Review

The Little Breton Bistro. Nina George

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Published: Hachette NZ
Date: April 2017
Format: Trade Paperback
Pages:292
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Source: Thanks to Hachette NZ
Rating:
4.5 stars                  Add to Goodreads

Marianne Messman longs to escape her loveless marriage to an uncaring husband – an artillery sergeant major named Luther. On a day trip to Paris, Marianne decides to leap off the Point Neuf into the Seine, but she is saved and while recovering in hospital comes across a painting of the tine port town of Kerdruc in Brittany and decides to try her luck on the coast.

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Have you ever been desperate enough to want to escape life? To throw yourself in the Seine and end it all! No? Well Marianne does, life has passed her by, she is deeply unhappy and sees no other way out.  However when her effort to bring her sad life to a close is thwarted by a stranger she eventually finds herself on the way to Brittany and possibly ready to listen to herself and her own needs and desires.
The more I read on in this story the more I was captivated by Marianne and the people she meets up with. I loved them all and especially Emile and Pascal – one who suffers from Parkinson’s and the other from Dementia but … they are happy and love each other. 
I felt like I was there in Brittany, in the cafe, by the sea amongst the various characters. I loved seeing Marianne uncovering the things she loves and needs, the people she loves and needs. I read this book over Easter and truly if there was ever a book about death and resurrection this was it. Such an important message to us all, to live who we truly are, without worrying about what others think. 
While this may have been about a woman who needed to bring alive the powers within her, the men in the story are not left out, they too need to have the courage to live out their wildest dreams. I did despair that Jean-Remy, a young chef,  would ever get there and claim his love… 
Ultimately an uplifting and life affirming story that I’ll remember for a long while.

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Review

Her Mother’s Secret. Natasha Lester

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Published: Hachette
Date:  March 28th 2017
Format: Trade Paperback
Pages: 390
Genre: Historical Fiction
Source: Hachette NZ
Rating:
4.5 stars                 Add to Goodreads

1918, England Armistice Day should bring peace into Leonora’s life. Rather than secretly making cosmetics in her father’s chemist shop to sell to army nurses such as Joan, her adventurous Australian friend, Leo hopes to now display her wares openly. Instead, Spanish flu arrives in the village, claiming her father’s life. Determined to start over, she boards a ship to New York City. On the way she meets debonair department store heir Everett Forsyth . . . In Manhattan, Leo works hard to make her cosmetics dream come true, but she’s a woman alone with a small salary and a society that deems make-up scandalous.

Everett’s daughter, Alice, a promising ballerina, receives a mysterious letter inviting her to star in a series of advertisements for a cosmetics line. If she accepts she will be immortalized like dancers such as Zelda Fitzgerald, Josephine Baker and Ginger Rogers. Why, then, are her parents so quick to forbid it?

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From the moment I opened Her Mother’s Secret I was caught up in a story that entertained me and had me reading on into the night. It ranges in setting from England to New York, from the time at the end of World War 1 to the beginning of World War 11.  
It is the story of a young woman – Leonora who has a dream, to become a maker of cosmetics. She has just a little money, a lot of knowledge and a couple of really good friends she finds along the way. She is both talented and tenacious. But its not easy because the other thing that you need is money to produce the cosmetics in quantities to interest shops in buying them. The whole story of cosmetics was fascinating, these days we don’t really think about it, they are just there, but in 1918 you were regarded by many as a bit of a hussy if you had red lips. Leo set out to change attitudes and produce the best cosmetics she could.
On her way to New York she meets Everett, a man she is immediately attracted to, and perhaps even comes to love in a very short time. However there are devious women at work who thwart the young lovers and inevitably come between them. One woman in particular is mean and calculating and nasty, the other rich and spoiled – by drugs and alcohol, although I did feel a little sympathy for her. In the end who will win out? 
Everett has a daughter Alice, as time moves on to near the second world war she is becoming a dancer of note. She too is experiencing a love with a male dancer, something her mother does not approve of. Will she follow the path her mother has mapped out for her or will she follow her heart?
I loved the era this was set in, the resilience with which Leo worked on her cosmetics line, refusing to let setbacks take over.  There is a little romance, a little mystery and considerable drama. 
It is an extremely well written novel, throughly captivating and I so look forward to whatever Natasha Lester will write next. 
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Uncategorized

