Saturday, 31 December 2016

My top books of 2016

I know that I'm not the only one who is thankful that there is only a few hours left of the horrific year that has been 2016.  While there was many lows and lots of tears shed, there were also some highs.  For me, 2016 will be the year that I chose to make a difference to my life.  It's the year that I lost nearly two stone, I graduated, I went back to college to complete the next level.  It's the year that I welcomed a new baby cousin and the year that I made so many brilliant new friends.  However, there have also been many problems throughout the year, such as problems with gallstones and in the last week a horrendous toothache, that saw me spend more time in the dentists chair this week, than at home.  

While assignments often got in the way of my reading time, I did eventually manage to read 
70 books throughout 2016, which is 20 more books that I wanted to read, so I'm taking that as a win, even though it's nearly forty less than I read last year.  Books have safely seen me through both the good and bad times of 2016, providing me with tears and laughter along the way.  It's taken some deliberation, but finally  I have narrowed down my top reads of 2016.

1. The Girl From The Savoy by Hazel Gaynor

The Girl From the Savoy is my top read of 2016.  This book blew me away and I couldn't have enjoyed it more if I possibly tried.  I cried tears of sadness and joy whilst reading this book.  Dolly and her story will stay with me forever.  I was also lucky enough to travel to Dublin for the launch of this book, which was an amazing experience and one that I will never forgot.  Hazel Gaynor has opened my eyes to Historical Fiction.

2. A Life Without You by Katie Marsh
As well as this being a total tear-jerker of a book, tears were shed for a different reason when I got my hands on this book.  To see my name in the acknowledgements of this book was one of my highlights of 2016 and is a total honour.  With that aside, this book was just as good as My Everything and I loved every page of it.  It opened my eyes to the horrible disease that is Alzheimer's and really tugged on my heart strings, while still providing many laughs.

3. The Things I Should Have Told You by Carmel Harrington
The Things I Should Have Told You took me on one hell of a journey with the Guinness Family and has stayed with me long after I closed the book.  This book stole a little piece of my heart and is story that I will never forget.  It is without doubt the best book that Carmel Harrington has written to date and I can't wait to see what she gives us in 2017.

4. Distress Signals by Catherine Ryan Howard
This is without a doubt the best debut that I have read this year! Distress Signals is one of the best thrillers that I have read to date and is a real whodunnit read.  It is taut with suspense and full of twists and turns that will leave you feeling dizzy.  I urge anyone who hasn't read this book yet to pick it up when it comes out in mass paperback in early 2017.  I will be eagerly awaiting more work from this author.

5. The Judge's Wife by Ann O'Loughlin
I would never have discovered this amazing book, had it not been for a chance meeting with the author at a book launch in Dublin.  I was lucky enough to be able to go to the book launch for this book.  When I started reading this book, I remember being blown away by the raw emotions that I felt while reading this book.  The Judge's Wife is not an easy read, but is one that has stayed with me since I have read it and I feel that this may be a book that I go back to over and over again.

6. Lying in Wait by Liz Nugent
There are no words to describe how truly brilliant this book is.  It hooks you from the first page and keeps the reader on the edge of their seat throughout.  I have been raving about this book to anyone who will listen to me/  Lying in Wait is a book that I will read again and again.  If you haven't read this book yet, you are missing out.

7. The Food of Love by Amanda Prowse
This is hands down that most heartbreaking book that I have read in 2016 and is a huge eye opener.  This is the best book that Amanda Prowse has written to date and that is saying something.  The Food of Love is heartbreaking and real and I cannot recommend it enough.

8. The Last Night by Cesca Major
The Last Night is also Historical Fiction, that moves between the past and the present.  There was something spellbinding about this book from start to finish and I couldn't have enjoyed it more if I tried.  I am so looking forward to reading more by this author.

9. Fix You by Carrie Elks
Fix You is one of the first books that I read in 2016.  It has stayed with me since I read it and is a story that I cannot forget.  Fix You takes the reader on a brilliant journey through the years and is hands down one of the best books that I have read in 2016.  I can't wait to read more from this amazing author.

