Ivy Lane by Cathy Bramley ~ BLOG TOUR!

This is it. A new chapter. Go for it, Tilly Parker. 


Title - Ivy Lane
Author - Cathy Bramley
Publication Date - 26th February 2015
Publisher - Transworld
Format - eBook (Provided via NetGalley)
Pages - 416

The blurb

Tilly Parker needs a fresh start, fresh air and a fresh attitude if she is ever to leave the past behind and move on with her life. As she seeks out peace and quiet in a new town, taking on a plot at Ivy Lane allotments seems like the perfect solution. 

But the friendly Ivy Lane community has other ideas and gradually draw Tilly in to their cosy, comforting world of planting seedlings, organising bake sales and planning seasonal parties. 

As the seasons pass, will Tilly learn to stop hiding amongst the sweetpeas and let people back into her life - and her heart? 

Becca's thoughts

Firstly, I'd like to thank the wonderful Sarah Harwood for inviting me along on the blog tour for Cathy Bramley's #IvyLane! I had already read Ivy Lane: Spring, but sadly hadn't been able to keep up with the rest of the seasons and their publication dates, so it was an absolute joy when I spotted the complete Ivy Lane story on Net Galley! I couldn't wait to get started and to carry on from where I'd left Tilly Parker and her story last time. Trust me when I say readers, that the wait damn near killed me! 

As of right now, I'm still trying to process my thoughts on Tilly Parker's story because it was just so bloody brilliant, so if I begin to ramble and make no sense at all, then that's my excuse! 

In Ivy Lane, we're introduced to Tilly Parker. Cathy begins to reveal to the reader that there is something that has led Tilly to her new destination, although the exact reason isn't revealed until a later point within the story. It's fair to say that I was intrigued instantly and my mind was whirring with all of the possible reasons as to why Tilly was there. She was beginning a new job in the local primary school, she was looking for peace and solitude, and all of these things pointed to Tilly's past and something dramatic which must have happened to make her want to start completely anew. Tilly's past remains a mysterious for quite a while which is something that I just adored. Every now and then, something would cause Tilly's eyes to swim with tears, and it became apparent that as the story progressed, I was getting closer and closer to figuring out what had happened to her before Ivy Lane. I found myself warming to Tilly immediately, not just because it was obvious that she'd suffered some sort of tragedy, but because she was just so damn likeable! Self-deprecating at times, comical, friendly and genuine, Tilly Parker was a woman who I could definitely see myself being friends with. What I loved the most though, without a shadow of a doubt, was Tilly's transition. Looking back now, from Spring to Winter, Tilly undergoes such a marvellous change and it truly warms my heart. Avoiding friendship and keeping herself to herself is Tilly's main plan of action when she first steps onto Ivy Lane territory, but as the seasons pass, her determined wall of solitude is chipped away at, and by the time winter arrives, Tilly Parker is like a brand new person. This change that takes place was incredibly beautiful to witness from a reader's perspective, and I was in awe of Cathy's superb talents when it came to matters of the heart. The entire Ivy Lane story was a big bundle of friendship, love, letting go of the past and welcoming in all that is new, positive and uplifting. It was a pure pleasure to journey alongside Tilly, and to watch her push through the surface and blossom into this new sparkling being, much like one of the seedlings of Ivy Lane itself. 

I think Cathy's decision to begin each new part of Tilly's story with a new season was genius. Not only did it enhance the whole gardening and weather themed feel of the story, but it had me thinking beforehand of all that I had to look forward to in the upcoming months! Whilst reading in summer, I found myself excited about what would be happening in October during Halloween, and in December for Christmas! The colourful, engaging inhabitants of the Ivy Lane allotments drew Tilly in despite her best efforts to not become involved with any of them, and it wasn't long until Tilly was planning social events and getting dressed up in a witches outfit! Along with the changing seasons came the changing weather. The sunshine swapped places with frost, and this of course affected the delights that the Ivy Lane gardeners would plant on their allotments! It was busy and thrilling and even though I'm the least green-fingered person in the world, I had this crazy urge to turf soil, plant potatoes and carrots, and to assemble my own little greenhouse! I just think that Cathy has got such a wonderfully cosy package with her Ivy Lane story. Everything fits so perfectly and I could honestly see myself living alongside Tilly and the rest of the Ivy Lane lot very, very happily. The atmosphere was inviting and I honestly cannot fault the author for a single thing. This is what reading is about; finding a place that feels so comfortable and homely that you'd love to visit and meet the characters, and maybe get a lesson or two in gardening while you're at it!

Ivy Lane is written in first person narrative from Tilly's point of view, but that didn't stop me from feeling as if I knew the other characters just as well. There were so many fabulous people to meet, and each time a new name or face popped up, I think my smile grew bigger and bigger. Gemma, who Tilly finds herself sharing half of a plot with at Ivy Lane allotments, turns out to be another main character with her own story going on alongside Tilly's. The two became friends quickly, and Gemma was a completely joy to be around. I looked forward to seeing her each and every time that Tilly toddled off to her plot, and adored the dialogue between them both. Despite Tilly not wanting to get too close to anyone after what had happened to her previously, Gemma slips into her heart very quickly, and it was a beautiful thing to watch happen. The same goes to most of the other Ivy Lane characters too, from Mia, Gemma's teenage daughter, to Alf, an elderly man who gives the best advice and who Tilly becomes very fond of. All walks of life could be found in Ivy Lane, and I constantly found myself looking forward to diving back into the story whenever the chance arose. 

Ivy Lane itself was like a little slice of paradise. At first, Tilly thinks this because it's going to offer peace and quiet to her, something which is much needed, but as the seasons continue to change, it becomes so much more than that. What was once seen as a place of alone time quickly turns into Tilly's escape. Surrounded by friends and chatter and business, it's almost as if life takes over and says, "Come on Tilly, it's time to let go now. Here are some friends, here are some vegetables. Work your magic and be happy." Quite simply, Ivy Lane felt like home. A place of comfort and happiness and positivity. 

