The Birthday That Changed Everything by Debbie Johnson

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Publisher: Harper

Publication Date: 28 January 2016

She wanted a birthday surprise, just not the one she got…

The last thing Sally Summers expected from her husband on her special day was that he’d leave her for a Latvian lap dancer half her age. So with her world in tatters, Sally jets off to Turkey for some sun, sea and sanctuary.

The Blue Bay resort brings new friends and the perfect balm for Sally’s broken heart in gorgeous Dubliner James. He’s just the birthday present she needs. And when the chemistry between them continues to spark as the holiday ends, Sally wonders if this is more than just a summer fling.

But James has scars of his own and Sally isn’t quite ready to turn her back on her marriage. This birthday might have changed everything, but what will the next one bring?”

MY REVIEW

Firstly I’d like to thank the publisher for approving my NetGalley request for this eBook. The first thing to catch my eye was the beautiful cover and then when I read the description I just couldn’t resist.

What a fab opening paragraph! A book that can put a smile on my face just a few words into the storyline is definitely going places.

Sally’s life had pretty much crashed down around her. She still had her kids, Lucy and Ollie but they weren’t easy to handle at all, especially Lucy whose words could have brought a grown man to tears. At the beginning I felt so sorry for Sally having such difficult children but do you know what, they totally grew on me and by the end I loved them both as much as the rest of the characters!

Somehow Sally and her kids ended up in Turkey and that’s when the fun really began.

The author’s style of writing and humour made this such an easy book to enjoy, a few of my favourite laugh-out-loud moments included: a baggage mix-up, a pub brawl and a pink spray attack! I found myself looking forward to picking up my Kindle to read more because I knew I’d soon be having a giggle.

There was an entertaining collection of crazy characters and each one of them added their own special zing to the comedy. Thrown into the mix was an exciting touch of romance which lingered beautifully, teasing me in a ‘will they, won’t they’ kind of way.

It wasn’t all about the laughter though, the author had a wonderful way of making me care about the characters so that when things went wrong I felt the same emotions they were feeling.

This book contained lots of fun combined with lots of emotion. I’ll definitely be reading more from this author!

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Dashing Through The Snow by Debbie Macomber

Publisher: Random House, Cornerstone. Arrow

Publication Date: 19 November 2015

“Ashley Davison is desperate to spend the holidays with her mother in Seattle. Dash Sutherland has an interview for the job of a lifetime in Seattle and must arrive by 23 December. Both frantic to book a last-minute flight out of California, Ashley and Dash collide at the airport to learn that there are no flights and only one rental car available. After a rocky start, the two reluctantly agree to drive to Washington together. But their journey isn’t without obstacles, and a misunderstanding with the law threatens to ruin their holiday plans altogether.

Will Ashley make it home in time to surprise her mother? Will Kevin report to duty as expected? And most importantly, will they both have the opportunity to discover the greatest gift of all?”

MY REVIEW

Firstly I’d like to thank the publisher for approving my NetGalley request for this eBook. The description really grabbed my attention, I loved the idea of a tense Christmas road-trip with a handsome stranger.

The story began at the airport with an attempt to get to Seattle being more difficult than it should be. Ashley and Dash were clearly feisty characters and their banter was fun to read, I couldn’t wait to see what adventures they would get up to.

When the FBI made an appearance I was surprised because I wasn’t expecting that kind of twist. It gave the storyline a whole different edge and raised so many questions, my imagination was sent into overdrive!

The banter quickly turned to flirtation and the journey took some interesting turns because of this.

I’d like to say I took the characters to heart but for me the connection was lacking. While I really enjoyed the storyline, I just didn’t feel as attached to the characters as I normally would.

This was a fast-paced, fun and romantic read with lots of twists and turns.

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Learning To Speak American by Colette Dartford

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Publisher: Twenty7

Publication Date: Ebook – 5 November 2015 | Paperback – 14 July 2016

“Having suffered in silence since the tragic death of their young daughter, Lola and Duncan Drummond’s last chance to rediscover their love for one another lies in an anniversary holiday to the gorgeous Napa Valley.

Unable to talk about what happened, Duncan reaches out to his wife the only way he knows how – he buys her a derelict house, the restoration of which might just restore their relationship.

As Lola works on the house she begins to realise the liberating power of letting go. But just as she begins to open up, Duncan’s life begins to fall apart.”

MY REVIEW

Firstly I’d like to thank the publisher for sending me this book to read and share my honest opinion. As a parent myself I was unsure whether the subject of a child passing away would be too much for me to read but I had heard so many good things about this book that I just couldn’t resist finding out!

Thankfully the storyline began after the passing of Lola and Duncan’s daughter so I was spared the distress of reading about it as it happened. Details of the tragedy trickled through gradually and finally all was revealed but it was written in such a way that it didn’t overwhelm me with sadness (something I was grateful for).

The author successfully created a believable atmosphere that I could almost feel through the pages: to begin with there was a hollow emptiness surrounding Lola and Duncan. This changed to a warm kind of hope as they discovered the unexpected in California. Life continued back in the UK but there was an unpleasant sense of deception filtering through at this point, leading me to will Lola to do something that I would never normally encourage.

