Monday, 20 July 2015

Book review: Child of Privilege - Ross Ponderson (Reviews By Mom)

Dana Van Werner is riding a bus bound for nowhere.

In her pockets, she carries a bus ticket, $260, hope, her own wits, and an unbreakable will. In her memories, she carries the nightmares of frequent beatings, growing up in constant fear, physical and verbal abuse, and her father's unfathomable hatred. Dana, a 19-year-old debutante born into wealth, privilege, culture, and social standing, ponders her new world--the "real" world--for which she is laughably ill-prepared.

She doesn't know where she's going, where her next meal is coming from, or where she'll sleep tonight. She does, however, take comfort in two certainties: that the brutal beatings at the hands of her father--a psychotic, powerful attorney--are finally over; and that her decision to run away from the palatial mansion she once called home has probably saved her life.

This lovable, down-to-earth teenager (more "girl next door" than debutante) grows up quickly as she confronts intercity buses, seedy motels, wet t-shirt contests, jail cells, honky-tonks, and predatory night people. All the while, she is relentlessly pursued by private investigators hired by her revenge-obsessed father to bring her back under his control. 

You'll find yourself cheering the courage, strength, and determination of this endearing heroine as she searches for a new home and a new life, and finds a gentle, caring man--a bachelor deputy sheriff--who truly loves her. 

But she has no inkling of the nightmare awaiting her at the end of the road.

A dizzying chain of events is triggered by an accident that claims the life of someone Dana loves. Suspicions surrounding the tragedy--and her own anger--force the teenager to return home. Upon her arrival, a humiliating family secret kept carefully hidden for years is callously revealed. This sets the stage for the inevitable final showdown between father and daughter as long-simmering anger, resentment, and hunger for revenge finally erupt into a terrifying flashpoint.

This emotional rollercoaster will lift you to heartwarming heights, plunge you into tearful depths, and amuse you with moments of wry humor. 

Join Dana Van Werner on her desperate journey. Let this Child of Privilege inspire you, uplift you, and touch you in her uniquely personal way. You just may discover a part of yourself in her.

Review by Mom.
Ross Ponderson describes in a vividly and detailed way the violence in the lives of Dana and her mother suffering from suppression of a sadistic and powerful father.The "hard" language and succeeding violence made it by times hard to continue reading,
however there was also hope and romance and the prospect of a way out for Dana which made me want to know how it all would end.
An unexpected change in the plot by the end of the story made it an interesting read, although not entirely my genre.


Saturday, 18 July 2015

Book tour: Fairytale Beginnings - Holly Martin

Love is an open door…except when it keeps slamming in your face.

Hopeless romantic Milly Rose has had her fair share of heartbreak. Obsessed with all things Disney, she refuses to give up on finding her Prince Charming – he’s out there somewhere, isn’t he?

When Milly is given a job to investigate the origins of an historical building in the village of Clovers Rest, she’s not sure what to expect. What she discovers takes her breath away - a beautiful real life Cinderella castle, complete with turrets, a magnificent drawbridge AND a very handsome owner…Cameron Heartstone.

As Milly and Cameron begin to unearth the secrets of Clover Castle, they can’t ignore the intense chemistry building between them. But they’ve both been hurt badly before. Can they take a big leap of faith and find their own happily-ever-after?

My opinion.
I've been a huge fan of Holly Martin's books so far so I couldn't wait to get started on this one. And that was even before I knew the title, or saw the cover! Truly one of the prettiest books on my bookshelf. Normally this is about the time I would say something about hoping the book didn't disappoint, after the excitement of both title and cover, but this is Holly Martin people. There was simply no doubt I would fall in love with this story and it's characters.
And I did. Holly has a way of writing unique and special main characters that are still very easy to relate to and extremely likable. Milly Rose was no different. She's fun and quirky and feels like a friend from the very first page.
I love that, even though the story has this wonderful fairytale setup, it has the focus on the historical importance of the building. Not only is this something I'm really passionate about myself, it's unexpected and very original in a book like this. 
The things Milly discovers in Clover's Rest - both historically, magically and emotionally - take you along with her on a romantic, fairytale-like journey which will have you cry, laugh out loud and will make you fall in love with Clover's Rest and it's inhabitants.
Fairytale Beginnings made me long for castle visits with my own prince charming. And a Disney princess marathon ;-)


