Saturday, 28 November 2015

The Forest King's Daughter by Kendra Olsen

Kindle Edition, 201 pages
Published March 5th 2015 by Pilrig Press
I was given a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.


"The year is 1886 and Swedish teenager Ingrid Andersdotter is about to face a series of life-changing events – the rural poverty of her family which her carelessness suddenly makes worse, her attraction to the new school teacher which leads to ostracism and shame, the pressure of the church to conform to things she doesn’t believe, and her strong opinions which put her at odds with her traditional community.

Ingrid’s only option is to leave her home and family, first to Stockholm as a lonely servant in a rich household, where she soon discovers her vulnerability. Just when she fears she’ll be thrown onto the street, a turn of events gives her the chance of a new life – in America. But is she brave enough to make an ocean crossing to a strange land on her own, leaving everything she knows far behind? And will she find the freedom she dreams of if she takes such a risk?

Told through the lens of a Swedish fairy tale, this epic coming-of-age story, is both a page-turning personal account of one feisty young woman’s determination to seek a better life, and the tale of many single women who emigrated from Sweden to America in the 19th century."

My Review:

Ingrid is an interesting character, by turns naive, strong-willed and hopeful. She comes from a life of poverty in rural Sweden where her family scratch a living from the land. Her horizons are gradually expanded as she meets different people and she begins to question the values which have been drilled into her from birth. As she grows up she is forced to move away from the family she loves and to start out on her own. This is a moving tale of courage and hope and Ingrid is a likeable character who sticks to her principles.

I enjoyed learning more about Swedish culture in the late nineteenth century and the book felt well-researched and realistic. I particularly liked the descriptions of the Swedish countryside and of Ingrid's travels.

My criticisms for this book would be that it was slow to start off and I felt that the writer's style developed and became stronger as the novel progressed. It also felt like the author was trying out different writing techniques during the novel, by using diary entries and letters as well as narrative. I think the letters worked better in progressing the story than the diary entries. I thought the prologue and epilogue told from Ingrid's point of view in the future were a bit unnecessary. It didn't particularly feel like a fairy tale to me, which is how it is advertised, and the tale of the 'Forest King's Daughter' within the story was a little pointless.

It seems like I have given this book a lot of criticism but I did really enjoy it and I will look forward to reading more by the author in the future.

I would give this book 3 out of 5.

The book is available here.

About the Author:

Kendra Olson lives in London, England with her husband and two cats. The Forest King's Daughter is her first novel.

Thursday, 26 November 2015

What We Left Behind by Robin Talley

Paperback, 409 pages
Published October 22nd 2015 by MIRA Ink


"Toni and Gretchen are the couple everyone envied in high school. They've been together forever. They never fight. They're deeply, hopelessly in love. When they separate for their first year at college—Toni to Harvard and Gretchen to NYU—they're sure they'll be fine. Where other long-distance relationships have fallen apart, their relationship will surely thrive.

The reality of being apart, however, is a lot different than they expected. As Toni, who identifies as genderqueer, falls in with a group of transgender upperclassmen and immediately finds a sense of belonging that has always been missing, Gretchen struggles to remember who she is outside their relationship.

While Toni worries that Gretchen, who is not trans, just won't understand what is going on, Gretchen begins to wonder where she fits in Toni's life. As distance and Toni's shifting gender identity begins to wear on their relationship, the couple must decide—have they grown apart for good, or is love enough to keep them together?"

My Review:

This was a really interesting novel about Toni who is struggling with gender issues and Toni's girlfriend, Gretchen, who is trying to be supportive through the process while at a different college. The story is told from both their points of view which helped give both their perspectives and sometimes gave better clarification of what was going on.

I liked Gretchen's character as she is trying to find her own feet at college whilst trying to understand what Toni is going through. Although she did make mistakes her heart was in the right place.

Throughout the novel Toni is trying to decide which gender to identify as and avoids using pronouns like he or she, him or her. While writing this I'm trying not to refer to Toni as either gender but it is really difficult. The author made it seem quite natural in the beginning but it sometimes disrupted the flow of the story and did get a bit grating after a while, particularly when Toni then debates over other different ways of referring to people. Toni's new group of friends at college are all going through similar things which helps Toni in some ways, but it seemed to me that it also put pressure on Toni to make decisions faster than Toni would have felt comfortable with otherwise.

