Monday, 28 November 2011

Book Review: Next to Love

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Picador (7 Oct 2011)
  • ISBN-10: 0330544500
  • ISBN-13: 978-0330544504

Babe, Grace and Millie have been best friends since their first day at their small town’s only kindergarten. Despite their differences, they’ve played together, grown up together, shared each other’s secrets. And when World War Two becomes a reality for America too, the girls begin a new phase of their lives together – each quickly marries her first true love. With the men away, life is difficult for these newly married women, but when no fewer than sixteen telegrams arrive on a single morning in 1944, bearing news of the worst kind from the War Department, the girls know that nothing will ever be the same again . . .
As each woman struggles to rebuild a life, they face not only the challenges closest to home – the brutal effects of war, the question of remarriage, of how to tell a child about their absent father – but also the wider issues of a country in flux – sexism, racism, anti-Semitism. Tinged with tragedy, yet filled with hope, Next to Love is the story of three women at the heart of the century – a celebration of their friendship across decades of the most unthinkable adversity. It is a remarkable novel you are unlikely to forget.

Next to Love is the most gut-wrenching, romantic, devastating and best book I have read this year. Bar none.

The novel centres around three friends – Babe, Millie and Grace as their husbands and boyfriends get pulled into the second World War. What I loved about this book was it showed in raw detail what it was like to be the ones left behind and how home could be just as wrecking as the home front.

The author didn’t hold back on a single thing and the stark honesty was like a powerful fist with each new development. The story spans decades, beginning as their men leave and the women have to get jobs and raise the children alone, leading up till the children are almost adults themselves.

There is so much I could say about this book, and if I’m honest this review is startlingly hard to write. As with any wartime book, a sense of loss is expected. But the author managed to completely destroy me while I read the words. The characters became so real the loss felt personal, like I was reading about friends, not fiction.

All I can do is urge everyone to read this book. Read it and love it. I guarantee it will stay with you for days once you finish. 


Friday, 25 November 2011

Book Review: Piper's Passion Cookies

PUBLISHED BY:Painted Barn Publishing

Piper Bell finds her grandmother’s old wooden chest while rummaging through the attic. Inside is a book, Granny Bell’s Magic Recipes. The cookbook couldn’t have come at a better time, because she has to bring cookies to the neighborhood pool party. With the touch of an enchanted easy-peasy ingredient, Granny Bell’s passion cookies promise to capture even the most reluctant man’s attentions—and her love life could certainly use a little magic.
She tests her first batch on the poolside bachelor partygoers, and Voila! The fruit cookies are a success. Men are swarming her like yellow jackets on watermelon, including Magnolia Acres’ newest hottie, Dr. Donovan Tate. The passion begins and things heat up… but Piper soon wonders if she should’ve stayed out of the kitchen.

Piper’s Passion Cookies is a fun, flirty and hilarious read from an author that is destined to become a household name. C.E. Hart’s quirky and unique writing style will entrance many readers as her stories warm their hearts.

When Piper finds her grandmother’s cook book in the attic, she finds the perfect recipe for her to bake for the neighbourhood pool party. Passion cookies.  And she has just the man in mind to give a few to – newest neighbour, Donovan.

So if you’re in the mood for a quick and heart warming read that will make you giggle, swoon and cheer out loud, Piper’s Passion Cookies is the book for you. Grab it now, and remember this author’s name.


Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Geek Girl Blog Tour

Paperback: 280 pages
Publisher: Sweetwater Books (8 Dec 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1599559250
ISBN-13: 978-1599559254

Jen's life of partying and sneaking out has grown stale. So on a whim, Jen makes a bet to turn Trevor, a goody-two-shoes geek, into a "bad boy." As she hangs out with Trevor, however, she finds it's actually kinda fun being a geek. But when Trevor finds out about the bet, Jen must fight for the things she's discovered matter most: friendship, family, and, above all, love.

I’m lucky enough to have Cindy Bennett here with me today, answering a few questions about her amazing YA novel Geek Girl, and about life as a writer. After the interview, you can read my review of Cindy’s book. I’d love to hear what you guys think, so leave a comment, and if you have already read the book, how much you liked it.

Hi Cindy, thanks so much for dropping by today J  First of all, I just want to say how much I enjoyed Geek Girl, I could hardly put it down! Where did the inspiration for Jen and Trevor’s story come from?

