Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Spotlight: "Do You Take This Man?" by Sophie King

I'm very excited to read the new Sophie King novel, Do You Take This Man? so I decided to spotlight it ahead of my review! Below is a description as well as an exclusive excerpt. If you haven't read anything by Sophie King yet I suggest that you fix that immediately! She writes fun fiction that often hits close to home.

About the Book

One bride, two choices. What if... 

Do You Take This Man? The brand new novel by the bestselling author of The School Run

Katie is getting married to Alec ... or is she?
Have you ever wondered ‘what if …’ you had made a different decision in life? Would another choice have taken you down a totally different path? Would life have been better or worse? Would you have ended up with someone different? 

In Do You Take This Man? we follow Katie’s two lives and find out what happens to her if she says ‘I do’ and what happens if she stands up her groom. 

In many ways, Katie’s two separate realities couldn’t be further apart. But we also see how there are some people and situations you can’t avoid, and that perhaps some things are meant to happen whatever choices you make in life. 

In the tradition of the classic film Sliding Doors, Do You Take This Man? will keep you gripped and guessing to the end! 


Excerpt

‘So you see, if I’d respected your mother more and considered her own needs, maybe none of this would have happened. All right, I grant you, the Spanish girl didn’t help …’

Katie winced. ‘Or the Italian.’

‘Who? Carlotta? She was just the catalyst, darling. It was all over by then. Look, what I’m really trying to say is that if you respect Alec and he respects you, you won’t make the mistakes your mother and I made.’

Looking out of the window – anything to get away from her father’s ‘You do forgive me, don’t you?’ baleful look, Katie noticed a small boy, clutching his mother’s hand. He was waving at her frantically so she waved back. As she did so, the child tugged his mother’s hand again and said something so that the mother looked up and smiled. When she’d been a kid, she’d liked to look at brides going past in their wedding cars too. It seemed magical. Out of this world. A slice of enchantment next to the pavement.

‘Are you listening, Katie? I was just saying that it’s important to have the same values. And you and Alec seem to have those, from what I’ve seen.’

What he’d seen? Her father had only met Alec on one occasion during their brief engagement. And that was to say that of course he was thrilled they were getting married but don’t expect him to pay for the wedding. Not after the very costly divorce he’d just been through with her mother. (Why was it that since the divorce, Mum seemed to have lost her name in Dad’s mouth and was now referred to as ‘your mother’ as though the entire mess had been her fault instead of Carlotta’s or Ingrid’s or Janine’s or whoever?)

‘So do you? Do you have the same values?’

‘Sort of.’

Katie thought briefly of the conversation she and Alec had had last week about having babies. She’d always assumed they’d have a nanny like everyone else on Charisma magazine – at least the two women who’d been brave enough to jeopardise their promotion prospects and have children. But he’d made it clear he’d expect her to give up work when she got pregnant, like his mother who had been a shop assistant.

Still, the one thing they had agreed on was that considering she was only twenty two, there wouldn’t be any babies for at least five years until they could get a bigger house. A bigger house? Why? They’d only just completed on the airy, two-bedroom Victorian flat conversion in Bow. It wasn’t an area she knew but it seemed so different; so exciting from the boring north London suburbia she’d grown up in.

‘Now what’s happened?’ Her father was leaning forward and tapping impatiently on the glass partition between him and the chauffeur, as though he was paying him instead of her stepfather. 

‘Can’t you go a different way? We’re going to be late at this rate.’

‘Sorry, guv. It’s the traffic. Nothing I can do about it. It’ll be clear soon.’

Katie looked out of the window again. The small boy with the pudding bowl hair cut had caught up and was waving again excitedly from the pavement. His mother was smiling; perhaps she was remembering her own wedding day. Oh God. She was going to be sick again. The taste of last night’s wine was still in her mouth; how could she have allowed Lauren to order another bottle when she knew she could only take one glass? If she hadn’t, it might never have happened …

No. She’d sworn, from the minute she woke up that morning, never to think of that again. It had been a mistake. Just as it had been a crazy mistake to ring that radio station. What had she been thinking of? What if someone had recognised her voice even though she’d put on that funny deep voice? What if this marriage was going to be as big a mistake as her parents’ had been?

