2015 – My Year in Books

Wow! What a year 2015 has been. I have had a brilliant year people. The highlight of my year is that I became an aunty for the first time. My little Millie munchkin is boss and even though she is only 10 months old she loves her books. Win! Win!

So this year I read a lot. I ended the year having read 194 books; 14 more than last year. I nearly completed the 2016 Reading Challenge. The only categories that I didn’t manage to complete were:

A Pulitzer Prize-winning book

A book that came out the year that you were born

A Trilogy

A banned book

I might add these on to next year’s challenge instead.

I read 64 physical books and the rest were on my kindle. 107 of those books were published this year and 25 of them were non-fiction. I read books by 129 authors that I hadn’t read before but I noticed that I favour female authors; I only read 42 books by male authors so I think that I need to be more balanced in 2016.

Another highlight of my year is that my reviews were mentioned in three books. Yay. They were mentioned in:

  • Girls on Tour by Nicola Doherty
  • Picnics in Hyde Park by Nikki Moore
  • Never Kiss a Man in a Christmas Jumper by Debbie Johnson

So that was rather lovely.

My Top Ten Books of the year look something like this:

  1. A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara
  2. Soppy: A Love Story by Phillippa Rice
  3. Disclaimer by Renee Knight
  4. The Silent Hours by Cesca Major
  5. Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon
  6. Snowflakes on Silver Cove (White Cliff Bay #2) by Holly Martin
  7. Somewhere Only We Know by Erin Lawless
  8. Christmas at Lilac Cottage (White Cliff Bay #1) by Holly Martin
  9. Girls on Tour by Nicola Doherty
  10. The Doris Day Vintage Film Club by Fiona Harper

What was rather disappointing is that I wanted to build my NetGalley percentage up to 40% and dagnammit, I only made it to 39%. My target for next year is to get to 50%. I think this will be doable if I stop requesting damn books…this is not likely to happen but fingers crossed folks.

So thank you folks for giving my reviews a read this year and for all your lovely comments, likes and shares on Twitter.

Love from your fellow book-fiend,

L x

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Review: Driving Home for Christmas by AL Michael

The Blurb

Megan McAllister is home for Christmas…whether she likes it or not!

Christmas is about family…and for Megan, family means two people: herself, and her daughter Skye. It doesn’t mean her parents who, ten years ago, saw her pregnancy as anything but a miracle. And it definitely doesn’t include her irresistible ex-boyfriend Lucas Bright.

So ‘Driving Home for Christmas’ has never been top of Megan’s festive playlist. But for Skye, she knows she needs to spend the holiday season with the people she’s left behind. She can do this. Even if the thought of meeting Lucas under the mistletoe still has her feeling like she’s drunk one-too-many Snowballs!

But somewhere between the hanging of stockings and the crackle of wrapping paper, Christmas starts to sparkle. And Megan begins to wonder if family could be bigger than her and Skye after all…

Pop the buck’s fizz, stoke the fire and prepare to giggle the festive season away with AL Michael!

The Review

Oh poor Megan McAllister. Megan is the black sheep of her family. The golden child who blew it all away by becoming a gymslip mum; extradited by her family, she has spent the last 11 years living in exile with her aunt. Yet at the wishes of said aunt, she finally returns home to her family in the little village where everyone knows everyone’s business. Needless to say, this may not be the merriest Christmas for Megan and her daughter Skye.

My initial reason for reading Driving Home for Christmas was that I had one more pre-Christmas review slot for my book blog that needed filling. I will admit, I didn’t read the blurb and I didn’t think to myself ‘Ooh, this sounds good.’ Reading Driving Home for Christmas, I realised what a serendipitous thing it was that I chose this very book to read because, dear reader, it is bloody fantastic.

I loved it!

It was a classic story of a young girl with so much hope and promise that ended up barefoot and pregnant whilst still a child herself. Yet, it was so much more. It was about success and growing up and about lost love and about mending fences. The story was so multifaceted that you couldn’t help but feel engrossed by the story line.

Furthermore, AL Michael has created a rather wonderful romantic lead; one that has you questioning ‘why weren’t the boys like that when I was in high school?’

Driving Home for Christmas is the third book that I have read that was written by AL Michael and I have enjoyed them all immensely. I’m grateful that I have found another author that I can trust to release a damn good book. Driving Home for Christmas was a wonderful read and the perfect book to end my Christmas feature.

Driving Home for Christmas by AL Michael is available now.

Follow AL Michael (@ALMichael_) on Twitter.