I found Toni's indecisiveness and self-absorption quite frustrating at times, but the book definitely highlights how confusing it must be to feel as though you have been born in the wrong body. This is the first novel I have read with characters who are dealing with transgender issues and it really brought to light how this affects both that person's daily life and the impact on their family and friends.

This was a thought provoking read. 3 out of 5.

About the Author:

Robin Talley grew up in Roanoke, Virginia, writing terrible teen poetry and riding a desegregation bus to the school across town. Robin is married and lives in Washington, D.C., with an antisocial cat and a goofy hound dog. When Robin’s not writing, she’s often planning communication strategies at organizations fighting for equal rights and social justice. You can find her on the web at or on Twitter at @robin_talley.

Monday, 23 November 2015

The Piano Man Project by Kat French

Kindle Edition, 400 pages
Published July 30th 2015 by Avon


"Finding love isn’t always black and white…

You: kind, piano-playing sex god
Me: hopelessly romantic charity shop manager

Honeysuckle Jones has a problem, and her best friends Nell and Tash are on a mission to help her solve it. She needs a man – a caring, intelligent, funny man. But most importantly, a man who’s good with his hands…

Luckily Honey’s new neighbour – moody, antisocial ex-chef Hal – fails on almost every count. Even though the chemistry between them is electric, he’s obviously wrong for her in every way.

But when Honey discovers the devastating reason for his moods she decides to give him another chance. And discovers that the best songs aren’t always in tune…

A hilarious, feel-good, sexy romantic comedy for fans of Lucy Diamond, Paige Toon and Giovanna Fletcher."

My Review:

I love it when I find a gem of a book like this. The story flows beautifully, the characters leap off the page and are funny, sexy and human.

The characters' relationships are brilliantly developed and I felt as though they really had known each other for years. I really enjoyed Honey's friendship with Mimi and Lucille and the other residents of the old people's home where she works. Also, Honey's best friends Tash and Nell are really funny in their determination to set Honey up with various pianists.

Hal is a brilliant character who is struggling with coming to terms with a change in his life and so is antagonistic to everyone he meets. Sparks fly off the page in every scene with Honey and Hal together. Their arguments were hilarious but there were many tender and touching moments in this book too.

I loved this book and can't wait to read others by this author. 5 out of 5.

About the Author:

Romantic comedy writer, disorganised mum, fairy light lover, and champion wine drinker.

Slightly less smutty alter-ego of Kitty French, USA Today bestselling smut fictionista.

Twitter ~ @katfrench_

Friday, 20 November 2015

An Abundance of Katherines by John Green

Paperback, 229 pages
Published October 16th 2008 by Speak (first published September 21st 2006)


"When it comes to relationships, Colin Singleton's type is girls named Katherine. And when it comes to girls named Katherine, Colin is always getting dumped. Nineteen times, to be exact. On a road trip miles from home, this anagram-happy, washedup child prodigy has ten thousand dollars in his pocket, a bloodthirsty feral hog on his trail, and an overweight, Judge Judy-loving best friend riding shotgun–but no Katherines. Colin is on a mission to prove The Theorem of Underlying Katherine Predictability, which he hopes will predict the future of any relationship, avenge Dumpees everywhere, and finally win him the girl."

My Review:

Colin Singleton is an interesting character but quite annoying at times. The majority of the book consists of him contemplating his own intelligence or girls names Katherine (whose names cannot be spelled Catherine, or Katie, or Katy or any other derivative of Katherine), who always seem to dump him. I found this book to be quite slow to get in to mostly due to Colin's self-absorption. His friend Hassan who goes with him on their road trip is much more entertaining. However, Colin does start to redeem himself as the book continues and he starts to pay attention to what other people think. I think it helps that he is away from his parents, who have told him how intelligent he is throughout his life.

On the plus side, I did learn some fun facts, like why shower curtains always seem to be drawn in towards the water from the shower. Apparently, the water from the shower creates a vortex, who knew?! However, the characters' frequent use of the word 'fug' instead of swearing definitely grated on me and there was far too much of a focus on maths (Colin is trying to create a theorem to explain his relationships with Katherines).

I think part of the trouble is that with every John Green book I read, I expect it to be as amazing as The Fault in Our Stars and none of his books (that I have read) have matched it yet. This was a good read but I found the main character too annoying to really enjoy it.

2.5 out of 5 for this one.