A Letter From Italy Pamela Hart

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Published: Hachette NZ
Date: March 14th 2017
Format: Trade Paperback
Pages: 356
Genre: Historical Fiction
Source:Hachette NZ
Rating:
4.5 stars                    Add to Goodreads

1917, Italy. Australian journalist Rebecca Quinn is an unconventional woman. At the height of World War I, she has given up the safety of her Sydney home for the bloody battlefields of Europe, following her journalist husband to the frontline as a war correspondent in Italy.

Reporting the horrors of the Italian campaign, Rebecca finds herself thrown together with American-born Italian photographer Alessandro Panucci, and soon discovers another battleground every bit as dangerous and unpredictable: the human heart.

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A Letter From Italy is set in Italy during World War 1. Rebecca an Australian, has arrived with her husband Jack Quinn to report the war to an English and Australian newspaper. It is still a time when women news correspondents were really not in existence or not accepted. Rebecca comes from a family where women’s rights were strong, her mother an active suffragette. The Italian attitude to women comes as both a bit of a shock and a challenge to Rebecca.
Rebecca is a strong woman, with flaws, but passionate about her work. She is determined to prove herself and report what she sees and hears about. She is relentless in her pursuit of what might make a news story and report to those at home what is going on. And she does so with a woman’s heart and compassion.  Along the way she learns how her husband Jack is not all that she first thought, which brings out actually the best in her.
Along with Rebecca we meet Sandro, or Al as he is known back in New York. He is helping out his Nonna, Nonna Rosa a woman with a story of her own I am sure. Sandro has been unable to join the war efforts and up until now has struggled with it. But alongside Rebecca he finds something that he can accomplish and so participate in the war effort.
The story is really well told, small details make it feel like a factual, real account. We meet some of the actual heroes in that war and witness the pain and loss of the young men that went off to fight that war. 
As well Italy is brought to life, the countryside, the food, the people and their way of life at that time. 
Well worth the read.  Once begun hard to put down.
About the Author
Pamela is an award-winning author for adults and children. She has a Doctorate in Creative Arts from the University of Technology, Sydney. Under the name of Pamela Freeman she wrote the historical novel The Black Dress, which won the NSW Premier’s History Prize for 2006. Pamela lives in Sydney, with her husband and their son, and teaches at the Australian Writers’ Centre. A Letter From Italy is her thirtieth book.
Find her at her website Pamela Hart

Review

The House of Secrets. Sarra Manning

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Published: Hachette NZ
Date: 10th January 2017
Format: Trade Paperback
Pages: 437
Genre: Historical/Contemporary Fiction
Source: Thank you to Hachette NZ
Rating:
4.5 stars                     Add to Goodreads

Zoe and Win are trying to move forward with their marriage and put the raw memories of a recent tragedy behind them.

Their move into an almost derelict house in suburban London is the first step to moving on. Then Zoe finds an old suitcase full of letters, diaries, and press cuttings from the 1930’s, belonging to a long-forgotten woman. And it contains something that strikes a chord with Zoe’s own pain. She knows she won’t be able to rest until she finds out the truth of this mysterious woman’s fate.

