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The Best Of Me By Nicholas Sparks

'The Best Of Me‘The Best Of Me’ is Nicholas Sparks latest book.

Amanda and Dawson were teenage sweethearts from opposite sides of the tracks – with a passion that would change their lives for ever. But life would force them apart. Years later, the lines they had drawn between past and present are about to slip. Called back to their hometown for the funeral of the mentor who once gave them shelter when they needed it most, they are faced with each other once again, and forced to confront the paths they chose. Can true love ever rewrite the past?

I’m not the biggest fan of Nicholas Sparks, the first book that I read by the American author was his last book, ‘The Longest Ride’ and didn’t particularly enjoy it. But having just finished ‘The Best Of Me’ my opinion of the author has changed.

The story is primarily seen through the perspective of the leading characters Dawson and Amanda, a teenage couple who fell in love. From opposite sides of the tracks, Dawson came from a family with a bad reputation and immediately Amanda’s family were opposed to the relationship, giving her an ultimatum that she is to choose her future, education or Dawson. But Dawson, being the gentleman that he is, he bows out of relationship giving her the opportunity to live her life to the max, but doing so, never gets over his first love, living a life of work and solitude. Meanwhile also for Amanda, she never recovered from the boy who got away, even though she is married with children, Dawson is constantly in her thoughts especially with her husband having a drinking problem and their little girl who passed away, she often thinks about what might have been. But when mutual friend Tuck passes away and requests that they both return home to take care of his business, the couple are giving a second chance to meet and ponder over lost times.

This story is beautifully romantic and heart aching in equal measures, as two people who are obviously still in love with each other, battle with emotions and morals. Unhappy with her marriage and her bitter relationship with her mother, Amanda confides in Dawson as he provides an unlikely shoulder for Amanda. As the days pass, they grow closer and reminisce on the times that they spent with their good friend Tuck, they are lead on an adventure as they take care of his final request.

I really enjoyed both characters of the book and found them relatable and thought they complimented each other wonderfully, Amanda with her outspokenness and Dawson’s quiet, brooding nature, the scenes with them made for tender reading. An interesting addition to the story, was even though it is mainly about Amanda and Dawson, there are couple of sub stories thrown in, that makes the story even more riveting with family bust-ups and upheavals. These scenes were short and snappy parts and often gave the story a sense of urgency and drama.

The story has an easy storyline that flows easily along and takes an unexpected twist that will leave the reader in bits. Another new author that I will have to look into at some point, Nicholas Sparks has written a beautifully romantic about love and heartbreak that will you reaching for the tissues as this tender story pulls at your heartstrings.

You can buyThe Best Of Me: Film Tie In from Amazon and will be available to buy from good bookshops.

My Top Five Hotels By Claudia Carroll

Claudia CarrollTo celebrate the release of Claudia Carroll’s new book ‘Love Me Or Leave Me’and as the story is based in a hotel, Claudia tells us about her top five hotels in the world.

The Moon Palace Golf Resort and Spa, Cancun, Mexico.
Well, I’ll give you a laugh. Years ago a few pals were all going to Mexico on what the travel agent told us was an ‘all inclusive’ package. Now this was a new concept at the time, one that none of us eejits had ever come across before. And we were genuinely stumped. All-inclusive? What did that mean? Food covered but not drinks? Or the other way around? Or, worse, bed and brekkie covered but after that you were entirely left to your own devices?

So off we tropped, all buffed and spay-tanned, to the Moon Palace hotel in Cancun. And Oh. My. Actual. God. Turned out all-inclusive mean just that…absolutely everything. You name it, everything. You want room service at 2 a.m. with a bottle of champagne on the side? Covered. Cocktails at the pool whenever you feel them one? Covered. Or you fancy breakfast and lunch and a full afternoon tea – cupcakes included, naturally – followed by a four course dinner, where you don’t even have to bring you purse with you? Ditto.

Well, we were only stunned.

Final word on the Moon Palace? ‘If a hotel like this ever opened in Ireland,’ one of my pals quipped, ‘it would go bankrupt within about two days. Max.’

