Saturday, 26 March 2016

Books and The City / Simon Schuster UK Spring Blogger Event 2016



It might not feel quite like spring yet, however Wednesday 16th March saw myself and numerous other bloggers descending on the Simon & Schuster London headquarters for their annual Books and the City Spring Bloggers Event.

I had the fortune of attending the 2015 event (which was amazing!) and was hugely excited to be invited back this year.
SJV introducing the evening's events!

Curious Cat's Christmas Reviews: Christmas Ever After by Sarah Morgan


Title: Christmas Ever After (Puffin Island Trilogy Book 3)
Author: Sarah Morgan
Publisher: Mira Books
Publication Date: 8 October 2015

Twitter: @SarahMorgan_
Facebook: www.facebook.com/AuthorSarahMorgan
Blog/website: www.sarahmorgan.com

Rating: 3.5 out of 5

Blurb 

The most wonderful time of the year?

Jewellery designer Skylar isn't so sure. Especially if she has to spend it with cynical, aloof Alec. So what if he's a famous historian? He's also determined to think the worst of her and when a twist of fate means they're stuck together, she's expecting disaster!

But as they flee snowy London on a winter adventure that takes them from his family's festive Cotswold chaos to her native Puffin Island, she realises that she may have misjudged him.

As glittering Christmas nights draw in, the sparks between Alec and Skylar glow ever brighter. Could they find their own Christmas Ever After?

Review 

Thanks to Mira Books for providing me with a copy of this book for review purposes.

Skylar Tempest is an artist. "In a world that often presented its ugly side, Skylar looked for the beauty and captured it in her art". She is clever and kind, yet she remains a disappointment to her parents who are disappointed in her career choice. Fortunately, she has somewhat redeemed herself in their eyes by her relationship with Richard Everson and his promising political career.

Alec Hunter is a maritime historian, but he certainly doesn’t look like any old academic. Known as the 'Shipwreck Hunter', he is the guy who manages to ‘make history sexy’! Having just been through an acrimonious divorce, he has been left emotionally battered and bruised after having to deal with an ex-wife, Selina,who disliked his family, resented his job and questioned his love. 

Skylar Tempest and Alec Hunter have met on a number of occasions through mutual friends and quite simply do not get on, in fact they can barely tolerate each other and that is only for the sake of their friendship group. She thinks he is hardened and cynical, he thinks she is shallow and 'a princess'.

First, Alec saves Skylar following a confrontation with her boyfriend, then she accidentally runs into him naked, following which they end up being thrown together for Christmas, a situation that neither of them is happy about it. As Skylar and Alec get used to their enforced proximity and a tentative friendship arises, they realise that they may have to rethink their initial opinions of each other. Alec tried to help Skylar to realise her self-worth, whilst Skylar tries to persuade Alex not to give up on love. As Skylar tells Alec - "When you're in love with someone you should be their biggest fan. You celebrate each little success, and feel proud of everything they achieve. You encourage them and cheer them on".

I thought the characterisation was very good. Morgan captured their thoughts and emotions in a way that rendered them both likeable and real. I believed in the characters and I enjoyed watching their relationship develop and change throughout the book.

The supporting characters (some of whom we have already read in the earlier books in the Puffin Island series) – Emily, Brittany, Ryan, Zach, Lily, Nik, Olivia, Simon,Suzanne Granny and of course, not to forget the dogs, Churchill and Nelson - are all likeable and relatable and provide a great backdrop for Alec and Skylar's burgeoning friendship.

The setting of the book moves from London to Brockburn-on-the-Water in the Cotswolds and then on to Puffin Island in Maine, each being a delightful and idyllic setting. Morgan really has created a beautifully idyllic world for Skylar and Alec to begin their friendship.

Christmas is a difficult time to hold grudges, the holiday sentiment and festivities will help melt the hardest of hearts. "....love is honest and unselfish. Any it isn't demanding.....It's a cup of tea in bed on a cold day, it's a foot rub when you've walked for hours, it's a listening ear and an encougaging word." I love a good romance and how could I not love a story which describes true love in such perfect terms?!

Christmas Ever After sweeps the reader into an idyllic, cosy bundle of friendship, lust, romance and Christmas festivities. It is a beautifully crafted love story, filled to the brim with sparkle and joy, which will warm the frosiest of hearts! A perfect book to curl up with on a cold and rainy day. 