About the Author:

John Green's first novel, Looking for Alaska, won the 2006 Michael L. Printz Award presented by the American Library Association. His second novel, An Abundance of Katherines, was a 2007 Michael L. Printz Award Honor Book and a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize. His next novel, Paper Towns, is a New York Times bestseller and won the Edgar Allen Poe Award for Best YA Mystery. In January 2012, his most recent novel, The Fault in Our Stars, was met with wide critical acclaim, unprecedented in Green's career. The praise included rave reviews in Time Magazine and The New York Times, on NPR, and from award-winning author Markus Zusak. The book also topped the New York Times Children's Paperback Bestseller list for several weeks. Green has also coauthored a book with David Levithan called Will Grayson, Will Grayson, published in 2010. The film rights for all his books, with the exception of Will Grayson Will Grayson, have been optioned to major Hollywood Studios.

In 2007, John and his brother Hank were the hosts of a popular internet blog, "Brotherhood 2.0," where they discussed their lives, books and current events every day for a year except for weekends and holidays. They still keep a video blog, now called "The Vlog Brothers," which can be found on the Nerdfighters website, or a direct link here.

Monday, 16 November 2015

Never Kiss a Man in a Christmas Jumper by Debbie Johnson

Published 5th November by HarperImpulse
PB: £7.99 | Ebook: £1.99
I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.


"For single mum Maggie, Christmas has always been a family occasion – her daughter Ellen filling the house with her bubbly warmth and mistletoe, her dad Paddy having one too many festive tipples, and the traditional family Christmas tree looking like a drunken elf vomited a rainbow all over it. But this year, with both Ellen and Paddy away for the holidays, Maggie’s facing a truly blue Christmas – alone with nothing but a bottle of Baileys and an M&S turkey dinner. Until walking the snowy streets of Oxford, Marco Cavelli quite literally crashes into her life – and, complete with broken leg, becomes her unexpected houseguest. All dreamy brown eyes and 6’5” of gorgeousness, the man is hotter and more delicious than a freshly baked mince pie.

Though Maggie always thought it’s a truth universally acknowledged that you never kiss a man in a Christmas jumper…?"

My Review

This was a really sweet, Christmassy read. I enjoyed the story and watching as Maggie and Marco got to know each other. I definitely admired Maggie's character for how strong and selfless she has been in her life and it was good to see her get something for herself and know that she deserves happiness too.

I liked that the story was told from both Maggie and Marco's points of view - even switching mid-scenes - as I felt that it made their relationship come alive. I sometimes preferred reading from Marco's point of view as it made a nice change from other romances I have read and I found his thoughts funny and how in some ways he was much more in touch with his feelings than Maggie was.

Maggie's relationship with her father and daughter was lovely to read, and the descriptions of Christmas in their home and the camaraderie were really heart-warming.

This was a cute Christmas read and I am looking forward to reading Debbie's next book which is out in January, The Birthday That Changed Everything.

3.5 out of 5 from me.

About the Author

Debbie Johnson lives and works in Liverpool, where she divides her time between writing, caring for a small tribe of children and animals, and not doing the housework. She writes romance, fantasy and crime - which is as confusing as it sounds! Her first humorous contemporary romance, Cold Feet At Christmas, a seasonal tale of snow-bound fun, was released by HarperImpulse last year, and became an Amazon top ten best-seller. You can also find her supernatural crime thriller, Fear No Evil, featuring Liverpool PI Jayne McCartney, on Amazon, published by Maze/Avon Books. Debbie also writes urban fantasy, set in modern day Liverpool. Dark Vision and the follow-up Dark Touch are published by Del Rey UK. Debbie blogs at She lives with her family in Merseyside and is available to write features.

Friday, 13 November 2015

Christmas Ever After (Puffin Island #3) by Sarah Morgan

Published by MIRA as a paperback original £7.99
I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

The blurb:

"Skylar Tempest has never understood Alec Hunter’s appeal. So what if he’s a world-renowned historian? He’s also cynical, aloof and determined to think the worst of her. So when a twist of fate finds her spending the lead-up to Christmas with Alec and his family, she’s not expecting the season to be either merry or bright.

Alec has learned the hard way not to trust beautiful women—and Skylar is the most beautiful woman he’s ever seen. But as he watches her throw herself into his family’s festive chaos, Alec realises there is far more to this blonde bombshell than meets the eye.