Review: The Twelve Dates of Christmas by Lisa Dickenson

The Blurb

At thirty, Claudia’s life is stale and the romance with long-term boyfriend, Seth, has disappeared. Determined to inject some festive spark back into their love life, Claudia and Seth go on their first date in a very long time. But when the night ends in disaster, Claudia suddenly finds herself facing life – and Christmas – alone.

Life alone is exciting, scary and full of soon-forgotten exercise regimes and ill-advised attempts at crafting sexy underwear. It’s also filling up with dates, surprisingly. With best friends Penny and Nick at her side, a surplus of festival markets, mulled wine and Christmas tunes, Claudia attempts to face all this change with gusto. One thing’s for certain: this year, Christmas is going to be very different.

This is the story of Claudia and her twelve dates of Christmas. Hilarious, uplifting and romantic, it’s a story about losing love, finding love, and discovering what’s been there all along. Expect Christmas sparkle, butterflies-in-your-stomach romance and a lot of very funny moments in The Twelve Dates of Christmas.

The Review

Oh the path of true love never runs smoothly, does it? Especially not for the self-destructive heroine of The Twelve Dates of Christmas, Claudia; when Claudia and long term boyfriend Seth split up just before Christmas (what is it about Christmas that it seems to go hand in hand with heartbreak) she realises that she has just been existing and not living. Well no more, Claudia is dusting off the cobwebs from her life and giving herself a kick up the backside.

One part of her life that really needs a boost is her love life; after several interesting (coughs – disastrous- coughs) dates, Penny realises with whom her heart really lies and sets out on trying to make things happen.

The Twelve Dates of Christmas is a pure unadulterated will-they-won’t-they love story that pulls dramatically at the heartstrings and has you screaming my favourite saying at the characters – “Kiss her/him, you fool!” It is one of those brilliant books that sucks you right in and has you thinking about the characters, what they should do and how they are feeling long after you (begrudgingly) put the book down.

Our protagonist Claudia really has the ability to pull at your heartstrings; she seems to constantly lose the things that she loves – first of all, dancing. Due to an injury a few years earlier, she is no longer eligible to be the prima ballerina that she always longed to be and when opportunities in the dancing field come her way she shies away from them – through fear? Possibly. It seems that she can’t allow herself to be near the things she loves because she destroys them. Maybe I am reading too much into her character but this is the overall impression that I got of Claudia. Mainly I wanted to give her a good shake and tell her to pull it together. However, it is the simple flaws that made her human and loveable.

What Dickenson has done rather well is that she has created a “well fanciable” hero. The love interest for Claudia is swoons-worthy. Is it wrong to fancy fictional characters? Ah well, who cares. All I know is that The Twelve Dates of Christmas is a great book, with great characters and will make a great gift for your loved ones this Christmas.

Twelve Dates of Christmas by Lisa Dickenson is available now.

Follow Lisa Dickenson (@LisaWritesStuff) on Twitter.

Review: A Vintage Christmas by Trisha Ashley

Title: A Vintage Christmas

Author: Trisha Ashley

Pages: 54 Pages

The Blurb

Lucy is so excited to announce she’s getting married this Christmas. She’s picturing a small, simple wedding in the village hall. Her dream is to stand in her vintage dress next to a great, big Christmas tree with all her close friends and relatives…

But Lucy’s mother thinks differently! She’s been saving all her life for her little girl’s big day. And she wants to see it done properly. But Christmas is far too soon…the list on her clipboard can’t possibly be ticked off in just a few months!

And then there’s the mother-in-law to contend with. She hasn’t quite forgiven her son for proposing to the local riff-raff. She certainly won’t approve of this little charity shop wedding. And now even Lucy’s fiancé is starting to disagree with her vision….

But Christmas is a time when miracles happen. And if Lucy wishes hard enough, Santa might just bring her the wedding of her dreams…

The Review

A Vintage Christmas is a short sweet story about a happy couple trying to get married on their own terms. Lucy and Matt want a simple vintage wedding; the kind that people had during the war – when pickings were slim and life was simple. However, she has two things stopping this dream becoming a reality – her mother and his mother.

Lucy’s mum has been saving to give Lucy the most lavish of weddings; big cake, meringue dress, luscious venue. The absolute antithesis of what Lucy wants. Her mother is well meaning but Lucy wants to rein control over the grandiose plans. Matt’s mother is a different kettle of fish. She believes that he is marrying beneath him and will do anything to stop her darling boy from marrying Lucy (whom she refers to as a ‘gold digger’.)