About the Author


Sarah Morgan writes warm contemporary romantic fiction with her trademark humour which has gained her fans across the globe. Described as ‘full of sparkle’ by Lovereading, she has been nominated three years in succession for the prestigious RITA© Award from the Romance Writers of America and won the award twice; in 2012 and 2013.


Sarah lives near London with her husband and children, and when she isn’t reading or writing she loves being outdoors, preferably on vacation so she can forget the house needs tidying. You can visit Sarah online at www.sarahmorgan.com, on Facebook at www.facebook.com/AuthorSarahMorgan and on Twitter @SarahMorgan_





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Wednesday, 23 March 2016

Release Day Blitz - Porn Money and Wannabe Mummy by Laura Barnard

    Release Blitz
Porn Money and Wannabe Mummy 
Release date: 23rd March 
Hosted by Two Ordinary Girls and their Books 

 


What is it about turning thirty that sends rational women into a tailspin? 

Suddenly going from having all the time in the world, to cringing at the ticking of her biological clock, Poppy is drowning under the strain of trying to get pregnant. 

With a dad in the throes of a mid-life crisis, a crazy mother-in-law and time racing towards Lilly's wedding, will she be able to cope with it all...and give Ryan the baby they so desperately want? 

Finally able to inherit her dad's porn money, Jazz can't wait to be rich! She can buy a house in Chelsea, go out partying with her old mates and start living how she deserves. 

Book Review: Sleepless in Manhattan by Sarah Morgan



Title: Sleepless in Manhattan
Author: Sarah Morgan
Publisher: Mira Books
Publication Date: 10 March 2016

Twitter: @SarahMorgan_
Facebook: www.facebook.com/AuthorSarahMorgan
Blog/website: www.sarahmorgan.com

Rating: 4 out of 5

Blurb

What if the person who broke your heart, is the only one who can help you find your future?
Great friends. Amazing Apartment. An incredible job. Paige has ticked off every box on perfect New York life checklist. Until disaster strikes and instead of shimming further up the career ladder, Paige is packing up her desk.

Thursday, 17 March 2016

Book Review: Lost Girls (D.I. Kim Stone #3) by Angela Marsons


Title: Lost Girls (D.I Kim Stone #3)
Author: Angela Marsons
Publisher: Bookouture
Publication Date: 6 November 2015 

Twitter: @WriteAngie 
Website: http://angelamarsons-books.com/ 

Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Blurb

Two girls go missing. Only one will return.

The couple that offers the highest amount will see their daughter again. The losing couple will not. Make no mistake. One child will die.

Tuesday, 15 March 2016

Book Review: The Dead Dog Day by Jackie Kabler


 
Title: The Dead Dog Day
Author: Jackie Kabler
Publisher: Accent Press
Publication date: 22 October 2015 (ePub) 11 February 2016 (paperback)
 
Twitter: @jackiekabler
Blog/website: www.jackiekabler.com
 
Rating: 4 out of 5
 
Blurb
 
When your Monday morning begins with a dead dog and ends with a dead boss, you know it's going to be one of those days. And breakfast TV reporter Cora Baxter has already had the weekend from hell, after the man she'd planned a fabulous future with unceremoniously dumped her. Now Cora's much-hated boss has been murdered - the list of suspects isn't exactly short, but as the enquiry continues the trail leads frighteningly close to home. Why is Cora's rival, glamorous, bitchy newsreader Alice Lomas, so devastated by their boss's death? What dark secrets are Cora's camera crew hiding? And why has her now ex-boyfriend vanished? The race to stop the killer striking again is on...

Thursday, 10 March 2016

Travel Report: Dubai


Dubai skyline at night
 
In October 2015, my husband and I made our first trip to Dubai thanks to a competition win with Motorola. It was a long weekend running from Friday 16th until Monday 19th, giving us 3/4 days and 3 nights in the desert delight.

The prize win included flights and transfers, a hotel for 3 nights, spending money to cover meals, dinner reservations and an indoor skiing experience. An incredibly generous prize!

Day 1 - Arrival

We arrived fairly late on the Friday evening and fortunately a car had been booked to take us directly to the JW Marriot Marquis Hotel, a 5* hotel in Dubai's Business Bay district, As the world's tallest hotel, it has over 1,600 guest rooms split between 2 towers and 72 floors, providing amazing views across the city. The view of the Burj Khalifa from the swimming pool is particularly spectacular. There are a multitude of restaurants boasting food from a range of nationalities, as well as a lounge area and sports bar. A luxurious and impressive hotel indeed.