I needed to write a short story (1500 words) to enter a writing contest. As I sat down to think of ideas, for no particular reason the idea of a girl who considered herself bad popped into my head. I wanted to put her with someone who was the polar opposite, and the idea of a geek came to me. But how to get them together? That’s when I decided on the bet angle, and from there it pretty much wrote itself. Once I had finished, I could not get Jen & Trev out of my head. I thought about them constantly. They were demanding to have their story told in full, so I obliged. It was actually a fairly quick process to write the whole book, though I felt a bit stifled by the original short story. It was kind of like writing with an outline, which I don’t do. Once I let go of the idea of it having to follow the short version absolutely, it came much easier.

Were you anything like Jen (or Trevor) as a teen?

I wasn’t like either of them. I wasn’t bold enough to be Jen, or ambitious enough to be Trev. I was a complete wallflower. I didn’t want to be noticed in any way, shape, or form because I was painfully shy. You’ll find small pieces of me in all of my characters, of course, but sometimes those pieces are just things I’d wished I were at that age, such as being as courageous and forward as Jen is. I was a bit of a rebel, as well. I didn’t conform well to rules and expectations.

I hear that! What was high school like for you?

High school was something of a blur. I had the intelligence to excel, but lacked the desire or drive. I was so shy that I didn’t participate in anything extra-curricular, or try to join in any of the clubs—though I did try out for dance company a couple of times since I loved to dance, but my grades kept me from being able to participate. I met my husband in high school, who was the complete opposite of me: outgoing, bold, courageous, loud, football player. He was perfect for me so I never had to say anything to anyone when I was with him. With him I did participate in a lot of activities.

Hehe, another case of opposites attract! What made you want to be a writer?

I think I’ve always wanted to be a writer. I’ve always loved to read, and felt I could write good stories as well. But it really changed in high school. I had an English teacher in 9th & 10th grade Honors English who really taught me my deep love of literature and even more a desire to be a writer. He’d have us do a “10 Minute Writing” at the beginning of each class, where he would give us a random subject, and for 10 minutes we would just write. I looked forward to that more than anything else all day. He would tell me I wrote well, and encouraged me to think about writing more. That was when I really truly believed I could do it, I could be a real writer.

Wow! You were lucky to have such an encouraging teacher! Every writer has a different way in which they work – how do you like to do it, what’s your writing routine?

I really just plop down on the couch with my laptop, TV is usually on, family around some of the time, sometimes I’m writing in the middle of the night alone. I don’t ever use an outline, though I do usually have an idea of where my story is going, where I want it to end. Of course, sometimes that changes as I write. If I have an idea for a particular scene, I’ll write that out and then add it in later, if it fits. If it doesn’t, I discard it. I try to write daily, though lately that’s been difficult to accomplish.

I’m very meticulous about where I write – it can only be at my big old desk with nothing but music in the background! But I’m right with you on outlines ;) What do you do to find inspiration?

There are a few different things. My favorite is to go for a ride on my Harley where I can spend the time just imagining different stories. That’s the best, because there’s no one else with me, just road noise and my imagination. Sometimes I just go to a quiet place and think of ideas, like lying in bed at night in the dark. Other times I might pop in a movie that fits the mood I’m looking for, or listen to some music for the same. There’ve even been times when something I’m watching on TV (usually some type of educational program) will give me an idea for either a scene on my current project, or even a whole story.

What can your readers expect to see next from you?

I’m currently finishing up a book called Immortal Mine. It’s a little different than my other books as it has a touch of the paranormal in it. And it will likely have a sequel since I still have a lot of story to tell and I’m already at around 80k words. At heart, though, it is definitely a contemporary YA romance. Hopefully that will be available soon.

I hope it will be too!

Thanks for answering my questions, Cindy, it was lovely having you here! Read on for my review of Geek Girl.

"Think I can turn that boy bad?”

A simple sentence changes Jen Jones’ life forever. Jen is a hardened partier goth girl with a penchant for getting into trouble. She’s 17 and a foster kid, looking to stir up enough trouble to get sent back into the system and onto another family. And Jen has her eyes set on geeky Trevor to help her accomplish the task.

Trevor is cute by geek standards, pretty eyes and to-die-for dimples. Sensitive and polite, Trevor is the polar opposite of Jen. To befriend the geek, Jen shamelessly pursues him – enduring sci-fi flick after sci-fi flick, bouts of time at a retirement centre, his doubly geeky friends…and bowling. Lots of bowling. All for him to take notice.

And notice he does. As make-believe and reality start to blur, Jen can’t help notice just how cute Trevor really is, how genuinely nice he is and what a catch he would make for any girl. But the worst thing…he seems to be rubbing off on Jen. She starts to see her old friends for what they really are, how partying isn’t the answer, and ignoring the past doesn’t mean it’s gone.

Like Trevor, Jen’s foster family, the Grant’s, only have her best interest at heart. They do everything they can to make her feel welcome, but after a lifetime of neglect and abuse, Jen can’t help but doubt their intentions. It will take a lot for Jen to realise that maybe she is worth it…and maybe she is worth loving after all.

