Eeny Meeny by @mjarlidge

Eeny MeenyReceived an ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review

And so the honour of the final book read in 2013 goes to this little gem.

I am a huge addict of procedural TV crime dramas, especially Criminal Minds and I have always found that the most interesting cases are not the ones where someone’s asleep in their bed and randomly gets shot / stabbed / their head bashed in but where there’s a psychological element to it, say 1 gun, 1 bullet, 2 people, no food or water and enclosed in a room with no escape.

This book was like an episode of  Criminal Minds I wanted to happen and double points for it being set in the UK (and mentioning French Fancies!).

However, there was definitely a grittiness in it that you wouldn’t find in Hollywood and the characters were real and flawed, a far cry from the sexy cast of American crime dramas.

So besides the set-up and the characters what else can I tell you about this without giving the twists and turns away?

Having each chapter basically told from the POV of different characters (in 3rd person) was a bold move but it worked really well and helped keep the plot moving and the tension high.  The reveal of the ‘baddie’ was interesting and believable.  I like how you weren’t sure whose POV the chapters in Italics were told from (you guess the perp but could easily have been Helen Grace’s given what you know about her other activities).  Overall this is a really gripping novel which stays in your mind long after you have finished it (don’t do what I did and finish it off just before bed) and highly recommended.

A fair warning to you all: the book is quite graphic in some areas and for those of you who like a happy ever after to end their mystery/thrillers then this book might not be the one for you.

I read the uncorrected proof and there were lots of mistakes which did diminish the reading experience for me but will no doubt be corrected for the edition which goes to print:

pg22 – ‘Wheb’ = When
pg55 – ‘sole custody of Amy’ = sole custody of Elsie
pg149 – ‘Too much for Anna’ = too much for Marie
pg228 – Sandy calls Hannah ‘Helen’

Book: 5*

Cover: 4*

Soundtrack to my 2013 {Fave Songs Mix}

Based on songs released in 2013

Listen to the entire Playlist HERE

  1. The Summer Set – Boomerang
  2. Gavin DeGraw – Best I Ever Had
  3. Fitz & the Tantrums – 6am
  4. OneRepublic – Counting Stars
  5. Parachute – Can’t Help
  6. Luke Bryan – That’s My Kind of Night
  7. Keith Urban – Black Leather Jacket
  8. The Summer Set – Jukebox (Life Goes On)
  9. Andrew Ripp – Falling For The Beat
  10. Rebecca Ferguson – All That I’ve Got
  11. Matt Wertz – Whenever You Love Somebody
  12. Goo Goo Dolls – Keep The Car Running
  13. Fleetwood Mac – Sad Angel
  14. A Rocket To The Moon – Whole Lotta You
  15. Ryan Star – World I Used To Know
  16. Bernard Fanning – Grow Around You
  17. Parachute – Drive You Home
  18. Daughtry – Waiting For Superman
  19. Thomas Rhett – It Goes Like This
  20. Avril Lavigne – Here’s To Never Growing Up
  21. Daughtry – Baptized
  22. Goo Goo Dolls – Rebel Beat
  23. Rebecca Ferguson – I Hope
  24. OneRepublic – Preacher

My Top Albums of 2013 listed HERE

The Spice Merchant’s Wife by Charlotte Betts

The Spice Merchant's WifeReceived this book courtesy of a Goodreads Giveaway

I have read embarrassingly few historical fictions in my time, and never any set during the 17th Century. However, I am so glad that I won this book in a giveaway as it opened my eyes to the wonderful world of London during, and shortly after, the Great Fire of London.

This book is narrated in 1st person POV by the heroine, Kate Finche, and whilst I’m not in general a fan of 1st person POV, it worked very well in this case. It is a story of hardship, deceit, tragedy, friendship and forbidden love. The time-jumps help ensure the plot keeps moving forward and all the characters you meet are well defined.

A real page-turner. Highly recommended.