Becca's Books is giving Ivy Lane by Cathy Bramley five gorgeous cupcakes! I adored this story from page to page. I loved the characters, the atmosphere that immediately drew me in, the fresh veg and, of course, Tilly Parker. I feel as if I've made a new friend, learnt a new hobby, and watched someone go on a real adventure. This story will remain with me for a very long time, and I recommend it to EVERYBODY! Uplifting, emotional at times, but all in all, Ivy Lane is the perfect escape and I could escape there again and again and again. Cathy, thank you so much! I cannot wait to read more from you in the future. 









  


All in the Leaves by Pat Elliott

'The answer to your question is all in the leaves!'


Title - All in the Leaves
Author - Pat Elliott
Publication Date - 12th November 2013
Publisher - eBookPartnership.com
Format - eBook (Provided via author)

The blurb

A lea-leaf reading. 
A prediction of a fabulous life to come. 
Can your future really be told in a cup? 

Anna is feeling down in the dumps. She's nearly thirty, painfully shy and has no boyfriend. She's still living at home and has a boring job. Can this really be all there is? 

A chance bout of tears leads to a tea leaf reading which predicts a wonderful future for her. A future which promises a new career, a new home and a husband. All by the following Christmas. 

Join Anna as opportunities arise, calamity strikes and the battle for happiness begins. 

Becca's thoughts

I'd like to begin my review by saying a huge thank you to the lovely author of All in the Leaves, Pat Elliot, who kindly provided me with a digital copy of her book. This is the first of Pat's work that I have had the pleasure of reading, and I am very happy to announce that it was an absolute pleasure to read. 

In All in the Leaves, we're introduced to Pat's main character Anna. Anna's life hasn't been very exciting up to that point. She's still living at home with her parents, there's no boyfriend on the scene, and her job is nothing but mind-numbingly dull. When it all gets too much, Anna breaks down into tears and is comforted by one of her best-friends Barb. Barb offers to give Anna a tea-leaf reading, to get a glimpse of what Anna's future may hold, and what Anna is told is more than enough to inject some excitement and colour back into her life! From that moment on, Anna's life steps up a gear, and suddenly, everything that her good friend Barb predicted is coming true. 

The whole aspect of tea-leaf reading intrigued me to no end when I began reading All in the Leaves. I like to think that I am a very open-minded person when it comes to things like this, and so, I was interested in what would become of Anna's reading. The whole story had a sort of 'aromatherapy' feel to it, if that makes sense? I felt like it was clean, fresh and very uplifting to read about, particularly when Anna's tea-leaf reading shows more than what she bargained for! It made me conjure up images of fortune-tellers, gypsies, all those sorts of old-fashioned images that take you right back in time. 

The plot within All in the Leaves moved along at an easy pace, and Pat used the visions from Anna's tea-leaf reading to lead the way as the book progressed. It was exciting to watch Barb's predictions slowly come to life, and just like Anna, I couldn't believe it when each thing appeared to take place in Anna's real life circumstances. From her job to her partner, Anna's life was upgraded and I couldn't help but to feel happy and fulfilled on Anna's part. It was exciting, invigorating and so, so enjoyable to read. 

Pat's heroine Anna was a lovely character who I liked immediately! The only thing that I found with Anna was that she seemed to fall in love super quickly! Not that it's a problem of a course, but when reading about relationships within a book, I just adore a bit more of a prolonged build-up between the two characters in question. Besides that, Anna had a dream and she was determined to make it come. I love it when a character strives for success and I definitely found this within Anna. As well as Pat's heroine, there was also the character of Anna's best-friend Chloe. Now, sadly, I found myself disliking Chloe on more than one occasion, not constantly, mind you, but quite often. It was mainly to do with the company that Chloe was keeping throughout the book, aka, a married man called Howard. Time and time again, I found myself taking sides with Anna, because she too quickly began to grow tired, and rather concerned, about this man's relationship with Chloe. If Chloe had had the courage to leave Howard sooner in the book I probably would have taken a shine to her earlier on, but alas, as the story progressed, Chloe finally got her head in the game and made the right decision regarding the pig called Howard! 

There was lots of travel included in All in the Leaves, especially regarding research for Anna's dream! It was fabulous to be taken along on the girls' journey as they brought Anna's dream to life and began to build it into more than just an image in Anna's mind. Pat really brought her settings to life and made them incredibly clear to me, so I was able to imagine each place that they travelled to perfectly! Pat's descriptions felt fresh and green and natural to me, like a breath of fresh air! It was exciting to travel alongside the two women! I loved it. 

All in the Leaves by Pat Elliot was fantastic. It took me a while to read as I have been crazy busy this Christmas, but I really enjoyed it and looked forward to going back to it at each given opportunity. Anna began to feel like a friend to me almost instantly, and I adored being part of her journey and watching the tea-leaf reading's predictions coming to life. Pure magic! Becca's Books is rating All in the Leaves by Pat Elliot with four of my yummy cupcakes. It was refreshingly different, and I felt completely satisfied when Anna's story came to an end! Thank you Pat, for the opportunity to read All in the Leaves, it was brilliant! 






Becca's Books' Top Ten of 2014!

Wow! It's incredible to think that 2014 is almost over, and pretty soon, we'll be welcoming in the sparkly, new 2015! How quickly time goes by when you're having fun, and that's the God's honest truth, because for me, this year, my book blogging has really taken off and it has been absolutely brilliant! I managed to connect with some of the most wonderful publishers around, met and became friends with some fabulous bloggers and authors, and read, quite simply, some sensational books! How lucky am I?! To all my book blogging friends, authors, publishers; you have made my 2014 fantastic, so thank you so much!

Now for the tricky bit! 
In true book blogger fashion, I've managed (with great difficulty) to put together a list of my top ten reads of 2014. Trust me when I say that it was not easy, but after much consideration, I've finally compiled my top ten list for you to have a gander at! Enjoy! 

~ Becca's Books' Top Ten of 2014! ~ 

10.) At the top of my Top Ten List is Bad Bridesmaid by Portia Macintosh. 


Honestly? I don't think I have ever laughed at a book as much as I did with Portia's Bad Bridesmaid. Oh-my-actual-freaking-GOD, it was hilarious!!! We are, quite literally, handed a naughty bridesmaid, as well as a whole series of outrageous, scandalous events which follow, as Mia Valentina heads back to England to attend her sister's wedding. I think I spent the entirety of this book laughing so hard I squeezed out a few laughing-tears in the process, because some of the stuff that Mia gets up to was INSANELY FUNNY! Bad Bridesmaid kept me highly entertained the entire way through, and I would recommend it to any ladies out there who love to have a giggle and a glass of wine. It is the book equivalent of a girly chick-flick movie, and I absolutely loved it, through and through!

