My Top 10 Books of 2016

Gosh, another year has passed, and is almost over with. I say this each and every year, but it's hard to believe how quickly the days seem to have flown by when the year reaches its end, isn't it? I, for one, feel more than ready to welcome 2017 with wide open arms no less. 2016 has been a bumpy one for sure, so I'm more than ready to start afresh with a renewed sense of determination.

Anyhow, this time of the year also brings with it a ton of bloggers' top reads lists. These are always exciting to read, and just as exciting for the authors who find themselves included, I'm sure. I always find it incredibly difficult to pin down my ultimate favourites but this year, it has felt almost impossible to narrow it down to only ten books, simply because so many fantastic novels have been published throughout 2016. This year, I also discovered a new-found love for crime/psychological thrillers that I never knew existed in me, and it's a genre I'm certain I'm only going to enjoy more and more of.

After much consideration, uhming and ahing, and fingernail-biting, I've finally done it. I've picked my top ten of 2016. It was tough. Really tough, but it's done at last. These books were the ones that I devoured whole, that kept me up way past midnight, that held me captive for hours on end, and that remained with me long after I turned the final page. These are the books that had my mind whirring, my vision blurry with tears, and my heart racing. Without further ado, here they are, folks! I hope you enjoy my top ten books of 2016 (in no particular order, of course!).

Summer at the Comfort Food Café
By Debbie Johnson
Available on Amazon UK | Becca's Books' Review

What a dream this story was! The ultimate escape to Dorset has remained with me since I finished this book, and even now, looking at that cover, I'm reminded of how much I enjoyed my visit alongside Johnson's wonderfully real and down-to-earth characters who brought this story completely to life on the pages. The story of the Walker family and their antics captured my heart completely, and warmed me from the inside out. Couple that with the scrumptious food that was sprinkled liberally throughout this book like chocolate chips atop a cake, well, you really can't say no, can you? It was a gloriously warm, joyful and uplifting novel, focusing on family, love and friendship, three things that I adore reading about in books. As soon as you open the pages of this one, it's like you're blasted in the face with the warm summer sunshine. An absolute MUST-READ, whether rain or shine.

Undertow
By Elizabeth Heathcote
Available on Amazon UK | Becca's Books' Review

Deliciously dark and chilling, Undertow by Elizabeth Heathcote was a novel that truly crawled beneath my skin and remained there right the way to the very end of this gripping story. Focusing on the character of Carmen, Heathcote unravels, in the most tantalising and unnerving of ways, a scary truth hidden behind a perfect surface. I could not put this book down, and I absolutely raced through the pages, desperate to see how it would all end. Heathcote pushes her characters to their very limits in this one, and it left me reeling as piece by piece, the reality of Carmen's life began to take shape. Unputdownable, with twists and turns aplenty. It has you questioning who you can trust, and if you ever really know the people closest to you at all. This book just had to be included in my top ten, no doubt about it.

I Found You
By Lisa Jewell
Available on Amazon UK | Becca's Books' Review

I Found You by Lisa Jewell was actually the very first book that I read by this author. Shocking, isn't it? In all honesty though, I'm thrilled that it was, because I was absolutely captivated by the slightly bizarre yet totally believable tale that unfolded within. It was a wonderful surprise when I realised what predicament I'd been handed with the characters, and I was utterly spellbound as Jewell led me on such a powerful and moving journey. I cried when I finished because it was just so damn beautiful. It truly struck a chord with me, and even now, I still find my mind wandering back to the characters and their lives. A really special read that I'd certainly read again, just to feel the emotions it evoked. In fact, it's about time I dipped into another novel by Lisa Jewell. I was sold by this one completely.

Beneath the Surface
By Heidi Perks
Available on Amazon UK | Becca's Books' Review

Gosh, I couldn't get enough of this novel once I'd got started. It was insanely gripping, telling the tale of Abigail Ryder and the mystery behind the disappearance of her mother Katheryn and her two sisters when she returns home from school one day. From there onwards, Heidi Perks takes readers on a twisting and teasing ride, slipping back and forth between the past and the present, making this novel all the more mysterious and addictive. I was kept guessing right the way through, delighting in each truth that came to the surface, delivered exceptionally by the author. I am highly anticipating the next novel from Heidi Perks. I can't even begin to imagine what she has in store for her readers next. I, for one, cannot wait for all to be revealed.

A Suitable Lie
By Michael J. Malone
Available on Amazon UK | Becca's Books' Review

To say I was blown away by Malone's A Suitable Lie is an understatement. I couldn't turn the pages quick enough with this terrifyingly dark novel, and it truly struck a chord with me. It's a story capable of changing one's perspective, and really getting beneath your skin as you fall deeper beneath Malone's spell. The characters were fascinatingly complex, and it felt as if my hopes were raised and then dashed repeatedly while reading, rather like Andy Boyd's in the story itself. A Suitable Lie is one of those novels that remains inside of you long after you've turned the final page. It sticks in your mind and heart, and it's impossible to not be affected by the circumstances within while reading. I was in a different place entirely while reading this book, oblivious to the world surrounding me. Malone is a superbly talented writer, that much is true, and I wouldn't hesitate at all to read another novel by this author. The depth he reached with his characters' emotions was a depth I haven't reached in a novel for a very long time. Absolutely exceptional.