‘Katie? What are you doing?’

 Katie stared in horror at her hand which was on the door handle.‘Sorry. I can’t do this, Dad. I just can’t. Tell Alec I’ll … tell him I’ll ring.’

It was easier than she’d thought, to run. Exhilarating. Mad. Thrilling. Terrifying. Just as well she’d decided against the long train her mother had wanted, she thought irreverently, or she’d never be able to keep going. As it was, the heels of her lovely, spanking new white satin shoes, that Mum had bought from Fenwicks as part of her wedding trousseau, kept tripping her up.

Take them off!’ yelled someone.

Katie turned round. It was the mother with the small boy. ‘You’ll run better without them.’The woman’s eyes were shining. ‘Run love. Run. If you’re not sure, just run.’She slung the white satin shoes towards her and the woman caught them, like a bridal bouquet. Blast ‒ the bus had gone although she could see people on the top deck, turning round and staring at her. Someone hooted but it wasn’t the bridal car which was still stuck in traffic some yards back with her dad hanging out of the window, waving and shouting something. If he was that bothered, he’d get out and run after her.

Her chest began to hurt along with her feet. If she turned back now, no one in the church would be any the wiser. All right, so they’d be late but they could blame it on the traffic. Or she could just keep running. She’d overtaken the bus now and the bridal car was out of sight. If she didn’t turn right, she’d pass the church and she couldn’t do that. Right or left? Left. Right. Electricity boards. People were looking as she ran past and something sharp on the pavement cut through the 10 denier tights her mother had bought her along with the too-grown up shoes.

Across the road. Down the next. There it was. The comforting sign of the Metropolitan line. Down the steps. Oh God, she didn’t have any money! Why didn’t brides carry handbags? So they couldn’t run away, stupid. Katie allowed herself a wry smile.

‘Oy, Cinders!’ shouted out someone. ‘Off to a fancy dress ball, are you? Don’t forget your shoes!’If it wasn’t so unreal, she’d have curled up and died with mortification. But despite the stares and a few more ‘Are you all right, luvs?’ she felt something weird rising up inside her along with the sickening fear and pain in her ribs from running.

Something big. Something warm. She had done it. She had followed her gut instinct or whatever it was that had made her do what she had done last night. The realisation almost made her feel like a different person – someone she didn’t recognise. Someone who had taken over her body (not to mention her brain) and yet who still felt part of her.

There was only one problem. What on earth was she going to do now?

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Giveaway: "The Gift: A Christmas Miracle" by Joanne Clancy


If you missed my review of Joanne Clancy's novella The Gift: A Christmas Miracle yesterday, here's the link! The author has generously offered a copy for giveaway, and entry is simple! Please fill out the Rafflecopter form below. This giveaway is open internationally and ends on December 15, 2014!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, December 8, 2014

Review: "The Gift: A Christmas Miracle" by Joanne Clancy

I love reading Christmas novellas leading up to the season. I find that they put me in the mood for all of the festive plans that I have and I was excited to read The Gift: A Christmas Miracle by Joanne Clancy.

Julie has always loved Christmas and all of the things that come with it. She loves trimming the tree, and holiday meals, and getting together with her family. This Christmas promises to be extra special as she is due with her first and much-anticipated child. When something unthinkable happens after the birth of her baby Julie is faced with her worst nightmare. Suddenly the only thing that she wants for Christmas is the thing that seems the least likely to happen.

This is the first thing that I have read by Joanne Clancy and I really enjoyed it. The novella was fast-paced and it had me at the edge of my seat! I loved the picture that she painted of a family getting ready for Christmas and all that comes with it. Those scenes were very well-done and remain vivid in my mind. The plot was one that we don't read about all of the time, so that was interesting as well.

