Review: Snow Angels, Secrets & Christmas Cake by Sue Watson


Title: Snow Angels, Secrets & Christmas Cake by Sue Watson

Published by: Bookouture

RRP/Availability: Kindle £1.59 
Paperback available from November 25th £7.51 

My Rating: 5/5

THE BLURB:

Snow Angels, Secrets and Christmas Cake is a truly heart-warming and hilarious read about sisters, love and finding the courage to be yourself – one snowflake at a time.
 
For Tamsin Angel, Christmas is always the biggest and best… chic parties and a little showbiz sparkle are a must. This year though, things aren’t going quite as planned…
 
With bailiffs suddenly at the door and her husband nowhere to be found, it looks like Christmas just got downsized. Moving into her sister’s flat, she wonders whether things will ever be the same again.
 
After losing her husband on Christmas Eve, Sam Angel has rebuilt her life around her son Jacob and her new business – The White Angel Bakery. She’s also found herself a very handsome, loving boyfriend, but is struggling to let go of the past.
 
Thrown together with a sprinkle of Christmas magic, Sam and Tamsin might just learn a little more about each other – and themselves. But when disaster strikes at the bakery, will they be able to save the day in time for Christmas?
 
MY OPINION:
 
Snow Angels, Secrets & Christmas Cake promises to be a 'heart-warming and hilarious read', and it didn't disappoint. The humour is as tasteful as scrumptious cake, and the way the characters grow is more heart-warming than a cup of hot cocoa!
 
This was my first ever Sue Watson read, and having not known what to expect from the author, I can only say that this festive read has left me wanting more...
 
The book is a story of how two sisters, Tasmin and Sam, build their lives, navigate the twists and turns that sometimes cruelly come to us, and deepen the bond of sisterhood, friendship and love at the Christmas time of year.
 
One sister is seen as the 'down to earth' one, the one who runs her own business, brings up her son as a single mother since the tragic death of her husband, and works hard for her living, whilst the other sister 'has it all'. She has the giant house, the money, the glamour, the glitz, the shoes, the designer clothes, the cheating husband.. the bailiffs at her door, .... but it's perfect right?
 
Well, Tamsin (rich sis) has to come back down to earth with a huge bump that not even £500 shoes can save her from. Having to face losing the home that she shares with her husband (Who has more secrets than pennies in his account!) and their grown up children, as bailiffs turn up at her door just as she's planning the most extravagant Christmas (think life-size reindeer, choir singers, huge trees, - all for her home), it comes down to Sam (down-to-earth sis) to save her.

What then unfolds is a alternative view from each sister as they try to make sense of the world they live in. I love how the chapters alternate between Sam and Tamsin, getting both points of view, along with seeing right through them as they share their feelings, thoughts and new life is magical.

Tamsin meets new friends who see her at her worst, and are there when she comes back better than ever. Sam, has to decide whether she can truly let go of the past once and for all, and that involves letting her Son have his hair cut, and allow herself to open her heart to a wonderful man.
 
Both sisters learn to join forces, allow men into their lives even for a brief encounter (of a designer shoe flinging into the snow kind of encounter!), build up a business after a disaster, and promise each other to never allow money to get the better of them. It's sisterhood, family, friendship and love in the most magical way.
 
If there is ONE festive book you read this Christmas, I urge you to read Snow Angels, Secrets & Christmas Cake, because Sue Watson will literally melt your heart, and bring through the true meaning of Christmas, which is not huge amounts of money, displays fit for a department store, or even the presents, but one of love, family, happiness, and true contentment.

Review: The Great Christmas Knit Off by Alexandra Brown


Title/Author: The Great Christmas Knit off by Alexandra Brown

Published by: HarperCollins UK  

Price & Availability: RRP £6.99  
£5.24 paperback /  £1.99 EBook

My Rating: 5/5


THE BLURB:

Heartbroken after being jilted at the altar, Sybil has been saved from despair by her knitting obsession and now her home is filled to bursting with tea cosies, bobble hats, and jumpers. But, after discovering that she may have perpetrated the cock-up of the century at work, Sybil decides to make a hasty exit and, just weeks before Christmas, runs away to the picturesque village of Tindledale.

