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The Christmas Party By Carole Matthews

The Christmas Party‘The Christmas Party’ is Carole Matthews new Christmas book.

Louise Young is a devoted single mother whose only priority is providing for her daughter, Mia. Louise has a good job in a huge international corporation and she’s grateful for it. The only problem is her boss who can’t keep his hands to himself, but Louise can handle him. What she really doesn’t have time for is romance – until she meets the company’s rising star, Josh Wallace. Louise usually says no to evenings out but she’s decided to let her hair down tonight. It’s the office Christmas party, she has a pretty dress to wear and she’s looking forward to some champagne and fun. She’s completely unaware that others around her are too busy playing dangerous games to enjoy the party – until she’s pulled into those games herself.

Carole is back with another Christmas cracker of a book with ‘The Christmas Party’ filled with ghosts from Christmas past and present that will have you loving and loathing them in equal measures.

The story is primarily seen from the perspective of Louise, the heroine of the story, who has returned to work for the first time after having her little girl, the bubbly and outspoken Mia and looking forward to her first Christmas party for Fossil Oil which is taking place at a fancy manor estate. The only thing that she is dreading is her terribly hands on boss Tyler, who’s lecherous advances, she has been trying to avoid. The story then takes place on the night of the party which is Christmas Eve and the aftermath that follows on Christmas Day. The book is written in the first person for Louise, but the other supporting characters are written in the third.

Louise is a lovely lead in the story, warmhearted with a sweet nature, she wants nothing more to provide her and Mia with a comfortable life and doesn’t want anything to jeopardise her new job, even though her boss can hardly keep his hands to himself. Uncomfortable with his behaviour, she stays quiet not wanting to create a scene, so she is delighted to find solace in the company of Josh, her handsome co-worker. Handsome and charismatic, he is the Prince Charming of the story. The story is also seen through the eyes of Kirsten. Tyler’s wife who is unhappy with her life, aware of her husband’s affairs, she has turned a blind eye, after her one true love left her but now that he has returned, Kirsten has regained that loving feeling and spark back into her life. Melissa, is the wife of Lance, the overall boss of Fossil Oil, she too is unhappy with her life, having to deal with Lance’s alcoholism, she too finds company in affairs. And finally there is Tyler, the creepy boss who has no concept of personal space. Arrogant and vain, he injects an element of humour to the story, as he is subject to a number of unfortunate incidents throughout the night.

This is another charming story from one of my favourite authors, it’s perfect to curl up with this book and get lost in the festive season. Written in Carole’s humerus style, it’s packed with relatable characters, that you want to find their happy ever afters and get their comeuppance. With a beautifully illustrated cover, ‘The Christmas Party’ is a fun poignant and witty story that is impossible to put down!

You can buy The Christmas Party from Amazon and is available to buy from good bookshops.

Conversations At The Mill With Jodi Picoult

Jodi PicoultIf you are a fan of Jodi Picoult and are living in Northern Ireland, then you will be delighted to hear that the bestselling American author whose books include ‘The Storyteller’ and ‘My Sisters Keeper’ will be doing a one off talk in Northern Ireland talking about her new book ‘Leaving Time’.

The event is taking place at Theatre At The Mill in Newtownabbey which has been hosting a series of events over the last couple of months featuring some well known and successful female authors such as Philippa Gregory, Jill Mansell and Tasmina Perry.

There are a few tickets left for the event, so I’d snap them up fast and at only £6, they are going like hot cakes!

For more information plus ticket bookings, see The Theatre At The Mill’s website.

Us By David Nicholls

Us‘Us’ is the latest book by David Nicholls.

Douglas Petersen understands his wife’s need to ‘rediscover herself’ now that their son is leaving home. He just thought they’d be doing their rediscovering together. So when Connie announces that she will be leaving, too, he resolves to make their last family holiday into the trip of a lifetime: one that will draw the three of them closer, and win the respect of his son. One that will make Connie fall in love with him all over again. The hotels are booked, the tickets bought, the itinerary planned and printed. What could possibly go wrong?

I love David Nicholls and have included ‘One Day as one of my all time favourite books so when I heard he was returning with ‘Us’, I was delighted to see him returning after his prominent absence.