About Holly Martin
Holly has been writing for six years. She was shortlisted for the New Talent Award at the Festival of Romance. Her short story won the Sunlounger competition and was published in the Sunlounger anthology. She won the Carina Valentine's competition at the Festival of Romance 2013 with her novel The Guestbook. She was shortlisted for Best Romantic Read, Best eBook and Innovation in Romantic Fiction at the Festival of Romance 2014. Holly lives in Bedfordshire. 

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Thursday, 9 July 2015

Book review: Summer Flings and Dancing Dreams - Sue Watson


Dance like nobody’s watching. Love like you’ll never get hurt…
Laura Watkin’s heart isn’t broken, she’s just forgotten how to use it.

After years on her own, the highlight of single mum Laura’s week is watching Strictly Come Dancing with a glass of Pinot Grigio and a large helping of imagination.

With her daughter Sophie going travelling, Laura knows the time is right to do something for herself for a change. One disastrous Zumba class later and Laura ends up at the feet (literally) of gorgeous dance instructor Tony Hernandez.

A natural dancer and inspiring teacher, Tony rekindles in Laura a passion she inherited from her ballroom dancer father – and with it comes a dream… to make him proud.

But when Tony enters them to perform at the National Dance Festival, can Laura’s new-found confidence survive the test? And with a once-in-a-lifetime chance to learn Flamenco in Spain, could Laura truly learn to dance like nobody’s watching… and love like she’ll never get hurt?

A laugh-out-loud, uplifting comedy about finding the courage to be yourself, the importance of dreams, and learning to grab life by the glitter balls.

My opinion.
It seemed like everyone was reading and talking about Summer Flings and Dancing Dreams. It caught my eye immediately with that deliciously inviting title and cover so I couldn't wait to start reading.
Laura is an amazing woman. I warmed up to her from the start and along with Tony, they made for the perfect main characters. Colourful, kind, funny,... A perfect match!
The book, as well as Laura's life, actually, can be divided into two parts: pre- and post- Spain. Although I loved Laura's transformation, I'm afraid the first part paled in comparison to the emotional, fierce and even sexy chapters that followed. The passion of the dance, the emotional revelations and the wonderful relationships in the second part of the book really moved me. (Yes, I cried, I admit).
Summer Flings and Dancing Dreams is a fun, uplifting book that will make you want to put on your dancing shoes. Or watch Harry Judd's Strictly Come Dancing performances. Your pick!


Tuesday, 7 July 2015

Book review: One Perfect Summer - Paige Toon


'Do you still love him?'
Every second of every minute of every hour of every day…

Alice is 18 and about to start university while Joe's life is seemingly going nowhere. A Dorset summer, a chance meeting, and the two of them fall into step as if they have known each other forever.

But their idyll is shattered, suddenly, unexpectedly. Alice heads off to Cambridge and slowly picks up the pieces of her broken heart. Joe is gone; she cannot find him. When she catches the attention of Lukas - gorgeous, gifted, rich boy Lukas - she is carried along by his charm, swept up in his ambitious plans for a future together. 
Then Joe is there, once more, but out of reach in a way that Alice could never have imagined. Life has moved on, the divide between them is now so great. Surely it is far too late to relive those perfect summer days of long ago? 