Geek Girl has an easy, lightness to it, despite its sometimes dark subject matter. It was a pleasure to watch not just Jen, but Trevor, grow as characters as they opened up to each other, and the possibility of what might happen.

The most special thing about this book was how it came alive for me. Jen and Trevor were solid characters that felt very true, and because of that, they leaped off the pages. Jen’s troubled background gave the book a dark twist, but one that is a very real reality for a lot of kids. It was a pleasure to watch her overcome her past and deal with it, allowing her to move on to something better.

Jen’s relationship with the Grant’s was almost as enjoyable to read as her relationship with Trevor and I have to admit…brought a tear to my eye more than once.

Geek Girl is a must read for anyone who loves romance, YA, family-orientated fiction or a damn good read. I’m recommending this to anyone who will listen.

Keep up to date with all Cindy's news and info on her website:


Thursday, 17 November 2011

Book review: Saint's Gate by Carla Neggers

  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Mira Books; 1 edition (23 Aug 2011)
  • Language English
  • ISBN-10: 0778312356
  • ISBN-13: 978-0778312352

When Emma Sharpe is summoned to a convent on the Maine coast, it's partly for her art crimes work with the FBI, partly because of her past with the religious order. At issue is a mysterious painting depicting scenes of Irish lore and Viking legends, and her family's connection to the work. But when the nun who contacted her is murdered, it seems legend is becoming deadly reality.
Colin Donovan is one of the FBI's most valuable assets—a deep-cover agent who prefers to go it alone. He's back home in Maine after wrapping up his latest mission, but his friend Father Bracken presents him with an intrigue of murder, international art heists and a convent's long-held secrets that is too tempting to resist. As the danger spirals ever closer, Colin is certain of only one thing—the very intriguing Emma Sharp is at the center of it all.
A ruthless killer has Emma and Colin in the crosshairs, plunging them into a race against time and drawing them deeper into a twisted legacy of betrayal and deceit.
Saint’s Gate was an awesome read of mystery, action and attraction. FBI agent Emma Sharpe is called to the Sisters of the Joyful Heart convent one night by one of the sisters. While Emma is waiting for the gate to open, the sister was murdered.

Emma finds herself in the middle of a complicated plot regarding a mysterious piece of artwork. The Sharpe family are art detectives, and are employed in the cases when artwork is stolen. To Emma and her superior, Yank, it doesn’t feel like coincidence that she was called to the convent when she was.

Yank arranges for the tall, dark and handsome Colin Donovan to keep an eye on Emma as she investigates the crime and it isn’t long before he realises he wants to see a whole lot more of Emma.

But both Emma and Colin have their secrets that may or may not hinder them on the investigation. The book was wonderfully written, engaging the reader so they felt right in the thick of things as the mystery unfolded.

The first in a series, Saint’s Gate is sure to be a hit, especially with the electric tension between Emma and Colin.


Monday, 14 November 2011

Book Review: Knight's Curse

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Luna Books; Original edition (23 Aug 2011)
  • Language English
  • ISBN-10: 0373803400
  • ISBN-13: 978-0373803408

A skilled knife fighter since the age of nine, Chalice knows what it’s like to live life on the edge—precariously balanced between the dark and the light. But the time has come to choose. The evil sorcerer who kidnapped her over a decade ago requires her superhuman senses to steal a precious magical artifact…or she must suffer the consequences. 

Desperate to break the curse that enslaves her, Chalice agrees. But it is only with the help of Aydin— her noble warrior-protector—that she will risk venturing beyond the veil to discover the origins of her power. Only for him will she dare to fully embrace her awesome talents. For a deadly duel is at hand, and Chalice alone will have to decide between freedom…and the love of her life

Knight’s Curse was a modern-day tale of high adventure and virtue – the quest for what is right, and the ultimate battle over evil.

Chalice grew up in a monastery after her mother died after childbirth, and only met her father when he returned to claim her, and ensured she could never leave his side again. Chalice knows the man is not truly her father, but there was little she could do to overthrow him. Chalice is bonded with a gargoyle and cursed, so if she is parted from him the curse will turn her into one herself. Chalice is trained as a thief to procure artefacts and objects of mythical power.  The time comes for Chalice to decide what she has to do – give in to the dark side, or take a leap of faith and shoot for the light.

Knight’s Curse was full of action and mythical legends, an epic read. The light romance between Aydin and Chalice was tender and steamy all at once, and left the reader aching for more. There hasn’t been a fantasy/action book quite like Knight’s Curse in quite some time, and I doubt there ever will be.

