Caroline’s Top Reads 2014

Hi readers, it’s that time of year again when Tina and myself have lots of fun going through our reviews of the past year and choose our favourites to share with you! And, wow, there are so many it is difficult to narrow them down!Australian xmas card (2)

This is the end of our second full year and we cannot thank you all enough for following us and sharing our posts. We have made so many friends, be they authors, bloggers, agents, publishers and more, it has been overwhelming. We have received our first Christmas card from Australia (pictured), which was an absolute pleasure to receive. It’s amazing to see the sun and summer holiday reminders when the usual card for us is full of snow, log fires and dark evenings.

We hope that you have had a great year and are looking forward to the festive season. We are looking forward to sharing it with you. And I hope that you enjoy us sharing our favourite reads. Tina’s Top Reads will also be coming your way very soon. And here are mine!

Please click on the titles for my full review and much more info!

Contemporary Romance

Books of this genre and some contemporary rom-coms have been a big hit for me this year, and Helena Fairfax’s The Silk Romance was an absolute pleasure to read. It was written so beautifully, powerfully and thoughtfully, and certainly a read you will not forget! It is a Cinderella-type story that is highly intense and completely grips the reader. I have also likened it to some high-profile romance movies in my review as some aspects are similar and captivating!

TheLoveofMarisol_WP2014The Love of Marisol by Christos Toulouras is a short story of love and loss, but with the possibility of finding new love after. It is, again, very powerful and emotive, beginning as quite a dark and realistic read (although fiction). Taking only around an hour to read, it was one of my favourite reading hours of the year!

Contemporary Rom-Coms

Boots Beneath My Bed (Miranda's Story)As well as the serious side of romance, it is always uplifting and refreshing to read some fun reads, even though they still hold a serious undertone. The book that enlightened me in this manner is C.J. Pinard’s Boots Beneath My Bed (Miranda’s Story) (Duty & Desire #3). It is my favourite book of the Duty & Desire series. It is a light-hearted, fun and cheeky read. And I love how C.J. Pinard follows both Miranda’s career, as well as her romances, and at the same time the reader sees a different side to the friendship that Miranda has with Cara.

An Autumn CrushWanting to read a seasonal book at the time, I thoroughly enjoyed An Autumn Crush by Milly Johnson. It was a Bridget Jones style read, with plenty of humour and a real feel-good and refreshing feel that really captured the time of year. And with some sombre storylines for some characters it has an awful lot going on, but is still relaxing and fun to read.

Historical Romance

Summer in RyeLucy Oliver’s novella Summer in Rye is an incredibly intense short story, with power and the ability to grip the reader. Following a new governess to children that have been badly affected by smallpox, and a master that is tyrannical, Eva only has one choice: to turn to the master’s brother, who was once engaged to her. Passion reignites between these two, but after he lied before, can Eva really accept him back?

Paranormal

Vampire Flappers (Samantha Carter #1.5)To top off my favourite paranormal reads is Tim O’Rourke’s Vampire Flappers (Samantha Carter #1.5). Last year the first of the series, Vampire Seeker, was one of my favourites, and again this series has really thrilled me. It has everything from vamps, shifters, action/adventure and time travel! The romance and passion is also very intense, making for a very HOT read! This is a series not to be missed, and I cannot wait to review Vampire Watchmen (Samantha Carter #2) in the new year!

And, not always a huge fan of short stories, this year has certainly changed my point of view. I used to think that to create great characters that full novels would be more fulfilling. However, there are a number of short stories in my top reads this year and a certain series of short stories really blew my mind – Alisa Woods’ True Alpha series. There are six shifter stories, which follow Mia and shifter Lucas, their attraction and heat for each other! Yet, the dilemma is that Lucas lost his last mate, and being to close to another is just not an option. But, when rival shifters kidnap Mia, Lucas has to face his true feelings. Each story is complete with action, heat and intensity. Shifter fans will LOVE this series. Here are the links to each review:-

Desired (True Alpha #1)

Guarded (True Alpha #2)

Hunted (True Alpha #3)

Captured (True Alpha #4)

Sacrificed (True Alpha #5)

Claimed (True Alpha #6)

I am also hoping to review another short A True Alpha Christmas over the coming days before the big day. And, in the new year Alisa Woods will be releasing her Dark Alpha short story series!

