm hits, Belle and Pete are forced to put aside their differences and work together to help the village.

Can Belle realise her dreams to stay in Cranbridge and can Pete ever stop running from his past?

As they try to save The Black Swan Inn, secrets are revealed and just maybe they’ll finally find out how they really feel about each other.

Review: This is book 3 in the Riverside Lane series from this author. The stories in this series centre on the small village of Cranbridge, once a little rundown, but gradually returning to its former charming state, with the sparkling river running through the middle. In previous parts, the village store and then the newspaper office have been brought back to life, but this book deals with the fate of the once striking Black Swan pub, more recently dubbed the Mucky Duck by the locals, having been allowed to deteriorate by its current owners. I have enjoyed the series so far and have been looking forward to this latest part. I listened to the audio version of the book and finished it within just a few sessions. Each book in the series can be read as a standalone, but for full enjoyment, I would recommend reading them in order.

When the owners of the Black Swan pub have reached the end of their tethers and decide that the only way out of their debt is to sell the business, they are delighted that, out of the blue, Pete Kennedy, recently returned to his home village from overseas, offers them the full asking price. Their niece, Belle, who has lived with them for most of her adult life, is not so excited, as she fears that she may lose both her job and her home if Pete decides to renovate the pub and then sell it on, as he has suggested. After a rocky start, Pete realises that he needs to listen to Belle’s suggestions for the new business if it, and he, are to fit into village life. He also begins to remember what it was like growing up in the village and his fondness for Belle from the first moment she arrived to live with her aunt and uncle. Belle also has growing feelings for Pete, but could it be love that they are both experiencing?

Just like the other books in this series, I found this story quite enthralling, with an interesting mix of drama, comedy and romance. The author really has brought this little village to life on the pages of these books, the characters becoming more familiar with each successive part of the series. All the characters in the story are likeable and believable, the selection including all the kinds of people you might well meet in any small country village. Once again, the community spirit in Cranbridge shines through, everybody pulling together in an emergency. Although Belle and the Kennedy family have featured in all parts of the series, Pete himself is a new character. Having been away from the village for many years, it took him some time to fit in again, and I felt for him as he struggled. The changes he made to the dilapidated old pub were extensive, and it sounded marvellous when it was finished - somewhere I would enjoy visiting. I can heartily recommend this particular book, but also the series as a whole; I for one shall be looking out for more of Alison Sherlock’s writing in the future. 

To order your copy now, just click the link: UK or US

Tuesday 12 October 2021

Top Ten Tuesday: Favourite Book Settings 12/10/21


Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018. It was born of a love of lists, a love of books, and a desire to bring bookish friends together.

Ooo I love this one and I'm sure I've done it before but always happy to discuss my favourite book settings. I'm a lazy reader so basically you'll see place I've lived and places I've enjoyed listed here...

1. New York

2. Yorkshire

3. Glasgow

4. Anywhere else in Scotland

5. Colorado

6. Las Vegas

7. London

8. On a road trip

9. Italy

10. Maine

Sunday 10 October 2021

Movie Review: The Starling, Now Streaming on Netflix!


Guest Review: Trick of the Dark By Val McDermid

When Charlie Flint is sent a mysterious package of cuttings about a brutal murder, it instantly grabs her attention. The murder occurred in the grounds of her old Oxford college - a groom battered to death just hours after his wedding. As his bride and wedding guests sipped champagne, his alleged killers were slipping his bloodstained body into the river.

Charlie doesn't know who sent the package, or why, yet she can't get the crime out of her head. But as she delves deeper, and steps back into the mysterious world of Oxford colleges, she realises that there is much more to this crime than meets the eye...

Review: This is a stand-alone murder mystery, first published in 2010, by the Scottish crime writer Val McDermid. The main protagonist is Dr Charlotte (Charlie) Flint, a forensic psychiatrist who, with time on her hands, is persuaded to dig deeper into a murder case which may, or may not, be linked to other deaths.

The story opens with what appears to be a relatively straightforward murder case, but as readers of crime fiction should know, there are many twists and turns in the narrative. Most of the action is centred around a fictitious Oxford college, which appears to be the author paying homage to her alma mater of St Hilda’s College. Same sex relationships also play a prominent role in the book, although it is the crime investigation that takes precedence. The story moves along at a fast pace, and I found myself wanting to go on to the next chapter to discover what happens next. I thought that this was helped by the narrative sometimes switching from flashback to the present day.

As in a previous crime thriller of hers that I read, the author had researched the various procedures of the criminal justice system very well. I also thought that the different locations were well described, such that I could readily imagine myself being there. I listened to the audio version of the book. If you have a keen ear for different accents, you may be disappointed by the ones attempted by the two narrators, which were adequate without being wholly convincing. I also thought that the ending came quite suddenly, being slightly contrived and with only enough explanation to tie off the most important, but not all, the loose ends. However, these are minor criticisms and should not detract from the enjoyment of a fast paced and intriguing crime thriller.