Book: 5*

Cover: 3*

2013 Top Contemporary Romance Series

Based on books released in 2013

1. Macy Beckett – Sultry Springs series Surrender to Sultry (Sultry Springs, #3)

How can this be her debut?  This whole series is pure perfection both in terms of writing style and plot.  I’m only sad that this series is only 3 books long and Macy has no plans to add to it for the moment.  For those looking of perfect small-town romance books?  I cannot recommend this series enough.

2013 additions: A Shot of Sultry, Surrender to Sultry

Always on My Mind (Lucky Harbor, #8)2. Jill Shalvis – Lucky Harbor series

Okay disclaimer: I am a huge Jill Shalvis fan and she is one of my favourite (if not THE favourite) contemporary romance author so of course this series was going to feature on my list.  Given that I thought this series was going to end with Book 3 and then with Book 6, books 7 + 8 were a real surprise.  Jill really raised the bar with these 2.  Whilst I am sure that I enjoyed books 4-6, I can barely remember them whereas she has definitely made her 2013 additions memorable.  The sexual tension in them.  Wow, scorchio.  Jack/Leah in #8 may be one of my favourite friends-to-lovers book ever.

2013 additions: It Had To Be You, Always On My Mind

Bungalow Nights (Beach House No. 9, #2)3. Christie Ridgeway – Beach House No. 9 series

I discovered this author through this series and what a wonderful series it is.  Books #2 + #3 are my favourite.

Also the covers are love.

2013 additions: Beach House Beginnings, Beach House No. 9, Bungalow Nights, The Love Shack

Autumn in the Vineyard (St. Helena Vineyard, #3)4. Marina Adair – St. Helena Vineyard series

This series is so beautifully written, I can scarcely believe that Marina is relatively new to writing.  You will fall in love with the series from the first book Kissing Under the Mistletoe.

2013 additions: Summer in Napa, Autumn in the Vineyard

Pitch Perfect (Boys of Summer, #1)5. Sierra Dean – Boys of Summer series

It is hard for me to express my love for this book: it is definitely my favourite sports romance of 2013 and also the favourite review I’ve written of the year.  This book quotes lyrics from my favourite artists (Fleetwood Mac, Hall & Oates) and is set in one of my favourite cities (Chicago).  Perfection.

2013 additions: Pitch Perfect

Wild Child (Boys of Bishop, #1)6. Molly O’Keefe – Boys of Bishop series

Molly O’Keefe has been one of the authors I’ve really fallen in love with this year.  Starting with her Crooked Creek Ranch series and now the start of her new series.  Don’t believe how awesome Wild Child is?  I started my review by saying: If there is one contemporary romance novel you must read in 2013, this is it. I know that is a pretty bold statement to make as an awful lot of great romances have been published this year but this book, this book.

2013 additions: Wild Child

Love Irresistibly (FBI / US Attorney, #4)7. Julie James – FBI / US Attorney series

Julie James is the author who made me discover and fall in love with contemporary romance so this series holds a special place in my heart.  My only complaint is that she’s apparently on a 1 book/year release schedule which is TORTUROUS.

2013 additions: Love Irresistibly

Sleigh Bells in the Snow8. Sarah Morgan – O’Neil Brothers series

An amazing start to a new contemporary romance series.  The perfect festive read as well.  I can’t wait for more books to follow.

2013 additions: Sleigh Bells In The Snow

 

The Christmas He Loved Her (Bad Boys of Crystal Lake, #2)9. Juliana Stone – Bad Boys of Crystal Lake series

The first book is great but the second book …. Gosh it made me have so many ~feelings~.  The ‘falling in love with brother’s widow’ trope is just so angsty and twisty and just …. Wow.

2013 additions: The Summer He Came Home, The Christmas He Loved Her

Some Like It Sinful (A Perfect Recipe, #2)10. Robbie Terman – A Perfect Recipe series

The first book took us into the world of reality cooking shows but it is the second book in the series that really stole my heart.

2013 additions: Some Like It Spicy, Some Like It Sinful

 

All Fired Up (Hot in the Kitchen, #2)11. Kate Meader – Hot In The Kitchen series

Family and cooking.