My opinion.
If I had only one word to describe One Perfect Summer, I would use the word intense. Everything from the chemistry and connection Joe and Alice share to the violence, grief and dramatic plot twists afterwards is incredibly intense. 
This story and it's characters really get under your skin. You can't stop thinking about them and even though it might sound cliché, it is true: you won't be able to stop reading. You desperately want some sort of happy ending for these characters and Paige Toon makes sure that it's everything but predictable with lots of twists and complications thrown in.
One Perfect Summer is a wonderful, emotional and captivating read. Clear your calendar and start reading! 'Warning': you may want to book yourself a trip to Cambridge (again?) after Paige Toon's wonderful tales of the city. I know I want to!



Holiday pics: trip to Cambridge in 2013

Sunday, 5 July 2015

Book review: Dream A Little Dream - Giovanna Fletcher


The new gorgeously romantic novel from bestselling author of Billy and Me and You're the One That I Want, Giovanna Fletcher.

Sarah is doing just fine. Sure she's been single for the last five years, and has to spend an uncomfortable amount of time around her ex-boyfriend, his perfect new girlfriend and all their mutual friends. And yes, her job as a PA to one of the most disgusting men in London is mind-numbingly tedious and her career is a constant disappointment to her mother. But it's really okay. She's happy (ish).

But it's not surprising that when Sarah starts dreaming about a handsome stranger, she begins to look forward to falling asleep every night. Reality isn't nearly as exciting. That is until her dream-stranger makes an unexpected real-life appearance, leaving Sarah questioning everything she thought she wanted.

Because no one ever really finds the person of their dreams... do they?

My opinion.
I'd been looking forward to reading Dream A Little Dream since it's publication was announced. The cover is absolutely gorgeous and I love the title. And oh boy, what a book!
Yet again Giovanna Fletcher created a wonderful, lovely main character. Sarah is easy to love and you can't help but feel heartbroken, reading the emotional torture she's been through. She's such a strong woman, the way she sacrifices her feelings for the sake of the group... I was a bit jealous of the amazing friends she has and how they've managed to stay close for so many years. But then again, I do feel like they should have seen through her "I'm fine" mantra. She didn't deserve the ultimatum: friends vs. showing-true-feelings-about-ex.
That being said: everyone should have a flat-mate like she does! Her friends might have failed seeing through her well put up facade, she IS surrounded by an amazing, colourful group of genuine people.
Enter dream-boy. I really enjoyed Sarah's struggle to keep the dream version of Brett separated from the real one. Their banter, flirting and exciting work-dynamic had me smiling from ear to ear. I could go on about his charm and the sweet, lovely romance that's unfolding, but you just have to read, swoon and fall in love with them yourself.
Throughout the entire book there's this funny, witty, undertone. Having watched Giovanna's vlogs as well as having read her previous novels, I felt her voice and humor coming through. You just know you're reading a Giovanna Fletcher novel - which, I feel, is pretty impressive after only 3 novels! So it's obvious that I'm already looking forward to the next one!



Saturday, 4 July 2015

Pictures Of You

"I've been looking so long, at these pictures of you
that I almost believe that they're real"
- The Cure

This is by far the most difficult, and most personal post I've ever written.
But I felt it was time to share it.

Saturday evening in the fall of 2006, age 14. I was spending my Saturday night behind the computer when a new chat message popped up on MSN Messenger ('cause that was "it" back then). It was from Loes, a girl I went to primary school with but hadn't had contact with since. We were in the same class for two years, but we each had our own group of friends and we never really knew each other well. The message wasn't from Loes herself. A friend of hers, David, was using her account. He was with Loes and Ilana (another girl from primary school) and two of his friends (their boyfriends) at Ilana's house. All four of them played the guitar and were 'jamming'. David, being a drummer, was feeling a bit left out so he started up a conversation with someone on Loes' MSN: me.
He was a few years older than me - a college boy. We talked for hours that night and got along incredibly well. The next day he added me on his own account and we kept talking. I decided to meet up with Loes and soon she, Ilana and I became a trio. They went to the same high school together and were already very close friends. We lost touch after a while with Ilana when she changed schools, friends and 'styles'. We thought ourselves to be pretty "tough" with our dark clothes and heavy eye make-up. Being all "punk" or "emo". So when it was just me and Loes left, we became even more inseparable. We did everything together: concerts, going out for drinks, sleep-overs, holidays,...
All this time I kept talking to David. And Dougie. He was David's best friend and Loes' boyfriend. He was the popular, confident guy. David was the shy, sensitive guy. My kind of
A drawing of David, based on one of his pics
guy. I fell pretty hard for him. I hadn't met him. I'd only ever seen him in pictures (of which there were only a few) and our conversations were email and MSN only. He didn't have a phone - which even in 2006-2007 was weird - but I didn't push the issue and we kept talking online.

