Synopsis: Cassie Smith has been out of work for a while but she has an idea. Drawing on her love of Christmas, she begins charging for small things: wrapping presents; writing cards; tree-decorating. She's soon in huge demand and Cassie's business, Calling Mrs Christmas, is born. Carter Randall wants to make Christmas special for his children, so he enlists Cassie's help, and his lavish requests start taking up all her time. Thank goodness she can rely on her loving partner Jim to handle the rest of her clients. When millionaire Carter asks Cassie to join his family on a trip to Lapland, she knows she shouldn't go . . . Suddenly Cassie finds herself facing a heart-breaking choice that could change her entire life.
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My Rating: 5/5
My Rating 4/5
Synopsis: Chantelle has everything going against her. She's a good student who only wants to pass her exams and find a way out of the sink estate in Manchester where she grew up. But now her feckless mother has taken off for Spain with her latest boyfriend and she's single-handedly raising her tearaway nine-year-old brother Leon. She thinks her worst problem is the debt collectors at the door. But Leon has made some new friends: teenage gang members who have given him a mobile phone a knife - and some drugs to hide in her flat. A part-time job seems to be the answer to Chantelle's prayers. But the violence is about to come home to her -with a vengeance. And the only person who's offering any help seems to be just as bad as the people she's trying to escape from . . .
My Review: As always I was chomping at the bit to get the new Mandasue Heller book and was very pleased when my prayers were answered, and a preview copy landed on my doorstep. I had read the synopsis and was looking forward to getting stuck into another gritty crime book and I wasn’t disappointed! Chantelle and her brother Leon live with their sad excuse for a mother on one of the estates in Manchester. It took me only a matter of pages to adore the studious and sensible young girl, and lead character Chantelle. Her brother Leon is on the edge in terms of friends and the sort of people he hangs around with and trouble is lurking from the early pages.
One thing that struck me as different is that this book doesn’t go from standard crime to real dirty, gritty, crime (if you know what I mean). I got the real sense of a story that maybe isn’t that far from some people’s real life situations. Here are two young kids, being raised by a woman that isn’t fit to be a mother; and trying their best to make it work. When Chantelle’s mum does a bunk with her latest bloke, Chantelle has no other choice than to lie about her age and find part time work. At this point in the book we see the threat of danger slowly creep up.
Chantelle soon realises that things with Leon are getting out of hand and isn’t sure what to do. In addition to that she has no idea that she herself will bring danger to their door. Chantelle and Leon take centre stage in this latest book along with a few additional characters such as one of Chantelle’s acquaintances Anton. Although this didn’t have the same feel as some of MH’s other books there was something a little bit refreshing about it. I know, I know, I’m not the best at explaining but that’s the best I can say right now. Her favourite title of mine was Lost Angel and I’m afraid it still takes the title but this was still a first class read and one that I loved from start to finish. As always I was sad to finish this book and am even sadder I have to wait a whole year for another of her instalments.
My Rating: 4/5
Synopsis: How far would you go to make a new start? Heart-warming and romantic, Take a Look at Me Now will make you laugh, cry and cheer Nell on from start to finish.
What a difference a day makes…
Nell Sullivan has always been known as ‘Miss Five-Year Plan’. But when she finds herself jobless and newly single on the same day, Nell decides it is time to stop planning and start taking chances.
Nell blows her redundancy cheque on a trip of lifetime to a place where anything is possible – San Francisco. There she meets a host of colourful characters, including the intriguing and gorgeous Max. Very soon the city begins to feel like Nell’s second home. But when it’s time to return to London, will she leave the ‘new Nell’ behind? And can the magic of San Francisco continue to sparkle thousands of miles away?
My Review: I was lucky to get an early copy of this and after reading the synopsis was really looking forward to reading it. The subject matter is kind of good timing as the present day seems to be all about people being made redundant and in this latest release by Miranda Dickinson we see Nell face exactly that challenge. Nell is a woman who is known for her ‘five year plan’ and within the first few chapters you can see that she is (although loveable) totally stuck in a rut with her job, her love life and things in general. So when she goes in to work one day and manages to lose her job and her bloke in one foul swoop, she takes action.
I loved the fact that Nell was so impulsive and immediately decides to use her redundancy money to get away from real life and take some time out. Her destination of choice ends up being San Francisco. Having visited San Francisco I certainly had an advantage, but Miranda Dickinson really transports the readers there and the descriptions made me feel like I really knew the neighbourhood and characters. Nell is lucky that she has her cousin Lizzie out there who she was very close with growing up. Now that she has her accommodation sorted out, she just decides to wing the rest of her time.
I fell in love with not only Nell, but the people that lived in Haight-Ashbury and the whirlwind 8 weeks that Nell spends there. There were so many characters but they all played their part and towards the end of her journey there, it felt almost heart wrenching to see her have to return home. The story then follows up with the decision she makes when she finally does make it home. I have to be honest and say this was my least favourite part of the book. Aside from that the only other criticism I really had was how quick the ending was wrapped up. It was going at a brilliant pace and I felt like it could have easily been stretched over a couple more chapters (but that’s me no doubt being a little picky!).