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House of Secrets is set in two time periods and follows the lives of two sets of people, with a link to a mystery house. Libby lives in 1936, she has lost a child through miscarriage and even worse has been deserted by the father and her husband. Zoe and her husband Win buy a house that was built in 1936 but never lived in. Now it is run down, full of dry rot but they have put in a bid and have won the house. 
Zoe finds a suitcase with baby clothes and letters and newspaper clippings that sets her off on a journey to find out about the mystery Libby and how the suitcase came to be left in the house. Zoe is in mourning, having too lost a child through an ectopic pregnancy, and almost lost her life as well. Since then things have not been that good between herself and Win and they are drifting apart. Zoe finds herself in tears, Win is his most controlling self and even takes off to stay with his mother because he can’t cope.
The story of Libby unfolds as the book alternatively explores the life of Libby and then Zoe and Win. Libby has a tough time and she is a victim of her love for men who do not love her in return. However of the two men she turns to, one of them comes through for her and it enables her to start out on a new venture.  Zoe and Win have many challenges in their relationship and in renovating the house. And always to the fore, especially for Zoe is finding out about Libby, as she identifies with her, they share so many similarities that it is important to Zoe that things worked out for Libby.
I liked Libby and Zoe and Win, none of them are perfect, but they are very real and I was soon engrossed in the lives of all of them. The story linked really well between the two time periods and nothing was left hanging. Something I really appreciated after reading a book or two where things were “dropped” but never brought to resolution.  I liked the growth of the characters, it felt real and ended on a note of hope.
Well worth reading.
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Review

Echoes in Death. J. D. Robb

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Published:  Hachette NZ
Date: February 7th 2017
Format: Trade Paperback
Pages:371
Genre: Suspense
Source:Thank you to Hachette NZ
Rating:
4.5 stars                   Add to Goodreads

New York at night. A young woman stumbles out on to a busy street – right in front of Lieutenant Eve Dallas and husband Roarke. Her name is Daphne Strazza, and she has been brutally assaulted. Confused and traumatised, she manages to tell them one thing. Her attacker wore a devil’s mask.

As Eve investigates this shocking case, she soon discovers a disturbing pattern. Someone is preying on wealthy couples, subjecting them to a cruel and terrifying ordeal. Worse still, the attacks are escalating in violence and depraved theatricality. Eve and her team are now in a race against time to find the man behind the mask – before he strikes again. But for Eve, this case in particular has unsettling echoes of her own troubled past…

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Echoes in Death is #44 in the series. It seems an awful lot but every book is excellent as we watch Eve Dallas, Roarke and Eve’s team go in to bat for those who have been murdered.
Every story is different, yet there is often a very egotistical killer, and this one has an ego the size of a city. Yet he in the end is no match for Eve as she carefully builds the details to bring him down. The young woman Eve and Roarke find  – Daphne – awakens in Eve memories of her own experiences and it seems to me that she is learning to deal and move on. She has the love of Roarke, her main support. And of course she is a strong woman. However her past experience helps her walk in the shoes of Daphne and understand her like no other cop would be able to.  
There is the usual banter between friends, the fun of the others on the team seeing Eve’s new work space at home and Eve’s own enjoyment of it. Somerset is a little in the background this time but he’s there and so is the cat, another little bulwark for Eve.
The murders are different to any others J. D. Robb has come up with, she has an amazing ability to set up a murderer and his motives, reveal his warped mind and then unravel them all through Eve. This murderer like all the other ones really, is very very unlikeable. There is a little twist at the end, I should have seen it coming but I didn’t and loved how that was dealt with.
Peabody and Eve continue to work as a team and there are little indications that Peabody is growing more and more in stature and Eve is the best of leaders and teachers. She gives to Peabody before Peabody even realises she is taking a new step. 
Verdict: Thoroughly great yarn.
Review

Meet Me at Beachcomber Bay. Jill Mansell

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Published: Hachette NZ
Date: 10th January  2017
Format: Paperback
Pages: 405
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Source: Hachette NZ
Rating:
4 stars                      Add to Goodreads

The man Clemency loves belongs to someone else. She has to hide her true feelings – but when she ropes in an unsuspecting friend to help, wires start to get crossed.

For the first time in Ronan’s life his charm has failed him in winning over the woman he wants. Loving her from afar appears to be his only option.