You can read my review of Bad Bridesmaid here!

9.) The Guestbook by Holly Martin. 


Holly Martin is a creative genius, and that creativity positively shines through in The Guestbook. I remember reading this and thinking, "Wow. Just wow." I think what I adored most this book was the fact that the story was told via comments in Willow Cottage's guestbook. It was charmingly pretty, and such an endearing way to get you to connect with Holly's characters who were, without a doubt, the most colourful bunch that I've had the pleasure of meeting. The setting, the holiday atmosphere, the secrets... Honestly readers, it was beautiful, and I still find myself thinking about it to this day, when I feel like getting away from the troubles of everyday life! There was no doubt in my mind that The Guestbook by Holly Martin had to appear in my Top Ten of 2014. 

You can read my review of The Guestbook here!

8.) The Story of Us by Ellen Faith.


The author's love of San Francisco radiates through Ellen's writing in her debut novel The Story of Us, and it was an absolute pleasure to read. Not only was the setting to die for, but the characters were utterly lovable and incredibly engaging. I don't think I've ever met two closer fictional best-friends before, and Lexi and Rosie were very memorable to say the least! The two best-friends go on an adventure together in San Francisco, visiting those heavenly diners and all of the sights, and it was like going on a real-life tour. There was so much description and detail, I could see it all right before my eyes. I grew to love Ellen's characters as if they were my own best-friends, and to me, that's a sign of a fantastic book. The Story of Us was excellent, especially for a debut. I'm such a massive fan of Ellen's writing, it hits that girly, chick-lit spot right in the middle. 

You can read my review of The Story of Us here

7.) One Hundred Proposals by Holly Martin.


Yep! The super-talented Holly Martin features on my Top Ten list not once, but twice! One Hundred Proposals absolutely blew me away. Again, that one-of-a-kind creativity that blossoms in Holly's mind was at work, flicking magic from it's fingertips and bringing One Hundred Proposals to life right before me! The romance was blinding, the plot was sensational, and I just couldn't get over this book, even now. Probably the most romantic book that I've read this year. Sheer hopeless-romantic paradise. There were a hundred different settings, a hundred different things to gasp at, and a stunning couple who truly took my breath away. I marvelled at this book again and again and again, because it was just one of the most beautiful stories that I have ever read. If you haven't read One Hundred Proposals yet, then please, do me and Holly a massive favour and read it! I can promise you that you will not regret it, hand on my heart. 

You can read my review of One Hundred Proposals here!

6.) The List by Joanna Bolouri.


Written in the form of a diary (something which I've always taken pleasure in reading) readers join Phoebe Henderson on a personal journey which takes place over the length of a year. This isn't just any old journey though, this is the journey of sexual exploration! And let me tell you something readers, it was absolutely bloody marvellous! The List had me laughing, crying, "aurwhing" and growling! The characters were fantastic, and I truly didn't want this story to come to an end. EVER. The List just had to make an appearance in my Top Ten of 2014, because quite simply, it was brilliant. I still feel as if I only read it yesterday, that's how much of an impact it had on me. Also, if you're a fan of friends blossoming into something more, then again, it is the perfect book for you. I think I'll be re-reading The List at some point in the new year!

You can read my review of The List here!

5.) The Bookshop on the Corner by Rebecca Raisin.


The Bookshop on the Corner by the wonderful Rebecca Raisin absolutely blew my mind to pieces! When I read this book, it felt as if the author had crawled inside every book-lover's mind and brought to light the ins and outs of how we think and feel when surrounded by books. Rebecca's ability to bring the books to life, in the bookshop where her main character Sarah worked, was just stunning. Every page, every spine, every shelf had a story to tell. The setting of the bookshop itself was my ultimate paradise, and I wanted so badly to go and visit The Bookshop on the Corner just to feel that magic for myself. It truly was written in the most beautiful way, and I'm pretty sure that Sarah and me are alike in more ways than one. I found myself agreeing with everything that Sarah thought and said, and it just seemed surreal. I honestly adored this book. It was one of a kind! 

You can read my review of The Bookshop on the Corner here!

4.) The Mill River Redemption by Darcie Chan. 


This was an incredible read, which I enjoyed right the way through until the very end. I remember thinking, "Oh no, this book isn't going to be for me," and then finishing and thinking, "Oh my good God, imagine if I had passed this up and never even read it?" It was absolutely bloody brilliant, with a stunning twist placed right where you'd least expect it! It was entertaining, mysterious, and so, so captivating. I adored this book, it's the kind of story I'd like to pass down to my younger sisters as it's primarily based around just that. A truly splendid book, it was a pure joy to lose myself within, and I cannot wait to read more from Darcie Chan, I really can't! 

You can read my review of The Mill River Redemption here!

3.) One Step Closer to You by Alice Peterson.


This was the first book that I had read by Alice Peterson, and what a stunning way to begin my journey into Alice's novels. Once I'd finished, I felt as if I could finally exhale a long, steady stream of breath that I'd been holding the entire way through. One Step Closer to You was intensely gripping, pleasurable in the way that Alice had written it, and her characters held me captive constantly. I would happily read this again, just so I could experience the sheer intrigue that blossomed within me as the story progressed. An excellent book that had me wanting to read everything that Alice had written as soon as I'd turned the last page. I cannot recommend One Step Closer to You enough. 

You can read my review of One Step Closer to You here!

2.) Hello from the Gillespies by Monica McInerney 


Hello from the Gillespies by Monica McInerney just had to appear in my Top Ten of 2014. This book had everything that I love to read about and so much more! Based on a hectic family who send an annual Christmas letter updating friends and relatives on their life, the annual letter, which is normally smoothed over and not at all true, is accidentally sent in a truthful form, and it was absolutely bloody fantastic! The family atmosphere in Hello from the Gillespies drew me in immediately, reminding me so much of home, and I felt comfortable and familiar with Monica's settings and her character's circumstances. It was fabulous and I really can't put into words how absolutely brilliant it was! 