There, Sybil discovers Hettie’s House of Haberdashery, an emporium dedicated to the world of knitting and needle craft. But Hettie, the outspoken octogenarian owner, is struggling and now the shop is due for closure. And when Hettie decides that Sybil’s wonderfully wacky Christmas jumpers are just the thing to add a bit of excitement to her window display, something miraculous starts to happen...


MY OPINION:

The second I saw the title of this book I wanted to read it... for two reasons; 1) It's about knitting and 2) its by Alexandra Brown! I was not disappointed at all. In fact I felt so inspired by this story that it has really given me some hope for my future. You see I grew up as part of a village in the countryside and before I was 16 years old, I became separated from the country and had to become a city lass. Well, Sybil is the opposite, she's a city girl, working for the government department that sorts out benefit claims... but something went horribly wrong... like £££thousands of pounds worth of wrong and Sybil panics. She decides the only thing to do is head to Tindledale and spend a weekend with her friend. So off she goes on a train to Tindledale.

To me, Tindledale is a magic village (Just wish it was so magically that it would let me visit! haha), because Sybil falls in love with Tindledale, and Tindledale and it's residents falls in love with her... in more ways than one. But hold up, I'm getting ahead of myself here.

So Sybil's on the train and spots a dishy guy when her dog makes his presence known to him. Next thing she knows she's waking up having missed her train stop. Grabbing her newspaper and luggage she heads off the train in the dark in search for Tindledale... a whole lot of distance to go ... in the SNOW!

When she reaches Tindledale, the lights are out... there's been a power cut and soon the villagers offer her hope and a bed for the night at the local B&B. I love the owner of the B&B as he makes his entrance complete with glittery eyelashes. He helps Sybil find her way again in life and around the village.

Another character I adore and will continue to adore her and that is Hettie. She owns the haberdashery store and like me, Sybil is enchanted by the little knitting shop - but all the faded wool is on show for sale, whilst she has the good stuff hidden in the store cupboard. Hettie takes Sybil to her heart and allows Sybil to work her magic on transforming the store and turning it around financially as well as socially. Soon enough Hettie and Sybil are hosting little afternoon Knit & Chats. More and more villagers get involved and they come in handy when a surprising request for knitted jumpers from tourists comes in... but with a festive deadline, and only a few knitters can they make the deadline?

Add to the knit off the fact that there is a dishy doc that Sybil meets ... hasn't she seen him somewhere before? Hmmm, well they struggle to get 2 minutes to themselves because whenever they do, the other villagers want to discuss their ailments. Will they ever have time to themselves or will the spark between them fizzle out before it's even got burning properly?


I loved reading it so much that it inspired me to have a knit off of my own, and I happened to knit this little fella.


 
Alexandra has put in the back of the book Sybils Christmas pud knitting know-how. She's running a competition for all knitters out there to knit a pud and share with her. Here's the details;
 
Photo: Calling all knitters! It's COMPETITION time. Yarn bomb your lovely little Christmas Pudding from the pattern in the back of The Great Christmas Knit Off and WIN a hamper crammed full of crafting goodies.
https://inspirationknits.wordpress.com/2014/11/06/the-great-christmas-knit-off-competition/ 

Remembrance Day ~ A Place to Call Home

Today I'm posting something a little different, and something that is quite close to my heart. Today is the 11th day of the 11th month - Remembrance Day. I was moved to tears today in the supermarket as we fell silent for 2 minutes to remember all those war veterans who gave their lives in World War 1, and World War 2, and still to this day give their lives for us.

2 minutes hardly seems valid as a time to give for the pain, suffering, bravery and heroism that we are so lucky to have had within the servicemen and women over the last 100 years. Wearing a poppy seems a small act in comparison to what was faced and yet we do anything we can to say Thank You. A poppy is not just about remembering the fallen, or those who survived, but it's a symbol of hope... the hope of a safer, warless world where peace really does get given a chance.