He had very rich, very strict parents that had all these expectations of him. I could see us making a stand together: I would be there for him and we would make it work the two of us. I spent hours awake each night imagining what it would be like when we'd finally see each other. What it would be like to be held by him... I was head over heels with this boy.
Hours of girl-talk passed between Loes and me, analyzing everything he said or didn't say, hinted or left out,... Like all teenage girls do. She'd sometimes sit next to me when I was replying to an email, offering advice like a best friend does.
Her relationship with Dougie didn't last but I kept talking to him - online. David spent less and less time on MSN so being able to talk to Dougie was a relieve. Although he wasn't online that much either.
So I sat behind my computer and waited. From the moment I got home until I had to go to sleep, my computer was on, MSN open. Waiting for David. I stayed home, cooped up in my room, terrified of missing any minute of him being online. I felt like I knew him, and no-one knew or understood me like he did. He was my everything. Hundreds of theories passed between Loes and me why he wasn't online much, or why it took him so long to reply to emails.
At one point he started dating Dougie's sister, which broke my heart. She was everything I wasn't: closer to him in age, lot's of showy make-up and leopard print clothes,... I hated her. She cheated on him and treated him horribly.
Around the time I turned 16 I fell in love with a boy in my class at school. David hadn't been around much the previous months and I was in a very dark place - his absence only making it worse, since it meant I spent hours going over every single detail in my head, or on MSN waiting for his name to pop up. S., the boy in my class, pulled me out of that dark place. I don't think he ever realized it. We weren't together for a very long time. He was my first boyfriend (since primary school), my first real crush (not including David). Although I  know he was crazy about me too, I think it was all a bit too much for him. I kept seeing him every day at school though, so it was hard for me to get over him. David didn't help either. 
One night, a few days before S. and I had our first kiss, he popped up online out of the blue. He told me he'd come back for me - he was away for a semester abroad. He wanted to be with me. I was in shock. I had wanted to hear those things from him so badly, but I had no idea what to do, now that S. was in the picture. I choose S. And sadly, there was a time after he broke up with me that I regretted making that decision: things didn't work out and I was left with a broken heart, having lost both him and a chance with David.
David kept disappearing for weeks at a time, making me go crazy all over again. But despite that, he still kept me in his power by saying things that would make me hope - anything from his MSN "nickname" to little comments like "if it wasn't for this or that, we would be together". At one point he posted a picture of a cute little kitten he just bought. Named Mary. I went insane. Loes and I talked for hours about what it could mean, how obvious it was, etc etc.
By that time, Loes and I went to London, Amsterdam and Spain together. [Both our London and Amsterdam trip was made solely so we could see McFLY - we were obsessed, I admit.] We were truly inseparable.
By the time I turned 17 I started to grow more and more suspicious. Things in his story - or in Dougie's - just didn't add up. I never really pressed on these things because, they were my best friend's friends, so why should I doubt? David was hardly ever online anymore and I didn't really pine for him as much anymore. I still desperately wanted him and wanted to talk to him, but it didn't consume me as it did before. Ilana, the other girl in our former trio, came back into the picture. Although she had kinda turned her back on Loes before, she was forgiven and I felt like the third wheel again in a friendship that was there before I came in the picture, with lots of insiders I didn't get. I didn't spent as much time with Loes as I did before and I started to question David (and Dougie) more and more.
One night, a few months before I turned 18, David popped up again after months of silence. He was getting married. This was the final straw, for me, in this ridiculous collection of stories. I tried calling Loes immediately after our brief conversation, but she didn't pick up. I called K. instead, one of my best friends from school who had been there for and with me during this entire David-episode (which at this point had lasted over 3 years).
After the mandatory "ooh's" and "aah's" and "no he didn't" comments a best friend is supposed to make, she asked where Loes was. I replied she was having a sleepover with Ilana. And she said the strangest thing: "maybe Loes is David". 
Silence. We were both shocked by what she just said. She hadn't thought about it, it just slipped out.
I was in denial. And so was she, even though she made the remark in the first place. I mean, David not being a real person? AND Loes having something to do with it? Crazy!
But the damage was done. 3 years worth of conversation were analyzed all over again. I wouldn't, couldn't believe it. David had been my everything for such a long time. I trusted him. He was my dream guy. Loes was my best friend with whom I shared everything. We wrote emails together. Spent so much of our time going over everything he said or posted. I even had my parent's drive us to the village he lived in, 45min. away with some lame excuse, hoping to see him.
One night both Ilana and Loes were online and, after going over everything again, looking at Google Earth again and trying to find his name and number in "the yellow pages", I wrote them both the same message, saying things didn't add up - implying they had made the whole thing up. Neither of them replied.