You can read my review of Hello from the Gillespies here!

1.) And my ultimate read of 2014 goes to Before the Fall by Juliet West.


Sublime. Powerful. Incredibly moving. There was no doubt in my mind that Before the Fall by Juliet West was going to be my ultimate read of 2014. It was absolutely AMAZING! Even now, as I think about it, I can remember closing the book and thinking, "What perfection." I'm still overwhelmed by the sheer emotions that flow through me as I think back to my experience of reading this book, rendering me speechless. There's nothing I can say other than read it, because I honestly think this is just a masterpiece in the writing world that I feel privileged to have read. 

You can read my review of Before the Fall here!

Well book-lovers, that's my Top Ten Reads of 2014! Looking back, I can't help but to smile at some of the gorgeous books that I've been able to read this year. It's been an incredible 365 days in terms of reading, and I'd like to thank you all, authors, publishers, book bloggers, for making it extra special! Here's to 2015!!!

















As Good As It Gets by Fiona Gibson

Is this it? Is this as good as it gets?


Title - As Good As It Gets
Author - Fiona Gibson 
Publication Date - 29th January 2015
Publisher - Avon UK
Format - eBook (Provided via NetGalley)

The blurb

A mother-and-daughter shopping trip. That's where it all started...

It was just a day like any other when Charlotte's 16-year-old daughter Rosie is scouted by a top model agency. For Rosie, it's a dream come true. But for Charlotte it awakens dreams she'd rather forget...

With Rosie's new career taking off, Charlotte reluctantly agrees to take part in a 'models and their mums' photo shoot for a national magazine. But when it catches the attention of Fraser, Charlotte's first love - and father of Rosie - Charlotte starts to regret her decision. 

Fraser has never met Rosie. In fact, he's never shown any interest in either of them since the day that Charlotte announced she was pregnant. So why does Charlotte suddenly want to revisit a past she'd long forgotten about? 

Becca's thoughts

Firstly, I'd like to say thank you to the publishers Avon UK for providing me with a digital copy of As Good As It Gets by Fiona Gibson, via NetGalley, in exchange for a fair and honest review. I'd also like to say a massive thank you to the wonderful author who is the one, the only, Fiona Gibson. This is the second book that I've read by Fiona, Take Mum Out being the first, which I howled with laughter at and absolutely adored! Fiona gets the whole 'family' thing down perfectly, and it reminds me so much of home, with the squabbling and the messiness and the chaos, and so, because of that, it is always a pleasure to delve into the pages of her stories, because quite simply, they feel like home. 

In As Good As It Gets, Fiona introduces us to her heroine Charlotte, who's a mother of two to Ollie and Rosie, and who hasn't had sex with her husband for quite a long time. When Fiona touches upon this issue, it becomes clear that Charlotte and Will's relationship isn't as exciting as it used to be, and immediately, that becomes an issue within the story itself. The first thing that caught my eye about Charlotte was that she was endearingly self-depreciating. She's not as thin or youthful as she used to be, and the fact that Will practically flinches whenever she touches him doesn't really comfort her niggling doubts. She was instantly likeable. I loved the fact that she was a mother! For some reason, this always enhances a storyline for me. I think integrating the whole motherhood aspect into a book just gives it such a fabulous 'homely' feel, and I always find Fiona Gibson's fictional children endlessly entertaining! There were numerous dramas within As Good As It Gets, whether they be about Charlotte's children, Rosie and Ollie, or about Charlotte's lack of sex life with Will, or about the new neighbours with the sensational-looking Sabrina! There was so much to get excited about/look forward to, and a huge amount of intrigue that kept me turning the pages (digital pages, of course!), I honestly couldn't bring myself to put my Kindle down! There was also the issue of Rosie's biological father, dramas with Charlotte's work-colleague, and OMG, it was just fantastic and I cannot rate it enough! Now, when I think back over it, the story just seems chock-a-block with hilarious, sometimes sensitive events, and it was just a complete pleasure to read and indulge myself in. 

The main event that, to me, seemed to kick-start the story and move it along, was that Rosie, Charlotte's daughter, whilst out shopping at the mall, is scouted by a modelling-agency! It was a fantastic way to begin As Good As It Gets, and as the story progresses, so does Rosie's career with the agency. It was fabulous to hear about how Rosie was doing, and humorous to read her parents' views on the whole matter, including her grandma who tells us a story about when she modelled in her younger days! From then on, other dramas seem to leak into the chapters, and it felt like I'd been whisked away into Charlotte's chaotic world! Pure escapism, let me tell you. 

There was a ton of mystery surrounding Charlotte and Will's relationship, which I was made aware of from the beginning of the book. I was seriously intrigued to find out what was going on with Will, and found myself questioning his every action as I continued to read! There were countless moments where I laughed so hard that I cried, like when Will sticks on a pair of leather trousers to attend the neighbour's party, or when Charlotte squirts salad cream all over his favourite t-shirt! There were sharp, snipey comments between them, and it was so warming to see Charlotte trying, on occasion, to get Will to open up to her about what the hell was going on with them! Honestly, I think I spent the entirety of reading this book trying to figure out what on earth was going on between them! It kept me hooked, and I watched Will's character like a hawk throughout! 

There was also the aspect of Rosie's real-father which, right at the beginning of the book, is delivered to the reader through the form of letters, between a young Charlotte and Rosie's biological grandma. These were entertaining to say the least, specifically on Charlotte's part, but it still made me feel just that little bit more protective over Charlotte. After those letters, Fiona brings us back to the present day, with a grown-up Rosie, and the story progresses from there. This whole father aspect is something that I'm particularly sensitive about, and also something that's quite personal to me, and it was so lovely to read about another young girl going through the process of meeting her biological father for the first time. Again, it's effortlessly brought in and out of the story, so it's never too far from your thoughts! 

I loved this book. Absolutely bloody loved it, and I love Fiona Gibson too, because not only do her stories remind me of home, but they never fail to make me feel warm and cosy and comfortable. They are the perfect books to snuggle down with whilst wearing your favourite pyjamas and thick, fluffy socks! They're not crazily exaggerated, but so down-to-earth, and Fiona writes so genuinely! There's no glitz or glamour, just real-life families with real-life issues, who become dear to you incredibly quickly! I really don't believe that you can EVER go wrong with a book by Fiona Gibson. Like, EVER! 