I wanted to share with you something I wrote as part of a university assignment I had for my creative writing module. It's a piece of life writing, and it's based upon my Grandfather; Jerzy. I can't really explain it enough to do it justice, but I ask that you take a few minutes to read the closest thing I have to a memoir from my Grandpops, from the perspective of a Polish soldier in World War 2, who came to England and having served with the Polish Army, then made the choice to resign with the British Army and fight for England. My Grandpops will ALWAYS be my hero, but I also can't apologise enough for what he had to face, along with so many other soldiers. Here it is;

A PLACE TO CALL HOME
 
 
War touches people in different ways. It leaves a scar upon us all. Some of us are grateful for the outcome, for our loved ones who return home safe. Some become withdrawn from life, from their family, even from themselves. The ugly scars that are left behind are not always physical. Some of these scars are mentally damaging, so damaging that it can leave you with a yearning for normality; a yearning to rewind time and protect those who we truly care about.
                Everyone has their own story about war and its eternal effects. A war of love that can be likened to Shakespeare’s ‘Romeo and Juliet’, or a raging war that brings disease to the body and mind, or a war to survive each hour of life when born into a third world country.
                This is the story of a man who was thrust into a war that was not his to own, but that became a part of him, a part that he had no desire for as it replaced his family. This is the story of my Polish Grandfather and his war to simply find a place to call home once more.
My Grandfather was called Jerzy which when translated into English is George. He lived with his parents and siblings in Warsaw, Poland on a farm, before the war. They owned the large piece of land with a few shire horses that he and his brothers used to help their father plough the fields. He was only young when the Second World War broke out. One can only imagine the fear that filled his young soul. To be under 18 years old and know that life would allow such evil to rage within it must have been terrifying. I’m unsure of the precise moment in which my Grandfather knew what ‘war’ meant, perhaps it was later on in the timeline of World War Two as we know if it today.
                He lived in a very close and religious family. He adored his youngest sister and instinctively would protect her should danger ever arise. Perhaps the true war that raged through him became guilt, through hopelessness as he remained powerless in this raging war that was sweeping through his life like an uncontrollable tornado. This was guilt that festered within him as he was forced into admission that he no longer could protect her or his family anymore, not in the physical sense.
                I assume life before the war was pleasant for my Grandfather if its effects are anything to go by. There always seemed a deep feeling of emptiness within him, a pining for something he knew he could never have. The longing filled his once, pure heart with anger, fear, despair and treacherous sadness.
The day the Germans invaded his family home and ripped them from its heart, is a day he never forgot. He dulled the images when he was asked about what happened all those years ago in Poland, instead insisting “it’s all a blur now”. But those watered eyes told a different version, these eyes said that in an instant he was there again, in Poland, in Auschwitz reliving it all again.
                The closest I came to understanding what happened to my Grandfather was watching a film based on Auschwitz. The film alone, knowing that it was only portraying a tiny particle of what my Grandfather and his family experienced, left a scar upon my heart, soul and mind. A scar that I will never heal from, even though I am simply his Granddaughter that was born in the eighties. The contrast between his young life and mine leaves me with unquestionable gratitude. Gratitude for having such a brave Grandfather, although he’d never agree to be called ‘brace’ or a ‘hero’ – yet he is and always will be to me. I have gratitude to have had such a loving and safe environment to grow up in. Something he and his beloved youngest sister had stolen from them.