10. The Fallout by Margaret Scott
The Fallout is different from every other book that I read this year and I absolutely loved it.  Margaret Scott is an exceptionally talented author and I am so looking forward to reading more from her in the future.  In fact, I'm making it my business to get my hands on her first book in 2017, which has so far proved impossible to get!

It took a while, but here are my top ten reads of 2016. 

Whatever you're doing tonight, enjoy it and I wish you all the best for 2017.

Saturday, 10 December 2016

Blog Tour: Be My Baby by A.L. Michael

I would like to thank the publisher for sending me a copy of this book in return for an honest review, as part of the blog tour.


To say that I enjoyed this book is a huge understatement.  I will however, hold my hands up and admit that this is the first book that I have read from this author and is therefore the first book in this series that I have read to date.  However, I feel that as well as being the third book in a series, Be My Baby works very well as a standalone book and I was able to join the story without feeling that I had missed on anything vital to the story.

Be My Baby tells Mollie's story.  A single mother to her eleven year old daughter, Esme, Mollie, is an introvert.  After being dumped by Esme's father while she was pregnant, Mollie as found it hard to move on from the upset and heartbreak that she was faced with all those years ago.  As a single mother, Mollie has had to put all of her efforts into raising her daughter with little time left for to think of finding love. As well as being an amazing mother to her daughter, he business, Mollie Makes, which aims at promoting healthy foods, has taken off beyond Mollies wildest dreams.  When Mollie makes an appearance on a local television network, little does she know that Jamie, Esme's father is watching and is about to be catapulted back into their lives.  But all is not as it seems, as we quickly learn that Jamie may not know the whole story and as the story begins to unravel, we learn what happened all those years ago to make the characters go their separate ways, what has happened since and most importantly, if they are willing to risk their already broken and bruised hearts to give their relationship one last chance?

As this is the first book I have read in this series, I didn't know the characters previously, and therefore I didn't have the connection that other readers may have to them.  In saying that, I warmed to them right away and found that they are very well written and developed characters.  I definitely want to get to know them more and I am looking forward to discovering the previous two books in the series and getting to spend more time with these lovely characters.

I enjoyed this book from the very first page.  It is such a warm, light-hearted story that everyone will enjoy, especially if you have read the previous two books in the series.  Be My Baby is warm and friendly and draws you in, transporting you to a different world.  It is just the heart warming read that I needed and I cant recommend it enough.


The prize is a goodie bag, full of healthy foodie treats inspired by one of the characters in the book! It will include baking goodies and other stuff but that's all I know!

The giveaway is running from 28th November till the 12th December and is oper to UK residents only.


About A.L. Michael

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.


Guest Post: Sara Mendes da Costa

Today I am delighted to host a guest post by Sara Mendes da Costa, where she shares with us her thoughts on Christmas. 
My thoughts on Christmas – Sara Mendes da Costa
Every year when our beautiful autumn begins to hang up her russet cloak and the first Christmas goodies can be seen in the shops, I hear people complaining ‘It’s just too early!  Christmas isn’t for weeks yet.’ Then November begins in earnest and impressive decorations start to adorn the streets and shop windows are full of twinkling seasonal displays and glittering trees and still I hear complaining … and I simply smile in silent reply.

Because, you know what, if truth be known…I love it! I love this magical time of year so I say bring it on!

For me there was nothing quite like Christmas when I was a kid. My birthday was amazing, sure, plenty of presents and cake and parties and fabulous birthday’ness…but Christmas had this huge build up and was just so …special. The TV & Radio Times held promises of Christmas shows to come, Morecombe and Wise’s seasonal hilarity would be hotly anticipated as always, moods were lifted and plans were laid. Lists were written and invites sent. Festive fun, sparkle and enthusiasm was everywhere and my eyes would be wide and my insides would be bursting with anticipation and hope. The radio played the happy Christmas songs we all know and love and TV would always air wondrous, sparkling, Christmas ads and all I could think about was Father Christmas, stockings, decorations, food, celebrations and of course prezzies.
Well, you know what, I haven’t changed a bit!