The Roosevelt Hotel, New York City.
Oh God, this place is a little gem. If you’re a shopper, as I am, then NYC is your Mecca. I’m lucky enough to be there about once a year and always stay at the Roosevelt. The location is perfect, on Madison Avenue and East 45th St and the hotel itself is so impressive, with a big sweeping staircase like something out of an Edith Wharton novel. It’s two minutes from all the fabulous shops on 5th Avenue, so it’s handy for running back to dump all the bags. Best of all, it’s not too spendy either!

The Covent Garden Hotel, London.
I think this hotel is probably right on your doorstep, Jo! I’ve never actually stayed here, but last year, Avon ran a competition for my readers and the prize was afternoon tea at the Covent Garden Hotel, which I was lucky enough to be asked along to as well. Oh it was so stunning! The afternoon tea was a dream come true; I turned into one of those annoying people who kept photographing their food, then posting it all over Facebook and Twitter, so everyone could admire them. The cupcakes were little works of art! One day, I’d love to stay there as I’d say the rooms are to die for but in the meantime, it’s so lovely to pop into for tea and one of those famous cakes.

The Burj Al Arab, Dubai.
Again, I’ve never stayed here, but I was on a girlie beach holiday years ago with a pal and we stayed at the lovely Sheraton hotel, right on Jueriah beach. It was gorgeous and not too expensive, but in Dubai, the Burj al Arab’s famous silhouette absolutely dominates the skyline; there’s no avoiding it. So over the holiday, my pal and I became obsessed with seeing it for ourselves.

Anyway, we made dinner reservations there and it was just breathtaking. The entire hotel is designed with the maxim, ‘more is more,’ and you want to see it! Solid gold bannister rails and more marble than I’ve ever seen outside of the Vatican. Best of all? My pal and I thought our meal would probably cost us the earth and I was dreading the bill, but when it arrived it was no more than you’d pay in any mid-priced restaurant here in Dublin. Highly recommended!

In fact, I loved it so much, I set one of the closing chapters of ‘Love Me Or Leave Me’ right here.

The Trevi Hotel, Rome.
I love and adore The Eternal City and first stayed in this hotel when one of my oldest pals got married there, about eleven years ago now. Best wedding Ever. It’s right beside the Trevi fountain and is charming, rather than posh, if you’re with me. It’s higgledy-piggledy with rooms all over the place and no lift, just a winding staircase, so it kind of gives you the feel that you’re staying on a ship. The restaurant is one big long dining table for breakfast and dinner, so it’s lovely as you get to chat to fellow guests. And it’s location is just perfect as you can walk to all the sights….and in Rome you do a lot of walking! And a lot of drinking wine, but then that’s another story….

You can pre-order Love Me Or Leave Me from Amazon and will be available to buy from 23rd October 2014.

Seeing Other People By Mike Gayle

Seeing Other People‘Seeing Other People’ is Mike Gayle’s latest book.

Father of two Joe Clarke, is about seventy-eight per cent sure he’s just had an affair. After all that is the hopelessly attractive office intern in bed next to him, isn’t it? But then again if he did have an affair why can’t he remember anything at all about the night in question? Mortified by his mistake, Joe vows to be a better man. But when his adored wife Penny puts two and two together and leaves him, things start to take a turn for the decidedly strange. Joe is told for a fact that he didn’t have an affair after all. He just thinks he did. Which is great news . . . or at least it would be if the person who’d just delivered it wasn’t the crisp-eating, overly perfumed and mean-spirited ghost of his least favourite ex-girlfriend . .

Mike Gayle is back with another cracker of a book and just like his previous stories, it gives the male perspective of love and fidelity with unexpected twists and turns as well as an injection of his signature wit.

The story is seen from the perspective of Joe Clarke, a happily married journalist with two children who wakes up naked in a bed that isn’t his own with a pretty young intern also lying naked beside him. Distraught and guilt ridden at the thought of cheating on his wife, Joe racks his brains to see if he did indeed cheat on Penny but the night is coming up a blank. As Joe tries to move on from that night, he receives the news that his ex-girlfriend was killed in a freak tennis accident. Even though Joe doesn’t doesn’t particularly harbour warm, fuzzy feelings towards his boss and controlling ex, his presence is requested at the funeral and that’s when Joe’s life spirals even more out of his normality as he begins to see Fiona and she’s even more bitchy now that she’s dead.