Towards the end it simply felt like everything was unravelling right before my eyes. It was at this moment that I decided how I would like the storyline to end up – I closed the book with a smile on my face so clearly I got my wish!

This was a beautifully written book that was a pleasure to read. I look forward to more from this author.

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Learning to Speak American is Colette Dartford’s debut novel and is based on her experience of renovating a derelict house in California’s Napa Valley. Having bought and renovated the house, Colette lived there with her husband for many years before moving back to the UK. Colette wrote the book in California where it was a quarterfinalist in Amazon’s first novel award. Before becoming a writer, Colette worked as a Political Research Consultant in public policy for many years and has an Mphil in Political Science. Her second novel, The Sinners, will be published by Bonnier in 2017.

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The Drowning Lesson by Jane Shemilt

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Publisher: Penguin

Publication Date: 24 September 2015

The press conference, one year ago

Our home is a crime scene now.

I am in yesterday’s clothes. The clothes in which I kissed Sam goodbye. Then he’d belonged only to us. Now his image will be shared with the world.

We should be grateful.

‘Our son . . . Sam . . .’ My eyes fill with tears, the writing on the paper blurs. ‘Someone took him. Please help us . . .’

I back away from the microphone, the paper falls from my hands.

The anniversary

The Jordan family thought they would return from their gap year abroad enriched, better people, a closer family.
Not minus one child.

A year on, Emma remains haunted by the image of that empty cot, thousands of miles away, the chasm between her and the rest of the family growing with each day that Sam remains missing. Is her son still out there? Will the mystery about what happened that night ever be unravelled?”

MY REVIEW

Firstly I’d like to thank the publisher for sending me this book to read and share my honest thoughts. I have to admit, after reading the blurb I was concerned that the subject of the storyline would make it too difficult for me to read. On the other hand I was also intrigued: Why and how was Sam taken? Where were his parents at the time? Would there be a happy ending?

Before I even started reading my mind was conjuring up images of children from real newspaper stories, not all of which ended well – I desperately wanted this book to finish on a happy note.

The storyline began by switching between the past and the present, something that enabled me to build up a clear picture of events in my mind. An overwhelming sense of loss weaved its way through the author’s words and I was held tight by these and also the desire to find out what was going to happen next!

My feelings towards Emma were mixed. There were times when I just couldn’t understand her, I guess she wasn’t as motherly as I had expected and some of her thoughts were completely alien to me. Then there were times when she made complete sense and I could feel the pain in her heart.

There was such an honest vibe to the storyline, especially when the worst happened, the events unravelling on the page before me felt so believable and real. My suspicious mind worked overtime as I tried to figure out who was responsible and now I do know I think I’d like to re-read the book to see things through a more informed set of eyes.

I admit that I cuddled my little one a bit closer as I was reading certain parts of this book, I became so entrenched in the horror of the situation that I needed to remind myself it wasn’t happening to me!

This was a tense and thought-provoking read. It left me feeling kind of numb – I can’t decide if that’s a good thing or a bad thing, maybe it’s a bit of both!

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While working as a GP, Jane Shemilt completed a post-graduate diploma in Creative Writing at Bristol University and went on to study for the M.A in Creative Writing at Bath Spa, gaining both with distinction. Her first novel, Daughter, was selected for the Richard & Judy Book Club and became a Sunday Times Top Ten bestseller. She and her husband, a professor of Neurosurgery, have five children and live in Bristol.

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One Wish in Manhattan by Mandy Baggot

Published by Bookouture in September 2015

Christmas: it’s the most wonderful time of the year…to fall in love

The temperature is dropping, snow is on its way and Hayley Walker is heading for New York with one wish… to start over.

With her daughter Angel, Hayley is ready for adventure. But there’s more to New York than twinkly lights and breathtaking skyscrapers. Angel has her own Christmas wish – to find her real dad.

While Hayley tries to fulfil her daughter’s wish, she crosses paths with billionaire Oliver Drummond. Restless and bored with fast living, there’s something intriguing about him that has Hayley hooked.

Can Hayley dare to think her own dreams might come true – could A New York Christmas turn into a New York Forever?

Travel to the Big Apple this Christmas and join Hayley and Oliver as they realise life isn’t just about filling the minutes… it’s about making every moment count.”

MY REVIEW

Some of you may already know this, but I love Christmas. I also love Mandy Baggot’s writing (reviews here) so buying this eBook was a bit of a no-brainer for me!

I was quickly drawn into the storyline. Having a 9-year-old daughter myself meant that I could relate to Hayley and Angel’s relationship easily.

Oliver intrigued me, he clearly had a lot on his mind and this led to a few worrying incidents. Oliver’s issues throughout the book gave me mixed emotions – part of me felt very frustrated with him and another part of me just wanted to reach into the book and give him a hug.

Travelling to New York was tense for Hayley but there was definitely a spark of excitement rolling off the page and I soon found out why. Speaking of New York, I’ve never actually been but by the time I had finished reading I kind of felt like I had thanks to Mandy’s fab descriptions.