I never heard from David or Dougie again.
A few months later we were at a party. A friend of theirs came up to me and said "you really need to go out and talk to them. Ilana is crying. She says you were all such good friends and she has no idea what happened". I lost it. I tried explaining then and there what actually happened, knowing she couldn't possibly understand how much David had meant to me, and how terribly betrayed I felt. She was shocked though and said "wow, Loes just told me there was a joke of some sort that got out of hand". 
BAM. It felt like she punched me in the gut. I felt sick. Not only was it the first and only time - after months - that my suspicions were confirmed, David was a joke. I was a joke. 3.5 years of my life had been a practical joke to two bored teenage girls behind their computer.
I never spoke to Loes or Ilana again.

Book review: Drive Me Crazy - Portia MacIntosh


It was supposed to be the trip of a lifetime...

In reality it was a business trip, prettied up as a romantic mini break, but the man behind the wheel was meant to be Candice Hart’s boss and (married but separated, I swear!) lover. Not Danny the new guy!

Not only is Candice faced with a new driver, but the office’s far too handsome hipster expects her to share the cramped space inside his “fully” restored VW Beetle, aka The Love Bug, and put up with his constant opinions about her life…

Before long she is tired of playing the ‘good girl’ and, with Danny’s help, is determined to finally show the world the real Candice Hart!

Don't miss this hilarious new novel from bestselling author of Bad Bridesmaid.

My opinion.
Starting off I wasn't really sure about this book. Although easy and fun to read, I struggled with Candice, the main character. I found it very hard to "watch" her be fake, unhappy and suppressed.
Luckily things - and Candice - chance and Danny takes you along this fun roller coaster that is "Project Candy". It's almost a relieve, seeing Candice rediscover the real Candice Hart. She's smart, she's fun, she's even spontaneous! 
And Danny. Ah Danny, where to begin. He's the perfect rock 'n roll guy you'd expect from Portia MacIntosh. A bit rough  around the edges with his tough exterior, but loving and caring once you get to know him. Swoon!
Their love-hate relationship throughout the story really works. The way things progress between them feels natural, definitely not "over worked".
The cover, sadly, hasn't the same "wow" factor for me as some of Portia's other "rock 'n roll chic" covers do, but it nonetheless caught my eye.
Drive Me Crazy is a funny, laugh-out-loud relaxing read. Loved it!