Soul RebelNow, for my second entry of author C.J. Pinard we have Soul Rebel. This is my favourite novel of C.J.’s. With plenty of action, suspense and romance it really does have it all. The characters and storyline are brilliant. Nolan loses his soul during a kiss with a female succubus in a nightclub and he only has 7 days to claim his soul back! Time constraints cause the tension and really make the pace quick. Plus there are many surprises which make it an exciting read.

Blue Moon (The Blue Crystal Trilogy #1)Recommended for the younger adult (15yrs+) Blue Moon (The Blue Crystal trilogy #1) by Pat Spence is an enchanting and fairytale-like read with supernatural mystery and horror. It is highly recommended to fans of the Twilight saga, but without the vamps. It follows the idea of eternal youth, ancient links and an attraction between Emily (17) and the handsome Theo. It is highly emotive, with a great eerie atmosphere as the reader gets sucked in to the mystery. Blue Moon is a fantastic beginning to this trilogy.

Horror

Moonshine (The Moon Trilogy, #3)This year saw the final instalment of Tim O’Rourke’s Moon trilogy, Moonshine (The Moon trilogy, #3). A paranormal horror series that has it all; action and adventure, vamps, weres, heart-warming moments and plenty of surprises. The running theme through the trilogy is whether or not vamps and weres can exist in peace together. Or, will they both have to try and annihilate each other? Will the love of Winnie be enough to hold it all together? (Clicking on the links for books 2 and 3 may spoil the storyline for those who haven’t read book one.)

Moonlight (The Moon Trilogy #1)

Moonbeam (The Moon Trilogy #2)

Crime Thriller

COLD CALL BOOK COVER - with blood SAFE COPYCold Call by Colin Llewelyn Chapman, was an instant like for me. After being likened to author Martina Cole, Luther (BBC tv series) and with a pinch of Fifty Shades, Cold Call proved to be a gritty, well-planned read that follows both the suspect and the police with their investigation into the deaths of several women from seedy backgrounds. This is another read with surprises along the way that will keep you gripped until the end.

21 Hours - Dustin Stevens_1Dustin Stevens’ 21 Hours is full of action and suspense as an uncle and ex-con is attempting to save his two year old niece after she has been kidnapped. Being an ex-con he is not entirely trusted by the authorities, but he is so desperate that he will do anything! I have likened it to some action movies, such as Lethal Weapon, Commando, Ransom and Con Air as there are some elements of these in the book and especially in they way it left me feeling after I had read it. It is also another read that is quick-paced, partly due to the time that it is believed that the young girl has left!

Ooh, and now for some Festive Contemporary reads

As an added treat, and because they were brilliant reads, I thought I would share the following two festive reads:

CANDY CAIN by C.L. Scholey - Click Image to CloseC.L. Scholey’s Candy Cain is a short 55 page read that is festive, hot and full of suspense. After being snowed in during a blizzard and left on a desolate road, with only the stranger that she dislikes after briefly bumping into him earlier, the only way they can keep warm is by body heat! Hmm, I wonder where this will lead and what the outcome will be for them? There are also heart-warming moments and an underlying storyline about helping those in need.

All I Want for ChristmasAnd finally, a full-length story with a Christmas build-up, new friendships and a new romance in Amy Silver’s All I Want for Christmas. Beginning from the fourteenth of December, the story is written with each chapter being a new day in the lead up to the big day, when there are plans at The Honey Pot café for people of the neighbourhood to meet for a party of food and friendship for the lonely.

I have read many more great reads that I cannot possibly add due to the amount I have here. Crossing many genres, I always hope that there are reads in here to suit many, and I feel that there is a great mix of both published and indie authors.

I hope that you enjoy our posts and would like to thank each and everyone of you for following and supporting us. I sincerely wish you a Merry Christmas and an absolutely brilliant New Year!

Caroline Barker 🙂

If you would like to check our Top Reads of 2013 to recap on our previous year, you can do so here:-

Caroline’s Top Reads 2013

Tina’s To Reads 2013

 

 

In Praise of Romance Reviewers by Helena Fairfax, author of The Silk Romance

Hello readers, today we are absolutely over the moon with this fantastic author post from romance author, Helena Fairfax. Tina and myself began blogging about romance books in the beginning, whether they were contemporary, historical or paranormal. And we have always appreciated the time and effort that such authors put into writing, editing and promoting their work. We wanted to help spread the word and maybe introduce readers to more and more suspenseful and thrilling reads, at the same time as helping authors to promote their work.