One tower of our hotel - JW Marriot Marquis
 
When we arrived, we were shown to the reception desk and, after advising that we had a Marriot account (set up just prior to our trip) we were shown to the member's desk and quickly checked in. After learning that we had not visited the hotel or the country before, we were given a complimentary upgrade to an absolutely lovely hotel room on the 47th floor meaning that we had some fantastic views! Unfortunately I cannot remember the name of the lady and gentleman who attended to us at the reception desk, however I could not fault their customer service. In fact, we found every member of staff whom we dealt with at the hotel to be friendly, courteous and very helpful.

 
 
 
View from our room
 
After settling into our room, we nipped down to the hotel's sports bar, Velocity, for a couple of cocktails. It was late and we were too tired to venture out, so we had a light but delicious dinner at the hotel's Italian restaurant, Positano, where we had a pizza each and shared a carafe of wine.
Photograph from the bar in the hotel lounge
 

Day 2 - Bur Dubai, Aquarium & Burj Khalifa

Friday was our first full day in Dubai. We started with a buffet breakfast at the hotel's Kitchen 6. Breakfast was included in our stay and it is a very impressive layout, being a huge buffet with approximately 6 different breakfast stations offering a range of food including US, Asian, bakery goods, salads, yoghurts, fruit, smoothies etc... You certainly won't struggle to find something to eat, however fussy an eater you are.

 
We then took a walk to the nearest metro station, the Business Bay Metro Station on the red line. The heat hit us as soon as we left the building and it certainly took a bit of getting used to! The metro is very easy to use, although beware of the first class 'gold' carriages and the women & children carriages. My husband and I got ourselves into a bit of a muddle on our first trip!

Our first stop was to Dubai Creek where we took a walk through historical Deira area. We wandered through the meandering roads and souks before taking a traditional wooden abra (water taxi) over to Bur Dubai on the opposite bank. Dubai is known for it's money and opulence, so it was fascinating to experience this more traditional area.
 
Traditional abra with the modern skyline behind
Husband enjoying a moment in the shade

Bur Dubai
 
The souk
 
 
 
 


Whilst visiting the Dubai Creek area was a very interesting experience, we soon found the heat to be a bit too much and jumped into the nearest metro station in order to head back to downtown Dubai.

Our next stop was the huge Dubai Mall for a spot of lunch and a wander around the shops. We had tickets booked for the Burj Khalifa at 5pm so had plenty of time to fit in a visit to Dubai Aquarium & Underwater Zoo, the in-mall aquarium - a very impressive experience given that it is in the middle of a shopping mall. I particularly loved the underwater tunnel that you can see whilst shopping. We also made sure to take a look at the impressive Diver's Fountain situated inside the mall.


Dubai Aquarium & Underwater Zoo
 
 
 
 
 
 
Diver's Fountain - Dubai Mall
 
 
Just before 5pm, we got in the queue for the Burj Khalifa, the world's tallest building. I had deliberately booked our tickets for early evening so that we got the chance to watch the sunset from the observation deck. I would recommend pre-booking as the queues can be quite lengthy. The timing also ensured that we were up high at 6pm when the Dubai Fountains started their impressive show.
 
View from the Burj Khalifa
 
 
 
 
Sunset at the Burj Khalifa
 
A poor photo of the musical fountains at Dubai Mall

We had intended to make our way down to the mall to watch the fountains from ground level, however at this point I was suffering from quite a bad headache, probably due to a mix of too much sun and jetlag, so we instead made our way back to the hotel where we relaxed for a while and freshened up before making our way out to dinner.

Burj Khalifa at night

Dinner on the Saturday night was at Tong Thai, the Thai restaurant in our hotel. Whilst we ideally would have headed out of the hotel, we were both feeling weary and agreed that the idea of being close to home was ideal. This turned out to be a good decision as our dinner was very nice. The restaurant itself was large and airy, but with low lighting that made for much more intimate surroundings. The waiting staff were fantastic and we thoroughly enjoyed out visit.



Tong Thai

Dark restaurant = menus with lights

After dinner, we tried to visit Vault, a bar on the 71st floor of the hotel, as we had been advised that the views were fantastic. However on stepping out of the lift, we were advised that we could not go in because I was wearing flip flops. No matter that I was actually dressed up and the flip flops were silver sparkly things, the fact that there was no back/strap meant that we were unable to go into the bar. It was a shame, however the views would not have surpassed the ones that we experienced at the Burj Khalifa and I was more than happy to return to Velocity for some delicious cocktails before returning to the room for a relatively early night.

 
I had to include one photo of myself & the husband!
Giant frozen cocktails - YUM!