I really loved how Hayley and Oliver’s paths kept crossing, for me it added some zing to the romantic atmosphere. These characters had an amazing connection even when there were some bumps in the road, their banter was brilliant to read and felt very real. If you’re looking for some classic Mandy Baggot comedy then this is definitely the book for you, I laughed and smiled so many times whilst reading this book.

As I headed towards the finish line I found myself on edge, waiting for a result that would seriously impact the way this book ended. I don’t want to give too much away so all I’ll say is that there were tears on my cheeks as I read the final few pages – happy or sad tears I hear you ask. You’ll just have to find out for yourself!

One Wish in Manhattan was utterly addictive to read, I kept insisting that I’d read ‘just one more page’ and before I knew it I was another ten pages along. Hayley’s enchanting story will stay in my mind for a long time.

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Other Halves by Nick Alexander

Published by Black & White Publishing in June 2014

“When Hannah and Cliff’s fifteen-year marriage falls apart, it seems almost impossible to start again.

While Hannah tries to reconcile the warring factions of her heart, torn between a pre-teen son and a romantic love half a world away, Cliff struggles to face up to issues he has suppressed since adolescence in the hope of finding happiness in a confusing world. Amid the turmoil of separation, and with their son, Luke, caught in the crossfire, both Hannah and Cliff face the challenge of rebuilding their lives.

To make the other halves of their lives count, they will need courage and determination. To build new relationships, they will need to dare to love again.

Other Halves beautifully maps the break-up of a couple, with all the tough choices and heartache it entails, but above all it is a touching story of self-discovery, finding new love and beginning life afresh.”

MY REVIEW

Firstly I’d like to thank ED Public Relations for sending me this book to read and share my honest opinion. This is the sequel to The Half-Life of Hannah which I recently read and reviewed here. I had originally planned on reading a couple of other books before reading this one but I enjoyed the first book so much that I just had to find out what was next for Hannah and her family.

Other Halves picked up right where the previous book had finished and Hannah’s life was certainly very different this time around. The storyline had a completely different atmosphere to the first and this was something that continued throughout.

I was surprised to find that I wasn’t as keen on Hannah at the beginning of this book, I admit that her behaviour shocked me a little. It wasn’t until I read further that her actions began to make a bit more sense to me but I still felt that something wasn’t quite right.

The big changes in Hannah’s life brought about an education of herself and she really did learn a lot – it was interesting to see that growth. Cliff also had a lot to learn (and to admit) about himself, perhaps even more than Hannah did, and I felt that the author handled this particular subject very well.

As the storyline came to an end I had mixed emotions, I felt satisfied with the way each of their lives had turned out but I also felt like there should be more. I guess I was waiting for the same kind of shocks that were blowing up all over the place in The Half-Life of Hannah but this book was much more mellow.

This was an interesting read, not as captivating as the first book was for me, but very thought-provoking nonetheless.

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Truly Madly Greekly by Mandy Baggot

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                  Published in May 2015

“Capable, confident and career-driven, Ellen had her dream job and a marriage proposal from boyfriend Ross. Life was good, her future set. Until it wasn’t and everything fell apart…

Whisked off to the beautiful island of Corfu to plan her sister Lacey’s big, fat, Greek wedding, Ellen is hoping some time out will help clear her head and heal her heart. But letting go of her past is not going to be easy.

With Lacey in full on Bridezilla mode, Ellen is soon distracted from her own problems. And when the all-inclusive treats on offer at hotel Blue Vue include one gorgeous, brooding Adonis – Yan – Ellen finds him difficult to resist.

But Ellen isn’t looking for love or lust, or anything involving too much ouzo…or is she?”

MY REVIEW

Firstly I’d like to thank the author for sending me this eBook to read and give an honest review. If you’re a regular reader of Me, My Books and I then you’ll know how much I enjoy Mandy’s books – I was really looking forward to getting stuck into her latest offering!

An intriguing start filled my mind with questions. I was so curious about Ellen and Yan because they both seemed to be harbouring secrets and the mystery surrounding them was something that kept me coming back for more. Their interactions with each other were sometimes quite hostile and I loved this, I think I’ve mentioned before that I love a couple who don’t get on but deep down they actually like each other – kinda romantic isn’t it.

I can’t write this review without mentioning Lacey, what a character, I LOVED her! She pretty much said whatever was going through her mind at the time and this made her super entertaining for me. I would love to read a Lacey-inspired story. The bond between Ellen and Lacey was beautifully written and oh so real. There was no pretending they had the perfect relationship, it was all about capturing the best and worst sisterly moments that made it feel so genuine and such a pleasure to read.

The descriptions of Corfu were wonderful, I could practically feel the sun shining through the words. There was plenty of fun in the sun and lots of laugh out loud moments – my absolute favourite words were “keyboard buttons for breasts”, make of that what you will but it certainly made me choke on my Slim Fast shake!

The epilogue brought a mixture of smiles and happy tears. I also took away an important message from the story – a problem shared is a problem halved, bottling things up doesn’t help anyone.

This was a fun read with plenty of drama and sunshine, perfect material to brighten up a dull day.

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