With Christmas around the corner, Alec and Skylar return to Puffin Island, a tentative bond forged between them. Neither intends to fall in love but as the nights become darker, and the fire between them grows hotter, could this be the chance for Alec and Skylar to find their own happy ending?"

My review:

This book makes me want Christmas to start now! The descriptions of both an English Christmas in the countryside and Christmas on Puffin Island are fantastic; I could practically feel the freezing cold outside and the beautiful heat and smell of the log fire inside.

The characters were vibrant and likeable and the story was really romantic. I loved that they were both really passionate about their fields of interest and that they found common ground.

My only criticism of this book is that some of the conversations between Alec and Sky started to feel slightly repetitive as they kept talking about why they couldn't be together. However, the ending was absolutely lovely.

This is the perfect book to snuggle up with as the weather gets colder. 4 out of 5 from me.

About the Author

Sarah Morgan writes warm contemporary romantic fiction which has gained her fans across the globe. Described as ‘full of sparkle’ by, she has been nominated three years in succession for the prestigious RITA© Award from the Romance Writers of America and won the award twice; in 2012 and 2013.
Sarah lives near London with her husband and children, and when she isn’t reading or writing she loves being outdoors, preferably on vacation so she can forget the house needs tidying. Visit Sarah online at, on Facebook at and on Twitter @SarahMorgan_

Friday, 6 November 2015

Leftovers by Stella Newman

Paperback, 400 pages
Published April 25th 2013 by Avon (first published March 18th 2013)

Blurb: "A novel about friendship, hope and the power of pasta from the bestselling author of Pear Shaped.

According to a magazine, Susie is a ‘Leftover’ – a post Bridget-Jones 30 something who has neither her dream man, job, nor home. She doesn’t even own six matching dinner plates.

According to her friend Rebecca, Susie needs to get over her ex, Jake, start online dating – or at least stop being so rude to every guy who tries to chat her up.

But Susie’s got a plan. If she can just make it the 307 days till her promotion and bonus, she can finally quit and pursue her dream career in food, then surely everything else will fall into place. If only her love life wasn’t so complicated…

A sharp, witty and refreshing novel about love, friendship and enjoying what's left on the table."

This was a fun novel to read, it also made me hungry for quite a lot of the time I was reading it as the food that Susie made sounded so good! I would definitely recommend having something tasty to hand while you're reading. There are also a few recipes at the back of the book which I'm going to try making soon.

I really related to the characters, especially Susie who has been stuck in a job she hates for a long time but can't work out how to escape to do something she loves. I liked that she stayed true to who she was no matter what life threw at her. The dialogue and descriptions in the book are witty and entertaining and made me smile.

This was a lovely, easy read which flowed really well and made me laugh.

This was 4 out of 5 for me.

Tuesday, 3 November 2015

Learning to Speak American Blog Tour: Review and Q&A

Learning to Speak American by Colette Dartford

Published by Twenty7
Ebook, 5th November 2015, £4.99
Paperback, 14th July 2016 £7.99
I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

The Blurb:

"After the tragic death of their only child, Lola and Duncan Drummond’s last chance to regain their lost happiness and rebuild their marriage lies in a trip to America. Day tripping in the heart of California’s wine region, the couple stumble across a derelict house in Napa Valley that’s crying out for love and attention.

It’s a far cry from their life in the Somerset village they call home, but Lola immediately falls for the house and shows the first spark of enthusiasm since the death of Clarissa. Unable to talk about Clarissa, Duncan reaches out to his wife in the only way he knows how, buying the house in the hope that the renovation project will bring both Lola and their relationship back to life.

As Lola works on the house she begins to realise the liberating power of letting go, helped along the way by her new Californian friends including easy going blond and blue-eyed project manager, Cain McCann. He may be 10 years younger than Lola, but his surfer good looks and easy charm work wonders, and soon Lola finds herself opening up for the first time in years.

Unbeknown to Lola, back at home her life with Duncan has begun to fall apart. Still emotionally scarred from his daughter’s death, Duncan starts to lose deal after deal in his high flying London job. Finding release in a series of one night stands, Duncan convinces himself he still loves Lola and promises himself that each infidelity will be the last…until he meets Saskia.

As Duncan and Lola get caught up in a series lies and indiscretions, drifting into the arms of others, will they be able to untangle their relationship or will the distance tear them apart?"