A Vintage Christmas is a simple story about the constraints and pressures felt by couples before they get married. Is it there day or is it a day for their respective families? Ashley has created a cute little world that she manages to develop and explore in such a small amount of pages that it is really impressive.

For me, the one downside is that I don’t really feel that I got to know Matt or Lucy enough to really root for them. I mean, obviously I didn’t want the wedding to be stopped but there wasn’t enough time for me to fall in love with the characters. I think this would have happened had there been more sustainable conflict. However, with page and word limit constraints I can understand why these areas were not included.

Overall, A Vintage Christmas is an easy, lovely, and quick read; one that could be done on a commute to and from work.

A Vintage Christmas by Trisha Ashley

For more information about Trisha Ashley please visit trishaashley.com and follow Trisha Ashley (@trishaashley) on Twitter.

Review: How to Stuff Up Christmas by Rosie Blake

The Blurb

‘Tis the season to be jolly. Unless you’ve found an intimate picture of another woman on your fiance’s phone…

Eve is heartbroken after discovering her fiance is cheating on her. Being surrounded by the joys of Christmas is more than Eve can bear, so she chooses to avoid the festivities by spending Christmas alone on a houseboat in Pangbourne. Eve gets gets an unexpected seasonal surprise when handsome local vet Greg comes to her rescue one day, and continues to visit Eve’s boat on a mission to transform her from Kitchen Disaster Zone to Culinary Queen.

But where does Greg keep disappearing to? What does Eve’s best friend Daisy know that she isn’t telling? And why is there an angry goose stalking Eve’s boat?

A hilarious and heart-warming novel about Christmas, catastrophes and cooking, containing exclusive Christmas recipes, from the talented Rosie Blake.

The Review

Rosie Blake’s Christmas novel How to Stuff Up Christmas is delightful. Let me just get that out of the way. I. Loved. It!

The story is about Eve; a broken hearted woman who is facing her first Christmas alone since she found out that her ex-fiance had been cheating on her. It is difficult. Rather than facing Christmas head on she decides to run away; not literally, she is a grown woman after all. She decided to pretend Christmas isn’t happening and instead has started a course and moved onto a houseboat.

Some may think that this is a bit extreme but meh. We have all been there. I know that I have. You see, that is what is really great about How to Stuff Up Christmas; the situation and the heartache that Eve is facing is real. It feels real and most of us have been there.

Eve is essentially mending her broken heart. She has been scorned and has all this hatred for a faceless enemy and she cannot resolve her feelings. Enter Greg. Ahhh Greg. Everyone who has ever faced heartache should have a Greg. Greg is the local vet and quite by chance he and Eve develop a friendship.

All great love stories start there.

Essentially, Rosie Blake’s How to Stuff Up Christmas is about healing. It is about how the old adages ‘time is a great healer’ and ‘the best way to get over somebody is to…(well you get the picture)’ are true. You cannot help but fall in love with Blake’s cast of characters and her unfortunately well-to-known-in-real-life storyline.

How to Stuff Up Christmas is a warm, lovely festive read that will melt your frost tipped fingers. Buy it, read it and enjoy it. That is an order.

How to Stuff Up Christmas by Rosie Blake

Follow Rosie Blake (@RosieBBooks) on Twitter.

Review: The Winter Wedding by Abby Clements

The Blurb

Hazel never set out to be a wedding planner. She was just helping her stressed sister Lila with cakes and décor for her big day. But when Lila and Ollie’s summer ceremony is a runaway success, with guests raving about the food and styling at the pretty venue, word about Hazel’s expertise soon spreads.

But Hazel’s clients expect the very best – she’s promised lawyers Gemma and Eliot a snow-covered castle in the Scottish Highlands, and laidback couple Josh and Sarah a bohemian beach wedding in a Caribbean paradise. But as weather, in-laws and wilful brides conspire against her, can Hazel get two very different couples to walk up two very different aisles to say ‘I do’? And will she find her own happy ending if she does?

The Review

Having only ever read one book by Abby Clements before, I was unsure what to expect from The Winter Wedding. The last book I read was a short story and it was that long ago that I read it that I can’t remember much about it (sorry!). I needn’t have worried.

The Winter Wedding is, like most romantic fiction, a story of relationships. Clements not only focuses on romantic relationships but familial and working relationships too. The working relationships are shown through the cutthroat media industry and how main character Hazel is victim to her boss’s whims; the romantic relationships come in many forms: Lila and Ollie, Eliot and Gemma; mix Josh, Sam, Amber and Hazel in the mix it almost becomes a recipe for romantic disaster. However, for me, the strongest showing of relationship was the one between Lila and Hazel; twin sisters who haven’t grown apart but have grown up. It was so refreshing to see such a strong connection between two female characters.