2013 additions: Feel the Heat, All Fired Up

 

 

 

Falling For Her Fiance (Accidentally in Love, #1)12. Cindi Madsen – Accidentally In Love series

The series starts off with an amazing friends-to-lovers + fake romance book which I highly recommend.

2013 additions: Falling For Her Fiancé, Act Like You Love Me

 

Last Groom Standing (The Wedding Season, #4)13. Various – The Wedding Season series

I think it’s unlikely that you will ever find a series where each book is written by a different author as good as this one.

2013 additions: The Unexpected Wedding Guest, Girl Least Likely to Marry, Maid of Dishonor, Last Groom Standing

 

Wilde for Her (Wilde Security, #2)14. Tonya Burrows – Wilde Security series

Sexy series about a security firm run by a group of brothers.

2013 additions: Wilde Nights in Paradise, Wilde For Her

 

All He Ever Dreamed (Kowalski Family, #6)15. Shannon Stacey – Kowalski Family series

All He Ever Dreamed was a bit too predictable for me but I’m a fan of the series as a whole.

2013 additions: All He Ever Dreamed, Love A Little Sideways (still to read)

Fighting Love by Abby Niles

Fighting Love (Love to the Extreme, #2)Received an ARC from the publisher in exchange for an honest review

Wow, just wow.  Probably the best transition from friends-to-lovers story I’ve read.  The chemistry and the friendship between Tommy and Julie just touched me to the core.  I fell in love with them as friends and also as something more.

I loved the Brody/Julie dynamic and really hope that we get to see Brody and Mac’s Happy Ever Afters (separate, not together, although that would be an interesting twist!)

It was a 5* read for me all the way through (though I think Tommy was really stupid to run back into his burning house) until the final quarter.  I just felt at that point in the story, the author shouldn’t still be trying to come up with reasons to avoid the inevitable HEA.

This is my first read by Abby Niles (I haven’t read the first book in the series and you definitely don’t have to in order to enjoy this) and I’ll definitely be coming back for some more.

Book: 4*

Cover: 3*

Soundtrack To My 2013 {Fave Albums Released in 2013}

At the start of the year when I was looking at the scheduled album releases for 2013, I did wonder whether I was going to equal the 25 albums of 2012.   Turns out 2013 has been an amazing year for awesome album releases.  2014 – you have a lot to live up to!

1. OneRepublic – Native

 

A very very solid third album (I think I like every song bar one which rarely happens for me).  I am still getting over the disappointment of wasting my ticket to see them.

If I went to the gym or exercised in general, I think I would definitely have this album on repeat.

It also contains my favourite song of the year:  Preacher

Favourite songs: Preacher, Feel Again, If I Lose Myself, Counting Stars

2. The Summer Set – Legendary

 

Very very summery and radio-friendly with some annoyingly catchy songs.  Definitely recommended if you want to discover some new catchy pop-rock songs.

Favourite songs: Boomerang, Lightning In A Bottle, 7 Days, Jukebox (Life Goes On), Heart On The Floor

3. Rebecca Ferguson – Freedom

I absolutely loved her debut album and have completely played it to death so it’s about time she gave me something new to obsess over.

Her second album is just as awesome and I am glad that she didn’t suddenly decide to change her style and there are some great soul/pop songs on here.  ‘All That I’ve Got’ and ‘I Hope’ <3 <3 <3 <3

Favourite songs: All That I’ve Got, I Hope, Wonderful World, My Freedom, Hanging On, My Best, I Hope ….. well, the whole album actually.

4. Goo Goo Dolls – Magnetic

 

This is one of those delightful albums that actually lives up to the lead single.  As soon as I heard ‘Rebel Beat’, I knew I was going to love this album and love it I certainly do.  I think this album is definitely poppier than previous albums.

Favourite songs: Rebel Sound, Keep The Car Running, Bulletproofangel, More of You

5. A Rocket To The Moon – Wild & Free

 

Highly Recommended.  Every song on here is a winner.  It ranges from the radio-friendly pop-rock (‘You’re My Song’, ‘Wild & Free’, ‘Going Out’) to songs which makes me want to cry (‘Lost and Found’)

Favourite songs: Whole Lotta You, If I’m Gonna Fall In Love, Going Out

6. Parachute – Overnight

I have been looking forward to their latest album for the whole year and whilst I don’t think this album is as catchy as its predecessor, it does contain lots of good songs.