To order your copy now, just click the link: UK or US

Friday 8 October 2021

Blog Tour: Review of Sidesplitter by Phil Wang Appearing at Cheltenham Literature Festival #CheltLitFest @midaspr @cheltlitfest


It is my stop on the blog tour for Cheltenham Literature Festival Celebration and today I am going to be reviewing Side Splitter by Phil Wang. Phil will be appearing at the festival tomorrow and you can find a link to that event here! I listened to this book on audiobook and I will be reviewing it for you today but if you like the sound of that or want to order one after watching his event at the festival, you can click here for that!

Review: Although I was sent a physical copy of this book in exchange for a review, I actually bought the audiobook since it is narrated by the author himself. I am so pleased that I read this via audio because you get the emphasis of funny moments and the tone required in more serious moments. This is also my first encounter with Phil Wang and so it was a really good way to get to know him through him reading to me in my car on my commute. The audio narration was fantastic and well-paced. 

This book definitely made me laugh and I really wish I could be at Phil Wang's event at Cheltenham Literature festival because I would love to hear more from him. The structure of the book is a great balance between facts and observations alongside humour and personal opinions. I definitely learned a lot as well as laughing out loud at various moments. I like how this book is marketed as 'not a memoir' but each section comes from a very personal point of view. 

My favourite chapter was definitely food and this is the chapter that had me laughing consistently throughout and definitely made me hungry. There were so many points about 'British Food' that I hadn't thought about and that is a general theme of the book overall. So many of the talking points in each chapter were things which I had not actively given headspace too either at all or at least not recently and so I definitely thank Phil Wang for giving me pause for thought. I will definitely be checking out some more of his work including his stand up because I admired the way he put things and he definitely made me laugh over the course of this book!

To order your copy now, just click this link!

Thursday 7 October 2021

September 2021 Reading Wrap Up: Did I Manage To Read More Books Than Last Month?


Review: The Library by Bella Osborne

Teenager Tom has always blended into the background of life. After a row with his dad and facing an unhappy future at the dog food factory, he escapes to the library.

Pensioner Maggie has been happily alone with her beloved novels for ten years – at least, that's what she tells herself.

When they meet, they recognise something in each other that will change both their lives for ever.

Then the library comes under threat of closure, and they must join forces to prove that it's not just about books – it's the heart of their community.

They are determined to save it – because some things are worth fighting for.

Review: This is one of those books where I eeked out the reading of it. I rarely do that with books but I only read 20% max at a time because it was just so good and so lovely and I wanted to take in all of the detail since it's the first novel I've read like this from Bella Osborne. I loved it and I highly recommend it. 

Now I am already a big fan of cross-generational friendships in books. I think it's always a great jumping off point because both characters bring something to the table and so a collaboration could be spectacular but in this case it just runs even deeper because both of Maggie and Tom are lonely in their own way and neither of them are prepared to admit it. I loved this fact always in the background of anything that happened in this story, it just gave every interaction and every event a more complex meaning. 

Then we have our third main character, our library. We know from the cover that this is going to be a book lovers dream but there are so many favourite books of mine mentioned throughout the novel and then there's the love of the library itself. This books hows what an important part of the community the library is and all the different ways, aside from lending books to patrons, that it serves the people in a town. I just loved the idea of characters pulling together in their share drive and passion for it even if they didn't realise it. And the love of books is going to make you, as a reader, very happy indeed. 

I loved both Tom and Maggie as characters. Maggie is feisty and independent and everything you expect her not to be. It was a job reading about her and getting to know all of the surprising things you find out along the way. Tom had a special place in my heart though. I think I wanted to protect him and that probably comes from my teaching career, I hated the thought of him leaving school and being on his own, leaving the library setting and being in any danger. He's a teenage boy going through his GCSE year with such a turbulent home life and the things that we get to see going on in his head. He's a special person and I wanted to shelter him from the world. 

We get to see what is going on in Tom's head because his side of the story is written in first person. I love a dual narrative structure when it comes to a book and I think this one would have been great on audio but it was equally fantastic on eBook. Tom's parts are written in first persona and Maggie's parts in third person which helps to distinguish their own worlds even further. I think that's why I connected with Tom slightly more. 

This book delves into some deeper issues that can be going on in people's lives that we won't necessarily ever find out and I loved that it did that naturally as part of the body of the novel. I won't go into all the issues explored as I'd be giving away spoilers but I think that everything covered was done so in a realistic yet sensitive way and so on a final note I would like to applaud Bella Osborne and The Library for reminding us to simply be kind. 

To order your copy now, just click the link: UK or US