One author who stood out from early on was Helena Fairfax with her debut contemporary romance, The Silk Romance. Tina reviewed this story first and I always loved her review. Along with  the review and the fantastic cover (Charlotte Volnek) and synopsis I had to have a read too! And, as stated in my review, it is an absolutely unforgettable romance. Helena has recently released The Silk Romance in paperback format and we are thrilled to add that we are mentioned in the book and are quoted on the front cover! Thank you, Helena!

Helena Fairfax – In praise of romance reviewers

Helena Farfax photo-002When Tina and Caroline invited me to write an article for their review site, I knew straightaway that I wanted to say how much I appreciate all the hard work book bloggers put in, and how particularly thankful I am that romance review sites like A Reader’s Review exist.

If you’re a lover of all things romance, as I am, and read lots of books, then how do you choose which romance novel to read next? In the olden days before book bloggers (or ‘back in the day,’ as my son always used to tease me with!) I used to find it hard to choose which romance novel, amongst all the many in the bookshop, I could be certain I was going to enjoy reading. All I could go on was the blurb and the cover – and I made many an expensive mistake buying romance novels I ended up putting down after the first couple of chapters, either because the writing wasn’t good or it just wasn’t my type of book.

It frustrated me that I could read reviews and book recommendations for plenty of other genres in newspapers – sci-fi, horror, even graphic novels – but no newspaper critic ever reviewed a romance novel. So how could I find the best authors? I couldn’t rely on word of mouth recommendations, either, as no one I knew shared my obsession with romance! In the end, in order not to waste money on a book that might not turn out any good, I used to either go to my local library (God bless our library service!) or visit my local market and pick up cheap, battered second-hand copies. If I found an author I loved this way, I would be ecstatic, and would buy up all her books new.

Nowadays the internet is full of romance review sites, and I can’t tell you what a difference this has made to my reading. I follow a handful of sites whose reviews I know I’m going to enjoy reading, and A Reader’s Review is one of the few sites I follow.

There are literally thousands of sites to choose from, and we each have our own preferences. This is how I choose whether or not to follow a review site.

I like it when a reviewer:

  • tells us what the book’s about (but without giving too much away.  Definitely no spoilers!)

  • summarises the characters and themes, and also gives their own opinion

  • tries to back up their opinion with examples from the text

  • is reliable (ie not blogging every day for a week, then writing nothing for months)

  • never gives bad reviews – particularly snidey reviews. (This is my own personal preference. I know some readers don’t mind reading bad reviews, but I prefer to read enthusiastic reviews that will point me in the direction of an author I haven’t heard of. If a book is bad, I prefer it if it just gets left unmentioned!)

And of course I love it when a reviewer introduces me to an author I’ve never heard of, who I grow to love.

Reviewing novels is hard work, as I know from the few times I’ve written reviews on my own blog. As an author myself, of course I’m even more grateful for the exposure romance reviewers provide, in a book market where romance authors are often overlooked and looked down on.

To give you an example of how poorly romance is regarded, I once took a box of leaflets detailing all the finalists for the RNA’s annual Romance Awards to my local bookshop, and asked them if they could display the leaflets on their counter. I was told they ‘didn’t sell that type of book in their shop!’ These were a selection of best-selling, professional authors, with publishers such as Simon & Schuster and Harper Collins. But apparently romance is too lowly a genre to figure in many establishments!

Well, thank heavens for romance reviewers, that’s all I can say! So when my first novel, The Silk Romance, came out in print, I was delighted to be able to use a quote from Caroline’s review on the front cover, and to credit A Reader’s Review in my acknowledgements.

Thanks for all that romance reviewers do, and here’s to lots more happy reading!

Helena Fairfax – Author post & bio (May 2013)

You can find out more about Helena on her blog at www.helenafairfax.com, or on Twitter @helenafairfax.

THE SILK ROMANCE

An unforgettable, powerfully intense and beautifully written contemporary romance!