Another Love
By Amanda Prowse
Available on Amazon UK | Becca's Books Review

Amanda Prowse has quickly become a firm favourite author of mine, and that's saying something when, unlike a lot of her thousands of readers, I've actually only read about five of her novels. Prowse's books do something to me. They reach an emotional level within me that truly opens the tear-ducts and allow the feelings to flow. Prowse's Another Love is absolutely phenomenal, and moving in the most powerful of ways. It focuses on alcoholism, and the story of Romilly, David and Celeste, whose world is torn apart by the devastating consequences of this addiction. Prowse captures the emotion felt by each family member so perfectly, it's impossible not to feel as though you're there right beside the characters, living through the experience with them. Prowse's novels are always, without fail, so full of love, warmth and heart, yet still remain raw and real and tremendously heart-breaking. I finished reading Another Love by Amanda Prowse with tears streaming down my face and another character locked within my heart. It's a novel you don't finish and forget about, but rather finish and think of often, wondering how the characters are getting on. Sounds bizarre, I know, but that's how brilliant Prowse's novels are. Memorable, and moving, to say the least.

Between Me and You
By Lisa Hall
Available on Amazon UK | Becca's Books' Review 

It was impossible not to see the incredible online presence Lisa Hall's debut with Carina UK picked up. Everywhere I turned, raving reviews could be found of what was said to be a novel with a startling twist that would knock your socks off completely. As always, with a towering to-read pile waiting for me, I didn't reach Between You and Me as quickly as I would have liked, but once I had, it was safe to say that the reviews I'd seen were absolutely spot-on. Between You and Me focuses on Sal and Charlie, and the darker side of their marriage that people are never actually witness. As this gripping novel progressed, it was clear to me what situation this couple were in, and I hoped and prayed that it wouldn't reach a point of no return. Hall then, just when I thought I knew what was coming, completely flipped this story on its head and I couldn't believe what was happening. To say I was shocked doesn't even begin to cover the emotions I felt when the twist reared its head. I couldn't believe how easily Hall had pulled the wool over my eyes. It was overwhelmingly tense, so much so at times I had to take a break from reading just to gather my thoughts and feelings. Having said that, Hall's second novel with Carina UK, Tell Me No Lies, was also FANTASTIC, so be sure to check that one out too if you get the chance. Hall is clearly an author on the rise, and I'm awaiting news of her third novel with baited breath.

The Couple Next Door
By Shari Lapena
Available on Amazon UK | Becca's Books' Review 

I actually stated in my review of Shari Lapena's The Couple Next Door that I thought it was undoubtedly one of the best books I'd ever read. And it's true, I still think that to this very day. Saying I was 'gripped' by this novel doesn't do I felt while reading it any justice at all. In fact, the word gripping doesn't even come close. In all honesty, I was completely obsessed by this novel and the absolutely riveting twists and turns within the plot that took my breath away. I was lost to the story that unravelled, finding every interruption more frustrating than usual. I wanted to read and read and read, to see where Lapena's characters would end up. The tension was high in this one, and my questions and thoughts went round and round in my mind as I tried to figure out the truth. Would I be right or wrong? I won't tell you but I'd highly recommend you reading this because it was absolutely compelling. A definite must-read, in my opinion.

The Woman Next Door
By Cass Green
Available on Amazon UK | Becca's Books' Review

I was absolutely and completely blown away by Cass Green's The Woman Next Door. Dark and dangerous, it was a novel that pushed the boundaries to the absolute limits, and had me right on the edge of my seat. I couldn't quite believe where Green took her characters in this novel. It shocked and fascinated me in equal amounts, and I raced through the pages, desperate to see how the whole story would end. It was thrilling and exciting, grim and gruesome, but wholly consuming and entirely enjoyable. I don't think I've read a book quite like this one before, and I really can't wait for the next novel from Cass Green. I WAS OBSESSED.

Lying in Wait
By Liz Nugent
Available on Amazon UK

I haven't finished writing my official review for Liz Nugent's Lying in Wait just yet, but I'm pleased to tell you that this was an absolute bloody corker. I went into this novel with no expectations whatsoever. Liz Nugent is an entirely new author to me and so, I wasn't quite sure what I was in for when I began reading. Turns out, Liz Nugent is a phenomenal writer with the ability to hold her readers utterly spellbound. As soon as I began, I became fascinated by the characters and circumstances presented to me, and only found myself growing more so as the plot progressed. I fell deeper and deeper into a story full of dark secrets, obsession and greed. It was impossible for me to put it down, and that's the God's honest truth. It was addictive, thrilling, and shocking too. I'm already on my way to ordering to Nugent's Unravelling Oliver, because I just cannot wait to see what else this author has in store for me. Definitely one of the best books I've had the pleasure of reading this year. With an utterly compelling plot, and complex, intriguing characters, it's safe to say I was oblivious to everything and everyone around me while I was lost in this story. Just incredible.

So there we have it, folks. These are my top ten reads of 2016. I do hope you'll perhaps pick one up, just to see if you enjoy it as much as I did. 2016 has been a fantastic year for book releases, and it's only made me more excited for what's to come from the world of books in 2017.

I wish you all a happy, healthy and exciting New Year. I hope you enjoy the celebrations ahead, but stay safe too. To each and every one of you, HAPPY NEW YEAR! And thanks a million for all of the support for Becca's Books. It's been a pleasure chatting to you all this year, and I hope that continues well into 2017.

Blog Tour: Book Review - Witness by Caroline Mitchell

Today on Becca's Books, I'm absolutely thrilled to be sharing my review of Caroline Mitchell's thrilling new novel Witness.

Available on Goodreads | Amazon UK | Amazon US
Title - Witness
Author - Caroline Mitchell
Publisher - Thomas & Mercer
Publication Date - December 20th 2016
Format - Kindle Edition (Provided by publisher via NetGalley)
Pages - 338

Blurb
To Rebecca it was a brave decision that led to her freedom from domestic abuse. To Solomon it was the ultimate betrayal.

It's been ten years since Rebecca's testimony saw Solomon locked away. Enough time for the nightmares to recede, the nerves to relax; enough time to rebuild her life and put the past behind her.