Christmas, and all the magic surrounding it, for me is like an anchor to all things good. Just like the smell of suntan lotion takes me immediately to lazy sun-filled summer holidays and golden sands and all the memories that come with them, so the rich sound of bells and carols and the sight of a twinkling Christmas tree, and beautifully wrapped presents – not forgetting Father Christmas -take me back to joyful Christmases past… and that makes my tummy smile.

When my lovely man Michael and I met over seven years ago, we decided to have our own special Christmas weekend before the main event; before we went our separate ways to our own kin. We’d only been together five or six months at the time of our first Christmas so it was a bit early in our relationship to spend a family one together. We chose the weekend before the Christmas just for the two of us, and SMXmas was born! Short for Sara and Michael’s ‘Xmas’. We had the Friday, which we named SMXmas Eve, the Saturday which was SMXmas Day and the Sunday which was SMOXing Day J I remember it like it was yesterday and quite wonderfully, as we opened our presents on SMXmas day, it began to snow! Quite simply the icing on the cake; and boy oh boy did it snow! So rare when you live on the south coast of England. Quickly, the garden and streets became covered in a pristine blanket of magical white. Needless to say, presents were downed (as were drinks) and snowball fights ensued and Mr Happy the snowman was created (whose photo still has pride of place on my piano) It was just the best time and you know what, after that we decided to celebrate SMXmas every year! We still have those three special days just for us regardless of what we end up doing over Christmas.

SMXmas Eve is always enjoyed at our favourite bar and restaurant in Brighton having cocktails followed by a sumptuous meal, then SMXmas Day is spent like a couple of kids opening stockings, imbibing a celebratory bottle of Buck’s fizz on Hove seafront (whatever the weather) and then heart-warming Christmas films and scrummy food and the excitement of main prezzies across the afternoon and evening. Finally, SMOXing Day is a welcomed walk over the Sussex Downs to blow away the cobwebs followed by a warming mulled wine in our local before putting our feet up with more films in the evening. It really is quite lovely and we both get thoroughly excited about it every year.

By the time Christmas comes around, we usually feel like we’ve had our Christmas! But, hey, there’s always plenty more festive magic to enjoy with our families.

I’ve thought about Christmas quite a lot over the years and how it’s changed and grown…and then grown some more! It’s certainly more commercial than it once was but it’s still so very special. There are of course differing views from different people; some really love it and some can’t wait for it to be over but I think in amongst the melee of the crowds and the pressure and the commercial angle, there is still a lot of wonder, hope, excitement and love amongst most. For me, and I hope for the majority reading this article, Christmas is a time to be with loved ones, family and friends, to laugh and to talk and to laugh some more; to give presents and to enjoy receiving special gifts that those who love you have chosen for you. It’s a happy hiatus where we can enjoy time off to relax, for special gatherings and for quiet snuggles; for Christmas carols and festive films …and of course for eating and drinking your way through far too much! …until it’s time to pack it all up – perhaps a little thankfully – for another year. But the memories of that over indulgence and expanded waistband, the slightly lean bank balance, the mess, the fuss and the house covered in pine needles gradually, over the year, get forgotten until wintertime comes around again and the whole process starts once more…and I, for one, am extremely grateful.

Merry Christmas to each and every one of you.
May all your Christmases be bright.
Love Sara

Peanuts and Eggcups
For Maggie Parsons there’s only ever been one man: the stunningly delicious Luke Henderson. Unfortunately, he left her, without explanation, after their ‘first night’ together …breaking her heart in the process. 

Now ten years on, without any contact, he’s back and going to her school reunion. Great! And, to confuse matters…so is his suave, sexy, brother Tony who makes a major play for Maggie, then turns up with his insufferable - supposedly ex – fiancĂ©e! 

Via the reunion, a black eye, getting the sack (as a result) a madcap girlie holiday and juggling her confused emotions around the two alluring brothers…Maggie starts to build a picture of what she really wants in life. 

Trouble is, Maggie’s a pawn in a game she doesn’t even know she’s playing …and things are about to get a whole lot more complicated.

Available from
Amazon UK

About Sara Mendes da Costa
Sara Mendes da Costa is the voice of the BT Speaking Clock; the fourth person to hold this prestigious title since 1936.