Becca's Books is rating As Good As It Gets by Fiona Gibson with my highest rating of FIVE GORGEOUS CUPCAKES! I cannot recommend this book enough, especially to those readers who thrive in the chaotic world of families and children and rushing out in the morning to get them to school on time! Thanks again Avon UK and Fiona, such a JOY to read As Good As It Gets!




    

Love Me or Leave Me by Claudia Carroll

"... it's Hope Street. If you ask me, there's healing in the bricks and mortar of the place."


Title - Love Me or Leave Me
Author - Claudia Carroll
Publication Date - September 11th 2014
Publisher - Avon UK
Format - eBook (Provided via NetGalley)
Pages - 400

The blurb

Chloe Townsend was dumped at the altar. But now she's landed an incredible job, running a brand new boutique hotel with a difference. It's a pioneering 'divorce hotel', designed to make every aspect of breaking-up pain free - all in a single weekend. 

No one is better qualified than Chloe to deal with relationships at crisis point, but, with three unhappy couples needing her help, she's forced to tackle her own secret heartbreak. Can she hold it together and prove that she's up for the job? 

The hotel's opening weekend brings troubles and surprises, and it soon becomes clear that some endings can be very exciting new beginnings.. 

Becca's thoughts

Firstly, I'd like to say a massive thank you to the fabulous publishers Avon UK, for providing me with a digital copy of Love Me or Leave Me by Claudia Carroll via NetGalley. I'd also like to say thank you to the stunningly-talented author Claudia Carroll! Love Me or Leave Me is the very first book by Claudia that I've had the pleasure of reading, and it gives me great satisfaction to now announce that I absolutely bloody loved it! From the very first page to the very last, it was everything that I adore and more. Romance, humour, drama... Fabulously splendid in every which way imaginable! 

For the first time in forever, it wasn't the cover for Claudia's Love Me or Leave Me that beckoned me towards this book, which is crazy if you know me and my book habits. I'm guilty of admiring gorgeous covers, and even though the cover for this book was gorgeous, it turned out that it was the blurb that caught my attention first. When I read it, and found out all about the Hope Street Hotel, and about it's intended purpose, my interest immediately piqued! I can honestly say, hand on heart, that a divorce hotel is something that I've never read about before, so I couldn't wait to get started! I love when authors have genius ideas, and to me, Claudia was spot on with this one!

Chloe Townsend is back in Dublin, after fleeing her previous life and settling down in London, away from the mortification of what happened on her wedding day. After landing herself a job in a brand-spanking-new hotel, she's about to embark upon the opening weekend of the Hope Street Hotel. What I adored most about Chloe was her determined character and spirit. It was clear that she'd had an incredibly rough time of it back in Dublin, but despite that, she came back fighting and seriously put her all into the opening and running of the Hope Street Hotel. Claudia did such a brilliant job when it came to the narratives within the book. When I was reading from Chloe's point of view, I was reading in first person. When I was reading from one of the three other main characters' point of view, I was reading in third. It was absolutely amaaaazing, and really opened my eyes to all of the many different goings-on and pasts of the couples. There was one thing that all of the hotel guests had in common though, and that was that they all found Chloe to be a kind, warm-hearted person, and as the story progressed, each person began letting Chloe in on the parts of their pasts that they really didn't want to face head-on yet again. Chloe was definitely seen as the perfect person to reveal all of your woes to. She was a fantastic listener, offered the best advice, and even had the experience of her own ruined wedding day, as well as constantly being at the top of her game when it came to ensuring that the Hope Street Hotel was running smoothly. Chloe was just such a lovely, endearing character that I instantly found myself wanting to become friends with. One of those people who would actually put down their mobile phone to really listen to what you had to say, do you know what I mean? 

As well as Chloe Townsend, there were, of course, the Hope Street Hotel's guests. Again, how vividly real Claudia managed to make these people seem was just out of this bloody world! There were a ton of other guests, but Claudia decided to focus in on three main couples. Dawn and Kirk, Lucy and Andrew, and Jo and Dave. Let me tell you something readers, by the time I'd finished reading Love Me or Leave Me, I felt like I knew each of these couples inside out. Throughout reading, I'd been invited into their troublesome pasts, I'd seen what had happened to make them check into the hotel, and I'd known most of these things before even Chloe had. I loved how the couples each had their own unique problems; some that would haven't crossed your mind. I suppose once I was aware of their individual problems, it made me realise that you truly don't know what goes on behind closed doors, and that things are not at all as they may seem. I don't want to spoil the ultimate pleasure of getting to know these characters for yourselves, so I won't say too much more, other than you are in for SUCH a treat, you won't even believe it! These characters may have been coupled up, but they were just so detailed and worked upon, I felt like they were standing right in front of me, that's how clear they were to me, despite being entirely fictional. And isn't it crazy how an author can achieve that? Ahh, the magic of writing! 

Of course, the opening weekend of the Hope Street Hotel doesn't go as smoothly as Chloe would have liked, and when her boss, none other than the well-known Rob McFayden, keeps popping up all over the place, it makes things even more difficult! Over the course of just one weekend, Chloe is faced with all manner of problems, from drunk and disorderly guests to having to evacuate the building due to a fire-alarm ringing off in the middle of the night! There are warring couples, tender moments of truth, and attempts to win back broken hearts. Honestly bookworms, Love Me Or Leave Me has it all! It's not only a perfect recipe for chick-lit, but it's emotional, uplifting, and by the end of it, my spirits were soaring! Claudia has created a gorgeous setting in the Hope Street Hotel, along with the most colourful collection of engaging, lovable characters that you'll probably ever meet, and despite the hotel being there for divorce reasons, by the last page, you begin to realise that actually, it's a whole lot more than just that. Claudia, thank you SO MUCH for such a fantastic read! I will be recommending this to everyone! I'm only sorry that I didn't have the chance to get around to it sooner, but better late than never, right? Thanks again to Avon UK, you're fab! I think it's obvious what rating I'll be handing over to Love Me or Leave Me by Claudia Carroll today, don't you? 