I downloaded The Silk Romance after hearing how great it was from Tina. And so, as I came across it again a couple of weeks ago I just had to have a read. It is an amazing read that I am sure many will find difficult to put down. Yes, The Silk Romance will be forever in your memory as a great, sweet contemporary romance. (Caroline)

 

Blurb: Sophie Challoner is sensible and hard-working, and a devoted carer of her father.  One night her grandmother throws a ball for her in Paris…and Sophie does something reckless that she can never forget. 

Jean-Luc Olivier is not a man to treat lightly.  And so when fate takes a hand years after the ball, and reunites him with Sophie in Lyon, he is determined not to let her go a second time.

But it seems the fates are conspiring against their happiness.  Jean-Luc has secrets of his own.  And  when disaster strikes at home in London, Sophie is faced with a choice—stay in this glamorous world with the man she loves, or return to her family to keep a sacred promise she made her mother.

Caroline’s review of The Silk Romance

Tina’s review of The Silk Romance

The Silk Romance is now available in paperback format and mobi (Kindle) format on Amazon UK and Amazon US.

Thank you once again to Helena! It is always a pleasure to work with you.

Caroline & Tina 🙂

A Reader’s Review Blog

The Silk Romance by Helena Fairfax

The Silk Romance 333x500-001An unforgettable, powerfully intense and beautifully written contemporary romance!

I downloaded The Silk Romance after hearing how great it was from Tina. And so, as I came across it again a couple of weeks ago I just had to have a read. It is an amazing read that I am sure many will find difficult to put down. Yes, The Silk Romance will be forever in your memory as a great, sweet contemporary romance.

Blurb: Sophie Challoner is sensible and hard-working, and a devoted carer of her father.  One night her grandmother throws a ball for her in Paris…and Sophie does something reckless that she can never forget. 
Jean-Luc Olivier is not a man to treat lightly.  And so when fate takes a hand years after the ball, and reunites him with Sophie in Lyon, he is determined not to let her go a second time.
But it seems the fates are conspiring against their happiness.  Jean-Luc has secrets of his own.  And  when disaster strikes at home in London, Sophie is faced with a choice—stay in this glamorous world with the man she loves, or return to her family to keep a sacred promise she made her mother.

Caroline’s Review: (Please see Tina’s review, posted May 2013, and an author post and bio by Helena Fairfax, also posted May 2013)

The Silk Romance is powerfully intense throughout. Every sentence reads like it was well thought out and Helena Fairfax has a great use of language in this beautifully written novel.

Although mostly told from Sophie’s point of view, the reader also has an insight into Jean-Luc’s mind as he regularly ponders over the delicate situation of Sophie. Many of the characters’ thoughts are highly emotive and the reader finds it incredibly difficult to pull themselves away. At times when I wasn’t reading, I couldn’t help but think of these characters and the predicament they are both in.

Sophie is old before her time in many respects. After the passing of her mother and the promise she made to take care of her father and brother, she works from a young age and makes no time for social activities. Sophie and her family reside on a poor estate in London, and she spends most of her money on debts that her father had accrued. It is only through a studying course that the opportunity opens up for her to gain some work experience, ending her back in Lyon with Jean-Luc. Although it is not a choice she is entirely happy with, it is one she needs to help her through and become successful, in order for her to support her family more.

An ex-racing driver and now owner of a successful silk factory, Jean-Luc has it all. He is a wealthy, handsome man, with his fair share of women and living-it-up lifestyle. However, he is also a dark horse with secrets of his own. Jean-Luc is controlling and manipulative, and yet he enchants the reader as well as Sophie! Helena’s description of his icy cold stares, for example, captivate the reader as if his eyes were aimed directly at them. His determination to get what he wants is matched by no other. And what he wants……………is Sophie.

Sophie is strong and has a great deal of willpower but there are moments when she just can’t help herself. His very presence is one that cannot be ignored. But how is she supposed to live up to the women that Jean-Luc is used to? What will happen when she returns to her father and brother? Her situation is impossible. If only Jean-Luc would leave her be, to finish off her work experience and to return to London.

And yet, despite opposing backgrounds, they do share a subtle common ground – tragedy. Even though tragic, the loss of their mothers has a profound impact on both of them. Sophie made the promise to her mother to always look after her father and brother. This is her number one priority. She simply cannot let her family down as the promise she made is the only connection she has left to her mother. And, it was Jean-Luc’s mother that makes him the man he is.