My one criticism (and one that I often have about novellas) is that I wanted more. There was such an interesting back story present in the novella and it floated just beneath the surface. I definitely think that this story could have worked as a full-length novel as well as there were so many interesting angles to it!

The Gift certainly intrigued me and made me think about Christmas in an entirely different way. While it wasn't what I was expecting at first I found myself drawn in by it and I can recommend it as an interesting read both before and after the holidays. My thanks to the author for providing me with a copy for review.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Review: "Fairy Tale in New York" by Nicky Wells

Rock star Jude, girlfriend Carrie, and new baby Maya are excited to spend their first ever Christmas together. Waiting in an airport in New York for their flight home, they witness an agitated man desperately trying to get home in time to witness the birth of his weeks-early baby but there is no room left on the flight. Jude graciously gives up his seat on the flight because he knows that if it were him in that position he would hope for the same, and Carrie decides that she is going to stay with him no matter what. Although their first additional night in New York is spent in the luxury of a five-star hotel, a freak snowstorm grounds them indefinitely and suddenly they find that there is no room at the inn.

With no place to stay on Christmas Eve, things are looking grim for Jude and for Carrie but they quickly discover that, thanks to the kindness of strangers, this Christmas might be their best yet.

I thoroughly enjoyed this heartwarming Christmas tale from author Nicky Wells! I could vividly picture Jude and Carrie and baby Maya in New York, away from their families but trying to keep a brave face on. Despite the harshness of the weather depicted the story was cozy and welcoming, and I wished at times that I could jump right in to the story! I loved that the underlying theme was remaining positive even in those times when things just don't go your way.

Reading Fairy Tale in New York certainly put me in the festive spirit! I enjoyed reading this novella as well as the one that comes before it (Spirits of Christmas), and I thank the author for providing me a copy of this novella in exchange for my honest review.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Review: "A Second Bite At The Apple" by Dana Bate

Sydney Strauss is obsessed with writing about food. When she was in College she dreamed of being a food writer one day, but since that line of work is notoriously hard to break in to she found herself accepting a producing job for a local morning show instead. When she finds herself unexpectedly unemployed in a difficult job market Sydney takes a part-time job at a local farmer's market working for a cantankerous boss at the Wild Yeast Bakery stand. While she mostly enjoys it she also finds herself gravitating towards writing about food again. Is there room for another food writer in an overcrowded market? When she lands the scoop of the century should she write about it and potentially alienate her new friends or should the world know the truth?

Add in an ex-boyfriend, a current love interest with a checkered past, a colourful best friend and a potential dream job and Sydney has her hands fuller than she ever imagined.

I liked A Second Bite At The Apple quite a bit. The farmer's market setting was really interesting, as was the emphasis on the local food movement. Author Dana Bate made the romance between Sydney and potential love interest Jeremy come alive and I quite enjoyed watching their relationship develop. Despite my reservations about the two at first, they quickly became my favourite part of the story.

I will admit that it took me a bit to get in to this book. Sydney didn't strike me as being particularly lovable at first and it took me a while to relate to her. While I enjoyed all of the quirky supporting characters I didn't like her as much as I wanted to. When she made a very questionable decision (or at least went about making it in a very questionable way) I liked her even less but persevered in reading the story anyways. It's very rare that I give up reading a book, especially when I'm more than halfway through!

Despite my earlier reservations, I'm very glad that I finished reading the book. It concluded with a bang and I found the last half very enjoyable! Sydney came full circle for me and went from a character that I felt indifferent about to one whose story I enjoyed very much! I found parts of the book to be very realistic and I appreciated that as well. Sydney's struggles with the job market felt real and lent an authentic air to the story.