Day 3 - Ski Dubai & Palm Jumeirah

We awoke on the Sunday feeling refreshed and raring to go. Following a quick breakfast, we headed down to the hotel reception where we were picked up by a private taxi and transported to Mall of the Emirates, one of the world's largest shopping malls, where we had been booked in for a morning in the Ski Dubai centre.
 

Ski Dubai is an indoor ski centre, apparently providing 22,500 square metres of indoor ski area. Our package included hire of ski wear, a free pair of fleece gloves and entry to the ski park. Unfortunately it did not include skiing or snowboarding, which we had hoped to experience.

 
After suiting up, we did have a good look around, including a go on the chairlift and the skeleton/bobsled run. Whilst we enjoyed the experience for a short time, it unfortunately wasn't for us. Whilst great for children and to keep cool, we found it a bit too chilly in our summer clothes and thin ski wear. We also noticed that we were pretty much the only adults in the park.
 
 
The bumpy skeleton run!
 
Feeling a little out of place, we decided to skip out early and head via metro to the Palm Jumeirah for a look around and a spot of lunch. After a change from the metro onto the Palm monorail, we quickly arrived at the Atlantis, one of Dubai's most iconic and recognisable hotels. The Atlantis is an experience in itself, offering beaches, restaurants, boutiques and the huge Aquaventure waterpark. We had a bite to eat in the hotel and then took a quick wander around the lush, green island before having to jump back onto the monorail in order to make it back to the Mall of the Emirates in order to meet our car for the return journey to the hotel. As the monorail took us back to the mainland, we were able to get a good look at the approaching city, including the iconic sail-shaped Burj Al Arab hotel in the distance.
 
Atlantis, the Palm
 
Ceiling inside the Atlantis
 
 
View from the monorail heading back into the city
 
Burj Al Arab

The mall itself is quite impressive, with a huge range of shops and some tempting restaurants. We had a quick look around but it would have been nice to have another hour spare to really get stuck in!

Spice selection in the mall
 
On our return to the hotel, we visited the pool area briefly for the first time and spent a happy hour cooling down and relaxing. The views were incredible and the cocktails at the pool bar were delicious.
 
Sunset view from the hotel pool
 
After a quick change of clothes, we then grabbed a taxi (very good value!) over to Q43. Set on the 43rd floor of the Media One Hotel in Dubai's Media City area, Q43 is a restaurant and bar boasting great décor, a large open floor space, great cocktails and fantastic views over the city. Our evening got off to a bit of an odd start. The lifts at the Media One Hotel are unusual. You have to use a keypad outside of the lift to programme where you want to go. There are no buttons inside the lift. After a few minutes of confusion, we jumped into a lift with another couple heading up to the restaurant. Unfortunately, she had programmed in the 42nd floor instead of the 43rd. No problem, right?? Wrong! When the doors opened on the 42nd floor we realised that we were unable to programme it to go up another floor. The only option was to return down to the lobby and start again. The couple suggested that we walk up the stairs to the next floor, which seemed a great idea until the four of us found ourselves locked in the stairwell on the 43rd floor of the tower block! It would appear that the stairwell doors only open one way. After a few moments of mild panic, we decided to start a trek back down 43 flights of stairs to the lobby. Fortunately, after a few floors we found one door that was unlocked. It took us into what effectively seemed to be a building site where one of the floors was being renovated, but at least we were able to jump in a lift back down to the lobby before going back up to the restaurant - 43 flights of stairs would have been a long walk otherwise! At least we had a funny story to tell and we still made it to the restaurant just in time for happy hour.
 
Q43 restaurant
More cocktails!
The menu is not huge, however it is sufficient. I started with a bowl of salted edamame beans, then  the Philly Steak Sandwich for my main course and a crème brûlée for dessert. Overall, a tasty meal significantly improved by the fact that we arrived just in time to take advantage of their happy hour deal of 2-for-1 cocktails!

After a relaxed dinner, we headed back to our hotel to pack ready for our departure the following day.

Day 4 - Departure

Our flight was late lunchtime on the Monday so we got up early and finished packing before treating ourselves to a lazy breakfast in Kitchen 6. 

We then made our way to the garden area next to the swimming pool where we spent a couple of hours reading and enjoying the sun before checking out and heading to the airport for our trip home.
 
View from the hotel pool - Burj Khalifa in the distance
Final goodbye photo of our amazing hotel!
Overall, a fantastic holiday and a place that we would happily return to again in the future.


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