Although linked to the likes of Cinderella (within the story and in independent reviews), I would also like to mention that, for me, there were elements of Pretty Woman, Love Actually, Fifty Shades of Grey and, one scene in particular reminded me of Dirty Dancing.

I’m not sure if I have ever read a novel as intense as The Silk Romance. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and would love to read more of Helena Fairfax’s work. The Silk Romance surely does embed itself in the reader’s mind. Unforgettable. In summary, if you love a great romance, with great intensity and powerful emotions, you will be head over heels for The Silk Romance!

I was provided with a free copy from A Story Cartel in return for my honest and fair review.

You can also find The Silk Romance on Amazon US and Amazon UK.

You can check out Helena Fairfax’s blog here.

Reviewed by Caroline Barker

Author Post and Bio: Helena Fairfax, Author of The Silk Romance

Today we are excited to welcome author Helena Fairfax to our small corner of cyberspace. Helena has just had  her first novel, The Silk Romance, a contemporary romance, published by MuseItUp Publishing. In Helena’s post she shares with us what inspired her to write the novel and the characters within it and also tells us about her background in an author bio. If you would like to read a review of The Silk Romance, please scroll down after reading Helena’s post. Over to you Helena ……….  Tina 🙂

Helena Farfax photo-002

 Romantic Lyon and Teenage Crushes

As a student I once spent an unforgettable few months working as an au pair in the city of Lyon.  The time I spent in this beautiful city was one of the happiest and most romantic of my life.  How different this hot and vibrant city was, to the bleak Yorkshire town I had come from.  In the bright southern sun, everything seemed to me intensely colourful: the two rivers, the Rhône and the Saône, gliding through the city; the market stalls with their ripe fruits; the cypress trees; the street cafés and the night-life.  It was an intense experience, which stayed with me long after I left France.

When I came to write my first romance novel, The Silk Romance, I knew Lyon had to be the setting.  And it was easy to picture my French hero.  As an au pair, I lived in with my family, in a centuries old stone building overlooking the city’s old town.  In the apartment above mine, on the top floor, lived the most handsome young man I’d ever seen in my life.  Tall, tanned, with the most piercing blue eyes, a devastating smile and a confident way of talking to me whenever we bumped into each other on the shadowy stone stairs. Sadly, my handsome crush was engaged to be married, and so my teenage longing remained from afar!  But now I have brought my romantic Frenchman to life, and he has his own role in the form of Jean-Luc, the hero of The Silk Romance.

As for the glamorous silk industry, which also plays a large part in my story, many years after I left France I took a job in a woollen mill in West Yorkshire.  The weaving industry once played a major role in both Yorkshire and Lyon, but is now sadly a dying trade.  I thought it would be wonderful to revive Lyon’s once thriving silk industry, and so I made my hero the owner of one of the city’s few remaining silk mills, producing wonderful textiles for opera houses, theatres and fashionable people around the world.

And my heroine?  Sophie is exactly the type of female character I like to write, and to read about.  A young woman who is self-reliant, who has seen her share of tragedy in this life, who is compassionate, but not afraid of letting the hero know exactly what she thinks.

I hope you enjoy reading about my characters as much as I enjoyed creating them.  I was sorry to say goodbye to them when I put down my pen – so perhaps instead of goodbye, I should merely say au revoir, Sophie et Jean-Luc – et bonne chance!

Author Bio

Helena Fairfax was born in Uganda and came to England as a child.  She’s grown used to the cold now and that’s just as well, because nowadays she lives in an old Victorian mill town in Yorkshire, right next door to windswept Brontë country.  She has an affectionate, if half-crazed, rescue dog and together they tramp the moors every day—one of them wishing she were Emily Brontë, the other vainly chasing pheasants.   When she’s not out on the moors you’ll find Helena either creating romantic heroes and heroines of her own or else with her nose firmly buried in a book, enjoying someone else’s stories.  Her patient husband and her brilliant children support her in her daydreams and are the loves of her life.

Thank you Helena for providing this author post and bio for us today. Please scroll down or click here to read my review of The Silk Romance. Tina :)

Author Helena Fairfax’s Website

Publisher MuseItUp Publishing