Then one day the phone rings in her bedroom - but it's not her phone. Solomon has been in her home, and has a very simple message for her: for each of the ten years he has spent in jail, Rebecca must witness a crime. And, to make matters worse, she has to choose the victims.

Fail to respond and you get hurt. Talk to the police and you die. Ready to play? You have sixty seconds to decide...

As the crimes grow more severe, the victims closer to home, Rebecca is forced to confront a past she had hoped was gone forever.

Review
Blimey. You know when you're reading a brilliantly gripping book and the world around you just seems to fade out? Well, that's certainly the case with Mitchell's brand new release with Thomas and Mercer, Witness. Dark, dangerous and undeniably exciting, this novel held me captive from beginning to end, taking me on a ride that left me feeling completely breathless when it reached its end. Mitchell's superb skills, when it comes to creating the perfect atmosphere, were spot on as always. Like a sticky and unescapably spider's web, I was drawn in and, once there, unable to escape from the world Mitchell created within the pages. It was addictive to say the least.

In Caroline Mitchell's Witness, readers are introduced to Rebecca. With a shocking prologue to begin Rebecca's tale, I couldn't believe how soon the action came about, and it's fair to say that the prologue helped to set the tone for the remainder of the novel. It was gruesome and tragic, but clear to me that this would pave the rest of Rebecca's journey within the story. It was impossible to ignore the sense of foreboding that swept through the writing, of something far more fearful to come, and that spurred me on even more.

One thing I utterly adored about this novel, and something that ramped my eagerness up a further two notches or three, was the swapping and changing of character with every couple of chapters. Not only do we read from Rebecca's point of view, but also Solomon's too. After a stint in prison, he's back and after revenge, with a teasing and taunting game up his sleeve that nothing will stop him from playing. Solomon is clever and nasty and all of those things that Rebecca was desperate to get away from all those years before, so when he's back in the picture and on the hunt, I couldn't turn the pages quick enough in order to see how it would all play out. It had my heart rate speeding up, no doubt about it, and the characters were just superb. An added bonus were the diary entries peppered throughout the story, allowing me an insight into a time already passed. It was deliciously intoxicating to read, and truly got beneath my skin. Rebecca's fears were stuck firmly in my mind even when I was away from this book. She was such a vivid and bold character, Solomon too, bringing this story completely to life.

Overall, Witness by Caroline Mitchell is an exciting new novel by an incredibly talented author who only seems to be rising higher in my opinion. Her writing is sharp and precise and her characters always so believable. Witness had it all, in my opinion. I really couldn't fault a single thing about this story, and cannot wait to read more from Mitchell. She's an author who I'll always be looking forward to, no matter how short a time ago I finished her last book. Becca's Books is awarding Witness by Caroline Mitchell with five of my bookish cupcakes. I absolutely LOVED IT.


Be sure to keep up with the rest of the #Witness blog tour!

Blog Tour: Book Review - Be My Baby (The House on Camden Square #3) by A.L. Michael

Today on Becca's Books, I'm delighted to be sharing my book review of A.L. Michael's Be My Baby, the third book in the The House on Camden Square series, as part of the blog tour, organised by Jenny over at Neverland Blog Tours.

Available on Goodreads | Amazon UK | Amazon US
Title - Be My Baby
Author - A.L. Michael
Publication Date - November 7th 2016
Publisher - HQ Digital
Format - Kindle Edition (Provided by tour host)
Pages - 171

Blurb
Two's company...
If you asked Mollie whether she struggled as a single mum, she'd have to cover her daughter's ears before answering. Surrounded by friends, watching Esme grow into the sassiest eleven-year-old in North London, and building her name as TV chef Mollie Makes, Mollie's never been happier. Well, that's what she'd tell you. But as her best friends pair off, and Esme starts getting into trouble at school, Mollie wonders whether life would be different - not better... just easier - with a team mate.

Three's a crowd?
But Esme's dad, Jamie, would be the last man Mollie would team up with. After all, he made it clear eleven years ago that he wasn't interested in playing the family game. So when he suddenly reappears, Mollie can't believe her eyes. And soon, she's got to ask herself the hardest question yet: she knows she can succeed as a single mum. But what if her daughter doesn't want her to?

Review
First of all, let me just say that this book was just gorgeous gorgeous gorgeous! Be My Baby by A.L. Michael is actually the first book I've had the pleasure of reading in Michael's The House on Camden Square series, which is pretty bad considering this is the third and final instalment, isn't it? Having said that, I do have Goodbye Ruby Tuesday on my Kindle waiting for me, so I'm sure that as soon as I possibly can, I'll read the first and second books in the series too, and after loving Be My Baby as much as I do, it now feels like an absolute must rather than a want.

In A.L. Michael's Be My Baby, readers meet the fantastic Mollie. Single mum to the incredibly sassy and smart eleven-year-old Esme and a passionate advocate for healthy food, Mollie is the independent face behind 'Mollie Makes...' and seems to be about to go places. Even though she's more than happy with her lot in life, Mollie can't help but wonder sometimes how different things would be now if her past had gone a little differently... But her wondering is brought to an end all too soon, because before she realises it, old faces and old memories are reappearing, knocking her right off her stride.

A.L. Michael opens this world and her characters up to her readers in the most beautiful, warm and inviting way. I cannot tell you how effortless it was for me to lose myself in this story. The relationships were gorgeously crafted, the characters themselves fantastically real and seeming to dance right off the page and into my imagination. Michael's style is witty and cosy, entertaining and a joy to read, so much so that I really didn't want to put this book down. I was reading right until I couldn't keep my eyes for a single second longer, no matter how badly I wanted to stay awake to continue (which I did, trust me). One thing that I absolutely adored was the strong and unbreakable bond between Mollie and her best friends. They were so close and honest with each other, and had helped each other throughout life whenever the other had needed it. It warmed my heart completely, and the author managed to get it completely spot-on.