Belle seems to have the perfect boyfriend, but something isn’t quite right. And now a long-buried secret is slowly rising to the surface.

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Meet Me at Beachcomber Bay – what an entertaining, laugh out loud read. I enjoyed every minute of it. It’s light, yet it could be your neighbours next door, facing issues such as the ones the characters in Jill Mansell’s latest book have to work through.
I fell in love with the characters, all over again with the lovely Cornwall setting at St Carys. It has a small town story feel to it, but with Jill Mansell’s very own voice and way of presenting to readers a story they will enjoy.
There are a variety of characters. Firstly two sisters or rather step-sisters, Clemency and Annabelle. They have had their ups and downs since their parents married when they were teenagers, and they are still sorting out how they see each other. 
Ronan works with Clem, they are amazing friends and co-workers. And when Clem requests Ronan to pretend to be her boyfriend to help her out, he does, leading to all kinds of mix ups. Kate the post office worker who might have an attraction and something more for Ronan has to take a back seat. 
Sam a guy that Annabelle is with, also has links to Clem unknown to Annabelle. They once met on a plane. In fact that scene opens the book, it was a great hook in, and by the time that chapter finished I was in.
In fact there is a host of charming characters and lets just say after some misunderstandings, heart to heart talks and sorting out things all end very satisfactorily. It would make a very relaxing and heartwarming beach or holiday read. A little intrigue, some secrets eventually revealed and long lost relationships restored.
I thoroughly enjoyed it.
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Review

Blood Vow. J. R. Ward

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Published: Hachette NZ
Date: 6th December 2016
Format: Paperback
Pages:459
Genre:Paranormal
Source: Thanks to Hachette NZ
Rating:
4.5 stars                   Add to Goodreads

Trainees at the Black Dagger Brotherhood’s training centre continue to prepare for the fight against the Lessening Society, but fighting is the last thing on Axe’s mind. Still plagued with guilt of his father’s death, the brooding loner finds himself battling an unlikely attraction to Peyton’s bright, aristocratic cousin, Eise.

Elise feels it too- and when the two are thrown together in unusual circumstances Elise must decide whether she can trust Axe to help her uncover the mystery surrounding her cousin’s death.

Meanwhile Mary and Rhage are in the process of adopting Bitty, a young pretrans orphan, until the appearance of a young male claiming to be Bitty’s blooded uncle threatens to tear the new family apart.

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Blood Vow by J. R. Ward is #2 in the The Black Dagger Legacy, an offshoot of the Black Dagger Brotherhood series. The first book introduced us to the new trainees and was very action oriented. It followed mostly Paradise and Craeg. For this one I predicted it could be all about Peyton another trainee, however while it did include him considerably the main focus was on Axe and a cousin of Peyton’s – Elise.
Whereas #1 was full of action this one is more of a relationships book and I really loved it. As well as Axe and Elise we also follow Rhage and Mary and their newly about to be adopted daughter Bitty. Including a good deal of the Brothers made my reading of the book so enjoyable. Rhage makes a fantastic daddy, Mary is a superb mother and Bitty is a young thirteen year old who adores them both. But it turns out the question is – will they get to keep her?
Axe has lost his parents, he doesn’t have a cent to his name, although he is fortunate enough to still have his parents’ house to live.  When we meet him he is still very angry and addicted to kinky sex. He is at loggerheads with Peyton, and there is constant tension between the two. His mother left himself and his father years back and Axe is cynical and not about to indulge in anything romantic or loving.
Elise is part of the glymera, (nobility) she is intelligent and strong, yet the family she lives in is dysfunctional and she has a father who is over protective and shows no signs of affection.  She is attracted to Axe and their relationship begins to develop from the first time they set eyes on each other. However while alike in some things they are different and it will take some time for them to iron out all those differences.
This book moved along at a great pace, the characters developed over time and I was totally engaged the whole time. I loved the dialogue, the action, and the introduction of a new character. 
Those Brothers are as we know badasses with such mushy centres that just melt for their loved ones, and they are out to make the world a better and safer  place. I loved Lassiter (fallen angel) in this one, he was wonderful and I loved his last scene. Gave me a big chuckle.
Actually this book is amongst some of the best Christmas stories I have read this year. Really looking forward to #3. J. R. Ward has me hooked.