I must say I thoroughly enjoyed this latest book by Miranda Dickinson and absolutely fell in love with San Francisco all over again. Most definitely recommended by meJ
My Rating: 5/5
I need to start this review by explaining the fact that this is a follow up to the first book featuring the Butlers, entitled The Trap. If you haven’t already read this book then please don’t read this reviews as there will inevitably be spoilers in it. Kimberley Chambers came onto the Crime writing scene back in 2008, and has gone on to become an author which I can confidently place in my top 5. She created the series featuring the family’s the Mitchell’s and O’Hara’s and then last year she created a new series featuring the Butler family. I always felt that the characters in the Mitchell/O’Hara series would take some beating, but the Butlers are just as good. I apologise for the length of this review, but the book warrants a long review as there is so much to say.
We return to the Butlers lives following the death of Vinny and Michael’s brother Roy Butler and their cousin Lenny. Vinny Butler is the most ferocious of the Butlers and unfortunately has made many enemies on his journey to become a feared and well known face. Unfortunately some of his enemies are closer than he thinks. Vinny’s younger brother Michael also makes a return along with his wife Nancy and their kids. Nancy hasn’t been well and life has not been straightforward for Michael either. Nancy is trying to recover both in her health, and with her relationship to Michael. She also has the added pressure of trying to bond with Michael’s son Lee. Joanna is married to Vinny and has her own troubles as she struggles to bond with Vinny’s son (aptly named Little Vinnie) from another relationship. However, when she gives birth to Molly, Vinny changes for the better and Joanna wonders if the birth of his daughter will be the making of him.
My Rating: 5/5
Synopsis: Tough talking, ball busting, TV talk show host Tanya Travis is at the top of her game. For fifteen years she has steered The Truth With Tanya Travis to be a ratings winner, solving the problems of Britain's great drug taking, shagging, DNA testing unwashed. But underneath the designer exterior, Tanya's life isn't so rosy. She is hounded by the press, who are desperate to prove her boyfriend's infidelity, and her closest relationships are with her crazy Brooklyn agent and her sweet faced (but foul mouthed) cleaner. When reality TV show Celebrity Spa Trek comes knocking, Tanya turns them down flat, believing that her image and credentials as the Darling of Daytime raise her above participating. However, she may be forced to re-think when her carefully constructed life starts to come apart at the seams. With her relationship in crisis, her career on the line, and her finances in dire straits she may have to join the desperate gaggle of C-List wannabes trekking round Nepal after all....
My Review: Sue Watson’s debut novel Fat Girls and Fairy Cakes was released in 2012 and was an absolute winner with me. I was really excited and getting to read an early review copy of her new book and thankfully I wasn’t disappointed. If there are people out there that wants to read a thoroughly meaningful book with morals and meaning, then please don’t read this and then grumble. If, however, you are looking for an extremely humorous fictional take on what it’s like to be a failing celebrity then this will be a winner!
Initially I found it hard to get to grips with the lead in the book Tanya Travis and the beginning felt a little bit ‘bitty’. Luckily that lasted no more than a few chapters and I began to really like Tanya Travis. Yes, she is a daytime talk show and has the boyfriend, lifestyle and money to match; but we also get to see the normal side to this quirky and OCD inflicted character. Within the first quarter of the book the humour was ramped up and I found myself wondering why Sue Watson hasn’t been writing for longer. In addition to Tanya, we meet Tanya’s slightly eccentric and crazy agent Donna and the absolute legendary cleaner she employs, Astrid. One thing I will say is that in both of her books, there have been characters that haven’t necessarily taken the led but which you absolutely fall in love with, and Astrid is most certainly one of them!
When Tanya’s career takes a serious nosedive her life falls apart in front of the general public. With her life and career on the verge of crumbling, she manages to let her agent persuade her to take part in the reality TV show Celebrity Spa Trek. BY the second half of the book I didn’t want to put the book down. The cleaner Astrid had me in hysterics, and Tanya’s behaviour matched the hilarity. The section of the book where she takes part in the reality show doesn’t dominate the book, but certainly adds the extra layer in terms of characters. There were some brilliant characters and I couldn’t help making real life comparisons (which makes it even funnier).
I certainly guessed where the book would go towards the end, but am glad that it was written the way it was. I only have one criticism about this latest book and that is the cover! I know people may think that’s a trivial matter, but for some reason I just don’t think the cover is enough to make people want to pick it up if they were in a bookshop. The cover certainly doesn’t do justice to the book itself, that’s for sure.With the cover issue aside, I can honestly say that if you want a really funny book to transport you from everyday humdrums, and lift your mood then this is the book for you. This was an outstanding second book by Sue Watson which does exactly what it says on the tin. Can’t wait to see what she comes up with next.