Another thing that the author managed to nail completely was the beautiful mother and daughter relationship between Mollie and Esme. Mollie had raised Esme herself and, in my opinion, had done a brilliant job of doing so. She wasn't your typical eleven-year-old, she loved reading and listening to music from before her time, which sort of set her apart from the rest of the girls at school. She's happy and funny and incredibly clever, but she knows that she's different from her peers in more ways than one, and one of those ways is that her father isn't around. Being able to relate to this on a personal level, I couldn't believe how perfect the emotions that Esme felt were. It felt very real and very close to me, which made it all the more powerful in my mind. Michael handles these sensitive and heartfelt issues in the most mature of ways, displaying the emotional side of an absent father in crystal-clear terms.

Not only is this story about the blessings that are family and friends, but it's also about confronting your fears and letting go of the past to be able to focus on the future. It's a story of acceptance and forgiveness, of moving forward and trusting your heart to lead you in the direction. There's romance too, and plenty of those moments that have you holding your breath, waiting to see what the characters will do next...

A.L. Michael seems to have gone from strength to strength since the last book I read. This was crisp and clean, written so brilliantly with fantastic characters who steal your heart completely away. I loved it from beginning to end, and can only thank the author for writing such a heartfelt novel. I'll be back for more from you, A.L. Michael! It's five cupcakes from me.


Giveaway

(UK ONLY)

About the author
A.L Michael is a writer and workshop leader from North London. She has a BA in Creative
Writing with English Lit, an MA in Creative Entrepreneurship and is starting an MsC in Creative
Writing for Therapeutic Purposes. She likes learning and hates essays.
She's a fan of cheap wine, expensive chocolate and still wants to be a secret agent when she grows
up, but she'll settle for lying on the page.

You can find A.L. Michael on Facebook | Twitter | almichael.com

Be sure to keep up with the rest of the blog tour!

Blog Tour: Book Review - The Food of Love by Amanda Prowse

Happy Thursday, gorgeous book folk! How're you all? Doing well, I hope!

Today on Becca's Books, I'm completely over the moon to have the honour of kicking off the blog tour for Amanda Prowse's brand-new novel, The Food of Love, which is released TODAY! I cannot tell you how excited I was when I was contacted about taking part in this. Even after having only read a few books by this incredible author, it's safe to say that already I am a huge fan. Without further ado, let me tell you why I loved The Food of Love by Amanda Prowse.

Available on Goodreads | Amazon UK | Amazon US
Title - The Food of Love
Author - Amanda Prowse
Publication Date - 1st December 2016
Publisher - Lake Union Publishing
Format - Paperback (Provided by author)
Pages - 364

Blurb
A loving mother. A perfect family. A shock wave that could shatter everything.

Freya Braithwaite knows she is lucky. Nineteen years of marriage to a man who still warms her soul and two beautiful teenage daughters to show for it: confident Charlotte and thoughtful Lexi. Her home is filled with love and laughter.

But when Lexi's struggles with weight take control of her life, everything Freya once took for granted falls apart, leaving the whole family with a sense of helplessness that can only be confronted with understanding, unity and, above all, love.

In this compelling and heart-wrenching new work by bestselling author Amanda Prowse, one ordinary family tackles unexpected difficulties and discovers that love can find its way through life's darkest moments.

Review
In this brand-new raw, emotional and powerful novel by the incredible Amanda Prowse, readers are invited into the story unfolding on the pages and are witness to the fallout of what it's like when an eating disorder rears its head within a close-knit and loving family, seemingly out of nowhere.

In Prowse's The Food of Love, we're introduced to the Braithwaite family. There's Freya, the loving, caring and kind mother. There's Lockie, Freya's wonderful husband and father to their two teenage girls, and then there's Charlotte and Lexi. At first glance, this family are just like any other. Busy with work and school, but still managing to find the time to care and nurture for their family. They have laughs and cuddles, and it's fair to say that the marriage between Freya and Lockie is still going strong, even after all of these years. They're both head over heels in love with each other, which of course radiates over the rest of the family. Freya is undeniably happy with her lot in life, and who can blame her? She's got everything that she ever hoped for and more. But of course, things are never as perfect as they appear to be on the surface...

As always, with Amanda Prowse's novels, the subjects that the author writes about are handled with the upmost respect. It's clear that this author does her research in order to get the facts spot on, and that was definitely the case in The Food of Love. When Freya discovers what has been going on with her daughter, she is shocked to her very core and, I suppose in a small way, in a tiny bit of denial. This is her family. She's done her absolute best to take care of them all and ensure that something like this can never happen. It's the kind of thing that people think never happens to them until it does, and so it's understandable, and Prowse manages to get the emotions that Freya feels absolutely spot on, as well as the emotions from the rest of the family.

This novel isn't only about anorexia. Prowse focuses and zooms in on the devastating and heart-breaking effects that this horrible illness has on the families of those that it affects, and the separate relationships within those families. I'm not ashamed to say that as the fight began and the family all stood tall at Lexi's side, I certainly shed a few tears. You just can't imagine being in their shoes, yet Amanda delivers it excellently, with no dramatics, nothing but the hard truth which makes reading it all the more powerful and memorable. It certainly sticks with you and stays in your mind for a long time after you've finished and closed the book and that, in my opinion, is a signifier of a superb novel.