An awesome read for anyone who loves modern day fairy tales and legends. 


Thursday, 10 November 2011

Book Review: The Kingdom of Childhood

  • Paperback: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Harlequin (UK) Ltd (4 May 2012)
  • Language English
  • ISBN-10: 1848450702
  • ISBN-13: 978-1848450707

I suppose in the beginning it was a love story... The Kingdom of Childhood is the story of a boy and a woman: sixteen-year-old Zach Patterson, uprooted and struggling to reconcile his knowledge of his mother s extramarital affair, and Judy McFarland, a kindergarten teacher watching her family unravel before her eyes. Thrown together to organise a fundraiser for their failing private school and bonded by loneliness, they begin an affair that at first thrills, then corrupts each of them. Judy sees in Zach the elements of a young man she loved as a child, but what Zach does not realise is that their relationship is for Judy only the latest in a lifetime of disturbing secrets.

Judy is a kindergarten teacher in her forties, watching her family unravel and feeling powerless to stop it. Zach is sixteen and struggling to come to terms with his mother’s affair. The miss-matched pair are thrown together whilst organising a fundraising for their failing private school. At first it is dangerous and intoxicating…Judy feeling alive once again, Zach getting his first tastes of pleasure. But their romance quickly takes a dark edge, an emotionally damaging and life-altering relationship that can only end in disaster.

The Kingdom of Childhood was exquisitely written, capturing the youth of Zach and desperation of Judy flawlessly. The author has a no-holds-barred approach to writing, letting the taboo topic fly free of its own accord.

Whilst it was brilliantly written, it is a book I somewhat regret reading, for the simple reason of how exhausted and disturbed it left me. It was very reminiscent of Lolita where an adult robs the youth of a child and feels no guilt whatsoever, only thinking what more they can gain.

I’m on the fence on how to rate this novel. Perhaps you will have to judge for yourself. 


Monday, 7 November 2011

Book Release: Escaping Normal

I am so excited to say today is the day my book, Escaping Normal is released. It is available from Total-E-Boud Publishing here:

Escaping Normal is a paranormal romance with a steamy side, so if you like the sound of that, read on...

Sammi is an intern for a TV talent show, hating life and desperate to escape the monotony, when her wake-up call finds her. A member of a band involved with the show, the dark and mysterious Blaine, shows an intense and sudden interest in Sammi. For the first time, she wonders if maybe she shouldn’t have been so eager for things to change.
With Blaine permanently fixed in her mind, she dreams of him—violent, bloody and intensely sexual dreams that only pull her towards him more. Sammi knows there is something uniquely different about Blaine—something she doesn’t know or understand…but something she wants.
Every second spent with Blaine is one spent with danger. But every second spent without him feels worse.
Sammi wanted to take a bite out of the big apple, but will she escape with her life before it bites back? More importantly...will she want to?


Thursday, 3 November 2011

Book Review: Darker Still by Leanna Renee Hieber

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire; Original edition (Nov 2011)
  • Language English
  • ISBN-10: 1402260520
  • ISBN-13: 978-1402260520

The Picture of Dorian Gray meets Pride and Prejudice, with a dash of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.
New York City, 1882. Seventeen-year-old Natalie Stewart's latest obsession is a painting of the handsome British Lord Denbury. Something in his striking blue eyes calls to her. As his incredibly life-like gaze seems to follow her, Natalie gets the uneasy feeling that details of the painting keep changing...
Jonathan Denbury's soul is trapped in the gilded painting by dark magic while his possessed body commits unspeakable crimes in the city slums. He must lure Natalie into the painting, for only together can they reverse the curse and free his damaged soul.

Natalie Stewart leads us through the story of Darker Still, a haunting romance with a dark edge. Natalie is different to other girls her age – she isn’t attending parties, dinners and events in the hopes of finding a suitable match. She has just returned home from boarding school at a convent where her abnormality was hidden from society. Natalie is a mute, and has been since witnessing her mother’s death at a very tender age.

But things are about to change for Natalie. When she overhears her father and his friends discussing a supposedly haunted painting of a rich and handsome British lord, Natalie is intrigued and gripped by the story…and knows she has to see the painting for herself.

Natalie was a charming character, and the story gothic and dark but with a loving romance to take the edge off. Darker Still had a mesmerising quality to it with a fascinating storyline. However, I found the fact that the book was written in diary format stilting and distracting. While their romance was tender and sweet, Denbury’s and Natalie’s journey to love felt false and rushed, like the reader was ‘told’ how they felt, rather than showing us and making it feel more lifelike.

Darker Still is a great read for YA romance fans who like a dark edge to their books. 

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