A successful, world-renowned voiceover artist, her dulcet tones are easily recognisable on television, radio, film and across countless media.

Never far from the press, she’s known for her appearances on BBC Breakfast, ITV This Morning, Children in Need, Wake up to Wogan and The Today Programme, and balances her prolific voiceover career with her passion and commitment as a novelist.

Peanuts & Eggcups, her debut novel - hotly anticipated by the industry - is “The perfect & highly addictive reading companion for women’s fiction fans”. `

A lover of laughter, creativity, great storytelling and a wee dram, Sara adores writing novels and seeks to entertain, uplift and inspire. 

Her upcoming novels: Time & Time Again & Maggie Ever After, are expected in 2017.


A huge thank you to Sara for agreeing to share her thoughts on Christmas with us today on the blog.

Friday, 2 December 2016

The Food of Love by Amanda Prowse

I have never read a book that has moved me quite so much before and I doubt I will again.  Although I am in doubt that if I do, it will be by this amazing author.  There is always something bittersweet about reading an Amanda Prowse book, because I know that I am going to love every page, but also take out a share in Kleenex for the duration.  With The Food of Love, I was really able to savour this book, as I was trying my hardest to catch a chapter here and there between college work, but in the end I had to just put my college work on hold and dive straight in, because I really couldn’t wait another minute to find out what happened at the end of this amazing book.

Freya has is all, she loves her job, her husband adores her and she has two beautiful teenage girls, Charlotte and Lexi.  Freya doesn’t know it yet, but her world is about to fall apart at the seams.  After being called in to her Lexi’s school to discuss a funny that her daughter has taken due to not eating, it becomes apparent that Lexi has a problem with food.  At first, Freya doesn’t want to believe it, she is completely in denial about how her beautiful daughter, who is loved so much by everyone that knows her could be suffering from an eating disorder.  But when Freya finds bags of her daughters vomit hidden in her room, Freya and her husband Lockie have to admit that their daughter has a problem and they set out to make her better, no matter what, because they just can’t lose their beautiful little girl to anorexia.  What follows in a heartbreaking, gut-wrenching tale of how one family battle with their daughter’s demons and how anorexia can change so many lives.

What makes Amanda Prowse’s book so real is that they are about real people and whether we like it or not, the topics that she covers in her books are happening all around us on a daily basis.  Anorexia is classed as a mental illness and the stigma that surrounds mental illnesses is still very much alive in today’s world.  By writing this book, Amanda is breaking this stigma and for that she must be applauded.  The Food of Love was sometimes tough to read and at times I did need to put it down, but it opened my eyes to what happens, not only to the person suffering from anorexia, but also to their friends and family.  It really made me wonder about how many families have had to watch their beloved child, grandchild, sibling, suffer in the way that Lexi did in the book.  Everyone has, at some point in their lives, wanted to lose weight, I myself am at that point at the moment, and it is a huge eyeopener, that losing too much weight and being too skinny, can be just as serious and even more dangerous as being overweight.

The characters in this novel have had such a lasting effect on me and a little bit of my heart remains between the pages, even though I’ve closed the book for the final time.  I have never felt such raw emotion when reading a book before and the thought that the things that were happening to the family in the book, are happening now to real family is very thought provoking and really upsetting to me.

The Food of Love is hands down the best book I have read this year and probably this decade.  Amanda Prowse is a truly talented storyteller and has quickly become my favourite author over the last few years.  All of her books are special, but there is something about The Food of Love that stands out from the rest.  This family and their story is one that is going to stay with me for a very long time.  I always feel like I need a huge hug after finishing an Amanda Prowse hug and this one was no different.

I really cannot recommend this book enough and I will telling anyone who will listen to me just how amazing it is.  Freya's story is written with such passion that it hard not to lose yourself in the story.  The Food of Love is poignant and touching and I'm not going to lie, it will leave you an emotional wreck.  Amanda Prowse is one of the best authors of this time and you will not want to miss out on her best novel to date.

5 stars

I would like to thank the author for sending me an arc copy of this book in return for an honest review.

The food of love is available to buy here.


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