It is also a story of figuring out who you are. Your late twenties are a minefield of being pigeonholed into tick boxes. Married? Check. Mortgage? Check. Children? Check. Not everyone has it all figured out yet; the fact that Hazel is in the exact same position made her very easy to relate to.

The Winter Wedding was a really lovely read. It wasn’t taxing or an agonising read; it was a genuine pleasure to just sit down and pick up a book that I felt so comfortable to be a part of.

Well done, Abby Clements.

The Winter Wedding by Abby Clements is available now.

Follow Abby Clements (@AbbyCBooks) on Twitter.

Review: All I Want for Christmas by Claudia Carroll

Title: All I Want for Christmas

Author: Claudia Carroll

Pages: 21 Pages

The Blurb

Dreams come true on Christmas day … don’t they?

It’s three days until Lucy and Andrew’s perfect winter wedding. Over Christmas dinner the two families will meet for the first time.
What could possibly go wrong?!

Jo has planned her first Christmas as a married woman with military precision. But it seems her new husband Dave has gone missing …

Strict vegans Dawn and Kirk slave away over a unique Christmas feast, but Dawn’s mum doesn’t like mung beans. And she certainly doesn’t like Kirk …

Will these couples survive the Christmas madness and get the day they dreamed of?

The Review

What a disappointing short story!

All I Want for Christmas focuses on the lives of three couples and the problems that face modern love. So far so good, right? However, the stories are never fully developed. We have no idea what happens to these characters; if I am honest we don’t really have time enough to fall in love with them either. Yet, we are left with a very ambiguous ending that destroys any possible Christmas cheer.

I don’t really know what else to say about All I Want for Christmas. I am just very disappointed.

All I Want for Christmas by Claudia Carroll is available now.

Follow Claudia Carroll (@carrollclaudia) on Twitter.

Review: Snowflakes on Silver Cove by Holly Martin

Snowflakes on Silver CoveThe Blurb

Come and spend a picture perfect romantic Christmas at White Cliff Bay

Libby Joseph is famous for her romantic Christmas stories. Every December, readers devour her books of falling in love against the magical backdrop of the Christmas season. If only Libby believed in the magic herself…

Struggling to finish her current novel, Libby turns to her best friend and neighbour George Donaldson to cheer her up. But George also needs a bit of support himself. Nervous about getting back into the dating saddle after splitting from his wife, he and Libby strike a deal. She will teach George how to win over the ladies, and Libby will in turn be inspired to inject her novel with a good dose of romance.

As Libby and George explore the beautiful White Cliff Bay on a series of romantic Christmas-themed dates, Libby finds herself having more fun than she’s had in ages and…discovers feelings that she never knew she had for George.

But is it too late? Will George win someone else’s heart or can Libby act like the heroine in one of her stories and reach for her own love under the mistletoe this Christmas?

Snuggle up with a piece of Christmas cake and mulled wine, and spend the festive season at White Cliff Bay. You won’t want to leave! Christmas at Lilac Cottage is also out now.

The Review

Last week on LisaTalksAbout I reviewed Holly Martin’s Christmas at Lilac Cottage and was blown away; I haven’t stopped recommending it since. This week I picked up the next book in the series Snowflakes on Silver Cove and I was convinced that I wasn’t going to love it as much as I loved Christmas at Lilac Cottage. Boy, was I wrong. If anything, I loved Snowflakes on Silver Cove more.

The story focuses on the friendship between Libby and George, neighbours by chance but friends by mutual respect and affection. Libby isn’t one to settle down in one place. She lives a rather nomadic existence. Travelling to come up with new locations for the romance novels that she writes; however, George is a bit of a home bird and because he has been desperately in love with Libby since she moved in, he is hoping that this will be the time that she settles down and puts down some roots.

Libby is one of those lovely, selfless characters who you can’t help but love and George is just so gorgeously hapless and this book did have me screaming “kiss him/her you fool” because you genuinely yearn for them to fall in love. This has got to be Holly Martin’s superpower. She makes you ache for her protagonists.

Snowflakes on Silver Cove is a joyous read filled with mixed messages and almost Shakespearean misunderstanding. It is funny, heart-warming and a perfect antidote for anyone who is not yet feeling in the Christmas spirit.

In all honesty, I think I have found one of my new favourite authors.

Snowflakes on Silver Cove by Holly Martin is available now.