Overall A Second Bite At The Apple was an enjoyable read. If you enjoy "foodie" books as much as I do it is unlikely that you won't find something to love! My thanks to the publisher as well as Netgalley for providing me with a review copy of the book.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Review: "The Woman Who Stole My Life" by Marian Keyes

Stella Sweeney, mom of two trying to get her life back, has always believed in the power of karma. One day she tries to do a good deed and the car crash that happens as a result has the power to change her life. She meets a man that day who turns up in her life later on when she least expects it and who has the ability to change her from ordinary Stella into the Stella of her dreams.

Life as Stella is just not that easy, though. She has a child who hates her (and pretty much everyone else), an ex-husband determined to become famous at any cost, and a best friend who isn't what she seems. Will Stella come to curse the car crash that changed her life or will she learn to embrace all of the weird and wonderful things that have happened to her as a result?

I would read anything that Marian Keyes has written, including a grocery list, but the plot of The Woman Who Stole My Life is in turns brilliant and moving, making it a pleasure to read. This book certainly appears to be more autobiographical than most of her novels. I follow her on several social networks and as a result I have an idea of the kind of things that Keyes has been struggling with over the last few years, and I saw some of those things evident within the pages of this novel. The parallels were interesting, and I feel that they gave us a glimpse into the woman behind the books. That made this book interesting in a different way from her previous releases.

Keyes also moves the plot of this book throughout several different time periods of Stella's life.We see her pre-accident as well as post-accident, and somehow the movement through time periods is effortless and I never found myself confused as to which time period we were currently in. I appreciated this technique as it gave us, as readers, insight into the role that this one accident managed to play in Stella's life and how one moment can have the power to change everything.

While in many ways The Woman Who Stole My Life is different from Keyes' previous releases, in other ways the author's voice remains the same, making this an enjoyable read for both new fans as well as die hard ones. The characters were well thought-out and unique (although exasperating at times!), the plot easy to follow and enjoyable, and within the pages Stella's emotions were evident. It was an excellent read and I'm glad that one of my favourite authors is back writing fiction again. My thanks to Penguin UK and Netgalley for providing me with a review copy!

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Hasbro Game Night With Monopoly Junior!

My kids are seven, nine, and fifteen and they are all into video games. I do my best to limit their screen time overall- I set time limits on video games and I have cancelled my cable- but video games seem to be the one thing that they continually gravitate towards in their free time. As a busy mom who works six days a week I always struggle to find ways to spend quality time with the boys. I'm certainly not interested in any of the video games that they are in to. We do read together on a nightly basis, and the boys take turns rotating who gets to walk our puppy, Kevin, with me, but I am always on the hunt for more ways to interact with them.

I was thrilled to receive an invitation to the Influenster Hasbro Gaming VoxBox! Influenster and Hasbro sent me Monopoly Junior to play with my boys, and I couldn't wait! We found time on a Sunday afternoon to sit down together (myself and the three boys) to play the game. I was happy that my fifteen-year-old was interested in playing with us too. Despite the fact that the game has been adjusted to meet the playing needs of young children, my oldest was still interested in spending some quality time with us! Monopoly Junior allows for up to four players total, so we each chose a fun character to be (boat, cat, car, dog) and away we went!

The first thing that I loved about this game were the simplified rules. My boys have played their own version of the adult Monopoly together before and usually the result is tears due to the over-complicated rules that they come up with. Monopoly Junior made the rules easy to follow so that even younger children can play along, and the game lasts about as long as their attention span does. The boys and I played two games together that day and have played several since! I also liked that you can play with two to four players. Sometimes we want to play as a family, but other times my youngest two boys just want to play alone.

My favourite part about Monopoly Junior, of course, is the time that we were able to spend together playing it. It was nice to have that break from playing video games and it was even nicer to be able to spend some quality time with my boys doing something that we all enjoyed! I'm excited about having Hasbro Game Nights as a family in the future! My thanks to Influenster for inviting me to participate in this campaign. I received Monopoly Junior in exchange for my honest opinion about the game.