Once again, Prowse has knocked my socks off with her latest novel The Food of Love. I'm not sure I've read an author quite like this one, and I know that with each book announcement, my love for her writing is only going to increase. This was absolutely superb, with so much heart, warmth, and a whole lot of love. The characters were utterly real to me and their lives felt so incredibly important to me as the reader. I was concerned for them all, that's for sure, and truly hoped for nothing but the best for them. Moving on a whole new level, and educational too, this is a must-read from Amanda Prowse. Just be sure to have those tissues at hand, and a loved one's hand to squeeze.

Becca's Books is awarding The Food of Love by Amanda Prowse with five of my bookish cupcakes. Prowse's novels only seem to be getting better and better. Not only does she write a fantastic story, but her love for writing itself positively shines through from the pages, heightening my own enjoyment even more.

Be sure to keep up with the rest of the blog tour!

Blog Tour: Book Review - Does My Bump Look Big In This? by Amy Lynch

Today on Becca's Books, I'm thrilled to be sharing my book review of the latest release from the fabulous Amy Lynch, Does My Bump Look Big In This? as part of the blog tour.

Available on Goodreads | Amazon UK | Amazon US
Title - Does My Bump Look Big In This?
Author - Amy Lynch
Publication Date - September 29th 2016
Format - Kindle Edition
Pages - 329

Blurb
The mother of all comedies is due...

Newlyweds Barry and Becky are just back from their tropical honeymoon. The tans are gorgeous, and it was five star luxury all the way. But there's been a problem. Barry's desperate for a baby, and Becky's not quite so keen.

Surrounded by pregnant friends and a mother who's talking about the ticking of invisible biological clocks, Becky starts to feel the pressure. When a surprise pregnancy rocks the boat, Becky's friends and family are rooting for her all the way. Will she navigate the choppy waters to motherhood? Will she survive antenatal classes? Can she avoid stretchmarks, indigestion and her dreaded boss?

And most importantly of all... does her bump look big in this?

Review
And we're back with the hilarious Becky, folks!

Since being introduced to Rebecca in Lynch's Bride Without A Groom, it's safe to say that I've missed her hilarious outlook on life and all that it happens to throw her way. So when news about Lynch's next novel began to make the rounds, I couldn't wait to see what Becky would get up to next. Whatever it was, I was certain there'd be plenty of laugh-out-loud moments along the way, which is something Lynch provides plenty of for her readers.

In Does My Bump Look Big In This?, readers take the ride alongside Becky to motherhood. Just back from a gorgeous honeymoon, the pressure to begin a family is beginning to weigh on Becky's shoulders. With all her friends already mummies or mummies-to-be, Becky begins hearing the baby-talk in all directions and isn't sure what to do about it. Is she even mummy material? Could she really cope with all that a child would bring into her life? It's a tough call, but even Barry seems to be taking everyone else's side. It's just not fair!

As expected, Does My Bump Look Big In This? was absolutely rammed with moments of hilarity. Becky's original personality positively shone through and, despite being a woman who enjoys the drama of life, I can't deny that I have a soft spot for her, even though she could possibly drive me wild if I knew her in real life. Lynch achieved a wonderful job of bringing her characters to life in this one, each of them bold and vibrant in their unique ways of life and how they acted/spoke. Barry, as always, had my sympathies for having to put up with Becky, but it was clear that he loved Becky, no matter what she did, and I loved this about their pairing. Although rather opposite in their ways, they were perfect for each other and the love radiated from them.

I was laughing and giggling pretty much right the way through this one, as well as feeling the pressure on Becky's behalf. I'm sure a lot of women could relate to the emotions Becky feels throughout the novel, myself included. Lynch got it spot-on and I was cheering for Becky right the way through. She's got to be one of the most entertaining characters I've had the pleasure of meeting, fiction wise, and a memorable one too. She sticks with you, stands out from the crowd, and reading about what she gets up to throughout the novel is a pure joy.

Overall, Does My Bump Look Big In This? was an absolute pleasure to read from beginning to end. Peppered with Becky's trademark hilarity and total outrage when things don't go to plan, this was a book that had me grinning from ear to ear, and doing so right the way through. Becca's Books is awarding Does My Bump Look Big In This? by Amy Lynch with four of my bookish cupcakes! A proper laugh-out-loud comedy!



I Turned My Love Life into a Novel by Jenny Stallard, author of Boyfriend by Christmas

Today on Becca's Books, I'm thrilled to be welcoming Jenny Stallard, author of Boyfriend by Christmas, to the blog. Jenny will be sharing a fabulous piece she has written on how she managed to turn her love life into a novel. Enjoy, lovely book folk!


How I Turned My Love Life Into a Novel
By Jenny Stallard

This time last year I was anticipating the release of my first novel, Boyfriend by Christmas. It tells the story of a writer who is a 'dating correspondent’ for a lifestyle website, and told she needs to find a man or a new job. 
But to say this was an idea out of the blue, nothing to do with my own life, would be untrue. 
I've been single bar a couple of three to five month 'relationships' for 18 years. 
As those years went on and I developed my career as a journalist I also developed something of a 'can't beat em? Better join em!' mentality. I'd always been drawn to confessional journalism, always wished to be a columnist - why not use the 'predicament' of being single to my advantage? 

And so it began some 5 or so years ago. I wrote some magazine pieces about being single, even about having never been told 'I love you'. (I know, don't feel too sad, it's ok, they paid me).

Then, in October 2014, I pitched a column to Metro newspaper (I was freelance then, and am staff at Metro now). The idea was simple: I would spend the next three months charting my ups and downs of single life, under the banner of 'Boyfriend by Christmas'.
I went to every event I could – including pheromone dating where you sniff strangers’ t-shirts and pizza dating) as well as signing up to countless apps and sites. I had a date at the services on the M4, wore a fake ‘tache at Movember dating and was set up by my dad.