The Germans claimed the farm, the land, the home as theirs and carted my Grandfather, his parents, and his siblings off to the Auschwitz camp. A place that is filled to this day with the energy of the chilling torment and torture, massacre and murder, that occurred there. Auschwitz is claimed to be where many souls were destroyed and had their dignity of death taken from them. Dignity was something my Grandfather claimed those German soldiers never had and never would. The anger inexplicably clear in his tone. The camp became the place my Grandfather witnessed the most horrific acts against man. It was here that he watched helplessly as his parents were led to the gas chambers to be put to a death that claimed not just their lives but their innocence and a part of my Grandfather also. This only occurred after they were chained like dangerous wild dogs to a rotating wheel and tortured into continuous movement without ever taking a rest. The walking, as if not torture enough was worsened by the fact that their circular pathway was laid down hot coals. They were walking bare feet on such immense heat, burning away their skin, down to raw muscle and bone that exuded a stench of burnt skin. Walking to their exhaustion was not enough for these torturers. It was then that they were led to the gas chambers when they no longer offered any sort of entertainment like unwanted toys threw out. The lasting torment upon my Grandfather did not end there. He never spoke of what he was made to do there in terms of labour. One can only imagine that he felt it insignificant in comparison to the punishment his parents and youngest sister took.
He once told me that I got my good looks from him, perhaps an attempt to look on the bright side, and that I looked very much like his sister, as if she had never left him never ageing. A comfort to him or a torment that he felt inside? I’m not sure. But the love for me that I felt from him was a comfort to me. Sometimes I’d feel deep guilt for my genetic make-up that moulded my physical appearance. Guilt for bringing back bad memories – yet – not once until now have I entertained the idea that my physical appearance offered comfort as he reminisced about the pleasant memories of childhood. The childhood before war scarred him.
His sister was victim to a death, a murder that not only claimed her life but yet more of my Grandfather’s heart and soul. Her torture and punishment was justified in the soldiers view because she refused to be affectionate with them. Her dignity and pride, her self worth that she had control over, was something she could be proud of. Still to this day I am immensely proud of her self pride, honoured to call her family. My grandfather was forced to watch as the moment his beloved sister would cease to see him again. To be so young and to have witnessed his parents being put to death only then to be forced to watch as his sisters beautiful hazel eyes were gauged out with fiery hot red pokers, is more than enough to cause in the very least a troubled mind. That moment, those collective moments were to forever haunt him as the years rolled by painfully.
When exactly he made ‘The Great Escape’ from Auschwitz is out of my range of knowledge. Understandably he never had enthusiasm for talking about his past. We have a saying that ‘to talk about something has the power to make it real’. I can presume compassionately that my Grandfather had no desire to make it any more real than it already was.
Jerzy made his way to England, finding solace in a community Polish Club. Why he chose England to escape to I don’t know. When he arrived the war was still ongoing, he signed up to the British Army and served a soldier. I’m not sure of ‘if’ or ‘where’ he served in action. Conversations about war, his war in general were almost non-existent. Memories and horrors that was perhaps better left in the past, if only the reality could.
                Eventually after the war was over, my Grandfather silently vowed to himself that he would live his life for his family. He would never let anything harm his family, protecting them the best way that he could, with the knowledge and understanding he had, and to the best of his ability. We may not have agreed with the way he did things, the way he bottled up his emotions, only allowing his anger to express at moments that perhaps, from a female perspective required compassion rather than anger, but we understood. We understand, especially as how he had his family and home ripped from him, leading him to England.
This is where he came to meet my Grandmother, fall in love with her, marry her and have six children who would give him six grandchildren, me being the youngest, just like his sister was in his generation. This was his attempt to not forget his past, he never was able to do that, the anger was too strong for that. But it was the place he attempted to build a new life, a new place to call home. 
 