Review

Island of Glass. Nora Roberts

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Published:Hachette NZ
Date: 6th December 2016
Format: Paperback
Pages: 339
Genre: Paranormal
Source:Thanks to Hachette NZ
Rating:
               Add to Goodreads

A vengeful goddess hunts for three jewels; fallen stars that will give endless power. To save the world, six friends have joined forces to stop her. Now, on the wild and beautiful cost of County Clare, their battle reaches its dramatic climax.

As the six guardians face their final challenge, Riley and Doyle are prepared to risk their lives in battle. But with love to sustain them, the quest is doomed to failure…

My thoughts banner
Island of Glass completes the Guardian trilogy in fine fashion. In it we find the six in  Ireland, at Bran’s place recovering from wounds left by last tussle with Nerezza a goddess of darkness. As it happens this is also the place where Doyle grew up hundreds of years before.
Who are they?
Bran the sorcerer
Sasha the seer who sees visions and can foretell what is to come
Sawyer the time and place traveller with his trusty compass
Annika the mermaid who has legs for a finite amount of time
Riley the lycan and archaeologist
Doyle the soldier and immortal, destined to never age or die.
And they come together, now well forged as a clan, finding roots they never dreamed of. They are a team and together they bring themselves and their gifts and strengths to fight the dark, the evil brought into the world by Nerezza. They have two stars, they must find the third and then seek the Glass Island, its whereabouts unknown.
This section of the challenge is Doyle’s and Riley’s, although of course all six work together. There are sparks between the two and a dawning acknowledgement of what they might mean to each other. As well, we still enjoy the play between all six, the fun and joy that Annika brings to the world, the mistakes some make that angers the others, and more training in readiness for the final fight that must inevitably arrive.
I thoroughly enjoyed the book, I think this trilogy may become my favourite of Nora Roberts. It has everything, mystery, romance, action, and a dash of all kinds of characters as you can see above. It is witty, has delightful characters, and some ugly ones, a fast moving plot set in a beautiful part of the world. It is with regret that I know we say good-bye to these characters, a mark of a good book for me is when I want more. But some wishes can’t be granted!
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Review

All I Ever Wanted. Lucy Dillon

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Published: Hachette NZ
Date: 29 November 2016
Format: Paperback
Pages: 406
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Source: Hachette NZ
Rating:
4 stars                          Add to Goodreads

Nancy is four, nearly five. She talks all the time. But then, one February morning, everything changes, and Nancy stops talking.

Eva is forty-four, nearly fort-five. She didn’t expect to be the third wife of a semi-retired bad boy Michael Quinn fell in love. It was the love of a lifetime for them both – until Mickey dies suddenly, leaving Eva alone.

While Nancy’s parents negotiate their separation, the question of weekend contact is solved when Patrick volunteers his siser Eva’s house. It’s plenty of room for her to get to know a niece and nephew she’s barely met.

The fortnightly presence of two children in her peaceful, grown-up home initially drives Eva to exhaustion, but as spring turns to summer, a trust slowly forms between an anxious little girl and a woman who realised too late that what her soul years for is the love of a child.