    



  



Mistletoe Mansion by Samantha Tonge

"Baking's my life. I even dream about recipes at night, Peanut."


Title - Mistletoe Mansion
Author - Samantha Tonge 
Publication Date - 10th December 2014
Publisher - Carina UK
Format - eBook (Provided via NetGalley)
Pages - 384

The blurb

Kimmy Jones has three loves; cupcakes, gossip magazines and dreaming of getting fit just by owning celeb workouts. 

When Kimmy's Sensible Boyfriend told her he didn't approve of her longing for the high life or her dream of starting a cupcake company. Kimmy thought she could compromise - after all, she did return those five-inch Paris Hilton heels! But asking her to trade in cake-making for a job sorting potatoes is a step too far. 

So, newly single - and newly homeless - Kimmy needs a dusting of Christmas luck. And, masquerading as a professional house sitter, her new temporary home is the stunning Mistletoe Mansion. Soon she's best-buds with with glamorous next door gold WAG Melissa, and orders are pouring in for her fabulous Mary Berry cupcakes! The only thorn in her side is handsome handyman Luke, a distraction she definitely doesn't need. And talking of distractions, something very odd is going on at night...

Kimmy is finally living the life she's always wanted. But will her glimpse into the glittering lifestyle of the rich and famous be as glamorous as she's always imagined? 

Becca's thoughts  

Firstly, a huge thank you to the wonderful publishers Carina UK for providing me with a digital copy of Mistletoe Mansion by Samantha Tonge in exchange for an honest review, and an even bigger thank you to Samantha Tonge! Mistletoe Mansion was a delightful read, full of sugar, and spice, and all things nice (and all things quite spooky, too!).

So, a number of things attracted me to Samantha's Mistletoe Mansion, and I'm not going to lie, the cover was probably one of the biggest pulls for me. I know, it's terrible, but when a cover like Samantha's smacks you in the face and utterly dazzles you with it's gorgeous colours, Christmas trees and lights, it's pretty hard to say no (well, it's not hard for a lot of people, but it is for me). I fell completely head over heels in love with it from the very first moment I saw it. It's incredibly festive, and you can even spot Mistletoe Mansion in the background, which just brings Kimmy's story to life!

Another thing that caught my attention with Mistletoe Mansion was the obvious theme of baking and cupcakes. Now, as you know, I rate the books that I read with cupcakes, so I guess it was only right that I read and reviewed Mistletoe Mansion, right?! Also, who doesn't love to read about baking and cupcakes? I feel like this theme has been pretty big this year, with a lot of releases being based around Christmas baking and adorable cupcakes, so Mistletoe Mansion fitted in perfectly! That's not to say that it doesn't stand out though, because with a cover like that and the story within, it most definitely does!

The plot within Mistletoe Mansion was absolutely delightful. Kimmy, Samantha's heroine, was ambitious and funny and loved nothing more than opening up the nearest glossy magazine and divulging in the life of the rich, famous and glamorous! Kimmy had high hopes and dreams for herself. She wanted to begin her own cupcake business, creating all manner of delicious, sugary delights, and I believed that Kimmy had what it takes, unlike her safe and reliable boyfriend Adam, who was thinking more along the lines of mortgages, regular incomes and setting their future together in concrete. When Adam feels like he can put up with Kimmy and her cupcake ways no longer, he breaks up with her, and Kimmy is left to fend for herself. As luck would have it, Kimmy, and Jess, her best-friend who has always been kicked out, happen to stumble upon a house-sitting job at none other than the stunning Mistletoe Mansion! What begins is a crazy, thrilling adventure alongside Kimmy and Jess, involving all sorts of mishaps, problems and even spooky goings-on!

There was truly so damn much to look forward to within Samantha's book! Not only is Mistletoe Mansion in Samantha and Jess's hands, but they're introduced to the celebrity neighbours, an evil spirit, and even a confidently cocky handyman called Luke, who will no doubt have you swooning all over the place!

I felt that Samantha did a cracking job when it came to her characters. Kimmy in particular was seamlessly built, her dreams and ambitions pushing her forwards as the story progressed. Her personality was incredible likeable, and she was just obsessed with the lives of the rich and famous! At certain points in the book, Kimmy would imagine her Facebook status' being updated, or a headline in a newspaper, that revolved around whatever was going on in the plot and this highlighted her dreams of being noticed in the world of the famous! Little did she know that a certain WAG was living just down the road from Mistletoe Mansion, and this just added even more excitement to the plot! Kimmy had a lot of drive and she was obviously determined to succeed, even though Adam (her ex) had no faith in her whatsoever. Kimmy's cupcakes were to die for, and they even had me salivating at certain points within the story. The flavours and descriptions that Samantha used were just stunning! Jess, Kimmy's best-friend, was also fabulous! The story only really included Jess now and again, but you could feel her presence within it, and that made a whole load of difference. As the story progresses, Jess actually had some news and it adds a whole new level of important to the fact that they succeed in getting the house sold! Luke? Oh, he was gorgeous, with the sexy smirk and twinkly look in his eye! When he is first introduced to us, he's moody and not every helpful to Kimmy, but he really begins to loosen up and it wasn't long before I took a really, really big liking to him! And I mean really, who can blame me?! The guy was a hunk!!!

I cannot put into words how much there is to look forward to in Mistletoe Mansion by Samantha Tonge. It is such an exciting read, full of fun characters, yummy creations and even paparazzi! The characters were all incredible likeable, and Samantha's passion for food really shone through her writing. I loved everything about this book. Everything! And I cannot believe that this is the first that I've read by Samantha! I'll definitely be reading more from this fabulous author in the future!

Becca's Books is rating Mistletoe Mansion by Samantha Tonge with five cupcakes! Not only was it a gorgeous chick-lit, but there was intrigue included too, and a little bit of mystery, as well as romance and the foodie theme! Honestly readers, it had everything and then some! Thanks to Carina and Samantha Tonge! I loved it!




      

Karen Aldous's Top Xmas songs!

Today on Becca's Books, the fabulous Karen Aldous, author of The Vineyard and recently published The Chateau, is sharing her top Christmas songs with me! Get yourself a nice hot drink, snuggle down, and enjoy a spot of Christmas listening.