‘Us’ is a story that is seen entirely from the perspective of Douglas Peterson, a biochemist with a literal attitude towards life. But, what he lacks in humour, he makes up in enthusiasm. Married to Connie, she is his polar opposite, outspoken with a zest for life, she is yang to his yang, she is his world. So when, they organised a huge inter-railing trip around Europe just before Albie, their only son goes off to university, Douglas’s life falls apart when Connie announces she wants to have a divorce and that she hasn’t been happy. This trip becomes their swan-song, as they revisit some of the cities that they fell in love with and harbour happy memories off and Douglas has to come to terms with realising that the woman he wanted to die with, no longer wants to be part of his life. As much as tries, Douglas finds it hard to have a proper relationship with Albie, they bicker and his laid back attitude annoys Douglas to the point that Albie runs away during the trip, leaving Douglas to run after him and try to bring him home and to convince Connie that he is a worthy man of her love.

This story is a heartbreaking one, that easily tugs at the heartstrings as we join Douglas on this lonely journey and the world that he adores is being taken away from him. I loved Douglas and my heart genuinely ached for him, he was constantly doing something wrong every time he tried to do something right. Eager and compassionate, he craved knowledge and wanted nothing more to share it with others and it seemed that Connie had grown tired of this. I tried to like Connie, but I found it hard as she was breaking Douglas’s heart but with every hard moment that they shared, there would be a tender one, that lures Douglas and the reader into a false sense of security,

A clever addition to the story, is that it is written in the past and present, so we see Douglas and Connie from the moment that they first meet and join them as their relationship develops, through the ups and downs and gives us a wonderful insight into the couples drama. Another thing that I particularly enjoyed was the information that flowed through the story as they travelled through each city, the history and background, almost like a tourist guide, it was helpful for upcoming adventures!

A beautifully written and poignant story and most definitely worthy of the Booker Man prize nomination, ‘Us’ tells the story of the demise of a relationship in a lighthearted and entertaining way, as we join one dysfunctional family on their road trip and as they try their very hardest to get along, I loved it!

You can buy Us from Amazon and is available to buy from good bookshops.

The Seafront Tea Rooms By Vanessa Greene

The Seafront Tea Rooms‘The Seafront Tea Rooms’ is the latest book by Vanessa Greene.

The Seafront Tea Rooms is a peaceful hideaway, away from the bustle of the seaside, and in this quiet place a group of women find exactly what they’ve been searching for. Charismatic journalist Charlotte is on a mission to scope out Britain’s best tea rooms. She knows she’s found something special in the Seafront Tea Rooms but is it a secret she should share? Kathryn, a single mother whose only sanctuary is the ‘Seafront’, convinces Charlie to keep the place out of her article by agreeing to join her on her search. Together with another regular, Seraphine, a culture-shocked French au pair with a passion for pastry-making, they travel around the country discovering quaint hideaways and hidden gems. But what none of them expect is for their journey to surprise them with discoveries of a different kind .

Vanessa Greene is back with lovely story that I found impossible to put down.

The story is about three very different women who become friends with their mutual love for tea and cakes. Charlotte is a journalist who is determined to find the best teas around but when her sister Pippa suddenly needs her help, Charlotte finds herself in a predicament, so she asks Kathryn and newcomer Seraphine to help her with the article, as the three of them bonded over cake one days. Kathryn is a struggling single mother who adores her little boy Leo and is trying to get a job to provide them with a better quality life but finds it hard especially when Leo goes to visit his father and she finds herself at a loose end and welcomes Charlotte proposal for work and friendship eagerly. And finally Seraphine is the youngest of the three girls who has come over to England to become an au pair and help teach a little girl called Zoe, French who tragically lost her French mother in a horse riding accident. Zoe is reluctant to learn the language as it brings back too many unhappy memories, but with Seraphine’s French charm and gentle persistence, she helps the little girl ignite her love for the language. Together their love of tea and cakes creates a friendship and shoulder for each of them as they deal with difficulties in their lives.