***
 
Author Liz Trenow has written a book with Avon Publishing called The Poppy Factory.


For every copy sold, AVON publishing are making a donation towards the poppy appeal that helps war veterans.

For more information about the poppy factory organisation, you can visit www.PoppyFactory.org 
 

Review: The Christmas Light by Donna VanLiere

 
Title/Author: The Christmas Light by Donna VanLiere
Published by: St Martins Press / Macmillan  
RRP/Availability: £6.96 as an E Book / £10.61 Hardback
My Rating: 5/5
 
 
THE BLURB:
 
In the small town of Grandon, five very different people discover the true meaning of Christmas.
 
Jennifer and Ryan are both single parents, struggling with their own losses and heartache as they attempt to move forward in the present while still holding onto the memories, joy, and heartache of the past.
 
Sixteen-year-old Kaylee is faced with a life-changing situation that has affected her whole family.
 
Stephen and Lily are happily married and ready to start a family. All of them are facing their own struggles, and all are finding their way through the dark.
 
When they are brought together for a rather unconventional church Nativity, they will learn that with strength, courage, and love, there is always hope.
 
The New York Times bestselling author of the beloved The Christmas Hope series returns with this new heartwarming, inspirational story about the power of love and faith to reveal the possibilities that lay right in front of you.
 
MY OPINION:
 
The Christmas Light is a sweet, heart-warming story that encapsulates the meaning of Christmas.
 
The start of the story begins when we meet Jennifer and her charming daughter  who is struggling after losing her father. Donna, really captured the heartache, pain and uncertainty that a child faces when losing a parent so young. It moved me to tears at times as my heart broke for this sweet girl and her mother.
 
Ryan and his daughter are in town staying with his aunt whilst he tries to find somewhere for them to live and decide which job he wants to take. Both and he and Jennifer have more in common than either of them realise at first, besides the being a single parent, Ryan was an angel to Jennifer and her daughter three years previously.
 
Ryan's aunt and her friend have the hilarious task of putting on the local Christmas nativity. I love how they go about getting people in the town to participate and giving people a chance even though they are not the 'ideal' candidate for acting. I couldn't help but laugh at the three triplets who played angels...  they certainly keep everyone on their toes.

Kalee is a sixteen year old girl who is pregnant and makes the most important decision of her life that involves making someone else's wish come true for Christmas.
 
The end of the story comes together beautifully, and with style. I highly recommend this to everyone who is looking for a heart-warming festive novel.
 
I enjoyed this beautiful story and want to congratulate Donna on yet another superb Christmas story with heart, hope and humour!


BLOG TOUR: Christmas Wedding at the Gingerbread Cafe by Rebecca Raisin

Title/Author: Christmas Wedding at the Gingerbread Café by Rebecca Raisin

Published by Carina UK/Harlequin

RRP/Availability: £4.99  E-Book

My Rating: 5/5











Just For Fun!!

As a special treat for being a part of the blog tour, I can share a few fun pictures with you throughout this review in honour of the beautiful Christmas read that is; Christmas Wedding at the Gingerbread café, by the beautiful author, Rebecca Raisin, whom I am honoured to call my friend xx





THE BLURB:

You are invited to the wedding of the year!
Snow is falling thick and fast outside the Gingerbread Café and inside, its owner Lily is planning the wedding of the year. Her wedding! She never dreamt it would happen, but this Christmas, she’ll be marrying the man of her dreams - in a Christmas-card-perfect ceremony!

The gingerbread is baking, the dress is fitted and the mistletoe’s in place – for once, everything’s going to plan. That is until her mother-in-law arrives... Suddenly, Lily’s famous cool is being tested like never before and her dream wedding is crumbling before her eyes.

In the blink of a fairylight, the Gingerbread Café has been thrown into chaos! Lily thought she had this wedding wrapped up, but with so much to do before she says ‘I do’, can Lily get to the church on time – and make this Christmas sparkle after all?

MY OPINION:



When the final instalment hit my kindle fire, I was eager to read it and catch up with Lily, Damon, Charlie and of course the bubbly and delightful CeeCee.

As with any wedding, as brides everywhere will know, chaos is usually not too far behind the wedding planning. But if Lily is taking it all in her stride.... and Damon is eager for the wedding day to arrive, who could possibly take on the role of Bridezilla?




As the wedding day approaches, the cake of perfection, becomes the cake of demolition much to Lily's sadness, and CeeCee is not her usual self.... the in-laws arrive and whilst Damon's Dad loves Lily to pieces, more than that can be said for his Mother, but if Lily confronts Damon about her meddling, who will he believe? Will the wedding still go ahead?


It seems that even though Christmas is approaching, there is a dark cloud handing over Ashford, as the residents prepare to say goodbye to a much loved resident as she battles Cancer. What I can say is that the scenes involving much loved Janey, moved me to tears more than once.



In fact, I found myself blubbing a lot reading this beautiful book, much to Rebecca's credit for her brilliant writing talent. The characters warm your heart and become a part of your life in ways that you never knew they could. Just today I was shopping and came across Gingerbread cutters, and wondered just how much Lily would have loved them for her café. Ashford is a fictional home from home, a village to escape to, the place to go on literary holiday, but you never want to leave.