1.) A Warm Little House On A Hill ~ Motown ~ Stevie Wonder

 

2.) One Little Christmas Tree ~ Stevie Wonder


3.) Last Christmas ~ Wham


4.) All I Want For Christmas ~ Mariah Carey 


5.) Merry Christmas Everybody ~ Slade 



6.) Rockin' Around The Christmas Tree ~ Brenda Lee



7.) I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday ~ Wizzard


8.) It's Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas ~ Michael Buble 


9.) Holly Jolly Christmas ~ Michael Buble 


10.) Do They Know It's Christmas ~ Band Aid 


11.) Santa Baby ~ Eartha Kitt 


12.) All Alone On Christmas ~ Darlene Love


13.) White Christmas ~ Bing Crosby 


14.) One More Sleep ~ Leona Lewis


Thanks so much for sharing your fabulous top Christmas songs with me, Karen! I have to admit, I had a little boogie to these as I listened. They're sure to get everybody in the Christmas mood!

xxx





It's Not Me, It's You by Mhairi McFarlane

"When the fight comes, don't turtle up."


Title - It's Not Me, It's You
Author - Mhairi McFarlane
Publication Date - 6th November 2014
Publisher - HarperCollins UK
Format - eBook (Provided via NetGalley)

The blurb

Delia Moss isn't quite sure where she went wrong. 

When she proposed and discovered her boyfriend was sleeping with someone else - she thought it was her fault. 

When she realised life would never be the same again - she thought it was her fault. 

And when he wanted her back like nothing had changed - Delia started to wonder if perhaps she was not to blame...

From Newcastle to London and back again, with dodgy jobs, eccentric bosses and annoyingly handsome journalists thrown in, Delia must find out where her old self went - and if she can ever get her back. 

Becca's thoughts

Firstly, I'd like to say a massive thank you to the wonderful team at HarperCollins UK for providing me with a digital copy of Mhairi McFarlane's It's Not Me, It's You in exchange for a fair and honest review. This is the second book that I have had the pleasure of reading by Mhairi, and I have to say, I was mightily impressed! 

In It's Not Me, It's You, Mhairi introduces us to her heroine Delia Moss. As the novel begins, Delia takes the steps needed to propose to her partner Paul, and is completely thrown when she finds out that Paul has been seeing another woman behind her back. She finds this out when Paul accidentally sends a text to her, which was originally meant to be sent to the woman he's been seeing behind her back! Well, if that's not a way to grab the reader's attention then I don't know what is! From that point on, I knew that I couldn't turn away from Delia and her story. I was equally shocked and mortified on Delia's behalf, not forgetting furious! It was obvious how much Delia loved Paul, after all, it's not every day that the woman proposes to the man! And after she'd built up the courage to do so, planned how it was going to happen... and then that happened? I was like WHAT THE HELL?! I took Delia's side immediately and couldn't wait to see what happened next! 

From that moment on, the story became a journey of self-discovery for Delia, and it was fantastic. She moved away from Paul, figuring that what she needed more than anything was space and time apart, time to figure out her feelings, which was completely understandable, so, she headed back to her family home in Hexham. This is where we meet Delia's brother who happens to be a recluse, who adores video games and pizza! I loved Ralph instantly. Despite not being a social butterfly or sleek and stylish, he was immediately likeable, down-to-earth, and never failed to surprised Delia with the truth. He didn't dress up his words or lie to make people feel better, and that was another reason of many as to why I loved him! 

As well as her friends and family, along the way, we meet a crazy mish-mash of characters who really brighten up Delia's journey! All sorts of comical, entertaining events take place, and it really is like making a new friend. We're told of Delia's hopes and dreams for the future, all that she thought had been set in concrete regarding Paul and their future together, and she felt as real to me as the people that I see strolling through town on a Saturday morning. 

I adored this story! It was fantastic and I couldn't have felt more involved if I'd tried. Mhairi brought me right into the story, all the ins and outs of Delia's life and it was incredible. I couldn't read it quick enough, and barely had the will power to put my Kindle down when I needed to "real-life" things. Becca's Books is rating It's Not Me, It's You by Mhairi McFarlane with five of my gorgeous cupcakes! This book is a complete winner in my eyes, and I really, really hope you'll read and love it just as much as I did! Thanks so much HarperCollins, and thank you Mhairi McFarlane! Such a fantastic read which I'd recommend to everybody! 










I'll Take New York by Miranda Dickinson ~ BLOG TOUR!

"The only author of Bea James' life story should be herself."


Title - I'll Take New York
Author - Miranda Dickinson
Publisher - Avon
Publication Date - 4th December 2014
Format - Paperback (Provided via publisher)
Pages - 416

The blurb

Have you ever given up on love? 

When her boyfriend lets her down for the last time, Brooklyn bookshop owner Bea James makes a decision - no more. No more men, no more heartbreak, and no more pain. 

Psychiatrist Jake Steinmann is making a new start too, leaving his broken marriage behind in San Francisco. From now on there'll be just be one love in his life: New York. 

At a party where they seem to be the only two singletons, Bea and Jake meet, and decide there's just one thing for it. They will make a pact: no more relationships. 

But the city has other plans...

Becca's thoughts

I'd like to begin my review with a very heartfelt thank you to the fabulous Olivia Wilson for inviting me along on the blog tour & for sending me across my very own, beautiful paperback copy of I'll Take New York by Miranda Dickinson. I also need to thank Miranda Dickinson herself, for whisking me away to the stunning setting of New York, and for providing me with such an inspiring, uplifting story, I was wiping away tears when it came to an end. Miranda Dickinson's I'll Take New York was astounding.

Sadly, it's been a while since I've dipped into one of Miranda's wonderful worlds, so I was over the moon when Olivia got in touch and asked whether I'd be interested in joining in with Miranda's blog tour. Of course, I replied with 'yes' immediately, and once the book was in my hands, I couldn't wait to get stuck in. If you know me, then you'll know that I am a complete sucker for an eye-catching cover, so I'll Take New York was stroked longingly for quite a while, and also turned from side to side beneath my bedroom light so that I could watch the gold, shimmery lettering glint. *I'm a weirdo, I know* The purples, the golds, and of course Bea's gorgeous character sipping on a glass of champagne with New York City in the background was almost too much to bear. You've also got the gold twinkly stars peppered out across the purple night sky... Let's just say,, the cover was a winner with me instantly. 