Favourite songs: Can’t Help, Didn’t See It Coming, Hurricane, The Only One, Drive You Home

7. Gavin DeGraw – Make A Move

 

I don’t know whether it is the influence of touring with Train or what but this album is very Train-like.  Take ‘Best I Ever Had’ for instance – brilliant radio-friendly song which sounds exactly like something Train would produce but nothing like songs on previous Gavin DeGraw albums.
Still, great album

Favourite songs: Best I Ever Had, Who’s Gonna Save Us, Make A Move, Different For Girls

8. Daughtry – Baptized

 

Favourite songs: Waiting For Superman, I’ll Fight, Undefeated, Long Live Rock and Roll

9. Luke Bryan – Crash My Party

 

Just as I had begun to overplay his other albums, he very kindly released a new one for me to fall in love with.  Thank you country music boyfriend.

Favourite songs: That’s My Kind Of Night, Out Like That, Beer In the Headlights, Play It Again

10. Matt Wertz – Heatwave

 Another amazing alternative rock artist.  ‘Whenever You love Somebody’ is such a beautiful tune that should be the backing tune for all of my favourite fandom couples.

Favourite songs: Take It Or Leave It, Get To You, Whenever You Love Somebody, Shine, All I Ever Wanted

11. Keith Urban – Fuse

 

I don’t have many albums by him.  In fact, I think the only other one I own is his Greatest Hits but I am so glad that I gave this one a try.  It is very Luke Bryan/Florida Georgia Line-esque and “radio friendly” and maybe too poppy for purists but fantastic for me.  I love the way the story unfolds in ‘Black Leather Jacket’.

Favourite Songs: Red Camaro, Somewhere In My Car, Black Leather Jacket, Cop Car

12. Matt Hires – This World Won’t Last Forever

 

I discovered Matt Hires when they played ‘Forever’ during a Grey’s Anatomy episode.  Awesome album cover!

Favourite songs: Restless Heart, Forever, Wishing On Dead Stars, Take It Or Leave It, The Sound of Falling In Love

13. Fleetwood Mac – Rumours (35th Anniversary Edition)

 

So the 4 CD extended edition of Rumours to celebrate its 35th Anniversary?  Wow.  There are some gems on there.  I have to say that you have to know the album to really appreciate it otherwise to a layman it will just be different versions of the same song that broadly sound the same.

Unbelievable highlights:

Planets of the Universe (Demo) – If you have Fleetwood Mac and Stevie Nick’s entire discography, you probably have several different versions of ‘Planets of the Universe’ but the version on this CD entitled ‘Planets of the Universe (Demo)’ is a real contender for the most beautiful version.

Oh Daddy (Early Take) – You would think that having Christine calling out ‘Chorus’ and ‘Instrumental thing’ during the recording of this track would ruin the song but lordio it just enhances its awesomeness.

The Chain (Demo) – Sounds nothing like the end product.  Wow.  Funny how that intro makes a song.

Keep Me There (With Vocal) – This is where ‘The Chain’’s famous riff comes from!  Epic!  Love this song.  LOVE, LOVE, LOVE, LOVE.  A part of me wishes they released this instead.

14. Jake Owen – Days Of Gold

 

Another ‘radio-friendly’ country artist.  He’s right up there with Luke Bryan in my books.  I first heard about him as Florida Georgia Line did a song with him on his Endless Summer EP and I have been waiting awhile for his full length album.

It is the last release of 2013 to make it onto the list so I haven’t listened to it as much as the others but it certainly doesn’t disappoint.

Favourite songs: Ghost Town, Life Of The Party, Tipsy

15. Ryan Star – Animals EP

I am a huge Ryan Star fan and hope that he’ll release another full-length album soon.  In the time we have this fabulous EP.