Like her previous books, this story is another charming and entertaining story of love and friendship. With quirky personalities and likeable traits, the ladies all bring something a bit different to the story, with their dramas, secrets and love interests, which makes the book indulgent reading that can easily be absorbed in one sitting.

Filled with cakes, recipes and plenty of secrets, ‘The Seafront Tea Rooms’ is poignant story that flows at a lovely pace and is perfect for fans of Jenny Colgan and Carole Matthews.

You can buy The Seafront Tea Rooms from Amazon and is available to buy from good bookshops.

Love Me Or Leave By Claudia Carroll

Love Me Or Leave Me
‘Love Me Or Leave Me’ is the latest book by Claudia Carroll.

Two years ago Chloe Townsend was dumped at the altar and had to leave behind everything that mattered to her. Even now she’s finding it hard to move forward. That is until she lands an incredible job, running a brand new boutique hotel. Suddenly she’s starting to put her life back together, and, apart from the fact that her hard-to-please new boss is breathing down her neck, things are looking good. But what goes on in the Hope Street Hotel is a far cry from anything she’s ever dealt with before. This is a pioneering ‘divorce hotel’ designed to make every aspect of breaking up efficient and pain-free. In one single weekend, Chloe’s team promises to take care of everything – legal, technical, emotional – and guests check out carefree and single. No one is better qualified than Chloe to understand what couples need when their relationship is at breaking point, but she soon finds herself having to tackle the heartbreak she’s tried to bury. In particular three couples need her help – Jo and Dave, Lucy and Andrew, and Kirk and Dawn – and the opening weekend is full of revelation, trouble, memories happy and sad, facts that need facing, and some very big surprises.

I’ve been a fan of Claudia’s books for years, they are always warmhearted stories of love and friendship written with her signature Irish charm and wit.

The story is seen primarily from the perspective of the lead protagonist of the story Chloe Townsend, who fled Dublin for the bright lights of London after she was left embarrassed and jilted on her wedding day. Homesick, she returns home after an unique opportunity arises to become the general manager of Ireland’s first divorce hotel. A hotel that helps makes the stressful process of divorce a little bit easier. She is perfect for the role, organised and always in control, she is provides an essence of calm for the guests at the hotel and a shoulder to cry on when things get too much.

The story also concentrates on three couples on the lead up to their divorce and is written in a past and present scenario, so we know the history of the couples and why this is happening. The couples are all great characters, that provide elements of humour and drama that make this story poignant reading. Penny married Kirk when she was very young and was naive to think that this vegan, free loving hippy would love her forever but Kirk was unable to keep his love to himself and suddenly she finds herself in the divorce hotel. Meek and always happy to please, she finally finds her voice and is quick to tell laid back Kirk what she really thinks of him which is hilarious. Jo and David were a couple that I felt huge sympathy for. Jo is a busy, perfectionist businesswoman with a sharp tongue who likes everything to be in order. David is her complete polar opposite, a carefree actor, he enjoys an easy life which seems to stress Jo out. But, as the story develops, we see the true reason behind the couple staying at the hotel, which I found particularly heartbreaking. Finally the last couple are Lucy and Andrew. Lucy is a successful model and girl about town, who fell for Andrew who is quite a bit older than her and his son and daughter hate Lucy as she only a few years older than them. Another sad story, where this time the stepchildren don’t like their new stepmother and make her life hell particularly during the recession.

With a pretty cover and a catchy title, that had me singing Abba for the duration of the story, this book has a wonderful cast, which makes the story genuinely gripping. Cleverly written from the perspective guests of the hotel plus Chloe as an observer and a neutral being, we see the insights into their lives and the mutual heartache that they are all experiencing. I find Claudia’s books so easy to read and enjoy and last year I was fortunate to meet her at an event and ever since, when I read her books, I hear her voice telling me the story in her soft lilting Dublin accent. A compelling story that is hilarious in parts and a tearjerker in others, ‘Love Me Or Leave Me’ is a lovely story that shows with a little bit of time and space, a divorce doesn’t have to be the last resort and occasionally we can all get our happy endings. Another treat from one of my favourite Irish authors.

You can buy Love Me Or Leave Me from Amazon and is available to buy from good bookshops.