The story then flows from the time leading up to that night and after as Joe battles with his guilt, Penny figures out about that illicit night and finally Fiona keeps appearing, reeking of ‘Poison’ by Dior and taunting him. Life is not easy for Joe.

Joe is an interesting character, hardworking, he idolises his children and his wife and for all his faults, can’t believe that he would throw away in one stupid mistake. But as he tries to make amends, it seems that with every step he takes, he has take another three back. Fortunately, he finds support with his new group of friends from the Divorced Fathers Club, a collection of men whose marriages didn’t work out and struggle to see their children, Joe became friends with these men after interviewing them for his newspaper and with group of chatty and vibrant characters offer him support him during the first while of being a single father.

I’ve been a fan of Mike’s books for years, he approaches love with fact and clever writing, that draws the reader in, curious to find out what will next. Whether it’s the breakdown of Joe’s once perfect marriage or the appearance of mad bitter girlfriend, there is rarely a quiet moment in this bittersweet tale. Even though the story is about infidelity and the breakdown of a marriage, there are a few lighthearted moments, that make for enjoyable reading particularly with scenes that Fiona featured in with her sharp wit and insulting mouth.

A cleverly written story from the very beginning,’Seeing Other People’ is a heartwarming and unexpected book about family, love and second chances.

You can buy Seeing Other People from Amazon and is available to buy from good bookshops.

Nicholas Sparks Favourite Adaptation – A Walk To Remember

A Walk To Remember

I think from the offset everyone expected 'The Notebook' to be number one and it most definitely came in as a close second. Everyone seems to love the romance of this emotional story, set against the backdrop of the glamorous 1930's, the cast of Ryan and Rachel do make a fabulously convincing lovestruck couple as they fight against hardship to remain together and who can forget their passionate kiss in the rain. Swoon!

So with a drumroll I reveal that everyone's favourite Nicholas Sparks favourite book to film adaptation, is 'A Walk To Remember' staring Shane West and Mandy Moore.

I'm delighted with this result as 'A Walk To Remember' was the first film that I saw by Nicholas Sparks and I also fell in love with this story of the sweet innocent girl falling for the local bad boy and how much she tries to redeem him. I saw this film many years whilst visiting a friend when she was in university and how we sat up late one night, quietly sobbing at this bittersweet and heartbreaking story.

There a loads of entries submitted for this poll, a lot of people admitting that 'A Walk To Remember' marked the beginning of their love for Nicholas Sparks.

But this particular entry from Lisa Bentley from Lisa Talks About and I thought was particularly good.

My favourite has to be A Walk to Remember.

I remember seeing the trailer for the film and I thought that it seemed like the type of film I would want to watch but being a big book obsessive I couldn’t watch the movie without reading the book. I found it, rather by chance, at a car boot sale when visiting my grandaddy.

For a whole fifty pence I got some major feels. I had tears, I had snot bubbles and I had a story that I have read over and over again and never once been disappointed. It is beautiful.

Ok, the film version isn’t the greatest and it doesn’t stick closely to the style of the novel but oh it just reminds me of that truly heartbroken feeling I got the very first time I read the book. A feeling that only a book can give you x x

A huge thank you to everyone who took part and as promised, I have five copies of ‘The Best Of Me’ to give-away and the five lucky winners are:

Joanne Varney
Chelsea Krause
Sam Everett
Lisa Bentley
Jasmin Ferchici

I shall be in touch with you lucky ladies very soon!

Handwritten Girl Takes Part In The Love Me Or Leave Me Tour

I am excited to be part of the book tour for the release of Claudia Carroll’s brand spanking new book, ‘Love Me Or Leave Me’ Check out Handwritten Girl on Monday 15th September where Claudia tells us about her top five hotels.

Love Me Or Leave Me Book Tour