 


BOOK NEWS: Strange Girls and Ordinary Women by Morgan McCarthy

 
Title/Author: Strange Girls and Ordinary Women by Morgan McCarthy

Published by: Headline

RRP: £8.99

Availability: Paperback £7.19 / EBook £4.49


I was really excited to receive this book from headline (Thank You) to read and review, and before I get started on it, I wanted to share with you what it's all about.

What It's About:

Three very different lives come crashing together in this dark, lyrical and enthralling story of warped perceptions, female intuition and 'the other woman'.
They say you know instinctively who to trust.

Alice is normal; she'd never do anything rash. But when she sees her husband one day with a younger girl, she knows at once that he's having an affair. And it must be stopped.

Vic loves her friend Michael, more than he knows. He wants happiness, and thinks he's found it with the magnetic Estella. But Vic feels sure she can't be trusted - and she needs to make Michael see that too.

They don't know Kaya; her life is tougher than they can imagine. But Kaya's a survivor, and she's determined to find a way out of her miserable world.
 




I think that you'll agree that it sounds like a brilliant read, please let me know if you read this and what you think of it, as I love to hear other people's opinions!




Review: Letting Go by Maya Banks


Title/Author: Letting Go by Maya Banks

Published by: Headline Eternal

RRP: £6.99 Paperback  /  £3.49 Ebook

My Rating: 2/5



THE BLURB:

For fans of E. L. James, Sylvia Day and J. Kenner. Are you ready to surrender to the powerful sensuality and erotic romance of No. 1 New York Times bestselling author Maya Banks and her sensational new trilogy?

Josslyn found perfection once; she knows she'll never find it again. Now widowed, she seeks the one thing her beloved husband couldn't give her: dominance. But at an exclusive club which indulges the most hedonistic of fantasies, she never imagined she'd find the one man who's long been a source of comfort - her husband's best friend.

Dash has lived in an untenable position for years: in love with his best friend's wife but unwilling to act on that attraction. When he finds her in a club devoted to the darker edges of desire, he thinks she has no idea what she's getting herself into. Until she explains in detail what she wants. What she needs. If she wants dominance, he is the only man who will introduce her to that world. He is the only man who will touch her, cherish her...love her. And the only man she'll ever submit to.


MY OPINION:

I will be honest and admit that I was looking forward to reading this trilogy because having read the CrossFire books which I preferred to the Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy, I hoped that Maya had written a tasteful edition to the steamy world of naughty novels.

Sadly, for me, it was absolutely not my cup of tea. I have to get out of the way what I disliked about this book first, so that I can proceed to the good bits. There is one scene in particular that completely repulsed me. The main character, Josslyn, admitted that she wanted to have her ability to make choices and decisions taken away from her. She wanted a man to be the one who told her what to do... all the time in and out of the bedroom. She didn't want to have to make decisions anymore. Apparently it's what she'd always wanted. For me, this really angers me. Women have and still are fighting to have the right to have a voice, an education, a say in how they live their lives... you only have to look to the news and see the brave girl, Malala who has fought against terrible people in order to have a right to speak, be heard, make decisions, have choices etc. So, for me, this was an awful scene and I actually don't care that it's 'all part of the scene' in this dominating world of pleasure. It's just... awful.

Saying that, I really enjoyed how the storyline progressed, and how at first you meet Joss getting ready to visit her deceased husbands grave for the last time in a bid to move on in her life, and is accompanied by his business partner, and their friend, Dash. It's sweet, emotional and highly relatable. Sometimes we have to do things in life that perhaps others think we shouldn't do in order to move on from bereavement. Maya Banks, wrote these scenes beautifully and you feel very much a part of the story.

I also really liked how you didn't just see the entire picture from one characters point of view, but that you saw the storyline unfold between both Joss and Dash, and discover their intimate feelings of love and fear, as well as pleasure, excitement and passion.

The first sexual scene is one of love, as both characters can't fight their true emotions regardless of what they say they want their sex life to be like, so it's not bad. But all in all, dominance in the bedroom and obedience whilst kneeling on the floor begging like a dog for man to feed me.... well it's not for me.


The exciting, steamy and emotional Surrender trilogy continues with Giving In and Taking It All.