Then, halfway through this mayhem that I’d created for myself, I had a call from a literary agent, who felt the column could become a book. The dream, people, the dream! He pitched it to a publisher, Penguin Michael Joseph, and they commissioned Boyfriend by Christmas. My love life was indeed becoming a novel…

But, well, 500 or so words a week about a dating event, was quite manageable. But 80,000?! That was a different kettle of fish. And the deadline was a tight one. So it was that I began charting not just what happened each week, but just about every date I'd been on, every high and low of emotion and encounter. It all went into Boyfriend by Christmas.

I channelled the highs and lows of being single, the moments of fun and laughter but also the moments of aching loneliness and confusion over ‘why not me?’. I really wanted to portray all sides of being single, the raised hopes, the eternal rounds of first dates, the fun in feeling free, of cheeky nightclub snogs, and having single mates to bounce life experiences off.
I wanted to reach out to women and men, single and coupled up, and catalogue a moment in time, in my life. But with bells on, since this was fiction, obviously! A bad date for me became a terrible date for my main character Genie Havisham. I imagined many dream scenarios – meeting a man on the Eurostar, and even matching with a workmate on Tinder.

Genie Havisham is my heroine. And yes, now about 10 people have pointed it out, I know how close to Jenny it sounds! Maybe it was my subconscious.  But I did set out for this to be fiction and to me, it is.
Well for a start she has three men interested at one point - chance would have been a fine thing!

Turning your love life into fiction is a strange self-editing process. Just because I found a date funny, interesting, or emotional, doesn't mean a reader would. Sometimes I wrote paragraphs that only made sense to me, and would never make sense to anyone else.  
And you know you’ve reached peak sex scene when your mum asks if the saucy bits all happened! No of course they didn't. As I say, chance would have been a fine thing!

The other flip side of turning your love life into a novel is, of course, keeping it funny as well as real. There have been moments I have hated being single and even times I was jealous of Genie when she had a man who liked her, who called and wanted to date. Why wasn't that happening for me when I could make it happen for her?!

So as another Christmas rolls around and I think to my book, its festive theme and how it's something of a memoir for my days as a single woman, I can't help but feel nostalgic. I might have hoped for a boyfriend, and got a book deal instead but I feel happy and no regret that I turned my love life into a novel.

Available on Goodreads | Amazon UK | Amazon US

Blurb
It's bad enough to be perpetually single, without also being the dating journalist for a major lifestyle website. And Genie Havisham has just been set her toughest deadline yet: find a boyfriend by Christmas or find a new job.

Determined not to end the year alone and jobless, Genie sets out to find where all the eligible bachelors in London have been hiding, using whatever means possible.

But among the terrible dates, one night stands and the unexpected return of her 'supposedly reformed' ex-boyfriend, could Genie have overlooked what's been right under her nose all along?

Blog Tour: Book Review - Mistletoe on 34th Street by Lisa Dickenson

Today on Becca's Books, I'm delighted to be sharing my review of the wonderful Lisa Dickenson's Mistletoe on 34th Street. It's the perfect time to be getting into those festive reads, and this is definitely one to add to your reading lists this Christmas!

Available on Goodreads | Amazon UK | Amazon US
Title - Mistletoe on 34th Street
Author - Lisa Dickenson
Publication Date - November 3rd 2016
Publisher - Sphere
Format - Paperback
Pages - 432

Blurb
Olivia has never experienced a snow-covered, 'traditional' Christmas before. Having grown up in a family that chose winter sun over decking the halls, she's not sure what all the fuss is about. So when she and her colleagues are stranded in New York after a work trip, Olivia is perfectly happy spending the holiday season in the Big Apple.

Jon, Olivia's friend, on the other hand is desperate to get home in time for his big family get-together. Nevertheless, determined to make the best out of the situation, he sets out to show Olivia how enchanting Christmas in New York can be. And when handsome New Yorker Elijah is added to the mix, could the magic of the season finally be working its charm on Olivia?

As 25 December draws closer, Olivia suddenly finds herself with a decision to make: who does she really want to kiss under the mistletoe this Christmas?

Review
It's been such a long time since I found the opportunity to dive into a fabulous Lisa Dickenson novel, so when I was contacted about Mistletoe on 34th Street, I absolutely jumped at the chance to read it. I fell head over heels in love with the cover and despite never experiencing a New York Christmas for myself, it's one thing I adore reading about in books, so it's safe to say that Lisa Dickenson's brand new novel felt to me like the perfect package.

In Dickenson's Mistletoe on 34th Street, readers are introduced to Olivia. Funny, smart, witty and utterly charming, I loved this character from the moment I met her. Not one for going all in at Christmas, when she finds herself and her colleagues stranded in New York city thanks to never-ending snowfall back in the UK, she's not quite sure of what to do with herself. She's never really understood what all the fuss is about when it comes to 'decking the halls'. Thankfully, her friend and colleague Jon knows exactly what is needed to show Olivia what Christmas is truly all about, and so he does exactly that in the most exciting of ways.

Dickenson brought the setting of New York to life beautifully. It was utterly magical and completely enchanting. Her descriptions danced right off the page and allowed me to place myself within the story, right beside Olivia, as she slowly began to open her eyes to the true meaning of the most wonderful time of year. With the added themes of friendship and romance, it was the perfect package beautifully wrapped with a big shiny ribbon, and discovering New York and everything that it had to offer opened Olivia's eyes up to one of the most exciting places in the world. Dickenson's style is one of warmth and cosiness, yet absolutely hysterical at the same time which I LOVE about this author. Numerous times throughout reading I found myself giggling away, making this all the more enjoyable and entertaining for me!

If you're not yet ready for the festive season, you certainly will be after reading this. It's a little gem of a book jam-packed with fantastic characters, gorgeous descriptions and everything in-between that will have you smiling from ear to ear and urging Christmas to get a wriggle on!