Favourite songs: World I Used to Know, My Life With You, Impossible

16. Fleetwood Mac – Extended Play

 

It’s not a new album but I’ll take any new Fleetwood Mac material I can get.  Definitely the highlight of the year for me was getting to see them live and Christine McVie joining them on stage for a rendition of ‘Don’t Stop’.

Favourite songs: Sad Angel

17. Andrew Ripp – Won’t Let Go

 

Favourite songs: Falling for the Beat, Someone to Love You, When You Fall In Love, Let Love Win

18. Scouting For Girls – Greatest Hits

I debated a long time whether or not I was going to allow this album on this list because the intention of this list was to showcase new music not Greatest Hits compilations.  However, as I only have their third album, a lot of the music on here was new to me.

Favourite songs: Harbour, Famous, Heartbeat

19. Fitz & The Tantrums – More Than Just A Dream

 

Camp introduced me to this band and to the whole genre actually.  Really catchy songs.

Favourite songs: Spark, Fools Gold, 6am, Break the Walls

20. Keaton Simons – Beautiful Pain

A new discovery this year – some great pop-rock.

Favourite songs: Beautiful Pain, Black & White, Medicine, Gonna Shine Brighter, Hearts Don’t Break Themselves

21. Ben Rector – The Walking In Between

Favourite songs: Ordinary Love, When I’m With You, Follow You

22. Matt Nathanson – Last of The Great Pretenders

 

Favourite songs: Last Days Of Summer In San Francisco, Mission Bells, Kill The Lights

23. Bernard Fanning – Departures

 

This is what I would probably describe as adult alternative rock.  ‘Grow Around You’ is such a beautiful song.

 Favourite songs: Inside Track, Grow Around You, Tell Me How It Ends

24. Teddy Geiger – The Last Fears

 

Favourite songs: Walking the Sun, Ordinary Man, Shake It Off, Save Me

25. Clannad – Nadur

 

This is everything I wanted in a new album from these guys – beautiful haunting melodies. And a mixture of songs in Gaelic and English.  They were awesome live.

Favourite songs: A Song In Your Heart, Turas Domhsa Chon Na Galldachd, Vellum

26. Luke Bryan – Spring Break Here to Party

 

Whilst this album does contain the great ‘Buzzkill’ song, I am not overly in love with the album as a whole, mainly because it is full of songs about Spring Break which is such an American thing, I can’t relate.

HOWEVER, seeing this album is what made me first get curious about Luke Bryan and holy crap, he has turned out to be one of my favourite artists I’ve discovered this year.

Favourite songs: Buzzkill, If You Ain’t Here To Party

27. Avril Lavigne – Avril Lavigne

 

I really don’t like it when artists have self-titled albums which aren’t their debut album but I tried not to let that influence my opinion of the album as a whole.

’17’ is ripped off of Taylor Swift’s ’22’? Got to admit it is catchy though!

‘Hello Kitty’ – what the hell is this atrocity?!?!  Oh and ‘Bad Girl’??  WTF?!  She can join Jessie J this year in making me seriously go WTF in terms of some of the songs on their albums.

Overall if we ignore the above two songs, it’s a good album but I think she’s too old to be making this kind of album?  *shrugs* Who am I to judge?

Favourite songs: Here’s To Never Growing Up, 17, Rock n Roll, Hello Heartache

28. Kelly Clarkson – Wrapped In Red

There is no question that I love Kelly and her music but in general covers don’t do it for me and therefore Christmas albums rarely get me excited.

Favourite songs: Wrapped in Red, Underneath the Tree

29. Leona Lewis – Christmas, With Love

As above. Amazing voice (‘Ave Maria’ – wow) and album cover though.

Favourite songs: Mr Right, Christmas (Baby Please Come Home), One More Sleep

30. Vertical Horizon – Echoes From the Underground

There’s this guitar solo at about the 5 minute mark of ‘Lovestruck’ that just got me.

This album is a lot less poppy than their earlier stuff.

Favourite songs: Half Light, Lovestruck

31. Thomas Rhett – It Goes Like This

A new country music discovery for me this year.