My Review

This is a beautifully written book, with engaging characters and a powerfully emotional storyline. Colette Dartford really transports you to Lola and Duncan's struggle in rural Somerset where they are dealing with their daughter's death in very different ways. Lola just wants to remember her daughter but Duncan can't bear to talk about her which is damaging their relationship, especially when they are surrounded by memories of her in their home. I found it difficult to like Duncan's character at times but I did feel sorry for him.

In complete contrast is Napa Valley, California where they go on holiday to try to rebuild their marriage. A place of sunlight and warmth and hope, Lola finds freedom from the weight of her grief in California. The derelict house they find and decide to renovate gives her a project and brings new focus to her life. The characters in California are so warm and friendly that it is not surprising that Lola begins to feel more at home in California.

I would give this book 5 out of 5, I highly recommend it. The message of hope is wonderful.

About the Author

Learning to Speak American, is Colette Dartford’s debut novel and is based on Colette’s personal experience of renovating a derelict house in California’s Napa Valley. Following buying and renovating the house, Colette lived there with her husband for many years before moving back to the UK. Before becoming a writer, Colette worked as a Political Research Consultant in public policy for many years and has an MPhil in Political Science. Her second novel, The Sinners, will be published by Bonnier in 2017.

My Q&A with Colette Dartford

What inspired you to start writing?

I had always enjoyed creative writing as a hobby but it was moving to the Napa Valley that inspired me write a novel. I was sitting on the deck of my newly renovated house, sipping a glass of wine and watching the sun slip slowly behind the mountains when the title, Learning To Speak American, jumped into my head and stayed there.

What is your favourite part of being a writer?

Seeing the thoughts and ideas that have been buzzing around in my mind take shape on the page. And there is something hugely satisfying about seeing a manuscript go from those first few pages to over three hundred – physical evidence of all your hours of hard work. But of course the eureka moment is getting a book deal and seeing your novel in print.

What made you decide to move to America?

Like the fictional Duncan and Lola Drummond in Learning To Speak American, my husband and I went there to celebrate a wedding anniversary and fell in love with the Napa Valley. We bought a run-down house and turned it into a beautiful home. It was only ever meant to be for holidays but the more time we spent there, the more we realised we wanted to move our life in that direction. The economic recession brought our Californian dream to an abrupt end but it was a wonderful experience.

What were the best and worst things about the move?

The best thing was the sense of adventure – the feeling that we were following our dream. And we already have a house and lots of friends in the Napa Valley so that made the transition easier. The worst thing was missing the family and friends we had left behind in England.

Where are your favourite places to visit in California?

San Francisco is an amazing city with its iconic Golden Gate Bridge, the sparkle of the Pacific Ocean and impossibly steep streets that seem to go on forever. The Napa Valley is 80 miles north of San Francisco and dense with vineyards that produce some of the world’s most highly prized wines. A few times we have driven along the coast road – the Pacific Coast Highway – all the way from San Francisco to Los Angeles, stopping at Carmel and Big Sur. But no trip to LA would be complete without a visit to Hollywood and a cocktail at Soho House. You never know who you might see.

Have you started writing your next book?

It’s already written. The Sinners is being published by Bonnier in early 2017. I'm working on the edits at the moment and have another novel in progress – Writing For Prizes.

What’s your favourite book that you’ve read so far this year?

I belong to a book club so am sometimes pleasantly surprised to enjoy a book I would never have chosen to read. One such book was The Signature Of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert. It’s about a nineteenth century American botanist – not an easy sell – but was ambitious in scope and so beautifully written I was disappointed when I finished it.

What are you reading at the moment?

I’m reading My Name Is Lucy Barton by Pulitzer Prize winning author Elizabeth Strout.

When and where would we most likely find you reading?

Anywhere! I always have either a book on Kindle with me in case I have the chance to steal a few minutes reading time. My favourite place to read is in bed but today I was on the tube and so engrossed in my Kindle that I missed my stop.

How can people follow you or connect with you on social media?

Because I have a fairly unusual name it’s easy to find me online. My website is, my twitter is @colettedartford and FB is Colette Dartford Author.

And finally, if you could meet any character in any book you have read, who would it be and why?

That’s such a difficult question. When I was seven I read a book called The Ship That Flew by Hilda Lewis and the main character was a boy named Peter who had a magic ship that took him on incredible adventures. It captured my imagination to the extent that I still remember the joy of reading about those adventures. I would love to meet Peter and ask him about them.