Becca's Books is awarding Mistletoe on 34th Street by Lisa Dickenson with five of my bookish cupcakes! An absolute treat this Christmas time, I promise.


About the author
Lisa Dickenson is the pseudonym for Beyoncé. OK, FINE, THAT'S NOT TRUE.

Lisa lives by the Devon seaside, stuffing cream teas in the gobs of anyone who comes to visit, and writing stuff down that she hopes is funny. Her first novel was the copyright-infringing Sweet Valley Twins: The Twins Holiday Horror, which she wrote in primary school and gave up on after five pages. Twenty-ish years later Lisa went on to be a *real author* and wrote the Novelicious Debut of the Year, The Twelve Dates of Christmas. In summer 2016 out popped You Had Me at Merlot. She's now keeping her fingers crossed that everyone will like her third paperback, Mistletoe on 34th Street, and that New York City gives her a free apartment near Central Park as a 'well done'.

You can find Lisa Dickenson on Facebook | Twitter | lisadickenson.com

Blog Tour: Book Review & Giveaway - The Silver Bells Christmas Pantomime by Lynsey James

Happy Tuesday, wonderful book folk! Today on Becca's Books, I'm delighted to be sharing my review of the fabulously festive The Silver Bells Christmas Pantomime by the equally fabulous Lynsey James, as part of the blog tour organised by Jenny over at Neverland Blog Tours. There's also the chance to win a £25 theatre voucher with the ATG theatre group! (This giveaway is UK ONLY!) 

Available on Goodreads | Amazon UK | Amazon US
Title - The Silver Bells Christmas Pantomime
Author - Lynsey James
Series - Luna Bay
Publication Date - November 10th 2016
Publisher - HQ
Format - Kindle Edition (Provided by tour host)
Pages - 196

Blurb
This Christmas pantomime is about to be the talk of the town!

Luna Bay's festive preparations are well under way and the much anticipated annual pantomime is to be, once again, the highlight of the season. Too bad that the village's very own actress and darling of Broadway, Alice Woods, isn't feeling in the mood for Christmas.

Until the pantomime comes under threat and a grief-stricken Alice is forced to push her personal pain aside and step up to direct - after all, the show must go on...

So with (more than) a little help from her new found friends, not to mention one very gorgeous Hollywood A-list celebrity, the play begins to come together, but will Alice finally believe that Christmas is a time for miracles after all?

Review
Since reading The Sunflower Cottage Breakfast Club by Lynsey James, I absolutely could not wait to get started on The Silver Bells Christmas Pantomime. Whether you think November is too early or not to get cracking on those festive reads, this will certainly turn your cheeks rosy with joy and warm you from the inside and out. It's funny, romantic, and positively brimming over with fabulously crafted characters and a hearty helping of emotion too.

In The Silver Bells Christmas Pantomime, we're introduced to Alice Woods. Once a Broadway star amongst the bright lights of New York, three years ago she returned to Luna Bay with a massive chunk of her heart missing. The rumour mill was rife with gossip about her return but now, after so much time has passed, Alice has managed to remain anonymous and living a solitary life which is just the way she likes it. Her circle is small and she hopes for it to remain that way. After all, the less people she holds dear to her heart, the less chance there is of losing them. Alice knows of heartache and loss. Of what it's like to grieve. And she knows, too, that she wouldn't be able to deal with what happened before, again.

Thanks to the gentle nudging from her well-meaning mother, Alice is offered the chance to head off to sunnier climes for Christmas. It's a time of year that really gets to her, and she can't stand spending it alone anymore, not without that special someone by her side. But, in order for Alice to be able to jet off with her mother, she's talked into taking part in the Silver Bells Christmas Pantomime. The thought alone is enough to have Alice running for the hills, but she knows, deep down, that it's time to get on with life, no matter how much it hurts.

And so the fun begins! Lynsey creates some absolutely fantastic characters in this story. There's Christabel, who's been taking charge of the Christmas pantomime for years. It's her pride and joy, yet she seems to just keep on making a mess of things. There's the very handsome and charming Ethan, who seeks out a place to lay low in Luna Bay, and who seems to know Alice inside out without her having to say a word. There are characters from the first two Luna Bay books for readers to look forward to seeing again too. Lucy and Emily play a wonderful role in Alice's life once she allows them in. Friendship and support are exactly what she needs and these two women provide exactly that in the most beautiful of ways. There are also the cast members of the pantomime to look forward to meeting who are all, in their own ways, colourful and entertaining to say the least.

 There was so much heart and feeling within this book. It's a story of courage and of learning to let go. Of being brave enough to move forward in life despite the things that may hold a person back. It's full of friendship and romance, and plenty of surprises too! From beginning to end, I raced through and absolutely devoured everything that the author had to offer. Already I can't wait to get stuck into the next book from Lynsey James. This put a massive smile on my face and a lightness in my heart.

Becca's Books is awarding The Silver Bells Christmas Pantomime by Lynsey James with five of my bookish cupcakes. I was totally engrossed and loved everything from the characters to the relationships within. It was a wonderful festive tale absolutely perfect for this time of year!


Giveaway

About the author
Lynsey James was born in Fife in 1991 and has been telling people how to spell her name ever since. She's an incurable bookworm who loves nothing more than getting lost in a good story with memorable characters. She started writing when she was really young and credits her lovely Grandad- and possibly a bump on the head from a Mr Frosty machine- with her love of telling stories. She used to write her own episodes of Friends and act them out in front of her family (in fact she's sure she put Ross and Rachel together first!)

