Book Review: The Spark.

thespark.pngFun, fulfilling and fast-paced, Sylvie Stewart’s latest book, The Spark, is also a masterclass in how to write a strong, sexy heroine with a hint of vulnerability that a reformed playboy hero simply can’t resist.

The story moves along at a cracking pace and while it takes a while for Fiona and Mark to actually meet, we learn a lot about their backgrounds in the meantime – and it really helped me warm to them.

I did struggle at first with the book’s bright and chatty style but that could have something to do with the last book I’d read, which was a bit more serious than I was used to.

I soon got into the swing of it – and when I did, I couldn’t put it down.

Here’s the blurb:

When your back is against the wall, can you change the person life’s experiences have molded you to be?

Fiona Pierce is many things to many people. Dutiful daughter to her loving parents, fiercely loyal friend to her very tolerant bestie, half-assed employee to her laundry list of bosses, and dedicated fashion goddess and spreader of good cheer to the world at large. But Fiona is hiding something behind her irresistible smile – something she’s determined to keep to herself.

Mark Beckett doesn’t do complicated. Saddled with lingering baggage from his childhood, Mark sails through life one girl at a time – with frequent gym breaks in between. He likes his life just how it is and doesn’t see any need to change his work-hard/play-hard attitude.

When an unexpected blast from the past threatens to turn his family’s life upside down, Mark finds help in the unlikeliest of places – specifically the pint-sized princess who has a knack for pushing his buttons.

Can you overcome your fears and embrace the happiness you might just deserve? And, perhaps more importantly, can you really fall in love with someone who is so damn insufferable?

If you’re looking for a quick fix of romance, this is for you. The chemistry between Fiona and Mark is irresistible – and the spark soon bursts into flames. It was such fun witnessing them get together. There are some great scenes that genuinely made me chuckle.

It’s the second book in the Carolina Connections series – although works as a standalone. The first has definitely won its place in my “To Read” pile.

Format: Kindle.

Price: £2.46.

My rating: Four stars.

With thanks to Sylvie Stewart for the ARC (via NetGalley) in return for an honest review.

Review: Kidloland App.

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As a mum I feel guilty about many, many things but screen time isn’t one of them.

When I look at our days together, they are filled with playing, reading, crafting and lots of outdoor adventures but I also think it’s good for Freya to have some down time – and that includes watching a bit of television or spending an hour on my iPad, if she wants.

When the nice folks at Kidloland got in touch and asked if we’d like to try their app for toddler and preschoolers I didn’t hesitate in saying: “Yes please.”

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The multi-award winning app features more than a thousand nursery rhymes, songs, stories, activities and games on themes including ABCs, shapes, phonics (which she is just about to start at nursery), fruit and veggies, animals and numbers.

New content is added regularly and there are no annoying adverts to contend with.

Freya was delighted to have something new to try and loved scrolling through the bright, colourful choices, all accompanied by cheerful music.

The first thing she selected was a game where you have to clean a monster’s teeth, which she liked so much I eventually had to convince her to try something else (she loves the dentist).

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While she needed some help at first, she soon got the hang of it. As I know all the content is safe for her, I feel reassured about giving her the freedom to pick and choose what to do.

While she really likes the games and stories, she is also quite the little entertainer and loves singing along to the nursery rhymes and lullabies.

Over the last week, we have sampled a fair selection (she asks for Kidloland straight away now) and they have all been fun, varied, interactive and educational but there are loads still to try.

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You can even download some of the content and play offline (fab if you’re travelling).

The website also offers free worksheets to print, which I think is a great resource.

When I was young we obviously didn’t have iPads and apps but I remember when my brother, who is five years older than me, got his first computer when he was 11 – a Sinclair Spectrum 48k, which he very occasionally let me play with (under close supervision).

It was love at first sight for him and he worked his way up the computer chain, eventually turning his self-taught skills into a very successful career he relishes.

There is no doubt in my mind that technology will play an important role in Freya’s future, no matter which route she chooses, and, as long as there is a balance, it’s age appropriate and she’s properly supervised, I see nothing wrong in letting her start now – especially when there are great apps such as Kidloland around.

* The app is available to download for free via the App Store (iOS) and Google Play and the Amazon Appstore (for Android). To access all of the content you need to purchase a subscription. One month costs £3.99, six months is £18.99
and one year is £29.99.

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With thanks to Kidloland for providing us with a year-long subscription in return for an honest review.

Book Review: Whatever Happened To Vicky Hope’s Back Up Man?

cover101215-mediumAh, to be 21 again. When the world feels like it is spread before you – and 30 seems like some distant planet requiring an epic journey to reach.

For Laura Kemp’s creation, Vicky Hope, it arrives all too quickly – and while she has certainly had her share of adventure, she is really not where she thought she’d be (how many of us are?).

The breakdown of her long-term relationship (on her birthday) also leaves her homeless and means heading back to a single bed in her childhood home.

After a lot of soul searching she begins a quest to find her two former best friends but while there is a lot of water under the bridge, it might not be that easy to confine it all to the past, as she soon discovers.

Whatever Happened To Vicky Hope’s Back Up Man is a charming tale, funny in parts, sad in others but enjoyable throughout.

Here’s the blurb:

Twenty-one and insecure, Vicky Hope comes up with a plan on the eve of travelling the world with her high flying friend, Kat Lloyd: if she isn’t married by the time she’s thirty, she’ll marry her geeky best mate Mikey Murphy.

Fast-forward eight-and-a-bit years, Vicky, now Vee wakes up on her 30th birthday in Brighton, expecting a proposal of marriage from her arty boyfriend Jez. Instead he tells her their relationship is over and she has no choice but to return to her parents’ home.

Devastated and alone in her childhood bedroom, she decides she has nothing to lose and tracks down her two old mates.

With shock, she discovers Mikey, now Murphy, is a successful app designer driven by his tragic upbringing. Kat, or Kate, never made it – but she hides a devastating secret, which threatens the happiness of all three.

I’ll admit, when I first read the synopsis, I thought it would be a straight-forward, breezy read but it’s so much more than that – and all the better for it.

Laura Kemp has nailed what it feels like to be 21 and 30 (or how I vaguely remember them) as well as the complications that often come with friendships – especially when so much has changed in the intervening years.

Add in a fantastic plot and you have a proper page-turner.

Format: Kindle (out now).

Price: £2.48.

My rating: Four and a half stars.

Thank you to Aria (via NetGalley) for the ARC. All views are my own.