Favourite songs: Make Me Wanna, It Goes Like This

32.  Beady Eye – BE

 

I am still sad about Oasis’s break-up but I can definitely say that I much prefer Noel Gallagher and His High Flying Birds to Beady Eye.   This album is sadly lacking in ‘catchy’ songs that you want to play over and over again.

Favourite songs: Flick of the Finger, Off At The Next Exit

33. Jessie J – Alive

I absolutely loved her first album but now she’s got all electronic/rap/R’N’B (seriously, WTF is ‘Excuse My Rude’?!  It offends me right from the first note), this was a big step down overall but with some good tunes thrown in for good measure.

Favourite songs: Breathe, I Miss Her, Daydreamin’, Harder We Fall, Sexy Lady

34. Starship – Loveless Fascination

 

This year’s only half-decent AOR offering.  Also, wonderful cover.

Favourite songs: It’s not The Same As Love, Loveless Fascination

35. Action Item – Resolution

 

Favourite songs: Moments, Last Day Of Summer

36. Caitlin Rose – The Stand-In

 

I discovered this artist thanks to Hart Of Dixie back when I still watched it.

Favourite songs: When I’m Gone, Waitin’, Everywhere I Go

37. Josh Groban – All That Echoes

Groban

I’m going to be honest, Josh Groban has a whole following of fangirls but I’m not one of them.  I like his voice and some of his songs but I’m never going to be a huge fan.  That said, the amount of songs I liked on this album was a nice surprise.

Favourite songs: Brave, Below The Line, Hollow Talk

Raspberries:

 Bon Jovi – What About Now

 

Can anyone say Big Fat Disappointment?!?!?!  I know people slated ‘Circle’ but that was 50 million times better than this album.

Some Like It Sinful by Robbie Terman

Some Like It Sinful (A Perfect Recipe, #2)Received an ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review

I loved this book even more than the first one in the series.  Chloe was lovely, Griffin grew on me and I just all around enjoyed it.

Now I want more books in this series (and I want them NOW!):

– Jenna and her firefighter from the past (presume this is going to be next)
– Riley
– Taryn

The possibilities are endless with this series …. <3.

Love for the Holidays Anthology

Love for the Holidays (five book Christmas bundle)Received an ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review

I absolutely adored stories 1,4 & 5 but unfortunately, 2 & 3 really let this anthology down for me.

HOLIDAY HEAT by Noelle Adams

4*

A lovely story about how 2 damaged people find love again with each other

MISTLETOE BETWEEN FRIENDS by Samantha Chase

1.5*

Unfortunately this was a bit childish, both the plotline and the writing – too much pouting for a start.  The dialogue between Cam and Lily was childish most of the time

THE CHRISTMAS COTTAGE by Samantha Chase

1.5*

No more pouting I beg you!

Ava was the biggest brat EVER.

I skimmed most of this which is something I rarely do.

EIGHT CHRISTMAS EVES by Rachel Curtis

4*

I loved the time lapses in this story and the way we saw the relationship between Cyrus and Helen change.  I think the time jumps made this story unique and gave an unusual perspective to a developing relationship.

WHAT ONCE WAS PERFECT by Zoe York

4*

This was wonderful.  I felt like I really got to know Kyle and Laney (both what they are like now and also what they were like during their first relationship).  Laney’s relationship with her sister, mother and nephews was cute as well.  Although I like a HEA as much as the next person, kudos to the author for keeping it real and having them deal with real problems like relocation and finding a job up until the end.

Although pet hate – please learn to spell fiancé correctly when referring to the guy.  🙂

Book: 3*

Cover: 3*

Recipe for Attraction by Gina Gordon

Recipe for Attraction (Madewood Brothers, #2)Received an ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review

Unfortunately there were a number of things I didn’t like about this book:

1. Carson offering to sleep with Neil every time he thought about racing to distract him.  This is the worst idea of a deal ever.

2. Carson’s relationship with her father.  Yes, it is half-heartedly explained at the end but I’ve read a lot of romances with overbearing, cold, distant fathers and the depiction of that dynamic in this book didn’t do it justice.

3. The illegal racing – you would have thought something like that would be central to the story but it is half-heartedly thrown around like an afterthought.

Book: 2*

Cover: 3*