Follow Holly Martin (@hollymartin00) on Twitter.

Review: One Wish in Manhattan by Mandy Baggot

One Wish in ManhattanThe Blurb

It’s the most wonderful time of the year…to fall in love

The temperature is dropping, snow is on its way and Hayley Walker is heading for New York with one wish on her mind…to start over.

With her nine year-old daughter Angel, Hayley is ready for an adventure. From hot chocolates and horse-drawn carriage rides in Central Park, to ice-skating at the Rockefeller Centre, and Christmas shopping on 5th Avenue – they soon fall in love with the city that never sleeps.

But there’s more to New York than the bright twinkly lights and breathtaking skyscrapers. Angel has a Christmas wish of her own – to find her real dad.

While Hayley tries to fulfil her daughter’s wish, she crosses paths with billionaire Oliver Drummond. Restless and bored with fast living, there’s something intriguing about him that has Hayley hooked.

Determined to make her daughter’s dream come true, can Hayley dare to think her own dreams might turn into reality – could A New York Christmas turn into a New York Forever?

Travel to the Big Apple this Christmas and join Hayley and Oliver as they both realise that life isn’t just about filling the minutes…it’s about making every moment count.

The Review

Oh how I love a good contemporary Christmas romance. And, my friends, that is exactly what you get with the latest Mandy Baggot Novel.

Having read many Mandy Baggot novels, I knew that I would enjoy One Wish in Manhattan. What I wasn’t expecting was to enjoy it so much that it just made me feel happy. Even in its moments of high drama or sad scenes, the writing is just so warm that you feel your heart expanding with happiness.

Essentially, the book is about relationships. Not just the loving kind though they do feature in it but also familial relationships. Central to the storyline is Hayley’s relationship with her daughter Angel. You read about how these characters are not only mother and daughter but best friends too. For me, this was one of the best things about the novel. Some stories will focus on the romantic relationship – it is a modern romance after all – however, the mother daughter bond is never put on the back burner. The story is essentially about Hayley trying to be the best mum that she can be.

We watch them go through the trials and tribulations of trying to find Angel’s dad; Hayley owning up to how she acted when she acted as an irresponsible teenager and how both Angel and Hayley deal with burgeoning relationships.

Hayley’s romantic dalliance with Oliver almost seems like a secondary story. The two plot threads are evenly balanced and you do really get some book bang for your buck with One Wish in Manhattan.

The one thing you can say about Mandy Baggot is that she always delivers the good…like Santa.

Everyone needs to put One Wish in Manhattan on their Christmas wish list.

One Wish in Manhattan by Mandy Baggot is available now.

Follow Mandy Baggot (@mandybaggot) on Twitter.

Review: A Christmas in Disguise by Katie Fforde

Title: A Christmas in Disguise

Author: Katie Fforde

Pages:  64 Pages

The Blurb

When Jo’s friend Andi asks if she’ll stand in to cook Christmas lunch for her employer, Jo reluctantly agrees. She knows Andi will lose her job if she doesn’t, and wants to help out her friend.

Jo is nervous because Andi’s boss is a well-known celebrity diva, who outright refuses to have anyone but Andi cook for her. But she also insists Andi wears full chef’s whites so the girls think they’ll get away with it … it’s the perfect Christmas disguise.

But when Jo runs into one of the guests – good looking and very smart Anthony – things get even more complicated…

The Review

As far as short stories go, I have to say I really enjoy the ones written by Katie Fforde. I first read a book by Katie Fforde last year. It was a collection of her short stories and I read them on the recommendation of my mother who absolutely adores all of Fforde’s books.

A Christmas in Disguise is a gem of a short story that has the classic dinner party disaster setting. In this story, Jo has stepped in for her friend Andi as a chef to the stars. She needs to prepare a Christmas meal that will not only impress her socialite boss and her celebrity friends but one that will also convince them that it is really Andi who is cooking. No easy feat.

Things take a thing for the crazy when one of the guests – the gorgeous Anthony – convinces Jo to pretend to be his girlfriend at the very same meal that she is cooking for everyone else. It is a disaster waiting to happen.

Fforde’s protagonist Jo just seems to want to help everybody, bless her. She gets dragged into all sort of silly situations and tries her hardest to keep her head above water…and incidentally, her food from burning.

This is a classic comedy of errors that would make a fantastic television short over the festive season. I sincerely hope that it is commissioned for TV.

A Christmas in Disguise by Katie Fforde is available now.

Follow Katie Fforde (@KatieFforde) on Twitter.