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All I Ever Wanted is a book that drew me in and had me hooked into the lives of the various characters in the book. 
Nancy is a small four year old, full of life, until she makes a wish that comes true, and she is so traumatised by it she stops speaking. She is a sweet little thing and I love her relationship with a dog.
Joel is ten and it seems like he bounces of the wall at times. He exudes energy and enthusiasm. Sometimes that lands him in small time trouble. Yet he is kind and thoughtful and always has an eye out for his young sister Nancy.
Patrick is their Dad, we aren’t given his point of view in the book so at times it was hard to get a read on him. He certainly has his annoying qualities and at times I was ready to totally despair of him. Yet these qualities were balanced by others that redeemed him, and so I was holding an open mind for him – just!
Caitlin, his wife and mother to Nancy and Joel, I found equally frustrating. At times she was rather in my view irresponsible and while she rightly resented some things about Patrick, she still had faults of her own that needed some attention. Yet she is a wonderful mother and her children are at the centre.
Eva is Patrick’s sister, widowed after a shortish marriage, she is just beginning to re-evaluate her life and to see what she wants now. I loved her the most, and along with her two dogs – Bumble and Bee – she is very integral to the story. My favourite scene in the book involves her and the dogs. Won’t give away who else is there as well!
All the characters develop in the book in satisfying ways. All of them could be your next door neighbour. They weren’t idealistic amazing people, but like you and me, facing the challenges thrown at them, sometimes well and sometimes not.
It was my first time reading a Lucy Dillon book, and I will certainly be very happy to read  other books by her. 
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Review

Every Dark Corner by Karen Rose. Character Profile of Agent Kate Coppola.

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Meet Agent Kate Coppola

Special Agent Kate Coppola is the heroine of Karen Rose’s latest book Every Dark Corner. Kate is on a mission to stop the man who is trafficking drugs and acquiring teens for the internet sex trade. Tough as nails, yet compassionate, Kate is an origami and knitting queen, with a  songs playlist you wouldn’t expect. She also has a very good reason to always carry a certain genre of book on her. (No, not telling, can’t spoil the surprise.). Meet a badass with a yarn bag and a work partner named Agent Luther Troy.

Kate’s early upbringing was something she doesn’t talk about, and she has nightmares over something she couldn’t stop more recently. She is not long in Cincinnati, yet she has a good friend here in Deacon – another agent, and it is not long before the people who surround and support him are hers too.  It’s not hard to understand why, Kate has time for people, even if it’s just a smile as she passes by.

It is however Agent Griffin ‘Decker’ Davenport who is very much taken with Kate. She has helped rescue him from his undercover job, plus this brown-eyed, red haired, freckled faced woman has sat by his bedside as he recovers from injuries suffered in the rescue. From the moment he opens his eyes and sets them on Kate, it was pure reader pleasure to watch their relationship develop.  They are both wounded by their pasts, have seen far too much of the unsavoury side of life – yet they are so human, vulnerable and downright on the side of the children who have suffered such injustice.

Kate is ADHD, so that knitting and origami helps her manage her stress and it helps her think. So well indeed that maybe before she knows it she might have others hooked in as well. She is quick thinking, a sharp shooter, has mad ninja skills, can freeze you out in an interview – and she just keeps on pushing and doesn’t give up. And her math skills are up there too.

As part of a team, with Agent Decker along for the ride before he should, Kate is in the thick of it as her quick thinking and skills work to bring a repugnant man to justice. And while she might be known by some as the Ice Queen, she is capable of warmth, tears, trust and love.

I totally enjoyed getting to know Kate and watching her work. Anyone would be happy to have her on their side, work with her, be her friend and count on her to watch their back in a dangerous situation.  She has issues, but she has a good acceptance of herself and where she is right now.

Despite stress and a personal history that might have levelled another, Kate dedicates herself to helping others, working to save those caught in the nets of depravity.  I highly recommend you get to know her.  She sits within a 5 star read.

Thank you to Hachette NZ for my copy of the book.

Hachette Blog Tour:
Monday: Review at Sofilly
Tuesday: Interview with Karen Rose at Narrative Rose
Wednesday: Interview with Karen at Hachette NZ
Thursday: Review at NZ Booklovers
Friday: Character Profile here at Book Date
Saturday: Review and Giveaway at I’m Not SuperMum
Sunday: Review at The Spanish Bluebell