Miranda begins Bea's story by opening with a particularly tense scenario, where poor Bea has, yet again, been stood up by her long-term boyfriend Otis. As Bea sits and hopes to God that Otis will turn up, surrounded by her squabbling family, Miranda immediately sets the tone. It was evident right there and then that things were not well in Bea and Otis' relationship. As Miranda continues to reveal the sorry past that Bea has had to endure, we find out that this isn't the first time that Otis has failed to keep a promise, and when Bea calls it a night, and also ends her and Otis' relationship, her story truly begins. As Miranda's characters lives begin to mingle and intertwine, Bea's path stumbles across Jake's, and during their swift first meeting, a pact is made. Both had been burned by love, and both are adamant that they will never go there again (there being messy relationships that never seem to work out). And from that pact, one of the most magical, heart-warming and ultimately pleasing friendships that I have ever had the pleasure of finding, begins to blossom. 

I'll Take New York was stunning, in so many ways. One thing that never fails to grab my attention when I'm lost within one of Miranda's books is her gift at bringing the descriptions of a setting to such a vivid, authentic image in my mind. She gets it spot on, each and every time. In this case, New York. I'm not one of those people who have been lucky enough to travel to, and experience, New York City, but believe me when I say that, once I'd finished I'll Take New York, I felt like I'd been there on a week's holiday and seen everything that Bea and Jake had. Miranda touches upon your senses so beautifully, describes the minimal details yet adds so much depth and style to them that you're right there with her. From the towering skyscrapers to the busy, bustling paths, everything was exquisite. One thing I've noticed is that each time I close a book by Miranda Dickinson, I have such a strong urge to go and see the places where she sets her stories. I want to re-live the worlds that the author presents with me, because quite honestly, Miranda is an artist with words, creating such beauty and magic, I'm left fascinated, always. 
ve 
Another aspect that added more glitter and sparkle to I'll Take New York were Miranda's characters. The story was split into two narratives; the first being Bea's, and the second being Jake's, adding an extra heap to my enjoyment. I've said it before and I'll say it again. There is nothing more satisfying that being able to see the same story, but from a male character's point of view. The fact that Bea and Jake were leading two completely different lives just excited me even more. I loved hopping between the two, catching up with their isolated lives, and trying to guess at what point their lives would finally collide. It kept me hanging on the end of every word that was written on the page, guessing at every turn and chewing my lip in anticipation. Bea was fantastic, which I expected, because not once have I been disappointed with any of Miranda's previous heroines. She was lovable, determined to succeed, and a lover of books (which made me love her even more!). She'd rarely been single since seventeen-years-old, hopping from relationship to relationship, until settling down with Otis and finally feeling there was a chance of something more real and lasting. Bea was genuine, down-to-earth, and utterly trustworthy. I loved reading about Bea's love for books, her love for family, her past before she'd moved to New York. There was so much depth to her character which made her feel completely real to me. I could quite happily stroll into Hudson River Books, have a coffee and fall into general chat with Bea. I'm sure we could talk for hours on end! There was nothing that I wanted more for Bea than for her to find a very real, a very special, happy ending. Jake Steinmann was just a complete heart-throb. After having his wife Jess declare that she was no longer interested in their marriage, Jake had been left bruised and with a broken heart. So of course, when his and Bea's paths crossed, he was more than ready to swear off relationships for good, hence the pact. He was in a serious profession, but was so much fun to read. He was down-to-earth guy, full of life and, when with Bea, happiness. I was gutted for Jake when the details of his failed marriage were revealed, but felt an overwhelming surge of joy when him and Bea became friends. It was fate, how they came to be in each other's lives at exactly the right moment, and it gave me shivers. Alongside Bea and Jake, there was a whole circle of warm, engaging characters who I grew to love quickly. There were Bea's friends Russ and Imelda, there was Bea's family, her brother and his wife Celia. And then on Jake's side there was Rosie and Ed, Ed being Jake's brother... And, despite there being such a fabulous collection of characters to get to know, I took to them all like a duck to water. After just a few meetings with each of them, they felt like dear friends to me, and it was absolutely wonderful to lose myself in the story in that way. Pure Miranda magic. 

Miranda's books all seem to contain bucket loads of charm. Within I'll Take New York, the places involved in Bea and Jake's lives became dear to me. First of all, Hudson River Books. Not only because it's a bookshop, which I adored, but because I could feel how much it meant to Bea to be working there. Her and Russ had been planning their dreams since their university days, and the bookshop had been their dream. What a beautiful dream it was! Within that bookshop, there was so much of Bea, and again, it just added to her character. Hudson River Books began to feel like my second home. Central Park was another place that held me rapt when Miranda swapped the scenery. Such an iconic place, and made even more so by being a favourite of Bea's. Another aspect of the story that I couldn't have loved more was Bea's grandmother Dot. Gosh, I welled up whenever Bea received one of the gorgeous parcels, filled with wisdom and secrets and always with something that would help Bea along the way. These were emotional, life-affirming moments that I grew to treasure and I found myself looking forward to each parcel that was due to arrive. There was also Rosie's beautiful florist shop Kowalski's, and Imedla's shop Beads n' Beans. There were so many things to fall in love with, and I think I fell head over heels with each and every one. 

I'm sitting here cross-legged on my bed now, eyeing up my paperback of I'll Take New York that's sat beside my laptop as if it's a great thing of wonder. As I stare at it, I'm trying to find the right words to hit you with to make this review earth-shattering. And do you want to know the only thought that comes to mind? I'm astounded. Absolutely astounded. Because by reading this book, I've been taken on such an incredible journey alongside Bea and Jake, and I'm lost for words. Miranda Dickinson is one of those authors who has the power to take you anywhere in the world, the power to create you friends out of paper, and to make you fall in love and smile and laugh and cry... I'll Take New York by Miranda Dickinson is receiving FIVE BEAUTIFUL CUPCAKES from Becca's Books. I cannot recommend this stunning story of self-discovery, love, and New York City enough. Everyone must read it. Everyone. Because if you don't, you're going to miss out on something extra-extra-special. Miranda, thank you for such an amazing journey. I'm going to miss Bea until we meet again.