A careers adviser at school once told Lynsey writing wasn't a "good option" and for a few years, she believed her. She tried a little bit of everything, including make-up artistry, teaching and doing admin for a chocolate fountain company. The free chocolate was brilliant. When Lynsey left her job a couple of years ago, she started writing full-time while she looked for another one. As soon as she started working on her story, Lynsey fell in love and decided to finally pursue her dream. She haven't looked back since.

When Lynsey's not writing, eating cake or drinking tea, she's daydreaming about the day Dylan O'Brien FINALLY realises they're meant to be together. It'll happen one day...
                

You can find Lynsey James on Facebook | Twitter | lynseyjames.wordpress.com

Be sure to keep up with the rest of the blog tour!

Blog Tour: Book Review - Safe With Me by K.L. Slater

Today on Becca's Books, I'm delighted to be sharing my book review of K.L. Slater's Safe With Me as part of the blog tour.

Available on Goodreads | Amazon UK | Amazon US
Title - Safe With Me
Author - K.L. Slater
Publication Date - November 3rd 2016
Publisher - Bookouture
Format - Kindle Edition (Provided by publisher via NetGalley)
Pages - 324

Blurb
Thirteen years ago someone did something very bad to Anna. Now it's her turn to get even...

Anna lives a solitary existence, taking solace in order and routine. Her only friend is the lonely old lady next door. She doesn't like to let people get too close - she knows how much damage they can do.

Then one ordinary day Anna witnesses a devastating road accident and recognises the driver as Carla, the woman who ruined her life all those years ago. Now it's Anna's chance to set things straight but her revenge needs to be executed carefully...

First she needs to get to know Liam, the man injured in the accident. She needs to follow the police investigation. She needs to watch Carla from the shadows...

But as Anna's obsession with Carla escalates, her own secrets start to unravel. Is Carla really dangerous or does Anna need to worry about someone far closer to home?

Review
What a thrill ride of a psychological thriller Safe With Me by K.L. Slater turned out to be. Bookouture weren't lying when they said that this was a 'psychological thriller so tense it will take your breath away'. Sublimely dark and all-consuming, Slater has written a novel so gripping, so captivatingly exciting that I found myself shushing everyone and ignoring everything simply so I could carry on reading.

In Safe With Me by K.L. Slater, we're introduced to Anna. Slater takes her readers straight to the action, as Anna is witness to a terrible accident in which a man, Liam, is flung from his motorcycle from the impact of the crash, and rushed to hospital. It is only when Anna sets eyes on the other woman at the scene of the accident that she realises she knows her. In fact, this woman played a devastating role in Anna's past, the impact of which has remained with Anna throughout her life ever since. Now, face to face with her again after so much time has passed, she refuses to let the woman out of her sight again. Revenge is sweet, especially when it creeps up on you seemingly out of nowhere. Fate has a dark and dangerous hand to play in the reunion of these two women and things are about to take a menacing and nasty turn.

K.L. Slater writes with such sharp precision and edginess, it's impossible not to feel the effects of the circumstances which unravel as if they're a physical thing. From beginning to end, I found it near impossible to put this book down and read it in record time, with my heart racing and adrenaline pumping. It was dark and twisted, with an incredibly oppressive atmosphere and tone that clung to me right the way through the novel, refusing to let go and allow me to breathe easily. Slater's continuous references to Anna's past hooked me completely and I became desperate to know exactly what had happened all those years before between these two women. It was clear from Anna's reaction that she hadn't expected to see this woman, who we know as Amanda, to appear again in her life and it's a serious shock to the system. Immediately, one million questions arose in my mind and I couldn't wait for the answers to be delivered. It was mysterious in every way possible, but with such a menacing undertone that got right beneath my skin and encouraged me to keep those pages turning until I reached the very end.

Slater's characters were fantastically constructed and each of them a puzzle to be solved. I found Anna to be a bit curious, although that's not to say that I didn't like her. In fact, I'd say I was rather fascinated by the woman. She was determined to wriggle her way into Liam's life and intent on growing closer to him in order to get closer to Amanda. I knew that whatever had happened between them must have been something terrible, as there was no chance Anna was letting it go. She was clever, yet had demons of her own to slay, and it seemed those demons came in the form of Amanda.

Between the chapters following Anna's chasing of Amanda, Slater took us back in time and began to deliciously pepper the novel with flashes of the past, creating the foundations of this story and slowly but surely delivering the full picture of what happened all those years before. I adored this aspect and thoroughly enjoyed being taken back in time, as it allowed me to understand why Anna was so angry and intent on getting revenge. It was incredibly intriguing and again, Slater's style was addictive, leading me further into this dark and twisted maze of a story that had goose-bumps prickling my skin.

All in all, this is an absolutely thrilling debut from K.L. Slater that has left me eager for more from this author. Dark and twisted, edgy and sharp, it truly got beneath my skin and had me excited for whatever the author would throw at her characters next. Becca's Books is awarding Safe With Me by K.L. Slater with five of my bookish cupcakes. This was darkly executed, and written by an author who clearly knows how to tease and taunt her readers in the best possible way. Roll on the next novel by K.L. Slater!


About the author
For many years, Kim sent her work out to literary agents but never made it off the slush pile. At the age of 40 she went back to Nottingham Trent University and now has an MA in Creative Writing.

Before graduating, she received five offers of representation from London literary agents and a book deal which was, as Kim says, ‘a fairytale … at the end of a very long road!’

Kim writes psychological crime thrillers for Bookouture. Her first book, 'Safe with Me' is published on 3rd November 2016.

Kim is a full-time writer and lives in Nottingham with her husband, Mac. Between them they have three grown-up kids; Kim's daughter, Francesca, and Mac's sons, Nathan and Jake.

She also writes multi-award winning YA fiction under the name Kim Slater.

You can find K.L. Slater on Facebook | Twitter | klslaterauthor.com